§ On the Motion that the Order of the Day for going into Committee of Supply, be read,
§ CAPTAIN LAYARD
said, that in again bringing under the consideration of the House this important Motion, of which he had already given notice, he had again to entreat the same kind indulgence and attention that had been before granted him—an indulgence which he felt would be required by the weakness of the advocate—an attention demanded by the goodness of the cause; and he felt that his hope of ultimate success, which had always been a strong one, was much strengthened by the alterations made by the last warrant, dated 13th December, 1845, and which was a strong move in the right direction, and for which he returned his sincere thanks to the late Secretary at War (Mr. Sydney Herbert), and he believed that feeling pervaded the army at large; at the same time he considered it had not gone far enough, and for that reason he meant to press his present Motion. It was no hastily formed opinion that he had come to, that a limited service would materially benefit the army and the country, as by that means, he felt assured, a much superior class of men would be found to enlist, and, consequently, less crime of every de- 289 scription would be committed, but particularly that of desertion—the greatest military crime of which a soldier could be guilty. He thought the best way of bringing this subject under consideration was to follow the plan he had pursued on a former occasion, and divide it under different heads. First, to urge upon them the impolicy of the present system, and the dislike evinced towards it not only by the soldier but by the country at large; and the fearful amount of crime to which it led, and the amount of punishment which consequently followed. Secondly, the arguments which might be brought against limited enlistment, which arguments he felt convinced he should be able successfully to combat. And, thirdly, he should be able to show that a vast saving of expense might and ought to be made, if the plan which he proposed should be followed. Taking into consideration the vast extent of territory, and the millions who acknowledged the sway of the British Crown, and which was not stationary, but even lately had been greatly increased by the hardwon fields on the banks of the Sutlej; when they took into consideration the smallness of the force by which the peace and integrity of that vast empire had to be maintained, it surely could appear to no one an unworthy subject of deep and serious consideration to see if steps might not be taken by which the army, on whom so much depended, might be placed in many respects on a more efficient footing. And when he brought under their consideration the returns which had been moved for by the hon. Member for Montrose, and other statements, the truth of which could not be denied, he felt he should prove to them that it was absolutely necessary that steps should be taken, and that immediately, by which the army might be put on a more efficient footing. Now he begged the House to give him its serious attention to these returns. First, he found that the desertions in Canada, Great Britain, and Ireland, in the years 1842, 1843, and 1844, amounted to 7,537. 4,638 of these deserters had been retaken, or given themselves up; still that left 2,899 unaccounted for, but this was from only one-half of the army of Great Britain; and what a serious expense must have been incurred in the rewards paid for taking those deserters, as well as their committals! The next return showed that from the 1st of January, 1839, to the 31st December, 1843, 3,355 men had undergone corporal punishment. 290 But the most astounding fact of all was, that the return stated, that from the 1st of January, 1839, to the 31st of December, 1843, there had taken place in the army 28,190 committals to imprisonment. The return he held in his hand showed from the year 1840 to the year 1845 the rewards paid for the apprehension of deserters, and the expense attendant on their committal and maintenance in gaol; likewise the expense attendant on the committal and maintenance of all other soldiers during the same period:—
Now, by this return it was shown, that in those five years 17,020l. had been paid for the apprehension, subsistence, and escort of deserters, and that 54,500l. had been paid for the maintenance of men in confinement. He (Captain Layard) thought that if he stopped there his case was made out; for who could, after such statements, believe the present system was a happy or beneficial one? Who could believe that a great portion of the men who composed that army had not bitterly repented of their engagement? Who could wonder that the people of this country should have the strongest objection to their sons entering the army? And well they might, for when a man once entered under the present system, he was lost to his family, and seldom could return, except, indeed, with a broken and impaired constitution. Young lads rarely enlisted from a predilection to a military life: that irretrievable and important step was commonly taken from some sudden thought or fit of passion, occasioned by a domestic broil, chagrin, or disappointment, inebriety or want of work, indigence, and perhaps a few were excited to take the shilling—the symbol of enlistment—by the finesse of the recruiting Serjeant. Till within a few weeks it had been next to impossible to get recruits in Ireland; but from the fearful visitation that was visiting that unhappy country many had been obliged to enter the army to save them from starvation. Some might figure to themselves in 291 their youthful fancies a thousand occasions of acquiring honour and distinction which never occurred: those romantic hopes made the whole price of their blood; their pay less than common labourers, and on actual service their fatigues far greater. Hurried away by the impetuosity of youth, the recruit was not aware of the consequences of his engagement; and it seemed the greatest anomaly in the law of the country that while a young man was incapacitated from making a will, not allowed to vote, not allowed to sit on a jury, that he should be allowed and be permitted to surrender his liberty for life. On a former occasion he had read to them some extracts from a work on the enlistment, discharging, and pensioning of soldiers, by Henry Marshall, deputy inspector of military hospitals, a work strongly advocating limited enlistment, and dedicated to Sir H. Hardinge, by whom the work was suggested. Now, in that book innumerable instances were mentioned to show the fearful suffering men would undergo in many instances to escape from the service; and he had upon a former occasion quoted some of them. But now he would mention two instances that had lately occurred, and which appeared in the newspapers of the day. The first was as follows:—
Years. Apprehension, Subsistence, & Escort of Deserters. Subsistence of other Soldiers in confinement Number of Rank & File in each year, exclusive of India. 1840–1 £2,634 £10,364 82,013 1841–2 4,385 10,779 80,970 1842–3 3,959 10,189 84,140 1843–4 2,874 10,213 88,737 1844–5 2,168 11,975 88,261George Hill, a private of the 67th Regiment, now in Dublin, was brought up this morning for examination, relative to the confession which, it will be recollected, he made, that he was the murderer of Eliza Grimwood. Inspector Field, of the London police, was sent to Dublin to take charge of the prisoner. On the passage across, the prisoner maintained the most rigid silence on the subject of the disclosure he had made, and scarcely spoke until he arrived in London. The prisoner, on being brought into court, walked up with an erect and firm step to the place assigned for offenders. He was attired in a scarlet jacket and white trousers, the foraging dress of his regiment. He is rather a slender young man, about 25 years of age, of pale complexion. He betrayed no symptoms of insanity, and seemed perfectly collected. Mr. Traill said, your name is George Hill, and you are a private in the 67th Regiment. Is that right?—Prisoner: My name is George Hill, but I do not admit being a private in that regiment. If I am it is entirely by compulsion, for I abhor the service. Inspector Field was sworn, and stated that he was present at College-street police-office on Monday, 1st inst., when the prisoner was brought before Mr. Tyndal, and a document, of which the following is a copy, was read to him. The document was then handed to Mr. Trail, which was read aloud to this effect:—'The information of Jeremiah Maher, inspector of the B division of Dublin police: Between the hours of six and seven o'clock, on the 21st ult., the man now in custody, who calls himself George Hill, a private in the 67th Foot, was brought to the police-office, College-street, when informant and 292 Constable 181 B were in attendance. The prisoner asked if informant was on duty, and being answered in the affirmative, he asked for pen, ink, and paper, observing that he would show us something that would astonish us. He then stated, I am the man that murdered Eliza Grimwood at a house in the Waterloo-road, about eight years ago. He then proceeded to write on the paper (produced before Mr. Trail) these words—'I am the murderer of Eliza Grimwood, and committed the act by cutting her throat. (Signed) George Hill.' Prisoner was then asked if he had anything more to say, or anything to retract in what he had stated on the subject of the murder. He said in reply he had nothing more to say, and he did not wish to retract anything. The magistrate then asked the prisoner if he still adhered to what he had verbally asserted, and transmitted to paper in his own handwriting.