§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
regretted that he did not see the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of War (Mr. Sidney Herbert) in his place, while he (Sir De Lacy Evans) made the few remarks he had to offer. That right hon. Gentleman had stated the fact that, with the exception of the non-commissioned officers in the Army, the great body of the soldiers were of fifteen years' standing in the service—that was, he said, the natural period of the service in the Army. He must say, that after that expression of opinion, and considering the well-merited respect which was due to the right hon. Gentleman for kindness to, and great care of, the Army, he confessed he was astonished at the deduction which he made in recommending that the period of service should be reduced only one year. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman would alter his opinion of the question; and to induce him to do so he would recall to his recollection the warrants which he issued in 1845, giving the privilege for enlistment for twelve or fourteen years. The proposition for the reduction of one year would be perfectly nugatory as a benefit to the soldiers. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member, he would remark that what he had stated about the money of 800,000 dollars must have arisen from an error of the press. He (Sir De Lacy Evans) had looked over the despatches, and was convinced that such must have been the case. The despatch of the Duke of Wellington, which the hon. and gallant Officer had quoted in reference to the Peninsular soldiers, so far from going against the present measure, he was persuaded was rather in its favour, as it showed that, even in the midst of a most important war, a limited enlistment had not been found prejudicial. The greater proportion of the hon. and gallant Member's address, however, bore about as much relation to the measure before the House as Tenterden steeple bore to the Goodwin sands. While referring to the Duke of Wellington, he would take this opportunity of thanking him for his recent elevation of so many officers from the ranks. During the past year no less than forty-three non-commissioned officers had been raised to ensigns and cornets. This was but a tardy act of justice, and following out what had been done for many years in France, Russia, and other countries. There were no less than four individuals 688 who, in his humble opinion, were far better qualified to come to a right decision on this Motion than any general in the Army. These were the noble Lord now at the head of the Foreign Department (Lord Palmerston), who had been for nineteen years Secretary at War; and the Secretary for the Colonies, who had also for some time been Secretary at War. The others were two gentlemen who had been also Secretaries at War. The hon. and gallant Member opposite had thought it right, because the noble Lord at the head of the Government had declined giving the correspondence between the Ministry and the Commander-in-Chief, to assert that the noble Duke at the head of the forces was quite opposed to the principle which they had adopted; and a morning paper had thought proper to abuse him for having differed from the hon. and gallant Member opposite. But what was the case? Why, if the hon. Member would read the despatches of the noble Duke, who had not been lauded more than his illustrious services and illustrious character had deserved—if they would read these despatches a little more zealously—they would soon perceive that his opinion was very different to what it had been represented. In his communications with the Government, when in Spain, he had frequently told them that, although the troops sent over were at first in a high state of discipline, yet they soon lost that discipline and the efficiency with which they first arrived; and in all these communications the noble Duke had repeatedly pressed the necessity for improving the morale of the Army, and had urged the wisdom of enlisting a better set of men, and of increasing the pensions of the men who were entitled to their discharge. This opinion, then, came in well to support the decision of civilians; and he was therefore justified in asserting that civilians were fully competent to judge of such a measure as this. The noble Duke had stated that it was, of all things, most important to raise the character of the men in the Army; and in this opinion he was supported by a man eminent for his success in life—he meant Oliver Cromwell. Well, he believed that at the time the opinion he was about to state was delivered, that Cromwell was a civilian; for he believed that he was nearly 40 years of age before he entered the army. It was well known that in the first two campaigns of the civil war, that the Parliamentarian army was unsuccessful; and in 689 one instance a portion of their troops was driven into Brentford; and it was recorded in the statement of a conversation that had taken place between Cromwell and Hampden, that Cromwell, to whose ingenuity and care the elevation of the character of the men was chiefly owing, had expressed great doubts of the ultimate success of the conflict. To remedy this defect, he said that he would go down into Lincolnshire, where he was well known, and enlist the sons of the yeomen there, whose hearts as well as their hands would be in the cause. He had done so; and it was, in his belief, owing to that movement of Cromwell that he succeeded.
