HC Deb 08 February 1861 vol 161 cc198-9

said, he would ask the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether there is any and what objection to applying the principle of open competition in the appointment of Marine Cadets? In a debate last year his noble Friend said there would be a difficulty in introducing the system with regard to midshipmen who were only twelve years of age; but he admitted that he himself was an advocate of competition. [LORD CLARENCE PAGET: To a certain extent.] He would like to know to what extent the noble Lord looked favourably on the system. Limited competition, he believed, to be the worst thing they could possibly have, while open competition was undoubtedly the best. The soundest opinions obtained by the Committee over which the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) presided, were all in favour of a system of open competition. Some of the witnesses, however, believed that it would be desirable to retain certain appointments to be conferred on the sons of meritorious officers, but this he (Sir Frederic Smith) held to be a vicious system. Let them reward a public man for meritorious services, but let them not give to his descendants positions for which they might be totally unsuited. The competitive system introduced by Lord Panmure into the scientific branches of the service had answered admirably; and at Addis-combe, where all the cadets were required to be admitted by open competitive examinations, the best results had been attained. This he was enabled to state from his official position. He, therefore, hoped the noble Lord opposite (Lord Clarence Paget) would be instructed by the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty to state that, within a certain limited time, there would be no objection to introduce the open competitive system into the Royal Marines and the Royal Navy. He was not desirous of casting a slur on the present race of officers when he asserted that efficient and probably more highly educated men would be brought into the Naval service, and the public mind, at the same time, would be satisfied that the days of patronage were drawing to a close. What was good in one case in this matter was good in all, and since the principle was already recognised in the different scientific branches of the Army, it might, he believed, be advantageously extended to the Royal Marines and Royal Marine Artillery, of the merits of which distinguished corps, no one was more sensible than himself.


said, he had applied to the noble Lord during the last Session, on behalf of some friends, to know by what means a gentleman desiring to introduce his son into the Navy, and not having Parliamentary influence, could do so. On that occasion he did not obtain a satisfactory reply, and he hoped the noble Lord was now better prepared to answer the question. He (Mr. Bass) had likewise moved for a Return showing in what manner Naval Cadets were appointed, but the only information he obtained was, that in some 200 or 300 cases the appointments had all been made by "the Board." He would have have been just as much enlightened by a Return of the changes of the moon. It was well known that Naval Cadets were appointed purely from favour and affection. This might or might not be applied to corrupt purposes, but it was only just that every man having a child properly qualified for the Navy should have as good a chance of procuring him admission as anybody else.


said, he entirely concurred with his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith), that competition, if adopted to any extent, ought to be open, and that those possessing intellectual qualifications ought to have a fair field and no favour. To the recent examinations at Woolwich 280 competitors came from all parts of the country, and of that number seventy succeeded, of whom he was happy to say four or five came from Marischal College, Aberdeen. Those gentlemen, if they had not had this opportunity of making their own way, would probably have been looking to him to aid their advancement, whereas now they were indebted solely to their own abilities.