HC Deb 06 March 1871 vol 204 cc1397-477

Order for Second Reading read.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."—(Mr. Cardwell.)


, in rising to move, as an Amendment— That, in the opinion of this House, the expenditure necessary for the national defences and the other demands on the Exchequer do not at present justify any Vote of Public Money for the extinction of Purchase in the Army, said, the Bill for the Army Regulations, which was explained to the House on Thursday, the 16th of February, was so large in its scope, and so extended in its character, dealing radically (and by that he meant extending to root and branch) with the interests of the Army, from the Commander-in-Chief down to the lowest private soldier, and to the recruits who have not yet even attained to that rank, that anyone with less power of lucid exposition than the right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill might well shrink from dealing with the whole subject in a single speech. Feeling, therefore, the difficulty and the inconvenience of having all the questions of the Bill mixed up together in one debate, he had, with great diffidence, given Notice of the Amendment which stood in his name, in order that the most important point of the Bill—the abolition of purchase— might be discussed separately, and that the opinion of the House might be taken upon it. The question of purchase was not a party question. All Army matters, in his opinion, and also in that of the House, were not party questions; and now that the House of Commons was exercising more and more influence upon Army affairs, it was absolutely necessary for the welfare of the Army that party considerations should be excluded. As one who had belonged to the military profession he desired to pay his acknowledgments to the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) for the liberal and just conclusion he had come to—namely, that the full amount which officers had paid for their commissions should be returned to them. Recognizing the justice with which the Government had approached the subject, and their wish to act fairly and honourably towards the officers of the Army, he felt certain that they would find themselves engaged in an expenditure of money far larger than they now anticipated. The cost of compensating officers in full he estimated at £12,000,000. He had the calculations at hand, but he would not trouble the House with them. They were founded on what was officially set forth as the price of commissions in 1856. A large portion of that sum—namely, £5,000,000 or £6,000,000—ought to be paid back to officers at once, in order to avoid the injustice of having officers in the same rank serving with different rates of pay, and because the conditions of the service had been altered. They would no longer be the same as when the men paid their money. Again, an adequate and liberal system of full-pay retirement would have to be provided, in order to give the same amount of promotion which was provided for under the present system. In the calculations he had made he found that for a retiring system in the Royal Artillery £500,000 a-year would be required for that one item. Lastly, in order to reap any advantage from the change it would be necessary to revise the whole scale of pay and allowances to officers. In framing new regulations for the Army, as the Government were now doing, it was first of all necessary to ascertain the weak points—to find out what was amiss, and what required to be put right. Now, the universal opinion—and he believed everybody would acknowledge it to be the truth — was, that the point where the Army failed was that it was not well put together; but however well it might answer in detail, it was not one joint machine which worked harmoniously and satisfactorily together. The best example we could have of such a well-organized Army was the North German Army, in which there was no less than eight Crowned Heads and Royal Princes, all holding separate and supreme commands. It was difficult to suppose that they were all men of marked military genius or talent, and we must, therefore, conclude that the regulations of the Army were so perfect as to render it independent of what a less perfect and complete organization would, require. A force could only be properly called an Army when it was bound together by an organization consisting of staff, commissariat, transport, and medical departments; and although we might possess the separate parts of an Army in perfection, unless they were bound together by an efficient organization, all the splendid material which we had would be useless and unavailable. The Bill, while it called for this vast expenditure, left us no better in this respect than before. There existed a strong conviction that this Army Service organization—which was now called the Control—was quite insufficient, and might prove inefficient. There was a belief that it was both, and bearing in mind the lesson learnt in the Crimea, when there was a complete collapse of this department, and our Army was left to starve at a distance of only seven miles from its base of operations, we could not wonder at the feeling which existed on this point. This feeling would certainly continue to exist until the Control department were proved to work well. Such practical proof could only be obtained by putting 30,000 or 40,000 men into camp, and throwing them absolutely on their own resources; not at Aldershot, where, from constant repetition, everything became mechanical, but in some open country, where cavalry, artillery, and infantry could be manœuvred in line, taking up fresh positions, and changing their ground every day. In this way the Staff might learn their duty, which, owing to ill-judged parsimony, they had hitherto never had an opportunity of learning in the field—the only place where it could properly be learnt. The benefit of thus learning it was enor mous, and the cost trivial when compared with what it was now proposed to do. The Prussians, a remarkably economical nation, yet thought it worth their while to spend £75,000 a-year on their camps of instruction, and the advantage derived from them had been shown in the perfect harmony with which the whole machinery of their Army worked in actual warfare. Real extravagance it was, indeed, after spending millions, to grudge the last thousands which were required for the final completion of the work. Infinite pains had always been taken by us, and with complete success, to render perfect the several separate branches of the service—the artillery, cavalry, and infantry, and whenever you examined them in detail, whether by regiments, by troops, by companies, or by batteries, you would find them nothing less than first-rate. If you saw them in the field, if you examined their interior economy—by that he meant the relations which existed between the officers and the men—you would find them equally good and satisfactory. Physically, our soldiers were men superior to any men in any Army in the world, and if you look at them morally, in their disposition to obey their officers with readiness and alacrity, or to obey the laws of the country, you will find no Army like the English Army. The regimental system had never failed in the English Army, and nowhere was it more severely tried than in the Crimea. General Trochu bore testimony that— L'infanterie Anglaise est la plus redoutable de l'Europe. Heureusement il n'y en a pas beaucoup. Et c'est une opinion que des observations personnelles, impartiales, faites au milieu de l'armée Anglaise pendant la guerre, ont depuis confirmé dans mon esprit. Where could you find more valuable evidence than this—given by an impartial observer, who watched the English Army during the time of its greatest trials and disasters? The English cavalry and artillery were as good as the infantry, if taken separately or examined by themselves; but General Trochu would never have gone on to say that we knew how to combine these forces together by a Staff organization of transport and commissariat. That was precisely the point in which we failed, and it was precisely the point where the Bill before the House proposed to do nothing, while it called for an expenditure of £12,000,000 to remedy that which was admitted to be the best feature in our system. The regimental system was good because it was founded on sound principles. The men who joined the Army did so because they believed themselves more fitted for the Army than for civil life. Therefore, the civil community was not, to any great extent, injured by the standing Army. Some would even say that it was improved by it, because you took away from it men who, if left without military discipline, might become idle and unprofitable, and even worse. It was, of course, not the duty of Government to provide employment for people; but it was their duty to allow the various qualities of all men to be usefully employed, whether these qualities lay in the direction of roving, restless activity, or quiet and patient industry; the first of these qualities fitted men for the Army, the latter for civil life. And here he would say a word about competitive examinations, which were already very numerous, but which the new regulations for the Army would increase to a most alarming extent. There were qualities required in an officer which no examiner could ever bring to light, but which a skilful general in the field would know well how to discover, and turn to the best possible account for the good of the service. But by testing all men by one uniform standard of bookwork examination we ran the risk of shutting out the very men we should endeavour to bring into the service. He had said that the private soldiers joined the Army because they liked it. The same thing applied to the officers. They also joined the Army because they liked it, and they were so anxious to serve their Queen and country that they were ready to pay down a large sum of money on entering the Army, and to add to that sum at each successive step in rank, up to the grade of general, which was acquired without purchase, but which, when once obtained, gave better pay, especially when they were employed, but which entailed forfeiture of all previously deposited money. The system might be explained by question and answer—"Why do officers leave the Army before becoming generals?" "Because when once that step is taken their purchase money is forfeited." Again—"Why do the best officers remain, and forfeit their money?" "Because they know that they will be employed as generals, and will receive the extra pay." "Why do the least good officers leave the Army before they become generals?" "Because they know that they will not be employed, and will only get ordinary general's pay." Here, then, you had an excellent system of self-supporting retirement, to replace which you would have to provide £500,000 a-year—calculating this on the scale of retirement for the Artillery. This expenditure would then bring the other branches of the service to the position of the Royal Artillery and Engineers—a position so unsatisfactory that the Committee appointed by the right hon. Gentleman himself, reported that "both these corps are gradually approaching a state which may seriously affect their efficiency." It was now proposed, at a cost of £8,000,000 or £12,000,000, to place the rest of the Army in the very difficulty which the Government were at their wits' end to know how to get out of in the non-purchase corps—namely, stagnation from want of promotion. In the Army List it would be found that the first 19 lieutenants in the Royal Artillery had each seen 14 years' service. They entered about the age of 20. You have, therefore, subaltern officers of 34 years of age serving in the Artillery without the smallest hope of being promoted to a battery. The importance of having young officers for regimental service could not be over-estimated, and if the right hon. Gentleman were to give the Army the greatest scholars in Christendom for officers they would not be equal to those men of ordinary attainment who had the benefit of youth on their side. Here was an instance of the character of this Bill, which, in his opinion, was complete for destruction, and most incomplete for construction and re-organization. He wished to call the attention of the House to another matter. The number of men who were candidates for entering the Army far exceeded the number of commissions to be given. The result, therefore, was that the country had the command and pick of the market. During the last 20 years the authorities had been continually requiring more and more from the officers. They were examined on first entering, and again at each successive step in rank, and they were told that in spite of all their purchase money they should not move up unless they passed those examinations satisfactorily, and then only each in his turn. There were required from them more professional knowledge, closer attendance at duty, and a greater sacrifice of liberty. The reins of discipline being thus drawn tighter than at any former period, so far from having checked the number of men who wished to join regiments, it was found that the number had even increased. The average number of commissions which the Commander-in-Chief had to dispose of was 300 in a year. There were at that moment 500 young men who had passed their examination, and were waiting to enter the service, and yet the Commander-in-Chief most wisely checked men as much as possible from going up to be examined till there were commissions vacant for them. To show how large was the reservoir from which the supply of officers was drawn he would mention this fact, that during the last six months 225 young gentleman had been allowed to note their names to enter the Army; but so little was the chance of an adequate number of vacancies occurring for years to come that no one over the age of 14 was allowed to enter his name. And a curious fact remained to be told—namely, that the regiments which were the strictest, and had a reputation for being thoroughly efficient, were those which were most sought for in the service. Now, opponents to the purchase system might argue as much as they liked about inefficiency of officers, but they could not get over that fact. The more that was exacted professionally from the officers the more anxious they were to come into the service. It was the fault of the Government, therefore, if officers were inefficient. But he denied the fact of their inefficiency, and he would presently prove that they were, on the contrary, most efficient. The only well-sustained charge against the officers was that they looked too much like gentlemen. There was a grave suspicion that they came from the aristocratic classes of the country; but this, like most suspicions, was by no means founded on fact. They came from all classes. There was no special caste in the Army. That they behaved like gentlemen might be inferred from the fact that the Queen's Commission, even to an ensign, was a passport to the best society— intellectual or social. There existed in England the largest leisure class of any country in the world. Men rose every year by thousands to the rank of what is commonly termed and accepted as gentlemen. There were professions without end which led a man up to this position in life, and with education and some affluence a man was soon supposed to belong to the aristocratic classes. The sons of these men might not have the same tastes, and perhaps not the abilities, of their fathers, and might not follow them in their vocation; but there was a profession open to them, and, indeed, to all men of moderate means—a profession honourable in itself, and in which for those who succeeded there were honours and rewards which far exceeded anything which money could procure. For those who failed there was the consolation that they, too, would have succeeded had the same opportunities fortunately come to them; and for all, the feeling that they belonged to a profession which stamped a man a gentleman—a profession in which there was a fair field and no favour; in which a man, if he fulfilled the conditions of the service, was as certain to rise as that the sun itself will rise—a profession in which he need seek no man's favour or protection; need not bow before his commanding officer or induce his friends to hang about the lobbies of the Commander-in-Chief, or, worse still, to intrigue among political Members in this House. It was now proposed to alter all this, and to substitute for it a system of pure selection, which meant favouritism, while they were told that such a system could not and would not work. This was done in spite of the advice of the Commander-in-Chief, who gave it as his opinion that the plan would not work, and in spite of the noble Marquess, formerly Secretary of State for War (the Marquess of Hartington), who said in 1867 that under the condition of things existing in the House of Commons, "the system of selection was impossible," and in the face of the practical experience of almost every officer in the Army. The Secretary of State had said that there was a danger of falling back. Now, there was a danger which the House must be very circumspect if they expected to escape from it. The moment they extinguished purchase it cropped up again. When a man had money he was certain to use it for his own advantage. In the non-purchase regiments which they had created within the last 10 years, the system was as completely established as in any other. The system had grown up in the Indian service, where it was recognized and worked well; but, unfortunately, it did not advance promotion so rapidly. The Secretary for War said, in order to prevent that, they must exercise a great deal of secresy; they must have confidential reports; they must have accurate information as to the character of every officer; they must know his moral behaviour; and, in addition to that, they must have penalties to prevent corruption and the same system which once prevailed in the Parliamentary history. The right hon. Gentleman said they would never know a successor until his predecessor had left the service. Now by that system they would destroy one of the best features of the service—namely, a feeling of confidence that, serve where men might, in the most distant part of the globe, or under the eyes of the Commander-in-Chief, whether they served brilliantly before the enemy or quietly at some out-of-the-way station, their regimental promotion yet went on steadily. It was not fair to say that because a man had had the good fortune to see service before an enemy he was, therefore, to be advanced regimentally before those who had not been equally fortunate. And yet that was the popular view of the case. He wished hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House would look into the system of selection, which would entail nothing less than destruction on the service. He wished to fortify the House with the opinion of some eminent men as to the character of our officers, and of the system which established the relations which existed between them and the men. Sir John Burgoyne, who had the largest experience of the English Army of any man alive, said, writing on the 12th of February, 1871— I would venture to assert that no Army in the world is better officered regimentally than that of Great Britain, and that in no respect would the abandonment of the purchase system tend to improve it. The impression that in proportion to the means possessed by an officer he can, by purchase, obtain promotion over the heads of his brother officers, is an error. No officer obtains promotion by purchase without it being certified that he is worthy of it. That sentence of Field Marshal Burgoyne ought to be published in every newspaper in the kingdom, and he was not sure that he should not have it advertised daily in the papers. The public were in great ignorance on this subject. They ought to know that it was the law of the Army that no officer was promoted without being properly certified. He did complain of Members of that House, who had taken advantage of the ignorance of the public out-of-doors to represent the officers as inefficient, and the purchase system as very different from what it really was. The public were about to pay an immense sum to remedy an imaginary evil, and he was certain if they understood the matter properly they would never sanction the proceedings of the Government with respect to this Bill. That was not only an imaginary evil, but they were doing away with a system which had worked admirably, and substituting another which would not work so well. He would now quote what was said by a French Marshal when he came to see the English Army, in combination with the Army of his own country, in the Crimea. He was at the head of an Army whose officers rose from the ranks, and who were in consequence always associated on equal terms with the men whom it was their business to command, and he contrasted that Army with one whose officers only in exceptional cases rose from the ranks, and where the system of purchase prevailed. He saw in the one Army that the officers were zealous, painstaking, and constantly anxious for the welfare of their men, and the consequence was that the men, seeing the deep interest which their officers took in them, obeyed them with alacrity, and executed the orders given them with steadiness and zeal. On the other hand, from constant familiarity there was an absence of respect on the part of the men for their officers, and the Trench Marshal said to Lord Eaglan—"Whatever you do, take my advice, and never alter the system which establishes the relations now existing between the officers and men in your Army." When we remembered how continually the superior French officers warned us about this, we could not now fail to understand and see that thoughtful men among them saw signs before them of that collapse of their regimental and Army system, and of the good relations existing between the officers and men which had occurred in the recent war, where officers had failed to lead, and men refused to follow. Respecting and admiring the French Army as he had always done, he sincerely grieved at the calamities which had befallen that brave nation. An event occurred in the Crimea, the history of which was familiar to every Member in the House. He was a spectator of the charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade along the valley of Balaklava. Four armies witnessed that deed of chivalry, and when the Crimea was forgotten that deed would be still remembered, because it was a deed of self-devotion and discipline unequalled in history. Into the very heart and centre of the Russian Army those cavalry regiments carried their swords, and cut down the enemy at their guns. The French exclaimed—C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre. These were thought wise words at the time, but they were not wise. For it was magnificent, and it was war, and war in its finest aspect; for it displayed true courage, which consists in this—confidence and reliance between man and man, between regiment and regiment. One will actuated the whole of that armed force, and no man doubted what his neighbour would do. It was an act to inspire a nation to turn soldiers, and had there been anything so magnicent in the war between France and Prussia, our old allies the French would not now have to deplore the loss of their country. He would now quote the Duke of Wellington. The Duke of Wellington knew the value of his officers. Nothing," he thought, "could surpass, or, indeed, equal, the British troops in the field. The sense of honour among officers existed in no other service to the same degree. He felt always confident when he put a detachment into a post, that they would maintain it against any force until they dropped. This passage occurred in Lord Palmerston's Tour to Paris in 1815. Now, from that day to this there had been no falling off in the British officers. They were as good now as they were then. It had been the custom of opponents to the purchase system to found their arguments in favour of its abolition upon the alleged inefficiency of the officers of the Army. It had been his object in the course of his remarks to give to the House the testimony of eminent men who held very different views from those which had found favour with the uninstructed people out-of-doors, and he hoped he had succeeded through those quotations in vindicating the Army from the charge brought against it by the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan), who said that it was a system in which efficiency was sacrificed to idle show. One more quotation he would give, because it bore directly upon the purchase system. The words quoted were those of The Times' Correspondent, Dr. Russell, written on February 24. He said, speaking of General Blumenthal, that not only was he— In favour of a well-regulated system of purchase, which he considered had worked wonderfully well in the British Army, but that he would gladly see it introduced into the Prussian Army, if it were possible, and regretted that it was not so, in consequence of its composition. Dr. Russell, himself a high authority on Army matters, for he had seen the armies of every nation in Europe and America in the field, went on as follows:— General Blumenthal is one of the few officers in foreign armies who understands the question, though there are more in those armies who understand it than there are Members in the House of Commons who equally appreciate its merits and bearing. He trusted he had avoided all indication of party feeling in the remarks which he had made in support of his Amendment. He had shown that that which they propose to alter, at an enormous cost, was the very part of our military system which should be carefully preserved. The system of selection of officers was not so good as the system of rejection which was now possessed, and which might be more freely used. He had shown that we had admirable materials, but did not know how to use them, and we were going ignorantly to make a great change which we had not sufficiently considered or weighed. This country might well and properly expend any amount of money in making itself secure, and maintaining a feeling of honourable security and tranquillity. But he held it to be the bounden duty of Members in the House to remonstrate to the utmost of their power against acts of mistaken and mischievous extravagance. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.


