HC Deb 04 March 1856 vol 140 cc1791-850

said, he rose to move for a Select Committee to report to the House on the expediency of abolishing the system of sale and purchase of Commissions in the Army. He was fully aware of the great importance of the subject, and he must apologise to the House for the very imperfect manner in which he felt he was about to discharge the duty he had undertaken. He had not been quite well for some time, but, as there was great difficulty in finding an opportunity for bringing forward Motions of this kind, he had determined to proceed now that he had obtained a day, in the hope that other Members who took an interest in the subject would supply his deficiencies. The object of his Motion was the abolition, by such means as might be deemed advisable, of the system of the sale and purchase of commissions in the army. Two Returns had been laid on the table in reference to the subject, by one of which it appeared that £5,400,000 had been paid for commissions by officers now in the army, and in the second Return the amount was stated at £8,068,000. To that large sum must be added 40 per cent for what was paid contrary to law, over and above the regulation price, so that according to the first Return £8,000,000, and according to the second Return £11,000,000, would be the value of the commissions now held by officers on full pay in the army. The imposition of such a tax as this on officers in the army could not be justified except on the strongest grounds. It was a grievous burden, from which all other professions were exempt. Different speeches had been from time to time made by great men and high authorities upon this matter, and many grounds had been urged for its continuation. But the House would no doubt recollect that in many other cases abuses had been supported for many years by the most plausible arguments backed by the highest authority, but which, nevertheless, the public had at last required to, be abolished. It had been said that the existing system obviated the necessity of giving retiring pensions and allowances to officers quitting the army. In considering that circumstance, however, it should be remembered that in consequence of this severe imposition, it was necessary, in fairness, to make the emoluments of officers in the higher ranks of the army much greater than they need otherwise be. If this system were abolished, and officers were relieved from this heavy tax, the Government would have a right to diminish the allowances which were now made to general officers and others in the higher ranks of the army. The late illustrious Duke of Wellington had left a memorandum upon the subject, in which he seemed to look upon the system of purchase somewhat in the light of a political institution, and defended it on the ground that it brought into the army men of the higher classes who had a stake in the country, and were not likely to take part against its authorities or its institutions. He (Sir De L. Evans) did not think there was much in that reasoning. Although a system of purchase did not exist in the French army, yet that army had in most instances of popular excitement been found to be well disposed towards the authorities. It should also be remembered that this system was not introduced into the English army until the reign of Charles II.; and that some twenty or thirty years afterwards one-half of the army abandoned the King. It therefore did not appear that loyalty was necessarily connected with a system of purchase, or disloyalty with one of an opposite character. Another authority, Lord Fitzroy Somerset, when Military Secretary, gave other reasons against the adoption of a system of promotion by merit, the principal of which was, that in time of peace it would be almost impossible to discover where the superior merit was. He (Sir De L. Evans) admitted that there would be some difficulty in making the selection, but he thought that it had been greatly exaggerated. As instances of the difficulty which would occur if you were to depend upon the reports of officers commanding regiments, Lord Fitzroy Somerset said that one officer might think a man worthy of promotion because he was good at drill, while the reason of another might be that the officer recommended had a knowledge of languages, or was a proficient in drawing. To him (Sir De L. Evans) it appeared that these were all, to a certain extent, good qualifications for promotion. The same noble Lord to whom he had already referred was asked by the Commissioners— Upon the whole, therefore, you conceive it would be impossible, particularly in time of peace, to establish with anything like satisfaction a system of selection by merit, and that if you did attempt it, it would necessarily degenerate into a system of seniority?—Yes. Now, he did not recognise the propriety of the expression "degenerate into a system of seniority." In the Artillery all promotion was by seniority, and yet our artillery was about the best in the world. An important reason for the consideration of this subject at the present moment arose from the following recommendation, made in their Report by the Commissioners on Promotion in the Army about three years ago:— We beg leave humbly to recommend to your Majesty, that in future, when the services of an officer are required to take the command of any portion of your Majesty's troops as a general officer, the fittest officer that can be found for the particular duty should be selected, without reference to seniority, from the whole list of officers who have attained the rank of colonel or a superior rank. By a regulation now in force, it was provided that an officer having obtained the rank of lieutenant colonel, should in three years become a full colonel; therefore any gentleman who had purchased the rank of lieutenant colonel would in three years be eligible to command an army. Now, he would ask, was that a reasonable system on which to conduct military affairs? He might be asked to what abuses he could point as resulting from the present system. In his opinion, not the least was the misery and distress of mind occasioned to meritorious officers who had not funds with which to purchase their advancement. From his personal knowledge he could assert that many officers of great merit had from time to time given up all hope of advancement, and left the army, because they were unable to buy promotion. The House could be at no loss to understand how severe must be the sufferings, and how bitter the reflections of meritorious officers who knew that, without money or interest, they had little chance of advancement in their profession. In time of war there might be some chance for such men, and, even in time of peace, it occasionally happened that some person high in authority took up the cause of a friendless officer; but such cases were rare, and, as a general rule, neglect was the portion of officers who had neither money nor interest. Nothing could be more dishonourable, both to the service and the country, than such a state of things, and it was now time to apply a remedy. There was no necessity to confiscate the property of any class of officers or to put the country to a very serious expense. The system would die out of itself if the Horse Guards would determine that for the future no commission should be made the subject of purchase. This, no doubt, would be a slow and tedious process, but it would not be difficult to devise some means of accelerating it; and to do so more particularly with reference to the higher ranks of the army would greatly conduce to the welfare of the service. A system of retiring allowances might promote the desired object, and would probably be attended with the most beneficial results. Inducements of that nature had been found necessary in the navy, and why should they not be suitable for the army? Of this he was confident, that considerations of finance should not be permitted to prevail against the introduction of a better system than the present. There could be no worse economy than to maintain that system unchanged, for, if there should be an incompetent general at the head of the army in time of war, the disasters occasioned by his incapacity might, in a single campaign, entail not only incalculable national discredit and political evils, but losses in point of direct expenditure beyond all that can be alleged to be saved by the present system. The purchase system was a dishonour to the English army, and sooner or later it must be abolished. Its abolition was only a question of time, and if not accomplished in the present Parliament it would certainly be so in the next. It was a stain upon the service, and excited the surprise but not the respect of foreign nations. Of its evil effects the noble Lord at the head of the Government must have had ample experience during his connection with the War Department, and his co-operation in a rational attempt to introduce a better system might be most appropriately invoked. His object, therefore, was merely to induce the House to agree to an inquiry into the subject; and if the noble Lord at the head of the Government thought that the end in view would be better answered by the appointment of a Commission (on which several ex-Secretaries at War might sit), than it could be by a Select Committee, he would have no objection to modify his Motion. With that too brief explanation, as he must admit it to be, he now begged to move the Resolution which stood in his name.


