Sir John Hobhouse
moved the Order of the Day for the House going into a Committee on the Mutiny Bill.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
This is, I believe, the best opportunity that I can take of performing what I conceive to be a great public duty; and the importance of the subject will, I trust, be my justification in occupying, for some time, the attention of the House; and when I state that the subject relates to the interest of 80,000 old soldiers of the army, and including the Ordnance pensioners, to 91,000 soldiers, involving an expense to the public, which annually exceeds one million and a half in money, I trust that the welfare of so large a proportion of the military community, and the financial importance of the subject, will be my best excuse for the course I am about to take; and if to these considerations be superadded the policy of taking care that it should be clearly explained to the army that the interests of its veteran soldiers are duly considered by Parliament, and that this House will be no party to any arrangement by which the fruits of a soldier's arduous military life are to be lost to him, for the mere sake of economy, unless the soldier receives a just equivalent for his pension, then, I trust, that this discussion will have the effect either of junking the War Office more careful in com- 1189 muting these pensions, or in clearing up a great deal of misapprehension which exists among the soldiers on the subject, and which is getting stronger every day. In either of these cases, I shall be repaid for any trouble I may take, and in this result will be found a full apology for having introduced the question to the House. I do not mean to impute any blame to the War Office on this matter—at least, in the invidious sense of the word "blame"—and as the right hon. Baronet (Sir Henry Parnell) is not in the House, I shall make my comments without any harshness; but I am obliged to say, that I do consider the late Secretary-at-War, by his eager though well-meant desire to save the public expenditure, has, in this transaction, done so improperly at the expense of the old soldier. Last Session, in my place in this House, I took an opportunity of telling the late Secretary-at-War in public, in drawing his attention to this subject, that I considered him as the protector and guardian of the old soldier, and that, in my opinion, there would be the greatest danger in allowing these men to sell their pensions, unless they were guarded in every possible way from the effects of their own improvidence; that the mode he was then adopting in June, 1831, was contrary to that which I had in view when Secretary-at-War; that I protested against it, and begged it to be understood as being no part of any plan of mine. In order to make the House fully understand the position in which these men are placed, it will be necessary for me to state the part that I took during the time I was in the War Office. By the Act which was passed in 1806, commonly called Mr. Windham's Act, there is no power given to commute soldiers' pensions, except in the case of foreigners. In the year 1830, an Act of Parliament was passed, to allow British soldiers to commute their pensions, and for this reason: in the course of the investigations I made in 1828, I found there were 20,000 men on the Pension List, who, at the time they were pensioned, were, on an average, thirty-one years of age, and ten years' service. Many of these men were receiving pensions on account of slight disabilities, from which they had subsequently recovered; and as the amount of their pensions, on an average, was sixpence a day, and inadequate for the support of their families, many of them were desirous of commuting their pensions, and 1190 emigrating to those colonies in which they had probably served when soldiers, in the hope of bettering their condition. This desire was frequently brought before the War Office, by applications from the Overseers of the parishes to which the men belonged, as well as by the men themselves. But I was obliged to refuse these applications, first, because the War Office had no power to commute them; and, secondly, because I was unwilling to do so, unless there were good and sufficient grounds for believing that the men would be better off in the colonies; in short, I did not think I should be justified in taking such a step, unless there was a safe prospect that it would be for the benefit of the soldier, and cost the public nothing. The only instance in which I did give my consent to anything like a commutation, was in the case of a soldier belonging to the parish of Shipley; and that arose from a personal application having been made to me by the hon. member for Shoreham, who stated that it was the wish both of the man himself and his parish, that he should be allowed to emigrate, and that if a portion of his pension was guaranteed, the parish was ready to advance the necessary sum for his outfit. Under these circumstances, I did give the desired guarantee: the man went out; and he has since written home that he is contented and happy. I do not, therefore, mean to say, that a commutation of pension would not, in many instances, be very advantageous. But what I now complain of is, that instead of making them cases of exception, or of careful selection, the War Office has, in the years 1831 and 1832, been allowing the commutation by wholesale: the men have been allowed, without sufficient inquiry, to sell their pensions at four years' purchase, and the result now is, that there are 200 or 300 old soldiers about the metropolis, and probably 500 or 600, including Ireland, and other places, in a state of absolute destitution, having failed to embark on board the ships in which they had paid for their passage, by which they have not only forfeited the passage-money paid out of this commutation, but having spent the remainder, are now either destitute of the means of existence, or are thrown a burthen upon their parishes. I shall subsequently show, that about 1,500l. of the money of these old soldiers has been lost to them; but before I enter into these details, I must beg leave to call the attention 1191 of the House to the state of the Pension List, when I entered the War Office. Mr. Windham had granted very liberal rates of pensions—in some instances, too high; but still they had the effect which he had contemplated, of making the army more effective, by obtaining a better class of men, and rendering the service more popular throughout the country. And when we consider, that in this country the troops are not raised by conscription, but by voluntary enlistment—and that even in time of peace, the recruiting of an army of 95,000 men requires each year from 12,000 to 14,000 men—I think it will be perceived that it is highly important that such a feeling of popularity as that which I have mentioned should be encouraged in the country. Besides, when hon. Members complain, that, in their opinion, not only the rate, but the mode of remuneration, is too expensive, they should remember that a large portion of it would, of necessity, be borne by the country in another shape, if their allowances were not made in the army Estimates. It is true, such of the men as are of English birth would go to their parishes, and become a burthen upon the poor-rates; while the Irish and the Scotch, not so fortunate, would be left in a state of poverty and want. And surely it would be unjust for half the veterans in the army to have a refuge to which they could resort, while the other half, equally brave, equally deserving of national protection, would be deprived of such benefit. I, therefore, think that I am fully justified in saying, that these men have a full claim to be honourably and fairly (I do not say extravagantly) remunerated by the country; and I, therefore, must take this opportunity of bearing my grateful testimony to the late Mr. Windham, whose rates of full pay and pension to the soldier have so materially improved the army, that his plan has, in a great degree, realised his intentions; and that, had he lived, the defects in the system would long ago have been remedied. But, independently of the justice of the question, of not driving these men, after a life of hardship spent in the service of the country, to wring from the parish officer a bare and reluctant subsistence, instead of an honourable stipend from the State, in the shape of a reward well earned, let me also ask whether there is not some policy in having a check upon these 91,000 pensioners, who have not only been thoroughly trained to arms, but 1192 who are ready at a short notice, to be embodied in the public service? It was only last year that many of these very men were enrolled as constables, usefully assisting in quelling riots and disturbances; and, in the year 1821, ten veteran battalions were raised from the same source, all of which, have done good service to the State, before and after they were pensioned. I, therefore, say, that, by this system of military pensions, we make the most judicious arrangement for the provision of the soldiers: whilst we not only relieve the parishes from a partial burthen by throwing the men at large upon the public, but we restrain these men, by the obligation of a pension, from becoming dangerous members of the community. I will now call the attention of the House to the progressive increase of the pension-list, which to me appeared to be so important a branch of military finance, that, in 1828, I made it an anxious subject of my investigations. I found that, in the year 1814, at the termination of the war, the army had exceeded 250,000 regulars, and the pensioners in that year were 31,000. From the year 1814, to the year 1825, discharges from the army, chiefly by the disbandment of corps, were made to the amount of 182,000 men; and in these eleven years of peace, the pensioners had increased from 31,000, to 81,877 men, being an increase of 50,000 pensions; and, allowing for the casualties which took place in the list, that 75,000 men had been pensioned. It is proper that I should here observe, that this increase of the Pension-List is, to a great extent, attributable to the votes of this House, owing to the uncertain principle on which it has from year to year added to, or taken from, the force of the army; for instance, in the year 1821, 10,000 or 12,000 veterans were embodied and added to the army; in 1822, 21,000 men were reduced; then, in 1823 and 1824, additions were made to the army; so that these fluctuations of reducing the force one year, to increase it the next, had this effect—that the soldier discharged and pensioned one year could not the next be called back into his regiment, but was replaced by a recruit, who, in his turn, became a fresh claimant for a pension. These alternations, it is evident, could not fail of being very expensive. In the year 1828, when I entered the War Office, I viewed the question in this way—There are two armies—the one an effective army, 1193 consisting of 95,000 men, and the other a non-effective army, consisting of 85,000 men. Then, the question was, what number of men will the effective army discharge and pension, and throw each year upon the non-effective army; and what number of casualties will occur on the non-effective army, to the relief of the Pension-List? I found that, taking the average of five years—that is, from the year 1823, to the year 1827—the average number of men pensioned was 3,500, and the number of casualties was 3,000; so that the pension-list showed this extraordinary fact—that, in the fourteenth year of peace, and after the large disbandment of corps had ceased, that there was, upon an establishment of 95,000 men, in profound peace, an increase each year of 500 pensioners. I saw nothing to prevent this increase of numbers from going on, and I felt the necessity of applying a remedy to a state of things by which the non-effective army, in a few years, threatened to exceed the effective army. It is necessary that I should here advert to the warrants that were issued by Lord Palmerston and Lord Farnborough prior to 1828, and which, in my opinion, have materially tended to improve Mr. Windham's Act. The warrant of 1818 was, I believe, chiefly made at the suggestion of my Lord Farnborough, the Chairman of the Chelsea Board, by his office of Paymaster General, and who most assiduously and ably, with his business-like talents, attended to these duties. Among other points, the warrants abolished the right of registry. As some hon. Gentlemen may not be aware of its meaning, I will state that "registry" signifies, that a soldier, being discharged after seven or fourteen years service, with or without a pension of sixpence a-day, may go home, and, after remaining there for a period twice as long as that which would be necessary to turn a period of fourteen or twenty-one years' service in his regiment, may come back again, and claim one shilling a-day by this right of registry. Another judicious point contained in the warrant of 1818 was, that East and West India service should be abolished, by which two years in those climates were