§ SIR R. PEEL
spoke as follows: I am enabled, I will not say through the courtesy, but the public spirit and generous feeling of many Members who had Motions entitled to precedence over mine, to bring forward that of which I gave notice immediately on the receipt of the intelligence of our recent successes in India. That Motion, interposed as it is between discussions of great political importance, leading to much eager and even angry controversy, and to serious differences of opinion, will, I know from past experience, obtain the hearty and unanimous concurrence of this House. That Motion will unite the representatives of a great Empire, proud of its military glory, in acknowledging in the first place the protecting hand of Almighty God the giver of all victory, and in then expressing their exultation that new examples of heroism have maintained and exalted the military character of their country. That Motion will enable us to pay a tribute of cordial and grateful acknowledgment to the generals, to the officers, and to the men, who have achieved signal victories in a far distant land. It will enable us also to mingle with the admiration of valour the expression of a manly but heartfelt sorrow for the loss of the "unreturning brave," who have sacrificed, willingly sacrificed, their lives in the defence of their country's interests, and in the maintenance of their country's honour. The Resolutions I shall propose will convey 437 the thanks of this House, for splendid victories achieved within a very limited period, and within a very limited space; but I have felt it my duty not to incorporate our acknowledgments for these triumphs in a single resolution, but to reserve to each triumph the separate recognition so justly due to it. It will have been my good fortune since the month of February, 1843, on five distinct occasions, to propose that the Thanks of the Commons of England should be conveyed to the armies, European and native, engaged in the service of the Crown in India. Including, indeed, the Vote on the glorious termination of the Chinese war, on six different occasions, will the Thanks of this House have been awarded. The repetition of these Votes tends in no degree to dim or disparage their value. National gratitude must keep pace with national glory; and every fresh achievement adds new value to the reward we confer on skill and valour by the public acknowledgment of our gratitude. I intend, therefore, to submit two separate Motions: one, acknowledging the distinguished services of Sir Henry Smith, and of the division of the army under his command, for the battle of Aliwal; and the other, conveying an equal acknowledgment for the glorious services of the army under the immediate command of Sir Hugh Gough. Since the termination of those battles, which have already entitled the Indian army to the thanks of Parliament, (the battles of Moodkee and Ferozeshah,) the enemy with whom we had to contend, has displayed, through a series of operations, great military skill, and that character for undaunted bravery for which they are justly distinguished. Notwithstanding the reverses they met with on the 18th and 21st of December they appeared without delay on the banks of the Sutlej in considerable force, protected by a powerful artillery, near the ford of Hurekee. They established on the right bank of the river a large army, retaining possession of a bridge, over which they passed from the north bank of the Sutlej to the south; they established also a tête de pont on the left bank, and entrenched on that bank a force which by constant accessions at last included not less than 35,000 men, supported by about seventy pieces of cannon. The artillery was of beautiful workmanship, and of heavy calibre. Not only did the enemy establish that large army and plant that artillery in the face of the British troops under Sir Hugh Gough, but they despatched a force of not fewer than 438 20,000 men, conducted with the utmost skill and courage, towards the city of Loodiana, from which our forces had been at first withdrawn in order to assist in the battles of Moodkee and Ferozeshah. They adopted this operation, not merely for the purpose of occupying the city of Loodiana, but for the purpose of threatening to interrupt our communication with Delhi, and to intercept the arrival of our artillery by the road of Bussean. It was in order to prevent the success of this skilful and dangerous enterprise, that Sir Henry Smith was detached by Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Henry Hardinge—greatly weakening the force retained in front of the main body of the Sikh army. It was necessary, however, to do this in order to defeat the formidable body which crossed the river from Philloor in order to intercept our communication, and if possible to transfer the seat of war from the neighbourhood of Ferozepore to Loodiana. It was intended, before Sir Henry Smith attacked the army under the Sikh chief, composed of not less than 24,000 men, supported by about sixty pieces of artillery, that he should effect a junction with the British troops at Loodiana under Major Goldby, and with another body of men sent to reinforce him under Colonel Wheeler. The House is aware that the junction was ultimately effected; and that Sir Henry Smith was strengthened by the addition of the force from Loodiana, and of that under Colonel Wheeler. A desperate action was afterwards fought by the division under Sir Henry Smith, the result of which was the utter discomfiture of the enemy, the capture of all his guns, the disorganization of his whole army, and the flight of that army across the Sutlej after the severest loss. These operations are described with such precision—are detailed with such fulness and beautiful clearness—and must be so familiar to all whom I address, that I will not weaken the effect of their perusal by attempting to go over the same ground. The hand that held the pen, used it with the same success with which it had wielded the sword. I have yet adverted only to the successes of Sir Henry Smith; now I will speak, and speak with confidence, and speak to his honour, of interruptions and checks to that success. There cannot but be vicissitudes in the operations of war; and that man is to be honoured, who recovers from temporary difficulties and disappointments, and thus adds brightness to the glory of his achievements. I wish, therefore, for the purpose of exalting the 439 merits and services of Sir Henry Smith, to present to the House some occurrences that preceded the battle in which he was so eminently successful—I wish to present, from Reports only recently received, an account of the difficulties and disappointments he encountered with the same spirit and constancy which he displayed in victory; and which, in my opinion, entitle him to equal applause. The great battle of Aliwal was fought on the 28th of January; but earlier in that month Sir Henry Smith had sustained what some might have considered a reverse. I allude to a period before his junction with Colonel Wheeler, and with the five regiments from Loodiana. In the absence of all intelligence he encountered the enemy; and but for his eminent skill and resolute valour, might have been exposed to serious hazard. Let me state in what manner he extricated himself. Writing to Sir Hugh Gough on the 21st, just after he had succeeded in relieving Loodiana, he said that he had accomplished that object, but under circumstances not quite so fortunate as he desired; and he used these expressions:—When within a mile and a half to my left of Buddowal, moving parallel with my column (which was right in front ready to wheel into line), and evidently for the purpose of interrupting my