House of Lords, Vote of Thanks, Feb 14, 1861
HL Deb 14 February 1861 vol 161 cc366-93 366
LORD HERBERT, in rising, pursuant to Notice, to move the Thanks of this House to Her Majesty’s naval and military forces engaged in the operations in the North of China, said:
My Lords, I deem it fortunate that upon this, the first occasion on which I am called by official duty to trespass upon your Lordships’ indulgence, I should have a subject which requires so little advocacy from any man, and which will meet, I believe, not only with the approbation but with the most cordial concurrence of all your Lordships.
My Lords, in describing the military events which have taken place during the 367 short but brilliant and decisive campaign which terminated in the capture of Pekin, I need not go back to the causes of the war, or raise any question which may have formed matter of debate in either House of Parliament. Upon receiving the news of what I must call the disaster of the Peiho, accounts of which reached England in the autumn of 1859, it became necessary to take measures forthwith lest the Chinese Government and people, intoxicated by the successes which they had achieved in the destruction of our ships and the capture of our guns at the mouth of the Peiho, should rise in other towns and ports of that vast Empire, and should endanger the safety of our large mercantile population there. Troops were, therefore, sent out immediately, matériel was despatched, and every precaution taken to prevent such a calamity. Later it became obvious that the Chinese Government would be unwilling to make any reparation for the affair at the Peiho, when Mr. Bruce was beaten back in his attempt to proceed to Pekin for the purpose of obtaining the ratification of the Treaty of Tientsin. A large force was accordingly collected and organized at Hong Kong in May of last year, and was enabled, by the great exertions of its officers, to leave at the end of the month or the commencement of the next. There was one officer of great promise and ability, Colonel Haythorne, who had been selected as Chief of the Staff, to whom we are indebted, by his admirable arrangements at Hong Kong, for much of the after success of the campaign. He, however, reaped not where he had sown; he was called away to fill a still higher position in India, where, I have no doubt, he will evince equal ability to that shown by him in China. This force sailed at the time fixed, and reached the rendez-vous at the entrance of the Gulf of Pecheli; and while collected there Sir Hope Grant had an opportunity of displaying to General Montauban the force under his command. His troops had been collected from India, from the Cape of Good Hope, and from England; and, on the 13th of July, General Montauban, at the request of the English Commander-in-Chief, came over to review them. This is the description which, in a private letter, Sir Hope Grant gives of this review:
On the 13th of July I took General Montauban and his suite to Odin Bay to show them our force of cavalry and artillery. We had about 1,000 men on parade, and their turn-out was really beautiful. The men, both Europeans and Sikhs, 368 were fine, handsome, stalwart fellows, well dressed, very clean, and their horses all in rare condition and with shining coats. It really was a sight worth seeing, and I felt proud of being in command of such a force. General Montauban said, ‘it was a sight to see in Hyde Park or Paris, but one that he could never have expected so far away from home.’ The infantry force is also very fine, and their behaviour excellent.
I mention this because I think it does credit, not only to the officers who organized the expedition, but to the naval commanders, who made such excellent arrangements for transporting this large force, and for landing them at the rendez-vous after some bad weather, and after a very lengthened voyage, in such perfect health and efficiency. On the 1st of August the expedition lauded at the mouth of the Peh-tang. They occupied the forts and town without opposition, though, in disembarking the stores, the guns, and artillery horses, they met, owing to the nature of the shore, with considerable difficulty. General Grant was anxious to move his troops as quickly as he could out of a place which seemed so unhealthy. The retiring tide left a great surface of mud exposed, and the whole country around was nothing but a swamp, and he feared lest fever should break out. But the rains at first were so violent that he had great difficulty in effecting his departure from Peh-tang. Sir Robert Napier, an officer of Her Majesty’s Indian forces, and who evinced throughout the distinguished military talent which seems common to all bearing his name, was the Commander of the First Division. He says that it was with some difficulty that his columns got through the swamp, that the gun-wheels were frequently imbedded axle-deep in the mud; and that it cost two hours’ hard labour to the troops to traverse the first two miles. The state of the country, in fact, was such as to render military operations almost impossible. But the troops persevered, and they very soon came in sight of a Chinese force, consisting principally of cavalry. The first engagement which then took place exercised considerable influence upon the after part of the campaign. Sir Robert Napier states that the enemy’s cavalry nearly surrounded the whole of his force in skirmishing order. Their number was very large, and the Tartar horsemen showed not the slightest fear or hesitation in meeting our troops. One body of cavalry gallopped close up to a half battery of our guns, which was protected only by an escort of thirty of Fane’s Horse. This 369 escort was almost overwhelmed by the numbers opposed to it; but Lieutenant Macgregor, who was in command, undismayed by the disparity of numbers, rode at them with his thirty men with such a will that they broke quite through the Tartar ranks and scattered them most effectually. This was an important achievement. The Chinese cavalry were numerically vastly superior to our own, and it was important to solve the problem whether the Sikh horsemen could cope with them under such circumstances. Lieutenant Macgregor and his troopers answered the question most satisfactorily. This engagement had the effect of dispiriting thenceforward the Tartar cavalry; and, in the encounters near Pekin, as we shall presently see, our cavalry, by their rapid and impetuous charges, had the best of every encounter. On the following day the allied forces captured an entrenched camp with over forty guns. Then came the attack upon the Taku forts. These forts formed very formidable obstacles to any army. The whole country was a salt marsh, and the troops could only move forward on extremely narrow causeways, where the ground was so little consolidated that it became almost impassable after a shower of rain. Some nights were occupied in bringing up the heavy guns, and the canals were bridged by our engineers, who, night after night, had the most laborious duties to perform in erecting the works and bridges.