to reckon as three years' service; and a further most important change was, that the soldier, when discharged, should not receive a pension larger than his full pay; and before any pension for a disability could be granted, it was to fie certified that it had 1194 been contracted on service. But though these and other provisions contained in the warrants are highly praiseworthy, they did not, in my opinion, remedy the mischief; for it is a remarkable fact, that, for every pension allowed for twenty-one years' service, there are three allowed for disability before that period, which, to a great extent, explains the immense increase of the Pension-List. Mr. Windham's regulation allowed every man discharged for a disability, however slight, if he were unfit to continue his service, but able to earn his livelihood, to receive sixpence a day, and as almost every disability is contracted in the regiment on service, it was extremely difficult, under the warrant of 1818, to check the number of pensions, although, prospectively, that warrant would greatly reduce the amount. My object, then, when in the War Office, was to preserve the right of the old service soldier, and, at the same time, to do away with the mischief that had crept in, by which there were 20,000 men, who, when pensioned, were, on an average, thirty-one years of age. For this purpose, I pensioned the old and wounded soldier as high as I could, continuing Mr. Windham's high rates of allowance to the wounded soldier and service men, one shilling a day, and even, after twenty-five years' service, 1s. 2d. Another of the revised regulations was, to allow no soldier a permanent pension under fourteen years' service; but, if, within that period he was discharged for disability, he was to be allowed a temporary pension till he recovered, after which, he got no more pension; and no soldier after fourteen years', but under twenty-one years' service, can have a pension, unless the injury be permanent. The principle was, to award pensions in proportion to the service rendered. Another very important feature in the new regulations was, in the system which was introduced of free discharges. Formerly, if a man wished to obtain his discharge, he had to pay twenty pounds for it at any period of service; instead of this, I formed a graduated scale according to his service, from seven to fourteen years, lowering the price, until at last the price was as low as five pounds; after fifteen years' service, he was entitled to his discharge for nothing; after sixteen years' service, he was entitled to his discharge, and six months pay, and so on, with a view that the man might have enough either to go and settle in the colo- 1195 nies, or even to shift for himself in this country. The average age may be assumed at thirty-three or thirty-five years, when the soldier was in the vigour of his age, when, however, he had acquired discretion; and, as this indulgence of a free discharge, was to be given as a reward and a stimulus for good conduct, there was every reason to expect that the man would make his way in the world; at any rate, it was the same in effect as Mr. Windham's system of limited service, without its inconveniencies, restricted by the pleasure of the Commander-in-Chief, and regenerating the army, by replacing a man of seventeen years' service, who, in a few years, would have claims to a pension, by a recruit, having very distant claims. I also conceived it to be extremely desirable that the soldier should perfectly understand the position in which he would be placed by accepting his discharge, and I, therefore, took care to inform officers commanding regiments that they were bound to explain the whole of these circumstances to any soldier soliciting his discharge; and that no soldier should be allowed thus to accept his discharge, until after the expiration of thirty days for reflection, in order that he might not be induced to take an irretrievable step, contrary to his real interest, owing to any sudden caprice or disgust; and I required that these explanations should be stated on the back of the discharge, which the man was required to sign. The result of this has been, that the soldier cannot be taken by surprise; and I believe that I may state with confidence, that the soldiers, the army, and the public, have been benefitted by this system; in proof of which, it is worthy of remark, that the soldiers, before they were thus able to obtain their discharge, used to express great anxiety about it. Since this regulation they have by no means shown the same eagerness, as I can state—at least as far as my former regiment is concerned—the Grenadier Guards—that in two years about fifty men, having applied for their discharge, did, during the thirty days' interval, change their minds and remain. Thus the service is rendered popular to those who remain in it; or, if the soldier accepts his discharge, an impression is made throughout the country that the army is not a state of eternal servitude; and as this feeling formerly caused parents to dissuade their sons from 1196 entering the army, the new system will, I hope, assist the recruiting of the army, whilst it will relieve the public purse. The yoke sits easier on a man's neck when he knows he can throw off the burthen at his pleasure—and obedience becomes more cheerful when it is less forced. Now, Sir, I mean to contend, not only that these arrangements were judicious, as far as the policy of the army is concerned, but a prospective saving to the public of 57,000l. each year, is likely to accrue, if 600 or 700 men past fifteen years' service be discharged each year, but exclusive of expense. I do not, however, wish to rest the expectation of these benefits on my own authority. I shall, therefore, take the liberty of reading to the House the opinion expressed by the Commander-in-Chief on this subject:—Horse Guards, 4th Dec. 1828.The necessary reforms which you have suggested, have met with my entire concurrence and approbation, and I cannot refrain from expressing my satisfaction, that throughout all the arrangements proposed, there is nothing that can in any manner affect the just claim of the soldier, or diminish the rate of pension to men who have been wounded in the service of the country: the principle on which you have proceeded appearing to be to reward men whose services fairly entitle them to the assistance of the Government, and to relieve the public from the charge of supporting those whose pretensions are not such as to give them a well-founded claim to a pension.(Signed) "HILL.This, Sir, was the opinion of Lord Hill in 1828; and, indeed, I might quote a still higher authority, but that I do not wish to trouble the House with too many details on this part of the subject. I am sure, however, that hon. Members will allow, that if I complain of the mode in which the War-Office is now acting upon my regulations, it is natural, in protesting against its practice, that I should explain what that system is, and that the amount of an estimate is as nothing compared to the welfare of 85,000 pensioners, who, although they entail upon the public an annual expense of 1,500,000l., have vested rights, by Act of Parliament, which ought not lightly to be sacrificed. I have already referred to a prospective saving of 57,000l. each year by discharging men; and if we look to the effect of the new regulations, by which fewer pensions have been granted, I think we shall see that a larger prospective saving is fully made out. Instead 1197 of there being 3,500 pensioners added to the list, in the year 1830, according to the average up to 1827, there were only 1,598 permanent pensions granted, being a diminution of 1,900; to which, if the former excess of 500 more pensions than casualties be added, the real diminution of pensions granted, was 2,400. Now, taking each pension at the low average of 10l. a-year, on this transaction alone there will have been a saving of 24,000l. in 1830. In 1831, there were 1,678 permanent pensions granted, making a diminution of about 1,800, and affording to the public a saving of 23,000l. a-year. But it is necessary that I should here allude to another class of soldiers, who, having served twenty-one years, may wish, before they are worn out, to have their discharge from the service. According to the terms on which they enlist, it does not follow, that, because they have served that period, they are entitled to their discharge; on the contrary, they are bound to serve as long as they are able. But it seemed to me that it would be unjust if I did not allow as much favour of discharge to those who, probably because they were sober and temperate, were able to serve twenty-one years, as I did to those who had done less service to the country. The arrangement, therefore, that I made was, that these men should be allowed to go away on a pension of 10d. per day; for it seemed to me to be equitable, that in consideration of their obtaining their discharge a few years sooner, they should forfeit 2d. per day, and I was unwilling to tempt any old soldier approaching forty-five years of age to take a gratuity instead of a pension; because, as the line was necessary to be drawn, it was thought right to allow a man to go, when at thirty-five, able to take care of himself, but not to tempt him at a later period, when older, and more infirm, and entitled to a pension. I believe that the right hon. Baronet is prepared to dispute the economy of this part of my arrangement. I beg, however, to say, that I am prepared to show that there has been considerable saving in this transaction, and I am ready to enter into the figures connected with the calculation, though I must admit that there would be some little difficulty in introducing such details in the course of a debate like the present, setting that matter, however, aside for the moment, I say, that if I have shown that the Pension 1198 List has been reduced by 2,000 fewer men pensioned, being now less than half the former number, and if this arrangement is satisfactory to the army in general, and economical to the public, I think that the House will perceive, that in the regulations I had the honour to introduce, there was nothing to diminish the rights of the old soldier—nothing to injure the claim of the wounded soldier—and yet something beneficial to that true spirit of economy which is only desirable so long as it may be made compatible with justice. The only men against whom my regulations operate are those whose short service, in my opinion, do not entitle them to a pension. I have already stated, that there were not less than 20,000 men on the Pension List under thirty-one years of age; and, in order to show how extremely unmanageable the increase of that Pension List has been under the old system, I may state, that in 1817, Lord Palmerston, in a Letter to Lord Bathurst, which was laid before the Finance Committee, gave it as his opinion, that the number of pensioners, which then amounted to 64,000, had reached its maximum; and yet, in 1828, when I went into the investigation, I found that the number then was 85,000, being an increase of 21,000 men beyond the number in 1817 After what I have stated, I am satisfied the House will perceive the propriety of such an alteration in the system, as shall make the deprivation of pension fall on the younger soldier, who has not served fourteen years, instead of the old soldier. And now, Sir, I have come to that portion of my observations when I cannot help much lamenting that the right hon. Baronet, the late Secretary-at-War, is not in his place. Owing to his absence I shall not be able to say so much as I certainly should have said, had he been present. And in those remarks which I cannot help making, I shall endeavour to substitute the phrase of the "War Office," instead of that of the right hon. Baronet. I took an opportunity, last year, of expressing my disapprobation of old soldiers being indiscriminately allowed, by a War Office circular, in reply to their applications, to take a sum of money for their annual pension: the result of which, in many instances, has been, that the money paid has been squandered in public-houses, instead of being employed for the purpose of conveying the men to the colonies. 