§ VISCOUNT GODERICH
said, that in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice, although he felt that he needed the kind indulgence of the House to a greater extent even than usual, and although he wished that the task of submitting to the notice of the House a question of such great importance had been undertaken by some Member of greater weight and influence than himself, he nevertheless imagined that no apology would be considered necessary for begging hon. Members to take into their consideration a question of, at the present moment, such overwhelming interest as the system of promotion which existed in our army. At a time like this, when we were engaged in a great and severe contest, and when, if we had not actually met with great disasters, our 2092 army had at least been placed in a most critical and perilous position—when the minds of the people of this country were occupied with little else except the condition of that army, and when they were necessarily asking themselves the question— "What is the cause of all those evils which have fallen upon it?"—the House would, he was sure, not grudge any time that might be occupied in the discussion of any question that might be supposed to bear upon the efficiency of the army, and which might be imagined to have some relation to the cause of those unhappy events which they all deplored. The people of this country out of doors, and the wisest amongst them, were inclined to believe that there was but one principle by the application of which we could hope to obtain a safe deliverance from the difficulties and dangers in which we were now placed, and the deep and earnest, but silent demand of the people, and, as it seemed to him, their just requirement, was, that that House and the Government, whatever that Government might be, should act upon one principle only in their selection of persons to fill every office, civil or military, namely, that of placing in every post of trust or command such men only as were qualified to fill it, and that in appointing any man to office, they should look simply to his capacity for discharging efficiently the duties of that office, considering nothing of either his position in society, his family, his connection with one party or another, or any personal influence whatever. He thought it could hardly be urged that those principles were adopted under our present system of military promotion. It could hardly be said that the only consideration on account of which a person was promoted in our army, either in the first instance to the rank of officer, or subsequently to more advanced grades, was the various qualities of military merit which he displayed.
Perhaps it was hardly necessary for him to enter into a long description of the present system of promotion in the army, as it must be well known to every Member of that House. The theory was that the right of promotion rested solely in the Crown, and that right was exercised by a particular Minister—that is, the Commander in Chief. But the power of the Commander in Chief was greatly controlled by a system which had grown up in the army, and which was called the system of purchase. That system was not establish- 2093 ed, although it was sanctioned, by law; and was in itself only a system of bargain and sale between individual officers of the army, but which, no doubt, was regulated by the Queen's regulations and the orders of the Horse Guards. By that system, in most instances where vacancies were caused by the retirement of officers, those officers received from those who succeeded them a certain sum of money. There was no doubt that the Horse Guards reserved to itself, as it necessarily must, with a view to the maintenance of any efficiency in the service, the right to refuse such persons wishing to purchase commissions as could be shown to be altogether unfit to hold them. But when the vacancy was thus filled up by purchase, those officers who were unable to purchase were passed over, and the selection was limited to the names of those who were on the list for purchase in each regiment; and in that manner, and to that extent, the choice of the Horse Guards was limited; while, although an attempt had been made to limit the sums paid for commissions, it was notorious that much larger sums were constantly paid than those set down in the tables in the Queen's regulations. But when a vacancy occurred by death, or by the promotion of an officer to a higher rank than that df a regimental officer, it was then filled up by the Horse Guards without purchase. That portion of the system was the safety-valve, without which poor merit could never have a chance in the army; but at the same time it involved a great anomaly and injustice. Fur by the rule of the service if an officer died after investing large sums in the purchase of his commissions, those sums were all forfeited, and his family or heirs got none of the money back, thus inflicting on those individuals a great hardship. As the House would see presently, he was of course not going to object on public grounds to that portion of the system, because it was the only way in which a person who could not purchase up in his regiment had a chance of reaching to high commands. There was, certainly, one other means of entering the army, that is, by having studied at the Military College at Sandhurst; and persons passing a certain examination there were entitled to, and did receive, commissions without purchase, as the reward of merit for proficiency at that Military College. At the same time he believed he ought to state that the College at Sandhurst exercised 2094 but little influence on the character of the officers of the army. The number of persons promoted to commissions from Sandhurst was not large, and the college was altogether inadequate to the wants of an army such as ours. There was another aspect of the question on which it was necessary to touch, in order to show what the system was. It was this: The officers of the army were generally drawn from certain classes of the community—he did not mean merely the aristocratic or noble classes, but generally from the wealthier classes, and the soldiers were of course drawn from a very different class. There was, therefore, between the two classes of officers and soldiers a gulf which, though it was certainly passed in some instances, was yet difficult to pass, and which stood in the way of a reasonable object of ambition to the soldier upon enlistment.
This subject was a large one, and it was not his intention to trespass on the House to-night by going into the whole question, but he would confine himself to one portion of it, firstly, because the ground was partially occupied by two other hon. Gentlemen, with whom he felt it would be discourteous to interfere. The hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich) had a notice of Motion on the paper, respecting the military instruction given at Sandhurst; and the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Abingdon (Major Reed) had another Motion, which stood, he believed, for next Thursday, on the subject of the sale and purchase of commissions; and if he rightly understood that notice of Motion, it mainly proposed to deal with the subject as it affected those who were already officers in the army. Therefore he (Lord Goderich) proposed to confine himself to the last aspect of the question he had mentioned, namely, the manner in which the present system affected the great mass of the army, the non-commissioned officers and private soldiers. Besides the reason to which he had alluded there was another reason why he should ask the attention of the House to this branch of the subject now, and it was because the circumstances of the time afforded, he considered, a fair opportunity to deal with it, which in ordinary times and in time of peace did not exist; because it seemed to him that by an increase of promotion from the ranks, the way would be paved to an alteration in the whole system of the army, and in that of purchase, and because by availing ourselves of the large opportunities afforded by death vacancies 2095 to promote men to be officers in the Army who were not able to purchase commissions, a new element and spirit would be introduced into its ranks. If that was now done, after a short time we should be able to deal more easily with the difficult question of the total abolition of purchase in the army. There could be no doubt that in this question were involved the rights of a number of individuals, and any attempts to do away with purchase without a proportionate compensation would be simple confiscation. He would be the last to advocate such a proceeding, or the perpetration of such an injustice; but he believed that the present system was inconsistent with the advancement of merit, that such principles of administration ought not to prevail in a country like this, and that the whole question was well deserving the attention of the Government and of the House of Commons. That was the reason why he put the question on the ground he had stated, believing that there could not be a better opportunity than the present of dealing with this portion of it, so that the just demands of the people should be complied with, and no injustice done to individuals. He had said that at present there existed a Styx between the officer and soldier which it was difficult for the latter to cross, and he had stated that it was rarely crossed even by the soldier getting into the rank of a commissioned officer at all, and still more difficult was it for the soldier after he had received a commission to get to the command of a regiment or to the rank of field officer.
With regard to the last point he thought he need not argue the question. It was notoriously true that the vast majority, the great universality, of the higher ranks of the army were never reached by the private soldiers. Particular cases, of course, might be quoted, such as that of the late Sir John Elley, but if names were to be brought forward he must ask those who did so to be quite sure that they made against his case. He would exemplify what he meant by a particular instance. It would be remembered that in one of our great campaigns in India the name of a cavalry officer was in the mouth of every one as distinguished for skill and gallantry, that of Colonel Cureton. He believed that all the military gentlemen in that House would admit that he was a most distinguished officer, and he remembered a statement in the newspapers that Colonel Cureton had risen from the ranks. He 2096 (Lord Goderich) having then his present opinions on that subject, was truly rejoiced to hear it. In a few days, however, he saw a sketch of the life of Colonel Cureton, in which it was stated that Colonel Cureton was the son of a man who, though poor, was vet in a position which might have entitled his son, under our present system, to have obtained a commission in the army. But Colonel Cureton, being eager to enter the military service, had enlisted against his father's will, and proceeded to the Peninsula. While serving there the Duke of Wellington marked him out as a distinguished private soldier, and, inquiring into his history, found that he was a person who, consistently with the Queen's regulations, was entitled to held the Queen's commission, and consequently that upon that ground, as much even as upon his great and indisputable merits, he took an early opportunity of having him promoted to the rank of sergeant, and afterwards to a commission. That, therefore, was no example against the case he (Lord Goderich) was endeavouring, to prove; and hon. Gentlemen should be careful to know the history of those persons whom they brought forward as examples of having risen from the ranks to the higher grades; for it was not enough to say that a man rose from the ranks, if he had done so under the same circumstances as Colonel Cureton. Now, with reference to the promotion of non-commissioned officers to the rank of subaltern officers in the army, no doubt that was a more common case than their advancement to high commands or to the grade of field officers. He would admit that there were certain positions carrying with them the rank of commissioned officers in the army, which were held almost exclusively by men who had been in the ranks—namely, those of quartermasters and paymasters, which were given to them because they were required to perform certain disagreeable clerkly duties which other gentlemen did not like to undertake. But if any proof of what he said were required, with regard to the general fact, which no special pleading of particular instances could overthrow, that the officers were drawn from one class and the men from another, and that there was no certain hope whatever held out to merit, and that only in extreme cases sergeants and privates obtained military commissions, he would ask the House to listen to a statement of who were the persons who had 2097 received promotion of late. Since the war commenced the value of commissions had fallen to next to nothing, purchases had almost ceased, and there were unhappily an enormous number of deaths, the vacancies occasioned by which were entirely at the disposal of the Horse Guards, and might have been filled up exactly as they pleased. Now, he had no means of ascertaining what were the original circumstances of persons promoted to ranks higher than those of ensign and cornet; but since the 1st of October last, when promotion had begun to be very rapid, there had been 521 ensigns' and cornets' commissions filled up by the Horse Guards, and of those 150 had been by purchase. He would allude to those cases no more, except to say that those commissions were of course all obtained by persons who belonged to one class. But out of the remaining 371 ensigns' and cornets' commissions which had gone without purchase, 266 had been given to persons described in the Gazette under the somewhat equivocal title of "Gents." Thirty-nine were officers who had been transferred from the militia into the regular army, while of sixty-six sergeants who had been promoted from the ranks of the army, forty had been promoted on the system introduced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert); and therefore he was almost justified in saying that, before that change in the system, only the remaining twenty-six sergeants would, under the old plan, have been promoted from the ranks to hold the Queen's commission.
That was the practice followed now, when we had every facility, if we chose it, to adopt, a different system, and when the social difficulties which were urged against a change would tell with much less force, because, when men were fighting side by side, those social difficulties were not felt; bullets were no great respecters of persons—the brotherhood of danger bound men together; and if we were to promote men of any class who were deserving the honour of holding the Queen's commission, after having fought side by side in one campaign, a feeling of mutual friendship and respect would be engendered much more easily and quickly than in times of peace. If this then, was the course which was followed under these circumstances he thought that be had established his case, that the principle of the Horse Guards was not to hold out to private soldiers in the army any hope, however limited, that their merit would be 2098 rewarded by a commission—always excepting those particular offices which he had before mentioned, which were usually filled from the ranks, and, perhaps, excepting a few cases of those extraordinarily gallant deeds of valour which had been always rewarded by promotion to the rank of officers. If he were right in believing that that was the principle, he would ask the House to consider whether the system founded on it was just? What we asked of our soldiers was, that they should have not merely physical courage, but that they should be possessed of devotion, of self-sacrifice, of powers of enduring privation, of patriotism, and of loyalty. Those were qualities which contained at least the germs of all military genius, and which constituted the sort of character which was required in the highest ranks of the army. What did we do for those men, however? We said to them, "We ask of you all these qualities, but we are not able to hold out to you any certain hope, if you possess them in more than the ordinary degree, that you will meet with the reward of military command." It would hardly be said that courage, or patriotism, or military genius, was the inheritance of any class; and if that were true, surely we ought, if we wished to do justice to those who entered the military profession in any position, to hold out to them some reasonable hope that they should receive the reward of a commission, if they were entitled to it. If he were told that this was a great experiment, he might appeal to the lessons of history, and he might ask the House to remember—at least in this branch of the subject—the case of France. He would ask whether the history of the wars of Napoleon, and of that great army which was among the most successful and the most wonderful which the world had ever seen, did not prove that men might be found in every rank of society fit for the highest military commands? Who was Ney?—who was that Marshal whom the French army called le brave des braves? He was the son of a cooper in an obscure part of France, Who was Massena?—the son of a simple citizen of Nice, who enlisted in the army before the Revolution, but finding that no career was then open to him left it in disgust, but, after the change in the Government of France, re-enlisted, and rose to be a marshal of France, to be decorated by the hand of Napoleon with the title of prince, and to be styled the "spoilt child of Victory," It might be 2099 said that it was all very well in theory that men should be promoted from any rank; and he might be told, as regarded the case of France—that nation with whom we were in strict alliance, and of whose alliance we were so justly proud—which we every day called a great military nation—he might be told that it was all very true of France. but it was not true of England, or of the English soldier. Did they think the English private soldier was less fitted to hold a commission than the soldier of France, and that he did not possess qualities which entitled him to the confidence of his country? Now, he would appeal to those letters which had been written by our soldiers in the East, and which they had all read with admiration. What were the qualities which they had exhibited in the English soldier? Was it mere brute courage? No; but education, a manly and devoted piety, patience, and a soft and almost womanly pity and feeling for the very enemies to whom they were opposed. He would appeal to the hon. Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. A. Stafford), who was entitled to the utmost gratitude and respect for what he had done to alleviate the distresses of our wounded soldiers—and he would ask that hon. Gentleman whether he had not learnt at the death-beds of English soldiers lessons of loyalty, patience, and devotion such as he had never learnt elsewhere? There was another point to which he wished to allude. For some years past Government had been devoting much attention to the improvement of the condition and of the education of the soldier. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire in that House, and the Duke of Newcastle in the House of Lords, both bore their testimony, when at the head of the military departments, to the advantage derived from this improvement in the education of the soldier. He (Lord Goderich) would say, when men were better educated and improved in character, did it not give them a greater claim to that promotion for which their improved education must be intended to fit them? He should hardly be told that the English soldier was wanting in courage, or in any military quality. If he were he might appeal to the hon. and gallant General who sat next him (Sir De Lacy Evans), and he might say to him, "You were at Inkerman—in the 'soldier's' battle,—and you can tell us how that victory was won, and what it was which has gained for it so honourable a name—you 2100 can tell us whether or not the men who fought there are worthy of any reward their country can give them—you can tell us what were the deeds of that Sergeant Sullivan, whom you so honourably mentioned in your despatch, and whose name, in obedience to a cruel and puerile etiquette, was struck out of the despatch of the Commander in Chief, and who has never yet been promoted, though since the arrival of your despatch in this country, twelve gentlemen have been made ensigns in the sergeant's own regiment over his head."
If he had in any way established his case, he was, he thought, justified in asking the House to consider whether or not it was expedient to introduce some change in the system? He asked for no extreme measure; he only asked that they should do on a more extended scale what had been done in some measure by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire, and establish as a system that which he did not think the plan of the right hon. Gentleman had established on any permanent basis. He felt that when you were educating the soldier—when successive Secretaries at War had devoted themselves to that question of education—and he believed he was right in saying that the noble Lord the present Minister for War had been remarkably distinguished for his efforts in that direction—when you had done all that, you must expect men to feel that they were entitled to be treated differently, as educated men, to what they were before. On that subject he would say rot more. But he would ask, if you possessed a system by which every English soldier should know what every French soldier was said to know, "that he carried a marshal's bâton in his knapsack," would it not materially affect your recruiting? The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary at War stated on a previous occasion, in the discussion which took place on the Foreign Enlistment Bill, that great difficulty was experienced, not in obtaining recruits, but in obtaining them of that description which was required for the arduous service in the Crimea. But if the recruiting sergeant were able to say—not, as was formerly the case, as a means of delusion at the bar of a public-house, that every man who went into the army would be promoted to be a general—but if he were able to say truly that there was every chance, if a man enlisted in the ranks, and showed knowledge of his pro- 2101 fession and a genius for command, that he would rise to any rank in the service to which his talents might entitle him, you would find the difficulties stated by the right hon. Gentleman to be considerably diminished. He (Lord Goderich) had no doubt that our soldiers were proud at hearing of the scene which was presented in that House when his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster received the thanks of that House in his place. But it would be something more to those men who had enlisted for voluntary service if they could feel that some day that distinguished honour might perhaps be their own. Could that hope ever be held out under the present system? If something was done to hold out such hopes you would obtain recruits from other classes than those you do at present, and get men who could not now enter the army as officers because they were unable to purchase commissions, and who would not enter the ranks as soldiers because no opportunity of rising to the grade of officer was held out to them. If that was done there would be given a tone of morality and high feeling to the army which would be of infinite value.
