HC Deb 30 March 1847 vol 91 cc645-71

On the Motion that the Speaker do now leave the chair for the House to go into Committee on the Army Service Bill,


moved that the Bill be committed that day six months. Before proceeding to state his reasons for this, he begged to tender his best thanks to the noble Lord at the head of the Government for his kindness and courtesy in postponing the Bill to meet his (Sir H. Douglas's) convenience, and that of the other professional Gentlemen who felt peculiar interest in the question before the House. He had wished to ascertain the opinion of the highest authority that ever lived in any age or country—the eminent individual now the Commander-in-Chief of the British Armys—on this measure; and had the answer which he (Sir H. Douglas) received to the question which he put on a former evening satisfied him that that eminent man cordially approved, sanctioned, and advised this measure, then, whatever may have been his own opinion on the subject, it would be as nothing compared with the judgment of the great man to whom he referred. He was not inclined to dispute the value of the abstract proposition involved in limited enlistment; but he believed that the complicated affairs and peculiar circumstances of the British isles, and the widely extended colonial dependencies of the empire, rendered the application of the abstract proposition altogether unsuitable to the British Army. His first-reason for opposing the change of system contained in the Bill, referred mainly and solely to the interest of the British soldier. He spoke first as the stedfast friend of the soldier; and he would not proceed to consider the effect which the proposed measure would have upon the service generally, or upon the country, till he had satisfied the House that this measure did not tend to the interest of the soldier, nor was calculated to render the service more attractive to the masses from which soldiers came. It had been asserted by Mr. Wyndham and the advocates of his measure in 1806–7, that limited enlistment would attract to the service a superior description of men, and this is the main object, announced by Her Majesty's Government, in making this change. But this, it appeared to him, will prove as delusive, as the expectations of 1806. No one has ever attempted to show from what class these superior descriptions of men are to come; and the plan of 1807 signally failed. During the eight years preceding 1829, when both limited and unlimited enlistment went together, 82,000 men enlisted for unlimited service, and only 2,000 for limited service. And the numbers of each class enlisted during the first and last four of these eight years show such a diminution in the proportion of limited service engagements, that it lapsed, in fact, almost to nothing, and was discontinued. One of Mr. Wyndham's objects was, to do away the bounty. He (Sir H. Douglas) concurred entirely in that view; but this may be done irrespective of the particular term or duration of enlistment. The whole system of bounty is a delusion on the soldier. Whatever bounty is promised, should be a reality, and paid in money; part on enlisting, and the rest on joining; but by charging the bounty with the payment of the soldier's kit, the recruit finds that, instead of being in credit for the remainder of his bounty, he is usually in debt. This occasions great disappointment; it is, in fact, deception, and is, no doubt, a fruitful cause of discontent and desertion. In the French service the kit is provided for the soldiers. So in the service of the United States, where the soldier is better off than in ours, the premium on enlistment is more liberal: the pay is about the same; but every article of personal equipment besides clothing, namely, shirts, flannels, stockings, socks, and shoes, are provided by the public, and thus a great many British soldiers, deserters, are found in the ranks of the United States army. He should not propose to continue the bounty at the present nominal rate, but give some real bounty, and provide the kit at the public expense, so that the charge to the public would not be great. He (Sir H. Douglas) would now proceed to consider how far the Bill was calculated to entice a superior class of men into the service. He should consider what were the honours, what the provision for old age, which were promised under this Bill; and he should then show the effect—the serious effect—which the change was calculated to produce on the discipline of the British Army. The hon. and gallant Member then proceeded to give some figure details, showing the number of men in the various branches of the service who had served more than ten years. The total was 27,150. It was well known that the Bill—the whole Bill—as first drawn up, contained provisions which would have set free this number of our best men — a number equal to one-fifth of the whole British Army; and he would leave the House and the country to consider the effect which would be produced by the discharge of so many men stationed in various colonies of the empire. This evil, however, was staved off by some invisible and unknown guar- dian; but should this Bill pass, the evil which had been averted for the present by this protecting hand, must come ultimately into operation. Now, with respect to the superior description of men which this Bill was expected to attract into the service, he called upon the House to look at the inducements which were held out to such persons. Let us see what present inducements are held out to this better class, or to any class of men, to enlist for ten years. Let us examine what are to be their rewards at the expiration; what their public honours; what increase to their fortunes, prospects, and domestic comforts. To have their names enrolled on the same list with men discharged as incapable of further service long before the 10 years' man entered, or was born! Is it the honour of appearing on the public parade with worn-out men for 12 days in each year, for 22 years, and when 50 years of age to get a pension of 6d. a day? And, in the event of the country being invaded, to have the superior post of honour of serving behind stone walls with men discharged as unfit for service in the field? He (Sir H. Douglas) was amazed! Can there he any question as to whether a better class of men can be thus allured? This proposition examined more closely shows that the great object of the measure is, to save the public money—not for the advantage of the soldier or of the military service, but at the expense of both. This far surpasses, in detriment to the soldier, and discredit to the service, the measure contained in a former warrant of bribing the soldier to quit the service, and relinquish all claim to pension, by offering him a premium to take his discharge in the shape of a grant of land in the colonics, with a bonus in money varying from 3 to 6, 12 and 18 months' full pay, with some variations respecting home and foreign service, after the corresponding periods of 15, 16, 17, 18, and 21 years' service, which he was happy to say, few comparatively took, and which being an improvident commutation for any soldier of that standing to accept, led many to great misery, and has very properly been abolished. It is absurd to suppose that a superior class of men would be decoyed into the service by such a scheme. So far from attracting a superior description of men, he felt assured that the class of men from which the Army was usually recruited, would be amazed to learn that Her Majesty's Government could pos- sibyl imagine that good men would be decoyed into the service by such flimsy offers. But, if the measure was good, why did not the Government carry it out to the whole Army? They proposed to prohibit a man from enlisting as a soldier for a longer period than 10 years, as being derogatory to the character of a free country and a free man. If that were so, why did they not release soldiers who had already contracted this ignoble engagement? If they did not, there would be one portion of the Army composed of soldiers prohibited from enlisting beyond a period of 10 years, as being inconsistent with the character of a free country, and unworthy of free men; and another part composed of men previously enlisted for periods thus strongly denounced. The proposition to limit the period of enlistment to 10 years, when fairly examined, seemed to him to be neither for the advantage of the man, nor of the military service, nor