HC Deb 12 April 1864 vol 174 cc876-915

, in rising to bring-forward the question of which he had given notice, said, he was aware how careful the House always was in entering upon subjects connected with the details of military affairs, not to interfere with the prerogatives of the Crown. The body of officers, however, to whose case he wished to draw attention, were dealt with by his Motion in their capacity of late servants of the East India Company. Ever since the formation of the East India Company, their military as well as civil servants had been protected by the House; and in consequence of the Report of a Committee, which sat more than a century ago, an Act of Parliament was passed which pointed out how promotion in the Indian army should be carried out. Subsequently, in 1794, a memorial was sent home from the officers of the Bengal army, complaining of certain grievances under which they suffered. That memorial, by order of the House, was brought to the bar, and its subject taken into consideration. It was then referred to the Board of Control who undertook that justice should be done to the memorialists. The Board of Control thereupon, in 1796, laid upon the table of the House the principles upon which the East India Company were to carry out promotions and other matters relative to the service; and the regulations which were then put in force may be said to have emanated from that House. In 1832, the Committee of the House appointed to investigate the state of the East India Company, inquired most fully and carefully into the organization and administration of the Indian army, and, in consequence of its Report, the organization of 1796 was ordered to be continued. In 1858 it having been considered desirable to put an end to the administration of the East India Company, and to transfer it to the Crown, so careful was the House that no injustice should be done, that it enacted that the officers of the Indian army should retain the whole of the rights and privileges which they enjoyed under the East India Company; and in 1860, when it was considered desirable to abolish the local Indian army, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) insisted on the introduction of a clause reiterating that pledge, for fear of its being otherwise broken— a pledge which that House distinctly affirmed — namely, that the original instructions given by the East India Company for the protection of their officers should be carried out by the Secretary of State for India. It was therefore, with no little astonish- ment, that shortly after the passing of the Act containing that clause, that the officers of the East Indian army found, from a despatch published by the Governor General in Council, that the whole of those privileges and advantages had been entirely destroyed. They at once took the usual steps for memorializing through their commanding officers, the Governors of the various Presidencies, and through them the Governor General, and through him the Secretary of State for India; but for two years they had been unable to obtain any redress. At last the Secretary of State, on the recommendation, or at least in accordance with the unanimous feeling of the House, appointed a Commission, composed of some most eminent and able men, to inquire whether the promises made in 1858, and renewed in 1860, had or had not been departed from; and that Commission, after a careful and anxious inquiry which extended over several months, decided that they had been departed from, and reported accordingly on the 9th November last. Six months had elapsed since the presentation of that Report, without anything being done by the Government, and petition after petition was still being presented to that House for a redress of grievances. Now, if the organization of the Staff Corps, which had been put in force, and had caused so much difficulty, had not previously been inquired into or thought of, or if there had been but a mere attempt made to enact something better than had hitherto existed, perhaps some excuse might be found; but for years the East India Company had been anxious to carry out a Staff Corps as proposed, and been unable to do so. In 1833 the question had been fully gone into by the Committee, who examined Sir John Malcolm and every other eminent and able officer who had served in India, and in whom the country at that time placed reliance. The Committee reported that from the peculiar organization of the Indian army the arrangement for the formation of the proposed Staff Corps could not be carried out without injuring the prospects of those whom the Government had promised should be confirmed in all their privileges and advantages. When, in 1860, the Act was brought in for the stoppage of the recruiting for the Indian army, and the clause was to be inserted for the fulfilment of the promise contained in the Act of 1858, a Committee had been appointed, which was presided over by the noble Lord the Member for the East Riding (Lord Hotham), to inquire whether the proposal intended to be carried out by the Secretary of State for I India would be within the guarantee given by Parliament. That Committee reported on the 30th July, 1860—the day on which the right hon. Baronet accepted, in the fullest possible manner, the pledge asked of him of inserting a clause—that if the right hon. Baronet carried out his proposition for the re-organization of the Indian army, it would be contrary to the pledge that had been given by Parliament. The question had been fully gone into by a Commission, of which the noble Lord the Member for King's Lynn (Lord Stanley) and the then Secretary of State for War (Generel Peel) were members, and that Committee distinctly reported that the Crown could not interfere in any way with the re-organization of the army, because if it did it would interfere with the pledges that had been given by Parliament. It was now high time that something should be done to allay that feeling of irritation which had been felt by so many of these gentlemen; and it was only right and just, when they asked a body of noble and gallant men to serve for years in a foreign land, and to be ready at a moment's notice to sacrifice their lives and their interests for the good of their country on the faith that certain pledges should be scrupulously adhered to and carried out, to act fairly and honestly by them. He should not enter into what might be called the details of military organization, but merely confine himself to the pledge that was given. The main point in the whole of these Reports and Acts of Parliament to which he had referred was, that any man entering the Indian army and agreeing to serve a certain number of years, did so upon condition that he should not be superseded by others in his profession, and that at the end of a certain number of years he should retire on a fixed pension. This was, however, completely set aside by the formation of a Staff Corps. When, also, the Committee of that House, which sat in 1833, were investigating the affairs of the East India Company, it directed the Company to turn its attention to the fact that their officers did not retire at a sufficiently early age to enable them to obtain active and intelligent men to command their regiments. The Company not only granted increased retiring pensions, but induced their officers to form a fund amongst themselves, to induce men, when they attained a certain age, to accept the pensions offered by the Company. This has lately been declared by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India to be illegal, and the large sums of money which these gentlemen have advanced are not to be held as giving them a claim in equity to compensation. When discussing the point last year with the Commission appointed by himself, the right hon. Baronet said they must assimilate the practice of bonus in the Indian army to the practice which prevailed in the British army. But what was the fact? The Queen's Regulations warned any officer who gave against giving more than regulation prices for Commissions; that he did it on his own risk, as it was contrary to law, for if more was given than the regulation price it was a misdemeanour, and on its coming to the notice of the Commander-in-Chief, he was bound to prosecute; and if the person was convicted, he, in addition to other penalties, lost his commission. But what was the case with regard to the officers of the Indian army? It was publicly announced in 1838 by the Governor General of India in Council, that the East India Company fully recognized their junior officers subscribing to regimental funds for the purpose of buying out their seniors. The East India Company could do nothing without the sanction of the Board of Control, and that sanction had been given in this instance. So far as India and the Indian army were concerned, any order of the Governor General of India in Council had the force of law. The Secretary for India, in reply to these statements submitted to the Royal Commissioners, said that they were not facts. But if orders from the East India Company, agreed to by the Board of Control and published by the Governor General, were not facts, it was difficult to know what were facts. He also said that the facts, if facts, were not recognized by the Board of Directors. But what was the fact? In 1855, a case having occurred in a Court of Law by which the practice he had described was decided to be contrary to law, the Directors of the East India Company entered into correspondence with the Government of India and the Board of Control with a view to the introduction of a Bill into that House to make the practice lawful. He would urge upon the House that it was highly necessary that some arrangement should be made to put an end to n state of things which was very unsatisfactory. If our countrymen abroad were to be required to observe the discipline and obey the regulations prescribed, they were entitled to demand fair treatment. The present position of those officers was not of their seeking, but it was the result of an act of the Government, and therefore it was the duty of the Government to see that justice was done to them. The hon. and gallant Member concluded by moving— That this House, having by the Acts 21 & 22 Vict. c. 106, and 23 & 24 Vict. c. 100, guaranteed to the Officers of the late East India Company's Service that their advantages as to 'pay, pensions, allowances, privileges, promotions, and otherwise,' should be secured to them, has learnt with regret, from the Report of the Royal Commission on Memorials of Indian Officers, that in certain cases this assurance has been departed from, and is of opinion that full and speedy reparation should be made to those who have suffered by such departure."—(Captain Jervis.)


