HC Deb 26 February 1855 vol 136 cc1891-909

said, he could not, when they were called upon to go into Committee of Supply to vote money for carrying on the war, avoid making a few remarks upon the subject of these estimates, and to protest against granting these large sums for the army while the present defective system was continued. If the House would permit him, he would endeavour to explain the system which prevailed in France, which he had had an opportunity of observing while there a few days ago. When he was in Paris he had the honour of an interview of the French Minister at War. He found him a plain man, easily accessible, and when he called upon him in the midst of the business of his office—which business he appeared thoroughly to understand—on one side of his room there was a map of Europe hung up, upon which were a number of patches of blue, white, red, green, and other colours. He (Mr. Lindsay) inquired what these meant. The reply of the Minister was that they represented the different armies of Europe. One colour represented the French, another the English, a third the Austrian, a fourth the Russian, a fifth the Turkish, and so on; and the positions in which they stood upon the map, pointed out their respective stations. Every morning, the Minister added, these coloured patches are removed by means of a pin from one place to another, according as I receive advices from abroad as to any movement made by either of the armies. He (Mr. Lindsay) then asked whether the Government had information as to the quantity of stores at the different depôts in connection with the Crimean army? The Minister at once replied by informing him of the quantity at Marseilles, at Constantinople, at the Crimea, and the amount which was being sent to Sinope. He thought it somewhat extraordinary that this French Minister of War should know everything, and be able to answer at once upon all these matters of detail connected with his department; while if he asked a similar question of any Minister here no information could be ob- tained, for no one appeared to know anything about the matter, and consequently he could not avoid expressing some anxiety with respect to the system by which such results were produced. That system he found to be exceedingly simple. Under the Minister of War for France it appeared there were five directors—one of transports, one of infantry, one of cavalry, one of Commissariat, and one of a department which at that moment he did not recollect. Subordinate to these five directors there were twenty to twenty-five different heads of districts, who were spread throughout the whole of France. Every day and every mail brought from these twenty to twenty-five persons communications as to the state of the stores, the transports, the state and position of the army, and of everything connected with it as far as it came under their cognisance, and the particulars of any change that might occur from time to time. The five directors having received the reports from their subordinates summed them up, and communicated the result to the Minister of War daily, by whom a condensed account was prepared and entered in a small book, to which he referred when he (Mr. Lindsay) asked him for information upon any point. Now this was an exceedingly simple system, and if it worked well with au army of 750,000 men, he could see no reason why it should not work equally well with a much smaller army like our own. He had been impressed with feelings of shame in allowing such vast sums as had already been voted for carrying on our military establishments to pass without protesting against that confusion which all admitted to exist in reference to them. Now, he would ask, why was there that confusion? He might, perhaps, be told it was want of time. Now, he must deny that, for it was not want of time, it was procrastination, that thief of time, that was the cause of all the evil. The hon. Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) the other night had been somewhat misunderstood when he said the knife ought to be applied. The hon. Member never meant to apply the knife to our glorious institutions, but to the cutting away of that stupid red-tapism by which our whole governmental system was incumbered, and by which the business of every department was incumbered by innumerable, useless, and unnecessary forms. He wished, before sitting down, to say one word as to the transport service, with which he was more intimately acquainted, the more so as he was not in the House the other night when the right hon. Baronet, late at the head of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham), asked for and obtained a Vote of 7,000,000l. for that service. He wished to direct attention to a return delivered on Saturday last of the number of transports now employed. He, a few months ago, moved for returns more in detail, including the names of the transports, the price paid for them, the quantity of stores sent to the army in the East by means of the transports, and the amount each vessel had taken. That return he was surprised to find hail not yet been laid upon the table; but, looking at the Return they had, he found that no less than 220,000 tons of shipping now engaged as regular transports were required to supply an army reduced at the present time to 25,000 men. But that was not all, for since the date of that Return 30,000 tons more had been engaged, making 250,000 tons of regular transports, besides about 100,000 tons of other vessels engaged in carrying stores, making a total of 350,000 tons to serve the remnant of an army of 25,000 men. With 350,000 tons of shipping he or any other man of business, would undertake to provide transport not only for our army, but for the whole of the French army now in the Crimea also, and to convey all the stores required. Of course he did not mean to say that this could be done by the system—or rather the no-system—now resorted to; but by employing the ships in lines, and keeping them regularly employed, instead of leaving some of the steamers of the largest power, and hired at a vast expense, to be used as hospital ships, besides others that were waiting in the Black Sea, doing nothing. These were matters the House ought to look to when they were called upon to vote 7,000,000l. for the transport service. The right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty had admitted that there was something wrong in the transport system, and had stated that a remedy was to be applied. But how did the Admiralty propose to remedy the evil? By appointing a Transport Board. That was merely transferring the responsibility from one man's shoulders to those of a number of men. When they had one man responsible they knew whom to look to, but when the duty was transferred to a Board there was practically no responsibility. He therefore protested against this project of entrusting the management of the trans- port service to a Board, and hoped the responsibility would yet be placed in the hands of one efficient person. They need not go far to look for such a man—they had one already at the Admiralty, in the person of Captain Milne, who he hoped. in any promotion that might take place in that department, would be appointed to such service. It might be said that the sum granted for this particular service was too large to be placed under the control of any one man; but without going into that question, he might observe that, if Captain Milne was appointed, he would he under the cheek both of the Minister at War and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. [Mr. GLADSTONE: The Chancellor of the Exchequer has nothing to do with it.] The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer says the Chancellor of the Exchequer has nothing to do with that money, but he thought, when a Bill for 7,000,000l. was placed before him to pay, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to have very much to do with it. He ought to know what it was for, and how the money was to be expended. He would just mention to the blouse that one company, the West India Mail Company, had no less than 17,000 tons of their ships employed as transports, for the use of which he calculated they were receiving at the rate of 600,000l. per annum. That was an extraordinary sum, but he did not complain of it, nor did he say the company was not entitled to it; but, then again, the same company, for the use of the same vessels, were receiving from another department of the Government no less than 240,000l. a year for postal services. He did not mean to say that the company were not doing their work efficiently, though he could hardly understand how they could do the work well while a large proportion of the ships were engaged by the Government in another service. The country, he believed, would never grudge any amount which might be necessary for carrying on the war, but they wanted to see the money properly applied; and, for one, he did not think it was properly applied, especially in the transport service. Before sitting down, he hoped he might be permitted to make a remark upon something which had fallen from the hon. Member for Aylesbury on a former evening. That hon. Gentleman had been accused of wishing to sever the aristocracy and the people. As one of the mass, essentially one of the people, he (Mr. Lindsay) never desired to see the day when any Member of that House, or any one out of doors, should wish to sever the connection between the aristocracy and the people. As one of the people, he felt proud of the aristocracy. He was proud of them when he compared them now with what they were formerly, and also when he compared them with the aristocracy of other countries; and if he saw any attempt to separate them from the people, he would be the first to lift up his hand against it. The people did not complain of the aristocracy, nor did they care whether a scion of the house of Redford or the child of some unknown man held the reins of Government. All they required was that the destinies of this country should be intrusted to men of ability and energy, who would carry us through the fearful crisis in which the country now was.


