§ MAJOR REED
said, he rose in accordance with the notice he had given, to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the present mode of conferring appointments in the army. He sincerely wished that this most important subject had been taken in hand by some hon. Member of greater experience and weight in the House than himself; but, since the duty had fallen upon him, he should not shrink from discharging it. The first point he wished to call the attention of the House to was the system of promotion in the army by purchase. This matter had been discussed very recently most ably on both sides of the House, and he believed that system was pernicious to the service and unjust to the private soldier, as well as to the poor but efficient officer, who was not in a position to be able to pay the large sums required to secure his promotion from step to step. The noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield (Viscount Goderich) brought forward this subject very recently in an admirable manner, and he believed that any hon. Gentleman who supposed that the noble Lord wished to introduce any levelling principle was very much mistaken. In vindicating the cause of the private soldier, the noble Lord desired, as he (Major Reed) also wished, to be the champion likewise of the poor and efficient officer. When the noble Lord the other night called attention to the way in which promotion by purchase was obtained, the hon. Under Secretary for War reminded the House that by an Act passed in the reign of George III. it was enacted that a certain regulation sum should be paid for the commission of an officer and for his future advancement step by step. He held in his hand a copy of the rules by which the British army was governed, and begged to call attention to the twentieth rule, which had reference to the purchase of commissions. In that rule regulations were laid down for the sale and purchase of commissions, and it was declared that any officer who violated those rules should be cashiered; and that any agent who assisted in the violation of them should be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor. Now he would appeal to any hon. Gentleman to say whether it was a fact that that regulation price 1192 was adhered to in the purchase of commissions? On this subject the Queen's regulations were broken through, he would not say with the sanction, but certainly with the knowledge of the Horse Guards. If, then, the rules under which the army should be governed could be broken through, and if the infraction were recognised by the Horse Guards, he maintained that the sooner the Queen's regulations were put into the fire the better. He wished to see promotion go by merit, especially in regard to the poor officer, who had made the army his profession, and could not compete in matters of expense with gentlemen who entered the service merely for the purpose of wearing a uniform, and who had long purses to back them up. But at the same time he was not prepared to say that promotion should solely take place from the ranks. He had received a vast deal of correspondence in connection with this subject, but he would not trouble the House with more than one or two cases proving the injury which this system of purchase carried with it. He had no wish to make any personal attack, but it was necessary on a subject of this national importance that men should not be too nice. He would in the first instance refer to the case of the colonelcy of the 13th Light Infantry. to which an officer had been appointed over the majors and captains in the regiment, who had passed through distinguished service. The officer in question was doubtless a most gallant fellow, but he had only been in the service nineteen years. If a stranger to a regiment were put over it, because the senior officers were not competent for the command, there would then be some justification for such a case; but in this case no such justification existed, for the majors and captains were veteran and experienced officers. The 13th Light Infantry had served through all the Affghanistan war, and here was a man of nineteen years' standing appointed to command it, though there were two majors in it of twenty-four and twenty years' service, the senior captain was an officer of twenty-six years' service, and the second and third captains were officers of twenty-four years' service. The senior major had served in the campaign of Affghanistan, he was in twenty-two actions, was engaged in the defence of Jellalabad, had three medals, and was once severely wounded. The second major was in the same campaign, was in Ghuznee, and in six actions, and had one medal. The senior captain was in 1193 Affghanistan and in Ghuznee, in nineteen actions, and had three medals, and was twice severely wounded. The next captain was in Affghanistan, Ghuznee, Jellalabad, in fifteen actions, and had three medals. The third captain was on the staff of General Sale, was at Jellalabad, had three medals, was twice wounded, had two horses shot under him, and was in twenty-two actions. The next ease to which he should call the attention of the House had reference to the 95th Regiment. In that regiment there was an officer named George Brown—not a very aristocratic name—who, rising from the ranks, received his ensigncy in 1851. He went as adjutant and lieutenant to Scutari, where he fell ill, but rejoined his regiment in the Crimea and was present at the battles of Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman; he commanded fifty-two men, of whom twenty-four were either killed or wounded. The promotion of one of the captains to a majority having created a vacancy, Lord Raglan recommended Lieutenant Brown for promotion; but the vacancy was filled up by a gentleman from the half-pay list. Within eight days the newly-appointed captain retired, and then another officer was gazetted as captain instead of Lieutenant Brown, that officer being junior in service to Lieutenant Brown, who had been in the army for twenty-six years, having entered at fourteen years of age. He had had another communication, calling his attention to the case of Lieutenant Magnay, an officer of the 63rd Regiment. He was the senior lieutenant of the regiment. He had landed with the regiment in the Crimea, and had gone gallantly through the battles of the Alma and Inkerman; and yet, a company becoming vacant early in this year, his friends in this country having been written to from the Horse Guards to know if they intended to purchase the step for him, and, having refused to do any such thing, an officer from the half-pay list was gazetted instead of him, to the great dissatisfaction of the corps. The next case to which he should refer was that of a gentleman who had retired from the army in disgust, and who, in communicating his case to him, did so, as he stated, feeling it his bounden duty to come forward and expose the frightful evils to which the country was subject from the present pernicious system of promotion in the army. This officer was gazetted as an ensign to the 54th Regiment in 1829, In 1830 he joined his regiment in India, and shortly after- 1194 wards a vacancy occurred among the lieutenants, but though he was then senior ensign, not having interest at the Horse Guards, he was not allowed to purchase, but another officer, who had, purchased over his head. It was not until the year 1832 that he was allowed to purchase, having thus lost two years and five steps in consequence of this delay. In 1840 the regiment returned to England, when he was appointed adjutant, and in 1841 he became senior lieutenant. In that same year another lieutenant, who was willing to pay the bonus over and above the regulation price—which he was not—purchased over his head. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no; it could not happen.] As the hon. Gentleman seemed to doubt the statement, he would be happy to impart to any one in private the name of the officer. It was seventeen years before he obtained his company without purchase, never having had an opportunity during the whole of that time of purchasing his promotion at the regulation price. He finally retired from the service on the brevet of 1854, in which he was not included. There could be no doubt that the system of purchase was injurious to the service and unfair to the soldier; but what he most complained of was the practice of giving large sums above the regulation price. It was well known that officers were obliged to give considerable sums beyond the regulation price for their steps, otherwise they stopped the promotion in the regiment, and got the cold shoulder given to them, or else the remaining officers were obliged to club together to pay the difference. He would read to the House the opinion of Sir Archibald Alison with regard to the different systems pursued in the French and English armies. Just before describing the battle of Corunna, the historian instituted the following comparison of the condition of the two armies at the time—In the French army, the system of promotion by merit, the certainty of advancement in rank which the consumption of life in battle afforded the survivors, at once kept alive that military ardour and insured the inestimable advantage of tried valour and skill in the officers of all grades on which the efficiency of an army in the field must at all times depend.And he went on to speak of the English army thus—In one important point the British army differed totally from the French—the officers, being taken from the higher classes, were separated from the soldiers by an almost impassable line.1195 Hon. Gentlemen, during a late discussion in that House, had stated that the present system of promotion by purchase was advantageous to the soldier promoted from the ranks, because it allowed him at once to convert into hard cash the reward which was given to him for long years' service; but he believed there was not a very great disposition on the part of the Horse Guards so readily to allow officers to realise. He knew of the case of an officer who had served twenty years in India and different parts abroad, and who, having had a fall from his horse in the discharge of his duty, fell ill and came home on sick leave. Feeling himself getting worse, he applied for leave to sell out, for he had embarked all the capital he possessed in the world to buy his way up, and his wife and family were thus dependent on his life for their subsistence, except so far as the miserable pittance allowed to widows of officers might be called a subsistence. His request, however, was refused, because it was known that his life was in that delicate state that he would soon die and his commission would fall in. This might seem almost incredible, but he was in possession of the officer's name and all the circumstances of the case. He came next to the favouritism displayed in the appointments in the army. Not long ago he had listened with great pleasure to the remarks of the hon. and gallant officer opposite (Colonel North) on the expediency of extending the capabilities of Sandhurst College. It was earnestly to be hoped that the Government would carry that into effect. What advantage was Sandhurst at present to an officer in the army? It was very little in his favour to have been educated at that institution. The officers of the staff ought to possess a thorough knowledge of their profession, and should be competent not only to convey verbal messages, but to see that the orders which the Commander in Chief gave were properly executed. The French system in this respect was very good; and the plan of having staff officers regularly trained and requiring them to undergo a certain degree of service in the cavalry and infantry, and also, if possible, in the engineer and artillery corps, might be advantageously introduced into our army. At present, the mode of promoting to the staff depended very much on the length of an officer's purse or on his affinity to the commander —a system not at all likely to secure efficient men for such appointments. Next, 1196 as to the medical staff, there had certainly been a great deficiency of medical skill in the Crimea. The proportion of medical men to the number of troops sent out had been exceedingly inadequate, and the consequence was that the surgeons had been positively worked to death and had perished with the sick and wounded, of a whole shipload of whom only one or two medical men had been left in charge. Now, the Government were appointing raw students, who had just passed their examination, to situations requiring the qualification of experience. A letter that he had seen from an officer at Scutari stated that men had been sent out there and intrusted with the care of gunshot wounds who were not competent to draw a tooth without a superior medical officer being present to see that they did not go wrong. With respect to the Commissariat, condemnation was, unfortunately, surperfluous—the whole system pursued by that department had broken down. The present Motion, however, did not call upon the House to affirm that certain appointments in the Crimea were either bad or good, it simply asked for a tribunal before which the entire question as to whether the present mode of promotion was just or unjust, beneficial or injurious to the public service, could be fairly and honestly investigated. Let Her Majesty's Government, and let hon. Gentlemen who possibly might soon have to report to their constituencies, have a care how they dealt with this proposition. This Motion did not merely ask them to acquiesce in the individual opinion of a private Member of that House, it only whispered what was being daily reiterated and re-echoed throughout the country? and unless our whole system of military administration was thoroughly revised and speedily reformed, the voice of the nation would ere long be heard in tones which neither that House nor the Government could safely neglect.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
