Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed to Question [6th March], "That the Bill be now read a second time;" and which Amendment was,
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,)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Debate resumed.
§ LORD ELCHO
The narrow issue to which, as I think, unfortunately, this question has been confined on the matter raised by my hon. and gallant Friend behind me (Colonel Loyd Lindsay), to whose liberality and exertions during the late war suffering humanity owes so much, has placed it, in my opinion, on too limited a basis. The consequence has been that this debate has run almost entirely upon the question of Army purchase. Now, though the abolition of the system of purchase may form a very large part of the Government measure, I venture to say that it is but a very small part of a very great subject. The question at issue before the country is the passing of a Bill for the purpose of placing its military resources on a proper footing, and it is therefore a question affecting the honour, power, influence, nay, even the very safety of England; and I venture to think that in comparison with this question not only does purchase sink into insignificance, but the questions which engaged us for two Sessions of Parliament, momentous though they were—I mean the measures dealing with the Irish Church and the tenure of land in Ireland—are also questions that sink into comparative insignificance. The House will therefore, I trust, bear with me while I endeavour to place this question—which my hon. and gallant Friend behind me, though representing a broad- 1680 gauge county, has shunted, I cannot help thinking unwisely, on to a narrow gauge—upon its true basis. I cannot say that I was either pleased or disappointed at the speech made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War in introducing his proposals to the House. It could not have pleased me, notwithstanding the ability and clearness of his statement, to hear him shadowing forth measures which I believed to be totally inadequate to the occasion. I was not disappointed, because, knowing the turn of my right hon. Friend's mind, and being aware of what was thought by that gentleman who is acquainted with everything—I mean "the man in the street"—as to the course which the Government would take in this matter, I was in that state of beatitude which is the condition of those who expect nothing; therefore the measure shadowed forth, so far as I was concerned, was no disappointment to me. It seems to me, having read the comments which have been passed on this scheme by the public prints—comments which, in the case of the leading journal, went to the extent of saying that the speech of my right hon. Friend was received with enthusiasm, desirable to ascertain, if possible, what are the grounds for that enthusiasm: I have read that speech line for line; I have searched the provisions of this Bill diligently, and I must confess I can find in neither sufficient cause for any such feeling. In order to ascertain the value of this measure we must, I think, first of all establish an adequate gauge. My right hon. Friend has given us his gauge. He stated that the measure was intended to lay deep the foundation of a system—and I beg the House to mark this—"which would render danger, or the apprehension of danger, altogether unknown in the future." Now, that is a magniloquent, but a somewhat vague mode of expression; and the worst of it is that you cannot apply my right hon. Friend's gauge to his Bill until the danger has actually arisen; in short, until it is too late. "Too late!"—those unhappy monosyllables which were written up over the doors of the War and Commissariat Departments during the Crimean War, and which have been written on almost every page of our military history. I, for one, reject this gauge, and seek for some other. What, then, should 1681 be the proper gauge of a measure for the organization of the military forces of the Crown?—for that is what the question comes to after all. In answer to that question, I contend that you must establish, in the first place, a proper standard for your Army; you must severally see what your present armaments are; and, in the third place, find out what are your chief wants. As to a proper standard for our Army, I would, in dealing with that point, though I may refer to our foreign policy, not say a single word which might alarm any hon. Member, especially the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Charles W. Dilke). I am not going to open up the question of the Conference, or of British interference, but this question of what should be our foreign policy lies at the root of the whole subject of Army organization, and it may, I think, be discussed and dismissed in a very few sentences. The events which have occurred in Europe during the last six months have brought to the front the views entertained by different sections in this country as to what should be the character of the foreign policy which we should adopt. We have, on the one hand, the advocates of non-intervention, and first comes the Peace Society, of whom I see a distinguished representative sitting on the Benches opposite. Now, do not imagine that I am going to speak sneeringly of the members of that society. On the contrary, I have the greatest respect for those gentlemen, because they are men who have opinions, and who are not ashamed to own those opinions, at the risk of being laughed at by their fellow-countrymen