§ (Mr. Secretary Cardwell, Sir Henry Knight Storks, Captain Vivian, The Judge Advocate.)
§ COMMITTEE. [Progress 5th June.]
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 3 (Compensation to officers holding Saleable Commissions).
§ MR. RYLANDS
, in rising to propose the Amendment of which he had given Notice, disclaimed any intention of prolonging the discussion on the Bill, but could not help observing that, whilst public opinion was decidedly in favour of the abolition of purchase, he believed there was a considerable want of information out-of-doors on some points in the Bill. If this question of the over-regulation prices were put before the country he believed the nation would decide in the words of the hon. and learned Member for South-west Lancashire, that a more unjust, unwise, and impolitic measure could not be devised.
§ MR. ASSHETON CROSS
explained that what he had stated was that if this charge upon the country were to be placed on the income tax-payers, and on that class only, a more unjust, unwise, or impolitic measure could not be devised. To that extent he still adhered to the language he had used.
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that at all events the hon. and learned Gentleman went on further, and taunted the Government with not daring to go to the country on this Bill. Such taunts from the minority did not mean much. Probably hon. Gentlemen opposite were just as much disinclined to a dissolution as hon. Members on the Ministerial side. But there was really no chance of a dissolution. The Bill had been unanimously read a second time. It was true the majority, since then, had been fluctuating; but on the last division it resumed its former proportions. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had quoted The Times in favour of their views. He recommended them to take the advice given in a very able leading article in The Times of that day. He believed that the advice thus given embodied the opinion of the country at large—namely, that while the military opposition in that House had been justified up to a certain point, it would, if carried further, arouse much adverse feeling. A noble Lord said this Bill was very likely to be rejected if it went to "another place."
§ LORD EUSTACE CECIL
What I said was that if the Government refused to listen to a compromise the Bill would probably be rejected in "another place."
§ MR. RYLANDS
said, that if so, it would not be an unmitigated misfortune, for there would be an opportunity during the Recess of testing public opinion respecting various points of the Bill. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had called him (Mr. Rylands) didactic, and he would only say that if this Bill were rejected, he and some of those around him would try to earn that epithet next autumn by teaching the people of the country the alphabet of Army reform, and showing them that it would be possible to abolish purchase without any increase of the public burdens. They would tell the people of the monstrous proposal to compensate the officers of the Army with £3,000,000 for doing that which, if it had been discovered, would have exposed them to fine and imprisonment. The people should be told that the income tax had been increased, not to abolish purchase, but to defray an extravagant expenditure unwisely incurred on the Army; that Army organization meant economy not less than efficiency; that if class interests in the Army and the abuses of the Horse 1692 Guards were swept away, instead of adding £3,000,000 to £13,000,000, and thus spending £16,000,000 a-year on our Army, it might be made to cost less than £10,000,000. If, after such an agitation in the autumn, the Government came forward with an economical, a just, and bold measure, it would be easily carried through the House. But the present measure was a compromise, and to go to the country upon it would be to go upon a false issue. It was a compromise, in which the Government had sought to conciliate the Army interests and everybody concerned by conceding great things and small, from the expenture of an unnecessary £3,000,000 on the Army Estimates to the adoption of the Elcho bayonet. The Government had offered a bribe to the officers of the Army by the payment of over-regulation prices; they had not had the boldness to touch the administration of the Army at head-quarters, and they really asked the country for a large increased expenditure of public money to extend the patronage of the Horse Guards. The Bill, instead of being a compromise, ought really to be called a capitulation. The Government, in trying to abolish purchase, had given themselves entirely into the hands of the Army with a view to conciliate vested interests. His complaint was that the Bill was too favourable to the officers of the Army and disadvantageous to the public interests; therefore he had no great desire to see it succeed, and, at all events, if it were not passed this Session the offer which it contained would never be repeated. In the Amendment which he intended to move he expected to be placed in a minority; but he believed that that Amendment would be voted for by hon. Gentlemen who represented some of the largest constituencies in the kingdom, and he believed that there was a growing feeling in the House and in the country against the payment of the over-regulation prices. For 150 years the Crown, the Legislature, and the Army authorities used every means in their power to put a stop to the practice of paying over-regulation prices. Royal Warrants were issued on the subject, and by one of those Warrants, issued in 1784, a declaration was required from officers in the Army, on their honour as officers and gentlemen, that they had in no way been connected with any such payments; 1693 and in the Circular sent with a Royal Warrant on this subject officers who evaded His Majesty's order, shamefully forfeiting their word of honour, were told that they would be dismissed from the service. But even that declaration upon honour failed to prevent such transactions, and in 1809 a stringent and highly penal Act of Parliament was passed providing that any officer who should have bought or sold his commission for more than the regulation price should be cashiered, his commission sold, and £500 of the proceeds given to the informer, while in addition the offending officer should be adjudged guilty of misdemeanour, and rendered liable to two years' imprisonment. It had been stated that the withdrawal of the declaration formerly required from officers had given some sanction to the payment of over-regulation prices. But the Act passed in 1809 was still on the Statute Book. It would be absurd to regard this as a dead letter, and he could not discover upon what ground, in the face of these Royal Warrants and this Act of Parliament, it could be contended there was any necessity or any justification for paying over-regulation money. The Secretary for War had stated that the Royal Commission had reported strongly in favour of the payment; but on examination of the Report he could discover no grounds for this, and presumed the right hon. Gentleman must be mistaken. The real question was, whether there had been such an official recognition of over-regulation prices as to justify Parliament in burdening the taxpayers of the country with the payment of those prices? He maintained that there had been no such official recognition either on the part of the Legislature or on the part of the War Office authorities. The first conclusion to which the Commissioners came on the evidence submitted to them was that the practice of paying over-regulation prices had received no formal or express sanction from any public Department or office, and that the regulation price only had been recognized by the authorities, and paid by them to the families of officers killed in action, or for the purchase of commissions by means of the Reserve Fund. If there had been any intention or desire to recognize the over-regulation prices, surely that recognition would have been made in the case of those who had been 1694 killed on the field of battle, and whose families remained to be provided for. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Elcho) had compared the House to a body of shareholders in this matter; but if the comparison were allowed it could be carried further than the noble Lord desired. When the directors of a company were found guilty of having condoned an illegal act on the part of their officials the shareholders called on them to refund the money out of their personal estate. In like manner, if the War Department and Horse Guards could be proved to have officially recognized the payment of over-regulation money, the House of Commons, as representing the shareholders, should hold them responsible, and punish them for aiding and abetting an illegal act. The evidence, however, was most clear upon the point. In the Army Reserve Fund, since 1841 no less than £1,712,829 had been received and expended on the business of that Department, which was a kind of Government shop for buying and selling commissions, where the Government transacted a large and increasing business, as was shown by their "turn over" for the last ten years. If the Government had either paid or received more than the regulation price for commissions, that, no doubt, would show an official recognition; but the fact was that the over-regulation price had never been recognized by the Government at all. The moment the country went to war, all over-regulation prices disappeared altogether, and it was most unreasonable to ask the country to pay a price that only existed in time of peace. Of course, the argument would be used that there had been a tacit acquiescence on the part of the authorities in these prices. In their Report the Commissioners said—There has been a tacit acquiescence in the practice amounting, in our opinion, to a virtual recognition of it.No doubt it was this passage which had led the Secretary for War to believe the Commissioners were in favour of paying over-regulation money; but the "tacit acquiescence" amounted to no more than that the authorities had not put the law in motion against the offenders; but that arose from the fact that there was such an ingenious and clever combination—he might almost call it a conspiracy—between the Army agents and the officers 1695 of the Army that it was almost impossible for the authorities to put their hands on offenders for the purpose of punishing them. The War Office authorities, as an excuse for not putting the law into operation, stated that the contrivance by which the system was carried out was so intricate they could not do so. It might be urged against this Amendment that the Commander-in-Chief had tacitly acquiesced in the practice; but that argument was not a very strong one, because His Royal Highness had stated before the Select Committee of 1859 on Military Organization, that officially he knew nothing of the payment of over-regulation money, and that it was impossible he should obtain that knowledge, for if he did he must instantly take notice of the matter. He went further and explained that a military authority could only take cognizance of what came before him officially, and he stated positively that he was not aware of any more money being paid than the regulation price, because no representation was made by an officer as to what amount of money was given. In reply to another question, the Duke of Cambridge stated that he would not be likely to meet with much success if he endeavoured to extract that information from the Army agents who sold and bought commissions. Every military man knew that the payment of over-regulation money was so carefully devised as to defeat any attempt that might be made to catch those who were engaged in the transaction, and because the Army agents were clever enough to contrive to escape from conviction it was unreasonable to ask the Committee to reward them for their ingenuity. Before the Commission over which the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) presided last year, General Forster, the Military Secretary at the Horse Guards, stated, in reply to a question whether over-reguprices had not been paid for cavalry and infantry commissions, that such seemed to be the case; but in his position he knew nothing whatever of the matter, and he added that if the Commander-in-Chief knew officially that more than the regulation price was given for a commission proper steps would be taken to correct the matter and to punish the offender; but he thought it impossible to find out such a payment, or even to get at the facts with such moral cer- 1696 tainty as would warrant the Commander-in-Chief interfering to prevent the completion of the transaction. Another witness, Sir Edward Lugard, said that in the War Office nothing was known of such a practice as the payment of over-regulation money, and that if it became known steps would be taken to check it. Thus the attempt to show that the authorities had sanctioned the system, and that the public was in any way compromised, entirely failed, and the argument for paying officers the over-regulation price fell to the ground. Moreover, the officers never paid these sums without knowing that they incurred a certain amount of risk. It should, too, be remembered that the object of the War Office in fixing a regulation figure was to guard against men with long purses buying over the heads of gentlemen of moderate means, and to him it seemed monstrous that those gentlemen, after attaining rank by the power of their purse, should expect to be paid the amounts they had expended and still keep their rank. The Amendment was quite consistent with the scope of the Bill, and would not interefere with selection. It was distinct from the question of the payment of the regulation price down, which might be a matter for consideration if the Amendment were carried. It only affected the over-regulation money, and he hoped that it would be adopted, for to reward a violation of the law would be a discredit to the Legislature, and tend to produce great and just discontent amongst the people of this country. The hon. Member concluded by moving in page 2, line 21, to leave out "estimated" and insert "regulation."
§ Amendment proposed, in page 2, line 21, to leave out the word "estimated," and insert the word "regulation."—(Mr. Rylands.)