The Peiho Forts were extremely strong. Sir Hope Grant, in one of his despatches, describes them as being redoubts, with a illicit rampart, heavily armed with guns and wall pieces; they had two unfordable wet ditches, between which and the parapet was a spiked bamboo palisade, leaving only a narrow approach, which was, of course, commanded by the enemy’s guns. The attack was then commenced. But the facts of this engagement are so recent that I do not think it necessary to describe them in any detail. After the forts were breached, a most gallant and successful attempt was made to storm them, both by the French and English forces. The Chinese kept up a deadly fire, so that fifteen of the Sappers, who were carrying the pontoon bridge, were struck down in an instant. I mention this because now that Pekin is taken, and the war at an end, people are apt to underrate the deeds of our men before the enemy, and to make light of the difficulties which existed, owing to the nature of the 370 country and the uncertainty as to the character of the resistance which would be attempted. It is said by Sir Robert Napier that he never saw forts better defended. His words are worth quoting:
The enemy made a noble and vigorous re-sistence, no entry had yet been made, the breach had not been completed, the gate was known to be built up, the attempts of the French to escalade at their angle were unsuccessful. At this juncture, with the permission of the Commander-in-Chief, I brought up two 24-pounder howitzers and two 9-pounder guns of Govan’s to within eighty yards of the rampart, which, firing over the heads of the men on the berm, cut away the parapet at the point where the defence was most obstinate. After a lengthened struggle the French entered the embrasure at their angle by escalade, and the British climbed into the partial breach near the gate at the same moment, Lieutenant Rogers, of the 44th Regiment, being the first man on our side established in the place. The troops of both nations now poured into the place, but foot by foot the brave garrison disputed the ground, and as their was no means of exit other than by dropping over the wall and crossing the defensive obstacles of ditches, stakes, and abbatis, the loss of the enemy when they were ultimately driven out of the work was very severe, both from the rifles of our infantry, who crowded the cavalier, and from guns moved round to the left which swept their line of retreat on the further Northern Fort. It was half-past eight o’clock when this fort, now proved to be the key of the whole position, was in our hands. When the fort surrendered, the rest followed the example. We found ourselves in possession of no less than 400 guns, some of which it was highly necessary to recover, for they were our own guns which had been lost in the gunboats sunk at the Peiho. I pass by the particulars of the march to and arrival at Tien-tsin. There negotiations were begun. Our troops, upon an understanding with the Chinese, advanced to a place about five miles from Pekin (I forget the name of it, and if I could remember it I could not pronounce it), and when they arrived at this spot they were to be met by Chinese Commissioners, with whom a treaty was proposed to be negotiated. But it was found that on this spot the Chinese had thrown up extensive works, placed heavy guns on them, and filled them with troops, the Chinese cavalry threatening both flanks of our little army. I believe it has been said that the action was commenced by us prematurely, and that we misunderstood the intentions of the Chinese, who, if we had not commenced an attack upon them, would have offered terms of peace. Now, I believe nothing can be more contrary to the 371 facts. By the statements of Sir Hope Grant, both publicly and privately made, that gallant officer had repeatedly expressed his hope that the whole of these proceedings might be spared—that peace might be effected without bloodshed; and on this particular occasion so anxious was Sir Hope Grant that bloodshed should be spared, and that peace should be concluded without the sacrifice of human life, so anxious not to encounter the risk of provoking hostilities, that he allowed himself to be almost surrounded by the Tartar cavalry before the action was commenced. All the evidence that has since been obtained from the Chinese papers that were found shows that it was a pre-arranged scheme on their part, and that the
Commander-in-Chief had no option left except to defend himself; he, therefore, made a vigorous attack upon the enemy, and by the charges of his cavalry on both flanks of the enemy, and by the power of his artillery and infantry, he was able to disperse the forces of the Chinese and to capture a large number of guns. Three days afterwards something almost similar occurred. Again, it was found that the Chinese had placed themselves in order of battle by the side of the canal leading to Pekin; again an attack was necessarily made, and again the Chinese troops were repulsed. On this occasion a charge was made by our cavalry, which I will mention, because it proved that they could overcome the difficulties of any kind of country. The Tartar cavalry were posted on an eminence, with a sudden fall below it; at the bottom was a ditch; the Chinese calculated that while our men were crossing this ditch it would be easy to pick them off with their matchlocks. The place has been described to me, by an eye-witness, as one that in a hunting field would be called “ugly;” one that many riders would look at, but which would be “gone at” by very few; those on the field who were rather discreet than valiant would go round some other way. The King’s Dragoon Guards, however, rode at it, and so successfully that they cleared it, only leaving one or two saddles empty in the ranks, and they speedily remounted. The Sikh cavalry, equally ready to face anything, also rode at the ditch, but with their lung bits and short martingales, their horses’ heads almost in their chests, they at first failed to clear it, and fell back, men and horses, into the ditch, but soon recovered and charged the enemy most effectually 372 The Tartars ever afterwards paid great respect to our cavalry, regular or irregular, and the alarm among the Tartar troops when the Dragoon Guards made any change of front, or whenever our irregular cavalry came in sight, was marvellous.
At the time these movements were going on it should be stated that an admirable system of supply had been organized. The Commander-in-Chief states that “All the commissariat arrangements have been admirably made by Mr. Turner; there has not been a single complaint.” I find also in the despatches of the Commander-in-Chief a passage, referring to his colleague, that is most agreeable to read: he says,
Admiral Hope is the best colleague I could possibly have had. He has a first-rate head, and his zeal and energy are untiring. His arrangements are all first-rate.
Throughout the operations the utmost personal concord existed between the different arms of the service, especially between the Indian forces and those formerly called the Royal army. This distinction is now done away with, and I am happy to think that the two armies have been so successful on the first occasion they have been brought together, and have acted together, since the East India forces received the name of Royal.
My Lords, another feature of these operations has been the first use of that new artillery to which the Government has devoted great care and attention; and I cannot but congratulate my predecessor in office (General Peel) on having had the courage, amid a great variety of inventions to adopt, and, on a large scale, to bring into use the Armstrong gun. These guns had been severely criticized. Many persons admitted that they were a fine arm, of beautiful construction, and admirable at a long range; but they predicted that when actually used in war they would be found difficult to serve, too intricate and delicate, too much like a toy, to be so good or useful as the old field-pieces. Well, these new guns stood the long sea-voyage, and after not one but several transhipments, were landed in the best condition. Some of the ammunition was damped by the sea, but none of the guns were injured; and throughout the Commander-in-Chief’s despatches the greatest admiration was expressed of their efficiency in actual service. But at the time these guns were sent out so much doubt had been expressed of their ultimate success that I thought it prudent to send out with every Armstrong gun a 373 cannon of the old smooth-bore construction, to take its place in case of accident. But I am happy to say the Armstrong guns have proved entirely successful; and I believe the English army may be congratulated on possessing at this moment the best gun in the world.
