HC Deb 13 March 1862 vol 165 cc1419-41

Sir, I rise to move the Resolution of which I have given notice, with a view of bringing the Vote of Sandhurst College under the consideration of the House; and I believe it will be more convenient that I should make my statement on this Motion, inasmuch as the House will then have full discretion whether to go into Committee or not, and will be able to vote with a full knowledge of all the circumstances of the case. Now, Sir, the Committee of Supply have decided to reject a Vote of £ 10,787 for increasing the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. The question which I shall have to submit is, whether the House will again go into Committee of Supply with the purpose of reviewing that decision? The Vote was, in fact, a repetition of the Vote of last year. Last year a plan was introduced into the House by my hon. Friend (Mr. T. G. Baring) then Under Secretary for War, according to which all persons entering the army were to pass through the College of Sandhurst, whether their Commissions were obtained by purchase or without purchase. That was the plan which had been proposed by His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief and sanctioned by my predecessor, and which was then opened to the House by my hon. Friend. Some debate arose on that proposition, and a division took place, and my hon. Friend agreed to postpone the ultimate decision on the plan until Parliament had had an opportunity of reviewing the question. But, in consequence of the division that took place, my hon. Friend gave notice that the Vote of last year, £ 15,000, would be expended in the course of the year. There is no doubt at all on that point; and the money was voted by this House, but voted, not as sufficient for carrying the plan which had been proposed by my hon. Friend into effect, but merely as an instalment of the sum which would be necessary for that purpose. It was distinctly understood by the House that to the extent of that £ 15,000 the War Department were at liberty to proceed. [An hon. MEMBER: No, no!] Well, I assert in the most deliberate manner, after haying examined the debates of last Session, for I hold an impartial position in the matter, that the House had distinct notice from my hon. Friend that it was intended to expend £15,000 on the enlargement of the College of Sandhurst. I dwell particularly on this point because, in consequence of the remarks that were made on a late motion respecting the management of public monies, some hon. Members appeared to be under the impression that there had been a want of good faith on the part of the Government, and that they had been expending money on buildings at Sandhurst without the authority of Parliament. Nothing can be more certain than that this Vote of £15,000 was for the purpose of enlarging the college, and not one farthing had been spent without the explicit authority of a Vote in Supply, and also of the House in the Appropriation clause. The House ought to understand the nature of the plan that was opened by my hon. Friend last Session, because it differs materially from the plan I propose, and which is the foundation of the Vote that I am about to ask. One is far more extensive than the other, and I conceive that all that was intended by the promise of the Government was that the more extensive plan should not be acted upon without further deliberation and the permission of the House; and that no steps should be taken which involved the execution of that plan. That promise has been most faithfully kept, and more then kept, because I have abandoned that larger plan for the present without asking the House to assent to it, and have reduced it to the plan which I have before stated, and now repeat for the information of the House.

The House ought to be aware that there were very high authorities for the adoption of the original scheme—namely, the larger one that was opened to the House last Session. I will read a passage from the Report of the Select Committee on Military Organization. That Report, made two Sessions ago, was the basis of the proposal that was made last Session to the House. The Committee, in page 12 of their Report, say— For the purpose of obviating objections as to the large amount of patronage at the Horse Guards and the number of first commissions given away, the Commander-in-Chief opened a plan, whereby henceforth there should be only one en- trance into the army, and that through the medium of a military college. His Royal Highness is of opinion 'that this would be the most desirable thing which could be introduced into the service.' He gave the outline of a plan in great detail, which would be best explained by reference to the evidence, and to the questions and answers specified in the margin. Mr. Herbert, who heard that evidence, and who took part in the examination of his Royal Highness, declared that in his opinion the advice given by the Duke of Cambridge was sound; that, if it were adopted, the whole dispute as to first commissions would be entirely at an end, and that one entrance into the army through the door of a military college would terminate the controversy respecting patronage. He stated further that he had himself made the same proposal some years ago in the House of Commons; that he had a plan now before him, submitted by the Council of Education; that, with the Commander-in-Chief, he was now considering it; and that, in the event of the fusion of the European Indian army with the Queen's army, many difficulties with respect to the enlargement of the patronage at the Horse Guards would be removed by the establishment of this military college. The plan being thus avowedly incomplete, and the details not yet being matured, your Committee do not think it expedient to pronounce a decided opinion on the subject; but the measure proposed is well worthy of the most careful consideration. It is evident, however, what was the bent of the opinion of the Committee They were favourably inclined towards the plan as affording a solution of a difficult problem with respect to the patronage of first commissions, and particularly with respect to the amalgamation of the Indian army. I confess nothing has so much surprised me in the discussion of this subject as to hear that this plan, with respect to Sandhurst, is considered by some persons what is termed "a job." In fact, it is the very opposite of a job, and was proposed by the Duke of Cambridge with the perfectly disinterested view of restraining his discretion in the disposal of his own patronage, and of imposing conditions with respect to merit upon persons entering the army. Instead of the Duke of Cambridge having an unlimited power of giving first commissions, he proposed that every one about to enter the army, whether by purchase or not, should be required to spend a year at Sandhurst, and afterwards to undergo the ordeal of a competitive examination. Now, if that process involves anything which has the most remote resemblance to a job, I confess I never understood what that monosyllable means. Anything which tends more decidedly in the opposite direction it is impossible for me to conceive. A very large proportion of the Members of this House must remember what passed during the debates on the India Bill, and the jealousy which was expressed with respect to the unlimited power of the Government in disposing of the Indian patronage. Such power on the part of the Government has always been, from the time of Mr. Fox's India Bill to the Bill which was passed a few years ago, one of the great objects of the jealousy of Parliament. Now, in consequence of the addition of nine infantry regiments and three cavalry regiments to the Indian army, there will be a great increase in the number of non-purchase commissions, and it is to non-purchase commissions that I shall propose to limit this plan.

