HC Deb 26 January 1860 vol 156 cc158-9

said, The Scotsman of the 19th instant contained the report of a meeting of the quarter sessions of the county of Midlothian, where a discussion arose with reference to volunteer rifle corps. At that meeting Lord Melville, the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Forces in Scotland, was reported to have thus expressed himself,—"Lord Melville said, he would much rather see the militia placed on a better and more efficient footing. You can never make efficient these, what I call, loose and useless rifle corps. They can never make an efficient force. The militia, if put on a proper footing, may become efficient, but the rifle corps can never be efficient in the field. They are perfectly useless, and no general officer would command them." The Question he (Lord Elcho) had to put to the Secretary for War was, whether he approved of a person, in the high position of Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Forces in Scotland, holding language such as this in reference to volunteer rifle corps? He would further ask him, whether any official notice had been taken of this very remarkable speech?


I confess that I rather regret that my noble Friend should have put this Question. It is difficult to define the exact line beyond which a military man should not tread in speaking upon any question of the day. In this particular case Lord Melville, whom I may describe as being a very outspoken man, and as holding strong opinions which he sometimes expresses in equally strong language, but who at the same time is a first-rate soldier, certainly did attend that meeting, and did use the expressions which my noble Friend has quoted. The Commander-in-Chief wrote to him expressing his opinion upon the subject of his having taken such an opportunity of advancing the views which he held with regard to that force; and Lord Melville has written to the Commander-in-Chief, and frankly expressed his regret at the terms which he used. At the same time, though I certainly do not share in Lord Melville's opinion, it must be recollected that this was not a meeting convened to discuss the question of the volunteer movement, hut was a meeting which answers to our quarter sessions, and his observations were couched in reply to a proposal for giving some aid out of the country rates to the volunteer corps.