HC Deb 16 June 1856 vol 142 cc1513-33

said, he would now beg to propose the Motion of which he had given notice— That this House do resolve itself into a Committee to consider of an humble Address to Her Majesty, praying that she will be graciously pleased to direct alterations to be made in the rules of the Military Service, and in the Warrant of March, 1856, to the effect that the regulation value of the Commissions of Officers in the Army, who shall have died of cholera or fever, in active service during the late War, may be paid to their representatives, and deemed part of their personal estate, and to assure Her Majesty that this House will make good the same. He would not go over the grounds of justice and of right which, he maintained, the widows and families of officers who had fallen in the service of their country during the late war had upon the generous consideration and liberality of that House; but he held that the warrant issued from the War Office in March last operated most grievously and unjustly against them, and contrary to the desires of the House, as indicated when the hon. and learned Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Headlam) brought forward his Motion on the subject. On that occasion the noble Lord at the head of the Government promised that steps should be taken for enabling officers to make such a disposition during their lifetime, that their families might either receive the amount of the value of their commissions in actual money, or by way of pension or gratuity. But the warrant of March confined the beneficial intentions of Her Majesty to two classes of officers only—namely, those who had fallen in the field of battle, and those who had died of wounds received in battle; and altogether excluded a third class, whose claims were certainly not less deserving the attention of the House—he meant those who bad fallen victims to disease or pestilence, fever or cholera, contracted in the service of the country, and who might have left their wives and families in the same position as officers who had fallen at the head of their regiments on the field of battle. Upon what grounds of justice such a distinction as this was made he was utterly at a loss to imagine. He held in his hand a copy of the Gazette which contained the despatch of the late Lord Raglan, giving an account of the battle of the Alma. In that despatch the noble Lord described the gallant behaviour of Colonel Tylden and Major Wellesley on the occasion, and added the expression of his deep regret that both officers had subsequently fallen victims to cholera. Now, under the terms of the warrant of March last, the families of those two brave men were precluded from claiming that remuneration for the large sums of money they had invested in the purchase of their commissions, which if it had been the will of Providence that they should have been struck down on the field of the Alma, they would have been entitled to receive. But these he could inform hon. Members were not the only cases of the sort. Quite the contrary. He (Mr. Grogan) had himself had the honour of knowing a gallant officer, now no more, who also distinguished himself at the battle of the Alma. He had the fortune to escape the bullet and the bayonet on that occasion; but it was, nevertheless, his lot to fall a victim to cholera afterwards—he alluded to Lieutenant Colonel Hoey, of the 30th Regiment. That gallant officer was only thirty-nine years of age at the time of his death. He joined his regiment in time to march with it to Varna. He had purchased all his commissions with the exception of his lieutenancy; consequently, according to the regulation price of the army, he had invested at least £4,000 in commissions. He went to Varna in full possession of his health and vigour; but there be became sick with fever; still, with the spirit of a true soldier, he refused the advice of his medical attendant to seek the ease and comfort which the then state of his health would have warranted him in seeking; and, when the order came for the army to move, he passed over with his gallant corps to the Crimea. Again, on the landing of the troops at Eupatoria, he refused to delegate the command of his regiment to another, and was present at the battle of the Alma, where, as Major-General Pennefather stated in a letter which he had written to him (Mr. Grogan), Colonel Hoey led on his corps against the Russians, and organised his line under fire after passing the river in the most gallant manner. That brave officer served in the division of the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir D. L. Evans), who, he doubted not, would also bear testimony to his exemplary conduct. Well, he survived that conflict, only to fall a victim to the cholera, brought on by exposure to the weather, and the severity of that dreadful flank march on Balaklava, nine days after. Yet his family, too, were excluded from the operation of the warrant of March; and he (Mr. Grogan) again asked, upon what grounds of justice or honour a distinction could be drawn between the cases of officers who had gallantly sacrificed their lives in the field of Alma or Inkerman, and those who, like Colonel Hoey, had behaved with equal gallantry at both, but subsequently fell victims to a disease against which it was impossible to guard. For his part, he saw no difference whatever between them. The officers he had mentioned had all of them spent considerable sums in the purchase of commissions, and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) had, in a former discussion, admitted that the Government derived a benefit from the sale of commissions, and he had also stated that the Government had taken advantage of the vacancies thus occasioned to confer commissions, without purchase, on such persons as non-commisioned officers, sons of distinguished officers, and young men who had passed creditable examinations at the military colleges. Now, all that was very good in itself; but it ought not to be done at the expense of the families of individual officers. He complained, moreover, that the warrant of March 1856 had not fulfilled either the terms of the Motion of the hon. and learned Member for New-castle-upon-Tyne (Mr. Headlam), or the promise which the noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) had given in accordance with the obvious wish of the House on that occasion. The debate on the Motion of the hon. Member for Newcastle-on-Tyne was a very interesting one; and after that hon. Gentleman had consented to leave the question in the hands of the Government, the noble Lord the First Minister of