The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 75
From The Royal Engineers Journal.]. — Lieut.-Gen. Sir William F. D. Tervois, G.C.M.G., C.B., F.R.S
From The Royal Engineers Journal.].
Lieut.-Gen. Sir William F. D. Tervois, G.C.M.G., C.B., F.R.S.
William Francis Drummond Jervois was the son of General William Jervois, K.H., Colonel, 76th Foot, by Elizabeth, daughter of William Maitland, Esq. He was born at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, on the 10th September, 1821, and was educated at Dr. Burney's Academy, at Gosport, and Mr. Barry's School, at Woolwich, whence he passed into the Royal Military Academy in February, 1837. The fire in the central building in 1873 destroyed the records of the cadets, and prevents reference to any distinction he may have gained, but the fact that he obtained his commission in March, 1839, when only 17½ years of age, shows that he must have early displayed talent, as it was not easy to pass through that Institution in two years in those days.
From Woolwich young Jervois went to the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, then still presided over by that distinguished officer, Colonel Sir Charles Pasley, who had induced the Government of the day to found it some 30 years before, during the Peninsular War. He soon attracted Sir Charles Pasley's attention by his ability and energy. A proof of the high opinion formed of him, by that very practical officer, is that on being commissioned to blow up the wreck of the Royal George he wished to make Jervois his executive officer for the purpose; but as he was then under orders for the Cape of Good Hope he could not undertake the duty.
At Chatham his survey work was considered so good that his sketch sheets were framed and glazed as a pattern for future young officers. He sailed for the Cape in a small vessel of 350 tons, and the voyage lasted four months—from 4th April to 4th August, 1841—when he landed at Cape Town. After a few weeks he was ordered up to the Eastern Frontier, and was, for some 13 or 14 months, choosing sites for, and building defensive posts to check the inroads of the Kaffirs at Trumpeter's Drift, Comatuy's Drift, Double Drift, and Fort Brown on the Fish River, which was then the frontier of the colony.page 2
In 1842, towards the end of the year, Lieut. Jervois was appointed Brigade-Major to a force of all arms sent up to Colesberg, on the Orange River, to control the Dutch Boers, who were "trekking" away from the British Government, and were desirous of setting up a government of their own. This force consisted of the 27th and 91st Regiments, a battery of artillery, and a considerable body of the Cape Mounted Rifles, and was commanded by Colonel Hare, the Lieutenant-Governor—an old Peninsular and Waterloo officer. The Boers did not fight on this occasion, but the long march through a part of the colony, not hitherto traversed by our troops, gave him some practical experience in the movement of troops, and drew forth his surveying powers in the admirable road sketches which he rapidly prepared. After this expedition he was employed for two years in building a bridge across the Fish River at Fort Brown, and making a road to Fort Beaufort, the principal military station on the frontier. After this, in 1845, he was appointed Adjutant of the Royal Engineers and Royal Sappers & Miners at the Cape, and accompanied Colonel Piper, the C.R.E., on his inspections to Natal, whence they returned to the colony overland. He utilized this journey by making a sketch survey of the new country they passed through. They struck the colony again at Colesberg, having traversed a great part of the country now known as the Orange Free State.
On arrival at Cape Town he was detained there for some time by various duties through the early part of the Kaffir War of 1846-1848.
When, at the beginning of 1847, Governor and Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Peregrine Maitland, was recalled, and Sir Henry Pottinger became Governor, with General Sir George Berkeley in command of the troops, the latter took Lieutenant Jervois with him to the frontier, and would have appointed him on his Staff, but the C.R.E. on the frontier considered that his services as an engineer could not be spared. He, however, accompanied the General into Kaffirland, and began the valuable survey of British Kaffraria, which was the most noteworthy feature of his Cape service. This survey extended from the River Keiskama to the River Kei, and from Fort Hare to the sea, and was of great value to the officers commanding the troops in subsequent wars. The following notes of the manner in which much of this survey was made may be found interesting and instructive to young officers;—page 3
"I used to have detachments of a dozen men of the 7th Dragoon Guards or of the Cape Mounted Rifles as an escort whilst I was making this map. This was not without reason, as was shown on one or two occasions. One day I had been taking angles from a hill over the Buffalo River, about 12 men of the Cape Mounted Rifles mounting guard whilst I did so. On returning we passed over a low, narrow neck, which connected the hill with the main plateau, when we were fired at by a body of Kaffirs hidden from view; fortunately, they fired over our heads. On another occasion I was surveying on the banks of the Kei River with an escort of a dozen men of the 7th Dragoon Guards. Coming down from the top of the Komga Mountain I saw the smoke of a fire, which had evidently been lighted as a signal by the Kaffirs. At all events I determined to go back to camp to give information. Next day a party of half-a-dozen officers went out to see the view from the Komga Hill, and they were cut off close to the place where I had seen the fire, and, with the exception of one (Captain Littledale, 73rd Regiment), were killed.
"The way I set to work in making the map was this. Having first measured a base, on which were some prominent points to which angles might be taken, I proceeded to a ridge a short distance off, and from a point on this ridge, easily visible from the country round, took bearings to the several points on my base. I proceeded to do the same thing from another point on the ridge, and again from a third point on the ridge. Having fixed the angles, I then sketched the country enclosed by them partly at sight, partly by means of bearings, and partly by actual measurement, taking advantage of any prominent features, such as spurs of hills, or streams running into the hollow between the base and the ridge I was standing on. The points on this ridge, in their turn, became the base for the adjoining portion of the country shown on the map, and so on for each successive portion.
"In this manner a considerable degree of accuracy was obtained. The map included the Amatola Mountains, where an expedition was made, our whole force converging from three or four different places to the Keiskama Hoek (or low plain through which the river Keiskama flowed) in the hope of driving all the Kaffirs to a focus there, and subduing them. This hope, however, was disappointed. So far as I was concerned, however, this expedition give me an opportunity of page 4 making a sketch survey of the Amatola Mountains. Thirty years afterwards it was the only map possessing any pretensions to accuracy which Lord Chelmsford could find for his guidance in that part of the country."
On his way home in 1848, on board H.M.S. Devastation, he connected the sketch sheets of this survey, which was published by Arrowsmith at the request of Earl Grey, then Secretary of State for the Colonies.
He left the Cape, on promotion, in June, 1848, when the then Governor and Commander-in-Chief, General Sir Harry Smith, wrote of him to the late Lord Raglan, the Master-General of the Ordnance:—
"I beg to introduce to your Lordship, Capt. Jervois, of the Royal Engineers, who has, upon promotion, left this command, as one of the most able, energetic, and zealous officers I have ever exacted more than his share of duty from. He has been all over the northern and north-eastern parts of this colony, and can afford every information upon all military and geographical points. In these eventful times, I recommend him as an officer of activity and ability, fond of his profession, and proud to obtain the approbation of his superiors."
Sir Harry Smith also wrote to the Secretary to the Master-General, Lord Clarence Paget, after expressions similar to the above:—"He is an admirable draughtsman, has laid down nearly the whole of the northern and north-eastern boundary of this colony. He can also afford every information as to the military buildings in progress in British Kaffraria."
From 1849 till 1852, Captain Jervois commanded a company of Sappers and Miners at Woolwich and Chatham. On the 19th March, 1850, he married Lucy, daughter of William Norsworthy, Esq. While at Chatham, he used to teach in the Sunday School of Chatham Church.