I rise with extreme humility to second the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend. Knowing, as I do, the extreme ability and energy of her Majesty's Government, I regret to find myself obliged to take an active part in opposition to them, especially on a question like this, on which I know all their energy and ability has been signally brought to bear. But I feel I should be wanting in the commonest honesty and courage if I did not express my opinion that, great and talented as they are, Her Majesty's Government have, on this question, condescended to regard the most colossal interest that could affect the nation as secondary to their own party interests. Hon. Members should bear in mind, and perpetually repeat to themselves the questions—What is the meaning of this Bill? Why do we discuss it? For this reason—It means that, in consequence of recent events abroad Englishmen have been rudely and suddenly awakened to the awful fact that their country has been, and still is, in a position of danger—that while other nations have been active and awake, we, in a military sense, have been slothful and asleep—lulled, in all probability, by what one must almost begin to think was too long a period of uninterrupted prosperity. This country is in a position of danger, because I assume that any country which is, practically, totally undefended, is in danger. Now, how have Her Majesty's Government approached the fact? Have they come forward eagerly and readily, as they ought to have done, being fully alive to the emergency? Have they said to the country—"Rely on us; do your duty, and we will do ours, and replace England in the position from which she never ought to have stirred?" No, they have done nothing of this sort; but they have faltered, and hesitated, and looked behind them, and they have studied their majority, their opinions, their prejudices, and their party interests more than they have studied the vital interests of England. I think, at the same time, however, that they have shown extreme courage. It was most courageous in the right hon. Gentleman to come down to the House, as he did the other night, and propose a Vote of £8,000,000, as he put it, but more likely to be £14,000,000 before all was done with—I will call it £10,000,000, and throw it into the lap of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan). With £10,000,000, what might not have been done to organize such a system of defence throughout the land as would make future generations look back to 1871, and its reforms, as the time and the work from whence England's perfect security dated! And yet they propose to waste that enormous sum by laying it at the feet of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs. Truly that hon. Gentleman may congratulate himself with all justice upon being by far the most successful man of the day. The question of the abolition of purchase has been, I believe, a hobby of his, and of his honoured and talented father before him, for many years. In point of fact, it has been a family mania, and it is now proposed that we should devote some £10,000,000 to the furtherance of that mania. In the face of the greater and more important demands of this country for a generous outlay, the question of the abolition of purchase is of secondary importance. It is a minor detail, to be dealt with or left alone as the wisdom of Parliament and the country may decide; but that it should be regarded as the solution of England's difficulties appears altogether incredible. What is the question of purchase? I do not wish to be misunderstood: I do not stand here as a defender of the system of purchase in the abstract; but I do stand here to protest against this outlay for this purpose at this time. I grant that purchase may be said to be a great anomaly; but I think the good will outweigh the evil. Half of the objections against the purchase system are objections of a sentimental nature, and I believe the House will be prepared to admit that sentimental grievances are very often the worst under which people can labour. It is objected, as my ton. Friend said just now, with partial truth, that the profession of a soldier is closed to all except the wealthy classes, and that, in consequence, a feeling of discontent and ill-will has sprung up throughout the country. If such a feeling has sprung up I admit it to be an evil. Again, it is objected that a soldier is trained to face death, and he should never be called on to face death with a consciousness that his death may either ruin or impoverish his wife and children. There is some force in that objection certainly; but I am not at all aware that it ever prevented an English officer from doing his duty. Again, it is objected that the rank and position of an officer should never be degraded by being made a subject of sale and barter. That, I contend, is purely a sentimental objection. Lastly, it is objected that an incompetent man, and a wealthy man, may obtain superior rank over his more competent but more needy brother officer. But have you no good word to say for the purchase system? Is there nothing to be said in its defence? Having had some 15 years' experience of its working myself, I can say for one that there is much to be urged in its favour. Denounce it as hon. Gentlemen may at Birmingham, Manchester, and elsewhere, it has officered our Army for centuries with a class of men who have made the term "an English officer" and "a gentleman" to be synonymous, and to be understood all over the world. It has officered our armies for centuries with a class of men, whom, though you will not believe it—we soldiers know it—the British soldier as at present constituted prefers to obey willingly, to serve cheerfully, and to follow devotedly. The British officer belongs to a class who have led the armies of England—as I very much doubt their successors will lead them—to a class whose memory defies you to dare to detract either from their character or efficiency. There are two points in connection with this subject upon which I would especially wish to touch. The first is that which relates to selection. The right hon. Gentleman had mentioned the matter the other night; but I would desire to have some more definite explanation from the right hon. Gentleman of the point than he has yet given. The right hon. Gentleman has thrown down a challenge to the House to prove that it is possible to reorganize the Army of England until the system of purchase has been abolished. I now beg to throw down a counter challenge to the right hon. Gentleman, and I defy him, or anyone else, to carry out the principle of selection with adything like satisfaction to the country. I should like to know upon what basis the right hon. Gentleman founds this system of selection. Is it to be an exaggeration of that most pernicious and unpopular and un-English system of secret reporting, than which I know nothing so malevolent and so dis liked among officers of all grades? If so, I can tell the right hon. Gentleman he will strike a vital blow at the position and character of the officers of the English Army. Nay, it must be so, because it would change them from what they are now—manly, generous, and open—into sycophants, fawners, and time-servers. I know the case of a subaltern who got all his hunting leave because he scrupulously supplied his colonel's wife every morning with hot-house flowers. That applies closely to the case in point. I defy any man, not in out-quarters where, as we all know, society moves in such an extremely limited range—not to be affected with serious dislikes, prejudices, or favours. It is impossible that he should not be, and the result would be that in all probabilility a man who would be an efficient and good officer under one colonel, and who did not succeed in being so under another, would have by this system of secret reporting, the whole of his future prospects blighted, and his character and profession destroyed. The right hon. Gentleman said the other day, that when a man got a hint that he was not to be promoted he would understand that he was not wanted; but I say that that would cast a slight upon his character as well as his professional reputation. The right hon. Gentleman has declined to impose compulsory service upon the country at large, he is too meally-mouthed for that; but he does not shrink from imposing it upon the officers. Supposing three years hence I should wish to sell out, should I not be liable, under the right hon. Gentleman's system, to be told that whereas there then were 250 applicants for permission to sell out, only 200 were to be allowed to do so; and would not that be compulsory service on my part? The right hon. Gentleman told us the other night that the Government declined to introduce the system of compulsory service, because it would be distasteful to the country and altogether objectionable; but he told us, in the same breath, that the Government proposed to empower the Sovereign, under certain circumstances, to make use of compulsory service. It is not difficult to imagine a case. There is a cloud even now in the East of which we may feel the effects in time. It is not an exaggeration to suppose a diplomatic difference—to imagine the withdrawal of our Ambassador at three days' notice, the hasty embarkation of troops, a doubtful naval engagement—and in these days the result of any naval engagement must be doubtful—a force landed on your shores, your capital threatened, and what happens? [A laugh.] An hon. Gentleman laughs; but he would have laughed equally if such a thing had been said of Paris 12 months ago. In such a case what would the right hon. Gentleman do? He would sound the tocsin, and call upon the nation to unite in arms. But with what result? With the example of France staring him in the face there is only one thing to which he could have recourse, and that is to empower my hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) to enact the part of M. Gambetta in a balloon, and try and get troops in that way. But suppose you spend some of this precious £8,000,000 in endeavouring to organize a system of thorough defence throughout the length and breadth of the land? I do not say that I advocate compulsory service for every man; but I do advocate distinctly a system of compulsory military training and drill. What could be easier, and what would the effect be of such a system? You would confer not a hardship, but a positive boon upon the country. You would create a fusion of classes. You would physically improve your coming generation; and I venture to say that you would spend your money far more wisely than in trotting after the skirts of the Member for the Border Burghs, and devoting it to the furtherance of his family mania. Upon the subject of the Government proposal respecting the Militia, I have nothing to say further than that I entirely approve it. It is quite right that the officers of the Militia should receive their commission from Her Majesty; that they should consider themselves on the same footing as officers in the Line, and that the men in the Militia should look on themselves as equally as much soldiers as the men in the Line. We should do away with all absurd distinctions of lace, and so on; and should brigade the Militia on every possible occasion with the Regulars. Above all, we should do away with the system of billets. Carry out, in short, your own programme, and you will have the support and approval of every right-thinking man in the country. With re gard to the Volunteer force, it may be thought that is a subject which I should leave in the hands of gentlemen more intimately connected with it personally; but I take leave to say that the Volunteers have never had a more sincere admirer and sympathizer than I am, because I think they are by far the most devoted body of men that tread on English soil, and the most ill-used. The only notice the right hon. Gentleman took of the Volunteers the other day was to confer on them the honour of a sneer and a snub. [Mr. CARDWELL: No!] The right hon. Gentleman says "No;" but I remember he told us it was an extremely difficult affair to arrive at the correct number of the Volunteers who would attend at the various reviews. He then indulged us with a personal anecdote of some 60 rounds of ammunition which he saw fired away at Wimbledon, and finally he flashed the Mutiny Act in our faces. Now, I go further than the right hon. Gentleman, and I say that when he applies the Mutiny Act to the Volunteers he should apply it not to the Volunteers when brigaded only, but to Volunteers when outside their house in uniform. When a man puts on a uniform it changes, or ought to change, his nature as much as the chrysalis changes into a butterfly; for the man assumes new responsibilities and obligations. The time to put him under the Mutiny Act is when he leaves his own door in uniform. ["No!"] I venture to say that commanding officers of Volunteers would be willing to agree to that, provided they were first fairly treated. But have you left nothing undone with regard to the Volunteers? Indeed, have you ever done anything for them? Are you aware that you might have hundreds of Volunteers to swell your ranks if you would offer to pay for their uniforms; and are you aware that some of the public parks are closed to the Volunteers? I will not intrude my own opinions upon the House; but I will quote from a letter written by an officer commanding one of the largest battalions of Volunteers in the service. He says, in the first place, that the— Crucial difficulty we have to contend with is the dislike which employers have to their men serving in Volunteer corps. And he further states that— It is possible to prove many cases in which men have been brought to the verge of starvation in consequence of their employers turning them off because they had served in a Volunteer regiment. A very considerable number of employers, if not a majority, do all they can to prevent men serving, and it is possible to prove many cases of men being obliged to conceal the fact of their being Volunteers from the heads of the establishment to which they belong. Legislation in some form is, therefore, absolutely necessary to protect men serving as Volunteers. The Government grant," he observes lastly, "is enough if the Government would clothe the men; but not nearly enough unless the clothing is given. It is impossible to get officers to bear all the expenses which are thrown upon them, no forage being allowed. The various shooting butts, if not bought up by the Government, will be bought up for building purposes. I apologize to the House for having spoken at such length. But I wish to say, finally, that I object to assist Her Majesty's Government in their endeavour to persuade the country to give them a donation of from £10,000,000 to £14,000,000 for the furtherance of the views of one man. ["Oh!"] That they were originally the views of one enthusiast I maintain. I object to assist Her Majesty's Government in doing that which I know will ruin the character of the English officer. The hon. Member for West Norfolk (Mr. G. Bentinck) said the other night—and the observation was pregnant with truth — that hon. Members who sit in those seats below the Gangway on the Government side of the House were practically the legislators of this country. I think there never was so flagrant an instance of the truth as in the case of this Bill. I have much pleasure in seconding the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the expenditure necessary for the national defences and the other demands on the Exchequer do not at present justify any Vote of Public Money for the extinction of Purchase in the Army,"—(Colonel Loyd Lindsay,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