said, he cordially seconded the Motion, as he considered the subject brought under the notice of the Government and the House was of very great importance. The grievance of which these officers complained was one that ought to be removed, and he was astonished that the Government should for so long have continued to overlook their complaints. Perhaps an explanation might be found in the fact that these officers were a long way off, and therefore their complaints might safely be treated with neglect. Not long ago the privates of the Indian army were induced to believe that the Government had not behaved well towards them. When it was proposed to identify the privates of the Indian army with the Queen's army, the noble Lord at the head of the Government stated in that House that the men, if they preferred to remain in their former positions, would be entitled to an additional bounty; but when the time came for payment of that bounty, the Government in India refused to give it. He believed that after some time Lord Canning had thought it was advisable that the bounty should be paid; but in the meantime a great deal of indiscipline, approaching to mutiny, took place among the men. He had more than once in that House reminded the noble Viscount that he was in some measure the cause of that mutinous feeling, as he had led the men to understand that they would be entitled to receive an additional bounty whenever they transferred their services to the Queen's army. The noble Lord had not given any reply to any of these representations. Then, as to the officers of that army, there certainly did prevail among them a feeling that they could not rely upon being treated with good faith by the Government. He had had considerable experience with armies in different services, and he knew no surer way of promoting indiscipline and even mutiny, than by raising a belief in an army that they would not be fairly dealt with by the Government. When the Government decided that the two armies should be amalgamated, some of the most experienced officers of the Indian army declared that it would be a very difficult operation to carry out; and so it had proved. An equitable arrangement had not yet been come to, although if the Government deemed it right to carry out the amalgamation, they ought also to have done justice to those who were affected by that determination. After more than a year since the amalgamation took place, complaints still continued to be made, and at last the right hon. Baronet caused a Commission to inquire into them. He had not seen the Report, but he was told that that Commission declared the officers had not been treated with good faith. He hoped, now that the subject had been formally brought before the House, the right hon. Baronet and the noble Viscount would admit the necessity of setting at rest all doubts as to the treatment of officers belonging to the late Indian army.