In June, 1852, he was ordered to Alderney with his company. An incident recorded by himself in connection with this gives a good illustration of his character. He did not like going to Alderney; probably thought it would be a dull place for himself and his young wife, and made interest to go elsewhere. Accordingly, he was ordered to Brighton, but seeing a report of Sir John Burgoyne's, saying that Alderney was as important as Gibraltar, he begged to have this order rescinded, and went as originally intended to Alderney. This move had great influence in his career, as will be seen.
The Duke of Wellington held strong view on the page 5 importance of the Channel Islands, and of Alderney in particular. A harbour of refuge was begun at Alderney in 1852, to furnish a naval station and outpost, from which the harbours on the adjoining French coast could be watched. It was determined to construct strong fortifications on the island, in order to prevent an enemy taking possession of it, and so rendering the harbour useless. This duty was confided to Captain Jervois, and formed the chief business of his life for the next three years. His attention was thus directed to, and his mind prepared on a subject, which he afterwards took up on a much larger scale.
At this period it was common for officers engaged in designing works to rely very much on the assistance of the clerk of works for the details. Captain Jervois determined to alter this, and arranged that every detail for these works at Alderney should be worked out by himself and the officers under him, in addition to superintending the actual construction. This was a great benefit to the officers concerned, and to the advantage of the works.
In 1853, he volunteered for the Crimea, but was told that the work he was engaged on was too important to permit of his leaving it.
In August, 1854, while he was at Alderney, the Queen and Prince Albert paid their first visit to the Channel Islands, landing at Alderney, and according to the custom, by which a brevet step in rank was conferred on the commanding officer on such an occasion, Captain Jervois was made a brevet-major. The Prince, who was well instructed in fortification matters, went over the new Fort Tourgie, which he pronounced "very strong."
In January, 1855, Major Jervois was transferred to the London District as Commanding Royal Engineer. At this time, improvements were being made in all our military establishments, to the deficiencies in which the war in the Crimea had at length attracted public attention. It seems incredible, but is a fact, that the business of the Army was divided among seven departments, under as many independent offices of State, and the new War Department was formed by combining these under one head. Among other matters, which it was desired to improve, was the construction of barracks, and a committee was formed, of which Lord Monk was Chairman, to enquire into the matter, and make recommendations. Major Jervois was nominated by Lord page 6 Panmure to be a member of this committee, and also gave valuable evidence. In April, 1856, he was appointed Assistant Inspector-General of Fortifications, in succession to Colonel Owen, who was promoted to be Deputy I.G.F., in place of Colonel Harness.
In some notes made by Sir William Jervois in recent years, relating- to his service at the Cape, the following passage occurs:—"On looking back, I feel very strongly how important it is for young R.E. officers to take the initiative in their work, and not merely to be content with fulfilling the actual duties allotted to them, but to undertake whatever their hands can find to do, and do it with all their might. It was the habit of doing this which caused me to be of some use at this time, irrespective of my ordinary duties."
He acted upon this principle on joining the War Office, for finding little scope for his energies in the ordinary current work, he took up the proposals for defence of the dockyards, etc., and studying the ground at Portsmouth and Plymouth, converted the abstract proposals for fortifying them into definite projects for occupying particular lines of ground by forts, landward and seaward.
This opened the most important period of Sir W. Jervois' life, during which he rendered the most valuable services to his country, for to him was ultimately committed the work of providing for the defence of the three kingdoms, their colonies and dependencies, and their commerce, by fortifying the naval bases and arsenals, and the principal commercial harbours and coaling stations.
As these fortifications have recently been made the subject of some controversy, in large part founded on considerable misapprehension of their object, and of the reasons which prevailed to prove the imperative need for them, it may be well to show that these great works, which will always be a monument to Sir W. Jervois' ability and energy, constitute a necessary and enduring contribution to the defences of the country, and were projected and carried out in accordance with the strong recommendations of men of the largest experience in actual war—the most distinguished authorities of the time.
It may be premised that on the conclusion of the Napoleon wars in 1815, our military establishments of all kinds were immediately largely reduced, and were tor years so starved and neglected that our military page 7 organization had almost disappeared, and the offensive and defensive power of the country had fallen to a condition which would be hardly credible to the present generation.
The Duke of Wellington called the attention of successive Governments to the consequences of this, but without effect. In 1847, Sir John Burgoyne submitted a paper to Sir George Murray, the Master-General of the ordnance, setting forth the defenceless position of the country if it should be at war with France. The paper came before the Government. Lord Palmerston, who was then Foreign Secretary, was more particularly alive to these considerations, because he had been almost continuously in office from the beginning of the Peninsular war, and especially connected with military affairs and foreign policy. He drew up, with the aid of Sir John Burgoyne, a report which was laid before the Cabinet, in which he pointed out that France, though really inferior as a naval power, might by her better organized system of naval preparation, or by means of manoeuvres, make herself superior in the Channel for ten days or a fortnight, and in that time, having an immensely superior army, might land any number of men she chose, or within a shorter time might land a smaller force, and besides other operations, might destroy our dockyards, and thus paralyze our naval resources for years. He proposed the embodiment of the militia and other measures to place us in a proper position of defence, and proposed further an expenditure of six millions, in fortifying our dockyards, both on the sea and land sides, and providing great harbours as stations for our fleet, the expense to be met by a loan.
It is clear, from this, that these fortifications were never intended to be, as some have asserted, an alternative to or a substitute for a navy which should command the sea, the necessity for which was always recognized, but in order that the bases of our naval power might not be open to absolute destruction in case of local temporary inferiority, such as might happen in any operations of war. It is clear, also, that these highly experienced people, like many others, foreign as well as English at this and former periods of our history, believed in the possibility of invasion under such circumstances, and it would be no answer to them, either then or now, and would not produce in the public mind the feeling of security which is so desirable, to show that certain other persons did not think it possible, page 8 especially if the latter should be of much less experience or authority.
It was at this period that the Duke of Wellington wrote the celebrated letter which caused such a sensation a year after, when, by a breach of confidence, it was published in the papers. In it, he said, after describing the facilities for an invasion, "I have, in vain, endeavoured to awaken the attention of different administrations to this state of things. We have no defence or hope, or chance of defence excepting in our fleet." It may be noted, in passing, that this clearly shows his opinion that the fleet alone did not give enough security. He then set out fully the measures he proposed, such as an increase of the army, the embodying of the militia, replenishing our stores, etc., and then detailing the possibilities of invasion, said, "I know of no mode of resistance, much less of protection from the danger, excepting by an army in the field capable of meeting and contending with its formidable enemy, aided by all the means of fortification which experience in war and science may suggest." An attempt made by Lord John Russell's government to carry out these recommendations was successfully resisted by the Manchester economists, whose arguments were aided by a falling revenue and annual deficits. They persuaded the public that the danger was "moonshine," that as the country was already taxed almost beyond what it would bear, nothing could be provided either to pay more soldiers, or for any other military purpose.
The result of this was that the army estimates were in fact reduced, a circumstance which should always be remembered, because it is very commonly asserted that the country will always be found ready to provide means for furnishing such naval and military means as a responsible Government asks for.