He might be told that all this was more or less a theory, and that the people of England and the House of Commons did not like theories. He would, however, ask the attention of the House while he showed how the present system affected the efficiency of the service, and inquired whether there would not be a greater efficiency attained by some change. He had stated that since October there had been a number of persons appointed to commissions who had never before been in the army, and, consequently, in the majority of cases they were very young men. Now, for the most part, these 416 gentlemen were mere youths of the description mentioned by the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert) when speaking of the privates as not having physical power sufficient for their work, and although, of course, he did not mean to say that physical strength was so necessary in the officers as in the soldiers, yet he could say that 416 gentlemen out of the 521 appointed to commissions were, at all events in a certain degree, of that description. Our regiments, from the effects of war, disease, want, privation, and neglect, were but thinly officered, and it would not be long after those gentlemen received their commissions before they were sent out on active service. Well, a 2102 young officer went out full of that devotion and gallantry for which English gentlemen were always distinguished, but with scarcely any military experience, except such as he might have exhibited in his examination before getting his commission, which he had often heard derided as regarded its value for all practical purposes. Well, the young officer went out to join the army at an age when, in other circumstances and in another position in the world, he would not be considered fitted for the responsibility which attached to the command of men; and shortly after his arrival in his turn of duty, he would possibly be sent out in command of a picket, where, perhaps, on his skill, knowledge, and vigilance might depend the safety of the army. What generally happened? His commanding officer tells him, "You are going out with a picket, and I dare say you do not know much of the duty you will have to perform; but sergeant so and so is a very steady and experienced man, and he will go on the picket with you, and explain what you ought to do." Surely that was inverting the rule of common sense, to put under the officer's command the man who was to teach him his duty at a post of important responsibility. Another story was told him, which he (Lord Goderich) knew to be true. It was of a young officer, a gallant and generous man, who saw battle first on the heights of the Alma. He said, in writing to his mother, that when the balls began to fall thick around him, and men were dropping on every side, he felt for a few moments a thrill of terror, and was hesitating whether he should turn and fly; but there was behind him a sergeant, whom he described as a brave, tall fellow, and who took him by the back of the neck and thrust him into the battle. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but the story was true; and the young officer said that from that hour he never felt fear; and he must have been a gallant and generous man to have told the story. He (Lord Goderich) did not think such a man would have ridiculed the story like those hon. Gentlemen who had just greeted his account of it with laughter; but he was made a soldier by that sergeant, and so, as he had previously stated, their relative positions were inverted. But if hon. Gentlemen laughed at that story, perhaps they would not laugh at an instance which he (Lord Goderich) was told of by a gallant Friend of his, now in command of one of Her Majesty's regi- 2103 ment, and whose name he would willingly mention to any one who might choose to question his authority. That gallant and intelligent officer told him, speaking on the subject of this very Motion, that his remarks on the effect which the present system had upon the efficiency of the army were not only applicable in time of war, but also in time of peace. He said that when he first joined his regiment, or very shortly afterwards, the lieutenant and captain being absent, the command of his company devolved upon him; and the commanding officer said to him, "Of course you don't know the duties of commanding a company; you have had but little experience, and cannot understand them; but sergeant major so and so is an intelligent man; he will tell you what to do, and if you follow his advice, you will not be wrong." That young officer did follow the advice of the sergeant major, and rapidly rose to the rank of a lieutenant colonel—[Ironical cheers]—he did so most deservedly, and when he had reached that rank, he had the pleasure of recommending that sergeant to be made an ensign. His gallant friend subsequently told him that he felt their respective places had been reversed, when he was put over the head of the sergeant, while the sergeant, by whose instruction he had profited, was left in that position until he (the lieutenant colonel) had been able to obtain for him that reward which was so justly his due. He (Lord Goderich) did not for a moment desire to propose that the superior grades should be filled exclusively from the private soldiers. All he did say was, that the present proportion, originally about ten or twenty to one, and now, in time of war, at most six to one, ought to be changed; and that it should be laid down as a rule, that where any fitness for command was found among the soldiers, it should be considered that their having been in the ranks, and having been noncommissioned officers, did constitute a strong claim to their promotion.
He had been asked why he did not move for a Committee? It was for two reasons: firstly, that ground was in part occupied by the hon. Member for Abingdon; and secondly, that the matter he was urging was a change which might advantageously be commenced now, one for which the present time was peculiarly favourable, and for which, if we waited for the Report of the Committee, the opportunity would most probably have passed 2104 by. The time was undoubtedly favourable to it. We had had 371 original commissions, without purchase, to give away in the last few months; and, of course, we had had a large number of other commissions—generals of all grades, colonels, lieutenant colonels, majors, and captains' commissions to give away in the same time. By means of those the principle could be applied now, without injustice to the purchasers, without asking the House to buy them out, and without obliging the House hastily, or in obedience to a popular cry, or in a time of danger, to deal with this difficult and complicated question. If the subject were to be dealt with, it must be now, by immediate action. There was another circumstance which made the present time most opportune. We were fighting side by side with a great Ally, in whose army a totally different system of promotion existed. He knew well enough that in the French army the majority of officers did not rise from the ranks; he did not ask for that in our own; but a certain proportion of the commands in the French army were secured to men who had served in the ranks, and that was all he asked the House to acquiesce in. Now, if report spoke truly, the present condition of the French army did offer a contrast to ours, most unfortunate for us. He did not say but that difference might have been exaggerated, or we might not be so well informed of the state of the French army as of our own; but there was ample testimony to prove that the French army was in a better condition than ours, better fed, better clothed, better cared for. We ought not, therefore, to be prevented by any false pride from examining into the French system, and seeing whether it was one we ought to adopt. Of course lie did not say the superiority in the condition of the French army was wholly caused by men being promoted from the ranks; but he could not help thinking that officers just taken from the ranks were likely—not to care more for their men, for he knew that the English officers cared greatly for their men—but to understand their feelings and circumstances better, because they had experienced the same position themselves. Perhaps he might be told that all he was asking, or almost all of it, had been done already by the system introduced by the right hon. Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert). No doubt by that system forty sergeants had been promoted, one in each 2105 regiment; and the very fact of that system having been adopted was a strong argument in favour of the proposal he (Lord Goderich) was now urging the House to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary at War had promoted those sergeants, and could not tell him, therefore, that the soldiers of our army were not fit for command. His objection was, that it had not been done upon system, but as a matter of favour. One sergeant in every regiment had been promoted, but there might be in one regiment no sergeant fit for promotion, while in another there might be ten. In the 30th Regiment they did not select the sergeant mentioned by his general, but they selected a sergeant major, probably on account of his seniority, who might be a gallant and good man; but if the system were a good one, it would not have been found impossible to have promoted Sergeant Sullivan. No doubt, if the system were to be carried out thoroughly, the whole system of purchase must he reconsidered, so that when such men had been raised to be commissioned officers, they might afterwards be promoted, if they were fit for it, and not be kept on as old lieutenants and ancient ensigns, with no hope of promotion—the Government must watch over the career of such men afterwards, and take care that, so far as might be consistent with the claims of others, and with due caution in removing the deep-rooted evils of our military system, such men should be enabled to make their way according to their merits. That was all he asked, and he certainly did not consider that he was asking anything unreasonable. But he might be told, and out of the House he had been told, that the men themselves did not like to be promoted, and that when they were they felt themselves uncomfortable. No doubt, if but one sergeant in every regiment were promoted, it was fifty to one that be would feel himself uncomfortable. But if there were, by the frequent and usual course of such promotions, a number of men from the ranks combined with and welded, as it were, into the whole body of the officers, would, he now confidently asked, any such feeling prevail? Would they not be united as one body? Would not the men who had fought together and served their country together learn to live together? lie did not suppose that any officer, except some very foolish young gentlemen, would ever treat them with 2106 anything but the kindness and respect due from every gentleman to his brother officer, but it was because such men were few now that they were liable to feel themselves in a peculiar and anomalous position. Surely he should not be told that the adoption of such a system would drive out gentlemen from the army. Surely not; the gentlemen of England would never refuse to serve their country because they might have to share the honours of the military profession with men who had risen from the ranks. That would be a result much to be deplored; but he could not, for the honour of English gentlemen, believe it possible. He should be the last man to cast any blame on the officers of our army. He had relations and very dear friends now in the army of the Crimea, and he knew that our officers were brave and honourable, devoted and loyal. He would not that we should do them any injury, but open a fair field, without favour, to other classes; and in such a case he was riot afraid of the result for that class from whom the officers of our army were now generally drawn; for they need not fear an equal and fair competition. He hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government, if he should speak on this debate, would not accuse him, as he did his hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr. Layard) the other night, of having indulged in vulgar declamation against the aristocracy, for he (Lord Goderich) had done no such thing. In conclusion, he would remind hon. Gentlemen of what Tacitus hail told us of the ancient Germans—"Reges ex nobilitate, duces ex virtute sumunt." He would that henceforth we might imitate the example of our Teutonic forefathers, and choose our military commanders by merit alone, By doing this, we should promote the efficiency of our army, and satisfy the just claims of those brave men to whom, by common consent, much more than to their commanders, were due the splendid victories of the late campaign. By doing this, we should bestow upon the soldiers of our army a somewhat adequate reward for the great deeds of the Alma, Balaklava, and lukerman. If we took this course, a time would come when, not in Napoleon's army alone, would "every helmet catch some beams of glory," and when the British soldier would no longer fight "under that cold shade of aristocracy," of which the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary (Sir G. Grey) appeared so much to approve the other 2107 night, but which he (Lord Goderich) trusted would not be permitted much longer to cast its shadow over the brilliant deeds of the private soldier; and we should thus build up a sound, a stable, and a satisfactory military organisation, because we should have laid its foundations in justice and reason.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to take into Her consideration the present system of Promotion in Her Majesty's Army, under which Non-Commissioned Officers rarely attain to the rank of Commissioned Officer, and scarcely ever to that of Field Officer, and humbly to represent to Her Majesty that it is the opinion of this House that the said system is injurious to the public service, and unjust to the private soldier in Her Majesty's Army.
§ MR. FREDERICK PEEL
said, there was one important part of the noble Lord's case, which he had admitted to be essentially weak because he had not attempted to represent the inconvenience of the system which he wished to change. The system of promotion by purchase might be faulty in principle, and defective in theory, but it could not be said in truth that it had, in its actual working, operated injuriously to the interests of the country or to the dishonour or the discredit of the English army. He (Mr. Peel) apprehended, on the contrary, that if he had all the armies of the world brought before him, and it were a question to which army he should refer to find officers distinguished for their high sense of personal honour, their courage and unshrinking bravery, and possessing also, in a superior degree, the feelings and habits of gentlemen, the army to which he should refer would be the English army and its officers. Now the question to be considered was, whether those were qualifications indispensable in English officers. He did not underrate the importance of having officers who should, like men who had risen from the ranks, understand with intimate familiarity the duties, wants, and feelings of the private soldiers; but when he considered what our army was, and what this country was—and when he recollected what an extensive tour of colonial service our army had to perform—and when he knew, as he did from his connection with the Colonial Office, what important functions the officers of our army in the colonial service were called on to perform, how delicate and difficult were the duties which devolved upon them, occasionally, and even frequently, required to 2108 undertake the administration of the civil government of our colonies, he did not think there were any qualities more indispensable to our officers than those to which he had alluded. The noble Lord had not impugned the character of the English officers, but his view was, that the present system of promotion worked unjustly and injuriously to the private soldiers in Her Majesty's army. Now, it ought not to be lost sight of that no man was constrained to enter the ranks of that army who did not voluntarily proffer his services. It might be said that it would be advantageous if the private soldier were told that if he showed capacity he would rise in rank and might become the colonel of a regiment. But he said, with the noble Lord, that much of this was theory, and that he had failed to point out in what way the present system acted injuriously upon the private soldier. He hardly knew, indeed, to what point he had to address himself. It was admitted by the noble Lord that much had been done to facilitate the admission of privates into the ranks of commissioned officers. But he said, "I want you to systematise what you have been doing;" whilst he declined to offer any definite scheme of his own. Now, he (Mr. Peel) believed that if the advancement of the private soldier to the commissioned ranks were to be made a system, the system which now prevailed must give way. ["Hear, hear!"] He did not believe that the two systems, namely, the system of promotion by purchase and that by merit, could coexist. Therefore, although the noble Lord had endeavoured to reduce the question to a very narrow issue, as if all he required was that Government should act a little more liberally on the principle they had been acting upon of late years, the question did in reality affect the whole system of promotion in the army by purchase. Now, he (Mr. Peel) had no prejudice against the promotion of the private soldier. If he found a man who had distinguished himself in any way, he would say, let that man be assisted to rise to those grades for which he showed his capacity. But the noble Lord brought a somewhat unjust accusation against the Government when he said, "I complain that you have not been acting liberally of late years in the promotion of non-commissioned officers." The noble Lord ought to have been aware that the Government had no power in this matter. It should be recollected that when an ensign who had pur- 2109 chased his commission rose to the rank of lieutenant he relinquished his commission as ensign, but the value of that commission he was entitled to, and expected to receive; and if the Government were to follow the noble Lord's suggestion, and, that ensigncy being vacant, appoint a non-commissioned officer, where should they get the funds to pay the lieutenant for that ensigncy? The Government were placed in that position from the continuance for the last two centuries of the plan of promotion by purchase which was now in force.
Now, before the existing system was changed, let the House understand what it was. He (Mr. Peel) was bound to inform the House what it was, in order that they should not hastily commit themselves to a resolution condemnatory of that system, and in favour of substituting some other, the results of which could not be anticipated. Let it not be supposed that at present there were no non-commissioned officers selected to receive commissions. There were commissions which fell vacant by death, and the practice in filling up death-vacant commissions was to bestow them gratuitously, upon the responsibility of the Commander in Chief. The noble Lord said—Yes, but there was great injustice in that practice, and if he (Lord Goderich) were in favour of the bestowal of commissions by purchase he would keep that principle in its full integrity; "but I do think it unjust," the noble Lord would say, "that while you allow a man to resign his commission in his lifetime, and to realise the value of it, on the other hand, if he has the misfortune to die in the possession of his commission, then you, the State, step in and deprive his family, at the moment when they are most in need of it, of the commission on which their natural protector has been dependent for his own and his family's support." Why, certainly that did appear primâ facie to be an injustice; but let it be remembered that a man who sold a commission dissevered himself from the army, and abandoned all claim upon his country; but if, on the other hand, a man died in the possession of his commission, then, although the State might take advantage of the death-vacancy to appropriate his commission, and to promote some non-commissioned officer, the State made also a provision for his widow and family. ["Hear, hear!"] Why, what were the Votes which the House had been lately passing but for gratuitous allowances, and for pen- 2110 visions to widows and families of deceased officers? The only question could be, whether the value of the annuity which was given to the widow exceeded the value of the annuity which might be purchased supposing the representative of the deceased officer were allowed to realise his commission. Now, he would tell the House how these death-vacant commissions were disposed of. In the first place, they were given to the young cadets who passed the examinations satisfactorily at the Military College at Sandhurst. Of course he did not mean those young men who went to that college, and, perhaps, passed their time idly, and never attempted to prepare for its examinations, but who afterwards obtained commissions in the army by purchase. These death-vacant commissions were never given to any cadets but those who had passed their examination, and proved their capacity for the military profession. Whether the education given in that college were the best that could be afforded was another question; but that was one source from which, it would be admitted, the Government might very fairly and properly supply such death-vacancies. Well, the average number of them so absorbed into the army was about thirty a year. But there still remained a considerable number unappropriated, and these had been given either to the sons of meritorious old officers, and efficient public servants, or to non-commissioned officers who had distinguished themselves, and who had been reported by their commanding officers as deserving of promotion, and who were themselves willing to accept commissions; for it did not follow of necessity that every non-commissioned officer would take a commission if it were offered to him. The noble Lord had given some statistics of the extent to which non-commissioned officers had been promoted of late years. He (Mr. Peel) held in his hand a return of the number of non-commissioned officers who had been promoted in the five years ending in February, 1855, and that number, excluding those who had been recently promoted for their conduct in the Crimea, was 129 in five years; while the number who had been promoted in the regiments in the Crimea was not, as had been represented, forty-six only, but was nearly double that—namely, ninety; so that in the course of these five years, 219 non-commissioned officers had been promoted to commissions in the army. Now, he did not mean to say that such a 2111 number bore any considerable proportion to the number of commissions that had been filled up in the last five years; but still it was an evidence of the manner in which the Government were disposed to deal with this question. He had heard it said that to allow one noncommissioned officer to be promoted in every regiment for service in the Crimea was but a miserable instalment of what was due to them; but it should be taken as a fair indication of the disposition of the Government. The noble Lord also said, if not in his speech, yet in the terms of his Motion, that the non-commissioned officers thus placed in commission could never rise beyond the rank they first received, or that their subsequent promotion must be very slow, and that they never reached the rank of field officers. The noble Lord ought to consider what impediments there were to prevent their rising to the rank of field officers. They formed only a very small proportion of the whole number of commissioned officers. Let it be remembered what was the constitution of a regiment, and that there were in those regiments which had been lately augmented, in consequence of their being sent to the Crimea, in each regiment ten ensigns, twenty-four lieutenants, sixteen captains, and how above that rank the number was suddenly contracted to two majors, and was reduced finally to one lieutenant colonel; so that there were but three or four field officers in the regiment, while there were from thirty to sixty captains and subalterns. Was it, then, surprising that a non-commissioned officer, even when he became a commissioned officer, having to take his chance with the rest, could seldom have an opportunity of rising to the rank of a field officer? But it was fair to mention that with regard to those non-commissioned officers who were made ensigns after the battle of Inkerman, their commissions, which were only granted in December or January, were ante-dated to the 5th of November, so that of course they enjoyed seniority over any ensigns appointed since that date; and the result was that through the rapid promotion consequent upon active service not a few of those very non-commissioned officers who, for their conduct at Inkerman, became ensigns, had since then become lieutenants already; and he doubted not that others would in their turn shortly succeed to the same rank. The noble Lord had rather sneered at non-commissioned officers being ap- 2112 pointed paymasters and quartermasters. Now, they were seldom appointed paymasters, because in that office they would be required to find security for the sums of money passing through their hands; but they were sometimes appointed adjutants and quartermasters, because they showed a predilection for such employment, and were well fitted for it by their previous habits. Another reason for their not rising to the higher ranks was, that such men were generally advanced in years before they obtained the ensigncy, and slowly travelling up to the ranks of lieutenant and captain, had then attained the time of life at which they would naturally desire to retire from the active duties of their profession, and to realise the value of that commission which had been gratuitously given to them. It should also be recolcted that, in consequence of the augmentation of the regiments in the Crimea, a considerable increase took place in the number of commissioned officers; and what was the result? The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary at War determined to realise some profit to the public from the increase of those commissions; and a hundred ensigncies were disposed of at sale, which realised between 40,000l. and 50,000l.; and this sum would be reserved to relieve the public of some of that charge which would inevitably fall upon it when the war should be over, and when the half-pay list would have to be increased. If the plan of the noble Lord were adopted, he had said that he did not think the other system, that of promotion by purchase, could long be preserved, and therefore it was that he (Mr. Peel) took the opportunity of pointing out to the House some of the advantages which undoubtedly appertained to the present system. He knew but of three ways in which they could fill up vacant commissions—he was not speaking of first commissions, which undoubtedly might be conferred upon non-commissioned officers—and those were by seniority, by merit, and by purchase. He would take first the mode of advancement by seniority. Suppose a majority in a regiment became vacant. At present, if it became vacant by the selling out of the previous incumbent, it was offered to the senior captain of the regiment. He was, perhaps, a very meritorious officer; he was well acquainted with his profession; but he might not have the means of buying the advancement, and, consequently, would be obliged to relinquish the chance of pro- 2113 motion. The offer was then made to the person next to him, who probably had the means, and who, consequently, rose to the majority. Now, he did not deny that that proceeding inflicted a hardship upon the senior captain which it was desirable, if possible, to remove; but in fairness the advantages of promotion by purchase ought to be borne in mind. They did not want their officers to be old men, and particularly those whom they required to go abroad with their regiments, and to share with the common soldier all the privations incident to war. But the result of the system of promotion by seniority would be greatly to extend the average age of their officers. Another objection to seniority was, that the hope of advancement was almost inconsistent with it. They had two majors to a regiment and sixteen captains. Suppose he was at the bottom of the list of captains, and the was anxious to show his capability to command. But he was at the bottom of a list of sixteen captains, and every one of them must go through the office of major before he could obtain the object of his ambition. Would any one say that under such a system as that there was any hope of promotion? He believed that the facility of rapid promotion by purchase had the effect of bringing into their army the most public-spirited and enterprising people of this country. A man said, "I believe I have merit, and means also, and these two combined will enable me to rise rapidly."