—Prisoner: That confession was made when I was under the influence of liquor, being heartily sick and tired of the army, thinking it the only and best mode of getting my dismissal. I did not look to the future consequences, and must therefore pay the penalty of it. Mr. Trail: Do you mean to assert that there was no truth in the statement made by the inspector?—Prisoner: Everything the inspector stated is correct, and my determination not to retract the statement I had previously made. I will now tell the truth. I retract the words I used as to my being a murderer. I was aware that a murder had been committed upon a young woman, about eight years ago, in the Waterloo-road, and knowing the murderer was never discovered, in the state in which my mind was at the time from the tyranny and oppression exercised towards me in the regiment, I would have said anything to regain my liberty and get away; and so I made a self-accusation of murder to accomplish my object. My abhorrence of a life of a soldier is so great, that I have committed offences since I have been in the regiment with the view of being transported, my hatred to it was so unbounded; and not long since I have suffered six months imprisonment for an act which I committed in the expectation of getting out of the army. Inspector Field said, he had ascertained the prisoner had stolen a watch, and undergone six months imprisonment; had a bad character in the regiment, though a man of superior attainments; that Colonel Bunbury, the commanding officer, had given him every encouragement, and made him a corporal, but that he had been reduced to the ranks. The prisoner was remanded till further inquiries could be made.Now, here was an instance of a man—certainly, far from a good man—giving himself up as a murderer to escape from a service from which he felt he had no hope of release. Next he wished to call their attention to a case reported in a Glasgow paper.On Tuesday (it stated), a private of the 60th Rifles, stationed in Dumbarton Castle, on being relieved from sentry at five o'clock in the morning, attempted to kill himself by placing the muzzle of his gun to his head, under the chin, and then discharged it. The poor fellow was so far successful. He discharged his musket, but did not kill himself. The ball entered at the lower part of the face; but in place of going up through 293 his head, as he had intended, it came out above the nose, leaving the brain untouched; the victim of the rash act was therefore left in life, but desperately wounded—the jaw, the greater part of the tongue, the nose, and indeed the whole face, nearly destroyed. The poor sufferer has been brought to the barracks in Paisley, where the main part of the depot is stationed. He has a good character in the regiment, and is supposed to be one of the many who fall victims to the unnatural system of protracted service which is peculiar to the British army. Despondency regarding the state of his wife and three children is supposed, in consequence of his inability to assist them, to have operated most directly on his mind.He remembered a circumstance which had happened in India, just before his arrival at Meerut, that three artillery men had gone out and shot a native, had then given themselves up, and said they had done so being weary of their lives, from seeing no hope of leaving the service, and that they trusted they should be transported. However, in that hope they were mistaken, as they were all sent to Calcutta, and hanged. He could bring forward numberless instances of the same kind; but he feared to trespass on their kind indulgence. That the people in this country detested the idea of their children entering the army no one could deny. Who ever heard of a farmer or labourer wishing his children to become soldiers? So far from it, that many instances were on record in which parents had even maimed their sons to prevent the possibility. Suicide he believed to be much more frequent amongst soldiers than amongst men of the same rank and age in civil life. It was stated in a book he had before referred to, written by Mr. Marshall, that the ratio of cases of self-murder amongst the cavalry branch of the service, had been found to amount to one suicide out of twenty deaths, or nearly one annually per 1,000 of the strength. Now he had moved for a return of the number of suicides which had taken place in the army since the year 1840 to the end of 1845. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert) had said it could not be granted, as the suicides and accidents were all placed in the same returns; but he much feared that his statement was only too correct. Sir Henry Hardinge had stated before the Commission on Military Punishment, that soldiers continually maimed themselves to obtain their discharge, or to become convicts, and which every man at all acquainted with the service knew to be the case. For his part, he could not conceive anything more trying to any man when he 294 once began to reflect, than to find he had bound himself for such a protracted time to the exactitude of military discipline. The plan which he was about to propose would afford facilities to a soldier for changing from one regiment to another, after a lapse of a certain number of years. That would be a great advantage, for it often happened that a man who was a bad soldier in one regiment would be a good soldier in another. The difference in that respect was so great, that he could best illustrate it by a statement which he had heard that day from an officer of the 12th Lancers. That officer, in conversation, stated to him, that there was not a man in the 12th Lancers who had ever been flogged. Such a statement reflected the highest credit on the colonel of the regiment (Col. Stawell) and the men. They were, in fact, such a well-behaved regiment, that whenever they left a town in which they were quartered, the inhabitants regretted it, as they feared that the next regiment might not be so well conducted. He knew that it would be argued, that a very considerable expense would be incurred by a number of men abroad requiring to be sent home at the expiration of their service; but if the plan which he proposed were followed, he believed a great saving would take place. Now, the plan which he thought would be the most beneficial, would be to allow enlistment for ten years; that, if the soldier had acted worthily during that time, he should receive his pay for six months after his term: and that, if he re-enlisted within a certain period, he would say two years, and served eleven years longer, he should then be entitled to the old rate of pension, namely, 10d. a day if in a sound state of health, and 1s. a day if reported unfit for service by proper medical authority; and that if he served longer, his pension should be raised. Now, by the saving of pension to those who did not re-enlist, he conceived so considerable a sum would be saved that it would cover all the expense of sending men home from foreign stations, and enable the Government to give an adequate pension to those who remained. It likewise might be argued, that a large number of men abroad claiming at the same time their discharge, might make the army inefficient; but that might be obviated by taking care that the 10 per cent allowed for India, and the 3 per cent for the other regiments abroad, above the efficient strength, would enable the Government to keep those men at home who were near 295 the period of their discharge; and, as far as India was concerned, most men preferred to remain. The following return showed the number of men who had volunteered to regiments in India, from the last five regiments that had been ordered home from that country:—
Regiments. Number of men who volunteered to other regiments in India. 13th Foot 447 2d Foot 312 40th Foot 421 57th Foot 327 These regiments not yet returned. 39th Foot 500 Total 2,007 JOHN MACDONALD, A. G.Adjutant-General's Office, April 30, 1840.Now, this return showed beyond a doubt, that a far greater number of men would remain ia India, if they were permitted, and which would be a great saving of expense, and did away with any objection which might be urged with respect to regiments in India. The fact was, that few soldiers who had served in India ever wished to return, their duties being much lighter, and their pay and allowances far better; and he (Captain Layard) thought that he had thus disposed of the most powerful argument that could be brought against him. He knew he should be told how little advantage had been taken by men of limited services before, and which ceased, by order of Lord Hill, in 1829. His answer to this was, that a greater bounty was offered for unlimited than limited service, and that men in that situation seldom calculated upon the future; and it was only after they had been in the service some time, that they began to reflect. It never ought to be the part of any Government to make a hard and cruel bargain with any class of men, however inconsiderate they might be. Now, a new warrant had been brought out by the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary at War, which was a very great improvement on the last. He (Captain Layard) when with his regiment had explained it fully to the men of his company, and they seemed to think as he (Captain Layard) did, that it was likely materially to benefit their condition. He sincerely thanked the right hon. Gentleman for it, for it was a strong move in the right direction. He felt convinced that the right hon. Gentleman in his heart agreed with him, and that difficulties in other quarters had been the obstacles which prevented his Motion being 296 acceded to on a former occasion. The new warrant said discharge might be obtained—
