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Government for each Presidency, with reference to its own condition and its own wants. As to the withdrawal of Sir C. Trevelyan from Madras, it would be deeply regretted: though not a judicious subordinate, he had proved himself a wise Governor, and he (Mr. Bright) hoped Sir C. Wood would study his Minute with care, as it would enable him to modify and greatly improve the project of legislation proposed at Calcutta.
Several other members having spoken, and Lord Palmerston having concurred in the general tribute to Sir C. Trevelyan, the discussion terminated.
A very important question, bearing upon foreign policy, arose in the session of 1860 in connection with the fortifications and works of this country. On the 23rd of July Lord Palmerston explained the intentions of the Government with respect to the recommendations of the National Defence Commission for fortifying the dockyards, and establishing a central depôt for arms and stores. He proposed that a vote be taken in the meantime for £2,000,000, to be charged on the Consolidated Fund, and raised by annuities for a term not exceeding thirty years. The total outlay, it was expected, would be eleven or twelve millions. Mr. Bright said that during his seventeen years' experience in that House he had never known an instance of a question of such magnitude and importance brought before it without notice, and of such a resolution being proposed for adoption on the same evening. In all probability the proposition would involve an expenditure of twice £12,000,000; and he protested against being entrapped or cajoled into such a resolution.
But a large majority in the House, as well as a large party in the country, were at this time filled with fears of a possible foreign aggression. France, it was said, had a far greater force under arms than she required for the purpose of defence; and she was not strengthening herself upon land alone. The utmost exertions were being made to create a navy almost equal to our own, which could not be required for the defence of France, but which furnished the means of transporting in a few hours a large military force to our shores. Such were the arguments which led to the foreign invasion panic in this country, and to the proposed enormous expenditure upon our fortications.
The debate upon Lord Palmerston's resolution was adjourned, and on its being resumed on the 2nd of August, Mr. Lindsay moved the following amendment: “That, as the main defence of Great Britain against aggression depends on an efficient navy, it is not now expedient to enter into a large expenditure on permanent land fortifications.'
The chief feature in the debate which ensued was a long and remarkable speech by Mr. Bright. This address, which occupies some twenty-eight columns of Hansard, is amongst the most powerful and able of his Parliamentary orations. Certainly, on the question of public expenditure and our relations with France, he has never spoken more eloquently. Mr. Bright began by saying that he had intended to move an amendment himself to Lord Palmerston's resolution, but as Mr. Lindsay had preceded him with an amendment having the same effect, he would not now move his own amendment, but address the House upon that already before it. Addressing himself next to the main subject, he said the House would deceive itself if it supposed that the estimate of the Government as to the cost of these works could be relied upon. Whenever the Government undertook any work, the estimate was never adhered to,—the expenditure was doubled before the work was completed; and he had no doubt that, if the House voted the carrying out of these works to completion, the expenditure would be at least £20,000,000. Millions more would be involved; there must be an increase of the standing army, and the works would be useless without soldiers to man them. He wanted to know by whom this expenditure was urged; was it by an united Cabinet ? As to the military authorities, he remarked : 'I have looked into their recommendations, and I confess I am amazed at the absolute stupidity—(laughter)-yes, stupidity; if you want a word less offensive, I would say the absolute lunacy —(laughter)—of the military authorities in regard to this question.' Sir Robert Peel had said in 1850 that if you adopt the opinions of military men on all points of national security, you would overwhelm the country with taxes in time of peace.
Mr. Bright went on to consider the various means of defence which had been suggested, and said he was not one of those who thought that, in considering what means of defence we had, it might not be very advantageous to have a large volunteer force instead of an enormous standing army. Switzerland and the United States had a volunteer force for their defence. He next quoted the opinions of Mr. Valentine Baker, Colonel Jebb, Sir Robert Gardiner, and Lieut.-Gen. Kennedy, who had written upon this subject of fortifications. Some of them proposed systems more economical than that of the Government; and one believed that £20,000,000 would not be sufficient for additional fortifications, while for the pay of a numerically adequate army and navy, an annual increase of £4,000,000 upon the present estimates was necessary. There was a good deal before us if we embarked in this undertaking. A writer in the United Service Magazine showed how lamentably deficient we were as regarded the navy, while an eminent French military critic, M. Brialmont, said that England required an 'augmentation of the permanent army, and the creation of a grand strategical pivot in the south and in the neighbourhood of London.'
The hon. gentleman then examined the report which had been presented to the House, describing it as incoherent, illogical, and absurd. He believed that if the follies and superstitions of the Foreign Office could be got rid of, we might save three-fourths of our military expenditure, and that whatever was necessary for internal defence might be had at little expense from the volunteers. Reviewing the opinions and suggestions of the military authorities upon this question, accompanying the survey by a sarcastic running commentary, he asked the Committee whether there was any other thing they were prepared to undertake upon such counsel, than which nothing, he declared, could be more confused. There was an extraordinary spirit abroad in this matter.
'It is precisely the same sort of delusion as that of a person who always imagines he is going to be poisoned. I know a case where a gentleman imagines that at any hotel he enters they want to give him bread that is poisoned. One day he went to that beautiful hotel at Derby. “Did you not observe," said he, “ the bread they gave me?”
What! did you not observe it was poisoned ?” “No.” “Why, wherever I go, I find the bread they give me is always poisoned.” So it is with the gentlemen who argue this question. The ships and the men are everywhere with them, ready to come over upon us, though nobody can ever find them in the condition they are described to be in. It is no use to argue with them. The idea has got into their heads, just as it got into the head of that unfortunate lunatic; and we find ourselves just as unable to eradicate it in the one case as in the other.'
Mr. Bright proceeded to argue that the representations as to the naval augmentations and coast fortifications in France were gross exaggerations ; but they acted upon the people, and if the people believed them, he charged this to the contemptible cowardice of the Cabinet Ministers of this country. He arraigned in severe terms the policy of the present Administration towards France, characterizing it as grossly inconsistent, and in one particular insulting at once to the people of England and of France. The Emperor of the French had made efforts to meet