advance, I saw the enemy. Nothing could be stronger for the enemy than the continued line of villages which were in his front.He was moving by roads, while I was moving over very heavy sandbeds. He was in advance far bevond, on my right flank; so far did he extend, and so numerous did he show his infantry and guns, and so well chosen for him was the line of villages, that with my force he was not to be assailed; and he opened a furious cannonade of from thirty-five to forty guns of very large calibre, and, as usual, right well served. My object being to unite myself with the force from Loodiana, which every moment I expected to appear in sight—for it was nine o'clock—I moved parallel with the enemy, resolving to attack the moment the Loodiana troops reached me. He, however, so pressed upon me, that I opened in one body my eleven guns upon him with considerable effect, and moved up the 31st, and was preparing to form line upon this regiment, when the enemy most rapidly formed a line of seven regiments, with their guns, between, at right angles with the line I was about to attack, while a considerable force was moving round my right and front. Thus enveloped, and overwhelmed by numbers, and such a superiority of guns, I had nothing for it but to throw back my line on its right, which represented a small line on the hypothenuse of a triangle.That is to say, the two divisions of the enemy formed two sides of a triangle, Sir Henry Smith and his force being placed between them on a shorter line, and nearer the centre than the remaining side of the triangle. He goes on as follows:— 440The enemy thus outflanked me and my whole force. I therefore gradually withdrew my infantry in echellon of battalions, the cavalry in echellon of squadrons, in the direction of Loodiana, momentarily expecting to see the approach of that force—viz., one regiment of cavalry, five guns, and four regiments of infantry, when I would have made a vigorous attack. The ground was very deep and sandy, and therefore very difficult to move on. The enemy continued to move on as described for upwards of an hour, and until I knew the Loodiana force was moving not a musket was fired. Nothing could exceed the steadiness of the troops. The line was thrown back, under this cannonade, as if on parade, Native as well as British, and the movements of the cavalry, under Brigadier Cureton, were, without any exception, the most perfect thing I ever saw, and which I cannot describe.So far from withholding this narrative of his extrication from his difficulties, I think it only adds to the proofs of his skill and valour, and illustrates his high character as a commander. Having been disappointed in effecting his junction with the troops from Loodiana, and those expected to arrive under Colonel Wheeler, he extricated himself from his formidable embarrassment with consummate coolness and judgment. Instead of desponding under his temporary disappointment, he was able to direct all his energies to the entire discomfiture of the enemy only a few days afterwards. Of the battle itself I will not speak; the victory was complete, and it has been so admirably described by the illustrious commander, that I will not weaken the effect of his narrative. And is this victory his only title to our acknowledgment? What have been the services of this gallant Officer? These recent events have given new lustre to his preceding career. It is one of unusual distinction. Sir Henry Smith was at the capture of Monte Video—at the attack upon Buenos Ayres; he served during the first campaigns of the Peninsular war, from the battle of Vimeira to that of Corunna. He was at the battles of Sabagal and Fuente d'Onor, at the sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajos, at the battles of Salamanca, Vittoria, Orthes, the Pyrenees, and Toulouse. He was at Washington and at New Orleans, and finally he was at Waterloo. What a series of noble services—and how rejoiced I am that there should be an opportunity, through this new and signal victory, of bringing before the gladdened eyes of a grateful country a long life of military exertion, and an unbroken series of military honours! After he had achieved that success for which we are about to give him our special thanks—after he had driven back the enemy across the 441 Sutlej, he instantly returned to rejoin his commanding officer, Sir Hugh Gough. He arrived at head-quarters on the 8th February, two days before the decisive victory gained by the forces under Sir Hugh Gough and Sir Henry Hardinge. He took, therefore, a distinguished part in the battle of Sobraon. But for his services in the victory of the 28th of January, I propose that there should be a distinct and separate vote—distinct and separate from that which I shall recommend for that not more glorious, though perhaps yet more important and decisive achievement accomplished at a later date by the whole British army. I say I will not weaken the effect of the recital of the particulars of that second battle and victory, as detailed in the despatches of the gallant officers in command, by attempting what must be in comparison a poor and inefficient narrative. I will do the Members of this House, the fellow countrymen of these distinguished officers, the justice to believe that they are familiar with all the details of these signal exploits. Let us not forget, in commemorating the valour of our own countrymen, to give due praise to the skill and bravery of our defeated enemy. After our successes over them on the 18th and 21st December, they so far recovered from their disasters, that, undaunted, they met on the field, after the lapse of a few weeks, the whole force of the British army. Sir Henry Hardinge, speaking of their conduct in the battle of Sobraon, says, "Such was the bravery of the enemy, that being defeated they walked away, and, in the middle of the river, disdained to ask for quarter." But I will not enter into particulars—for every man who hears me is master of the details of the battle fought on the 10th February; he is aware that the well-appointed army of the Sikhs suffered a complete and a signal discomfiture; that their loss was enormous; that, after the exhibition of great valour, they were driven across the Sutlej; and that the British army, crossing at the Sutlej near Ferozepore, as well as at the point where the battle was fought, united its forces and marched together towards the capital of the Sikh territory. All this was accomplished in a period not exceeding eight weeks from the day on which the first incursion of the enemy took place; and during that period of eight weeks the enemy was triumphantly defeated wherever he was encountered. Every gun which the Sikhs had brought to bear on our 442 troops was captured; and after a series of decisive victories, we now probably occupy the capital city of the Punjaub. I believe that not more than one-third of the whole force engaged consisted of Europeans; and the example which those Europeans set was worthy of being followed by the native soldiers. They did follow it—and on every occasion during the four successive and desperate conflicts in which they were engaged, was the honour of the British name worthily sustained by the commanders, the officers, and the men. The victory, this succession of victories, has been interrupted by no single failure; it was unsullied by any imputation on our arms and character. We have not been influenced by a grasping spirit of aggrandizement—we have simply repelled an attack made upon us in a time of profound peace—all national engagements on our part having been faithfully kept, there not having been a pretext, even in the shape of justifiable preparation and defence, for the