the Crown rose and, explaining some observations he had made previously, said that what he meant to have said was, that he thought it would be right for a regulation to be made by which, as was correctly stated by his hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle, it should be optional with the officer to determine in his lifetime whether, in the event of his falling in action, the family should receive the allowance or pension now given by the regulation, or in lieu of that receive the value of his commission. A more distinct promise than that they could not have, and he now would beg to ask the hon. the Under Secretary for War if any warrant had been issued to that effect, and if so, when? Would the hon. Gentleman say that the warrant of March fulfilled that engagement? If he did, he (Mr. Grogan) begged to differ from him, and to tell him that so far from that, he considered that it had completely evaded and frustrated the expectations not only of that House but likewise those of the army. He observed with some surprise that the words "distressed circumstances" were used in the warrant; and that, he felt assured, was as contrary to the wishes of the House as it was to the engagement which the noble Lord had expressly entered into. An officer falling in battle left, say two, three, or four sisters, who applied to the authorities for repayment of the purchase money which their brother had invested in his commission; but in order to obtain that they must state that they were mainly dependent upon their brother for subsistence. Suppose the officer to be an ensign in the army. His pay was 5s, 3d. a day, and if those ladies applied for the repayment of the £450 he had paid for the purchase, they were required to state that they had been mainly dependent upon him for maintenance and support. Now hon. Gentlemen must be well aware that it was perfectly notorious that the pay of an ensign was not even enough to enable him to keep up his position in the army, much less afford assistance to the members of his family. Why, such a requirement as that was nothing short of an absolute denial of justice. But the noble Lord declared that an officer should have power to direct in his lifetime whether, in the event of his falling in action, his family should receive the allowance or pension now given by regulation, or, in lieu of it, receive the value of his commission; but by the warrant of March the wishes of the House and the country, and the expectations of the army, as he had already observed, were completely frustrated, whilst the cases in which the purchase-money was to be returned were only those in which the widows and families of officers dying on the field of battle were in distressed circumstances. It should also be borne in mind that the hon. Under Secretary for War himself, when speaking on this subject on a former occasion, stated that the large sums which officers were compelled to pay for their commissions were, as it were, a sort of "caution money." Caution for what? For the faithful, honourable, and gallant discharge of the duty which their Sovereign and their country had imposed upon them. Now surely when they had performed their share of the engagement by laying down their lives, it was only right that the country should return the "caution money" to their families, and that even upon the interpretation of the hon. Gentleman himself. He did not like to use the word "misconduct" in connection with officers of the British army; still it was well known that there had been cases in which, from some circumstances or other, it was considered desirable to dismiss officers from the service; but even in those cases the parties had been allowed to sell out, and receive the regulation value, if not a great deal more, of the commissions they had previously purchased with their own money. The officers in behalf of whose relatives he (Mr. Grogan) now raised his voice, however, had not committed acts which warranted their dismissal from the army; on the contrary, to the last hour of their existence they had discharged their duty to their Queen and country to the best of their ability; yet they were denied the right which was conceded to those who were considered no longer worthy to continue in the service. The injustice had not escaped the notice of the late Duke of Wellington, who, writing to the late Lord Hill, said, in substance, that it was idle for officers in the British army to expect promotion without money, and the interest of money so invested was infinitely less than any annuity office would give them. He (Mr. Grogan) complained of the warrant also, because it was not interpreted retrospectively. It was true that officers already dead could not elect between the increased allowances and the return of the value of the commissions; but their widows and families were able, and ought to be permitted, to make that choice. Now, how had the restriction imposed by the warrant of March operated? Let him refer once more to the case of the late Colonel Hoey. There the widow, for the benefit of her children, proposed to forego the increased pension offered to her for her husband's gallant conduct, on condition of receiving the purchase-money paid for his commissions, and was refused. That was the way the warrant was carried out in that instance. He (Mr. Grogan) believed that the number of officers killed in the service of their country in the last war was 179, with about 100 additional officers who lost their lives in the service of their country. Out of that number, however, the cases of only sixteen were deemed worthy of receiving the bounty of Her Majesty under the provisions of the warrant in question; while of the Guards, whose gallantry all persons knew, there was only one officer included in the warrant in the whole brigade, the late Lieutenant-Colonel Brooke, although twenty-six lost their lives during the contest. The object of the Motion was, on the principle of justice, to extend the principle of the warrant to the cases of all officers who lost their lives in the service of their country. It should be borne in mind that numbers of officers who had distinguished themselves in the late campaigns, were at the present time suffering under latent disease contracted in consequence of the cantonments selected for the army. No just ground could be shown why the widows and orphans of officers who had perished from fever or from cholera should be exempted from the operation of the warrant; and he therefore hoped to hear from the Government that the narrow interpretation which had been put on it would be extended to such cases.


