§ Earl Grey
, previous to the discussion of the next day on the intended Vote of Thanks to lord Wellington, thought it of considerable importance that some information should be laid before the House, by which they might be the better enabled to form an opinion with respect to the propriety of the motion. It was necessary they should know whether the advance of lord Wellington into Spain, was the exercise of his own discretion, or the result of the instructions of ministers, and with this view he should move for the instructions sent to lord Wellington. It was also of importance they should have before them the nature of the information communicated by lord Wellington respecting the action of Talavera, there being strong reason to believe that ministers, at the time they held out that battle as a victory, knew from what was stated by lord Wellington in his dispatches, that our army must retreat; and that the battle, said to be a victory, must be followed by all the consequences of defeat. His lordship therefore moved for the Instructions sent to lord Wellington; for the Dispatches received from him upon his 107 marching from Placentia; for the dispatches which he sent from Talavera after the battle; and also for certain correspondence between Lord Wellington and the Spanish government, respecting supplies for the army.
The Earl of Liverpool
did not see the necessity of calling for any documents of the nature alluded to by the noble earl, for the purpose of discussing the motion for a vote of thanks to lord Wellington. The vote was a tribute to the bravery of the army, and the skill of the commander, and had no connexion with any enquiry into the merits of the campaign. He should therefore oppose the motion.
The Marquis of Douglas
thought it highly necessary that they should have the proposed information before them, particularly when it was doubtful whether the purpose for which the battle of Talavera was fought was gained, or rather whether it had not wholly failed. There were other documents also which he thought of importance, and for which he should afterwards move.
§ Lord Erskine
said, he should have great satisfaction, if unfettered by his situation in that House, in paying a tribute to the merits of lord Wellington, whom he considered as an able and accomplished officer. He thought it, however, essential, that they should have the proposed information before they proceeded to the discussion of a motion of thanks for the battle of Talavera. He would put an hypothetical case; suppose that the result of fighting a battle should be, although a victory was claimed, the failure of the main purposes of the campaign, would it not be essential that they should have information with respect to the reasons for adopting that measure, before they voted thanks for a victory which had produced only disastrous consequences?
§ The Earl of Harrowby
maintained that it was not the practice to call for information, with the view of ascertaining the character of a victory when the only purpose in contemplation was the voting thanks to the commander. The precedents were all the other way. Thanks were voted for the victory of Maida, although, without meaning to convey the slightest reflection, it might be said to be little better than a barren laurel.
contended, that it was impossible for that House to vote thanks for a mere isolated act of valour, without inquiring into the circumstances which 108 attended it. With respect to the battle of Maida, it was complete in its object, and the commander retreated at his option, but the only consequences of the battle of Talavera were the surrender of our sick and wounded into the hands of the enemy, and our being forced to retreat.
The Earl of Lauderdale
thought the conduct of ministers extremely singular; an intention had been intimated by his noble friend on Tuesday night, of bringing forward a motion of inquiry into the conduct of the campaign in Spain, which necessarily involved the merits of the battle of Talavera, and yet this was not thought a sufficient reason to stop a motion for a vote of thanks for fighting that battle, although in the affair of Basque Roads the mere private intimation of a member of the House of Commons, that he should oppose a vote of thanks, led to a Court-martial on the commander.
§ Viscount Sidmouth
was desirous that a full inquiry should take place, into the conduct of the campaign in Spain, and that the documents moved for by the noble earl, and many more, should be produced, but he did not think their production applicable to the intended motion for a vote of thanks. There was no precedent for calling for papers to inquire into the general conduct of a campaign with a view merely to a specific vote of thanks for a particular service. In the case of the battle of Corunna no question was made about the vote of thanks, although the campaign had been disastrous and demanded inquiry.
§ Earl Grey
was by no means convinced by what he heard, that there was the slightest impropriety in his motions. Let the case be put hypothetically, of a commander advancing into a country, fighting a battle, claiming a victory, and in two days afterwards, being obliged to retreat before those whom he had defeated, and to leave in the hands of the enemy his sick and wounded; and surely their lordships must feel the necessity of having before them some information as to the circumstances attending this battle, and those which led to it, before they came to the discussion of a vote of thanks proposed to the commander. His noble friend had mentioned the battle of Corunna: when these thanks were voted, he was not in the House, but in that case, the gallant and distinguished officer who commanded, gained his object; the purpose of fighting was to secure a good retreat, and that 109 object was gained. But in the case of the battle of Talavera, it was doubtful whether it was a victory or not. Under these circumstances he thought it essential that the information moved for should be laid before the house.
§ The motions were then put and negatived.