when they advocate disarmament, which they are always prepared to do even in time of war. But the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. P. A. Taylor), favourable though he is to peace, has told us that he is not prepared to secure it at any price, and that he is ready to pay for it the price of war. This party, however, cannot, I think, be said to represent anything like the majority of the people of this country. We have also among us men who are at one time for non-intervention, and who petition the Government against intervention, but who, at another, are found assembled in fantastic garb round the base of Nelson's Column dancing a moral war dance and whooping like Red Indians in their desire to urge on the 1682 Government to engage in hostilities. I am glad the Prime Minister has had the courage to bar the door against his allies in Trafalgar Square and Hyde Park. Again, we have a more literate and philosophic class of Englishmen, who are fond of giving utterance to sentiments no less bloodthirsty in the pages of some popular reviews. Now, I do not believe that any of those parties represents the deep-seated feeling of the people of this country. But there is another class of men for whom much is to be said. The views of this class are most ably put forward in a pamphlet called Happy England, which I recommend hon. Members carefully to read. The author is Sir Edward Sullivan, a man who has written admirable articles on social reform, and his view is, that the people of this country ought not to be the sole policeman of Europe; that we should have nothing more to do with treaties; and that we should content ourselves with maintaining such a fleet and such a number of marines as would enable us to protect ourselves and our colonial possessions. That also is a view which, in my opinion, does not represent the real feeling of this House, or of the public out-of-doors. On the other hand, we have interventionists of the purest and bluest blood, who are ready to interfere on every occasion in the affairs of the nations beyond that "silver streak," for which, as I do not happen to look upon it from the serene battlements of Walmer Castle, I venture to suggest "leaden" would be a more appropriate epithet. The class of interventionists of whom I am speaking would have us maintain such a military force as would enable us to renew the glories of Agincourt and Cressy; but neither is theirs, in my opinion, the view of the majority of the people of this country. I now come to what I believe to be the real feeling of the majority of Englishmen on this subject. It is this—They hate war as much as the Peace Society; they remember what the wise man has said, that "he that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." They at the same think that the safety and honour of England may sometimes oblige us to interefere, and that we might be bound by the faith of treaties to take part in struggles which we would give almost anything to avoid. While hating war, they are men who, 1683 when honour is at stake, may always be appealed to with success, for they feel that, though death may be a fearful thing, a shamed life is hateful. That I am right in this view is shown by what occurred at the close of last Session, when we showed our readiness to interfere for the defence of Belgium, and Parliament was asked to vote a sum of money for the purpose of increasing our military force. Such being our policy, we must place ourselves in the position of keeping our Army in such a state of efficiency that, without waiting for five or six months, we might be enabled effectually to carry out those treaty obligations in which the honour of England is engaged. As to our colonial policy, it may be wise to bring troops home in time of peace; but in the event of war, unless you are prepared to give up your Colonies, you must send troops to defend them. In case of war you must be prepared to increase the garrisons of fortresses like Malta, Gibraltar, and Halifax. It is, therefore, a mistake to say you are strong because you have in this country a certain number of men, when, in the event of the outbreak of a war, you would have to send abroad a considerable number of them for the purposes of your colonial garrisons. Then there is India. I suppose no one wishes to give up India. But you may have to put down a mutiny, or, in case of differences with Russia about the Black Sea question, you may have to defend the frontier of India. Looking, then, to foreign and colonial policy—I say nothing at present about home defence—you must have an Army, small, indeed, but easily and rapidly expanded. Now, such an Army at the present moment we certainly have not got. As regards our home policy, I need not speak of our home defences, because the wish of every Englishman must naturally be that we should be absolutely unassailable at home, and that if we think it right to adopt as our foreign policy, a policy of concession instead of resistance, it should not be supposed that our concession is caused by the weakness of our military armaments. I come now to the second part of my gauge—the state of our Army. I am not going to weary the House by entering into Army statistics. I will ask it to accept certain things as accepted facts. Now, what is the state of our Army? I have jotted 1684 down certain facts which I believe to be indisputable. We have an Army organized in regiments only. I do not call your district organization anything as yet. It may become so; it is not so