It was not true, as some supposed, that when an officer sold his commission he could dispose of it to anybody he pleased. Conditions existed, without compliance with which a junior officer could not purchase a higher grade, and he must have served a certain period, and passed an examination testing his qualifications before he could do so. Again, the purchase of commissions enabled us to get rid of our old officers, and to eliminate from the army those who were incapable of rendering service. Constant complaints were made that the Government appointed old officers to the command of the navy, but the mode in which the army had come to be officered by comparatively young men was mainly to be attributed to this very system of promotion by purchase. A captain past the prime of life said that he could not wait till he would be promoted to a majority, and preferred realising the value of his commission and quitting the service; but if he could be advanced in 2114 rank without the payment of any sum of money, where would be the inducement to an old officer to leave the army? If this new plan were adopted, it would be requisite to resort to some violent means of removing these aged captains—a practice that Would be extremely painful, and one likewise that he felt confident would be hurtful to the feelings of the country. So great were the advantages of the sale of commissions in this point of view, that Parliament, in fact, had supplemented and facilitated it by holding out pecuniary temptations to induce old officers of different grades to retire upon the half-pay list, in order to make room for younger men; and the abolition of retirement by purchase would cause an absolute stagnation in the current of promotion. During the last five years the number of officers who retired by purchase was thirty lieutenant colonels, twenty-nine majors, ninety-three captains, 115 lieutenants, and forty-four ensigns; the aggregate value of whose commissions was 500,000l.; and if the present system was to be abolished it would be necessary, in order to secure the young officers we now had, to vote about 100,000l. annually, in order to have the army officered by men of the same age as they now were—assuming that the old officers would no longer retire by selling out. The third mode of promotion was by merit, but the Government had certainly received no very great encouragement to adopt that system. The Horse Guards had instructed Lord Raglan to give commissions to one noncommissioned officer in each regiment, and accordingly he had promoted the sergeant major of the 30th Regiment in preference to Sergeant Sullivan. The Government was therefore attacked by one Member after another, because Sergeant Sullivan, whose merit was said to be superior, did not obtain this commission. If promotion by merit were to be the universal rule, and the Government had confided to it the task of estimating the relative merits of rival claimants, it would have the most delicate and invidious duty to discharge that could possibly be conceived. Moreover injustice must be done to the men belonging to regiments serving in the Colonies. How could the authorities at the Horse Guards learn of the merits of men in Australia or the West Indies, who might be more entitled to promotion than men serving in regiments nearer home—in the Guards for instance. The system would therefore become one of promotion by favouritism 2115 rather than one according to real merit. The noble Lord was in error in supposing that the practice of selling commissions had not been legalised, but rested entirely upon the regulations of the Horse Guards; because the provisions of the 49 Geo. III. c. 162, gave the requisite legal authority in this matter. [Viscount GODERICH: I did not at all attempt to deny that.] But apart from that, there were great objections to adopting the system of promotion by merit. He would not say great objections so much as real difficulties, which were not to be removed without serious consideration, supposing always that they were to do away with promotion by purchase. If they were to abolish promotion by purchase, it would be absolutely necessary to indemnify those officers who were now in possession of commissions in the army. Suppose they were to buy up the rights of the officers who were in the forty battalions, in the Crimea alone, not counting those in India and the Colonies, the sum would exceed 2,000,000l., and it would also be necessary to raise a further sum to satisfy the claims of the officers serving in India, in the Colonies, and at home. Again, it would be almost impracticable to abolish the sale of commissions. It would not be enough to say that no ensign should be appointed by purchase, because, when officers came to rise from rank to rank it would be found that the power of money would be brought into action in order to displace men who stood in the way of the promotion of individuals. The officer at the head of the list of captains in a regiment had now no inducement to retire, but the fifteen other captains below him might have an interest in getting rid of him as soon as they could, and they would club together to present him with a sum of money if he would retire. He understood it to be often the practice in India at present, where no commissions were allowed to be sold, for the junior officers to contribute a sum of money between them, and offer it to their seniors to induce them to quit the service. That was a variation of the principle prevailing in our own army. Indeed, what was done by us might be collected from the difference that existed between the regulation price and the selling price of our own commissions. Notwithstanding the positive prohibition against the sale of commissions above the regulation price, yet it was well known that they were sold above that price; and he very much doubted whether, even if the noble 2116 Lord should render that prohibition still more stringent, it would not be found that money would carry the day, and that a man with wealth would rise above him whose only resource was merit. He did not of course pretend to argue with the noble Lord upon this hypothetical question. It was very possible that the noble Lord could see further and more clearly into this matter than he could; but be must confess, although the subject might be one deserving of consideration in connection with other subjects, that, as far as he had had an opportunity of judging, he did see advantages in the present plan which he should be sorry to part with; while, on the other hand, he perceived inconveniences in the plan suggested by the noble Lord—such as an absolute suspension in the current of promotion—which would justly induce one to hesitate before he agreed to the Address proposed by the noble Lord.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said, he thought the House would not deem him unnecessarily taking up their time if be should make some few observations on one or two points touched upon in the speech of his noble Friend. It was, however, exceedingly difficult for a man who had a practical acquaintance with any subject to argue with another whose knowledge of the subject was mere vague theory. He was of opinion that not any of the reasons adduced by his noble Friend, nor even all of them combined, were sufficient to justify any change in the present system. It was alleged, in favour of a system of promotion from the ranks, that non-commissioned officers having lived and associated familiarly with the men who would be below them, would be more acquainted with their wants, their feelings, and their habits than men who had always moved in a higher class of society, and they would consequently be regarded in a more friendly spirit by them. But he would appeal to every man who had had any experience in the army whether it was not the fact that non-commissioned officers, after promotion, were generally looked upon by the privates with suspicion, and were considered upstarts who had no real pretensions of superiority over them? But it was said that if it should become the rule to promote non-commissioned officers that feeling on the part of the pri rates would no longer prevail. Supposing that to be so, still what would be the effect of introducing a number of half-educated men into the society of the other officers—men of edu- 2117 cation, and of refinement of manners? It would be impossible that one class of men could adopt the tastes or manners of the other. He did not say this from the least wish to depreciate the merits of the non-commissioned officers; he knew many of them, and was well acquainted with their many good qualities. Still he maintained that it was impossible that men who hail been promoted from that low grade of society from which, unfortunately, this country generally drew its soldiers could associate with men of high education and refined habits. Parliament might enact what law it pleased, still it could nut alter the nature of men, or bring about an amalgamation between two such opposite classes. It was a remarkable fact that those noncommissioned officers who had risen to high rank in the army bad not proved to be the best commanding officers in the service. He believed it would be found that the men at present constituting the great bulk of the officers of our army were characterised by the great attention and care they bestowed upon the soldiers under their command. It was all very well to talk of Ney and Massena having risen from the ranks, and having become French marshals, but that was the result of a system totally different from what existed in this country. In France every man was compelled to serve in the army; the Government, therefore, had a choice from the whole of the population, and no doubt men of genius and of talent would occasionally rise up, as it were, to the surface, and present themselves for promotion. But a very different system of recruiting the army prevailed in this country. Would the noble Lord exchange that system for the one adopted in France? The great distinction between the foreign and English services was this—that, whereas while we raised our men by enlistment, foreign troops were raised by conscription, and whatever might be the rank, the station, or the social position of the various classes, each was bound to furnish its proper quota to the army. The consequence of that system was, that men of education were much oftener found in the ranks of foreign armies than in our own. The only question in the case of a person about to enter a foreign army was whether he would qualify himself for entering it as an officer by going through the necessary preparatory military schools, or enter at once as a private, trusting to his abilities and conduct for his future advancement. No doubt, when once in the army, 2118 he rose without purchase, but what might be in perfect accordance with the system of another country might be by no means suitable to our military organisation. It was said merit should be the only guide, but what was the meaning of the word merit as applied to the army? Some considered the meritorious soldier was the man who displayed a certain amount of education, others military skill, and others again personal courage and valour. For what class of merit were men to be promoted? He would admit the system of promotion by purchase might not be altogether perfect, but it remained to be shown whether, with the materials of which our army was at present composed, it was not the best that could be devised. The only branch of the service in which any other system had been introduced was the Indian, but with what effect? Why it was known that the officers themselves had recourse to a system of subscription to buy out superior officers, in order that each grade might be advanced a step? Objections against the purchase of commissions came with a bad grace from those who complained that one-fourth of their officers were too old, and it was said of many of them that when they attained the rank of a field officer, they found more difficulty in managing their horse than in managing their regiment. Then, with regard to noncommissioned officers, he denied that the introduction of the proposed system would be so beneficial to them as supposed, for not only would they, on being promoted, lose their good-conduct pay, but, after leaving their regiments, would lose all those opportunities of employment which they now possessed, and he could tell the House that there were but few men who stood in so favourable a position on leaving the army, as regarded employment, as sergeants, whose good-conduct pay was a sure proof of the excellence of their character. He had himself known a case where eleven sergeants had refused promotion, because they were convinced that their comforts would not be enhanced by being placed in a social position for which their previous habits and education had not fitted them. He therefore thought, considering what the pay of the army was, what the chances of promotion were, how the officers were treated, how they were maligned if not uniformly successful, the jealousy with which every appointment was viewed, that the eyes of the public were incessantly upon them—that every 2119 fault was magnified, and every defect the subject of public discussion—that it would have been far better if the House had turned a deaf ear to those suggestions which had tended to restrict the comforts of the men and circumscribe the utility of the army, and had taken the simple precaution of maintaining a proper establishment in time of peace. Had such been the conduct of the House, it was his firm belief that not only would the non-commissioned officer have found himself better off, but there would have been far greater chance of success in conducting the present war.
§ MR. OTWAY
said, he thought that the noble Lord who had just sat down had done himself no great credit in throwing out a sneer in the way he had done at the manners of the non-commissioned officers. Those men, through long experience and hard service, might be excellent officers, although not quite so refined as the gentlemen who obtained their position by purchase. He thought, also, the noble Lord had come to a very erroneous conclusion as to the effect of the military system in India. It was perfectly true that there did exist a quasi system of purchase in the East India service, but there was this great difference between the system as practised in India and in the Queen's regiments, that the Indian officers were at least deprived of the painful mortification of seeing men, sometimes very inferior to themselves in all the qualifications and requirements of an officer, put over their heads merely because they possessed a certain sum of money. He thought the argument of the noble Lord founded on the fact of the refusal of the eleven sergeants to accept commissions told the other way, because, if a large number of meritorious officers of that rank were promoted, the individuals would no longer find themselves in an isolated position among their brother officers. The commissions granted by the Government to these sergeants would no longer be a boon if the system of promotion by purchase were persisted in, since, unless they could scrape up the sum necessary to purchase further promotion, they would have to remain stationary, and would be exposed to the mortification of seeing younger officers pass over their heads. The system of purchase might best be described as the exaction of a property qualification in officers, which of itself was highly objectionable. There would be no difficulty, he 2120 believed, in meeting most of the objections stated by the hon. Under Secretary for War. For instance, a forced retirement at a certain age, as was the rule in the French service, where no general remained on active service after the age of sixty, would effectively prevent the ranks of the army being incumbered with old officers, as the hon. Gentleman seemed to think would be the case if promotion by purchase was abolished. The hon. Gentleman had next endeavoured to frighten the House from the project by parading before it the enormous expense which it would entail on the country to refund the sums invested in commissions, but even if that could not be done under 2,000,000l., he should be ready to look upon that as a very small sacrifice for the attainment of so good an end. The system of purchase abolished, the hon. Gentleman seemed to think that nothing was left but to revert at once either to promotion by merit or by seniority, forgetting apparently that there was such a thing as combining the two. A combined system of promotion by seniority and merit would be the most advantageous fur the public service, and it was the one which he very much desired to see introduced. The system of promotion in the French army he considered was very fair. In the French army, vacancies were filled up in a fixed proportion—two-thirds by selection, and one-third from the non-commissioned officers. A non-commissioned officer, when nominated for a commission, had first of all to be approved by his captain, by the chef de bataillon, by the lieutenant colonel and colonel, and by the inspecting general; and in due time, if he still remained on the list, he became a commissioned officer. Now this system worked very well in the French army. In the Prussian army, which, so far as regarded the officers, was even more aristocratic than our own, the officers being mostly composed of young nobles and of men from the best families in the country, and where the esprit de corps was carried to a remarkable extent, when a non-commissioned officer was recommended for a commission he had to be elected by the whole body of the officers, and, if so elected, he at once obtained his commission. It was said that if the system of purchase were abolished it would be a point of considerable difficulty to decide in what manner the army should be officered. In his opinion, commissions in the army ought to be procurable in one 2121 of two methods only—either by having passed an examination at a military college, or by distinguished services in the field. Our military colleges at Woolwich and Sandhurst ought to be enlarged, admissions should be given to the sons of old officers and deserving public servants, and commissions provided for them as vacancies occurred; and in this manner a new system of appointment to commissions might be gradually introduced. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War maintained that the present system had worked well, and, certainly, if he meant that our officers equalled in gallantry and in everything that made the soldier those of any other army in the world, he would not gainsay him; but still the working of the system had been this, that we knew not at this moment where to put our fingers on generals to whom the public would concur in confiding the command of the army. He (Mr. Otway) had heard the name of General Napier mentioned, a man most distinguished, but whose physical condition would not permit him to go where his gallant spirit would lead him; but he did not know one man in the country who could, with general concurrence, be intrusted with the command of an army. The regimental system, too, though so much lauded, had not worked well. In theory it seemed good, but it was far from being perfect in practice. Consider the life of any young officer in the army. On joining he was put to learn his drill; he passed through the manual exercise, the platoon exercise, and so on, and in a short time he was pronounced to be fit to undertake the duties of a regimental officer. From the first day a young officer joined his regiment to the day he left, he rarely, if ever, attempted anything like a study of his profession. The regimental system, so much lauded, might produce gentlemen, but it was his impression it did not produce soldiers or generals. In other professions, such as the bar or in medicine, it was customary to hear a clever and assiduous young man spoken of as a "rising man;" but the epithet never was nor could be applied to a youthful officer, who never studied at all. The reason why military officers neglected to study after entering the army was because they had no inducement to do so; and that, be (Mr. Otway) contended, was a serious defect in the regimental system. In reference to Sergeant Sullivan, of whom the House had heard a good deal, he wished 2122 to make a remark in reply to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War. The hon. Gentleman said that authority had been given for the promotion of one non-commissioned officer in each regiment, and that, the colonel of his regiment having selected the sergeant major, Sergeant Sullivan was necessarily passed over. Now, the very complaint he (Mr. Otway) made was, that sufficient commissions had not been placed in the hands of the commanding officer. If that had been the case, Sergeant Sullivan might have received one of the twelve ensigncies which had been filled up without purchase in his own regiment. There were other remarks connected with the subject, which he should defer to a future opportunity, and he would only say now that if the hon. Gentleman would agree to the Resolution proposed by the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) be would give satisfaction to the country, and concede nothing more than was to be expected from a Liberal Government.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he thought the Motion was calculated to excite dissatisfaction where none had previously existed. He was most anxious to do justice to the soldier, and ever wished to see merit rewarded, but he did not think the course proposed by the noble Viscount would effect the purpose for which it was designed. Speaking from experience, he should say that to make a rule of promotion from the ranks would not be agreeable to the men and non-commissioned officers. There would always be great dissatisfaction among those who were passed over. It was to the present system that we owed the high reputation of our army; and he objected to change it. He thought some limits might be put to extreme cases of promotion by purchase, such as had been referred to, but when that was done he should say to the noble Lord, "Leave well alone."