Now this was an improvement on the late warrant, but still it was not sufficient; and he felt assured that it neither would nor could have the desired effect of bringing a better description of men into the service, which he had no doubt might be effected by the plan he proposed. This very year we should want nearly 25,000 men; 12,000 or 13,000 to fill up usual casualties, 10,000 augmentations, 3,000 at least by the war in the Punjaub. How were they to be procured? Employment on the railways prevented that want which generally caused men to enlist; and the present low bounty, the inadequacy of pension, and the length of service, offered no inducement or encouragement for any thinking man to enter into the service. The standard had been reduced; and now recruits were taken at 5 ft. 6 in., and growing boys at 5 ft. 5½ in. That had given some impetus; but there was the greatest difficulty in getting recruits at present, and he believed that difficulty would increase daily. The truth was, as was justly remarked, if England expected men she must give proper 297 encouragement; for few persons were so idiotic as to barter their liberty for a shilling a day, with the prospect of sixpence a day to retire on after twenty-five years' service, provided they could keep from getting drunk, trial by court martial, or their name in the defaulters' book; and considering all a soldier had to encounter, the many masters he had to please, and the stringent duties he had to perform, few indeed could hope to pass through the ordeal unscathed. The consideration of these homely truths formed the principal barrier to recruiting. Now the House would observe what was stated by many gallant and experienced officers before the Commission on Military Punishments. Sir Octavius Cary said—
Periods. Cavalry. Infantry. £. £. Under 5 years' actual service 30 20 After 5 years' actual service, with one distinguishing mark 25 18 After 7 years' with one distinguishing mark 20 15 After 10 years' with one distinguishing mark 15 10 After 10 years' actual service, with two distinguishing marks 10 5 After 12 years' actual service, with one distinguishing mark After 12 years' actual service, with two distinguishing marks 5 free After 14 years' service, with one distinguishing mark After 14 years' service, with two distinguishing marks, or Free, with the right of register for deferred pension of 4d. a day. After 16 years' service, with one distinguishing mark After 15 years' service, with three distinguishing marks, or Free, with the right of register for deferred pension of 6d. a day. After 16 years' service, with two distinguishing marks, having possessed the second at least 12 monthsNothing can be worse than the materials of which the army is composed. I do not mean they are all bad men; but a great proportion are taken from the worst ranks; they enlist from necessity alone.Sir A. Campbell, who had served forty-five years, said, in reply to this question—Do you think, if the soldier was enlisted for a more limited period, it would tend to promote recruiting?"—"Yes; I found men who enlisted for limited service the best men; and I was always anxious for them to re-enlist: they came from a better class of society.Lord William Bentinck said, in reply to the inquiry—If giving commissions to privates would improve the description of recruits?"—"All improvements in the service would facilitate recruiting: we should get a better description of men.He feared he might tire the House; but it was a matter of great moment, and he believed they would forgive his trespassing on their indulgence. His late gallant colonel, Lord Lynedoch, thought enlistment for a limited period well calculated to obtain a better order of recruits, and to remove many causes which led to severe and ignominious punishment, which it was so desirable to abolish. Mr. Fox stated, on the 3rd of April, 1806, that he thought "enlistment for life unsuited to the genius of the Constitution;" in which opinion Mr. Wilberforce entirely coincided. He trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would give his attention to this subject; and, as he had the power, so he would see the policy of altering a system which was both cruel and unjust. Amongst the nations of the earth Great Britain was the only one that enlisted her soldiers for so protracted a period. In France they had a very short period of 298 service; in India a soldier might obtain his discharge after a period of three years, if in time of peace; in America the period of enlistment for the regular army was five years; and in Austria, a very short time ago, they had reduced the period of service from fifteen years to eight years. Many hon. Gentlemen might say they did not understand military affairs, and that they were not prepared to vote upon this subject; but he called upon them not to be run away with by such a fallacious argument. It was not necessary to possess military knowledge; the knowledge that was necessary was that of justice and right; and he besought them to consider well before by any vote of theirs they condemned those who had maintained the honour and glory of their country so gallantly upon all former occasions, as well as lately, under the most severe trials in India, to a hopeless existence. He could not help calling more especially upon those hon. Gentleman who belonged to the profession. He felt it was their duty to take a part in this debate. If he was wrong in the measure he proposed—if it was detrimental to the service—if it was likely to be injurious to the country, why not say so? If they felt it was uncalled for, surely it was their bounden duty to do so, and to state their reasons. But if, as he believed, it would add to the happiness of those brave men who composed our army—if it lessened crime—if it would reduce the expense entailed on the country, why did they not come forward and lend their aid and support to what he believed from his heart to be a good measure? Hon. Members must bear in mind the enormous expense the country was put to by the number of men in gaol, the number of deserters, and the expense attendant on their support, and the extra duty the good men in the army had to perform for those in gaol and absent. Now, the greater part of the desertion took place in Canada; and, happily, we now had settled our affairs most amicably with America, it behoved this country to use every means to do away or alter any system that led to the heinous military crime of desertion. And it was his belief that, should the alteration which he recommended take place, few, if any, men would be found base enough to leave those colours which they had sworn to defend; and he must impress upon the House that this was a matter of great moment. He should now refer to Mr. Wyndham's speeches, and the debates which had taken place on former occasions. A.D. 1806. 299 Early in this year (3rd of April) Mr. Wyndham, the Secretary at War, brought forward his military arrangements, which had been characterized as being most important in their object, wise in their contrivance, beneficial in their tendency, and, considering the formidable opposition made to them, most creditable to the character of the Administration. The Annual Register said—Mr. Wyndham, in his military plan, professes to trust to the simple and obvious expedient of bettering the condition and prospects of soldiers, on the sound and universally acknowledged principle, that, whenever men are wanted for any occupation in society, they may be obtained for that service by holding out to them a suitable encouragement, and in no other way, except by compulsion. He argued that, if we were to have an army by voluntary enlistment, it is essentially necessary to improve the trade of a soldier, and to bring it into fair competition with a sufficient portion of the trades and callings of the lower orders; and till this was done we should be striving in vain in the hopeless task of persuading men to embrace a pursuit in opposition to those motives which usually actuate them in the choice of a profession. To reduce these principles to practice, his plan comprehended an improvement of the pay of a soldier, and a better provision for those persons who were disabled from further service by wounds, infirmities, or age. But the principal change which he introduced into the army, was in the term of the engagements of soldiers. Instead of an engagement to serve for life, he proposed that they should be enlisted to serve for a term of years. According to his plan, the term was divided into three periods, as follows:—