Well, then, the proposal made last Session was for a Vote of £15,000 to commence the enlargement of Sandhurst College, with a view ultimately to make it sufficiently large to pass every person entering the army through its walls. For that purpose £15,000 would not have been sufficient; but, in consequence of a deliberation which took place during the recess, I came to the conclusion that it would not be desirable, for the present at all events, to press that plan upon the adoption of Parliament, but to limit it to commissions obtained without purchase. The result of that decision was that a contract was made, I think, in August last, to the amount of nearly £15,000; and it was intended that that contract, when executed, should enlarge the college to a sufficient extent to meet the limited demands which would be made upon it in consequence of the restriction to which I have adverted. The decision of the Committee of Supply has placed me in this position, that in consequence of only a small part of that contract having been executed—to the amount of about £1,000—up to December last, and of some £4,000 which it is expected will have been executed to the end of the quarter, I am now obliged to come to the House for a re-Vote. The rule which obtains with regard to the War Office does not obtain with respect to the Civil Service. If this were a harbour Vote, for instance, the £15,000 might be expended in the ensuing year; but the rule of the War Office is more strict, for the authority given to it in this respect lasts only to the 1st of April following, so that if the whole sum is not expended, it is necessary to come to Parliament for a re-Vote. Substantially, therefore, I only I asked the Committee the other night to re-Vote so much of the grant of last year as should not be expended up to the 1st of April. If on reconsideration that Vote shall not be made, all I can say is that the money already expended is thrown away; that we must compensate the contractor out of the Vote of last year for his loss in not being able to execute the rest of the contract, to the amount of perhaps £5,000; and that a couple of thousand pounds more will have to be expended in removing the half-finished walls now standing. Therefore there will be an expenditure in this way of about £12,000, and the whole sum which I now ask is only £10,000 to give the requisite accomodation for adapting the College to the limited wants I have described.

Now, there is a circumstance to which the House ought to advert in coming to a decision on this question—namely, that when the East India Company was in existence, it had a Military College at Addiscombe; that College has been suppressed, and the military students who used to be received there are now divided between Woolwich and Sandhurst. That is another reason why additional accommodation will be needed at Sandhurst. Addiscombe was intended mainly for the formation of artillery officers and engineers, but those who failed obtained infantry commissions. The whole of that class will have to be provided for at Sandhurst under the present regulations. If the House should approve the principle that persons who are to receive non-purchase commissions must go through a course of military instruction and pass a competitive examination, some provision must be made for this class of persons. The change that has taken place in the Indian Army as regards Sandhurst is not limited to the commissions in the twelve new regiments; but when vacancies are occasioned by appointment to the Staff in India, they will lead to non-purchase commissions in whatever regiments they may occur. That circumstance, therefore, will occasion an addition to the other students at Sandhurst. The House may, perhaps, wish to know what will be the total number of non-purchase commissions to be given away under the new state of things. As far as I am able to ascertain, the total number, as estimated by His Royal Highness the General Commanding-in-Chief, is 230 non-purchase commissions per annum. Of these, between 30 and 40 will be reserved to non-commis- sioned officers who will not pass through Sandhurst or undergo examination. There will be also 20 Queen's cadets, sons of officers who die in the service, and 20 more, sons of Indian officers, so that 160 will be left for annual competition. The Queen's cadets will be subjected to a qualifying, but not to a competitive, examination. It is only fair to require that they should show that they, are competent. Hitherto the number of non-purchase commissions competed for has not exceeded 20, so that the difference between the future number and the present will be the difference between 160 and 20. Each first commission is worth, according to the regulation price, £450; and that amount, multiplied by 190, would be equal to a sum of £85,500. Therefore, if the House were to refuse to make this arrangement with respect to the accommodation at Sandhurst, and were to establish the principle that non-purchase commissions should be given away without any test whatever, it would place in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief, without any restriction, patronage to that amount; and I scarcely think that such can be the Intention of the House. It must be borne in mind, that if you are to have a competition for 160 commissions, there must be more than 160 persons competing, otherwise it would be no competition at all; and the plan I should propose would provide only 296 cadets for 160 commissions; and if it is wished that the competition should be valid and substantial, I cannot suppose that the number of cadets could be reduced below that amount.