in seconding the Motion, begged the attention of the House whilst he submitted to its consideration one or two arguments against the present system to which the hon. and gallant General had not alluded. It was now almost universally admitted that the system of promotion in the army by purchase was, in the abstract, indefensible. Indeed, the First Lord of the Treasury last Session frankly conceded that, in theory, the system was perfectly absurd and unjust; and no one could doubt that any private undertaking which should select its employés, in responsible situations, not for their special fitness, but for their wealth, would be very likely to bring its affairs to an unsuccessful issue, and speedily find its way into the Gazette. However, the friends of the system of purchasing commissions in the army, while allowing that, if looked at in the abstract, it could easily be turned into ridicule, had recourse to one ingenious argument in its support— namely, that it had worked well, and, therefore, ought not to be changed. This was the language held last Session by the Under Secretary for War (Mr. F. Peel). Now, he (Visct. Goderich) was prepared to accept the hon. Gentleman's challenge, and he thought that he should be able to show that in many important respects the present system did not work well. Without pausing to inquire whether a practice involving so many instances of injustice, such as those which the hon. and gallant General had mentioned, was fairly entitled to the, credit of success, there was no question that a system under which the officers of the army had for the most part to embark a large portion of their fortunes to obtain admission into their profession, was fraught with palpable and serious inconveniences. It had been truly remarked that those officers who had bought their commissions were practically serving the country almost gratuitously, inasmuch as their pay little more than covered the legitimate amount of interest they might realise upon an equal outlay of capital in any other investment. As he was anxious not to rest his argument upon his own views merely, which could have but little weight, he would submit to the consideration of the House the opinion of one whose authority on such a subject the House would not, he was sure, be disposed to reject. The late Duke of Wellington gave this representation of the system of purchase in a memorandum addressed to Lord Hill, which was laid before a Committee of that House which sat in the year 1833. That illustrious man then said— On the other hand, an examination of the detailed operation of the system of promotion by purchase, or the remuneration intended to be given by the public to the officers of the army for their service, will show that those who purchase their commissions—which are certainly three-fourths of the whole number—receive but little for their service besides the honour of serving the King. They receive from the public an annuity for which they have sacrificed a capital larger than any that could be required of them, either by the public or any annuity office, for the same annuity. This officer has but little hope of promotion unless he can purchase it. Such a state of things was surely inconsistent with the generous character of a great country, and could not but prove a fertile source of evil. It was opposed to sound policy. One of the most obvious evils which attended it was, the embarrassment which the vested rights created under the system of purchase occasioned in all attempts at reform, however desirable such reform might be for the interests of the public service. This was no imaginary difficulty, as the recent memorial presented by the colonels and lieutenant-colonels of the Guards to Her Majesty would testify, And let not the hon. and gallant Member for Wigan (Colonel Lindsay), whose child this memorial was said to be, suppose that he (Viscount Goderich) was about to question on this occasion his right to use the language in which it was couched. Alluding to the changes introduced into the system of promotion in the army by the warrant of October, 1854, the memorialists stated that— All those who became captains and lieutenant-colonels previously to the 17th of June, 1854, have a vested right to expect that they shall rise to the rank of colonel in their place on the list, without having officers junior in rank to themselves put over their heads. Moreover, the vested interests of these officers are rendered still stronger and more important by their having been acquired under arrangements fixed by authority, and at prices higher than those paid for the equivalent rank in the other branch of the service; or, in the words of the Commissioners in their Report, 'they hold the rank of lieutenant-colonel, their commissions being exchangeable with lieutenant colonelcies of the line, on which account the regulated price of such commissions has been fixed and paid for by them at a higher rate.' And, further— These officers, having embarked their services and fortunes according to the established system of the service, have in strict justice and equity a claim to have their interests respected. The same memorial also contained these remarkable words— Your memorialists trust that your Majesty will not think they use too strong language in characterising the course of proceeding thus adopted and illustrated as amounting to a breach of faith towards those who had risen to the rank of lieutenant colonel previously to the 17th of June, 1854, and who have invested their money in purchase of their promotion under the established rules of the service. Without, then, disputing on this occasion the right of the memorialists to plead their vested interests, it might fairly be asserted that there was no other army in the world the officers in which would have been permitted to describe an order issued, after the report of a Commission, by the Sovereign, acting under the advice of Her Ministers, as a breach of faith. Such, however, was the practical result of allowing officers to acquire a pecuniary interest in their commissions. The system, moreover, was not advantageous, in an economical point of view, to the country. The pay of officers was, in fact, exactly the same as it would be if the system of purchase did not exist; but the system acted as a bar to many important improvements in the army, the most important and pressing of which was, in his opinion, some measure to extend and encourage among the officers the study of their profession. He believed that the practice of purchase rendered it, both directly and indirectly, very difficult to introduce a sound system of military education, for officers were told in effect, "If you behave tolerably well, and know enough of your profession to prevent its being disgraceful to promote you, and you have money, you will get on; but if you study and make yourself thoroughly acquainted with it, and have no money, the chances are that you will not succeed." That surely was not the way in which to encourage education in the army. Now, he would bring the existing system to the test of facts, and ask the House to consider what was the present state of military professional education among the officers of the British army. He would read to the House the opinion on this subject of a distinguished, intelligent, and highly-educated officer, Sir Howard Douglas, given before the Sandhurst Committee, since the debates which took place on the question during the last Session of Parliament. The gallant officer was asked by the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich)— You take the effect of many persons not being able to pass the examination, which you state to be ridiculously low, as an indication that the education of the officers who were admitted into the army previously to the institution of such a test has been mischievously low? Sir Howard Douglas replied, "Yes, certainly; that is exactly the conclusion that I should draw." The House, however, must not suppose that the gallant officer meant to say that the examination for first commissions established some years ago had had the effect of changing that system of education, which he admitted to be mischievously low. Upon this subject Sir Howard Douglas gave this explicit opinion:— I was the person who recommended that measure. When I called the attention of the House of Commons to the state of military learning, I stated that I thought there should be an examination, and I was prepared to go on with my plan; but the Government took it up very cordially, and, having professed a wish to take it into their own hands, I abandoned it to them. I was not consulted about the matter, but I never could have contemplated anything so absurd as that ridiculously trivial examination which the officers entering the army undergo now. It was clear that, in the opinion of Sir Howard Douglas, that "ridiculously trivial examination" could not have materially improved the system of education, which was previously "mischievously low." Surely the House would admit, that if the education of officers of the British army was not what it ought to be, it was of peculiar importance at the present day that the subject should receive most serious attention. If they looked to foreign countries, it would be found that of late years they had been making great strides in this respect. Every one who had read the report of the Sandhurst Committee and the statements in the appendix to it must be aware that, during the last twenty years, the utmost attention had been devoted by foreign Governments to the professional education of military officers. It was not merely important that the professional qualifications of British officers should be maintained on an equality with those of officers of foreign States, but that, as the general education of the people of this country was gradually extending, they should endeavour to raise proportionately the professional education of persons engaged in the different branches of the public service. Foreign Governments were not so slow as our own in watching the progress of the times. He would ask permission to read a remarkable passage from the preamble of an ordinance which was issued in 1844 by the Government of Prussia, establishing a new system of military education, and a new mode of examination for all officers employed in the Prussian army. That ordinance stated— The greater amount of professional knowledge and general culture which is now attained and met with in all ranks and employments renders necessary, in the case of the profession of an officer, also, a change in the examination and in the previous training of those who wish to dedicate themselves to that profession, in order that its dignity may be maintained, and that its members may not find it difficult to make an eventual change of profession. He wished the foresight of the Prussian Government had been imitated by Her Majesty's Ministers, and that twelve years ago they had directed their attention to the professional education of officers of the army. It was alleged by the supporters of the system of purchase that, if it was indefensible in theory, and substituted an absurd and false test for the true test of merit, it had at least the advantage of leading to rapid promotion. It might be true that a system of purchase led to more rapid promotion than a system of pure seniority would do, and the Under Secretary for War seemed unable to perceive that there was any alternative for promotion by purchase except promotion by seniority; but those who advocated the abolition of the system of purchase, did not propose to substitute for it a pure system of seniority. If they turned from a theoretical comparison of the merits of these systems to the contemplation of facts, they would find that the present system of military promotion, in which purchase was so important an element, had at the commencement of the war given them generals of seventy, and now gave them captains of eighteen. But if it were true that the system of purchase led to rapid promotion, why was the Commission of 1854 issued? For what purpose did they desire rapid promotion? Undoubtedly, that they might get men in the vigour of life into the highest ranks of the army. It was most important that they should have young generals, but it mattered comparatively little what was the age of captains and subalterns. The Commission of 1854 found, however, that the system of purchase had failed to provide the army with young generals. He thought, indeed, that the system of promotion was just the reverse of what it ought to be, for they had no seniority where that principle might be safely admitted, in the lower ranks of the army, while a slow and gradual system of se- niority existed just where it was least desirable; and the consequence was, that men of vigour and energy, in the prime of life, did not occupy high positions in the army. He did not know whether the hon. and gallant Member for Downpatrick (Colonel Hardinge), who he supposed he might regard as having been the representative of the Horse Guards upon the Sandhurst Committee, was now in the House. [An hon. Member: No.] But that hon. and gallant Officer obviously entertained the idea that it was injudicious to admit poor men into the army as officers, for he had put questions to most of the witnesses examined before the Committee, with the evident object of establishing that position. Upon that point he would read the answer given by Sir Howard Douglas:— Do you see any objection to introducing into the ranks of the army a larger number of poorer officers who have nothing to live upon except their pay? I do not admit that the difficulty of living in the army should be conceded as sufficient to exclude those destitute young men from entering into the service, for if you were to continue the exclusion against the gratuitous class, or against the class of officers' sons, on the ground that they have not means sufficient to support them in the service, how would it be with respect to those gallant men, those private soldiers who are working their way to commissions, and to whom commissions are pledged, and who will be much more destitute of all private resources than a young gentleman who, though an orphan, may have rich friends who will assist him? If a soldier should be so destitute, you must give him a trousseau to fit him out. This is a very serious case, on account of their destitution. Those classes ought not to be rejected. Those parties should not be excluded from the military service of their country. That brought him to another portion of the subject which his hon. and gallant Friend had not touched. Last Session he ventured to make a Motion with respect to the bearing of the existing system of promotion on non-commissioned officers and privates. The House did not agree with him on that occasion; but the noble Lord at the head of the Government held out a hope that the system which had been adopted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wilts (Mr. Sidney Herbert) when he was Secretary at War would be continued. He was grieved to say that since then less had been done than before, although no one could fail to see that the system of purchase had an evil effect upon the lower ranks of the army and in fact involved us in a vicious circle. It was said that non-commissioned officers and privates could not be promoted, because the classes from which they were drawn supplied very few men fitted to become commissioned officers. But the great source of that difficulty was the system of purchase, which prevented the army from being recruited from classes which could and would supply more fit subjects for promotion. The middle classes did not go into the army at all. Why? Surely not from the want of a spirit of enterprise. No; but because they could not enter as officers, not having capital enough to purchase commissions, and because no reasonable hope was held out to them, if they entered as privates, that they might in time reach the higher ranks, supposing they displayed talent in their profession. They, therefore, did not enter the army at all. The following was the opinion expressed by the Duke of Wellington in a Memorandum dated in 1829 on the subject of the relations which subsisted between the officers and men in the British army:— Indeed we carry the principle of the gentleman, and the absence of intercourse with those under his command, so far as that, in my opinion, the duty of a subaltern officer, as done in a foreign army, is not done at all in the cavalry or the British infantry of the line. It is done in the Guards by the sergeants. Then our gentleman officer, however admirable his conduct on a field of battle, however honourable to himself, however glorious and advantageous to his country, is but a poor creature in disciplining his company in camp, quarters, or cantonments.… If we can, let us make our officers do their duty, and see that the non-commissioned officers do theirs. He had thus endeavoured to state some of the grounds upon which he seconded the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster. But it was important in a discussion of this kind that the House should consider the course pursued by other countries with reference to promotion in their armies. The system in the French army was well known to most hon. Members. One-third of the vacancies in sub-lieutenancies went to the non-commissioned officers in the regiment, and the other two-thirds were given to students coming from the various military schools, after having passed a strict examination. Promotions to the higher ranks were given in various proportions, partly by seniority and partly by selection. There was in France a number of military schools of great reputation, established in different parts of the country, in addition to the school attached to each regiment. Such was the system of our great Ally, on whose assistance we had relied so much during the late tremendous struggle. Turn- ing to a country, small in comparison to France, but one which the House would agree with him in thinking was entitled, on account of its gallantry, to take a high place among the nations of Europe, he would briefly describe the system adopted in the Sardinian army. After the fatal battle of Novara the Sardinian army was completely disorganised, and that distinguished man who now commanded the Sardinian troops in the Crimea, General la Marmora, was entrusted with its reorganisation. General la Marmora knew all the military systems of Europe; his abilities were unquestionable; and, therefore, it was important to ascertain what plan he adopted. He introduced a system very similar to that of France. No person could be admitted to the rank of officer unless he had served two years as a noncommissioned officer or passed certain educational tests. One-third of the vacancies in sous-lieutenancies were given in peace to the non-commissioned officers of that branch of the service in which they occurred, and in war to those of the regiment, on the nomination of the commanding officer. In peace all lieutenancies were filled up by seniority in the same arm; in war, one-third by choice and two-thirds by seniority in the regiments. In peace all captaincies were filled up, two-thirds by seniority and one-third by choice in each arm; in war, half and half from the regiments. In peace, all majorities were filled up, half by seniority and half by choice from the same arm; in war, entirely by choice from each arm and from the staff. Lieutenant-colonels and colonels were always appointed by choice, and so were the generals. There was a military academy at Turin, and very full and strict instruction was given in the staff corps. He would give another instance of great importance at the present moment—the case of Russia. In Russia every person appointed an officer must either have been a student at one of the military schools and have passed the final examination there, or must have served two years at least in the ranks as non-commissioned officer, and then have passed an examination at the school established at the head-quarters of each corps d'armée, which school they had been previously obliged to attend regularly. While thus serving in the ranks they were treated like the other non-commissioned officers. Promotion among officers was by seniority as a rule, subject, however, to exception in the case of dis- tinguished merit. There was a Military Academy at St. Petersburg, and fourteen other military schools in Russia, besides the schools attached to each corps d'armée, which were frequented by students not yet attached to the army at all, as well as by those already serving as non-commissioned officers. Sir H. Douglas stated that the number of students educated in Russia for the army and navy was 9,000, and he also informed the Sandhurst Committee that— by a regulation made in 1844, no man is allowed to hold commission in the Russian army who has not passed a satisfactory examination in Russian grammar, in the German and French languages, arithmetic, national and general history, and geography; and who has not attained a certain knowledge of the physical and political condition of the different States of Europe. In the military colonies of Russia every regiment has its school, consisting of 300 boys, the children of enrolled soldiers; all of these receive a certain military and general education. Soldiers did, under certain circumstances, rise from the ranks, and had from time to time obtained the rank of general. The hon. and gallant general (Sir De Lacy Evans) had touched on the question as to how the system of purchase might best be abolished. The House had heard occasionally accusations thrown out against those who wished to abolish the purchase system, to the effect that they proposed to confiscate the property of officers who had bought commissions in the army; but he begged the House not to entertain any such idea, for no person would be mad enough to make a proposition of that kind. The hon. and gallant General said that he had seen it stated that the whole value of the commissions in the army was either £5,000,000 or £8,000,000. As far as he (Viscount Goderich) was able to ascertain the amount, he was inclined to put the value at £8,000,000 and a few thousand pounds; but the hon. and gallant General truly stated that there must be deducted from that aggregate the value of those commission which had been obtained without purchase. Now what would be the effect of such deduction? A return, moved for by the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell) contained an account of the number of commissions of every rank given away without purchase in 1854, and it showed the value of those commissions to be not less than £1,582,345. He might therefore conclude that, since the commencement of the present war, if a scheme for abolishing purchase in the army had been adopted, excluding from compensation commissions obtained without purchase, no less a sum than £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 would have been saved thereby. That would reduce the amount necessary to be paid to a sum of between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. It was true that it was said that there ought to be added to the £8,000,000, which constituted the whole value of the commissions, the sums paid over and above the regulation price; but he thought that that was an extremely doubtful point, because those sums had been all paid in the teeth of an Act of Parliament positively declaring their payment to be a misdemeanor. If, however, the whole of the £8,000,000 had to be paid, would that be too large an expenditure in return for the desired benefit? His right hon. Friend (Mr. Gladstone) had estimated the total cost of the war at between £80,000,000 and £90,000,000. If he were right in that estimate, then to pay off £8,000,000, the value of the commissions, would only require 10 per cent upon the expenses of the war. Would any man interested in a commercial undertaking think 10 per cent upon his outlay too much to pay to enable him to secure the men best qualified by their age and ability to carry out his views, and to enable him to get rid of obstacles which impeded him in the selection of persons fully competent to fill situations in his establishment? It had been said that the permission to sell an unpurchased commission provided the means of retirement to some officers without the country being put to expense; but he did not think that an argument which ought to be used, or which was difficult to answer. In reference to this point he would quote a paragraph from the Commission of 1840, showing how unequally and unjustly the present system worked:— It (the permission to sell an unpurchased commission) may be described as a boon on retirement to the officer who sells, not being possessed of fortune, and it is beneficial to the public, as the wealthy officers pay the cost of retirement for those who desire to realise the value of their past services. When an officer has not purchased any of his commissions, the advantage to him of retirement by sale is apparent. The real difficulty of the case, and it is one which was much pressed upon us in the course of our examinations, lies in the position of an officer who, having bought, and having, moreover, served with distinction for a considerable time, desires to retire by sale. On permission being granted he receives no more for his commissions than they actually cost him, and consequently he is in no way rewarded for his services. In fact, if he shall have paid the difference for restoration to full pay in the course of his services, he may, on retirement by sale, actually suffer a pecuniary loss. Now, he would ask whether it was fair or just to make the wealthy officers pay the cost of retirement for those who desired to sell their unpurchased commissions, while under the present system a man, equally distinguished with them, if he happened to have purchased his commission, got nothing on retirement at all? The Under Secretary for War had, on more than one occasion, taunted those who advocated the proposition involved in the question before the House with never having suggested anything to be put in the place of the present system. He was very reluctant to occupy the attention of the House with any suggestions of his own; but, as he did not wish the Under-Secretary for War to repeat that the advocates of the abolition of purchase did not know what they wanted, he would state that the system he should like to see substituted for the present was one combining seniority and merit; and resembling, in short, the system in Sardinia, under which means should be taken to provide that the men entering the army should be well educated in military science, and promoted according to their ability. By this means officers would be encouraged, instead of discouraged, in the performance of their duties. The country requires the introduction of some such system, whether it be the excellent system proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) or some other of a similar character. And here he would observe, that he could not understand why a scheme backed by the name and authority of that right hon. Gentleman had been neglected. But when promotion by merit was spoken of last year they were met by the noble Lord at the head of the Government with this remarkable objection— 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 for the appointments 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; and therefore the idea that by any human system merit can insure 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."—[3 Hansard, cxxxvii. 1239.] Now, he ventured to differ from this argument altogether. Merit was not opinion alone. It was something more. It was fact. He could not, however, regard the system described by the noble Lord as a system of merit, but as a system of universal suffrage, which partook, indeed, of the character of Utopia. Those who advocated promotion by merit certainly did not expect that the responsible Ministers of the Crown could please everybody; but what they desired was, that those Ministers, being men of ability and merit themselves—for the really able man can alone judge of ability in others—should appoint the fittest men they could find to fill every situation in the public service, and remove all obstructions in the way of the promotion of men of like character in the army. He believed that, if with singleness of heart and with honesty of purpose they sought to promote fit men, and fit men only, though they might excite the anger of disappointed candidates, they would be backed by the support of the country, which was heartily desirous of seeing every department of the public service filled with the best and most efficient men. He prayed the House, on these grounds, to grant the inquiry he asked for. Whether we had war or peace the importance of the question was the same. The war, which he trusted was about to be brought to a conclusion, had severely tried our military system, and found it wanting in many respects. This country was not likely to maintain a large army in time of peace, but our object should be to make its efficiency compensate for its inferiority in numbers as compared with the armies of other countries. In the present war we had asserted our equality in the field with the most powerful nations of the world, and had claimed for ourselves an equal voice with them in the Councils of Europe. From that position we could not recede; but in order to maintain it, we must lay to heart the lessons which the war had taught us, and endeavour to raise our army to the highest state of efficiency of which it was capable. For that purpose we needed, above all things, a body of officers, not merely brave, loyal, and ready to face every danger at the call of duty, but educated and trained, knowing their profession thoroughly, and devoted to it, heart and soul; and in order to secure such, we must let them feel that merit is the surest road to promotion, and professional distinction the only path to honour. If we did this we should have cause to bless those sad events which have exposed our deficiencies, and taught us such salutary lessons; but if we did not—if we preferred class interests or party prejudices or personal predilections to the interests of the country and of our military service—we should have neglected a great duty, have lost the healing moral of a painful lesson, and should, through indolence, self-interest, or cowardice, have failed to provide the surest means for maintaining in the future the position and honour of England.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a Select Committee be appointed to consider, examine evidence, and report to the House, on the expediency of abolishing the system of Sale and Purchase of Commissions in the Army, and on the means that may be adopted for the accomplishment of that object.