The coup d' état, in 1852, raised to the throne of France a successor to the Great Emperor—one who had in previous years announced that he represented "a cause—a principle and a defeat" (Waterloo). This country was at length aroused to its condition, and that same year Lord John Russell announced the determination of ministers to "improve the defences of the country, and so to render invasion impossible." It was at this time that the works at Alderney above referred to were undertaken—as well as other works for the defence of our dockyards.
The war in the Crimea afforded a striking illustra- page 9 tion of the truth of all that had been said as to the extreme inefficiency and insufficiency of our military organization. I may note, in passing, that those who remember these times will recollect that the whole of the discredit of this condition of troops was, by public writers, thrown on the army, conveniently ignoring the fact that the responsible heads of the army and responsible statesmen had done their best to prevent it, but had been overborne by public opinion, led by ignorant enthusiasts. Now, however, public feeling lent support to the movement for fortifying our dockyards and naval arsenals, and, as has been already related, Major Jervois energetically threw himself into it and, ultimately, Lieut.-Col. Owen, who was the D.I.G.F. in the Fortification Branch, practically handed the business mainly over to him.
In 1856 Lord Palmerston was the head of the Government, and, for reasons already given, was most urgent in the matter. The Prince Consort, too, gave the most intelligent support and assistance.
According to the ordinary practice at that time, the designs of all works would have been made by the officers who happened to be at each of the stations in which they were to be executed, and then submitted to the I.G.F. or his deputies, but on full consideration it was thought expedient that the whole of the business of designing these works, which were to be on an extensive scale, should be done at headquarters, under Major Jervois. During this and the following years, selected officers were brought up for this employment under him, the number increasing as the work to be undertaken developed in extent. Full details on this subject will be found in the History of the Corps of Royal Engineers, by General Porter, where the works assigned to each officer are set forth, and need not be here repeated.
The office of the I.G.F, which till 1856 was in the west wing of the War Office, or Ordnance Office as it then was, at this time was moved to Harrington House, where the Civil Service Commission now is, and afterwards to the houses taken on the east of the Ordnance Office. These buildings would not contain all the staff employed in designs of fortifications, which, therefore, occupied houses in Abingdon Street, at 13a, Great George Street, and at 109, Victoria Street.
In 1857 Major Jervois was made Secretary of the page 10 Defence Committee, which sat under presidency of the Duke of Cambridge as Commander-in-Chief.
In 1858 the Government had private information that the French were secretly making preparations for war. The circumstances of the Orisini attempt on the Emperor's life, led to the most violent feelings against this country. The French Government published in the Moniteur addresses from French officers containing threats, accompanied by insolent language, and publicly demanding to be led against this "den of assassins." It seemed exceedingly probable that there would be a rupture, and a secret committee was convened to consider the best means of preparing against it. It was estimated that if an enemy obtained, even for a short time, naval superiority in the Channel, 100,000 effective troops would be required to meet him, besides 34,600 minimum force for garrisons in England and the Channel Islands. We had actually only 37,000 regular troops immediately available. We might collect 87,769 militia, pensioners, yeomanry, etc. From this force we should have, besides defending this country, to provide the necessary augmentations of foreign garrisons.
The volunteer movement was started at this time to help in supplying the deficiency in men, and the importance of the "means of fortification," referred to in the Duke of Wellington's letter, became evident.
At this time Major Jervois was employed by direction of General Peel, then Secretary of State for War, in making maps of possible battle-fields for the defence of London. There were no large scale maps of this country in those days; but the tithe maps were made available as far as possible by drawing them all to a uniform scale of 6 ins. to the mile. The possible lines of defence at that time went no further out than Croydon and Chiselhurst—which are now much too thickly populated to be available.
In 1859, Lord Palmerston again became Prime Minister, with Sidney Herbert as S.S.W. He (Lord Palmerston) was strongly imbued with the idea of the importance of securing our naval bases—Portsmouth, Plymouth, Pembroke, Cork, etc. On one occasion, when Major Jervois was sent for to give him information on some points, he was surprised and pleased when Major Jervois produced his roll of plans, with projects for the defence of Plymouth. This was his page 11 first introduction to Lord Palmerston, who always after gave him most cordial support.
In the course of a short time it became clearly desirable that this question of fortification of the dockyards, etc., should be put before the country as a whole, and that the necessities of the case should be considered and reported on by a strong and responsible body of experts, so that the Government might come before Parliament with a complete and well-considered scheme. This was the more necessary because the design and principle of the works, that had already been undertaken, had become the subject of lively discussion in the press.
A Royal Commission was therefore appointed to consider what fortifications were necessary to provide for the complete defence of our dockyards, etc.
The Commission consisted of 7 members, of whom two represented the Admiralty, and one was a civilian—Mr. Ferguson, the architect—who had taken a prominent part in discussing in the press the question of the types of forts, etc., etc.
Major Jervois was appointed Secretary. As he had, as already stated, been engaged on this subject for some years, he was familiar with most of the positions, and had himself, or in co-operation with the officers working under him, prepared designs for works to occupy many of them, the guiding and working of the Commission practically fell into his hands, and he proved himself quite equal to the occasion. The report was in the main drawn by him, and fully accepted by the members of the Commission.
It was presented to Parliament in 1860. On the suggestion of Mr. Gladstone, it was submitted to the permanent Defence Committee, presided over by the Commander-in-Chief. Their report, if adopted, would have neutralized the whole of the recommendations of the Royal Commission.
Major Jervois, therefore, drew up a memorandum showing its inconsistencies, and the result was that the Defence Committee withdrew their Report. The two Committees then, at Major Jervois' suggestion, sat together, and ultimately the original Report of the Royal Commission was agreed to by a considerable majority.
The Commission had recommended an expenditure of between eleven and twelve millions. Government proposed to adopt only part of the recommendation, page 12 limiting the expenditure to £7,460,000, which was to include the cost of completing certain works already in hand.
Considerable opposition was offered to the proposals on grounds similar to those recently renewed, viz., that, as naval superiority was a vital necessity for us, it would protect us from invasion, therefore no works on land were necessary. It was shown, however, that if our naval bases had nothing to guard them but the fleet itself, the fleet would be fettered in its operations, and that a naval reverse or local and temporary naval inferiority might lead to the total and irrecoverable destruction of the bases on which our navy itself must depend. The objections were therefore considered to be completely disposed of, and the Government proposed, as before stated, to carry its recommendations, for the most part, gradually into effect by annual votes in the ordinary course. On this, a private member, Mr. Horsman, carried a resolution that the work ought to be proceeded with as rapidly as possible, and that to this end the expenses should be met by a loan, and not by sums voted annually; by which the completion would have been delayed for many years, during which it would have become liable to all the chances of party warfare.
The Prince Consort took the greatest interest in these works, and urgently pressed them forward. His early death was much felt by Major Jervois, on account of his support and his kindness to him. Lord Palmerston also felt his loss, and Major Jervois relates in some notes, which have been made use of in compiling this memoir, that on his observing to Lord Palmerston what a sad thing the death of the Prince was, he exclaimed, "Better that there should have been an American war, than that the Prince Consort should have died."
In the same notes it is related that, being with Lord Palmerston shortly afterwards, when he was just going down to Windsor to see the Queen (perhaps his first visit after the Prince's death), Lord Palmerston showed a great deal of feeling on the subject.
These incidents are curious and remarkable, as showing how completely the differences, which had existed in years gone by, had passed away.