My Lords, there is another point on which I wish to make a few observations — I mean the recommencement of hostilities on the 18th of September. On that day Mr. Parkes, Mr. De Norman, Lieutenant Anderson, Captain Brabazon, Mr. Loch, and Mr. Bowlby were taken prisoners. Now, there can he no doubt that these gentlemen, at the time they were so captured, were under the protection of a flag of truce. There can be no doubt of the inhumaity with which they were treated. The fate of these officers, and the sufferings they endured, made a profound impression on the people of this country. We bitterly lament the fate of those prisoners who perished. They did not fall in the storm of battle; they did not die a soldier’s death, in the face of day and in a fair field. Had it been so, their deaths would have been less sorrowful. But they died in a fearful manner. They were made prisoners by treachery, carried off, and bound; their sufferings were cruelly increased by the cords being tied so as to cut into the flesh of their hands and feet, and wetted to increase their tension. They were taken in carts to distant places, exposed to both heat and cold; and their sufferings were aggravated by every species of indignity. They were all men of distinction. Mr. Parkes, by his activity and energy, had given the greatest assistance to the expedition. By his means the Commissariat Service became almost unnecessary, as he induced the country people to bring abundant supplies into the camp. Mr. De Norman was a young man of great promise, and had shown talents of no common order. Captain Brabazon was an officer of finished talent and skill in drawing, and had often been selected to take sketches of the country for the military operations. Lieutenant Anderson was an officer universally lamented. I have seen a description of the manner in which the news of his death was received at the head quarters of his regiment in India; it had a most touching effect both on officers and men. There was also among the prisoners a gentleman, whom, I am glad to state, I have myself seen this day — Mr. Loch, who has happily survived the ill- 374 treatment of the Chinese. Mr. Bowlby was the Correspondent of The Times, and had distinguished himself by the remarkable vigour and vivacity of his descriptions of the events of the war. The act of treachery by which these gentlemen were made prisoners was generally deemed one that deserved to be visited by some marked retribution. I do not believe there has been any great difference of opinion on that point. It was necessary that something should be done to mark the indignation we felt at the treacherous conduct of the Chinese.
Now, my Lords, let me mention two or three peculiar features of this campaign, which distinguished it from all former expeditions. First, we have had no failures in the Civil Department of the expedition. It had an excellent Commissariat under Mr. Turner; it had an excellent Medical Staff; and for the first time an attempt has been made to introduce the system of appointing a medical officer for purely preventive and sanitary purposes. I am informed that the greatest success has attended the operations of this system. Not only has there been more attention to prevention, at all times better than cure, but it has diffused the same spirit of care among the officers, and certainly the greatest success did attend the operations in a sanitary point of view. I have heard criticisms made of the cost of these precautious; and I have heard it said that if the cost of these hospital ships were divided by the number of patients on board of them, it would show that each patient cost an extraordinary amount. But that was because the expedition had been so singularly healthy. If there had been a great amount of sickness, the cost of each patient would, of course, have been much less; but the apparent large cost is the result of the success which has attended our sanitary precautions. After all, what expense can be too great, within reasonable limits, which insures that your army shall be perfectly efficient? When including casualties of all kinds, deaths and wounds, we find there was a better state of health and a lower rate of mortality among the troops forming the expedition in China than usually exist among troops in tropical climates in a time of peace, the success of the sanitary measures that were adopted is beyond dispute. There was a time when hostile critics said of English expeditions, that we could always obtain fighting men, but we could not find a general to lead them, nor a Staff375 to direct them, nor a Commissariat to feed them, nor a Medical Staff to maintain them in health; but I say that Sir Hope Grant’s army has given the lie to all those assertions. There has not been a failure throughout the campaign, not a single repulse have we sustained, and not only has our loss been very small, but the loss, also, of the Chinese, considering the enormous hordes with which they met us, has been remarkably trifling. Her Majesty has graciously expressed her approbation of the conduct of her army; she has distributed promotions and rewards; but it remains for the country and for your Lordships’ House — which is no small portion of the country — likewise to convey to the troops, the commander, officers, and men, an expression of the gratitude which we owe to them for their arduous labours and their brilliant achievements, which have resulted in what I trust will prove a lasting and honourable peace. We have had in this campaign an admirable force beautifully handled and universally successful; there has not been a single reverse or drawback; and I trust, therefore, that, without trespassing further upon your Lordships’ patience, I may with perfect confidence anticipate your unanimous assent to the Motion which I have the honour now to propose.