hoped the House would proceed with great caution and deliberation in whatever course it might deem it right to take in obedience to public opinion out of doors upon this question. He agreed with the Mover and Seconder of this Motion that the time was now come, and that it had been precipitated by recent events, when the country would no longer be satisfied to allow this subject to be passed over without greater examination than it had hitherto received, and without an attempt, at least, on the part of the Government to solve the difficulties by which it was surrounded. Having had some experience himself in these matters, he was well aware that there was much to be said on both sides of the question. In the first place, in any change which might be determined on, the social position of the country, the character of our representative institutions, and the feelings of the army were all elements which ought to be taken into consideration. If his noble Friend who seconded the Motion (Viscount Goderich) had served with him on the Commission which sat two years ago on the system of promotion in the army, he would have found what objections were urged on the part of the army to the system which he recommended. His noble Friend desired that promotion should proceed one-third by merit, and two-thirds by seniority. But when it was proposed before the commission to adopt that or some analogous system in those two branches of the service where purchase did not prevail, the majority of the commissioners agreed in a recommendation to Her Majesty, that she would be graciously pleased more frequently to exercise her prerogative to take officers out of the regular routine of promotion, and to promote them to higher ranks on account of their merit. But that recommendation at once encountered great opposition from the Engineers and Artillery; and when the commissioners recorded a modified expression of opinion, with respect to the changes that ought to be made, even that was met by a protest signed by the officers who represented those two branches of the service upon the commission. In despair of rapid promotion under the system of selection and seniority the system of purchase was advocated by the officers themselves. The difficulties attendant upon seniority and selection were so great that in the East India Company's service a system of promotion by purchase had long been adopted illegally. Promotion in the usual course of the service had been found to be so slow, and officers had been found to be so inefficient from age, that younger officers were tempted, on the one hand, to provide funds to induce old officers to retire, and the Government of India, on the other, had encouraged the practice for the purpose of obtaining officers young enough to perform their duties with efficiency, though they knew it to be contrary to law. His noble Friend had entered into the question of the education of the army. Now the subject of military education, as connected with promotion, would require great consideration. He had always regarded it as a great anomaly, as compared with the practice in the army, that in the navy after six years' service no mate could rise to the rank of a lieutenant without passing an examination as to his professional capability to discharge the duties appertaining to the superior rank. No such examination was required in the case of a subaltern in the army being promoted to a superior rank. This was a point which ought to be maturely and deliberately considered. The money part of the question was of the least importance. The sacrifice of £5,000,000, £6,000,000, or even £10,000,000 would be willingly borne by the public if it would secure to this country a superiority on the part of its military officers over the officers of every other country. He was not inclined to think, however, the appointment of a committee would be the most likely mode of leading to an advantageous solution of this question. For his own part, though he had had some experience, he should feel himself very ill qualified, as a Member of such Committee, to come to any decision upon the merits of the question. The hon. and gallant general (Sir De Lacy Evans) had suggested that if a Committee were objected to, a commission might be appointed composed partly of military men and partly of civilians to hear evidence on both sides. Without pledging himself to any particular form of inquiry, he thought that the question ought to be boldly met and fairly investigated, in order that the public might be satisfied. Public attention had been much attracted to this subject; and he hoped his noble Friend at the head of the Government would consider that the demand for some inquiry was but reasonable, after the sacrifices which the country had been called upon to make during what he hoped he might now call the late war, and that he would not refuse to adopt some means of satisfying that demand.


said, this was a question which involved the future interests as well as the promotion of the most meritorious and most useful class of officers upon our military establishment—namely, the regimental officers. He therefore trusted that the House would weigh well the consequences of altering a system which had been long established, and which had, as far as his experience told him, hitherto maintained the honour, the discipline, and the efficiency of the British army. It had been his lot, from the period when he first joined the army in the year 1801, to have served constantly with a regiment until he obtained the rank of a general officer. Eleven years of that period he was in command of the regiment. From the knowledge thus obtained, he presumed to advocate the continuance of the system of purchase because he conceived it best for the interests of regimental officers expecting promotion, and most conducive, as he trusted he should prove, to the efficiency of the army. He would briefly describe the position of an officer who entered the army without the means of purchasing promotion and the prospects he had before him, and then leave the House to judge whether the abolition of the system of purchase would be an advantage to him or otherwise. He was aware, when he arrived at the top of the lists of ensigns, lieutenants, and captains, whenever a commission became vacant, either by death, retirement on full pay, or promotion on the staff, the commission was always given in the regiment without purchase. There were thus these several chances open to an officer to succeed without purchase, and the question was, would he sooner arrive at the top of the list and so succeed to such vacancies by allowing purchase, or by waiting his turn in the slow progress of seniority? By allowing purchase, some officers might certainly purchase over him; but there were likewise many above him who would go out of his way by purchase. He did not think that he could bring a stronger proof of the validity of his argument than by instancing the system of the East India Company. In the Hon. Company's army promotion was entirely by seniority; and what was the result? It was this: when an officer, by this slow progress, attained to the rank of a lieutenant colonel, he generally found his health so impaired, and his energies so enfeebled, that he would retire, if he had, according to his ideas, a competency to do so. A certain sum was required for this purpose, and it was subscribed by those officers who would obtain promotion by his retirement. Did the East India Company take any notice of such deviations from the established rule prohibiting purchase? Far from it. They saw too well the advantage of the system, as thereby their army received the advantage of effective officers replacing worn-out officers. It was an undeniable fact that prices were paid for commissions much beyond the sums fixed in the Warrant regulating the price; and he believed he was not wrong in stating that there was not a regiment in the service, from the Guards downwards, in which there was not another value fixed upon each commission. Should any officer apply to purchase who had only the regulated price to offer, the officer desirous of selling either refused to do so, or exchanged to half-pay; and he had heard of one regiment in which the officers, finding promotion in the regiment stopped for three years, in consequence of an officer refusing, or being unable, to give more than the regulated price, put him in Coventry for thus preventing promotion in the regiment. This he considered a most serious grievance to officers who could not exceed the regulated price for commissions; and as officers of regiments could thus, by combination, prevent Her Majesty's regulations from being followed, and thus injure the brightest expectation any officer might otherwise have of promotion, he would recommend the following system to be adopted:—That a return should be sent in to the Horse Guards from each regiment of officers desirous to purchase, that from it a list should be prepared, so that, whenever a commission was for sale, the senior officer on that list, provided he had served a certain period on full pay, should be the officer selected to purchase. He acknowledged, that some inconvenience affecting the esprit de corps of a regiment might be caused by such an arrangement, and also to officers not willing to purchase if they were to serve in the East or West Indies; but it was impossible to put a stop to the practice, unless by adopting the principle be had laid down, allowing all to take their chance of climate, or of effecting exchanges if they preferred so doing. Now, with respect to unattached rank. There was one species of purchase which he desired as much as the hon. and gallant general to see abolished; and this was the practice of purchasing unattached rank. By this system, an officer who possessed influence and patronage could obtain rank by purchase over the heads of officers who had actually lodged their money for purchase, but who must wait their turn till an opportunity offered in their regiments. An advantage was thus given to the person who possessed influence and patronage over the officer who remained serving with his regiment till the opportunity offered for him to purchase promotion. Besides, when the latter did purchase in his regiment, it was for the purpose of remaining in the service; whereas, the officer who purchased an unattached rank, went on half-pay, and might, perhaps, in the next Gazette, be placed on full pay, over the heads of all those officers who had been obliged to wait till an opportunity of promotion offered. It would likewise do away with the mystery in which these transactions were sometimes involved. For example, the name of the officer only who purchased an unattached rank appeared in the Gazette; who the person was whose commission was sold was not mentioned. The next consideration was, if purchase was done away with, what compensation was to be made to officers who had already purchased their promotion. Were they to be remunerated for their outlay? Why, even on a moderate computation of the amount, the sum would come to seven or eight millions of money.