Motion made, and Question proposed.


Sir, I rise to support the Motion of the hon. Member for Harwich; and, as the question is of great gravity, affecting the rights of some thousand British officers, and affecting the policy of the proposed military organization of the native armies of India, I will beg the indulgence of the House for some little time. As an old Indian officer who has passed through all the grades of the service, I naturally feel a strong interest in the subject before the House; but probably on that account not much weight would be attached to my testimony. When, however, the House saw two officers of the Queen's army taking the initiative, he hoped they would accept that fact as an evidence of the importance of the subject and of the justice of the complaints. Let the House consider how large a number of officers were affected. It was shown by a Return before the House that, at the time of the annexation, or re-organization, or amalgamation, that the establishment of the Indian army comprised 6,333 officers, and the number absolutely on the roll on the 1st January,1861, was 5,121. Surely, when complaints were made by a great proportion of so large a body of officers, that they felt themselves aggrieved and their prospects blighted by the non-fulfilment of the promises of the Government, the House would give them a ready hearing, and grant them that redress which a Resolution of that House alone could give them. In the first place, it is necessary to have a distinct idea of what the several Parliamentary guarantees have been. They are as follows: that by 21 & 22 Vict. c.106, Clause 56, August 2,1858, it was enacted that— The Indian military and naval forces of Her Majesty shall be under the same obligations to serve Her Majesty as they would have been under to serve the said Company, and shall be liable to serve within the said territorial limits only, and be entitled to the like pay, pensions, allowances, and privileges, and the like advantages as regards promotion, and otherwise, as if they had continued in the service of the said Company. That by the Act of the 23 & 24 Vict. c. 100, 1860, it was further enacted that— The advantages as to pay, pensions, allowances, privileges, promotions, and otherwise, secured to the military forces of the East India Company by the former Act, should be maintained in any place for the re-organization of the Indian Army. That on the 18th January, 1861, the Secretary of State for India addressed a military despatch, dated India Office, London, to the Governor General of India, containing the following paragraph:— In the execution of these measures, the amalgamation, the pledge that due regard shall be paid to the rights and claims of the officers of Her Majesty's Indian forces will be scrupulously adhered to, I would beg to call my right hon. Friend's particular attention to the terms "scrupulously adhered to;" and the Governor General of India in a General Order, dated Fort William Military Department, 10th April, 186], assured the army that— In the execution of the measures to bring about the proposed amalgamation, it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government that the pledge that due regard shall be paid to the rights and claims of the officers of Her Majesty's Indian Forces, shall be scrupulously adhered to. That notwithstanding these several guarantees by Acts of Parliament, and pledges by the Secretary of State for India, and the Governor General, numerous grievous violations, consequent upon the amalgamation, have taken place, affecting the pay, allowances, privileges, rights of promotion, or otherwise, of the officers of the East India Company's late forces. The most vital and important of these is the fundamental right of the armies of India to regimental promotion by seniority up to the rank of major; and, after that, promotion by seniority in a general list of field officers; and so rigid was supersession guarded against, that on a lieutenant-colonel obtaining his colonelcy, in either of the three armies of India, all the senior lieutenant-colonels, both in the Indian and Royal armies, had the brevet rank of colonel given to them to prevent supersession. Two Acts of Parliament have made this rule a law, and both Lord Hotham's and Lord Cranworth's Commissions have declared that, in the amalgamation of the Indian and Royal armies, this rule must be carried out; and Lord Cranworth's Commission have reported that it has not been carried out, and, consequently, there has been a violation of two Acts of Parliament. The fact being that the Secretary of State for India has sanctioned, upon his own authority, a new system of promotion to substantive rank from length of service, and independently of seniority, which is contrary to the system guaranteed by the two Acts of Parliament, and is, therefore, contrary to law. I maintain, therefore, that all the promotions made in the Staff Corps are ipso facto null and void; for the Secretary of State for India was destitute of the legal power to make them. He has stated on former occasions that he has only exercised the power which the East India Company could have exercised; but I deny that they had any such powers; and even if they had had the power, they never would have exercised it in the extensive and crushing manner my right hon. Friend has done. But independently of the injustice done to Royal and Local Officers by the multiplying supersessions consequent upon these promotions, the Staff Corps system is repugnant to public policy. The promotions made on the completion of a prescribed period of service in the Army and in the Staff Corps are necessarily cumulations of the higher ranks. The lieutenant-colonels and majors having substantive rank and pay, together with staff allowances, have no motive for retiring; and their number is ceaselessly increasing to the great embarrassment of the Government which cannot find suitable employment for officers of their rank, and is consequently constrained to continue them in the performance of duties which should be limited to captains or subalterns; and the pay of the substantive rank of the field officers is, in fact, an unnecessary waste of the public money. The Staff Corps also, as at present constituted, causes injury to the public interests, as they were not obliged to join their regiments when in the field. Under the old system, all Staff Officers were morally obliged to join their regiments when taking the field (or be sent to Coventry), to give proper efficiency to Native regiments, which, in a line-of battle or in a storming party, all experience proves are efficient precisely in the proportion of the number of European officers accompanying the men. European regiments need to be fully officered in the field; Native troops need it ten times more. Formerly, also, officers absent from their regiments on the staff contributed to the band and mess funds, and to the retiring funds of their respective regiments. They no longer continue to do so, and great injury is consequently done to the remaining officers of their regiments. Now, as the supersession injuries inflicted by the promotions in the Staff Corps are to be remedied, the question arises of how it best can be done. There are three methods—