trusted that the House, whatever it might think of the measure, the second reading of which had been moved, would never, by adopting the Amendment of the hon and gal lant Member (Colonel Loyd Lindsay), affirm that the financial state of this country, and its exigencies, were such that no Vote of any kind ought to be granted for the extinction of purchase in the Army. Of course, he did not say that the Government was not quite ready to meet the hon. and gallant Member, and those who supported the Amendment, upon that which he believed to be the real pith of the whole Bill—namely, the abolition of purchase in the Army. He was glad to hear, notwithstanding the form of the Resolution as it appeared on the Notice Paper, that the hon. and gallant Member meant to put the question before the House in its broadest view. He feared that the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Motion had not gone so far; and, as many hon. Members entertained a distinct opinion upon the question, he should shortly state why the Government came to the conclusion that it was necessary to abolish the system of promotion by purchase, before anything effectual could be done in the way of improved Army organization. He entirely agreed in the opinion of the hon. and gallant Member who moved the Resolution, that it was desirable for the House and the country to know what the system of purchase was. Assuming that every hon. and gallant Member had read, more or less, the Blue Books, and especially the Report of the Commissioners, he would place some facts and figures before the House. It was reported by the Commissioners, and he believed there was no doubt of it, that in all the purchase corps in the Army—excluding the Royal Engineers, the Royal Artillery, the Royal Marines, and 12 Indian regiments, three of cavalry and nine of infantry, in which the system did not exist—the amount which an officer had to pay for any commission except the first was nearly double the regulation price. This statement might possibly be more startling to him as a civilian than to gentlemen in the service; but he could not help thinking that, if the purchase system was ever to be got rid of, now was the time to abolish it. It had been growing out of all proportion, and the Bill before the House allowed for something like £7,500,000 or £8,000,000 being expended on this matter, that sum to be extended over a number of years; so that in no one year should the amount exceed £1,400,000 or £1,500,000. If a war broke out no doubt the value of commissions would fall very low; but, apart from such an occurrence, unless immediate steps were taken to check this system, it would go on increasing until the expense of abolishing it would soon be double or treble the amount he had named. He found from the Report of the Commissioners, that in order to attain the highest rank in the Household Cavalry which could be got by purchase, an officer had to pay altogether £13,250, while in ordinary cavalry regiments an officer in the same circumstances expended a sum of £12,000. In the infantry of the Line the sum paid was £7,000, and in the Foot Guards—where, owing to exceptional circumstances in 1854, there was no purchase above the rank of captain—it was perfectly well understood in the market that £8,500 had to be paid. He asked the House whether these were not startling figures. The system of over-regulation prices had been going on growing ever since the year 1719, and without saying one word in disparagement of gentlemen who held Her Majesty's Commission, he must say that, in his opinion, and in that of the Government, the time had come when such a vicious system ought to be swept away. He did not seek to depreciate the bravery of the officers who led the Balaklava charge; but he thought that it could have been led with equal bravery and efficiency by officers who had not been appointed to their commissions under a system of purchase. Well, then, was this system of purchase a good thing for the Army? From what he had seen and read in Blue Books and newspapers, and heard since he had been in office he was led to agree with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved this Amendment, that the regimental system was one of great importance. With the hon. and gallant Gentleman, too, he believed it was essential that the system should be still carried out; but he failed to see with the hon. and gallant Gentleman why the system should be affected by the abolition or the retention of the purchase system. He could not see why everything which the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment desired should not be as obtainable after the abolition of the purchase as it was now. The commanding officer ought, unquestionably, to be a person who had not only the interests of his men at heart, but one with the necessary qualifications for service in the field. But, under the present system, an officer who possessed all the requisite qualifications, but had not money enough to purchase the step, failed not only to secure his promotion, but, owing to his not being able to find these large sums of money, had frequently to retire from the unpleasantness which his position entailed upon him. ["No, no!"] It might be that he had misapprehended the Report of the Commission; but, if hon. Members would refer to the Report of the Commission, he thought they would find that he had placed a right interpretation on the words of the Report. Under the present system, therefore, they not only treated hardly the man who had not the money to purchase his step, by putting another over his head, but they rendered his position, if unable or unwilling to pay the over-regulation price, so intolerable as to oftentimes compel him to sell out. What the Government proposed in place of this unsatisfactory state of things was a judicious system of selection. This system had been characterized by the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded this Amendment as an odious system. But he ventured to think that this term could not be properly applied to a judicious and fair system of selection such as was contemplated by this Bill; nor could it be said that these selections would not only be unfair and improper, but that promotions would be obtained through the intrigues of Members of the House of Commons. How could it be said that such a system of judicious selection, coupled with promotion to a certain extent by seniority, could be open to the charge of being "odious?" Hon. Members, too, who took this view, and, at the same time, urged that the officers in the Army possessed all the qualifications necessary for their profession, were apt to forget that if this were true there would be no difficulty about the selection, or, if the officers were all what they were told they were, it would be impossible to go wrong. He would urge upon hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway that the abolition of this system of purchase was, in the opinion of the Government, the first step towards the reorganization of the Army. And he would ask hon. Members who were desirous of seeing an alteration in the existing sys tem, what would be the use, if the Government proposal were rejected, of the Reserve and the Militia, under the new regulations which it was intended should apply to those branches of the service? How would it be possible to make that fusion of the Regular Army and Reserve forces, which was regarded as so desirable, if in the one branch the promotion went by purchase, and in the other by non-purchase? He maintained that, if the proposal of the Government were rejected, this fusion would be impossible, and he trusted, therefore, that the House, by its vote that evening, would not affirm the view taken by the hon. and gallant Gentlemen who had moved and seconded this Amendment.


thought it right to confine his remarks to the Resolution before the House, and said that it certainly appeared to be a very anomalous description of policy, for a Government that was pledged to retrenchment, to propose an increase of some £8,000,000 to the national expenditure, in the same breath with which it had added a charge of £3,000,000 to the Army Estimates over and above that of last year, and especially when no one could conscientiously agree, or at all events be convinced, that the bonâ fide efficiency of the Army for active service would be insured by it; and when one came to reflect upon the onus probandi, to say nothing of the responsibility which ought to guide the legislation of every Member of the House, as a conjoint guardian of the interests of the country, it was a matter of grave consideration whether the House of Commons was justified or warranted in accepting so questionable, because so useless and unnecessary, a policy. He wished to remark that if the British Army required so violent a remedy to revive its drooping constitution, and if the doctor's bill was to be £8,000,000 or £9,000,000, independent of the £16,000,000 already charged against the Estimates, into what a deplorable condition must its responsible advisers have allowed it to sink. If that were so, it was trifling with the taxpayers of the country to impose so extravagant and unnecessary a burden upon them—unnecessary, as far as they were concerned; for it would be idle to say that such an expenditure could in any way benefit their interests, inasmuch as the question of purchase or non-purchase in the Army was essentially a private arrangement, and had no place in the matter of the efficiency of the Army for either offensive or defensive purposes. It would, therefore, be a dead loss to those who had to pay it, which would be undoubtedly the taxpayers. Besides which, this new-fangled policy was singularly subversive of that which the Liberal party inaugurated in 1868, in order to fortify their efforts to drive the Conservative party from power, and as soon as possible assume the reins of a Liberal, Radical, and retrenching Government. Surely, then, the taxpayers had a voice in the matter, though he doubted whether it would be satisfactorily heard if the debate assumed a party character. No one could deny that this extraordinary proposal was playing a desperate game with the British Army. It was distasteful to the officers themselves, who were serving, and who did purchase, and who had a claim upon the consideration of the House, as the existing guardians of the honour and the prestige of the service they had adopted. He asked, why disturb a system that had worked well, when no benefit could be derived from its removal? Had the existence of the purchase system in any way reduced the tone and the quality of the British officer? No! Would the abolition of purchase in any way advance that tone and quality? Was it worth £8,000,000 to create this disturbance, when so much better application of public money was required? No! The Secretary of State, of course, did not wish to be unjust to any officer, nor need he, in a financial point of view, were he to adopt one of two plans—either to pay the money down to every officer as soon as the Bill became law, or to pay every officer who may apply to retire, irrespective of any limit as to numbers. He contended that the over-regulation had been virtually legalized, because the Government had, for the first time, recognized it, and guaranteed to pay it off. It was, therefore, as much a vested interest as the authorized regulation was, and should be dealt with as such, and honourably compensated. The Secretary of State, however, in order to ease off the strain upon the Exchequer, and from the fear of too great a pressure of retirements upon him, at the same time, was about to limit the number of repayments in each year, and thereby inflict a great injustice upon all those who, wishing to retire, were not to be included in that limit. And here was the blot of the Bill, which the House of Commons, in dealing with so sweeping a proposal, ought to feel called upon in its conscience to wipe out. The blot, which is the 2nd clause of the Bill, had been already explained and denounced; and, as it affected every Member in the House who had a son or a relative in the Army, and who had probably paid heavily for the honour, and as party feeling ought to have no place in this truly personal question, he could not imagine that the Government should have any claim upon even the staunchest of its supporters following it into the Lobby. He thought he would be supported by a large majority when he said that if purchase was abolished, the character, and the tone, and the prestige of the Army would be destroyed; for there was no doubt that if purchase was abolished and another system unavoidably substituted, such as promotion by secret selection and retirement by open compulsion, away would go the regimental, system, upon the elasticity of which the success of our armies in the field had so much depended; for promotion would be spurious and non-regimental. He considered the question of the abolition of purchase bristled with difficulties, and probably the repayments would be about the least difficult, for it mattered not upon what plan the Government proceeded, injustice would be done to officers; for many would be serving on unequal terms, which was unjust and untenable. For instance, as a correspondent in a military journal had pointed out— Suppose that the abolition of purchase was consummated on the 31st December, 1871, and that on the 30th of that month A purchased his promotion; he received as an equivalent such additional pay as amounted to the interest of the sum he invested; B, on the other hand, was promoted on the 1st of January, 1872, and received as his reward an absolute increase of pay. However advantageous this might be to B, it could not be said to be justice to A, inasmuch as A and B, holding the same rank and discharging the same duties in the same regiment, were receiving different rates of pay—which was obviously unsatisfactory and unjust. Now, take the case of death, which is no respecter of persons, we cannot blink the question that unless some provision be made to meet that casualty, the refusal to pay at once those officers who may wish to retire may deprive the widow and orphans of a brave and gallant officer, who has served his country with credit and honour, of their lawful birth-right—an injustice which no civil law would permit. He said he put a Question, bearing upon this point, to the Secretary of State the other day, which, with the permission of the House, he would read, in order that the answer might be clearly understood; the Question referred to the position in which the widow and orphans of an officer who was dangerously ill and had died, or was killed in action were placed as regards the repayment of his commission to them. The answer of the Secretary of State was as follows:— The widow, children, or next of kin referred to, do not receive the purchase money according to the purchase system, and, therefore, will not be entitled to compensation on the abolition of the system. It surely could not be possible, therefore, that the House of Commons would sanction the abolition of purchase, when it had been publicly declared by a Minister of the Crown that if an unrecouped officer was killed, or was seriously ill and had died in his bed, the customary price of his commission, which the Government intended to recognize by its I O U, was to be lost for ever, notwithstanding his application to retire had been made and refused. It might be said there was no occasion to alter the existing regulations with respect to illness and death; but it appeared to him that there were decided reasons for the alteration, if purchase was abolished; one of which was, that because the Secretary of State was about to possess a power, over which he had no control at present, of refusing to pay an officer the price of his commission when he wished to retire, if he be not included in the annual list of repayments, he would be inflicting a great hardship, as well as an embarrassment, upon that officer and his family, by not guaranteeing to his family, in case of death, that money to which he would have been entitled had he lived, when his turn had come, and which he would have realized under the existing arrangement, when he wished to retire; and the Secretary of State would be establishing a breach of faith with every officer who had entered the Army upon the present arrangement. He was speak-to those on both sides of the House who must sympathize with each other on this vital question; he was speaking to those who had sons in the Army, who might not be included in the first batch of repayments; and he claimed their support. He asserted that, if purchase was abo lished, retirement must be provided for upon the principle of compulsion. Was the Government prepared to do so? No; they were not; because the Secretary of State had distinctly said that it was impossible to determine with accuracy what would be required in the way of retirement. Then the process of selection could not be performed with satisfaction to the Army, and the process of shifting officers about, at the will and pleasure of the Government, would be distasteful, and would damage the regimental system, which had never yet broken down, but which this measure was doing its best to destroy. He asked, how could selection be made when all were regimentally efficient? It could not be done; in which case the system of seniority, if accompanied by efficiency, the various grades of which it would be impossible to analyze, must hold its own to be just; and if it did hold its own, the object in view would be defeated, because the line would be blocked, the stream of promotion would be stemmed, when the abolition of purchase had become a thing of the past. He pitied a man who would have the patronage to dispense upon those terms, for he would be a victim of public opinion, no matter how well his invidious duties might have been performed; and the Army would become an arena of debate, wrangling, distrust, and despondency for the future, which would not only engender acrimony, jealousies, and heart-burnings, but it would, he feared, and he regretted to harbour the thought, tend to loosen the reins of discipline. He hoped that the Government would not oppose the Resolution before the House, and that it would be convinced, before the close of the debate, that it had declared a decided opinion against the abolition of purchase, upon which the Bill seemed mainly to depend. But if the Secretary of State had not sufficient elasticity, or of that expansive element which was so necessary to the Army, as to yield to the opinion which had been expressed outside of the House of Commons, and if he preferred that the sense of the House should be taken, he would discover that the Division Lists of 1871 would not only be tarnished with one record which had been unnecessarily provoked, but that they would contain another and more important one—namely, a formal protest against a step which could benefit no interest whatever, but which would saddle the taxpayers of the country with the payment of several additional millions of money. He did not wish to detain the House any longer, as he only felt justified in confining himself to the terms of the Resolution; and he would conclude by saying that he fully endorsed the Resolution of his hon. and gallant Relative, and he did so because he considered it was far better to devote the energies and resources of the nation to those things which were really needful than to hamper the field that was presented for the re-organization of a comparatively impotent Army with such a formidable barrier, through which it would be almost impossible to travel on to the winning-post of success and reality, for the speedy accomplishment of which the country was impatiently waiting.


We are not now called upon to discuss any of the details by which the abolition of purchase, assuming that the House agrees to it, will be carried out, nor are we called on to consider whether the regulations proposed by the Government for the retirement of officers are the best and fairest that can be devised: details of that kind will be matters properly for consideration when the House gets into Committee on the Bill. Indeed, the Motion moved by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) does not appear to raise the question whether or not it is desirable that the purchase system should be abolished, although the debate has, to a considerable extent, turned upon that. As I read the terms of the Motion, it does not ask the House to agree to any Resolution that would express an opinion adverse to the abolition of purchase, but only that the abolition of purchase at the present time would lead to the expenditure of a large sum of money which might be more advantageously applied. The arguments, however, of the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself, and of the Seconder of his Motion (Colonel White), have all gone to show that the abolition of purchase is a measure that ought not to be adopted now, or at any other time. I confess I am not insensible to the advantages of the purchase system. As the hon. and gallant Gentleman who seconded the Resolution has remarked, there is much to be said in its favour, while, as he candidly admitted, there is much to be said against it. Theoretically, I think that the system is utterly indefensible, and I think that no Government that came forward with a Bill for the reorganization of the Army could avoid dealing with this question of purchase; and in dealing with it I think that the present Government have taken the right course in dealing with it wholly and not partially. I admit, indeed, to the hon. and gallant Gentleman that it has created a flow of promotion in the regiments of the Line and in the Guards at little or no cost to the public, and although it may have prejudicially affected the interests of some meritorious officers, who were unable to pay the prices required for commissions, yet, on the whole, the system has not been disadvantageous, even to non-purchasing officers. Some evidence laid before the Commission of which I had the honour of being Chairman tended to show that this was the case, and that the promotion of a non-purchasing officer was generally more rapid in a purchase than in a non-purchase corps. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has contrasted the officers of the British Army with those of other armies, and has referred to the charge of Balaklava as showing the advantages of the purchase system; but what would he say as to the officers of the Artillery and Engineers, who obtain promotion without expending a single shilling? I think he will admit that they are fully equal to the officers of any regiment of the Line, and that in no regiment of the Line do better relations exist between the officers and men than in the Engineers and Artillery. Again, the hon. and gallant Gentleman referred to the reverses that have recently happened to the French Army in the late war, and seemed to attribute it to the fact that most of the officers in that Army had risen from the ranks; but he omitted to make any allusion to the successes of the German Army, in which promotion goes, not by purchase, but, in great measure, by selection. All these matters should be borne in mind when this question is under consideration. One great objection to the purchase system, as was demonstrated to the Commission I have referred to, is the absolute impossibility of keeping it by any laws or regulations within prescribed limits, and of fixing the price at which, commissions should be sold. The figures that have been cited by the right hon. and learned Gentleman below me (Mr. Davison) show the great extent to which the system has prevailed, and the very large sums over the regulation price that have been paid. Indeed, Mr. Hammersley stated before the Commission that the sums thus invested amounted to nearly £3,500,000. Now, if this be correct, what will the system come to in the course of a few years? It has been admitted that at some time or other it may be advantageous to abolish purchase, and, for my own part, I think the present time is the most advantageous. And here I wish to correct a slight misstatement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, on the occasion of his moving for leave to introduce his Bill a fortnight ago. He spoke of the recommendations of the Commission over which I presided having had great effect upon the Government, and even upon His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief. The fact is that the Commissioners made no recommendations whatever, because by the terms of their appointment they were precluded from doing so. They were simply desired to ascertain the facts under certain specified heads, and to report those facts to the House. We endeavoured to discharge our duty to the best of our ability, and I believe we gave as complete a history as was possible of the mode in which the purchase system has acted, and showed that it is necessarily interwoven with the over-regulation prices. Here I may, perhaps, be allowed to quote the opinion expressed by the Commission of 1857, which was presided over by the Duke of Somerset, and of which Mr. Sidney Herbert, then Secretary for War, was a member— The practice of paying sums exceeding the regulation price must be considered to be an accompaniment of the purchase system which it appears impossible to prevent. This is an evil which is inherent in the system, and which cannot, it is said, be remedied, although it operates unfairly to meritorious officers and injuriously to the public interests. The Commission over which I had the honour to preside thought these remarks were completely justified by the facts, and although we made no recommendation, I may state my individual opinion—and I should be much surprised to find that any member of that Com mission is of a different opinion—that the evidence showed the impossibility of dealing with the subject without recognizing the claims of officers to the sums paid—contrary, indeed, to law, but in accordance with a system practised for many years past, and still practised even by every man in authority, whether civil or military, with regard to promotion in the Army. It is absolutely impossible to deal with this subject without recognizing the equitable claims of officers in respect of over-regulation prices. I am glad, therefore, that the Government propose to act in a just and fair manner towards the officers. I am quite sure that if they had not done so they would have been met by a reasonable opposition to their scheme, and that it would, have been impossible for them to obtain the sanction of Parliament for such a course. Still, while thinking the Government have taken the right course, I am bound to say I agree with those who think the expediency of the abolition of the purchase system depends very much upon what is proposed to be substituted for it. The Commissioners of 1857 thought so, and I entirely agree with them. I am convinced that the opinion expressed by that Commission is correct; that if you resort to mere seniority as a substitute for purchase you will adopt a system that will be prejudicial to the best interests of the Army. If, then, you abolish purchase you must have a system of selection, and also a system of compulsory retirement. With regard to promotion by selection, I agree that there are great difficulties; but, nevertheless, I think it may be possible to overcome those difficulties. I think too much importance has been attached to the opinion expressed by His Royal Highness the Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief before the Commission of 1857. He fairly stated his opinion in answer to questions put to him; but I wish to call the attention of the House to the following passage in the Report of that Commission:— His Royal Highness has stated that if the returns from inspecting officers are fairly given, as they ought to be and might be, there is no officer in the Army with whose professional character the Commander-in-Chief might not be acquainted. Now, I must admit, that if the case alluded to by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, who seconded the Amendment, be founded in fact, I should not be inclined to attach much weight to a character given by a commanding officer. It is not intended, however, as far as I understand, that the selection should be made on the mere report of the commanding officer; but inspecting officers are to be appointed by the Commander-in-Chief who may inform him as to the professional character of every officer in the Army. It has been truly said, in the course of the debate by the right hon. and learned Gentleman below me (Mr. Davison), that the regimental system is admirable and has worked well in the British Army; but I am by no means so sanguine as he is that if you abolish purchase you can maintain the regimental system to the same extent as at present. It is obvious, that if an officer is about to retire, and knows who will succeed him, no power on earth, no ingenuity, no regulation you can devise, can prevent a private arrangement, by which the succeeding officer who desires to obtain the promotion would make it worth the while of the other officer, in a pecuniary sense, to retire. Unless you prevent the officer who retires from knowing what officer is to succeed him, you can not effect this object, and therefore it will be necessary that promotion should be in the Army generally, rather than in any particular regiment. But nothing now is more common than to exchange from one regiment into another; and, therefore, practically the system proposed is not a new one altogether. We may be told that the practice to which I have referred does not exist in the corps of the Engineers or Artillery; but the answer is that this is owing to the vast extent of those corps, and their dispersion throughout the world, which prevents the possibility of a private arrangement between two officers, although it can easily be made between two officers who reside in the same quarters and are in daily intercourse. I trust the House will not sanction the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. Indeed, I hope he will allow us to proceed at once with the second reading of the Bill, for when it goes into Committee we shall have an opportunity to consider all the details connected with the abolition of purchase, with a view to make them as fair and as equitable as possible.