said, he thought with his right hon. Friend (Mr. Ellice) that a great deal might be said on both sides of the question, and he asked the attention of the House while he adduced a few arguments in opposition to those which had been brought forward by the mover and seconder of the Resolution. One consideration which had been advanced by the hon. and gallant General (Sir De Lacy Evans) was hardly worthy of him. He had appealed to a right hon. Gentleman who was not present (Mr. Disraeli) and to his party to support this motion, on the ground that such a course would benefit them at future elections. He (Mr. F. Peel) trusted, and indeed he had no doubt, that this and every other question which came before the House would be discussed and disposed of without regard to selfish and individual considerations of that kind, and with reference only to the public interest and the efficiency of the army. In replying to the speeches of the hon. and gallant General (Sir De Lacy Evans) and the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich), he was not about to argue that the system of purchase was one which could in theory be regarded as free from objection; and when a new corps was recently established, he admitted that it did not, and ought not to form any part of its arrangements. In the Land Transport Corps, where there was a whole series of regimental appointments—field officers, captains and subalterns—none of the officers appointed to that corps were required to give anything for their commissions, nor would they be permitted to receive anything for them when they retired from the service. If the whole of our army could be disbanded to-day, and reconstituted to-morrow, he had no doubt that it would reappear without the system of promotion by purchase. But on the other hand, it must be remembered that our army had been in existence 150 years, and that the system of purchase had been coexistent with it. It could not, therefore, be easily got rid of. Indeed, he did not believe that such a system could have existed so long without having so far caused the service to accommodate itself to it as not to be so readily displaced as some persons imagined; or without having developed advantages which to some extent compensated for its disadvantages and drawbacks. Any one who, like the gallant General, proposed to abolish this system ought to be prepared not only to show that there were in it many lives, but also to submit to the House a remedy so plausible and primâ facie acceptable as to justify its being submitted to an inquiry before a Committee. The noble Lord who seconded the Motion had endeavoured to show that the present system was injurious, even to those officers who were prepared to purchase commissions, and he based his argument on no better ground than this, that such officers were deprived, during their service in the army, of the interest of the money they had paid for their commissions. He confessed that he could not view this part of the question in the same light as the noble Lord. Assuming it to be true that all men who entered the army did so with the desire of attaining as speedily as possible to the rank of colonel or general, or to some position of higher authority and greater responsibility than they were likely to reach in private life or in a civil profession, he could not understand how a system, the effect of which was to accelerate the accomplishment of such objects, could he viewed otherwise than with favour by those who had the means of bringing themselves within its operation by the purchase of commissions. The hon. and gallant General was of opinion that the practice of buying commissions gave rise to jealousies and heartburnings; yet he advocated promotion by merit—a system the principle of which was that, without regard to the circumstances under which any two men might have entered the service, they should be shifted about according to the estimation in which their respective abilities might be held. Did the hon. and gallant General's acquaintance with human nature lead him to believe that the man who had been set aside to make way for the superior merit of another was less likely to endure the misery of heartburning and jealousy than he who was out-stripped in the race, simply because his rival had more money? But was the present system disadvantageous to those officers who were not prepared to purchase? He (Mr. F. Peel) would maintain that it indirectly benefited the non-purchasing class of officers; for this simple reason that when an officer at the top of the list resigned his commission the new-comer did not step into his shoes; but, entering at the bottom of the list, he pushed up every officer in the regiment. Thus the non-purchasing officer advanced more rapidly to the top of the list than he would by seniority, and when, at length, a vacancy occurred which did not go by purchase, he at once succeeded to it. So well was this understood, that he (Mr. F. Peel), would undertake to say that if a young man, without means, were to consult his friends as to which would be the more prudent course for him to pursue with reference to the speediest manner of attaining an eminent position—whether, to enter a corps such as the Ordnance, where the purchase system was unknown, or to join a regiment of the line, where men with money were permitted to buy over his head, but where, at the same time, he would be advanced on every occasion of a vacancy—there could be no doubt that, on a careful review of all the circumstances, his friends would advise him to give the preference to the line, with all its chances of being passed over. No doubt, if it could be shown that the purchase system had the effect of injuring the army and of rendering it less efficient for the protection of the country, it would be the duty of the Legislature to abolish it forthwith; but of this no adequate evidence had been adduced, either by the hon. and gallant General or by the noble Lord. No proof had been given that the present system operated perniciously on the general interests of the service. And he had yet to learn in what manner the interests of the country would be promoted by the abolition of the purchase system. If the power of purchasing commissions were to be put an end to to-morrow, would the officers of the British army be henceforward of a different class from what they now were? For his own part, he had no such expectation. He believed it to be an advantage to the country that the army should have that tone of gentlemanly feeling which it derived from being officered by young men connected with the aristocratic and wealthy classes, but he could not go the length of thinking that this object was in any material degree promoted by the maintenance of the purchase system. If it were abolished, commissions would continue to be held mainly by the same class of persons as at present possessed them. This was the case in the Ordnance Corps, where the principle of seniority prevailed; the officers in that corps were in the same station of life, and generally possessed the same means as the officers of the line. It had been said that they were for the most part better educated, professionally, and he believed that the fact was so. Previous to obtaining a commission in the Ordnance it was for- merly necessary to obtain an appointment to the college at Woolwich; there the candidate went through a course of study extending over three or four years, and after passing an examination which tested his acquaintance with various branches of science he received a commission in the artillery. A new and still more searching system was now adopted; the candidates for commissions had to undergo competitive examinations, and a very high standard of qualification was required. Whether under the old or the new system, the education was costly and expensive to the officer and his family; and quite as much money was spent in qualifying an officer for the Ordnance as in procuring a commission in the line. The money was only spent in a different way. The noble Lord who had seconded the Motion complained that the excellent example set by his right hon. Friend behind him (Mr. S. Herbert), with respect to the promotion of non-commissioned officers, had not yet been followed by the present Government. The noble Lord, however, had failed to acquaint himself with the facts; for never had there been less foundation for such a complaint than during the period that had elapsed since the noble Lord last addressed the House on this subject. If ever there was a time when non-commissioned officers had been promoted to commissions it was certainly during the last twelve mouths. Indeed, if the noble Lord would take the trouble to examine the Army Estimates, he would find, by the sums required for the outfit of non-commissioned officers who had received commissions, that the Government had been following the example of his right hon. Friend. It was his (Mr. F. Peel's) impression that during the year 1855 no fewer than 150 non-commissioned officers had been presented with commissions in the cavalry and infantry. There had also been numerous similar promotions in the Artillery, the Land Transport Corps, and the various foreign contingents now in the pay of England. It was an error on the part of the noble Lord to suppose that, in order to raise the education of the army it was essential to set aside the system of purchase, for on that system any standard of education might be engrafted. The military authorities found no difficulty in laying down the rule, that, no matter what wealth an officer might possess, he should not be a captain until he had been two years in the service, nor a field officer until he had been six. These were regulations which money did not affect; they were arbitrary rules; and there could be no difficulty in carrying them still further, and stipulating that no officer should be permitted to purchase until he had reached a certain standard of professional knowledge. He greatly doubted whether, under these circumstances, either the hon. and gallant General or the noble Lord could show any evil in the purchase system. At all events, if the present state of things should be abolished, what other would be substituted? This was an essential consideration. They had heard a great deal about new methods of promotion, but the most important question to be considered was, not the system of promotion, but the system of retirement. The army was not like an open profession into which any one could enter, and have only himself to blame or congratulate in the case of failure or of success. The man who entered the army entered a close profession, consisting of a certain number of appointments, one or another of which he was to fill. For every man who came in to fill one or other of those appointments one should go out. This rendered the plan of retirement a matter of the highest importance. Economical considerations could not be wholly shut out of view in examining such a question. It was very well in time of war to disregard expense, but immediately on the return of peace, if we had a large non-effective establishment, it would be the subject of continual attacks in Parliament, and there would be again, as there had been before, constant Motions made in that House largely to reduce it. It was said that promotion by seniority prevailed in the Ordnance Corps, and yet that branch was not inferior in efficiency to the rest of the service. That might be very true; but on whatever ground the principle of seniority might be advocated, certainly the state of things which now existed in the Artillery and Engineer Corps could afford it no legitimate support. When the war with France broke out the Ordnance Corps was as low as 9,000 men; but in the course of that contest it was raised to 25,000 or 26,000. At the outset of that struggle the officers were generally men advanced in years, most of whom had served in the American war. A number of new appointments were consequently made, and towards the close of the French war the lieutenant colonels of the Ordnance branch were mostly men of about forty years of age, who had seen some twenty years' service, during which they had been engaged in the Peninsular campaigns. When peace was restored and the Ordnance Corps reduced, it became necessary to see that vacancies were filled up from the half-pay list, instead of by promotion; and what was the result? These officers having all been appointed about the same time, it was found that they all ought to be superannuated. An immediate outlet for the old officers being requisite, a full-pay retired list was formed which was increased from year to year; and which had the effect of allowing a regular current of promotion to flow through the whole corps, with the view of having the higher grades filled by comparatively young men. The numerical strength of our infantry and cavalry was 200,000 men; and that of the Ordnance Corps, 20,000. The Ordnance retired full pay list cost the country £48,000 a year; so that if the rest of the army were placed on the same footing, a sum ten times as large would be required for the purpose. If the system of purchase were wholly abolished in the line, and no such mode of relieving the service of officers who had either become unfit, or were disinclined for active service, existed as that afforded by their being enabled at any time to obtain the value of their commissions, it would be absolutely necessary to create a full pay list for the line, which would absorb a fund of not less than half a million per annum. So far, then, as regarded full pay only. But between the Ordnance and the Line, in respect of half pay, there was a wide difference, solely attributable to the absence of purchase in the former corps. If an infantry officer under twenty-one years' service wished to retire, he was called upon to sell out; but an Artillery officer who had become incapacitated for active duty would apply for permission to retire on half-pay; and, although he might be only thirty and have seen but seven years' service, they could not turn him adrift without the means of support, but were compelled to allow him to continue a burden upon the country to the end of his days. Thus, then, the abolition of the system of purchase would involve heavy additional expense both for full-pay and for half-pay retired allowances. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sydney Herbert) had put a question the preceding evening relative to the recommendation of a Commission, to the effect that officers on the staff should be required after a certain period to relinquish their appointments. He (Mr. Peel) apprehended the adoption of some such principle as that in regard to regimental appointments would be indispensable on the abrogation of the purchase system; for without a rule providing that after a lieutenant colonel or a major had held his appointment for five years or so, he must give up his command in favour of another, a constant current of advancement for young officers could not be maintained. But supposing the system of purchase to be abolished, what was to be substituted for it? Some misconception existed as to the extent to which the purchase system was carried in the army. It was in reality confined within much narrower bounds than was commonly supposed. Whether they looked to army rank or to regimental and staff employments, they would find that the present practice of purchase did not materially retard the promotion of deserving officers to posts of trust and responsibility. It was true that army rank, unless in rare and exceptional cases, could not be obtained up to the grade of captain inclusive without the purchase of a regimental commission; but when once made a captain, an officer might entirely disregard the effect of purchase upon his subsequent advancement. Let him only distinguish himself by an act of gallantry, and he would earn a brevet majority or a brevet lieutenant colonelcy. After that, he had only to continue serving for a certain number of years, and then he would, as a matter of course, attain the rank of colonel, and, under the new regulations, would have all the higher emoluments and honours of his profession thrown open to him. Indeed, it had almost been made a charge against the Government that young officers now so rapidly became captains. From the rank of lieutenant colonel up to the highest position in the army, purchase in no degree intervened, promotion being in those cases given either by seniority or by selection for eminent services. Regimental employment might be obtained by purchasing a regimental commission, but certainly no staff appointments were given for any pecuniary consideration. They were bestowed solely on grounds of supposed merit. The Government's notions of merit might not always coincide with those of hon. Members, but undoubtedly they invariably did their best to single out the most deserving men for situations on the staff. Thus, therefore, there were three modes of promotion now operating simultaneously in the army—viz., purchase, seniority, and selection. If these different principles overlapped each other their working might be objectionable; but, being perfectly co-ordinate, they could be harmoniously combined, and had separate spheres of appropriate and beneficial action assigned to them. The adoption of either mode exclusively would be attended with great practical difficulty and inconvenience. He could not himself give a preference to seniority, for the effect of that would be that we should have officers in the line twenty-five years older than at present. Were merit taken as the sole criterion, constant complaints would be made of the Government abusing its patronage. Indeed, even the staff appointments made in a time of war under the most favourable circumstances now produced infinite dissatisfaction among a considerable section of that House. But those appointments were made under the most favourable circumstances, because they were not made at head-quarters in this country. He did not believe that of the innumerable staff appointments made during the two years which had elapsed since the army went out to the Crimea the authorities of the Horse Guards had filled up one, or had even so much as made a recommendation that a staff appointment should be given to any particular individual. On the whole, then, he was strongly of opinion that the disadvantages of abolishing the present system were very great. He must now address himself for a few moments to the economical part of the question. It had been stated that the value of commissions purchased in the army amounted to £8,000,000, and that the country would have to vote that sum in order to get rid of the system of purchase, the advantages of which, in his view, more than counter-balanced the disadvantages which attached to it. Therefore he was not disposed to counsel what he would regard as a prodigal and wasteful expenditure of the public money for the purpose of getting rid of one system of promotion, which would be replaced by another from which he anticipated no superior advantages. He thought, however, that the nature of these investments was not clearly understood by hon. Gentlemen. What was the purchase system in reality? An officer who bought a commission had a certain capital before he entered the army; he invested that capital in the purchase of his commission; and when he retired from the army he recovered his investment. The sum given for the purchase of a commission was, in fact, nothing more than a sort of caution money. The hon. and gallant General (Sir De Lacy Evans) had said, "I am of opinion that there would be no difficulty in getting rid of the system if you only provide that when the commissions which have been bought become vacant they shall not be resold;" but as he (Mr. Peel) had already stated, an officer invested a sum of money in the purchase of his commission, and on retiring from the army he withdrew the amount so invested. If an officer who retired received the price of his commission from the officer who succeeded him, of course the successor would expect to have his investment returned. The noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) had, as he understood, suggested that no commission should be sold that had not been bought, and had stated that if the Government had adopted a recommendation that was made to this effect at the commencement of the war, they would have relieved themselves, to a great degree, from the embarrassment they now felt upon this subject. It was quite true that large augmentations had taken place during the last twelve months, for, as the numerous regiments sent to the Crimea had been raised to the war establishment, a great number of additional officers had necessarily received commissions, but he (Mr. Peel) did not see how the Government could have relieved themselves from embarrassment by saying that the commissions so given away should not be sold, because, when peace was established, it would of course be necessary to reduce our war establishments, and the officers who had received commissions would be placed upon the half-pay list. The noble Lord had also said that he understood the purchase system had broken down entirely, for that at one time the Government were unable to get men to buy. That was not the case. The number of applications for commissions by purchase exceeded greatly, indeed by many hundreds, the number of commissions that were vacant. For these reasons, he trusted the House would not adopt the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member. He (Mr. Peel) felt no apprehension with regard to any inquiries that could be instituted on this subject. The commission which sat in 1850 stated that the evidence already given with reference to the question was so complete that it was wholly unnecessary for them to take any fresh evidence, and if a Committee of that House should be merely a tribunal expressing opinions without having taken evidence, he doubted whether they could safely arrive at a decision founded upon its conclusions.