of the empire. Ten years were just enough to win a man from habits of hard labour, but not deemed sufficient to entitle him to any immediate reward or compensation. He thought that the soldier should be enlisted for no period of service which did not fairly entitle him to a pension. There should be a recompense at the end of every engagement. Let the Government restore the old pension of 1s. a day for 21 years' service, and they would do more for the Army than by any other measure. That would be a remedy for every evil. This would be acceptable to the Army, and creditable to the country. If he (Sir H. Douglas) failed in arresting the progress of this measure, he should in Committee propose Amendments to the effect of what he had just stated. He had received a great many letters from officers of every grade in the Army on this subject; and if he were to read those he held in his hand, or to state the names of the writers, there was not an hon. Member in that House who would not admit that, as well with respect to the artillery, as to the engineers, the cavalry, the infantry, and all the scientific corps, no officers were more distinguished, either now or at any former period of our country's his-history, than those who had addressed him in terms condemnatory of this measure. And it was remarkable that he had been addressed by soldiers as their best friend, for opposing this measure, and for insisting upon an increased rate of pen- sion, as the one thing needful. All complained of the reduction of the pensions; some of the smallness of the bounties; others complained of the clothing, in the infantry in particular, as being coarse; but not a single individual soldier complained of unlimited service. He contended that any alteration in the period of enlistment was unnecessary for the recruiting of the Army. At the present moment we had an ample supply of able-bodied recruits; and if there was a demand for more, it could be supplied in a short time without resort to limited service. In 1845 there had been enlisted into the infantry and cavalry, no less than 11,420 persons; in 1846, 24,000; into the artillery corps in 1845, 1,411; and in 1846, 1,000 — in all 37,830 men in two years; and, so far as be knew, not one objection had been made, in any case, to the system of unlimited service. The number of recruits rejected during the same period amounted to 31 per cent, which shows that there was a plentiful supply, admitting even of selection. He had taken some pains to ascertain the different classes of men of which the Army is composed. At present, he found that the great mass of the Army is composed of the best-conditioned class of men they could possibly have. He found that 628 out of every thousand were agricultural labourers and servants; and he appealed to the House whether they could obtain, from any class of men, better soldiers than these usually produced? Ascending a little higher, he found that 310 out of every thousand were artisans and mechanics, a great many of whom turned out good soldiers; but, in general, they were not so able-bodied nor so well conducted as those belonging to the agricultural class is. Of shopmen and clerks he found that there were 43 out of every thousand; but they turned out in general very bad soldiers; and, in general, the higher, the class the worse soldiers they became. Some few consisted of gentlemen's sons, professional gentlemen, licentiates of medicine, divinity, and even law: these turned out the worst soldiers of all. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War (Mr. P. Maule), if he remembered anything of his experience in the Army, could not have forgotten what was thought of having a decayed gentleman in his company—a lawyer for instance. The fact was, that nearly all the men, excepting the very humblest class—which, after all, is the best and most legitimate stock from which soldiers could be taken—were persons in the decadence of life—men who were not rising, but sinking—men who entered the Army in consequence of some failure or misconduct. He did not mean to say that all these made had soldiers. He had known many gentlemen's sons enter the Army as private soldiers, from being unable to purchase commissions; he had helped some of them on, and many had made their way to commissions. Of the other classes, he had known many who were ornaments of their profession; who had served well as soldiers, and risen to the rank of officers; but there "was no denying that, generally speaking, men who were descending in life, who had failed in business, or had been guilty of some misconduct, and who took refuge in the Army, turned out very bad soldiers. If the Bill attracted such men as these, he could only say, that it would have the worst and most prejudicial effect. He remembered the period when limited service men were mixed up with soldiers enlisted for unlimited service, and could testify to the confusion and insubordination which resulted from the former system. He yesterday received a letter from a distinguished officer who commanded a regiment at the time Mr. Wyndham's Act was in force, which described the baneful effect produced by that measure on the discipline of the Army, and which with the permission of the House he would read:— It may seem to be presumption in me to state that I entirely concur in all you said the other day in the House of Commons, and now eon-template, for limiting the duration of service in the Army. With the feeling abroad now upon this subject, I have no doubt some such measure will be carried. I am sorry to say I am old enough to remember the baneful effects produced upon the discipline of the Army by Mr. Wyndham's Act; men became insolent and subordinate as the period of their servitude approached; and it had the effect of making good steady soldiers so also. There was scarcely a third day in the month, that the service of some man did not expire; hence the regiment was kept in an eternal state of excitement and drunkenness. Such will inevitably be the consequence of any limited service measure, when it comes in full operation. When this measure comes into full force, one-third of our Army may be on sea homewards. Consequently, it will have to be increased, if not to that extent, at least to a certain extent. One of the popular reasons assigned for having recourse to a measure, found from previous experience to be inapplicable to this country, is, that it will induce a superior class to enter the Army. I have great doubt, whether it will have any such effect; it is absurd to suppose, that it confers any advantage of sufficient impor- tance to induce a man to enlist, who has any other respectable means of living. Still, the mass of the Army must, be composed as heretofore, so long as physical eligibility is the only qualification required, to admit any vagabond into the service. I am not likely to be personally annoyed by the working of any measure that does not come into operation for ten or twelve years. Still, I have a sufficient regard for the posterity of the British Army, to desire to see it established upon such a permanent footing, as to be able to maintain its present proud position to the end of time. The supporters of the present Bill cited the Continental States, in which limited service prevailed. His reply was, theirs was compulsory service; and compulsory service must be limited. It would be unjust to compel men to serve for an unlimited period; and, accordingly, the condition of all conscription is, that the service must be for limited periods. It was necessary, however, to bear this important point in mind, that in limited service by conscription there is no selection. Under the system which now prevails in this country, there is selection, and that is the reason of the acknowledged physical superiority of the British soldier. Take the Prussian youth but three years a soldier, and compare him with the British soldier of twelve years standing—the superiority of the latter would be at once apparent. Pursue the comparison with respect to the Austrian, the French, and the Russian soldier, and all would be found inferior in physical power to our soldiers. The British bayonet is famed throughout the world; but it is not the temper of the steel which rendered that weapon so formidable to our enemies, it was the sinew and muscle of the men who wielded it—men who had entered into a voluntary engagement for unlimited service. Our great Commander knew the stuff his men were made of, when he