1199 There is no class of men so reckless or so thoughtless as these old soldiers; and I think that it would not have cost the War Office much inquiry to have foreseen what would be the effect of the temptation so imprudently held out to these persons. As I have already stated, the result is, that many of these old men are in a state of absolute destitution, and 300 or 400 men have, in all probability, been thrown upon their parishes for relief; which could not have been the case, if the Government had not allowed them to make this commutation of their pensions, or had done it more cautiously; for, according to Mr. Sturges Bourne's Act, if any soldier comes to the parish for relief, that parish immediately has a claim on his pension. What, then, is the general effect of this War Office circular? For the sake of being able to introduce to the House a smaller Army Estimate, the parishes of England have been burthened in the most unwise manner; and a general feeling of discontent and dissatisfaction is felt in the army. Nor can it be said, that this has been done without due warning; for so long ago as last year, entreated the late Secretary at War to take other and more advisable steps. His Majesty's Government does not seem to have paid attention to the truth of this proposition—that a system may, theoretically, look very well upon paper, but work very ill in practice: such has been the case here. Besides, Sir, I wish to ask by what right, or on what authority is it, that the Secretary at War issues a circular order, depriving the soldier of those advantages which have been granted to him by his Majesty's Regulation, approved and signed by the King? In the event of the soldier becoming a settler, according to the 46th article of the Regulation, it is provided that when grants of land, in addition to a free discharge, can be made in the colonies, the precise terms of the grant shall be clearly explained to the soldier before he receives his discharge; and that when he shall have been residing three months on his grant, and have been actively employed in clearing the ground, a quarter's pension, at 6d. a-day, shall be paid to him, which amount may be renewed from time to time, at the discretion of the Governor of the province, provided that, in the whole, it does not exceed one year's. The propriety of that Regulation has been corroborated by the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada; for, in a letter 1200 from Sir John Colborne to me, dated April, 1830, he says—'I am persuaded that the soldier should be encouraged to purchase his discharge. A careful man in this province might save money; his place may be supplied by a recruit for 10l., and if he has 10l. to start with, he will do very well. The deserters here are disgracefully numerous; but if encouragement was held out to the soldiers to settle, I am persuaded that the men would stop, for it would not be worth their while to run the risk of deserting, if a prospect was held out to them of obtaining their discharge.' This opinion was confirmed by a letter from the Assistant Adjutant-General of Lower Canada; and if this indulgence, if this aid of 6d. a-day, was thought necessary to enable a discharged soldier to live before the fruits of his labour could be reaped, why was it refused to the older and more infirm soldier, who, by selling his vested right, had not only a better claim, but had a greater necessity, from his age to this relief? And now, Sir, let me ask, what has taken place? After entering my protest last year against the plan of the late Secretary at War, I find on the 21st of June, 1831, a letter from the War Office, in which it is stated, that no soldier is to go from this country to the colonies, with a promise of land. In addition to which, this letter does not contain one word relative to the allowance of 6d. a-day, to which I attach the greatest importance; so that it appears that the regulations of the late Secretary at War are not only contrary to those of his predecessors, in this respect, but entirely lose sight of the promise made in the name of his Majesty, that additional advantages shall be allowed to the soldier, in the event of his becoming a settler. I can assure the House, that what I am now stating is no new opinion of mine. In a letter which I addressed to my right hon. friend, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in May, 1830, I state—'I cannot commute the pensions, because it is difficult to secure the parish; for, as the law now stands if the pensioner becomes a pauper, the parish is entitled to receive his pension.' And in another letter to the late Secretary for the Colonies, dated June, 1830, I state the same thing; besides which, the same argument was made use of by me last year in this House; and I, therefore, contend, that the Government has now no right to complain of my bring- 1201 ing this question forward. I shall now show hon. Gentlemen that I have abundant proof of the ill effects of these commutations; for instance seventy-eight pensioners were to have gone by the Hebe to Quebec; the vessel, however, sailed without them, and the captain received 459l. forfeit money—the men having refused to embark; on board another vessel, the Mint, 102 pensioners were to have embarked; the captain, in that instance, received 450l. forfeit. The captain of the Science, bound for Australia, received, in the same way, 200l. forfeit. The captain of the Sovereign 120l. In short, without troubling the House with further details, I am able to state that this avaricious speed on the part of the Government has been the means of putting about 1,500l. in the pockets of various captains, and of leaving about 400 or 500 men in a state of extreme destitution; indeed, I understand already that thirty or forty parishes have made application to Chelsea Hospital, and that the answer given has been, that the men have sold their pensions, and have no further claim. In order that I might not be proceeding on vague grounds, I have made some inquiries with respect to my former regiment, and I will take the liberty of stating to the House the cases of some of those who have foolishly acceded to the delusive offers of the War Office. One case is that of a man of the name of Bowling, who was discharged for consumption. This man did not embark; he has expended every farthing of the money, and he is now in a state of ruin. Another man was utterly unfit for emigration, for he had a diseased leg, and a contracted arm; another man blind; another man had lost his leg. Another case is that of William Gray, of the Grenadier Guards, who was discharged for defective sight, in 1821, and who is fifty-eight years of age. In my opinion the extreme age for emigration is forty-five; but I understand that the Government has allowed 700 men to emigrate who are past fifty, 100 past sixty, six or seven at past seventy, and actually one at past eighty years of age. Let me, however, go back to the case of Gray: he has a wife and four children; he received 22l. for his pension; he was to pay 12l. 5s. for his passage, that money was forfeited because his wife refused to go. The man himself, afterwards, was willing to go, but the War-Office would not let him emigrate, unless his wife went with him. 1202 Subsequently the woman, believing that she had ruined her husband and her children, attempted to destroy herself. At present, adversity has broken her desire to remain in her own country, and she and her husband are ready to go; but now the War Office says, "Yes, you may go, but you must find the 12l. which was forfeited to the captain." Is this the way in which British soldiers, after twenty years service, ought to be treated? This man, Gray, bore an excellent character. I know that he served in the Peninsula, and I believe that he served in Flanders. Surely, then, the War Office will do well to re-consider this case, as well as many others, more especially as the men may be made to refund by only allowing them half-pensions, till the commutation-money advanced to them is refunded, by which means the public will lose nothing. I am not surprised that men, who, in war, are ready for the forlorn hope, or for any desperate service, reckless of consequences, should, in peace, be ready to emigrate. But what I ask is, ought the War-Office to have been a party to this plan? Ought not the War-Office to have taken further and better precautions in favour of the old soldier? I protest against such a proceeding on the part of the army; it is a proceeding which cannot redound to the honour of Government; it is unjust towards the parishes; it is discreditable to the Ministry; it is converting the War Office to a broker's office, to drive hard bargains with old soldiers; and it is highly injurious to the character, the spirit, and the best interests of the King's service. I have no further observations with which to trouble the House, except to state that I intend to call for returns which will prove the statement I have made, after which I shall probably move some resolutions declaratory of what I think ought to be the sentiments of the House on the subject; or if I should be beaten in that, and other steps to remedy this mischievous system be not adopted by the Government, I shall move for leave to bring in a bill to replace these men in the position in which they were before this commutation was allowed.
Sir John Hobhouse
regretted the absence of the late Secretary at War, who was much better able than he to give an answer to the statement just made. As the gallant Officer did give notice of his intention, and as that notice was placed on 1203 the Orders of the House, I should have thought it must have been obvious to my predecessor, that he would be the fittest person to give an answer to the remarks that would arise upon this notice. However, as the hon. Baronet is not here to answer for himself, I must endeavour to say a few words on the subject. In the first place I beg to say, that I am as deeply impressed as the gallant Officer can be with the great importance of attending to the well-being of the army; and though I have not, like him, had the good fortune of rendering service in that capacity to the country, yet no man can have a stronger feeling of the merit of the army in the field, or of the necessity of making proper provision for it out of the field. I do not know that it will be necessary for me to make much allusion to the different warrants to which the gallant Officer has alluded. With respect to the two first parts of his own warrant of 1829, I believe that no doubt can be entertained as to their utility; but, with respect to the third part, I may be allowed to say—more especially as the gallant Officer has himself alluded to a difference of opinion on the subject—that it appears extremely questionable, whether that part of the warrant is founded on a system likely to prove economical to the public purse. The question is as to the saving which arises from granting a reduced pension at twenty-one years, instead of waiting until after twenty-four years' service. The chance of getting rid of pensioners at the period of life at which soldiers are discharged—and I must say, that I am extremely sorry to speak on the subject in this almost in human manner—is not sufficiently great to make it worth while, on that account, to make the difference between the twenty-one years and twenty-four years' service. I am, however, by no means quite clear as to the result of the inquiry that is going on on this subject; but if, on looking to the facts of the case, it should appear that the public are not gainers, a change will be made. I know that an opinion at present obtains in the War Office, that it is doubtful whether this part of the plan of the right hon. Gentleman is so beneficial to the public as it was at first thought it would be. I am ready to admit that for some time it was found advantageous; but I am now sorry to be obliged to observe, that recently there has been a considerable increase in the Pension List, which has been imputed 1204 to the operation of the regulation of the right hon. and gallant Officer. The number of pensions, in the latter part of 1831, does not nearly tally with the number as quoted by the right hon. Gentleman, as having been granted in that year. I admit that, in the first half year of 1831, as compared with previous years, there had been a decrease; but in the latter part of the year there was a great increase. In the first six months of that year, 527 pensions were granted; in the latter half year 1,484, making a total of 2,021, which greatly exceeds the number stated by the right hon. Baronet. I should conceive that the right hon. Gentleman made his calculations in the first six months.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
I took the average of the five years previous to my going into office; and I then took the period after this regulation was in force, including as much of 1831 as I had the returns for.
Sir John Hobhouse
I believe that the returns for the latter part of the year were not furnished until very recently. After this preliminary statement, I feel it necessary to allude more particularly to some of the observations that fell from the right hon. Gentleman. In the first place, with respect to the commutation of the pensions of the veterans which has been so much dwelt on by the right hon. Gentleman, I do not quite understand how he has arrived at the numbers. The returns at the War Office are only 1,581.
Sir John Hobhouse
I believe that Ireland is included. The right hon. Gentleman, however, said, that the number amounted to 2,000.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
I believe, if the right hon. Gentleman will refer to the noble Lord, the Paymaster of the Forces, he will find that upwards of 2,000 of the pensions of these veterans have been commuted, and paid by the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital. Indeed, I believe the true number is 2,300; but as I wished to be within the mark, I said 2,000.