§ MR. GOULBURN
remarked, that no sufficient argument had been offered by the right hon. the Secretary at War against the proposition to extend the period of enlistment to fourteen years. He thought it extremely improbable that commanding officers would be more backward to re-enlist men who had served fourteen years, as they had thus had four years more experience than those who served ten years. The question before them was one of very great importance. He quite subscribed to what the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War had said with respect to the benefit which might accrue to the soldier by a term of limited engagement; but the point was to what extent that engagement ought to go, whether seven, ten, or fourteen years? This was a most important consideration, and might materially influence the future character of the Army, and upon that account no conclusion should be arrived at without the fullest and most attentive deliberation. If the object of limited service was to get a better class of men into the Army, he submitted that that was desirable, and would be equally well accomplished by extending the period of enlistment from ten to fourteen years. He agreed that it would be highly improper in the House to regulate the amount of pensions to be given upon retirement; but he trusted the pension warrant would be contemporaneous with any alteration that might be made in the service. He was of opinion that after twenty-one years' service such a pension ought to be awarded to the soldier as would be sufficient to maintain him, and thus put an end to the system which now prevailed, and under which the soldier was compelled to apply for parochial relief. A great injustice would be done to the soldier unless they made an arrangement of that 690 kind. The Bill provided that at the end of ten years' service the soldier might be at liberty to enrol himself, and serve for twelve days a year in the pension battalion, and that if he so served for twenty years, he would be entitled to sixpence per day; but it likewise provided that the man who re-enlisted should, provided he served for twelve years, receive, at the expiration of that time, a similar pension of sixpence per day. What a great difference was there not between the cases of the respective men! The man that remained at home with his family followed, perchance, a profitable employment, and enjoyed a healthy climate; and yet for 240 days' service at home, which was only amusement to a soldier, they gave the same amount of pension as to the hard-working soldier, who in all varieties of climate, and at all hazards, had served for 4,000 days. Surely the positions of the men were not placed upon any terms of parity. In his opinion fourteen years would be a more desirable term of enlistment, not only upon the ground of expense, but for many other considerations; and he would give his support to the proposition to that effect.
§ It was proposed to fill up the blank with the word "ten."
§ On Clause 1,
§ SIR HOWARD DOUGLAS
moved, as an Amendment, that the word "ten" be omitted, and the word "fourteen" substituted as the limited period of enlistment.
§ MR. HUME
objected to the Amendment of the gallant Officer, inasmuch as he was of opinion that the limited period ought to be seven years, and not ten. If they adopted the period of seven years for enlistment, they would obtain a superior class of men to those who now entered, and they would not be driven to fill up the ranks of the Army with the sweepings of the gaols. It was by such a course, and by making the situation of the soldier as comfortable as possible, that they could obtain a good class of men for the Army. He was strongly in favour of a seven years period of enlistment, but he was contented to take ten years as the present proposal, being satisfied that it would lead to the shorter period.
supported the Amendment, as by the adoption of the longer period, fourteen years, they would retain in the Army a greater number of old well-conducted soldiers.
§ MR. F. MAULE
said, that he had stated last night his objections to the adoption of any period longer than that which he proposed, and he could not agree to the Amendment.
§ SIR H. DOUGLAS
said, that the longer term would be productive of many advantages, and referred to the artillery as a proof of the insufficiency of a ten years' enlistment. It took four years to make an artilleryman fit for his duties, and the sergeants in the artillery were generally men of twelve years' service. He was so strongly impressed with the importance of the Amendment, that he thought it right to take the sense of the House upon it,
§ The Committee divided on the question that the blank be filled up with ten:—Ayes 62; Noes 27: Majority 35.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ On Clause 2,
moved a verbal Amendment with a view to enabling the soldier to re-enlist during the last year of his first period of service, instead of at the end of it, as proposed by the clause. His object in moving the Amendment was to give the soldier a full year to make up his mind as to whether he should remain in his regiment or not, instead of calling upon him suddenly at the end of his first period of service to say if he was willing to re-engage himself for a period of eleven years.
