HC Deb 29 July 1868 vol 193 cc1923-4

said, he would beg to ask the Secretary of State for War, If his attention has been called to a Military General Order, said to have been issued by the General Commanding-in-Chief in Canada, forbidding Officers to preach to or to teach the men of their Regiments, and in consequence of which two Officers of the Rifle Brigade had sent in papers resigning their Commissions; and, whether: he had any objection to lay a Copy of such General Order on the Table of the House?


said, he regretted that the hon. Member had been unable to give him longer Notice of his Question, to the subject of which his attention was called for the first time by, the hon. Member's Notice yesterday; but even had he received a longer notice, it would have been impossible for him to give any definite answer with respect to a General Order said to have been issued by the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Forces in Canada. He found upon inquiry I that in May last a Letter was received by the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief in this country from Sir Charles Windham, the Commander-in-Chief in Canada, bringing under his attention the fact that certain officers in the Rifle Brigade were in the habit of preaching in the public churches, and that complaints had been made to the Commander-in-Chief with respect to that practice, which in some instances had led to what he was going to call scandals and to considerable excitement. The Commander-in-Chief in Canada had ordered the officers in question to return to their regimental quarters at Ottawa, and they were prohibited from continuing the practice of preaching in the churches. The practice appeared, however, to have revived, and complaints were again made to the Commander-in-Chief in Canada, which were likewise sent home by Sir Charles Windham, with a request that he should be informed as to the course he should take. By the direction of the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief a Letter of a most temperate and moderate character was written by the Adjutant General in answer to those complaints, which stated that he had no wish to discourage officers from preaching to their men, but strongly discouraging the practice of officers attempting to go beyond the fair limits of their vocation by preaching in churches. He was only aware of the retirement of the two officers referred to from the Notice of the hon. Member. Not long ago similar prohibitions were issued at Winchester and Portsmouth, where complaints had been made of practices of the same kind.