Sir John Hobhouse
From the documents which I have before me, this appears to me much more than the number actually commuted. At any rate, I believe many of those persons were anxious to avail themselves of this, and they were allowed to do so. I believe, indeed, that the Colonial Office were not prepared to take more at that time. I admit that it is to 1205 be lamented that the commutation money was given to those men, as many of them made a most improper use of it, and, instead of going to the colony, they wasted it in profligacy and dissipation. It should, however, be taken into consideration, that men brought from all parts to the immediate vicinity of London—and more especially soldiers released from the check of strict control—were not likely to be the most strict in their conduct. I am aware, also, that many bad men, who would take advantage of anything, availed themselves of this arrangement to act in the manner described by the right hon. Gentleman. I believe several of these men escaped from the ships when on the point of sailing, and there is no doubt, as stated by the right hon. and gallant Officer, that when their money was expended, they became chargeable to their parishes. If the circumstances should turn out as described, I do not deny, that the Government ought to do something; at the same time, from the information received at the War Office, I have no reason to believe that the number of pensioners who have become chargeable to the parishes is so great as has been stated. I have a return from some parishes, and according to that, the total number appears to be seven, and among them two or three of the cases alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman. If, however, it should appear on examination, that the parishes have been so burthened, I can only say, that as at present advised, I shall take the same view of the case as the gallant Officer. Of course I do not pledge myself to anything, but I will inquire into the case; and if it should appear that the number is as great as has been stated, the subject must be taken into consideration, to see whether some remedy cannot be applied. I will add, however, to this statement, that as soon as the War Office was first made acquainted with these circumstances, they adopted much more precise regulations. I cannot, however, think that any blame is attributable to the War Office in consequence of the conduct of these men, for it is impossible for the ingenuity of man to devise regulations which bad and wicked men would not endeavour to escape from. I have before me a return of the number of cases in which it has been discovered that soldiers applying for pensions have sent in false affidavits of their ages and of the periods of service. The remedy for this evil must, 1206 of course, rest with the War Office, and I have no doubt that such regulations will be framed as to prevent the recurrence of this. There is no doubt, also, that the regulations, as to the granting pensions, require some alteration. I believe, from the documents on the Table of the House, that the average age of those who commuted these pensions is forty-five; the question is, whether this is not too early an age. It was suggested that the average age should be sixty, but it appears to me that that would be too late in life—and more especially in the life of a soldier—to become a settler in a foreign country. It is obvious, however, that whatever alterations or new arrangements may be made in this service, the War Office cannot have any other intention than to consider the interests of the soldier and of the country. Indeed, these interests may be considered as one; for, of course, anything which tends to increase the efficiency of the service must be advantageous to the country. With respect to the pensioners who were sent out to Canada for the purpose of being located, it appears from letters recently received at the Colonial Office, that they were going on extremely well, and had conducted themselves with the greatest propriety since they had been sent to those settlements. I believe when they first landed they were guilty of some irregularities and excesses; but this, perhaps, might be anticipated from this class of persons after a long and tedious voyage; but since that time they have conducted themselves with great steadiness. The greatest caution was exercised towards those persons who were more recently sent out, and great care was taken not to hold out expectations which could not be realized. We found that many of the men who were first sent out anticipated that they were to receive allotments of land, of a quality similar to that around London; and they were greatly disappointed, on arriving at Canada, to find that the land to be given to them was forest land. The Colonial Office have, in consequence of this, recently determined not to make grants of lands to pensioners who commute their pensions in this country, as it was considered to be often productive of evil and disappointment to hold out too great an inducement to the pensioners to commute their pensions. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman thinks it necessary for me to enter into further 1207 details on this subject. In conclusion, I can only repeat that the War Office hopes that every exertion will be used in those parts to improve the situation of the soldier, as far as can consistently be done—at the same time, that effectual checks are adopted to prevent the commission of fraud. I trust that the interests of the soldier will be looked after as they ought to be, as, by doing so, an important service will be rendered to the public. I will only add, that if the present regulations should appear objectionable, I am sure both the Government and the War Office would be happy to attend to any suggestions of the right hon. and gallant Officer, or of any other competent authority.
differed from the view taken of the subject by the right hon. Baronet. He was of opinion that it was the duty of Government to give commutation allowance to pensioners anxious to emigrate either to New South Wales, or to Canada; and, as to age being an objection, he saw no reason for entertaining such a notion. On the contrary, a man of sixty, if he had a family, whom he was anxious to see comfortably settled, with a prospect of being remunerated for their labour, was, in his opinion, a proper settler, but the commutation money had been paid injudiciously. The pensioners should only have received a small proportion of it in this country, and been paid the remainder on their arrival in the colony. If, however, they had wasted what they had been paid, they must suffer from their own improvidence; and he should resist any proposition to place them again on the pension-list. The Government might, perhaps, be justified in giving them a further moderate assistance to enable them to emigrate according to their original intention, but nothing further ought to be allowed. He could not, however, forbear taking that opportunity of complaining of the large increase of pensions which had taken place since the year 1814. It was impossible to doubt that much misconduct had existed somewhere. No investigation had been gone into, for some time back, into this matter; and he believed some few of the non-commissioned officers in regiments, where false returns of the ages or services of soldiers recommended for pensions had existed, were punished; but he should be glad to know whether any superior officer who had connived at such a practice—if such a case could be found—had also been 1208 made an example of. He was also of opinion, that the rate of the pension should not be the same for services in peace as in war. This was a subject which, he trusted, would be taken into consideration by Government, and that his suggestion would be acted upon. He was ready, at the same time, to admit, that the right hon. and gallant Officer had done more than all his predecessors to improve the civil management of the army, in his capacity of Secretary-at-War.
Lord John Russell
In answer to the question of the hon. Member, I have only to say, that the inquiry he has alluded to, relative to frauds committed in making returns of the ages of men, is not yet finished, but I believe it will be completed in the course of a few weeks; of course, until then, it will be impossible to adopt any measure on the subject. In the course of the labours of this Court of Inquiry, it has been discovered that many soldiers have had pensions granted to them whose time of service was falsely stated in their discharges. With respect to the commanding officers of regiments conniving at this practice, I do not know that any such case has been discovered; but there, undoubtedly, has been great carelessness with regard to this matter. The hon. Gentleman suggested that there should be a difference between the pensions granted in times of war and peace; but if the hon. Gentleman had seen the state of the regiments when they returned from our foreign possessions, such as the Ionian Islands, Malta, or the West-Indies, and was aware of the sufferings the soldiers had to undergo in those places, he would not think that a difference of this sort should be made. I trust that no proposition of this nature will ever be sanctioned by the House, or that the suggestion will ever be acted upon in our service. I am sure that the severe service that some of our regiments have to undergo in our foreign possessions, is equal to anything that they suffer in time of war. With respect to the Pension List, I have no doubt that the regulations adopted in 1829, by the right hon. and gallant officer, while Secretary at War, will tend materially to the reduction of the Pension List. I think that the plan of giving conditional pensions for one or two years, instead of for life, will prevent many men from becoming a burthen on their country, and will enable them to return to their duties with re-established health. Of course, 1209 however, on this, as on other matters, a considerable discretionary power must be left to the Secretary at War. With respect to those men whose pensions are commuted, I will trouble the House with only one or two observations. The expense of passage was greater than was stated by the right hon. Gentleman, and a larger proportion was defrayed by the public. The hon. member for Middlesex is wrong in supposing that the whole of the commutation money is paid to the pensioners in London. A third of the money was given to each pensioner in London; a third was given to each man, by the master of the vessel, on his landing in Canada, and the remainder on his settling. I cannot help thinking, that, if this plan had been judiciously acted upon, it would have been beneficial both to the soldiers and the colony. It is not, however, surprising, when we consider the general character and habits of soldiers, that many of them did not behave with that degree of propriety which could have been wished, but it is gratifying to hear that, since their arrival, their behaviour has been exemplary in a high degree. I concur in opinion with the gallant General, that a considerable degree of the inconvenience arose from not giving the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital a greater control. The Secretary at War alone had the power of granting pensions, and the only thing that was done at Chelsea was to pay them. I think that the Commissioners at Chelsea should have the power of remedying abuses when they discover them, instead of being obliged to apply to the War Office on the subject. I agree also with the hon. member for Middlesex, that great caution ought to be exercised in giving new pensions to those men, who squandered in so shameful a manner the money which they had received to go abroad. I think that, if this course were pursued, it would afford a very bad example. I think that one of the great advantages of the present mode of paying pensions to those men who have served their country so long is, that they are still continued under the control of the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital, who have the power of withdrawing these pensions in case of misbehaviour. I shall only add, that I quite agree with that part of the statement of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, in which, he stated, that no army in the world had to perform such severe 1210 service as the army of England. I think, therefore, that they are entitled to the consideration of the House, and that no time can be ill bestowed in considering what measures can be adopted, so that the soldiers may end their days as comfortably as possible.
§ Sir Adolphus Dalrymple
I entirely concur with the hon. member for Middlesex, that the country is under the greatest obligations to my right hon. friend, for the admirable arrangements he introduced into the War Office. I think also that the observations respecting the commutation of the pensions made by my right hon. friend, are deserving of the most serious attention. The present regulations are, of course, founded upon those of Mr. Windham, which were called into operation in 1806. That distinguished man was well acquainted with human nature, and, therefore, exerted himself to protect the soldier from the oppression of the War Office by those regulations. It appears, however, that the rate of commutation is directly in opposition to those regulations. It appears, that, according to the arrangements of the present Government, the commutation money given to the soldier for his pension, at any period of life, is equal to only four years payments of his annuity. I do not believe that this is acting upon a fair principle, notwithstanding this commutation is accompanied with a grant of land in the Canadas. It appears, however, that this grant is not to be continued, and, consequently, the value of the commutation is diminished. With respect to those who, after having availed themselves of the offer to commute for their pensions, refused to go to Canada, I think the right hon. Gentleman has not stated anything like the real number. I went this morning to the vestry-clerk of the parish in which I reside—namely, St. George's, Hanover-square—and asked him whether there were any army pensioners dependent on the parish; and he informed me that there were twelve or fourteen solely dependent on the parish, whose pensions had been commuted. I was also informed, that relief was often given to persons in the expectation of obtaining remuneration at the War Office, but, on going there it was not at all uncommon to find that the pensions had been commuted. The parish authorities are informed, that they have taken their money, and are no longer pensioners. I must 1211 say, however, that I think those who have commuted their pensions have been treated harshly, as many of them have received only 12l. out of 40l., at which sum they agreed to commute their pensions. I think, at least—and I am sure that the hon. member for Middlesex will agree in this—that the men ought to receive the remuneration of the 40l.