said, the Motion of the hon. Member was informal, and could not be put in the shape in which it stood.


said, under those circumstances, he must withdraw his Motion, but in doing so he must express a hope that his object would not be lost through a mere technical irregularity.


said, he entirely concurred in the views of the hon. Gentleman on the whole question which had been brought forward by him, and would even be in favour of extending the consideration of Government much wider than the hon. Gentleman had proposed. He could not understand why the State should not refund the money expended by officers on entering the service merely because they had not died in action. That was one of the anomalies of the system of purchase, and nothing but long usage could have induced the Government, while continuing such a practice, to deprive the relatives of gallant officers, at the time they were deprived of those they depended on, of the money they had embarked in the service. The warrant of March last had created great disappointment in the army; and, indeed, it had been surrounded by so many restrictions and exceptions as to have scarcely operated at all in favour of the army, except in a very few cases. He therefore trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would see that this was a question of feeling and of equity, and that he would return an answer on the present occasion which would be satisfactory both to the House and the army. Those persons who died of disease died in the camp, and were just as well entitled to the consideration of Government as those who had died on the field. The whole case was one that deserved the attention of the Government, and not merely of the War Department, and the more especially at present as the system of purchase was in a state of semi-condemnation.


said, that he, like many other Members of the House, had been spoken to by the relatives of several of the officers who had fallen by disease, and who had been reduced to great distress by their death. It was highly necessary, therefore, to see whether anything could be done to relieve the sufferings of these individuals by the addition of some words which would clear up a warrant that had received a very different interpretation in the army from that put upon it by the Government. He thought that between the cases of those who had fallen in front of the enemy, and of those who had fallen by fatigue or disease, almost in the field, and often in the very camp itself, there was but little difference, and the smallness of the distinction might well excite a doubt of its propriety. There was another subject he was desirous of mentioning to the House in connection with the army, and that referred to the pensions which were granted for distinguished services. These were not conferred for life, it would seem, but if the officer who had got such a pension afterwards realised his commission, the pension was immediately withdrawn. As an instance he would mention the case of Colonel Simmons, of the Ceylon Rifles, who had distinguished himself so much that he got a pension of this description; but as that officer sold out and retired, the pension, to his great annoyance, was withdrawn from him at the same time. He thought that a very hard thing, that an officer could not retire from the service but he must be deprived of the reward of his own previous distinguished services.


