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but in the Baltic and the Black Sea: but there was really nothing to dread from her. She had not money to make head against us; in one month, we could sweep her from every sea. He charged Lord Palmerston with having been deluded by the idle gossip of letters too ridiculous to be the grounds of any serious proceeding. But even in the noble Lord's own view, were his means adapted to his end ? No; his course should have been to consolidate the British ossessions—to remonstrate with ersia—to fix the friendship of Dost Mahomed—and to leave Affghanistan unmolested. But it was another ground of charge against the late Government, that they had garbled the evidence laid by them before Parliament. They had made Sir A. Burnes's correspondence appearan authority in their favour, when, in truth, it was an authority against them; and this they had contrived, by not only omitting some passages, but by altering the words of others. This he could prove before a committee, from a published work, containing the letters of Sir A. Burnes, in the shape in which they really were transmitted to the Foreign Office. A letter had been sent to that department by Lord Wellesley, who had omitted to keep a copy; and when Lord Wellesley asked for a copy of it from that department, the answer was, that it had been mislaid. But if a committee were granted, that letter, he suspected, would be forthcoming. e thought he had now made out such a primá Jacie case as entitled him to a committee; and he asked for it in the name and for the sake of his country, whose honour was stained by those transactions.
Mr. Hume seconded the motion. He had documents in his own power which would prove the garbling of the evidence, especially in the instance of Sir A. Burnes's letters.
Lord John Russell rose to defend the late Ministry. He referred to the repeated occasions on which the subject had been before the House, the last time in 1842, on a motion for papers, when only nine voted with the mover. He denied the applicability of the precedents cited by Mr. Roebuck; for they occurred when it took a year to communicate with India, and Parliament could only learn the facts by means of a secret committee. In the present case, the war was undertaken four years ago, and all its circumstances and causes were known to Parliament. Alluding to Mr. Roebuck's language, he said that terms had been applied to Lord Auckland and Lord Palmerston, which were not fitting; and he felt strongly the force of the great Condé's remark, “These libellers impute to us exactly that sort of motive, by which, if they were placed in the situations in which we stand, they would be themselves actuated.” Lord John Russell denied that Sir A. Burnes's papers were garbled; Mr. Roebuck had brought no proof of the charge ; and in his specimen, the passage omitted, was quite immaterial. Lord Fitzgerald had testified that there was no unfair garbling; nor did the question depend upon the opinion of a single officer, however meritorious. , Lord John Russell proceeded to touch upon the points of Mr. Roebuck's review. The views of Lord Auckland did not depend on the succession of the throne of Cabul, but upon the threatened aggression on our empire. Sir John Macdonald, who rather decried the notion of a Russian invasion of India, said, it would be made under the mantle of Persian authority, by Persian troops, officered by Russians. Sir John Malcolm said, the danger was lest through too much caution and reserve, England should allow the policy of Russia to be carried so far, that Russia could not retrace her steps. The events of the last few years had justified their foresight; the King of Persia actually began the aggression on Herat. Lord John Russell read a letter by Lord Auckland, dated 13th May, 1838, in which he spoke of recent circumstances having altered his views, as it might now be necessary to oppose the advances of Persia and the activity of Russian agents; which proved that originally he was not disposed to a rash interference. Dost Mahomed’s own demands had defeated the alliance with him. He cited official letters, and the Indian newspapers, to show the state of feverish excitement and apprehensions which the rumours of Russian intrigue kept up in India. One newspaper declared, that “the conquest of the Heratics by the Persians, is, indeed, the conquest of the Punjaub and Hindostan ;” and the worst forebodings were strengthened by the advance of a Russian army to Khiva. At the same time, it must be remembered, the ground of India was strewed with ruined thrones and broken sceptres; and there were those always to be found who were ready to seek the revival of their lost power. The British power in India depended upon displaying that boldness in encountering danger which had formerly been displayed. The opi