exclaimed, "Up, Guards, and at them!" How that appeal was responded to, it was unnecessary to state. When the gallant Picton said to his regiment at a critical moment, "Boys, give them a taste of the cold steel;" his brave 88th overran three times their number. The British soldier feels severely the severities of colonial service; and it would afford every friend of the Army satisfaction, if some safe means could be devised, of abridging the ordinary period of service in our colonial possessions; but he could not approve of the manner in which the Government proposed to effect that object. The great objection to this measure is, the inconvenience—the complications—the endless changes and transfers, it must oc- casion, in an Army, of which by far the greater part is stationed in the outward and remote possessions and colonies of the empire. Of our total force of 120 battalions, 80 are employed abroad; and about six battalions are constantly on the sea, relieving and relieved, exclusive of invalids bringing home, and fresh men sending out. Of rank and file, infantry and artillery, serving in the colonies, there are no less than 72,000 men. Already the inconvenience, difficulty, and expense, are very great in relieving and bringing home corps at the periods at present regulated; and in bringing home invalids and in sending out fresh men. What will not that difficulty and inconvenience be, when this measure shall be in full operation, and one tenth annually of 72,000 shall be entitled to discharge and must be brought home? To make more frequent reliefs of corps, and continual changes of men, the number of battalions must be considerably increased. Military men know, and it must be obvious to all hon. Members, that the strength of the main body must bear a certain proportion to the number of out-stations, or posts, to be furnished; their distance from the centre, the remoteness from each other, the frequency of reliefs, and the enlarged period of home duty. For this, if the periods abroad are to be shortened, and large portions of the corps serving abroad, annually changed, the number of battalions must be increased. Bight battalions were added in 1845, but fresh exigencies have since occurred, which more than absorb that augmentation. He would now address himself more particularly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He could not think Her Majesty's Government had taken into calculation, rightly, the vast additional expense which would be caused by sending out reliefs, rendered necessary by those fluctuations which must constantly be taking place, in the regiments in the colonies. The expense of conveying troops to India and the colonies, and bringing them to England, would be enormously increased by this measure. At present it was 243,000l. annually, exclusive of conveyance to and from India, and of troops moved in vessels of war. These charges would be at least doubled, under the new system. It was said that a large number of the soldiers in India volunteered to remain there. Is not this a strong condemnation of the limitation to ten years? The numbers, so volunteering, in the last year were 2,000; but they did so because they would rather be soldiers in India than anywhere else. But if free to return to England, they would not be so ready to remain. Again, the Government at present derives a considerable revenue from the purchase of discharges. The sum raised from this source is sufficient to pay the whole expense of the recruiting establishment: that amount must be given up under the new system. Another sacrifice it will involve is the amount arising from the balance of stoppages from the soldiers in some of the colonies for provisions, above what the rations in those colonies cost; this was about 33,000l. a year. This arrangement is based upon the principle, that, in unlimited service, a soldier serving in a colony where the stoppages from his pay for his provisions exceed the cost of the ration, may, in his protracted services, find himself, in his next tour of colonial duty, on a station, where the cost of the ration exceeds the stoppage. Limited service disposes of that arrangement. He had endeavoured to prove that the proposed measure would be disadvantageous to the Army, and to the masses whence the Army was drawn. He had shown that the plan was not called for by any necessity, professional, constitutional, political, or economical. It was not justified by experience; for all experience was against it. He would appeal to the country, and to all who knew the British Army, whether it was not at present in the most perfect state of efficiency, and fit for any service, in any part of the world. It was in a high state of discipline, improving in every respect, moral, physical, and, he hoped he might add, intellectual—thanks to the liberality of the House, which had shown a strong disposition to promote that improvement. If there had been any doubt of the efficiency of the Army, he might admit a necessity for considering whether they could not organize it on a better plan. But was ever any Army in a better state? Degrading punishments were falling into disuse. No one had laboured more to diminish those than he had; no one was more anxious that a period should arrive when they would be unnecessary; but he certainly had objected to taking away the power of inflicting punishment, till that better state should be attained. Among the measures which he had advocated for the improvement of the condition of the soldier was the establishment of military savings-banks. And here he would unhesitatingly state, that an impression pre- vailed among the men, that by placing money in those banks, they would be affording a proof that their pay was more than sufficient, and that this fact might be taken advantage of by some economist in the House, to propose a reduction in their pay. He was sure this would be disowned and repudiated; he believed the knowledge that the soldier was thus acquiring more provident habits, would rather lead to a contrary result. He did not think that engagement for an unlimited period was the cause of desertion. He believed that this was occasioned by some immediate excitement, passion, grievance, or discontent. One main cause was the severity of foreign service. Desertion in Canada, where it is greatest, shows this. The return which the right hon. the late Secretary of War cited on a former occasion, shows, for instance, that during the five years preceding 1829, when limited service existed, the per centage of desertion in Canada was double—more than double—what it was in the five succeeding years. One serious effect of the proposed plan would be, to throw back on parishes, and on poor rates, numbers of soldiers, with broken health and impaired constitutions, from ten years' service in all climates, and probably with wives and children, who on both accounts will not be re-engaged, and thus reject them upon the classes from which they had been taken, without reward, recompense, or provision, and in destitution. It had been said that this measure will open to the British soldier, an avenue to rank, a course to glory and distinction, at present closed; that the bravest and best soldier can hardly hope at present for any reward beyond the three rings, and that even for a display of valour, which warmed the national heart and made the pulse beat quicker, his country's gratitude afforded him, when crippled, only some 15l. a year. To this he would first observe, that the pittance promised to soldiers at fifty years of age, by this Bill, was not 15l., but only 8l. a year; and as to there being no career, hope, or reward, according to the present system, he could tell of many, many gallant deeds done by spirits embodied in men of humble rank, who had made their way to the highest distinction. (The hon. and gallant Member here mentioned several instances of officers now in the Army who had risen from the ranks.) These were men who had done honour to the name of a British soldier, their examples showed that a bright career to fame and rank, which it was supposed this measure would open to privates and non-commissioned officers in the Army, was open to them under the existing system, and had been taken advantage of in a manner which showed that no change of system was on this account required. After apologizing for detaining the House so long upon this important measure, the hon. and gallant Member moved that the Bill be committed that day six months.