§ MR. FOX MAULE
did not think the Amendment would have the effect which the hon. and gallant Colonel was desirous to produce, whilst it would have the disadvantage of preventing the man from going home to his native place at the end of his service, and remaining perhaps for four or five months there. If a man re-engaged during his last year of service, such a re-engagement would deprive him of that opportunity of going to see his friends; whereas, by permitting amongst his friends after a short period of service, such as that proposed by the Bill, there was a probability that on his return to re-enlist, he would bring other men with him to enter the Army, and it was to be supposed that those men would be of good character—thus the arrangement would prove a means of obtaining a good class of men; he could not, therefore, agree to the Amendment.
wished to know whether it was to be left to the will or the caprice 692 of the soldier to say for how long a term he should re-enlist? The Act provided that a man might re-enlist for "any term not exceeding eleven years." Was it intended that he should re-enlist for one year only if he thought proper, because that was the meaning of the clause?
§ MR. F. MAULE
admitted that there was some ambiguity in the clause, and he proposed to substitute "for the further term of eleven years," which would fix that period for his re-engagement.
wished to call the attention of the Government to the circumstance, that while men who might be enlisted under the provisions of this Bill would be entitled to their discharge at the end of ten or twelve years, the men who were now serving in the Army, and who had been enlisted for an unlimited period, would be dependent for their discharge on the will of the commanding officers. This state of things would create great discontent in the Army; and he hoped the Secretary at War would give the subject his serious consideration.
§ Amendment negatived without a division.
§ On the question being again put,
COLONEL T. WOOD
observed, that it could not be expected that a soldier who had served for ten years in the Army would volunteer for an additional service of eleven years without an increase of pay. He thought that a man who volunteered to renew his service had a claim to an increase of pay, and he hoped the right hon. Secretary at War would consider this subject.
§ MR. F. MAULE
said, that the object of the Government was to place the soldier in as favourable a position as possible; but it would be more convenient not to discuss such matters as that to which the hon. and gallant Member had referred now, but to leave their consideration to those to whom the management of such affairs was immediately committed.
wished to remind the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Maule) that under the existing regulations a soldier now serving in the Army could only obtain his discharge by the payment of 10l. or 15l. and he must say that he thought old soldiers ought to be entitled to their discharge at the expiration of a certain period of service without such payments.
§ MR. F. MAULE
did not feel at liberty to deprive a man who entered the Army of the power of purchasing his discharge, if circumstances arose which rendered it necessary 693 for him to quit the service by such means; and he could not pledge himself, by any statement in that House, as to what arrangement might or might not be made with reference to granting free discharges to old soldiers.
COLONEL T. WOOD
asked whether, supposing at the expiration of his period of service, a soldier was undergoing the sentence of a court-martial, his punishment would cease on the expiration of that service?
§ MR. F. MAULE
would make inquiry on that point; but he presumed that a soldier under sentence of court-martial would undergo the whole of his punishment before he was entitled to his discharge.
§ The clause agreed to, as were the remaining clauses of the Bill.
§ MAJOR LAYARD
then said, that as they had adopted all the clauses in the Bill, he would propose the following clause:—And be it enacted, that at the expiration of three years from the passing of this Act, any person now enlisted to serve Her Majesty who shall have completed the term of ten years in the infantry, or twelve years in the cavalry, artillery, or other ordnance corps, to be reckoned as aforesaid, and who shall give three calendar months' notice to his commanding officer that he is desirous of being discharged, shall be entitled to the benefit of this Act, and to the provisions thereof, in as full and ample a, manner as if enlisted after the passing of this Act.He was most anxious that this Bill should not pass without such a provision being made for the soldiers in the existing Army. When he had first taken up this subject, he had taken pains to ascertain the injury of the short period of enlistment; and he was quite assured not only that the Bill would be beneficial, but that it would be so beneficial, that unless its influence was extended in the manner he proposed, great injustice would be done to the men already in the Army. Great apprehensions had been entertained, not only in that, but the other House of Parliament, that the setting of the soldiers at liberty as proposed by this Bill would seriously endanger the country; but he could not see any grounds for such apprehensions. Indeed, the hundreds of parties with whom he had conversed on the subject, and who were the most competent to give an opinion as to the effects of the Bill, stated decidedly that they expected the greatest advantages to result from it to the Army and the country at large. They stated that it would henceforth be of the utmost importance to the safety of the 694 country, that there should be men not only in the Army, but out of it, who were well acquainted with the use of arms; and the effect of this Bill would undoubtedly be to produce a great number of such men. The possession of our sea-girt isle had, by the introduction of steam, become very much altered, and it would be necessary to have our people skilled in the use of arms. The House was aware that the soldier was debarred from the privilege of petitioning the House; but he was convinced that, if they had been at liberty to do so, they would have forwarded a host of petitions, praying the House to extend the privileges of the Bill to the existing Army. But he trusted that the generosity and good feeling of the House towards the Army would induce them to accede to the soldiers' wishes, notwithstanding the compulsory absence of their petitions. He implored the hon. Members of that House, on whatever side they might happen to sit, not to refuse to the gallant men who defended their country that ray of hope which all men required to light them along the rugged path of a chequered existence. He implored the House to grant to those men a hope that they should, in a short time, be enabled to return to the bosoms of their families after their arduous toils on behalf of their country. By so doing the House would only be acting towards them in that generous spirit to which they were entitled.