aggression that was made upon us. Those Sikh chiefs with whom we have had communication since the defeat of the enemy, who disavow any participation in his perfidy, and profess to disapprove of it, have frankly acknowledged the object they had in view. By their powerful artillery, and by their formidable infantry and cavalry, they thought to overpower the two detachments of the British forces stationed at the extremities of the frontier line—Ferozepore and Loodiana; having overpowered them, they intended to march at once to Delhi, and hoped by their success to shake the allegiance of our Indian soldiery. That was the avowed object they had in view. It was admitted that there was no excuse for this aggression from any proceedings on our part; we had been guilty of no breach of treaty, and had done nothing that could justify hostility. The same persons admitted also that they should derive consolation even from the failure of a rebellious and mutinous army—that the next best thing to victory would be a defeat, since it would lead to the dispersion and annihilation of a force which it was impossible to control. For success so gained, and for triumph in a conflict so unprovoked, I think there will be but one universal and unanimous expression of gratitude within these walls. There is much to adorn and nothing to sully our victory; and I do hope that now it has been achieved it will give lasting peace to India; that a general conviction will be felt of our power—a conviction of the superiority of 443 British arms, that will ensure a long enjoyment of tranquillity to that country. I trust that this may be our last battle, and that hereafter we may be enabled to direct our undivided attention to the amelioration of the condition of our Indian fellow-subjects, and the improvement of the natural resources of our Indian Empire. In that anticipation the House will, I am sure, permit me to refer to some circumstances which may well fill our hearts with joy and exultation. The two leaders of our victorious army, the Governor General and the Commander-in-Chief, have throughout these operations set an example of cordial concert and union—an utter forgetfulness of themselves, to which the happy result is greatly to be attributed. All matters of punctilio were sacrificed, and Sir Henry Hardinge consented to serve as second in command. On the other hand, there was not a suggestion offered by Sir Henry Hardinge which was not thankfully accepted by Sir Hugh Gough. Hoping, as I have said, that this may be the last occasion on which I shall have to perform the gratifying duty of proposing a public acknowledgment for victory, and a public expression of admiration for the high qualities of our illustrious countrymen, I will, with the permission of the House, refer to a document, not of a public character, that has been put into my hand since I entered the House this evening—it is a letter from Sir Hugh Gough, which was never intended to meet the public eye; but it does him so much honour, that I cannot refuse myself the pleasure of reading it. He says:—It is now with pride and with pleasure I enclose you a copy of my despatch, detailing one of the most splendid and decisive victories upon record—the Waterloo of India. I have entered so fully both into detail and commendation in my despatch to the Governor General, that it would be impossible for me to enlarge upon a subject embracing the warmest feelings of my heart. Policy, however, precluded me publicly recording my sentiments on the splendid gallantry of our fallen foe, or to record the acts of heroism displayed, not only individually, but almost collectively, by the Sikh Sirdars and army; and I declare, were it not from a deep conviction that my country's good required the sacrifice, I could have wept to have witnessed the fearful slaughter of so devoted a body of men. Never, in the page of military history, has the hand of an All-wise Being been so signally manifested: to Him, therefore, be the glory; we, as his instruments, feel the pride. But I cannot pass over—I cannot too strongly record—facts which, whilst they add lustre to the native army, afford to me, as its head, inexpressible pride and pleasure. For upwards of a month, when the two armies were close in front of one another, notwithstanding the numerous 444 temptations held out to our sepoys by men of their own colour and religion; namely, greatly increased pay, from seven to twelve rupees a month, and immediate promotion, I had but three desertions from this large force. Nor should I omit to mention, as a proof of the high state of discipline of this splendid army, that trade has been carried on unreservedly since we crossed the Sutlej in the several Sikh towns around which our divisions have been necessarily placed for the procurance of water, and the same confidence has been shown as though we were in one of our long-established provinces.The example set by two gallant commanders of disregarding military punctilio, and looking exclusively to their country's honour and to the safety of the army, told, as might naturally be expected, on those placed under their orders. Sir Hugh Gough speaks of an officer who joined only the night before the battle, and pays him a tribute which I am proud to mention. This officer (Brigadier Irvine) had made every exertion to join the army, in the hope of being placed in the prominent station to which by his rank he was entitled; and, as I have said, he arrived only the night before the battle. The command would naturally have devolved upon him, but he declined to assume it, in order that all the credit might attach to the officer who in point of rank was inferior, but who had superintended the preparations for the coming action. While we are bestowing due praise on such devotion to public duty, let us not forget the example that had been set by the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief. That example had, no doubt, influenced the conduct of other brave and honourable men, who were willing to make a sacrifice, not of mere personal interest, for that they disregarded, but of that which was really dear to them, the opportunity of personal distinction. I am sure the House will permit me, among expressions of gratitude to the surviving conquerors, to mingle some of deep regret at the loss we have sustained. On the former occasion I had to lament the sacrifice of life, and I met with universal and generous sympathy; I had to condole with the country on the death of that gallant officer Sir Robert Sale, who was known to most of us, and endeared to all who had intercourse with him, by the kindly frankness of his deportment. On this occasion I have to deplore the loss of several officers of the highest reputation, and the first I shall name is Sir Robert Dick. I am confident that the House will permit me shortly to recite what is the extent of national gratitude due for the former services of this gallant officer. He entered 445 the service in 1800. He embarked with the 78th Regiment for Sicily in 1806, and was wounded in battle. He accompanied the expedition to Egypt, and was present at the taking of Alexandria. He embarked with the 42nd Regiment in 1809, and was again wounded at Fuente d'Onor. He commanded the second battalion of the 42nd Regiment at Ciudad Rodrigo. He was at the battle of Salamanca, at the storming of St. Michel, and was present during the siege of Burgos. In 1815 he was severely wounded, and, after a life of honour, he at last fell in the battle, for the happy result of which we are about to make our grateful acknowledgments. I deeply regret that in the face of the House of Commons I cannot do justice to every officer and to every man who fell in this