First, by giving substantive rank, and consequently pay, to all officers superseded.

Secondly, by throwing all the officers of the army of each presidency into one general list, both regimental and staff, putting the superseded officers into their proper places, and then promoting by seniority or from length of service.

Thirdly, by abolishing the Staff Corps; allowing the present Staff Officers to hold their present appointments, but promoting them only regimentally.

The first method would occasion very great expense, and would not remedy the evil of the cumulative rank and expense in the present Staff Corps system, and would occasion endless promotions to remedy supersessions which are occurring and must occur almost daily—not by ones and twos, but in shovelsful, as is shown in the following recent general orders:—

The Madras Services—Military General


(From 19th Feb. to 4th March 1864.)

PROMOTIONS AND APPOINTMENTS.—Lieutenant D. Standen having completed twelve years service, four of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be captain.

The undermentioned officers having completed twenty years' service, six of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be majors:—Captains Robert Renton, Edward Bannerman Ramsay, James Langford Pearse, Edward Herbert Hartington, Goodson Adey.

The undermentioned officer having completed twelve years' service, four of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be captain:—Lieut. G. A. A. Warner.

Major F. J. B. Priestley, having completed twenty-six years' service, eight of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be lieutenant colonel.

The Bengal Services—Military General


(From 3rd to 17th Feb. 1864.)

PROMOTIONS AND APPOINTMENTS, &c.—The undermentioned officers having completed twenty years' service, six years of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be majors:—Captains J. Fendall, E. J. Spilsbury, T. A. Corbett.

Bombay Services.

(From, 15th to 20th Feb. 1864)

The undermentioned officers having completed twelve years' service, four of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be captains:—Lieutenant A. F. Danvers and Lieutenant T. Kettlewell.

(From 13th to 28th Dec. 1863.)

The undermentioned officer having completed twenty years' service, six of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be major from the date specified, under the Royal Warrant of the 16th January 1861, subject to Her Majesty's approval:—Captain (Brevet Major) Henry Hastings Affleck Wood, 9th December, 1863.

The undermentioned officers having completed twenty-six years' service, eight of which were on permanent Staff employ, are promoted to be lieutenant colonels, under the Royal Warrant of the 16th January, 1861, subject to Her Majesty's approval:—Majors William Edmonstone MacLeod and Samuel Thacker, from 11th December, 1863.

The undermentioned officers having completed twelve years' service, four of which were on permanent Staff employ, to be captains from the date specified, under the Royal Warrant of the 16th January, 1861, subject to Her Majesty's approval: Lieutenants Claude Malet Ducat and Henry Rivett Mandeville Van-Heythuysen, 12th December, 1863; Lieutenants Charles Frederick Boulton and Trevenen James Holland, 13th December, 1863.