A Fortification Committee was appointed to examine the designs of the works to be thus carried out, and of this Lieut.-Col. Jervois was made a member and also page 13 acted as Secretary. Resides this, the works had to be passed and approved by the permanent Defence Committee above referred to.
The difficulties of the great task now undertaken were much increased by the circumstance, that at the time it was thus determined to proceed energetically with these fortifications, the most vital changes began to be made in matters which fundamentally affect the design of defensive works.
Rifled artillery was just beginning to be adopted, but was not yet applied to heavy guns. Armour-plating had got into, but not yet passed beyond, the region of discussion and experiment. Torpedoes and submarine mines had made no progress; high explosives for mines and shells were still in the distant future. There was no delay, however, in grasping the effect which might be expected to result from these developments, and in making such changes as were, so far as could be foreseen, necessary to adapt the works to them. As an instance of this, it may be mentioned that the present writer having been, in 1859-1860, sent to design a line of works on the N.E. side of Plymouth, on the site recommended in the Report of the Commission, and having fully designed a great part of it, was, almost at the time the report was presented, called on to lay out another line further from the dockyard, in order to provide against the increased range of artillery, and to design the works on the site now so occupied.
The War of Secession in America brought to the front the question of armour-plated ships as opposed to forts, and led, in 1862, to the Royal Commissioners, with some naval members added, being asked to consider how this experience affected the original recommendation to place forts at Spithead.
The report substantially confirmed the original recommendation, subject to the change already decided on since it was presented, to use iron in the fort instead of stone alone. It is worthy of note that it appears in this report that at that date the old 68-pounder and the rifled 110-pounder were the heaviest guns then known, though Sir W. Armstrong had a 12-ton gun intended to carry, when rifled, a 300-1b. shot, and was designing another to carry 600 lb. The guns then existing could not pierce the Warrior, plated with 4½ inches of iron, the strongest ironclad afloat.
In the new forts, however, arrangements were made by which the armour - plating could be page 14 strengthened to meet any further developement of artillery.
In 1862 the subject of submarine mines and torpedoes was brought prominently forward by the success with which these instruments of warfare were made use of in the American War, and at Col. Jervois' instance a committee was appointed to consider how they should be made use of to strengthen the defence of our ports and harbours.
Simultaneously with the works for the defence of the dockyards, etc., at home, the defence of the commercial harbours was taken up, and also that of the naval stations and coaling ports abroad, which are necessary to enable the navy to maintain its superiority in all parts of the world.
It is not necessary to set out in detail all the works which were now and afterwards set on foot. A great deal of information on this head will be found in Col. Porter's History of the Corps of Royal Engineers. It will suffice to say that the whole of the land and sea defences were carried out under Col. Jervois' supervision, and while, of course, he had at his disposal, for the design and execution of these works, all the ability and energy to be found among the staff specially appointed under him for the purpose, to whom necessarily, after the first, these duties were mainly, or, in some cases, wholly committed, the direction and supervision, the responsibility, the moving force, the energy, the tact needed to meet and overcome administrative and other difficulties, and opposition of various kinds were all his own.
In 1861 he had attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, and in 1862 he was appointed in the re-organized department to the office of Director of Works for Fortifications. In 1863 he was nominated a Companion of the Bath.
In September, 1863, he was sent on a special mission to report on the defences of Canada and Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Bermuda, and visited the principal ports on the sea-board of the United States. The war between the North and South United States was then going on, and the action of Captain Wilkes of the United States Navy, in taking some emissaries from the south, out of the mail steamer Trent, very nearly led to a war between England and the United States and brought up the question of our defences in that part of the world,page 15
In 1864 he was sent on a second visit to Canada, and discussed the question of defence with the local authorities. His report, with proposals, was laid before Parliament. It was ultimately agreed that the Home Government should execute some part of the work, and the Colonial Government the remainder, for which they voted £1,100,000. This money was, however, ultimately expended in making a railway to connect the various provinces.
In 1865 he visited Canada again, and also went to the United States.
As might be expected, the works, both during and after execution, did not escape criticism and attack, and the defence of the action of the engineer department, both in speaking and writing, largely fell upon Col. Jervois, who fulfilled the function with his usual energy and success. The construction of shields (which were called at the time Gibraltar shields, having been primarily designed for that fortress) formed the subject of much discussion, and a special Committee was appointed to report on them. The first patterns did not stand the test well, but those designed afterwards were held to be thoroughly successful.
At this time Col. Jervois delivered a lecture at the United Service Institution on iron as applied to fortification, with special reference to the Plymouth Breakwater Iron Fort. This lecture is to be found in the proceedings of that date June, 1868.
In the same year, on account of questions raised in the House of Commons, a Committee was appointed under Sir Frederick Grey, by Sir John Pakington, Secretary of State for War, to examine into all the works of fortification that had been built under the loan, and to report "whether they had been well and skilfully constructed, whether the foundations were secure, and whether the estimates would suffice." The Committee visited and examined every work, and had access to all plans and accounts of expenditure. Their report testified their entire approval, both of their design and execution, saying that great skill had been shown in adapting the original designs to altered circumstances, and the great advance on the power of rifled artillery. This opinion, which accords with that of many highly competent foreign critics, given as it was by a body of officers of great knowledge and experience on the subject they enquired into, may be taken as completely disposing in advance of certain criticisms passed in page 16 recent years by persons having much smaller claims to attention.
It is obvious that fortifications, constructed 30 years ago, must in some points need adaptation, to meet later developments of the art of attack; nevertheless the friends of Sir W. Jervois, as well as those who were associated with him in the work, may feel satisfied that their labours constitute a solid and enduring contribution to the security of the country, that they will, for many a year to come, fulfil the object with which they were erected, of preventing an enemy attempting the destruction of our naval bases during any local and temporary suspension of our superiority at sea; for he could not hope to succeed in his purpose without operations of much longer duration and of much greater magnitude than could be attempted during any such brief period. It is to be noticed that since these works were erected there have been no invasion panics such as from time to time alarmed the public before that time.
In 1869 Col. Jervois was sent to inspect the works at Halifax and Bermuda, and soon after to Gibraltar and Malta.
In 1869 and again in 1871 Col. Jervois read papers at the Royal Institution on the Coast Defences, and the Defensive Policy of Great Britain. In 1870 he served on a Committee on Coast Defence.
In 1871-1872 he was employed by the Government of India to inspect and report on the defences of Aden, Perim, Bombay and the Hooghly, and he also visited British Burmah and submitted reports on the defences of Rangoon and Moulmein. During this work he accompanied the Governor-General Earl Mayo to the Andaman Islands, and was close behind him when he was assassinated by a prisoner.
In 1874 he was created a Knight of the Order of St. Michael and St. George, a distinction which was conferred on the recommendation of the Canadian Government to the Colonial Office, in recognition of his services to Canada.
In 1875 Col. Jervois retired from the position he had so long held in the War Office, and was appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements.
The accounts of the great Loans for Fortifications were finally wound up in this year. The total of the amounts thus voted was £7,460,000, and the accounts showed a saving of £40,000.page 17
The Straits Settlements, of which Singapore is the headquarters, consist of three trading stations, round each of which a small tract of country has been acquired by England on the west coast and at the southern extremity of the Malay Peninsula. Singapore is on an island of that name, separated by a narrow strait from this southern extremity, and is held by a British garrison. For some 500 to 600 miles north of Singapore there are a succession of small Malay States, one of which, Johore, is well governed by its Maharajah, an enlightened ruler well known in England. The other states had for many years been a cause of anxiety to the Governors of the Straits Settlements on account of the intestine disorders and piratical practices of their inhabitants, which re-acted on our colony.
