From the London Times, 12 Feb 1864, page 6 [regarding Edward Charles Tinling (1842-63)].
THE DEATH OF LIEUTENANT TINLING
Lord CHELMSFORD rose to call attention to the death of Lieutenant Tinling at Shoushing on the 5th of March last, and assured the noble duke at the head of the Admiralty that his object in doing so was simply to rescue the name of a gallant young officer from an unfounded imputation of having lost his life by his own temerity, while, in fact, he had honourably fallen in the discharge of his duty. The young man was an officer of the Encounter, then lying at Ningpo, and had been promoted to the rank of lieutenant for his gallant behaviour at the capture of that place. He was a young man of great promise, and the estimate formed of him by his brother officers would be best shown by two papers which he (Lord Chelmsford) would read to their lordships. The noble and learned lord then read extracts from certificates by brother officers testifying to the generous disposition and gallantry of the deceased. On the 28th of May last the father of this gallant young man received a communication from the Admiralty to the effect that they had received a letter from Captain Dew reporting the death of his son from the effects of a wound received under the walls of Shoushing. It would have been some consolation to reflect that his son had died fighting gallantly for his country, but even this poor consolation was entirely denied. The intelligence having been received by an hon. and gallant member of the House of Commons with reference to the proceedings at Shoushing on the 29th of May; he put a question to the noble lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, in answer to which that noble lord stated that no official intelligence had been received at the Admiralty respecting the death of Lieutenant Tinling, but that he had seen a letter from Captain Dew stating that he had accompanied some officers to Shoushing as an amateur, where he was wounded. It was a mistake to say that no intelligence had been received by the Admiralty, for the father of the young man had received a letter from the Admiralty the day before announcing his son’s death. It was unfortunate that this had been forgotten, otherwise the noble lord would have hesitated before he made use of a private letter which was so calculated to wound the feelings of this young man’s family. He was quite sure the noble lord did so unintentionally, and that he had no disposition to aggravate the bereavement. The painful impression which the statement of the noble lord produced on this family was indescribable. They were bending under the weight of the blow they had received from the intelligence of the death of this gallant young man when they learned that the life whose loss they deplored had been sacrificed to the gratification of an idle curiosity. In the House of Commons the same hon. and gallant member who had before put a question on the subject again asked explanations from the noble Secretary of the Admiralty. That noble lord in reply said that he regretted very much the statement he had formerly made, and bore testimony to the gallantry and meritorious conduct of the youth. As to the statement that Lieutenant Tinling had received his death-wound when acting as an amateur, he said he would wait for further information, which he expected, and if he were satisfied he should have the greatest pleasure in apologizing to his family. He did not know whether the Admiralty had received further information, but as far as he understood the objection of the noble lord the Secretary of the Admiralty was founded in the fact that Captain Dew had been acting beyond the prescribed range of his instructions, and therefore could not be considered as acting in the discharge of his duty when he was, in fact, disobeying those instructions. At all events, the term amateur most inaccurately described the character of the service at Shoushing. This was clear from the letter in which Captain Dew reported the death of Lieutenant Tinling to Admiral Kuper. Shoushing was, he believed, between 80 and 90 miles from Ningpo, and the instructions were that the ships should not engage in hostile operations beyond a radius of 30 miles from one of the treaty ports; but Captain Dew was actually, it appeared, watching the proceedings, and preventing, if possible, any false step of the Chinese, which would have at once imperiled Ningpo, and he stated that he felt himself responsible for the sad fate of this promising young officer. But, even admitting that Captain Dew had been engaged in hostile operations, contrary to his instructions, that could not be fairly imputed as blame to Lieutenant Tinling. Lieutenant Tinling was at Shoushing, under actual orders, for the purpose of conveying assistance to carry on the operations of the siege, and he received his death-wound when sent by his captain with a message to the front. Captain Dew might have exceeded his instructions by being engaged in those operations, but that was derogative from a subordinate officer who was obeying the orders of his superior. All he desired in this case was that justice should be done, and that an acknowledgment should be made that Lieutenant Tinling’s short and honourable life was nobly ended by a death in the service of his country. (Hear, hear.)