nion of Sir Henry Fane, the late Commander-in-Chief in India, had been cited against the expedition; Lord John Russell read letters from Sir Henry offering himself to relieve Herat; though he had doubts as to whether Dost Mahomed or Schah Soojah should be supported; and after the army had advanced 400 miles, he did express an opinion against the continued occupation of Afghanistan ; but that was a question altogether different from that of its original occupation. Lord John Russell cited several precedents of interference in the affairs of for reign nations – as that of Holland in the affairs of England, after the Revolution; of France and England in Spain; and of the British Government, in supporting the Great Mogul. He also quoted the testimony of Mr. Masson, Dr. Lord, Major Tod, and Sir A. Burnes himself, in favour of Schah Soojah's popularity. As to the military disasters on which Mr. Roebuck had touched lightly, they formed no necessary result of the occupation of the country; and had they not happened, he believed that we should have left the country in a state of neutrality, with the arts of peace prevailing; but, undoubtedly, that able officer Sir Wm. M'Naughten was deceived into a state of undue security. He cited the testimony of General Gubbin and others, that the proclamation of Simla in 1838 had had a great effect in restoring confidence and tranquillity in India. He enumerated several internal improvements which Lord Auckland had effected in India. Mr. Roebuck had said, that Russia should have been met in the Baltic—that would have brought war on this country; whereas the object was merely to repel her advance on India; and the result had been satisfactory to the security of India, and to peace with Russia. Lord John Russell contended that Lord Palmerston's policy had tended to maintain the peace of the world—as in the case of the settlement of Belgium, and of Turkey defended against a rebellious vassal: and he concluded by offering a direct negative to the motion. Mr. D'Israeli said, that Lord J. Russell had made no answer to Mr. Roebuck; and he went on to argue against the policy which had disturbed the natural barriers to the invasion of India. Russia, from no moral fault of her government, but from her, physical and geographical circumstances, held a position menacing to the whole world, and might ultimately possess both the Sound and the Dardanelles; commanding points now in the possession of the two weakest powers in Europe; but it was not on the Sutledge, nor in the Hindoo Cush that encroachments were to be met. If the inquiry were refused, the responsibility of the Whig Ministers would be voted a dream. Mr. Escott supported the motion in a vigorous speech, following up several of Mr. Roebuck's arguments. The question was, whether the representatives of a free people were not to be allowed to inquire into the causes of the war, and its necessity, for the true interests of the country. Sir R. Peel remarked, that two distinct and separate questions had been brought under the consideration of the House; whether or not the expedition into Afghanistan was consistent with sound policy; and whether it was fitting that the House of Commons should
appoint a select committee to enquire into the policy of that proceeding. From the first, when the expedition was mentioned in the Queen's Speech, he had entertained strong doubts of its policy, and had said that the restoration of Schah Soojah was the same as if Charles the Tenth were forced upon the French. The Duke of Wellington too had predicted that the difficulties would commence when the military operations had succeeded. If, therefore, he opposed the present motion, it must not be inferred that he approved of that policy. Subsequent events, indeed, had confirmed his opinion that Schah Soojah was unpopular; Colonel Dennie had remarked that the Prince's court was composed solely of Hindoos, without a single Affghan in it. He therefore doubted the policy of supporting a Prince who could not command the affections of the people; and of separating the army at a distance of 600 miles from its resources, with passes in the interval which could not be commanded. It was a different question whether he should lend the influence of Government to procure an inquiry into a great operation that had taken place four years ago; and he could not disregard what had been the usage and practice of governments on succeeding to the secrets of office. The foreign policy of Ministers would always be a subject of contention. “Revolutions of Governments have taken place; has there been an instance where those who have succeeded to power on such revolutions have ever used the influence of their office to condemn the acts of their predecessors? And would it be just to establish such a precedent 2 I must say, that those who are in power and in office ought to be most careful that the use of that particular authority and power which office gives them should not be influenced by party considerations. I for one will not be influenced by them. If I were to submit to such influence, certainly party considerations might induce me to give my vote in support of this motion. I complain of the course intended to be adopted towards the present Governor-General: a right honourable Gentleman opposite proposes to move a vote of censure upon that noble Lord: I think that vote unnecessary and uncalled for: here is an opportunity for retaliation; but I decline being influenced by any such feelings.”
Nor could he forget that in 1840, when he was in Opposition, the subject was equally open to debate, and they then possessed nearly all the information that they now had. “We had at that time the means of judging of the policy of the operations: the papers then produced gave us that power; but while in Opposition no motion was made founded upon those papers; and I must say, that now we are in power, I will not be the man to adopt a course which I did not adopt in Opposition, and at a time when there were better grounds for doing so.”