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
, as a Member of the Commission which last year inquired into the question of over-regulation payments, wished briefly to state that, after the evidence taken by that Commission, he was opposed in principle to the Motion of his hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands). He admitted at once that the payment of over-regulation prices was absolutely illegal, and that if this question was to be decided upon strictly legal grounds there would be no justify- 1697 cation for asking Parliament, as a consequence of the abolition of purchase, to pay to the officers as compensation a shilling more than the regulation prices. Of this there could be no doubt, and he would say to the opponents of the Bill, that in contending that there was a strict legal contract between the Government and the officers in respect of the sums paid in purchase, they were affording a strong argument in favour of the proposition of his hon. Friend. If the contract was to be strictly enforced on one side, it must be so also on the other. He (Sir George Grey) thought the Government had done wisely in not dealing with the question on purely technical and legal grounds. They had, in his opinion, taken a statesmanlike, equitable, and just view of the case in the principle of the proposition they had submitted to Parliament. He said the principle because they were then discussing principles, not details. The Government proposed that there should be an equitable compensation given to officers in respect to over-regulation prices, in consequence of the circumstances under which such prices had been paid. In opposition to this his hon. Friend proposed that the regulation prices only should be paid. He should be sorry for the Committee to suppose that in supporting the proposal of the Government he wished to prejudice any proposal by which the difficulties of the case could be lessened by modifying the details while maintaining the principle on which the Government proposal was based. What were the circumstances under which over-regulation prices had been paid? His hon. Friend said the Commission of last year had no authority to express any opinion on this subject; but in this he was mistaken, because it was referred to them to say whether to any and to what extent this practice of paying over-regulation prices had received official sanction. They therefore stated, without drawing any inference from the fact, that though the principle had received no formal or official sanction, it had been sanctioned virtually. Expressing only his own individual opinion, except in so far as the terms of the Report showed that the opinions of the other Members of the Commission agreed with his own, he must say that the whole tenour of the evidence proved it to have been morally impossible during a great many years 1698 past for young men to enter the Army as officers without making themselves parties to the system of paying over-regulation prices. A young man entered the Army under an implied obligation to conform to the existing system. He found that every office of high rank—certainly those in the grades immediately above him—had conformed to the ordinary custom as to promotion, and to expect him under these circumstances to refuse to be a party to it, was to require of him an amount of moral courage he could not be expected to possess. There was no officer in the Army who had attained high rank in a purchase regiment, nay, there was, probably, no hon. Member of that House with a son in the Army, who had not been a party to this practice. The Commission reported that, while the prevalence of the payment of over-regulation prices had been general and notorious, no attempt had been made to put a stop to it by process of law; but that, in fact, there had been an acquiescence in it, amounting to a virtual recognition of it, by the military and civil authorities of the country. His hon. Friend (Mr. Rylands) had said the military authorities were anxious to put a stop to the practice; but having considered the evidence carefully and impartially, he must say that, in his opinion, no real honest attempt had ever been made in that direction. In no instance since 1834 had there been any action on the part of the Horse Guards to stop the system, and their interference in two cases in 1833–4 was remarkable from the fact that the engagement to pay over-regulation prices was brought to the notice of the Commander-in-Chief, not in the shape of a complaint of a breach of the law, but by an aggrieved officer against another for failing to fulfil his agreement to pay the illegal sum. Well, was it just, honourable, and fair to say to officers, after they had been encouraged in this system by common practice and the virtual sanction of authority—"We will abolish purchase, and deprive you of all those sums you have paid beyond the over-regulation under the existence of an established custom?" The amount of over-regulation price was as well known in every regiment as that of the regulation price. These things being so, he, for one, could not take upon himself to say that officers 1699 were to be made the scapegoats of a vicious system, and subjected to heavy penalties for acting in accordance with an established custom. At the same time that he said this, he was anxious not to be supposed to approve of these payments. He must express his opinion that after the evidence taken by the Commission, and the Report they had presented, it was impossible to allow the system to continue in the future. Official persons formerly pleaded ignorance in regard to the existence of this system; but their ignorance arose from the fact that they shut their eyes to it, and he believed they themselves had not been clear from participation in the system. But now the whole facts of the case were fully in possession of the Government and of Parliament. The fact was the obtaining promotion was impossible without paying over-regulation price. A former Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief described the position of a young man who would pay only the regulation sum as "intolerable." He stopped promotion in the regiment, and became most unpopular. In the course of the inquiry by the Commission, there was stated the remarkable case of a subaltern, whose father refused on principle to pay over-regulation price as being a violation of the law; but in that case, in order that the flow of promotion might not be stopped, the money was advanced to him by his brother officers, who regarded the amount so advanced as a debt of honour due to them. His right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War last year attempted to get rid of one of the lower ranks in the Army, leaving only one class of subalterns; but he was met by the objection that if this were done injustice would be inflicted upon the lieutenants who had paid over-regulation prices for their commissions, and the proposal had to be abandoned, a Commission being appointed to inquire into the whole question. The information obtained by the Commission led them to the conclusion that one of the incidents of the system of paying over-regulation prices was "an habitual violation of the law, unchecked by any authority." He thought to continue this would be discreditable alike to the Government and to Parliament. The Government might have proposed to remove the scandal involved in an 1700 habitual violation of the law by legalizing the system of over-regulation payments. No one had suggested that course, and if the Government had done so Parliament would not have sanctioned the proposal. Another course was that which they had taken—namely, to put an end to over-regulation payments by doing away with purchase altogether, condoning all past offences committed against the law under the circumstances he had stated, and indemnifying the officers for the outlay they had actually made. This seemed to him to be a wise, just, and equitable proposal, which would not prejudicially affect officers who had been led into the payment of the over-regulation prices by no fault of their own. But if the plan failed—if this Bill should be rejected and purchase continued, then it would be the duty of the Government forthwith to let it be publicly known that it would not consent any longer to this practice of giving over-regulation prices. They would be bound to enforce the law to the utmost, to decline to recognize any future interests in respect of over-regulation payments hereafter made, and to advise the Crown to have recourse to the principle of selection in regimental promotion, by which this practice would undoubtedly be checked. Selection was no new principle, for in the regulations of 1719, the practice of over-regulation payments being anticipated it was expressly laid down that no officer selling out should have anything to say as to the appointment of his successor. In 1786 a Circular letter was addressed by the military authorities to colonels of regiments repeating this injunction in the most explicit terms. Subsequent alterations in the regulations had established the rule of seniority among purchase officers, which afforded every facility for the practice of the evil complained of. He therefore considered the Government would be justified in using every means at their disposal, whether by the exercise of Royal Prerogative or by law, to put an end to this vicious system.
§ MR. VERNON HARCOURT
said, the gravity of the question was shown by the fact, as stated by the right hon. Member who had just spoken (Sir George Grey), that Parliament was substantially asked to vote £3,000,000 of public money as a recompense for habitual violation of the law, unchecked by any 1701 authority. They were going, therefore, to vote from the public money, a sum to men who were admitted to have habitually violated the law, and thereby to sanction the conduct of those authorities who ought to have checked them, but who had not done so. It was, so far as he knew, the first time an English Parliament had been asked to take such a course, and the question ought therefore to be very carefully considered. The illegality of these over-regulation transactions was not disputed, and though the Mutiny Act rendered it penal in any agent to take part in them, Parliament was now asked to indemnify and compensate the principals. That he did not think was a proceeding which, in any sense of the term, could be called logical. The argument upon which the Commission had rested the defence of these transactions was that of connivance. That was not a very agreeable word, nor did it represent very creditable practices. Hon. Members would remember the story in "Horace" of the conniving husband, who said non omnibus dormio—who was always fast asleep when the rich lover came, and awoke only when the poor man approached. That, he thought was a very just description of the doctrine of connivance. He wanted to know who in this country had the right to connive away the provisions of a penal Act of Parliament? They knew something of the doctrine of connivance, which, 200 years ago, lost the First Charles his head, and later cost the Second James his throne; since that time, however, he had fancied the Executive Government had abandoned the theory, but he had been extremely surprised to hear from the representative of a Whig name the doctrine of connivance advanced as a justification for dispensing with the provisions of a penal Act of Parliament. If the military Executive of this country refused to perform its duty, by conniving at the breach of an Act of Parliament, that Executive ought to be impeached by the House of Commons, as Executives have been in former times. He agreed, however, with the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), that the proof of connivance was not sufficiently strong to justify any hon. Member in calling down upon the authorities the strong hand of Parliamentary censure, and he supposed the Secretary of State believed their disclaimer of such 1702 connivance, as he had maintained them in their positions. And in connection with this matter, he hoped that the House of Commons was not so unworthy of its predecessors as to hesitate to take measures such as in former days had been adopted against persons guilty of misfeasance. In the evidence given before the Commission, Sir Edward Lugard, representing the War Office, distinctly stated that he knew nothing at all about it, and General Foster, of the Horse Guards, in a letter to Mr. Sidney Herbert, stated that it was difficult to obtain legal evidence with reference to the point. The Duke of Cambridge also in his evidence before the Commission stated that where money was concerned it was very difficult for any authority to limit the mode in which it was to be distributed, adding that he, for one, should be glad if he could see any way in which, officially, an end could be put to practices of this description. In short, all the gentlemen examined distinctly and collectively denied that they knew anything about the matter under consideration. Now, connivance meant the deliberate and intentional allowing a thing to be done for some reason or other. It did not mean that you knew a thing occurred, and were doing all you could to prevent it. For instance, everybody know that there was in the Metropolis a great deal of crime of which we could not get evidence, but no one could assert that we connived at that crime. For that reason, then, that was not the sort of connivance which justified the payment of a sum of money to the officers as though they had been encouraged in the practice. We knew that this misdemeanour was going on, of which we could not obtain legal evidence; but we were not therefore conniving at it. But that was not all. In the year 1859, when General Peel was Secretary of State for War, a correspondence passed between the Treasury and the War Office, in which this question of over-regulation prices occurred. General Peel wrote in these terms—Major General Peel feels compelled by what is required for the public service to press the question once more on the consideration of their Lordships, as he cannot acquiesce in the justice of the position assumed by them as an argument for their refusal, that the officers of cavalry regiments are habitually in the practice of paying for their promotion beyond the price required by the regulations — a practice which would subject the 1703 offenders under the statute to lose their commissions, and to other punishment.Here, then, was the Secretary of State for War indignantly repudiating the insinuation that over-regulation prices were paid at all; and yet it was now alleged that there had been connivance in the system on the part of Departments of the State. He maintained, on the other hand, that there had been no such connivance at all. In 1856, after the Crimean War, the propriety was felt of granting to the widows and children of officers killed in action an allowance of the money they had paid. Well, they were paid the regulation price and not the over-regulation price. Instead of connivance, therefore, here was a distinct and recorded decision that over-regulation prices were not recognized. A great deal had been said respecting the withdrawal of the declaration upon honour, which used formerly to be made by the officers of the Army; and that declaration was much relied upon by those who advocated the payment of over-regulation money. He regretted that this was the case, as he thought it could hardly be agreeable for a body of men whom he held in the highest respect, to remember that the declaration upon honour that they had not been engaged in illegal transaction was withdrawn because it had been discovered that it was commonly evaded. Surely the advocates of military honour ought to desire that that circumstance should be forgotten. But at the time this declaration upon honour was withdrawn there was issued from the Horse Guards a Memorandum in which it was stated—It is further most humbly submitted to your Majesty that it should be declared that in all cases where the regulation appears to the Commander-in-Chief to have been infringed or evaded the promotion should be at once cancelled; and that in all cases where proof is obtained that the provisions of the statute have been infringed, the Commander-in-Chief should take measures to give full effect to the penalties attaching to such offence.That Memorandum showed that the withdrawal of the declaration on the part of the officers was not meant to alter the state of the law which previously prevailed; and in the case referred to by the hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey), which occurred in 1833, ten years afterwards, the Commander-in-Chief considered himself bound to inflict a punishment when the case was brought 1704 under his notice. The Committee was in this dilemma—either there had been such connivance and misconduct on the part of the military authorities that they were bound to take Parliamentary notice of it; or, if they had not been guilty of this offence, there was no justification for the proposed payment of over-regulation prices. It was said the practice was notorious; but a great many things were notorious, but they were not to call upon the country to pay for them on that account. Electoral corruption was notorious; but he had never heard of a Member of Parliament, after accepting the Chiltern Hundreds, coming to the House and demanding the re-payment of the money he had expended in his election. Gambling, again, was notorious, and the transactions at Tattersall's were notorious and illegal; but he never heard of a Government introducing a Bill to indemnify gentlemen in regard to their transactions on the Turf. The Royal Commissioners, in their Report, gave utterance to this remarkable sentence—"There appears, indeed, to be no feeling of obligation to obey the law." One would have thought that was part of the Report of the Commission on the state of Westmeath, rather than the announcement of a Commission considering the condition of the British Army. The singular conclusion drawn from that state of feeling was, not that we ought to suspend the Habeas Corpus Act in the Army, but that we should pay £3,000,000 to the officers. Mr. Hommersley, the agent, said the thing was done so secretly that he did not actually know what the money was given for, although he had a very good theory on the subject. He (Mr. V. Harcourt) did not say there was any moral turpitude or personal dishonour about the transaction; but, still, no officer who paid the over-regulation money was unaware that the transaction was an illegal one, and one, therefore, to be carried out in secret. A friend of his said to him the other day—"I paid the money for my commission to the person from whom I purchased it by a cheque payable to order, but the officer to whom I paid it refused to accept the cheque because he dared not put his name on the back of it." And yet transactions of this kind were so connived at that the taxpayers were to pay £3,000,000 in respect of them. Hon. Gentlemen opposite relied very 1705 much upon contract, the doctrine of which had been laid down by his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson), and his noble Friend the Member for West Essex (Lord Eustace Cecil). The former said that we were altering the terms of service, and his definition of the terms of service was in substance as follows:—"The present terms of an English officer are that he is to go where he pleases and nowhere else, this being the effect of the right of exchange; and that he is to do exactly what he pleases, as he has the right of not being removed for incompetence." [Colonel ANSON remarked that the hon. Gentleman had completely misunderstood him.] In that case, later on, his hon. and gallant Friend would, no doubt, set him right on that point. His noble Friend opposite (Lord Eustace Cecil) had stated that one of the terms of the contract was the right of not being superseded; but if that were the case our Army would be the worst officered Army in the world. He maintained that there was no such contract, and that the Queen possessed the right of superseding any officer whenever she chose to do so. There might, indeed, be a sort of equitable understanding, but there was certainly no contract. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bewdley, unlike the Pharisee, regretted that those who represented the Army in that House were not like the poor publicans, who had succeeded in attaining their object, while the Army was weak and defenceless. Why, if the publicans ever received from the Home Secretary such terms as had been offered to the Army by the Secretary for War, they would be ready to jump down his throat. They would be delighted if they were offered not merely payment for the goodwill of their business and the money invested, but also the over-regulation money for the drugs they had put into their beer. The right hon. Baronet said very amiably in his speech—"Let us condone the past and be very severe for the future." But if we were to remunerate with £3,000,000 those who had violated the law, what confidence could we have that similar transactions would not occur hereafter? There was one remedy which might have given hope, but the Government had not offered it, and it was to put the administration of patronage into the hands of the Government. No; the 1706 administration of the Army was to remain in the very able and honest hands of the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, who had said—"If you did away with purchase to-morrow, I believe those officers of the Army who were rich enough would somehow induce those above them to leave in order to make room for them." He believed it would be so; and, if that were the case, what were we to pay this money for, and what security could the Government hold out? The head of the administration of the Army said that, when we had done away with purchase the thing would go on as before, and still we were going to leave the administration in the same hands. Every authority in the War Office and the Horse Guards told us that it was not from want of severity in the law, nor from want of will, that the thing had not been stopped before, but from want of evidence; and would the evidence be forthcoming in the future? Not at all; and there was no reason why that which was said now should not be said five or ten years hence. It was said that the regimental system was to be destroyed; but why should it be? A great many people thought it a good thing; he did not know enough about it to say whether it was or not; but, if it was a good thing, how monstrous it was to destroy it. It was monstrous to say we were to abolish the regimental system because the military authorities would always be so ignorant that they were the only persons who did not know what was going on about them. Promotion by seniority existed in other Departments of the State—at the Treasury, the War Office, the Foreign Office, and the Home Office—and yet he never heard of the clerks in the Foreign Office combining to make up a purse to buy out Mr. Hammond. Why was it that this unrivalled desire to buy one another out existed among the military class alone? Why did not officers in other Departments buy one another out? He never heard of the Solicitor General taking the Attorney General into the lobby, and asking him what he would take to retire. In the Cabinet, promotion was sometimes rather slow, but he never heard of a junior Member of the Treasury bench offering a Member of the Cabinet anything to go out and make a place for him. It was not easy to see what limit there could be to the system, if it existed outside the military profess- 1707 sion; and if the Leader of the Opposition made a handsome offer he might buy out the whole Government, and we might be told that the country would derive considerable advantage from the rapidity of promotion facilitated in this way. But he supposed they would be told, and they were always told, that what they were proposing was confiscation, and he was sure the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire would not be able to avoid telling them that. But he had always understood that confiscation was the confiscation of property. [Lord ELCHO: Hear, hear!] His noble Friend said "hear, hear." Property, he had always understood, rested upon law; and greatly as hon. Gentlemen opposite were enamoured of vested interests, he had not heard that there existed a vested interest in a misdemeanor. Inasmuch as there was no vested interest in a misdemeanor, he thought the noble Lord the Member for Haddingdonshire would find it difficult to make out a case of confiscation. Well, they were asked to vote these £3,000,000. It was all very well to say that they were to be generous, but it was not their own money they were going to be generous with. It was the money of the people they represented. They had heard a good deal, during the present Session, of touching compassion for the poor clerks and poor widows who were to pay the 2d. income tax; but this sum of £3,000,000 was exactly the sum to be paid by the poor clerks and poor widows, for whom hon. Gentlemen opposite had shown so much interest a few weeks ago; and he hoped, when it was proposed to apply this sum out of the pockets of the poor clerks and widows to pay people for committing a misdemeanor. [Colonel C. H. LINDSAY: It is not £3,000,000 a-year.] Well, £3,000,000 for one year. He hoped the hon. and gallant Officer would extend his sympathy to them for one year. He must confess that the unwisdom of offering these terms could be equalled only by the extraordinary folly of refusing them; but, for himself, he could be no party to offering them. They were told it was the price of the Bill. He was willing to pay a price for the Bill; and he had voted for it; but there was a price he was not disposed to pay, and that was the price which was asked in this part of the Bill. He believed it 1708 was a price which ought not to be asked of them; and it was a price they ought not to pay. The sum of money was a large sum; but it was a trifle compared with the principle involved—the principle, introduced for the first time in the history of Parliament, of paying money for the violation of an Act of Parliament. That was too great a price to pay for this or any other Bill. If they once assented to such a principle as this, how were they to maintain in this country that high standard of public morality which had distinguished the English nation in its official character? How could they do it if they gave Parliamentary sanction to transactions described as connivance on the part of the highest authorities, by remunerating the offenders? However unfortunate they might be in the circumstance of having been found out, they were still offenders against the law. He quite admitted the hardness of the case with reference to those individuals; but it had been well and truly said that hard cases made bad laws; and he believed that a hard case made a very bad Parliamentary precedent. Government in this country was very materially affected by precedent, and we ought to be very careful how, in a matter of such supreme importance as this, we set a bad precedent. He asked the Committee seriously to consider what would be the consequence of pursuing such a policy as this. He was unwilling to raise a class question; and, indeed, it was not he who did so; it was raised by proposals of this description; and we might depend upon it that when we were remunerating the military class for a breach of the written law of the Statute Book, it would be justly asked whether we had ever done it, or whether in the future we ever would do it, with reference to any other class in the country? He did not wish to speak hardly in any way of the Government; they had made this proposition because they were placed in a difficulty; but he wished they had relied a little more upon public opinion; he wished they had relied a little more upon the principles of that party by which they had been and still were loyally supported, and they would not then have included the proposition in the Bill. It was not a just, and it was therefore a dangerous proposal. He believed the opinion of the country was strong enough to carry an Army reform—for 1709 which he was as anxious as anyone—based upon just principles; by which he meant fair compensation for legal rights, and not compensation for illegal transactions. The Government would have done more wisely—they would have given more confidence and heart to their party if they had infused a little more strength into the measure; it was too strong for the other—the Opposition—side, but not quite strong enough for this. If they had remembered the old nursery rhyme—Have a new master, be a new man,and had applied that to the Army Bill, they would have rallied a more enthusiastic support than the Bill had commanded. He hoped the proposal would be re-considered by the Government, and they would not, by carrying such a proposition, produce in the country the dangerous opinion that there was in the House a class so strong that the Government were not willing to encounter it, and that the House itself had not courage to deal with it. If such a proposal were carried it would be by the votes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and if it were so carried, he was sure the Government, considering the past history of the Bill, would feel that the support by which alone such a proposal could be carried was its just and principal condemnation.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he had not hitherto troubled the Committee or the House during the discussions which had arisen on this Bill, and having been a Member of the Commission he was anxious to make a few observations. In one remark made by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. V. Harcourt) he entirely agreed. He asked, supposing they abolished purchase, what security was there that the same system would not again spring up? There was no security. Such security might have been provided by this Bill, and it was one of the defects of the Bill that it provided none. It was quite competent, however, for the right hon. Gentleman having charge of the measure to allay the apprehensions of the public by telling them what security there would be. With regard to the present Amendment, he entirely agreed with the right hon. Baronet who presided over the Commission (Sir George Grey), that the Government could not have done otherwise in purchasing the interest of officers in their commissions than include the over-regulation price. The hon. and learned 1710 Gentleman who last spoke said they proposed to recompense officers for their perpetual violation of law. That certainly was not a fair statement of the case. It was not proposed to recompense them for violations of the law, but to recoup what they had expended to attain their position—an outlay which was allowed under the existing system. The hon. and learned Gentleman had been exceedingly severe on what had been called the connivance of the authorities; but they were not dealing with the authorities who had connived at over-regulation prices, but with the position of officers who had acquired certain interests under the existing practice. The fact was, he did not think the authorities had the matter entirely under their control, for in the Act which was passed on the subject, Parliament had attempted an impossibility. As was said in the Report of the Commission, if they allowed commissions to be the subject of sale and purchase at all, it was perfectly impossible to fix their price. The hon. and learned Gentleman compared this with the illegal purchase of votes for seats in that House, but the analogy did not hold, for the traffic in votes was illegal, whereas commissions were allowed to be the subject of purchase. He believed the authorities who had from time to time failed to check, or, as it had been described, connived at, the practice, were in a position in which it was utterly impossible for them to do otherwise than they had done. The arguments of the hon. and learned Gentleman were not entirely consistent with each other, because, having said that the authorities had connived at the practice, he proceeded to read extracts in order to prove that they knew nothing about it. That statement must, however, be taken with some reservation, for all that was meant was that they had no official information on the subject. He did not think any witness came before them to say that they had no knowledge on the subject, but simply that the knowledge was not in an official shape. What the Committee had to look to was this—they found an officer who on entering the Army found himself compelled to fall into the system of paying the over-regulation price; the system had existed for a great number of years; the prohibitions against it were never attempted to be enforced; officers had 1711 attained their positions under that system; it was proposed to abolish it, and the question was ought they to ignore the price which the officers had paid? He thought it utterly impossible that such a proposition should receive the support of the Committee. The right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) had called attention to the fact that the system had always been recognized. The only two cases where a violation of the law was brought to the notice of the War Office were complaints against parties who refused to fulfil their obligation to pay over-regulation price. It had been elicited reluctantly from witnesses that there was no reason to suppose that the authorities at the head of the War Office and the Horse Guards, who had sons in the Army, had not themselves been parties to the payment of over-regulation prices. A statement was made by an officer that he had paid the over-regulation price when his father was at the head of the Horse Guards, and there was every reason to believe that his father had found the money. He put aside all questions of generosity—he was not disposed to be generous to officers, but he asked the Committee to be just, and he did not think under the circumstances, in which officers had paid over-regulation prices, that justice would be done by the terms it was now proposed to give them. The hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) had alluded to the Correspondence between the Treasury and the War Office; but when he (Mr. Hunt) was on the Commission he had called attention to the Correspondence in a reverse sense to that in which the hon. and learned Gentleman had made allusion to it. When the hon. and learned Gentleman quoted General Peel it should be remember that the most conclusive answer to the hon. and learned Gentleman was that General Peel, who had served on the Committee, had signed the Report, in which appeared this passage—There has been a tacit acquiescence in the practice, amounting to a virtual recognition of it by the civil and military authorities.That was a tacit admission that General Peel, who had been Secretary at War, had virtually recognized the system; and if he had been asked, if he had personally paid over-regulation prices, he would have found great difficulty in 1712 giving a negative answer. He did not wish to detain the Committee, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth having so fully expressed his views on the question; but he really thought they would be guilty of injustice if they acceded to the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), and refused to recognize the price which the officers had actually paid for their commissions.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that the position of officers really was this—they had paid not only the regulation price, but a sum beyond the regulation price, and the Amendment proposed, when they were abolishing purchase altogether for the future not to give all that was paid, but only the regulation price of commissions. Whatever was paid beyond the regulation price was to be confiscated. He maintained that was not just or right. His opinion decidedly was, that as officers had paid over-regulation prices with the tacit consent of every authority, from the Commander-in-Chief downwards, the Government were bound in common honesty to reimburse the whole sum paid.