felt a deep interest in the fate of this measure. Believing it to be a measure founded on the principles of justice and humanity, he had been most anxious for its introduction, and he was sorry to find that it should have encountered so relentless and uncompromising an opponent in the person of the hon. and gallant General the Member for Liverpool. The hon. and gallant Member contended that it would operate disadvantageously for the service of the country; but the arguments which the hon. and gallant Member adduced in support of that opinion appeared to him to be singularly inconclusive, and such as ought not to sway the decision of the House upon a question in which were so vitally concerned the happiness and welfare of the British soldier. The present system of enlistment had been found to work most oppressively on the soldier. The lad of eighteen was not permitted under our constitution to marry without the consent of those in authority over him, nor to make a will; and yet at that age he was permitted with his immature experience and imperfect knowledge of life, to enter into a bargain singularly disadvantageous for himself, and indeed for the country too, by surrendering himself over to a service where the authorities might discharge him at any moment, while he was incapacitated from demanding his discharge from them himself. The hon. and gallant Member had expressed his surprise that this measure should have been introduced at such a moment as the present; but if it was true that it was founded on the principle of justice, and if it was also true that the present system of enlistment was an evil, the sooner some such measure as this was introduced, the better for the service and the country. If the measure was in itself a meritorious one, there was no time for introducing it like, the present. The hon. and gallant Member had stated that crime in the Army was on the decrease. Perhaps so; but he had forgotten to mention that in the course of three years no less than 28,000 men had been committed to gaol, and that 8,000 had deserted from the colours under which it was represented that such extraordinary felicitjr was to be experienced. The gallant General had also neglected to advert to what appeared to him to be a most melancholy and fearful fact, namely, that one in twenty of the deaths in the cavalry was from suicide. Every twentieth death was a case of self-destruction; and this appalling fact alone proclaimed trumpet-tongued the necessity of reformation in the Army. He had no exception to take to the observations the gallant General had made on the subject of bounty to soldiers. He had always thought it a very great mistake to call that a bounty which was deducted from the soldier's necessaries. The use of such a word was calculated to mislead the soldier, and to make him think that the Army broke faith with him, and that he was at liberty to break faith with it, by deserting on the first opportunity. He admitted that the present system was objectionable, both in name and practice, with respect to bounty; but this admission did not constitute any objection against the present Bill. As for the question of pensions, he admitted that here too there was ample room for improvement. He had always said so. In the Session of 1843, and on various other occasions, he had brought the subject of the total inadequacy of soldiers' pensions under the consideration of the House; and it was worthy of remark that very few, if any, of the hon. and gallant Members who spoke so indignantly on the point in the discussion on the present measure, gave him any assistance or co-operation on the occasions in question. Let them by all means increase the pension; but this he would take leave, to tell them, that though they were to increase it tenfold, and to take the utmost possible care in educating the soldier, he would be unhappy, restless, and discontented, so long as he was a slave for life, as he was under the present system of enlistment. [Cries of "No, no!"] It was easy to cry "No, no;" but be challenged denial of the assertion by any one who had attentively watched the operation of the present system, that it was regarded by the soldier as equivalent to slavery for life. A better class of men would be induced to enter the service by the present measure; and this he considered a desideratum, notwithstanding all that had been said to the contrary by the gallant General. A thinking and well-educated man would have no objection to enter the service when he knew that at the end of ten years he could retire from it if he did not like it, and thus the ranks would in all probability be filled with a better description of persons than if the recruits were rash and careless men, who entered thoughtlessly, and were bound for life. Inconvenience might, and probably would, to some extent result from the measure to adjutants and colonels; but it was better that officers should have to endure a slight annoyance, than that the soldiers should be subjected to the much more painful inconvenience of being slaves for life. The term of ten years was objected to because it was said that that was just the time when a man ought to become entitled to a pension. But, if a man was anxious to obtain a pension, he must remember that his country had some claim upon him for a continuation of service; and by leaving the service at the expiration of ten years, he would be voluntarily resigning any claim he might otherwise have upon the country. The hon. and gallant Officer had talked of the great expense that would be incurred by sending men home from the East Indies and the colonies after their service of ten years had expired. But while this most striking fact existed, that 164 persons drew from the revenue of the country 1,600,000l. a year, that revenue amounting to only 52,000,000l.; that was to say, 164 persons received not less than one-thirtieth of the whole revenue of the country: whilst this fact remained, he trusted he should never again hear of the expense of bringing men from India as a question of consideration. Had the hon. and gallant Officer ever commanded a regiment of the line? Had he ever served in India? Had he ever been in the West Indies? He had not! then, what was it to him that the hon. and gallant Officer came down to that House and talked of his rank and of his fifty years' experience. Men holding the station of that hon. and gallant Officer were either above seeing, or were placed in a situation where they could not see or hear, what actually occurred among the men in the Army. The hon. and gallant Member had said that he had never heard the men complain of enlistment for life. Why, how could he hear them? Would he go to the men and ask them? It was unreasonable to suppose that men would make their complaints known to persons holding the rank which the hon. and gallant Officer held in the Army. He most heartily thanked Her Majesty's Government for having brought forward this measure. It was just and right, and was one which public opinion must and would carry. It was a measure which, he believed, if put to the ballot, would meet with the support of many men of rank in the Army, who, under peculiar circumstances, dared not openly avow their sentiments upon it. It was one which he had long been most anxious to see carried; and he gloried at the arrival of the day when it had at length become successful.