, in seconding the Motion, said he could appeal with confidence to hon. Members, who might at first be disposed to oppose it, whether they could say, after calm consideration, that the time had not arrived when an alteration in the mode of granting promotion in the army ought to be made? The last subject they had been discussing, namely, relating to Poland—was an impracticable one, but this was a question of an entirely practical character—it involved no party feelings, and it might be dealt with by the Government, if it would only take it up, 1197 with the greatest benefit to the service. We had had a brave army in the East which had melted away from causes which all must deeply lament; and it was possible that in it there were officers who had been raised by means of the system of purchase into positions for which they were not sufficiently qualified by experience. At all events, ninny colonels and majors were juniors to the captains who served under them; and was it to be supposed that men of inexperience were fit to lead men of great experience? In seconding the Motion, he was actuated by no personal feeling. His object was not to condemn the past but to amend the future, and he hoped the Government Would seriously consider whether some practical and beneficial result might not be obtained from an alteration of the present system of purchase. His hon. and gallant Friend (Major Reed) had quoted instances enough to show the injustice of the present system. It was in our power, he thought, to turn the unhappy disasters that had befallen our army to account, and, if they made us consider how we could best improve its executive and administrative system, we should reap no small advantage from our very misfortunes. Why, the very circumstance of the practice of buying and selling in the market commissions in Her Majesty's service, issued under her Royal sign Manual, implied a public scandal; and it might be said that the Commander in Chief at the Horse Guards was the auctioneer in the odious traffic. Under this system many officers of influential families, or with a long purse at their command, were advanced more rapidly than meritorious men not so fortunately situated; and who would contend, for a moment, that that was a satisfactory state of things? The feeling which had sprung up in favour of army reform was not based on hostility towards the aristocracy. Men of the highest social position were cordially applauded when they rose by their merit. No one found fault with the promotion of the late Duke of Wellington, because it was felt that, though of high birth, he owed the distinction he acquired to his sword, and carved his way, from the earliest period of his service, by the display of the highest qualifications for command. An hon. and gallant Gentleman on the oppsite side said, that an alteration of the present system would be very hard on the officers who paid for their commissions, and that every colonel went into battle with 10,000l. about 1198 his neck; and that, if he fell, his family would lose this large sum of money as well as their natural protector? The system was one, therefore, that would not bear scrutiny. It could not, however, be changed in a day; the transition from it must be the work of years. Still, the Government might begin at once by declaring that from a certain date no officer should buy in, and, by a certain date, all who had purchased should be bought out. This would, no doubt, entail a considerable expense, but rather than that the existing practice should continue the country would be prepared to bear that expense. How different was our system from that of the ally side by side with whom we were fighting. Nothing could be better than the French system of promotion, which rewarded merit wherever it was to be found; and even the despotic Government of Russia had this advantage over us, that the ruler of that country could promote merit to the exclusion of demerit. Indeed, the very reason why we were now encountering so stout a resistance at Sebastopol was because the Russians, when they found that they had a bad general, immediately removed him. Again, what was the effect of purchase as applied to livings in the Church? Did they obtain better clergymen by allowing livings to be bought and sold? No doubt there Were good men in time Church who bought their livings, as there were also gallant officers who purchased their commissions, but the money which they possessed did not make them either good or gallant. So with reference to lawyers and physicians—they were not applied to because they might be in the possession of 100,000l., but on account of their reputation and talent. It had, indeed, been said that they did not get better officers the Commissariat, where commissions were not purchased, than in the other branches of the service where commissions were purchased; but were not the Commissariat appointments obtained through interest? Why did they not allow purchase in the Artillery and the Engineers? Because there they must have scientific talent, and that very much obliged them to adopt a different system in those two branches of the service to that which they pursued in regiments of the line and in the cavalry. He would tell the Government that this was a question which ought to be taken up, at once, by them. They ought not to allow themselves to be driven to it by the people. The Government should take the 1199 lead in gradually correcting these evils, instead of allowing the country to call for, perhaps, more army reform than was necessary. He would ask the Government who found the money to pay the forces? Why, the public; every man according to his means. To them, then, belonged the stations in the army. The Government were but the trustees to dispense this patronage, and if they gave appointments through favour, or affection, they betrayed their trust, and were answerable to the country. He had, before Christmas, moved a proposition relative to the institution of an order of merit, and the then leader of the House had favourably received it; but, on the question being put to the present leader of the House, the noble Lord had returned an answer by no means direct. He (Captain Scobell) saw no difficulty in instituting an order of merit, which would do more to stimulate the soldier than all the promises without performance which, he was sorry to say, he often heard on this side of the House. They had at present no order which could be given to officers in the army below the rank of major. Hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite complained of the stinginess of the House of Commons, and said that was the reason why their army in the Crimea had been frittered away. But no blame attached to the House of Commons in that respect. The House of Commons granted 6,000,000l. for the army; and if, with that sum, the Government were not able to keep a small army in a state of efficiency, how could they do better with 12,000,000l. and double the number of men? It was sufficient for England to have the supreme command on one element. She could not expect to command on both. There were undoubtedly many feats of gallantry performed during the war in the Crimea, but there was only one brilliant but ill-judged manœuvre—that of Balaklava—executed under Lord Raglan's command in the Crimea; all the other engagements had been soldiers' battles. He would quote, in confirmation of his views, the opinion of a Gentleman who lately occupied a seat on the Treasury bench, but who, since he left that, had applied a key to his mind. The hon. Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe), addressing his constituents, said, "The cankerworm which caused the failure of this campaign is the vice of public patronage." There was a great deal of selfish patronage in the army, but it was 1200 rampant in the navy. An hon. Member, who, although a soldier, filled the office of Secretary to the Admiralty, had compared the Horse Guards to a sink of corruption. He thought the Horse Guards and the Admiralty were one as bad as the other, as both of them treated merit with unfairness, and both of them required reform. The hon. Member for Kidderminster went on to say, "Our statesmen are not identified with the public interests." He hoped the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) would mark that. He knew there were secret influences which were holding him back, but he would not exemplify his usual courage if he shrunk from discharging the duty he owed to his country in this matter. The hon. Member for Kidderminster said, "This is a question for the constituencies. They must be content that their Members should cease to distribute Parliamentary patronage." As for himself, he never asked any favour from the Government for himself, or for any of his constituents. He received letters often asking him to do so, but his invariable answer was, that he could not be an independent Member of the House of Commons if he asked the Government for favours. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War had told them that a profit of 60,000l. had been made by the sale of commissions, but that was no way to make a profit—there ought to be no huckstering in commissions. He hoped hon. Gentlemen would not treat the present matter as a party question, but would take it up in a way that would be satisfactory to the country.
Motion made, and Question proposed—That a Select Committee be appointed, to inquire into the present mode of conferring appointments in the Army (by purchase or otherwise); to report on the same, and recommend a more efficient system for securing promotion to merit and long service.
said, that, as one who had been educated in the junior branch of the college of Sandhurst, and had passed twenty-five years in the service, he would beg to claim the indulgence of the House whilst he addressed himself for a few minutes to that part of the subject which related to the promotion of the noncommissioned officer to the rank of a commissioned officer. Before doing that, however, he would observe with regard to the system of promotion by purchase—and he was sure he should be borne out by every military officer who heard him —that it was that system alone which afforded a chance of promotion in the 1201 army. If they abolished the system of purchase, they would have ensigns arriving at the age of thirty or forty years before they got their promotion. Tins was the complaint made in the only two branches of the service in which the system of purchase was not adopted—namely, the Engineers and Artillery, who very justly stated that the excessive slowness of promotion in their case was such, that no man reached a rank of importance whilst he was at the age best fitted for the discharge of his duties. Moreover, if they abolished the system of promotion by purchase, they at once fell back upon the system so much decried by the hon. and gallant Member who spoke last—the system of patronage. How, then, were commissions to be disposed of? Were they to be given away? Would they establish a system of examination, and confer them upon those who passed it with success? He would presently show to those hon. Members who held that appointments should be made in the army only under a system of examination, how inconsistent that was with their desire that the non-commissioned officer and private should be promoted in the service. With regard to the promotion of non-commissioned officers in the army, he much regretted that upon the occasions on which this subject had hitherto been brought before the House, those who addressed themselves to it bad, in his opinion, shown exceeding ignorance of the practical bearing of the subject. He feared the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich), and those who followed him into the lobby on a previous evening, thought that the question might be very conveniently used as political capital, and that their real object was not to promote the interest of the service. ["Hear. hear."] He (Colonel Harcourt) felt himself justified in holding that opinion; for whilst they proposed to pull down the present system, they did not propose to build up anything as a substitute in its place. It appeared to him most extraordinary that that system having raised this country to a state of glory, so far as its military prowess was concerned, such as hardly any other country in the world had attained, the present moment should have been the one selected to cast upon it blame. They should judge a tree by its fruits; and what had been the fruits of the system? Let them recur to the history of our military campaigns. Beginning with Corunna, and passing on to Busaco, Albuera, Salamanca, Vittoria, 1202 Orthes, Toulouse, and Waterloo; in all these actions we were pitted against our then brave foes and now gallant Allies, the French; and in every one of them, and a half dozen, or even a dozen, more he might name, we were invariably victorious. Pursuing that history still further, let them recall to mind the victories we had more recently achieved in India, in China, and at the Cape; and coming down to the present moment, let the House look to Alma, Balaklava, and Inkerman; and then ask itself if the existing system really could be so bad as it was represented by hon. Members opposite to be? It might, perhaps, be sufficient to make these references, in order to show that it was not; but he was anxious, by practical evidence, to refute the argument made use of on the other side of the House as to the injury that was done to the non-commissioned officer by not promoting him, and to establish the fact that such was the social position of the non-commissioned officer, and such the social inconvenience to himself which would ensue from his promotion, that that was not the most desirable mode of rewarding him. It was well known to the House that it was from the agricultural portion of the population that our best recruits were principally taken. They were the sinews of the country, not only in carrying on its agriculture, but for the supply of our military force. Of that there was no doubt; but, he would ask hon. Members, what was the amount of education they received? He would suppose that they received an average education at an average national school; but this was much too favourable a view to take as compared with the actual facts, for he held in his hand a return he had procured that morning from the regiment to which he had the honour to belong, of the number of men who during the last three years had passed under the hands of the schoolmaster sergeant, and by the existing regulations all recruits had to attend school until they had passed the period of preparatory drill; and according to this return, of 879 men who in the three years had passed through the schoolmaster sergeant's hands, 348 were unable to read or write, 120 could read only, and 411, or less than one-half, could both read and write. True, after they joined, they attended the school provided for them by the regiment; but did, any hon. Member suppose that they could learn there more than to read and write, to work a sent in arithmetic, and commit 1203 to memory the names of the capitals of the principal States in the world and the chief rivers in Europe? Before a non-commissioned officer attained the rank of sergeant the promotion went necessarily by seniority, for he was till then an untried man, but after he became a sergeant it was the practice, and a very proper one, to select the best men for promotion to be drill sergeants and sergeant majors. The other night the noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield (Viscount Goderich), in allusion to the forty-two promotions of sergeants to be ensigns which the late Secretary at War had sent out to the Crimea, observed, in a taunting manner, that he supposed they were all sergeant majors; and the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. S. Herbert), in the course of his reply, defended himself against the statement, by saying that he could assure the noble Lord that there were only twelve or fourteen out of the whole number who were sergeant majors. Now, he (Colonel Harcourt) was astonished that the promotions were not all sergeant majors; for as the sergant major was the best man in the regiment; and, as in the Crimea, sergeant majors, drill sergeants, corporals, and privates, had alike proved themselves heroes, and equally brave and devoted to their country, if one commission only were given to a regiment, he would say let it be offered to the sergeant major. He willingly admitted that there might be special cases, such as that of Sergeant Sullivan, where the officer in command of a division might recommend a sergeant to especial notice, and under those circumstances he certainly thought he ought to be promoted; but that should have been in addition to what had been given to the