said, that, as a civilian, he was scarcely capable of giving an opinion upon the details of this question, but feeling as he did very strongly upon it, he would urge upon the Government and the House the propriety of instituting such an inquiry as was now asked for. He should do so for this reason—that if the present opportunity were not taken, it was not likely to recur. The House would recollect that a few years ago the general feeling of the public about the internal administration of the army, was that of great indifference and almost apathy. Except upon the Estimates, which were criticised with an economical spirit, hardly any proposition of military reform at that time ever came before the House. And if the present occasion were let pass, when the glories and the disasters of the late war were filling the public mind, things would return to their former state, public attention would be diverted to other topics, and motions of this kind would command but very little interest or sympathy either in the House or out of it. It would even be worse than before, because we should then hear the Russian war spoken of exactly as the Peninsular war had been hitherto spoken of; every victory and every success gained by our arms would be cited as an argument for maintaining things as they were; and, although they had been gained in spite of the system, they would be used as reasons for maintaining the system intact. Now, what was this purchase system with which the House was now asked to deal. It was the buying, by a private person, of a vested interest in the public service. What was the example of our neighbours in this respect? Was there any country in the world in which any such practice existed? Not one. What was our own custom in other departments? Was there any branch of the civil or other public service in which it existed? Not one. The only parallel to it, so far as it went, was the sale of presentation to livings, and the only reason why Parliament could not deal with that abuse was, that those presentations, being in private hands, there were almost insurmountable obstacles to any inter- ference on the part of the Legislature. In the British army we had this system, which was not accepted by any other nation, which was condemned by the example of the civil service, and which was not found in the navy. It was essentially anomalous and exceptional. It was a deviation, a departure from that rule which in every other case we acknowledged as binding, namely, that entrance into, and promotion in, the public service should not be matters of private bargain and contract. It could only be compared to what was done in France in the last century, when judicial and administrative offices were, not, indeed, exactly disposed of to the highest bidder, but put up to sale under certain conditions. But what Minister would propose or defend that system here? Yet, what was the difference? If we sold the military offices, why not also sell the civil offices of the State? If the claims of wealth were to be admitted, as entitling men to employment in the army, why not likewise in the judicial and administrative departments? But, in point of fact, the practice in question was not defended as abstractedly good, but only upon the ground of its actual existence; and it was said that to abolish it would only lead to greater evils. Now, what was the principal evil which seemed to be apprehended from its discontinuance? The money question he was disposed to pass over; that it was not insignificant he agreed, but, after all, the highest estimate which had ever been made of the value of existing commissions was eight millions, and it only amounted to half the sum which was voted yearly, in time of peace, for the naval and military service. And the country would not have to sacrifice that amount all at one time, or in one sum, but it would be scattered over a long period of years. He did not therefore think that the economical objection was much to be relied on. But the Under Secretary for War had said that this, which was called purchase, really was nothing more than caution money. What did he mean by that? He (Lord Stanley) knew what was meant by caution money, when a man entered a place of trust, and deposited a sum which he would forfeit in case he abused the trust. But how could the sum invested in the purchase of a commission be regarded as caution money? Putting aside the extreme case of a man being cashiered, and so deprived of his commission, that caution money was not forfeited except in the case of a man who did his duty, and who died in action. The caution money was not forfeited by those who neglected their duty, but only by those who died in performing it. The Under Secretary had said that unless we had this system, we should not be able to get rid of men who were disabled by age and infirmity for the proper discharge of their duties. Again, he (Lord Stanley) would ask, how did we get rid of such men in the civil service? It was done very simply, by a plan of superannuation. He anticipated the objection, that, at this moment, the system of superannuation in the civil service was not working satisfactorily. But that was because the first authors of the plan had miscalculated the amount of deductions and of the retiring allowances, the deductions being fixed at too high a rate and the allowances too low, so that in fact the civil servants did not receive the full amount of superannuation to which they were entitled. But the system was a sound one in itself, and only required to be accurately worked out in its details. There was another plan, by which, in some continental armies, the evil of having the active service list overcrowded with veteran officers was done away with. A fixed rule was laid down, which, no doubt, was an arbitrary one, and harsh to individuals in some cases, but which promoted the general interest. It was, that if a man did not attain a certain military grade by a certain time of life, he should not attain it at all. He had the option of retirement, whether upon half pay or full pay he (Lord Stanley) was not aware, or, if he preferred it, of remaining in active service, retaining the grade which at the time he happened to occupy. There was, it must he admitted, something harsh and arbitrary in this, and we should not take it except as the least of two evils; but if we must choose one of the two, it was far better to adopt a plan which at least operated fairly between man and man, than to continue a practice by which the most invidious of all tests was applied. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had not been able to see what practical evils resulted from purchase. Why, was it no evil, when we passed over officers who had every qualification except the possession of money? The bare statement of the fact was enough; yet the evil done was not to be measured by the mere number of cases of individuals suffering under the system. Every such case, and they were numerous, tended to propagate discontent and ill-feeling among the circle of the officer's relatives and friends. That alone was no slight evil. Of course it might be said that the officer was aware before he entered the service of what he had to expect. Undoubtedly he was; but that defence might he used to justify any rule, any method of promotion, no matter how contrary to common sense and justice. But the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary said that if we promoted by seniority alone there would be, and he (Lord Stanley) agreed there would be, great inconvenience to the public service; and if we promoted by selection, said the hon. Gentleman, the principle of selection by merit would be quite as invidious as that of purchase. If such a sentiment as that were entertained, it could only be left to the good sense and justice of those concerned; but surely there was such a thing as a distinction between right and wrong, a sense of what was just and unjust; and he (Lord Stanley) gave British officers the credit of being willing to waive their personal claims, and even sacrifice their individual prospects, cheerfully on behalf of one who, though junior to themselves in the service, was their superior in ability, and who, having had opportunities of gaining great distinction, had so used those opportunities as to deserve promotion. Any man of good and honourable feeling, he repeated, would be ready to acknowledge the justice of such a promotion; and if the individual who was passed over should not himself acknowledge it, the general feeling of the army would set him right, and public opinion would reprove his discontent. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary had asked, whether it was supposed that the army would be made more efficient by the abolition of purchase? But how could a state of things not yet existing be compared with the present state of things? When the hon. Gentleman said that the commissions of the army were at present efficiently filled, he used the same plea by which, in every profession and in every branch of the public service, all abuses had been defended. Reforming the universities had been opposed upon the ground that Oxford and Cambridge turned out such accomplished men; and when reforming the law was talked of, it was common to object, see what purity we have on the bench, and what learning at the bar, under the present system. So often had such pleas been advanced, that it was almost a parliamentary common- place now to reply, that the efficiency, so far as it went, of an existing institution could be no argument against removing the abuses by which it was incumbered. The hon. Gentleman said the army was efficient; of course it was; any army would be so whose soldiers were brave and whose officers intelligent. But if the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) took the opinion of the army itself, of the working officers, of the men who had served in all countries for many years, and had the greatest opportunities of testing the operation of the system, he would find their judgment agree with that of the general public and the civilian part of the community, that purchase, which was not an integral part of our military constitution, but an excrescence that had grown upon it, ought to be removed. There were two questions involved in the present debate. The first was, whether purchase should be done away with; and the second was, by what particular mode it could be superseded. To the first question he (Lord Stanley) answered unhesitatingly, yes; for he believed that, whatever might be the nature of the substitute provided, it would be impossible to have recourse to one more unsound in principle or more invidious in practice. As to the second question, the precise plan to be adopted—the method of superseding this universally-condemned system, he granted there might he some difficulty, and not being himself prepared to offer a plan, he could not condemn the reluctance of others to do so. But if any plan had been prepared by Government, let them bring it forward. If not, let the subject he referred to a Committee. Let an investigation of it be made, and the opinions of able officers and of civilians be obtained. And the result, he believed, would be if the Committee were fairly constituted, that upon the report of its members, no matter who they were, within five years from this time the purchase system would have ceased to exist.


said, that the noble Lord who had just spoken had so well answered the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War that he would abstain from adding much to what had been said. The real question which the House had to consider was, whether the present system had or had not answered. In dealing with this point, he (Mr. Rich) would not extend his observations to the present time, because such a course would be invidious, and might probably lead to much personality. He had before him the Report of a Commission, which sat in 1838, to inquire into the state of the army and the system of promotion. That, it should be observed, was long after the war, and also subsequent to those great complaints made by military men of the want of promotion which resulted from the reduction of the war army. In order to remove those complaints, a large sale of unattached commissions appeared from this Report to have been made; for he found from the return that, between the years 1820 and 1830, no less than 1,323 original commissions and 2,124 derivative commissions were sold, thus making an addition of 3,447 to the ordinary promotions during a period of ten years. This movement in the army was so considerable that the late Lord Raglan declared it in his evidence to have been most mischievously extensive; yet we shall see how fruitless it was. During the Peninsular war the number of purchases had fallen very low, but the return of peace gave fresh vigour to the system. Purchases between the years 1815 and 1820 were to the previous period as two to one, and between 1820 and 1830 they stood as four to one. Now, what was the efficiency of the officers in the army at that time? The Commissioners, who had a leaning in favour of the existing system, reported most favourably; they said the army was in a most efficient state. But he would, however, ask the House what constituted the efficiency of an army in regard to its officers? Three qualifications were essential—first, a certain degree of education; secondly, some military experience; and thirdly, what he (Mr. Rich) might term professional adhesion, by which he meant that degree of love for the profession which was essential to the attainment of success. Certain other qualifications there undoubtedly were, without which there could be no efficiency; such, for instance, as physical power to perform duties under circumstances of hardship, danger, and difficulty. With regard to the system of education, it would be found that the only officers who received an education which fitted them for the service were those who entered it without purchase. They amounted to about one-fifth, and of these a portion was made up of cadets who had passed the examination at the Royal military colleges and had commissions given to them, and about an equal number of soldiers who, having served with distinction, received their commissions in a similar way. The fitness of these two classes was thus far tested. But for those who obtained their commissions by purchase there was formerly no test whatever. Latterly a test had been proposed rather than adopted; and of the officers belonging to the purchase class one-quarter, or say 20 per cent, failed at their first examination under this test, and 10 per cent on the second examination. This, he thought, was a sufficient proof that they had not acquired a sufficient education, and it was, moreover, a demonstration that, under the purchase system, one-quarter of the officers hitherto admitted by it were incompetent. Next, as to the question of experience. In this respect the case would be found still more serious. He believed that no country in the world had greater advantages for teaching young men their military duties than Great Britain, inasmuch as our wide-spread Colonies always afforded unusual advantages for seeing military life in large garrisons and in the field. What class of officers, he would ask, profited by these opportunities? Those, beyond all question, who seldom or never purchased; for when a regiment was ordered to the Colonies, those officers who could afford to pay the difference almost invariably exchanged with some one poorer, and so idly remained in England. Thus, by the working of the present system those officers who purchase commissions were precisely the men who do not acquire military experience. Thirdly, in respect to professional adhesion—those who purchased had less of this feeling, for many were by fortune independent of their profession, which they entered only as a temporary occupation. Others, again, with less ample means, whose ambition may have tempted them to invest nearly all their capital in their commissions, would, ere they finally sank it by becoming major generals, sell out. In this way the country lost men who bade fair to be its best generals. The purchase system had, therefore, hitherto tended to give us officers deficient in education, deficient in military experience, and deficient in professional adhesion. He next came to the physical qualifications of our officers. The Commission of 1838 reported that the average age of lieutenant colonels was forty-seven; majors, forty-three; captains, thirty-seven; lieutenants, twenty-nine; ensigns, twenty-one. But this return did not give a fair representation of the age of the working part of the army, the infantry of the line; for by certain privileges which the Guards possessed they attained the rank of lieutenant colonel at forty-two; and that, being so much lower than the general average, brought down the average age of lieutenant colonels, which, for infantry of the line, was forty-nine and three-quarters, and so in proportion for the other grades. The Commission said nothing about the ages of the generals; but from other returns he found that major generals obtained their promotion at the average age of fifty-eight and a-half before 1841, at fifty-nine in 1841, at sixty in 1851, and that the average age of the lieutenant generals on promotion was six or eight years older. A lieutenant general was supposed to command a division; a major general a brigade. Need he (Mr. Rich) ask that House whether, at the ages he had quoted, they could efficiently discharge their duties in the field? Yet this was the result of the purchase system! It had utterly failed; for when the war broke out, the whole of the generals were practically swept off the effective list, and we were forced to have recourse to colonels and lieutenant colonels to command divisions and brigades. Yet it had been said that the system worked admirably. It was, as the noble Lord had said, an anomalous system; experience had shown it to be an ineffective system, and it was, moreover, a dishonest system, for its very essence was to place money above merit. He was glad to find that the hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War could find scarcely any other ground for maintaining it except that of expense; but it had been wisely said that this was not a question of expense—it was a question in which the interest and well-being of our army and of our country was concerned. Even upon the point of cost there had been great exaggeration as to the expense which a change of system would entail, for a return which had been made to the House showed that the average annual cost of commissions purchased in the years 1853, 1854, and 1855 was only £500,000. The present purchase system would excite the deepest indignation, but that the feelings of the country were some-what blunted by the long continuance of the system. At present, an officer upon purchasing a lieutenant colonelcy almost at once passed to the command of a regiment, and during war, as he had shown, even to that of a brigade or of a division. Was it to be endured that such commands, involving the support, the honour, and the lives of our men, should be trafficked for so many pounds sterling? The country would pay any amount to provide for the just claims of officers; but as to this effete, broken-down, and corrupt system, they would no longer countenance the continuance of it. The accounts of Parliamentary corruption at the beginning of the last century were startling to the present generation, but it would appear equally monstrous in the eyes of Englishmen in the next century that Parliament and a Liberal Government should still allow the sale of offices of trust, and of such perilous importance as military commands, and refuse even to grant an inquiry into the working of such a system. He hoped, however, the noble Lord at the head of the Government would see the propriety of granting an inquiry, and would accede—if not to a Committee, which was preferable—at least to a Commission, to examine into the subject.