said, that, although a comparatively humble Member of the House, he found himself compelled to speak on this occasion, and yet he did so in a position of embarrassment. He could not but think that he was placed under more than ordinary difficulties, because he believed he was about the only Member on that side of the House who had expressed a decided opinion as to the desirability of abolishing the purchase system. In the abstract, he was in favour of a proposition for the abolition of purchase; but the proposition of the Bill must be viewed in connection with other considerations involved in it, which were of a very serious nature. Any scheme for the abolition of purchase, ought, in the first place, to endeavour, as far as possible, to provide for the equitable redemption of the existing interests of officers, and, in the second, ought to endeavour to lay down clear and distinct regulations by which the flow of promotion might be further regulated. But he searched the Bill of the Government in vain, in an endeavour to find in it the fulfilment of either of these two conditions. He believed, and the opinion was shared by many hon. Members on his side of the House, that the Government fully intended to deal with the interests of officers with the utmost liberality; but they could not altogether forget what had happened on a former occasion. With that candour in his dealings with the House which would ever do him honour, the right hon. Gentleman discarded his former scheme on which he confessed he had not had sufficient information, and which, undoubtedly, was received with considerable disfavour. Although they could not doubt the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman, they might be led by what happened last year to doubt the accuracy of his information. He would find it urged with considerable force by those who were practically acquainted with the bearings of the question that, however unintentionally, the Bill as it stood would operate so as to cause considerable injustice to officers who were now in the service. The answer given the other night by the right hon. Gentleman to a Question put, he thought, by the hon. and gallant Member for Abingdon (Colonel C. H. Lindsay), would have led hon. Members who had not paid the subject the fullest attention to the belief that, under the regulations of the Bill, officers who kept in the service and who died in it, not being killed in action nor dying of wounds, would be placed in no worse position than they are placed in now under the present regulations of the service. At present, officers who desire to leave the service, provided they are not certified as being likely to die within a given space of time, may make their own bargains with other officers and leave the service at once; but, under the Bill of the Government, they are no longer to be placed in the same position, for the State can step in and say—"I am become the only purchaser, and, under certain conditions, I do not intend to exercise the right of purchase." Therefore, officers were no longer placed in the same position; and if there were any kind of service worse than unpaid service—which had been characterized as being worth exactly what it cost—it was a service which was distasteful to the persons engaged in it. If we were to have duty performed properly—if officers were to sustain their high traditions—it seemed to him a fatal mistake to have officers whom we did not permit to leave the service except at a sacrifice not only of their professional reputation, but also of their personal fortune. There was a very wide-spread opinion among officers of the Army—he thought the opinion was entertained by those who had most considered the question from a professional point of view—that if the purchase system were abolished, the satisfaction to be given to officers for the absorption of their commissions ought to be assured to them as early as possible. There was force in the objection which had been raised to our having officers serving side by side, one of whom would have everything to lose, while another would be placed in a less unfavourable position. If, by any means, satisfaction could be given to the officers of the Army that from the moment after the passing of the Act, or from such other time as might be fixed, direct compensation for their commissions should be assured to them, that would go far to remove the feeling of disfavour with which the Bill had been received. He believed that the feeling of disfavour with regard to the abolition of purchase was not so general in the Army as it was supposed to be; on the contrary, he believed that many officers, perhaps those who had not given the least attention to the subject, were convinced that there was not so much danger in it as had been suggested by some hon. Gentlemen in that House. Notwithstanding this opinion, they entertained a deep and sincere conviction that their pecuniary interests were not as well and equitably served by the Bill as it was apparently the wish of the Government they should be. It was easy to find fault. It was easy to say that security for the payment of so large a sum of money should be at once given; but he saw that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War had sitting near him another right hon. Gentleman (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) who exercised a check over any undue liberality that might be given in that direction. It was one of the recommendations of the Committee on Retirement which sat in 1867, that, as far as possible, retirement should be promoted by compounding for the payment to be made to officers; and he had not the slightest doubt that, supposing there were a difficulty, as undoubtedly there would be, about the capital sum being paid down, many officers would gladly accept anything in the nature of an annuity. This would spread the payment over a number of years, and would also have this advantage to the individual officer—that there would be the certainty that he would receive the payment, and this would go far to remove the feeling of uncertainty and dissatisfaction among the officers which might otherwise prevail. He had looked in vain through the Bill, he had looked in vain through the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, in delivering the Estimates, for any promise of a provision to be made for retirement, and he could not consider that the propositions of the Government in this respect were as fair as they might be. Admitting, as the right hon. Gentleman did, that the question of retirement must ultimately come into discussion in connection with the abolition of purchase, all that the right hon. Gentleman had to say now was that he could not tell what was necessary. True, that was qualified by the expression of the hope that in the Reserve forces he hoped to find many places for officers of the Regular service; but how far was such a provision to be considered in the nature of retirement? They were undoubtedly told, with truth, that the right hon. Gentleman had endeavoured to examine the question in all its bearings, and he recognized in its fullest sense the importance of the two questions of the retirement and the promotion of officers in the Army. The right hon. Gentleman gave the reason which induced the Government to recommend the principle of selection, of which there was some distrust in the Army, a distrust which was recognized by the Duke of Somerset's Commission of 1856–7. In its Report that Commission urged that the principle of selection ought to be introduced very gradually, and not until the minds of officers were fully relieved of the distrust which attached to it. The right hon. Gentleman admitted that the carrying out of the principle was a matter of the greatest difficulty. What was the form in which the Government proposed to adopt it? Tabulated reports were to be kept in the office of the Military Secretary. Looking in vain for any clearer information on the subject, he came upon these words of the right hon. Gentleman, which seemed to be almost fatal to the very principle which he now wished the House to adopt. The right hon. Gentleman said he would not enter into the details of the mode in which security was to be afforded to the Army for the impartiality and fairness of promotion, because the matter was still being carefully discussed. This almost implied that the right hon. Gentleman had no plan to lay before the House; and if they went into Committee, he trusted they would not go far without a more distinct assurance on this point. They were told that the promotion from captain to major, and from major to lieutenant colonel, was to be Army promotion, and was to be by selection. Now, selection meant either nothing at all or a very great deal too much. If an officer was only to be selected upon the principle of seniority, then it was a farce to call that system a system of selection. But if promotion to the higher ranks was to be Army promotion—and stress was laid by the right hon. Gentleman on Army promotion as distinguished from regimental promotion—then it meant a most serious change in the constitution of the Army. He had had opportunities of conversing on these matters with foreign officers. He was not going to quote in detail any opinions; but he did say this, without fear of con tradiction, that even those officers of foreign armies who most found fault with the general organization of our Army had always a good deal to say for our regimental system. If, therefore, it was proposed to do away with much which produced the feeling of attachment of officers to their regiments, he thought the right hon. Gentleman was bound to show that some very great advantage would accrue from the change which he proposed. He would appeal to the recollection of almost any officer in the House whether, when he looked forward to his career as being an Army career, he did not regard himself as being bound up with the welfare and well-being of his regiment. Now, if promotion to higher ranks in the service meant that an officer was to be taken from his regiment for the simple reason that he was to be promoted and moved to some other, then they would have done a serious evil not only with regard to the officers, but also with regard to the men who were under them. However distinguished the regiment might be to which he was appointed, it would be little consolation to an officer who had served throughout his life in, for instance, the Rifle Brigade, with all the honour with which the name of that brigade was connected, to be told—"Now you have arrived at the rank of senior captain, you have an absolute certainty that your promotion will not be in your regiment; you must go to some other branch of the service." Suppose that an officer was promoted from the Rifle Brigade and transferred to a Highland regiment. The traditions of that regiment were not inferior to those of others; but each branch of the service had its peculiar feelings, and required peculiar management on small matters of detail which were best known to those who had served in the Army. It was one of the most important points in the system of the Army that these very details, on which depended the emulation of the various regiments one against another, should, to a certain extent, be kept up and encouraged. He did not think that any proposition had ever been made more fatal to them than that an officer brought up in a particular regiment should on no account receive promotion in the same regiment. The right hon. Gentleman had proposed the abolition of purchase, and, so far he could discover, the main argument of the right hon. Gentleman, independently of those which might be characterized as sentimental arguments, appeared to have been that it was necessary to abolish purchase before you could amalgamate the two forces. But let them see what was the quid pro quo given by the right hon. Gentleman. The amalgamation proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, so far as he could make out, consisted in these points—that infantry regiments were to be attached to counties, and that they were to recruit in their own sub-districts. He regretted that the Return for which he had moved had not yet been laid on the Table, because, unless he was greatly mistaken, it would have furnished considerable information which he thought was wanting on these points. He was afraid that the infantry regiments would, in some cases, be unable to recruit in the sub-districts of which they bore the name. He need hardly recall an instance quoted by a right hon. and gallant Gentleman now no longer in the House—General Peel—who, in speaking on this same proposal of localizing regiments in 1867, mentioned the case of a regiment that was unable to get a single recruit out of the militia regiment of the district of which it bore the name. He thought that if the principle of localization was to be carried out to such an extent that regiments were only to recruit in their own sub-districts great practical inconvenience would be the result, unless there was some further provision—which he had not been able to discover in the Bill—to meet it. Then the next principle of amalgamation was that recruits of the Militia were to be trained with those of the Line. It might be in the experience of hon. and gallant Gentlemen to know that a recruit was for the most part a very suspicious creature, and he could not help declaring that a great many Militia recruits would think "there was more than met the eye" in the proposal with regard to drill with the troops of the Regular Army. That point, of course, could only be determined in practice; but in renunciating those views he was only saying that which had been asserted by officers of more practical experience than himself, and he thought considerable difficulty would be found in inducing Militia recruits to come up to barracks with the Regular Army for the purpose of being drilled with the recruits of the Regular Army. The Militia recruits would feel that if once they were taken to be drilled with recruits of the Regular Army, the military authorities might not be so anxious to let them go. He wished the right hon. Gentleman would give a little further explanation on the point as to how far the officers of the Militia and of the Regular Army were to be interchanged. Did the right hon. Gentleman mean that—as during the Peninsular War—officers might be so far interchanged, that officers of high standing in the Militia service might go with their men to serve in the Regular Army. Was that plan intended, or was it intended that companies should be stripped of everything except the companies' officers? That was a point on which considerable anxiety would be felt, both by officers of the Militia whose prospects might be involved, and also by officers of the Regular Army for whom it was proposed to find places in the Reserve force; and the right hon. Gentleman would do no harm in giving the House some fuller explanation on it. There was another point which he approached with some diffidence. He understood that the localized and Reserved forces were to vary from 15,000 to 20,000 in each sub-district. They were to be placed for all purposes, with the sole exception, he thought, of artillery instruction, under colonels on the Staff. Then the question at once arose—for if this organization were proposed, it would be formed at considerable expense—Was it intended that if these large corps d'armée should be mobilized, or raised to a sufficient standard in time of war, they should be left under the command of colonels of the Staff? Would it not be better to assign to such large corps general officers, as to the little employment for whom there was so much complaint now, and allow them to become acquainted with the district of which they would be in charge in time of war? Otherwise what would happen? Assuming, as he did, that general officers would be appointed in time of war, they would come to their districts ignorant of its circumstances, ignorant of the character and ability of the officers with whom they would be brought in contact, and at the very moment the country would most want their services they would have to learn their business and to organize their forces. It was impossible not to think that a somewhat increased expenditure would be usefully incurred to prevent the disadvantage to the public service arising from the confusion which would be inevitable if colonels on the Staff had to be superseded by general officers. The Bill before the House had, since it was first spoken of, changed its title. It was no longer an Army Organization, but an Army Regulation Bill, otherwise it would be impossible entirely to pass over the lack of information as to what the right hon. Gentleman proposed to do with those large Army corps when he had got them. He need not remind the House of a most painful spectacle seen in the beginning of last August, when an Army, not inferior in its traditions to any Army in the world, was paralyzed from want of organization, want of supplies, and want of military train. There did not seem to be the slightest provision for the expansion of the Control department which would be necessary under the new organization, and he ventured respectfully to ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who so ably presided over that department (Sir Henry Storks) whether the Control system was capable of expansion so as to meet such a very large increase above the Regular forces. Some stress has been laid on the provision in the Bill that when the Volunteers were being trained and exercised with the Regular forces they would be subject to the Mutiny Act and the Articles of War. Suppose a Volunteer, who was generally embodied with the other forces for a particular day, committed an offence which rendered him liable to military punishment, he understood that punishment could extend only to the day on which the Volunteer was actually serving. Now, circumstances had occasionally occurred at Volunteer reviews, generally held late in the day, which might subject a man to military punishment, and as the control over men existed only for the day, he wished to ask whether the inconvenience might not be greater to the officer who had to deal with the offender than to the offender himself if dealt with under the provisions of this Bill. There was a provision which authorized the justices of the peace of any county, at the general or quarter sessions, to provide barracks for the county Militia. He could not help thinking that was putting the saddle on the wrong horse. Precisely where a county had made the greatest efforts to raise an efficient force would a vast burden be laid upon it. The burden would not fall on those counties which had raised only a few men; but where a large contribution in men had been made towards the defence of the country, the counties would also be called upon to vote a large sum of money in order to provide accommodation which, in the majority of cases, it would fall rather within the duty of the Government itself to furnish. When the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Bill he asked whether the House was prepared to accept three points—first, that enlistment should be voluntary; second, that purchase should be abolished; and third, that the patronage of the Militia should be transferred from the Lords Lieutenant of counties to the Crown? On the first and third points, he thought the House was unanimous. But when they saw that the abolition of purchase was made one of the principal points of the Bill, and that one of the chief reasons given for that abolition was that a complete amalgamation of the various forces of the country might be effected, then it was for the Government to prove to those who would support, as he intended to do, the Resolution of his hon. and gallant Friend, that this amalgamation could really be brought about. The House was asked to assent to great changes. The right hon. Gentleman could not complain, as far as the debate had gone, that there had been anything like an exhibition of party feeling. There was a well-founded agreement in the House that this question ought not to be considered as a matter of party. It was in no party spirit that he had made the observations which he had ventured to offer, and he was sure his remarks would be received by the right hon. Gentleman with that candour and courtesy which he always exhibited to the humblest Member of the House. If the right hon. Gentleman had any explanation to give on the point to which his attention had now been called, he would do much to promote the progress of the Bill. He agreed in the abstract that the abolition of purchase would tend to the ultimate advantage of the Army; but it was for the Government to show that at the present moment, when every farthing of public money was as far as possible being saved, they would be able to effect that complete amalgamation which seemed to be the principal argument for what they proposed.