The Duke of SOMERSET admitted that the noble and learned lord had brought the case forward with the best feeling; and he could himself assure their Lordships that he also felt sincere sorrow for the fate of this gallant young officer, as well as sympathy with his bereaved family. It was, he understood, merely an honourable acknowledgment that he had fallen in the service of his country that Lieutenant Tinling’s family sought to obtain; and all that the Government aimed at was to ascertain the facts of the case and to do what was strictly right. It was true that his noble friend Lord Clarence Paget, when first questioned on the subject in the other House, said that he had no information about it; but his noble friend had been engaged on committees for several days and was not then aware that a letter had arrived at the Admiralty in reference to the matter. Next day, however, he learned that he had made an error, and the information which the Government possessed was immediately forwarded to the unhappy father, while his noble friend also took the first opportunity of setting himself right in the House of Commons. His noble friend had been asked to say that Lieutenant Tinling had fallen in the strict discharge of his duty. On that point they had then no complete intelligence; but they immediately wrote to Admiral Kuper, requesting him to call upon Captain Dew to state whether he had ordered Lieutenant Tinling to proceed to the siege of Shoushing, and whether when he fell he was acting under his orders, or as a volunteer. Captain Dew’s answer was as follows:--
“H.M.S. Encounter, Yokohama, Sept. 25, 1863.
“Sir,--In reply to your memorandum of this date, referring to my letter of the 13th of April last, wherein I acquainted you under what circumstances Acting-Lieutenant Tinling met his death from a wound received at Shoushing, and wherein you call on me to report, for the information of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, whether that officer was ordered by me to proceed to the siege of Shoushing, and whether at the time he was acting under my orders or merely as a volunteer, I have to inform you that that much-lamented officer did not proceed to Shoushing by my orders or on duty, but accompanied me at his own urgent request on that as on a previous occasion, when I deemed it necessary for the safety of Ningpo to pass beyond the 30 miles’ radius, not for the purpose of engaging in hostilities with the Taepings, but rather by my presence and advice to ward off disaster from the Imperial forces. All the officers who accompanied me on these occasions perfectly understood their own and my position, and considered themselves on leave. I repeatedly warned them against exposure to fire, especially on the eve of the assault on Shoushing, when I particularly cautioned Lieutenant Tinling, knowing his fearless nature, and told him and them to bear in mind that I held myself personally responsible for their safety. I feel confident, moreover, that Lieutenant Tinling’s last days would have been much embittered could he have foreseen the steps his family have thought right to take regarding his death. I now most respectfully lay before you. Sir, and, if you think right, for the information of their Lordships, a short statement as to my peculiar position at Ningpo, and the grave responsibilities I was continually called on to undertake for the safety of that city and others within the 30 miles’ radius. I had instructions from Sir James Hope to carry out the policy of Her Majesty’s Government and clear the 30 miles, and this was most happily effected, with a trifling loss, against overwhelming odds, by a small squadron under my orders, assisted by Chinese troops, drilled by ourselves and the French. So highly did Sir James Hope appreciate this service, effected, as he was pleased to state, not as at Shanghai, with a large field force and guns, but simply with our own resources, that he forwarded me no less than five public letters of thanks, to be read on the quarter-deck to the ships’ companies. I may now mention my reasons for proceeding to Shoushing, so that you and their Lordships may understand why I passed the 30 miles’ boundary, and incurred your own and their censure, and I trust that when that explanation has been given some latitude may be allowed me for transgressing my orders, and if I erred in judgment it will be seen my motives for so doing had at least the public service entirely at heart. Shoushing is the key of Ningpo and the province of Che-kiang, and so long as it was held by the Taepings, who continually threatened Ningpo from it, it would be necessary to keep a large naval force for the protection of the latter city. I had received a communication from you Sir, to the effect that you were anxious, if the safety of Ningpo would admit of it, that I should join your flag in Japan with a gunboat. The fall of Shoushing alone would enable me to leave Ningpo, so I went to the front, not at first intending to be present at the attack, but merely to urge on the French commander the necessity of making one. General Taidif requested me to remain, as, in the event of an accident to himself, he feared his force would disperse. His worst fears were realized; he fell early on the day of the assault, his officers and men became dispirited, and my presence alone saved a great desertion; malgré moi, I had to take the direction of the siege till Admiral James sent up competent officers to relieve me; and in a fortnight, so hard were the besieged pressed, that they evacuated the city, and one of the first provinces in China was regained to the Imperial Government, and I was enabled to leave Ningpo, with a gunboat alone for its protection. Since that time prosperity has returned to Ningpo and its neighborhood, and it will be a lasting satisfaction to myself and those under my command to know that through our efforts those ruthless plunderers the Taepings were driven away from their work of spoliation, rapine, and murder. Trusting that you, Sir, and their Lordships will give me at least credit for disinterestedness in my conduct at Ningpo,
“I have, &c., “R. DEW, Captain.”