When he had opposed the grant of money to Lord Keane, some of those who were now loudest in reprobating the principle of the war were then loudest in approbation of it. If this committee were granted there ought to be another on the Syrian War. Such a course would end in transferring the Executive Government from the Crown to the House of Commons. Because, if on every point of ques
tionable policy this House were to have a Committee of inquiry—if such Committee were to have the power of sending for persons, papers, and records—if it were to ransack every public office for of. ficial documents, and summon every Minister of the Crown to give evidence before it, the practical result must be that the Executive Government would be sus
nded. Sir R. Peel bore testimony that the published papers were not garbled, but that they gave such an account of the motives for undertaking the expedition as enabled the House to form a fair and unbiassed judgment on the policy which had led to its adoption. The proposed inquiry would lead to a development of all the grounds of suspicion against Russia; Russia might retort with complaints of English agents in Circassia, and avow that her agents had been sent to Cabul in retaliation; and the inquiry would be forced on at a time when our relations with Russia were on the most friendly footing, and when by the new treaty, the foundation had been laid, and it was but the foundation, of a more liberal commercial intercourse with that power. That Russia had taken no advantage of our military disasters in Cabul proved the sincerity of her friendly disposition. On the contrary, her influence had been exercised in attempting to save the lives of Colonel Stoddart and Captain Conolly in Bokhara. The power of the British arms had been vindicated on the scene of their reverse, and our unfriendly relations with Afghanistan had ceased. Let not the House, therefore, establish a precedent which would be at once prejudicial to the public interest, and the peaceful relations at present subsisting with foreign powers, Lord Palmerston contrasted the harshness of Mr. Roebuck's terms with the weakness of his arguments; and remarked, that it was singular that members should have lain in ambush for four years, and then attacked those whose position now was altered, and who had not the same means of defence. He declared that the accusation of garbling was false and unfounded; the letters of Sir A. Burnes were printed with no omissions such as Mr. Roebuck had alleged. Sir Alexander urged the necessity of active measures in Affghanistan, though at one time he was disposed to favour Schah Soojah and at another Dost Mahomed ; points of difference which related merely to the mode of operation. Lord Palmerston read extracts to show that the “hallucination" which Mr. Roebuck only had not shared, extended at the time to the press, quoting the Times, a paper not favourable to the Government of that day. It was said to be a fault that we did not attack Russia herself; we did go to St. Petersburgh, though not with a fleet; an explanation was demanded ; Russia disclaimed hostile intentions, and disavowed the acts of her agents; and they were recalled. How, therefore, could the British Government have sent a fleet to the Baltic? and how could such a step have cured the anarchy in Affghanistan, fomented by Russian agents mistaking the intentions of their government 2 Lord Palmerston commented on the designation of Akhbar Khan as a “mistaken man,” him who had treacherously murdered Sir William M'Naughten, and massacred thousands of our conntrymen and
defenceless camp followers? He proved the unpopularity of Dost Mahomed by the fact that his own army would not fight for him; and he finished by asserting that the policy of the late Government had proved successful in all parts of the world. Sir R. Inglis was not one of those who idolized the privileges of the House, but still he did not wish to see it abdicate its just functions; and he wished to be informed if it were not to inquire into such a case as had now been brought forward in one of the most remarkable speeches he had ever listened to, on what occasions were the functions of the House as regarded inquiry into public transactions to be exercised? Was the House to be confined to the considering how far sheriff's officers should be arrested for executing legal process, and to allow cases of alleged misconduct on the part of the Crown's highest officers to pass uninvestigated. Sir Robert Inglis censured the defences which had been set up for the war, amid loud and significant cheers. The Motion was supported by Mr. Borthwick and Lord John Manners. Mr. Roebuck began his reply by congratulating the late Ministers on the support which they had received from Sir R. Peel; and he made a prophecy that the time would come when it would be suggested in party debates—“Oh, recollect the painful motion on which we treated you with candour and generosity, and from which we rode off on that happy mode of getting out of a difficulty, namely, that that was not the proper time for such a motion. Recollect that we, in our generosity, opposed it with all the influ