said, he was of opinion that our worst foe in the Crimea had been our own mismanagement. Here was a country, occupying more than one-seventh of the entire world, with a frontier of 25,000 miles, with an army called in a general way 1,000,000 strong, and now likely to be augmented to 8,000,000 or 10,000,000; and yet we had attacked that enormous empire at only one single point upon the whole of its vast frontier. What had we done in this contest with Russia? In the north we had done nothing from which one particle of benefit could he derived. Nothing had been done in Poland, in Sweden, or even in Austria, and not a single practical benefit had yet been obtained from one of those countries. Sardinia certainly had come gallantly forward, and shown her spirit of independence, and he hoped by her conduct she would gain the position she deserved in the scale of nations. Then, what had been done with regard to Asia? No assistance had been given there to assist the tribes fighting for their own independence. The fortress of Anapa, on the Sea of Azoff, was still in the hands of Russia, and had not even been attacked; and although England and France boasted of their ascendancy in the Black Sea, it was not true that they had such an ascendancy until Anapa was in their hands. Georgia was also in a state of paralysis, because nothing had been done to assist her. How was the case as regarded Persia? Our Minister, Mr. Murray was certainly now on his way thither, but for nearly two years we had had no Envoy there. During that time Prince Dolgorouki had insulted the Persian Minister because he would not come into his views with regard to England. We had lost a great opportunity then, for if we had had an able Minister there we might have advanced the interests of England in Persia; but that was neglected, as we had no Envoy there. Persia was of more consequence than seemed to be generally thought; for it should be remembered that it was Persia which, at the instigation of Russia, stirred up the Affghanistan war.