now. You have an Army organized in regiments only; and those, skeleton regiments and cadres. You have no Reserves—that is to say, nothing worthy of the name. You have a Militia Reserve of 20,000 men, to get which you have reduced the standard, and have not insisted on medical examination, so that many of these men, if examined now for re-enlistment in regiments, would be rejected, whereas, by going into the Militia Reserve, they escape medical examination, and can be re-attested without it. You have no certain supply—I mean no absolute supply—of men. The men you get are not of sufficient physique—that is to say, they are too young. I have extracts from the Report of the recruiting officer laid on the Table, which my right hon. Friend has quoted with reference to enlistment and other matters in his own favour, though if I wanted a document which shows the rottenness of our system, especially in the matter of recruiting, I should take this as a textbook. It seems that these boys enlist nominally at 18, but really often at 17, and sometimes—though the Report does not say so—at 16 years of age. The Report says they increase one inch in height, two inches round the chest, and 16lbs. in weight in the course of one year. On the other hand, a most able pamphlet has been written by Major-General Sir Lintorn Simmons, than whom, from the variety of his knowledge and experience, no higher authority exists, and this officer points out that what with the boys who are unfit for long marches and hard service, and what with the comparatively old soldiers who re-enlist in order to obtain their pensions, you must, for actual, reliable service in the field, make a deduction of from 15 to 20 per cent from our Army, 20 per cent being, as he says, much nearer the mark than 15. Then what is it you may have to meet? Every correspondent, and every private individual who has seen the troops engaged in the war, has been struck by the physique of the German soldiers. Their active, mobilized war Army consists entirely of men from 20 to 27 years of age; and it is against this Army that 1685 you might possibly have to send your raw youths of 16 and 18, along with men who, towards the close of their 20 years' service, are only fit for garrison duty. As regards the class of men, you do not get the right quality. Our Army is not during peace trained for war as the Prussian Army is. The Militia, like the Regular Army, exists only in regiments. It is not formed into brigades, with officers attached to learn their duty. They, too, have no certain supply of men; and they, too, have the same class of men I have referred to as being in the Regular Army. Then, again, I can refer to the Report of the recruiting officer, to which I have already alluded. He points out the evil of the competition which now exists between the Militia and the Line for the same class of men—a competition attended with great injury to the service; and, owing to the localization of the force, the Militia recruiting sergeants, on the whole, get better men than those of the Regular Army. The training of the Militia is admittedly insufficient; the force is also, to a certain extent, short of officers. Now, as to the Volunteers. They also exist only in regiments. They are insufficiently trained; their officers, as a whole are also not up to the proper standard; and, above all, the Government have no hold over the force, in consequence of which you cannot compel that degree of training and discipline which is absolutely essential to make it a reliable weapon for the defence of England. This is what is; I do not say what might be. I come now to probably the most important of all the branches of our military forces, and that is the artillery. At the close of last Session my right hon. Friend—I do not blame him, for he went to his present office new to the work, and naturally says on such questions what those in his Office, or the authorities whom he consults, tell him—spoke in this House in the most contented manner about our armaments, and the House went away satisfied. My right hon. Friend was not only satisfied; he spoke proudly and boastfully of the state of our artillery. And what did he say? That we had artillery sufficient for 60,000 men—not a gun more. It was upon this assurance that Parliament separated, with the chance of having to drive the Prussians or the French out of Belgium. 1686 It turned out that, according to our field equipment, we had not artillery for 60,000 men with Reserves on a war establishment, but only had artillery for 40,000 men. I again say that I do not blame the right hon. Gentleman. He spoke as he was told. But it is desirable that the House should know accurately what is the real state of our artillery. The result of further deliberation during the Recess was this—that whereas my right hon. Friend was satisfied with the state of our artillery at the end of August, he doubled it in the course of the Recess between September and February. Here is a statement made out from various sources, upon which the House may rely as absolutely correct. The proportion of artillery in the Prussian service is 2.7 per 1,000 men. In our service, according to the field equipment, with Reserves, the proportion was set down at 3.10, showing, on paper, a larger proportion than that in the Prussian Army; but a Committee which investigated the subject lowered the figures to 3 guns to every 1,000 men, including the artillery themselves. I take this as the standard. My right hon. Friend says we have this