said, he thought, that there was some doubt whether, under this Bill as it at present stood, the War Office would pay the over-regulation price generally, or only to officers of certain regiments. The Secretary for War no doubt said emphatically that officers who retired by sale of their commissions should receive the over-regulation and customary price; but, according to the Bill, the officer would have to prove the custom of his regiment; and throughout the Line there was a vast number of officers who paid no over-regulation price. He should like to know the exact meaning of the word "customary" in the Bill, and whether words would be introduced to make it quite clear what that intention was.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, that the term customary price was defined at the bottom of the third page of the Bill by able draftsmen, who had endeavoured to carry into effect the purpose which he explained when he introduced the Bill. It appeared to him to be perfectly clear, and no doubt at all was suggested to his mind; but, if it should turn out to be necessary, he would introduce words to prevent misapprehension. The object was to give the person interested what he 1713 would have received if the Bill had not been passed, and he believed that object was accomplished by the language of the Bill.
said, that the right hon. Gentleman had not explained what was meant by the word "customary" in the clause.
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, that the right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) had apologized for the young officers who had not the moral courage to decline to pay over-regulation price when it was the custom to do so; but it was certainly hard that the people should have to pay £3,000,000 for their want of moral courage. It was not quite accurate to say that no punishment had been inflicted for paying sums not sanctioned by law, because in 1833, when such a payment came to the knowledge of the Commander-in-Chief, he expressed his deep regret that so great a breach of regularity should have been committed, and after consulting the Judge Advocate General, he submitted to the Sovereign that the three appointments which had been made in consequence of that payment should be cancelled, and the officers remitted to their former position. In his (Mr. Anderson's) opinion there were no vested rights, because the Queen could at any time deprive officers of their over-regulation price by putting them upon half-pay. At the end of the Indian Mutiny five lieutenant colonels were without any fault upon their part, put upon compulsory half-pay, notwithstanding that each of them had paid £5,000 for over-regulation price, and which money they were in this way deprived of. If the present Amendment were not agreed to, surely these five officers ought to have their cases considered. He thought that officers who had a peculiar interest in this question would show bad taste if they voted upon this question.
COLONEL LOYD LINDSAY
said, that the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) had stated that, independently of the £3,000,000 to be paid for the over-regulation price, there remained the question of what was due to that House and the country. For himself, he thought that if the House, after shutting their eyes persistently for so many years to the practice of paying over-regulation money, were now to cry out that they would be exceedingly virtuous—virtuous not at the expense 1714 of their own pockets but by saving their own pockets—and that they would not repay that money to the officers who had paid it on the faith of what had been a perfectly well-known and recognized practice in the Army, the House would be acting dishonestly towards those officers. The proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, that the officers should receive the over-regulation and the regulation price of their commissions was in the main eminently fair and just to them; but he had said before, and now repeated, that when his right hon. Friend came to look into the question more closely, he would find that it was only just that purchase officers serving alongside of officers who had not paid for their commissions should either receive their money back at once or should receive some interest upon it. He regretted that the Government had not taken that view of the case; and he still hoped that they might be induced to pay 3 or 4 per cent on that money, in order that there might not be two men serving side by side on different scales of pay. The plan of allowing a fair interest for their money was infinitely preferable to paying the money down at once, because the latter arrangement, though it might be satisfactory to the officers, would have the effect of checking retirement from the service, and would not act beneficially on the regiments. He admitted that the officers had no positive right to that money, because the Queen, with the consent of Parliament, might say that over-regulation should be put aside. Yet he could not suppose for a moment that they would ever see that done by a British House of Commons; for although the officers might not have a strict legal right in that case, they still, he thought, had one in equity and in honour. He should, therefore, have much pleasure in supporting the Government on this occasion. ["Hear!"] Hon. Gentlemen might laugh, but it was a very important vote that was about to be taken; and if the Government were beaten on that Amendment they would have to abandon their Bill, as, indeed, he thought they ought to do. Hon. Gentlemen on his side had been taunted with offering a factious opposition to that measure; but he hoped it would be remembered that, in supporting the Government in this instance, they were really helping them to carry 1715 their Bill; and he could assure his right hon. Friend that, although they believed it to be a bad Bill, and one which would be mischievous to the Army, yet, if it were passed, every one of them on either side of the House would then be found anxious to do their best to make it work as well as possible.
§ COLONEL DYOTT
said, he had understood the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson) to say that hon. Members of that House who had been or might be in the service ought not to vote on that Amendment.
§ COLONEL DYOTT
He intended to vote in favour of the Amendment, because he thought that officers should be the first to express their opinions upon this matter. He did not think it would be any injustice whatever to withhold the over-regulation price from officers who had paid it; because no officer had ever paid the over-regulation money, without knowing at the time he did it that he was incurring a risk; that he had a claim against the country to recover the regulation money, but none to recover any over-regulation money which he might have paid. Nobody could pretend that there was a legal claim to the over-regulation price; and he could not find in the Report of the Commission any recommendation on the part of the Commissioners that the over-regulation price should be re-paid. There must be two parties to the transaction; the payer and the receiver; and the House was bound to do justice, as far as it could, to both. He contended that it would be doing a very great injustice to the taxpayer to call on him to pay that which the officer was not legally entitled to receive, and he also contended that the officer had no just right to demand or expect that any over-regulation money should be paid him by the taxpayer. The right hon. Gentleman for North Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) said that officers in regiments were compelled to pay over-regulation money; but he demurred altogether to that statement. He knew from personal and practical experience that such was not the fact. The right hon. Baronet (Sir George Grey) had also stated that it would be 1716 impossible for an officer to remain in a regiment if he did not give the over-regulation money, and that the position of an officer under those circumstances would be intolerable. He could again state from personal and practical experience that that was not the case. The officers of a regiment did not form their estimate of a brother officer by the amount of money he might have. Officers' names were returned for purchase; they remained on the purchase list; and they did purchase their promotion for the regulation price, retaining the same good opinion of their brother officers as men who paid any amount they liked of over-regulation money. That question was one of considerable delicacy and difficulty, but the Government had entirely brought it on themselves and the country. Had they let the purchase system alone, the difficulty, such as it was, would not have arisen. Let them go on with the re-organization of the Army—and undoubtedly it required to be re-organized, and to a certain extent re-modelled, as far as the body of the Army was concerned—but as far as regarded the officers, he did not believe that any fault whatever could be found with their conduct or position, and he did not understand that the officers themselves sought for any alteration. The purchase system was working well, and why could not the matter have been left alone? He had opposed the Bill from the commencement, and should continue to do so, because he could see no improvement that it was likely to effect. It had been alleged that hon. Members sitting on the Opposition side of the House were seeking to legalize these over-regulation prices, and thus to confer an advantage upon the officers at the expense of the country, but he denied altogether the truth of that allegation. He and those who sat near him disliked the Bill of Her Majesty's Government, upon whom the odium must rest of throwing the burden of paying these over-regulation prices, to which he must again say that the officers had neither a legal nor a just title upon the country.