said, he wished, before Mr. Speaker left the Chair, to ask for one or two explanations, which he thought to be due from the Government to the House. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the War Department would recollect that upon a previous evening he (Mr. Baillie) had asked him some questions respecting the new establishment which was to be attached to the army—the land transport service—which appeared to be established upon a very large scale, and with regard to which at that time the hon. Gentleman was not able to give any details to the House. The hon. Gentleman stated, indeed, that it was to consist of not less than 8,000 men; but be was unable to state the number of horses, nor did he say whether it was to be a permanent branch of the army, or only to be attached for this special service in the Crimea. Upon a former occasion, the right lion. Gentleman the late Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert) had expressed his opinion that many of the disasters and misfortunes which had attended our arms in the East had been occasioned by the failure or imperfection of our military establishment, and he had drawn a very graphic picture of the state and condition of the English army, which he observed was no army at all, but nothing better than merely a collection of regiments; he had said that the superior officers were unacquainted with their duties; that there was no staff corps attached to the army; that there was no waggon-train attached to it; that there was no commissariat department; and, perhaps, he might have added, that there was no medical department, for that branch appeared to be as defective as any other of the establishments. That was a very melancholy picture of the state of the English army; but it was an extraordinary one to emanate from the Secretary at War. It appeared never to have occurred to the right hon. Gentleman that it might be his duty to represent this state of things to his colleagues, and to warn them before they sent out an expedition so imperfectly prepared for the invasion of Russia. They had received in due time ample warning of the consequences of their adoption of such a course, and spun that very question of the land transport service they had received advice from the most competent military authorities, but that advice they had wholly disregarded. He believed they had neglected to consult the Commander in Chief with respect to the management of the expedition, and, as far as he could learn, it would seem that that noble Lord had not even seen Lord Raglan's private dispatches. It was a matter well worthy of the consideration of the House whether they ought to appoint a civilian as Minister of War without a council of military men to advise him, or whether they obit not rather to fellow in that case the precedent which they found at the Admiralty, where the head of the department was assisted by a council of the most distinguished naval officers who could afford him information on all the necessary details of the service. At present it was not any part of the business of the Commander in Chief to give advice to the War Minister, and he could not reasonably be expected to give any, because if his advice were proved to be bad he would have to bear the blame of it; and if it should turn out to be good he would get no credit for having tendered it. He also wished to know who was answerable for the proper clothing of the troops? It had been stated that our army had been left to winter on the heights of Sebastopol without any winter clothing; and if that were true, could they be surprised that our soldiers had perished, not in tens, but in hundreds a day, and that one regiment was reported to have lost half its numbers in a space of not more than ten days? The Government declared that they were answerable for the conduct of the war. But he wanted to know who was specially responsible for the management of the different military departments? They had been told that there had not been any proper supply of medicine in the hospital at Balaklava; and if that statement were correct he wished to ask the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for the War Department who was answerable for that deficiency?