Most of these promotions having occurred so recently as the last and the preceding months, the House can judge of the rapidity of the cumulative process to constitute the Staff Corps a body of majors and lieutenant-colonels only, at an early period. The total number of officers who joined the Staff Corps on the 18th of February, 1861, from the Native Infantry alone were:— Bengal, 586; Madras, 319; Bombay, 229: total, 1,134; but transfers to the Staff Corps from the other branches of the armies raised the number to 1,297. So that these officers had a privilege conferred upon them to the prejudice of their brother officers, not only of the local Service, but to those of the Royal Army.

The first method would he very expensive, but he concurred with a noble Lord who said in another place that the "redress of India's wrongs must not he a question of money."

The second method, though it might restore all officers to their right position, would abolish regimental succession and regimental organization, and destroy that esprit de corps which is the foundation of discipline, the bond of friendly regimental social relations, and the emulative stimulus between regiments so usefully applied to the army.

The third method is the simplest and most effectual. That is the abolition of the Staff Corps and the cancelling all promotions made in it, which are, in fact, illegal. Officers at present on the Staff Corps would only be too happy to keep their appointments and be promoted in their regiments as formerly, and, in fact, revert to their former conditions of service; and they would have little right to complain of losing that illegal rank which has been accompanied by the solace and advantage of superior pay, but to which they had no proper title, at the expense of their brother officers (often their seniors) of the local armies.

Sir, the grievances of the officers of the Indian armies were arranged under twelve different heads, but the Royal Commission has reported that the Parliamentary Guarantees have only been departed from in the following instances:— First.—That the supersession of local officers by officers who have entered the Staff Corps, is a departure from the Parliamentary Guarantee. Second.—Retaining the names of officers who have joined the new Line regiments from Native Cavalry and Infantry regiments on the lists of their old corps, and thereby obstructing promotion therein, is a similar departure from the guarantee. Third.— Retaining the names of lieutenant colonels who have retired from the service on the list governing promotion, and thereby obstructing and delaying promotion long since due, is a departure from the guarantee. Fourth.—That the average time fixed for regulating the promotion of lieutenant colonel to colonel, namely, twelve years, is too much. Fifth.—That the Royal Warrant, dated 1st January, 1862, amalgamating the general and field officers of the Regular Army, with officers of similar rank in the Indian Army is inapplicable, and may cause injury to the latter officers. Unfortunately the Commission has not viewed favourably (under a misconception, I assume) a very serious grievance, namely, the loss of the Regimental Retiring Funds, which, for many years past, had frequently been sanctioned, not only by the Court of Directors, but by the Board of Control, and consequently by the Government of the country. The establishment of the Staff Corps has broken down these funds, because the staff officers will not contribute to them, as they are promoted independently of regimental seniority. Some officers have lost sums to which they would have been entitled of £3,000 up to £5,000 upon their own retirement, and towards which they had contributed for many years; and yet the Secretary of State looks without sympathy upon these serious sacrifices, and the discomfort, indeed deprivation in old age, which the loss will occasion to worn-out officers. My right hon. Friend has said the practice was pronounced by a Court of Law illegal, and therefore he could not accept its breaking down as a grievance. No doubt by the Act of Geo. III. the sale of commissions or offices was, and is, prohibited. But the Retiring Funds of regiments could never have been contemplated by the Act, and their operation, neither in law nor equity, should come within the prohibitory clauses of the Act. In the Indian retiring system there is no bargain or sale between any two individual officers. All the officers of a regiment according to their rank subscribe to a common fund; out of this fund, when a senior officer wishes to retire upon his pension and return to Europe, usually after twenty-five to thirty years service, a bonus is given to him, to alleviate his condition after retirement; and without this bonus he would be obliged to continue in India, probably in bad health and with a broken down constitution, to the detriment of the efficiency of the army and the public interests, for the pension of his rank would not support him and his family in Europe. The practice should rather be encouraged than denounced. Independently, however, of the twelve grievances enumerated by the petitioners to the House of Commons, new grievances have arisen consequent upon the so-called re-organization of the Bombay army, which converts the old regular regiments into irregular regiments, and attaches six European officers to each regiment, instead of the regimental establishment of twenty-five as heretofore. Secondly, in posting officers to take command, and do duty with regiments to which they do not belong, and with which they had never served, to the disgust of the old native officers and men. Thirdly, in divorcing Native regiments from their old European officers. Fourthly, in appropriating, or rather confiscating, the mess plate and property belonging to the old regimental officers, and giving it to the six officers attached to the irregular regiment, and to which they may never have belonged at all; and fifthly, in reducing the former pay and allowances of cavalry officers to the infantry scale; and sixthly, giving the commanding officer and second in command of regiments, authority over the other four officers, although some of them may bear senior commissions. With respect to the conversion of the regular regiments of the Bombay army into irregulars, and attaching to them six officers only who may not belong to the regiments, and giving them regimental rank and authority, notwithstanding the Parliamentary guarantees, but as I have a separate Motion on the subject I will not at present trespass upon the House on this additional grievance. In regard to the third additional grievance, the divorcing regiments from their officers. Strange as the phrase may seem to military men, it is nevertheless quite true. A regular Native regiment had its number in the line, and its twenty-five officers. By the General Bombay Orders, dated the 28th December, 1863, the Commander-in-Chief, Sir William Mansfield, carries out what he is pleased to call the re-organization of the army; that is to say, he converts the native regiments, whether the native officers and men like it or not, into irregulars; posts six officers to each regiment, whom he selects at his pleasure from Line or local officers; and the real officers of each regiment whom he may not have selected, he permits to exist upon papers in the army list, but to have no right to join the regiment with which they may have served from the date of their first commission, or to have authority or status therein. They are literally, therefore, only paper officers. I have presented to the House a petition from Captain C. F. Grant of the 3rd regiment, of twenty-seven years' service, to this effect; and there are scores of others similarly circumstanced. Why, Sir, an owner of cattle could not dispose of his animals with less ceremony. The fourth additional grievance relates to the disposal of the mess plate and property, and the following extract of a letter from a field officer will best explain its nature:— We are, for the most part, justly enraged at the cool order issued by the Chief on the formation of the old native infantry corps into irregulars; and without our knowledge or consent making over all our mess property to the half-dozen officers who have been appointed to the different corps; for instance, the flower vase which cost me £25, which I gave to my mess (the old 19th), is now by this order the property of the officers who now compose the 19th irregular corps, and who, with only one exception, never belonged to the corps on its original footing! The fifth additional grievance is the reduction of the former pay and allowances of cavalry officers to the infantry scale of pay, with the addition of the staff pay of any command they may hold in an irregular regiment. The infantry pay and the staff allowance together, it is said, do not amount to the pay and allowances guaranteed by the two Acts of Parliament; but as official information has not, I believe, been yet received at the India Office of this new arrangement, I would hope the paltry saving is not really contemplated. The sixth additional grievance is of a very serious character, as it abrogates the power of an officer's commission; but the following order of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir William Mansfield, appeared in The Overland Times, of the 20th February to the 14th March, 1864: — The Commander-in-Chief is pleased to intimate that it has been ruled by the Government of India, that in all oases the officer appointed to the command of a regiment organized under the new system, the commandant in virtue of his appointment commands the regiment, the second in command will rank next in the corps, the other officers taking rank regimentally according to army standing. By the above extraordinary order, any junior officer selected by favouritism, or any other cause, to command or to be second in command of a regiment, is to nullify the commissions of any senior officers who may be in the regiment, but who have not had influence enough to obtain the command, or second in command.

