HC Deb 08 April 1859 vol 153 cc1555-6

said, that as the House would have an opportunity of discussing the subject of these trials on a future occasion, he would, with the permission of the House, put the question of which he had given notice to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman, the Secretary for War;—namely, under what circumstances Mr. Cunningham, who was appointed last year to an ensigncy in the 13th Regiment of Light Infantry, obtained his appointment. Perhaps the House would permit him to state the circumstances, so far as they had appeared. On Thursday week there appeared in the police Reports in The Times, an account of the proceedings against two men named Mortimer and Marshall, one of whom was described as a military tailor, who were charged with unlawfully conspiring to procure a Commission in the army. It was sufficient to say that a traffic, or a supposed traffic, in the sale of Commissions had been carried on by a firm known as Armstrong and Co., who had advertised in the newspapers for two years past, that they possessed peculiar facilities for procuring Commissions in the army. The House would at once see that a system under which mercantile firms pretended to have the power of obtaining Commissions in the army, either with or without purchase, must be attended with most pernicious consequences. There were peculiar circumstances connected with the case to which he was referring, which appeared to him to require the attention of the Government. One of the witnesses, named Pugh, examined before the magistrate described his interviews with Mortimer, and said he was informed that it would be necessary to deposit £400, in order to obtain a Commission. If the transaction had stopped there, it would not have been looked upon as extraordinary. Mr. Cunningham, in September, 1858, was, in fact, appointed to a Commission without purchase. Now, he (Captain Vivian) was not going to criticise the mode in which the patronage of the army was exercised; he thought that it was very fairly administered; but there was a general understanding with regard to Commissions given without purchase, that the recipients should either in their own persons or through their friends have some direct claim upon the country. What, then, were Mr. Cunningham's claims, and how were they brought under the notice of the authorities—because the House should understand, that to give a person a Commission was like giving him so much public money? This Gentleman's claims might have been very satisfactory, and might have been submitted to the authorities by very proper persons; but if that were the case, it was strange that Mr. Bridson, Mr. Cunningham's brother-in-law, should have gone to "Armstrong and Company" and have paid £400 for the purpose of obtaining a Commission. This system had existed for many years, and Commissions had been obtained entirely through the influence of "Armstrong and Company." He lately met a general officer who gave him authority to state, that some years ago, through "Burn and Company," he obtained an unattached company, for which he paid £900, although at that time unattached companies were difficult to procure, and he had never asked for the appointment.


said, he would confine himself strictly to the question put to him, as he thought the House would at once see the inconvenience of entering into statements upon a case which was about to undergo inquiry. The parties had not yet been committed, and it would be detrimental to the public service if he were to enter into explanations upon the subject. He had no objection, however, to state the grounds upon which a Commission without purchase was conferred on Mr. Cunningham. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had truly stated, that before a Commission was thus given, well-founded claims should be made out on the part of the individual seeking it. Now, Mr. Cunningham was the son of Colonel Cunningham, a very distinguished officer in the Bengal service; his grandfather and great-grandfather were also officers in the army, and served during the American war, and the testimonials upon which he received a Commission were signed by Sir S. Steel and Sir R. Vivian.