Sir William Jervois' predecessor, Colonel Sir Andrew Clarke, R.E., had found himself compelled by these excesses to interfere in Perak and Salangore in order to put an end to a state of things very prejudicial to British interests. He summoned the principal chiefs to meet him at Pangkor, who, under his influence, deposed Sultan Ismail, and elected one Abdullah, who was of royal blood in direct succession, and of whose character he had formed a good opinion, to be Sultan in his place. A treaty with the British Government was signed by Abdullah and his chiefs, under which British officers were to be appointed respectively as Resident and Assistant Residents in Perak and its districts, whose advice was to be taken and acted upon on all questions other than those touching Malay religion and custom; it was also stipulated that the collection and control of all revenues, and the general administration of the country, should be regulated under the advice of the Resident and Assistant Residents. These Residents were appointed by Sir Andrew Clarke, and approved by H.M. Government. There is no doubt that he achieved a great success in thus providing for a more steady and honest government of the Malay States, but even before he left he had to remonstrate with Sultan Abdullah on the breach of his engagements under the treaty of Pangkor.
Such was the position when Sir William Jervois took up the reins and set to work to complete the task which Sir Andrew Clarke had begun. Three months after his arrival he visited Perak and the other States, and found that the chiefs had begun to realize what British intervention really meant, and that they were prepared page 18 to kick against their obligations. The ex-Sultan Ismail still possessed much power in the districts away from the sea coast, where British ships could not touch him, and he was by no means pleased with the conditions of settled government which would deprive him of his illicit gains. Sultan Abdullah also had failed, as above stated, to adhere to the terms of the treaty which Sir Andrew Clarke had with so much ability extracted from him. A scheming Prime Minister, the Mantri, was also particularly prejudiced by the treaty to which he had been a party, and intrigued with both Sultans to evade its provisions. When Sir William Jervois went through Perak, the natives in the different villages made enquiries about the Dutch in Acheen, and asked how it was that they had failed to subdue the natives. During this trip a freebooter named Syed Massahore, with a strong armed party, laid in wait at Bandar Bahru for a signal from the Sultan to massacre the whole of the Governor's party. This misfortune was averted by Sir William Jervois having inadvertently flattered the Sultan's vanity on some subject, so that he forgot to drop his handkerchief.
In addition to the difficulties due to maladministration, another cause of unrest in the country was the "debt-slavery" which was very prevalent in Perak. The creditors being for the most part the Rajahs and Chiefs, it was almost impossible to relieve the slave debtors, and in the opinion of Sir William Jervois no British officer in the position of a Resident could obtain the abolition of debt-slavery merely by advising the Sultan or Chief.
During his tour through Perak some of the most energetic Chiefs urged upon the Governor that the only way to rescue the country from the disorders and difficulties by which it was distracted was to take over the direct government by British officers. This measure seemed to Sir William Jervois the best solution, but it was a step that once taken was irrevocable, and could not be adopted without authority from H.M. Government, and yet immediate action was necessary to vindicate British rights under the Pangkor Treaty, and protect British interests. After he had left Perak, the Sultan Abdullah, in writing, had urged the same course as the Chiefs above mentioned. The Governor therefore adopted the intermediate course of assuming the government of the country by British officers, acting in the Sultan's name, whom he styled Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners.page 19
In the despatch, in which he announced this important decision to the Secretary of State, he clearly showed the necessity for his immediate action, and how the course he had adopted left open to the Government the power of either taking possession of the State absolutely, or of relinquishing the position he had assumed. He issued a proclamation dated 15th October, 1875, in which he made known that at the request of the Sultan of Perak and other chiefs of that country, Her Majesty's Government had determined to administer the government of Perak in the name of the Sultan, and to this end would appoint officers to be styled Commissioners and Assistant Commissioners with necessary powers.
On the 2nd October the Sultan, acting on the Governor's recommendation, had issued proclamations giving powers to the Resident and Assistant Residents, which the Governor's proclamation confirmed and reinforced. The treachery of the Sultan was clearly proved by the murder of Mr. Birch just a month later, on the 2nd November, 1875.
This murder was followed by the repulse of a small British force at some stockades raised at Passir-Sala—where Birch had been killed—when Captain Innes, R.E., was shot through the heart.
Sir William Jervois at once took measures to crush this outbreak with a firm hand; he would not have a second Acheen. All the available troops in the Straits and Hong Kong were hurried to the spot, and took the field under the command of Major-General Colborne. By orders from England a brigade was sent from India consisting of a battalion of the Buffs, another of Ghoorkas, a battery of artillery, and a company of sappers under Brigadier-General Ross, c.b.
The military operations which ensued were entirely successful, and resulted in the apprehension of both the Sultan Abdullah and the ex-Sultan Ismail, as well as of the principal chiefs concerned in the murder of Mr. Birch and the subsequent outbreak.
The Secretary of State wrote to the Governor as follows, on the 1st February, 1876:—"I am happy to be able to assure you of the general approval of Her Majesty's Government. . . . And I may add that in the practical management of affairs since the occurrence of that outrage" (the murder of Mr. Birch) "and in circumstances of no ordinary difficulty, you appear to me to have shown the judgment and calmness which I anticipated from you; and while adopting all those energetic page 20 measures which the circumstances of the case required you have at the same time, as far as I can judge, not hesitated to discourage all extreme measures in which the innocent might have suffered with the guilty."
After the suppression of the disturbances a searching enquiry was made by a commission of officials of high character; the evidence taken by them clearly established that so far back as March, 1875, whilst Sir A. Clarke was still Governor, the Sultan Abdullah approved the erection of stockades to oppose the white people, and a few days later he resolved in council with his chiefs not to treat personally on any matter of State with Mr. Birch, that is, with the British officer whom he had accepted as his adviser under the treaty of Pangkor. Further than this, in July, two months before Sir William Jervois' first visit to Perak, the Sultan and his chiefs formally agreed to murder Mr. Birch, and he assigned to the Maharajah Lela the duty of carrying out this crime, which the Maharajah duly committed on the 2nd November following. With reference to this enquiry, the Secretary of State wrote on the 16th February, 1877:—"I. am glad to take this opportunity of recognizing the ability with which you have brought this difficult subject before me, and the care which has been bestowed on the whole subject by yourself, the Executive Council, and the other gentlemen whose services have been engaged on the enquiry."
A review of all the circumstances leads to the conclusion that Sir William Jervois' policy was the logical outcome of the policy inaugurated by Sir Andrew Clarke. The latter had appointed Residents to "advise" the Sultan in reforming crying abuses. But this advice was a dead letter, as the Sultan simply ignored it, and the residents were powerless to enforce compliance. The Sultan, as above stated, would not treat with the Resident Birch on affairs of State.
This was the state of things when Sir William Jervois took up the government, and practically there were only two courses open to him—either to cancel his predecessor's policy and withdraw the British Residents, or to give them actual power to enforce attention to their "advice."