encounter, and sacrificed his life in his country's service. Some limit, however, must be imposed on the mention of individual officers, and the least invidious limit is that of rank and standing in the army. Not outsepping that limit, I must deplore the loss of another gallant soldier. On the day which deprived us for ever of the services of Sir Robert Dick, there also fell Lieutenant Colonel Taylor of the 29th Regiment. The father of this gallant officer, leading into action the 20th Light Dragoons, of which he was Lieutenant Colonel, lost his life in the Peninsula. The father fell at Vimiera — the son met an equally glorious death at the battle of Sobraon. I will, with the permission of the House, briefly recapitulate the services of Lieutenant Colonel Taylor. He commanded the light company of the 20th Foot, in the expedition against Kalapore, in 1827–28; served on the frontier during the Canadian rebellion, where, in the succeesful attack of a village occupied by the rebels, he rendered an important service; commanded a brigade of infantry in the actions of the 18th, 21st, and 22nd of December, 1845, wherein he was wounded; commanded also the troops sent to keep up the communication between Sir Henry Smith and the main army, whilst the former was engaged in the operations which led to the battle of Aliwal; and a brigade of infantry at the battle of Sobraon, where he fell. His death is thus announced by Sir Hugh Gough:—The army has sustained a heavy loss by the death of Brigadier Taylor, an able officer, and worthy to have been at the head of Her Majesty's 20th Regiment, by which he was beloved and respected.How many there are who have lost their 446 sons and relatives in these conflicts I need not say; but I have been thrown of late into frequent and necessary intercourse with one, whose gallant son died on the field of battle in this encounter. It has been my duty, my painful duty in some respects, to hold constant communication with Lord Fitzroy Somerset, whose brave offspring, had he survived, would have supported the honour of his family, and transmitted to another generation the high character of his father. Lord Fitzroy Somerset himself has run an illustrious career. He accompanied the Duke of Wellington throughout all the battles of the Peninsula, and was severely wounded at Waterloo. Had his son survived, the satisfaction of Lord Fitzroy Somerset, in contemplating the recent services of his former comrades, would have been unalloyed. He has now to mingle with admiration of their valour the sorrows of a father for a painful and irreparable loss. If in mentioning the name of the gallant and lamented Somerset, I am transgressing the limit I proposed to observe, the services and character, and station of the father, his relation to the British army and to its illustrious Chief, will fully justify me in offering this, the best consolation to the wounded feelings of a father and a soldier. I wish I could do justice to my own feelings by naming many others scarcely less distinguished or less lamented; but the list is so numerous of those entitled to grateful remembrance, that I trust a reluctant silence will not be imputed to any want of a due sense of their claims and merits. When I review the names of those who have taken a distinguished part in these and other recent victories in India—the names of Sir Henry Hardinge, Sir Hugh Gough, Sir Henry Smith, Sir Charles Napier, Sir Robert Dick, and General Thackwell—(several Members here added the name of Gilbert)—I reflect with satisfaction and pride that these distinguished men received their military education under the auspices of the Duke of Wellington. It adds new lustre even to his immortal name, that his school has produced pupils who have so profited by his example. There are officers not less eminent, who have not had the honour and advantage of serving under the Duke of Wellington; but on them his precepts and example have not been lost. Such men as Nott, and Pollock, and Gilbert, and other bright ornaments of the Indian army, have treasured up the memory of "Assaye," and the brilliant career of the Duke of Wellington 447 throughout his Indian campaigns. His Indian Correspondence, his Comments on the Retreat of Colonel Monson, his Lessons on the Art of Indian Warfare, have exercised their just influence on those to whom, perhaps, his person is unknown. It may be that at this very moment the Duke of Wellington is bestowing, in the House of Peers, the unstinted meed of his praise on these signal achievements, and is stamping an additional value even on the Thanks of Parliament, by bearing his high testimony to the skill and valour of those to whom they will be justly given. With what conscious pride must he reflect on the number of gallant men distinguished in these Indian campaigns who have heretofore fought and bled under his command, and, after the lapse of many years, have now worthily followed his example! And long after he shall have been gathered to his fathers, will that example instruct and animate the British army. It will teach them that success is ensured by the calm and dispassionate calculation of remote contingencies—by the preparation for all vicissitudes of fortune—by valour tempered according to the exigencies that require its display—now patient and enduring—now reckless and desperate. It will teach them fortitude under disappointment, and moderation in the hour of victory. The memory of the high qualities and the great deeds of the Duke of Wellington will be for ages a tower of defence to his country, inspiring her military councils with wisdom and justice, and guiding heroes that are yet unborn in the paths of glory. I conclude by moving—That the Thanks of this House be given to Major General Sir Henry George Smith, Knight Commander of the Most honourable Military Order of the Bath, for his skilful and meritorious conduct, when in command of the British Troops employed against a large portion of the Sikh Army, of greatly superior numbers; and for the signal valour and judgment displayed by him in the Battle of Aliwal on the 28th of January, 1846, when the Enemy's Force was totally defeated, and new lustre added to the reputation of the British Arms.That the Thanks of this House be given to the several Officers, European and Native, under the command of Sir Henry Smith, for the distinguished services rendered by them at the Battle of Aliwal.That this House doth highly approve of, and commend, the intrepidity and exemplary discipline displayed by the Non-commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, European and Native, in the Battle of Aliwal, on the 28th of January, 1846, in their attack on the Enemy's position, by which the Sikhs were completely routed, and driven in confusion across the Sutlej, with the loss of all their Artillery and Military 448 Equipment; and that the same be signified to them by the Commanders of the several Corps, who are desired to thank them for their gallant behaviour.That, in requesting the Governor General of India to communicate these Resolutions to the several Officers referred to therein, this House desires to acknowledge the zeal and judgment evinced by the Right honourable Lieutenant General Sir Henry Hardinge, Knight Grand Cross of the Most honourable Military Order of the Bath, Governor General of India; and also by General Sir Hugh Gough, Bart., Knight Grand Cross of the Most honourable Military Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief of the Forces in India, in supplying Major General Sir Henry Smith with such reinforcements and military means as enabled him, under Divine Providence, to overcome all the obstacles thrown in his way by a brave and determined Enemy.