I will now state precisely what I propose with respect to the accommodation. At present the number of cadets at Sandhurst is 189. It is proposed that the establishment should be increased, so that there should be four companies of 84 cadets, comprising altogether 336 cadets, and it is calculated that the additional building, as proposed to the House, will provide accommodation for that number and no more. And even after the additions now in progress should be made, there will still be five cadets to one room of 19 by 21 feet, and the room would be used both as a sleeping and sitting-room. There would certainly be halls for study and meals as well, but the sleeping-rooms, containing five cadets each, would be rooms of 19 by 21 feet. I think that the House will see that this is not a very excessive or luxurious accommodation, and it, indeed, gives less space than is at present allowed to the students at Woolwich. I believe I have now stated the principal outlines of the proposed plan, and the sum of £10,000 will just suffice for the purpose. The arrangement will be, that persons receiving a non-purchase commission should enter Sandhurst on a qualified examination, should pass a year there, and come out upon a competitive examination. That is the whole extent of the plan I propose, and I trust I have stated sufficient to enable the House to see that it is quite different from the plan proposed last year, being much less extensive and not involving the principle that every officer receiving a commission should pass through Sandhurst. The arrangement is limited to the case of non-purchase commissions, and the obligation of study at a military college and the test of competitive examination are intended as a check on what would otherwise be the unlimited discretion of the Commander-in-Chief in giving away non-purchase commissions. That is a principle hitherto not objected to by this House; indeed, it has been insisted on as a security against the abuse of patronage, and the objections which have been made to the plan appear to rest upon a misunderstanding of the purpose for which the arrangement is suggested. I trust that this explanation will induce the House to go into Committee to re-consider this Vote, and afterwards to agree to it.

There is another question, raised by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Selwyn) the other night, with respect to the claims of the Universities to take part in the military education of officers. Now, I think that everybody must see that the two great Universities of Oxford and Cambridge can never to any very considerable degree become places for purely military education. I think that they have not appliances necessary for the purpose, and that they cannot undertake to teach the branches of a mere professional education such as the army requires, and such, I may remark, as the navy now requires, because no person can enter the navy who has not passed a year's instruction in the Britannia training-ship, which in this respect is an institution equivalent to the College at Sandhurst. I believe, also, that the Admiralty are contemplating to establish a permament college on shore. Therefore these things should be borne in mind when a representation is made by any hon. Member that it is an unprecedented thing that there should be a special education of officers, for the principle is acted upon for the navy. With respect to the Universities, I would call the attention of the House to the correspondence on the table respecting the facilities which the War Office proposes to grant to persons studying at the Universities; and I beg to read the following letter from the War Office to the Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford;— War Office, Jan. 27, 1862. With reference to the letter from this department of the 8th instant, I am directed by Secretary Sir George Lewis to inform you that, having had the subject therein adverted to under his further consideration, and having conferred thereon with His Royal Highness the General Commanding-in-Chief, he is of opinion that candidates who may have passed the first and second examinations (called Responsions and Moderations) at the University of Oxford, may, upon certificates being furnished by the Examiners of their possessing the necessary qualifications in the subjects included in those examination, be exempted from any additional examination of a preliminary character in the same for admission to Sandhurst as military cadets; and I am further to state, that should the candidates from the University exceed the limits of the maximum age as at present prescribed (namely, under nineteen years), Sir George Lewis will be prepared, on cases arising, to consider (if necessary) a relaxation of the rule in regard to age for University undergraduates. I shall be quite prepared also, in regard to Cambridge University, to enlarge the term by six months. With these explanations, I beg leave to move that the postponed Resolution be re-committed to the Committee of Supply.