In conclusion I must add a few words of appeal to the House and to the country. The East India Company's armies, in conjunction with a comparatively small proportion of Royal troops, in the course of 100 years, annexed an empire of nearly 200 millions of souls to the British crown. Distinguished loyalty and gallantry had been manifested by the native troops for more than 100 years, with the melancholy exception of the mutiny of the greater part of the Bengal army in 1857, attributable, however, chiefly to British ignorance, disregard of caste, pre- judices, and want of tact; but, at that critical period, the Madras and Bombay armies, with the exception of two Bombay regiments, remained faithful and actively efficient, and preserved the British dominion in the west and south of India. These armies are surely, therefore, officers and men, entitled to the gratitude and confidence of the British Government and to the maintenance of their former status and proud distinction of regular troops; and it is equally impolitic and unjust to make such changes in their ancient organization, as wounds their self-respect, and, by shaking their reliance upon the stability of their rights, jeopardizes their attachment to the State.


I quite admit the importance of the subject which has been introduced in so temperate a manner by the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Jervis). There is, however, not the least reason for supposing that the Government has been disinclined to do justice to the officers of the Indian army. We have all along admitted that they are entitled not only to justice, but to the most liberal and generous treatment on the part of the Government. I have never denied that for a moment, nor have I a single syllable on this matter to retract. Our object has been to adhere scrupulously to the Parliamentary guarantee given to these officers. I need hardly remind the House that the whole of these arrangements were sanctioned by a great majority— indeed, by almost the whole—of the council of India, who naturally sympathize with the officers of the Indian army, and were little likely to withhold anything to which they were fairly entitled. I can assure the House that the very last thought in our minds was the idea of doing any injustice to the Indian officers. After the statements which have been made, I hope I may be permitted, without going into details, to say that a very large measure of consideration was given to the army of India. We adopted, of course, those arrangements which we deemed best calculated to promote the efficiency of the public service; but in doing so we endeavoured to give to the Indian officers every possible consideration. The very first step that was taken in regard to pensions, pay, and allowances, imposed an additional annual charge of a quarter of a million on the Indian revenue. We cannot, therefore, be accused of having stinted our measures by mere considerations of economy. When the question was raised in the House I felt that Parliament had a right to see that the guarantee which they had given was fairly carried out, and I recommended the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the subject. The testimony which the hon. and gallant Officer has borne to the character of that Commission justifies, I think, the selection which was made. I did not endeavour to choose those who were prejudiced on my side of the question, but did my best to secure an unbiassed inquiry. We owe our best thanks to the noblemen and gentlemen who served on this Commission for the exceeding pains which they have taken in considering the subject, and for the impartiality with which they have drawn up their Report. When the question was under consideration by my Council, we certainly did not think that we were in any way infringing the Parliamentary guarantee. In order to make ourselves sure on that question we submitted the whole of the despatches to the then Law Officers of the Crown, who reported that we had done nothing which might not have been done by the East India Company, and which, therefore, we were not justified in doing. Being fortified by that authority, I hope the House will not suppose me to be exceedingly obstinate in continuing to be unconvinced that we have departed from the guarantee. At the same time, I defer to the opinion expressed by the Commission, and frankly and fully accept their Report. The Commission, it will be observed, have classed the complaints made under thirteen different heads. In regard to eight out of that number they have reported that the Parliamentary guarantee has not been violated; in regard to two they say that there may be an infringement; and in regard to three that a departure from the assurance of Parliament has taken place. With respect to the retiring fund, to which allusion has been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, it was a Court of Law which declared that it was illegal; and I only cited that decision. The Commission very justly remark that it is impossible to suppose that Parliament could have intended to guarantee the continuance of a practice contrary to law. The Court of Directors, in a despatch to the Bombay Government, in 1838, expressed disapprobation of their having received payment of subscriptions even provisionally, or given any encouragement to the service to expect a sanction to the system. It is, however, not worth while going into that question now. The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) has said that the majority of officers of the Indian army, whom he stated correctly enough to be below 5,000 and 6,000, have cause for complaint; but that is far, indeed, from being the fact. The officers who volunteer into the Line are benefited by the change, and so are the officers of the Staff Corps, and of the Artillery and Engineers. Those officers who were appointed on the distinct understanding that they would be subjected to any change which might be made, have no just cause of complaint. In fact, instead of a majority of the officers in the Indian army having complained, the utmost number who can be injuriously affected by the changes, and can have possible cause of complaint, is about 1,500. Moreover, I must be permitted to say that there is a good deal of unfairness in many of those who complain, for although they gain on the whole, they say nothing about their gains, but insist only on what they lose, For instance, an officer complains