First Period. Second Period. Third Period. Total Three Periods. Years. Years. Years. Years. For Infantry 7 7 7 21 Cavalry 10 7 7 24 Artillery 12 5 5 22At the end of each period the soldier should have a right to claim his discharge. If he re-enlisted, and served the second period, he should be entitled to a pension of 5d. a day for life; and, at the end of the third period, he should be discharged from the army with a pension of 1s. a day. Mr. Wyndham's measure met with great opposition in Parliament; and it appears that of fourteen opinions given to the Commander-in-Chief by general officers, seven were in favour of limited service, six against it, and one doubtful. During the discussion upon this Bill, the House was informed by General Walpole that the experiment of recruiting for a limited period had been tried with the best effects to the recruiting service during the American war, and without any of the bad consequences which some of the Members anticipated. This fact seems not to have been known to the Members of the House of Commons.The amiable and excellent Sir Samuel 300 Romilly spoke in support of Mr. Wyndham's Bill:—The ground upon which I principally supported it was," said he in his diary, "that it was repugnant to the principles of our Constitution that there should exist in it an army composed of an order of men quite distinct from the rest of the community, and who have given up those liberties which are incompatible with military discipline, never to resume them; that those who enlist for a limited period of time continue citizens, and have before them the prospect of once again enjoying their personal liberty and those privileges; that this not only renders the army less formidable to the liberties of the country, but much more formidable to the enemy to which it is opposed. I cited Blackstone, vol. 1, pp. 408, 414. On a division, the question was carried by a majority of 206 to 105, and the Bill was ultimately passed in the House of Commons on the 6th of June. However, in the year 1808 a clause was introduced into the Mutiny Act to permit men to enlist for life, by which means Mr. Wyndham's scheme of recruiting was practically annulled, and many of his plans for improving the condition of the soldier defeated. Shortly after the passing of the Mutiny Act this year, a general order (21st of April) was issued, of which the following was a copy: — 'His Majesty has been graciously pleased to direct that men (soldiers) who, under the provisions of the Mutiny Act now in force, enlist into the service for an unlimited period of time, shall, over and above all former bounty, receive the sum of 5l. 5s., to be paid on intermediate approval.' Mr. Wyndham's plan of abolishing unlimited service, and making limited service as to time universal, was consequently not in operation for a much longer period than eighteen months. From this date two different sums were specified in the general orders as bounty for recruits, namely, total bounty for recruits—limited service 11l. 11s., unlimited service 16l. 16s., being a premium of 5l. 5s. in favour of unlimited service. Consequently Mr. Wyndham's great and enlightened plan for improving the composition and elevating the character of the army became a dead letter, and the old system of life slavery was restored. Henceforward almost all the men who enlisted, engaged to serve for an unlimited period, in fact for life. By the change which was made in the Mutiny Act, permitting recruits to enlist for life, Mr. Wyndham's Bill, as had been already stated, became in a great measure abrogated. In 1810, when a negociation for bringing him into the Ministry was pending, he addressed a friend, and thus stated his opinion of the alterations that had been introduced into the administration of the army. 'I feel,' says he, 'but little stomach to return to office, unless I had a carte blanche as to my military plans, and even then the whole is so bedevilled, that there is no restoring things to their original state.' Mr. Wyndham had so proud a conviction of the benefits resulting from his new constitution of the army, as to declare that, 'like the eminent Italian musican who had a piece of music inscribed on his tomb, or the Dutch mathematician who had a calculation for his epitaph, he should desire no other monument, as a statesman, than that system.'He had made it his business to consult many officers in the army, and with very 301 few exceptions he had found their opinion coincided with his own, that the proposed alteration would be of the greatest benefit. If subjugation were the only object of Government, it would even then be doubted whether a system of severity would be best calculated for the end proposed; but as duties devolved in addition to its rights, the humblest individual should be made to feel that he received protection as the price of his obedience. Now, Dr. Jackson, who had written on the formation, discipline, and economy of armies, said—Limited service has a tendency to augment the defensive strength of a country, and to promote economical and moral habits amongst the people. Unlimited service, which adds little to the defence of the country, has a tendency to dissipate national sympathies, and corrupt moral character, for, as it separates the soldier from the mass of the people, it alienates him from the interests of his country, and thereby commits him to the will of a military commander as his lord and master for life.The Governor General of India, Lord Hardinge, whose late valorous achievements in that country had given them all such satisfaction, had stated, in reply to a speech of his (Captain Layard's) made in March, 1842, and in which he had recommended an alteration in the duration of service, that he (Lord Hardinge)—Had, in 1839 introduced a system of allowing soldiers to obtain their discharge at a price in proportion to their length of service; and although it was feared by many officers that the plan would very much disturb the regiments of the line, it was found to operate most beneficially. Speaking from the experience of the last ten years, he (Lord Hardinge) must confess that he agreed with the gallant officer (Captain Layard) that perhaps a shorter period of service might be advantageously introduced. The question was deserving the consideration of Her Majesty's Government.He wished to know if they could have a better or a higher authority than that. The very fact that the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary at War (Mr. Sidney Herbert) brought forward upon the last occasion that the desertions happened amongst the recruits generally, showed that it was the long prospect before them that gave them the greatest disgust. The right hon. Gentleman said truly that the private soldier of this country was never better cared for than at the present day, and which was perfectly true except in the most important particular, with respect to pensions. This very fact would be amongst the inducements to him to renew his term, and was among the reasons why constraint and force were less required to retain him. In an admirable letter, written under the 302 head of "Improvement of the Army," and signed "Greville Brooke," the writer said—If you resolve to regard the army as a refuge for the destitute and desperate, and care not how dissolute its manners may be provided it fights and wins victories, then you had better leave things as they are, for no army can be more courageous than our own. But if you desire to cultivate the moral sense amongst your troops, that you may always be able to calculate upon them after victory, and give additional strength to the attachment which binds them to you, it will be wise to enter at once upon that course of military reform of which Captain Layard has indicated the first steps.The pre-eminence we enjoyed amongst the nations of the earth was won by arms, and could not otherwise be maintained; for brave nations would never consent to acknowledge as their superior any people that was not ready to draw the sword in defence of that supremacy. Assuredly there were great defects in our military system, and their present mode of enlistment was one of the greatest we had. Now, in this time of profound peace we might have leisure to reform these evils; but as peace was uncertain, he loudly called upon them no longer to delay a work of such stern necessity. He called upon them for the sake of that gallant army whose exploits in India had lately given them all such subject of congratulation; he called upon them for the sake of their common country, to give this matter their most serious consideration. He (Captain Layard) stated his firm conviction that not only the honour and renown, but the prosperity and stability of the country depended upon some alteration being made in a system so unwise and discouraging as the present mode of enlistment. He felt that no party feeling could have anything to do with this matter; and having done his duty to the best of his humble ability, he begged to move, as an Amendment—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct inquiry to be made, how far the reduction of the period of service in the Army from the present unlimited term would tend to procure a better class of Recruits, diminish desertion, and thus add to the efficiency of the Service.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
