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Volume 156: debated on Friday 2 March 1860

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asked the First Lord of the Treasury what were the intentions of the Government with respect to any reward to Captain M'Clintock and the crew of the discovery-ship Fox. It was right to say that the Question he had put had not been suggested to him by Captain M'Clintock or any other of the gallant officers who served in the expedition referred to. Indeed, if he were at liberty to state he the knew, he could satisfy the House that the last thing those distinguished officers had looked to was pecuniary reward for the services they had rendered. Every one, from the Sovereign herself to her humblest subject, had felt an interest in the result of that expedition; but he did not therefore press on the Government the claims of those by whom it was accomplished, he did not come there to say that those who had done their duty in the service of the country should therefore dip their hands into the public purse and expect a reward; but in this case some promises were held out by Her Majesty's Government to which he wished to call the attention of the House. He would state as plainly as possible the grounds of the application he was bringing before them. In 1850 a proclamation was issued by the Admiralty offering £20,000 to any one who should discover, and effectually relieve, the crews of Her Majesty's ships Erebus and Terror. There had had also been a second reward of £10,000 offered to any persons who should relieve the crews of Her Majesty's ships Terror and Erebus, or who should give such intelligence as might lead to their succour. In the case of those two rewards he need hardly say that no claimant for them had appeared. But another sum of £10,000 had been promised to "any person or persons who, in the judgment of the Board of Admiralty, might by virtue of his or their efforts first succeed in ascertaining the fate of those crews." It was to that last promise that he wished more especially to call the attention of the House. He might, perhaps, take this opportunity of removing any confusion which might exist in the minds of any person who had not looked into the question, as to the reward given to Captain M'Clure. Captain M'Clure had had a sum of money granted him for services of an entirely different nature. A reward had been offered by Parliament for the discovery of the Northwest Passage—and after an inquiry before a Committee of the House of Commons had taken place a sum had been granted to Sir P. M'Clure and his crew. That reward, therefore, had no reference to the question which he was about to bring under the notice of the House. In 1856, Dr. Rae had made a claim, and the Admiralty had awarded him the sum of £10,000, promised under the third condition of the Pro- clamation, and he (Sir F. Baring) for one was not disposed to offer any objection to the course which had been in that instance pursued. But when it was borne in mind that that which in Dr. Rae's case was, comparatively speaking, conjectural, had been rendered perfectly certain by the aid of the crew of the Fox, and when it was recollected how the gallant men of whom that crew was composed had fulfilled the letter of the conditions which were held out in the proposal to which he alluded—though, perhaps, their claim could not be argued as a legal claim—it could hardly, he thought, be denied that they had some claim on the good faith of the country. He did not, however, desire to rest that claim upon merely legal grounds. He preferred appealing to his noble Friend at the head of the Government to look upon it in that generous spirit in which he felt assured the nation at large was anxious to see it viewed, and not to turn a deaf ear to the wishes of the great body of the people. He hardly thought it necessary, even for one moment, to call the attention of the House to that which Captain M'Clintock and his officers and crew had effected. The whole country knew it. He had in a small ship, fitted out by private contributions, been enabled to satisfy the English public upon a question with respect to which they had felt the deepest anxiety—an object which large expeditions had year after year been sent out to accomplish, but without success. Nor should it, he thought, be regarded as matter of small satisfaction that the subject was one which had been finally set at rest, inasmuch as the sad fate of our poor countrymen had at length been but too clearly ascertained; and it was therefore likely to be the last time the subject would come before the House. Under these circumstances, he hoped his noble Friend would state to the House that he was not unwilling to confer on Captain M'Clintock that reward to which he was so justly entitled. Hon. Members would perhaps pardon him if he now proceeded to advert to another point which was connected with the subject with which he was dealing, and with respect to his intention to refer to which he had given his noble Friend notice in private. He did not know what the feelings of others might have been when perusing the narrative of Captain M'Clintock, but he must say for himself that when he had come to the conclusion of that simple story, he had been deeply pained at the recital which was there given of the expense by which the expedition had been attended, and at the mention of her by whom that expense had mainly been incurred. He had no authority to allude to the name of Lady Franklin; indeed, he believed that in doing so he was acting in opposition to her wishes; but it was not so much for her sake as for that of the country that he did not wish to see her bear the burden of the charges which she had so nobly defrayed. The subject was one which reminded him of a celebrated monument which had been raised to one of the most distinguished of the Austrian Generals in the Seven Years' War, and upon which, after the usual recital of his eminent services, the following words were inscribed —"Non Patria, non Imperator, Conjux posuit." It was not the country whose battles he had fought; it was not the Imperial master whom he had so long and so nobly served, but the money Order that had raised the monument to the memory of Laudohn. He trusted, however, that England would furnish no just ground for such a reproach, and that, instead of allowing the expense of the expedition to which he was referring to be borne by Lady Franklin, the country at large, as a token of the high estimation in which it held such a man as her lamented husband, would claim it as a right to defray that expense as a mark of respect to his memory. So far as Lady Franklin herself was concerned, she had her reward; and if perchance—as he understood was the case—the exertions which she had made to attain the object of her wishes, had diminished her means of subsistence, and deprived her of many comforts for the remainder of her life, everybody who knew her, knew she would rejoice in any sacrifice incurred in effecting what had been the great object of her life. It was on other and public grounds that he made the present appeal to his noble Friend at the head of the Government, and in making that appeal he might be allowed for a moment to remind the House who Sir John Franklin was, and how distinguished had been his career. He was no doubt first known as the great navigator of the Arctic Regions; but in his early life he was a gallant sailor who fought at Copenhagen and Trafalgar, and who had rendered himself eminent as a volunteer on board an East India ship in the celebrated defence which had been made under Captain Dance, in repulsing a French squadron commanded by Admiral Linois. He after- wards served his country in a civil capacity, and later in life, when he might fairly have claimed repose upon an honourable career, he did not shrink from dangers which he knew so well, and in encountering which he had found his grave. A man who died thus, reflected honour on his country as much as if he had fallen in the battle-field he was one to whom a grateful nation might not hesitate to erect a monument in that place where her greatest and best lay buried. He died in the strict execution of his duty, at the very moment of success—when he saw before him the North-west Passage, though it was not allowed that he should effect it, and had made the discovery for which he had been sent out by his country. In speaking of their chief, let him not forget the conduct of those who served under him—of Crozier and Fitzjames, and many other younger officers, who if their lives had been spared would have been ornaments to their profession. He believed that conduct such as this raised the character of England, and of that flag under which these men had served. He did not ask his noble Friend any specific question; he was anxious to leave the subject with him. Indeed, he did not know anybody in whose hands he would more readily leave a question of this kind. To his noble Friend's own generous and kind feelings he would intrust the entire case, with all the more confidence that it deeply affected one whose own nature was so extremely sensitive as Lady Franklin's. He was almost ashamed of having taken up so much of the time of the House; but the peculiar nature of the case which had been put into his hand would be his excuse for going so far out of the way in bringing before them what he felt satisfied, from the manner in which his observations had been received, did not run counter to the general feeling of the House.