§ MR. WARNER
said, he agreed with the noble Lord who had submitted the Motion to the House, that the only sound rule to adopt was a combination of the system of seniority and merit. There was one question which was very important, and which had not yet been touched upon, and that was, where were we to get soldiers at all if we did not hold out some further inducement? We could not have a conscription in this country, and we must therefore bring our system into such a state as that a sufficient number of men might be obtained without it. Scarcely 2123 any one would say that men came forward to enlist in sufficient numbers at present; and he was afraid that the reason was, that we systematically degraded the men who entered our army. We got the habit of speaking of them as though they were an inferior caste. Hon. Gentlemen had last year spoken very disparagingly of the foreign troops which it was proposed to raise; and the consequence had been. the total failure of the effort to form a Foreign Legion. Somewhere about this time last year a great deal was said about an army on paper—that the armies of Russia were armies on paper and nothing more; but he should like to know whose was the army on paper now? He hoped that the system of promotion by purchase would be done away with; and that principally because it would he the only chance of enabling us to recruit our army. If we were to maintain our position as a first-rate Power, it could only be by keeping up an efficient army, and one that would make the British name respected all over the world. We certainly wanted two things, military talent to head our armies, and a greater number of men to form them.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
said, the subject now under discussion had a connection with the naval profession, for, though commissions were certainly not sold in the navy, they were, he apprehended, too often given away upon motives far from creditable. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War (Mr. F. Peel) had made the usual kind of routine official speech, the Government being evidently not disposed to go before the public in this matter. In the presence of the Prime Minister, however, he should say that if they did not take care, public opinion upon the subject would outrun any Ministry. He could see as plainly as he saw the sun at noonday—when it shone—that this question would never go to sleep until it was set at rest—by final settlement. Buying and selling commissions! Why, how could it be decent or becoming that the Queen's commissions should be bought and sold in the market? No other army in the world allowed such a system, and that alone he considered was conclusive against it. Suppose sergeantcies were allowed to be sold in our army—suppose the sons of shopkeepers could purchase the rank of sergeant, would our sergeants have been what they now were—the best soldiers in our army? The commanding officer of a regi- 2124 ment selected, of course, the best men for the rank, knowing that he was responsible for the character of the regiment, and that it depended greatly on the character of the non-commissioned officers. The present system of purchase could not be rooted out, of course, all of a sudden; but some beginning might be made. No more purchases should be allowed after a given date, and those who had previously purchased should be held harmless. In compensating the holders of present commissions, the expenditure of 2,000,000l., spread over ten or fifteen years, would not be much felt, and would easily extinguish the evil. The system was a serious injury to the aristocracy, as the talented among them were lost in the crowd of those who purchased commissions; whereas, if the commissions were obtainable only by merit, they would stand out conspicuously before the public. It was discreditable to see officers purchasing commissions—buying the several grades of rank, and then "selling out" like shopkeepers. The army was at present made a sort of plaything, and men who had no taste or talent for military life entered it and left it without ever thinking of making it a serious study. But the term aristocracy was a very loose one, for who could say where aristocracy began and where it ended? There was an intermediate class, and this class formed a considerable portion of those who were interested in the purchase of commissions. Hon. Members bad all doubtless the same object in view—to secure the honour and safety of the country, and to maintain the credit of the army. If they could get an able soldier who was a duke or a marquess, they should glory in him. Nothing was so satisfactory as to see rank united with talent; but then it was doubly unsatisfactory to see rank without talent getting on at a double pace, while merit was left behind. It was idle to talk of the extent of our present requirements accounting for the inefficiency of our system, for if we could not uphold a small army, how could we sustain a large one? The hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty had not long ago expressed a strong opinion upon the abuses prevailing at the Horse Guards, and when such opinions were expressed upon the Treasury bench it was certain that they were not likely to be got rid of easily. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Osborne) had said. "It is not merit and capacity by which an officer is promoted, but interest 2125 and connection." "You must not be satisfied with 'consolidation' of departments—you require a searching reform of the Horse Guards." How can you expect great generals when you debar every man from a commission or promotion who cannot afford to purchase every step of rank? Under the present system the good men sold out, the bad ones often remained. The hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, however, while he reproached the Horse Guards, might have cast his eye on the Admiralty, where commissions, if not sold for money, were often given from favouritism. It had been said that Parliament had been niggard in voting the sums necessary for the maintenance of our army; but that was not so. The Army Estimates were never refused by the House of Commons, and, therefore, that House was not chargeable with the inefficiency of our military establishments. Nothing with an officer was so high a certificate in the eye of the public as that he was a Waterloo man; but nothing could be more wrong than to assume that all Waterloo men were heroes, and fit, in strength and talent, for the arduous service of the present day. These men were worn out and past their prime, and it was not wise to put forward age when they could get youth and stamina and talent combined. In the profession to which he belonged, it was true that commissions could not be purchased, but gentlemen could obtain them in the Admiralty by other means which he need not particularise. Many able and gallant officers were passed over and neglected in his profession, and he considered himself as one of the neglected. There were hundreds of abler men than himself, however, who ought to have been admirals or captains, but who were pining away as hoary-headed lieutenants. In the army the system was not so bad, as a man might part with his commission when tired of the service, and proceed to live with his wife and family. Sir George Cockburn had left it recorded as his conviction that to Parliamentary influence was to be ascribed the absence of that which otherwise would have redounded to the power of the wooden walls of old England. A noble Lord in another place who had held office in the Administration before the last, said that if the administration of the army were assimilated to that of the navy, the army would be a hotbed of jobbery and trickery. The fact was, that both wanted setting to rights. In one, a man might pay his way if he had plenty 2126 of money, in the other a man might job his way if he had plenty of interest. He did not deny that war gave a man some chance of promotion, but he was speaking of the ordinary state of things. When they could find sergeants and corporals sufficiently educated to advance them, it was wise to give them promotion; but many sergeants and corporals had not, he would admit, education enough to be advanced to commissions. In such a case they should reward them otherwise, and he was a great advocate for the establishment of an Order of Merit, which would descend to the lowest man in the army. He should support this and every Motion which had for its object the improvement of the army and navy; for he thought that merit alone, and not family interest, should be the test of advancement in either profession. To show how unequally the system worked in the army, he might state that in the 13th Regiment of Foot there were two officers of eight years' standing, who had precedence over officers of twelve, fourteen and sixteen years' standing; in another regiment a man of eight years' standing had precedence of an officer of thirty-two years' standing. He could give a multitude of such instances. How, he asked, could things go on satisfactorily under a system where the grey-headed man found himself lower in the scale than the mere youth? In the dragoon regiments there were such anomalies as officers of nine years' standing being placed above men of fourteen and eighteen years' service. This, he believed, was the first Motion of a series which would come before the House; it might nut be worded in the best way, but he trusted that the noble Lord who had introduced it would meet with such support as would encourage others to follow in his footsteps. These things ought not to be pressed on from out of doors, but should be done within. He trusted the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) was prepared to meet the requirements of the times in this respect. Our army was now serving with another in which no such system of purchase existed; and he feared that if the present system prevailed, the efficiency of that army would be impaired. If any more disasters occurred in the East, the Government, by neglecting this subject, might not only weaken their position, but be actually tripped up. For himself, he had no object to serve in supporting the Motion. his naval days were over, and, in giving his hearty adhesion to this pro- 2127 posal, his only desire was to establish that merit should henceforth constitute the claim to advancement in the two services.
§ SIR JOHN WALSH
said, he had always had considerable apprehensions that one of the consequences of the disastrous, ill-conceived, and worse executed expedition to the Crimea, would be to throw an unjust discredit upon our military system, and that popular indignation would be directed against it as a whole. He was aware that a great many ad captandum arguments might be used which, in the present state of popular feeling; it might be rather difficult to meet; but the effects of the present outcry upon the whole organisation of the army might be so pernicious, that he trusted the House would approach a subject of such infinite importance in the spirit of cool and impartial consideration. In the first place, he would venture to observe that our regimental system had worked well. It had been compared for the last half-century with the regimental system of every other nation in Europe. He was not afraid to accept a comparison with France; and he asserted that the regimental system of England, as it at present existed, had shown an indisputable superiority, which the whole of our military annals exhibited, and which the recent exploits of our army had substantiated and confirmed. He would not stop to ask what might have been the faults in the Commissariat or the land transport service; he would not inquire what had been the deficiencies or shortcomings of the staff; or whether the commanders had shown great powers of strategy, or had made mistakes; but he would say that the glorious battles of the Alma, of Balaklava, and of Inkerman, demonstrated that our regiments were commanded by excellent officers, by men who had devoted themselves to their profession, who thoroughly understood it, and who fully enjoyed the attachment, the confidence, and the love of their soldiers. He would not attempt to deny that the system of purchase was capable of improvement and amelioration; but what he said was, that with such glorious successes, such prodigies of valour as had lately been witnessed, it was incumbent on them to approach this subject with the greatest caution—to be careful lest by any act of that House they should sow dissension, jealousy, and distrust between the officers and the private soldiers of the army. He wished it to be borne in mind that the sys- 2128 tem of purchase, on which the remarks of the hon. and gallant officer (Captain Scobell) principally hung, and the system of promotion in the army, were not necessarily connected, and that in the Motion of the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) there was not a single word about purchase. The system of purchase might be abolished to-morrow, and, at the same time, the system of which the noble Viscount complained as so injurious might remain. The hon. and gallant officer who last spoke referred to the navy, where there was no purchase; but at the same time he observed, that instead of purchase there was interest. Perhaps, then, if the system of purchase were abolished in the army, it might be found that they would get the objectionable system of promotion by interest instead. In the navy there was no question about promoting sailors before the mast to the rank of officers, and yet there was no system of purchase in the navy. This showed that these two questions were entirely distinct. The subject to which the Motion of the noble Viscount referred was the injustice which non-commissioned officers were said to suffer from rarely obtaining promotion. In considering this question, it should be remembered that the whole system of English society was one of different ranks, and one in which, at the same time, merit might always enable a man to rise from one rank to another. In that respect the army followed exactly the course of the whole social system of England. It would be utterly impossible, however, to throw open all the ranks to the private soldier—to enable a man, for example, to begin as a private, and go up through all the grades till he reached that of field marshal. It would be not only impracticable, but, he thought, most injurious to the service. Such a system was not attempted in the navy. Suppose a sailor of eighteen or twenty years of age to be made a midshipman, he would have to learn all the theoretical part of his profession, and the chances were that the lad would never rise beyond the grade which his merit had at first gained for him, because, before he could have distinguished himself as a common seaman and earned his promotion, he would be too old to rise to the higher grades of the service. There must necessarily be exceptions to any rule that could be laid down on this subject, and in any good system of military promotion we could devise we could do no more than provide facilities for occasionally re- 2129 warding deserving men, for we could never devise a system by which, as a matter of course, men would make their way from the ranks to the highest positions in the army. He would go further, and say that such a state of things would not he agreeable to the feelings of the great body of the private soldiers themselves. Though this was, no doubt, a subject that required the grave consideration of the Legislature, and though he thought that we could make better regulations for promotion than those now existing, yet, with the views he entertained, he had a very great objection to the Motion of the noble Viscount. He could not say in his conscience that the present regimental system was "injurious to the public service and unjust to the private soldier." He should regret to see such a statement going forth stamped with the authority of a majority of that House. Nothing was at that moment more honourable to the British army than the perfect discipline and subordination which it exhibited, the cordial feeling that subsisted between the soldiers and their officers, and the total absence of anything like a mutinous spirit, notwithstanding all the sufferings to which mismanagement had exposed them. But would it not prove highly injurious to the continuance of this state of things if it were to go out to the Crimea that the House of Commons thought the present system of promotion unjust to the private soldier? Suppose a vote of that House were to excite a spirit of dissatisfaction in the ranks of the army now in the Crimea, would that be likely to lessen the enormous evils under which they now laboured? For these and the other reasons he had stated he should give his vote against the Motion of the noble Viscount.
said, that having been a member of several Committees appointed to inquire into the question to which the Motion of the noble Lord referred he would beg to trouble the House with a few observations on the subject. No one who heard the speech of the noble Lord, but must give him credit for the best motives; and the treatment of the soldier was, he owned, one which deeply engrossed the attention not only of that House, but of the public generally at the present moment. As to the Motion itself he thought the House must deal with it on its own merits. The House ought not to suffer itself to be led away by mere feeling, but was bound to view the question in its nature, its operation, and its probable 2130 consequences. And he would, in the first instance, observe that the Motion brought forward by the noble Lord was really a very small part of the real question which was behind. The Motion of the noble Viscount related more particularly to vacancies by death being, if not invariably, at least more frequently, given to the common soldiers. Now, that sounded very well, but what would be the effect of it? First of all, they must make ensigns of men who had reached a certain time of life; yet they avowed that one of the great reformations which they desired to bring about in our present military system was, to obtain younger officers. Well, but if they sanctioned this step, they would have older instead of younger officers. Another thing they had declared themselves anxious to accomplish was, that young men who entered the army should pass good examinations at Sandhurst or Woolwich, and be intellectually highly qualified for the profession of arms; but if they were to give vacancies caused by death to the private soldier, instead of well instructed, highly educated, vigorous young officers, they would doubtless have elderly men, of great gallantry and personal courage—elderly men, who might be very brave and useful, and well acquainted with regimental duty, but who certainly were not of that class which the country professed its anxiety to secure. The whole system of education would, by the adoption of the plan of the noble Lord, be greatly interfered with. And again, they must bear in mind that, in sanctioning any such system, it must be applied not only to a time of war but to a time of peace. Now how would the system work in a time of peace? His hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Scobell) said it was provoking to see a man who had served only eight years placed over the head of a man who had been in the service thirty-two years. Well, but he (Lord Seymour) thought that merit was to be the test. Why, to say that a man must be appointed because he was thirty-two years in the service, was not to go by the rule of merit, but by the rule of seniority, which was quite a different thing. And seniority, he must again remind them, was one of the faults much condemned in the present system. Well, but if they did not have seniority, they would probably have what was worse—favouritism. They would certainly have it in time of peace; for how, he would ask, were the merits of officers to be discovered while peace exist- 2131 ed? The question was fully considered by the Commission which sat in the year 1840, when the Commission reported concerning Army and Navy promotions. Of that Commission the late Duke of Wellington, Lord Hill, Sir James Kempt, Sir Alexander Dickson, and other distinguished officers were Members, including Lord Grey and several civilians who were not pledged to any particular opinions. Now that Commission reported, that if they wanted young officers there was nothing for it but the system of purchase. They were told that in the artillery the system of purchase did not exist, while in the line commissions were obtained by purchase, and that if the two branches of the service were compared it would be found that the artillery officers were much older men than the officers of the line. When the Duke of Wellington was Master General of the Ordnance he allowed certain officers of that corps to sell their commissions, not for their own advantage, but for the benefit of the service, because those officers had arrived at an age when they were not fit for active service. In consequence of that measure the engineer officers petitioned to be allowed to purchase commissions in the line, without being permitted to sell the commissions which they held in the engineers; thus showing their opinion that the system of purchase was advantageous, not only to the younger officers themselves, but to the service generally. Some hon. Gentlemen seemed to think it was very desirable that officers should sell out, but that it was not desirable that anybody should purchase. Suppose a man entered the army at eighteen, was it desirable he should sell out at forty-eight? The Duke of Wellington said that, in the first campaigns of the war, with the exception of Lord Lynedoch and Sir Thomas Picton, none of the commanding officers were above forty years of age. Would they keep men until they were sixty? If they did not let them sell out, they must pension them off; and at what age would they do so? Would they do so at the age of forty-eight? If they did, look how it would swell the Army Estimates. They must not be led away by eloquent language, but must look at the question like practical men. If they did not pension them off early, they would have the officers of fifty and sixty years of age, when the great complaint now was the want of young ones. Would the public benefit by the plan? Selection might do very well 2132 in time of war, for there was then great power of selection—great opportunity for distinction; and privates, by their valour and good conduct, were rightly promoted to commissions. But that, he repeated, could only occur in time of war. In time of peace the difficulty would be greatly increased. In time of peace he knew what it would end in, for if it was attempted it would end in favouritism. There would be no opportunity of testing one as compared with another soldier. They could not expect that a man of thirty-five or forty years of age would submit to an examination. How, then, could merit be tested except by the testimony of the superior officers? and they well knew that, under such circumstances, friendship, private feelings, and a thousand other motives, would prevail, and that favouritism would be the order of the day. It had been said, the system of purchase excluded qualification. Why, how was it that, with purchase, the test or standard of qualification could not be raised as high as was right or expedient? Why not have the education of the soldier the same as at St. Cyr, in France? He thought that the advocates of a system of promotion by merit instead of by purchase should explain the mode in which they proposed to accomplish their object. It was, no doubt, desirable to encourage the retirement of officers who had passed the meridian of life, in order to make way for younger men; but how was this to be done, if the system of purchase were abandoned without, as he had previously stated, increasing very considerably the public expenditure? He objected to this Motion, because he thought it trifled with the question, and was calculated to mislead the House. For his own part, if private soldiers distinguished themselves, he was most desirous that they should be promoted; but the Motion seemed to involve something beyond that. It appeared to him that the main point involved in the Resolution was, that the present system was injurious to the public service; but, before he could vote in favour of such Resolution, he wanted to know what other system could be substituted; and, as yet, no other had been suggested. It was true that it had been said that promotion should go by merit, and not by purchase; but it had not been shown how such a system could be carried into operation.