§ COLONEL STUART KNOX
said, that although he intended to vote with the Government upon this point, he must express his surprise that none of the occupants of the Treasury bench had thought it worth their while to answer the remarks that had fallen from the 1717 hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) who had shortly before addressed the Committee. He wished it to be distinctly understood that hon. Members connected with the Army did not act as a body against the Government with respect to this measure, but that they merely adopted that course which appeared to them honest and right in the matter. In reply to the assertion of the hon. Member for Glasgow (Mr. Anderson), that officers being interested parties had no right to take part in this discussion, he must remind the hon. Member that of all those hon. Members connected with the Army who had spoken upon this Bill, only two were on full-pay, the rest being general officers, who would be unaffected by it, and those who had retired from the service. Should the Bill ever unfortunately become law, officers felt that it would be their duty to carry it into effect to the best of their ability. In answer to the observation made by the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) the other night, that the bulk of the officers of the Army were in favour of the Bill, be begged to call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War to a letter which had appeared in The Times of that morning, in which the following compromises were offered to the Government on their behalf:—No. 1. To those officers who wished to accept the present Government proposal, the proposal of the Government as it stood. No. 2. To infantry of the Line and purchase officers who might so elect, regulation money down in lieu of all other claims. And No. 3. To officers of cavalry and Guards, a commuted sum in lieu of all claims, calculated on the same scale of loss as was offered under No. 2.The letter went on to say—The Government asserts (we hold without foundation) that their scheme is approved by the bulk of the officers of the Army; but, if this be the honest expression of their opinion, why not accept the compromise offered, as if the officers of the Army do prefer the Government proposal as stated, they will immediately all accept it, while those who do not will be satisfied, and the country will have a contented instead of a discontented body of officers.The Government might be able to force the Bill through the House, but it would be most unsatisfactory if the result of this exhibition of strength was to convert the officers into a discontented body of men. The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) had said that the 1718 rejection of this Bill would not be an unmitigated misfortune, inasmuch as an agitation would be forthwith got up in favour of the Bill throughout the country. For his part, he should not regret such an agitation, because he believed that the better acquainted the public became with the Bill, the more certain would be their rejection of it. He trusted that the rumour that had reached him was true, and that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War would see fit to propose some terms of compromise, such as those contained in the letter he had read from The Times. The hon. Member for Warrington and the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) had urged the importance of doing nothing that would sanction a breach of the law, but did not they support the Bill for legalizing marriage with a deceased wife's sister, which, if it had passed, would have had a retrospective effect, and have sanctioned a breach of the law in every case where such marriages had been contracted?
§ MR. SINCLAIR AYTOUN
said, he could not understand on what principle officers were to be compensated for the over-regulation prices they had paid. The speech of the right hon Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) had strengthened instead of weakened the impression with which he had come to the House—that officers were not entitled to the over-regulation price. That right hon. Baronet stated to the House—and no one was better entitled to speak on the subject, because he had been a Member of the Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into the question of purchase—that though over-regulation prices had never been legally recognized, yet that the military and civil authorities had shut their eyes to the fact that that system existed, and, therefore, in abolishing the system of purchase, it would only be doing justice to the officers to compensate them for the over-regulation prices they had paid on the purchase of their commissions. He (Mr. Aytoun) thought if the House adopted the right hon. Baronet's suggestion, it would establish a most mischievous principle—namely, that wherever a vicious system, such as over-regulation price, had been acknowledged not by the House but by the Executive Government, it was the duty of the 1719 House to make good those claims which had been created in direct defiance of the law. He would vote for the Amendment of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) because he believed it would lead to other improvements in the scheme of the Government. Though believing that the mode in which the opposition to the measure had been conducted by hon. Gentlemen on the other side was most reprehensible, still he held that no one had thrown greater difficulties in the way of the passing of the Bill than the Government themselves. It was his desire to see the purchase clauses of the measure passed without further delay, because he believed they would produce a useful and much-needed reform; but he considered that the rest of the Bill was thoroughly worthless. He could not imagine a more unskilful and useless Bill. If the Government had yielded to the advice of hon. Members on their own side of the House, the difficulties in the way of the passing of the Bill might have been removed, but they had persistently maintained their determination to provide for the expense of the abolition of purchase out of the current revenue of the year. He believed that if the Amendment was carried, one consequence would be that the whole of the regulation money would be paid down at once to every officer, and it would then have to be raised either by loan or by loans extending over a series of years; and in that way it would import an element of uncertainty into the Budgets of future years, which, with a little care, might have been easily avoided.
said, that although he had hitherto uniformly supported the Government in the divisions on this Bill, he could not do so on the present occasion. If the scheme of the Government had been received with the respect and gratitude to which it was entitled from the hon. Members who professed to represent the interests of those pecuniarily affected by the proposed legislation, to save precious time, and to promote harmony, it might, perhaps, have been held expedient by Ministers, to agree to pay over-regulation rates; although such payments were now illegal, and, moreover, liberal in excess. But, having regard to the rancorous opposition this Bill had encountered—despite its liberality—he was driven to the conclusion 1720 that the Amendment of his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), ought, in common justice, to be now accepted by the Committee. It was painful to reflect that the class which ought to have most implicitly obeyed was that very class which had continuously and persistently violated the law. He had carefully investigated this question, and found that the first regulations were framed in 1719–20, with a view to prevent the introduction of a system of paying more than the prices fixed by the Crown for commissions in the Army. In 1766 a Royal Warrant was issued, with an express prohibition of the payment of any sum in excess of the regulation price. Subsequent Royal Warrants—in 1772 and 1773—when approving of alterations in the price of commissions, confirmed such prohibition in similar terms. In 1783 a General Order of the Commander-in-Chief was issued, to enforce by more stringent rules the previous prohibition contained in the Royal Warrants against paying any sum above the fixed price of commissions. In 1786 a Circular letter of the Secretary for War to the same effect was sent out. In 1804 two Circulars of the Commander-in-Chief declared that officers found giving directly, or indirectly, anything beyond the regulation price would be dismissed the service. In 1807 the prohibition, previously resting on Royal Warrants, was confirmed by an Act of Parliament, and inserted in the Mutiny Act of that year. A clause to the like effect had been inserted in every annual Mutiny Act from that date to the present time. It is Clause 78 of the Mutiny Act, passed this Session, which prohibits trafficking in Commissions, with severe penalties for paying or receiving any money or consideration exceeding Her Majesty's regulation. It was in 1809 that the Act 49 Geo. III., c. 126, was passed, which is still in force. By the 4th section of that Act, it was made a misdemeanour, so rendering liable to two years' imprisonment for anyone who may sell or buy, bargain, or agree to sell or buy, a commission, or any nomination thereto, or resignation thereof, except at such prices, and in conformity with regulations. In 1855 the Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer Court (Sir Frederick Pollock) ruled that the before-named Act pronounced not only the sale, but the resignation, or the procuring 1721 the resignation, of any officer to be illegal. In 1862, Sir William Erle, presiding in the Court of Common Pleas, concurred in that construction of the Act. Last year the Royal Commission, appointed to inquire into over-regulation payments on promotion in the Army, reported thus—We do not find that the practice of paying over-regulation rate has received any formal or official sanction.The Royal Commissioners also pointed out that one of the chief incidents of the practice was—The habitual violation of the law, supported by long-established custom, and unchecked by any authority.And His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief, in his evidence before the Select Committee on Military Organization in 1859, said that there was no doubt of the illegality of selling commissions beyond the regulated prices, and that if such a practice were ever brought to his notice, he should treat it as an illegal matter. Moreover, His Royal Highness the Duke of Cambridge wrote during the same year, in answer to an inquiry of the Secretary of State for War, that the provisions of the Act 49 Geo. III., c. 126, were as stringent as could be desired; and that he would carry them into effect in any case where an infringement should be brought to his knowlege. And yet we found that they who were the makers were the habitual breakers of the law. He (Mr. White) would now ask who could estimate the magnitude of the loss inflicted on those interested in posting houses, inns, &c., along the lines of our magnificent roads, which, before the introduction of railways, were, indeed, the envy and admiration of the world. When innkeepers and so many others were beggared by the great and beneficial change, which occurred when stage coaches were superseded by railways, was any compensation given to them? None whatever. They were neither peers, priests, nor officers, and yet their investments were made in compliance with the law—the investments of our officers were in defiance of the law, as all admitted—and yet they were now asked to more than compensate them. If they did so, would not the public out-of-doors consider that there 1722 was one law for the rich and another for the poor? He contended that it would be most unjust and impolitic to pay the over-regulation-price—quite £3,000,000—to persons acknowledged to have been guilty of an infraction of the statute law of the realm.
§ MR. TIPPING
said, he was surprised at the naïveté of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down (Mr. White), who seemed to have draped himself in the mantle of the late Mr. Cobden, and to have thrust his arms into the sleeves of Joseph Hume, in quoting as he had done the reports of various officers as to the illegality of over-regulation prices, when very probably almost every one of them had paid those prices for the promotion of their own sons. Those officers must be regarded as writing their reports in an official sense, and their statements must be taken in a Pickwickian point of view. He must, therefore, express his astonishment that the hon. Gentleman should interpret them de rigeur. There was, in his opinion, a very wide difference between the action of a Court of Law and that of Parliament. Parliament was omnipotent, and was bound to be generous. Omnipotence ought always to be accompanied by liberality; and it was but right that the case of men who, after all, had done nothing more than adapt themselves to a system at which Parliament had connived, should be met in a fair and equitable spirit. He recollected that on a former occasion his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) had alluded to some statements which were contained in Reynolds's Newspaper, of which he believed it was no libel to say that it represented the opinions of the commune of London, or something like them, in support of the views which he then advocated; but for his own part, he did not think that House ought to defer to the democratic sentiment so far as to deal illiberally with the officers of our Army. To make them now the victims of the omnipotence of Parliament would, he thought, be even worse than legalizing what was called a misdemeanour.
§ MR. GOURLEY
said, he believed that over-regulation prices had been given sub rosâ by adjutants of Militia and by officers of the higher ranks of Volunteers. He had heard of a case in which as much as £3,000 had been given 1723 for one of the former commissions. The Horse Guards had, however, put its veto upon the bargain, with unfortunate consequences to both, the officers concerned in the transaction. With regard to the Volunteer service, he knew of one instance, at least, in which an officer had paid £500 for the post of commanding officer. If it were right in principle to pay over-regulation prices to officers of the Regular Army, it was equally just to recoup the officers who had paid for their commissions in the Militia and Volunteers. He had hitherto held that it would be wiser on the part of the Government to recoup the regulation prices at once in some form or other, and to pay nothing for over-regulation prices. It would be more satisfactory not only to the House, but to the supporters of the Government, if the War Office would re-consider its policy in reference to the purchase system, and adopt a scheme for the simple payment of regulation prices at once. Under the plan now proposed there would be young men who had paid nothing for their first commissions placed alongside of others who had paid large sums, and the latter could not but be dissatisfied. It was said that these officers might leave the service and obtain their money back; but it would be suicidal policy on their part to seek another profession after spending many years in the Army. The Government ought to get rid of the purchase system once and for ever by paying down the regular price of commissions. The country, if appealed to, would never acquiesce in the payment of over-regulation prices; and he could not conceive how, as law-makers, this House could adopt a policy which was contrary to the existing law. Purchase was the monopoly of the rich to the detriment of the poorer officers in the Army, and he did not believe that its abolition was contrary to the wishes of the majority of the officers. Believing that if the purchase system was a bad one, it was better to get rid of it for a fixed sum instead of keeping it hanging over us, he should support the Amendment.