§ Clause brought up and read a first time. On the Motion that it be read a second time,
§ SIR DE L. EVANS
conceived that it was but just to the existing Army, that some such provision should be inserted. As he had said on a previous occasion, so he would now repeat, that he could not conceive that any practical inconvenience whatever would accrue from extending the privileges of this Bill to the members of the existing Army. The Government ought to express their intention on that point.
§ MR. F. MAULE
was rather sorry to say, that be differed in some degree from the opinion held by his hon. and gallant Friend, who was no doubt a very high authority upon such subjects as these. He thought that what had fallen from the gallant Member would tend rather to increase than sooth the dissatisfaction of the existing Army. He was glad to know that his hon. and gallant Friend (Major Layard) approved of the experiment of a limited service in the Army; but he was afraid that 695 a great responsibility would attach to the Government if they consented to his proposition of extending immediately the benefits of this Bill to the existing Army. By the existing Army, he meant, of course, all those who had served for a period of ten years in the infantry, and twelve in the cavalry or artillery. He thought that the adoption of the proposed clause would cause very great inconvenience. He was also of opinion that it would not be convenient for the Government to make any declaration of the course which they might hereafter think it right to adopt with reference to the extension of the privileges of the Bill to the men now in the Army, before they had some knowledge of the working of this measure as regarded the Army and the public mind. His hon. Friend had stated that they could hear nothing from the existing Army in the shape of petitions respecting this Bill, that the soldier was deprived of the privilege of petitioning the House. It was very true that the soldier was not allowed to petition the House; but he believed that one of the laws under which the soldier was governed, provided that inquiry should be made by proper parties into the minutest grievances complained of by a soldier. It was true that in several instances the soldier was afraid of asking for an inquiry; but in a case like this, which involved no dispute between him and his superior officers, he believed that if they had felt very much aggrieved they would have made their complaints to the commanding officers against the Bill. Without meaning to cast any reflection upon his hon. Friend, who was entitled to great praise for his great exertions in the cause of the Army, and to whose measure of last Session he (Mr. Maule) was greatly indebted for the present, he must say that if his present proposal were adopted, it would not be in accordance with the opinion of the highest authority in the Army. The gratitude of the House was undoubtedly due to his gallant Friend for the bold and honest manner in which he had invariably given expression to his opinions on the state of the Army, and the necessity for its improvement. He thanked him for the support which he had afforded to him in carrying out this Bill as originally proposed; and he hoped that, if it should receive the sanction of the Legislature, it would give complete satisfaction to the public. He believed that the Bill would be of the greatest service, not only to the 696 Army, but to the country generally. The Government would consider the proposition of his hon. and gallant Friend; and if it should be deemed prudent to adopt its principle, they would willingly do so after they had an opportunity of witnessing the operation of the Bill in its present shape.
§ SIR DE L. EVANS
begged to suggest to his hon. and gallant Friend, that, after the satisfactory statement that had been made, he should consent to withdraw his proposition.
concurred with his two hon. Friends, as to the justice of extending the benefits of the Bill to the existing Army. He had, however, the fullest confidence in the Government, and would willingly leave the matter in their hands.
§ MAJOR LAYARD
could not say he felt the entire satisfaction avowed by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster; but knowing, from experience, that when the Government held out the slightest hope that the statement of a hardship should be attended to, they would really and seriously consider what could be done to remedy it, he should not press the Motion.
§ Clause withdrawn. House resumed. Bill to be reported.
§ House adjourned at half-past Five o'clock to Monday April 12th.