HC Deb 07 June 1861 vol 163 cc764-72

rose to call the attention of the House to the appointment of Major General Eden to the colonelcy of the 50th Regiment. He said that in bringing forward this subject he desired to disclaim all personal motives; he desired to ascertain on what principle these important offices, giving considerable emoluments, were conferred. He understood that the principle on which the appointments in the Army and Navy were made was the principle of solution by merit. If they were made on that ground, he did not know how it was applied to the case of Major General Eden; and if they were made on the ground of seniority certainly this appointment of General Eden could not be justified. It was clear that Major General Eden had not received his appointment on the ground of seniority, for there were many officers who stood before him in the Army List, and whose names had been honoured by distinguished services. There was, for example, General Nicoll, a full General, who entered the service in 1803, and was severely wounded in his 107th action. In the list of major generals he found the name of Major General Cole, who had entered the service seventeen years before Major General Eden, who stood fifth on the list of major generals, and to whose name many distinguished services were attached; while General Eden stood twenty-fifth on the list. Then, if the principle of seniority was abandoned and if the principle to be adopted was that of meritorious services, he might say that Major General Eden's name did not appear on the list of good service pensions. There were a number of other officers whose services were almost fabulous, and, therefore, if those appointments were to be made on the ground of merit, nothing could be more unfair than the choice of Major General Eden. If the selection were owing to the circumstance of his being a Guardsman it was equally unfair, as there were distinguished names before his on the list of Guardsmen. Among the General Officers who were not colonels of regiments he might mention the following:—Major General Porter, who entered the service in 1810, and who went through six campaigns in the Peninsula, Major General Elliott, who also entered the service in 1810, and had the war medal with five clasps; Major General Pringle Taylor, also an officer of distinguished service; Major General Sir Robert Garratt, who entered the service in 1811, and served till 1854–5; Major General T. Williams, Major General Napper Jackson, Major General M'Pherson, Major General Bell, who had obtained a medal of three clasps; Major General Sir Robert Law, who wore a medal with six clasps. In fact, it was only necessary to turn to the Army List in order to see with how much unfairness this lucrative sinecure had been conferred. He had reason to know that that appointment had created great dissatisfaction throughout the service. He had received a letter from an old officer at Liverpool who stated that Major General Eden had no services to point to, and neither a medal nor a bit of riband to display, and that the appointment was regarded by all veterans as a most atrocious Horse Guards' job. He did not suppose that it was Major General Eden's fault that he had not had an opportunity of rendering distinguished services to his country, or that, if he had had such an opportunity, he would not have taken full advantage of it; but he held that important emoluments such as those of a colonelcy should be bestowed, not merely on a good man, but on the best man that could be selected. There was a similar appointment last year, which excited not a little dissatisfaction, and the Horse Guards could not be allowed to continue to dispense patronage in the same fashion. He wished to ask the Under Secretary for War on what principle the appointment was made, and whether the same principle was to be applied for the future? He felt that no apology was required for bringing the subject before the House. It was not a matter of prerogative, with which the House had nothing to do, but one which it was not only their right but their duty to consider.