The question had to be decided immediately, and he chose the latter course. Mr. Birch's murder was not the result of this choice (as was asserted by some), for it had been plotted long before, and when once the short struggle was over the original object of our intervening page 21 in the Malay States was attained. The result of this firm policy of Sir William Jervois has been seen ever since, not only in the increased prosperity of the British possessions in the Straits of Malacca but in the good government and absence of tyrannical oppression in the native States.1
Whilst the suppression of the outbreak in Perak was being carried out, another outbreak took place in Sungie Ujong, a small State in which Sir Andrew Clarke had placed a Resident.
Sungie Ujong was formerly one of the Negri Sembilan, or nine States, in which a strong anti-English feeling had sprung up owing to the growing prosperity of the little State under the directions of the British Resident.
The malcontents invaded Sungie Ujong through a difficult pass, which they stockaded. Sir William Jervois, on receiving news of this fresh trouble, detached a force from the troops operating in Perak, which was perfectly successful, mainly through the gallantry of Captain Channer of the Ghoorkas, who won his Victoria Cross for the capture of the stockade in the pass. The force then penetrated into the Sri Meranti, where terms were dictated, the chiefs of the various States going to Singapore to sign the necessary treaty or declaration.
At the same time another State, Salangore, where there was a British Resident, was in a state of extreme unrest, fermented by one Rajah Mahdie; but his capture having been effected and a Resident moved up from page 22 Klang to Qualla Lampur, this place has become the seat of Government, and one of the finest towns in the Malay Peninsula.
There can be no doubt that in all of these States the present prosperity is due to the policy initiated by Sir Andrew Clarke, by which a first step was taken towards putting an end to the misrule, corruption, and oppression which prevailed in them, but this policy would have remained impotent and fruitless but for the development it received at the hands of Sir William Jervois, whose vigorous action gave life and action to it, and saved it from ignominious failure.
Another instance of this Governor's independent force of character occurred later on in his dealing with the riots of Chinese in the Straits Settlements.
These riots had often assumed alarming proportions, and the ringleaders had been coaxed and pampered into good behaviour from time to time.
Not so with Sir William Jervois. A serious riot broke out for some trivial cause at Singapore; the head of the police was maltreated, the streets were full of rioters. Sir William immediately ordered all men seen throwing missiles to be flogged publicly and dismissed.
When the late Sir J. Douglas came to him and protested against the proceeding as being contrary to the penal code, his reply was, "I do not care two straws for the penal code. I am going to suppress this riot in the way I think proper." He then summoned all the headmen, who attended a meeting in the Council Chamber in their brightest and richest garments, evidently expecting to be fed with a spoon as before. They were mistaken. Sir William gave them a severe reprimand, threw them into the civil prison, got up steam in his yacht, and sent them all off to the China Sea to get sea-sick.
The Chinese thought they were being taken to China to be beheaded. The shops were opened, and the riot was at an end, not to be renewed for many years afterwards.
Whilst Governor, Sir William also prepared a careful report on the defences of Singapore, and made useful recommendations on this head.
In April, 1877, Sir William Jervois was sent by Her Majesty's Government to enquire into the whole system of the defences of Australia and New Zealand, and on this duty visited New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. Whilst thus occupied he was page 23 appointed Governor of South Australia. After taking up that government he also visited Tasmania and New Zealand. He reported in detail on the defences of all of these Colonies.
In his opinion the defence of these distant colonies presented a very different problem to be solved from that of the defence of England. In the latter case, the possible enemy would have his forces by sea and land concentrated at points only a few miles from our coasts, whereas in the Colonies of Australasia they had to guard against sudden incursions of single ships or very small squadrons in time of war. Sir William held that for this purpose the presence of a ship of war belonging to the Colony, in its principal port, supported by batteries commanding the approaches to the harbour, was essential, and that a small body of troops should be equipped and maintained to repel any small force that might be landed at a distance from the port, as such force would be able to levy a contribution from the inhabitants, even though the cruisers could not touch the town. He did not find his views as to the colonial ship of war everywhere acceptable, though most of the Colonies were agreeably surprised to find that he did not recommend an elaborate and expensive system of fortification. They were rather in favour of keeping on foot a larger land force than he thought necessary. He considered, and his view will probably be supported by most people who have examined the subject, that no European Power would send a large expedition to undertake the conquest of these Colonies, and that if they did Her Majesty's Government would immediately send a fleet in pursuit, unless, indeed, Great Britain had lost command of the sea, in which case the Colonies must fall whenever the enemy chose to undertake their conquest. The more probable danger was the despatch of individual cruisers or small squadrons unperceived at home, and these would be dealt with in the manner above sketched.
The Colonies in Sir William's day, excepting Victoria, which had her own guard ship, considered that their naval defence was the business of the Home Government. Sounder views prevail now—and it may be safely held by Sir William Jervois' friends that they are due to the principles which he enunciated some 20 years ago. He also was the first to suggest that the Imperial naval squadron in Australasian waters should be doubled, and that the Colonies should contribute to the page 24 cost of maintaining the entire naval force there. Subsequently this proposal was carried into effect. His recommendations as to land defences were accepted and generally carried out by all the Colonies. In South Australia Forts Glanville and Largs Ray were built, and a lightly armoured vessel, the Protector, armed with heavy long ranging guns was provided.
Sir William Jervois' reports were of the greatest assistance to the Royal Commission which reported in 1882 on the Defence of British Possessions and Commerce Abroad. The Royal Commissioners stated that no substantial improvement could be made upon the systems designed by Sir William Jervois with regard to land works.
There is a remarkable instance of his versatility of intellect and adaptability to the circumstances in which he found himself in his conduct of the duties of his office as Governor of a Colony possessing a Constitution. When he took up the government of the Straits Settlements, after enjoying considerable personal power at the War Office, it may be said that the change was not great, though in dealing with the Malay States a very different class of people, and a very different set of considerations had to engage his anxious attention; but in South Australia he became the Representative of a Constitutional Sovereign. He .had no longer the autocratic power of the Governor of a Crown Colony—he had to govern through Ministers, to hold aloof from parties, and to refrain from all appearance of attempting to initiate a policy.
That he fully realized this position is much to his credit—that he exercised his functions with such excellent tact that he was able to influence the views end decisions of his Ministers without infringing the above principle of abstention—must be allowed to have been a signal success.
There were, however, two prerogatives which belonged to a Constitutional Governor, independent of his Ministers, on which he held strong views. According to the Letters Patent of 20th April, 1877, under which the Governor of South Australia acted, he had power
To summon, prorogue, or dissolve any Legislative Body within the Colony, and
To grant pardons.
The first of these prerogatives, as applied to a dissolution, was easy to exercise if the Governor had page 25 only to consult his own ease and grant a defeated Minister a dissolution if he demanded it; but Sir William Jervois took the view that the analogy of England, where Parliaments may last for seven years, does not necessarily apply to a Colony where they last only three, and that he would not be justified in putting the country to the enormous expense of a general election, unless it was clear that the business of the country could not be conducted with the existing House. Once in South Australia, when he refused to grant a dissolution, a new Government was formed, which lasted not merely through that Parliament, but through the succeeding one also.
As to the second prerogative—the exercise of mercy—the Governor was obliged, in the case of a sentence of death having been passed, to consult the Members of the Executive Council, to listen to their opinions, and then decide for himself whether the law should take its course or not. In the case of minor offences, it had not at that time been laid down how far the Governor was to act on his own responsibility, or how far he was to be guided by Ministerial advice.
