The Earl of LUCAN then rose for the purpose of reading a document which he had received from Her Majesty's Government.
Earl GRANVILLE hoped the noble earl would not bring on a discussion until his noble friends the Minister of War and the Commander-in-Chief were present.
The Earl of LUCAN intended to read the document without any comment. He was again compelled to present himself before the House upon a personal question. Immediately upon his arrival in England he had applied to the General Commanding-in-Chief to have his conduct subjected to investigation by a court-martial.
Earl GREY rose to order, because he felt strongly that this was a very inconvenient course of proceeding. The noble earl was about to read a public document affecting himself at the table of the house without any question being before the House. If the noble earl wished to place the document before their lordships, the regular course would be to move for its production, and he could then raise any question upon it that he thought proper. The course the noble earl was now about to pursue was quite contrary to the rules of both Houses of Parliament.
The Earl of LUCAN apprehended that he was perfectly regular, as he intended to move that the letters he was about to read should be printed.
Lord LANSDOWNE said, in that case there could be no objection to the noble earl's reading the letters, but if he intended to enter into a discussion or comment upon them, then he trusted the noble earl's discretion would show him that the present was not the proper course to pursue.
Lord PANMURE intended to lay upon the table Lord Raglan's letter, which would be in their lordships' hands tomorrow morning; the noble earl could, if he thought fit, read it now. He had the honour of seeing the noble earl on Friday afternoon last, but did not receive from him the slightest intimation of his intention to read any letters to their lordships.
The Earl of LUCAN - I saw the noble lord on Friday, but the papers I am now going to read I did not then know the existence of, so should have found it difficult to converse on them. I suppose the noble lord will have no objection to my reading a note I received from him yesterday afternoon. I think it necessary to do so, as it charges me with having read to your lordships an incomplete correspondence. In the note I received this afternoon from the noble lord (Panmure) he says, -
“As I perceive that you read an incomplete correspondence on Friday in the House of Lords, I think it right to forward to you a copy of Lord Raglan's despatch of the 16th of December, 1854, addressed to the Duke of Newcastle.”
But why was the correspondence which I read incomplete? Because I did not know of the existence of such a paper as the one forwarded to me, and, for reasons best known to the Government, or, more properly speaking, the late Government and to the noble lord, letters which should have been made known long ago were kept back until yesterday afternoon. I do not intend to make any comment on Lord Raglan's letter, but I shall read it, because I think that I should not be acting fairly by the Government, or Lord Raglan, if I did not take the earliest opportunity of making your lordships and the public acquainted with it. This letter is from Field-Marshal Lord Raglan, addressed to the Duke of Newcastle. It was received on the 8th of January, 1855, and was written on the 16th of December, 1864. It is as follows:-
"Before Sebastopol, Dec. 16, 1864.
My Lord Duke, - I regret to be under the necessity of forwarding to your Grace the copy of a letter which has been addressed to me by Lieutenant-General the Earl of Lucan. When I received it I placed it in the hands of Brigadier-General Airey, the Quartermaster-General, and requested him to suggest to his lordship to withdraw the communication, considering that it would not lead to his advantage in the slightest degree; but, Lord Lucan having declined to take the step recommended, I have but one course to pursue - that of laying the letter before your Grace and submitting to you such observations upon it as I am bound in justice to myself to put you in possession of. Lieutenant-General the Earl of Lucan complains that in my despatch to your Grace of the 28th of October I stated that 'from some misconception of the instruction to advance the Lieutenant-General considered that he was bound to attack at all hazards.' His lordship conceives this statement to be a grave charge, and an imputation reflecting seriously upon his professional character, and he deems it to be incumbent upon him to state the facts, which he cannot doubt must clear him from what he respectfully submits is altogether unmerited. He has referred to my despatch, and, far from being willing to alter one word of it, I am prepared to declare that not only did the Lieutenant-General misconceive the written instruction that was sent him, but that there was nothing in that instruction which called on him to attack at all hazards, or to undertake the operation which led to such a brilliant display of gallantry on the part of the light brigade, and, unhappily, at the same time occasioned such lamentable casualties in every regiment composing it. In his lordship's letter he is wholly silent with respect to a previous order which had been sent him. He merely says that the cavalry was formed to support an intended movement of the infantry. That previous order was in the following words:- 'The cavalry to advance and take advantage of any opportunity to recover the heights. They will be supported by infantry, which has been ordered to advance on two fronts.' This order did not seem to me to have been attended to, and therefore it was that the instruction by Captain Nolan was forwarded to him. Lord Lucan must have read the first order with very little attention, for he now states that cavalry was formed to support the infantry, whereas he was told by Brigadier-General Airey 'that the cavalry was to advance and take advantage of any opportunity to recover the heights, and that they would be supported by infantry' - not that they were to support the infantry; and so little had he sought to do as he had been directed that he had no men in advance of his main body, made no attempt to regain the heights, and was so little informed of the position of the enemy, that he asked Captain Nolan 'where and what he was to attack, as neither enemy nor guns were in sight.' This, your Grace will observe, is the Lieutenant-General's own admission. The result of his inattention to the first order was, that it never