“To Vice-Admiral Augustus J. Kuper, C.B.,
Now, he should have acted very discreditably if he had not said that he was satisfied with the explanation which Captain Dew had given. (Hear, hear.) He thought that Captain Dew had acted under the circumstances as a gallant officer would act. (Hear, hear.) He went up to the front, like many others, to see the fighting; but when he got there the French commander told him that he must stay there, because if anything happened to himself Captain Dew must take the command. Therefore against his judment, and against his orders in fact, he did stay; but his stay, as it happened was a most fortunate circumstance. As to Lieutenant Tinling, he behaved, there was no doubt, with the same courage and spirit as he had done before. The Government had had the pleasure of promoting him previously for his conduct in one of the two or three small gunboats which went to Ningpo. The town had then been for a long time in the possession of the Taepings, who, seeing the smallness of the force, fired upon it. Upon that Captain Dew, as he wrote in his despatch, felt it necessary to attack the town, a place of many thousand inhabitants, which was done with two or three gunboats and the assistance of the French officer’s small force. There was no question, therefore, of Lieutenant Tinling’s gallantry and courage. There could be no doubt that Lieutenant Tinling was a most gallant officer – he wished the service had more like him – but he was one of those who could not be prevented from putting themselves in danger. On such occasions even the highest officers did not hesitate to risk their lives unnecessarily. When Admiral Hope was expostulated with for having galloped to the front during one of the battles between the Imperialists and the Taepings his reply was that he wished to see how the Chinese fought, “and besides,” he added, “I thought they wanted a little cheering up.” The Government deeply deplored the death of Lieutenant Tinling, but with so many gallant young men in the service all over the world such occurrences would take place. For his own part, he was anxious to say anything that would be satisfactory to the unfortunate father, because the service had lost a promising young officer; but he could do no more than read the dispatch of Captain Dew, and express his belief that in writing that document Captain Dew was only actuated by a desire to give a true statements of facts.
Earl GREY gathered from what had been said the Lieutenant Tinling when he met his death was virtually on duty. (Hear, hear.) He went up in charge of a gun, and although, no doubt, he was told that the service was not quite a regular one, yet any officer who volunteered for it must be regarded as practically acting under orders. (Hear, hear.) The death of Lieutenant Tinling afforded matter of serious consideration in a public point of view. It threw much light upon the inconvenient and most dangerous position which Her Majesty’s Government were assuming in China. Two years ago he called attention to the remarkable change which had taken place in the policy of Ministers. They began by prescribing strict neutrality between the Taepings and the Imperialists. Then they issued instructions that Shanghai was to be protected. Our officers were next told that they might protect any of the Treaty ports which might happen to be menaced. At last they were ordered to protect the country within 30 miles of the Treaty ports, because, said Ministers, unless that were done it would be of no advantage to protect the ports themselves. Perhaps their lordships would recollect that he pointed out that this was a line of conduct which must lead to inconvenience. It was neither war nor neutrality. If Ministers were determined to take up the cause of the Imperialists they should send out a force worthy of the British nation, and one which could interfere with effect. On the other hand, if they wished to remain neutral they should remain really neutral; but, as it was, they were halting between two policies. They could neither make up their minds to see that disorder in China which was the natural result of our breaking down the authority of the native Government, nor yet were they prepared to take upon themselves the difficult task of attempting to restore peace and virtually to protect the Chinese Empire. (Hear, hear.) No doubt they felt that this was a duty which would task to the utmost the whole strength and resources of this country; but, he asked, could any good come of half measures – of ineffective but irritating interference? The public orders to our officers were that they were not to interfere beyond 30 miles from the Treaty ports, but when engaged in the execution of these orders they found, as Captain Dew found, that properly to protect a radius of 30 miles they must extend their operations to a distance of 80 or 90 miles. It was impossible, as the noble duke admitted, to complain of Captain Dew for going beyond the 30 miles, but it was right that their lordships and the country should ask the Government to adopt in this matter more decided measures. (Hear, hear.) The lives of gallant English officers and men should not be exposed by such expeditions into the heart of China if Ministers were not prepared to go a little further. (Hear, hear.) The only effect of their present policy was to prolong the war, preventing either party having a decided advantage. He must add that the Government should lay on the table further papers as to the measures they were taking. Two years ago they told their lordships that they had authorized an officer of the British navy to organize a force which was to act on behalf of the Emperor of China. Everybody now knew that a considerable force was sent out, but that, in consequence of a dispute with the Chinese Government as to the terms on which it was to be employed, it had been disbanded. Their lordships had a right to expect Ministers to lay before them information as to the grounds upon which they took the strong and unusual course of issuing an order in Council giving permission to raise that force, and also as Council giving permission to raise that force, and also as to the causes which had led to its disbandment. (Hear.)