observed, that his hon. and gallant Friend had stated that it was the intention of the late Ministry to look into the matter. [Captain LAYARD: I said, that I believed such was the case.] Had it been so, he should have imagined that the representative of that department in the late Government would have been 303 present upon that occasion. As to the question itself, he begged to be understood as giving no decided opinion the one way or the other, and as making no pledge to the effect either that the Government would carry on the present unlimited, or adopt the proposed limited system of enlistment. So far, however, as his experience went—so far as he saw of the case, he was disposed to think that his hon. and gallant Friend had drawn a rather too glowing picture of limited enlistment, and that he had described in terms which really did not characterize it, the feeling of the army in reference to the question. His hon. Friend had mentioned as one effect of the present system of unlimited enlistment, the number of desertions which took place in the army. He would ask him, however, in reply, at what period in a soldier's life these desertions most frequently occurred? If they would examine the returns, they would find that the greater number of desertions took place within the first or second year after enlistment. Now, from whence did this arise? Not from any reflection passing in the soldier's mind that he had for ever given up his liberty. On the contrary, he believed that the greater part of these desertions were the fruit of sudden and painful emotions excited in the young soldier's mind by the rough discipline which he was obliged to undergo before he acquired a competent knowledge of his duty. He could quite conceive the effect of a sudden change in habits and way of life, producing a temporary feeling of disgust, which excited the soldier to attempt, by every means, to leave the service. But it was a fact of very frequent occurrence, that many deserters soon voluntarily gave themselves up, and returned to their duty. His hon. and gallant Friend had spoken of desertions in Canada. That was a subject of which he (Mr. Fox Maule) was not ignorant, having himself served in that Colony, and he remembered that the deserters there were generally old soldiers: that they generally relinquished their duty and their ranks on the frontier, and that the exciting cause was generally those large bribes and temptations, principally in the form of grants of land in the United States, held out to them. Such being the case, he must say that the number of desertions would, in all probability, be much the same, whether the length of service were to be limited or unlimited. In either case the exciting cause remained unaltered and unaffected. 304 But it would appear from the hon. and gallant Gentleman's speech, that it was the practice of those connected with the army to treat the soldier as a machine, to try merely to keep him in good working order, without any reference to his comfort or respectability. Now, from his hon. Friend's experience as a regimental officer, he should have known that such was not the case. For years past the most anxious desire had been shown on the part of those concerned in the management of the army to do all they could, not only to secure a good class of recruits, but to make the position of the soldier, while in the service of his country, as comfortable and advantageous to himself and to the community as possible. His hon. and gallant Friend had drawn a parallel between the causes of death in the army and in other professions, and had assumed—on what foundation he knew not—that every suicide which occurred in the army, was to be attributed to the course of discipline, and unlimited length of service it adopted. [Captain LAYARD intimated his dissent.] Certainly, his hon. and gallant Friend contended that these suicides took place from distaste to service for life. He knew absolutely of no ground for such a conclusion. The cases which had been quoted were very far from proving a rule. They were merely isolated instances. But he would be allowed to draw the attention of the House to what had actually been done for the army, with a view of raising it to a higher position, and making more comfortable the station of those who enlisted in its ranks. It was true that all soldiers were enrolled nominally for life; but by the regulations of the army, a graduated scale was in force, by which at certain periods the soldier was entitled to his discharge—the time of service being regulated by the marks of distinction obtained by the individual, or by the rate of discharge he was able to pay. [The right hon. Gentleman proceeded to quote from documents before him the particulars of the discharge scale referred to.] He continued: It could not then be said with strict truth that the time of service was unlimited after all. [Captain LAYARD: The soldier could not claim his discharge as a right.] He would put it to the House whether, except under very particular circumstances—such as the services of the applicant for discharge being at the moment of his preferring the claim urgently required—any person in office would venture upon refusing the request so submit- 305 ted. The system, then, he contended, was one which held out to the good soldier—he did not speak of the indifferent or bad soldier, but which held out to the good soldier—the prospect of a speedy discharge from the service, should he be disposed to avail himself of it. There were other things which previous Governments, and particularly the late Administration, had effected, which in his opinion went far to remove the evils which his hon. and gallant Friend had complained of. The late Government had, by its warrants, done much for the improvement of the education of the soldier; they had established regimental schools, and had left a plan for the institution of very large normal seminaries, in which sergeants were to be trained for the army, and sent down to every regiment in the service, on a proper footing both as to rank and pay, so as efficiently to conduct education in the army, both with reference to the soldier and the children attached to each regiment. Libraries had also been established on an extensive scale. He believed that there were now not less than one hundred libraries in the British army, containing from sixty-three thousand to sixty-four thousand volumes. They had also established for the soldier in his quarters places of amusement, where he might be induced to spend his time innocently or advantageously. Arrangements had also been made for the inspection of the canteen, as well as for other points, so as to increase by every means the inducements to gain information and seek for amusement in every rational way, so as to make the soldier fit, when he resumed the life of a citizen, to fill the position he would naturally hold in civil society, and return to it a useful member, as well as a well-instructed man. These were improvements which had been made of late years, and which would, he thought, induce the House at least to agree with him that there was every anxiety on the part of Ministers and men in authority, whether belonging to the military or civil branch of the service, to do everything that in them lay to render enlistment for life as little burdensome to the soldier as possible. They were not indisposed to consider the question of enlistment for life itself; but the House would see that that course involved very grave considerations. The proposition of his hon. and gallant Friend was to limit enlistment to ten years. Let him remind the House that the disposition of our army at present was, 24,000 in the East Indies, and 306 31,000 in our Colonies, making the proportion of the army distributed between the East Indies and Colonies 55,000 men, and that a corps left this country for a term of service of not less than ten years, but on a general average of fifteen years. It was sometimes twenty in the East Indies; but it was ten in the West Indies, and fifteen in Canada; and speaking on the average, the term might be fixed at fifteen years. Here, then, were 55,000 men embarking for foreign service on an average term of fifteen years; so that if we had limited enlistment for ten years, it would be necessary, in future, after the law should have come into full operation, to change the whole of these men, provided they did not choose to re-enlist, once and a half instead of once, as at present. Was that an expense which Government were justified in proposing to the country without more consideration? Gentlemen who looked at the army estimates with an eye to economy, would say whether that was an expense they were prepared to embark in. He was ready to assure the House that there was no question with respect to the army, not even this of limited enlistment, which Government would not consider with the intention of placing the soldier in the best possible condition as to comfort, at the same time not calling on the country to expend more on the army than they possibly could. If Government were willing to consider all those questions, he put it to his hon. and gallant Friend, whether he would think it worth while to press the House to a decided opinion, as he must say they had not sufficient information before them to enable them to come to a fair and unbiassed conclusion.