§ MR. M. CHAMBERS
said, for many years it had been the practice to pay over-regulation prices, and this system was perfectly well known, if even it was not acknowledged and encouraged by the military authorities. When, therefore, hon. Members said to officers— 1724 "We will not pay these over-regulation prices because you have been violating the law," his reply was, that, in substance, the military law, as regulated and interpreted by custom, had not been violated. There was a time when officers had to give their word of honour that they had not paid or taken more than the regulation price; but many years ago, finding it to be obstructive, the authorities abolished that regulation. That, he contended, was the commencement of sanctioning or inviting men to give the over-regulation money; and the result had been that not only officers, but also mercantile men, and those who were wealthy or possessed but limited means, who bought commissions for their relations or friends, did not hesitate to violate the law. He did not say that the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) was one of the number, but there were many manufacturers who would confess that they had bought commissions at the price that was demanded; yet those straitlaced gentlemen rose in the House of Commons to say that that was a violation of the law, which—some of his learned Friends would add—might have rendered them liable to indictment. The Committee were now called upon to determine a question about the violation of the law at a time when that law was about to be altered, the Government having arrived at the conviction that the purchase system was bad and having resolved to abolish it. How had the present state of things been brought about? By encouraging the payment of over-regulation prices, and for the Government to refuse to repay that money would be gross injustice. This was not a subject that affected either rich or poor men; it rather concerned those whose relatives had been called upon to contribute towards the over-regulation money, and the question for the Committee to decide was whether that sum should be lost to them. Any commercial man who considered this matter calmly, and without reference to the expense that would be incurred, would say that the proper course to adopt was to return the over-regulation money. He, therefore, could not concur in the Motion of the hon. Member for Warrington, nor did he agree with the reasoning of the hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt), whose 1725 speech was legal and technical, but not founded on generous or equitable considerations. A proposition had been made to pay the regulation prices down, leaving to the officers their rank in the Army; but that did not meet the difficulty, since a man of high spirit and military propensities purchased a commission, not as a trade speculation which would return him a percentage of interest on his outlay, but as a means of entering an enterprizing and honourable profession, and of mixing with a certain class of society. If he relinquished that profession and went into trade he must make a sacrifice of his prospects as a military man, and of some social advantages, and it was in this respect that a great mistake was made by the trading community. He was opposed to at once paying down their money to purchase officers, because that would place them in a better position than they were entitled to hold; but, if the Bill were to pass, the Government could not avoid paying the over-regulation prices. One point struck him as material. The principle of the Bill was that no money should pass between officers, either upon exchanges or otherwise. But suppose an officer of dragoons and an officer of the Line wished to exchange—was not the former entitled to say that his commission was more valuable than that in the Line regiment, and was the latter to be prevented from paying the difference in the value? The same question would arise upon an exchange between the lieutenant colonel of a Line regiment and a captain and lieutenant colonel in the Guards. If such exchanges were disallowed or abolished it would not be for the benefit of the service. The fact was, that the further the Committee proceeded in the purchase clauses of the Bill the greater were the difficulties they got into; and to this hour they did not know how much this change would cost the country. It was not unworthy of consideration therefore whether these clauses might not be struck out or postponed, and the other parts of the Bill for the regulation of the Army be at once and more advantageously proceeded with.
§ MR. O'REILLY
said, that after considering the whole subject carefully, he had come to the conclusion that he could not vote for the Amendment. The question was, had the country, by the recognition of anybody competent to 1726 bind it, become bound to pay those over-regulation prices? He agreed with the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. V. Harcourt) that by no act or negligence could either the Executive or the authorities of the Horse Guards bind the country; but the House of Commons might do so by means of declarations made by official authority in it. On reference to the debates in 1824, quoted in the Report of the Commission presided over by the right hon. Gentleman (Sir George Grey), he found nothing there to sanction the practice of over-regulation payments on account of the withdrawal of the declaration by officers; but, on the contrary, every sentiment expressed therein distinctly ignored it. At a later period, however, he feared the country had been compromised by statements made in that House and unchallenged; from that he considered the Committee justified in accepting the proposal of the Government to pay over-regulation prices. If purchase should not be abolished this year neither the Government nor the House of Commons would be able to plead ignorance of over-regulation money, and it would become their duty not to recognize it from that date. But another practice existed contrary to the Queen's Regulations, which was not only notorious, but recognized by the authorities. The Queen's Regulations distinctly forbad exchange between officers on half-pay and officers on full-pay, except by a recognized plan, which required a list of each class desiring to exchange to be kept at the Horse Guards, and provided that the two first on the list should exchange; but it was well known that private arrangements were constantly made for exchanges of this description, and he knew of one instance in which the Military Secretary had informed an officer that there was no chance of his coming on full-pay unless he exchanged by private arrangement. The time had, however, come at last when Her Majesty's Ministers had thought it their duty to introduce a measure on the subject, and he thought the House was bound to assist them in their efforts to put a check to an illegal practice.
said, the issue before the Committee appeared to be, on the first blush of it, one of a very simple character. The hon. and learned Member for the City of Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) 1727 had laid it down that no Executive power in the country could abrogate an Act of Parliament. Now, no one could assent to that statement more readily than he (Mr. Henley). They had heard that under this system large sums of money had been saved to the ratepayers. He was as anxious as any man to save the money of the ratepayers, and he believed that the ratepayers themselves had a strong feeling in the same direction. But he believed that they had a still stronger feeling in another direction, and that was to do justice to all parties. He could not believe that the Government would have introduced this proposal if they did not feel compelled, after a full investigation of the case, to do so. All Governments were naturally anxious to save the public money, and to carry out any object they had in view at as little cost to the country as possible. But, looking at the whole circumstances of this case, he believed that the Government felt themselves compelled, by a sense of justice, to do as they had done. Let them just look at the circumstances of this case. He did not think that he was very far wrong in saying, whatever the law was upon this question, that during two generations of officers, at least, the law had not been enforced. Indeed, he felt he might have put the matter much further than that. But since that case which came before the public some 40 years ago, in which the late Lord Cardigan, having come to some grief in a military affair, paid a fabulous price to Colonel Childers, in India, for a commission in the Army, it was impossible for any mother's son in or out of that House to say that they were not perfectly cognizant of the practice, whilst holding their tongues against this breach of the law—if breach it was. But that was not all. Why did the several Governments that had subsequently existed withhold all their virtuous indignation against this alleged breach of the law? Simply because they obtained a benefit by it. Could any man say that during the last 40 years, if there had been no over-regulation price to induce officers at a certain age to quit the Army, that the cost of the Army would not have been infinitely greater than it was? It was impossible for him to go into a mass of figures at that moment; but when they looked into the Army Estimates, even 1728 in the rough way in which they had been given, they must come to the conclusion that the cost of retirement of officers from the artillery and the Army under such circumstances would have been about 50 per cent greater than it really was. There could be no doubt of the fact that they had all held their tongues upon this breach of the law—if breach it was—because it was putting money into their pockets. He believed that a skilful accountant would be able to make out a statement showing that since the French War, if they had stopped promotion by the means then practised, this country would have been a gainer instead of a loser. He asked the Committee, then, to go one step further. They were now asked to make a great change in the military system of the country. Was it honest—having shut their eyes to the fact of the existence of this practice for a period of 40 or 50 years, and having gained a considerable advantage from it—to say now that they would not pay for it? He was as anxious as any man to save the amount of money which this proposal would cost if he could do so honestly; but he confessed that he could not see it in that light. These were reasons—not military ones—why he thought it would not be honest if the Government had not proposed to do that which they had done. Although he could not support the general policy of the Government, he could not, as an honest man, avoid saying that he believed they were now only doing what was just, and believing so he should vote against the Amendment.
said, it was a mistake to suppose this Amendment was the same as that moved a short time since by the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz). Many who voted against the latter would vote for this, and he (Mr. Headlam), who voted with the hon. Member for Birmingham, purposed voting against the Amendment under discussion. It had been asked why the House should sanction the payment of £3,000,000 to men who had, to some extent, violated the law. The answer was that the House and the country had sanctioned a certain method of promotion, which as an almost necessary consequence gave rise to the over-regulation prices. As was justly remarked by the right hon. Gentleman opposite 1729 (Mr. Henley) the country had benefited by this system of promotion, and if the Government intended to alter it immediately and summarily they must, in justice and honour, if not in law, repay the officers all the money they had expended. He did not exactly agree with the Government in the course they had taken, as he thought there was no necessity for abolishing the practice of buying out superior officers. If, however, it were expedient to abolish the practice, it could only be done by the introduction of a system of selection, which, in his judgment, was not worth the money; and when done, they were bound in honour to compensate whoever might be injured by the change.