§ MR. J. BALL
said, he could not understand why the army should be the profession of all others in which it was most 2133 difficult for a young man of energy and ability to rise to distinction. In the law the highest office in the State was open to all, and in the Church high positions were also attainable. He was glad that the noble Lord who had just sat down had raised the strongest objection which could be urged against the Motion before the House; but that objection appeared to be confined to the difficulty of getting rid of the system of purchase. The purchase system, no doubt, had Borne connection with the Motion of his noble Friend (Lord Goderich); but the noble Lord (Lord Seymour) was not justified in saying that the Resolution before the House could have no practical effect unless it did away with that system. With regard to the expense of getting rid of the system of purchase, he would remind the House that the hon. Under Secretary for the War Department had told them that 100,000l. a year would be about the sum required. Why, that was a mere flea-bite compared with the sums of money now being expended on the army, and the consideration of such a sum as that ought not to influence the House in making alterations in the present system, if those alterations were at all likely to produce beneficial results. But. to come to the practical part of the question: no one could deny that at the present moment great difficulty was experienced in obtaining recruits of the proper quality for the army. England in 1855 was not the same as England in 1815, when there was little or no emigration going on. Things are different now. Year after year 300,000 of the population of the United Kingdom had been leaving it, and of those about 100,000 were the class of men from whom the army could be supplied. The whole globe was being covered by the young activity of this country, and it was, therefore, necessary to bring into the army, if it could be done, a portion of that strength and activity which was going abroad. In most of the continental States he found Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen distinguishing themselves in industrial pursuits, and even, in some States, in the military profession. He might be told that the way to induce men of that class to enter the army was to raise the pay and increase the bounty, but if that were done the expense to the country would be far greater than that of getting rid of the system of purchase. The saying of Sidney Smith was a true one, and applicable to the present case, that men were more at- 2134 tracted by a brilliant prize than by the prospect of certain comfort, and in his (Mr. Ball's) opinion, an inducement to enter the army might be opened to the mass of the people of this country much more effectively by offering a certain prospect, that those who distinguished themselves could rise to a higher position, than by offering a larger amount of pay, but holding out no hope of promotion. In his opinion, the noble Lord the Member for North Northumberland (Lord Lavaine) Lad expressed what he thought was the real objection entertained to this proposal; and that was, the fear that promotion by merit would destroy the character of the army, and introduce among its higher ranks men who were considered not gentlemen. Now, he should be glad to know if hon. Gentlemen who shared that opinion knew what the working people of this country had been doing of late; year by year they had been raising themselves from the degradation of ignorance, emancipating themselves from coarse and vicious habits, and fitting themselves for that future which he fitting awaited them. There were instances, he was glad to say, in that House, of men of very humble origin acquiring their position by their own talent and industry; and—to refer to an individual out of that House—he would ask, was the class from which his distinguished countryman, Mr. Dargan, sprang, not fit to enter into the higher ranks of the army? It was, in his opinion, essential for the improvement of the army that inducements to enlist should be held out to that class which it was most desirable to have in the army, because, as the army was necessarily small, it was requisite that it should owe its strength to its efficiency; and that result could only be obtained by inducing men to enter its ranks who, possessing neither money, position, nor connection, were, nevertheless, endowed with military capacity. Whatever might be the fate of the Motion now before the House, the public owed a debt of gratitude to his noble Friend for bringing the subject forward.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he felt that, never having had the honour of serving in the army, some apology was necessary for presuming to address the House upon this question, but, being about to vote against the Motion of the noble Lord, he was desirous of stating the reasons which induced hint to do so. Since his noble Friend had placed the Motion upon the 2135 paper he had altered its terms, and the first part of it now ran thus—That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to take into Her consideration the present system of promotion in Her Majesty's Army, so far as it relates to non-commissioned officers.So far as be (Lord Elcho) was concerned, there appeared to be no reasonable objection to the presentation of such an address to Her Majesty, save and except that it was in itself entirely unnecessary. The noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) acknowledged that very recently some forty commissions had been given to non-commissioned officers; but he (Lord Elcho) believed he was not wrong in stating that the number of Commissions recently given to non-commissioned officers in Her Majesty's service was nearer one-hundred than forty. The Motion of the noble Lord called upon the House to affirm "that the system is injurious to the public service, and unjust to the private soldier in Her Majesty's army." Now, he (Lord Elcho) confessed that he was not prepared to vote with his noble Friend in affirming that the system which had so long prevailed, and which was still prevailing in the army, had been and continued to be unjust to the private soldier. He decidedly objected to the principle of calling upon the House to affirm abstract opinions without showing how to give those opinions practical effect. The only result in all such cases was that disappointment was caused where it was intended to give satisfaction. With reference to the question of the purchase and sale of commissions, no man could say, abstractedly, that the system was in itself absolutely commendable. The arguments now brought forward against it arose, however, from the state of public opinion out of doors. People thought that something had gone wrong; they were disappointed that Sebastopol had not fallen; they naturally sympathised in the sufferings and distress to which the army had been exposed; and it had been the fashion of late to attribute the disasters which had occurred in the Crimea to the aristocratic constitution of the army. Now, he was prepared to maintain that the purchase of commissions was not in itself aristocratic. The commissions in the army were open to all classes, whether they belonged to what was commonly called the aristocracy, or to the manufacturing and mercantile classes. Every man, supposing him eligible, could, upon the payment of a certain sum, obtain 2136 a commission, and the reason why they were not sought by manufacturing and mercantile men was simply that they considered them a very bad investment for their money. There was much more profit arising from the pursuit of commerce and trade than was to be derived from a wretched ensigncy in a marching regiment, and it was for this simple reason that the army did not contain so many men of the manufacturing and mercantile classes as he could wish to see there. The officers of the army were essentially gentlemen. He did not mean that they had Norman blood in their veins, or were able to boast of ancient lineage, but by gentlemen he meant that they were educated men, and he hoped that nothing would ever be done by that House to change the character of the British army in that respect. With a view of insuring that a man who held a commission was an educated man, they had seen of late that an examination had been established through which every officer must pass before he could obtain a commission; and, to prove that it was important that an officer should be a gentleman, he would quote an opinion of the Duke of Wellington, who said, with respect to the qualifications of a British officer, that it was necessary he should be in turn police-office, gaoler, judge, and jury—that whether in peace or war, acting as a magistrate, sitting in judgment, or as a juryman, or whether engaged in the more immediate duties of his profession in the field, he must never cease to be the officer and the gentleman. The system of promotion by purchase certainly seemed at first sight opposite to one's sense of justice, for it appeared hard that a meritorious officer who was without the means of purchasing his way to a higher rank in the service should see a person, perhaps inferior to himself in all the requisites of an officer, placed over his head; but they must look at the question as practial men, and not in a one-sided manner. It was no new question, for it had been discussed before Committees and Commissions, which had always come to conclusions in favour of the system of purchase. The Commission of 1840 reported that that system had during a long period "afforded the means of maintaining the efficiency of the army. The hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) had denounced the system of promotion not only in the army, but also in the navy, in which it went by merit, so that there was something to be said upon 2137 both sides of the question. It was urged that the effect of not promoting a greater number of non-commissioned officers was to discourage deserving men from entering the army, and to damp the courage of the British soldier in the field. He thought, however, he need only appeal to recent events to show that it did not produce the latter effect, for the battles which had been fought in the Crimea were essentially soldiers' battles. The army was now enduring great sufferings, but he would ask whether it would be in a more favourable position if a greater number of non-commissioned officers had been promoted? He apprehended that it would not. He did not wish that any impediment should be thrown in the way of the promotion of deserving soldiers, and he rejoiced at the change which had been introduced into the army with the view of obtaining a better class of men, such as the diminution of corporal punishment, the granting of good conduct pay, and the establishment of libraries. There could be no doubt that those changes had already borne fruits when they remembered the letters that had been published from the soldiers in the Crimea, many of which, in sentiment, feeling, and expression, would do honour to any Member of that House. He hoped the time would come when a larger proportion of privates would be promoted, but he was afraid lest the House should, in obedience to a cry out of doors, adopt a course from which it would hereafter be difficult, or perhaps impossible, to withdraw, and lest, in their anxiety to raise the character of the British soldier they should lower that of the British officer.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
Sir, I have not come down to the House this evening for the purpose of trespassing at any great length upon it, hut as this is a subject on which I have on former occasions expressed my humble opinion, although unsuccessfully, I think it my duty to offer a few words in support of the noble Lord's (Viscount Goderich's) Motion. The noble Lord who last addressed you has expressed his great apprehension lest the House should be driven into the adoption of some imprudent resolution in consequence of the cry which has arisen throughout the country upon this subject. But I, at all events, and I believe there are many others in the same situation, am not in the slightest degree influenced by the cry, if there be such a cry—I am merely expressing the same opinions that I have always entertained on this subject. There have been various 2138 objections raised to the Motion of my noble Friend. The Under Secretary of the War Department—I believe that is his title, but there have been such frequent transmutations of place that I am not quite certain about it—dwelt chiefly upon the financial part of the case; the noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour) dwelt pretty strongly upon the results of the Commission of 1840, at the head of which was the illustrious Duke of Wellington, and other Commissions, of 1833 and 1836, were referred to by the noble Lord who last spoke. For my part, I must confess that the decisions of those Commissions have not such supreme authority over my mind, because they were, in point of fact, the decisions of the Duke of Wellington. No military man upon those Commissions, as we all know, would have presumed to differ from him in opinion upon a question of this nature, and it is not to be wondered at, because, with the transcendent knowledge and great abilities of the noble Duke, such a difference would have been looked upon as presumption; and some of us, who ventured to be guilty of that presumption, of differing in the slightest degree from the opinions he expressed, suffered for it accordingly. The noble Duke no doubt entertained firm convictions upon this subject, but are we still to be bound by those convictions? are we to remain for ever under the law of the Modes and Persians? Is there to be no change because certain opinions were held by a great man who was biassed by his opinions upon subjects not at all connected with the army, but connected with political matters, connected with the institution of aristocracy, which the noble Duke conceived to be a matter of more importance than the efficiency of the army? [Cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Members may cry "No, no!" if they will, but those who will look to the general course of conduct of the noble Duke after, not during the war, will agree with me. I do not pretend to say that these opinions influenced him during the war; I think he was a totally different man after the war to what he was when he bad the command of an army in the field; he was then a practical commander and did not think about, or meddle with, politics. But when the war was over, military considerations became quite secondary in the noble Duke's mind to political matters. I say, therefore, that I for one, do not bow implicitly to the decisions of these Commissions; they were 2139 predetermined when the noble Duke expressed an opinion in favour of the existing state of things. The noble Duke expressed his opinions upon other matters than that of promotion by purchase; he thought that, as the army had performed all the actions which he had directed extremely well (and so it certainly had), there was no sort of necessity for alteration or improvement. I believe that he held the same decided opinion with regard to politics, but he was nevertheless obliged ultimately to change a few of them. He was even obliged to change his opinions upon some military subjects. He proved that even his great mind was liable to prejudice, by opposing the introduction of the present system of metal caps instead of flints; he also opposed the introduction of that admirable weapon the Minié rifle, which has recently rendered our army such admirable service—and yet we are told that, because the noble Duke once entertained a certain opinion upon the subject of promotion by purchase, we are never afterwards to deviate from that opinion. If the system of purchase be so admirable a thing, why not introduce it into all the institutions of the country? why not introduce it into your navy and into your civil offices? why not set up your Secretaryships of State for sale? Sir, the system is a corruption—it is dishonourable to the country—it will be a disgrace to this House if you continue to sanction it, and the people of Europe wonder at its existence. But some gentlemen come with their sixpenny economy and tell us, forsooth, that if we attempt to establish a system of promotion by merit it will cost us 100,000l. a year. That is the statement of the hon. Gentleman who has been selected to fill the second place in the conduct of the war. Well, Sir, my opinion is that it is a very cheap thing if you can get it for 100,000l. a year. Sir, it is said that it is not the sons of the aristocracy merely who purchase their promotion, but also the sons of the manufacturer and the shopkeeper. But it is not so easy to pass some of the higher steps when he goes to the Horse Guards if he is the son of a humble person. My objection to the system of purchase is, that it affords facilities for the manifestation of a favouritism which entirely eschews the commonalty, and admits only to the higher prizes of the profession the sons of gentry and nobles. Do not suppose that I wish to exclude the aristocracy or the gentry from the army; 2140 on the contrary, I desire very much to see a larger proportion of the nobility and gentry than of the commonalty in the command of the army, but what I object to is the exclusion of the latter, and that those should be deprived of the opportunity of coming to the higher appointments in the army who by nature are possessed of the talents to render great service to their country. It has been well asked, why we should not, upon the same principle, set up situations on the bench for sale? But that is not so, and the result is, that we see upon the bench what never occurs in the army—namely, that the sons of the humblest persons in the scale of society have risen to the highest rewards in their profession. But that is morally impossible in the army. It is almost impossible even for the sons of the gentry. Look at my own position? We are beaten by time. We are kept back until we are worn out. Those who have more friends get up to the higher ranks of the army; but, if there is a question of selecting some one for the command of a corps or an army, the answer is—"Oh! such a man is not of such a class," and "Do not talk to us of him." When the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War tells us that fifty or even one hundred commissions have been sold for appointments in the Crimea, and when he impresses this upon us as a great economy, that by the sale of these fifty or one hundred commissions all ulterior expense to the country will be avoided, I really think he is putting the question on a low and inferior ground. I think it is a most discreditable view of the subject, that these persons—because they possess more money, or at least their fathers—should be put over the heads of those non-commissioned officers, not to say those private soldiers, who have borne all these dangers and all these difficulties and hardships with unexampled fortitude and bravery. You will set aside these fifty or one hundred commissions for what?—because 50,000l. will be made of them. This is false economy altogether. If this be a good thing, you are bound to carry it out in all institutions. You have no alternative. We are gradually approaching an amelioration, nevertheless, for it is now contended that a few promotions may be given. There was a time when it was contended that all the soldiers should be nobles, and in some countries it was necessary for a man to have ten or twelve quarterings of nobility before he could be admitted into the army. 2141 But that has passed away. There have been great officers of all classes of the community. Princes have become great officers. Now and then nature inspires a prince with that description of genius, and noblemen and gentlemen also. But let us compare the number of great officers that have arisen in which the very highest classes alone obtain the command, and compare them with the same countries where at periods of revolution all classes have free scope for the development of their energies and abilities. Where you have ten great officers in the one case, you have fifty in the other. In the time of Louis XIV. there were great commanders no doubt, but we had a greater commander than all his. Our own Revolution was political rather than military, but still there was a gentleman of great power and position—Mr. Oliver Cromwell—who made himself heard of. But compare the commanders of Louis XIV., when they were all men of family, with the military talent manifested at the period of the French Revolution. Some of Napoleon's best generals were men of very humble birth, and of very little education. Do not suppose that the examination of your colleges are a certain proof of fitness for military command. What we do not sufficiently bear in mind is the great amelioration which has taken place among the population, and especially in the army. Look to the general orders of the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular war, and compare them with the general orders issued to the army of most recent date, you will find in that comparison proof positive that crimes and offences were committed in a vastly greater ratio at that time than they are now. Sir, I had the command of a small force, about twenty years ago, which was well-abused in this House. It was collected under the most unfavourable circumstances. A great many crimes and offences, no doubt occurred in it, but this I remember, that not a single capital crime and no capital punishment occurred in that force. People said, what good discipline there must have been among them. It was not from that purely, because the discipline must necessarily be more imperfect in such an army than in an army officered upon our own plan, but the conduct of the men afforded proof of the very great amelioration which bad been going on in the population of this country. Now with regard to our army in the Crimea, and which previously 2142 was in Turkey, I declare I cannot call to mind that anything like a capital crime has been committed by any one of those soldiers. Their conduct has been most eminently obedient and subordinate. And is this the kind of army which ought to be excluded from the hopes of advancement, and the members of which ought not to be allowed to entertain those aspirations and hopes of honour and distinction that belong to other classes of society? Why, Sir, when I have passed the pickets and outposts in the Crimea—the most severe and unpleasant duty to which a soldier can be exposed except a general engagement, and scarcely excepting even that—it has sometimes occurred to me how painful it was to see those brave men exposed to such dire miseries, to wounds, and toils, and almost to certain death from disease, with so little of anything to hope for in the future. I appeal to the noble Lord the First Lord of the Treasury, and to the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen near him, who have the power to remedy this, and I ask them to remember that these are men like themselves. In the conventional sense of the term these brave men may not be gentlemen—a term, however, which is not very correctly used on all occasions, for we have known men of high rank who are not gentlemen, and we know people of lower rank who are essentially gentlemen and capable of high and noble aspirations. But it is contrary to the general spirit of the orders of the Sovereign to suppose that any one in the military ranks is not a gentleman. If you speak of polished manners it may be so, but if you lay it down as a principle that you are determined to proceed on a more liberal system in this respect, you will find that persons of still higher conduct, and still Letter education, will enter the ranks of the army. I have no fear of any sort of inconvenience or danger from the proposition of the noble Member for Huddersfield; indeed I think it is a very moderate proposition. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bury (Mr. F. Peel) has represented it to be almost impossible to do away with the system of purchase. Why, Sir, the system will do away with itself, if you will only allow it. There is an end of all claim when an officer dies who has bought a Commission, and, consequently, there is an end of the whole system in process of time, if you do not sell some fifty or hundred commissions, as you did the other day. I think it was most improper, most culpable, and most 2143 shameful to send persons, by purchase, into your army in the Crimea, and thus set them over the heads of men who had fought at Alma, at Inkerman, and at Balaklava—men who are toiling there, and whose lives are exposed almost every hour of the day, but who have not the money required to purchase their promotion. During the discussion I have heard some gentlemen say the present system works well. So it was said of the close boroughs, and though they are not altogether extirpated, many of them have ceased to exist. There is no abuse without some countervailing advantage. I do not mean to say that by the system of purchase you do not secure a greater number of educated young men for the army than you would in the first instance without it; but the advantage is far more than counterbalanced by the ultimate injury it inflicts, and in the depressing influence it exercises on those, praise worthy aspirations of honour and ambition which, in military life, are so essential and so necessary for the public benefit. Again, I say it is false economy to continue this system. The idea of selling the command of a regiment is in itself an absurdity. It is absurd to commit a thousand men, not for a moment, either, but for a long period, to the command of a person because he happens to have two qualifications—that he is beyond a certain age of juvenility, and that he has a certain amount of money. Those are the sole qualifications, except that he shall not have got into any scrape; but because a man has not got into a scrape, and possesses money and seniority, he is trusted with the management, care, and efficiency, moral and physical, of 1,000 men. But if it is a good system, after all you are totally inconsistent, because if it is right to intrust 1,000 men to a gentleman who possesses 5,000l. or 6,000l., you ought to intrust 3,000 men, or a brigade, to a gentleman who has 15,000l., and a whole division to one who has 20,000l., or something of that kind. If it is a good system, you are bound to carry it out and prove it to be so. Then there is the argument of youth. Undoubtedly youth is an important element in every relation of life (I wish I had a little of it), and I do not mean to say that the change does not require a great deal of consideration; but if there be good will on the part of the Government, I think they might be successful in abolishing the system, without entailing on the army too many old officers. Not that youth should be the only qualifi- 2144 cation, for if there are many old blockheads there are not a few young ones. The noble Lord (Lord Seymour) alluded to a passage in the Report of one of these Commissions to the effect that no other system but that of purchase could have provided young and efficient officers during a long period of peace, and a quotation was also given from an opinion of the illustrious Duke, to whom I have presumed to refer, as to the qualifications which officers ought to possess—namely, to be good judges, good juries, good gaolers, &c. Now, I have been a long time in the army, and I do not profess to possess those qualities. I think it rather an exaggerated estimate of military requirements; but, if it be not, I say you are not certain that a man having 5,000l. will be a good judge, a good jury, or a good gaoler. It is argued that you could not have obtained so many youthful officers by any system except the system of purchase; but I say it is comparatively unimportant what class of officers are in the army in time of peace. So far as the public interest is concerned, if there were no other means of admission but by purchase, you would have officers quite good enough for all purposes. It is when an important crisis like the present occurs that the system of purchase is shown to be totally fallacious, and might bring with it great calamities. It is true this country has enjoyed a long peace—a peace, I believe, most unprecedented—and it may be said, now that a great and distinguished Minister is gone to Vienna and we are going to have peace again, what is the use of altering the system? But I am afraid another year's peace cannot be judiciously calculated upon, even after this matter shall be settled, which I fear will not be settled very soon. In time of peace it is very unimportant, but when war comes, it is the very worst description of economy to tolerate any system which does not contribute, in time of need, the most competent and able officers for the direction of your fleets and of your armies.