said, that before the noble Lord answered the question which had been put to him, he hoped the House would allow him to say a few words on the subject, in consequence of the interest he had always taken in it, and of his personal friendship with the gallant commander of the Fox. It would be in the recollection of the House that in June, 1857, his right hon. Friend Mr. Napier, at the earnest desire of Lady Franklin, brought forward a Motion that the Government of the day should fit out another expedition to endeavour to discover the fate of that brave sailor, Sir John Franklin, and his gallant companions. That Motion was refused, not from any indisposition to carry out the humane wish of Lady Franklin, but, as was then expressed by the head of the Admiralty, from the belief that the enterprize would be fruitless, perilous, and might cost a sacrifice of human life, and therefore the right hon. Baronet (Sir C. Wood) could not advise the Government to sanction it. After that Motion a number of persons contributed towards an expedition; but the greater portion of the expense of the last voyage of discovery was borne by Lady Franklin herself. Captain M'Clintock did not undertake the command in a spirit of reckless adventure; for he (Mr. Whiteside) happened to know from scientific men, who were now preparing a work on the results of his discoveries in geology and science, that Captain M'Clintock had studied carefully and clearly the whole question, and arrived at a firm conviction that if he was enabled to reach the Polar regions, he should certainly discover what had become of Sir John Franklin and his companions. In a ship, the smallest, he believed, that ever undertook a voyage of discovery, with a crew of twenty-two men and three officers, M'Clintock sailed in July. In September he was beset in a pack of ice, where he remained till the following month of April. He drifted 1,200 miles, and the day he was relieved, instead of thinking of returning to England, the intrepid sailor was only the more determined to prosecute his gallant enterprise. He agreed with the right hon. Baronet that the result of that voyage was told in simple words, and he must say a most romantic interest attached to the narrative. He had heard it said by a very eminent person that if Franklin had been better acquainted with the present mode of sledge travelling, he would most probably have survived; the incidents connected with this adventure formed, in fact, the most interesting part of the narrative. The last Arctic voyage, as had been truly said, had called forth qualities—and he excepted none of the twenty-five men who formed the crew of the Fox—a higher nature than were displayed even on the battle-field. The soldier had a quick death or a joyful victory; but there were a more enduring spirit, and a loftier resolution, and nobler qualities of mind and body required, successfully to conduct such an enterprise as this than were required for the field of battle. He happened to know Captain M'Clure, and when that officer mentioned to him (Mr. Whiteside) the subject of his own services, he (Mr. Whiteside) told that gallant Officer the best resort he could have was to the House of Commons. The House, and the noble Viscount at the head of the Government had behaved with the utmost generosity to M'Clure and his crew, and what he (Mr. Whiteside) had suggested, had been verified by the decision of the House. No assembly in the world was more ready to acknowledge and reward conspicuous merit than the House of Commons. With regard to Lady Franklin, it was quite correct that she declined to accept anything from the Government in the shape of pecuniary recompense. Her hope, her wish, was that in recognition of the services and name of her gallant husband, as the true discover or of the North-west Passage, which many men of science said he was, they might perhaps raise to him a public monument; while, in doing so, an act of justice might be also rendered to the living. He left the matter to the generous nature of the noble Viscount, and he could not help thanking him for the mark of distinction that had already been conferred on his gallant Friend.

rose to remind the noble Viscount that Sir John Franklin had gone forth on no volunteer expedition; he was called on by his country to undertake the expedition in which he lost his life; and it was because the Government had not taken the proper measures to search for him and his gallant companions—because they had not adequately fulfilled their duties—that Lady Franklin had sacrificed almost her entire private resources. The search hitherto made had been chiefly conducted by sea, and he was told by Dr. Rae, no mean authority on questions of this kind, that the only real and effectual search for the remains and journals of the officers engaged in the expedition would be by land and during summer; and there would be no danger whatever, he understood, in such an expedition. The only danger would be if the expedition were compelled to pass the winter in those desert regions. Not only those who were interested in Polar discovery, but the great bulk of this nation and the civilized world were interested in obtaining all the information that could be collected as to the fate and history of Sir John Franklin's expedition; and he really thought the Government would be wanting in their duty to the relatives and memory of those whom they had sent out on such dangerous adventures if they did not take steps to recover what traces they could of their history and endurance.