year 336 guns and 72 depôt guns—in all 408 field guns. At 3 guns per 1,000 men this is equal to an Army of 136,000 men. The artillery got 1,456 of the 20,000 men voted in August of last year, with 724 horses, to complete the then existing batteries, so that they were not complete at the time my right hon. Friend comforted the House. A further increase was made on February 1, 1871, of 3,798 men and 2,110 horses, to form six new batteries of horse artillery and 20 new batteries of field artillery. This increase in the artillery has been made not simply by raising men, but by converting to a certain extent garrison batteries into field batteries; so that of 20 new batteries, 8 are wholly formed from garrison batteries, and 2 are wholly officered from garrison batteries; the result being that the garrison batteries are short of officers, consequent on last year's reduction of one subaltern, and the raising now of garrison brigades to 162 men per battery. Let it be remembered that a garrison gunner is a mechanic, who has to raise from the ground the 35-ton gun, place it on the carriage and work it; and, therefore, by converting the garrison artilleryman into a field 1687 artilleryman, you put a skilled workman to do inferior work. These garrison gunners when made field artillerymen will have to discharge stable duties and teach riding and mounted drills, though I believe not one of them has been on horseback. Notwithstanding this absorbing of garrison artillery, an increase of 2,512 men and 5,440 horses is required to place our artillery on a foreign war establishment. We have a foreign war establishment and we have a home war establishment. To complete the home war establishment we require 1,192 men and 3,088 horses. To complete these batteries the Government would have to take the whole depôt brigade of 2,600 men, and these will have to meet the whole of the Indian drain and the requirements of the Colonies. Of the 72 guns in depôt or reserve, only 30 are now horsed and manned, and those on the peace establishment. When the House is told of these things it may well shiver at the state of things existing, knowing what the expenditure would be to place matters on a proper footing. However, considering what has recently been going on abroad, it is desirable that these figures should sink deeply into the minds of hon. Members. We require on the standard of 3 guns to 1,000 men for the home forces alone, 135,000 men, 405 guns; for the Army of Reserve of 60,000 men of the first and second class, 180 guns; and 60 guns for the Militia Reserve of 20,000. Therefore, you require 645 guns for the Army alone, and you have now only 405. There is no difficulty in the manufacture of the guns, for they can be turned out at Woolwich at the rate of a battery a week; it is the men and the training of them that are wanted. You should have a sufficient Reserve, and not have to wait for six months to get 18,000 men. My right hon. Friend boasts of his battalions of Reserved forces—the Militia and Volunteers. Now, how many guns would they require? The 120,000 men of the Militia would require 360 guns; the 14,000 Yeomanry would require 42, and the 170,000 Volunteers would require 510 guns, or, altogether, 912 field guns if they were put into the field on the footing you have supposed as proper for meeting an enemy having 3 guns to 1,000 men. I admit that a certain amount of the men would be locked up in depôts; but to say that 1688 you have the requisite number of guns in reserve would not be doing justice to the Army, and would only be throwing dust in the eyes of the country. We ought to take care that, in applying this test to the Bill, we have a Reserve force of artillery. The great secret of success abroad has been this—that, although the proportion is under 3 guns to 1,000 men, considering the mass of artillery in the German Army, they can concentrate it, and bring the fire to bear on certain points; so that the Duke of Mecklenburg had guns in the proportion of 6 to 1,000 men in his Army. Besides all this, we have no general field organization, and we have forts comparatively without guns. My right hon. Friend boasts of a 35-ton gun, and says we shall have the best guns in the world. But we have only got one of them, and I am not sure that that has been proved. My right hon. Friend also said that we have the best field gun in the world; but how many guns of that kind have we got? Only two. As regards the rifle, my right hon. Friend stated that we likewise possessed the best specimen of that arm. I have the satisfaction of saying that the Snider is better, or, at least, as good as the Chassepôt. My right hon. Friend also referred to the Martini-Henry; and I will accept his statement, that it is the best arm in the world. But the pattern of this arm has not been decided upon, and further experiments are being made to make it lighter. But you must recollect that you have got to arm your troops with this weapon. What is supposed to be the proper stand of arms in this country, exclusive of those in the hands of troops? There ought to be 800,000 in store. No doubt the Snider will be the store arm for emergencies, and that other arms will be put into the hands of the troops for service. Whether we regard the big guns or the small arms, the whole matter must be admitted to be in a state of transition; and, unless money is spent on these primary objects, it will be years and years before we get into a satisfactory condition. We have only one arsenal, and our system of supply