regiment. At the same time he thought that the promotion on the recommendation of the general in command, of a non-commissioned officer who happened to be near his person in the field of battle would be a dangerous practice, because there might be other sergeants who did not come under his observation who might distinguish themselves equally well, but who, because they were not near the general, were not recommended for promotion in consideration of the services they performed. Thus a great deal of injustice might be inflicted; but under the circumstances of the case he confessed he regretted that the Government had not felt themselves authorised to grant promotion to Sergeant Sullivan. His next point was, that in time of peace sergeants could not arrive at the rank of sergeant majors 1204 under the age of from thirty to thirty five. In illustration of this, he found that the three sergeant majors in the three battalions of Grenadier Guards on the 1st of February, 1854, were of the respective ages of thirty- four, thirty- six, and thirty- nine years; the first having enlisted when he was seventeen the second when twenty, and the third when eighteen. But in juxta-position with whom was it proposed to place these non-commissioned officers, who he had been obliged to show to the House could not be supposed to possess any great share of education? They might be men of great intelligence, as no doubt they were, or they would not be promoted to the positions they held. Well, at the age of thirty or thirty-five, one of these men was put in juxta-position with an ensign, who, under the system of purchase, was allowed to join the army at the age of seventeen or eighteen. Suppose the ensign joined at the age of seventeen, and that when he attained his eighteenth year the sergeant major of thirty or thirty-five was promoted, what was the result? That the ensign of eighteen, with one year's experience, was superior in standing to the sergeant major of thirty or thirty-five promoted to an ensigncy with ten or fifteen years' experience? Did they think it would conduce to the happiness of the sergeant major to find himself in juxtaposition with a person so much his junior in the service, but who was much better instructed than himself in everything that was necessary to form an able and efficient officer? Assuming that in reading, writing, and arithmetic they might be equal, the young ensigns would know something of geography, of history, of the classies, of languages, and would possess a variety of information absolutely necessary in the opinion of mankind towards the formation of an officer, and of the whole of which the sergeant major so promoted would doubtless be ignorant. There was another point which had considerable weight on his (Colonel Harcourt's) mind, and it bore especially upon the social position of the soldier. Now, it did not always happen that because the non-commissioned officer was a good and intelligent officer, the wife was, therefore, the "better half." He would not dwell upon this part of the subject, however; but it was an important point with regard to the man's social position; and if his wife could neither read nor write, surely to elevate her to the rank of a gentlewoman would be to confer rather an in- 1205 jury than a benefit. A short time since he (Colonel Harcourt) called upon an officer in his old regiment, whom he knew to be a valuable man, and one of whom the regiment had reason to be proud. He had risen from the ranks, and for forty years had been in the situation of quartermaster. He (Colonel Harcourt) said to him, "What do you think of the promotions they have been sending out to the Crimea, of sergeants to be ensigns? Do you think it will be satisfactory to men?" "No," was the reply; "it will do them great injury, not only on account of the want of education, but because the pay is not sufficient, in the case of a married man, to enable him to support himself, his wife, and children. I know," he continued, "the case of a man who had a brother promoted to an ensigncy in the 71st Regiment, who, finding soon after his promotion that he was unable to maintain himself and family, actually died of a broken heart." In the case of the ensigncy recently sent out to the battalion of Grenadier Guards in the Crimea, whom did the House think it had been given to? To the sergeant major? No. To one of the drill sergeants? No. To the sergeant who had most distinguished himself in action? No. But to one of the junior sergeants in the battalion, because he was a single man, and those above him refused to accept it. The quartermasters are the only officers who, after thirty years' service, cannot retire on the full pay of their rank; they likewise would very much value, and they deserve, some distinction of rank. The quartermaster said, "I was 'Mister' forty years ago, and I am 'Mister' now." He (Colonel Harcourt) thought, brevet rank of lieutenant or captain might be given to these men for long service. They would take pride in it, and it would be an act of justice to them. It might be a very popular cry, "Promote men for meritorious service;" but, unless they could alter the character of that class of the population from which recruits were obtained, it must do them an injury with respect to their social position. Could any man believe that the inducements held out to persons entering the army at present were such that those who could get their livelihood in any other way would subject themselves to all the restrictions and discipline of the army, and pass through a service of sixteen years, upon the mere chance of obtaining an ensigncy, the pay of which would be insufficient to support 1206 themselves and their families? He perfectly agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last as to the beneficial effects of an Order of Merit, to which a certain pension should be attached, for he was not one of those economists who wished to spare the pocket of the nation when, by so doing, he should inflict an injustice upon the army. He thought that an appropriate mode of rewarding merit would be to confer those inferior appointments in the Tower, which were in the gift of Lord Combermore, upon this class of men. No doubt that distinguished and gallant nobleman had followed the example of his predecessor, the Duke of Wellington, in this respect, but he (Colonel Harcourt) could not shut his eyes to the fact that, at present, it was open to him to confer appointments of that description upon his butler. There was another class of appointments with respect to which he spoke with great delicacy, because he had no wish to interfere with the patronage of the Crown, especially under such a Sovereign as we were now blessed with—he meant the appointments in the Yeomen of the Guard and the Gentlemen Pensioners, which were at present given to a class of persons called "esquires" in The Gazette, and who were not suited for such offices. Those were not situations which should be held by such men, and he would infinitely rather that the appointments to them should be made upon the recommendation of the Commander in Chief than upon that of Lord Foley. On a former evening an observation had been made in that House about our soldiers "fighting under the cold shade of the aristocracy." He denied that that was so. Could they forget the brilliant charge headed by Lord Cardigan at Balakava? Did they not all remember how a gallant scion of the House of Percy distinguished himself at Inkerman, when fifty or sixty of his men becoming enveloped in a host of Russians, he rushed down the hill over which the enthusiasm of his soldiers had led them too far, and succeeded in rescuing and bringing them back? The owner of another aristocratic name, Colonel Cadogan, on the same occasion acted in a precisely similar manner. In time face of such facts as these, then, was it to be said, "that the soldier was fighting under the cold shade of the aristocracy?" He wondered that the blood of the noble Viscount had not mantled in his cheek with shame when he indulged in such an attack upon his own order. With regard to the 1207 Motion before the House, he should certainly oppose it, because he did not consider a Committee a fitting tribunal for inquiring into the questions that would have to be submitted to it; and he urged upon the Government the propriety of appointing instead of a Commission, consisting partly of general officers and partly of Members of influence and station in that House, to take the whole matter into their consideration, and report to the Government and the House thereon.
§ MR. ALCOCK
said, that, as a general rule, when a death vacancy occurred in the army the senior of every rank was allowed to succeed to promotion without purchase. It might be supposed by those who had read the report of the Naval and Military Commission of 1840, that the same rule was followed in the navy. Such was not the case, however, of promotion, and it was absurd to talk of the system in the navy as being equivalent to that in case of death vacancies in the army. He denounced the Report of the Commission of 1840 as a mockery and delusion, and he declared that if the Government did not alter the system of promotion which obtained in the navy they would deserve to be opposed by every honest man in the country. In the Baltic fleet last year several death vacancies occurred. The first was Commander Anderson, of the Cressy. Sir Charles Napier gave the step to the fourth lieutenant of Admiral Chads' flag ship, a lieutenant of 1849, and placed him over the head of a lieutenant of 1842. When such things could be done, the Report of 1840 was, as he had previously asserted, a mockery and a sham.
said, that perhaps the system of purchase, if it had never yet been established, would not now be adopted in the British army; but it was one thing to abolish an old established system, and it was another thing altogether to create a new one. The system of purchase, which was now called in question, had been part and parcel of the British army almost ever since that army had been established. He did not make that remark for the purpose of maintaining that the system was a good one, but he did it to show that it was inherent in the very existence of the British army as it was constituted at the present moment. He thought the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Reed) in introducing this question to the House had not altogether shown very clearly in what manner he would substitute a new system in its place. 1208 He proposed to abolish the system now in existence, and the only system he proposed to put in its place was promotion by merit. [Major REED: The Motion was to refer the subject to a Select Committee.] He was aware of that, but when such a Motion was made it was usual for the proposer to sketch the manner in which he would wish the subject to be dealt with, if he succeeded with his Motion. Now, what was the object which they all had in view? The object was the efficiency of the service of the State. How was that efficiency to be obtained? It was to be obtained in two ways. First, by getting young officers quickly put at the head of their regiments; and, secondly, by taking care that the poor officer should have a fair share of being brought forward in the rank of promotion. He would endeavour to show in what way the system of purchase was beneficial, not only to the State, but also to the army. It was beneficial to the State, inasmuch as the State saved a very considerable sum of money by the system of purchase. Although that was one argument, yet he did not mean to rely upon it. His reason was this—that if it could be shown that the system was a bad one, and demoralising to the army, he thought it the duty of the State to find money for the purpose of making a better system, and of improving the condition of the army. Therefore, although the State did save money by the system of purchase, he should not rely upon that as an argument. But that it brought young officers to the head of their regiments quickly, and encouraged promotion as rapidly as possible, he would shortly show to the House. It was a mere truism to say that the system of purchase naturally brought an officer to the head of his regiment. If they abolished that system, they must have a very largely increased list of retired full pay. The average service at which an officer arrived at the command of a regiment by the system of purchase was twenty-one years, or rather less. Now, what was asked was, if possible, to maintain that average, and, at the same time, to abolish the system of purchase? Therefore, if the system were abolished, it was evident that the retired full-pay list must be largely increased. He would state what was the number of officers of different ranks on full pay, in the year 1853, in the army, and what on retired full pay; and he would likewise state the number of officers of Artillery and Engineers on full pay in 1855, and what were on retired 1209 full pay. He took the year 1855 for the Artillery and Engineers, because in that year those bodies were increased, and he suspected it was not very likely they would be reduced again. In 1853 there were 248 lieutenant colonels in the army on full pay, and twenty-four lieutenant colonels on retired full pay; while in the Artillery, in 1855, there were only eighty-four lieutenant colonels on full pay, and there were forty-five lieutenant colonels on retired full pay. In the army in 1853 there were 247 majors on full pay and twenty-five on retired full pay. In the Artillery and Engineers there were no majors. In the army in 1853 there were 1,304 captains on full pay, and 114 on retired full pay; while in the Artillery there were, in 1855, 112 captains on full pay, and forty-five on retired full pay. Thus it was shown that in the army there was a large number of officers, with a comparatively small number on retired full pay; while in the Artillery there was a small number of officers, with a large number on retired full pay. Of the Engineers there were, in 1855, thirty-two lieutenant colonels on full pay, and twelve on retired full pay; sixty captains on full pay, and nineteen on retired full pay. The Commission which sat last year on the army and the Ordnance, stated that the charge for the retired full pay in the army for the present year was 44,103l., and was to be increased to 80,000l. The charge for the retired full pay list of the Artillery and Engineers, with not more than one-twelfth part of the number of officers on full pay, was to be 48,000l., being within 32,000l. of the whole sum appropriated for the same purpose to the army. This would show that, if there were a retired list for the army proportionate to the retired list of the Artillery and the Engineers, the non-effective vote that would be added to the Estimates would most materially increase the expenses of the State. But to revert again to the beneficial working of the system of purchase. It was evident that it must be beneficial to the army, for if you could infuse the energy and activity of youth into the service, by bringing officers in the vigour of life up to the head of their regiments, it was manifest that it must be beneficial to the army. And that it must be beneficial to the rich was equally manifest. But at the same time, he contended that the system of purchase was beneficial to the poor officer. And why? It was very easy to show that the system 1210 of purchase