What is the usual result of the existing system? It is not easily traced; but it is worth examining, for it will be seen that anything more absurd, if the object be to secure the services of young and efficient officers to the higher commands, could not be devised. The result is this, that when gentlemen have the good fortune by purchase or favouritism to get into the higher ranks of the army, the Government have no option but to employ them, and then, 2145 after some disaster, perhaps, has befallen our arms, they are obliged to provide for them, and to provide also double or treble the number of troops to carry on the war which else would not be necessary. It is possible, too, that in this way, our wars have been often comparatively fruitless and unnecessarily prolonged for a series of years, owing to the inefficiency of the executive officers who were called to the head of our armies. If that be true, it becomes a most serious matter to consider what is the system by which the commanders of our armies arc obtained. I must say I think it is impossible to defend the existing system. Then we shall be told that favouritism will have more free scope if you abolish the system of purchase. I fear human nature is such that favouritism will always have free scope; and I believe that under the purchasing system you give additional force to favouritism. But surely, if there be any country in the world in which favouritism can be checked, it is this, where the public eye is always upon the authorities; and where there is always a probability of making them responsible for their actions. I am afraid I have detained the House too long on this subject, and the more especially as I believe there are other Motions to be brought forward connected with the staff appointments, upon which I intend to make a few observations. There is, however, a subject which has been referred to by one or two hon. Gentlemen who have addressed the House, which is almost personal to myself, and upon which I wish to say a few words—that is the case of Sergeant Sullivan. I hope I shall not be accused of egotism when I say that I think a great mistake has been made by the authorities in this matter. As commander of a division, and not only commander of a division but as commander in chief of the division, I recommend several officers for promotion, and I also recommend one sergeant for a commission. I was sorry afterwards that I had not recommended three or four privates also for commissions, whose meritorious conduct I thought entitled them to promotion; but when writing the report, it occurred to me, that if I did so it would be thought a most terrible outrage upon all received opinions, and I forbore. I did, however, recommend the sergeant, and would say, as I commanded on the spot, and witnessed the gallant conduct which I thought entitled him to promotion, it was not correct that all the other recom- 2146 mendations, that is, as to the officers, should have been acted upon; and, of course, if they had not it would have shown such a want of confidence in my discretion that I must have resigned my command—it was not right, I consider, that the officers should have had their promotions, while my recommendation in the case of the sergeant remained unattended to. I certainly did think myself that it was a monstrous piece of inconsistency on the part of the authorities, that it was by no means in good taste, nor was it very decorous to me personally that my recommendation in the case of Sergeant Sullivan should have been so slighted, and that he should have been omitted from the list of promotions, at all events unless it was supposed that the man was in some respect, or in some act, a culprit. But there was not the slightest ground for such a supposition; he is a man of high character, besides being a man of great gallantry and ability, and he had previously distinguished himself at the battle of the Alma. The noble Lord the Prime Minister the other night gave, in reply to a question upon this subject, one of his usual dashing sort of answers, saying instructions had been sent out to promote one sergeant in each regiment—that had been done, and there was an end of the matter. But why only one? And there being only one, why was not Sergeant Sullivan selected? The result of the order in the way it was given was this—the communication from the Government requiring one sergeant to be recommended from each regiment went to the commander of the forces, and as it did not refer to any particular battle or any action, but merely stated that it was intended to give a commission to one sergeant in each regiment, it would be referred from the commander of the forces to the commander of each division, and by him to the officer at the time in command of each regiment, so that eventually the patronage rested with the officer who happened at that moment to be at the head of the regiment. He had hardly a choice but to recommend the superior sergeant—namely, the sergeant-major; and, of course, the sergeant-major, being the most prominent sergeant, received his commission. That was useful and proper as far as it went undoubtedly, but it did not meet the other question—namely, was it right or was it not to give encouragement occasionally to gallant actions in which great courage and great presence of mind were exhibited, 2147 whereby the enemy was effectually checked, and hundreds of lives were probably saved? The sergeant-majors were very meritorious and useful men, but if you say they are to be promoted as a matter of course when promotion takes place under such circumstances, then the adjutants, who stand in the same place amongst the subalterns as the sergeant-majors do amongst the sergeants, ought also to be the only subalterns promoted, and not those officers who had most distinguished themselves by their gallantry. I am opposed almost as much to seniority as a principle as I am to the system of purchase, for we shall never get competent men to lead and direct the national forces if we depend upon seniority, and I do not think the regulations now existing on that point are satisfactory, or conducive to the interests of the country. With regard to their naval and military commanders, a rule exists in some countries which I think would be useful, and would put an end to the complaints as to the injustice of seniority. The body of senior officers are a most numerous class, and I know you cannot advance a man who is a junior, as a reward for meritorious conduct, without exciting some envy and unpleasant feeling in those who are his seniors. But the public will insist upon the advantage they derive from the promotion of the superior man notwithstanding. With regard, however, to this particular case of Sergeant Sullivan, I think a direct professional affront has been (unintentionally, I am sure) put upon me, and I shall persevere in my attempt to obtain what I consider justice for him; and, to show the want of willingness in the higher classes to advance on this subject of army promotion. I am sorry for the course which has been taken, because I am sure, if you attempt to make this promotion of non-commissioned officers a mere promotion of sergeant-majors, you will altogether fail in obtaining the beneficial results you expect from it. Men are selected for sergeants major because they are good drill masters, good disciplinarians, and men of firmness and strong character, and they are undoubtedly very useful in their way; but it does not follow that they will be equally useful when transferred to the higher ranks of the profession, when something like mental accomplishment as well as courage and firmness are required. This Sergeant Sullivan was recommended by me for promotion for distinguished services of which I, while he was under my com- 2148 mand, became cognisant. I make no complaint that some other non-commissioned officer of the same regiment has been promoted, but I complain that by passing him over my recommendation has been set aside by a major or captain perhaps, who might have been temporarily in the command of the regiment at the time, and who was consequently the person called upon to recommend the one non-commissioned officer for promotion.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
Sir, I am very sorry to stand in the way of the noble Lord (Lord Stanley), who has intimated his wish to address the House; but, seeing that he and many other hon. Members are desirous of doing so, I shall endeavour to put my observations into as short a space as possible. The hon. and gallant General who has just sat down is an example that merit is not always overlooked in our army. I rejoice to hear him giving his opinion on this subject, which he is so competent to discuss, after having returned from a field where he established for himself an undying reputation; and, at any rate, he is an instance that merit, gallantry, and military skill are better passports to higher honours than any which interest or political connections can bestow. In looking at this question we have travelled a good deal out of the Resolution, moved with so much ability by the noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield. We have discussed, not only the question whether or not non-commissioned officers should be promoted, and what the number of these promotions should be, but we have naturally, though insensibly, come to discuss a different question, namely, the rule of promotion in the army, whether it shall be by seniority simply, or by seniority combined with purchase, or whether it ought to be for merit. The accusation made against the army is, that it is essentially an aristocratic profession. Now, I think that those who say this have not defined in their own minds very clearly what they mean by aristocratic. My hon. and learned Friend (Mr. J. Ball) says the army is the closest profession in England, while the gallant Officer the Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) conies forward and greedily claims that distinction for his own profession—the navy. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans) asked who ever heard of purchasing promotion in the law? I confess when I heard that I looked round to see whether my hon. Friend the Member for West Surrey (Mr. Drummond) was in his place, 2149 who, if he had been present, would, I think, have said, "Look at the list of the bench, and see if you can find a man who has not found his way there through this House!" And how is a seat in the House of Commons occasionally obtained? ["Hear, hear!"] I do not want to put the two cases on parallel ground, for they are dissimilar; but when it is said that the army is the most aristocratic profession, I apprehend that you mean that the army is the profession in which it will be found that, in proportion to the whole number, most persons of high rank engage themselves. I do not know whether this is the case or not; but this I can state, that there is no profession—neither the church, navy, nor law—which can show you so many men who have risen to eminence, or, if not to eminence, to a station in life to which they were not born, as the army can. Is it a fact that instances of men being raised from the ranks are so rare? Last year eighty-eight non-commissioned officers were promoted and received commissions. This was a large number, unusually so, I shall be told; but I have a right to cite it, because the system is growing. This, I say, was a large number—eighty-eight persons. Now, what was the history of these men? They came into the army as privates, they are men who had handled the plough or the shuttle, they got in the army a good education, they rose to be non-commissioned officers, they became commissioned officers, having received a commission, which is a diploma not given by any other profession. The words officer and gentleman are identical—they stamp the position of the man who receives them—he rises to the social position of a gentleman. You may in the law point to men of humble origin: a Lord Chancellor was a man of bumble origin, but he himself had a liberal and a most expensive education; you have an Archbishop of York who was a man in sonic sense of humble origin—that is. his father was—but the Archbishop received the highest and most refined University education; but this is not the case with those whom I have cited as having risen from the ranks of the army. Those who say that the army is the most aristocratic profession may be correct; I cannot say whether they are or not; but this I can say, that it is also the most democratic, for the greatest number of men of low station through this profession find their way to the higher ranks. Some years ago I was Secretary at War. I hope the House will 2150 excuse my stating this, but I do so in order to show what were my opinions and intentions towards the army then—in 1845. I felt it my duty to alter the good conduct warrant. I made two or three considerable changes; I increased the pay of the soldiers, by shortening the periods of good conduct, by which they would obtain larger pay; I also made another change, which I think has worked very beneficially: I found that the number of non-commissioned officers promoted in a year was small—it varied from twelve to eighteen, or perhaps twenty, in a year; but I found, also, that there were many others who would not accept their promotion. It is very true that the pay of a non-commissioned officer, his prospects of a pension, and the advantages he receives in having his uniform and his barrack accommodation found him, are greater, in proportion to his rank and station in life, than the pay and emoluments of a commissioned officer; but, in addition to this, there was the fact that, when you promoted a man to be a commissioned officer, he was positively ruined by the expenses incident to his position. He had to borrow money to buy his uniform—if he belonged to the cavalry he had to borrow money for the purchase of his horse—he became involved in debt, he grew soured and dissatisfied with his position; and the end of it all was that the man whom you wished to reward you had ruined. I, therefore, laid down the rule that every non-commissioned officer thus promoted should receive 100l. for his outfit if he was in the infantry, and 150l. if in the cavalry. Then, as to the sergeants, who, it is said, do not receive good conduct pay (which was originally an increased allowance for length of service, to which allowance sergeants were not entitled), they, in lieu of that pay, received good conduct rewards, in the same manner as general officers, colonels, and other officers, and by the warrant which I prepared, the sergeants' names were annually printed with the Army Estimates. The object I had in view was, that non-commissioned officers should at any rate have the means of being promoted without injury to themselves. Of course the effect of this was to render promotion more easy, and therefore more frequent. I think it is an advantage that non-commissioned officers should be occasionally promoted; but we must speak plainly about these matters, and must look, not only to the good of individuals, but to the good of the service. I believe it is for 2151 the good of the service that these men should be promoted, but I think at the same time that there should be a limit to the number and amount. I am not, however, going to attempt to fix the number or the amount—no man will feel himself able to do that; but this I think I can do—namely, prescribe the principles which ought to guide you in making these promotions. Some persons have said, in answer to the charges which have been made on the subject of aristocratic influence, that the aristocrary ought to be favoured in the army. I do not say that there are no men now-a-days who hold that notion, for I know there is no opinion in the world so absurd but that some blockhead or another will be found to entertain it; but if you are going to say that, because a man is a private or a non-commissioned officer, he ought to be promoted, then you are making exactly the same mistake, though in the opposite direction, as the foolish people to whom I refer. I hold that the aristocracy ought to enjoy no favour. That, I believe, is a rule to which no sensible person will raise an exception. The aristocracy of England are very powerful; and why? Because they are rich and of ancient birth? Not at all. It is because they mix and strive with their fellow-men, and descend into the arena of competition with them; and I say that you must not handicap them, and make the race more difficult for them than it is for any other class of the community. There ought to be perfect equality here. Well, can there be any more sensible or rational rule for appointing any man to a profession, or for promoting him in it afterwards, than the sound old maxim of detur digniori? You want to have the fittest man for the place. You may discuss about the relative claims of different officers all night, but I defy you to come to any other rational conclusion than this. I admit the difficulty of securing the most suitable men for the appointment, but I repeat that the rule ought to be "the best and fittest man for promotion you have to offer." Now, there are exceptions to all rules, and you may say, "If you drive this rule too far you will exclude non-commissioned officers;" and, no doubt, in a certain degree, you might exclude them. The hon. and gallant officer below me (Sir De L. Evans) im the course of his observations said, and I believe justly to some extent, that the good conduct of the ranks of our army is owing to the concurrent amelioration in the conduct of our popula- 2152 tion generally. No doubt that is the case; but I claim more for the soldier than that. Take the average behaviour of a given number of peasants out of the army, and that of an equal number who have enlisted, and compare them together, and I say you will find that the soldier is the better man of the two, and for this reason—that he has been trained, he has been taught to respect others, and in learning that, he has been taught also to respect himself; he has received an education—(and I hope I may take some pride in the fact)—higher in its standard than the education given in our National or in our British and Foreign schools, because you have masters qualified up to a very high degree to instruct your troops. The schoolmasters in the army are not men who have learnt no more than they are actually required to teach; they are far more proficient than that, for I know it to be a fact that many of your regimental schoolmasters give lessons and lectures to the officers; and I am very glad that this is so. Now, we have heard great complaints of late of the inefficiency of the staff of our army. I have expressed my own opinion already of the excellence of our regimental officers, but I think I can point out why and where the deficiencies of the staff exist. When I brought in the Army Estimates last year, I made a proposal—and took the money for it—to establish a system of instruction for officers, and to insist on a rigid examination upon every case of promotion and every successive step of advance. That plan I am sorry to say is still in abeyance. The officers of our army have encountered a rougher test in actual service in the field than the examiners appointed at home could have devised. When the army is in the field it is exposed to the stern test of experience, and you cannot ask men at such a time to compute logarithms. However, my intention was, that, in every district, the ablest men who had passed high degrees at Sandhurst, and whose attainments and character I thought would influence the young officers, and induce them to apply themselves to study in order to qualify themselves for passing the examinations, should be selected as instructors; but as fast as I gave these directions, Lord Hardinge was giving his directions for the very same men to be sent out for the staff to the East, in which lie was quite right; and, therefore, it was impossible for the work I had planned to proceed. But I trust that my hon. Friend the Under Secre- 2153 tary for the War Department will keep his eye on this important subject, and the moment he has an opportunity of doing so, will revive the scheme, and press it rapidly forward. Now, I do not say, that by an examination before promotion you will necessarily get the best man. You must constantly make mistakes; but on an average the rule will prove successful. You may now and then keep out the best man, who, although he may have no great turn for book-learning, would be the fittest person for the situation; yet, generally speaking, the best men will be those who have carefully studied the theory of their profession, for no man can be less successful in the practice of his profession for having made himself master of its theory. Well, do you intend to have a strong educational test, and to insist upon the highest military attainments in granting promotion in the army? Or, on the other hand, will you say, "No; we mean to choose men because they were first privates and subsequently non-commissioned officers; and, in order to secure these persons, we will dispense in their case with an examination?" You must do that; and, what is more, I am prepared to do it, to a certain extent. The present examination on admission to the army is a ridiculous examination. The examination for the navy is more rational. The examination of a naval cadet is something very simple, and extends to what every boy who has been to a school ought to know. But in the army you send a youth to be examined at Sandhurst, and subject him to a process which all depends on "cramming" beforehand. He has got to learn certain books that have been written by certain professors at Sandhurst, and of course there is nothing like leather; and this wretched lad having "crammed" for hours before is often unable to answer, and is therefore sent back and not allowed to go with his company because he does not, perhaps, know the date of the death of Nero's second wife, or some matter of that kind. I wished to do away with that sort of examination altogether, and to establish a simple examination in the first instance. When a lad is first examined, do not ask him such questions as I have just mentioned, and do not tell him beforehand what he will be examined in; but if he be a boy coining from Eton, or any other public school, first ascertain what he has been taught there, and whether he has learned it well—not whether he has cer- 2154 tain specified attainments, but whether he is possessed of good, fair, average abilities. After that, when he is to be re-examined for his lieutenancy, and still more for his captaincy, you should go higher, and question him not only as to languages and mathematics, but about his military learning and acquirements—whether he understands outpost duty, the nature of picket duty, and services of that description; and, if the improved system of instruction continue, I hope we shall have an annual encampment for the regular training of our officers and men. That will be the sound mode of dealing with the question of military education. It is a mode that, I must confess, will be incompatible, to a certain extent, with the admission to commissions, at present, at least, of a large number of men from the ranks; I say with their admission at present—I say nothing of how many you may be able to admit ultimately. But, recollect that even if you adopt an examination as the test of admission, and your private soldiers are brought to a high state of military education and can pass the prescribed examination, you will not then have got hold of the best materials. I know it is delicate ground to tread upon, but what do we mean by a "gentleman" and a "liberal education?" I confess, with the hon. and gallant Officer below me, that I have seen men of very high rank to whom no amount of politeness could induce me to apply the term "gentleman." On the other hand, I confess that I have seen men of very humble station whose natural liberality of mind has fairly entitled them to that appellation. But if you set up a merely educational test, you may indeed have a man filled with intellectual cramming up to a certain point, but that alone will not endow him with the qualities which are calculated to inspire confidence in those under him. Men of genius will rise from the lowest ranks, as they have done at all times, and will force their way forward by means of the great qualities with which they are gifted. But I do not think I have ever seen a man of genius who was a vulgar man. Such a person may, indeed, be ignorant of some conventional forms, but that has nothing in the world to do with the point; and I repeat, that I have never known an exception to the rule, that a true man of genius is never a vulgar man. Men of genius will always be found, and when found they ought to be promoted. It is for the ad- 2155 vantage, no doubt, of the lower ranks of the army that there should be pretty frequent promotion from the ranks; but what I object to is the laying down of the rule that, because a man belongs to the ranks, therefore he should be promoted. That would be introducing a system of class promotion, and would be saying that, because a man came from a particular class, he should be promoted, and not because he was worthy of promotion. When a man is promoted from the ranks, he has to calculate what it is he has lost, and to set against it what he has gained. Now, non-commissioned officers are generally married men, and are receiving either the pay of sergeants or of sergeant majors. I will here just observe that I think the hon. and gallant General (Sir De L. Evans) was in error when he said it was the object of the Government, in giving one commission to a non-commissioned officer of each regiment, to confer patronage on the colonel. It was not the intention of the Government that those promotions should be used in the way of patronage by the colonels of the regiments. It was intended that those promotions should be conferred in the way of reward to the regiment in the person of that non-commissioned officer, who by his good conduct and gallantry should be considered the best entitled to it. With regard to the case of Sergeant Sullivan, I have no hesitation in saying, if it be the case that, besides distinguishing himself in the field, he is a man of high character and respectability, and if he has not been promoted, it is an injustice done to him. I only hope the hon. and gallant General has had the goodness to represent to Lord Hardinge the claims of that man. [Sir De Lacy EVANS: I have done so.] I am glad to hear it, because I am certain that Lord Hardinge will do what is right in the matter. He, of course, will refer to the colonel of the regiment to know the reasons why Sergeant Sullivan was not promoted, and if it should be shown that he is deserving of it, I have no doubt Lord Hardinge will direct it to be done. But the question before the House is this—is the system to be a system of purchase, of seniority, or of merit? I admit fully and entirely that in argument there is a great deal to be said against the system of purchase. But before the House of Commons decides upon or deals blindly with that question—[An hon. Member: Why blindly?] I will show you presently, but 2156 I say before the House decides upon that question, they must weigh in the balance what will be the cost, on the one hand of retaining, or on the other of abolishing that system. My hon. Friend the Under Secretary for the War Department says that the change of system is to be effected at a cost of 100,000l. a year; but I have seen a statement which estimates the value of the existing commissions at no less a sum than 5,000,000l.