, while admitting that the officers of the Army came, as had been stated that evening, from various classes in the country, observed that a great many educated men were nevertheless excluded from the service because they happened to be poor. In the Army the system of promotion was now based on a money qualification, and what he desired was to see advancement in the profession made rather the result of merit. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) seemed to think he had adduced an argument which was quite unanswerable in support of the position which he had taken up, when he quoted the authority of General Blumenthal, to the effect that purchase was an excellent system, and that he should like to see it introduced into the Prussian service. That, however, was no proof that we ought to retain the system; and he had no doubt the country would be prepared to spend £8,000,000, or even £12,000,000, for its extinction if it were shown that it was injurious to the Army. But whatever the sum might be which the abolition of purchase might cost, it was equally the duty of those who were opposed to it to prove that the evils attending it were of so grave a character as to justify the course which the Government proposed to take in putting an end to it, as well as to suggest some system to be adopted in its stead. Purchase had existed in our Army for a considerable time, and it had been defended in past times on the ground that it gave security to the public that the Crown should not promote officers who were mere creatures of its own, while it was supported at the present day because it was alleged that it erected a social barrier between the people and the Army, and caused the Army to be composed of men who, being possessed of property, were not likely to lend themselves to any revolutionary scheme. Such was the view taken by Lord Palmerston, who was of opinion that it was only when the service became filled with adventurers that it would be found to be opposed to the liberties of the nation. Now there was, however, a strong feeling growing up in the country, that in military, as well as in all civil employments, the disability to engage in them should be imposed on no class in the community. It was at the same time urged that if promotion in the Army were given only by merit an inferior class of officers would spring up; but it must not be forgotten that it discouraged all competition when an officer knew that whatever amount of intelligence he might possess it would not gain him a single step in his profession; while a great many men were prevented, owing to the purchase system, from entering the Army who would otherwise be glad to join it. Lord Clyde, who was a non-purchase officer, had been 46 years in the service before he attained the rank of major-general, while in the case of other general officers he found that the average time which it took to obtain that rank was 36 years. Now, any system which could prevent the speedy advancement of such men as Lord Clyde could, he thought, scarcely be regarded as advantageous to the public. So long as you had purchase it was impossible to absorb officers, or to reduce their rank, or to effect any reform that touched their monetary interests. The abolition of purchase was desirable for the sake of the efficiency of the service, because efficiency depended upon merit, and merit must never be confounded with money; and it was desirable in the interests of the less wealthy classes, to whose sons the Army was now virtually a closed profession, that it might be replaced by a system of pure selection, or by selection with seniority. If the former was adopted, the Government ought, without delay, to furnish them with further details of the machinery by which it was to be carried out; but if the system of seniority was to be introduced, he could only say that it would be nothing else than purchase under another form. There was, at all events, one respect in which he hoped the Government would change their plan, for there was a very strong esprit de corps among the officers of a regiment, who took a pride in it, who were respected by the men under them, and who would think it very hard to be promoted out of it, as was proposed, in entire disregard of that regimental system which was the life and soul of our Army.


maintained that injustice would in many respects be done to the officers of our Army by the abolition of purchase. It was an injustice that an officer who had given nothing for his commission should be placed on a par with a man who had paid a large sum of money. What would a colonel have to look forward to after becoming a general officer? He had no chance of the rise held out under the present system, and no allowance. He might be too old, or he might be too young, and therefore not selected, or by accident he might not have seen foreign service, or, finally, he might be passed over in consequence of his political sentiments. Altogether, the new system would inflict a great injustice upon an officer on the point of becoming a general. As to the purchase system itself, he would remind the House that before the Royal Commission of 1857 an officer, who had been passed over 18 times, stated that, on the whole, he was in favour of retaining the system, since without it he would have been still longer without promotion. He (Viscount Mahon) fully agreed in the opinion that the only just way of abolishing purchase was by paying the money down on the spot; and he thought that it would not cost the State more in the end to pay the money down by a loan—to be repaid, say in 25 years—than to follow the plan of the right hon. Gentleman. There was one exception, that according to which Government now proposed that the money of every officer who died in the service should go to the State. It was most unfair to take such an advantage, it was mean, and the matter ought to be arranged in an honourable and straightforward way. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had said the other evening that the officers, as a body, were adverse to Army reform. He (Viscount Mahon) could most distinctly contradict that statement, for he was sure that every officer to whom he had spoken on the subject was anxious to see the Army put upon a good basis. The same Member had also stated that the War Office would be obliged to stuff any reform down the throats of military men. Now, with all respect to the hon. Member, he (Viscount Mahon) did not think that the service was prepared to swallow one-half, or even one-quarter, of what that hon. Gentleman had proposed. A most important subject in connection with the Army was the Control department, which was intended to amalgamate the supply, transport, and munition services, but which, he feared, had not thoroughly fulfilled the expectations formed of it. The system was one of centralization, entirely opposed to the Prussian, which was a system of decentralization, each corps d'armée being responsible for its transport and everything connected with it. The Prussian system had worked remarkably well; there was a wholesome emulation between each division of the Army as regarded both economy and efficiency, and greater responsibility was imposed upon the commanding officer, which was a great advantage. It was by this system that the Duke of Wellington managed in the Peninsula, and he thought that, by a slight change, the present Control Department might be made efficient—namely, by putting it under the commanding officer of the district and not apart from him.


It is so at present.


According to the present rule, the responsibility rests, where it ought to rest, with the general officer commanding the district, the controller being merely his agent.


held that, at any rate, the commanding officer said in cases of complaint that it was the controller's fault, the controller, in turn, said the blame lay with some other one, and so adequate responsibility was evaded. Another objection to the Bill was that it provided no further augmentation of the Reserve forces available for foreign service. The only force so available was the first-class Reserve and the Militia Reserve, together about 23,000 men. Now, we could not stand by our allies on the Continent in any adequate way with 50,000 men. We ought to be able to send abroad at once, if required, a much larger force. In 1814 and 1815 we had (according to Alison) in Europe and in Asia a standing Army of over 1,000,000 men, and never did the name of England stand so high upon the Continent. Without saying that it was necessary to maintain any such force now, he thought we should be able to expand our Army to a much greater limit than was proposed by the right hon. Gentleman. In the belief that the Bill did not do justice to the officers and did not meet the full requirements of the time with regard to the Army, he should cordially support the Resolution of his hon. and gallant Friend.


said, the noble Lord who had just sat down had told them that in 1814–15 this country had 1,000,000 of men under arms. He (Mr. Muntz) did not know what number of men we had with muskets; but he did know that at Waterloo we scraped together every man we had, including two regiments of Militia who had never smelt powder, and all we mustered was 36,000 troops. He mentioned that because the public might be led to believe our forces had greatly deteriorated, and had become attenuated since that wonderful time, and that we were no longer a powerful nation. He had noticed in almost every instance hon. Members had come to the conclusion that by the abolition of the purchase system we should somehow get rid of the regimental system—a matter he should be sorry to see, for it would interfere with the esprit de corps, so indispensable in an English regiment. The hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) argued that, in consequence of the parsimony of the House of Commons, the military establishments of the country were upon a contemptible system; and the hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary (Colonel White) said that, in case of a foreign war, we should be totally and absolutely at the mercy of the foe. The charge of parsimony might easily be disposed of by a comparison of our military position with that of the North German Confederation, which had an Army of 300,000 men in time of peace, and 586,000 more — total 886,000—in time of war—real soldiers, who knew how to fight—costing a trifle under £10,000,000 sterling; while we had a force of 135,000 men in the Regular Army, 139,000 Militia, and 175,000 Volunteers, for which, during the past 10 years, we had paid an average of £15,000,000 per year, or a total of £150,000,000 for the whole of the period. They had been told that the officers were altogether in favour of purchase; but, in fact, there was a great deal of discontent in the Army with regard to purchase. There was ample evidence in proof of the practice of young men, by sheer force of wealth, buying over the heads of others who had seen from 12 to 15 years' service. He was therefore delighted that the Government had the moral courage to take up the matter, and he hoped they would persevere with it. Now, this was a very serious subject, and they had to do two things—first, to do justice to the officers, and second, to do justice to the taxpayer. They knew very well that the officers had paid for their commissions on the good faith of the country that they would be repaid, and with the conviction that under the usual regimental system they would rise in rank till they obtained command of their regiments. The least thing, therefore, that the country could do was to pay back that money, for they must never forget that they were Englishmen and honourable men. The officers of the British Army—and, with few exceptions, a more noble body of men could not be found—had advanced certain sums of money for their commissions, and they were entitled to be repaid. For that purpose about £7,500,000 would be necessary. It was not for him to say how that sum should be raised; but he believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have no difficulty in raising it in Terminable Annuities, and paying off those gentlemen at once. But, then, how were they to deal with those who had paid the over-regulation price? That system had, no doubt, become ingrained in the Army, although it had never been acknowledged by the Horse Guards; and it would be extremely difficult to abolish it. Officers who had paid over-regulation prices stood in a totally different position from those who paid their money on the faith of the nation. What, then, would he do? He would simply abolish regulation purchase, and leave the regimental system as it now was, so that if officers liked to buy out one another they might continue to do so as they had done. There were non-purchase regiments in the British Army; was there no purchase there? There was a regular system of buying and selling, and in the Indian Army also, as well as in the Line and the Guards; and there would have been in the Artillery, if they had not been so spread over the world that it was impracticable. He believed that regimental purchase would continue. Human nature was the same all over the world. The Government proposed that subalterns who had been two years in the Militia should, by virtue of their service of two years, obtain commissions in the Regular Army. He did not know what the right hon. Gentleman's intention was; but if the Militia and Volunteer officers were to be men who had seen service and knew what it was—and half-pay officers of that class could be found in any number—they would have in a few years a body of troops fit to do anything that could be required of them. But if those officers were to be appointed hereafter as they had been, they would only have so many men with muskets. Referring to the short-service system, he took exception to the proposal that men should be enlisted for 12 years, for he believed it to be a fatal mistake. Short service was of immense value. What they wanted was a small, thoroughly efficient body of soldiers—say 100,000—complete in every respect, ready to go anywhere and do anything; and in addition to that a large Reserve. The Reserve need not cost much, and they might have one of 300,000 well-drilled, efficient men, fit to take the field in any emergency, and who would make it absurd for any Power ever to dream of attacking this country. He was not enamoured of the Prussian system, but thought that three years would make a young man of 18 or 19 a good soldier, without making him a bad citizen; and if after that period he served a certain time in the Reserve and in the Militia, they might then have as fine a body of men as could be handled. They must, however, have a separate Army for India, for which the enlistment should be for 10 years. And this led him to ask, in reference to non-purchase, how they were to stop officers from exchanging? Some men could stand a hot climate and some a cold one, and vice versâ, and it would be the greatest tyranny to say that officers should not exchange. Whatever they did with the Army, the secret of success was to make it contented and comfortable. Army reformers were often unfairly accused of wishing to cut down the defences of the country; whereas all that they really wanted to cut down was waste and extravagance. They desired to have a thoroughly good and effective Army, maintained with the greatest possible economy. Whenever the occasion arose for strengthening our forces, he believed that those Gentlemen to whom he had referred would be found as ready as any other party in that House to vote for the increased Supplies.


said, he thought that whatever differences of opinion might exist amongst them in respect to the details of a measure of such magnitude and importance as that before them, they must all acknowledge and appreciate the great labour and pains bestowed upon the question by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, as evinced by the brilliant speech he had made when introducing it the other evening. It was to be regretted that the right hon. Gentleman had not acceded to the request made to him to divide the Bill into two parts—the first part dealing exclusively with the organization of the Army, and the second with the abolition of purchase. The question of organization he thought ought to precede that relating to the abolition of purchase, and the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) was extremely opportune, for it asked the House to hesitate before incurring enormous expense to abolish a system which, speaking generally, had worked well for the Army and for the country. He was glad to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), a man of great experience, give such ample evidence of the benefits that had arisen from the purchase system. Their regimental system had been admitted to be almost as perfect as a regimental system well could be; and the most ardent advocates for the abolition of purchase would hardly say that their officers had failed in their duty, whether in looking after the comfort and discipline of their men in quarters, or in the example they had set them in the field. As he understood, the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cardwell) had not solved the problem of how promotion was to be kept up and a due infusion of young blood obtained for the service after the purchase system was extinguished. He was informed that there was at present a block in the Artillery. How was that to be remedied? Under the system of the old Indian service every officer was compelled, by a custom as strong as law, to pay annually so much to buy out old officers, and so essential was it deemed that something should be done that the Board of Directors actually sent out a Minute sanctioning purchase in a non-purchase service, and when he endeavoured to get justice for those officers on the amalgamation of the two services it was refused, because the Judges had decided that the act of the Company in issuing that Minute was illegal. In respect to the work of re-organization, the first thing the right hon. Gentleman had to do was to get good men to enter the service. He (Colonel Gilpin) had last Session given his opinion adverse to the right hon. Gentleman's plan of enlistment, and expressed his regret that before he had reduced his establishment he had not looked more carefully into the state of his Reserve forces. Neither in England nor in Ireland had the right hon. Gentleman been able to recruit the ranks of the Army up to their full complement. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to dissent from that statement; but he understood from the recruiting parties, and from the officers of regiments, that the class of recruits were not such as they had been in the habit of having. One of the right hon. Gentleman's pet projects was short enlistment; and that had not succeeded, because the bulk of those who offered themselves were for long and not for short service. So much the better; for the Duke of Wellington said that the old soldier was the bone, sinew, and strength of the British Army. He understood that the office of Commander-in-Chief was to be a permanent appointment, or, at least, not subject to the five years' limit, as was the office of Military Secretary, and he rejoiced that the Secretary for War had not listened on this point to the recommendations of a small but noisy section of the community. But there was another important office, that of Controller, the tenure of which had not been fixed as far as the House had heard. He congratulated the present holder of the office (Sir Henry Storks) in having at length found favour with a body of free and enlightened electors, and he congratulated the Government on having at length succeeded in their endeavours to secure for the Secretary for War that advice and support he was so thoroughly competent to give; but if the tenure of the office of Controller was to be limited by a fixed period of five years, the politics of the gentleman holding it must be elastic, or else, upon a change of Government, the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for instance, instead of being the fidus Achates to the Secretary of War, might be his bitter opponent. As regarded the Militia, he deprecated the proposal to remove patronage from the hands of the Lords Lieutenant, because if the Militia were to be a local force, the right hon. Gentleman must not disregard local influences. He was, however, glad to find that the Secretary for War had refrained from listening to those who had advised him to adopt the Ballot; because, before the privileges of the people were curtailed, the House should consider what the Militia had done, and what it was capable of doing. The hon. Member who had last spoken said the Militia had done little at present; but he reminded the House that during the Russian War the Militia sent 30,000 men to the Crimea; they released our Regular men from garrison duty, and they performed all the home duties both in England and Ireland. He took this opportunity of offering the right hon. Gentleman his thanks for what he had done in favour of the Militia. He (Colonel Gilpin) had received several applications for commissions in the regiment which he had the honour to command. If the right hon. Gentleman had only acted in time, he would have benefited the labour market as well as the regiments generally. He presumed that, after the Census had been taken this year, the Militia would be largely increased, and if this increase could be obtained by beat of drum, there was no need for compulsion. There was, however, one important matter he wished to bring before the right hon. Gentleman. The 27 days' training for inspection was about to commence; but that period would embrace three Sundays, and a certain proportion of wet days, so that the available time would hardly be sufficient to complete the course of musketry practice. Under these cases he hoped an extra week would be allowed, because under the present system he was convinced that much of the money expended for this purpose was thrown away. The proposal to saddle the country with the cost of additional Staff colonels to inspect the Reserve forces was quite beyond his comprehension, because already the country was mapped out into military districts, each commanded by a general officer with a number of colonels under him ready for the service. He would add only one word with respect to the Volunteers, of whom he always desired to speak with respect and admiration for their devotion to the public service. If the Volunteers were called out for a certain number of days in each year, paid for their services, and put under the Mutiny Act, their efficiency and discipline would be greatly increased. He should be happy to aid the right hon. Gentleman in his efforts to re-organize the military service; but he could not be a party to the enormous expenses which the abolition of the purchase system must involve—a system which, in his conscience, he believed had done great service to the country and to the Army.