cleared the way for the poor man to arrive at the top of the list. Having by that means obtained his position, be received the first death vacancy that occurred in the next higher rank, and was promoted without purchase. Having served twenty years, he was afterwards enabled to sell his commission, which he had obtained without purchase. That officers did arrive quickly at the top of the list by means of the system of purchase might be shown in a few words, for during the year 1854 the average time that it took the poor officers to obtain their commissions and promotions, without purchase, was eleven years. It would appear, therefore, to be no great hardship that officers should gain promotion by purchase if such were the effect as to bring the poor men up so quickly to the top of their list. There was another manner in which the poor officer benefited. He could not afford to purchase, but he eventually got promotion without it; and upon his retirement the money he received for his commission put out at interest, available for his own purposes, and allowed the capital to accumulate for the benefit of his family at his death. If that advantage were taken away, it might be said that there would still be the retired full pay, and that that was an equivalent. But a poor officer, who was married, looked beyond his own life, and wished to leave something to his family. It was said, indeed, that these men came to the service knowing what the service was—that they were aware that purchase was the rule, and, though they might suffer in their feelings at seeing officers getting over their heads, yet they must be aware that, were it not for that system, they would have been double and quadruple the number of years in arriving at the same position which they had already attained. He thought the time selected for bringing this Motion forward was not a very promising one. One would almost think, from the debate a short time ago, and from what he had heard to-night, that purchase was so completely the rule that there was no exception to it. Now, non-purchase formed a very large exception. It was constantly occurring, not only in time of war, but in time of peace. In 1853—a fair year, because it was at a period before the war—there were seventeen lieutenant colonels promoted by purchase, and thirteen without; twenty majors were promoted by purchase, and twenty-two without: and there were 146 captains 1211 promoted by purchase, and 120 without. In the year 1854 fourteen lieutenant colonels were promoted by purchase, and forty-four without. The number of officers who obtained their majority was 125, of whom twenty-eight were promoted by purchase, and ninety-seven without; of those who obtained their captaincies, 168 obtained them by purchase, 394 without; and during that year the number of first commissions obtained by purchase was 358, to 437 obtained without. The statistics of the year 1855 also showed that the number of commissions obtained by purchase was less than the number obtained without, and it therefore appeared to be clear that promotion without purchase was not so very uncommon. In the year 1847 he had moved for a return of the number of non-commissioned officers promoted to commissions during the ten years from 1836 to 1846, and it appeared from that return that 376 had received commissions, of whom 245 had been promoted to cornetcies or ensigncies, and 131 bad been made quartermasters, so that it appeared that during that interval the average number of non-commissioned officers promoted annually was thirty-four, and could it then be said that promotion from the ranks was a particularly uncommon occurrence? it was, on the contrary, evident that the system of purchase admitted of very large exceptions, and he himself was very glad that such was the case. The number of persons promoted to lieutenant colonelcies from the 1st of January 1840, to March, 1855, was 357, of whom 169 obtained their commissions by purchase, and 188 without; and out of the 169, ninety-three obtained their majorities, and fifty-seven their captaincies without purchase, so that the whole number of officers who had purchased all their steps was only forty-nine. Considering that a Commission had sat last year to investigate the subject of promotion in the army, he thought it highly inadvisable to disturb so much of the settlement of the question proposed by that Commission as related to purchase. That Commission had caused great hardship in the case of many of the older officers of the army, but it had established a new system after lieutenant colonels had increased the retired full pay list, and had strongly recommended the increase of the staff as a means of promotion and recompense. These would give greater opportunities for promotion than existed before, combining the action of promotion and 1212 non-purchase with all the advantages of the one, and none of the disadvantages of the other. With regard to the substitution of merit for promotion, he was as much alive to the necessity of calling merit into service as any one. He had, indeed, been long the advocate of a system of efficient examination; for he admitted that as yet that system had been nothing but humbug. The system at Sandhurst, for instance, was most inefficient; so much so, that he knew a man who had lived all his life in France, and who spoke French as well as a Frenchman, to be turned back because of a trifling grammatical mistake. But, at the same time, the question of merit was one of a most difficult nature to deal with. How was merit to be detected in time of peace? It was easy enough to detect it in a time of war, for it proved itself; but in a time of peace was a lieutenant colonel to be sent before a board for examination? Or for the lower examinations, how could it be decided upon an examination of half-a-dozen young men, who might all answer equally well the questions put to them, which was to be promoted on the ground of merit? Then the man promoted because of his apparent fitness might be, as was often the case, the man of all others least fitted for command. Promotion by merit was, however, by no means incompatible with the system of purchase. There was, in fact, no more difficulty in selecting men of merit from among those who might buy their commissions, than from those who might obtain them through the means of examination. He would, therefore, graft the system of merit upon the system of purchase, and by increasing the retired full pay list give room for the promotion of young and active officers to the head of regiments. The hon. and gallant Member who brought forward the question had mentioned the case of George Brown. Of that case he (Colonel Lindsay) knew nothing of his own knowledge; but he thought, assuming it to be the case as stated by the hon. and gallant officer, that this part of the system ought to be relaxed, and that death vacancies occurring on the field should be filled up by the senior officer, if he was qualified for it. If it was so, he thought it ought to be the last case of the kind that should happen. Under all the circumstances, he wished the House to pause before it interfered with the operation of the Commission of last year, or deprived the State, the army, and the poor officer of the ad- 1213 vantages conferred upon them by the present system.
said, in reference to the case of Lieutenant George Brown, 95th Regiment, that thirty years ago, when he (Colonel North) joined the army, the father of that deserving young man was colour sergeant in the 11th Regiment. That most respectable man had given his sons the best education in his power, and he (Colonel North) was happy to say they all proved themselves most excellent and worthy men. He rose on the present occasion because he thought the remark of the hon. and gallant Member (Major Reed), in reference to this point, was unjust to Lord Hardinge and to the Horse Guards, when he set down the want of promotion of Lieutenant George Brown to the want of influence of that young man. Lieutenant George Brown, who had distinguished himself greatly at the battle of the Alma, was recommended for promotion by Lord Raglan, but, unfortunately, the recommendation arrived too late. Last week, however, Lieutenant George Brown's father brought him (Colonel North) a letter in which the fact was announced, and in the margin of that letter was a remark which did the greatest honour to Lord Raglan, who, it was untruly said, cared nothing for the sufferings of those under his command. In that letter Lord Raglan expressed the deepest regret that his recommendation had arrived too late to procure the promotion of this officer. Lord Hardinge had also expressed a similar regret; and he (Colonel North) felt confident that Lord Hardinge would take the earliest opportunity of carrying out that recommendation. The noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) who brought forward the question on a former night, spoke of the spirit of the army being depressed by the present system of promotion; but he (Colonel North) put it to the House whether there had ever been an army with a better spirit than that manifested by the British army? A great deal had been said of the French system of promotion; but the French had the conscription, in the first place, which brought young men of all classes into the ranks; and, in the second, the ranks of the French army were largely recruited from the students of the military schools, who might have failed to pass the severe examinations required for officers in the French service, or who, for some other cause, chose to enlist in the ranks. Very few officers in that army rose from the lowest ranks in point of fact. 1214 No doubt some were promoted for bravery and distinguished conduct in the field; but so, likewise, were men in the British army. Where, then, was the wide difference? The noble Viscount had said, also, that the bullet was the great leveller which created good feeling between the officers and men. He (Colonel North) believed that it there was ever good feeling between the officers and men—good feeling and mutual respect—it was in the English army. The greatest kindness was shown to the men by the officers, and the greatest attachment to the officers by the men. It was this feeling, and not the bullet, as was asserted by the nobles Lord, that was the great leveller. With regard to the system of promotion by purchase, he (Colonel North) felt astonisned at the remark of the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans), that provided a man had 6,000l., and was of sufficient age, he was certain to be placed at the head of a regiment. That was most unfair to Lord Hardinge and every Commander in Chief. If a civilian had said it, there would be nothing extraordinary in it; but the hon. and gallant Officer knew very well that there was a half-yearly inspection, and that the Commander in Chief was guided by the confidential report of the general officer made after the inspection of the regiment, and could not pass over an officer who was first for promotion and who was reported as fit for it by that general officer. If a man possessed 6,000l., therefore, and was also fit for command, there was no reason why he should not be promoted by the Commander in Chief; but the fact of having the money would not insure him his promotion, if in other respects he was not fit for it. He (Colonel North) should not have risen but for the mention of the case of Lieutenant George Brown, that most worthy, distinguished, and excellent young officer, who it would give him the greatest pleasure to see gazetted to a company in the 95th Regiment. If, however, the question before the house came to a division he should give it a decided negative, not only from his own intimate conviction of its inutility, but also because of the strong arguments against the principle urged in the speech of the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) on a previous occasion.
§ Mr. W. WILLIAMS
said, he had no recollection of having made such a speech. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Lindsay) had given the House a list of 1215 promotions to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, which seemed to show that there was a larger number of officers of that rank than could possibly be employed in the army. The hon. and gallant Member, however, did not mean to say that these promotions took place in a regiment as regimental promotions? [Colonel LINDSAY: Yes, I do.] With regard to recent promotions, it was perfectly well known that many of the staff officers were not under fire, and yet they were raised over the heads of the regimental officers who fought in the late actions. The hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite had not dealt at all with the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend (Major Reed), who sought only a fair inquiry, either by a Commission or by a Committee. They had touched upon the promotion of non-commissioned officers to commissions, and he could perfectly understand their feeling in favour of the present system, as they were men of rank and station, connected with the aristocracy, with plenty of money to purchase every step they wished. But the country was dissatisfied with the system, and he was convinced some change must take place before they could make the army as efficient as it ought to be. Hon. Gentlemen spoke of the courage of men of high rank. No one disputed their courage. They were equal to other men, and other men were equal to them. They were all brave Englishmen together. But when allusion was made to Inkerman, that was generally admitted to be the battle of the private soldier, in which neither generalship nor the lead of officers was concerned. It was a fight of man to man, shoulder to shoulder, and was won by the bravery of our troops, which was never exceeded on any occasion. Reference had been made to the case of sergeant majors, who seldom attained that rank until they were thirty or thirty-five years of age. That was because no promotions took place; but if deserving sergeants were advanced they would have much younger sergeant majors, and the sergeant majors would eventually obtain commissions. The present system was actually a bar to the advancement from the ranks, except some great battles were fought, such as those in the Crimea, and unless the system were changed it would make the army unpopular. He wished to hear some explanation from the hon. and gallant Colonel as to the promotions he had quoted.
said, he spoke in 1216 the first instance of various lieutenant colonels who became lieutenant colonels in 1853, in 1854, and in the first two months of the present year. In 1853 there were seventeen; in 1854, thirteen; and in 1855, two, by purchase, and a few less without purchase. All those officers were serving regimentally, except those who had unfortunately been killed. He spoke of a larger number—of 357, but they were promoted during the period from 1840 to the present time; speaking in round numbers, 160 being raised by purchase, and 190 without purchase; but the whole were promoted regimentally, in regiments, to the rank of lieutenant colonel, not one by brevet. With respect to the Guards, they paid 4,800l. for the rank of lieutenant colonel, as compared with 4,500l. for the same rank in the line, and he could assure the hon. Member in the numbers quoted there was not a single instance taken from the Guards.