§ MR. FREDERICK PEEL
What I stated was, that the 100,000l. was the sum which it would be necessary to raise to induce persons holding commissions to retire from the army.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
But I say that when you come practically to deal with the question, you must first of all make up your mind to put your hand in your pocket and pay to the tune of 5,000,000l. My hon. Friend says that he should only require 100,000l. to induce the present holders of commissions to retire from the army; but if they do not leave the army, what then will happen? They will crowd the lists of ranks gained by seniority to an unprecedented degree. I sat last year on a Commission which I am almost ashamed to acknowledge, after what the hon. and gallant General has said of it, and in that Commission we discussed the means of rendering the army more efficient in the upper ranks. The Commission was, I consider, very fairly composed. There were on it civilians, such as Lord Panmure, Earl Grey, Mr. Ellice, and others, who possessed a most intimate knowledge of the subjects brought before us, and who took very enlightened views upon them. There were also military men, who, it may be supposed, watched carefully over the interests of their profession. Well, we made a Report. Now, I do not say that that Report embodies all my opinions upon the subject of promotion in the army; but at any rate it was a step in the right direction. We laid down this rule—That it should be, and ought to be in the power of the Crown to reward merit in the army irrespective of seniority; that professional men for professional exploits ought to be rewarded by professional advancement, and that without reference to seniority. The army, I know, look to seniority as a safeguard against having younger men placed above them; and I am an advocate, also, to a certain extent, of that system; for it must be admitted there are advantages arising from the rule 2157 of seniority. But, at the same time, I cannot conceal from myself that it has many defects, and that it is liable to very great abuse. The Commission proposed to guard against abuse in the promotions to the higher ranks in the army by giving to it the greatest publicity; and, accordingly, they recommended that the promotions should be made public either by an Order in Council, or by means of the Gazette. In short, we associated the act of the Crown with such forms as should give to it the greatest solemnity while conferring on any person military promotion, in order that the public might see that it was honestly made, and that no jobbery or act of favouritism had been committed; not but that the public will say, for a time at least, that these selections are jobs. I read very recently in a newspaper a description of what was said to be a most scandalous job at the Horse Guards. It was said that a person of the aristocratic name of Rowland Hill Gordon, after a short period of service, on account of his high connections, had actually been promoted to the rank of captain in the Guards. Well, I inquired into this, and what did I find the facts to be? Why, that this Rowland Hill Gordon, so far from having any aristocratic connections, was a person of whom nobody had ever before heard, till, while serving in the army at Sebastopol, he bravely distinguished himself in resisting a sortie of the Russians that came upon the British camp, and kept them back until Lieutenant Colonel Waddy came up to his assistance with his men and successfully repulsed them. It was for that gallant conduct that this officer was brought into the Guards, and I rejoice to see it. The public may hence learn that promotions in the army are not always to be attributed to nepotism or jobbery at the Horse Guards. Well, Sir, you must come to this at last; if not, then you must adopt some other system than that which now prevails. Reference has been made to the Indian army. The Indian army, without doubt, is worthy of great praise; but if you compare the Indian army with the Queen's army you will find there is, in many respects, a great difference between the two services. Comparing the two services, man for man, you will find that the ages of the officers in the Indian service are so great that of those who are at the head of it you have a far smaller number fit for service than you have in the Queen's army. It must be recollected, 2158 also, that in the Indian service the pay on retirement is much larger than in any other army; and that the system of expenditure is such as would not bear the scrutiny of one year's Army Estimates in this House; and yet there are not sufficient youth among the officers to make the army efficient in its upper ranks. With respect to the question of purchase, I will not enter into it now nor give any opinion on its merits, but I cannot help observing that there prevails a great misconception in the public mind on that subject. People seem to think that when an officer retires from the army his commission is put up for sale to the highest bidder, and that there was a sort of scramble who should obtain it. That is not the case. Neither is there any injustice inflicted on the other officers by the sale of the commission. They remain exactly in the same position they previously held. But, though no injury is sustained by the sale of the commission, still, no doubt, great occasional injustice is perpetrated by the system of purchase, especially when an officer dies or is killed in action, and who may have paid a large sum of money for his commission. In that case the whole of the money is lost to his family. Still, he purchased with his eyes open, and hastened his promotion at his own risk. Well, you must weigh the whole question carefully before you decide. Let us now look at the manner in which it bears upon the particular question of the noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield. I much doubt if you were to ask the non-commissioned officers of the army whether they would like the system of promotion advocated by the noble Lord to be adopted, that most of them would prefer to remain in their present position. They would look at their own pay, at the pension they would by and by receive, not to mention the barrack accommodation, and the uniform that is given to them. Besides, their wives often turn a good penny at washing; and then they would contrast this, their present condition, with what it would be were they to be promoted to the rank of an officer. Their wives would be obliged to dress like ladies. At any rate, they could be no longer engaged in those menial services by which they now obtained an addition to their husband's pay. Supposing there was no purchasing of commissions, and that a man who was promoted to the rank of an officer had nothing to look to but his half-pay after a service of twenty-one years, I 2159 think that such a man would consider himself to be much better off as a non-commissioned officer, considering the pension he would have received as a sergeant major. But what is the actual course pursued by men who are promoted from the ranks? They first have an ensigncy, then a lieutenancy, and then a captaincy, and generally when they have reached that grade they retire from the service on their half-pay. Sir, I do not mean to say that men rise from the ranks without being distinguished soldiers. The noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) has quoted Sir John Elley as an instance; another is General Cureton, who at one time was a corporal in the 14th Light Dragoons. He was promoted to an ensigncy in the 16th, and subsequently rose to the rank of general. His was an example of a rapid and successful career. There are many other officers in our service in a similar position, and though some who have so risen have been accused of being deficient in their power of commanding others, that was not generally the case. Observations have been made during the discussion with respect to foreign service. I believe in the French service one-third of the officers are necessarily raised from the ranks, but the House will bear in mind that the French army is raised by conscription, and gentlemen of small means in the country, who cannot afford or are not willing to pay for a substitute, allow their younger sons to be taken; and it very often happens that because they are the sons of gentlemen they are selected as officers. That is quite a different thing. I have heard it said by French officers "that one of the greatest advantages your army has is that all its officers are gentlemen, and your men obey them more willingly than they would do officers of another class." But with respect to their army there is this to be said—that having nothing besides their pay, and having, from want of means, to walk their marches, their duty is hard, and they get soured with discontent. Now, take the Russian service. In that service all the officers pass through the rank of non-commissioned officers, even the Grand Dukes, I believe. But that again is quite a different system. That is the system in existence under an autocratic government, where there is always a complete fusion of ranks under one predominant head. I am not prepared to say that there may not be some advantage in a system which necessitates that the com- 2160 manding officer should possess a perfect knowledge of the internal condition and economy of the regiment which he commands; but in the case of our army the men are volunteers, and I affirm that if you were to lay down any such fixed principle of promotion, you would get inefficient officers, because you would get uneducated men. You may, it is true, get men educated, using the word in a restricted military sense, but you would not get them educated in that manner which enlarges and liberalises the human mind. In other professions there have been instances of the effect of such restricted professional education, for in ecclesiastical affairs you have seen men who may be very learned theologians, but who have become very troublesome members of society. You cannot argue general principles upon such assumptions as have been made. The noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) has put the case of a young officer entering upon a campaign in the Crimea, and has told you that a sergeant, as a professional man, was more able to command than he. That may be very true at the moment, but who would be the best commander that day six months? Drilling is one thing, commanding another. What is the old saying in the army, "The sergeant drills the men, but the officer fights them." The officer must set them an example in many ways that require superior talent when the men are under great difficulties and discouragements. That fearlessness under responsibility which assists the officer who has been accustomed to it from his birth upwards does not always assist the officer who rises from the ranks, and it is therefore nothing more than a reasonable expectation that the liberally educated man, on a general average, will make a better officer than a man who has risen from the ranks. Then why is it that in spite of this you do promote a very fair proportion of men from the ranks, and I say, if you select your non-commissioned officers well, you ought so to do, because there can be no doubt that up to a certain point, though not, I think, to so high a point as had been contended for by some hon. Members to-night, by giving commissions to those who rise from the ranks, you may well induce some persons of a higher class than the ordinary men who form those ranks to enter the army. It is not a question of principle, but a question of degree. and I think it would be most unwise and most dangerous in this House to lay down 2161 any fixed rule, or indicate an intention of laying down a fixed rule, which may either lead to misconception, or create hopes that cannot afterwards be fulfilled. I am glad this subject has been discussed. I have great confidence in the steady annual increase of commissioned officers rising from the ranks—I am confident that the number will not retrograde, and all I ask is that the House will not sanction the indiscriminate promotion of any rank brought from any particular class of society, or lay down any rule upon the subject other than that which I have quoted—detur digniori.
§ SIR ERSKINE PERRY
said, the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has put forward some ingenious arguments in behalf of purchase which have been much cheered on the benches opposite him, and he has stated many difficulties which attend promotion from the ranks. But as his own mind is evidently not convinced by his own arguments, and as the difficulties suggested by him do not deter him from recommending such promotion, he may be set clown as friendly to my noble Friend's Resolution, and any serious refutation of his reasoning is uncalled for. The question, as it has been argued to-night, has scarcely been placed high enough; for it is but a portion of a still greater question which is coming before the House in many different shapes, and from many independent quarters, all having reference to one object, the opening up of every career in life, civil or military, to merit, as distinguished from mere political or aristocratic claims. If a deeper inquiry be made as to the cause of these symptoms, there could be no difficulty in attributing it to the great democratic movement which is displayed in the civilised parts of Europe during the present century. He would appeal to all thoughtful men, and especially to contemporaries and friends of his own, whom he saw on the opposite benches, such as the right hon. Members for Midhurst and Dublin University (Messrs. Walpole and Napier), men who have read in the same books, studied in the same schools, and witnessed the same facts as himself, whether it was not quite clear that the change indicated in the present Resolution must take place in England sooner or later. The old feudal character of armies, with the wide gulf between officers and the ranks, had given way on the Continent, and whether one approves of it or not, it is inevitable that it must give way here also. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham), had taken 2162 credit the other night for having strengthened the democratic element in this House. He and his colleagues who supported him had done so in an eminent degree; and the consequence was, that during the last twenty years a silent revolution had taken place, by which antiquated institutions and caste privileges had been swept away. Few men in the House, perhaps, stood in a more favourable position for observing the extent of this revolution than himself, for having taken a very active share in political struggles at an early period of life, his subsequent absence from England, from 1841 to 1852, enabled him to compare England at these two periods, and the contrast was astonishing. Two strongholds of privilege still remained, the Government and the army, and the deep feeling of discontent now prevalent—that neither of these was so well conducted as it might be, showed that the vigorous onslaughts of reform must speedily be applied to these also. His noble Friend, who had introduced the Motion in a temperate speech, but who had very modestly left much ground untouched, because other Members had notices on the paper respecting it, had been reproached for not having pointed out any evils in the existing system. But if evils are to be pointed out, the whole country has already proclaimed them by stating that the army system, which has been so carefully fostered during the last forty years, has completely broken down on the first outbreak of war. The failure is not denied by any one, but cause after cause is successively assigned and found wanting; and now the form of the criticism usually is that it is not individuals, but the system which is in fault. But who made the system? The army authorities have had it completely in their own hands, the civil power has never interfered, perhaps had not the authority to interfere. In the Commission presided over by the Duke of Wellington in 1840, the Report stated that, in the opinion of the Commissioners, the results of the last war showed that the existing systems in both army and navy were all that could be desired. In another Commission, Lord Fitzroy Somerset stated that, after his long official experience, he had not the least notion how the civil administration of the army could be conducted better. But the main evil of the present system was to be found in the recruiting department. All military writers agree that a good system of recruitment is the basis of a well-organised army. But it 2163 is impossible that the present system can go on if the people continue to improve as they have done in intelligence. The Duke of Wellington, in a memorandum drawn up by him in 1829, stated that it would be impossible to obtain recruits in England at a period of distress. The means by which recruits are now obtained must pain every philanthropist to the core who looks into the details. It clearly appears by the evidence that they are only obtained by cajolery, by misrepresentation, and by immoderate drinking. These facts were skilfully drawn out from the Adjutant General (Sir George Brown) in the Committee on Army Expenditure, by the examination of the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham). To remedy evils like these, recourse must be had to a higher class of motives than are now depended on for attracting men to the army; rational hopes must be held out of a possibility of rising through merit and military qualifications, and the army would never then find a lack of adventurous spirits who would seek the profession of arms. Lord William Bentinck, who was a statesman as well as a soldier, had pointed out that the granting commissions in the line would have this effect, and would attract a better class of men to the ranks. It was notorious that the most enlightened States of the Continent have adopted the principle embodied in the noble Lord's Resolutions; but he would refer only to three, France, Prussia, and Sardinia. France had been compelled to cast the old feudal system to the winds in 1793, when it was found ineffectual to defend her soil from the foreign invader. On adopting the new and more generous principle, she was enabled to send 1,000,000 men in arms to the frontier, who expelled the enemy, and carried the eagles of France into every corner of continental Europe. Prussia, when exhausted and helpless, after the battle of Jéna, adopted the same principle, which resuscitated the country and carried her subsequently to Leipsic and Waterloo. Sardinia, again, during the revolutionary cataclysm of 1848, was wise enough to base a national army on principles which find an echo in every human heart. But the statesmen of England, if they are really fit to lead the Liberal party, and to direct the destinies of the country into the course of progressive improvement, ought not to wait for the moment of crisis and collapse, but, reading the signs of the times aright, with vise forethought, they should frame per- 2164 manent measures. Burning thoughts had been uttered in that House, by the hon. Member for Aylesbury, and had been listened to with distaste by many. Day by day articles appeared in the public press which might be termed revolutionary. But the question with reflective men was, whether the facts on which these views were founded were true—whether the mismanagement and disasters which they described were capable of being arrested by the employment of abler minds. England, in many respects, was never so flourishing as at the present moment; wealth was increasing, education extending, the condition of the masses becoming day by day an object of greater care; religion was manifesting a remarkable revival; above all, liberal opinions were penetrating into every class with all the vigour of youth, yet, side by side with these, a deep spirit of discontent lies smouldering, and that, too, amongst thoughtful and well animated classes of society, because they believe shortsightedness and exclusive caste views prevail amongst our rulers. It was with an earnest desire to deprecate the occurrence of evils which wise statesmanship could undoubtedly avert, that he called upon the noble Lord at the head of the Government to satisfy those independent supporters of his, on the Liberal side, who wished for nothing but the peaceful march of progress and order, that he is equal to the great trust now reposed in him by the voice of the people, and that he would take in hand the important reform which the Resolutions of his noble Friend shadowed forth.