§ COLONEL ANSON
said, he must regret extremely, for various reasons, that a discussion on the propriety of paying over-regulation prices should have been raised in a formal manner in the House of Commons. He was far, indeed, from blaming his hon. Friend the Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) for raising the question; but he certainly thought Her Majesty's Government were open to censure for having allowed it to be raised. If anyone who thoroughly understood the purchase question had been called upon to draw up a Bill on the subject, he might have done so without ever mentioning over-regulation prices. In such a case, however, the Government would have been compelled to state the whole of their scheme of retirement. Some of the hon. Speakers in that debate had wandered from the actual point under discussion, the chief offender in that respect being his hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt), who, in the first place, wanted to know why the clerks in the Foreign Office should not buy out Mr. Hammond; and next, why the Solicitor General should not buy out the Attorney General, and so on. The answer was simple. There was a great difference between civil and military employment. It was comparatively unimportant whether men engaged in civil employments were in the prime of life and possessed of great physical power; but it was highly important that officers in the Army, who had to serve in all climates, should be young men with good physical constitutions. Now, in order to keep up a supply of young and physically efficient officers, and to avoid at the same 1730 time a great increase of expense, the country had taught the officers the principle of buying and selling commissions. It was the House of Commons who taught the officers of the Army to buy and sell commissions. The country having told them that a company was worth £1,800 they naturally thought there would be very little difference between the criminality of paying £1,900 and paying £1,800. Over-regulation prices might be regarded from a moral and a pecuniary point of view, and he must say the latter had been carefully omitted by those who had spoken against their payment. Considering the large pecuniary benefits the country had derived from the payment of over-regulation prices, it was a somewhat Pecksniffian proceeding for hon. Members to take a high moral tone and denounce officers for having carried out such a practice. If there had not been connivance, in the legal sense attributed to the word by the hon. and learned Member for Oxford, the practice had been tacitly encouraged by the Horse Guards, the War Office, the Treasury, the Home Office, and the House of Commons. To begin with the House of Commons, every hon. Member was cognizant of the practice, and yet no one had called upon the Executive to enforce the law. The question was, indeed, raised in the House of Commons in 1824; but after the debate on that occasion the Government withdrew the declaration, which was the only means they had of preventing the payment of over-regulation prices. In the Report of the late Royal Commission, it was stated that the subject of their inquiry had come under the notice of other Commissions and Select Committees of the House of Commons; and in a Note they referred to the Reports of the Select Committees on Army and Navy Appointments, 1833; on Naval and Military Promotion and Retirement, 1840; the Report of the Commission on the Purchase and Sale of Commissions, 1857; and the Reports of the Select Committee on Military Organization, 1860, and of the Committees on Military Reserve Funds in 1867 and 1868. Why, then, did not hon. Gentlemen long ago compel the Government to put the law in action? Again, the practice of paying over-regulation prices had been recognized by the Treasury. In 1860 the Treasury had a correspondence with the War Department, 1731 when the Lords Commissioners said they could not consent to lower the regulation prices of commissions, because they were afraid the over-regulation prices would increase to the detriment of the officers of the Army. A similar recognition was made on various occasions by the War Office and the Home Office. In 1834 the War Office wrote to the Home Office respecting a case in which £300 above the regulation price had been paid. The punishment awarded by the War Office in the case of the purchaser was to deprive him of one year's rank by antedating his commission; but in the case of the seller, who had become adjutant of a Militia regiment, the result of a reference to the Lord Lieutenant was the suggestion whether, if the adjutant applied for the brevet rank of captain it would not be proper to decline appointing him to the rank "at present." This was all the punishment administered at the time for what was called a direct violation of the law. The Duke of Wellington, whose opinion was somewhat disparaged now, wrote a Memorandum for the Committee of 1833, in which he said that consideration ought to be given in the cases of officers who had paid more than regulation prices, of whom there had been hundreds of instances; and he added that he knew one who had paid £6,000 for a lieutenant-colonelcy, who had received the Order of the Bath for his services, and who was surely entitled to a return of the money he had expended in order to put himself in a position to render them. He had shown that the practice of paying over-regulation prices had been sanctioned and connived at morally, if not in the strictly legal sense of the term, by the House of Commons, by the War Office, and by all their great men, and no attempt had ever been made by the House of Commons to enforce the law on the subject. The hon. and learned Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt) said it was monstrous that the House of Commons should be asked to legalize an illegal act; but only six weeks ago it passed a retrospective Bill to legalize marriage with a deceased wife's sister, so that the objection to retrospective legislation entirely fell to the ground. It was admitted that if the Government had received over-regulation prices, that would establish a case for officers receiving them under the Government 1732 scheme; and although, strictly speaking, it might be said that the Government had never received what might be called over-regulation prices, still they had received a profit, which amounted to the same thing, for many a time they had bought a commission for £1,200 and sold it for £1,800, thereby receiving an over-regulation price of £600. He believed the House of Commons was as implicated in this system as were the officers of the Army; the Departments of the Government had been fully cognizant of these transactions; not a single attempt had been made to put a stop to them; and therefore it was absurd to say that over-regulation prices ought not to be paid because they were illegal. The officers of the Army, on entering it, found the system in existence; they found that their predecessors had fallen in with it as a custom of the service; they found that it was known to the House of Commons, and that it was sanctioned by almost every Department of the public service; and, therefore, they argued in the same way as the Indian Government argued with, regard to over-regulation prices and the bonus system in India. The bonus system had long been the rule in India; there had been stringent regulations against officers contributing to the bonus fund; the Indian Government knew the prevailing practice and had the power to stop it, But they knew that it was beneficial to the State, and they therefore said that so long as it was not detrimental to the efficiency of the service, and did not increase its cost, they would allow the law to remain in abeyance. This was what the Government of this country had done; and when it became necessary to destroy the Indian Army the money was paid at once, with certain commutations. The real reason why the Executive power here had never put in force the law against over-regulation prices was, that if they had done so they would have had to come to the House of Commons for large Votes every year to maintain a proper flow of promotion and retirement. Up to the present time the officers had effected that for them, and they had not realized a necessity which had been carefully kept out of sight during the debates of this Session; but they would have to face it, and then they would know what was the cost of the abolition of purchase. They could not, 1733 however, ignore the fact that for the last 50 years the officers of the Army had maintained a rapid flow of promotion, insuring in all ranks of the service officers fit for their work, at their own expense. The State had hardly contributed a sixpence towards an expense which ought to have fallen upon it, and which would have done so had it not been for the purchase system. After the State had benefited for years by the payment of these over-regulation prices by one officer to another, it would be a scandal and a disgrace if the House of Commons, when making a great change on a paltry pretext and a legal quibble, wronged or ruined a number of men who had done their duty, simply because they had happened to offend the moral feelings of some hon. Members. He was too fond of the British Army to oppose the Bill merely for the sake of pounds, shilling, and pence; but, sooner than let it pass as it stood, he would accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz) for the abolition of over-regulation, without paying a single sixpence down to the officers. He would sooner see a Royal Warrant disbanding the British Army to-morrow, without a single sixpence of compensation being given to officers, than he would see the Bill of the Government pass, because it was better to disband a discontented body of men than to have a discontented body of armed men. It was not the slightest use abolishing purchase in the Army if they were going to leave behind it moral and justifiable ground for great and deep discontent; it would be far cheaper to do away with the Army altogether; and he would strongly recommend the hon. Mover of the Amendment, instead of pressing it, to move a Resolution to disband the British Army. With regard to the opposition to this Bill, he would say one word—he would continue to oppose the Bill on every stage and by every possible means, for this reason: they could not discuss honestly and fairly any one of the propositions laid before the House until they knew what was to be the future scheme of promotion and retirement. That was the very groundwork of their opposition. One word as to threats. The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) and one or two others had used threats. He thought he might fairly say they were the wrong 1734 men to be frightened by a threat. Threats of depriving the officers of the Army of the over-regulation price of their commissions next year were mere waste of breath. Cavalry officers, who were so largely interested in the Bill, had distinctly told him not to care about their pecuniary interests, or to heed threats, but to oppose the Bill at any risk. Most officers felt as he did himself—that once this question was raised by a large party in the State it perhaps was as well for the discipline of the Army that it should be settled at once. But, he repeated, they ought to understand the Government scheme, and realize the expenditure the Bill would entail.
SIR JOHN HAY
said, he wished to explain the vote he was about to give. He was going to vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands), to whose Amendment he agreed, though he dissented from his speech. He (Sir John Hay) felt that the whole of this expenditure was unjustifiable, and he thought it was quite wrong to spend £11,000,000 in abolishing purchase. It was, under any circumstances, not desirable to abolish the purchase system, which was the best mode of securing promotion ever adopted in any force. Still less desirable was its abolition when it would cost £11,000,000. He objected to the enormous expenditure for retirement, which in some shape or form must be adopted, and that being so he could not conscientiously vote for the outlay of £4,000,000 involved in rejecting the Motion before the Committee. He was about to take this course, though he felt that there were good reasons why, on the abolition of purchase, the over-regulation paid should be re-paid to the officers. But he desired to save as much as possible for the country, while hoping that, either in that House or "elsewhere," the Bill would be prevented from becoming law.
§ MR. CARDWELL
The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley (Colonel Anson) has repeated to-night a phrase which he used on a former occasion, or at least one to the same effect. He says we are about to have a discontented body of armed men, and he has coupled the expression with the statement that he now is in favour of the abolition of the purchase system. On a former occasion he told us that one of the great advantages of purchase was that in the 1735 purchase price of the commission you had a guarantee for the loyalty of the officers. Sir, I say these are phrases which ought not to fall from any man. In the early part of this evening we had a speech from an officer as gallant and as distinguished as the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley. My hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) has not been converted to the side of the abolition of the purchase system. He adheres to the principles with which he began the discussion as firmly as ever. But what did he say to-night? He said he wished these discussions to terminate, the sense of the House having been taken, and he assured me that if this measure passed—as after the determination of the House no doubt it will pass—we may rely on the cordial support of himself and his gallant brethren to bring it into working order. Sir, these are not only just and generous sentiments; but they are, I am persuaded, the sentiments of the British Army. My right hon. and gallant Friend the Surveyor General, and my hon. and gallant Friend the Financial Secretary, both of whom have ample means of knowing what are the sentiments of the Army, do not believe that the Army entertain such feelings with regard to this measure as are experienced by the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley. We have been told over and over again that, as far as the proposals themselves are concerned, this is a liberal, and fair, and generous measure. But, Sir, I say that whether you like the Bill, or whether you dislike it, whether you are an advocate of the purchase system, or in favour of its abolition, it is not just, and it is not true, to speak of the British Army as of men whose loyalty depends upon the price of their commissions, or as of men who are capable of becoming a discontented body of armed men dangerous to the State. I say, Sir, that for the hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley to talk about threats after the language he has himself used, and especially the threat he has uttered that we are to be subjected to a discontented body of armed men if we did not accept his proposals and follow in his footsteps, is somewhat strange. He is the last man who ought to get up and protest against these debates being leavened with anything like threats. When he does so, I cannot but remember a fable we have all 1736 read in Æsop, where one animal accuses another of disturbing the water—a fable which I think has received a remarkable illustration in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member. We have heard something in the shape of novelty to-night, which is an agreeable circumstance to many of us who have had to listen to the course of these debates. In the first place, we have had a real debate, and have been discussing a practical question, and I have had an agreeable sensation of novelty. I have discovered long ago that whoever fills the position I have the honour to occupy must attend to the good military principle of guarding both his flanks. He is sure to be attacked, but on which side he scarcely ever knows; and, consequently, when the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) informed me that I brought in a measure which he could not call a compromise with the officers, and could only characterize as a capitulation, I was not surprised, but, on the contrary, felt some hope that hon. Gentlemen, with whom I have been contending for so many weeks, might be disposed in consequence to take a more charitable view than they had hitherto done. What is the real question before us? It has been stated with great ability by my hon. Friend the Member for Warrington and my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Oxford (Mr. V. Harcourt). They have said—"You are inviting the House of Commons to do what has never been done before in the history of this country. You are inviting them, at a large cost of public money, to compensate men for a general and habitual violation of law." Being of the legal profession myself, I own I feel the force of that argument, and am not disposed to treat it as one that can be set aside easily, or dealt with otherwise than by grappling fairly with it. In order to solve the question fairly, we must look and consider how it has really arisen—and ask ourselves whether in substance, as well as in words, this law which is appealed to has been the law of this land for a long time. That is a question which requires to be examined rather historically than legally. Independently of the question connected with the late great war in Europe, and that of re-organization of the Army, which rendered