§ SIR J. C. HOBHOUSE
said: Sir, I consider it a very proud distinction to be permitted to second the Motion of the right hon. Baronet; but I can assure the House that I shall do so in a very few sentences. After the eloquent and effective appeal which has been made by the right hon. Gentleman, it would be superfluous in me to do more than, in a very few words, explain why I consider we are called on to pay this tribute of thanks to the gallant general and the troops under his command. General Smith has, as the right hon. Baronet says, by these actions maintained the glory of his former character, and contributed to the subsequent success—to that success which is to form the subject of the second vote of thanks which the right hon. Gentleman is this night to move. And here I may take the liberty of observing, that never, I believe, in the annals of Parliament—never, I believe, upon any former occasion—was it the good fortune of a Minister of the Crown to propose two votes of thanks upon the same night for two such brilliant victories as those which it has been the right hon. Gentleman's duty to bring before the notice of the House on this occasion. It is, as the right hon. Gentleman said, a peculiar felicity that we should have this opportunity of recording the sentiments of a British House of Commons upon his proposal, and bearing our testimony to those great exploits—exploits which the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly justified in saying have never been exceeded, if they have ever been equalled, in the history of this country. It is superfluous for me to say much more upon this subject, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has told you, we have in the despatches of those gallant officers their own account of these great deeds, and such an account as shows not less their modesty than their valour; for we find the record 449 in those despatches of the great deeds of almost every officer and of the men under their command, but a silence, a modest and perfect silence is observed with respect to their own individual deeds. It is, indeed, as the right hon. Gentleman said—it is true that the right hand which held the sword also held the pen; or, as it was said of a great commander of antiquity, Eodem animo scripsit quo bellavit; and the detail in these admirable despatches makes it unnecessary to allude more particularly to the brilliant actions they describe. But an allusion which has been made to the Governor General of India, although, perhaps, it more particularly belongs to the second Motion of thanks which the right hon. Gentleman is about to propose to the House, will, I hope, be a sufficient excuse for my saying one or two words with reference to that distinguished man. It is a great comfort to me, as it must be to every Member of this House—it is a great consolation to me, who have mixed familiarly, I may say, upon the floor of Parliament with this distinguished man, to see him now in a distant country meeting those hitherto invincible battalions with the same courage, the same success, and the same devotion to his country, that characterized him when we saw him mingling in the discussions of the Senate, and winning the esteem, however he might differ from his opponents, of all those with whom, happily for them, he ever came in contact. There is something, I may say, almost of Roman grandeur in this, that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman gets, as it were, from the floor of this House, where he had so long distinguished himself, to the command of a great province and of mighty armies, where, though suddenly and treacherously attacked, he combines with the greatest skill and prudence all the available forces of the province committed to his care, and with wonderful success in less than two months performed deeds which would be sufficient for the life of any other man. Why, between the 17th of December last and the present time, Sir Henry Hardinge has performed exploits and achieved conquests such as would illustrate the life of any other commander. Whether this is the last triumph that we will have to record—though I hope peace may be assured—or not, I cannot but conclude with saying that we shall ever remember with grateful pride that distinguished man, who, so well known in this House, has shown himself equally distinguished 450 in the field, and has more than upheld that renown which he had previously enjoyed. Most willingly do I second the Motion.
§ MR. C. RUSSELL
said, the House would remember that when a vote of thanks to the army in India was before recorded by the House, that a petition was presented by the hon. Member for Durham from the town which he (Mr. Russell) had the honour to represent, the town of Reading, and that a very just rebuke was thrown upon that petition by the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government. He had since received a request from the inhabitants of the town of Reading, conveyed to him through the mayor and magistrates of that town, that he should disclaim on their part that petition; and that he would would express their deep regret—he might add their shame—that such a petition should have been supposed to have proceeded from that town. They had carefully examined that petition, and found attached to it the names of many women and school children, and many persons who were hardly able to write; and, besides that, there were several signatures which were actual forgeries, for some gentlemen whose names were attached to it had given an indignant denial to the statement that they sanctioned that petition. He had been requested to avail himself of that debate to say that there was no town in Her Majesty's dominions which more heartily and more loyally rejoiced in the triumphs of Her Majesty's armies, or was more cordially desirous to concur in the tribute of praise and admiration of the gallantry by which those triumphs had been obtained. It would be presumptuous on his part to attempt to swell the high and just panegyric that had been pronounced upon those deeds by the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government; but having had the honour to wear the uniform of the Bengal army during many of the best years of his existence, it would not seem unreasonable that he should have been specifically requested by a large number of persons to offer their homage and admiration to the troops of Her Majesty's army, and to the troops of that service in which at one period he might say he had the honour to serve.
§ SIR R. H. INGLIS
would not follow the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last in the former part of his observations; and it was sufficient for him to say that he entirely agreed with the latter part of them, and 451 in every word that had fallen from the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, beginning, as he did, with ascribing the glory and the success of the war to Him to whom alone they were due, and following up that with a detailed statement of the merits and services for which he had claimed the gratitude of that House, and with respect to which he had, he (Sir R. Inglis) believed, spoken the sentiments not only of that House, but also of every Englishman who was worthy of the name. He thought it would be presumptuous in him, a layman, to offer any testimony to the military merits and services which the right hon. Gentleman had enumerated—a testimony which better became the military companions of those distinguished men; but he could not forbear referring to the testimony which had been borne by the right hon. Member for Nottingham (Sir J. C. Hobhouse) to those services—a testimony which was the more honourable as being given to a political opponent, and doubly valuable as coming from one who, if he might be allowed to say so, had the misfortune to differ from the right hon. Baronet the Governor General of India. He wished also, following up the observations with which the right hon. Baronet had commenced, specially to call the attention of the House to the despatch of Sir Hugh Gough himself—a despatch which would bear comparison with any despatch in any age of the military history of this country, and which revived, in some of its expressions, the remembrance of some of the greatest heroes who had ever fought and conquered, and who had always attributed success to Him to whom alone it was owing. What were the words in which the Duke of Marlborough announced the battle of Blenheim?—God has blessed Her Majesty's arms with as great a victory as has ever been known.What was the language used by Lord Nelson after the battle of the Nile?—Almighty God has blessed His Majesty's arms in the late battle by a great victory over the fleet of the enemy, whom I attacked at sunset, on the 1st of August, off the mouth of the Nile.What were the expressions used by Lord Collingwood after the still greater battle of Trafalgar?—The Almighty God, whose arm is strength, having of his great mercy been pleased to crown the exertions of His Majesty's fleet with success, in giving them a complete victory over their enemies, on the 21st of this month; and that all praise and thanksgiving may be offered up to the 452 Throne of Grace for the great benefit to our country and to mankind, I have thought proper that a day should be appointed of general humiliation before God, and of thanksgiving for this his merciful goodness, imploring forgiveness of sins, a continuation of His Divine mercy, and His constant aid to us in the defence of our country's liberties and laws, without which the utmost efforts of man are nought.In the same spirit as the Duke of Marlborough, Lord Nelson, and Lord Collingwood, did Sir Hugh Gough, in words which ought to be engraven on all their hearts, open his despatch:—Thanks to Almighty God, whose hand I desire to acknowledge in all our successes, the occasion of my writing now is to announce a fourth and most glorious and decisive victory.He (Sir R. Inglis) said that those men were worthy of being the countrymen of Marlborough, of Nelson, and of Collingwood, who, in the moment of victory, could make that acknowledgment; and he trusted, from the passage he had already adverted to in the opening speech of his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, that he would not only accord to those distinguished individuals on the present occasion the same acknowledgments which others had expressed, but that he would not be unprepared publicly to give effect to such expression of acknowledgment. It would be invidious to particularise individuals; but he could not but feel that more mention should have been made of Major General Gilbert and Brigadier Cureton, whose merits must have well entitled them to more especial reference. The latter distinguished individual, though descended from what the world generally called a good family, had the credit of raising himself from the ranks. If he thought that in making that allusion he detracted in the slightest degree from the great merit and character of that individual, he hoped he should shrink from doing anything of the kind, or of seeking to undervalue him; but he mentioned it as redounding to his own honour that he had risen by his talents from the ranks. He believed there would not be in that House one dissentient voice, or dissentient feeling in the country, with respect to the merits and services of those who were now to receive the most grateful of tributes which man could confer upon man—the honour of a unanimous vote of thanks from that House. Thanking the House for having permitted him to bear his share in according this public expression of thanks, he would conclude by stating that he gave his cordial 453 support to the votes both to Sir H. Smith and to Sir H. Hardinge for their achievement on the banks of the Sutlej.