The noble Lord concluded by moving to resolve:
That the Thanks of this House be given to Lieutenant General Sir James Hope Grant, G.C.B., Vice Admiral Sir James Hope, K.C.B., Major General Sir John Mitchell. K.C.B., Major General Sir Robert Napier, K.C.B., Rear Admiral Lewis Tobias Jones, C.B., for the distinguished Skill, Zeal, and Intrepidity with which they conducted the combined Operations in the North of China which terminated in the Capture of Pekin, whereby an honourable Peace has been obtained on the Terms proposed by Her Majesty and Her Ally, The Emperor of the French. That the Thanks of this House be given to the other Officers of the Navy, Army, and the Royal Marines, including Her Majesty’s Indian Forces, both European and Native, for the Energy and Gallantry with which they executed the Service they were called upon to perform. That this House doth acknowledge and highly approve the Gallantry, Discipline, and uniform good Conduct displayed by the Petty Officers, Non-commissioned Officers, and Men of the Navy, Army, Royal Marines, and Her Majesty’s Indian Forces, European and Native, and the cordial good Feeling which animated the united Force. And that the same be communicated to them by the Commanders of the several Ships and Corps, who are respectfully desired to thank them for their gallant and steadfast Behaviour.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, if my noble Friend, who has for the first 376 time to night shown in this House the great ability for which he has been so eminently distinguished in “another place,” and who, I hope, will long continue to adorn the discussions of this House — if my noble Friend had had an opportunity of selecting the particular occasion upon which he would first address your Lordships’ House, I think he could hardly have selected one which would have imposed upon him a more grateful task, and one more gratifying to his own feelings, than that which has to-night devolved upon him. For, my Lords, it must be a high gratification to my noble Friend to appeal — and with a perfect confidence that he would not appeal in vain — to your Lordships for a unanimous concurrence in an expression of admiration of the gallant services by which the name and reputation of this country have been so well sustained, and which in their results, it may be hoped, have procured for this country, not only so much credit, but also permanent and solid advantage. But I cannot help thinking that it must also be gratifying to my noble Friend to feel that, without derogating in the slightest degree from the merit of those who, under his auspices, in a distant part of the world, under circumstances of the greatest novelty, have so ably sustained the honour of their country, no small portion of the success which has attended the expedition may, without the slightest arrogation of anything that is not justly due to them, fairly be claimed by those departments of the public service which have been mainly instrumental in organizing and equipping the expedition. It is most satisfactory to feel that we have derived in many respects advantages from the bitter lessons of past times. I think that upon the present occasion it is the more incumbent upon me, as not being connected with the Government, and as not being able to pledge myself to give them my regular support and general confidence — it is, I say, the more incumbent on me to express my deep sense of the admirable manner in which the departments especially concerned organized and sent out this expedition. In every respect does there appear to have been exercised the greatest care and attention. That care and that attention were bestowed not only upon the efficiency of the troops and arms — to which I was glad to hear my noble Friend offer a well deserved tribute of praise — but also for the health and comfort of the men, and which I say 377 again reflects the highest credit upon all the departments, more especially upon those which are presided over by my noble Friend himself, and that which is presided over by the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) upon the cross benches. There are many reasons, my Lords, why, in seconding the Motion of my noble Friend, I should not attempt to follow him through the very clear and lucid history which he has given of this short campaign. In the first place, whatever may be its ultimate consequences, the campaign itself cannot pretend to that deep interest and thrilling anxiety with which of late we have been accustomed to view military operations in the East; and none of the events which have occurred in the course of this campaign have excited that intense interest with which this country looked forward to and watched the successive march of events during the great revolt in India — the fall of Delhi, the relief of Lucknow, the successive marches and efforts of Havelock; the stern endurance which characterized the acts of Havelock, of Outram, of Inglis, of Lawrence, of Sir Hope Grant himself, of Sir Hugh Rose; and last, although not least, of my noble and gallant Friend who I am happy to see upon the cross benches (Lord Clyde). The achievements of these and others it is unnecessary now to refer to, because they have already received the high mark of distinction conferred by your Lordships’ thanks and approval. But, my Lords, although the Chinese campaign did not present events of such peculiar interest as occurred in India, yet, if we look at what has been effected, and consider that the force employed, both naval and military, scarcely, if at all, exceeded 20,000 men, and that that force, in the course of little more than two months, effected a landing at Pehtang, penetrated to the very centre of a gigantic empire, containing, we are told, 300,000,000 of people, and after having captured the Taku Forts — which offered no inconsiderable and no discreditable amount of resistance — advanced to the very gates of the capital itself and there dictated its own terms of peace; when, I say, we compare the results that wore achieved with the apparent disproportion of the force employed, really the whole affair seems more like a page of romance than a leaf of sober practical history. It cannot be said upon this occasion, as upon former occasions, that our troops in China have had none or few difficulties to overcome. In 378 the first place we have met with no contemptible foe in point of courage and bravery. The Tartar cavalry in especial, have shown a degree of courage and energy, which, had it not been for our vast superiority in arms and discipline, might have been difficult to overcome. The Taku Forts were places of great strength, vigorously and ably defended, their natural strength had been greatly aided by artificial means, and they could only have been captured by gallantry and perseverance such as was displayed by the attacking force. But another reason why I should abstain from entering into any lengthened analysis of these events is that I feel I could add nothing to the accuracy of the description which my noble Friend opposite has very properly, from his official position, given to your Lordships, and also because the praises bestowed upon the commanders and other individual officers come with greater value and authority from him than they would from one holding no official position. Before I go further, however, I must say that, as regards the merits of individual officers and the part they have taken in the late events, the House has been left somewhat in want of the usual official information given on like occasions. I speak under correction, but I think it has been the usual, if not the invariable practice, when notice of Votes of Thanks is given, to state in the notice the names of those officers upon whom individually it is intended to confer the Thanks of the House. Whether that be the rule or not, your Lordships will agree that it would be a great convenience to do so, as it would enable those who are to take part in the discussion to make themselves acquainted with the particular merits of the individual officers who are to be named in the Vote of Thanks. Again, my Lords, having read with great interest the reports contained in the despatches of Sir Hope Grant and Admiral Hope of the events of the campaign, of which the landing at Pehtang and the capture of the Taku Forts were the most prominent and leading features, I turned, upon notice