that he has to remain lieutenant-colonel longer than would have been the case under the old system, but suppresses the circumstance that he reaches that grade more speedily. If a major becomes a lieutenant-colonel four years sooner than he would otherwise have been, but remains a lieutenant-colonel two years longer, it is clear that he is a gainer by the change. He gains four years' pay as lieutenant-colonel, instead of as major, and actually obtains a colonel's allowances two years sooner than under the old system. In complaining of the delay in getting beyond the rank of lieutenant-colonel, it is, therefore, not fair to keep back the fact that promotion to that grade is much accelerated. If you deduct the cases of that kind from the whole number of complaints, you will see that no very large proportion of the 1,500 Indian officers have any real cause to complain. The hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen says, that promotion by regimental seniority was the legal right of the officers of the Indian army. If that is so, of course there can be no question of the promotions complained of being illegal; but all I can say is, that in the time of the Company many promotions and appointments were made in utter derogation of regimental seniority. [Colonel SYKES: They were exceptions.] I do not deny they were exceptions, but you cannot have an exception to that which is a legal right. Besides, no person will tell me that the occurrences which took place two years ago were not of a very exceptional character. It was certainly an exceptional state of affairs when sixty-two regiments mutinied in Bengal and disappeared entirely from the service. So, too, the great reduction which has been made in the Indian army was an exceptional measure, because, up to very recently, the number of Native troops had always been on the increase. When the Indian army was reduced to the extent of 130,000 men, the necessary result was, that there were far more officers than were required to officer the existing army. I apprehend nobody will maintain that it was not as competent to the Crown as it would have been to the Company, or that it was not as much the duty of the Crown as it would have been the duty of the Company, to reduce the army. But then came the question, how the officers were to be dealt with? The hon. and gallant Gentleman says that the officers of the Indian army had a right to pay and promotion just as if they had continued to be employed. But is that the case with any other army in the world? When reductions were made in the English army the officers are put on half pay for life. In the case of the Indian army, the pay and promotion up to the rank of General will go on just as if the officers continued to be employed; so that a young gentleman who was appointed in December, 1861, will be promoted up to the rank of General, with the pay of the rank which he may hold, though he had never served at all when the change was made. Surely that is not dealing hardly with the Indian officers? Reference has been made to certain cases mentioned in the Report of the Commissioners of some retardation of promotion in consequence of the reduction. The Commissioners say it was competent to the Crown to reduce the Indian army, and they add it was the duty of the Crown to show every consideration to the officers. I think when we have continued to them the whole of their pay and promotion, although the regiments to which they belonged have ceased to exist, it cannot be fairly said that we have evinced any want of consideration for them. But there are three cases in which the Commissioners have reported a breach of the guarantee. I am prepared to give redress in those cases. It has not been from any want of attention, of thought, or of care, that the measures for this purpose have not been completed. I solemnly declare that these questions connected with the Indian army have cost me more time and trouble ten times over than all the rest of Indian affairs put together. The House must not forget that it was necessary to consult a great number of people—because no step can be taken in giving promotion which affects the Indian army alone. Nothing could be more simple than the course suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Aberdeen, that the whole of the promotions to the Staff Corps should be cancelled; but, as I stated on a former occasion, I must hesitate before adopting a measure of that kind. The officers of the Staff Corps have not been selected by the Government at home. They are tried and experienced men, selected at various times by the Indian Government, and it would be extremely hard to them to cancel the rank which they have now held for three years. That would be inflicting an injustice upon them without doing good to other persons, for I believe that many of the officers who complain of the supersession actually gain by the others being on the Staff Corps. If the promotions are not cancelled, however, it becomes a difficult question to determine what can be done. It is extremely difficult to devise any mode which will even approximate towards remedying the breach of guarantee without entailing injury and hardship upon another class of officers. The hon. and learned Member for Aberdeen talked about promoting all the officers in the same way as the officers on the Staff Corps; but what, I ask, would be the effect of that upon the officers of the Line? They have not complained of the promotion of the officers in the Staff Corps, but if they are to be superseded by all the officers of the old Indian army they will have a just and legitimate cause of complaint. What is the best mode of dealing with the cases of breach of guarantee I am at present unable to say. Shortly before Easter we devised a measure which, upon the whole, we thought would answer the purpose; but difficulties occurred, and it became necessary to consult again with the military authorities in this country. The plan is at present under the anxious consideration both of the Government and of the military authorities, and it will be brought forward as soon as possible; for I need hardly say I am as anxious as anybody can be to fulfil every pledge I have given. I do not, of course, complain of the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite for submitting this matter to the House, but after what I have said I hope he will not think it necessary to press it to a division.