§ Sir George Murray
I will not detain the House more than a very few minutes. I think that the principle of encouraging the emigration of soldiers is good and wise, but it requires the strictest care and management. It should be recollected, that, during the greater part of their lives, everything is provided for the soldiers, even to their food; and, therefore, it is not surprising that they should be improvident when left to themselves. It is not to me a matter of astonishment that these men should squander the commutation-money they received for their pensions, for most of them would think that the sums they received were inexhaustible. I have always considered the plan of commutation to be most excellent, when it can be combined with settling the pensioners in Canada, I think that a more beneficial class of settlers cannot be sent out to the colonies than these military settlers. I do not see why the system of making grants of land in the colonies to this class of persons should not be greatly extended, for I am sure that it might be managed in such a way as to tend to the advantage and defence of the colony. In Canada, for instance, they might be placed in the weakest points or those districts most open to attack, for instance, on the shores of Lake Ontario. If this plan were acted upon to any extent, you would have military colonies in those districts most open to the incursions of an enemy. I was glad to hear the light hon. Secretary state, that he was satisfied that the interests of the army and the public were the same, and I am convinced that no regulation could be adopted which is injurious to the army that would not also prove detrimental to the public. I cannot sit down without also expressing my satisfaction at hearing the observations which fell from the noble Lord, relative to the nature of the services performed by the British army. As regards the army, we may always be said to be in a state of warfare, for regiments are constantly being moved from place to place, and may be called upon, at a very 1212 few hours notice, to depart to the most distant parts of the world. I am sure that the country will never be induced to sanction the withholding pensions to men unless in time of war; for it is obvious that the service, in periods of peace, is almost equally arduous and dangerous in our foreign possessions as it is in time of war.
I cannot agree with all the observations that have fallen from my right hon. and gallant friend opposite. I do not think that, it is expedient to appeal to the passions on a topic of this nature. I recollect that there are two sides of this question, and that the interests of others besides the soldiers should be consulted. The Pension List is most enormous; and if it goes on increasing at the rate it has increased for some years past, it will, I fear, become a question in this House whether we shall be able to keep up a standing army. My hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, has more than once recommended that the Militia should be called out more frequently, and even that that force should be increased, so that we might be able to dispense with a portion of our regular troops. This is in consequence of the enormous charge of the dead weight; and I fear that if this is not soon diminished, a feeling in favour of some arrangement of this nature will become more general throughout the country. If, by the adoption of any plan of this nature, we should lessen the efficiency of the standing army, we shall expose ourselves to the attacks of other nations, and lose all that influence we at present possess. With respect to the arrangements introduced, as to pensions, by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, I am sure no one can appreciate the value of them more than I do, and I can speak practically, as the commanding-officer of a regiment. I trust, however, that no time will be lost before efficient measures are taken to reduce this enormous burthen. At present, the amount of these pensions is above 1,600,000l., being about one-fourth of the Army Estimates. I have heard many military officers assert, that, if this evil goes on, it would be better not to allow any pensions, than to run the chance of diminishing the efficiency of the British Army. I think that the system of allowing soldiers to commute their pensions, for the purpose of settling in the colonies, is most excellent, and I hope that it will 1213 not be lost sight of; but that such arrangements will be made, as to prevent the recurrence of the unfortunate circumstances which have been alluded to. My hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, said, he did not think that, even if a pensioner is between sixty and seventy, and has a family, he should not be allowed to commute his pension, and settle in the colonies. I do not dissent from this, but of course, the circumstances of each case must be taken into consideration; and, I think it would be found, in most instances, that these men do not generally go out for the purpose of providing for themselves, but rather, with the hope of making some provision for their posterity. I am convinced that, if proper care be taken, this plan may be made most beneficial to the settlers—most beneficial to the parish, by taking off the wifes and families of these pensioners—most beneficial to the country, in diminishing our present superfluous population—and most beneficial to the colony, in adding a most useful class of settlers, both in a civil and military point of view. I trust, that any partial failure will not induce my right hon. friend to abandon entirely this most useful scheme.
I certainly heard with some surprise the gallant Officer charge my right hon. and gallant friend with endeavouring to excite the passions of the House. I am satisfied that my right hon. friend had no intention of doing so; but it is impossible to touch upon this subject without, in some degree, exciting the sympathies of all. The gallant Officer said, that, if the Pension List is allowed to go on increasing, as it has done since the peace, it will be impossible for the country to continue to bear the weight of the present efficient standing army. I think that the conduct of my right hon. and gallant friend, when he was in office, at once shows that he was not indifferent to this subject. I am sure the gallant officer will admit that my right hon. friend exerted himself greatly to promote this object; but he is desirous that we should do so by means which are not liable to the objections which can be urged against the present plan. He objects to holding out an inducement to the soldiers to part with their pensions at a price much less than their value. He does not object to the principle of commutation; he objects to the manner in which it is carried into effect. At present, you 1214 tell the soldier that he shall not sell his pension to the man who will give him the full value for it, but that he shall sell it to the Government, who will not do so. I, therefore, agree with my right hon. friend in his objection. I understand, also, that the amount of the commutation has recently been diminished, as now no grants of land in the colonies are allowed; so that if a man is desirous of commuting his pension, he must do it at a great sacrifice. I am convinced that a system of this nature might be adopted, which would, at the same time, be beneficial to the soldier and the country; but the present plan, as has been clearly shown by my right hon. friend, is manifestly unjust.
could not see any reason why the soldiers serving in the infantry should be put on a different footing from the cavalry soldiers. He did not think that the noble Lord had answered the observations of his hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, relative to making a distinction between times of peace and war, as to the granting of pensions. The noble Lord said, that many regiments returned from unhealthy climates: in cases of that sort an exception might be made; but he did not think the rule should be general.
§ Lord Howick
The right hon. Gentleman has stated that the soldiers have been defrauded of a part of their commutation money, in consequence of not having the grants of land in the colonies continued to them. Now, I am at a loss to understand how this objection can be urged, as the soldiers now will have grants of land made to them if they proceed as other settlers to Canada. The reason why the former system of giving each of these men grants of fifty acres each was not continued was, because the greater portion of them had not, when they arrived at the place of their destination, sufficient capital to cultivate the grant. It was considered, therefore, that the tempting offer of this grant made men go upon a more desperate enterprise, without being sufficiently aware of the nature of the difficulties they had to contend with. It appeared that most of these pensioners who went out from this country, anticipated that they should receive grants of cleared land fit for immediate cultivation—land such as is cultivated in England; but when they found that only forest land was granted to them, they manifested great surprise, and appeared to think that they had been deceived. 1215 The right hon. and gallant Gentleman said, that, by pursuing this plan military colonies might be formed at the western points of our possessions; but I fear that we never could send out a sufficient number of men to make this suggestion available to any extent. According to a despatch from Quebec, of November 24th, the general conduct of these men has been excellent; and, although some slight excesses occurred on their landing, no other complaints had been made against them.
said, of course the grant of land was a part of the commutation; for a soldier would hardly commute his pension for four years' purchase without this grant.
§ Order of the Day read.
§ On the question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, I am sure that the House will agree with me that the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman is satisfactory, as far as it goes, and that this discussion will have produced some beneficial results, if it causes justice to be done to some of these individuals, as in the case of Gray, and makes the Government more careful and more humane in the mode of commuting pensions; more particularly as it is admitted by the right hon. Baronet that sufficient precautions were not taken in the first instance. It is evident, from the details I have given the House, that there has been no examination by medical officers in the case of several of these sick and mutilated men, of their capacity and fitness to undertake the difficulties of struggling with a severe climate in a wilderness. That this inspection by medical officers may have taken place latterly I have no doubt; but the blame originally is with the War Office, for allowing such men to commute at all. I trust that in these, and all justifiable cases, a man will be replaced on the Pension List, although he may have taken a commutation. When I state that 300, 400, or 500 men have failed to embark after receiving commutation, I have been asked by the hon. member for Middlesex, why should these men be allowed to continue pensioners? What I proposed to the right hon. Baronet was, that any pensioner who had failed to embark—if any justifiable reasons were found for his not doing so, on investigation of his case, might be allowed to be replaced on the 1216 Pension List, after a reduction had been made from his pension of the amount of commutation money he had received. The hon. member for Middlesex has said, that it would be a gross encouragement to the commission of frauds. Now, my proposition was, not to replace the man on the Pension List, and, as a matter of course, thus allow him to enjoy the fruits of any fraud; but as in the case of a man of the name of Gray, to replace him so that the public should lose nothing, by stopping the amount of the commutation received from the pension. The rule of never replacing a man on the Pension List after accepting commutation, if strictly applied, would be found, in some cases, to be extremely hard. For instance, there is a case in point mentioned to me by an officer whom I met this day. A man in the Dragoons, whose name I do not recollect, accepted a commutation of his pension: he had taken his passage on board a ship, but the vessel was prevented from sailing for Quebec by the state of the weather; between the time of his taking his passage and the period of the sailing of the vessel, he was taken ill, and was prevented from joining his ship; and yet this unfortunate man's pension is taken away from him. If the hon. member for Middlesex would inquire into cases of this description, I think he would at once admit the necessity of replacing these men on the Pension List. There would be no loss to the public, and I really think it would be nothing but an act of justice and fair play to these poor fellows. The right hon. Baronet must have made some mistake, when he alluded to the diminution of the pensions in 1830 and 1831. He alluded to months: I went through the years, and showed a diminution of pensioners in 1830, as compared with 1827, of 1,900. Again, in the year 1831, only 1,678 permanent pensions were granted; being a diminution of 1,800. I suspect, as compared with the average of five years, the right hon. Gentleman must have mixed up the temporary pensions in his account; the difference between the two years, 1830 and 1831, is, in reality, only eighty men, and is so trifling, that it is impossible for him to deduce any argument from it as to the working of the new regulation. The right hon. Gentleman says, that he conceives that that part of the regulations I introduced, by which a soldier, after twenty-one years' actual service, 1217 may accept a reduced pension of 10d. a-day, instead of that given him by Mr. Wyndham's Act, has failed in practice, as being too expensive. Now, I