said, he wished to bring under the consideration of the House the injustice inflicted upon old and distinguished officers by the retrospective action and practical working of the army warrant of the 6th of October, 1854, laying down the rules regulating the future promotion of the army. He thought the case of officers' families alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member who had preceded him was one of very great hardship, especially their having to sign the certificate necessary for obtaining the advantages of the warrant of last March. In the case he would suppose of a sister of a subaltern officer applying, before she could derive any advantage from the application she would be obliged to swear, in the terms of the certificate, that she was unmarried, in distressed circumstances, and mainly dependent upon her deceased brother for support. Now how any Government could call upon a lady to swear that she was mainly dependent for support upon a brother whose pay amounted only to 5s. 3d. a day was inconceivable. It was, moreover, a positive insult to the lady to ask her to do so. The same was the case in respect to other relationships, and, therefore, he hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would act upon the promise he had made in the matter. With regard to the warrant of the 6th of October, 1854, previous to the issuing of that warrant, officers who had attained the rank of lieutenant-colonel in the army could not be passed over except by an officer who had been aide-de-camp to the Queen. The number of general officers, moreover, was unlimited. By the warrant in question, however, they were limited to 234, and its working was such that the number of general officers at present exceeded that number by about fifty-four, and no general officers could be appointed until three of the senior officers of this number had died. It was no doubt intended that the higher commands in the army should be held by younger men—a view in which he fully concurred; but in carrying that object into execution, every possible care should be taken that the interests of those who had a right to promotion should not suffer. In the present instance, however, many distinguished officers had been passed over by men who had entered the army long after they had attained some military rank; because, to be a full colonel, the warrant made it imperative that an officer should have served in command of a regiment for three years, or, rather more strictly speaking, for two years and nine months; a month in each year being allowed for leave of absence. But the consequence of that regulation had been, that those who had obtained the rank of lieutenant-colonel previous to the 20th of June, 1854, had been passed over by a great number of officers who were juniors to them in the service and in promotion. For instance, Colonel Dargan, who held a majority in 1846, in the war of the Punjaub, and for distinguished services, was afterwards promoted to be lieutenant-colonel, had been passed over by his juniors in the rank of colonel. Again, Colonel Smith had had fifty-four officers passed over his head, although he had been ten years a field officer, a major of brigade in Affghanistan, and been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel in 1842, fighting afterwards at Mooltan and Guzerat. Colonel Inglis had also distinguished himself in the Punjab, at Mooltan, and at Guzerat, and had been promoted to be lieutenant-colonel in 1845. Among others were Colonel Lord West—one of the most rising officers of his time; and Colonel Hay, who had thirty-nine officers placed over his head, though he served as military secretary to Lord Gough; and of several whose names he would not take up the time of the House by reciting. Those officers that he had alluded to felt that younger officers were continually passing over their heads, though the Commission had recommended that the system of promotion which existed anterior to October 6, 1854, should not be immediately, but gradually, discontinued, and that there should be a certain fixed establishment of general officers. The promotion of those officers, situated as he (Colonel North) had stated, would cost nothing to the country, while it would give the greatest satisfaction in the army. It would, moreover, afford the Government an opportunity of performing a graceful act towards those gallant old soldiers to whom the country was so deeply indebted, if they even promoted such of them as have stood on the list previous to the 20th of June, 1854, to the rank of full colonels in the army. The next subject to which he desired the attention of the Government to be directed was the gazetting of officers for distinguished services. It was painful, no doubt, but it was sometimes necessary, to pass over officers, but it was just as necessary to reward brilliant services. The Commissioners recommended that brilliant services in the field only should be noticed in that form; and the army hoped that that rule would have been strictly adhered to. The next subject was the recommendation that staff appointments should be held only for five years. To subaltern officers that, perhaps, was no great disadvantage, as they had their regiments to fall back upon; but to officers holding higher commands, for instance, to colonels of regiments, it was the contrary. Staff appointments could not be held by such officers contemporaneously with these commands; and if a colonel or lieutenant-colonel was named to a staff appointment, he was obliged to give up his regiment. At the end of five years, however, by this recommendation he would be obliged to give up his staff appointment, and then he would be without either staff appointment or regimental command. No man with the least vestige of common sense could be expected to accept a staff appointment under those circumstances; and the effect of the recommendation, therefore, would be to affect injuriously the interests of officers entitled to staff appointments, and to affect also injuriously the interests of the country by limiting the field of selection and curtailing the number of superior officers eligible for such appointments. The next question he should call attention to was connected with the full pay retirement of calvalry officers. The 68th paragraph of the warrant proposed to give such officers a step in rank, with only the pay of the rank from which they passed, and a right to retire. As long, however, as the system of purchase existed, and the present rate for commissions was sanctioned by the Government, it was unjust to pay the infantry officer the same retirement as the cavalry officer, unless the difference in the cost of the two commissions was given to the latter—namely, £1,675. He therefore argued, that the cavalry officer—colonel, for instance—should have £1 3s. a day instead of 17s., as was proposed; and he was fortified in this view by having been informed that it was the intention of the Commission to have re-commended the full pay of the rank of the cavalry officer on his retirement. Unless that was done the boon granted to cavalry officers by Her Majesty would be rendered nugatory, as officers were not allowed to retire until they had served twenty-one years, unless they were wounded or disabled in the service. He wished to make one more remark before he resumed his seat; it was as regarded substantive rank in the army. It was his opinion that in the cases in question brevet rank ought to be converted into positive rank. The warrant had been justly objected to as not regarding officers anterior to 1854; and an officer who had applied to the War Office had been informed that the warrant was not retrospective. In such case it was not quite fair to blow hot and cold with the same breath, and he thought that provision should be amended. In conclusion, he would wish to call attention to the certificate required from the military medical officers as regarded sick officers desirous to retire on account of ill-health. It was a certificate that no medical officer should be called upon to give, and that no sick officer should be subjected to, as a single glance at its terms would show. [The hon. and gallant Member then read the certificate.] He therefore hoped that the Government would lose no time in relaxing the rule as regarded promotion to the rank of general officers in the case of those gallant officers whose interests were so deeply and so injuriously affected by the warrant of the 6th of October, 1854, more especially as it would cost the country nothing, while it would gratify the feelings of those brave and distinguished men now considerably excited at seeing so many younger officers put over them.