being given of this Motion, to the only official information which has been presented to us by Her Majesty’s Government — namely, the papers relating to the transactions arising out of the war with China — and there, to my great surprise, although I found described in great detail every other transaction connected with the war, I found not a single despatch from Sir Hope Grant or Admiral 379 Hope giving a detailed statement of any one of the great operations which have taken place, still less any particular notice of the distinguishing services rendered by individual officers. Take, for example, the capture of the Taku Forts. The only notice of this event contained in the blue-book laid upon our table by the Government is a despatch of two or three lines from Sir Hope Grant, announcing, not the operations by which that capture was effected, but that he had received the surrender of the commander of those forts. Excepting that slight intimation, and one or two short Reports made to the Secretary of State by Colonel Foley, the Commissioner of the Queen with the French army, there is no ground laid in the documents now before us for the Vote which the noble Lord has proposed. I do not pretend to dispute the propriety of this Vote of Thanks, or wish to be understood as making any objection to it, but I think when a Vote of this kind is asked for eminent public services, we ought to have from Her Majesty’s Government some official account of the services to which the Motion applies. We have this information, it is true, through the public newspapers, but the newspapers are not the basis on which we ought to proceed; and, although we may have seen alleged copies, and doubtless authentic copies, of despatches from the General and the Admiral, it would yet be more regular if those documents were formally placed before us as the official vindication and ground of our proceedings. My Lords, if my noble Friend opposite has not singled out any individual officer for approval—
I named the General and the Admiral.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
I meant except those mentioned in the Resolution — namely, Sir Hope Grant and Admiral Hope. But, my Lords, it is impossible for any words too highly to mark our sense of the services of Sir Hope Grant and Admiral Hope. Of Sir Hope Grant it is enough to say that in China he has fully maintained, if he has not even surpassed, the distinguished reputation which he earned by his exploits during the Indian mutiny. There is, however, one point stated in the public prints to which I hope I may be permitted to advert, though it does not appear in the blue-book — and there is good reason why it should not. A circumstance has been stated in print — and I have never seen it denied — which reflects so much credit on Sir Hope Grant that it 380 would be an injustice to him to overlook it. My noble Friend has spoken, and in terms, no doubt, of deserved congratulation and commendation, of the good spirit and perfect unanimity which actuated all parties and all branches of the service engaged in the joint expedition. It is not in the slightest degree with the view of throwing any doubt on that perfect unanimity that I refer to the fact that, with regard to the operations against the Taku Forts, there existed, previous to their being commenced, considerable difference of opinion between Sir Hope Grant, acting on the part of the English, and General Montauban, commanding the French forces. My Lords, difference of opinion on such subjects must often occur among military men. But it has been stated, and not denied, that this difference of opinion went so far that General Montauban felt it due to his Government and his own reputation to enter a protest against the particular mode of operations intended and designed by Sir Hope Grant. Now, my Lords, if this were the fact — and I believe there is no question about it — I say it added greatly to the merit of our commander that under such circumstances he ventured to take upon himself the very serious responsibility of acting upon his own judgment, overruling the judgment and decision of the officer at the head of the French army, and, of course, incurring the risk of all the obloquy, odium, and discredit that would naturally have attached to him if the measure had resulted in disastrous failure, instead of the glorious success that crowned it. It is satisfactory also to know, after the event, that the event itself amply vindicated the judgment of our General; because, after the northern fort was taken, which Sir Hope Grant always believed was the key of the position, it was clearly ascertained that if that fort had not been first attacked, and if, according to the advice of the French commander, the operations had begun with the assault of the southern fort, even if that assault had been eminently successful, the invading forces would have found themselves commanded by the northern fort, and the whole of their labour would have had to be recommenced, and recommenced under great disadvantages. I mention this, Lords, because I think it is highly creditable to Sir Hope Grant that he exhibited not only that skill and courage for which everybody knows he is pre-eminently distinguished, but also that under most 381 difficult circumstances, and at the distance at which lie was from any possible concert or consultation, be should not have shrunk from the immense responsibility involved in acting, on so important an occasion, on his own undivided discretion. At the same time, I feel bound to say that it reflects great credit on General Montauban that, notwithstanding his strong views of the impolicy of the course proposed to be adopted, and his decided preference of a different course, the cordiality with which lie supported the attack which he disapproved, was not in the slightest degree diminished by this difference of opinion. And I am sure that no man could have been more gratified than was General Montauban himself when lie found that his own apprehensions were not realized, and that his co-operation had gone far to secure the happy termination of an operation which had so important an influence on the final success of the war. The remainder of the campaign was not such as to afford any scope for brilliant services. And, my Lords, I must here express my regret that the circumstances under which these hostilities were carried on did not give Admiral Hope and our naval forces an opportunity of taking a more prominent and active part in the proceedings than fell to their lot. Certainly, whatever they did they did gallantly, energetically, and successfully; yet I repeat I cannot refrain from the expression of a feeling of lingering regret that it was not possible for thorn — I will not say to retrieve any disgrace, because the reputation of the British arms for valour and endurance was never more signally sustained than in the attack upon the Taku Forts in the former year, but — to take a more conspicuous share at the scene of their previous disaster, and in that way to obtain, in their own estimation, a compensation for that reverse and the temporary discredit which might have been cast upon them in the eyes of those who did not understand and could not appreciate the difficulties under which the former attack was made. But if the remainder of the campaign was marked by no brilliant services, it at least bore evidence — and this is no slight gain — not only of the great discipline, good order, and subordination of our troops, but of the readiness of all the native Chinese to receive — even to assist and give them every support in their power — during the whole of their march. The march, my Lords, was not like a march through an 382 enemy’s country, but through a friendly population. That very circumstance may tend to dissipate the great delusions and very false impressions entertained respecting the disposition of the people of China generally towards strangers, and holds out hope that the success of this expedition, and the experience which it has given the Chinese of the discipline, regularity, and good order of our troops, will conduce to the attainment of those commercial advantages and that peaceful intercourse with the Chinese people which it has been anticipated will follow the opening up of this great Empire, and which was the great object sought to be attained by the war. I have seen remarkable accounts of the