said, he had come down to the House earnestly hoping he would hear arguments of sufficient weight to relieve him of the painful duty of voting against a party with which he had acted for 13 years; but no such arguments had been addressed to the House, and he had now only to state why he could not support the Government upon this occasion. He had come into the House almost extravagantly in favour of economy; but having well considered the present question, he would be no party to a measure that would entail a cost of £8,000,000 by the abolition of the purchase system. Moreover, no one had told them what would be the cost of the pensions which the abolition of purchase would necessitate. The calculations which the Government had not ventured to make had been made by private individuals, and he believed that if the sum mentioned were capitalized it would exceed £7,000,000. Everyone would see that if that system were abolished, under which large numbers of officers retired of their own accord every year, and if instead of that system a direct incentive were offered to officers to remain in the Army in the hopes of promotion, the result would be a large addition to the pension list. Putting the total cost at £12,000,000, no one would object to that expenditure if value was received for it; but it had not yet been proved that the country would get value for its £12,000,000. The hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), an enthusiast for the abolition of purchase, and a member of the Commission appointed to inquire into the subject, had said it was his firm conviction that after spending these £12,000,000 for the abolition of purchase it would revive again in its original form in a few years. Was the country to spend £12,000,000 for putting an end to that which competent authorities in favour of abolition believed would inevitably revive from the very first day of its abolition? The right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Davison), who spoke for the first time from the Treasury Bench this evening, must be taken as giving expression to the views of the Government which put him up to speak, and that right hon. and learned Gentleman had appealed to the House not to be alarmed by the idea that the regimental system would be abolished. But the hon. Gentleman who spoke from the front Opposition Bench (Captain F. Stanley) had clearly shown that the regimental system was of essential value to the Army. If that esprit de corps were done away with which urged each regiment to excel its neighbour, whether at home or in the field, the British Army would be deprived of its most powerful stimulus. If the Volunteer service were treated as it was proposed to treat the Army—if its officers were to be passed from battalion to battalion, the service would go to pieces in 10 days. He maintained that any alterations in the regimental system would inevitably result in the destruction of that esprit de corps which acted as such an incentive as matters now stood. Fortunately, however, the Government had declared that there was no intention of abolishing the regimental system. But if that were not so it was evident that promotion would go on by selection within the regiment, and hon. Members could easily imagine what ill-feeling would be created supposing some lieutenant were selected as the cleverest officer in the regiment and promoted over the heads of those even higher in rank than himself. He contended that if they had the system of selection they must destroy the regimental system and make commissions interchangeable, the result of which, as he believed he had shown, would be to destroy that esprit de corps which was at present the pride of the British Army. If the British Army had broken down under the present system as the French Army had broken down he would not grudge £12,000,000, or even more, in effecting an alteration; but when they remembered that in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, in India, in the Crimea—everywhere, indeed, except in the shameful war against our brethren in America —our Army had been uniformly victorious, he could not help thinking that the necessity for the change had not been shown. There were many who advocated the abolition of the purchase system under the impression that the Army was an aristocratic institution, and that, somehow or another, with the abolition of purchase it would become a more popular institution and more democratic. No one sympathized more warmly than he did in any movement which had for its object the raising of the social standing of what were falsely called the working classes of the country. If he thought that the effect of abolishing purchase would be to raise the social standing or promote the well-being of the lower or middle classes, the cost of the alteration should not deter him from voting in its favour. But he did not believe that this would be the result, while he also felt convinced that after the expenditure of this £12,000,000 purchase would revive and commissions would still be sought by those who sought them now. It was only the other day that he had glanced at the Army List, when he found that, with an exception here and there, the names of the colonels and lieutenant colonels, for instance, were not the names of men belonging to the aristocracy, but the names of men who belonged to the middle classes. General Simpson, who took Sebastopol; Have-lock, who served with such distinction in India, and Lord Clyde were none of them scions of noble houses. He felt convinced that after spending all this money we should find that we did not gain what we were seeking, and he could not therefore feel justified in voting for the expenditure of a sum of money which, if applied to the reduction of taxation, would so much add to the comfort of the people, and especially to the comfort of the working classes; and he should, on that account, though with great regret, vote against the Bill introduced by the Government. He regretted, too, having to vote against his hon. Friend (Mr. Trevelyan), whose Motion with reference to the Commander-in-Chief he had a few days since supported. He might add, before sitting down, that his vote on that occasion had been given in no feeling of personal hostility to the present illustrious occupant of that office, but purely on the abstract consideration that it was unde sirable so important a post should be a life appointment.


said, that having been but recently elected, it was with no little diffidence that he rose to ask the indulgence of the House whilst he stated his opinions on this important question. He should have not done more than record his silent vote had he not felt it desirable that every practical officer should make his opinions heard within the walls of that House, and by practical he meant officers actually serving, as he himself was. Not that he expected this would give much weight to his opinion with the Treasury Bench. On the contrary, perhaps, it might have exactly the opposite effect. He said this in no disrespectful spirit, but he could not help remembering that a most important measure in connection with the Army was recently passed against the unanimous military opinion of the House, with the exception of that of the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian). Whatever might be the merits or demerits of this Bill, there could be little doubt that its fate would be decided and its acceptance or rejection determined by the attitude which hon. Members might take up with regard to the question of purchase. He did not mean as to the good or bad points of the purchase system itself, but as to the opinion which they might form of the propriety of the time selected by the Ministry for proposing its abolition, and of the mode in which their scheme provided for the replacing of the purchase system by any other method of officering the Army. His objections to the Bill were two-fold—first, on account of the enormous expense which would be necessary to carry it into effect and to meet the just claims and vested interests of officers now serving; and, secondly, because no method was proposed for preventing that stagnation of promotion which was so detrimental to the efficiency of the service. His hon. and gallant Friend who brought forward this Motion (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) had alluded to the great expense which would be attendant on the abolition of purchase; but had not alluded to another very costly element—the effect which the Bill would have upon the military labour market. He himself had been but a very few days in the House; but during that time he had heard a speech delivered by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) upon the absurdity of expecting highly educated young men to enter a profession in which they were expected at starting to live on a miserable pittance of £240 a-year. Much better, he thought, live on £240 a-year than starve on £70 a-year, which was the position in which young men found themselves on first obtaining commissions in the Army. If this Bill became law it would be necessary to raise the incomes of junior officers to an amount which would enable them to live as gentlemen, for, though talented and well educated, they would probably be for the most part men of very small private means. Otherwise, the inducements to enter the Army would be very small indeed, notwithstanding the attraction of wearing Her Majesty's uniform, and the prospective honour and glory of being shot in defence of their country. Increase of their pay would, of course, make itself felt through every grade of the Army; and, though the item of pay formed but a small portion of the Army Estimates, by the abolition of the purchase system it would be very materially increased. The Secretary of State for War had told them that promotion would be much accelerated by the substitution of the public purse for private purses. What had the public purse done for the scientific and non-purchase corps, to which he had the honour, or, perhaps, he should say the misfortune, to belong? And he used the word "misfortune," because he thought that the Ministry were not at all alive to the very great detriment to the efficiency of those corps arising from the stagnation of promotion. He by no means came forward as an advocate of the purchase system. On the contrary, he was prepared to support any scheme for its abolition which at the same time would secure a flow of promotion, and recognize the just claims of vested interests. But such was not the case with the present Bill, which unsettled what existed without determining that which was to take its place. He must accordingly give his vote in favour of the Amendment.


said, that during the time when he had the honour of being officially connected with the Army, he had occasion more than once to consider the question of purchase, and he was desirous of stating to the House the conclusions at which he had arrived upon the subject. The hon. and gallant Member (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) had no need to make an apology for introducing an abstract Resolution on the second reading of the Bill, because the subject of purchase was so important that it was desirable that the House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion on this question alone, without having it mixed up with the general question of the second reading of the Bill. It was scarcely possible to exaggerate the importance of the abolition of the system of purchase, whether regarded in its effects upon the Army, or in its effects upon the Estimates in the sum that would have to be paid by the taxpayers of the country. First, so far as the Army was concerned, they could not help recollecting that the present system of purchase, whether it was good or bad in itself, had formed part of the constitution of the Army since the time when first a Regular Army was established in this country. We were about to establish the Army on a new basis. Again, so far as the taxpayers were concerned, we were about to spend, according to the Government, £8,000,000, and according to Gentlemen opposite, £12,000,000. These were matters deserving the grave consideration of Gentlemen below the Gangway. He entertained a strong opinion that the purchase system was bad and vicious in itself; so much so, that he had sometimes thought himself of bringing forward a measure for the abolition of the purchase system. But he had been met by two arguments which always seemed to him too strong for an independent Member to grapple with. The first was that, be the system of purchase bad or good, the Army had nourished under it, and had deserved well of the country. The other argument was that, although the abolition of the system would involve a very large outlay, nobody would be thankful for it, but, on the contrary, many persons would consider themselves aggrieved by the change. Though he was unable, personally, to vote for the Amendment, he assured the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had moved it that he did not, in the slightest degree, concur with those who cast censure upon him for the Motion. No man was better qualified to speak of the deeds of the Army than the hon. and gallant Gentleman in his own person. In spite of what might have been said at public meetings, he thought this country had every reason to be proud of its Army. At all former periods of history, it could bear comparison with Continental armies, and it had done its duty upon every field on which it fought. Without going back to historic periods, it was sufficient to call to mind the fact that, in modern times, the British Army had been tried in many serious campaigns—in the Crimea, in India, in Abyssinia, and everywhere it had gallantly done its duty. And although it might be true that the officers were nurtured in luxury, and that many of them belonged to the rich and aristocratic classes, yet we know that not only, as might have been expected, have they never avoided the dangers of war; but what was not so certain, considering their previous habits, they have borne cheerfully, and without complaint, the evils and privations incidental to war. Besides that, they had done what was the greatest possible achievement on the part of an officer, they had won for themselves the confidence and loyalty, and, in many cases, to use a stronger expression, the affection of the troops under their command. Now, when the Government came forward, and made a distinct proposal on the subject, the House had to consider whether sufficient cause had been shown for the abolition of the purchase system. In arguing the matter, he must draw a distinction between the regulation and the over-regulation prices. The Resolution was to the effect that neither should be done away with; whereas the proposal of the Government was to abolish both. Now, the fact was that regulation prices and over-regulation prices by no means stood on the same footing, and he wished it to be clearly understood that the arguments he was about first to adduce were applicable to the regulation prices only. Many years ago he came to the conclusion that the regulation system, under which the country received a certain sum of money from the persons it admitted to its service, was an essentially vicious one, not creditable to a great country; one that ought to be put an end to; and he came to this conclusion, although he was not prepared to say the system might not confer some pecuniary benefit on the country. The Secretary of State for War put forward as his chief argument that it was necessary to do away with the system of purchase, because the country had decided upon an amalgamation between the Regular forces and the Militia. "And," said the right hon. Gentleman, "it will be necessary either to do away with the system of purchase in the Army or to establish it in the Militia." For his own part, he confessed that argument had never crossed his mind, and he gave his right hon. Friend great credit for his ingenuity in devising it. Far be it from him, however, to say that there was not some force in it. It struck him, however, that this argument was more Parliamentary and popular than substantial. The House was, more or less, committed to Army reorganization; and therefore, to those who wished to abolish purchase, it was a very good way of putting it, to say that we could not get a better reorganization until purchase was first got rid of. If, however, the system of purchase was a good thing in itself, he thought the difficulties incident to reorganization might be obtained without the abolition of it, and that we should be able to get a sufficiently good re-organization without paying £8,000,000 for it. The ground on which he had always felt that the system of purchase in the Army could not be defended was that, as he had stated, it was wrong and discreditable on the part of the State, and that it produced many hardships and great injustice as regarded the officers. We learn from the Report that, at the time the system of purchase in the Army was introduced it prevailed also in the Civil Service, and he confessed his inability to comprehend why, if it were right in the Army, it should be wrong in the Civil Service. If every right hon. Gentleman on the Treasury Bench paid a certain sum on entering office, the State would have derived a pecuniary advantage from the transaction precisely as it did from the Army at the present moment. In his time the office of Secretary of State for War had been created. If a system analogous to that which prevailed in the Army existed in the Civil Service, the last Secretary of State for War would have paid £5,000 for his place to the State, and each successive Secretary of State, on coming into office, would have paid this sum to his predecessor leaving office. He had no doubt that Ministers would have done their duty under such a system in the same way that officers in the Army did their duty; but the system itself would be no less false and harsh, and he, for one, would have been quite willing to the payment of a large sum to get rid of it. He did not think there was any difference in principle between the State and a private employer. Suppose a banker, or the head of a mercantile establishment, borrowed money from every clerk in his employment, and used it in discharge of his obligations, leaving it to the clerks who had thus paid their money to the firm to obtain repayment from those who succeeded them. Everyone would have admitted the impropriety of this practice, and would expect that the firm would come to a bad end. And if the firm had succeeded, it would be held that its success was in spite of the viciousness of the principle rather than in consequence of it. He had always felt that the system of purchase, so far as the State became a borrower from those it employed, was one that could not be maintained. He was prepared to show some of the hardships that arose out of the system. It was said by his right hon. Friend that, under the purchase system, an officer killed in action would not now lose the money he had paid to the State in respect of his commission. This was in consequence of the Royal Warrant of 1856; but the contrary was the effect of the original system of purchase. During the Crimean War so many cases were brought under his notice of the extreme hardship of officers being compelled to go into active service with the weight of the money they had expended hanging round their necks, that he determined on bringing the subject before Parliament. He moved a Resolution, in 1855, declaring it to be the opinion of the House that the regulation value of the commission should be paid to the representatives of officers killed in action. The House was with him; but, as frequently happened, the Government, in order to avoid something in the nature of a hostile Division, came forward with certain proposals, and he refrained from dividing on the Motion. The promise given by the Government was to the effect, that when an officer died in active service his representatives should either receive the regulation value of his commission or a pension. A Royal Warrant was issued in consequence of that promise; but shortly afterwards he felt it to be his duty to draw the attention of the House to the unsatisfactory manner in which the promises made had been fulfilled, and unless the Royal Warrant had been altered, which he believed had not been the case, it had become an absolute absurdity, and had done scarcely any good in the Army. He alluded to these facts as one of the incidental hardships arising out of the system of purchase, and he believed that, with few exceptions, when an officer went into active service he not only risked his life, but also the loss of the money he had paid for his commission. When a young man entered the Army he paid his money under the expectation that a certain system would be carried out, and it was one great evil of the system that it was construed one way by those who paid, and another by the State who received, the money. Great discontent was occasioned by the fact that when an augmentation of the Army took place the State sold commissions, instead of granting them, to non-purchase officers, and when a diminution took place there was always great heartburning, because officers were squeezed out of the service and placed in positions to which they had never looked forward. He held in his hand a letter from Colonel Hart, the editor of the Army List, which stated that, under the purchase system, a non-purchase officer often rose from the junior to the senior rank in half the time he could under the non-purchase system. Colonel Hart added that he was in favour of the reform, and not of the abolition of the purchase system. He also mentioned individual instances, and stated that in every case there was no way of getting an answer from the War Office. What the War Office did was this — They said the matter was decided by the Treasury, and that there were no means of entering into the question with the Treasury as to whether their decision was or was not in accordance with the system of purchase. Now, suppose that a banking company took money from their clerks, and that on a question arising the company allowed no appeal from their decision, but were advocate and judge in their own case, could such a system be considered just? That was an additional reason why the State should not traffic in money with those whom it employed. He was therefore pre pared to go to the extent of making a sacrifice by paying sufficient to get rid of the regulation portion of the system of purchase? That would involve a very much less sum than the Government asked for. [Sir GEORGE GREY: £3,500,000.] It might be £3,000,000 or £3,500,000; but he did not think an accurate calculation could be made on the subject; but even at that sacrifice he was prepared to abolish the system. He fully agreed, too, with those who held that if it was to be done it was better it should be done quickly. He came now to the non-regulation price. The payment of the over-regulation price stood upon a perfectly different principle. How was it that the non-regulation prices had grown up? They had grown up out of two principles now in force in the Army — one was that promotion, Army as well as regimental, went with promotion in the regiment; and the other was that, as a general rule, it went within the regiment according to seniority. These regulations made it the clear interest of the officers in every regiment to expedite promotion in their regiment as much as possible; and hence the practice grew up for the junior officers to subscribe and induce their seniors to retire. This practice was the immediate certain consequence of the regulations—there was no particular harm in the practice, and if the State had made rules which led to such a practice, it could not complain of the consequences. Now, the payment of over-regulation prices had, at all times, been prohibited, and formerly very stringent rules had been laid down to prevent the growth and continuance of the practice, but whilst the general rules concerning promotion led almost necessarily to the practice, prohibitions to the contrary had proved nugatory. In modern times the practice had been recognized and acquiesced in. Under these circumstances, he could not agree with those who would at one and the same time alter the system of promotion under which officers had been led into these payments, and refuse them compensation for what they had paid. If promotion by seniority be abolished, and promotion by selection be adopted, over-regulation prices must be paid. Then arose the question, was the introduction of the principle of selection worth the price it was proposed to pay for it— for it was the principle of selection alone which rendered it necessary to pay over-regulation prices? But, if promotion by seniority, as a general rule, be maintained, then there was no reason why our regulation prices should be paid. It was the proposal to adopt the principle of selection which caused all the discontent; and this discontent would not be healed even by the payment of over-regulation prices. Men had subscribed and paid their money on the faith of the rules of the service, in the hope, and with the object of obtaining ultimately the command of their regiments. It would not satisfy them for the Government to say to them—"You may take yourselves off, and leave the service, and then we will return you your money." They did not wish to leave the service. They wished to continue in the service, and get the promotion for which they had both served and had paid. It was the adoption of the principle which caused all the difficulty, gave rise to the discontent, and entailed the necessity of paying the over-regulation prices. The question for the House to consider was whether the principle was worth the cost. Now, how stood the matter with respect to this principle of selection? Some years ago the Duke of Cambridge had given evidence before a Select Committee of this House, concerning the great difficulties and serious objections incident to a system of selection. This opinion had been animadverted upon strongly before the country by his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs, and it had been seriously asked that for giving such an opinion the tenure of the office of Commander in Chief should be altered. He trusted that the time would never come when anyone, whether a Royal Duke or the humblest person in the realm, would suffer for giving a conscientious opinion, whether right or wrong, before a Committee of this House. To confess the truth, he agreed with that opinion. He thought that there were infinite difficulties in adopting the principle of selection. The House must recollect that the question it will have to decide was, whether it was worth while to pay so large a sum, and excite so much discontent, for the purpose of rejecting the system of promotion by seniority, and adopting the principle of selection. Recollect that in the Artillery and Engineers, the sys tem of seniority was strictly and sternly enforced, and yet the Artillery and Engineers were held up as the best force in the Army. The course the Government should adopt was — pay the regulation prices at once, and be done with it. Get the State out of the false position in which it is now placed. We shall then have done all that is really necessary. Let the system of promotion continue, not materially different from what it is at present. Thus, millions would be saved to the taxpayer, the amalgamation of the Line and the Militia might be accomplished, and the discontent of the Army would be appeased.