said, he rejoiced that the subject of the mismanagement of the transport service had been brought before the House by the hon. Member for Tyne-mouth (Mr. Lindsay), but, at the same time, he regretted that the hon. Gentleman had not stated some particular instances of that mismanagement. He had heard the statement of the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Gloucester, the other night, that there was little to reform in the transport service, with unfeigned astonishment, and the inquiries he had since made had satisfied him that the hon. and gallant Admiral's assertion could not be substantiated. He did not blame the department to which the hon. and gallant Admiral belonged, but he blamed the system, by which a department was managed by a number of people so that no single individual was responsible for anything that was done. He would state to the House the case of the steamer Eagle. A short time ago that steamer was taken up by the Government to convey stores to the East, consisting partly of a quantity of medicines, among which were some strong acids. It was thought advisable that these acids should be placed on the duck, above the other stores, and orders were accordingly issued for the rest of the cargo to be put on board, and for the steamer to proceed down the river to take in the acids. But when the steamer arrived at the place where she was to receive the acids, and they were brought on board, some one said, "Why, there is a large quantity of the same acids already in the hold." This was actually found to be the case, and the whole cargo had to be discharged before the steamer could proceed to her destination. Then the Government had taken up a vessel on account of which they lad paid the sum of 2,000l. to the owner before she went to sea. Another case was that of the steamer Telegraph, said to be a very fast vessel. She sailed from Portsmouth, so heavily laden with stores, that some of the pipes of her machinery burst, and her hold was flooded; while at the same time she could only carry three days' supply of coal. None of those misfortunes to which he had referred would, in his opinion, have taken place if the care of the transport service had been confided to one man, on whom the responsibility would rest of seeing that the proper thing was done at the proper time. He did not wish to throw the slightest obloquy on the gallant officer who had been referred to by the hon. Member for Tynemouth, but he would press upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government the necessity of employing the service of men of talent, energy, and business habits, and, if be did so, he would add even to the reputation which he already possessed.


said, he should have thought that, after the explanation of his right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty, the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, and that of the hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Lindsay), would have been unnecessary. It had been inferred that the whole amount of tonnage employed by the Government had been employed for the service of 25,000 men, but to that he was prepared to give a direct contradiction. The tonnage employed by the Government had not been employed solely in the service of the English army, but in the service of the French and Turkish as well, and, instead of their being employed in the service of 25,000 men, they were employed in the service of almost 100,000. Those two hon. Members had praised the management of Captain Milne; but, at the same time, both appeared to him to complain of there having been egregious blunders. Now, he could only say that he was ready to share the responsibility of any error which had been committed by the Board of which he was a member.


said, that about three or four years ago he was informed that a representation had been made to the Government regarding the improvements which had been effected in the staff of the French army, and, at the same time, it was stated that if it should ever be the bad fortune of this country to come into collision with France, although the bravery of our troops might prove successful in the outset, still, the more perfect organisation of the army of that country would enable it to overcome us in the end. He was informed that, in consequence of that statement, a Commission had been appointed to inquire into the circumstances of the case, and that, although the Report of that Commission had been laid before the Government, it had never yet been acted upon. He merely wished to state that, if the case which he had mentioned to the House were correct, there must be, in his opinion, great blame attached to some one.


said, he was desirous of giving all the information in his power in answer to the questions of the hon. Member for Inverness-shire (Mr. Baillie). He did not know that he could add anything to the information he had already given with regard to the land transport corps. The principle on which that corps was established was the principle of the division of labour, of a proper superintendence and responsibility, so that care should be taken that everything should be done which was required for the service of the army in the field at the right time and in the right place. The land transport service had hitherto been under the control of the Commissariat; but as the duty of supplying provisions for the troops was fully sufficient to occupy the whole time of the head of that department, the land transport corps was established, and Colonel M'Murdo placed at its head, and that officer had already left England. He had previously stated, that when it was fully organised the corps would consist of 8,000 men, but of course the number was less now. Colonel M'Murdo's plan was to divide the force into divisions, one to be attached to each division of the army; and he had intimated that he should require one mounted native driver for each three mules or horses employed, and one European driver for every ten animals; so that there would be for every ten animals three native drivers and one European driver. Any improvements in the system which might be suggested would of course be adopted by Colonel M'Murdo, at the same time he might state that it was intended that this transport corps should form a permanent branch of the army. With regard to the clothing of the army, it was charged in the current financial year. Up to a late period the clothing was purchased and issued by the colonels of regiments; but those officers had now no pecuniary interest in the supply of clothing. Under the Votes agreed to for the present year, the clothing would be distributed under the direction of the War Office. That is, the War Office for the present year would use the agency of the colonels for contracting with the clothiers, but the bills would be sent in to the War Office, and paid there. Although the colonels had no longer a pecuniary interest in the issue of clothing, yet for the present year the soldier would have the advantage of the agency of those who had hitherto supplied them. With regard to the warm clothing issued to the troops in the field, that was issued by order of the Secretary of State for War, and the War Office had nothing to do with that extraordinary issue. With regard to the supply of medicine to the hospital at Balaklava, he was not aware that there was any complaint of a deficiency there, and the question of the hon. Member for North Northamptonshire (Mr. A. Stafford) the other night applied to the hospital at Scutari. With regard to quinine, there was no foundation for the complaint that there was a deficiency in that medicine. Dr. Smith had informed him that since our army left this country there had been sent out to the general store at Constantinople, whence all the hospitals derived their supplies, 850 lbs. of quinine, which was eight times the quantity which had been hitherto required by 60,000 men of the British army in a year, and there could not have been more than 2001bs. used yet, so that there was an excess of that particular medicine in question for the army. With regard to the remarks of the hon. Member for Birmingham, he could say that his suggestions had been anticipated, and a Commission was now sitting in Paris, comprising an artillery and engineer officer, to inquire into the system of the French army, and the French Government was affording it every facility. He hoped the Report would be ready before no great length of time.