said, that his opinion with regard to enlistment for an unlimited period was already on record. He considered unlimited enlistment objectionable; but he thought that those Gentlemen who urged the discontinuance of the system very much exaggerated the evils that were supposed to result from it. There was no such thing practically in this country as unlimited enlistment. In practice, as far as the service of the Army was concerned, this was the principle—until the men had completed a certain period of service they were not entitled to pensions; but when they had completed their twenty-one years, when they were entitled to it, a system of fraud prevailed to get their discharge. It 1845 there were 2,000 men who had served much longer than twenty-one years; but it was obvious that there would have been many more then but for the pensions given immediately on the completion of that period. The great majority, however, of the men in the Army left the service after fifteen years' service; and the largest proportion of that body did so at twenty-one years' service. About 12,000 men left the Army every year. About 3,000 of these got pensions, and about 3,000 were purchased out. Thus about 6,000 men left the Army by regular discharge, and the rest by fraud or other means. If they took the period for enlistment at that time the largest body of men naturally left the Army, the experiment would be much less hazardous than that now proposed. He objected to very short periods of enlistment, although the period of service was very short in the Continental armies; but this was a compulsory service. He was satisfied that it was impossible to compel men by enrolment or conscription to remain for a very long time. They would also find that there were the greatest complaints on the Con- tinent, and more especially in France, on the part of the relations of the young men who had served in these armies, that they came back to their homes totally unfit for any other purpose. Then there was another danger—namely, that they might produce such a state of things by a legislative measure of this kind, that a very large proportion of the population should have passed through the ranks of the Army, and thus have obtained a knowledge of military discipline and habits. He was aware that this was a very unpopular view of the subject; but he should not be deterred by that from expressing his opinion on it. In all these countries to which he had alluded, popular commotions were rendered more dangerous by those who had been discharged from the Army. In England a disturbance could be put down by a few watchmen or policemen; but in Continental States, disturbances, apparently trivial in the first instance, became of a formidable character. On the Continent, any imaginary or just cause of complaint gave rise to serious outbreaks, in which an active part was taken by men who had been trained as soldiers, and had been accustomed to military movements, and they only wanted uniforms to make them, an army. This was a very proper matter for the consideration of the Government. When the London police was first established, it was formed to a considerable extent from disbanded soldiers; and it was the opinion of the police commissioners, that they never had men upon whom they could so much depend as those who belonged to the force at first. They had repeatedly stated that they never had such steady men as the non-commissioned officers. If they made the time of service so short as ten years, they must take care that they held out to the men sufficient inducements to enlist for a further period. The right hon. Gentleman said on a former occasion that with respect to short enlistments, some measures should be adopted to aid the parties who so engaged themselves. He (Mr. Sidney Herbert) believed that it was clearly impossible that they could give pensions after only ten years' service; and he also believed that the project of the right hon. Gentleman would not secure that inducement which he anticipated. The right hon. Gentleman's proposal was, that if a man, after having left the Army, served for twenty years in a local corps, he should be entitled to a pension. If the men entered into other em- ployments, they would subject themselves to annoyance in being called out for several days at a time for the purpose of exercise, and being without pay for a longer period than they were kept out. They might as well expect to succeed in such a project, as if, as was stated by the gallant General, they contracted to pay a man's funeral expenses. For his own part, he would recommend fourteen years as the period of enlistment. It must be recollected that much of that period would be on foreign service. According to the present arrangement the period of foreign service was ten years, and the period of home service also ten years. He believed that this plan was obtainable after the increase of the Army last year. By the plan proposed in the Bill, one man might have to serve five years at home and five abroad, another ten years at home and another ten years altogether abroad, for each man must be discharged at the end of that period. This would be a matter for calculation, for the constant moving the men in consequence of this would make an important addition to the expenditure. It would be difficult accurately to estimate the additional expense of moving the troops to and from the Colonies in consequence of this arrangement. He believed that the present charge on the Navy for this purpose was about 200,000l. In India, however, circumstances were different, for a great number of the soldiers contracted marriages there, and had families, and living luxurious lives in comparison with the soldiers here, they were induced to volunteer into other regiments instead of coming home. There was a different state of things in our Colonies; he, therefore, wished to know what was calculated to be the additional expense for raising troops to supply the place of those who were entitled to their discharge, having completed their period of service. If he was not mistaken, the number of troops that it would be necessary to move in consequence of this measure, would be 3,000 or 4,000 a year. Again, it would not be worth while for men who had only enlisted for ten years to purchase their discharges. He did not believe there was in the Army a strong feeling against unlimited enlistment. He thought that to increase the pensions and the comforts of the soldier, would, upon the whole, have a much greater effect than diminishing the length of service. In fact, it was not a superior class of men, but superior men of the same class, that they wanted; and that object, he was ready to admit, to a certain extent they might attain by means of limited enlistment. It certainly appeared objectionable to his mind to call upon a boy of seventeen, whose father would not trust him with the making of a bargain in his own business, to enter into a contract by which he bound himself to an unlimited service; and that was the reason why parents, among the humbler classes in this country, looked with alarm on the arrival in their neighbourhood of a recruiting party, in the fear that their sons would be kidnapped and separated from them for ever. Still, that the new plan would be found to produce very great advantages, he doubted, though it might obtain for the Army a better