occurred to him that the second was connected with and a repetition of the first. He viewed it only as a positive order to attack at all hazards (the word 'attack', be it observed, was not made use of in General Airey's note) an unknown enemy, whose position, numbers, and composition he was wholly unacquainted with, and whom, in consequence of a previous order, he had taken no step whatever to watch. I undoubtedly had no intention that he should make such an attack - there was nothing in the instruction to require it - and therefore I conceive I was fully justified in stating to your Grace what was the exact truth - that the charge arose from the misconception of an order for the advance, which Lord Lucan considered obliged him to attack at all hazards. I wish I could say, my lord duke, that, having decided against his conviction to make the movement, he did all he could to render it as little perilous as possible. This, indeed, is far from being the case in my judgment. He was told that the Horse Artillery might accompany the cavalry. He did not bring it up. He was informed that the French cavalry was on his left. He did not invite their co-operation. He had the whole of the heavy cavalry at his disposal. He mentions having brought up only two regiments in support, and he omits all those precautions either from want of due consideration or from the supposition that the unseen enemy was not in such great force as he apprehended, notwithstanding that he was warned of it by Lord Cardigan after the latter had received the order to attack. I am much concerned, my lord duke, to have to submit these observations to your Grace. I entertain no wish to disparage the Earl of Lucan in your opinion, or to cast a slur upon his professional reputation, but, having been accused by his lordship of having stated of him what was unmerited in my despatch, I have felt obliged to enter into the subject, and trouble your Grace at more length than I could have wished in vindication of a report to your Grace in which I had strictly confined myself to that which I knew to be true. I had indulged in no observations whatever, or in any expressions which could be viewed either as harsh or in any way grating to the feelings of his lordship.
I have, &c,
To his Grace the Duke of Newcastle."
About the same time that I received this letter I also received the following answer to my application to the Commander-in-Chief to allow my conduct to be investigated by a court-martial:-
"Horse Guards, March 5.
My Lord, - I have had the honour to submit to the General Commanding in Chief your letter of the 2d of March inst, reporting your arrival in London and requesting that your conduct in ordering the charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade at the action of Balaklava, on the 25th of October last, and writing the letter you addressed to Field Marshal Lord Raglan on the 30th of November, may be submitted to and investigated by a court-martial.
I am directed by the General Commanding in Chief, to state in reply that, after a careful review of the whole correspondence which has passed, he cannot recommend to Her Majesty that your lordship's conduct in those transactions should be investigated by a court-martial.
I have the honour to be, my lord, your lordship's most obedient servant,
G. A. WETHERALL, A.G.
Lieutenant-General the Earl of Lucan."
My lords, having read Lord Raglan's letter - of the existence of which till then I was ignorant - my case was so entirely altered that I felt myself obliged to write the following letter, which has this day been delivered to the Adjutant-General:-
"Hanover Square, March 5.
Sir, - I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter informing me that the Commander-in-Chief cannot recommend that my conduct should be investigated by a court-martial. Until this day I have been kept uninformed of the letter from Lord Raglan. It appears to have been addressed by his lordship to the Minister of War, when forwarding mine of the 30th of November last. This letter contains entirely new matter, and is replete with new charges reflecting more seriously than before on my professional judgment and character. There is now imputed to me, and for the first time, inattention to and neglect of another order, and, again, a total incapacity to carry out my instructions and to avail myself of the means placed by his lordship at my disposal. Charges so grave, and of a character so exclusively professional, cannot, I submit, be properly disposed of without a military investigation. I find myself therefore compelled to express my anxious wish that the Commander-in-Chief would be induced kindly to reconsider his decision, and consent to my whole conduct on the day of the action at Balaklava, on the 25th of October, 1854, being investigated by a court-martial.
I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient servant,
To the Adjutant-General."
Now, my lords, I do not intend on this occasion, any more than I did the other night, to depart from the undertaking into which I entered; and, therefore, I shall now content myself with merely thanking your lordships for the kind attention that you have accorded me. (Hear, hear.)
Lord PANMURE. - My lords, it is not my intention to make many remarks upon the painful position in which your lordships' House is at present placed in having a matter which is entirely one of military discipline thus brought before you; and I trust that your lordships will not make this an occasion on which points of discipline are to be discussed in this house. I wish merely to explain one point. The noble earl says that this correspondence ought to have been laid upon your lordships' table long ago. (Hear, hear.) Now, when I was appealed to on a former occasion to produce this correspondence I stated that my reason for withholding it was, that the noble earl was then on his passage home to this country and would soon arrive here, and that if, after he reached England, he should desire its production, no man would be more unwilling to stand in the way of its being laid on the table than I should. That was my only reason for then objecting to the production of the correspondence, but I have brought it down to the House with me tonight, and now hold it in my hand, for the purpose of producing it to your lordships.
The Earl of LUCAN. - I forgot, my lords, to move for the production by the Government of any letters, papers, or any other documents whatever, relating to my conduct while in command; and I beg to do so now.
The motion was then agreed to.