said, he wished to explain that he had referred to the fact of no notice being taken of a Report made some time ago, but did not in the least mean to refer to what was being done at present.


said, when the army went from this country to the East it was little contemplated that such services would be cast upon it as it had since been called on to perform. Some thought the army would never go beyond Malta, and others believed that an entrenched camp at Constantinople would be all that would be required; but no one then dreamed that an expedition to the Crimea would be undertaken. He had a remark to make upon one subject, which had an important bearing on the efficiency of the army—the employment of men of advanced years who were past the period of their vigour and strength. It was no reproach to a man that he was between sixty and seventy years of age, but rather it was greatly to his honour that, instead of seeking repose at such a time of life, he would devote the remnant of his strength to the service of his country; but the consequences were very much to be regretted, when an arduous and difficult task was imposed on such an officer. He hoped that those in military command, who were disqualified by age and infirmities, would be removed. He was happy to observe that a precedent for this had been made in the case of Sir John Burgoyne, an officer of high standing, who had been not recalled, but relieved from the position in which he was before placed, and on whom a high encomium had been at the same time bestowed. He hoped the Government would go further in the same course. He did not intend, directly or indirectly, to point at the distinguished officer in the chief command of the army; there was a different question involved in his case, but no doubt it would be of great advantage that the Commander in Chief of the army should be more in the prime of life. At any rate, all the generals of division and officers of brigade ought to be men in their full vigour. He considered this a matter of such extreme importance that he should be inclined to estimate the disposition of the Government by the degree in which they gave it their attention.