good disposition of the native population. So great was the co-operation of the people, that on one occasion, when Mr. Parkes went to Tien-tsin, I think, or some place further forward, he found a local commissariat which had been provided for the Tartar troops. That commissariat, especially organized for those Tartar troops, transferred their services to the troops of the invader; and from that time the enemy’s commissariat supplied us, with the most perfect regularity, with everything required for the use of our army. It may be said that this was a mere act of submission; but I do not think that any people, however low, would, after all, evince such a readiness to co-operate with an invading force, if that force had signalized its advance by any acts of inhumanity, atrocity, or unnecessary pillage or violence. I believe, therefore, we may recognize in this alacrity on the part of the people to contribute to our assistance, a valuable testimony to the good order and discipline which appear to have prevailed among the forces of Her Majesty. I can only hope that when our commercial intercourse with China becomes greater than it is at present the conduct of our civilians engaged in that intercourse may be such as to keep up the good character for order and friendly behaviour towards the native population which seems to have distinguished our military service. My Lords, I will not say one word upon the other bearings of this war. I think that the question to-night is one of a purely military nature, and that we are called on only to return the Thanks of this House for the efforts and achievements of those connected with this expedition. I will not, therefore, even venture to enter into any theory as to the probable and ultimate result of the 383 treaty which has been concluded. Indeed, my Lords, it appears to me that it would be very difficult for any one to form such a Conjecture in the present utter disorganizetion of the whole Chinese empire. The terms of the treaty, however, without being unnecessarily stringent, have certainly obtained a large opening for our commerce; and I can only hope that our merchants will avail themselves of that opening—not with energy only—for that they are sure to do—but with justice and forbearance towards the Eastern race with which they are brought into contact. Nothing has been said of the merits of Lord Elgin, but I think it would be unjust to him not to say that the papers communicated to the House have impressed me with a strong sense of the ability, intelligence, firmness, and, at the same time, moderation, which he has displayed throughout these transactions. At the same time I must say — even after having heard the grounds on which the measure has been attempted to he vindicated — I do feel some regret at what I consider the unnecessary demolition of the magnificent place of the Emperor of China. It is quite true that we had ample grounds for showing, I may call it, a vindictive spirit, and a vindictive spirit bearing upon the chief authorities of the Empire. No doubt, as my noble Friend stated, some of our countrymen had been disgracefully kidnapped under a flag of truce, and treated in the most barbarous and disgraceful manner; and we had ample title to require reparation, if any reparation could be made for such injury and insult. It is also undoubtedly true, as Lord Elgin has stated, that it was very difficult to take any other mode of reparation or revenge — for it was nothing less — than that he adopted. To make it a mere matter of pecuniary compensation would have been to act too much like the Chinese themselves. To have demanded I the surrender of the actual murderers would have led to the surrender of some miserable wretches, taken probably at random, whose sacrifice would not have satisfied the justice of the case. On the other hand, if we had required the surrender of Prince San-ko-lin-sin, under whose authority these atrocities were committed, the demand would have been evaded, and we had no power or possibility of enforcing it. Nevertheless, whatever difficulty there may have been in the case, I must say that I am not satisfied that the demolition of the palace of Yuen-min-uen was either a neces- 384 sary or a politic act. I think it likely to produce a painful and prejudicial impression against us as to the mode in which we carry on our military operations, and it appears to me to have been a mistake in point both of judgment and policy. But, my Lords, I have already exceeded the length at which I meant to address you. I am perfectly satisfied to give my support to the Motion of my noble Friend, and I am glad to have the opportunity of expressing in my place the confidence I feel that the acquiescence of your Lordships will be not only cordial but unanimous, without distinction of party or political feeling, not only in the Motion made, but in entire approval of the course the Government have taken in submitting it to your Lordships’ consideration.
§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
My Lords, after the full and able manner in which this Motion has been brought forward and seconded by my noble Friends who have preceded me, I feel that little remains for me to add further than to express my entire occurrence in the proposal made to your Lordships. At the same time there are one or two military points on which I think it may be desirable that I should say a few words to your Lordships; for there are points, my Lords, on, which we have received a lesson which I hope we shall not soon forget. In the first place, I cannot but think that we have now found out that when, unfortunately, this country is compelled through circumstances to go to war, the sooner that war can be brought to a close the better and cheaper it is for the country; but that object can only be effected by ample and abundant means of military operation. In this instance we may consider that the war in which we have been engaged was a little war; but that great man, the Duke of Wellington, once said, “England cannot carry on a little war;” and, even in the present case, that saying has proved correct, for, though the war might be considered a little war, the means and appliances used were on a great scale, and the consequence has been entire success, although the campaign was carried on at a distance from home greater than that at which we have ever before conducted military operations. We have had, it is true, two contests in China before, but they were on a very reduced scale, and the means now necessary were not then required. On the part of the military authorities, having had some participation in the arrangements that were made for con- 385 ducting this war, I must express on the part of the army my great gratification at the manner in which the military were supported by the civil branches of the administration. There has been no holding back in any respect; everything required was done; everything thought necessary was well and readily accorded; and the result, as I have said, was that everything was successful, although the field of operations was at such an enormous distance from home. My Lords, it would be very unjust and improper on my part to omit to mention that no one gave himself more anxiously and laboriously to the preparation of this expedition than my noble Friend behind me (Lord Herbert), and we ought not now to forget that a great part of the merit connected with it is due to my noble and gallant Friend on the cross-benches (Lord Clyde). Although the military stores were sent from home, the whole expedition, so far as troops were concerned, was sent from India, under the direct authority and management of my noble and gallant Friend. To him therefore, I ascribe, in a great measure, the complete efficiency in which the expedition was landed in China. There are other military points which have certainly been most fortunately brought under the notice of the public in this war. This is the first opportunity on which we have been able to judge of the effect of that wonderful new description of ordnance with which our army is now being gradually supplied — I allude to the Armstrong gun. I know that experiments are constantly going on; but, however valuable and necessary these may be, they are as nothing compared with the information obtained by the actual use of these weapons in the field. Only yesterday I had the opportunity of conversing