said, that he had listened with ever-increasing astonishment to the successive speeches of the Secretary for War. He would, nevertheless, confine his observations within as narrow compass as possible. It was difficult to reconcile the speech of the right hon. Gentleman to which they had just listened with those delivered before, and it certainly had left the House in greater obscurity than ever as to the ultimate object of the Government proposal. The House, however, was asked to retrace the first step it had made in the path of retrenchment, and to give up the advantage of the only victory the friends of economy had gained. If that step had been taken in the dark, or that victory had been gained by surprise, there might have been some grounds for the re- quest. Now, what were the grounds on which the right hon. Gentleman asked the House to reconsider the Vote? His arguments were, in the first place, based on a newly-discovered matter of fact; secondly, on a question of patronage; and next, on the correspondence with the Universities which had been laid on the table. With respect to the first ground, he challenged the right hon. Gentleman to give some explanation why the fact, which if it was not known to himself, at all events must have been known to the Government, and which he seemed to consider so important as to afford a sufficient reason for reviving a discussion of a Committee more full than usual, had not been disclosed to the House until after two discussions and an adverse vote? For what purpose, he should like to learn, were hon. Members to sit night after night discussing the Estimates, if information were to be doled out to them as in the present instance? The fact on which the right hon. Baronet relied must have been in possession of Her Majesty's Ministers when they submitted the Estimates in question, and constituted, he should contend, no good reason for asking the House to reverse the decision at which it had already arrived. As to the question of patronage, he should ask hon. Members for a moment to consider in how guarded and careful a manner it had been dealt with by the right hon. Gentleman. Finding that he could not carry his proposition for the compulsory residence at Sandhurst of all officers, he stated it was to be abandoned for the present, but for the present only, and to a limited extent. But the objection to the reconsideration of the Vote was, that the House would thus be admitting one end of the wedge, and would subsequently be told that a large building having been provided, and the principle admitted, the original plan ought to be adopted. If the right hon. Baronet would inform the House that they were not at any future time to be called upon to resort to the scheme of compulsory education at Sandhurst for all the officers of the army, it would be unnecessary to enter into a consideration of the inadvisability of forcing men at a comparatively early age to confine themselves within the operation of an exclusive system, and to render themselves liable to the contraction of ideas which it was calculated to produce, and which was likely to be obviated by a more open and liberal training.

In abandoning their scheme of forcing education on all alike, the Government would virtually give up the principle on which the Vote under discussion must rest; but in saying that they would not render it compulsory on those who could purchase commissions, while they would insist on it in the case of those who could not, they were making, as it were, one law for the rich and another for the poor. He should ask the House not to be led away by the supposition that there had been any concession made by the Government in the matter since the discussion which took place in Committee of Supply, for one of the main arguments of the majority was, that it was unjust to impose that upon the poor which could not be enforced against the rich.

Then it was said that the adoption of the plan would involve the surrender of patronage. But, notwithstanding, it appeared that patronage was to exist in another form, and that the young men were to be admitted without having to undergo any competitive examination; and the great point the House 'had to consider was, whether they ought to make it compulsory on parents and guardians to send to one particular establishment all young men intended for the military profession. It had been supposed that since the former discussions the Government had changed their intentions, but, for his own part, he thought the case stood even stronger than before, for it was clear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for "War that the original proposal of the Government was not abandoned, but only postponed. The right hon. Baronet in fact contended that in the case of those to whom commissions were given without purchase, it was right to impose a certain condition, and that into the expediency of that condition the House of Commons ought not to inquire. But in what, let him ask, did the condition consist? It involved not only the proposed instalment for the expense of the building in question which the right hon. Gentleman himself declared to be insufficient, but also a large annual Vote, and in the future a still larger annual expenditure. Could it then fairly be said that it was not the duty of the House of Commons to inquire whether it was wise and just to impose such a condition, and whether that expenditure was called for? For his own part he thought not, and he should with confidence appeal to hon. Members to say whether any necessity for so large an outlay had been made out.