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, it is impossible to deny that the subject which my noble Friend (Viscount Goderich) has brought this evening under the consideration of the House is one of great importance, and also of great interest. It is important because it regards one of the great institutions of the country—an institution. upon which depends the defence of the dignity and the honour of the country. It is also of interest because it concerns, I may say, all classes of the community. I should, however, in the first place, beg leave to say that I differ with many of those who have spoken to-night in an opinion and as to a fact. In opinion I differ with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just sat down, and who has talked of the great democratic movement which has been making progress during the last twenty or forty years. I hear a great 2165 deal about aristocratic views and democratic progress, but, if the hon. and learned Gentleman means what I conceive he does, that the humbler classes of this country have, during the last forty years, made great and rapid progress in everything which constitutes worth and value as men, I deny that that is a democratic movement. I say it is an aristocratic movement. I am delighted to see the humbler classes raising themselves in the scale of society by cultivating those virtues and intellectual qualities which dignify men and entitle them to the respect of their fellow men in a higher position of the scale of the community to which they all belong. I am not afraid of that kind of democratic movement. I am glad to see it, and I hope it will continue. I differ also in regard to a fact. One argument of my noble Friend, and of those who have followed him, has been that the system which he has endeavoured to recommend is essential for the purpose of encouraging recruiting for the army, and his argument of course is, that the present system is a discouragement and prevents that recruiting. Now, Sir, that is not the fact. So far from the recruiting of the army having been stopped or discouraged by this condition of things, the recruiting for the army never went on so prosperously as it has done during the last year, the year 1854, and the beginning of the present year. During the last war, I believe, the greatest number of men raised for the army in any single year did not exceed 25,000. In the year 1854, Sir, we raised 35,000, and in the month of January of the present year we raised 6,000 men, being at the rate of 72,000 men per annum. Why, Sir, I do not wonder at that. In the first place, the great increase which has taken place in the population of this country must furnish a large supply of men who enter the service. But then there is that in the spirit of the British nation which leads this people to court the dangers of war when they see the brilliant achievements in the field of their fellow-countrymen; and, so far from those dangers checking the martial spirit of the country, they increase it, independently of the system of promotion, or of the purchase and sale of commissions. Depend upon it, that in moments of national danger and crisis, the spirit of the people of this country will rise in proportion to the emergency, and you will ever find them ready to enter your armies for the defence of their native land and 2166 for the maintenance of its ancient renown Now, Sir, with respect to the purchase and sale of commissions, that is a matter which has often attracted and engaged the attention of Parliament and of the public out of doors; and it is a question, I am willing to confess, surrounded by considerable difficulties. I have no hesitation in saying that, had we to form an army now for the first time, no human being would dream of making commissions matters of purchase and sale. But it is one thing to determine what you will do with a system you are about to establish, and it is another to decide how you will deal with a system which has long existed and has grown and increased. with time. I believe myself, that, with respect to the purchase and sale of commissions in the army, that practice is the remnant of an ancient system, which has ceased in regard to all other things. An hon. Member has said, you might as well make the office of Secretary of State a matter of purchase and sale. Well, we all know that, at one period, it was a matter of purchase and sale; and in the time of Charles II. an ancestor of mine was unable to become Secretary of State because he had not money wherewith to purchase the office. The practice of purchasing and selling commissions in the army is, then, the remnant of an ancient system which has ceased to exist in respect to almost every other matter. Abstractedly, I have no hesitation in saying that it is an evil. In itself I do not defend it; but at the same time one must also admit that, like many other things which, abstractedly, are evils, it is not unaccompanied by certain advantages which in some degree counterbalance the inconvenience. One great evil of a military system is the slowness of promotion, by which you get into the upper ranks of the army men who by age are disqualified from performing the duties of their respective positions. It is manifest that in a service where no purchase and sale of commissions exist, and where officers get on by regular gradation, there is a tendency to have the upper ranks filled by a greater number of men of advanced age. That is the case, I believe, comparatively, in the Artillery, and, to a certain degree, in the East India Company's service. On the contrary, a system which allows of the sale of commissions does, by enabling officers to leave the service, who from their age have no prospect of employment, and who are willing to retire to private life, accelerate the 2167 current of promotion, and tend to bring younger and abler men into the higher ranks of the service. That is one counterbalancing advantage in any system of purchase and sale. It is manifest, too, that to contemplate the entire abolition of that system involves considerations of great magnitude, which would require very deliberate examination, and its cessation would involve also considerable expense to the public. I am not, therefore, prepared to say that Her Majesty's Government could consent to the sort of off-hand resolution proposed by my noble Friend, by which the House and the Government would be committed to an opinion as to the practicability of changing the system to which that Resolution relates; and it is a great mistake to say, as I have heard it said or insinuated, that the purchase and sale of commissions imply that commissions are put up to auction and given to the highest bidder. Though a man is compelled to pay the price of the commission to which he may be promoted, still the Commander in Chief exercises the same discretion in selecting the man to be permitted to purchase as if he were choosing a man for promotion without purchase at all. Complaints have been made on the one hand that the system of purchase in the army prevents able men from passing to the higher ranks, and then my hon. Friend the gallant Officer who sits behind me (Captain Scobell) stated that promotion without purchase tended in the navy to precisely the same results. The fact is that every system by which members of a numerous profession are raised from rank to rank by superior authority also will be liable to the same imputations; where one is to be promoted, and twenty, thirty, or an hundred passed over, every man who is unsuccessful naturally imagines that his own qualities are equal, if not superior, to those of the candidate preferred; and whether it be in this country or in any other, you will always find that in a large profession, such as the army or navy, there will be an immense number of men complaining that promotion is given from interest, favouritism, caprice, or some motive other than a real desire to choose the fittest and most proper individual. No arrangements that could possibly be made would prevent imputations and feelings of that sort prevailing among the members of a numerous profession. With respect to another part of the subject—namely, the promotion of non-commissioned officers to 2168 commissions in the army—I think the line which my right hon. Friend the late Secretary for the Colonies said had been pursued while he was Secretary at War is a line which ought to be pursued and which will continue to be followed. It is a mistake to suppose that peculiar talent is confined to any particular class in the community. Nature has scattered with an indiscriminate hand among all classes of society those intellectual and moral qualities which fit a man for any situation, as far as mere qualities can do. You will find among the private soldiers of the army, as among the humblest classes of society, men well described by my hon. and gallant Friend as "nature's gentlemen," who by their high qualities and noble feelings, are so far fitted for any situation in which they may be placed. But for the purpose of military command more than natural qualities are essentially required. There must be cultivated intellect, acquired knowledge, and experience, which enable a commander to deal with the events of the day, and also to entitle him to the respect and obedience of those placed under him. We are told to look at the example of France and of other continental countries; but, as my right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) justly pointed out, there is an essential and fundamental difference between the armies in those countries and our own. In France and in other continental countries the armies are raised by conscription, which sweeps men from every class, taking the educated as well as the uneducated; and among the privates of the French army are to be found young men who have received as good an education as persons who move in any sphere of life. These men, when they have passed two years as privates, are as fit to be officers as any persons in this country who, after receiving the best education, are allowed to purchase their commissions. Our army, however, being recruited by voluntary enlistment, the privates naturally come from the humbler classes of society. They enter at an age when education has hardly made any considerable progress, and the portion of the humbler classes likely to enter the army does not comprehend those who by their attainments would probably in the occupations of civil life find profitable employment. They are young men of aspiring and daring character—men of action rather than study, who like the exertions and dangers of a soldier's life, and who 2169 have therefore, perhaps, not paid, or had the opportunity of paying, any great attention to the cultivation of their minds. It is true that after they get into the army they do, under the arrangements made by my right hon. Friend, acquire an education which, perhaps, they never would have received if they had not enlisted into the ranks. But, even with that advantage, it is not every private or non-commissioned officer who can attain to that kind of intellectual cultivation which would fit him for the commission of an officer. Then the position of an officer involves certain expenses which, if a promoted sergeant be unable to meet, renders his situation painful and disagreeable to his feelings. Moreover, we all know that men who have passed a certain period of their lives in a certain association do not readily adapt selves to become members of a different class, and it often happens that the promotion of a sergeant, instead of being an advantage to him, really places him in a painful position, though at the same time he may be gratified by the honour conferred on him. Still, I entirely agree that it is desirable to hold out to privates and non-commissioned officers that good conduct and distinguished service in the field before the enemy will obtain for them the reward of a commission, if a commission they should be desirous to have. In the course of last year I believe that there were little short of one hundred commissions so given. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) stated that those commissions given to the army in the Crimea seemed not to have been disposed of in the manner in which he was sure they were intended to be applied, and that he was certain that it was never intended that those commissions should be distributed as matter of favour and patronage by the colonels of regiments. The only intention was, that they should be conferred upon those non-commissioned officers in each regiment who most distinguished themselves in the course of the campaign; and if in any case the commanding officer had not selected the non-commissioned officers the most worthy of promotion, he has not executed the intentions with which the Commander in Chief gave him the power of so selecting them. I can say, then, Sir, that I can assure the House that it is the anxious desire of Her Majesty's Government that this system of admitting a certain proportion of well-conducted non-commissioned officers to com- 2170 missions in the army shall be continued, and in my opinion there will always be—owing to the increased education which is being given to privates and non-commissioned officers of the army—a very considerable number of sergeants who will be fit to receive those commissions, and who, by their education and good conduct, may hope to rise to higher ranks in the service. Such being the desire and intention of the Government, and such being the opinion which they entertain of the matters which the motion of my noble Friend embraces, I should hope that he would not, by dividing the House on this matter, give the erroneous impression to the public that upon the main principles which are concerned there is that difference of opinion and sentiment which a division would appear to indicate, and that he would leave it to the Government to follow out that course which has already been so ably and properly begun under the auspices of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert). I ant sure that we appreciate fully the great importance of holding out to the humbler ranks of the army those prizes which I will not say are necessary to stimulate their exertions, because their own sense of duty is sufficient for that purpose—but those prizes which are the proper rewards of good conduct, and which, while they not only gratify I the feelings of those who receive them, tend also to inspire in the minds of their fellow comrades a respect for the institutions under which they live, and a confidence that good conduct in the humblest classes is sure to meet with the appropriate and distinguishing reward.
§ VISCOUNT GODERICH,
in reply, observed that he had nothing to add to what had fallen from his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans); because any words of his would only weaken the effect which that speech was calculated to produce. The two speeches which had proceeded from the Treasury benches did not lead him to the conclusion that he should be fulfilling the task which he had undertaken if he were to withdraw his Motion. The first part of the speech of the noble Lord, who had just spoken answered the last part; and, under these circumstances, he must press the Motion to a division.
MR. OWEN STANLEY
said, that if the noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield, insisted upon going to a division, he should be bound to vote with him, although 2171 he did not concur in the terms of the Motion, because be thought it desirable that the House should mark in some way its feeling of the necessity for a change in the mode of carrying out the system of promotion in the army.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 114; Noes 158; Majority 44.
|List of the AYES.|
|Acton, J.||Keating, R.|
|Anderson, Sir J.||Kennedy, T.|
|Ball, E.||King, hon. P. J. L.|
|Ball, J.||Kinnaird, hon. A. F.|
|Barnes, T.||Laing, S.|
|Bass, M. T.||Langton, H. G.|
|Biggs, W.||Laslett, W.|
|Bland, L. H.||Lee, W.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Lindsay, W. S.|
|Bowyer, G.||Mackie, J.|
|Bramley-Moore, J.||MacGregor, John|
|Bright, J.||Maguire, J. F.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Brockman, E. D||Marshall, W.|
|Brown, W.||Miall, E.|
|Campbell, Sir A. I.||Milligan, R.|
|Challis, Mr. Ald.||Milnes, R. M.|
|Cobbett, J. M.||Morris, D.|
|Cobden, R.||Mostyn, hon. T. E. M. L.|
|Cogan, W. H. F.||Mowatt, F.|
|Cowan, C.||Murrough, J. P.|
|Craufurd, E. H. J.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Crook, J.||North, F.|
|Crossley, F.||O'Brien, P.|
|Currie, R.||O'Connell, D.|
|Dent, J. D.||Otway, A. J.|
|De Vere, S. E.||Parker, R. T.|
|Dillwyn, L. L.||Paxton, Sir J.|
|Divett, B.||Pechell, Sir G. B.|
|Duke, Sir J.||Pellatt, A.|
|Duncan, G.||Perry, Sir T. E.|
|Duncombe, T.||Phillimore, R. J.|
|Dunlop, A. M.||Pigott, F.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Pilkington, J.|
|Ellice, E.||Reed, J. H.|
|Ewart, W.||Ricardo, J. L.|
|Fagan, W.||Ricardo, O.|
|Fenwick, H.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Ferguson, J.||Russell, F. C. H.|
|Forster, C.||Scholefield, W.|
|Forster, J.||Scobell, Capt.|
|Fox, W. J.||Shelley, Sir J. V.|
|Gardner, R.||Smith, J. B.|
|Goodman, Sir G.||Stanley, hon. W. O.|
|Gower, hon. F. L.||Strickland, Sir G.|
|Greenall, G.||Strutt, rt. hon. E.|
|Greene, J.||Sullivan, M.|
|Grenfell, C. W.||Thompson, G.|
|Gwyn, H.||Vivian, H. H.|
|Hadfield, G.||Walmsley, Sir J.|
|Hanmer, Sir J.||Warner, E.|
|Hastie, Alex.||Wickham, H. W.|
|Mastic, Arch.||Wilkinson, W. A.|
|Heywood, J.||Williams, W.|
|Heyworth, L.||Wise, A.|
|Howard, hon. C. W. G.|
|Hutchins, E. J.||TELLERS.|
|Ingham, R.||Goderich, Visct.|
|Jackson, W.||Layard, A. H.|
|List of the NOES.|
|A'Court, C. H. W.||Heathcote, G. H.|
|Adair, R. A. S.||Heneage, G. F.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Herbert, rt. hon. S.|
|Archdall, Capt. M.||Herbert, Sir T.|
|Baring, H. B.||Hervey, Lord A.|
|Baring, rt. hon. Sir F.T.||Hotham, Lord|
|Baring, T.||Johnstone, Sir J.|
|Baring, hon. F.||Jones, Capt.|
|Bellew, T. A.||Kendall, N.|
|Bennett, P.||Kerrison, Sir E. C.|
|Bentinck, G. W. P.||Knatchbull, W. F.|
|Beresford, rt. hon. W.||Knox, Col.|
|Berkeley, C. L. G.||Knox, hon. W. S.|
|Bethell, Sir It.||Langton, W. G.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Lennox, Lord A. F.|
|Brand, hon. H.||Lennox, Lord H. G.|
|Brotherton, J.||Liddell, H. G.|
|Buckley, Gen.||Lovaine, Lord|
|Carnac, Sir J. R.||Luce, T.|
|Castlerosse, Visct.||Lushington, C. M.|
|Cavendish, hon. G.||Macartney, G.|
|Cecil, Lord R.||MacGregor, James|
|Chelsea, Visct.||Malins, R.|
|Child, S.||Mandeville, Visct.|
|Cholmondeley, Lord H.||Meux, Sir H.|
|Christy, S.||Miles, W.|
|Clive, R.||Milner, W. M. E.|
|Colvile, C. R.||Michell, W.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Molesworth,rt.hn.SirW.|
|Dalrymple, Visct.||Monck, Visct.|
|Dering, Sir E.||Morgan, O.|
|Duckworth, Sir J. T. B.||Mowbray, J. R.|
|Duff, J.||Napier, rt. hon. J.|
|Duncombe, hon. O.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Dunne, Col.||North, Col,|
|Du Pre, C. G.||Pakenham, T. H.|
|Egerton, E. C.||Pakington, rt. hn. Sir J.|
|Elcho, Lord||Palk, L.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||Palmerston, Visct.|
|Elmley, Visct.||Peacocke, G. M. W.|
|Emlyn, Visct.||Peel, Sir R.|
|Euston, Earl of||Peel, F.|
|Filmer, Sir E.||Peel, Gen.|
|Fitzroy, rt. hon. H.||Pennant, hon. Col.|
|Floyer, J.||Philipps, J. H.|
|Forester, rt. hon. Col.||Pinney, W.|
|Fortescue, C. S.||Portman, hon. W. H. B.|
|Franklyn, G. W.||Powlett, Lord W.|
|Freestun, Col.||Price, Sir R.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Pritchard, J.|
|Gilpin, Col.||Repton, G. W. J.|
|Gladstone, rt. hon. W.||Ricardo, S.|
|Gladstone, Capt.||Robertson, P. F.|
|Goddard, A. L.||Roche, E. B.|
|Goulburn, rt. hon. H.||Sawle, C. B. G.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Seymour, Lord|
|Greaves, E.||Seymour, H. D.|
|Greene, T.||Shelburne, Earl of|
|Gregson, S.||Shirley, E. P.|
|Grey, rt. hon. Sir G.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Grey, R. W.||Smith, A.|
|Grogan, E.||Smyth, J. G.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Stafford, A.|
|Hale, R. B.||Stafford, Marq. of|
|Halford, Sir H.||Stanhope, J. B.|
|Hall, Sir B.||Stanley, Lord|
|Hamilton, G. A.||Steel, J.|
|Hankey, T.||Stuart, W.|
|Harcourt, Col.||Taylor, Col.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Thornely, T.|
|Hardinge, hon. C. S.||Tomline, G.|
|Traill, G.||Whitbread, S.|
|Tyler, Sir G.||Whiteside, J.|
|Vance, J.||Whitmore, H.|
|Vernon, G. E. H.||Wilson, J.|
|Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.||Wynn, Lt. Col.|
|Walcott, Adm.||Wyvill, M.|
|Walpole, rt. hon. S. H|
|Walsh, Sir J. B.||TELLERS.|
|Walter, J.||Hayter, rt. hon. W. G.|
|Whatman, J.||Mulgrave, Earl of|