The Earl of HARDWICKE was convinced that the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty would be universally regarded as most discouraging to young officers. Obedience was the first duty of a naval officer, and what the noble duke, in the case of Lieutenant Tinling, called volunteering, was neither more nor less than an act of duty. When a young officer accompanied his superior upon an expedition of any kind he could in no sense be accounted a volunteer. (Hear, hear.) Lieutenant Tinling went up the country with a gun which was intended for warlike operations, and everything he did was done under the eye of Captain Dew. The noble duke approved the conduct of Captain Dew; how, then, could he say that when Lieutenant Tinling met his death he was not engaged in an act of duty? (Hear, hear.) The officer who put that notion into the head of the noble duke did not know the nature of the service. (A laugh.)
The Duke of SOMERSET had carefully abstained from expressing any opinion of his own, contenting himself with reading the despatch of Captain Dew, who plainly stated that Lieutenant Tinling was not acting under his orders. As to the remarks of the noble earl on the cross benches, he did not think it would be wise on the part of Her Majesty’s Government either to undertake the government of China or to abandon that country altogether. On the one hand, everybody would admit that it would be preposterous to undertake the administration of the Government of China; while, on the other hand, to abandon Shanghai, where a large number of English merchants resided and where we had an enormous trade, would be equally out of the question. It would not be tolerated in this country that the Government should say, “We will give up our port because the Taepings are coming, and we must not take part with one side or the other.” (Hear, hear.) A couple of years ago the Taepings found they were losing ground in the country, and determined to make up for it by the plunder of Shanghai. Had it not been for the English and French officers who defended the town it would have fallen into the hands of the rebels, who would soon have made it as desolate as Nankin and the other places of which they had gained possession. (Hear.) If Parliament really thought that we ought not to maintain our hold on China, then it had better say so in a distinct and decided manner. The experiment of allowing the Taepings to take towns had been tried. Ningpo was a treaty port, and when the rebels threatened it it was the opinion of the British Government that it would be better not to resist them. What was the result? The insurgents came, murdered, plundered, and destroyed the town. When the English and French vessels had been fired at, Captain Dew and the other commander would not tolerate such treatment, so they retook the place. The Chinese, who were gathered on the opposite bank watching the affair, returned as soon as the town was reconquered. Order was then re-established, shops were reopened, and in about a month the town was restored to its former state of prosperity. The Taepings, however, while they held it kept it in ruins. For his own part he could not approve a policy which encouraged plunder on shore and pillage at sea. (Hear, hear.) As to the pirates, they had caused great havoc among European vessels along the coast of China, and it became a question whether we could continue to carry on our trade in those seas. No doubt it was very desirable that the Chinese Government should possess the power to control their subjects both by land and water, but unfortunately they had not the power, and as long as we traded with China, we were in the anomalous position of having to defend ourselves against the rebels. If the Imperial Government could have been furnished with an efficient force under their own command, they might have put down piracy in those waters, and we should then have been relieved from the burden of the extensive, costly, and continuous operations which we had to carry on year after year, and in which gallant officers lost their lives. It would not do to say in a hasty, off-hand way we must choose between two alternatives, either siding with one party of quitting China altogether. We must be guided by circumstances as they arose, interfering, however, as little as we possibly could. (Hear.)
Earl GREY said the noble duke had misunderstood his meaning. What he had always said and what he now held, was that we ought either to remain neutral between the Imperialists and the Taepings, or if we interfered, to do so in a manner worthy of this country. (Hear, hear.) We ought not to send an English naval officer and a dozen men, accompanied by a Chinese rabble and a collection of the adventurers of all nations, to risk their lives in the heart of the country. We ought either to stand aloof, or carry, our operations in a serious and effectual way. In 1861 the noble earl laid down the rule that we ought not to defend the towns, lest we should teach the Chinese to rely on us, and have the whole burden thrown on our shoulders. What he (Earl Grey) had all along said was that we committed a great mistake in breaking down the power of the native Chinese Government, and that before we did so, we should have considered how difficult it was, when such an authority had been overthrown, to establish another in its place. The troubles from which we were now suffering were the natural consequence of the policy, or rather no policy, we had adopted. The noble duke told them we must be guided by circumstances as they arose; and we had certainly never had a clear and definite idea of the course to be pursued. This was a question which would have to be fully discussed during the Session, and he hoped the noble duke would give them every facility for doing so, by furnishing all the papers relating to the subject. (Hear, hear).