But, thirdly, the right hon. Baronet seemed to think that the correspondence on the table showed he had made to the Universities considerable concessions. He did not, however, state that he had conceded the principal point in dispute—whether there should or should not be compulsory residence at Sandhurst. That point appeared to be still insisted upon, and with a fatality which seemed to attend all the communications made to the House on the subject, the principal document—namely, the letter dated 6th May, 1861, and which contained the scheme of military education proposed by the University of Cambridge—was not included in the papers laid on the table. Whether that document was referred to as the private correspondence between Lord Herbert and the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge he was unaware; but how it could be considered as in the nature of a private correspondence, seeing that it was signed by the Vice Chancellor and by many other members of the Council of the Senate, and that it had been published in the newspapers, he was at a loss to understand. Be that, however, as it might, in the absence of that document, there was great difficulty in making out the real character of the proposal of the Government from the correspondence as it had been presented. The Universities considered that they had within themselves the means of giving a young man about to enter the army such an education as would fit him to be that which an English soldier ought to be. To effect that object they offered to abridge the time usually required for residence at the Universities, and so to modify their own rules as to render them applicable to the peculiar position of those about to enter the army. Now, he should like to know whether the number mentioned by the right hon. Baronet as at present occupying Sandhurst did not comprise a considerable number of those studying for Staff appointments? [Sir GEORGE LEWIS That portion of the building occupied by the Staff College will henceforth be devoted for the use of the cadets generally.] But even so, he did not see how the large increase in the number of cadets, which was 170, and which the right hon. Baronet said was to be limited to 336, was accounted for; but what he wished the House distinctly to understand was, that the Government had not conceded in the present case the free choice of education either at the Universities or at Sandhurst, but that a large number of young men were to be brought to Sandhurst, and to obtain admission to the army only through the medium of a compulsory education there. If, moreover, the House were to reverse its decision, and re-commit the Vote, hon. Members would, after a time, be told that they had consented to the adoption of a system of compulsory examination in the case of those who were unable to purchase their commissions, and would be asked how they could consistently refuse to extend the system to those who were in a position to do so. He did not say that the proper test, whatever it might be, should not be applied, or that the examination should not be as stringent or as professional as they pleased to make it; but he contended that they should not limit to one place or to one set of persons the acquisition of that knowledge which was necessary to pass that examination and to comply with that test. That was the principle upon which the Committee had acted, and he trusted the House would not now, especially in the absence of a satisfactory explanation from the Secretary for War, suffer itself to be induced to reverse the decision of the Committee. Such were the reasons which compelled him to meet the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War with a direct negative. The grounds upon which he did so were—first, that by agreeing to the Motion of the right hon. Baronet the House would sanction the principle of compulsory examination of the whole of the officers of the army; and, secondly, that there had been no necessity shown for the proposed expenditure of public money. He confidently anticipated the support, not only of those who were pledged to a policy of economy and retrenchment, but also of those who desired to preserve inviolate one of the most important functions of the House of Commons—namely, a real and effective control over the public expenditure.


Sir, I think the House is now realizing the inconvenience, to say the least, of being called upon to discuss the enlargement of a public military college before we have had an opportunity of hearing Ministers propound their scheme of education. Tonight, for the first time, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War has given us a description of his scheme, but we have had no opportunity of considering it, far less of entering into a debate upon it. I well remember the circumstances under which the Vote was agreed to last year. At midnight, on the 25th of June, no plan was propounded as to what the scheme of education should be. A hint was given on the subject, and I understood that all candidates for commissions in the army were expected to go to Sandhurst for one, year. The details of the scheme were not stated. Upon that occasion, indeed, two Motions were made for reporting progress, and the Committee was rather hurried into a Vote upon the subject. I did not join in the division myself, because I felt there was no plan before us upon which we could vote; and I must say that, in my opinion, we were treated to a little sharp practice. At the same time I do not go so far as to say that there has been any breach of faith, because I do not believe that such a charge can fairly be brought against the late hon. Under Secretary for War; but' it certainly is a fact that the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary for War—perhaps owing to the circumstance that he has been thinking more of the Astronomy of the Ancients than of the duties of his office—has not until to-night given us any explanation of his, scheme of military education. To-night, however, he has favoured us with a clear statement, and I, who am not fettered by any previous vote, am happy to come to the consideration of the subject. I cannot agree with the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken that this question is one of economy and retrenchment. We have to deal with a scheme intended for the benefit of our military officers, and I think it would be ridiculous cheese-paring to treat it upon economical considerations alone. The real question before us is, will all classes of officers be benefited by the new scheme of education? I have no hesitation in saying, for one, that I think the scheme, as propounded by the right hon. Secretary for War, will be highly beneficial to the officers of the army. When the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite says that all officers are to be compelled to go to Sandhurst for one year, he does not give a correct representation of the scheme. The right hon. Secretary for War has told us that all first commissions, which are now in the patronage of the Commander-in-Chief, are henceforth to be thrown open, and that his Royal Highness, in return for the great benefit thus bestowed upon the army, will be satisfied if candidates for commissions without purchase are required to pass a certain time at Sandhurst. I think that is a great advantage for those gentlemen and the service in general. What is the case now? The examination which an officer has to undergo has nothing at all to do with his professional duties, Running into the extreme of competitive examinations, we ask a man a parcel of useless questions, no way connected with his profession; and the consequence is, that an officer goes to his regiment, whether with or without purchase, without any special military training, unless he has been at Sandhurst. For a considerable period, of course, such an officer is of no possible use to his regiment or to the service. Take a cornet of cavalry on first joining his regiment. He may be the best classic or the best mathematician in the world, but if he has not learnt to ride, or acquired a knowledge of his drill, he is of no use as a cavalry officer. If you send a cornet to Sandhurst, he will acquire a special military training, and after he leaves the college he will be able within a week to do regimental duty. I look upon that as a great advantage. It is not for me to say that the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite has any particular object in view, but he is the representative of Cambridge University, and we all know that Cambridge University likes to get as much grist to its mill as possible. I have been at Cambridge myself, and I know the great anxiety they have there to make their net so as to catch everybody and everything. Let us see what has been the result of the institution of Sandhurst. Important evidence has been given upon that point. The Committee on the Organization of the Army was probably one of the best-constituted Committees ever selected by this House. ["No."] An hon. Gentleman says "No;" but I defy him to put his finger upon any Member of that Committee who had not special knowledge of the subject of investigation. I hold in my hand the evidence given by a right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite who, whether we regard his great general knowledge, his sound judgment, the clearness of his perception, or his special acquaintance with the army, must be considered as good an authority as any to be found in the United King- dom. I allude, of course, to the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon General Peel told the Committee that the result of that military training at Sandhurst would be to make young officers at once fit for duty in their respective regiments. The acquisition of such gentlemen would be a very different thing from that of a parcel of young men from Oxford and Cambridge, who are not always the best recruits for regiments, for the same reason which induces a riding-master in the cavalry to look upon a postboy with dismay—namely, because he has to unlearn a great deal. Many gentlemen from Oxford and Cambridge join full of classics and mathematics, but knowing nothing whatever of special military duty, except what they have got by cramming—a sort of information which, if it is speedily acquired, is also speedily forgotten. It is for the interest of the army we should have officers with some special military knowledge. The British army is the only army in the world in which men join their regiments unable to do duty at once. We have heard a great deal of officers being separated from the rest of the community, and one would suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War was going to require every officer to remain at Sandhurst for three years. The fact is, however, that the student is to go to Sandhurst when he is between sixteen and seventeen years of age, and to remain there for one year. So far from thinking that a disadvantage, I regard it as one of the greatest advantages which could be conferred upon the army. There is another point which ought to be considered. General Peel was asked by the Committee on the Organization of the Army whether he thought, supposing no admission to the army should take place until after the young man had passed through the college, the purchase system could continue. His reply was that, in his opinion, the natural consequence would be to do away with the purchase system altogether eventually. I commend that statement to the serious attention of those who are opposed to the purchase of commissions. It suggests a very material consideration for this House. Do not let us run away with the idea that the Secretary for War proposes to do something which is wrong and unconstitutional. The right hon. Gentleman, no doubt, is open to the charge of carelessness in having so long deferred an explanation of his scheme of education; but what we have now to consider is, whether that scheme is a good or a bad thing for the British army. I am prepared to vote for it as an experiment, and I trust the House will support the right hon. Gentleman in the Motion which is now before us.