said, since the subject had been mooted by the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) he should for once be obliged to agree with him in respect to the promotion of the staff after the battle of Inkerman. Nothing could be more extraordinary than such a promotion, when it was very well known that not a single officer on the staff was engaged in that action. Nay, he could point out, if it were not invidious, that some of the officers promoted had not even been in action or under fire. He was informed that the return did not include the whole of the promotions. He knew not where it had been compiled, whether at the Horse Guards or elsewhere, but it was certainly not complete. With the exception of Colonel Claremont, who was with the French army, the Prince of Saxe Weimar, and Captain Estcourt, the number of officers who actually fought at Inkerman, and who were promoted, only amounted to twenty-five. If he left out the general officers, he found the number of staff officers promoted amounted to fifty-four. A statement like that, he considered, required no comment. There was one other circumstance which he could not pass over on account of its importance. He hoped in the remarks he was about to make that it might be clearly understood he was actuated by no unfair feeling to any class of officers—he wished to give every one that which was fairly his due. But the circumstances that were connected with the warrant issued after the commission of 1217 last year, involved such a monstrous piece of injustice that he felt it his duty to mention it to the House. In that warrant four very junior major generals received promotion for their services—they were made commanders of regiments. Now, with all due deference to the authorities who made this selection, he must say that it displayed great injustice towards many old officers who had served through the Peninsular war, and who had done their duty faithfully and honourably. These officers were put aside in order to give remuneration to the officers he referred to. Now, if it were intended to give officers a reward for distinguished services, he thought the best way would be to give a suns of money, for the question was really one of pounds, shillings, and pence, the pay of a general officer having a regiment being 1,000l. a year, and that of a major general only 400l. a year. It was this additional pay and promotion that old officers were looking forward to. And if it were determined to show favour to officers who had distinguished themselves in the Crimea, they ought to have been put on the increased pay list, and, when promoted to be general officers, this increased pay to cease. But, at all events, it was manifestly unjust to pass over officers who had served in every clime, and who had behaved in a meritorious manner under every circumstance. Such a course as that adopted was calculated to deprive them of their just rights, and in making these remarks he did not make them with any invidious feeling towards those distinguished officers who were recipients of the boon, but he made them in justice to meritorious officers who had been unfairly passed over. With respect to the Motion, he thought it would effect little practical good. The Motion was worded in such a way as to leave the Committee no option, and further, he must say that this was not the exact moment to press such a Motion; if, however, any step was to be taken, it ought to be taken by a Commission under the authority of the Crown rather than by a Committee of that House. He was not, however, very much enamoured of these Commissions, as the last Commission had not acted quite fairly in his opinion.
§ MR. LAING
said, that, if this Motion had been made this time last year, when the country was under the delusion that it had, if not a large army, at all events an army admirably adapted to the purposes in 1218 view, it would have been said, "the system of officering the army works well in practice, why should you disturb it for the sake of any theory?" But recent events in the Crimea, while they had proved the gallantry and courage of our officers and men to be even greater than had been believed last year, had also proved that the army, taken as a whole, as a great machine, was very far deficient in those qualities they had a right to expect. This was, therefore, a reason why inquiry at the present moment was peculiarly desirable. To a certain extent this was a money question, but at the present moment the people were prepared to make whatever pecuniary sacrifices might be necessary to put our army upon an effective footing. For nearly half a century back public opinion, in deference to the Duke of Wellington, was never for one moment brought to bear upon the constitution of our army, but now that events had forced the matter upon public attention, it was found that both the constitution and the officering of our army were repugnant to the principles of common sense, and that a thorough and comprehensive inquiry was needed, not into this or that branch of the subject, but into the whole system of officering the British army. The Motion of the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) was negatived the other night, but it elicited some remarkable admissions, which established the position that a comprehensive inquiry ought to be made. In the first place, the noble Lord at the head of the Government said that, if the system of promotion by purchase were not now in existence, no man in his senses would think of introducing it into the army. The right hon. Gentleman, the late Secretary at War (Mr. S. Herbert), admitted that, though an educational test for commissions in the army might not be perfect, yet, as a choice of difficulties, it would be a better system than that which now existed. The hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans), whose opinion was one of the highest authority, he having commanded not brigades merely, but independent armies, in two or three consecutive campaigns, also insisted upon the necessity of a change in our system. The authority of foreign countries was equally strong. He would not refer to France, but to countries which possessed an aristocracy and gentry more like our own, and where the armies were officered from these ranks. In these countries we did not find a sys- 1219 tem of purchase. In the Austrian army the officers were almost exclusively gentlemen. The Sardinian army had been found, during the war with Austria, in 1848–49, to be defective in its organisation, and the Government set to work to make it more efficient. The Sardinian Government appointed a Commission to examine the military system of all other countries, including our own. Did they thereupon adopt a system of purchase? No; they retained the system of looking to the nobility and gentry for the staple and basis of the officering of the army, and they superadded the promotion from the ranks of a certain limited number of non-commissioned officers. The Government of Sardinia also instituted an educational test of great stringency, as a criterion of fitness for such promotion. If they looked at the question apart from authority, it was found to be opposed to the plain broad principles of common sense. Let the House look to the practical working of the present system in the case of a man who adopted the army as a profession, and who looked to rise to the command of a regiment. Such a man must command a sum of 6,000l., which he must be able to afford to invest in a speculation yielding no commercial return, besides running the risk of losing his whole capital by death and other contingencies, upon the occurrence of which he never got a penny of his money back again. The effect of such a system was to limit the army in a great degree to the wealthy classes of the community—to that class who could afford to spend 5,000l. or 6,000l. in buying their steps in rank. He knew of his own knowledge two young men, who, being at Sandhurst together, and passing satisfactory examinations, obtained commissions without purchase. One, whom he would call "A," passed a "very distinguished" examination, while "B" passed a "good" examination. "A" got his commission first. They both obtained promotion to a lieutenancy, through a death vacancy in the same order. "A" rose to the top of the list for captains, but he had not got the money to purchase. "B" had the requisite funds, and he tot the step and rank of captain. In eight or ten years "B" attained to a high rank in the army, while the other, who had highly distinguished himself, remained a broken-hearted and disappointed man, lost to himself and lost to his profession. That was an instance of how the system worked. In the first 1220 place, it had the injurious effect of rendering the officers of the army amateurs instead of practical professional men. The majority of officers were men of wealth, position, and standing in the country, who took up the army as an agreeable profession, in which to spend a few years, and never looked upon their regiments as their home. When in the prime of life they sold out, because they married, came into large property, or had duties to discharge which required their presence elsewhere. He did not deny the extreme gallantry of our officers. If the whole business of warfare consisted in leading men to the charge, they would stand unequalled in the world; but the real business of warfare required something more, namely, a practical knowledge of the details and working of the system, such as feeding, clothing, hutting the men, and many other requisites. The experience of the past few months certainly led the country to believe that our army, though admirably officered as regarded gallantry, was deficient in other and most important respects. In other branches of life what were amateurs compared with professional men? What was the amateur jockey compared with the professional jockey? The man who made a profession his sole business, and studied all its details, was the man in whom the public would feel confidence. There was, however, a still more important point in which the present system stood in glaring contradiction to the common sense of the country. In all other professions and employments the one test of efficiency and success was promotion according to merit. In all the business concerns of life promotion by merit was the mainspring of excellence and efficiency, except in the service of the army. If a merchant, possessing a large establishment, were to attempt the purchase system in the appointment of his clerks, how long would it be before his name appeared in the Gazette? If a railway company adopted the same system in the appointment of servants to take charge of the express train, what length of time would elapse before a verdict of manslaughter would be returned against them? The mainspring of all the business affairs of life was a rigid system of promotion by merit, and the chances of a man rising by that means from the lowest to the highest position greatly conduced to the proper and efficient working of the system. In all professions except the array —even in what were called the genteel professions—for instance, the law and the 1221 church—promotion went by merit, and men were led to make the greatest exertions by the prospect of distinguishing themselves and of rising to eminent positions. A point of vital importance for consideration in this question was, how they were to get men for the army, and in order to obtain men, it was necessary to render the army popular rather than unpopular. At present, taking the opinion of the majority of the middle and working classes in respect to the army, could it be fairly said that the army was a popular institution among them? They did not come forward to enter Her Majesty's service with that readiness which was desirable; but, on the contrary, when a man found that his son had enlisted into the army, his uppermost feeling was one of sorrow, and almost of humiliation. It was not the case with the navy, nor with any other profession; but with regard to the army, it was felt that the man who had enlisted had thrown himself away, and that the position he had chosen was almost a degradation to him. Certainly that was a feeling which ought not to exist in the country, especially when education had, to a great extent, smoothed down and levelled those sharp distinctions which had formerly existed between different classes of society. In other branches of life instances were continually occurring of men advancing from a humble position to the upper ranks; but it was rarely the case in the army, though the letters which had recently been received from private soldiers in the Crimea evinced a gentlemanly feeling and a highly creditable state of education, and proved that a judicious and more liberal promotion from the ranks would inspire a praiseworthy emulation among the men and be highly advantageous to the service. It might be said that it would be difficult to find a substitute for the present system, but, though that might be a forcible argument to a Motion to abolish the system altogether, it hardly applied to a Motion which was limited merely to inquiry. The time was come when Government ought to take the matter up, and institute a general and comprehensive inquiry into the system of officering our army, when an attempt should be made to eradicate those evils and place our army on a more popular footing, a footing on which the military career might be open to talent, in which money would not be the sole test of capacity, by which the army might be composed of gentlemen, but of poor gentlemen, who would study it, attach themselves to it, and make themselves 1222 thorough practical officers. Combined with that they might have an amount of promotion from the ranks sufficient to render the army popular, and to throw open the career of arms to a larger class of the community than at present.
§ LORD LOVAINE
said, he thought the hon. Member who had last spoken had made out no case for the destruction of a system which had produced an army that had beaten every army ever opposed to it in the field. He was not one of those who believed that such a body as the British army, composed of so many persons entertaining different ideas and opinions, could ever be compelled into anything like the unity of action which was induced by such systems as those adopted by mercantile or railway companies. He denied however, that there was any ground for the accusation of the hon. Member (Mr. Laing) that the officers of the British army were incapable of discharging their duty, he thought that accusation was most unwarranted. On the contrary, ender circumstances of peculiar difficulty and danger, they had performed their duties in a manner which had elicited the general approbation of their country. He (Lord Lovaine) denied that it was the fault of time regimental officers of the British army that their men in the Crimea had not been properly fed and hutted. He knew that many of those officers had laboured with their own hands to feed, to clothe, and to assist their men. Not a word of complaint had been breathed against the regimental officers with regard to the state of affairs in the Crimea, but the mismanagement was attributed to officers who had passed the position in which they could be promoted by seniority, and who had attained a rank in which they could only be promoted by merit, or, in other words, by favour. The hon. Gentleman had said the officers of the English army were not fit to discharge the duty of company officers or commanders of regiments, because they were merely amateurs; but this was a most gratuitous assumption. Why did not British officers remain long in the army? Because they could not hope to attain a rank which would reward them for their services; and if the House abolished the system of purchase they would preclude officers from attaining any considerable rank in the army until they were utterly worn out and incapable of service. It was, however, impossible to please some hon. Gentlemen. On the one side it was said that promotion by 1223 purchase was an abominable system; on the other hand it was maintained that there must be young officers in the ranks; and it was useless to prove, as had been shown again and again by the hon. and gallant Member for Wigan (Colonel Lindsay), that unless the purchase system continued the junior rank of officers could not be kept in anything like a safe condition, but must be clogged with men who were unable to discharge their duties. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Laing) had referred to the constitution of foreign armies; but he had omitted to mention that in all countries, except England, the armies were raised, as a rule, by the system of conscription. Men from every rank of life were forced into the service in foreign armies, and it followed as a necessary consequence, that the system of promotion in those armies was based upon a very different footing to that which existed in the British army. The hon. Gentleman, however, was probably not aware that the complaints with regard to the system of promotion in foreign armies were quite as general and as loud as in the British service. If the hon. Member visited the French army in the Crimea, and asked the soldiers what was their chance of promotion or decoration, they would reply, "A certain number of our men are promoted by seniority, but for every man promoted on that principle another is promoted by merit or by favour," and he (Lord Lovaine) could assure the hon. Member for Wick that merit and favour were so completely blended that it was extremely difficult to draw a line between them. The officers of the army in the Crimea, to whom blame had been attributed, were those who did not obtain promotion by the system of purchase, for they were officers of the Medical and Commissariat departments. "Oh," it was said, "no wonder the Commissariat has broken down, for the Government make the appointments, and they trust to their own nominees." But, would not the same complaint be made with respect to the army generally if all the promotions were in the hands of the Government? With regard to the medical department, he must say he thought it had been very severely handled. Doubtless that system had its defects, and the officers had allowed themselves to be tied up by regulations more closely than they ought to have done, but he could not forget the enormous labour and responsibility which had been suddenly thrown upon the department, and, if it 1224 had failed, it had certainly failed under circumstances of unparalleled difficulty. They had been told the army was unpopular, but he begged to remind the House that recruits had lately been entering the ranks of the army by hundreds, while the measures to obtain seamen for the naval service had not been so successful. When complaints were made of the inefficiency of the Commissariat, it should be remembered that that department had been almost annihilated by the parsimonious economy of late years, and that when officers were required for the Crimea, only one old man could be found who was at all acquainted with the routine duties of the service, the details of which were necessarily entrusted to new and inexperienced hands. It was unfair to compare the army of England with that of France or of Austria, because for the last eight-and-twenty years our army had not been on a warlike footing, or fighting on a foreign soil, as the armies of those countries had been. There was nothing more easy than to find fault, but it was rather difficult to act without fault, or to point out the proper remedy. The army was now exposed to circumstances of great difficulty, and whatever might be the desire of hon. Members to stand well with their constituents, he doubted whether at this moment, when the country was engaged in war, they ought to entertain a motion like the present. He should certainly vote against it.
