The debate was begun by Sir M. Hicks-Beach, in a
speech described by Mr. Gladstone as "one of great force and elo- quence." It was at first a little tedious, Sir Michael going over the old ground about Zebehr yasha and the visit to the Mahdi ; but when he came to modern events he was clear and strong. He maintained that General Gordon had originally asked the Government for military support, and had not been refused ; and that he had then specially asked for 300 cavalry to be sent from Suakim to Berber. The Government had refused this, had sent no troops and no money, and had so completely abandoned Gordon that on April 16th he telegraphed that he would sail to the Equator and leave the indelible disgrace with them. No British
Government had ever borne such an insult from an agent ; but this one would, because it was true, and the country knew it to be so. Ever since, Mr. Gladstone had been "obstinately optimist," had declared Gordon in no danger, though his despatches told a different story, and instead of acting, had asked General Gordon to state precisely what he wanted. The Government had not even proclaimed a fixed determination that General Gordon should be rescued. Sir M. Hicks-Beach con- sidered that their conduct had thus produced a position from which extrication was most difficult, had inflicted an" intolerable stain" upon the honour of the kingdom, and was heartily con- demned by the majority of its people.