said, that after the clear admission of the right hon. Gentleman that he accepted the Report of the Commissioners, and that it would be carried out bonâ fide, he would withdraw his Motion.


wished to know, why the grievances of the medical officers of the Indian army had not also been brought under the consideration of the Commission?


May I be allowed to ask, whether the plan to be proposed will be produced in time to be discussed this Session?


asked, Whether there was any scheme under consideration for the employment of Indian officers when they returned home after serving in India?


said, he questioned what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman with respect to the retiring funds of Indian officers. He could not understand how the practice could be called illegal, considering the approving despatch of the Court of Directors in November, 1837, and the adoption of the recommendations by previous Governments.


said, it was not for him to pronounce what was legal or illegal—the practice was declared to be illegal by a Court of Law before which the point was raised. He was perfectly aware of the despatch which the hon. Gentleman had quoted, which, however, did not affect the opinion of the Court of Law in any way. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for the Tower Hamlets, it was quite true that several Indian Engineer officers had been employed in this country, and there was no reason why Indian officers should not be employed here on general service on their return from India. As to the noble Lord's question, he hoped in a very short time to be able to announce that a conclusion had been come to upon the point. He was in hopes that he should have been able to submit his proposal before Easter, but unforeseen difficulties of detail had arisen, causing some delay. He hoped, however, to lay the proposal on the table in a short time. With regard to the question of the hon. Member for Derby, the case of the medical officers was a totally separate one. It had been under consideration for some time, but difficulties had arisen with the War Office. He had great hopes, that as far as the existing service was concerned, the difficulties would soon be removed.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

      1. cc897-914
      2. RESOLUTION. 7,561 words, 1 division
      1. c915
      2. OBSERVATIONS. 97 words
Forward to