said, he thought that if by chance any stranger should be in the House, he would be struck with the singular course which their debates had that night taken. They opened with a grand proposition to reconstitute the kingdom of Poland, and, in spite of the power of Austria, of Prussia, and of Russia, to re-establish that kingdom on its ancient limits; but after a few moments the House subsided into a more practical vein, and an hon. and gallant Member got up to address them who described our army as totally disorganised, as unfit for any purpose whatever, and requiring to be re-established de novo—there being in fact no army, in the right sense, at all. Now this certainly contrasted very curiously with the previous debate. The hon. and gallant officer (Major Reed) who brought forward this question, complained of the system of promotion in the army, and stated that all the errors in promotion arose from the system of purchase. If any one inquired rightly, however, he would find that the system of 1225 purchase had very little to do with the errors of which the hon. and gallant Member complained. He (Lord Seymour) had no preference for purchase, and if asked how he would constitute an army for the first time he should certainly not declare in favour of that system. But when we were told that we must do away with purchase, and have promotion by merit, he would ask hon. Members what was meant by merit; how were we to get at it; and who was to be the judge of merit? Was it to be the officer in the command of the army? There was lately a promotion of the staff, and we heard immediately that these were the very promotions that should not have been made. But who made them? The commander of the army, who ought to know best the merits of his officers. Then, was it to him the judgment of merit was to be left? Certainly not. Was it to the Government? He should like to see the unfortunate Government that would undertake promotion by merit. Why, every time a man was passed over we should have ten or a dozen Members rising in that House to defend an absent man, and the cause of a meritorious officer, whose merits had been overlooked by the Government, and his whole career in Canada, or some other of the Colonies, would be brought forward in justification of the complaint. Look again at the case of the navy. The promotions in the navy were for a time said to be by merit, and what stopped it? The influence of that House. The House of Commons interfered, and carried it in favour of seniority again. So would it ever be where there was a representative Government. It might have been easy enough for Napoleon, at the head of his army, to select men by merit. It was his interest to have the best men, and he had the eye and discrimination to choose them. But if they looked into his history, they would find that great difficulties beset him in his endeavours to give effect to the system. The jealousies and envyings of the different marshals led to many of his troubles in Spain, if not to the defeat of his power in that country. A most important question was, how were we to get at merit? In time of war it was difficult; but what was meant by merit in time of peace? The hon. Member for Wick (Mr. Laing) said we must have examinations; but by whom was a lieutenant colonel to be examined? How long would such a system last in this country? In the Commissariat there was no preferment 1226 till the attainments of a candidate were tested by trial and examination. There was a perfect system of probation and inquiry established, so as to make the selection of officers depend on the recorded merits and services of the past. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had the power of choosing the officers by merit, and he believed the duty was very impartially done; but in time of peace it was extremely difficult to choose on this principle. The noble Lord opposite had spoken of the unsatisfactory state of the Commissariat; but in time of peace how was it possible to distinguish those qualities that were required in war? When the Committee on the Army Estimates was sitting, Lord Raglan, then at the Horse Guards, told them that as for attempting to make a good Commissariat for war in time of peace, it was out of the question—it could not be done; and he believed that what Lord Raglan stated had been borne out by facts. They were told to look at the military system in France; but, if we adopted the French mode, we must also adopt a different system of retirement. We were told that the present system had totally failed, but he did not see that our officers had in any way failed. On the contrary, he thought that they had behaved admirably. It was said that at Inkerman there were no generals. If on the field of battle at Inkerman it was so dark that a man could not see four yards, there was not much room for generalship; but the question was, how did the officers perform their duty? He believed that they discharged their duties well, and that they fought most gallantly. In the Artillery there was no purchase, and that had been complained of as a great evil. They were told, moreover, that there was no branch of the army where officers so old and infirm remained fixed in the service. Yet it was proposed to adopt throughout the whole army that system which had been found to fail in the Artillery. The Duke of Wellington stated before the Commission that when he was Master General of the Ordnance in 1823, he allowed a certain number of officers to sell out, in order to get new blood into the service. To effect the improvement he desired, he was obliged to adopt that portion of the purchase system that consisted in sale, in order to get certain men removed from their places. He thought that before Gentlemen brought forward a subject of this kind they ought to read the evidence that had been pub- 1227 lished upon it, so as to enable them to deal with the first principles of the question. This was not a subject on which hon. Members should make mere declamatory speeches, but what was wanted was to deal with it as a practical question, and see what really could be done. He must say that he objected somewhat to that speech made a short time ago upon this subject by the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster. The hon. and gallant Member had commanded a division with great gallantry, and his conduct had met with the approval of every one in the country and in the army; but when he made that speech, he (Lord Seymour) could not help feeling that he was not listening to the general commanding a division, but to the Member for Westminster. The hon. and gallant Member's position as a representative appeared to interfere with the view which, as a military man, he otherwise would have taken. With regard to the Motion before the House, there was something of what might be called an Irish look about it; for it affirmed the very point which it called upon the proposed Committee to inquire into. Whatever might be the result of the inquiry, the Motion directed the Committee to recommend a more efficient system for securing promotion to merit and long service. Now, if the result was to be anticipated, the House might as well be spared the trouble of making another blue book and the labour of the inquiry. It was right that this subject should be brought forward and discussed, but he did not think that any ground had been laid for the appointment of a Committee.
§ MR. LOWE
said, he quite agreed with the noble Lord that this was eminently a practical question, and it was perfectly true that before any Gentleman presumed to address the House on it he ought to make himself acquainted with the documents to which the noble Lord had referred. He (Mr. Lowe) had done so, and therefore he took the liberty, with great humility as a civilian, to offer an opinion in the matter. After much careful examination, it appeared to him that the proposed Committee should be granted. In the first place, it appeared to him that the previous Commissions and Committees had all been held under circumstances very disadvantageous for a fair and impartial examination of the subject, because they were held under the overpowering influence of that illustrious man who then presided over the affairs of the army. It 1228 was quite clear to any one who examined the evidence given before the Commissions of which the Duke of Wellington was at the head that all the witnesses spoke as if appalled by the genius of the man before whom they spoke, and to whom they bowed with submission and deference. The witnesses did not take the trouble of addressing the Commission generally, but directed their evidence individually to the noble chairman, as if fully impressed with the necessity and duty of conforming to the opinions of the illustrious Wellington. To every question it was answered, "Your Grace knows this;" "My opinions coincide with your Grace's." That was the style in which most of the eminent military officers gave their evidence. Now that that great man was lost to the country—a great and irreparable loss—let the House see whether it might not obtain some compensation in having such a free inquiry as the overpowering eminence of his name and character previously prevented. There appeared to be ground for inquiry in the fact alone that there existed three several modes of promotion—by seniority, by purchase, and by favour. Those modes could not all be equally good, and therefore it was worth while knowing which was the best; and if it turned out that all three should be simultaneously employed, it seemed worth ascertaining whether they were all now employed in the right way. He maintained that there were peculiar merits and defects in each of those modes of promotion, and that it was now so contrived that they were all employed at the greatest disadvantage, whereby the good derivable from each was minimised and the evil maximised. The great merit of the system of seniority was, that whatever collateral evils it might carry with it, it did justice between man and man, as the circumstance of age was common to all. The defect was that the system, though fair to individuals, was fatal to the service. It created, instead of a list of men fitted to discharge the duties supposed to be annexed to their respective ranks, a mere pension list—a list of men whose title to receive pay was no indication of their capability to perform the duties annexed to their stations. Promotion by seniority had a tendency to make the service inefficient, and to encumber it with old and effete officers, who had outlived the power of discharging the duties for which they received pay. When, therefore, was the proper period at which the system of seni- 1229 ority ought to be applied? Obviously, when men were young, if at all—when even the seniors were not worn out. But that was not the practice. At present the system of seniority was banished from the junior ranks almost entirely, and applied to the senior ranks, all above lieutenant colonels being promoted by seniority. Therefore, the system of seniority was used at the very greatest mechanical disadvantage, where it produced most of the evil it was calculated to effect, instead of being applied where it would do the least. Then, with regard to the system of purchase—that had a good and an evil side also. The good was, that it enabled inefficient persons, or men having no taste for the profession of arms, to get out of it, and relieved the army of them. The system of purchase was not advocated as good in itself, but as being a corrective of the evils of the system of seniority; and the system of purchase, however defective in theory, was held as a relief in respect to the system of seniority, which would otherwise become intolerable. Consequently, the system of purchase should be applied when officers were growing old and effete, but, in practice, it was applied in exactly the reverse manner, when men were young and vigorous; and when they were growing old and exhausted, and would be likely to avail themselves of the system of purchase, then it was abandoned and the system of seniority was adopted. Then, there was the third system of promotion, by favour; in which there were also good and evil. The evil was, that the person who promoted by favour might appoint unworthy people; and the good was, that the system afforded the opportunity of promoting worthy people, whom routine would keep from rising. But the power of the Crown to promote men by favour had been restricted up to a recent period, till they