said, that there was hardly any Member in that House whose attention had been more closely directed to the question of admission into the army through the Military College at Sandhurst than his own during the last three or four years. He need hardly say that the question under discussion was not one which should be treated in a party spirit. It was a question in which the interests of the British army were involved, and he had a particular reason for saying that to make it a party question would be, not only very improper, but also very inconvenient. A few years ago many hon. Gentlemen whom he saw opposite entertained very different opinions from those which they held now. When he became Secretary for War in the Administration of the Earl of Derby, he found that his predecessor, Lord Panmure, had established a plan according to which every candidate for admission into the army was required to go to Sandhurst. That plan was actually in operation when he went to the War Office, and it was applied even to candidates for admission into the scientific branches. The only alteration he made was this—having found that a great hardship was felt by gentlemen who were preparing for Woolwich in consequence of the change in the age, he had allowed two additional examinations to take place for Woolwich. What was the consequence? The right hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) moved an Address to the Crown, praying that the old practice might be reverted to, and he had a perfect right to do so; he did not approve the plan that had been adopted, and he was perfectly certain, if it had continued to be carried on by his predecessor, the right hon. Gentleman would equally have objected to it. The fact, however, was, that every Gentleman on the other side voted on that occasion against Sandhurst, and those on his side of the House voted for it. The plan laid before him by the Council of Education, when he was Secretary at War, went to this extent that every person entering the army should pass through a military college. The hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Osborne) was not strictly correct in stating that the plan was entirely approved by the Committee on Military Organization. He had objections to it, because it cast upon every person the necessity of making up his mind whether he would enter the military profession at the early age of seventeen, while some might wish to enter the army at a later period of life. As he now understood the plan of the right hon. Gentleman, the admission to Sandhurst in the first instance would be a qualified admission to the army, and that it would also to some extent diminish the admissions into the army by purchase. The examination on admission to Sandhurst would be equal in severity to that qualifying for a commission in the army; and, after going to Sandhurst, the examination was to be purely professional for those who would obtain commissions without purchase. His hon. and learned Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Selwyn) said it was a hardship for men to have to go to a military college, as if every profession were not in the same position in this respect with the army. All who entered the Navy, the Marines, Artillery, the Engineers, had to go through a professional training. Even the profession to which his hon. and learned Friend belonged had to submit to this rule, although the only test in law was appetite. In point of economy, the man who got his commission by a professional examination was far cheaper to the country than one who must receive pay for six months before he was able to do any duty. As to Sandhurst, again, that might and ought to be made a self-supporting establishment. Sons of officers were allowed to go in at a cheaper rate than other cadets, who were obliged to pay for the difference. His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief might have said, "I will give up all these commissions to be competed for, but I shall nominate all the cadets." That would, in point of fact, have been equivalent to retaining the patronage. But, on the contrary, His Royal Highness said, "I do not want this patronage; I wish to get rid of it." But then he thought that, as in the Indian army, the candidates for commissions should pass through a military college. "What would be the result if they succeeded by refusing the Vote in not increasing the number of the cadets at Sandhurst? They would not be one whit nearer the adoption of the proposal of his hon. and learned Friend—namely, that Oxford and Cambridge should come to compete for; direct commissions. They might, indeed, compete even in a professional examination; but what would be said if Oxford and Cambridge were made military colleges? The effect would, no doubt, be to change the course of life of many young men who originally intended to go either to the Bar or the Church. It would be found much easier to obtain a commission than to take a degree. So far as the army was concerned, there could be no hardship in saying that those to whom they were about to give commissions should previously acquire some knowledge of the military profession. Having obtained his commission by a professional test, an officer would be ready at once to join his regiment, and almost to command a company. He hoped and trusted this would not be made a party question, but that they would come to that conclusion which the was perfectly certain would promote the interest and the efficiency of the army.