with a most excellent officer on his return from China. I asked what had been the effect of the gun under his charge, and his answer was, “I could go all over the world with that gun, and whatever the circumstances — however difficult — I am confident the result would always be the same.” No doubt some alterations may be required, and alterations have already been made; but the Armstrong gun is now as perfect as any arm that can possibly be imagined. The merits and talents of the gallant and distinguished officer, Sir Hope Grant, who was placed at the head of this expedition, have been so fully brought to your Lordships’ notice by both my noble Friends who preceded me, that 386nothing is left for me to say, than that I believe there never was an officer who so thoroughly, so efficiently, conducted the operations entrusted to him. And let me remind your Lordships that his position was in many respects a very trying one as has already been well pointed out, joint operations are always more difficult than operations conducted by one country alone. Difficulties did arise, as has been stated by my noble Friend who spoke last. There was actually a difference of opinion between him and the French general on a most important military operation; when my gallant friend, Sir Hope Grant, decidedly took the right course. Still, so cordial and so satisfactory were the relations which existed between him and General Montauban, at the head of the French army, that in no respect was that good feeling interrupted or disturbed by this difference on an important military question. Those two officers differed in opinion, each thinking his own the correct one; and Sir Hope Grant took his own course, the other cordially supporting him — both showing; the most admirable feeling, which redounds very much to the credit of those gallant and distinguished officers. I am sure your Lordships will agree with me that nothing could have exceeded the good feeling that existed throughout between our allies and our troops. In the whole of these operations, both French and English troops vied with each other in anxiety to do their duty, and do it in a manner creditable to themselves and their country, which they were bound and willing to serve. My Lords, there is another point of great importance to which I wish to refer — that in these operations we had Native troops of India associated with European troops in Her Majesty’s service, and that after a period of great anxiety in India, which made it a matter of much interest to observe how these distinguished and gallant troops would behave when associated together in a distant land. Nothing could have exceeded the good conduct and good feeling of the Native troops of India while on service in China. My noble Friend the Secretary of State has alluded to a charge subsequent to the capture of the Taku Forts, in which the European cavalry particularly distinguished themselves; but it is the fact that upon that occasion the European and Native cavalry charged at the same time, and the only reason why the latter were less successful was, that the horsemanship and equipment of the Natives were not exactly 387 suited to the requirements of that particular occasion. But the gallantry of that charge, both as regards officers and men, European and Native, was most conspicuous — it was one of the most gallant deeds that could possibly be performed. I have heard from an eye-witness, that the position of the Tartars was such, that it required the greatest presence of mind and the greatest determination, to attack in front an enemy posted as they were; yet the attack was made and made successfully. I am also anxious to express the sense which I entertain of the conduct of the Royal Navy. The conduct of the Royal Navy, as it always has been, and as it is always sure to be, was admirable. It is true the navy was not able to take so prominent a part as it could have wished in the operations of the war; but, on the other hand, our military forces could not have arrived in the admirable state in which they were landed in China, nor could they have carried on their operations there with the same hopes of success, had it not been for the indefatigable zeal with which the navy supplied them with everything they required. The ships, in fact, were the base of our operations, and without them the expedition might have failed. All the larger ships were also necessarily at a considerable distance from the scene of operations. From a report I have seen as to landing the troops, and all the horses, and other things required, it was one of the most tedious and trying operations that the navy could have been possibly called on to perform; but, notwithstanding this, they did perform their duty in a manner such as they were sure to do it. I have, as I have said, and as has been said by my noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), only one regret, that the navy did not have an opportunity of sharing in all those distinctions and all that glory to which military men naturally aspire in cases of this sort. I could wish also to allude more particularly to the names of some officers who have distinguished themselves in the campaign, though, no doubt, it would be very difficult to select particular names, for the war, with one exception — the taking of the Taku Forts — was very general in its character; yet still there is one name which has been already brought before your Lordships, that of Sir Robert Napier. I rejoice the more, because this gallant officer commanding one division, and Sir John Mitchell the other, that it was Sir Robert Napier’s lot to command, espe- 388 cially at the taking of the Taku Forts, especially from the fact of that officer being a member of our sister service, the local service of India. It affords me the greatest satisfaction to see so gallant a man as he has shown himself to be, under my noble and gallant Friend (Lord Clyde), have such good fortune, and I am convinced that this distinguished officer may safely be called on on other important occasions, and that he will always do credit to the name that he has the honour to bear. There is one other circumstance to which, with great regret, I must refer — that portion of the operations to which, in common with all your Lordships, I must look with great grief. I allude to the fate of those unfortunate individuals who, in the performance of their duty, were treated in a manner which we have certainly never heard of before in civilized warfare, and, I think I may add, even in warfare that was not civilized. They were treated in a way which they in no respect deserved; and which certainly called for some very strong expressions of feeling on our part, such as has been alluded to by my noble Friend. It is not for me to go into the question whether what was done was right or wrong, but this I do say — and I say it, besides, with the authority of my noble and gallant Friend (Lord Clyde) — that some signal mark of indignation on the part of this country was necessary in order to impress upon the peculiar people with whom we were dealing our sense of the indignity which they had perpetrated on some victims whom they had accidentally seized under most unjustifiable circumstances. I knew one of those unfortunate men myself, and he was a most distinguished officer, Mr. De Norman, and, of course, this fact adds to the indignation that I have felt on this painful occasion; but, at all events, it is satisfactory to know the fact that up to the last our ill-fated countrymen performed their duty by their country; and that they died in a manner which, so far as they were personally concerned, will be a consolation to those who survive them. I beg cordially to concur in the Motion.
§ LORD CLYDE
then addressed the House speaking from the back benches; his observations could not be heard. His Lordship was understood to express entire concurrence in the Vote of Thanks, and his high sense of the skill and valour displayed by our troops and their commander in China. He eulogized the conduct of the 389 war by Sir Hope Grant, whom he had known and trusted in India, and joined in the expressions of admiration used by the Royal Duke who preceded him with respect to Sir Robert Napier. For himself, he said, that so far as he was personally concerned in preparing the expedition he had only carried out the details of a plan previously arranged.