said, he had learned that at the conclusion of the war in 1815 very great hardship was inflicted on officers by the course then pursued, and he hoped the Government would be able to give an assurance that the same course would not be followed now. He, therefore, wished to know what were the intentions of the Government with respect to those gallant officers who had been in command of brigades in the Crimea during the late war? Many of them had been in command of brigades for a considerable time, some indeed throughout the whole period of the war, and others had had separate command, which they conducted with great credit to themselves and benefit to the country. He conceived, then, that the country would think that those officers, if they were to be sent back to their regiments without receiving that promotion which was their due, would be treated with great neglect by the Government. The hardship, too, with regard to the second lieutenant colonels, who, it was said, were to be put on half-pay, was equally great. They would actually be in a better position if they had never gone to the Crimea at all. He also wished to know what course was to be taken with regard to the officers of the Land Transport Corps, and whether any man who has served as an officer of that regiment is to be sent back to serve as a non-commissioned officer in regiments of the line. The officers of the Land Transport Corps had been taken from the non-commissioned officers of the line; and it would be an injustice now to send them back to that rank. It would be an injustice to these gallant men if they were placed in any disadvantage in consequence of their services during the war.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had introduced the question of the compensation warrant had argued it as though the Government received the money paid by officers on obtaining their different steps of promotion, while, in reality, it was paid by one officer to another and never reached the hands of the Government at all. Certainly, when an officer died holding a commission, the Government took advantage of commissions thus becoming vacant to bestow them upon the sons of old and deserving officers; but that arrangement he had always understood was held to be the most advantageous to the general body of the officers of the army. No doubt many cases of hardship arose under the application of the warrant of last March that had been so often alluded to in the course of the discussion, but neither of the two cases cited by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Grogan) could be said to come within this category, so far as to constitute an accusation against the Government. The noble Lord the Secretary for War, when explaining the concession which he was about to make, distinctly stated that it was only to apply to the families of officers killed in action, and that was not the case with Colonel Hoey. With regard to Brigadier Tylden's case, the hon. Gentleman seemed to have forgotten that he was an officer in a scientific corps, and that, net having paid for his commission or for his promotion, his family were not entitled to receive any compensation which was a return of the money laid out by a deceased officer in purchasing his various steps. The hon. Member stated that, though between 200 and 300 officers had lost their lives in the course of the late war, the families of sixteen only had received compensation; but he overlooked the fact that the families of many officers had made their claims under the pension warrant. In fact, no less than seventy widows of officers had received pensions, and forty-one of these were at the highest rate. There seemed to be some misunderstanding on the part of the hon. Member also as to the language held by the noble Lord at the head of the Government on this subject. What the noble Lord said was, that he was willing to concede that officers should be allowed to decide whether their families should have returned to them what had been expended in the purchase of their promotion, or should have the benefit of a pension; but it was never intended to allow compensation in any cases but those in which, according to the ordinary rules, a pension would be granted. Though the hon. Gentleman professed to be able to see no distinction between the case of officers who were killed in action and of officers who died of fever or cholera contracted in the field, yet such a distinction was recognised and acted upon by the rules of the service. A higher rate of pension was given to the widow of an officer who had been killed in action than to the widow of the officer who had died from disease, and certainly, if an equal compensation were to be granted in the two cases, the rules of the pension warrant must also be altered in the same manner. Where an officer was killed in action there could be no possible doubt that he had met his death in the discharge of his duty, but where an officer died from fever or cholera it was impossible always to say how far that might have been contracted in the discharge of his duty, or how far it might have proceeded from his own indiscretion or from causes which would equally have produced death had he been in another place. But if equal compensation and pensions were to be given in the cases of officers dying from disease before the enemy as would have been given had they been killed in action, there was no reason why the alterations should not also be extended to embrace the cases of officers dying from disease at home or in the colonies. The object of the warrant of the 6th of October, 1854 was to enable the Government to introduce into the list of generals a moderate number of comparatively young officers, and, at the same time, to select from the colonels young officers for commands usually held by general officers. The machinery by which those objects were carried out was requiring officers to serve a certain number of years upon particular staff appointments, or in the command of regiments before they attained the rank of colonel, and enabling the Government to confer temporary rank. But for that warrant it would have been impossible to make such suitable appointments to the commands of brigades and divisions as were made during the late war. As to the difficulties in the way of the attainment of the rank of colonel by field officers, the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel North) had fallen into some errors. A captain or a major not in command of a regiment might obtain that rank either by holding certain staff appointments, or by serving for six years with the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel. As to the hardships of old colonels, who were passed over by young ones, let the House see in what a difficulty the Government were placed by the contrary representations made to them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman complained of the injustice done to the old colonels by junior ones, who had held temporary rank, becoming generals; while directly afterwards the noble Lord (Lord Naas) urged upon the Government the hardship which would be done to officers who had commanded brigades, and held the local rank of brigadier-generals, if they were not made major-generals.