said, he thought there were matters in the Bill which would require many nights' debate, independently of the question of the abolition of purchase in the Army. On a former occasion, when the question of abolition of purchase was being discussed, he had stated that he had no objection to accept the principle of the abolition of purchase if qualified by two provisoes. The first being that the efficiency of the Army should be guarded by a good system of retirement, which would prevent it from degenerating in consequence of the old age of the junior officers; and the second being that the Government should deal faithfully with the vested interests of the officers. One of these provisoes, that of the retirement of officers, was completely shirked by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, and the other was one which he was quite sure the House of Commons would have no desire to deal with lightly or ungenerously, and he believed that such a sentiment would find acceptance below the Gangway on the other side of the House. The Secretary of State for War had very handsomely admitted that the over-regulation prices must be dealt with in the same way as he proposed to deal with the regulation prices. Let the House consider for a moment what the system of purchase was. There had been a great deal of misapprehension and of misconception out-of-doors upon this subject. The system of purchase was not, as had been popularly supposed, the putting up a commission for sale to the highest bidder, although many hon. Members in their speeches delivered in the country had adopted that view of the subject. The hon. Member for the Bor der Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had made a statement to that effect not in the heat of debate, but deliberately in a speech which he had subsequently printed and published in the form of a pamphlet. That was a total misconception of the purchase system as it was now in force. The truth was, that the senior officer on the list, whether he were captain or lieutenant, could not be passed over by any junior officer, provided he was possessed of the regulation price, if he chose to enforce his right. That was a fact perfectly well known in the Army, and it was rather too bad that Members of the House of Commons, whose remarks on the subject were faithfully and fully accepted by those whom they addressed at public meetings, should make such statements, which, if made in the House would be contradicted and put right in five minutes. Let him now say what, in his opinion, the purchase system really was. In the scheme of retirement it had been found to be the only means of securing a proper flow of young officers to the Army, because it had supplemented the amount paid from the public purse, and so made it worth the while of officers to retire earlier than they would have done otherwise. The Secretary of State said the other day that the efficiency of the non-purchase corps had been seriously compromised by the slowness which existed there, in spite of the enormous increase in the Royal Artillery during the last 30 years, and considerable retirements on full pay which had been offered from time to time by the Government. The country had recognised the system of officers entering the Army by paying for the retirement of their predecessors; but the money which they would be entitled to receive on the abolition of purchase was now employed in paying the retiring allowances of those men who, from ill-health or advanced age, had become unfit for the service. The object of purchase had been fully attained, for they had had in the purchase corps younger men than in any other branch of the service. He recollected that at one time promotion in the Marines—a non-purchase corps—was so slow that a captain had a son in the service. It was evident that a man who was old enough to have a grown-up son in the service, was not fit to go through the fatigue of handling his company in the field. The Government said with some force that the present system was bad, because as officers barely got back the interest of their money it was an unpaid service. But they were not going to abolish this evil, because the money for which they asked the House would not go to the officers, but would in a great part be withheld until even so distant a time as the year 1900. There would be another disadvantage under the proposed scheme, for those officers who had not paid for their commissions would be in a better financial position than the officers who had entered the Army under the present system, and who would serve alongside of them. Hitherto the Government had always allowed old soldiers to enjoy any advantages which might be held out to younger men. It might be said—"Oh, the officers now serving could not get back their money under the present system." No doubt that was true, and if matters remained in their present position they would not put forward any claim to it; but if a serious alteration was made in the conditions of service a clean sweep must be made, and the officers repaid all the money they had invested in the purchase of their commissions. Under the scheme of the Government, officers would be open to the disadvantage of obtaining their promotion with a regiment different from the one in which they had served, rather than submit to which many officers would prefer to leave the service. A captain who chooses to remain in the service under the present system is sure to get his lieutenant colonelcy in course of time, and after 20 years' service he is entitled to retire, receiving the full price of his commissions—£4,500 for a lieutenant colonelcy — whether he obtained them with or without purchase. By doing so he gives up all claim to the half-pay of £200 a-year. Under this Bill, however, he is on quite a different footing, for he will only be allowed to receive the price of a captain's commission which he holds when the Bill passes — namely, £1,800 in lieu of £4,500 which he would get under the existing system. It is evident that £1,800 is no equivalent for the £200 per annum half-pay which he must relinquish in order to obtain it; that the offer to repay him is illusory; and that the £1,800 he has paid for his commission will practically be confiscated. Therefore the boasted generosity of the Government amounted to this—that only those now at the top of the tree, or those who retired at once in the rank they now hold, would ever have the option of getting back their money at all, because it was manifestly a losing bargain that was offered them by the Government. Here, again, the question of retirement must come under consideration, inasmuch as when officers were forced to remain regimental promotion became clogged. Our boast had been that our service was voluntary; but this Bill would introduce compulsion. Until now there had been no bar to an officer's selling his commission and leaving his regiment, unless the country was in danger and required his services. The Secretary of State proposed to add another condition. He would say—"It is very true that the country is not in danger and your services can be spared; but I have no money in the till; I have overdrawn my account; and what is more, your regiment is in Hong Kong or Jamaica, so perhaps you will die, and that will settle the account; there will be no claim upon the country." Last year the right hon. Gentleman said he knew nothing about purchase. He proclaimed himself the Lord Dundreary of the War Office, and said—"It was a question that no fellow could understand." He (Sir Percy Herbert) thought at that time that the right hon. Gentleman done himself an injustice, and that he perhaps wished to get rid of a troublesome subject by making an indifferent joke. Now, however, the right hon. Gentleman repeated that view in a new form, and said that none but a prophet could tell what retirement would be required for the Army after the abolition of purchase. [Mr. CARDWELL: Hear, hear!] That was, no doubt, avoiding the difficulty, and leaving it to be dealt with by another Secretary for War; but he begged to remind the House that it had a duty to perform, and should not be drawn away by the cheers and jokes of the Secretary of State. It was perfectly clear that, on the abolition of purchase, if the Army is to be kept efficient, a retirement scheme must be found. The Government ought not to throw the work of devising such a scheme upon others; it would only be straightforward on the part of Government to tell the House what they thought would be necessary. The right hon. Gentle man knew, or could easily ascertain, the rules and regulations in the Indian Army, which consisted of non-purchase corps, and the same remark applied to the Artillery and Engineers at home; so there was no excuse for the Government asking Parliament to legislate in the dark on the question. With regard to the second part of the Bill, let him say, speaking as a soldier, that he did not object in the abstract to the abolition of purchase, and more especially did he not object to a scheme of military re-organization. He thought the country would make a bad bargain, financially, by the abolition of purchase; but he did not believe that, in consequence of the change, any injury need be done to the service, or that a different class of officers would come in. He trusted that the Government would reconsider their proposals, for he was unwilling even to appear to oppose the second reading of a Bill not only for the abolition of purchase, but for the re-organization of the Army. It was the desire of his heart to see the Army and the Militia well organized for the defence of the nation. He had hoped to see that some things sketched and touched upon in this Bill, had been efficiently provided for in the Bill or in the Estimates; but he did not think they had been dealt with in a very broad and comprehensive spirit. At the same time, he was most unwilling to be forced into an opposition to the Bill. He perfectly approved of the system of transferring the first appointment in the Militia from the Lords Lieutenant to the Commander-in-Chief. But what the abolition of purchase had to do with this transference he was at a loss to conceive. The difficulty had been in obtaining young officers to serve as subalterns. He maintained that the numbers to be provided, which the right hon. Gentleman provided for the Militia, were not sufficient. He did not want to see any large increase of the Army. He wanted to see a strong increase of the Reserve, and a strong increase in the establishment of the Militia. From a letter he had received from a colonel of Militia he learned that a great many of the Militia Reserve would not be fit for the service for which they were specially intended, in consequence of so many having joined since the restrictions as to height, size of chest, and soundness were done away with. Another objection relating to the provisions dealing with the Militia was, that there was no provision made for the training of the Militia recruits for any extra time. The right hon. Gentleman, in his speech the other night, spoke of training them for three months only, and in his Bill he took power for training them for six months, which he (Sir Percy Herbert) quite approved of. But in the Estimates no provision was made for such periods of training. He could only see £70,000 put down in the Estimates to train recruits; and that sum, according to his calculation, would only train 14,000 men for three months. Now, 14,000 men was not the number of men they would have to deal with; and, therefore, it was evident it was not intended to train them for more than one month. Then, with regard to the first Reserve, that Reserve is stated at 9,000 men, and even then it was manifestly insufficient. When a reduction had to be made, recruiting was stopped, and the standard was raised so high that men could not come in. We did not offer sufficient inducements to bring out the best class of men for recruits. [Mr. CARDWELL: I have increased the inducement.] He was very glad to hear that. During the last six months the right hon. Gentleman had had admirable success in recruiting. He had obtained 25,000 recruits. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would go on recruiting year by year, and fill up the Army of Reserve by thoroughly trained men. He ventured to tell the House a fact brought to his knowledge, bearing upon the importance and value of a real Reserve of trained soldiers. Last autumn he had gone over to France to see what he could of this extraordinary Prussian Army. A general officer, commanding a division engaged in the blockade of Metz, told him that the day the orders were telegraphed to him to mobilize his division, and move it to the front, his division was about 100 miles to the eastward of Berlin. His division was then on a peace footing of 7,500, and in 15 days from the receipt of the order his division was brought up to 15,000 men, all fully equipped and trained soldiers, and moved across Prussia to Saarbrück, and it was one of the divisions which took part in the battle of Spichern one week later. There was no reason why our own Army, in proportion to its size, should not be as efficient. It was not a Prussian Army he wanted; but our Army ought to be as efficient as any one of the 12 or 13 corps d'armée of Prussia. If one thing more than another was wanted for the purpose of making young raw men, such as Militia recruits must be, into soldiers, it was the establishment of Militia barracks. And how did the right hon. Gentleman propose to deal with that subject? He put two or three clauses in the Bill to enable quarter sessions to borrow money for building barracks; but why on earth did he do so? Barracks were a part of the national defence. And the right hon. Gentleman did this at a time when everybody was complaining of local taxation. The clauses in question would be mere waste paper. That was another instance of the Government attempting to shove responsibility off their shoulders. He, as a Member of Parliament, would certainly oppose any money being borrowed in his county. He gave notice that he would move in Committee the omission of those clauses touching on this point. It would be as reasonable to ask the country to revert to the old system of asking a maritime county to provide a ship of war. That was a custom of the time of Elizabeth, and he thought it was worthy to be placed along side of this proposal about Militia barracks. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman ask the metropolitan ratepayers to provide a barrack similar to that at Chelsea? It was because he (Sir Percy Herbert) was most unwilling in any kind of way to oppose the organization of the Army—it was because he was unwilling to oppose the abolition of purchase, if it was properly dealt with, that he hoped some indication would be given by Ministers, in the course of this debate, which would render it unnecessary for him to oppose the second reading of the Bill. But he would not be doing his duty, either as a soldier or as a Member of Parliament, if he were to sanction a Bill which struck at the efficiency of the Army by doing away with the only system of retirement now in existence, without a substitute, or that would sanction so gross an injustice to the officers and Army as to force them to serve upon new terms, without paying them back the money they had actually disbursed.