sort of men. He would be ready to give a system of limited enlistment; to obviate the evils which it was certainly calculated to meet; but then he would have wished to fix a more lengthened period for that limited service than was now proposed by the right hon. Gentleman; and he would have done this in order to obviate the great increase of expense which must attend this alteration, and the necessity of frequent change; and a period of fourteen years would have been long enough to prevent one evil which he thought it was important to prevent, namely, the turning out upon society every now and then a large number of men with the habits of soldiers fixed upon them. Further, he thought that when they were about to have a measure which would most clearly diminish the amount of the army pensions, an opportunity was presented for revising the pension list of 1833, which ought not to be overlooked. This was not a new idea of his; but now he saw a possibility for carrying out his proposal, because they would have a diminution of the whole amount of pensions, and consequently a fund from which a revision might be effected without additional expense upon the whole. Then it was to be considered that the pension list of 1833 would not come into effect until 1854, and then there would be a great and sudden diminution of the dead weight; and the plan he wished to see adopted would diminish a saving of 66,000l. a year, by 22,000l. a year, leaving a clear yearly saving of 44,000l. One of the results of a ten years' service would be that many men would leave the Army at the end of that time without demanding any pension; it was clear the dead weight would be diminished, and something might be effected without additional expenditure. He threw out these suggestions for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman, and not with any intention of voting with the hon. and gallant General, with whose views he did not agree. Still he must say he was not without apprehensions of the working of this measure; and it would be a great satisfaction to him if the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule), who had so efficiently taken up the subject of army reform, would take these points into his consideration. The right hon. Gentleman, he thought, might make a great improvement in his measure if he would take into his consideration the probable effect of it as it stood upon men who had been long in the service. He admitted that it would be quite impossible to deprive the Army suddenly of 20,000 men; but then he thought it was imprudent in the right hon. Gentleman to speak in such strong terms of the state in which he left these men. There would be great difficulties, he (Mr. S. Herbert) thought in having two classes of men; one of men who had enlisted for a term which had been so much stigmatized as that of the present system of enlistment, and the other of those who had a less period of service before them. The man enlisted on the day that this Bill received the Royal Assent, would be engaged for life—an engagement of which the right hon. Gentleman had spoken in such strong terms—and the man who enlisted the day after would be engaged for the diminished period. It was in no spirit of hostility that he (Mr. S. Herbert) had thrown out these suggestions; he offered them for the consideration of the right hon. Gentleman; and in his opinion the right hon. Gentleman would do wisely if, before he brought up the Report, he made those alterations in the measure which would render it more acceptable to the Army, and more safe for the country at large.


considered that the right hon. Gentleman acknowledged the principle of the Bill, but that he had objections to the details of it on two or three different points. The right hon. Gentleman had first objected to the period which the Bill proposed to make the first enlistment of the soldier last for; secondly, the right hon. Gentleman objected to the system of offering the soldier, if he quitted the Army in ten years, an enrolment for a pension; and then the right hon. Gentleman objected to the expense which the Bill threw on the public. The right hon. Gen- tleman also suggested, with reference to the acceptability of the Bill to the Army, that there were other measures by which the military service could be made more acceptable to those who entered it than the Bill gave the means of effecting; and he suggested a reconsideration of the pension warrant of 1833, with a view to increasing the soldier's pension after the completion of twenty-one years' service. Now, first, the right hon. Gentleman proposed, instead of ten to take fourteen years' service; but he thought it must fall within the natural supposition of every one in the House, that in considering this question the necessity of fixing some definite period had been kept in view, and he had not adopted the period of ten years as a matter of vague indefinite chance-work, but upon reason. He might have taken Mr. Windham's term of seven years, or the right hon. Gentleman's period of fourteen. But to fourteen there was this objection in his mind—they would enlist a youth at eighteen years of age, who would serve fourteen years, and then, at thirty-two, he would have served his time; but then, at the age of thirty-two, he thought most commanding officers would have a strong objection, if they could get rid of that man, to re-enlist him, and the event would be, that such strong discouragement would be held out against re-enlisting, that the soldier would be cast out upon society without any pension at the end of his fourteen years' service. If, however, the soldier was to have a pension at the end of fourteen years' service, then, on the behalf of the public, he should still more strongly object to the plan. It was on these grounds that he had taken the period of ten years. Now, with reference to the option he gave to the soldier to enrol for a pension, he could not admit the objection to it, that it would have the effect of martializing (if he might call it so) the whole country. The right hon. Gentleman objected to sending men back into society with all the habits of the Army fixed upon them; and the right hon. Gentleman feared that, trained and accustomed to habits of discipline and order as those men were, they would send back into society a body who would be dangerous to the peace of the country, and might in time of trouble prove an evil in the State. He thought they must judge of the probable result of their conduct by what had been the conduct of other men, who were old soldiers, and who had been thrown upon society abroad. Now, during the Canadian rebellion, every temptation was thrown in the way of the pensioners to induce them to join the ranks of the enemy, and to give to the disaffected the benefit of their military knowledge; and yet, to a man, every pensioner proved loyal, and came as one man to the assistance of the Government, and enrolled themselves in the British service. [Sir H. DOUGLAS: They were pensioned.] That was true; but here the men would be serving for a deferred pension at the end of twenty years of exactly the same amount as was at present given to a soldier who had served in the ranks for twenty-one years. Therefore, the man enrolled for a deferred pension would have the same prospect to look forward to at the end of the twenty years' enrolled