am prepared, whenever the right hon. Gentleman chooses to go into the question, to prove, by my calculations, that a saving of 15,000l. or 20,000l. each year will be effected on this point alone—assuming 500 men each year to take the reduced pension. As it would be very difficult, indeed, to enter into the calculations of an actuary in this House, even if I had the papers here, he will agree that it is better not to enter into the subject now; but, I beg to repeat, that a great saving will be, and has been, effected on this point. Even if there were not a saving, I do not see how the right hon. Gentleman could allow junior soldiers, of between fourteen and twenty-one years' service, to receive their discharge with a gratuity, refusing the same indulgence to the old soldier who has served one-and-twenty years. The soldier who, by sobriety and regular conduct, has preserved his health and bodily powers after that period of service, would think it a case of great hardship that he should be deprived of the benefits which are bestowed upon his juniors. With regard to the observations of the hon. member for Middlesex, on the subject of frauds detected in the regiments, I have only to say, that they were very numerous: they were investigated with the greatest strictness. The cases of the men were brought before the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital, at which the late Paymaster General, a most kind-hearted and intelligent individual, presided. The Commissioners are composed of both civil and military officers; and I can only say, having attended that Board as regularly as my other avocations would permit, that, during the two years, I think it was impossible to carry into effect the regulation to its strictest extent, that, because a man had committed a fraud, to which the laxity of the system in the orderly-room was too great a temptation, he was to be deprived of his pension altogether. I will state a case which will show how impossible it was for the Commissioners to act on any such principle. The Serjeant Major of the 29th regiment, one of the most gallant regiments in the service, committed a fraud, by which his years of service were made to appear greater than they really were. He had a pension of 2s. per day. I believe the hon. and gallant officer opposite, the member 1218 for Poole, who commanded that regiment for so many years, will recollect the case. His name was reported by the Military Committee, and sent in to the Commissioners, and he was ordered to be struck off the list of pensions. A reference was made by the man to Colonel Hodges, his Commanding Officer, who returned for answer:—I have known Serjeant—for twenty-one years, and his conduct during that time has been most exemplary, particularly at the battle of Rolica, in 1808, on which occasion he received three wounds, and was publicly thanked by his Commanding Officer.The minute dated at Chelsea, in 1830, is to this effect:—He has forfeited his pension, but in consideration of his gallant conduct and exemplary behaviour, as certified by his Commanding Officer, the Commissioners are induced to place him on the Pension List at 1s. per day.Now, this is the way in which we were obliged to deal with such cases; and when we found that the temptation to the commission of fraud had been very great, and that a certificate of good conduct could be produced, we thought it too hard that such men, after long service, and great bravery in the field, should be thrown pennyless on the world. This case may serve to illustrate several hundred of cases which came before the Commissioners of Chelsea Hospital. My hon. and gallant friend, the Surveyor General of the Ordnance, when he talks of my having made an appeal to the passions of the House, will, I think, do me the justice to say, that I might have made such an appeal with some effect, if I had chosen; for if I were to contrast the Orders in Council in favour of the negroes with what has been done for the old soldiers, I am satisfied the result would prove the regulations to be most severe against the latter. My hon. and gallant friend, the member for Rye (Col. Evans) observed, that he thought the cavalry soldiers ought to be allowed to reckon their period of service on an equality with the infantry. But the gallant officer must recollect that the cavalry, generally speaking, do not serve in the colonies, and it would be very unjust to place them on the same footing as the infantry, when the great wear and tear upon the constitution is chiefly caused by colonial service. I will not enter into this question any further at present: I will content myself by merely saying, that the attention of Government 1219 ought to be directed to this subject; and, if it is well considered, and with prudence—if it is considered with fairness—if it is considered with that caution which I have recommended in two successive Parliaments, I am satisfied that the Pension List may be reduced, and the soldier benefitted; but if the system of which I complain be persevered in, then, I repeat, it is ruinous to the soldier, burthen some to his parish, and discreditable to the Government.
Sir John Hobhouse
The first objection which has been made is with respect to the hardship of only allowing a soldier to commute four years' pay; and we have been told that it is a very hard case that the Act does not allow any more. All I can say, in reply to that charge is, that the right hon. Gentleman opposite was the author of the order which directed this regulation; and I presume, therefore, that he can give the right hon. Gentleman, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the best answer upon the subject. The words of that order are precise, and cannot be mistaken—"four years' pay as an equivalent." Now, Sir, with respect to that part of the plan which has been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman—that, in case any men should fail to follow up the commutation by going out, the War Office shall have it in its power to make a fresh arrangement with them, and to replace them on the Pension List—I must beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman, that the Act of Parliament gives the War Office no such discretion. I will take the liberty of reciting the terms of the Act; and, after I have done so, I think the right hon. Gentleman will at once see that, if this discretion be given to the War Office, an Act of Parliament must be introduced repealing the former Act. The Act says—'And the receipt of the person receiving such commutation, or equivalent, or other proof of his having accepted an equivalent, or commutation in lieu of such share of pension, shall be a good discharge for the same, and the sum so paid shall be considered as a release and abandonment of all claims to any future or other payment of pension.' Now, I must say, that I rather think these words would preclude any Secretary at War from giving to the soldiers any new claim, they having, by this Act, forfeited their old one. I beg leave to state now to my hon. friend, the member for Middlesex, with 1220 respect to what I said before, that if, upon examination at the War Office, I find that there is in the statement of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, that which makes it imperatively the duty of the Government to take the case into consideration, and, in fact, to change completely—because I rather think that is, in point of fact, the right hon. Gentleman's proposal—the mode in which the principle of commutation is carried into effect—the Government will consider it their bounden duty so to do. Here is the observation which may, perhaps, be applicable to this part of the question, which, I believe, I did not state before. The right hon. Gentleman is quite mistaken if he supposes that the whole of the sum allowed for commutation is put at once into the hands of the pensioners. Only a certain portion is given them at first; and in all these cases the greatest possible care has been taken that the money should not be paid until it is almost certain that the soldier has actually gone abroad. With respect to the certificates, I beg to state, for the information of the right hon. Gentleman, that not only a medical certificate, but three or four other certificates are required. I will just state the nature of them, because it is rather important that the House and the country should not be induced to suppose, that if there were any trivial mistakes made in the outset, proper steps have not since been taken to cure those mistakes by the Government. First, the pensioner makes a statement as to his age, rate of pension, trade, or calling—whether he his married, and if he has any children, their names and the dates of their births—then, whether he intends carrying on a trade when he gets out, and what means he has of conveying himself to the colony. Then, there is another certificate required of the name and address of the minister of the parish in which the pensioner resides, of the name and address of the Magistrate before whom the affidavit was made; then another certificate from a medical man as to the state of the pensioner's health; and, finally, a certificate from one or more respectable householders as to his general character. It is very possible, and I regret to say that, in many of the cases very probable, that the unfortunate habits of the applicants may induce them to evade all the checks imposed by these certificates, and to elude the vigilance of the Government. I cannot help thinking, however, 1221 that the Government has done its duty in making these requisitions; and the only thing which remains to be done is, to inquire whether the age which is fixed as the limit beyond which no pensioner shall be sent out to the colonies, is or is not a proper one. There are differences of opinion on this point, certainly.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
I would beg leave to read the part of the article which contains the provision to which I alluded, as I dare say the right hon. Gentleman only having entered office, I believe, in February last, is not acquainted with it. In the articles for the regulation of the army, signed by the King;—I do not intend to infer that the right hon. Gentleman has any want of the duties of his office; far from it: considering the short period he has filled it, I am sure his answers are very clear and satisfactory; but he may not be, perhaps, aware of the following passage in the articles for the regulation of pensioners, signed by his Majesty;—'Where grants of land can be made in the colonies, the precise terms of the grant, and the most advantageous mode of paying the gratuity, shall be explained to the soldier before he receives his discharge; and, when he has been settled three months, and is actually residing on his grant, the Government, under authority from the Secretary at War, may, in addition to the gratuity, allow the soldier a quarter's pension at 6d. a day, and may, from time time, renew it for a period not exceeding one year.' Now, one of the points of which I complain is, that the Secretary at War should, by a War Office letter of his, not have given to the old pensioner, with whom a most profitable bargain is made for the public, that advantage which the King's regulation affords to younger men discharged upon gratuities; in favour of which the Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada has stated his opinion.
§ The House resolved itself into Committee.
§ On the question that the Bill be read paragraph by paragraph,
§ Mr. Hunt
said—When the Marine Mutiny Bill was before the Committee, on the question that it be read paragraph by paragraph, I asked the then Chairman to stop at the clause which related to corporal punishment, not extending to life or limb. I was then told by the Chairman—I think, by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland— 1222 yes, by the right hon. Secretary for Ireland—and by the right hon. the Secretary for the Treasury—that there were no such words as those in the Mutiny Act; so I was put down, and the Mutiny Act was not even read clause by clause. Upon the assurance of these Gontlemen, and giving way, as I now wish I had not done, to their, as I supposed, superior knowledge of the subject, I let the opportunity pass without moving that the words should be left out. I now see that the 24th Clause in both the Acts contains the words to which I then objected. With regard to the Marine Mutiny Bill, I must say, that I never saw on any occasion, although I have seen a good deal in this House, anything passed over in such a slovenly manner. The right hon. Secretary for Ireland told me there were no such words in the Act, and, as far as I recollect, so did the right hon. Secretary for the Treasury, and the then Chairman, Mr. Ponsonby. I would appeal to the right hon. Secretary at War whether this is not the fact? And now I find, in the 24th Clause of the Bill, these words—'Provided also, and be it further enacted, that it shall be lawful for any such general Court-martial to inflict the punishment of imprisonment, solitary or otherwise, or corporal punishment, not extending to life or limb, as such Court-martial shall think fit.' I, therefore, do complain, that I was prevented from making the motion which I called on the Chairman to allow me to make, by his acceding to the statement to which I have referred. All that I have now to request is, that, when the clause is arrived at, I should have an opportunity of moving that the words "corporal punishment, not extending to life or limb," be struck out.
§ Mr. Spring Rice
said, that, if he had misdirected the hon. member for Preston, he had no wish to lead him astray. He had thought the words were not in the Bill.
denied that he had stated the words were not in the Mutiny Act; and repelled the assertion that he had gone through the Bill in a slovenly manner, when in the Chair. He denied, also, that he had at all misled the hon. member for Preston.