is very unsatisfactory, and would entirely break down in time of war. My right hon. Friend referred to the expedition into Canada, and quoted the letter of Colonel Wolseley; but that was no test whatever. That expedition to the Red River was nothing like an expedition in 1689 the ordinary war sense—it was a mere caravan going out into the desert, carrying all its supplies with it, having no base, and requiring none, and there was no expenditure of ammunition attending it, so that, therefore, it is absolutely worthless as a test. I now come to show what our state is as regards our wants. There are two kinds of wants. There are wants which are secondary, and there are wants which are primary and essential. What I call a secondary want, assuming it to be a want at all, is such a matter as that which occupied the attention of Parliament a week or two ago for a whole night; it is a secondary point in military reform whether the Military Secretary is to be appointed for life or for only five years. I hold his salary to be equally a secondary matter in the question of military reform. I hold it a secondary question whether the tenure of the Commander-in-Chief should be for life or for five years. Those are all secondary as compared with our really primary wants. Individually, I believe that the present Commander-in-Chief, from his knowledge of all military details, is the fittest man in this country to hold the office which he now fills; and what I see, on the part of those who are agitating this question, is a wish, a desire, an attempt to degrade the Commander-in-Chief into the mere creature of the Secretary of State, whom they may, perhaps, some day succeed in making—what he is not at present—the slave of the House of Commons. To show the House that I am not wrong in that view, I may say that three years ago, after the discussion on purchase, I met an ardent young Army reformer, and expressed to him my surprise that there was such an anxiety to get rid of the Duke of Cambridge, who, on every Committee and Commission, had shown that he knew more of the details connected with the administration of the Army than any other man, civil or military, in the country. What was the reply of this ardent young military reformer? "That's it!" he said. "That is why we must get rid of him. He is too powerful." "Why?" I asked. "Because, under our Constitution," replied my friend, "we are enabled to have a Secretary of State who is not very well versed in military matters, and, therefore, he may become a mere tool in the hands of such a Commander-in-Chief 1690 as the Duke of Cambridge." I shrugged my shoulders, turned on my heel, and said—"I am glad to have learnt your views on this question, and it comes to this—that because by the Constitution you are able to have an ignorant Secretary of State, you must therefore saddle the Army with an incompetent Commander-in-Chief." I think the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) will not deny that this is a correct statement of the views of Army reformers at the time I speak of, three years ago. I say, nevertheless, the tenure of the Commander-in-Chief, whether for life or for five years, is secondary, as a question of military organization. Then another question which I deem to be wholly and absolutely secondary is the question of purchase. Does anyone deny it? No, it is not denied; but, in case it should be, I will anticipate the denial and prove that my view is right. Suppose that when this war broke out, and the nation was in an excited and alarmed state, the Secretary of State had come down to this House, and told us that he had added 20,000 men to the Army, and a certain number to the artillery, and had said further—"This is an European crisis of the gravest character, and we shall meet it by altering the tenure of the office of Commander-in-Chief to five years, by similarly altering the tenure of the Military Secretary's office, by reducing the Secretary's salary, and by abolishing the system of purchase." If he had done no more than that, should we have accepted such proposals? No. We should have said—"This is all very well in theory, and it is, no doubt, a right thing to make our house sound in all its joints and crannies, but these are all secondary questions; what we want to do is to make arrangements for our primary and essential wants, or otherwise the country will not be secure." Now, what are our primary wants? They are, in the first place, men for the Army, a certain, absolute supply of men of proper physique. We want Reserves for the Army, and that these Reserves should not come in by driblets of 1,000, 2,000, or 3,000 a-year, and taking 10 or 20 years before an Army of Reserve is formed, but that steps should be taken to bribe men to come into the Army at once; otherwise where would you be if another emergency should happen? Then, with regard to the Militia, we 1691 want a certain supply of men to stop the competition with the Army, and these men should be sufficiently trained to meet foreign troops, in case, at any time, we should be invaded. As to the Volunteers, the whole matter may be summed up in one word—you want to get a hold of them which you have not yet got. And, now, having got my gauge, let me apply it to this measure. I have made an analysis of this Bill. It consists of 36 clauses, of which eight go to purchase, 16 to the auxiliary forces. There remain power to take railways one clause; barracks and land, five clauses; penalties and saving clauses, three; definition, one; preliminary