service, after leaving the Army, as the soldier had at the end of his twenty-one years' actual service. He did not believe that there would be even a small body of men in the country willing to encourage the people to form themselves into military bodies, or, if there were excitement abroad, that they would be found leading the people into mischief; on the contrary, he thought that on mixing themselves with their fellow-citizens throughout the country they would set an example of good order, and that though they had retired from active military duties, they would in the twelve days of each year meet their old companions; that instead of losing the good habits they had acquired as soldiers, they would retain their habits of order and good conduct; and that the objection of the right hon. Gentleman was merely imaginary. With respect to expense, he did not much apprehend any danger. If the men took their discharge at the end of ten years, there might be a saving in the amount of pensions; but be did not deem that a point which ought to weigh in their consideration: as to the extra expense in the movements of the troops, he did not believe, after the men had served ten years, that they would refuse to re-enlist themselves, for at the end of ten years the rough part of a soldier's duty had passed, and at the end of eleven years more, they would have to look for all the benefits and advantages which were at present held out to him for the full period of service. And here he must remind the gallant Officer (Sir H. Douglas) who opposed the Bill altogether, that year by year, and in Administration after Administration, the period of the soldier's service had been gradually dwindling down in proportion to the good behaviour, and that at the present moment, with two good marks, and after twelve years of service, the soldier was entitled to claim his discharge. If there were to be a detriment from a limited period of service in the Army, why was there not the same detriment in the Naval service? Yet in the Navy, the service was for three years or five years, or for a period during which there was war. He was not talking of a period of war, but of a time of peace, and of introducing a system which might render the Army more palatable to the classes from which it was recruited. As to the conduct of the gallant General, he thought that he had a right to complain of his bringing on two separate debates; and that he did not oppose the Bill on the stage in which the principle was decided, but allowed it to go to the stage in which it then was, and now opposed the principle. In the meantime, the gallant General had found out, or fancied he had found out, that the Bill was opposed to opinions in high quarters. Now the gallant Officer had been in authority, and he knew the nature of confidential communications between military and civil authorities, and yet he asked his noble Friend (Lord J. Russell) to state the nature of communications strictly confidential, which had passed between the First Minister of the Crown, and the Commander-in-Chief; and on his noble Friend declining to answer the question, the gallant Officer assumed that the Duke of Wellington was opposed to this Bill. He thought that a more unwarrantable assumption he had never heard than that, in consequence of the silence of his noble Friend, another party held opinions—of which the hon. and gallant Gentleman knew nothing—opposed to a measure which the Government had brought forward on their own responsibility; and he greatly mistook the character of the Duke of Wellington if he would thank the gallant Officer for the position in which he had put the noble Duke. Without any authority, the gallant General had put the Duke of Wellington, whatever might be the unpopularity of such a course, in opposition to this measure; and he had put upon the Commander-in-Chief the responsibility of opposing a measure, when it was quite possible that of such an intention the Commander-in-Chief might be entirely innocent. Again, the hon. and gallant Officer assumed, that the Bill was totally unacceptable to the soldiers, or to the mass of them; and the gallant Officer said, that he had had many communications with soldiers, and not one had pressed him for a limited enlistment. The gallant General might have had applications about pensions, or about the smartness of dress, or about other matters which those who attended minutely to the Army, laid themselves out for, and on which the soldiers would naturally apply to him; but they did not apply to him about limited enlistment, because he could not give them relief, and they knew that he was totally opposed to any complaint on that subject. The gallant General assumed the other night, that limited service was of no benefit, and the country derived no advantage from the men who served only ten years. Did he not know that the Peninsular army was formed of men who had only served ten, nine, or even eight years? He had stated that the Duke of Wellington, in one of his despatches, had reported that 800,000 dollars were spent to re-enlist the army when Mr. Wyndham's first enlistment was about to expire in the year 1813. He could not comprehend where the gallant Officer got his information. [Sir H. DOUGLAS: From the despatch.] It was so in the despatch, but it must be erroneous, for the bounty was then for limited enlistment, eleven guineas, and for unlimited enlistment, sixteen guineas; but taking the average at 15l. a man, if 800,000 or 900,000 dollars, as he believed it stood in the despatch, had been spent in re-enlisting the men on that occasion, there must have been a re-enlistment of upwards of 12,000 men. The number in 1806 was 20,672. The decrease in the Army at that time, was nine per cent per annum; in seven years, therefore, the decrease must have amounted to about 10,000 men. Thus 10,677 men were all that remained, taking the average increase in those seven years; and yet, according to the statement which had been made, 12,000 men must have re-enlisted. He could not understand how this result was achieved. The Peninsular forces at that time, consisted only of one-sixth of the Army; so that there could only have been in that army, about 1,800 men who had seen any lengthened service. And the real fact of the matter was this, that, in 1811, when the Peninsular war was at its height, the entire number of men in the British Army was 200,000; and, of these 200,000, the greater proportion of them being in the Peninsula, in the years 1807–8–9–10, that was to say in four years, making only three or four years service, 105,000, or 106,000 were of this description. The great proportion of these were men in the army of the Peninsula. So far as regarded young soldiers, men of two or three years' service; he thought, therefore, he had proved that they were the men who had fought those very battles to which the hon. and gallant Officer so proudly referred, and to which the country so proudly looked back; and that it did not necessarily require those who were termed old and seasoned soldiers to win victories as remarkable as had ever been gained. Who were the men who contended at Waterloo? They were the recruits; the veteran troops were far away, on the other side of the Atlantic, with the veteran generals, too, at the head of them. Every one knew how that gallant and distinguished officer, Sir J. Kempt, then