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have made it the occasion of an appeal to large bodies of their fellow-countrymen; and when the appeal has elicited such a response as those who made it expected and desired, -then the historian would be neglecting a portion of the task he has undertaken, if he were to pass it by without notice. Such a dinner was the one which was given to Sir Charles Napier at the Reform Club of London, a few days before his departure to take the command of the Baltic fleet. This banquet was presided over by Lord Palmerston; among the guests were Sir James Graham, the first lord of the Admiralty, Sir William Molesworth, the chief secretary for Ireland, and the Turkish minister. Lord Palmerston warmly eulogised the character and conduct of the French emperor. In proposing the health of the sultan, he said, 'There never was a sovereign who was more the object of abominable injustice than the sultan is now; an injustice only to be equalled by that which is described in the old fable of the wolf and the lamb; but this time the wolf has made a great mistake; it is no lamb that he has to deal with.' He eulogised the sultan as a great reformer, engaged in carrying out important improvements in his dominions, and only prevented from making still greater improvements by a wise allowance for the inveterate prejudices and deep-rooted habits of his subjects. He warmly praised the firmness with which, notwithstanding the threats and demands of Russia and Austria, he had refused to give up the Hungarians who had taken refuge in his dominions, even before he was assured of the support of England and France. Sir Charles Napier, in returning thanks for the toast of his health, thus expressed himself: 'When I get to the Baltic, I shall have an opportunity of declaring war. And certainly if I have that opportunity, I hope it will end in a prosperous war; because I can safely say that this country never sent out such a splendid fleet as that which is about to go into the Baltic in a few days. My right hon. friend Sir James Graham deserves the greatest credit for having, after so long a peace, when we had no seamen or very few, been able to fit-out so magnificent a fleet. Well, with that force-I do not say that it is equal to the force of Russia-but with the assistance of the screw, we shall be able to attack a very large and a superior force.' Sir James Graham, in returning thanks
DINNER AT THE REFORM CLUB.
after his health had been drank, spoke thus of the gallant admiral:
'He possesses my entire confidence, and I rejoice in having had the opportunity on this great occasion to commend him to the choice of my sovereign. The selection, I believe, is approved by the country; it is approved by the profession; and although the propelling power of the fleet may be changed, though naval tactics may be altered, as he goes forth the commander, not of a pressed body of men, but of volunteers in her Majesty's service-though all these old plans may be changed, yet there is one thing that is unchanged the gallantry and the power of command of my honourable friend. He does not go forth under the hypocritical pretence of conducting a religious war; but he goes forth to assert the independence of Europe-to resist, and I hope successfully to resist, that lawless spirit of aggression and aggrandisement which now threatens to disturb the general peace. My gallant friend says, that when he gets into the Baltic he will declare war. I, as first lord of the Admiralty, give him my free consent to do so. I hope that war will be short. It may be sharp, but I trust that, with the spirit and energy which has ever guided my gallant friend, it will be decisive.'
These speeches, circulated as they were by the journals, had the effect, which they no doubt were intended to have, of stimulating very strongly the war-spirit that was already abroad in England. But they also offended and disgusted those who were trying to withstand the martial frenzy that was impelling the prime-minister into a war which he regarded with evident horror. The subject was taken up in the House of Commons. Mr. Bright said on this occasion: 'I have read the proceedings of that banquet with pain and humiliation. The reckless levity displayed is, in my opinion, discreditable to the grave and responsible statesmen of a civilised and Christian nation.' This sentence stung Lord Palmerston to the quick. He rose to reply in evident anger, and he commenced in a manner which was intended to be insulting, and which certainly was very unparliamentary: Sir, the honourable and reverend gentleman.' These words produced one of those movements of dissatisfaction in the House which make a speaker feel that in its opinion he has been guilty of a violation of good taste
and decorum; and Mr. Cobden appealed to the speaker to rebuke the expression, stigmatising it as 'flippant, undeserved, and not justified by the rules of the House.' Lord Palmerston was then allowed to go on, but his temper had evidently not been improved by the manifestation of feeling that had been displayed. I will not quarrel,' he continued, 'about words; but as the honourable gentleman has been pleased to advert to the circumstance of my being chairman of the dinner to which allusion has been made, and as he has been kind enough to express an opinion as to my conduct on that occasion, I deem it right to inform the hon. gentleman that any opinion he may entertain, either of me personally or of my conduct, private or political, is to me a matter of the most perfect indifference. I am farther convinced that the opinion of this country with regard to me and to my conduct will be in no way whatever influenced by anything the hon. gentleman may say. I therefore treat the censure of the hon. gentleman with the utmost indifference and contempt.' This insolent attack provoked a strong explosion of indignation, mingled with some cries of approbation and a good deal of laughter. When the noise had a little subsided, Lord Palmerston asked, 'Is that parliamentary or not?' The question provoked a shout of laughter. If it is not,' said his lordship, 'I do not insist on the expression.' If Lord Palmerston thought to thrust aside comments and criticisms, which his opponent had an unquestionable right to make, he must soon have perceived that he had greatly miscalculated. The feelings of many members of the House, who differed widely and decidedly from Mr. Bright on the merits of this war, and on other political questions, were revolted by the insolence and injustice of the invectives that Lord Palmerston had uttered, and that astute minister was made to feel, in a very unmistakable way, that he had committed a great mistake, the repetition of which might seriously endanger his influence.