were almost past the age for service, and no selection could avail, therefore he maintained that all the three different modes of promotions had been employed exactly at those times of life and periods of service when they were least likely to do good, and most likely to do mischief. All this was matter, therefore, for inquiry. He preferred to argue the question on abstract grounds rather than with reference to the conduct of the army; for if the question were argued on the latter ground it was likely to be swamped by general laudation, and the answer to all objections would be 1230 indiscriminate praise. He recapitulated the merits and demerits of the different modes of promotion, and observed that the system of purchase, though it afforded facilities for getting rid of inefficient men, had this evil with it—that, as it enabled men to leave the army, receiving back every farthing of money which they had paid for their commissions, it taught them to regard the profession not as me to which they must be attached for life, in fact not as a profession at all. Thus, though the British officers were, in intelligence and general education, perhaps superior to the officers of any other army, they were not so well educated in military science. With respect to their courage, that had been shown on a 100 fields, and brilliantly in the course of last year; but the effect of this system of purchase was that when the officers were called on to endure extraordinary hardships and misery, they, having once given proof of their courage in facing the enemy, felt a desire to retire from a profession, a retreat from which was always open, and that accounted for the numerous applications which they had heard had been preferred to Lord Raglan by officers for permission to leave the army in the Crimea ender the melancholy circumstances of the recent campaign. Then, again, the notion of a commander in chief, or any other functionary, fixing the price of an article, without regard to and in defiance of the laws of demand and supply, was entirely contrary to every principle of political economy. But for an officer to give more then the fixed price was by the regulations declared a misdemeanor, so that an officer who rose in the service must do so by a series of misdemeanors, punishable by fine and imprisonment. It was said that commissions were never put up to auction; but while that might be strictly true in fact, he appealed to hon. and gallant Members to state whether, when there were three officers in a regiment open to purchase, it was not the practice for one of the three to give the other two a sum of money not to buy? Now, was that a proper mode of dealing with promotion in tie army? The noble Lord who preceded him was exceedingly anxious that, where meritorious men could be found, they should be promoted from the ranks; but what was the use of promoting men from the ranks unless you gave them the full benefit of their profession? It was all very well for them to obtain such promotion in time of war, when 1231 advancement might be rapid, but in time of peace it was a mere mockery to tell the soldier you were opening a career of honour to him by raising him from the ranks, when the want of money closed his further promotion. If they wanted to make the army a professsion like law or medicine, they must hit upon some device, not merely for promoting the soldier from the ranks, but which should also make him feel that his first promotion might lead to indefinite promotion. It would be unnecessary for him to allude to the question of favour, for that was a thing universally condemned. Favour in theory generally meant merit, but he was afraid that in practice merit meant favour. He believed a remedy might be found for the evils complained of under the present system, which, though certainly expensive, would yet be worth all its cost. No cost, indeed, could be too great to enable this country, in the present state of the world, to maintain an army in a high state of efficiency. The introduction of steam had broken down our old defences, and to supply their place we must give to the army an organisation which would place it in a position to compete with the world. During the long time of peace we had sold, as it were, our sword and buckler, and we must buy them back at any price. The free institutions of this country forbade the adoption of the conscription of foreign nations, but we must have a system which would equal it in efficiency, and which would have as powerful effect on the will as that compulsory process. We must have a system, in fact, under which the private soldier, if properly educated and properly conducted, would have open to him, as in foreign armies, the prospect of rising to the highest honours of his profession. For her future defence England would have to trust to an army organised on some system of this kind—an army, moreover, no longer scattered over distant colonies where they were not needed, but concentrated in a compact phalanx at home, ready to meet any enemy who might menace her shores. Not to be a mere dilettante on this question, he had endeavoured to frame some specific plan by which the objects desired by all might be obtained. It appeared to him that up to the rank of captain there was no difficulty whatever, it was there that the pinch began; for, as there were only two majorities to every ten captaincies, eight captains of course were left to be disposed of. Up to the rank of 1232 captain he saw no objection to the system of promotion by seniority being adopted, provided that at each step every officer should undergo an examination sufficiently strict to satisfy the examiners, that he merited his promotion. After this rank he would suggest that all should be considered staff appointments, which should be, as now, in the patronage of the Commander in Chief, subject to this condition, that no appointment should be given to any officer who should not have been promoted for extraordinary gallantry, or who should not have passed such an examination as to satisfy the examiners that he was a fit person for such appointment. The board of examiners he would have sitting at stated periods, and any officer should have the privilege of presenting himself before it for examination. He did not mean to say that this system would of necessity create great commanders, but it would at least secure us from having officers placed on the quartermaster's staff who did not know a vertical from a horizontal line, or from having officers sent to act in concert with the French army who did not understand a word of French. It would prevent the possibility of inexperienced young men being placed in positions where the lives of hundreds might depend upon their capacities for duties with which they had never before had the slightest acquaintance, and secure our armies from being commanded by men altogether ignorant of their duties. He of course did not expect that great genius would be secured by that means; but he was firmly convinced the plan would insure talent and efficiency. It might not produce great generals, but it would provide able officers, and he certainly considered that it was worth the cost of trying. The adoption of a system of this description would of course necessitate the abandonment of the system of purchase for the future, and when officers at present in the army, who had purchased, desired to leave the service the country of course would have to buy their commissions from them. This, no doubt, would be a heavy expense, but if no other difficulty stood in the way, any number of millions, he believed, would be well spent by a rich country such as this, in organising an army to which it could implicitly trust for the defence of the immense wealth which it had amassed. It had been urged before, by the Duke of Wellington more particularly, and he had no doubt it would 1233 be urged again, that the present was an excellent system, because under it the country got the services of officers gratuitously. True, if we could always be sure of getting good service for nothing the system would be an excellent one, and the bargain a good one for the country, but was it in human nature that it should he so? Would any hon. Member in that House, engaged in mercantile pursuits, be willing to accept the services of a clerk who would work for nothing? The Duke of Wellington, in the memorandum which he laid before the Committee, so often referred to, put the case in this way;—the colonel of a cavalry regiment paid 6,115l., the regulation price, (he really pays much more) for his commission—the interest on which, at 4 per cent, was 247l. per annum. His pay was 419l.—the difference between this sum and 247l. was 172l., which was therefore the actual sum he received for his services. "Look what a good bargain this is for the country," said the illustrious Duke; but he (Mr. Lowe) on the contrary thought it a very bad bargain, and for this reason—the country paid—419l. a year to the colonel of cavalry for his services; but this sum was divided into two parts—the man in command, who did all the work, got 172l.; and the man who had sold out, who was out of the service altogether, and did no work at all, got 247l., something like two-thirds of the money thus went to the non-effective part of the service, and the rest to the effective; and this was the way in which the greater part of the army was paid. 419l. was no great salary for a merchant's clerk, yet this was the sum we gave to a lieutenant-colonel; and indeed this scanty remuneration was subject to heavy deductions, so that, in fact, such an officer served the country gratuitously, and perhaps even at a pecuniary loss to himself. He had only one more remark to make. The noble Lord the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour) said that promotion by merit in this country was impossible—that Napoleon had promoted his officers on that principle, which might indeed be followed in foreign countries, but could not be adopted in England. Let them seriously consider what that statement, if true, amounted to. It amounted to this—that we were to fight with foils against men with sharp swords; that we were to fight by means of officers chosen, at best, by a happy accident, against an enemy who selected his officers by merit, and with the most earnest desire 1234 to secure the services of the best men that he could commend. It amounted to this—that whereas a despot could have a perfect sympathy with the country he ruled over, the House of Commons, the representative Chamber of a free country, and the Government which that chamber appointed, had no such sympathy with this nation; that whereas the Emperor Napoleon, or the Czar Nicholas, felt so keenly for the honour of his country that no considerations of family influence, or friendship, or favouritism were suffered for an instant to weigh with him, but were sacrificed without remorse to the paramount object of getting at the fittest men to lead his armies, the House of Commons of Great Britain, the chosen of the people, who were apt to boast of their intimate connection with their constituents, of a nearer and deeper sympathy with the feelings of the people than could possibly subsist between a despotic sovereign and his subject slaves, had so little sense of honour, so little sentiment of patriotism that, if a Minister, for the public good, for the welfare of the country, and perhaps for its very preservation, dared to break through the ties of family and the influences of personal friendship, they would place an insuperable obstacle in his way, and say that it should not be done—that England might perish, but commands in its army must continue to be jobbed or distributed by favouritism. This was not to be believed until the experiment had been tried and had failed. Until this had been done, nobody had a right to say that Representative Government was unable to cope with despotism in this respect. To what were we to trust for the preservation of the country from year to year, unless we resorted to the principle on which every man in this country conducted his private affairs, and which was adopted by those absolute Governments which we looked down upon? If we could not do that, then the question came to this, was England any longer to exist as an independent State, or should the House of Commons be swept away? And if driven to such a fearful alternative, he for one would be prepared to say—"Let England be independent, and let the House of Commons perish."