said, that many of the hon. Member's observations would have been applicable two years ago, but they were not so now, as about that time an arrangement was made by which upon an officer attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel the rank of full colonel followed in due course; from the ranks of colonel and general the Government and the Commander in Chief had power to select whom they pleased to command brigades and divisions, and therefore the Government was not reduced to the alternative of appointing generals of sixty-five, as was supposed. He had listened attentively to the speeches which had been delivered in favour of the Motion, but had failed to find in them any suggestion of a practical mode of abolishing the purchase system, and at the same time of maintaining the efficiency of the army. It appeared to him that the question mainly turned upon physical efficiency, for professional attainments could be tested and secured alike under a system of purchase, or any other system of promotion and appointment. Notwithstanding the remarks of the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last, he (Colonel Lindsay) asserted that when the war began the army was in a state of general efficiency, as regards the regimental officers, with perhaps the exception of a few regiments in India or lately returned from India. He presumed the House accepted peace as the rule and war as the exception, and that therefore our system in time of peace should be to keep us in such a state of efficiency as would enable us successfully to undertake, when necessary, warlike operations. Such being the rule, it appeared to be a great object to obtain comparatively young officers in all ranks. The purchase system only applied to regiments, and during the two years of war, although the greater number of officers had obtained their rank by means of purchase, there had been no complaints of regimental inefficiency. Whether the highest talent had been obtained was perhaps not ascertainable, but the duties of the service were performed in a manner creditable to the officers themselves and advantageous to the regiment. The failure—if failure there had been—was not among those who had obtained their rank by purchase, but among those who had been appointed by selection to the positions in which it was said there had been failure. He thought that, under these circumstances, instead of abolishing the system of purchase, they should endeavour to improve it. He had always been of opinion that it ought to be tempered and checked by stringent tests. It might, perhaps, be desirable that officers should have a higher education before they entered the service, and that, for that purpose, eighteen years, and not sixteen, should be the age of entrance. After they had entered, they ought not to be allowed to rise to the position of commanding companies without undergoing a strict professional test of efficiency. The failure of the orders issued four or five years ago respecting examinations for promotion, arose from their going too far. An officer who had been eight or ten years in the service could not be asked to undergo an examination fit for a youth of twenty; but all officers should have a good foundation laid before they entered. They should have opportunity and be encouraged to improve themselves, and when the time arrived for their promotion, they should be put through the strictest professional tests that could be devised. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had incurred some amount of censure by asking, in his speech last year, what merit was. That was a question not without difficulty in time of peace. On active service merit could be easily detected; but in peace, if an officer was able to pass the examination which would have to be created, he could not be neglected without injustice. A comparison had been drawn, by the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) between the position of the military and that of the civil service. But it was impossible to compare subalterns in a regiment with clerks in an office. Though men of forty and fifty were competent to sit at a desk and transact satisfactorily the business of an office, the case was different in a regiment, for subalterns of thirty and captains of forty were what all parties wished to avoid. Reference had also been made to a superannuation. No objection could be made to the theory of a superannuation; but he doubted whether it could be carried out practically in an array. Virtually, indeed, there was a superannuation now, because that name might be applied to the purchase system, and it cost the country nothing; whereas, if they were to create a superannuation similar to that in the civil service, they must do so at an enormous expense, and then it would become in reality a sort of retired full-pay. It was rather remarkable that no one had yet informed the House by what means he proposed to abolish the system of purchase. Could it be actually done? The Commander in Chief, indeed, might be empowered to select an officer for promotion from any branch of the service he pleased, without anybody in the regiment where the vacancy existed knowing anything about it, or from whence it would be filled. But such a system would be most dangerous; it would practically unregimentalise the army, and destroy that esprit de corps which now happily existed among officers. Again, was it the case that in those offices which were held without purchase no pecuniary transactions took place? On the contrary, there was a purchase, or a giving of money, in most of them. In the Indian army formerly purchase did not exist by rule, but now it most undoubtedly did, officers subscribing in proportion to their standing on the list. It was a great mistake to suppose that, because an officer retired upon full-pay, he got nothing for leaving his regiment. He himself knew one instance—and he had heard of others—in which an officer received a sum of money to retire on full-pay, having refused to go out unless he were paid for it. If the system of purchase were abolished to-morrow, nothing could prevent money being given to an officer who wished to retire to hurry him out, or an officer refusing to leave without being paid. Such, he believed, was a common practice among the surgeons. With respect to the purchase money of commissions, he thought that, if the Government were to announce to the army their intention to abolish the present system of promotion, the purchase money ought to be paid down at once, that officers might not lose the interest of the money they had invested. He did not suppose that the abolition of the purchase system would change altogether the class of men holding commissions, though it might to a small extent. A remarkable and instructive change had been going on in France for some time. One object which the Government had in supporting and increasing the military schools there was to impart a good professional education to the pupils who attended them; but another and equally important object was to induce a higher class of people to enter the service—men who from their position in life could afford to pay for education at these schools. He remembered an observation made by General Sebastiani when Commandant of Paris, that one immense advantage which the British army had over that of France was that it was officered by gentlemen. But was it correct to say that a non-commissioned officer had no hope under the existing system of rising in his profession? On the contrary, a considerable number of noncommissioned officers had been promoted since the beginning of the war, and the practice would, doubtless, be continued. There was a certain number of commissions vacated every year by death, retirement, or promotion to the staff, which went without purchase, and he thought that those and first commissions might fairly be divided between the military colleges and non-commissioned officers. It was a great mistake to suppose that noncommissioned officers were very eager for commissions. He had offered commissions, which had been refused. It was impossible for a non-commissioned officer, when promoted to a commission, to support himself upon his pay. An officer promoted from the ranks ought to have half as much pay again as the amount now given to other subalterns, in order to maintain himself in a state of respectability. He was of opinion that the system of purchase prevented jobbery. There was no interest whatever required to enable a person to obtain promotion by purchase. But if promotion was without purchase, and not by seniority, suspicions would be constantly excited that other influences were exerted besides those of merit. Great complaints were made in the debates of last year of the influences that were used to advance officers to the staff and to higher positions in the army. But all those influences were totally independent of the system of purchase. He certainly was of opinion that there ought to be some strong test of the qualifications of an officer before he was appointed to the general staff. No officer should be appointed to the position of aide-de-camp without previously obtaining a certificate from his commanding officer, that he had thorough knowledge of his regimental duty, and was perfectly fit for the appointment. For these and other reasons he thought it would not be judicious to alter the present system. That system was calculated to secure physical efficiency, and it was perfectly consistent with the regulations that mental efficiency should be secured. If the system of purchase were dispensed with, there would be no sufficient outlet for those who had been long in the service, and the army would abound with old subalterns and old captains, and would end in compulsory retirements. He did not, therefore, think it was at all desirable that the present arrangement should be abolished; he was of opinion that it would not in any degree promote the efficiency of the service, but that it might be improved; and for these reasons he should oppose the Motion.


said, that in the course of last Session he had made out a case of hardship on the part of the families of those officers who died when on active service, from the whole of the purchase money for their commissions being forfeited to the State. That amount was in almost every case larger than the pay which officers so dying had received during their service. Take, for instance, the case of an ensign; he paid £450 for his commission, but when killed in action the whole pay he had received would not amount to that sum. A lieutenant colonel paid £4,500 for his commission. That sum was far greater than the aggregate of the pay which he had received. Consequently, to every officer who died in active service the State was a debtor. Now, he contended that the interests of those who died in active service should be placed in as favourable a position as the interests of those who sold out. When he brought this question before the House last year the noble Lord at the head of the Government promised that the grievance com- plained of should be completely removed. The noble Lord said— That he thought it would be right for a regulation to be made, by which 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 allowances or pensions, whatever they were, now given by the regulations; or whether, in lieu of that, they should receive the value of his commission—that was, the regulation value of course, not the sum he might have actually invested in it. That promise on the part of the Government went forth to the world, and was received with heartfelt satisfaction by many an officer endangering his life for his country. A promise of this kind, made by the First Minister of the Crown in the House of Commons, was a sacred thing, and should be fulfilled to the very letter; but, so far from that being the case, the Government, by the delay in taking any step at all, and, secondly, by the form in which they had at length issued the warrant, had made the promise of no effect. First, with respect to the delay. Supposing a regulation of that kind had been established at the commencement of the present war, it would have been of great pecuniary value, not only to the families of those who died, but to every officer in the service, because it would have been the cause of saving to them heavy sums which they had paid for assurances on their lives. He was reminded that the regulation laid down in the Queen's warrant was retrospective in its operation; but what was the value of a retrospective regulation to the man who was already dead? He could never have the satisfaction of knowing that such a regulation existed. But the warrant itself, which granted to the father or mother of an officer leaving no wife or family the price paid for his commission, contained this proviso—namely, that they be not excluded by wealthy circumstances. The practical effect of this proviso was, that a large proportion of the parents of deceased officers were excluded from all benefit under the warrant, and even those who sought to obtain that benefit could only do so by going through a process so humiliating that no gentleman could be expected to submit to it. He was required to declare that he was "in distressed circumstances," and to show that he was a deserving object of the Royal charity. That was not the case with respect to an officer who sold his commission. If he were possessed of £50,000 a year, he would still have a right to receive the full value of his com- mission. According to private letters received by him, it appeared that the War Office had refused to give to the mother of a subaltern the value of her son's commission unless she would state that she had been mainly dependent for subsistence upon the pay of her son. Now, this was a perfect mockery, for it was well known that the pay of a lieutenant would not more than suffice for his own support. It was most desirable that the Royal warrant should be fulfilled to the very letter, and not be interpreted unfavourably to those who died in their country's service; he hoped, therefore, that the Government would take this subject again into consideration. With regard to the system of purchase, it seemed to him that the State was really in debt to the army to the full amount of the aggregate value of the commissions, seeing that it had received this money at one time or other, and applied it to State purposes. The debt had been transferred from one person to another from the time when it was contracted by the State, but the same liability continued on the part of the State, and the officer who last purchased a particular commission stood as a creditor of the State with regard to that commission. Being, therefore, of opinion that the operation of the resent system was extremely unsatisfactory, he should most cordially vote for this inquiry, with a view to devise some regulations by which a better system should be established as to appointments and promotions in the army.