In many Colonies this had led to serious differences between the Governor, the Ministry, and the Parliament; the whole system has now been altered, and the Governor has no longer anything to do but to endorse the opinion of the Cabinet. Sir William, however, strongly held the view that the exercise of the prerogative ought not to be a matter within the scope of party wire-pulling, but should be as far as possible removed from political considerations, even if that entail the Governor's incurring some temporary unpopularity; and, although he had the good fortune to be surrounded by Ministers of great ability and strong characters, his personal exercise of the prerogative was acquiesced in by them without dispute, and the wisdom of his decisions recognized.
Sir William Jervois was Governor of South Australia for more than five years, from 2nd October, 1877, to 9th January, 1883. There were no great political or social problems to be solved during that time; the principal matters on which he brought weight to bear were the defences and the building of the Houses of Parliament.
A proposal which he made that a country house for the Governor should be built in the Mount Lofty Range was readily adopted by the Ministry, and carried out page 26 according to his plans. It has ever since been regarded as a great boon, enabling the Governor and his family to escape from the great heat of Adelaide.
Although as Governor he carefully abstained from interference in political strife, there are many ways in which a governor may be a leader in matters not strictly political, and in which the ministers will take counsel with a man of ability and wide experience; and in this manner Sir William Jervois exercised a very great influence indirectly. By his lectures on defences, and on colonization; by his speeches at laying the foundation of the University and again at the opening of the University, he was able to impress the public mind with his mental power, the soundness of his views, and the justice of his conclusions. His custom of visiting all parts of the Colony, attending public meetings and speaking well at them; his hospitality and good social relations with people generally made him justly popular. He thus established the reputation of being one of the best governors that the Colony has had, and his removal to New Zealand was regarded with wide-spread regret.
He assumed the government of New Zealand on the 20th January, 1883, and held it till 22nd March, 1889.
In this Colony, as in South Australia, his first care was to place its principal ports in a state of defence against the incursions of an enemy's cruisers. It is the most vulnerable of the Australasian Colonies, on account of the number of coast towns open to the depredations of an active enemy.
Sir William Jervois had, indeed, been longer in touch with the New Zealand defences than with those of the Australian Colonies, for as early as in 1871 he had been consulted by Sir Julius Vogel, by permission of H.M. Government, on the subject of the defence of the Colony by torpedoes, a scheme for which he drew up with Sir Julius.
Sir William roused public feeling and instructed the public mind by his lectures on this subject, and he was much aided in his endeavours by the famous Russian War scare in 1885. New Zealand, for the moment, was in a state of panic. Petitions poured in, praying the Governor to assemble Parliament at once; people began to draw their money out of the banks and hide it. Government House was besieged by theorists, who all had new schemes for defending the Colony. The Ministry recognized the advantage which they possessed in having a Governor of Sir William's special training page 27 and ability; they cordially supported him, not only in the immediate measures for defence which he and the late Admiral Sir George Tryon arranged, but in the more permanent scheme which he proposed to them. As a result the harbours of Wellington, Auckland, Lyttleton, and Port Chalmers were speedily put into a state of defence, and eventually strong forts were built.
In the early part of 1885 he had to act with great promptitude and decision in a matter which might have led to complications with other countries. The King of Samoa, one of the South Sea Islands much coveted by Germany, the United States, and New Zealand, made overtures to the Colony to place himself and his country under the Government of the Queen of England. The Ministers had a mind to send one of their armed vessels across to give countenance to this proposal, but without consulting the Governor. Sir William got wind of this intention, and sent his private secretary on board to accompany the vessel and watch proceedings. This did not suit the Ministers' views, and they eventually consented to give Sir William time to refer the matter home by telegraph. He received instructions that Samoa could not be allowed to annex itself to New Zealand, as Great Britain has a definite treaty with Germany and the States by which neither power can acquire the island. The Governor's prompt and decisive action thus prevented what might have become a serious complication.
Another international matter that occurred during his term of office was the question of Chinese immigration into the Australasian Colonies. There was a very strong feeling in all of these Colonies against the admission of Chinese labour. The Chinese Government wanted to know why any distinction should be made against Chinese as compared with immigrants of all other nationalities admitted freely into all British Colonies. In New Zealand, as in the others, there was felt to be a great difference in the nearness of China to their shores as compared with other countries—in the overflowing teeming population of China, and in the entire difference in habits, religion, and mode of life of the Chinese from the populations so freely admitted—conditions which might lead to the majority of the population eventually consisting of a people entirely dissimilar to the English race, which the present Colonists are determined to maintain as the predominant one. The Colony quickly passed a law excluding the Chinese.page 28
Although Sir William Jervois had to submit this law for Her Majesty's approval, he did not share the views of the Australian Colonies on the subject of Chinese immigrants, and he believed that the aversion to them was much less in New Zealand than in Australia, but that the former colony felt bound to enact the same measures as the Australian colonies, because if New Zealand were open to the Chinese, when all the others were closed, an undue proportion of them would find their way thither and really swamp the white population. The reasons put forward in Australia against admitting the Chinese, were their insanitary habits and their diseases as well as the dissimilarity of character and religion which would prevent the fusion of the two nations in one community. The real objection, however, was the dread of competition in the labour market, and it had weight because the jealous working classes with universal suffrage are omnipotent and feared a fall in wages. The same jealousy made them object to all immigration; immigrants from England were viewed with the same dislike for the same cause.
Sir William held the statesmanlike view that the question involved was far broader, and must be considered in connection with that of the future development of the whole Australian Continent. He considered that one half of that continent lying within the tropics could not be cultivated by Europeans; that therefore it could only be properly developed by men of the coloured races; that, consequently, African, Asiatic, or Polynesian labour must be employed, of which the Chinese is the most valuable, as the Chinese are more industrious than negroes, more orderly, and more free from religious fanaticism than Indian coolies, whilst Polynesian labour is not inexhaustible and is at any time not easily procurable. Sir William Jervois did not think the apprehensions of the Australian colonists well founded, and condemned the policy that would in deference to them inflict sterility on the immense territory within the tropics. He believed that the improvement of this territory would confer benefits on the colonies themselves far outweighing the shadowy evils which the imagination of the colonists had conjured up.
He looked upon the Chinese as a valuable body of immigrants, law-abiding, industrious, and thrifty as citizens, skilful and teachable as workmen, quite as clean as most of the lower classes of dwellers in towns, and if page 29 in some measure addicted to opium smoking yet free from the habit of drunkenness. Sir William believed that they were disliked more for their virtues than their vices. In his opinion they would be most valuable to the colonists as market gardeners and shop-keepers. Except in Australia and Canada, the Chinese are well spoken of in all British possessions. Australia shares in the advantages of the Treaty Ports of China. Why should one-third of the human race belonging to a friendly power be excluded from the three millions of square miles of Australia inhabited by only 2½ millions of colonists? He strongly held that if the tropical area of Australia were detached from the self-governing Colonies, and formed into Crown Colonies, these might be developed by Chinese and others without interfering with the present labouring element.