LORD J. RUSSELL
As the right hon. Baronet has brought this question so fully before you, it is not necessary for me to trouble the House with many observations; but I wish to take this opportunity of expressing my cordial participation in the vote of thanks which the right hon. Baronet has moved. The terms in which he moved that vote of thanks, the speech he made in moving it, every topic to which he alluded, seem to me to leave nothing to be supplied. I never heard a question of a vote of thanks sustained with more feeling or more ability. Perhaps it may be permitted to me, who am not the political or private friend of Sir Henry Hardinge, to say there is no person who is united to him either by political connection or private friendship who can feel more warmly the honour he has acquired in the recent transactions than I feel, who have been opposed to him in politics, but who have always felt for his character the highest respect. Let me say further, with respect to Sir Hugh Gough, that I am glad to see that a native of Ireland has added another to those many glories which Irishmen have contributed to the reputation and fame of England. I have great satisfaction in thinking that the glory which the British army has acquired under the Governor General and Commander-in-Chief has been altogether untarnished. If the state of the Punjaub had rendered the invasion necessary, we might be liable to the charge of ambition—if we had even assembled a large army, apparently menacing that territory, then it might be said that it was imperative on them to seek protection for their country by crossing the Sutlej; but from the manner in which Sir Henry Hardinge has concluded the great affairs committed to him, we can say that no preparation was made that could justify the smallest aggression—and we can say, likewise, that if the utmost preparation had been made—if the army had been collected with a view to dispose of the Punjaub according to the dictates of our ambition, even in that case there could not have been more happy and brilliant success than that which has followed this wanton and unprovoked invasion upon the part of the Sikhs. With these few words I beg to express my cordial concurrence in the Resolution.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
I hope this House will allow me to give my cordial 454 concurrence and support to the vote moved by the right hon. Baronet. There is a peculiar reason why I do not wish to give a silent vote of thanks to Sir H. Smith, for happily it has been my fate to be peculiarly associated with him on many occasions. The right hon. Baronet has so ably detailed the services of Sir H. Smith, and has so well eulogized his conduct upon the present occasion, that I will not attempt ts follow him; but there was an expression, in which I cannot quite concur, as to what the newspapers have called a "reverse," in the admirable conduct which has been so well described. I do not think the expression of a reverse—although even in that case there would be nothing injurious to the glory of the actions of Sir H. Smith—is in any degree applicable. Sir H. Smith was placed in one of those unexpected difficulties which frequently occur. He had a very difficult military operation to execute, and he succeeded. His first and primary duty was to effect a junction with the small corps under Colonel Godby, and also with the still smaller force under Colonel Wheeler. Therefore he had one of the most extraordinarily delicate manœuvres which it could fall to the lot of a chief to execute; and though surprised, he made only a partial failure by sacrificing a small portion of his baggage, which I do not believe was of the slightest consequence. When it is recollected that this was a parallel movement, that the enemy was double our force, and though it is not well known to hon. Members in that House, the baggage is four or five times as large as in an European army, and that the followers are three times the amount of the army, I do not think the loss great, even if 700 camels had been lost. It must be recollected that in Affghanistan the loss was 30,000 or 32,000 camels. I therefore conceive that the expression of the right hon. Gentleman was not applicable. The victory which followed was a great proof of skill and ability. There are hardly any recorded details of any army which can surpass this in my admiration. With regard to the merits of the Governor General and the Commander-in-Chief, former circumstances may lead the House to suppose that, in supporting the vote for their distinguished and glorious services, I may be less cordial and less sincere than in the vote to Sir H. Smith. But, Sir, I know too well the ill consequences in the feelings of officers and of men of any unjust criticisms in this House or in any other place, 455 or of any inadequate acknowledgment of services, to follow what may have been the course pursued towards myself in this House at a former period. With regard to the Governor General, as a Lieutenant General, placing himself second in command to Sir H. Gough, and as Governor General in the exercise of his arduous duties, collecting supplies, and obtaining men, I must say, that though many glorious achievements stand on the records of this country, there are none recorded which are more honourable than this to the Governor General. Some criticism has also been passed on the battle of Ferozeshah; but, Sir, there never has been a battle fought, not even Waterloo, after which there was not a variety of gentlemen to be found who could have fought it infinitely better. It has also been said the Governor General ought not to have began the engagement on the evening of the 21st, but should have waited for the next morning. I will not put my opinion in competition with that of these infallible critics; but they should bear in mind that if our army did not engage on the 21st, the enemy had a large body of cavalry, which might have captured our sick and wounded, and seized the stores and supplies which were coming up. Moreover, if we had commenced the battle next morning, I am not aware that our own people would have been much better off than the night before; they had not any supplies, and the battle would probably have been much longer in the morning. Nay more, I may be permitted to remind hon. Gentlemen that a large body of men, and forty or fifty guns came up after the action; and if they had acted on our flank, or in the rear at an early period, they would have done injury to our attacking force, and I do not know what additional danger they might have produced. Permit me also to refer humbly but sincerely to the glorious career of Sir Hugh Gough. It is well known that he is an officer of advanced age, and of invariable gallantry. From the day when at Barossa his regiment captured an eagle of the enemy, down to the present hour, in his various posts, he has never failed to attract the notice of his superiors, and the approbation of the Government. As the battle of Sobraon may be regarded as the Waterloo of Indian battles, I only wish to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to what I am sure the country will gratefully recollect, the services of this gallant old soldier, and, as I believe, he is termed in one of Sir H. 456 Hardinge's letters, "the glorious veteran." He has had the good fortune to be Commander-in-Chief in two most glorious and successful wars; and I believe, with the exception of the illustrious Commander-in-Chief of our army, who was connected with a series of wars, and who was always triumphant, I believe this is the only instance of a Commander-in-Chief who has, in a few years, conducted two most glorious and successful wars.