§ Mr. Hunt
said, it was the duty of the Chairman of the Committee to have examined whether there was or was not such a clause in the Bill before him. The 1223 assertion that the Marine Mutiny Bill contained no such clause had been reiterated by the right hon. the Secretary for Ireland.
appealed to the House whether the hon. Member did not charge him, in common with other hon. Gentlemen, with asserting that the words were not in the Act.
§ On the question that the clause relating to Courts-martial have the power of inflicting the punishment of death, stand part of the Bill,
An Hon. Member
said, this is a clause of very great importance, and I would beg to ask, whether officers, who are under age and very young in the service, are allowed to sit on Courts-martial? I must say, that I think they ought not, and I hope some regulation will be introduced to prevent them.
§ Mr. Robert Grant
The officers who compose a Court-martial, are selected by the Commander-in-Chief, who, of course, makes choice of those who are most experienced and best qualified to perform this duty properly. I believe that, in almost every case abroad, the greatest care is taken to secure an efficient and impartial tribunal.
The Hon. Member
Cannot any officer who has been in the service six months, sit upon a Court-martial?
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
The fact is, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite has stated. The officers who compose a Court-martial are in general, selected by the Commander-in-Chief. Now, it certainly is very desirable that no technical objection should prevent a Court-martial being formed abroad in foreign service, and, in many such cases, the strength of the garrison would not admit of the whole court being composed of old officers. I must, therefore say, that I think the alteration which has been proposed would be found extremely inconvenient in practice.
I believe no officer is ever placed on a Court-martial who is not a man of experience; and I think every one will acknowledge that they always discharge their duties with the strictest honour and impartiality.
§ Mr. Hunt
If the law of the land de- 1224 clares that no person under twenty-one years of age, shall sit on a jury, I think it should equally apply to Courts-martial; and I certainly do not think that a man should be tried for his life, or, what is in many cases worse, be sentenced to corporal punishment, by young and inexperienced men.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On the question that Clause 7 stand part of the Bill,
§ Mr. Hunt
said, in moving that the words "corporal punishment not extending to life or limb" be omitted, I beg to state, that, when a short time since, I moved for a return of the number of soldiers in the army flogged in one year, I was under the erroneous impression that the floggings which we know take place to such an extent, and which the right hon. Secretary at War has often described in such strong terms, were public; but I see that, since I made that motion, the officers in the barracks have called their soldiers together, and reprimanded them for sending to the newspapers accounts of the punishments inflicted on the men. I saw an account in the papers soon after I made the motion to which I referred, in which it was stated that there were private punishments inflicted, which did not come before the public in any way, except through the soldiers themselves, or the medium of the public Press. I do think that the present, being a time of peace, is an additional argument in favour of the motion. Blackstone says, in his Commentaries, speaking of this law, that soldiers are placed in a much worse situation than any other class of his Majesty's subjects. I do hope, in time of peace, this state of things will not be allowed to continue. I have often heard with pleasure the speeches of the right hon. Secretary at War on the subject, in which, I am sure, he did it ample justice. Perhaps, now he is in office, he may find himself compelled to act differently, but I hope and trust he will not forget his old sentiments, and that he will take the subject into consideration. At all events, I shall take an early opportunity of moving for those returns; and, on that occasion, I shall bring forward strong cases for having that in human system of torture abolished, which consists in tearing the flesh of a soldier actually off his bones. Some gallant Officer behind me says "nonsense;" perhaps he has never witnessed the infliction of this punishment?
§ Mr. Hunt
Well, then, the gallant Colonel has been very fortunate. An officer once stated to me, that, when he went first into the army, being a young man, he was standing by, witnessing the execution of this punishment, and, after the man had been flogged some time, large pieces of clotted blood, and sometimes flesh, at every stroke of the cat, were thrown upon his waistcoat. He was so much affected and disgusted with the sight, that he turned away his head, when he was told by his commanding officer to face about, and do his duty. I am prepared to bring the officer who made this statement to the Bar of this House.
§ Mr. Hunt
I suppose then, the hon. Member was never in the Guards. Can it be said, now, that such punishments as these should be inflicted for some merely trivial disobedience of orders, such as staying out of quarters without leave? The question is, whether the system of discipline cannot be kept up without this system of punishment.
§ Sir John Byng
I certainly should be very sorry if it were to be supposed that the officers in the army are not as considerate, as humane, and as anxious for the welfare of their soldiers, as any other class of people; and if officers do witness the execution of this punishment, it should be recollected that their doing so is a matter of absolute necessity. I do not, however, rise so much for the purpose of advocating corporal punishment, as with the view of making some observations on what has been said by the hon. member for Preston. The hon. Gentleman thinks that this punishment is inflicted in private. He will allow me to tell him that he is altogether in the wrong. Every punishment must be registered, and if a soldier receives only one lash, it must be noted down. Now, if the House will do me the favour of attending to me for one moment, I will show it that it is totally impossible that punishment can be privately inflicted. By the general regulations of the army, every regiment undergoes an inspection every half-year by a general officer, whose duty it is to call for the production of the books. He calls for the defaulter's book, and the officer who has it in his possession is required, as a matter of course to produce it. If the general officer sees that a man 1226 has been punished, he looks to see whether he has been guilty of any offence deserving of severe punishment before. If he finds he has not, the general officer asks on what ground it is, that he was severely punished, he being a new offender; and the commanding officer states the reason why the punishment has been inflicted. He is also required to state the nature of the punishment, when and where it was inflicted, and whether it was proportionate to the offence. In short, there is no possible precaution that could be taken which is not adopted to prevent the possibility of a single man being flogged without absolute necessity. I have been thirty years in the service, and I will venture to say that the punishment is not now inflicted to one fiftieth part of the extent it used to be. In the last ten years alone, I am sure it has been reduced to one-tenth what it used to be. I am confident that this House may trust to a body of men who, I maintain, are as attentive to the wants and wishes of the soldiers, as any other set of men can by possibility be; and I trust the House will believe that punishment is never inflicted in these cases without a just and adequate cause. With this feeling, I must oppose the Motion of the hon. member for Preston, because I am satisfied that it is not required, and because I feel convinced that corporal punishment must be adopted in cases which will sometimes occur.
I am sure I have no wish to accuse the officers of the army of want of humanity. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has told us, that the flogging is not one-tenth part of what it used to be; and yet we have been refused the return. I think that this system of punishment ought to be abolished altogether; at all events, in time of peace. I am told there are some regiments in the service which are most admirably conducted, but in which no corporal punishment is ever inflicted. Now, I would beg to ask the hon. and gallant Officer who has just sat down, where would be the danger of trying the experiment of doing without this system in England for one year? If the flogging which is now inflicted is not one-tenth the amount of that which was inflicted a few years ago, God knows what the state of the army must have been then; and if the punishment has ever been fifty times its present amount, the British army must have been in a melancholy state indeed.
I agree with the hon. member for Middlesex, that the army must have been in a sad state, indeed, if it were in the situation to which he has adverted; but the hon. member for Middlesex is, I think, more conversant with what I should call matters of economical arrangements than with the army. A Bill has just left this House (I hope to be put down in another) for the purpose of introducing a Reform in the State. The spirit of emulation inspires the hon. member for Preston, and so he and his supporters are very desirous of reforming the army, in a manner which is, I think, a most indelicate interference with that establishment, which has been the admiration of all other countries, and which, I affirm, ever has been, and I hope will ever continue, the dread of our enemies. I never knew a single case in which punishment was not inflicted with the deepest regret on the part of the officers; and, under all the circumstances, I feel convinced that the House will not interfere with the regulations of the army, as I humbly submit, indeed, they have no right to do; and I hope that, should the House so interfere, the matter will be left to better judges of the subject than the hon. member for Preston, and the hon. member for Middlesex.