necessary in the opinion of the Government the abolition of purchase, we had last 1737 year a debate which precipitated the solution of this question of the over-regulation price. My right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington), who preceded me in the office I have the honour to hold, submitted to the Queen the propriety of abolishing the ranks of cornet and ensign in the Army; but he had not time to complete his scheme, and he bequeathed its consideration to his successor. I, as such, endeavoured to solve the problem, and in the course of it I had to deal with a certain number of commissions in the Army. I had respect for the Act of Parliament which prohibited the over-regulation price, and I came down to the House to ask for a grant of public money in compensation of the regulation price alone, and conferring upon the whole, as I agreed with my right hon. Friend in thinking, a considerable advantage upon the officers of the Army. But I ignored altogether the over-regulation price, because you cannot ask the House of Commons to vote a sum of money in satisfaction of that which is strictly prohibited by statute law, and you must bring forward the question as we have brought it forward, in the shape of a Bill to be considered by the entire Legislature. Did the House of Commons on that occasion take the view that you could ignore the over-regulation price? Nothing more discouraging than the response I met with could possibly be imagined. Therefore, so far as the sentiment of the House of Commons at that moment was concerned, they were not prepared to ignore the over-regulation price. But we appointed a Royal Commission, consisting of eminent men from both sides of the House, and presided over by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey). The results of their labours are before us in the Blue Book. It has been questioned whether they recommended anything about the over-regulation price. They were not invited to recommend anything about abolition of purchase, and they did not do so; but about the recognition of the over-regulation price they speak most decidedly. They say, in a remarkable passage, to which the right hon. Member for North Northamptonshire has already referred,Where one man has something of value to sell which can legally be sold, and another man is desirous of purchasing it, an opportunity being 1738 afforded them of coming to a mutual understanding, it has been found useless to prescribe by law or regulation the precise terms by which the sale is to be effected.Therefore it follows, and they have so reported, that if you are to get rid of the over-regulation price you must get rid of the regulation price, or in other words deal at once with the whole question of purchase. Upon what did they base their opinion that the over-regulation price ought to be recognized, and that, in dealing with the question of purchase, you must take into account this over-regulation price? They do not deny that the statute law has been as emphatically and decidedly opposed to this over-regulation price as it is possible for a law to be, but they say that, not having been in operation, it has not been really and substantially a law to the service and the country. And then they give evidence of this. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley says this question of the over-regulation price originated in the House of Commons. I do not think that is historically true. I have looked carefully through the Report of this Commission, and I find that there are in existence clear evidences that all the Sovereigns, from Charles II. to George I., objected to the practice of unregulated prices. William III. not only prohibited all sales, but inserted in the Mutiny Act an obligation on oath to the effect that an officer had not taken part in any pecuniary transaction with respect to his commission. In the time of Queen Anne it was first again permitted, and in the time of George I. regulated prices were first introduced. And then we have a long list of efforts which have been made from time to time to limit, and curtail, and correct this system of over-regulation prices. And so it goes on until the Act of 1809 was passed, containing the stringent prohibitions with which we are so well acquainted. But what has been the course with regard to the administration of this law since that time? We have been told, and truly, that every year we put into the Mutiny Act—and I believe we have put into it this year—a repeatedly renewed prohibition. What has been the case with regard to its enforcement? The Commission say—If by recognition is to be understood express sanction or approval, we have at once to say that we do not find that the practice has received any formal or official recognition.1739 And then they add—We cannot limit our view to this narrow sense of the term recognition, having been unable to ascertain a single case in which an attempt has been made to enforce the provisions of the Act," &c.They repeat a certain number of very remarkable cases. They say that the Duke of Wellington, in the year 1833, laid before a Committee of this House the amount of over-regulation price which an officer had paid for his commission as a consideration why he should be more favourably treated in respect of his emoluments than if he had not paid it. They gave the only two cases in which there had been rigour exercised by the Commander-in-Chief, and they say of those cases—The officers likely to incur serious displeasure were those who, in addition to a breach of the regulations, failed to fulfil the engagements of honour which involved a violation of the law.That is to say, it was not the breach of the Act of Parliament, but the failing to do that which in defiance of the Act they had promised to do which brought down the censure of the authorities. They then quote Sir George Brown, who had long been Adjutant General at the Horse Guards, and who, being examined before the Royal Commission, said—There is no law against it now; they never enforce the certificate now.That was the certificate which the officer used to sign declaring upon his honour that he had not paid for his commission. They also quote Lord Grey as considering that the abolition of the declaration, coupled with the habitual violation of the then existing regulation, with no attempt to stop it, amounted to a virtual recognition of the practice, and that if any new regulation was made affecting the value of the commission, the vested interests established under the existing system were entitled to consideration. There is a statement that Lord Hardinge, while Commanding-in-Chief, paid for the exchange of Colonel Hardinge; there is a correspondence quoted between the Treasury and the War Office; and finally, they refer to the withdrawal in the year 1868 from the Queen's Regulations of all reference to this prohibition. And they sum up in these words—We find that the regulations expressly prohibiting the practice have been greatly relaxed and finally withdrawn; that there has been no real discouragement to the practice by any authority, and that there has been a decided ac- 1740 quiescence in the practice, amounting in our opinion to a virtual recognition of it by the civil and military departments and authorities.And this, as has been remarked, is signed by General Peel, who has himself been Secretary for War. These are the grounds on which the Commission justify their finding. In considering this question of abolition of purchase we had to come to a conclusion as to whether it was right to include the prohibition of over-regulation prices or not in the proposal we had to make to Parliament, and we decided that it was our duty to submit this proposal to Parliament. These are the grounds upon which the proposal is based, and I earnestly hope it will receive the sanction of the Committee. My right hon. Friend the Member for North Northamptonshire said, in the early part of the evening, and with truth, that we had nothing to do with generosity; in that I entirely agree with him, and I am influenced by that consideration when I am pressed for an alteration or modification of the system. But the question which arises now is what my right hon. Friend the President of the Commission has pointed out as to the position in which we now stand, and he has asked you what we ought to do. Formerly there was a convenient veil of ignorance drawn over the whole of these proceedings. The hon. and gallant Member for Bewdley has given his definition of the reasons which he thinks led to this profession of ignorance on the subject. I do not agree with him. I agree with the Royal Commissioners. I agree with them, that as long as you allow traffic in commissions at all, so long will it be impossible to prevent an addition of an over-regulation price, and therefore it is that the House of Commons is asked to abolish the purchase system altogether. But my right hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) has used strong language. He has told us what it was our duty to do, and said "that the veil of ignorance is withdrawn, and we cannot profess to be any longer ignorant of what is going on in the Army." He further says "that we are bound to use every means at our disposal to bring it to an end." This was the opinion of Her Majesty's Government. After this practical disregard by high authorities of the statute law of the land, was it not our duty to come forward? If 1741 we declared our intention to enforce the law, could we have done so without first asking you to give compensation to those who, by the connivance, or whatever it is to be called, of the high authorities in this practice, had paid over-regulation prices? These are the considerations which prevailed with the Government in making these proposals, and, as I said before, I earnestly hope that the suggestion will receive the sanction of the Committee.
§ COLONEL CORBETT
—who spoke amid considerable interruption—said, the proceedings of that evening would possess the novelty, so far as he was concerned, of enabling him to go into the same division lobby with the Secretary of State for War. The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Rylands) had quoted, in support of his Amendment, certain remarks from The Times, and at first sight they appeared favourable to his view of the case; but if he had taken the trouble to consider the whole scope of the article in question, he would have found it to bear an interpretation different from that which he put upon it. He did not stand up in defence of the purchase system, and would not oppose its abolition if it would be for the good of the service and the country; but it ought only to be done after full deliberation and in a fair and honest manner. He did not agree with the statement that the abolition of purchase was likely to render the Army discontented; nothing would, in his opinion, do that. All he desired was that the opinions and the interests of all parties in the State should be properly considered before this question was finally settled.
§ LORD GARLIES
said, that great stress had been laid on an answer given by Mr. Hommersley when examined before the Commission, and it was stated that his answer was, the arrangements were not made through him. Now, the next question that was put to Mr. Hommersley was whether, in point of fact, the money that was notoriously paid in excess of the regulation was not generally paid through his house, although it might not be entered in the same account, and his answer was, "Yes."
§ Question put, "That the word 'estimated' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 285; Noes 108: Majority 177.1742
§ MR. ANDERSON
said, he rose to call the attention of the Chairman to the character of certain votes that had been given in the division, the result of which had just been announced. In the course of the remarks he had had occasion to make in supporting the Amendment, he had pointed out that it was hardly right for officers on full-pay to give votes on a question in which they had a direct pecuniary interest. The question he wished to put to the Chairman was, whether such a vote was legal or illegal? He understood one Rule of that House to be that no Member was allowed to vote on any question in which he was pecuniarily interested. There was a small book in the Library of the House which purported to contain the Rules of the House, and by Rule 196 in that book no Member was allowed to vote upon any question in which he had a direct pecuniary interest, and the vote of any Member given in a matter in which he was so interested was declared to be void. Under these circumstances, he called upon the Chairman to declare whether the votes of those hon. Members who were upon full-pay upon this question, in which they had a direct pecuniary interest, ought not to be disallowed as bad. If it were necessary to name what votes he wished disallowed he would do so, but not otherwise.
In order that a vote should be disallowed it must be a vote in which the Member giving it has a private pecuniary interest, and one not relating to a question of public policy. The question before the Committee being one of public policy, there can be no doubt as to the propriety of the votes which have been given on the question which has just been decided.
§ COLONEL ANSON
I wish to explain some words which dropped from me before the division. I was somewhat surprised at the warmth with which the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War—["Order!"]
§ COLONEL ANSON
I wished to state to the House that the Government scheme was not popular; but when I spoke of the officers becoming a discontented body of men, I did not mean that they would become a dangerous body in the State. The officers of the 1743 Army are a body of English gentlemen, and as such are incapable in any way of doing anything that testified neglect of duty.
SIR TOLLEMACHE SINCLAIR moved another Amendment, to insert in page 2, line 24, after the word "passed," the following words:—
Provided that where such officer shall die while serving, his widow or children shall be entitled to receive the regulation price of the Commission which was held by him on the said appointed day.
As his Amendment was the first placed on the Paper in reference to the case of the widows and children of officers, and as it was different from other Amendments of a like nature and narrower in its scope, he hoped the Committee would grant him their indulgence whilst he explained its object. The Secretary of State for War had said that there was no intention on the part of the Government to alter the existing arrangements in the case of the widows of officers who had died from natural causes. His (Sir Tollemache Sinclair's) proposal was that the regulation value of the commission should be paid not to the next of kin, but merely to the widows and orphans. The objection that was made by the Shylock of the Treasury bench was, that his proposal would violate the existing contract—that it was "not in the bond." But he replied that the Army Bill itself violated the existing contract between the Government and the officers. Nor was it any answer to his Amendment to say that if the officers did not like the new system they might retire; because men could not lightly withdraw from the profession in which they had passed their lives. It was equally insufficient to argue that the wives of officers were aware of the existence of the existing regulation when they contracted marriage, and at least it must be admitted that that argument did not apply to the children, and in their name he pleaded for the acceptance of the Amendment. Thank God, the Army Regulations were not unchangeable like the laws of the Medes and Persians. They had been, within a very recent period, modified in the interests of good sense and humanity, and he trusted that this further step in that direction would be conceded. He felt strongly on the subject, because he had had a brother-in-law who, after serving his country with distinction for many years abroad, died within sight of land
on his return home, and his last hours were embittered by the consciousness that there was no provision for his wife and children. Was it not a mere refinement of cruelty that if an officer lived for six weeks after sending in an application to be allowed to sell out of the Army his widow was entitled to receive the value of his commission, but if he died one day short of that period she received nothing? In short, there were only two classes in the country whose property was liable to such confiscation—the officer and the felon, and he asked the Committee whether that was either right or just? The cost of abolishing purchase was estimated at £11,000,000; but £3,000,000 were to be saved by confiscating the property of widows and orphans of generals and of major generals. Of that sum, the amount for which he pleaded in the interest of the widows and orphans of those who died in the service of their country did not come to more than the paltry sum of £1,000,000. Surely the Committee could not do so great an injustice for the sake of so insignificant a saving.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
said, the widows and orphans of officers were treated with the greatest consideration. By the Royal Warrant of 1870, widows were entitled to pensions and orphans to allowances; and by another Warrant compensation in lieu of pensions was given to the widows of officers killed in action, or who might die within six months after being wounded in the face of the enemy.
§ MR. J. R. ORMSBY-GORE moved that the Chairman report Progress.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Two of the clock.