§ SIR HOWARD DOUGLAS
said, that having paid his tribute of admiration on a former occcasion to the great achievements of the Indian army, he should not enter again into tactical details relating to that splendid plan of operations. He rejoiced that separate votes of thanks were proposed to be given to Sir Henry Smith, and to the Commander in Chief, Sir Hugh Gough, for the two distinct and brilliant victories which they had gained; for had not Sir Henry Smith succeeded in the very difficult and critical operations intrusted to him, and defeated the well-conceived and very formidable attempt made by the enemy to intercept the main communications of the army, the crowning victory of Sobraon, in which he too had a principal share, had never taken place. The operations of the division under Sir Henry Smith, were, tactically, of the most difficult description, and were conducted with admirable skill, and a perfect knowledge of the science of his profession. And he (Sir H. Douglas) agreed with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster, that nothing occurred in these movements which could be considered to have been disappointment, far less a "reverse." There was a trifling sacrifice of some of the baggage which followed in the rear, which Sir Henry Smith had too much skill and constancy of purpose to attempt to protect by any hesitation, or deviation from his plan, which must have brought on a general action ere he had formed his junction with the other corps. Had he done this, the great object for which he was detached would have failed; and the most serious consequences must have ensued, to the main operations, instead of being a prelude to that great victory for which the House was now about to return thanks to the Commander in Chief, the officers, and soldiers, who fought on that glorious day—one of the most splendid and eventful in military history. Having described, from a plan in his hand, the works thrown up by the 457 enemy, forming a tête de pont, consisting of three separate enclosures of which the most advanced was a formidable entrenchment armed with seventy or eighty pieces of ordnance, defended, moreover, by powerful batteries placed on the right bank of the river which commanded, by about forty feet, the low ground on the left bank on which the operations took place, the gallant Member (Sir Howard Douglas) observed, that he was not aware of any instance in which so strong a post of that description was attacked, directly in front, without other combinations; and, for this reason, that têtes de pont may easily be turned, by crossing the river on either flank, unless the enemy prevent this by occupying the reverse bank of the river likewise with a large force. Thus, by waiting for the advance of Sir Charles Napier, combined with a movement across the river by a part of Sir Hugh Gough's army, the enemy would have been forced either to cross the Sutlej, or to permit their communications to be intercepted, and their retreat cut off. But this plan of operation required time; and the heats were at hand, when the operations of the British army could no longer with safety be continued; and this, had it succeeded in obliging the Sikhs to recross the river, would have led to the commencement of a fresh campaign—to the prosecution of a war of invasion in the Punjaub, instead of terminating a war of aggression in Hindostan, at one blow, by a victory which destroyed the remnant of the invader's force, and opened the way to put an end to the war, without further bloodshed. Sir Hugh Gough, therefore, and the Governor General decided wisely. Well were they entitled to rely on the valour, the determination, the invincibility of his forces, for so daring and decisive an operation. The arrangements were perfect—the different arms of the service were admirably combined — the operation was eminently successful, and highly deserving of the thanks of the House, and the gratitude of the country.
§ MR. BROTHERTON
said, it was not his intention to have obtruded himself upon the attention of the House; but after the speech of the hon. Member for Reading it appeared to him that it would partake of pusillanimity on his part, with the sentiments he held in regard to war, if he did not stand up in that House and endeavour to vindicate principles which he was never, ashamed to acknowledge. He knew that 458 in this country the abhorrence of war and the principles of peace were fast gaining ground in the public mind; and previous to the last occasion when the thanks of that House were voted to those gallant officers and men in India, a deputation waited upon him to request that he would support a resolution which would have appeared to be in opposition to the vote of thanks that was then proposed; but he thought that this war had been of such a character that an opposition then started in that House was not likely to propagate those principles of peace which he wished to advocate; and that, on the contrary, it was better to abstain at that time from an avowal of them, which might only injure their progress in future. On the present occasion he had no wish to destroy or to weaken the unanimity and cordiality of the vote that was proposed to be given to those men who had risked their lives, nay, many who had sacrificed them, for what they believed was calculated to promote the honour, glory, and welfare of this country; and he did not hesitate to say that his heart was as warm and his feelings as grateful to men who in any state had done what they could to promote the interests of this country as any man's; and although he might not exactly agree with the sentiments of many hon. Gentlemen, yet he had not the slightest wish to say one word that could give offence to any one. He assured the House that he spoke only from an imperious sense of the correctness of those principles which he had long entertained upon this subject. It was not exactly according to his sentiments that they should mix up religion with war; for he had always considered war as the greatest scourge that could be permitted by Providence to afflict the human race, and that it was the duty of all men to do what they could to prevent it. He should deeply regret to see the military spirit increased in this country, as he believed that the best interests of nations might be promoted without having recourse to arms. The right hon. Baronet had depicted with great feeling the horrors of those scenes which had taken place in India; and he did not like attributing to the Almighty what He could not look upon with complacency. There was a manifest distinction between what God appointed, and what He permitted. He appointed what was good; He permitted what was evil; otherwise it could not exist. Nothing could be more injurious to society, than confounding good with evil. It was a profanation of the sacred 459 principles of Christianity. He was, therefore, decidedly against the consecration of regimental colours, and placing the trophies of war in the temples of peace. God must look with an equal eye upon all mankind; and although He might permit, for some wise purpose, a great evil to exist, and permit one class to punish another, yet, according to his ideas of religion, they ought to set up those principles which they thought right, and to manifest their confidence in them by adhering to them.