observed that it was quite true as the right hon. Baronet the Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey) had said that the Commission of 1870, over which he had presided, was asked for no opinion and gave none; but, at the same time, the Report of that Commission was accepted unanimously, partly because the history of the matter led to no other conclusion than that which the Government had arrived at. The conclusion was that it was impossible now, in 1871, to separate the over-regulation, price from the regulation price. Now, what did his right hon. Friend (Mr. Headlam) invite the House to do? The Government and the country having made a commission a subject of sale and barter, his right hon. Friend proposed that they should attempt to fix a price at which that sale was to take effect. Again, the Government might tell an officer the regulation price of a step was so much. But could he get the step without paying the over-regulation price? Surely not, and yet his right hon. Friend proposed to separate the two things. He would like to see his right hon. Friend on the Treasury Bench trying to carry a scheme of that kind through the House, a scheme based on the refusal to pay the over-regulation price. He had listened with great interest to the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who moved the Amendment (Colonel Loyd Lindsay). It was a temperate and generous speech. He quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman that this question should be far removed from party, and he wished the gallant Seconder (Colonel White) had seen it in the same light, because then he would not have made what was a reckless and cruel assertion, coming from that side—that the Government had taken up this matter merely as a means of strengthening their party. The truth was that the proposal to do away with purchase was not acceptable to the Army now; but a year or two hence it would be recognized as a very great boon. It was not a proposal which could be very acceptable to the taxpayers. To what quarter, therefore, could the Government look for support, unless to those who, seeing the serious events of the last six months, wished to place the Army of England on an efficient footing? He had himself never been moved by sentimental arguments on either side of the question. He had never voted for the abolition of purchase, or believed that it was a class question, or that it was a gross injustice to the poor man, or that it kept men from rising from the ranks, or that it had given us anything but the very finest material in the world for our officers. He quite admitted certain advantages in the system of purchase. He did not know what the calculations of the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Loyd Lindsay) were as to the cost of abolition; but he agreed with him that the amount was not to be limited by the actual price paid for the commissions. There was behind another, and quite as serious a question—the question of retirement. Anyone who knew anything about retirement in the Navy must admit it. The gallant Officer quoted the words of a French marshal who had the greatest opportunities of judging between our system and the French system, and his advice was not to follow the French system. But did the one hang upon the other? Not at all. It had been suggested that there was a danger of the system of purchase cropping up again. He did not think it was a danger with which Parliament would ever have to deal. If purchase ever cropped up again it would be more in the shape of a mode of facilitating retirement—something given out of pay in order to create a greater inducement to retire. Then the gallant Officer thought a different class of men would enter the Army. But why? Would any hon. Gentleman opposite object to his son entering the Army because he could not purchase promotion, but must enter into competition with his fellows? What class would have a better chance in the competition than those who now filled the rank of officers in the Army? The gallant Officer had said that the system of selection must interfere with the regimental system. Now, everyone who had studied the history of the British Army must know the value attached to the regimental system. But was it necessary that the system of selection should be so ruthlessly exercised as to put an end to the regimental system? And had hon. Gentlemen never heard of such a thing as exchanging from one regiment to another now? The gallant Officer had seen something of the Prussian system actually at work, and what was his argument? It might be summarized thus—"The Prussian Army system has been a magnificent success; the French system has broken down; therefore, I counsel you, do not adopt the system of the Government, which has almost everything in common with the Prussian system, and nothing with the French." That was literally the argument of the gallant Colonel. He admitted the difficulties of the question; but he felt so sure—and in that respect he entirely agreed with the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke first in the debate—that what we wanted now in our Army was organization, that he should give his support to the proposal of the Government. It was because the system of purchase blocked the way, and that those who wished to effect reforms in our military system found themselves led into a trap and checkmated by it, without a move left upon the board — that he, for one, should vote in favour of its abolition. If we were satisfied with the condition of our Army as it stood, and that no further change was to be made when purchase was abolished, then we ought not to ask the country to pay the gigantic sum which was necessary for the purpose. But if we were anxious to have reform and organization, and to have the different branches of the Army brought into harmony with one another, the first step which we must take was to sweep away the system of purchase. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last had told the House what purchase was, and what it was not, and he concurred with him in his definition of what it was not. It was not putting up a commission to the highest bidder; but he must differ from the hon. and gallant Gentleman when he said that an officer who offered the regulation price could not be passed over, and might insist on his rights. [Major General Sir PERCY HERBERT: Without his own consent.] Now, that was but a very partial and a very technical statement of the case. It was, of course, quite true that the officer who paid the regulation price could not be passed over; but then he could not always get the officer above him to leave, so that he was not in a position to rise himself. [Major General Sir PERCY HERBERT: He cannot be purchased over.] No; but he could not insist on his right and could not get his step. What under those circumstances sometimes happened was that the step went into another regiment. The most distinct evidence upon that point had been given before the Commission, and the hon. and gallant General had clearly overstated the case. But he went on to say—Conceive when this Bill passes the hardships which will be inflicted, and the ill-feeling which will be created between those officers who receive promotion in the Army by means of competition, and selection, and who are serving side by side with the purchase officers. As things at present stood, however, were not the purchasing and the non-purchasing officer serving side by side? He concurred with those who thought there would be some difficulty in working out the proposals of the Government with respect to the retirement, and if he believed those prophets of evil who predicted that if the Bill before the House were to pass into law, the rank, culture, intelligence, and wealth of the country would no longer be found in the Army, he should greatly hesitate before he recorded his vote in favour of the second reading. But had, he would ask, the profession of arms no charms for us beyond that of being, for the most part, one which the rich only could hope to enter? To suppose that would be to suppose that this was one of the most degenerate of nations. The military had been, and must always be, one of the grandest of professions, and he, for one, could not imagine that because admission into that service was no longer a question of sale and barter, the best and most promising of our youth would hesitate to join its ranks. Was it because when they did join they were to be placed in keen competition with their fellows that hon. Members would not allow their sons to enter it? Surely, they did not think so meanly of those who were near and dear to them? His belief was that when they got rid of this abominable money question — it was a low, paltry, niggling consideration — if they once made a bold step and got rid of the difficulty, they would have some chance, not only of making the service still more acceptable and more delightful to those who had served in it, and those who would now join it, but they would have the opportunity of rendering it the most intelligent, the most cultured, and the strongest Army in the world.


Sir, I trust I may be allowed to make a few remarks upon this Bill; and, as one of the few officers upon full pay in this House, although I do not presume to speak in the name of the profession, still, as one of those personally interested in this scheme, the House will, perhaps, kindly bear with me. Now, Sir, the first question that I ask myself on reading the Bill, and after listening to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman is, does it provide for the "better regulation of the land forces?" does it provide for the best regulation that can be devised? does it insure such an improvement that our land forces may be welded into one homogeneous organization? and, above all, does it insure such an organization that, in case of imminent danger, the whole force can be mobilized on a war footing with rapidity, and systematically without confusion? I say, Sir, that unless every one of these questions can be answered in the affirmative, that the Bill does not meet the demands of the day, and that we should be failing in our duty if we allowed this great opportunity to pass without placing the nation in such a state of defence as the occasion calls for. I say great opportunity, for at last public attention is roused, and we have the force of the terrible example in the fate of France to warn us of what may be our lot should we, too, live on in a self-complacent sense of security. With regard to the mobilization of our forces, without which numbers are of no avail, perhaps I may be allowed to quote from a pamphlet just published in Berlin by an Englishman, an officer in the Prussian cavalry. He says— In time of peace all is held in readiness, in order that an Army may be made mobile on the shortest notice—i.e., placed on a war footing and marched into the field, &c., &c. … . Each commander of a corps de armée augments his corps quite separately; he not only has to see that the necessary number of men are called out, but that everything that a corps would require in the field be supplied. In this manner it is possible to place the whole Army on a war footing in 14 days. Now, I should like to ascertain how far we fall short of such perfection of organization? Does the Bill, does the speech that explained the Bill, give or show any prospect of such a desirable result? I fear not. It is of the utmost importance that our shortcomings should be measured; and I should be glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman had ordered, without notice, without preparation, the whole available force in the kingdom — Regulars, Militia, Volunteers — to assemble in 14 days on Salisbury Plain, or some other open space, in every respect as if upon a campaign, and entirely dependant upon its own resources—complete in its transport services, commissariat, &c., and with medical and hospital arrangements, upon a scale that would be requisite in war. Such a test could not fail to be most instructive to officers and to men; and, if successful, most satisfactory to the nation — and, if not, would give a knowledge of shortcomings and defects, instead of waiting for the disastrous experience of actual warfare. I hope that some of the £177,000 I notice as an increase in the Transport Vote is intended for some such purpose. Now, Sir, with regard to the first portion of the Bill, it is entirely devoted to the abolition of purchase. I fear that the hon. Member for the Border Burghs will not credit any officer who has been demoralized "with bargaining in commissions" with any patriotic spirit, or with any other than a spirit of selfish love and self-advancement; but I hope the House will believe that I have endeavoured to approach this subject impartially and without prejudice. With respect to the abolition of purchase, it seems to me that before a system which has stood the test of past experience, and especially in times of war, which has provided the Army with officers competent for their duties without charge to the country, and with satisfaction to themselves—I say before it is abolished we ought to have some assurance that its substitute will contain none of its defects, and will have no greater defects of its own. Very little has been urged against the present system, except individual cases of injustice, which will happen under any system, and that men unfit for promotion are placed over the heads of those who are fit—an event that can never occur if the rules of the service are carried out. In theory it is objected to as demoralizing to officers to have to bargain for their appointments; but in the same breath we are told by Royal Commissions, supported in opinion by the right hon. Gentleman, that the country has been well served by its officers and in a manner highly creditable to them. Surely there is some contradiction here. Well, granted that there are defects in the present system which might be remedied, what is proposed in its place? I will not say a word as to the pecuniary terms offered, for, being personally interested, I think the House will be of opinion that it would be better taste on my part to leave alone that part of the subject to those not interested; and I am quite content to leave it in the hands of hon. and gallant Members, especially of the gallant Member for Bewdley (Major Anson), who has done such good and distinguished service with the Army in the field, and for the Army in Parliament. What is the new system proposed? Seniority and selection — seniority means stagnation, selection means favouritism (or fancied favouritism almost as pernicious); discontent, and stagnation, unless some forced retirement is adopted, which means injustice and expense. Have we not striking examples of services in which there is no promotion by purchase? Look at the Artillery. Is it not sad to see men of the highest merit occupying positions they were fit to hold 20 years ago, and men of the greatest promise sick to death with the hopelessness of advancement? And when a retirement scheme is proposed it cannot be adopted, and why? Because it costs so much money. If this is the case in dealing with 2,000 officers, what will it be when an additional 6,000 have to be provided for? Again, look at the Navy where there was selection, a little seniority, and a great deal of luck. The system of promotion in the service was well described by a distinguished naval officer—"Ever since I entered the Navy I have been a beggar. I had to beg to get in at all. I had to beg to be made a mate, then for a ship. Then I had to beg for my lieutenancy, and then, again, for a ship. I had to beg to be made a commander, and then for my first command. Then, again, for my post captaincy; but the hardest 'beg' of all was for employment to save myself from being put on the retired list." This is a fair sample of naval opinion, and certainly naval officers are not, as a rule, contented men. Was the system so successful as to encourage its imitation? We are asked to abolish purchase, and no scheme for retirement is even shadowed out, and yet we know it will be necessary, and that the cost will be greater and perpetual. There is another point I particularly wish to advert to—namely, the destruction of the regimental system, which follows the scheme of the Government according to the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War. The Judge Advocate (Mr. Davison) had said it did not touch the regimental system; but the right hon. Gentleman said most distinctly that it would be impossible to prevent purchase cropping up again, unless above the rank of captain promotion ceased to be regimental. If this is so, it is quite sufficient to condemn the Bill. It will be the death-blow of the regimental system—a system that has never failed when all other departments have broken down. If you make it the practice to give majorities and lieutenant colonelcies to men not in the regiments, you will destroy the corner-stone of the whole fabric. Now, a regiment is bound together by traditions, and by the affection and attachment of its members to their corps and to one another. We know one another, can depend upon one another, and all have a common interest. We look forward to commanding not a regiment but the regiment in which we have grown up as a portion of it, and in which we have acquired all our professional knowledge. Again, there is a link between the old officers and those still in the regiment, urging us, if it were necessary, to maintain the credit and efficiency of the old corps. A friendly interest and criticism is maintained most beneficial to the Army. And is this sort of feeling to be lightly thrown away? I confess I would rather see purchase abolished without compensation—an act of injustice, which would effectually prevent its recurrence (the object in view)—than that the regimental system, in its most essential particular, should be broken into. The chief reason the right hon. Gentleman gives, after his theoretical ones, is that the purchase system stands in the way of amalgamation of Line and Militia; but what has he done towards it? Nothing but what might be done before. Militia ensigns are to get commissions in the Army, and Army captains to serve as adjutants in Militia for limited periods. I think I see the difficulty that met the right hon. Gentleman when he came to deal with the very plausible idea of amalgamating the officers of the Line and the Militia. Take the cases of captains in the Regulars. What position were they to take in the Militia? Were they to rank above them, either as field officers or as senior captains; or were they to be placed below the captains of Militia? In the last case, you would not get a captain of the Regulars to serve in the Militia; in the former case, you would stop all promotion of Militia officers, disgust them with their service, and effectually destroy what the right hon. Gentleman says he is most anxious to maintain—the county character and influence of that force. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has made out his case. He urges little against the old system, which admittedly has worked so well, especially in war—after all the only test. He offers us what has been tried and failed and is disliked—the principle of selection founded on seniority. This necessitates compulsory retirement; but we have no proposal before us, and the only certainty is its large cost. As the only means of destroying purchase, he destroys the regimental system. The object of all this change is the amalgamation of Regulars and Reserves, which is impossible—except to an extent that might be accomplished under the old system—without sacrificing the county influence. Last, but very important, the cost of this, even in a manner considered illiberal by impartial authorities, will be £8,000,000, not including a large annual charge for retirements. I was sent to this House as unpledged as any Member; but I did give one assurance, and that was that I would support measures that promised increased efficiency with proper economy. I think this Bill neither provides for the one nor satisfies the other. I am desirous of doing all in my power to promote the re-organization of the Army; but I not only feel that an efficient Army does not necessarily imply a heavy and extravagant expenditure, but I do not believe that the plan before us will have the effect which all real Army reformers desire to see brought about. I do not think the Government should force this question upon Parliament. You cannot say there is any great feeling in the country, for it knows little of the matter; and if it continues to have, as its principal source of information, the hon. Member for the Border Burghs, it will be some time before it understands the question. Is not the inference of all his speeches that the purchase system means that commissions are sold by auction to the highest bidder; that merit is never recognized; and that no checks exist to prevent incompetent men obtaining advancement? Nothing can be more absurd; Crœsus himself could not attain the head of a regiment, unless at every step he had proved himself qualified for promotion. I wish to touch upon but one other point in connection with this part of the subject. The Prussian Army is officered on an aristocratic and exclusive principle, while the French was officered on democratic principles—any man being permitted to join the Army as an officer, provided he passed the necessary examinations and got through the military schools. The British Army occupies a position between the two; it is officered by men of all classes and greatly to the advantage of the service. Now, I ask the House to beware in passing any measure where there is danger in an approach to the French or democratic principles. That remark may be considered unwise and foolish by hon. Members below the Gangway; but it is my opinion, and I see no reason why I should not express it. To turn to the latter portion of the Bill. I do not object to the extension of the principle of short enlistment. I confess I am a convert; for last year I saw great difficulties in the arrangement of foreign and Indian service, and I did not consider that they were counterbalanced by advantages; but now I see the necessity of having a large number of trained soldiers at hand—more than is possible to have serving in the ranks. The Prussian system was brought about by the limitation of a standing Army, dictated by Napoleon, in the Treaty of Tilsit, after the battle of Jena. We, Sir, have no such disgraceful page in our history, and yet we have almost as rigid a limit to the numbers of our Army in the force of public opinion, and by the vast cost any considerable increase would entail. I wish the right hon. Gentleman had dwelt more upon this subject of Reserves, and had given us some idea of the numbers he proposes to obtain in future years. I hope he does not intend to fix as a maximum 20,000 men for the first Army Reserve and 30,000 for the second. I hope he will not rest until he has 500 men, at least, in each Reserve for every battalion in the service. I wish we had heard more of a large increase in the cavalry and a further increase in artillery. I think the localization of regiments in the associating Line with Militia is wise, and I trust it may be carried further. The taking from Lords Lieutenant the appointments and promotion is conducive to a better system, and is, I believe, not disliked by many Lords Lieutenant. And now, Sir, I conclude. There is much that I should like to touch upon; but I have already wearied the House too long. I will only say that I trust some system will be devised for making available the considerable numbers we have nominally. I do not wish—indeed, it is impossible—that we should have a standing Army large enough to vie with Continental powers; but we must have the means of rapidly filling our ranks with trained men. With a well drilled Militia to set free the whole of our regular Army, and with our Volunteer force as a last line—one which would nobly fulfil its duty if called upon, though I trust it never may—we should be free from danger and from panic. Great Britain would be enabled to pursue a dignified policy, and not that dictated to her by the Official Journal of Versailles—a policy of obliteration.


moved the adjournment of the Debate.

Debate adjourned till Thursday.