said, he was not in so fortunate a position with regard to the question as the hon. Member for Liskeard. He had twice voted on the subject against the Government, but after the explanations given he should, on the present occasion, record his vote in their favour. When the Vote was brought before the House last year, he opposed it on the ground of the scantiness of the information supplied, and because he objected to pass every officer of the British army through an establishment without some security that it would be an efficient one. The Government on that occasion, however, had given the information which was wanting. They had been told that the accommodation to be provided was for 336 young men; and though it was within his knowledge that the accommodation originally provided in Sandhurst was for 405, practically the provision fell far short of what was necessary; and he believed if the requisite accommodation was to be made for students of an advanced age, it was not more than sufficient for the number now proposed to be sent. Then he felt no objection to the end to the object to be accomplished—namely, that of giving a professional education to young men intended for officers of the army for one year, after the termination of their ordinary school education. His objection to the scheme of last year was, that it was a proposal to pass every officer of the army through one college, The proposition now made by the Government was to limit the number to about one-third, leaving the other two-thirds to be educated as at present, subject to the same condition of passing a test examination before obtaining a commission. He felt the force of the objection to an exclusively special education. He believed that it cramped the ideas, and therefore he was opposed to any system which would compel young men to devote three or four years to a quasi-military education in which they would learn neither strategy, tactics, nor the higher departments of the profession. Such was the system now in force at Sandhurst. But he by no means objected on principle to obliging a young man of sixteen or seventeen to devote one year to special studies. The Duke of Wellington and Lord Hill were obliged to get their military education in a French College, while Sir John Moore and Sir Charles Napier only obtained their military knowledge by passing successively through every single arm of the army. They had seen the evil effects of the want of special training during the Crimean campaign, when young officers were sent out to join their regiments and required to lead men into action without the requisite knowledge for commanding a company. The same evils would happen again if their officers were sent to command without special knowledge of the duties they had to discharge. He should, therefore, under the altered circumstances, support the proposition of the Government without fear of rendering himself liable to a charge of inconsistency because he had opposed the Vote of last year.


said, he could not admit that officers who left Sandhurst, although possessed of some military knowledge, were prepared immediately to take the command of a company. They would be expected by the colonels of their regiments to learn their drill in the ordinary way. If Oxford or Cambridge wanted to have military education exclusively in their own hands, it would be quite a different thing. They only asked for a fair trial of their system; and if it failed, another plan might be adopted. He did not know whether riding formed any part of the training at Sandhurst, but he appealed to anybody who had been at Oxford or Cambridge whether that art was not to be learnt there. They were told that the proposal of the Government would be of great benefit to the army; but he believed the benefit had been exaggerated, while a probable disadvantage had been overlooked. A reasonable apprehension had been felt that as the College at Sandhurst was to be limited to a particular class, officers passing through that institution would enter their profession as marked men, who from poverty or other circumstances could not pay for their commission like their comrades. That might give rise to jealousy, and other feelings inconsistent with the well-being of the service. Then, again, there was the question of expense. Grants like the present began with very small sums, and went on annually increasing. The tendency of such Votes, rapidly to double, and even treble themselves, was illustrated by the remarkable growth of the Estimates of the Educational Department. He hoped, therefore, that the hon. and learned Gentleman would be able to check the proposed expenditure. As to the taunt thrown out against those who were very anxious to save money in small sums, it should be remembered that any attempt to save larger amounts was always met by the cry that it would be detrimental to the public service.