said, it had been observed by the hon. Member for Richmond (Mr. Rich) that if the officers of the army were consulted they would be, at least those of the poorer class, to a man, in favour of the abolition of the purchase system. Now, he was quite confident this was an error. When our army was compared on this point with the continental armies, it must be remembered that the conscription introduced into the latter men of all classes, many of them well educated, and this naturally gave a much wider field for the choice of officers from the ranks. But his principal objection to the abolition of the purchase system was, that it would act to the prejudice of the very persons whom they were all most anxious to serve—namely, gallant and well-conducted non-commissioned officers. The sergeant major of a regiment, with 3s. a day, besides his rations, his beer money, and all his uniform found him, was in a better position than an ensign with 5s. 3d. a day, who must have a very expensive outfit, and was obliged to keep up a certain appearance. The inducement which led the non-commissioned officer to seek promotion was not, therefore, increase of pay, but because he looked forward at some time or other to the sale of his commission as a provision for those who were dependent upon him. During the last debate on this subject it was stated that men who had risen from the ranks were not often found to attain a high position in the service. The reason obviously was, that most non-commissioned officers were married men, and the moment they attained the rank, say, of captain, they were usually disposed to sell their commissions, the £1,800 obtained in this way, which was a small fortune to them, being applied for the purpose of making provision for their families. What could these persons do if the sale of commissions were done away with? As far as his own experience went, he believed that almost every officer throughout the army was opposed to a change in the system. Certainly, a great many officers were passed over at present; he, for instance, had been, and he admitted it was a great bore to lose promotion; but, at the same time, it had never entered into his head to complain of a system generally approved by the service. With regard to the warrant referred to by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Headlam), it had been a perfect delusion upon the whole army. It was now many months since it was announced that the families of officers who fell in action should receive the amount of their commissions; but he had been told of many instances in which the promised allowance had been refused, upon what appeared to him the most improper grounds. He was himself aware of a case in which a widow with two or three children applied for the amount of her husband's commission, he having died in the Crimea; but the answer she received was that, because she possessed the enormous sum of £300 a year, she was not entitled to it. He hoped, however, that, after the promise made by the noble Lord at the head of the Government on this subject, no time would be lost in informing the army of the real meaning of the warrant, and of the eases in which this allowance would and would not be paid. It was naturally most painful to the relations of those who fell in action to make applications of this kind and receive refusals, and he regretted that for these reasons the warrant seemed to have become almost a dead letter.


considered that this subject might with much greater propriety be submitted to the investigation of a Royal Commission than to a Committee of that House. At the same time, the glories and the disasters of our army had alike brought the question before the public mind, and it would be difficult for Her Majesty's Government to make out a case in favour of the present system so strong as to justify them in opposing the demand for inquiry altogether. It was impossible for any one who had heard the debate to say that a primâ facie case had not been made out for further inquiry. As long as the system of purchase lasted the army would always lie open to great misapprehension. The notion would get abroad that officers could attain to positions of importance by means of their wealth alone; and when he was told that no inconveniences had arisen from the existing system, he would ask, what could be a greater practical evil than that the army of this country should be regarded with dissatisfaction and suspicion? Upon the continuance of promotion by purchase depended the question of whether the army was ever to become what might rightly be called a profession. By a profession he meant a course of life in preparing for which a person devoted his youth, in which he spent the whole of his maturer years, from which he might claim to receive a fair subsistence, and in which he might reap honours, if he deserved them. But the British army, as at present constituted, did not answer to such a definition. A very large number of officers entered with the intention of spending only a few years in the service. There was no doubt that those gentlemen derived many advantages from their temporary connection with the army; but he could not conceive that such a practice was good for the army itself. It was mainly to the circumstance that it contained so many officers of this class that the English service did not possess that esprit de corps which was the great characteristic of foreign armies. Now, considering that the military establishment of this country must always be necessarily small, compared with those of other countries, it was surely most essential that it should be officered by men who possessed a real knowledge of their duties. He was quite ready to concur in all that had been said in praise of our regi- mental officers; but if those officers had been men of greater experience, he could not doubt that many of the disasters which our troops had recently experienced would have been avoided, and he was sure that at least as many glories would have been achieved. If our army was to remain in peace a nucleus round which the strength of the country might on any emergency be collected, it was especially necessary that its officers should be men who had received a competent military education. He (Mr. M. Milnes) had last year been a Member of the Committee appointed to inquire into that subject; and the impression left on the mind, not only of himself, but of all his colleagues, was that the education given at Sandhurst produced very little real effect, and that if a military collegiate course was considered necessary at all, it must be very considerably enlarged. Now he (Mr. M. Milnes) did not consider that it would be possible to combine a system of strict military education with a system of purchase, in a way agreeable to the feelings of the army, and beneficial to the country. If they made their military education as complete as had been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Wigan (Colonel Lindsay), if they made it really a hard matter for a man to pass the lowest examination, he did not believe that, under the present system, gentlemen would be found to submit to it. Under the present system the army paid the State money rather than received it; for after a long service a man received back less than he spent. If they made the army an agreeable and gentlemanly occupation, they would readily draw into its ranks men who were ready to sacrifice a portion of their time to its objects, but they could not expect to secure a class of officers upon whom they could safely rely in the event of an emergency. Yet that was the very element which the hon. Gentleman (Mr. F. Peel) seemed to consider admirable. At present, the moment they had obtained a good officer they sought how to get rid of him; but he (Mr. M. Milnes) did not think it was desirable to replace men of ability and experience with young and raw beginners. A great deal had been said in favour of young officers, and a great deal of sarcasm had been expended on the subject of old generals. But when a general was fit for duty—such a general as Sir Colin Campbell—it was no disadvantage, but the contrary, that he had attained to a mature age. It might be necessary, if the system of pur- chase were abolished, to have a very liberal retired list of veteran officers: but the Under Secretary for War was first bound to show that foreign armies were either more encumbered with aged officers, or had to resort to more objectionable methods of disembarrassing themselves of them than ourselves. It should be remembered that ours was the only spot on the civilised globe where the system of purchase existed. If they chose to talk of it as a political or social element, or as an element in our aristocratic system, connected with some necessity for officering our army with gentlemen, they might, perhaps, make out a case in its favour; but if they wished to show that the army, as an army, was the better for the system of purchase, they could not neglect to inquire into the condition of foreign armies, where this mode of obtaining commissions had been given up. Such an inquiry would no doubt greatly enlighten hon. Gentlemen who advocated both sides of the question. It would be found that the army of the Austrian empire, for instance, was of an extremely aristocratic character, even although the system of purchase did not exist in it; and he (Mr. M. Milnes) did not think that the abolition of that system in our own would lead to any material difference in the grade of its officers. By our present system, however, a large number of men were admitted who never had any purpose of becoming soldiers, but whose sole object was to spend a portion of their lives in an agreeable and honourable manner. The hon. and learned Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam) had shown that the present system afforded very little advantage to persons who gave up their whole life to a military career; while, at the same time, it brought utter ruin and desolation upon the families of a large number of gallant men who fell in action. Even if the Government had been as liberal and generous as he was afraid they had been the reverse, the circumstance that numbers of families in an honourable station had been thrown into a state of almost utter destitution by the simple fact that a father or a husband had fallen in the service of his country, was sufficient to arouse such an amount of indignation that neither the House nor the Government could safely resist inquiry. He trusted, therefore, that Her Majesty's Ministers would consent to the appointment of a Commission.


did not think that if the system of purchase were abolished, it necessarily followed that there must be substituted for it the system of promotion by seniority without the power of selection; but he apprehended that there might be a judicious combination of the system of selection with the system of seniority. It seemed to him that the abolition of the system of purchase would necessarily lead to an improvement of the regimental system most beneficial to the service, and that it might be effected consistently with the maintenance of the most perfect harmony between the commanding officer of a regiment and those under his orders. If promotion in a regiment were dependent on the merits of the officers, as shown by the reports of the commanding officer, then a more direct responsibility would be placed on the commanding officer; and such an arrangement as gave him the power of rewarding merit, of which he was the best judge, would also give him a greater inducement than he had at present to bring his corps into the greatest possible state of efficiency, for he would feel that his reports were a direct guarantee to the Commander in Chief in respect to the ability of the officers serving under him. Under the system of purchase, the responsibility did not rest directly upon the commanding officer. He did not entertain the notion that favouritism would be practised, but, if any commander were inclined to act so unworthy a part, he would immediately encounter a check in the opinion of the army and of the public at large. At the present moment there was a system in full activity such as he advocated for the army. In all militia regiments, he believed, the Lord Lieutenant took the opinion, in respect to promotion, of the commanding officer as to the efficiency of the junior officers; and certainly no commander would undertake the responsibility of recommending any officer with whose efficiency and conduct he was not well satisfied. As to the objection that in corps where the system of seniority prevailed a desire was felt to introduce the purchase system, he observed that that was an endeavour, however imperfect, to avoid that congestion which occurred in the upper ranks during a period of peace; yet, under a system which placed power in discreet and determined hands to do justice to merit wherever it might be found, he believed that even those who were passed over would not complain, but would respect the rectitude of intention on the part of their superiors who had the power of selection, and recognise the advantage of the system to the service. He might remind the House of the circuitous route which the Duke of Wellington when in the Peninsula had to pursue, under the existing system, in order to employ a junior officer of distinguished merit, Captain Dickson, in the position he desired. Captain Dickson was first transferred to the Portuguese service as major general of Artillery, and only when he had thus obtained that high rank was the Duke of Wellington enabled to employ him in the manner he desired. All who were acquainted with the history of the Peninsular war knew how advantageous that officer's services were in the Peninsular war. One of the evils incident to the system of purchase was, that the regulation price was exceeded, and that the moment that was the case a contest of wealth was entered on. If for irregular advancement by purchase, limited even to the regulation price, were substituted that careful supervision and investigation, which the chiefs of the army were willing to undertake, there would then be afforded an opportunity of developing to a greater extent than at present the gallant spirit of our officers, than whom braver soldiers or more true gentlemen were not to be found; and to that character might be added efficient, scientific, and professional knowledge. With regard to the Motion he did not think that a Committee of the House was the best way to deal with a question of this sort, in which opinions as well as facts were involved. It was a matter of infinite delicacy and nicety, and, in his opinion, a Commission would be better suited for the investigation. He therefore trusted that the hon. and gallant General who had made the Motion, as well as the Government, would acquiesce in the appointment of a Commission in preference to the nomination of a Committee of that House.