stationed in Canada, arrived by great energy and exertion, having smelt the war afar off, and, in his haste, bringing for the whole of his baggage one portmanteau, at the field of Waterloo. There was still another reason why he must press this Bill upon the House. It was on the score of humanity. He would show that the men who best endured the variations of foreign climates of every character and description, were those who had been in service from one to ten years. He was enabled to prove this by reference to an abstract of the returns furnished to the Government by Dr. M'Leod, Inspector General of Military Hospitals in Bengal. In the East Indies, in 1837, the deaths among soldiers, from eighteen to twenty years of age, were sixteen in the thousand; from twenty to twenty-two, twenty-three in the thousand; from twenty-two to twenty-four, thirty-four in the thousand; from twenty-four to thirty, the ten years being then completed, fifty-five in the thousand. Then, after a service of ten years, the deaths among soldiers from thirty to thirty-five years of age, were fifty-one in the thousand; from thirty-five to forty-five, sixty-three in the thousand; and from forty-five to fifty-five, the deaths were eighty in the thousand. In Ceylon, it appeared that the deaths among soldiers from eighteen to twenty-five years of age, were twenty-four in the thousand; from from twenty-five to thirty-three, fifty-fifty in the thousand; from thirty-three to forty, eighty-six; and above forty, 126 in the thousand. In the Mauritius, the deaths among men from eighteen to twenty-five years of age were twenty-one; from twenty-five to thirty-three, thirty-eight in the thousand; from thirty-three to forty, fifty-three in the thousand; and above forty, eighty-seven in the thousand. In Jamaica, before the establishment of the sanitary regulations introduced by his noble Friend (Earl Grey), the deaths between eighteen and twenty-five were seventy; between twenty-five and thirty-three, 107; between thirty-three and forty, 131; and above forty, 128 in the thousand. In the West Indies, at the Cape of Good Hope, and in general throughout the whole of our colonies, the same proportion existed; plainly and distinctly proving that, if they desired the smallest possible sacrifice of life in our colonies, they would send out men varying in their ages from twenty to thirty, in preference to men who had passed that age. He hoped he had convinced every hon. Gentleman, that, on the score of humanity, he was justified in urging this measure on the House. He could not promise that he could at all alter the principle he had now laid down as the most suitable basis for the Bill. He thought that the periods of service which he had fixed upon, were those which would be fair to the men and fair to the public; and even if some extra expense should be incurred by the new system, he believed his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer was not unprepared to meet that emergency. It was argued that he held out no novel inducement whatever to the soldier to enlist; but if that were not the case, he certainly did not expect, that after a service of ten years there would be any great disrelish, on the part of the soldier, to re-enlistment. It was, he admitted, an experiment; but it was an experiment so surrounded with good prospects, that he did not hesitate taking on himself, so far as he was officially concerned, the responsibility of suggesting it to the Legislature. He earnestly trusted, that whether the House was to carry or reject it, they would come to a decision at once, in order, either that it might be passed concurrently with the Mutiny Bill, or, if rejected, that the Mutiny Bill might, without any further delay, be sent in a proper condition up to the House of Lords.


observed, that the speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Wiltshire convinced him that if they once departed from the system of unlimited enlistment, they would sooner or later be compelled to adopt the recommendation of Mr. Wyndham, and decide upon establishing a service varying from seven to fourteen years. He hoped, however, his right hon. Friend did not give the high sanction of his authority to a proposal the effect of which would be to turn the soldier loose upon society after a service of fourteen years, after the best part of his life had been spent, without any pension whatever. He did not believe that any danger to the State was to be apprehended from turning a man, versed in military practices, out of the Army into the ranks of the people. The inclination of men who had once served in the Army or Navy was to adhere to their cloth, and to remain loyal; and so long as the middle classes continued as they were, there was little reason to dread a social disturbance. He did not understand why the right hon. Gentleman would consent to no alteration of the originally proposed period. The country would be a positive gainer from the men leaving after ten years' service. He thought the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman was a great improvement on the present System; and, therefore, he would not be captious, although it was not quite what he wished. But his chief reason for supporting this Bill was, that it would give a death-blow to the Warrant of 1833, issued by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Control. The proper course to take would, in his opinion, be to cancel that warrant, and establish a new one.


wished only to say, that after the speech of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) and the right hon. Gentleman on the other side of the House (Mr. S. Herbert), he thought it unnecessary for the warmest advocate of the Bill to trespass on their time; and he was ready at once to go into Committee upon it.


said, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) seemed to think that the dispersion of so large a number of men as 20,000, or, as the right hon. Gentleman called it, martializing so large a part of the population as would occur if this Bill passed, would be an imaginary danger. But in confirmation of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sidney Herbert's) opinion, that there was real danger in thus martializing the population, he could quote the words of the Duke of Wellington:— While Charles X. was able to preserve the peace of Paris with an army of from 500 to 1,000 men, it had required ever since the Revolution of July, 1830, 00,000 men, on an average, to preserve the tranquillity of the capital. What had happened at Bristol and Lyons showed the difference in power and efficiency between the existing Governments of France and England. The calamity at Bristol was at once put an end to as soon as an officer, at the head of a military detachment was found to do his duty; whereas, it required not less than 40,000 of the best troops in France, with the Minister of War and the Prince of the blood at their head, to quell, in the same time, the disturbances that had taken place at Lyons. In his opinion, as the Reform Bill added to the political power of the people, so this measure was likely to add to their physical power.


, after the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War, would not divide the House.

House then went into Committee pro formâ; and, having resumed, the further consideration of the Bill was adjourned.