said, that the hon. Gentleman had mistaken what he had said. He was aware that the warrant had been beneficial to many colonels, but he maintained that by virtue of it many old colonels had been passed over in promotion by younger officers.


Although in time of war it was necessary and indispensable that the Government should avail itself of the power of promotion given by the warrant of 1854, and should give to gallant Officers who had commanded brigades or divisions, and had performed distinguished services, the rank which they had earned, in time of peace their exercise of that power ought to be more abstemious. It was not the intention of the Government, as a general rule, to convert the rank of brigadier-general into that of major-general. The number of the generals' list was limited to 234, and so long as there were supernumeraries on that list, vacancies were filled up in the proportion of one appointment to three vacancies alternately from the supernumerary and colonels' lists. If those brigadiers, to whose case the noble Lord had called attention were made supernumerary-generals, the chances of a colonel's promotion to the rank of general would be much reduced. At the same time, he hoped that those brigadier-generals who had done such good service would suffer from no hardship, because they would have at least a strong claim to fill those appointments usually held by general Officers, which would be required by the new organisation of the army in brigades and divisions. That arrangement would also meet the case of the second lieutenant-colonels; because, if the senior lieutenant-colonel were appointed a brigadier, a second lieutenant-colonel would be required to command the regiment during his absence. As regarded the remainder, it would be necessary that they, as well as the supernumerary captains and subalterns, should go upon half-pay. But that, he apprehended, would lead to nothing like what occurred at the end of the last war, when nearly 7,000 officers retired upon half-pay. The number who would now have to retire would not be more than 800. The Land Transport Corps consisted of two parts, one of which was organised in this country, and the other was added by General Codrington, and was composed of men belonging to regiments in the field, with officers acting temporarily. The officers and men of that latter portion of the corps had, upon the conclusion of the war, rejoined their ranks, and were thus disposed of. Officers appointed in this country and gazetted would not return to the ranks, but would be entitled to be placed upon half-pay under the terms of the warrant of 1854.