said, he thought that the speech to which they had just listened showed that an hon. Member, as intelligent as the hon. Member for Kidderminster, yet unaccustomed to military details, 1235 might read blue books, and yet afterwards display considerable ignorance of the subject to which they referred. He had listened very attentively to the hon. Gentleman, but he was really unable to discover what his views were upon the subject. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Lowe) had very freely and didactically criticised different modes of promotion in the army, and condemned every one of them in succession, but he had not vochsafed any explanation of his own views of how promotion should be conducted. The Committees of that House which had sat on questions relating to the army had not, as was alleged, been so much overruled by the influence of the late Duke of Wellington as by a spirit of false and fatal economy; and from the speeches that had been delivered that night it might reasonably be doubted whether the appointment of a Committee on promotion would do much for the future efficiency of the service. The regular practice in the army was, that if an officer was ready to pay the regulation price no man could be promoted over his head; and, therefore, the instance of hardship that had been adduced against the present system in the course of that discussion resolved themselves into mere accusations against the noble Lord at the head of the army in his administration of that system. No officer would defend the principle of purchase in the abstract, nor, if we were for the first time forming an army, introduce it into the system; but before it could be entirely done away with, the House must first make up their minds to vote large sums of money, in order to buy up existing interests, and also to pay the army as it ought to be paid, and it was not likely they would be disposed to do either the one or the other when the question came before them. No man could say he was sincere in his wish to abolish the system of purchase who was not prepared to vote at least twenty millions to remunerate vested interests. Why, at the present moment the Government were actually selling commissions on their own account, and yet nobody denounced it, because the proceeds brought a balance to the Exchequer, and tended to reduce the half-pay list. Well, now that was just the feeling which stood in the way of abolishing promotion by purchase; but still the fact was, the system was not to blame for our disasters in the Crimea, because, in spite of its many objections, it had produced good officers. They might talk as they pleased of applying commer- 1236 cial principles to the army, but it was a feeling of honour and a laudable thirst for glory which inspired the British soldier to advance to the cannon's mouth, and no mere sordid calculation whether he could thereby secure 400l. a year. What the army really complained of was, that officers were selected for the staff who were not qualified for it, and then promoted without possessing any peculiar merit. A return recently obtained showed that out of fifty-one promotions of captains forty-two were given to the staff. This was a substantial grievance which ought to be redressed. Our failures were not due to the existing system, but rather to the maladministration of the heads of the civil departments of the army, whose offices should be intrusted to competent military men, and then the system might be expected to work satisfactorily. If that change were made, he should be sorry to see the system of the French army substituted for our own. No other army in the world but the British would have endured so much suffering in the manner which our officers and men had done. The Government sent an army into the field without a Commissariat, or any of the other indispensable adjuncts, as if it would only have to go through a promenade militaire, and, when failure naturally resulted from such mismanagement, they turned round and made absurd and unjust complaints against the regimental officers. He was not opposed to reform in the army, but he did not believe, whatever hon. Members might say to the contrary, that the House, or even the country, would be willing, if put to the test, to vote 5,000,000l., or some other large sum, which would be absolutely necessary, in order to effect an equitable abolition of the system of selling commissions.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, if every one of the seven sleepers, whose history we have read could have happened to wake up, after their many years' slumber, and, being ignorant of what is passing in Europe, had come suddenly into this House to be present at this debate, judging from the speeches we have heard, they would have gone away with the melancholy conviction that this country had sustained some great military disaster, and that we were on the point of being conquered by some great military power, and that this House, with Roman or even with Spartan fortitude, were deliberating in the midst of impending disasters, upon the best means to be adopted for saving the 1237 state from threatened destruction. But what, Sir, is the real state of things? Has our army sustained defeats in the field? Have our officers shown themselves unequal to the duties which they have had to perform? Have we, as represented by my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster (Mr. Lowe) found the people of this country unwilling to enlist themselves under the banner of their Sovereign to vindicate the honour of the country and to maintain the contest in which we are engaged? Looking at our army, we find that it has achieved as great success as at any former period of our history. Instead of finding the people of this country hang back and shrink from the engagement of the military service, there never was a time at which so many brave men have offered themselves to be enrolled in the ranks of our army. As far, therefore, as any change is demanded for the purpose of encouraging the people of this country to enlist, I say that no change is required, because the enlistment is going on with the utmost rapidity, and with the greatest possible success. But then it is said that the system which now exists is fatal to the army by depriving it of a proper supply of regimental officers, for it is in regimental organisation, be it observed, that this system of purchase and sale exists. Now, Sir, I undertake to say that there never was in the history of the world a set of men who so nobly and efficiently perform their duty as our regimental officers. What is the test of the good conduct of officers? Why it is, in the first place, to obtain the goodwill of their men—it is not only to share with their men in the dangers of the fight, but to endure with them all the privations and sufferings to which the service may expose them. Now, I ask, have our officers ever shrunk from their duty in the field of battle? Have they not led their men to victory in conquests in which more honour and glory have been reaped than almost ever fell to the fortune of arms on any former occasion? I say that the manner in which the men followed their officers, and the manner in which the officers led the men, proves that there existed between them a community and brotherhood of feeling which is the result of reciprocal confidence in each other, and which shows that the officers are worthy of the men, as the men are worthy of those who are placed at their head. Well then, have the officers shrunk from those sufferings and priva- 1238 tions, which never were exceeded, and which probably have been seldom, if ever, equalled? Why, we know very well that the soldiers of the army in the Crimea, when asked about their own sufferings, have said, "Well, it is true we are suffering much, but our officers are sharing the same suffering with us—they are not so accustomed to hardships as we are, and while they are suffering without complaint, it is not for us to be murmuring at what we undergo." So far as the motion of the hon. and gallant gentleman (Major Reed) is founded upon the experience of what the army is, I think that the grounds on which he had attempted to place it, entirely fail. I admit, as I have done on a former occasion, that if we were planning an army for the first time, it is not likely that we should propose to establish it upon a system of purchase and of sale. But there it is; and even those who have endeavoured to point out the evils which they attribute to the system, have shrunk, when they came to the point, from suggesting the only way in which it could be got rid of. The hon. and gallant gentleman who has brought forward the subject seemed to me to steer studiously clear of making any suggestion as to what method should be adopted to amend what he conceives to be a vicious and inefficient system. But we all know that there is only one way of getting rid of it; and that is in the manner which has been suggested by others, namely, that the country should buy up the commissions which have been bought and paid for by the officers of the army. If the evils of the present system were so great and so pregnant in their consequences as to make it worth while to the country to incur that large expense, it might be done. But let not hon. Gentlemen go away with any erroneous impression that such a system can be put an end to without a great pecuniary sacrifice. Although the system is open to objection in point of principle, yet it is admitted by all, that practically it is not without some advantages. The system of promotion by seniority leads to a great accumulation, in the higher ranks of the service, of men who from age and infirmity are incapable of performing the duties which belong to their position. That is admitted to be a very great fault in those branches of our service in which seniority alone exists, and in which purchase and sale do not exist—in the Artillery and Engineers, for instance. Now, in the service in which there is no purchase and sale to remove 1239 those who are desirous of retiring, the only way in which accumulations can be prevented is by placing upon the retired list of pensioners to the State those officers who reach a certain age, and who it must be assumed from their age are no longer fit for active duty. That system was adopted in France. I believe that, in the French army, officers sixty-five years of age are placed on the retired list, and I remember hearing it said that when the regulation was proposed to Louis Philippe he observed that he would adopt it for the army, but he hoped that his Ministers would not advise him to pass a Royal Ordnance making that rule applicable to Kings. That system no doubt would, to some degree, exempt the principle of seniority from the disadvantage of loading the upper ranks in the army with a great number of men advanced in life; but, on the other hand, it would entail a considerable expense on the country, and would frequently deprive it of the service of men quite able to perform active and efficient duties. One great advantage which is represented as likely to accrue from the abolition of purchase and sale is, that men would be certain that promotion would go by merit. Now, in the navy there is no purchase and sale. In the navy, therefore, we might expect to hear that the system of promotion was free from any possibility of cavil and objection. But the moment the navy is mentioned, up get naval officers on both sides of the House and complain that promotions all go by favour, or affection, or interest—by every mode, in short, except by a due appreciation of the merits of the respective candidates. That, then, is the state to which the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman would tend to bring the army. The fact is, that when you say that promotion should go by merit, nothing in the world is easier than to make such an assertion; but nothing in the world is more difficult than to carry such a system into practice. If you would establish a rule that promotion should go by stature—that no man should be promoted who did not stand six feet high—that promotion should go by physical qualities discernible by the eye—it would be easy in that case to establish a rule, and to ensure its most rigid execution. But what is merit? Merit is opinion—merit is the opinion which one man forms of another. Well, but the man with whom it may rest to exercise a judgment forms his opinion of the merits of the different candidates from the appointments 1240 which may be vacant; but his opinion is sure to be disputed by a great many disinterested judges, and certain to be denied by all the friends of the persons who are unsuccessful candidates on the occasion. Therefore, the idea that by any human system merit can ensure the selection of persons for appointments, civil or military, who shall be universally acknowledged to be appointed for merit alone, is a Utopia which it is perfectly vain for anybody to hope to see established in this or any country whatever. It is a great mistake to suppose that in the armies of the Continent no murmurs relative to promotion arise, and that no fault is found—that in the French army, the Austrian army, the Russian army, the Prussian army, every man is satisfied that every appointment is filled by the most deserving, and that there exist no complaints on the part of the unsuccessful candidates. If hon. Members labour under that impression, I can assure them that they are mistaken, and that there are as many complaints that favouritism and not merit leads to promotion as we hear in this House when these subjects are brought under discussion. I am much disposed to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Kidderminster, who, reviewing the three systems by which promotion might take place—namely, purchase, seniority, and merit—seemed to condemn each and all. He seemed to make out that they were all vicious; and although he did not supply the thought, his argument tended to show that you ought to abolish all. What is to be substituted in their stead I do not know, unless he imagines that a combination of the three would by some chemical process neutralise the vicious propensities of each, and bring forth a neutral salt freed from the acid which appertains to each of there methods in a separate form. I believe the fact to be, that there is no such practical evil in our regimental system as to render it absolutely necessary for the country to make great sacrifices to get rid of it—that it could not be got rid of without great sacrifices—and all that I think desirable is, that we should lay the foundation for the more general instruction of our regimental officers in those staff duties which are not to be learned simply as a matter of form, but the knowledge of which is essentially necessary for the good conduct of operations in the field. When I deny that there has been any inefficiency on the part of the regimental officers, if I 1241 am asked to what I attribute those sufferings which have, in some degree, been endured by our army in the Crimea, I would rather not give my opinion on that point, but remind the House that there is a Committee now employed in investigating those very circumstances, and I must say I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Major Reed) would do better to wait for the report of that Committee, which, no doubt, will probe the matter to the bottom, and which will tell you, when they have finished their inquiries, the cause of those unfortunate mischances which have occasioned so much suffering—unnecessary suffering, in my opinion—to those gallant men who are now employed in the Crimea. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman has not laid any sufficient ground to induce the House to adopt the course which he recommends. But I have a further objection to his course of proceeding. I think it is not in harmony with the proper principles of our constitution. After all is said and done, without meaning in the least degree to question the power of this House to take into its consideration any matters of public interest, I beg them to recollect that the command of the army is, by the constitution of the country, vested in the Crown, and not in the House of Commons. Now, Sir, the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman seems to be founded on the assumption that the command of the army is vested in the House of Commons, and that a Committee of this House is a proper tribunal to consider matters purely regarding the practical administration of that army. I think we are very apt to lose sight in some degree of our proper and useful functions. I do not think there would be any advantage in appointing a Committee to take into consideration those questions connected with the interior economy of our army. I think that such inquiries ought to be made by a Commission emanating from the Crown and reporting to the Crown, which report might afterwards be communicated to the House of Commons for any purposes for which the House might require it. But I think this House is not the authority which ought properly to institute any inquiries of this kind. That being the opinion which I entertain on this subject, I certainly cannot consent to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The discussion which has taken place may be useful in pointing out to the Government certain matters for consideration. I can assure the House 1242 that Her Majesty's Government will be always glad to hear suggestions, and will anxiously desire to profit by them, as far as they can do so consistently with the public advantage. But with that reservation I must certainly give my opposition to the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman.
§ MR. RICH
said, the hon. and gallant Gentleman who brought forward the Motion included in it a recommendation that the Committee should recommend a more efficient system of patronage. He was inclined to vote for the first part of the Motion, but he would suggest to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it would he better to omit the latter. At the same time he must observe that he had listened in vain for any reason for the maintenance of the present system. If the system of purchase were applied to the Church, it would be called simony; if to the civil Government, it Would be termed corruption; and if to the bench, venality. Why, then, should they apply it to the army? An hon. Gentleman had spoken of the difficulty of discovering merit. if that were a good argument, why not extend it to all the services of the State? He denied that the present system gave them young generals. At the commencement of the war the average age of the lieutenant-colonels was forty-seven years and a half.
§ MR. P. O'BRIEN
said, that, although he did not pretend to know much of military matters, still he knew that the expenses of an infantry or cavalry mess were such as to make it a great hardship, in the present state of things, for any sergeant from the ranks to be promoted to the position of a commissioned officer. This, he thought, that at least it formed a fitting subject for inquiry by a Select Committee, and the House ought not, therefore, to refuse the Motion. At the present time there was before the country the great and glaring fact of the want of an efficient system of promotion in the army, and the hon. and gallant Member who had proposed the appointment of a Committee to inquire into that subject was well deserving the support and sympathy of the House.
§ MAJOR REED
said, all the opposition to the Motion had been hung on the late Motion of the noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield (Viscount Goderich), against promotion by purchase. That was not his (Major Reed's) Motion. He only said that the system of promotion by purchase was unfair to the soldier. Some hon. Gentle- 1243 men said he had offered no alternative. He could only say that he was not presumptuous enough to stand there, as one of the youngest Members of the House, and with his small military experience, to say that such a system was bad, and that they ought to adopt some other system. All he said was, let the House appoint a Committee, and let the Committee have before them men of experience, and let them report to the House. He regretted that he had not had the honour of being supported by Her Majesty's Government; but there was one satisfaction, it was a thing he could survive. He should be happy to give way to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich), and would withdraw the latter part of the Resolution, directing the Committee to recommend a more efficient system.
§ Original Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion made, and Question put,
That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the present mode of conferring Appointments in the Army (by purchase or otherwise); and to report on the same.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 70; Noes 104: Majority 34.