It must be remembered, that while all the warlike declamation, which we have read above, was being uttered, war was not yet formally declared, and that the emperor of Russia, against whom it was levelled, was still our ally. He was not, however, long permitted to retain that position. On the afternoon of the 22nd of March the formal declara
DEPARTURE OF THE BALTIC FLEET. 25
tion of war was made. The Lord Chancellor read a message from the Queen, which, though its purport was already known, was listened to with breathless silence. It informed the House that negotiations with the emperor of Russia had terminated, and that her Majesty felt bound to afford active assistance to her ally the sultan against unprovoked aggression. In the discussion that took place on this message, Lord Aberdeen expressed the deep grief he felt in being obliged to enter on this sanguinary course, and declared that even now, when compelled to make war, he should carry it on with the utmost vigour only for the sake of securing a speedy peace.' And his whole career shows, that if he did retain office under the circumstances in which he was placed, he was actuated in doing so by a deep sense of duty, and a hope that he might be instrumental in bringing about a speedy restoration of that peace which, in spite of all his efforts to the contrary, he found himself compelled to interrupt. Six days after, a formal statement of the causes of the war was published in the Gazette. On the same day on which the Queen's message was sent to the House of Lords, a similar message was sent by the Emperor of the French to the senate and legislative assembly of that country, and received with enthusiastic acclamations.
The departure of the first division of the Baltic fleet, under the command of Sir Charles Napier, on the 11th of March, was an event which, even more than the departure of the land-forces, excited the interest and attention of the whole nation. We all know the historic pride with which Englishmen have in all ages been accustomed to regard what they fondly called 'the wooden walls of old England,' when as yet ironclads were not; and we can therefore understand the feelings with which the departure of the stateliest fleet that had ever gone forth to war from the chief naval station of the kingdom was regarded. Portsmouth was of course the centre towards which the thoughts of the whole nation were directed, and to which all who could visit it were anxious to go. During Friday and the whole of Saturday morning thousands on thousands of excursionists came pouring into the town from all parts of the country. The Queen, who had visited the fleet on Friday, came again to witness its departure on Saturday.
At half-past one the signal for weighing anchor was given from the admiral's ship, and promptly obeyed. The Royal George led the way. In ten minutes from the time when the signal was given, her anchor was raised and her sails set. She was quickly followed by the St. Jean d'Acre, the Tribune, Impérieuse, Blenheim, Amphion, Princess Royal, Edinburgh, Ajax, Arrogant, Leopard, Valorous, and Dragon. When all these were fairly started, the admiral's ship, the Duke of Wellington, the finest vessel in the English navy, got under weigh. The squadron comprised eight screw line-of-battle ships, four screw and four paddle ships of inferior size, making a total of sixteen war steamers. Of these the Duke of Wellington and the Royal George were three-deckers. As at that time the use of steam had recently been introduced into the navies of the world, it was noticed with some pride that every one of these vessels was propelled by steam power. The Neptune, the Prince Regent, and the Boscawen remained behind to form the nucleus of a second division, which was intended to follow under the command of Rear-admiral Corry. Thus departed the first division of the great Baltic fleet, full of high hope, and carrying with it the good wishes and sanguine expectations of almost all who remained behind, and who had either witnessed the magnificent spectacle with their own eyes, or had it vividly exhibited to them in the letters of special correspondents and the pictorial representations of the Illustrated London News. The admiral himself felt that the national expectations had been so highly raised that it was impossible they should be realised, even by the utmost that he could hope to achieve; and therefore he did his best, before his departure, to moderate them.
Before commencing operations in the Baltic the admiral signalled the following address to the fleet under his command: Lads, war is declared. We are to meet a bold and numerous enemy: should they offer us battle, you know how to dispose of them. Should they remain in port, we must try to get at them. Success depends on the quickness and precision of your fire. Lads, sharpen your cutlasses, and the day is your own.' Sir J. Graham, fearing that the admiral might be led by his own ardour, and by a desire to satisfy the highly-raised expectations of the nation, into enterprises, which might seriously endanger the safety of