HC Deb 11 July 1856 vol 143 cc682-4

said, he trusted he might be allowed to say a few words on, a subject which concerned the peace and good order of a large portion of the empire. The House had heard within the last few days that one regiment in Her Majesty's service had been in conflict with three others in the open field; they had seen that a town of some importance in Ireland had been in the possession of mutinous troops; they had been informed that four of those soldiers had been shot in action, while twelve or thirteen on each side were said to be wounded, yet no notice whatever had been taken of the subject in that House. An Irishman might perhaps be pardoned, then, for calling attention to so fearful a state of things. He had taken the liberty several times of calling the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War—who was not now in his place, though he (Colonel Dunne) had given him notice that he should bring the question forward—to the mode of disembodying the militia. He had been in communication with the colonels of Irish militia on the subject, and they had together pressed upon the Minister for War the hardship suffered by men who were discharged from their regiments without money and with no clothes, except a light undress uniform. The noble Lord at the head of the Government, than whom no man in the country better understood military details, took the subject into consideration, and stated in that House that the men should have a gratuity of 14s. on being disbanded. That was a most satisfactory answer. All those who had made representations on the subject were averse from granting the men, on leaving their regiments, more money than was absolutely necessary, so that they might not be led into dissipation; but they also knew very well that they had recruited from a class of men whose ordinary clothes were destroyed, and who would go from their regiments without a halfpenny in their pockets. That had actually been the result. In England there had been a great deal of bungling about the militia regiments, and almost all the colonels of those regiments had received different orders on the subject of the gratuities. Instead of giving the men the promised 14s., orders were sent round to give them a portion of the bounty, which was issued at the rate of 5s. a quarter, and in some regiments the men got 4s., with a part of the bounty. Now, the payment of the bounty was spread over that period, in order, no doubt, to induce the men to return to their standards, while the gratuity was to be given, because without it the men would have starved. That, as he had stated, was the course pursued in England, and he knew that in many instances the colonels of militia had given the men money out of their own pockets to carry them home and support them. Orders were sent to disembody the Irish militia, and he would beg to read an extract from a letter he had received from the officer left in command of his own regiment, which would show how the men were treated:— We are only authorised to give the men the proportion of bounty up to the day they leave, which is very hard, as many of them have left with only a few pence in their pockets, and unless they get immediate employment they must go without food. The Tipperary Militia were treated in the same way; they were ordered to give in their clothing, and, though he knew too well what military discipline required to defend such a breach of it as had been committed in this instance, he thought it was very natural on the part of men, who had very little other clothing, to object to such an order. The regiment then became so mutinous that General Chatterton, an experienced and humane officer, had to bring up other regiments against it, and the House knew what had followed. Now he looked upon the War Department as responsible for all that had taken place. Had they sent over the proper order that the men should purchase clothes, and should be fed until they got into work, or if the declaration of the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had been carried out, this lamentable affair would not have occurred. There were many other regiments to be disbanded, and the peace of the country would be disturbed in many other parts of Ireland if the Government did not do justice to the soldiers. He admitted that in this case severe punishment must be inflicted on the offenders, but would it not be much better to exercise a little more common sense and humanity before such scenes were allowed to take place?


said, there was a general feeling in Ireland that the men had not been fairly treated. They bad been given to understand at the outset that the £6 bounty would be paid at once, instead of which it had only been paid by instalments of £1 a year or 5s. a quarter, and then the payment of the miserable instalment of the bounty was substituted for the promised gratuity. There was a rumour that the War Minister intended altogether to override the assurance given by the noble Lord at the head of the Government; but he hoped that the noble Lord would not allow it, for the conduct of the men had been most admirable.

Motion agreed to.

House at its rising to adjourn till Monday.