§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
My Lords, I beg to make a statement with reference to a despatch which is in your Lordship's hands. It is one from my noble and gallant Friend, Lord Chelmsford. I am personally alluded to in it, and, unless I make some explanation, it may lead to inconvenience and also to misapprehension with regard to myself. I have no doubt that your Lordships are a ware of the despatch to which I refer. It is Enclosure No. 1 in No. 13 of the Papers, and is dated Durban, Natal, February 9, 1879. In that despatch there is this sentence—In June last I mentioned privately to His Royal Highness Commanding-in-Chief that the 1495 strain of prolonged anxiety and exertion, physical and mental, was even then tolling on me. What I felt then I feel still more now.Well, my Lords, on reading that despatch, I was extremely struck by the circumstance that I had no recollection whatever of any such letter having been addressed to me. I have made every endeavour in my power to ascertain whether any such letter was received by myself or in the Department over which I have the honour to preside. As far as research has gone—and we have been two days about it—we can find nothing of the kind. My memory is good, and I remember nothing of the sort. I have questioned every one of the high Officers of the Department; but none of us know anything with reference to this letter. It is only just and fair to myself, and I hope your Lordships will so consider it, that it should not be supposed for a moment that I was either aware of there being any such despatch or letter from my noble and gallant Friend, Lord Chelmsford, or that I had withheld the information as to his health which that communication is said to have contained, or that Her Majesty's Government ever received such information from me, or that both myself and Her Majesty's Government had received such information and had taken no notice or action on it. There are two letters in March from Lord Chelmsford. The first is dated the 11th of March, 1878, and the only thing we can find in them is that he had just arrived and had assumed the command, and had found a good deal of duty thrown upon him, but had such good relations with Sir Bartle Frere, and had such a well-organized staff, that he felt satisfied he should be able to perform his duties to my satisfaction as Commanding-in-Chief, and, of course, I should say to the satisfaction of Her Majesty's Government. That is the only allusion I can find in that letter. He refers now to the month of June, but I can find nothing in that month. There is a letter dated the 1st of July, in which he states that he has just arrived at Cape Town; that the war had been concluded and an amnesty declared; and that he was able to say it had been brought to a successful conclusion. He ends that letter thus—I cannot be sufficiently grateful to your Royal Highness for having given me the opportunity of commanding a force which, by its excellent conduct, has enabled me to bring a difficult war to so speedy a close.1496 After reading such a sentence as that, I could never have supposed that the state of his health was such as to justify the idea that he would break down under the strain that was put upon him. From that date up to the present day I have learnt nothing more, and I was under the impression then that a more robust man, or a man in all respects more capable of doing his duty in trying circumstances, could not be found than my noble and gallant Friend, Lord Chelmsford. And that was my impression up to the moment I saw the Despatch of the 9th February. I had a private letter from him, which is dated February, 1879, but without the day of the month; and I beg your Lordships especially to mark the mode in which this sentence is expressed—Might I suggest to your Royal Highness the advisability of sending out a Major General who will be competent to succeed me, not only as commanding the Forces, but also as Lieutenant Governor and High Commissioner should anything happen to Sir Bartle Frere.I ask your Lordships' attention to the words "might I." If a man felt that he was unable to carry on the duties intrusted to him, he would hardly say "might I." I think he would use a stronger expression. Then comes the next extract, which is from a private letter dated February 10, 1879. I believe it came by the last post which reached us—I trust your Royal Highness will be able to send me out a second in command. I do not anticipate breaking down, but I feel that the strain is very great on me in every way, and that such an event may occur suddenly.Certainly, I confess that, reading those sentences, I should have supposed it to be the most natural and proper thing for an officer situated as my noble and gallant Friend was, that he should have thought it right to indicate to myself as the head of the Army and to Her Majesty's Government that the circumstances were so grave that it was necessary to look forward to the possibility, either by ill-health, or by accident, or in action, of something happening which might require some other officer to take his place. All I can say is, that Her Majesty's Government—and I venture to say myself in conjunction with them—had already anticipated Lord Chelmsford'swish—which 1497 we think very natural—by sending out four General Officers on the first opportunity that we could possibly have despatched them to those distant lands. As far as I am concerned, I am in total ignorance of any such reference to me as that of June. I do not say that such a letter never was written. It is possible that it may have been, and may have been lost in the post, or may otherwise have miscarried; but I can only assure your Lordships that if it had reached my hands, I should have felt it my duty to put the Government in possession of it at the earliest possible period.