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Crimean texts


Transcriber’s note: The copy of The Times for 30.3.1855 was damaged before being microfilmed. Consequently, there are some small gaps in the text. The transcriber’s guesses at the missing words, taking account of the space available, are shown thus: [offer advice].


The Times 30.3.1855 p 8

Leading Article


There is an Eastern saying that ‘Speech is silver, but silence is golden.’ If Lord Lucan, from the day of his return, had held his tongue and spoken nothing, ‘keeping silence even from good words,’ he would have had all the world with him, and that more and more. His own warm temper and the kindness of his friends are killing his cause. When the rumour of his recall first reached this country it was clearly understood that there had arisen a difference between Lord LUCAN and the COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF very likely to affect the understanding between them in the future operations of the war. There would, of course, have been a mystery about the affair; it might have been supposed that Government knew more than the public did about Lord LUCAN’S part in the affair; but, on the other hand, it might also have been supposed that the question had arisen whether Lord LUCAN, or Lord RAGLAN, or both, should be recalled, and that, under the circumstances, the first alternative had been taken as the least evil of the three. The recall in itself, however, was a thoroughly neutral act, and without any significance as to the merits of the Balaklava question. It is Lord Lucan who puts himself in the wrong, by assuring the world that he is a disgraced man, labouring under imputations, penalties, and a good deal more. Even the QUEEN, he complains, has withheld the light of her countenance from him. The blood of the three hundred slain is, he tells us, upon him, and he has to clear himself.

But a recall is an act of the CROWN, for which the advisors of the CROWN may have any reason or no assignable reason at all. The fate of the late Ministry sufficiently proves that the nation will hold the Government answerable for the conduct of the war. That Government, therefore, must be allowed the most unreserved choice of its men. It must be allowed to make and to cancel appointments entirely at its own discretion, and the COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF at the seat of war must not be checked, but rather encouraged to exercise his discretion, and [offer advice to the] Government at home, with the [utmost candour and] with no respect for persons. [Hence Parliament] has no right to interfere, and would be taking [a] suicidal course if it so much as attempted interference. Even the three debates which have arisen on the subject, including that of last night, cannot but have a mischievous effect, inasmuch as they throw some difficulty in the way of a similar exercise of discretion on the part of Lord RAGLAN and the Government at home. For our part, we have always imagined that Lord RAGLAN was, practically, absolute at the seat of war. We supposed that power to be included in the idea of a COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF. Whenever we have ventured comparisons with the conduct of great Generals, we did it in the belief that the conditions were equal, and that Lord RAGLAN could do anything that he might think necessary to success. This view of his position has been corroborated by the judgment of the highest living authorities on the subject, men who assure us that a commander is necessarily a military despot, with no limits to his power in the field, and that he must be obeyed; though he will probably find that success is the only justification of exceptional conduct. We need only look at the disorder that till lately prevailed in the Crimea and the Bosphoros to be aware of the paramount importance of one undivided authority. That authority, in theory, Lord RAGLAN assumed, though how far he has exercised [it in practice] admits of a question. However [late, he has now] stood out for that authority. [Often — some] people think too often — [he has overlooked the inadequacy] of certain officers, [and failed to correct their inefficiencies] and other short-[comings as strictly as he might.] ‘Why does [he not command more firmly?’ That,] indeed, is the [question that is asked when] British people hear [of failures and mistakes. They want] to know who is answerable[. It is our belief that] Lord RAGLAN is answerable at [the seat of war,] the Government at home; at [last, after disappointment], perplexity, and disgust created by the events of the war, it is a great relief to know where the blame, if any, lies. Now, Lord LUCAN would appear to dispute this belief. He would persuade us that there is no such absolute authority, and that no general can be recalled without good reason shown for it.

Supposing it were possible for Lord LUCAN’S friends in any way to obtain a reversal of his recall, or an inquiry into it, or any interference with the discretion of Lord RAGLAN or the Executive in the matter, what would be the result? In the first place, it would completely exculpate Lord RAGLAN from all the errors of the war. His great infirmity, in the eyes of the British people, who may or may not be good military critics, is that he does not interfere enough; that he does not dismiss the inefficient; that he does not reprimand the negligent; that he does not look out the most competent men and place them where they are wanted; that he is kind to individuals at the expense of the army; that he seems to think it enough to give orders, receive returns, write reports, and so forth, and has not ventured, till recently, to exercise that despotism of inspection, interference, rebukes, and dismissals, which was undoubtedly exercised by NAPOLEON, by our WELLINGTON, and by every other great commander. The excuse is, that Lord RAGLAN may have felt himself tied by the obligations and urbanities of peace, and that he had so long been employed in keeping things quiet and smooth by pleasing everybody at home that his mind had lost the rough edge necessary for war. Lord LUCAN appears to act in the spirit of this excuse. He looks on Lord RAGLAN as if he were still at the Horse Guards, distributing favours with an even hand, dividing patronage between merit and solicitation, and always liable to hear his appointments freely discussed in the clubs, in Parliament, and other places of military resort. Of course, in time of peace it would be vain to expect a military despot anywhere within the bosom of our free and gentle institutions. But the arm which wields the sword of war must be free indeed. So long as Lord RAGLAN is in command, he must command, and none other. If we canvass his conduct, it is not to check his responsibility or call it to a precipitate reckoning, but to rouse him to a proper sense of it, and make him fully aware that we are all looking to him for the remedy of neglects and for the measures necessary to the successful progress of the war. One other fact, too, we must just notice before quitting the subject. Lord LUCAN’S friends evidently think Lord RAGLAN, with all his good qualities, unfit for his present position; in other words, they think the wrong man has been recalled. But, if Lord RAGLAN is never to be recalled till a case can be fully established against him such as would satisfy a court of justice, till a multitude of obliged friends have been convinced, and till a Parliamentary clamour has been hushed, he will never be recalled at all, whatever his misdeeds; and the very object which these gentlemen appear to have in view, or at all events to think very necessary to our success in war, will be rendered utterly impossible.


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