Sir William Jervois foresaw very clearly the financial embarrassment which has befallen most of the Australian Colonies in the present decade. He noted more than ten years ago that the unnaturally rapid development of Australia, due to the discovery of gold, must lead to financial difficulties. 990,000 out of 2¾ millions of the population of Australia were crowded into the four large towns. The total public debt of Australia and New Zealand was 150 millions for a population of 3,442,000, and the private debt probably as much more. The failures of banks in Australia in 1893, justified the far seeing apprehensions of Sir William Jervois, and the Colonies are only now beginning to recover from the misfortunes thus caused. In New Zealand no bank closed its doors.
In 1888 Sir William Jervois attended the great gathering of Australasian celebrities, governors of colonies, their ministers, etc., at Sydney, to celebrate the centenary of New South Wales. He delivered a remarkably able speech on that occasion, in which, whilst congratulating the Mother Colony and the great daughters who owed their origin to her, he did not hesitate to remind them that they owed their greatness and prosperity to their connection with this country. He showed that their rapid development had been aided by British wealth, by the extraordinary strides made in means of communication due to British genius, which had revolutionized transit by sea and land by the use of steam, and had annihilated space by electric cables. He reminded them of the advantage they enjoyed of "forming part of an empire, the prestige of whose name runs through- page 30 out the world," and to whose generous policy their possession of "millions of acres, boundless pastures, and untold mineral wealth, with absolute freedom in dealing with their affairs and developing their resources" is due, that, moreover, "the greatest naval empire of the world, by its navy, protects their commerce and their soil against aggression—aggression from which under other circumstances they certainly would not be exempt." He pointed out how all classes felt the benefit of this protection in the security of maritime communications, "the squatter who desires an outside market for his wool, the agriculturist for his wheat, or the miner for his copper, his silver, or his gold." He then emunerated the defensive works which the Australasian Colonies had raised on all of their coasts, and did justice to their efforts in this respect, in response to the recommendations which he had made under instructions from Lord Carnarvon ten years before. He then congratulated them on having engaged "to share with the Imperial Government the expense of the naval force requisite for the protection of Australasian commerce." He next alluded to the part taken by Australian troops in the Egyptian campaign, and concluded his speech with words of warning as to the future of Australasia, on the necessity of circumspection with regard to their finances, and of encouraging immigration in order to develop the country, for although an immigrant "is a competitor in only one department he is a consumer in many. Thus immigration tends directly to the advantage of the working population, and of the whole people concerned." Looking forward to the growing populations of Australasia, he indicated the possibility of their being some day represented "in an Imperial House of Legislature."
On 25th May, 1888, he was made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St. Michael and St. George.
In New Zealand, as previously in South Australia, Sir William Jervois won the confidence and admiration of the people by the speeches and addresses which he made from time to time.
He took an active part as President of the New Zealand Institute, and in the year 1883 he delivered the inaugural address. He also delivered the address on the opening of the Auckland University College in 1888.
In this Colony too he constantly moved about, and by attending public meetings did much to guide and instruct opinion on general matters. He had an excellent page 31 memory for faces, and was thus able to acquire people's good-will by recollecting them and their affairs; whilst' his hospitality and genial manners endeared people to him and to his family, who powerfully aided him in all social matters. The following, written by a gentleman out there to Sir William's son on hearing of his death, conveys in a few words what has been said above of his influence:—
"I should like to say to you that all people here of any capacity that have mentioned your father have said what a good Governor he was. We have not, in my opinion, had his like since. That the Governor is a mere figurehead is a common democratic belief, but I feel convinced that some Governors have a far more powerful moral influence on the community than any constitutional powers could confer on them, and your father had a strong moral influence in this Colony, all the more because he seemed to be genuinely religious without ever saying a word about religion."
"Sir William Jervois leaves Wellington, on Monday next, the 18th (March, 1889), on his way to England. He will carry with him the hearty good wishes of the people of New Zealand. During his term of office in this Colony, Sir William has won the esteem of all classes of the community, by reason of the characteristic enthusiasm with which he entered into all public undertakings calculated to promote the welfare of the people, and the best interests of New Zealand, and by the homely virtues of his private life which were not less conspicuous because of their unaffected simplicity and unstudied unostentatiousness. It is admitted on every side that he is, beyond measure, the best and most popular Governor that New Zealand has ever had. He is said to be the only Governor who has not had a single disagreement with his ministers. His relations with them have been of the pleasantest character."
The Hon. W. Gisborne, in his book New Zealand Rulers and Statesmen, bears testimony to the respect and esteem in which Sir William Jervois was held.
On his return to England he remained, generally unemployed, but in 1890 he served on "The Consultative Committee on Coast Defence Duties," presided over by the Right Honourable E. Stanhope, Secretary of State for War, of which H.R H. the Duke of page 32 Cambridge, Earl Brownlow, Under Secretary of State for War, and others were members.
On 7th June, 1888, he had been elected, and on 21st November, [889, he was admitted a Fellow of the Royal Society.
In 1890 also he started a movement for handing over to the navy the naval defences of the empire. On this subject he read a paper at the United Service Institution in June, 1891, at a meeting presided over by the Marquis of Ripon, K.G. This proposal by the officer who had had such a large share in designing and constructing these naval defences to hand them over to the navy gave rise to a very lively discussion, which extended over two days. Opinion was much divided as to the desirability and even feasibility of such a revolution in our military system, and as to the extent to which it should be carried. The desirability of its application to our distant stations was upheld by many able officers of both services, and it was generally acknowledged that Sir William Jervois had rendered another service to his country in bringing it forward. In the discussion he showed considerable debating power, and upheld his proposal with marked ability. The changes he sought to introduce were, in his opinion, not inconsistent with the report of the Royal Commission of 1859-1859, for which he was so largely responsible, for, whilst that report insisted on the necessity for the fortification of our dockyards and coaling stations as a means of securing the efficiency of our fleets, his proposals in 1891 would, he contended, strengthen the naval defence of the empire.
He became one of the Colonels Commandant of the Corps of Royal Engineers on the 28th June, 1893. He visited South Australia on private affairs, in 1892, and whilst there had a severe illness; though he recovered from this it left some effects ever afterwards. On the 17th March, 1895, he lost his wife, and on the 1st May of that year his second son, John, a Major in the Corps. The death of Lady Jervois was a great blow to him, for her gifted co-operation and sympathy had been his great help throughout his different spheres of work for more than forty years.
During the four remaining years of his life Sir William lived in retirement, and in the enjoyment of the society of his children and of the old friends who frequently visited him. He retained to the last his keen interest in all that was going on in the world. His end page 33 came very suddenly, from a carriage accident, on the 16th August, 1897.
His loss will ever be deplored by his numerous friends to whom he was endeared by his many bright and amiable qualities, his genial wit and pleasant repartee. He served his Queen and country most faithfully for sixty years, and as the preceding lines have endeavoured to show, with distinguished success, in all parts of the world and in many capacities, military and civil.
This notice of his life would be incomplete without mention of his talent for painting in water colours. He first began to paint in his youth, at the Cape, but in the stress of his official life in the War Office had to discontinue this fascinating occupation; he resumed it during the greater leisure of his life in the Colonies. He was fortunate enough to have made a good painting of the renowned pink and white marble terraces of New Zealand a few months before their destruction by the eruption of the Tarawhera volcano. This landscape was graciously accepted by Her Majesty the Queen, whose judgment and taste in all matters of art are so well known.
1 The growth of this prosperity can be seen at a glance from the following figures:—