§ EARL GREY
My Lords, in giving my cordial support to the Vote of Thanks proposed by my noble Friend on the Ministerial bench I should not have thought it necessary to trouble your Lordships with any observations, were it not that I have more than once expressed my opinion against the policy and justice of the war now brought to a close in China. From that opinion I have in no way departed. I still think that the war in China was most unjust and most impolitic; and I am still persuaded, whatever may be the state of things at present, that the ultimate result of the war will, in all probability, be most injurious to our interests in China. But our army and our navy are not responsible for the character of the war; and, as I believe, they well deserve all the commendation they have received, as I think they have shown courage, skill, and discipline in the highest degree, I am of opinion that the tribute which we are now called upon to pay them has been fairly earned, and the thanks proposed to he awarded to them meet with my cordial concurrence. I shall only add that, whilst I think it inexpedient, after what has fallen from the noble Lord, to raise a discussion on this occasion upon any matter on which there may be a difference of opinion; I, at the same time, think we ought at some time and in some mode to have an opportunity of expressing our opinion with respect to the policy and probable results of the war. It is of the deepest importance that the subject should be brought before Parliament for discussion; for it is eminently worthy of observation that this war has been entered into and brought to a close without the ground for the war, the reasons for it, and the views with which it was undertaken having ever been brought formally under the notice of Parliament. I hope that at some future time the Government will call the attention of the House to the subject; but if they do not do so I think that it will be the duty of myself or of some other Peer to do it.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, that after the unanimous expression of opinion 390 to which their Lordships had that evening been listening, it might seem unnecessary to prolong the discussion in which they were engaged. He did not, however, like to let the present occasion pass by without saying how entirely he concurred in those praises which had been so cordially bestowed upon the officers and men who composed our recent expedition to China. The department over which he had the honour to preside had not, it was true, had an opportunity afforded it of exhibiting, in the course of the stirring events to which that expedition led, those dazzling and brilliant qualities which, in all former wars in which we happened to be involved, had won for the navy the applause and admiration of the country. But their Lordships were well aware that the services rendered by it in China were, nevertheless, of a most important character. In dealing with those services, the preparation for months beforehand, the maintenance of the necessary communications, the embarkation and disembarkation of the troops, and other labours, demanding for their successful performance the most ready obedience, the most unflagging energy, and the greatest professional skill, must not be lost sight of; and, when all those matters were taken into consideration, our naval forces in China would, he felt assured, be found to be eminently worthy of the gratitude of the nation. He held in his hand a letter from Sir Hope Grant to his noble Friend the Secretary for War, in which that distinguished officer bore the highest testimony to the efficiency of the assistance which had been rendered by our gunboats in the operations in the north of China, and in which it was stated that by means of those vessels the communications between the troops were kept up and stores landed under ‘circumstances in which not a single transport could get within nine miles of the shore. In all operations carried on upon the sea-shore, these gunboats must be of the greatest advantage, and in no instance could this be more satisfactorily illustrated than in the late operations in China. Sir Hope Grant concluded by saying that he could not too strongly express his opinion of the value of the gunboats, nor of the admirable manner in which they were worked by their commanders. So that at the very time last summer when these vessels were being denounced in more than one quarter at home as being rotten and unfit for service, some of these very boats had traversed 15,000 miles of sea, and 391 having arrived in the Gulf of Pecheli, had there rendered the greatest service in the conduct of the operations. He might he allowed, in the next place, to observe, in reply to what had fallen from the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby), that the reason why the despatches of our military and naval commanders in China did not appear in the papers on the table was to be found in the fact that the blue book had been prepared by the Foreign Office, to be produced at the meeting of Parliament, and that it was made to embrace, for the most part, only those despatches which were addressed to that department. The despatches, however, had appeared in The Gazette, and therefore, their Lordships were well aware of the tenor of those despatches, though he admitted that it would have been more regular if they had been laid on the table of the House. With regard to another point to which the noble Earl adverted — the destruction of the Summer Palace of the Chinese Emperor — he must say that he could not agree with the noble Earl. Allowance must be made for the feelings of the army when they knew that their comrades who had been taken so treacherously had been so cruelly used by the Chinese; and that, at this very time, when these cruel acts were being committed, the Chinese communicated with the army, saying that these persons were well treated and would be restored without any injury whatever. This falsehood, treachery, and cruelty did, in his mind, justify some strong measure of retaliation. Now, what measure of retaliation could be adopted? He thought that the arguments brought forward by Lord Elgin showed that if something was to be done nothing could be done which would bear so effectually on the Government as the destruction of the Imperial Palace; and, he believed, that those who were acquainted with the country would agree that the destruction of that Palace was also of great use in leading to the signature of the treaty. He believed that when the Chinese officials saw the destruction of the palace they became impressed with the conviction that we were in earnest, and that, therefore, longer to deal in deceit would not answer their purpose, and that there would be an attack upon Pekin if they did not sign the treaty. In passing he must say that both the Government and the country were much indebted to Lord Elgin for having, at considerable inconvenience and great personal risk, un- 392 dertaken a second journey to China in order to effect an object which he was by far the most competent person to effect, and which it was of the utmost importance that we should attain. He earnestly hoped that now we had got a commercial treaty with the Chinese it would lead to more intimate and friendly relations, and that a better understanding between the people of the East and of the West would prevent any more war between them. The Chinese said that the spear and the shield were laid aside for ever; and he hoped that the Chinese Government would be true to their engagements, and that friendly intercourse, which the Chinese people had always shown a desire for, would be promoted — for it was with the Government of China, and not the people, that we had been at war.
THE MARQUESS OF BATH
said, he only rose to say a few words in consequence of the Government having defended the conduct of the Earl of Elgin, in having ordered the destruction of the Summer Palace. The noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) seemed to assume that the destruction of the Imperial Palace had taken place in a moment of excitement, caused by the circumstance of the cruel; treatment inflicted upon some of their comrades having come to the knowledge of our troops. Now, had that been the case, the act might, perhaps, to some extent be justified; but the fact was, that the order to sack and destroy the palace had been given by Lord Elgin in cold blood some time after the occurrence of the events to which the noble Duke alluded; and, if report were true, in spite of the remonstrances of the French, who were anxious to avoid a proceeding marked by so much barbarity. Upon an occasion such as the present, when the gallant and devoted conduct of our army and navy was the more immediate subject of discussion, he did not wish to dwell at any length upon so disagreeable a topic; but he could not, at the same time, allow to pass unnoticed an act of vandalism, which, although it had been sanctioned by an English ambassador and defended by an English Minister, might, in his opinion, justly be ranked with such deeds as the burning of the library of Alexandria, or the sacking of Rome by the Constable de Bourbon.
THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, we are under obligations so deep to Lord Elgin, that I regret any 393 question should arise among us as to the expediency of any part of his conduct in China. In dealing with the particular point to which the noble Marquess has adverted, we should, I think, do well not to give way to too great an extent to any feelings which we in this country may he disposed to entertain with respect to such acts: not to look upon them only from an European point of view, but to bear in mind that Lord Elgin had to make an impression upon Orientals, and to take a course which would be likely to render secure henceforward the lives of English subjects in a remote quarter of the world. For my own part, I cannot help saying that I believe no public man ever made a greater sacrifice than Lord Elgin did in proceeding a second time to China, while I am of opinion that his conduct throughout the recent transactions in which he was engaged has been marked by the utmost judgment, firmness, and discretion. Indeed, it is to him principally, I apprehend, that we owe the extrication of our army with honour and credit from a position utterly false in a military point of view.
§ Motion agreed to, Nemine Dissentiente:
§ Then it was moved, That the Lord Chancellor do communicate the said Resolutions to the Naval and Military Officers and Men engaged in Her Majesty’s service in China:
§ On Question, Resolved in the Affirmative.
§ House adjourned at Seven o’clock, till To-morrow, Half-past Ten o’clock.