Earl RUSSELL said his noble friend who had just spoken maintained that the Government should have taken one of two courses in china – they should either have remained perfectly neutral or they should have acted; to quote his vague general phrase, in a manner worthy of the dignity and reputation of this country. The former course was that which was taken in the first instance. We said that the rebellion of the Taepings against the Emperor of China was not a matter in which it was necessary for us to interfere, and that the insurgents might possibly carry on relations of trade and amity with the people of this country. But we discovered the fallacy of that idea. We found that the Taepings never attempted to establish any order or authority whatever, that they had only two notions – murder and plunder, that they killed men, women, and children, even infants in arms, and spread devastation wherever they went. Under these circumstances, we deemed it impossible to refrain from defending our treaty ports against the barbarians of that country. It was now said that we ought to have acted in a manner worthy of our dignity and reputation; but what did that mean? We could not take part with the insurgents, and in order to espouse the Imperial cause, we should have required a large force. The sacrifices we should have had to make would have been enormous, and the cost immense. (Hear, hear.) Our troops would have had to go to every part where the rebellion broke out, now to the north-west, now to the south-east, and they would have been exposed to great hardships and loss of life. Therefore, neither of these two modes of procedure would have suited the interests of this country. (Hear, hear.) There remained, however, a third course, which was to protect our treaty ports, to defend the trade we were carrying on, to check the ravages of the Taepings, and, from time to time, to allow persons, no matter of what nation, whether English, French, or American, to lend their aid to the Imperial arms. That was the course taken by Her Majesty’s Government – it was a course which did not involve any great sacrifice of life or expense, and, moreover, it had been successful. (Hear, hear.) His noble friend spoke as if the consequences of our policy had been most deplorable, but that was a mistake. In the first place, we had developed an extended and flourishing trade. All the evidence showed that the unhappy people whose towns were assailed by the Taepings fled from the houses in which they knew they would be murdered if they remained, and abandoned the cultivation of the soil, which they could not carry on. Whenever, on the other hand, a place had been recovered from the rebels the inhabitants flowed back again, the peasants resumed the cultivation of their fields, and there arose an amount of prosperity which was impossible under the Taeping rule. (Hear, hear.) Such were the consequences which the noble earl deemed so melancholy. The policy which produced such results, and imposed no considerable burden on the country, he should always hold to be the best. (Hear, hear.)
Earl GRANVILLE thought it rather unfortunate that the noble earl on the cross benches should have introduced into an incidental conversation a question of such serious magnitude as our Chinese policy. (Hear, hear.) He desired to say only that he was a personal friend of the father of the gallant and distinguished young man who had so unfortunately fallen. He respected that gentleman as one who had made, to his knowledge, great sacrifices for the benefit of the public service. The letter read by the noble duke had completely satisfied him as to the designation which should be given to the particular service on which the young man was engaged at the time of his death. Though there might be some official difficulty in the way of recognizing this service as being “the service of the county,” yet the value of the young man’s previous services was now fully recognized, and it was acknowledged by all that he was in the fullest possession of all those eminent virtues which distinguished the sailor. In fact, his death was owing to his superabundance of those qualities which were characteristic of the British sailor. (Hear, hear.)
Lord CHELMSFORD said the expression which had rankled most in the mind of the family was that Lieutenant Tinling was present at Schoushing [sic] as an “amateur,” and he had understood the noble duke not merely not to withdraw that expression, but, in fact, to justify it. It was clear from the noble duke’s own statement that Captain Dew was present there carrying on hostilities, and the noble duke justified him on the ground of the latitude which ought to be allowed to officers in those seas. But if that were so, surely Lieutenant Tinling, who was practically acting under Captain Dew’s control and direction, ought to be justified, and the noble duke ought to withdraw the expression which had been so offensive to the family. (Hear, hear.)
The Earl of ELLENBOROUGH said he had heard with great interest the letter read by the noble duke, and the impression left on his mind was that Captain Dew was acting not only without orders, but against orders. All the young officers who were with him knew that perfectly well, and Captain Dew’s object in writing that letter clearly was to take all the responsibility on himself, and to relieve those young officers from it. (Hear, hear.) It was an act of generosity on the part of a gallant officer. Of course, these officers were acting practically under Captain Dew’s orders, but, like a generous man, he wished to take all the responsibility on himself. (Hear, hear.)
The Duke of SOMERSET said he had never used the word “amateur” himself; and Lord Clarence Paget, who had hastily used it, when he was told that it had given pain, got up in the House of Commons and retracted it.
Lord CHELMSFORD was understood to say that if the noble duke would turn to the debate of the 21st of July last he would see that the word had not been retracted.
After a few words from Lord HARDWICKE, the subject dropped.