HC Deb 26 April 1858 vol 149 cc1724-5

Order read for going into Committee of Supply.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, that the object of the Motion he was about to make was to ask the House to interpose to prevent any alteration in the system of education for the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers. He regretted that a subject so deeply connected with the welfare of the army should be brought forward at so late an hour, when the minds of Members had been pre-occupied by other subjects; but he had no alternative. It was for the House to decide whether the system which had been established in 1855, and which, by the consent of every one, had worked admirably up to the present time, was to he altered; whether the open system of admission into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich was to be got rid of, and all who desired to be admitted should be obliged to pass through the military school at Sandhurst. He had no fault at all to find with the Secretary of State for War; he had done his best to mitigate the rigour of the decree that had been issued against the existing system, and had allowed two more open competing examinations to take place. If the right hon. and gallant General would now state that he was prepared to continue the present system, he might save any further discussion and debate. Before he came to the question he intended to raise, he would beg to advert to a rumour which had been somewhat industriously circulated that, on account of the very great success of Irishmen at those competing examinations, this question was rather to be considered an Irish question than one affecting the interests of the army and the country. He disclaimed any such motive in bringing forward the subject. If the maxim detur digniori had, up to the present time, meant — give the highest prize to an Irishman, he was sure that English and Scotch gentlemen would not wish, on that account, to shut up the lists, but would rather endeavour, by the improvement of their own schools and colleges, to make their pupils able to compete with those from the sister country. The admission to Woolwich Academy was open to all natural-born subjects of Her Majesty between 17 mid 20 years of age. They were admitted by competitive examinations. Those examinations were conducted by gentlemen of the greatest eminence in the several branches of science; and it was now the universal opinion that the system was working admirably. With regard to the value of competitive examinations, he felt that he need not say a word, for it was fully conceded at the Horse Guards. It was a very gratifying fact that the Board of Military Officers, presided over by the Commander in Chief, had subscribed to the system of competitive examination to which so much objection had been made, when he first introduced it in 1855. With regard to the age of admission, which was at present from 17 to 20 at Woolwich, he could satisfy the House of the inexpediency of the alteration in the age of admission with regard to Sandhurst by quoting the results of the examinations which had taken place within five years in the Ecole Polytechnique of France, in which the age of admission was between 16 and 20. Of the boys between 16 and 17 scarcely any passed; of those between 17 and 18 only a small number, whilst almost all the successful candidates were taken from boys between 18 and 20. The exact numbers are as follows:—