Sir John Hobhouse
The hon. member for Preston was certainly correct in stating that I have entertained—and I will add, that I still entertain—a strong opinion on this subject; and certainly, if the framing of the Mutiny Bill rested with me, I should like to try that experiment which has been adverted to with the home service. But the hon. member for Preston is, perhaps, not aware that the framing of the Mutiny Bill does not rest entirely with the Secretary at War. In form, it certainly does, but it certainly is not, in fact, his doing; and I have no hesitation in saying, that I had no more power to leave this clause out of the Bill than the hon. member for Preston himself had. I certainly entertain the opinion I have formerly expressed, that it is expedient to abolish the punishment of flogging; but, at the same time, I am bound to state, that all the old experienced authorities whom I have consulted, are of an entirely different opinion. There is no person with whom I have conversed on the subject, since I have been in office, who has not assured me that such a step would be most detrimental to 1228 the interests of the service. That is their opinion; I certainly cannot say that it is mine. A very strong public opinion has been expressed on this subject; but I believe I may say, that the regulations which were introduced by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, transferred a great power from individuals to general Courts-martial, and produced an alteration which has been productive of the very best and most advantageous effects. I do not know that it is necessary for me to explain, at the present moment, why the returns to which the hon. Gentleman has adverted were refused. I do not know that there is any desire to keep this subject secret. The hon. and gallant General behind me (Sir John Byng) truly stated, that a register is kept of the punishments which are inflicted. That register is at the Horse Guards—the Horse Guards exercise a supervision over it, but I am not aware that there is any disposition whatever to keep it secret. There were one or two other reasons against the production of these Returns, which I will not trouble the House with at present; the rather, as the hon. Gentleman says, that he will make this the subject of a distinct motion. He certainly has enlarged his Motion. In the first instance, it was confined, I believe, to a single regiment; and now it is to extend to the whole army. I must say, that I think this is rather an invidious mode of dealing with the question; and, unless the hon. Gentleman states better grounds in support of his Motion than he advanced on a former occasion, I shall feel compelled to refuse to accede to it.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
I feel extremely obliged to the right hon. Baronet for bearing testimony to the beneficial results of any changes which I may have introduced; but I regret to differ from the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the principle on which he has placed the formation of the Mutiny Act. I must confess that I take a very different view of that subject, for I think that the Secretary at War is, in a constitutional point of view, the proper person to draw up the Mutiny Bill and the Articles of War. He is bound to stand between the civil subject and the military, and it is his duty to take care that the civil part of the community are properly protected, and that those who enter the army are not treated in an unnecessarily strict manner. If the right 1229 hon. Gentleman meant to say that he ought not to make any alteration in the Mutiny Act or the Articles of War, without the concurrence of the Commander-in-Chief, I entirely concur with him; but, having held that office of Secretary at War, I must maintain that it is, in a constitutional point of view, the duty of a Secretary at War to be responsible for all military transactions to this House and to the country. With regard to the opinions of the right hon. Baronet, as to corporal punishment, he has very fairly admitted, that every one he has consulted is opposed to him upon that subject, and that he still entertains an opinion contrary to that of every experienced officer in the army. I think this in itself, would be a most conclusive argument as to the propriety of retaining the system of corporal punishment; at the same time I must object to the observation of the right hon. Gentleman, by saying it would be perfectly unwise to make any experiment of doing away with corporal punishment in England and preserving it abroad. Why, the soldiers would be told, if such a proceeding were adopted, "While you remain in England your backs are safe; but, the moment you go out to fight your enemy, you will become subject to the infliction of corporal punishment." The necessity of corporal punishment, I will candidly own, appears to me to be very great, at home, as well as abroad. It is admitted, that our army is constituted in a different manner from any other in Europe—by voluntary enlistments; and the consequence is, that a very different description of men enter the army to those taken by conscription. Previously to the introduction of the system of conscription, it was the custom for Russia, France, and Austria, to use corporal punishment of the severest kind. What induced them to alter the system? The introduction of conscription. When it was introduced from necessity, it was found, that if the yeomen and shopkeepers were called to serve in the army—if they were liable to be called on to defend their country—there was not the same necessity for corporal punishment as when a different class of men were enlisted. But, when you have to deal with an army like the British, which serves in the colonies, in the East and West Indies, and is exposed to every kind of hardship and trial, it would be found impossible to raise it by conscription. When you enlist a set of 1230 as fine fellows as can be found anywhere, if their utter recklessness of danger constitutes, as it does, a military qualification, the very irregularities of their previous lives, which, very likely, have been the cause of their enlisting, it is necessary to preserve that strict degree of discipline which corporal punishment alone can give; and I cannot disguise my opinion, that, if corporal punishment were abolished, the army of this country would no longer remain in its present admirable state of discipline. I would ask any hon. Member, does he think that an armed body of men would be tolerated in this country for a single day, if it were not for the admirable state of discipline in which the men are kept? Would any householders submit to riotous conduct and disorderly behaviour on the part of the military? Certainly not: and yet, look to the conduct of his Majesty's Foot Guards in this town—look to the excellent terms of harmony and good feeling in which they stand with the citizen, and then look at the discipline which is preserved among them. I have such a dislike to agitating the subject of corporal punishment, that I believe I have very seldom made any observations in this House upon the subject, but the result of my experience certainly is, that corporal punishment is necessary, for the strict conduct of the men, and the credit and discipline of the service. I could state facts to show that corporal punishment in the army has very much diminished within the last few years; but as the hon. member for Preston has expressed his intention of making a specific motion on the subject, I shall reserve myself for that occasion.
§ Lord Althorp
I understood my right hon. friend, the Secretary at War, to say, that it was impossible for him to have omitted this clause, even if he had been disposed to do so. Now, I have heard many discussions on this subject, and I need not say that my opinion has been in favour of the abolition of corporal punishment; but I regret to say that I do not think the service could be effectually carried on without it. The cases in which it is inflicted are of an atrocious description.
§ Mr. Robert Grant
The King has the authority of appointing the Courts-martial which shall have the power of inflicting this punishment, and I think there is a very good security that it is not improperly exercised, With respect to the returns 1231 which have been alluded to, I can only say, that they could not have been granted without causing an exposure prejudicial to the service. I feel myself bound to say, after having, in the situation which I have the honour to fill, made it my duty to make particular inquiry upon the subject, that the change which has recently been made, in substituting imprisonment for corporal punishment, has had a most beneficial effect. I will mention to the House a fact which will at at once demonstrate this. In comparing the number of corporal punishments which took place in the year 1821, with the number inflicted in 1831, I found that in the latter year a diminution had taken place in the proportion of twelve to one. With respect to the punishment by imprisonment, that has tended greatly to supersede corporal punishment. In 1811 the ratio of corporal punishments to other punishments was about two to one; whereas, in the last year the ratio was only one to five: a great diminution of such punishments in the army is, therefore, apparent; but I will not enlarge upon the subject now. When the general question of military punishments comes on, I shall be happy to enter into the consideration of it, and assist those Gentlemen whose humanity impels them to take a deep interest in the subject, in ascertaining what ought to be finally determined upon. I will now only venture to throw out one hint to those Gentlemen, which is, considering how much punishment in the army has been mitigated in point of practice, and how much the principle which they themselves advocate—namely, that lenient punishments are more salutary than severe ones—has been illustrated in the substitution of imprisonment for corporal punishment—I would suggest for their consideration, whether much more may not be done by leaving this power to inflict corporal punishment in the Mutiny Act—at the same time that every possible means are used to diminish its practical application, either by regulations emanating from the office which I have the honour to hold, or by the introduction of some alterations in the Articles of War—than can possibly be effected by constantly exciting discussions in this House on the subject—which discussions must have a tendency to increase the desire on the part of the officers to have the power retained in the Act. I will add only one other observation, 1232 namely, that in point of fact, corporal punishment has greatly diminished; and I shall be happy to lend every aid which the situation I fill will enable me to do, to the further diminishing of it so far as it can be done consistently with the proper maintenance of military discipline.
§ Mr. Kemmis
It seems to be the desire of Gentlemen on both sides of the House that corporal punishment in the army should be diminished as much as possible; and I hope that his Majesty's Government will take some means to effect that object. I can assure the House that it is very rarely that corporal punishments are inflicted in the militia. The officers of the army are by no means desirous to exercise that power with severity, though I believe it is their wish that the power should remain to them, as it is some times found more effectual to inflict a slight corporal punishment than to imprison the men. I can likewise bear my testimony to the correctness of the statement made by the right hon. and gallant Officer (Sir Henry Hardinge). During the last two years, I can assure the House, I have never been present at any Court-martial where sentence of corporal punishment has been given; nor have I during that period seen any such punishment inflicted. But, with regard to the punishments which are used in the foreign service, the real amount of punishment is much greater than in the British army; for, in consequence of their not inflicting corporal punishment by flogging, they are obliged to substitute the torture.
§ Mr. Hunt
What has fallen from the hon. and gallant Officer is, in my opinion, worthy the attention of his Majesty's Government. I am not at all sorry that I have caused this discussion, because, from the observations which have been made by the several speakers, and more especially by the gallant Officers who have taken part in the debate, it appears that there has been a great diminution of corporal punishments in the army. It has been stated by the right hon. and gallant Officer, (Sir Henry Hardinge) that it would not be possible to keep up the discipline of the army unless the power of imposing corporal punishment existed. Now, I am disposed to believe, that this is his conscientious opinion; but I am sorry that his experience as an officer makes him entertain that opinion. I do not accuse him of any disposition to exercise an 1233 unnecessary degree of severity in the army; though I cannot help believing that it is quite possible that a civilian, who has no predilections upon the subject, but looks at it only in the light of a question of humanity, may possibly be as likely to form a correct opinion as one whose professional bias might naturally incline him to covet a power, and even suppose it necessary, because it happens that he has hitherto possessed it. I was glad to hear the testimony given by the right hon. Secretary at War to the benefits that have resulted from the recent arrangements which have been made, and that the consequence has been, a considerable diminution of this cruel species of infliction. I beg to offer the right hon. Baronet my humble tribute of thanks for his having been the means of effecting this change. But, after all that has been said, the description which I gave of one flogging alone has not been contradicted. An hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Sibthorpe) says, that this is an indecent interference with the British army; but I am not talking of indecency, I am talking of a species of torture that is fifty times worse than anything indecent. I speak of a punishment by which the flesh is torn from the bones of men, and the life of the sufferer is in many instances put in the greatest jeopardy, if not actually destroyed. An hon. and gallant Officer says, that foreign armies resort to a species of torture, but he does not condescend to tell us what that description of torture is. But I would ask, can the ingenuity of man devise a more horrible kind of torture than what is now practised in the Guards? I have been informed that a man in the Guards was brought out to receive 500 lashes, and that after receiving a part of them, his mind and whole frame were wrought up to that state of excitement, that the surgeon called out—"Hold! another blow will cause death!"—Can the hon. and gallant Officer tell me of a worse species of torture than this? Although it is the general opinion of military men in this House that the discipline of the army cannot be kept up without the power of inflicting this torture upon the men, yet that does not afford any argument to justify his Majesty's Ministers in withholding the return for which I have applied. If it be true that the cases in which the lash is inflicted are now very few, that is a reason why the Government 1234 should have granted me the return I asked for. The right hon. and gallant Officer has said, that there was no such thing as secret punishment practised in this country: he says, that the commanding officer must make a return of the punishment, and that it must be registered in a book, which goes to the Commander-in-Chief. Yes; and there it stops. I do not complain of there being anything secret so far as regards the army; but what I complain of is, that these things are entirely withheld from the public, who, in consequence, are impressed with a belief that this species of punishment is carried to an enormous extent. His Majesty's Government have therefore done great injustice to the army by withholding these returns. I am ready to believe, from the statement made by the right hon. the Judge Advocate, that punishments in the army have considerably diminished within these few years. I hope the time will come when corporal punishment will be done away with altogether. My motion is, "that these words shall be left out;" but I should say, "during peace." I am sorry that I entertain no hopes of carrying my motion.
§ Mr. Hunt
Why, perhaps, it would be invidious to do so. I certainly am delighted at what has fallen from the gallant Officers, and also from his Majesty's Ministers, during this discussion. Since I made the Motion for papers relating to this subject, I have observed that, in many instances men have been drummed out of the regiment. That I think is a much better method than the inflicting of torture by the lash.
§ Sir John Milley Doyle
I particularly agree in the opinion expressed by the hon. member for Middlesex, that this obnoxious and degrading punishment might be abolished in time of peace; although during active service, in time of war, it should be continued,
§ Amendment negatived without a division.
§ The other clauses agreed to, and the House resumed.