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, the House must be glad to hear the assurances given by the Secretary at War that Government would bestow every attention on this important subject, and entertained every desire to contribute all in their power to the comfort of the soldier, by giving him better accommodation in his barracks, and holding out inducements to improvement. The establishment of schools was of a recent date: he scarcely knew anything likely to prove of more use; and he might say the same of the libraries which were now supplied. With respect to the statements of the difficulties that stood in the way of limited enlistment, he could not perceive them. He had had himself experience of the inconvenience of very short enlistments; but there was a prodigious 307 difference between that and what was now proposed. The term of foreign service in the East Indies and Colonics was now of excessive length; but why should it be? Several years back Lord Hardinge, when Secretary at War, stated that arrangements should be made by which no regiment should remain out of this country more than ten years; and he regarded an arrangement of this kind as indispensable, however excellent the discipline of a regiment might be. He found by the returns that four-fifths of the effective men in India were ready to volunteer into other regiments rather than return to this country, so that a portion of this difficulty was already obviated. It was said that great inconvenience would be caused by bringing home men from the Colonies at any season of exigency; but by the Mutiny Act power was given to the commanding officer at any station to retain men for six months beyond the expiration of their term; and upon proclamation by the Governor, or certainly by the Sovereign, to keep them for three years, in case of war or any other emergency. He regarded the warrant lately issued from the War Office as very unsatisfactory; for every embarrassment was thrown in the way of the soldier who might be disposed to avail himself of the option of discharge; the object of it was to allow the commanding officer to do a favour to the good soldier who might choose to avail himself of the option; but if all the good were to quit, he would be left with all the bad on his hands. The House and the country were much indebted to his hon. and gallant Friend for the able and generous manner in which he had brought forward the subject, and the luminous proofs he had adduced in support of his views. There was not a shadow of argument against the proposition; all that could be adduced on that side were the relics of some old prejudices. With regard to enpense, he was sure the hon. Member for Coventry would interpose no objection when an object of paramount importance was to be attained. They ought to let the country see that Government would not allow the soldier to sacrifice his freedom for his life; at least, the option of a limited enlistment should be allowed; and he (Sir De Lacy Evans) believed that a term of ten years would be ample. At the end of that time, officers would have the alternative of re-enlisting the men if they were good, or rejecting them if they were bad. Such a change would purify the service, 308 and do much towards rendering it popular.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
regretted that whilst the House was crowded when a pension, was to be granted, an Officer who brought before it the state of the army should have to speak to a beggarly account of empty benches. He did not think the Secretary at War had made any valid answer to the observations of his hon. Friend; but he drew some comfort from the conclusion, that this was to be one of the questions which the present Government were disposed to leave open. When calls were made for the abolition of the system of corporal punishment in the army, it would be well for the House to recollect that that system had been rendered necessary by the course which the House had thought proper to take with reference to recruitment for the army. In 1799 the pressing of felons for the army was not only legal, but was encouraged by Acts of Parliament; and at the close of last war our gaols and hulks were emptied to supply the army. If Gentlemen were determined on the abolition of corporal punishment, they must be prepared in some shape or other to pay for their humanity, and thus secure a better description of private soldiers. He knew of no better way in which this could be done, than by allowing enlistment for a limited period. It was on this principle that Mr. Wyndham's Motion, in 1806, proceeded, which provided for an augmentation of pay on the renewal of the term of service. He put it to hon. Gentlemen representing the economical interest, that they should stand up in their places and boldly declare that they were prepared to pay a larger sum for the maintenance of the army, in order to carry out the abolition of military flogging. In 1741, Lord Chesterfield submitted a Motion on the subject in the House of Lords; and in 1749, Lord Baltimore brought forward a proposal in that House, that the soldier should be entitled to his discharge after a period of ten years' service, on paying 3l.; so that the Secretary at War of that day was far more advanced in his views than the right hon. Gentleman who now filled that office. In connexion with this subject, the number of suicides in the army well deserved consideration. From a return made some years ago by the medical authorities of the army, it appeared that the number of deaths from this cause during seven years, in the Dragoons and Dragoon Guards alone, was 686, thus 309 showing that one in twenty perished by suicide; whereas in 1835, the number of suicides in the whole population of England and Wales was but 1,044. If any cause might be assigned for this excessive proportion, there could be little doubt that this slavery for life, as it was properly called, was intimately connected with it. There was also a larger proportion of military lunatics than of civilians, as might be proved from the returns. A man who enlisted when half drunk was naturally disgusted, on returning to his senses, to find that he had parted with his liberty for an unlimited term; and the operation on the mind was such as to lead, in the case of men of morbid temperament, to suicide or madness. The Secretary at War had endeavoured to enlist the sympathies of the House by taking the economical view of the question. No one could doubt for a moment that the humane view of the question was in favour of a limited period of service; but he went further, and believed that the economical view was also in favour of limitation. It appeared that ninety-five per cent of the army died at the age of forty; certainly not a fair average. The mean duration of a soldier's service did not exceed from ten to twelve years. Look at the expense entailed on the country by the numerous desertions that took place under the present system, amounting in ten years to 53,764. The ordinary annual number of recruits for the army was about 12,000. In the year 1800 the desertions amounted to 5,719; and in 1831 to 2,110. Not a single time of any emergency could be pointed out during last century when the Secretary at War had not come down to the House, and stated that he had His Majesty's permission to allow of discharges after three years' or seven years' service. In the American war discharges were granted after three years; and in the debate of 1806, General Walpole stated to the House that the plan had succeeded in every instance in which it had been tried. Hon. Gentlemen not connected with the army might think that the noble Duke at its head was to be looked to as most capable of forming a correct opinion on this subject. But he (Mr. Bernal Osborne) must say for himself that he distrusted the judgment of military men on such a question. He had the authority of Mr. Alison for thinking that credit should not be given to professional men when they claimed for their judgment exemption from the ordinary rules by which human opinions were 310 tested. Unlimited service formed an exception from the ordinary rules by which human actions were governed. In France, he believed, men were positively forbidden to devote themselves to unlimited military service; and he would ask if anything could be more repugnant to English feeling? He maintained it was neither humane nor economical. He was glad to hear of the intentions of the present Secretary at War; but he knew the obstacles that were frequently thrown in the way of Secretaries at War by the Horse Guards; and unless the power of public opinion were brought to bear upon the question, nothing would be got from that quarter.
