HC Deb 22 February 1861 vol 161 cc794-8

said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, Upon what grounds Dr. R. Thompson, M.D., who had satisfied the Army Medical Director General, Dr. Gibson, that he possessed all the prescribed qualifications, and a degree in medicine and a diploma in surgery to entitle him to be examined as a candidate for a medical commission in Her Majesty's service, and had been directed to attend on the 18th of February to undergo a competitive examination, was, on the morning of that day, in a personal interview, refused permission by Dr. Gibson to appear before the Board of Examiners? In asking this question, he would call the attention of the House to the fact, that by an Act 3 & 4 Will. IV. c. 85, s. 87, it was enacted That no Native of the said territory, nor any natural born subject of Her Majesty resident therein shall, by reason only of his religion, place of birth, descent, colour, or any of them be disabled from holding any place, office, or emolument under the said Company. Now, there had just occurred a case which i had he not been convinced of its truth by holding the correspondence on the subject in his hands, he should have been very unwilling to believe possible. It was the case of Dr. Thompson, the son of an English pensioner in India. His mother had a tinge of Native blood —only three quarters, not half-caste. His father and mother were married, and he was legitimate: he had studied at the Medical College of Madras, and showed such talent, and made such progress in his studies that it was thought desirable that he should visit Europe to perfect himself in his medical acquirements. He went to St. Andrew's, and obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine. He then studied surgery at Edinburgh, and obtained his diploma as surgeon. He then thought that he might compete for a situation in the medical department of Her Majesty's service. He communicated with the Medical Director General, Dr. Gibson, who raised some objections as to his surgeon's diploma. These, however, were overcome, and Monday last was appointed for him to enter upon the examination. On the morning of that day Dr. Thompson saw Dr. Gibson, who told him privately that he could not be allowed to go up for medical examination. "Why not?" said Dr. Thompson. "Well," said Dr. Gibson, "the medical service is no longer exclusively for India. Since the amalgamation of the Indian Local Army with the Line, the medical officers are appointed for general service." Dr. Thompson said he was quite willing to be so employed. "But," said Dr. Gibson, "you were born in India, and, therefore, you cannot compete for general service; because you might very likely be sent to Canada, and you would not be likely to suit that climate." Dr. Thompson said he had produced medical certificates of his physical capacity and of his professional acquirements. He was a British subject, and had a right to compete with other British subjects for office under the Crown. 'No," said Dr. Gibson, "that cannot be, now, because we only appoint for general service, and not for the Indian service in particular." Now, if that rule were to be upheld, the hopes of this gentleman, whose talents were great, and whose testimonials were perfect, were all blighted, and the whole of the expense that he had incurred in acquiring his professional knowledge would be thrown away; and, moreover, his rights as a British subject were negatived. He was recommended to come to him (Colonel Sykes) and he did so, and showed documents which proved his case to be true. It should be remembered that the same rule might be applied to the sons of European officers in India, whether of the Line or local, if those sons were born in India. They might be told that they could not enter the Queen's service because they might be sent to Canada. He hoped the hon. Gentleman would be able to give an answer to his question which would be satisfactory to Her Majesty's subjects in India.


said, the Question put by the gallant Colonel was one of some little difficulty. The Act of Parliament to which he had referred was not applicable to the admission of officers into the Imperial army, but only to the admission of Natives of India into the service of the East India Company; and, in his opinion, applied only to those appointments in India which were placed in the gift of the Crown by the Government of India Act of 1858. Dr. Thompson, with one or two other gentlemen, had arrived in this country for the purpose of competing for appointments in the Indian medical service. In consequence, however, of the Act of last Session the Indian local army ceased to exist; and, as no more appointments would be made exclusively for the Indian military service, these gentlemen became desirous of competing for appointments in the general medical service. It was, however, a question whether Indians of Native parentage were fit to be admitted into the general military and medical service; not, he need hardly say, from any doubt as to their ability, or professional education, but because officers of the general medical service were called on to serve in different parts of the globe, and the constitution of Indians of Native parentage would probably unfit them to render efficient service in cold climates. After a correspondence between the Secretary of State for War and the Secretary of State for India, it was determined that it would not be proper to employ them in general service, because their health would probably fail, and they would become chargeable to the British public at an early age, besides being unable to fulfil their duties efficiently. As, however, he understood that possibly neither Dr. Thompson nor the other gentlemen could be considered Indians of Native parentage, the Secretary of State for War would be prepared to reconsider the case in communication with the Secretary of State for India, and to deal with it in the manner which seemed best to them without, at the same time, prejudicing the interests of the general medical service.

With regard to the other Question which had been addressed to him, he was bound to say that the arms of the Volunteer force was a subject which had created consider- able interest. However, but very few remonstrances had been addressed to the Secretary of State. The hon. Gentleman had misapprehended the wording, and certainly the intention of the circular to which he had called the attention of the House. It would probably be recollected that one of the principal clauses in the original conditions of acceptance of Volunteer corps was that an armoury should be provided, and that proper measures should be taken for taking care of the arms. It was found to be impossible for members of some Volunteer corps always to place their arms in the armoury; it was found that, in many cases, Volunteers who had to go to the armoury for their arms to attend drill bring their arms back to the armoury, and then proceed to their homes would be put to so much inconvenience that, in all probability, they would throw the thing up as a bad job, and retire from volunteering altogether. In consequence of that state of things the noble Lord the Secretary of State for War thought that a relaxation should be made in the terms of the original circular; and the circular now objected to as imposing a more stringent regulation was, in fact, one which relaxed a rule that already existed. Its object was to enable officers commanding corps to allow, under certain circumstances, Volunteers to keep their arms in their own houses. The hon. Gentleman used words in the course of his speech which he (Mr. Baring) could not allow to pass unnoticed. He mentioned that it had been said by some that it would not be safe to allow the arms to remain in the hands of the Volunteers. He (Mr. Baring) could say, on behalf of his noble Friend the Secretary of State for War, and also on behalf of the Government, that no such idea had ever existed in their minds. It would have been absurd, indeed, for the Goverment to encourage the Volunteer movement if they did not consider that the men who might join it could be trusted under every circumstance; therefore, if such an idea had ever been entertained, it had not arisen from any one connected with the Government. But he thought it was necessary that the Government, on behalf of the public, should take care that the public property was properly preserved. The arm supplied to the Volunteers was a very perfect and a very expensive weapon, and the expense of its renewal when worn out would full upon the country. If hon. Gentlemen looked back at what had taken place at the time of the last war with France, they would find that the commanding officers were made responsible for the arms in their charge. All the Government intended to do was to insist that those officers should in future be responsible. It was said that that would be impossible. He did not think it would be, seeing that the commanding officers would be assisted by the subalterns and noncommissioned officers in the duty of superintending the care of the arms. His noble Friend Earl de Grey had undertaken to consolidate the circulars; and if any doubtful words were found they would be removed, in order that for the future there might be no misapprehension as to the intentions of the Government.