said, the hon. Under Secretary for War had simply made use of a set of technical arguments in his reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Mr. Grogan) and the hon. and gallant Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel North). He (Mr. Headlam) must also complain that the Government had most unfairly departed from the solemn promise with regard to the compensation which was made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government (Lord Palmerston). That promise was given in clear and precise words. He (Mr. Headlam) had, after some months' notice, brought forward a Resolution, saying that the family of an officer who died in the service should, as far as pecuniary circumstances were concerned, be in precisely the same condition as if he had sold out; every officer should, during his lifetime, be allowed to determine whether he would take compensation or the regulation price of his commission. That Motion the noble Lord accepted without any condition, and it was unfair afterwards to introduce qualifications. The loss to the country would not be great, because, although it was true that on the death of an officer the nation did not receive hard cash for his commission, yet the knowledge that death vacancies were filled up without purchase acted as an incitement to the performance of distinguished services. The requirement that the relations of an officer should declare that he had contributed to their support rendered the whole of the Government regulation an absolute absurdity. A sum of money might be paid by the friends of a young man to purchase him an ensigncy, and it was well known that on his pay a subaltern could not keep himself, still less contribute to the support of his relations; so that to require in case of his death that his relations should, before receiving the price of his commission, declare that he had contributed to their support, rendered what at first might be considered a benefit utterly nugatory.


said, he thought that the Motion of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin was too important to be got rid of on account of an informality, and he should therefore move as an Amendment that the House do to-morrow resolve itself into a Committee to consider the topics adverted to in the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He fully agreed with the hon. Member who had just sat down as to the effect of the declaration required from the relatives of deceased officers. He could very well understand why only a small number of persons had applied for compensation, instead of pension, for no lady would probably take advantage of the regulation, hedged round as it was with such vexatious and humiliating restrictions.

Amendment proposed, to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words— This House will, To-morrow, resolve itself into a Committee, to consider of an humble Address to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to direct alterations to be made in the rules of the Military Service, and in the Warrant of March, 1856, to the effect that the regulation value of the Commissions of Officers in the Army who shall have died of cholera or fever in active service during the late War may be paid to their representatives, and deemed part of their personal estate, and to assure tier Majesty that this House will make good the same," instead thereof.


said, that all the present difficulty arose from the relaxation of the old rules of the service. If, however, the Government did relax those rules, it was but just to include not only those who died in the field, but those who died in consequence of climate or of disease contracted in the discharge of their duties. The recommendation of the Commissioners, as contained in the 52nd clause of their Report, was to the effect that all change should be carefully considered, so as in no case to run the risk of injuring officers already in the service. In consequence of that recommendation, a warrant had been issued to the effect that the new regulations should not apply to officers made lieutenant colonels before the 20th of June, 1854. By the old rules it was understood that lieutenant-colonels should not have other officers put over their heads, unless in consequence of a distinct recommendation from Her Majesty. Now, the House was possibly not aware that the new rules established a totally different order of things, and the sudden intervention of those new orders had been the cause, that lieutenant-colonels who had received their brevet rank in consequence of distinguished services in the field, lost their reward altogether. The warrant intervened—made the benefit they had received utterly useless—and threw them back into the position which they had occupied before it was issued. There was another class of officers also who had reason to complain of those new regulations. It was those, who were unable to purchase, and who had risen from the rank of captain to that of brevet-major and then to the rank of brevet-lieutenant-colonel. Those were men who had seen much service, and the entire advantages which they had received from their promotion were suddenly and entirely thrown away. A new rule was brought forward, which placed those officers precisely in the same position as if they had never been lieutenant-colonels at all.


said, that, as a distinct decision of the House was about to be taken on the Motion originally introduced by the hon. Member for the City of Dublin, he felt it incumbent on him to explain the grounds on which he should give his vote, and the more so as that vote would be in direct opposition to the opinions expressed by all the other military Members who had spoken in the course of the debate. The question before the House was, as the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir D. L. Evans) had remarked, altogether a question of feeling, and nothing could be more dangerous than to decide a public question with regard to such considerations. For his own part, he could not see that the present system entailed on officers any such hardships as some hon. and gallant Members had described. He (Lord Hotham) was anxious to say a few words on the subject, as he was unfortunately absent last Session when the hon. and learned Member for Newcastle made his Motion. He regretted not being present on that occasion, for so strongly did he feel the injustice of the Resolution, that he should have voted against it even if he had stood alone. For his own part, he was free to say that he thought there was nothing in the hardship of which the hon. and learned Gentleman complained. It should be remembered that no officer was compelled to purchase. His doing so was a voluntary act, and it conferred upon him great advantages—increased rank, increased emolument, and, better than all, increased opportunities of distinction. To say that those officers should enjoy all the advantages of their position, and at the same time escape from its attendant disadvantages, was totally to invert the indisputable but homely proverb, that "You can't eat your cake and have it too." It was asked, "Why should not the State refund the sum paid for the commission?" Now, that question assumed that the State received the money, which was quite a fallacy; the fact being that the purchase money went to the officer who retired, and created a vacancy for the person buying the commission. Without entering into the merits of the system of purchase, which was still undergoing investigation before a Commission, it was manifest there would be no justice, while maintaining that system, in exempting officers who had all the benefits of increased rank, increased distinction, and other advantages, from the corresponding disadvantages of their position.