said, the total want of the means of education amongst the soldiery was the cause of all the crimes and desertions which occurred in the army. He maintained that normal schools, under efficient masters, were also most essential to a proper amelioration of the present condition of the army; and it was only by such means that the doing away of corporal punishment, and the diminution of crime, could be accomplished. Although the soldier was not absolutely discontented at present with his condition, he could not be, nor was he, satisfied with the long prospect of servitude before him, nor with the ultimate consequences of such prolonged service. Now, at the end of twenty-five years' service, and with good behaviour, he was entitled to his discharge if he wished it, and a pension of 5d. a day. But, if his period of service reached thirty-two years, he was entitled to 11½d. per day. By a former Act, after twenty-one years' service, how-ever, he had been entitled to 10d. In his own battalion a considerable number of men who sought their discharge under the Attestation Act, had acknowledged they were induced to do so by the length of the time of service before them. He agreed with a good deal that had fallen from the right hon. Secretary at War, particularly with regard to the fact of desertions taking place more extensively under two years' service than otherwise. With regard to the desertions which had taken place in Canada, he believed these had been caused by the inducements held out by agents from the United States of high wages, and other advantages, which had been never subsequently realized. He would answer for it if the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward an increased estimate to give additional comforts to the military, to make their bar- 311 racks more a home, they would not be found so often resorting to the gin palace for comfort, and their moral improvement would be considerably advanced.
§ MR. HUME
had endeavoured upon a former occasion to show, that by limiting the period of service, a better class of soldiers, and a more respectable body of subjects, would be introduced into the British army, while fewer desertions would take place. If the term of enlistment were limited to eight or ten years, those who might have hastily joined the service, in a moment of thoughtlessness, would not desert, if they were assured of being able to obtain their liberty in a few years. It was the absence of any hope of a beneficial change that induced them to desert. The opinions of general officers went to show that limited service, and a greater regard to the social and moral improvement of the soldier, were the surest means of rendering him happy and contented. He begged the noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government to take this matter into his most serious consideration, as it was a subject that loudly called for investigation and reform. If they wanted any illustration, he could refer them to the history of Norfolk Island, where it was found that the conduct of those men only was bad who had no prospect of obtaining their liberty. In fact, it was despair that, for the most part, led to those disgraceful scenes which had lately occupied public attention, and the details of which no person could have read without feelings of pain and indignation. If the legislators were the cause of those things, ought they not to look back and see what evidence they had of a better result from some other system? His own opinion of the great majority who composed our army, was that they would be better and happier if they were not subject to that lengthened period of service which had been aptly designated "a perpetual system of slavery." With respect to limited service, he thought that instead of the soldier paying a certain sum to obtain his liberty, he should be discharged without the exaction of any such demand. Holding those opinions, he would support the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend; and if he were assured that the adoption of his proposition would effect reforms of so desirable a character, he would still cheerfully support them, even if it were found necessary, in order to do so, to double the estimates required for such portions of the service. He highly approved 312 of the establishment of normal schools, and hoped the day was not far distant when those truly useful establishments would be instituted generally throughout the country, not for the benefit of the soldier alone, but also for that of the people at large.
§ MR. BERNAL
hoped the hon. and gallant Member would not now press his Motion; for it would be but fair to give the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, and the Government time to consider and digest the details of so important an alteration in the military system. The hon. and gallant Member ought to recollect that the present was but one point in a measure of general reform; for it could not be denied that the state and condition of the British army was forcing itself by little and little upon the consideration of the Legislature and the country. A limitation of the time of service was not the only change required; the necessity for a general revision was gradually forcing itself on the consideration of the Legislature, and would, in course of time, demand and obtain the most deliberate attention, and the most careful investigation. The condition of the soldier, he regretted to say, was in former days, a matter of very little if any concern. It was deemed of little consequence, provided he performed his routine of daily duty, whether his mind were a blank, and incapable of receiving any impressions calculated to raise him in the social scale. Thank God the day had at length arrived, when the question was not whether it was better the soldier should be a mere automaton, dedicated to a particular object, or a rational being intended for higher and nobler purposes. He hailed with the liveliest satisfaction the prospect that at last appeared to open for the soldier; and he did not entertain a doubt but that when those improvements would be carried into effect, those employed in the service would be rendered as happy and contented, as the service was useful and honourable.
thought it unfair that any attack should be made on him by the supporters of the Motion now under consideration, inasmuch as that he had himself supported a resolution to the same effect on a previous occasion. He hoped that in the course of next Session something effectual would be done for ameliorating the condition of the soldier, and administering yet more to his comforts. Some alterations were certainly required in the in- 313 ternal management of the army; but, while he made this admission, he did not wish to be regarded as one of those who considered the present condition of the British soldier at all as bad as some persons would represent it. He was decidedly of opinion that the soldier's condition was superior—very much superior—to that of agricultural labourers in this country, from whom he sprung, and who were his fathers and brothers. However, it was certainly true that the soldier had his grievances. It was to be regretted that there was often a want of consideration with respect to him on the part of officers; and he feared that it sometimes happened that too much authority was permitted to be assumed by the non-commissioned officers. In illustration of this latter assertion, he (Mr. Williams) might be allowed to refer to the case of the private in the 7th Hussars named Mathewson, who, as had been sworn by himself at the late unfortunate inquest, was called to account for having said "Hallo!" to a sergeant. Notwithstanding that he made an apology to the sergeant for having done so, he was taken before the colonel, and because he had ventured to inquire in what way he was to address a sergeant, he was ordered to ordergo a flogging. This was a state of things which could not be permitted any longer to exist. Nobody could be more anxious than he was to see the comforts of British soldiers properly administered to, and their just grievances redressed; and he hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Carlow would persevere in his good work, nor relax his efforts until Government had engaged to take the matter into their serious consideration.
COLONEL T. WOOD
could not concur in everything that had fallen from the hon. Member for Coventry, and felt bound, in justice to the sergeants of the British army, to say that no class of men could discharge their duties with more firmness or consideration. But they could not afford to be familiar with the privates. They must keep up their authority, which would be completely lost if they were in the least to forgot themselves. With respect to their power, he bogged to remind the House that it was not in the authority of any non-commissioned officer in the British army to inflict punishment on men in the ranks. Non-commissioned officers in the French army, however, did possess this power. With regard to the question now under consideration, all that he would say on the 314 present occasion was, that it did not appear to him that, just at that moment, the House was in possession of proper information to enable them to arrive at a just decision on the matter. The question was one which demanded the most deliberate consideration, and he trusted that it would receive it. Of the Motion at present under consideration, he would only say that if it would have the effect of bringing into the ranks a better class of men than at present, it was one eminently worthy of being supported.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
felt it his duty to state that it was not judicious on the part of the hon. Member for Coventry to make any allusion to a subject then under judicial consideration. With regard to the question more immediately before the House, when he looked at the condition of the British army, and took a retrospect of what it had done, not doubting but it would always accomplish great things whenever required, he was of opinion that very little alteration would be at all necessary in the way of reform. In fact, the word "reform" was a phrase he did not like. When things were well, it would be wise to let well alone—especially as the present condition and efficient state of the army gave sufficient proof that changes were not necessary. He would then say, beware of meddling with what was well. Being of that mind, he would advise that the affair before the House should be left in the hands of that man who was at the head of the army, who was fully competent to enter into the subject, and who was perfectly willing to do all he could to benefit the soldier and the service. All that concerned both could not be in safer hands. He questioned very much whether the Motion and the discussion it had originated, might not create greater dissatisfaction, and do more injury than benefit to the service.