said, that the Government were now about to form a transport corps, which undoubtedly was very necessary, but why, he would ask, was it not done when the army went out, instead of being left until the army was nearly exhausted? It was the Commissariat who were responsible for the transport, as well as for the provisioning of the army, and he believed that to the neglect of that department, not only abroad, but in the Treasury, where it was till lately administered, the losses of that army were chiefly to be attributed. In the Spanish war there were several departments established for the transport of the army, baggage, and reserve, and the minutest details were laid down by Sir George Murray, which might have taught the men who had to conduct the present war how to conduct it properly. But it was not until now, when we had lost one-half of the army, that they applied themselves to form a transport service. He felt confident, however, that under Colonel M'Murdo that transport service would be made complete as soon as could be anticipated. He did not believe the general officers deserved all the blame that was cast upon them. As for Sir John Burgoyne, there was not a more capable and efficient officer in Europe, and he did not think anything would be gained by exchanging him for General Jones, although this latter was also an excellent officer. He contended that the great fault of the expedition was its being undertaken without proper means. The commanders were forced to undertake operations for which their means were totally unfit; and although it might not be wise for the Committee to go minutely into these subjects, it would be found that there were difficulties pressing severely on the English forces, and that many excuses were to be made for our army which it would not be prudent to reveal. But he was sure the Committee would do much in bringing to light the total incapacity of the Administration at home. The French system of état major was no doubt superior to our own, but it was not applicable to our army; we might, however, select officers for the staff, from the senior department of the Military College at Sandhurst, where there were now fourteen officers of sufficient standing for such appointments, having served four years in some regimental rank, and having studied in order to qualify themselves for staff employment. He should like to know how many of them had been appointed to the staff; he knew that some of the most efficient had applied for such appointments, and had been rejected. The staff of our army in the Crimea had certainly not been the most distinguished part of the army, but it had been the best rewarded. If hon. Gentlemen would look at the distribution of rewards, as published in the Gazette, they would be surprised to see how large a proportion of those rewards came to the officers of the staff as compared with those of the line. Of the lieutenant colonelcies, given for distinguished services, two were given to officers of the staff out of seven altogether. Of the brevet rank of lieutenant colonel there were fourteen, the whole of which were given to the staff, with one exception. Of the brevet rank of major there were fifty-three who received it, of whom there were forty-one serving on the staff, and eleven in the cavalry or infantry of the line. Now that, certainly, was not a fair distribution of honours; and the staff was sufficiently desirable and advantageous in itself, without an unequal distribution of honours in its favour. This was not a new question, for he himself had given evidence upon it, four years ago, before the Committee upon promotion in the army; nothing, however, had since been done. Now, with respect to the clothing of the army: the system had been changed, and the War Office, instead of the colonels, made the contracts with clothiers, and a board of officers assembled to examine the quality of the clothing when it was sent down. That was an amazing improvement; but when it was a question, not of the quality of the clothes purchased, but of the sort of clothes that would be most convenient and fitting, then a clothing board, consisting of old officers, who might not have been in actual command for many years, was appointed to investigate, and that, he considered, was not the best authority; it would be better to assemble a board of lieutenant colonels, who were in active command of regiments, and had opportunities every day of seeing what was required. They would not have sent out such hideous and useless dresses as those which were provided. He must also refer to the delays which had occurred in deciding upon the length of the muskets for rifle regiments. Another subject to which he wished to call attention, was the want of barracks for the militia regiments in Ireland. At this time the Government were paying for billets in almost all the large towns of Ireland, and there were continual disputes between the inhabitants and the military authorities about it, and many people had been fined for not providing the accommodation required; whilst in those very towns there were buildings which could be hired much cheaper than the price of the billets. Unless the Government attended to this matter, considerable inconvenience would be caused.


said, he wished to say one word with regard to what had fallen from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portarlington (Colonel Dunne). One of the charges which he brought against the Government, if he understood him rightly, was, that no officers from the senior department at Sandhurst had been appointed to the general staff of the army. Now, what was the case? No less than nine or ten officers from the senior department at Sandhurst had been appointed to the general staff. He would instance time names of the following officers in the Quartermaster General's Department:—Major Morris, who led the 17th Lancers at Balaklava; Captain Wetherall, Captain Sankey, and others, who had received certificates for high proficiency, and had taken honours at Sandhurst. He believed that the accommodation at the senior department of Sandhurst might be advantageously increased. At present only fifteen officers could be accommodated; that number, he considered, ought to be augmented; but as so many charges had been brought against the Government which might be answered, and so many misrepresentations had occurred, he hoped the House would excuse him for merely stating what he happened to know to be matter of fact.


said, he wished to ask how it was that the 46th Regiment was without clothing in the Crimea; whether any person had been punished for that neglect; and whether it was disputed that, inconsequence of that neglect, the men had perished in a frightful way?