said, he wished to ask the Government whether it had been absolutely determined that these examinations should be of a competitive nature. It would be a great hardship to young men of inconsiderable fortune if after undergoing a year's special training at Sandhurst they were to be exposed to all the chances of a competitive examination. Things might surely be so managed that the number of admissions to Sandhurst should correspond with the number of commissions to be given. He thought the House hardly understood that the present scheme implied that a number of young men, educated at Sandhurst, would not only have to incur a considerable expense for that education, but would then receive commissions only if they succeeded in a competitive examination. If they should not succeed, it would be difficult for them to recover their position in society, or to repair the loss they would sustain by what would then have been to them a year's perfectly useless training. He believed the feeling of the House was truly expressed when the hon. Member for Liskeard said they were carrying their system of competition too far. Why could not the education of these young men be so arranged that after going through a probationary year of military instruction they should then have to pass a severe but fixed examination in military subjects? If they failed in that ordeal, they ought to take the consequences of their failure; but they ought not to be exposed to a competitive examination, so uncertain and indeterminate in its nature and results that it was very possible for an able man to fail in one year, and for a very inferior man to succeed in the next, These were hazards to which youths of this particular class ought hot to be subjected; and he therefore trusted that the Government would reconsider their opinion in this matter.


said, as the subject was of great interest to the profession to which he belonged, he could not reconcile it with his feelings to give a silent vote upon it. Two distinct issues had been raised—namely, Whether a breach of faith had been committed by the Government; and whether they ought to have expended a certain sum of money, which it was admitted they had expended without the authority of the House. The charge of breach of faith had not been relied upon, and it did not appear to him that it afforded any justification for refusing the Vote. It appeared that a certain sum of money was voted last year for Sandhurst College, but all not having been expended, Her Majesty's Government paid the balance into the Exchequer; and the money being now required, this Vote was proposed for the purpose of getting it back. Had there been any breach of faith on the part of the Government, the proper and constitutional course for the House to adopt would have been absolutely to reject the Vote; and in such a state of things he should not have hesitated to concur in that proceeding, leaving those who made contracts to find the means of settling them as best they could, and trusting to the vigilance of the hon. Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) to prevent this expenditure from creeping into the Appropriation Act in some other guise. The question, however, was narrowed to this point—whether the gentlemen who obtained commissions without purchase should be required to undergo a military education at Sandhurst. That a military education of some kind was desirable for every officer entering the army nobody denied; and on none could that condition be imposed with more propriety than on those who received their commissions without purchase. He did not attach any weight to the objection that that particular class of officers, after leaving Sandhurst, would be marked men in their profession for the rest of their lives. Poverty had never been deemed a crime in this country, and he believed there never had been, and never would be, a different feeling entertained towards officers who had purchased their commissions and those who had not, any more than there was a difference made in society between the man who happened to have a large fortune and one who had not. It had, indeed, been suggested that to sanction the Vote would be to permit the introduction of the thin edge of a wedge which would ultimately operate very prejudicially. But it should be borne in mind that no further step could be taken in the way of future grants without the concurrence of the House. The speeches of the right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) and the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Osborne) had exhausted this question. Often as he heard the hon. Member for Liskeard address that House, he had never heard him make a speech in so much of which he concurred. If he might be permitted for a moment to refer to himself, he would mention that he had the good fortune to be brought up in a military college. The result was, that the moment he joined his regiment, instead of having all the duties of an officer to learn, he was as competent as he was in two years afterwards to take his place in the ranks as a private, or as an officer to assume the command of a company. Had it been otherwise, he should have been exposed to the necessity of being regularly drilled for two or three months; and he could not but think it desirable that a young officer on joining should be saved from the ordeal of being week after week drilled by the sergeant-major or the drill-sergeant of the regiment. He should, therefore, cordially support the Vote.


said, his main objection to the plan had been removed by the explanation of the right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for War; but he warned the House that it was calculated only for a time of peace, and would not preclude enormous patronage in time of war, and, if carried on under the system and regulations established for Sandhurst in 1858, would inevitably be a failure.


said, it was quite clear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that progress had been made in the economical administration of the army. That being so, and as there would be another opportunity of discussing the question of education, he thought his hon. and learned Friend would exercise a wise discretion in not going to a division.

Motion agreed to.

Resolution recommitted to the Committee of Supply.

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