said, he thought if the hon. Gentleman had taken back his recollection to a conversation that took place in this House last year, he would not have supposed that there was any doubt as to the responsibility that attached to the appointment to the colonelcy of regiments. The noble Lord the Secretary of State for War, in his evidence before the Committee on Military Organization, distinctly stated that the responsibility of these appointments rested on him; and in a discussion that subsequently took place in this House he in no way disputed the right of the House of Commons to call in question anything connected with the administration of the army. With regard to the observations the hon. Gentleman had made, he did not collect from them that he had raised any fresh point from those which had been raised in the previous discussion. He had certainly mentioned the names of two or three officers who he considered should have been preferred to Major General Eden for this appointment. But before doing so he hoped the hon. Gentleman would permit him to say that he wished he had consulted those who were acquainted with the, position of officers in the Army List; because he had mentioned the names of several officers who were not on the established list, but who had retired in one way or other, and who had not even the right to be considered. That disposed of his statement about General Cole and others. [MR. CONINGHAM: What others?] He believed that Major General Piper also was not on the established list. He thought it unnecessary to discuss the names of those officers who had been mentioned by the hon. Member, with this exception, that in mentioning the name of Major General Bell, whose name had been before mentioned in the House and in the public prints, as an officer who had a first claim to such an appointment, he thought he might be allowed to say that Major General Bell stood forty or fifty lower down in the list than Major General Eden; and there were many other officers not mentioned by the hon. Gentleman who could not have been passed over in favour of Major General Bell. Sow the principle on which these appointments were recommended by the Commander-in-Chief to the Secretary for War was this—the fixed list of General officers was taken as they came in seniority, with this exception, that officers who had rendered distinguished services in the field—and by distinguished services he meant officers who had distinguished themselves by command in the field, not officers who had by the accident of the service been engaged in the field—should be considered before those who had not been fortunate enough to have been so engaged. Now, let them see how this principle had been carried out in the case of General Eden. No less than twelve officers junior to Major General Eden had been appointed to regiments previous to his appointment. He would not trouble the House with mentioning the names of those officers, because he thought it better to avoid, as far as possible, discussion on the comparative merits of officers. But with regard to the services of Major General Eden, he begged to repeat what he said on a former occasion. It had been stated elsewhere that Major General Eden was a Guardsman. He (Mr. Baring) stated the other in this House that Major General Eden was not a Guardsman. Of course, he conceived that any Gentleman who paid attention to these subjects would have understood that he meant that General Eden did not rise to the rank of lieutenant colonel by service in the Guards, which was the advantage which officers of the Guards had in respect to their promotion to the rank of Major General over the Line. General Eden served to the rank of lieutenant colonel in a regiment of the Line, taking his share of service like any other officer attached to Line regiments. It had been stated that Major General Eden had not served in the Colonies; but the fact was that he had served in the West Indies twice. The first time he served with his regiment as major for a year, and the second time as lieutenant colonel of his regiment for the same period, and the reason he did not stay longer was, that his health suffered so much that he was obliged to return home. Was it a reason that he should be deprived of his chance of these appointments, that he had not been able from the disposition of the regiment he commanded, to render service in the field? General Eden served uninterruptedly for thirty-seven years on full pay. After his promotion to the rank of Major General he had the command of the Western District for four years. That was not a lucrative command—on the contrary, the officers who had those commands were in all probability put to considerable expense; therefore, so far from that being an objection to the appointment of General Eden to the command of a regiment, it might be said on the contrary that it gave him an increased claim. He, therefore, thought the principle of selection, as he had stated it, had been fairly carried out in this case, and the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary for War were fully justified in giving Major General Eden a regiment, and no such words as "Horse Guards' job," and so on, ought to be applied to this appointment. If the expression used by the anonymous correspondent of the hon. Gentleman were to be considered for a moment by those who had the management of the affairs of the army, and if the officers who had not been to the seat of war were to be debarred from consideration in appointments of this kind, the greatest dissatisfaction would be created, and great injury done to the service.


did not withdraw a word which he had said the other evening upon this subject. The post of honour for an officer was that to which he was ordered by his Sovereign, and nothing could be more fatal to the Army than only to reward service in the field. And what was service in the field? If an officer sat upon his horse at the head of his regiment or his brigade, exposed only to the same fire to which every drummer boy in the regiment was exposed, that was not distinguished service, and did not merit peculiar reward; but, on the other hand, if he had performed services such as those of General Sir Hope Grant, who had recently concluded the war in China, no one would grudge him any honour or reward which might be conferred upon him. General Eden had had on all occasions fulfilled his duties as an officer. He never refused to go to the colonies. On the contrary, he was two years there with his regiment as major and lieutenant-colonel, and returned home, not of his own choice, but to the command of the depot. Three years afterwards he received the command of his regiment, and immediately joined it; but his health was so seriously injured that he was obliged to return home two years afterwards, and was then told by his medical advisers that if he was again exposed to a tropical climate his life would be in considerable danger. That surely was a service which did not disentitle him to the rewards of his profession. He did not think that he should ever have a better opportunity than this of asking the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham) to explain why he and his Friends availed themselves of every opportunity like this to make attacks upon the Guards—as gallant and distinguished a body of men as ever served in any army in the world? Had the hon. Gentleman anything to say against the conduct of the officers of the Guards? Had they not always performed their duty in the most honourable and distinguished manner? Had the hon. Gentleman anything to say against the non-commissioned officers of the Guards? They were as fine a body of men and as good soldiers as any in the world. If he had nothing to say against them he had better spare his remarks, which old soldiers must feel to be ex- tremely disagreeable and insulting. One of the complaints most frequently urged against the Guards was that they did not serve in India or the Colonies; but the hon. Gentleman himself once belonged to a heavy dragoon regiment, and it was only very recently that the heavy dragoons began to take Indian or colonial service. If the hon. Gentleman thought that he could excite a feeling of hostility or jealousy between the Guards and the Line, he should recommend him to employ his time in some more profitable manner, because that was an undertaking in which he would never succeed.


thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton had been rather hardly used by the gallant Officer. His hon. Friend did not say a word against the non-commissioned officers of the Guards, because it was known that in those regiments all the work was done by the non-commissioned officers. He was rather surprised that hon. and gallant Officers should be so anxious to come forward and defend the acts of the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary for War. It was much the same as if all the lawyers in the House were to rise to defend the Lord Chancellor, or a number of clergymen the Archbishop of Canterbury. He wondered that the hon. and gallant Gentlemen had not better taste, and did not see that the public might be led to imagine that they took this course in the hope that they themselves might get a turn some day—an imputation under which he was sure that the hon. and gallant Officer who had just spoken would be most unwilling to suffer.