said, he wished to compare the number of men voted for the army in 1835, with the approbation of the Duke of Wellington, with the number voted in 1852, the year before this war broke out. The army and auxiliary forces had increased during that period to nearly double the number that was deemed necessary by the Duke of Wellington; the charges, consequently, ought not to be made, which had often been advanced against his late hon. Friend (Mr. Hume), that his frequent Motions for economy had tended too much to reduce the standing army. There was an increase of nearly 6,000,000l. in the cost of our military defences in 1852, as compared with the cost in 1835, and it was not, therefore, to Mr. Hume's Motions that the present inefficient state of the army was to be attributed. What was the amount of our army in 1792? The whole number of men in the army, navy, and artillery, in the year before the commencement of the French war was 48,927, besides 33,000 militia; and the whole cost of the army, navy, and ordnance in that year was only 4,760,000l. Now, let that be compared with 16,530,000l, their cost in the year 1853, and it would not appear as if there had been any undue reduction. Mr. Pitt was charged at that time with having injured the public service by reducing the army; and he then said that if reductions had not been made since the American war, the country would not have been in a condition to go to work in the conduct of the French war with the energy it was called upon to display. He now wished to direct the attention of the House to the extraordinary cruelty in the case of the flogging of a soldier belonging to the 26th Regiment of the line at Newcastle, of which the following account was taken from a Newcastle paper— The prisoner, after being stripped, was tied up to the triangles by the arms and legs, while the adjutant stood by, to count each stroke as it fell from the powerful arm of the drummer, selected from among the others for his aptitude in what is called slow time—a refinement of cruelty only known to the English army. I had expected a bloody scene, but the cruelty far exceeded all I had even dreamed of human torture. At the fifth stroke of the lash, the flesh rose up on the sufferer's back in welts almost as thick as my wrist, and the writhing of the body showed the agony he endured. As each successive lash fell on the lacerated and bleeding back, blood flowed about on all around him. After the fortieth lash had been inflicted, he was untied, but after staggering a few paces, fell fainting, when he was removed to the hospital, and placed under the medical officers. He has yet to receive the remainder of his punishment, 104 days of solitary confinement. The editor of the Newcastle paper added— In justice to the officers, we have heard it stated that they were averse to flogging in this case, but were overruled by a recently arrived high military authority, well known as a martinet. Now, he (Mr. Williams) did say, that when it appeared that Omar Pacha had remonstrated with Lord Raglan, in some cases, for having allowed the flogging of a soldier in the Crimea, it was most disgraceful to us that the only soldiers in Europe, except the Russians, who were subject to be flogged were the soldiers of the British army. He did hope the Government would take up this matter. He believed, that the practice of flogging operated strongly against persons entering our army; for who would like to become a soldier to be subject to such a punishment? And if scenes like that were often repeated, the Government might have to double the bounty, but they would not get men to join the army. Was it to be endured, he asked, that the British soldier, one of the bravest in the world, should be the only soldier, except the Russian, whose back was to be lacerated with a cat-o'-nine tails? No doubt there had been a great diminution in the cases of corporal punishment being inflicted; and he saw in the Army Estimates a charge of 21,000l. for military prisons. He did not at all complain of that charge, because he presumed that it was applied, to a great extent, to supersede the system of flogging. He saw with gratification that in a majority of the regiments no flogging had taken place; and he hoped that, when it was found so many of the regiments could do without it, it might soon be abolished altogether, for he was certain there were plenty of other punishments to be found, without one so degrading.


said, he wished to know whether any reforms were intended to be made at the Horse Guards? He would not enter into details of the iniquities of that establishment, but he trusted the Government would turn their attention to it, as reform in that department was generally demanded by the country.


said, that with reference to the statement of the hon. Member for Downpatrick (Mr. Hardinge) concerning the staff appointments, he should like to know the date at which the nine officers who had been alluded to were appointed. But even if the fact were so, there had been fifty staff appointments made, and what he complained of was, that there should be one single officer appointed to the staff without such qualifications, so long as there were others serving in the army who had been instructed specially for that service in the senior department at Sandhurst. Those who had gone through the prescribed studies, with the understanding that they were to have staff appointments, could hardly ever obtain them, except by private interest, or on the application of some general officer. He denied that the ill success of our army was to be ascribed to any extraordinary inclemency of the season, or to any unprecedented difficulties. In the campaign of 1848 in Transylvania there was a large army moved without tents, and bivouacking on the snow, obliged to manufacture its own arms, and all its gigantic operations were carried on in a climate much more rigorous than that of the Crimea, and the circumstances were much less difficult in the present campaign, but our calamities were owing to the want of foresight in the authorities at home. He wished to ask one question of the hon. Under Secretary for War. At this time, when we had to vote so many soldiers, he wished to know why the country should be deprived of the services of two, belonging to a regiment now in England; he alluded to those two private soldiers who, as we saw in the papers, were lately tried by a court martial for the offence of making away with their ammunition, and were sentenced, private Gibson to fifty-two days' imprisonment, and private Gallagher to 162 days' imprisonment. He thought the severity of that sentence was really extraordinary, for surely the act of shooting at the Czar or at his portrait, of which these two men had been guilty, was one that might at this time be treated more leniently.