said, he must contend that, as the purchasing system relieved the State from having to pay pensions, there were grounds on which they might properly call on it to "refund."


said, he hoped that there would be no division on the Motion, the scope of which he regarded as far too limited. The families of officers who had been banished to distant stations, and, after a life of involuntary inactivity, had fallen victims to an unhealthy climate, had a stronger claim upon the country than the relatives of those who had perished gloriously in the Crimea. One of the many difficulties which beset the question was the danger that, by giving the friends of deceased officers the option of either accepting a pension or taking their compensation in one sum, a temptation would be offered to improvidence. Many would prefer to get hold of a large amount of ready money, and would then probably squander what was meant to be a permanent provision for their families. The position of second majors and second lieutenant-colonels, who had endured all the hardships of the late war and highly distinguished themselves, was calculated to cause deep dissatisfaction in the service. Those officers were to be discharged upon half-pay, which, after all they had undergone, was regarded, not unnaturally, as a great grievance. Far better would it be for these second lieutenant-colonels and second majors to be first majors and first captains respectively. It was idle to say that they had their reward in the medals and clasps which they had so honourably won, because, under the arrangements of the Horse Guards, they would have no opportunity of wearing those decorations. The juster course would be to retain that class of officers in employment.


said, he regarded the question before them to be, whether the warrant of which they had heard so much was to continue, and so to annul the promise which the noble Lord at the head of the Government gave on the subject last year. If the noble Lord would give an assurance that the warrant would be altered so as to meet the Motion before them he should vote with the noble Lord.


said, that many hon. Gentlemen who had spoken had given an interpretation of what he had stated last year which was totally at variance with what he had said. The Motion before the House was to the effect that the regulation for granting to the families of deceased officers the value of their commissions in lieu of pensions should apply to the ease of officers who died during the war from fever, or cholera, or any other disease. Now, if there were one thing upon which he was more particularly explicit than another last year it was, that the arrangement which was contemplated should apply only to the families of those who were killed in action. He most distinctly, and over and over again, stated that it would not apply to the families of those who died from disease; and he gave this reason for it—that, if it did, it ought to extend not simply to the families of those officers who might so die in the Crimea, but to the families of those who might die at any foreign station, or at home, or in time of peace as well as in time of war. He stated that there was no intelligible distinction to be drawn between all those cases, and that therefore it was the intention of the Government to confine the regulation solely to the families of those officers who should fall in action. For the same reason which induced him last year to draw that distinction, he was bound now to say that he could not agree with the Motion of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Grogan). He thought that there was a clear distinction between the case of officers who fell in battle and that of officers who died from exposure or disease. That distinction had been drawn last year. It was the ground upon which he had taken his stand, and he should be inconsistent if he were to agree to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman. He was not going to enter into those other questions relative to military promotion which had been discussed in the course of the evening, his hon. Friend the Under Secretary for War having given his reasons for the arrangements of the Government; he would only observe that a great deal of argument had been founded upon the assertion that the public gained something by the death of officers who fell in action or died from disease. The fact was that the public gained nothing whatever; for, as had been correctly stated by the noble and gallant Lord opposite (Lord Hotham), the value of a commission was not paid to the Government, but to the officer who sold it; and, so far from the Government gaining anything by the death of an officer, they not only lost the services of a brave and gallant man, but they also had to provide pensions and allowances for the family which he left behind him. It was, therefore, a perfect fallacy to found an argument on the assumption that the purchase money of a commission went either directly or indirectly to the benefit of the Government.


said that, as far as the case of officers dying from disease was concerned, the statement made by the noble Lord was perfectly correct.

Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

The House divided:-Ayes 81; Noes 39: Majority 42.

Main Question put, and agreed to.