§ LORD HOTHAM
said, that as a very old friend of the gallant officer (Sir H. Smith), whose conduct they were now considering, he hoped he should be pardoned for availing himself of the opportunity of expressing his entire and cordial concurrence in the sentiments so ably, eloquently, and justly expressed by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury. He thought it impossible for any one to read the despatch of Sir H. Smith without coming to the conclusion that these proceedings were conducted by him with the most consummate ability. It was also, as his right hon. Friend had said, well worthy of remark, that Sir H. Smith had detailed all the circumstances attending the battle of Aliwal, with a degree of perspicuity which rendered them so intelligible to every Member of the House, that even those the least acquainted with military operations were able to see at once not only the precise object which he was ordered to effect, and the difficulties he had to contend with, but also the manner in which, after a severe struggle, he was able to overcome those difficulties, and add fresh lustre to the British arms. His right hon. Friend had stated that perhaps the success of Sir H. Smith might, in no small degree, be attributed to the opportunity he had had of serving under the Duke of Wellington. He was sure that, if they had Sir H. Smith amongst them, he would be the first to admit that his success was mainly attributable to the advantage he had of learning the art of war, for five successive years, in the Peninsula, under that illustrious man whom they had the satisfaction still to see at the head of the British army. Sir H. Smith was attached to a portion of the Peninsular army not less remarkable for its discipline than for its intelligence, and general knowledge of its duty; a division always in the front when they were advancing towards the enemy, always in the rear when necessity compelled a retrograde movement, and always in the 460 line when they were formed for action; and although constantly exposed to danger, he had had the good fortune, except on one occasion, to escape those casualties by which so many of his brother officers were disabled, and thus he had the opportunity of seeing an extent of service which it fell to the lot of few to witness. The House saw to what good account he had turned the advantages he had possessed in acquiring professional knowledge; but besides this, Sir H. Smith had the additional natural advantage of a remarkably quick perception, and was, moreover, characterized by unceasing activity in the performance of his duty, the most ardent zeal and devotion, and the most undaunted resolution. There could be little doubt that to the knowledge that he possessed all these qualities, it might be, in some measure, attributed that he was selected by Sir H. Gough for that service which he had so well and so effectually performed. Gratifying as it was to him (Lord Hotham) to see the House notice with honour any portion of the service to which he belonged, he thought they should do so only on great occasions; but he was also of opinion that no one could doubt that this was one of those occasions. He cordially concurred in the second vote of thanks which would be proposed to the Governor General and Sir H. Gough; and would only further say, that, as every officer and man who had been engaged in the late operations in India had richly deserved the thanks of the House, so he believed that all, and no one more than Sir H. Smith, would highly appreciate them.
§ MR. HUME
, before this vote passed, which he hoped would be by the unanimous voice of the House, wished to make one or two observations. He was sorry that the question of the policy of war should have been introduced by his hon. Friend, as this was by no means the proper occasion for introducing it. The right hon. Baronet stated, and truly stated, that in achieving such glory he could not make an exception of the native troops, or distinguish them from any others engaged. It appeared that two-thirds of the troops engaged in these battles were natives; and he questioned whether the House knew the extent or the value of the services of the native troops. He had himself had opportunities of noticing the conduct of native troops, when pay was nine months in arrear, while engaged in war, and yet the whole of these troops continued to act throughout that war with the greatest fidelity. He did 461 not believe that the page of history offered a more striking instance, as regarded the loyalty, the fidelity, and the bravery of troops, than was to be found in this campaign in the conduct of the native troops. He hoped that the East India Company, which was so much indebted to the native troops, would do its duty by promoting their interests in every possible way. He trusted that there would be a unanimous vote on this occasion. He had formerly heard of the grasping disposition of Governor Generals, and that they were constantly encroaching on surrounding States with the view of extending the Indian empire: if he might offer an opinion on the conduct of Sir Henry Hardinge, it would be that he had shown an excess of moderation, but which would redound to his and his country's great honour, and remove the stigma which very often was unjustly urged, that this country was grasping at all the territory of its neighbours. The conduct of the Sikhs had been such as would have justified Sir Henry Hardinge in taking any course; but he pursued a course most honourable to himself and his country, and which would prove as advantageous to the East India Company as it was to exalt his own character. He confessed that he had looked forward to the possession of the Punjaub as a probable event, as it appeared necessary for the securing peace on our frontier; but, as the Government had said that they for the present would make the trial of preserving its independence, he would not say one word in objection. If peace, however, should not be secured, they would have to take possession of it hereafter, and those who violated the pledge they had given, must fear the consequences.
§ Resolution agreed to nemine contradicente.
§ It was also—
Resolved, Nemine Contradicente—"That the Thanks of this House be given to the several Officers, European and Native, under the command of Sir Henry Smith for the distinguished Services rendered by them at the Battle of Aliwal.
That this House doth highly approve of, and commend, the intrepidity and exemplary discipline displayed by the Non-Commissioned Officers and Private Soldiers, European and Native, in the Battle of Aliwal, on the 28th of January, 1846, in their Attack on the Enemy's Position, by which the Sikhs were completely routed, and driven in Confusion across the Sutlej, with the Loss of all their Artillery and Military Equipment; and that the same be signified to them by the Commanders of the several Corps, who are desired to thank them for their gallant behaviour.
That, in requesting the Governor General of India to communicate these Resolutions to the several Officers referred to therein, this House desires to acknowledge the zeal and judgment evinced by The Right Honourable Lieutenant General Sir Henry Hardinge, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Governor General of India; and also by General Sir Hugh Gough, Baronet, Knight Grand Cross of the Most Honourable Military Order of the Bath, Commander in Chief of the Forces in India, in supplying Major General Sir Henry Smith with such reinforcements and military means as enabled him, under Divine Providence, to overcome all the Obstacles thrown in his way by a brave and determined Enemy.
§ It was—
§ Ordered—"That the said Resolutions be transmitted by Mr. Speaker to the Governor General of India, and that he be requested to communicate the same to the several Officers referred to therein."