Sir, my right hon. Friend the Member for Coventry never said a truer thing than when he told us that this question was so beset with difficulties that we should approach it in the most careful spirit. I believe that both of us feel those difficulties the more strongly because it has been our lot to have to deal with the subject in its details, and we have therefore had occasion to know with what delicacy they require to be handled. The efficiency of the army is at stake, and in any change which we desire to make we ought to be careful to have with us the assent of the great body of the profession. I confess that I think there would be great benefit from an inquiry if it were only on one account, that is, that there exists in the public mind great misapprehension as to the nature and effect of the system of purchase. The general belief is, that the rich man goes into the army, buys up everything before him, buys every rank, and thus passes unfairly over the heads of those who cannot purchase. In point of fact, however, the effect upon the man who is unable to purchase is very slight. The system of purchase does not make the promotion of the man who cannot purchase any slower, although it makes the promotion of those who can much faster. I will illustrate this by an example. I will take the case of the major and two senior captains in a regiment—Major Smith, Captain Brown, and Captain Johnson. Major Smith wishes to sell out, Captain Brown has not the £1,800 or £2,000, and Captain Johnson therefore buys over his head and becomes major in place of Smith. In what respect is the non-purchasing officer worse off than before? All the difference is, that the major who is before him has a younger life than the one who was before him previously. What would happen supposing that you simply abolished the system of purchase, and put none other in its place, and made the rule which now applies only to the second captain to apply to all? The major could not sell, and he would remain where he was. The senior captain would remain where he was, and the second captain also. If you make no alteration beyond simply abolishing the system of purchase, you are not only stopping the promotion of the senior officers, but of all the others also, and you will get into a deadlock at last from the age of the officers. The question for the House and for some deliberative body, but which I do not think a Committee of this House would be fit, to consider, is, what are the methods by which, if you do away with purchase, you would secure that your officers shall not become unfit for their duties from age before they retire? secondly, what retirement you would provide for them; and lastly, whether the retirement shall be forced or voluntary. Let me point out to those who argue in favour of the unqualified abolition of purchase one defect in the analogy which they have attempted to draw. The impression conveyed to my mind by their argument is, that they expect that there would be a great alteration in the class from which our officers would be drawn. For myself, I do not think this would happen, and, what is more, I do not wish to see it happen. I am not one of those who object to see men promoted from the ranks, where that promotion has been earned by good conduct and merit; but as a general rule, in a country like this, where our institutions are so free, and where you require such implicit obedience from your men, it is of importance that every assistance should be given to your commanding officers in exacting that obedience. I believe, as a general rule, our soldiers more willingly obey men whom they look up to as gentlemen than men who have risen from among themselves. There are cases, of course, of men who have risen from the ranks, who, by force of character and by the influence of superior genius, will inspire reverence and respect in the men whom they command; but such cases are rare, and, in a general way, you must give the officer who is entitled to obedience every adventitious help you can. In the navy, it is true, there is no purchase, but naval officers belong, generally speaking, to the same class as military, officers. In both the middle classes are strongly represented. In some cavalry regiments, perhaps, you will find a larger proportion of men who are sons of Peers, but there are sons of Peers in the navy, and, on the whole, the middle classes are equally represented in the army and in the navy. In the navy there is a system of selection by merit, and I have always been a warm advocate of selection where you have good opportunity of knowing the qualifications of your men; but in the navy you have selection from the bottom, but not up to the top. You reverse the rule which in my opinion common sense would dictate. You select at the bottom when you know nothing of your men; at the top you take them by seniority when you do know all about their merits and abilities and the reverse. In the navy, too, you have opportunities for selection which you have not in the army. The navy is a highly scientific profession. I do not mean to say, that the army is not so too to a certain extent, but it is more particularly a fighting corps, while the navy is a scientific as well as a fighting corps. You have greater opportunities, likewise, in peace to know what naval officers are capable of, than you have in the case of army officers. Everything which the navy does in war it does in peace. Indeed, except putting shot into their guns, I believe there is very little difference between the duties of the navy in war and its duties in peace. In the army, on the contrary, nothing which is done in war is done in peace. In this country, in time of peace, though you have what you call an army, it is not strickly speaking an army; it is never formed into corps d'armée, into divisions, or into brigades. No officer knows what a corps d'armée can do, or what a brigade can do. In the same way, as they live in barracks with all the appliances and means of a civilised country at their disposal, there is no Commissariat and no means of knowing what a Commissariat should be; and I defy you to create artificial difficulties so as to teach an army what it should do to sustain itself. You have not the means of knowing what your officers can do, and you must not therefore draw an analogy from the navy in arguing in favour of a system of selection. I do not think that this applies altogether to the upper ranks. Two years ago a change was made which gave a greater power of selection in the upper ranks, and in these times a man who is to be Minister of War or First Lord of the Admiralty must have nerve enough to bear a great amount of obloquy for the most conscientious appointments. It appears to me, but I speak with great diffidence on the subject, that, looking to the necessity of purchase or of some other system in lieu of it, in the lower ranks of the army, although admitting the inconveniences of it, if you give great facilities to men to come into the army and leave it at their pleasure, you will have a class who are merely birds of passage, and who will never give their hearts and minds to mastering its details as a profession. I have great doubts whether captains ought to be allowed to become colonels merely by seniority combined with purchase, or by seniority at all. It may be argued, I know, that it is very difficult from many captains to say who is the best calculated to command a regiment; but I think that the difficulty of selection would be still greater in the lower ranks. Coming to the field ranks—and the sums paid for these ranks are those which shock the public most, I should be very glad to see purchase put an end to in every rank above that of captain. The noble Lord the Member for Huddersfield spoke of the difficulty of combining the scientific education of officers with a system of purchase. I am a warm advocate for examination in the lower rants before a higher step can be taken. It gives you a security that a man has, at least, applied his mind to the details of his profession; but, after all, examinations are a very slight test of his efficiency as an officer. I confess there are many other tests which I should prefer. For instance, I should say that the man who had the quickest eye to see his way out of a field in which he had got pounded between two stiff fences would be more likely to make a good cavalry officer, or a good infantry officer, than the man who was a dab at mathematics, and that only. In fact, you have not the means in this country, in times of peace, of testing the qualities of your officers. What you want is, to establish a system by which no man shall rise from one rank to another without having at least made himself master of the rudiments of his profession. The hon. Gentleman the Under Secretary for War (Mr. F. Peel) contradicted the statement of my noble Friend (Viscount Goderich), that the Government had declined to pursue a plan of mine which was laid before the Committee which sat last year upon Sandhurst College. He stated they had carried out a plan which was commenced when I was in office for the education of the men and the promotion of non-commissioned officers; but I rather think the noble Lord (Viscount Goderich) alluded to a plan which I introduced to the notice of the House when I last moved the War Estimates for the instruction of officers. That plan was explained by me when I had the honour of moving the Army Estimates, and it then received the sanction of the House. I regret to see that the sum then voted has dropped out of the Estimates for the present year. I do not intend to make that a reproach to the Government, because I know that in time of war it is impossible to commence such a system; but I trust that when peace is concluded they will apply themselves to its consideration, for I believe it would confer everlasting benefit upon the army. At the same time I must deprecate the handing over of this matter, to a Committee of this House, because I do not think that we have among us a sufficient number of men conversant with the details of the subject to do it justice, and because I do not believe that the decision of such a Committee would have so much weight with the army as that of a mixed Commission of military officers and civilians. Some persons are disposed to think that when you refer a matter to a Royal Commission, it is necessarily shelved. The last Commission of which I had experience was, that which sat upon the subject of promotion, and it consisted of officers and civilians in about equal numbers. The members of that Commission were men of very different opinions. I had the assistance of many civilians; among others, of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice), Lord Panmure, and my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir J. Pakington). There were also on the Commission some very eminent officers; among them, Lord Seaton, Lord Hardinge, Lord Cathcart, Sir John Burgoyne, and General Knollys. That Commission made greater changes in the system of promotion than had previously been made during the present century. It introduced the system of promotion by selection for distinguished services without regard to seniority; to a great degree it did away with the preference given to the Guards and with promotion by brevet, which, when combined with purchase, was the most gambling and mischievous system in the army, and introduced instead a steady stream of promotion. I therefore believe that a Commission, fairly and justly appointed, may decide this question with perfect impartiality, may disabuse the public mind of some of its false impressions as to the nature and extent of the existing system, and may devise some means by which, if not abolished, it may, to a great extent, be modified and rectified. I trust, therefore, that the Government will appoint such a Commission. Should they undertake to do so, I shall, if it be necessary—which I apprehend will not be the case—divide against the Motion of the hon. and gallant General.


The question which we are now considering is one which has occupied the attention of the public at large, and must have been seriously considered by all those who have turned their attention to matters relating to the army. I confess, for my own part, that my own opinion is, in the abstract, against the system of purchase. It is an anomaly. It is a system which nobody would propose to establish in an army about to be created for the first time. It is a system which exists only in the British Army. It does not obtain in the Navy or in the Artillery. It does not exist except by a sort of evasion in the army of the East India Company; and it does not exist in any other army in the world. In the abstract, I say, therefore, ray predisposition is against the continuance of such a system. But, on the other hand, it must be admitted that a system which has existed so long as the system of purchase in the British army—which is so interwoven in all the arrangements of that great establishment—is one which, if you desire to abolish, will require great consideration as to the mode in which you attempt and endeavour to accomplish your purpose. You must naturally expect to meet with great difficulties. Independently of that, it cannot be denied that the system, whether good or bad in itself, has, in process of time, become associated with advantages in some degree to the army in which it exists. The evil which is always felt in an that there are accumulated in the higher ranks of that army a great number of men who, from age and other circumstances, are unfitted for the active duties which belong to their station; and in order to avoid that difficulty in most of the continental armies, regulations have been established for putting on the retired list officers who have attained in certain rank or who have arrived at a certain age. Unless that is done, the army becomes clogged by a great number of persons in each rank unfitted fur the active duties of their profession. This is the evil which you have to guard against in every army in which promotion by purchase does not exist. As my hon. Friend the Under Secretary of State for the War Department (Mr. F. Peel) very clearly explained, the operation of the system of purchase is, to relieve the army of a number of persons who, from age or infirmity, are incompetent to discharge active duties, and it accelerates promotion by sending younger and more active fill the higher ranks. If purchase is to be abolished, various difficulties of this sort will occur. In the first place, some other system must be established, by which the same effect shall be produced—that is to say, some other system or arrangement must be devised, by which officers who, by age or infirmity, have grown unfitted for the active duties of their profession, shall be removed, of course under conditions appropriate to the services which they have performed. That, of course, will involve a certain expense to the country; but I am persuaded that the country would not be- grudge any reasonable charge which might be necessary for such a purpose. Then, again, all those officers who have purchased their commissions must, some time or other, be enabled to obtain compensation for the commissions which they have bought; that, again, I must observe, would be an arrangement attended with very considerable expense to the country. I do not mean to say that that expense might not be distributed over a lengthened period of time, or that this House of the country would be disposed to refuse to incur that expense, if they should be satisfied that the change would contribute to the efficiency some of the arguments which have been used to-night have been a little overstrained. I do not see why a system of purchase attended with examination as to the qualification of officers to discharge the duties which they have to perform should not be introduced. I cannot, for my life, understand why you should not require an examination from an officer who buys his ensigncy, as well as from the officer to whom you give an ensigncy. Neither do I think that the system of purchase, if continued degree, alter the character or position of those persons who compose agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) and there is no use in attempting to disguise my opinion, that I think it extremely desirable that the British army should be officered by gentlemen as a rule—though, no doubt, there may be cases in which persons raised from the ranks may, by singular merit and distinguished services, deserve to be promoted to the higher ranks of their profession. I think, speaking plainly, that in all armies it is the higher classes who lead the lower classes, and it seldom happens that the persons belonging to the lower classes can rise, with comport to the lower classes can rise, with comfort to themselves, to a position for which they however, that the House will agree that the matter is one which ought to be inquired into, with the view of ascertaining whether some change cannot be made consistently with the interests of the service. I agree with my right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) that a Committee of this House is not the best instrument which can be used for conducting such an inquiry. In the first place, the inquiry ought not to be limited to the practice of the British army, or to considerations connected with our own arrangements; but it ought to be extended to the practice of other European armies, and I think such an inquiry would be better conducted by a Commission than by a Committee of this House. My hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) seemed disposed, if I understood him rightly, to waive his own proposal for a Committee, if Her Majesty's Government would consent to the appointment of a Commission. I am quite ready to accede to that course; and, therefore, if my hon. and gallant Friend consents to withdraw the Motion which he has made, I will undertake, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, to promise that a mixed Commission, consisting of civilians and military men, shall be appointed to pursue this inquiry. Indeed, such an inquiry was commenced by the former Commissioners, but it was not continued, not strictly coming within their powers. I hope, therefore, that after the discussion which has taken place, the hon. and gallant General will be content with the feeling which he has succeeded in producing in the House, that this is a subject which ought to be inquired into, and that he will allow the inquiry to be pursued by a Commission which the Government are ready to appoint.


said, he felt that he was not at liberty to do otherwise than accede to the proposition of the noble Lord, to whose speech he had listened with extreme satisfaction. He entirely concurred also with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), in deprecating any rash or unpremeditated movement on a question of such importance. He had never advocated a sudden or sweeping measure of reform on this subject; but he was of opinion that it would conduce to the interest, both of the country and of the service, that, especially as regarded the higher regimental ranks of the army, the present system should be abolished as soon as possible. With the wish expressed by the noble Lord that the same classes which now officered the army should continue to do so, he was not disposed to differ. He had a high appreciation of the noble spirit and gallant bearing of the officers of the British army, and had nothing to object to them except that they were not sufficiently professional. While in the army they did their duty nobly and gallantly, but they did not make their profession the business of their lives. Under the present order of things, it was scarcely to be expected that they should. A gentleman with a reversionary interest in an estate, for instance, of £5,000 per annum, held a commission for a few years, and then retired in favour of another gentleman equally favoured by fortune. To gentlemen so affluently circumstanced, their profession was not a primary object; but the evils complained of would cease, by substituting for money or interest, merit and tests of professional education. The aristocracy would do honour to themselves by sanctioning such an improvement, for, by so doing, they would show that they preferred to rely on honourable exertion and merit rather than on the prestige or influence of rank. The benefit to the service would be incalculable, for, with the courage and spirit for which British officers were now so deservedly distinguished, would be combined science, scholarship, and professional skill.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.