said, that he was not backward in giving the name of "job" to any act either of the Horse Guards or of the Admiralty which he thought deserved that title; but in this instance he thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham) had been misinformed, and had not sufficiently acquainted himself with the circumstances. General Eden had much cause to complain of the conduct of the hon. Gentleman towards him. He had not the honour of knowing General Eden, but he had taken the trouble to acquaint himself with the facts of the case. That gallant officer came under the second category laid down by the Under Secretary of War—namely, officers who had not had the good fortune to be distinguished in battle, but who had served their country long and faithfully in whatever part of the world they were called on to do so. The hon. Member for Brighton had endeavoured to prejudice his case by saying that, as, a Guardsman, he had received extra pay. [Mr. CONINGHAM was understood to express dissent.] Yes, a particular stress had been laid on extra pay. Now, what were the facts? General Eden on joining the service entered the 84th Regiment, and having served in it for some time he went into the 52nd, and did duty wherever he was ordered. Finally, he went to Jamaica with the 56th Regiment, which was so wasted with illness that a number of men, greater than that which originally left home, was buried while the regiment remained there under the command of General Eden. That he called much harder and perhaps as meritorious service as if he had been called to meet death on the stern field of battle. A Medical Board sat upon him, and he was ordered to come home; he went out again in nine months, and, being once more attacked with yellow fever, another medical board sat upon him, and declared that unless he went home at once his life would not he worth a month's purchase. He wished to return to Jamaica, but his medical advisers would not allow him to do so. And now came the question of extra pay. He laid out £3,000 on exchanging from lieutenant colonel in the Line to be captain and lieutenant colonel in the Guards; and everybody knew what loss of rank was involved in giving up the command of a regiment to do captain's duty at St. James's. The hon. Member ought to have informed the House that of the long list of officers which he had mentioned all, with one exception, had long retired from active service, and were what was called vulgarly in the navy "Yellow Admirals." A very great injustice had been done in this discussion not only to General Eden, but to the Horse Guards. Let the hon. Member put his finger on a job and support the statements with good arguments and sound information, and he would support him; but it was prejudicing the cause of reform both in that House and in the public mind to bring forward a case such as that of General Eden proved to be upon investigation.


was exceedingly sorry that this, to some extent, should have been made a Guards' question. It had been said that it was the non-commissioned officers who made the privates, but from something like thirty years' experience in the Guards, he knew that it was the officers who made the non-commmissioned officers, and they in turn helped to keep up the discipline of the battalion. He supposed that when the hon. Member for Brighton alluded to the increase of pay, he was not so much speaking of the increase of pay as a Guardsman, but as a General Officer removed from the Guards. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that that increase of pay entirely ceased when the officer became a colonel of a regiment, and was absorbed in the general pay. The hon. Gentleman must be aware that the whole subject of military appointments had been explained before two Parliamentary Committees—one in 1833, and another which sat last year—he meant the Committee on Military Organization. The rule laid down in appointments was that those officers were first preferred who had performed distinguished military service, and then colonial service. He would remind the hon. Gentleman that Major General Eden had been under this principle passed over by a number of officers junior to him on account of meritorious war services. Two of these had served in the Peninsula, one in India, one with distinction in the Crimea, one in the Crimea and at the Cape, one in the Mahratta war, and one had served in India and also distinguished himself at Lucknow. Remembering that with the exception of the Crimean war there had been no great European conflict since the Peninsular campaigns, it was only natural that the great majority of officers in the rank of generals should have seen little service in the field, though they had commanded regiments with distinction in every part of the world. Whose fault was it that they had not been engaged on war service? One of the most painful feelings to which an officer could be subjected was when war was going on to be excluded from his share of the glory and advantages. Would it not, then, be additionally unjust to lay it down as a rule that any man who had not seen actual war should be debarred from becoming colonel of a regiment? He thought it would be most injurious to the service if the claims of those who had been debarred the opportunity of war service, because their regiments were employed in other or colonial service, were neglected. The Duke of Wellington, while always taking care to reward distinguished merit in the field, had always laid it down as a principle that officers unable to be with the army in a campaign, but who were serving their country in other parts, should not be passed over. He could corroborate the statement made by the hon. Member for Liskeard, and he might add that General Eden, as it happened, did not exchange from the 56th Regiment into the Guards till the former had been ordered from Jamaica to Canada.


said, if hon. Gentleman entertained a low estimate of the impartiality of the Horse Guards the hon. Member for Liskeard himself was responsible for that impression, having while in office, or shortly after his retirement, stated that the best thing which could happen at the Horse Guards would be for the Serpentine to be turned through it, as that would be the only effectual method of getting rid of all the jobbery and corruption which prevailed there. General Eden ought to be grateful to his gallant colleague the Member for Brighton, as his Motion had been instrumental in eliciting all the testimony which had been given to his good services and admirable conduct. He only regretted the gallant Member for Oxford should have felt it necessary to import the Guards' element into the discussion. [Colonel NORTH: Why do not you leave the Guards alone?] He hoped they would not be left alone, but that on all occasions testimony would be borne in that House to the gallantry and good service of the household troops. But he thought they showed an excessive sensitiveness on all occasions.