§ MR. CURTEIS
had been more than twenty years the decided advocate for the abolition of corporal punishment in the army. With him it was no new theory. He advocated that abolition when it was not the fashion of the day. The statement, however, that was made by the gallant Member opened his eyes more than ever as to the great necessity that existed for a radical reform in the army. He had no idea until he heard that statement that such grievances did exist — grievances which required to be redressed. As regarded the Motion, he would advise his 315 gallant Friend not to press it to a division, as an assurance had been given that the whole subject would come under the consideration of the proper authorities.
§ CAPTAIN LAYARD
, from the assurance given, that the object of his Motion should have due attention, would not press it to a division.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
would not have thought it necessary to trouble the House with any further observations, were it not that an hon. Member had thought proper in his place in the House to give circulation to certain reports and ex parte statements in reference to a gallant Officer (Colonel Whyte). He (Mr. Osborne) felt that he would be wanting in his duty as a Member of Parliament if he did not rise to speak a few words in favour of that gallant officer, who had been most unfairly and unjustly traduced, he (Mr. Osborne) would say by the public press of this country; and he (Mr. Osborne) could only suppose this, that it had been done in ignorance of the rules of the profession of which he was a member. That gallant officer had no more to do with the punishment of that unfortunate man, on whom the inquest was now sitting, than he was called upon by his situation as commander of that regiment to perform. For that punishment the House was responsible, and the Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards; and, therefore, it was not fair that this officer should be subjected to those unjust attacks. Nay, it would appear that some papers had gone so far as to justify his murder by the troops; and this was done though he was unable to defend himself, or make any excuse for his conduct. The hon. Member for Coventry had brought forward against him the evidence of a private soldier; but why should they be credulous in receiving the ex parte statement of a private soldier of not the best character in the world—one who had served in the artillery, and had been discharged, he believed, for bad conduct? Why should they come forward on such evidence to damn the character of a man who, from the rules of the service, could not defend himself? The press of this country was led to believe that this man was flogged for saying "hilloa" to a sergeant; but every person knew that was impossible. He had committed two or three acts of insubordination, and was brought before the colonel; but in consideration of his being a recruit, he was permitted to go away unpunished. He was, however, brought up again and again 316 for insubordination, and was tried by court martial; and yet the hon. Gentleman stood up in his place in that House, and told the public that he was flogged for crying "hilloa" to his sergeant. He (Mr. Osborne) knew Colonel Whyte to be a man of great humanity, and an excellent soldier. He was the son of a country gentleman. He had not been unfairly put before others, and had no particular interest to advance him, and he felt very much hurt from anonymous letters and productions in the newspapers. He (Mr. Osborne) hoped the House would excuse him for saying that he should not at present press the Amendment of which he had given notice; but he must say that he was not so sanguine as his hon. Friend near him (Mr. Curteis) with reference to the nature of the statement to be made by the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) on Friday evening next.
having read most attentively every atom of evidence on both those courts martial, was of opinion, that instead of Colonel Whyte being a severe officer, he would be found, in regard to this man Mathewson, to have shown the greatest leniency. On the 15th of June, four days previously to Mathewson being tried by court martial, he was confined by the captain of his troop, and reported to the commanding officer for grossly disrespectful conduct to the captain of his troop. The commanding officer pointed out to private Mathewson the impropriety of his conduct, and stated that his repeated insolence would bring him to punishment. He then said that Mathewson was only a young soldier in the 7th, and that he would not punish him this time, hoping that his words would act as a warning, but that his crime would be blotted out, and no record of it remain against him. He (Colonel Peel) should not then trouble the House with any further observations on the question; but he begged to inform the House, that it was his intention on Friday evening to enter more fully into the subject.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
thought it would be far preferable to carrying on the discussion at that time, that the conversation should be dropped for the present. He was not at all surprised at the statement of his hon. Friend (Mr. Osborne), who had brought forward the question, nor was he surprised at the anxiety that had been shown to defend the conduct of Colonel Whyte, and to do away with much of what had been said in reference to him. He (Mr. Fox Maule) was most anxious to do 317 justice to Colonel Whyte; but he thought it was better to let the conversation drop for the present, and when the proper opportunity arrived the question could be discussed.
said, he had only stated what had been deposed to by the man Mathewson before the coroner's inquest. That was a court of inquiry of the highest importance; and if a man came forward, and stated before that court what was untrue, that statement should receive an instant contradiction. He (Mr. Williams) did not at all impute anything to Colonel Whyte, but merely stated the case as it had appeared in the newspapers, and as given in evidence, he believed, word for word. He said, supposing such case to be true, that some change ought to take place in the internal management of the army.
§ MR. MONTAGUE GORE
must say, that putting aside all opinions he might entertain with respect to what should be the punishment in the army, and merely looking to this particular case of Colonel Whyte, he thought he had been most unjustly treated, for he was only carrying out that system which he was bound to do: that system might be right, or it might be wrong, but with respect to this individual he thought he had been unjustly treated; and whatever opinion he (Mr. Gore) might entertain on the general question, he felt that with respect to Colonel Whyte he would be unworthy of a place in that House if he did not say that Colonel Whyte could not avoid acting as he had done, and that imputations had been cast upon him which were quite unfounded. He thought that sufficient attention had not been paid to the fact that Colonel Whyte was bound to do what he did, and he would be guilty of disobedience if he did not take the course he had taken. He (Mr. Gore) was of opinion that Colonel Whyte was a man of great humanity and high principles of honour, and he would bear his testimony publicly of the sense he entertained of his gallant and manly conduct, and he had merely acted according to the rules of the service.
§ MR. P. HOWARD
heard with great satisfaction the Government expressing its determination to diminish the severity of corporal punishment. Even a nation not very celebrated for the mildness of its punishments forbad to give more than forty stripes, save one. He was quite sure that any diminution in corporal punishment 318 would be hailed with gratitude by the English people. He also was glad to hear the gallant officer exculpated from the charge of any act of peculiar severity; and while he regretted the unfortunate circumstance that had occurred, yet the public attention which it had attracted might be of great importance to the service.
§ Amendment withdrawn. Main Question agreed to.