HC Deb 21 June 1861 vol 163 cc1461-4

said, he rose to ask the Secretary of State for India, In what manner the provisions of Clauses 35, 36, and 58 of the Act 21 & 22 Vict. c. 106, and of the Act 22 & 23 Vict. c. 27, which guarantee that "all advantages as to pay, I pensions, allowances, privileges, promotion, I and otherwise, shall be secured to the Military Forces of the East India Company, in any plan for the reorganization of the Indian Army," are to be carried out in respect to the 1,225 officers (more or less) of the Local Armies of India who will be thrown out of employment by the reduction of the former fixed establishment of twenty-six European regimental officers to six only, to serve for the future with a Native Regiment, as directed by the Amalgation Order published in the Calcutta Government Gazette, dated the 10th of April, 1861? The hon. and gallant Member said that the amalgamation order would convert the whole Native army of India from regular into irregular troops, reducing the fixed establishment of officers in each regiment from twenty-six to six. Originally the Native regiments had a very small number of European officers, their complement being one captain, one lieutenant, and one ensign; but, gallant as those troops were, they were found comparatively inefficient from the paucity of European officers. The history of the services of the Bengal army by Captain Williamson, show that successive additions of officers to Native regiments were deemed indispensable, and from the year 1770, to within a recent period the strength of European officers with a regiment had gradually increased to twenty-six. Now, however, the old defective system was about to be revived, and a vast body of officers would be thrown out of employment. Under the Acts of Parliament quoted the existing officers of the Native regiments were guaranteed against any loss of emoluments consequent upon the reorganization of the local army; but by the conversion of the troops from regulars into irregulars many of the officers must suffer great pecuniary as well as other disadvantages, they would lose the command allowance of a regiment, cavalry or infantry of £40 a month; the captains of cavalry would lose their "troop" allowances; and officers of infantry entitled to command companies would lose their company allowance. The appointment of quarter-master and interpreter would cease, and these losses and changes involved unquestionably a breach of faith with the army. Would the Secretary of State for India like to have a thousand actions at law brought against him for compensation by these officers? That might, however, be the case, if those gentlemen could prove that they had sustained any loss by the change. Is it not as ungenerous as unjust to forget the services of these troops. On the colours of the different Native regiments at least a hundred victories were inscribed. Until driven to rebellion by outraging their religious prejudices they had always stood faithful to us. The Madras Native army, which was wholly free from the late mutiny, was once, too, on the brink of rebellion in 1806, from Sir J. Craddock's dangerous orders interfering with the religious usages of the Madras Sepoys, but it was happily saved by Colonel Montressor, who commanded the Hyderabad subsidiary force, consisting of one European and six Native regiments. His firmness of purpose, and his courage in daring to disobey Sir J. Craddock's orders averted the mutiny; and ever since the Madras army had remained staunch in its loyalty. The Secretary of State for India had had the misfortune to impose an income tax, which created discontent, if not hostility, among the bulk of the people of India. Now he was also carrying out a measure which degraded the Native army, and caused the discontent if not hostility of the Sepoys and their European officers, while, at the same time, he was raising a feeling of discontent by the manner in which lie proposed to handle the Civil Service of India. He (Colonel Sykes) lamented that he could not look with satisfaction to the probable future of our position in India.


said, he was glad that it lay in his power to relieve his hon, and gallant Friend from the apprehensions which he had expressed. The hon. and gallant Member complained that, in consequence of the conversion of the Native army of India from regulars into irregulars, the guarantee of the Act to officers would be broken. The conversion however, had nothing whatever to do with that guarantee; in point of fact the conversion had, as far as the army of Bengal was concerned, been effected long before the amalgamation took place. Out of seventy-five regiments, sixty mutinied, were disbanded, and ceased to exist. Irregular levies were raised in their place, and were officered on the irregular system. The armies of Madras and Bombay had not yet been changed into irregulars, and whenever that operation was performed, it would be done gradually, without displacing any officer, or depriving him of any promotion, pay, or emoluments which he now enjoyed. The hon. and gallant Member also set forth the advantage of regular troops over irregulars; but the irregulars had played a distinguished part in the whole of the recent campaigns in the North of India and had displayed great gallantry and efficiency. He maintained, therefore, that his hon. and gallant Friend was mistaken in asserting that the irregular system had proved a failure. As to the Commission appointed to carry out the details of the amalgamation in India, he was very sorry it had ever been appointed, for he believed it had produced considerable mischief. No better proof of that could be afforded than the publication of the Report of the Commission against the will of the Government. That Report was based on the assumption which, as he had said, was entirely devoid of foundation, that the ar- mies of Madras and Bombay were at once to be placed on the irregular system. That put an end to one half the case of his hon. and gallant Friend. The Commander-in-Chief had undertaken to provide employment for all the officers for whom it was stated in the Report of the Commission that no places could be found, with the single exception of the senior field-officers, who were not very competent for active service. To meet the case of these, a certain number of officers would be superannuated. There would, doubtless, be some allowances which officers now received to which they would not be entitled under the irregular system; but there would be no substantial alteration in their position. To say that the whole of the officers should retain all their emoluments and allowances was tantamount to saying that the Indian army should be kept up to its former establishment, in order to provide emoluments for the officers, without reference to the public service; and he was sure his hon. and gallant Friend was not prepared to recommend such a measure.