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among foreign nations of an intelligent understanding of the real constitutional impotency of the English Sovereign.
Attention has been called of late to another field, in which the personal activity of the Sovereign may possibly expatiate independently of the advice or concert of responsible advisers. During the wars of 1878– 1879 in Afghanistan and Zululand, rumours prevailed that the Queen had been personally and directly communicating with the Viceroy of India, with Lord Chelmsford, commanding the forces in Natal, and with the family of Sir Bartle Frere, the High Commissioner of Natal. The policy of the Viceroy and of the High Commissioner was at the time matter of public discussion, and it was alleged or insinuated that the correspondence of the Queen in each case either had a direct political bearing, or at least conveyed some expression of opinion in reference to acts that had been done, which went beyond the limits either of mere general interest in the progress of events, or of sympathy for disasters which had been incurred. Though for a long time the Government refused to condescend to explain what had really taken place, yet at length the facts all came out, and the explanation of them afforded by the Government, and generally well received on all sides of the House, has a permanent interest in view of the probable recurrence at similar crises of like rumours and apprehensions. In a debate which took place in the House of Commons on May 13, 1879, in which the whole question of the recent use of the Royal prerogative was brought under discussion, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Stafford Northcote, explained that “at a o moment of great anxiety, when Her Majesty's troops The Queen's Letter to Lady Frere. 331 had met with a great disaster, when there was great • loss of life and great anxiety, the Government were so 'far from expressing their censure or their want of
confidence in our representatives in South Africa, that they felt it to be their duty to defend them in the re• sponsible positions which they filled. Her Majesty, • who is always ready with a kind word, sent a message . in general terms of sympathy, and an expression of • confidence that her troops would redeem their credit ' and save themselves from the difficulties in which they
were placed, and that her Administrator and Governor • would be able to bring them out of their embarrass“ments. “I do not think,' added the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that any one can make a serious charge out • of that.' Towards the close of the debate, Mr. Cross, the Home Secretary, further said: “It is only right to the • House and to the country that I should state at once • what I have the Queen's authority to state, and I re
ceived only to-day, that in the communication Her • Majesty made to Lady Frere she did express, as she
was bound to do, her deepest sympathy with the difficulties and dangers with which Sir Bartle Frere had had to contend; but her communication was couched ' in the most general terms, and there was nothing in it to lead him to suppose that Her Majesty wished to recommend any line of policy to be taken.'
With respect to the report of the Queen's private communication with the Viceroy,—which Sir Stafford Northcote admitted, both by distinct allegation, and by the scrupulous care with which he examined and recounted all the circumstances appertaining to it, to be matter of relevant constitutional inquiry,—it is satisfactory to narrate both the dream and the interpretation
of it in Sir Stafford Northcote's own language in the course of the same debate :
With regard to the case of the Indian telegram, I • am bound to say that it is a matter requiring a
moment's consideration. The charge against the • Government is made in a very remarkable article con• tributed to one of the numerous periodicals of the day
by a gentleman whose name is very well known to us • all as a special correspondent and an admirable writer, • Mr. A. Forbes, whose descriptions we all read with • interest and pleasure. Whether he is an equally great * constitutional authority is, of course, another question. • His article is entitled “Some Plain Words about the 6 « Afghan Question," and gives an account of the origin
of the war. He states that Lord Lytton was desirous 6 of bringing about a quarrel with the Ameer, and that • he was unnecessarily pressing upon the Home Govern6 ment, who were themselves unwilling to take the step, • the necessity of hostilities with Afghanistan. Mr. • Forbes proceeds to say, “ While working in this fashion 66 on his own account, Lord Lytton was pleading with 66 Lord Cranbrook for bis sanction for an immediate 6 6 declaration of war," and, after a few more sentences, • he adds that while applying unsuccessfully through the • official and constitutional channel, “it is not generally «« known, but it is true, that the Viceroy has been in 66 direct communication with Her Majesty. How copi666 ous his message was may be judged from the fact that 6" a single telegram was so long that the cost was 1,100 6" rupees.” These words are placed in italics, and a • great writer does not usually place his words in italics • unless he wishes to direct particular attention to that • of which he is writing. It is obvious that the mean
Debate on Lord Lytton's Telegram. 333
ing of the paragraph is this—that Lord Lytton, desir• ing to bring about the acceptance of a certain policy, 6 and finding himself unable to persuade the Ministry
by argument, addressed himself directly to the Queen • that he might obtain Her Majesty's support in order
to carry his object. If that charge is true, it is a most serious one, and an offence trenching upon the • privilege of Parliament and the Constitution of the 6 country ; but there is no foundation whatever for it. • It is perfectly true that a long telegram was sent to • Her Majesty ; but what was the date of that message, • and what were the circumstances in which it was sent ? • I have been favoured with a sight of that telegram, 6 and am perfectly acquainted with it. I will describe 'its nature and purport. It is dated November 26, and • the war had begun five days previously, on November • 21. It is a telegram describing in tolerably succinct • phrases the advance of the various columns of the • forces. It mentions the advance at all points, on the • morning of the 21st, of the three Generals, and specifies • for the information of Her Majesty the nature of the operations intended. There is not one word upon the
causes of the war, nor any mention of political matters • in the whole telegram. It is merely a despatch for• warded at the moment when the movements were • occurring, in order that Her Majesty might receive
early and authentic intelligence of what was happen. ing. That is the whole state of the case with reference
to that mysterious telegram; and in reply, Her Majesty • simply expressed her gratification at the conduct and
success of the troops. This telegram was not sent by • Her Majesty without being first communicated to and • approved by Her Majesty's Ministers. I really wish to ask the House what they consider to be the position and the rights and duties of the Sovereign. Are they of opinion that it is improper that Her Majesty should • be in any wav in the receipt of intelligence as to inter
esting and important events that are going on? Are they of opinion that she is never to write a private • letter or express an opinion of her own upon any matter which seems to call for an expression of her sympathy
with those who are in trouble? Is it possible to sup. pose that one who has held and who holds so important • a position as the Queen of England, one who has had • all her experience, one whose right it is, as the hon.
member for Liskeard has said, “to be consulted, to en« « courage, and to warn,” is to be deprived of all means of information as to the real state of affairs in this
country or anywhere else? I maintain that that * position is utterly untenable. We have seen in some • of the language used to-night to what absurd and • ridiculous lengths such pretensions may be pushed. • It appears that Her Majesty may not even be informed 'as to the details of what occurs in this House or of . what happens within her own Cabinet. I really wonder ' at the views which hon. gentlemen have expressed. I think I may say, in answer to all these charges, that the character and the history of tbe present reign and the present Sovereign are in themselves a sufficient • refutation of them.'
Lord Hartington, the recognised leader of the party in opposition, referring to the Chancellor of the Elchequer's explanation of the facts of this correspondence with the Indian Government, said that 'it would have
prevented a great deal of misapprehension if we bau had in the first instance the explanation which has