said, he thought it would have been fairer towards the army and the officers of the 26th Regiment if the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had made certain that there was any foundation for the report which he had read from some public newspaper. The other evening the hon. Member had favoured them with an opinion of the soldierly appearance of the Guards, and expressed his pleasure at observing their uniforms were changed from brickdust colour to scarlet. He could not tell where the hon. Member's eyes had been, but for the last twenty or thirty years the Guards had always worn scarlet. He quite agreed that scarlet was infinitely superior to brickdust colour, and, if the hon. Member and his Friends would support him, he (Col. North) would be happy to move that the whole British army should be clothed in scarlet. As an old soldier, nothing was more painful to him than to see the sentries pf the Guards at the present moment. He did not wish to say one word detrimental to the young soldiers now in the uniform of Her Majesty's Guards, and he had no doubt with time, discipline, and drill, they would make gallant troops; but where were the splendid specimens of the manhood of England whom they saw last year at the corners of every street, who, with their Herculean frames, soldierly appearance, gallant demeanour, and devotion to their Sovereign, were the pride of the country? It was a perfect farce now to boast of the appearance of the Guards. The hon. Member for Lambeth came down to the House stating facts with reference to the army that showed his ignorance of the subject, and before he talked of the Guards or of the army he ought to make himself better acquainted with them.


said, he must protest against men speaking about the army who did not know the muzzle from the butt-end of a musket. The hon. Gentleman's (Mr. W. Williams) speech was an electioneering speech, cooked up for his constituents. He hoped the House entertained a better feeling of regard for the army than the hon. Gentleman. As for his part, he had constantly heard him, but always with the same feeling of contempt. He would not take the hon. Gentleman as a member of an awkward squad.


said, he could not resist saying a few words when he heard the Guards attacked. It was with the deepest feelings of anxiety that he had heard that a battalion of the Guards had been ordered to the Crimea, and that the order had been afterwards countermanded. He could not understand why they had forfeited the highest privilege of a soldier to be the first in the place of danger and peril. He had ascertained, however, that it was because they had not a sufficient number of able-bodied men to go out. These men, however, enjoyed the privilege of not being sent to the East or West Indies, although, upon an occasion of emergency, they had been ordered to Canada. In the Peninsular war the Guards had distinguished themselves—they had gone out 1,800 strong, and in six weeks they were reduced to 600.


said, he was anxious to call the attention of the hon. Under Secretary for War to the question put by the hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Otway) as to the punishment of the two privates for firing at an effigy of the Czar. There were probably good reasons for it, but he thought it most desirable, in the present state of the army and the country, that some explanation should be given on this subject.


said, that it would be irregular for him to speak on this at present, but that when they were in Committee he would do so.


said, with reference to the countermanding of the battalion of Guards, he believed that the colonel had given orders without consulting the Commander in Chief. He believed that there were not enough of Minié rifles to supply the whole of the battalion, and it was therefore recommended to send them out in drafts. With regard to the offence of these two men, he considered it a most grievous one. Here were men making use of the ammunition given them for the public service, and firing in the midst of a crowded barracks. He never heard of such a thing in his life, and he thought that the punishment was a proper and a salutary one. He would suggest to the hon. Member for Lambeth whether it was very judicious to be reading ex parte statements from newspapers.


said, the statement he made was from a newspaper which had been circulated about the country. It was sent to him by a gentleman of high respectability, and was accompanied by a letter.

Motion of the House to go into a Committee of Supply agreed to.