one. There is only one clause relating to the question of Reserves; yet the title of the Bill is "Army Regulation." Now, it appears to me that the whole of this Bill deals recklessly and wantonly with what is secondary, while it almost ignores, as I shall show, what is primary and essential in what this country needs—military organization. An hon. and gallant Friend of mine the Member for Bewdley (Major Anson) asked the Secretary of State to divide his Bill, but he very naturally refuses; because if he did divide it into measures affecting purchase and its other questions, there would be nothing left of it, and my right hon. Friend naturally and wisely objects to bring that result about. The question of purchase is the very pith and marrow of this Bill. I am not a defender of purchase in the abstract; no man is; but I find that it works well in practice. Three years ago I ventured to address the House on the question. I never thought of the subject till then; but I read during the Easter Recess all that had been said in the House on the subject, and I came to the deliberate conclusion before I made my speech that, perhaps, the only sound thing in our military organization is this regimental system, of which the life-blood is this question of purchase. I do not defend purchase in theory; but as a practical man wishing to do the best for the Army, for my country, and for my constituents, I am forced to the conclusion that it works well—I shall not discuss the details of the matter at all. I assume that the interests of the officers are safe, and that the House of Commons, if it abolishes purchase, will do full and ample justice to the vested 1692 interests of the Army, and that over-regulation, as well as regulation prices will be paid to clear this debt which you have allowed to grow up. I will only say a few words on the general question. I think purchase can be defended on the broad question of principle. What is the good side of purchase? It is this—that it gives you young and physically efficient officers, so that you have a great deal younger officers in your Army than are to be found in any other Army, and you get this at no cost to the State, and on the very small payment which you make to your officers. Our officers, there can be no question, are very badly paid; but as they are willing to serve it is not for the House or the country to complain. You get the very best and most efficient officers, and they are not discontented with their position, but are proud of it. The purchase system also gives you a check against anything like favouritism, and it is the very root and basis of what is called the regimental system; but that is the wrong expression; we should rather call it the esprit de corps, or regimental esprit, as it was well termed by the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Talbot) who spoke the other night immediately before the adjournment. It is impossible to set too high a value upon this regimental esprit, and your new scheme proposes to destroy it. An hon. Member whose reputation for ability stands high in this House—the hon. Member for Bedford (Mr. Whitbread)—has spoken of the hardships to officers under the existing system. Why, whether purchase or non-purchase, all officers alike are in favour of the purchase system. The hon. Member also said that no officer under the purchase system could be passed over without his consent, and that in cases where he was unable to purchase his step promotion must of a necessity come to a stop. But the answer to the objection is a very simple one, because I maintain that such a man will get to the head of his regiment sooner under the existing system than he would do under the proposed one. Well, those are some of the good results of the purchase system, and now let us see what are the objections which have been raised against it. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) who has shown so much ability and perseverance in connection 1693 with this subject, maintains that by abolishing the purchase system we shall obtain these five advantages. In the first place, he says, we shall obtain efficient officers in every grade of rank. Admitted. Secondly, he says that no man will be able to obtain the command of a regiment who is not efficient; thirdly, that there should be an opening afforded to non-moneyed men who have ability and zeal, and who wish to get on, but who cannot afford to pay for promotion. Fourthly, that under the new system we shall have promotion from the ranks of non-commissioned officers. We have heard very little on this subject lately, and I shall have something more to say upon it by-and-by; and, lastly—and this is the Government reason for asking us to spend this enormous sum of money—that we cannot officer our Reserves or amalgamate our forces without the abolition of the purchase system. [Captain VIVIAN: No.] I am in the recollection of the House; but if it is denied that this is the Government reason, I say they have no reason at all for it. I maintain that every one of these advantages can be obtained without our going to this expense; if they could not, I should be the first to support it. Let us consider the first of these advantages which it is said we are to obtain under the new system. It is said we shall obtain efficient officers under it. Now, I maintain that under the existing system you can train your officers up to any standard you choose. You can, if you wish, screw them up to the Prussian standard, or even above it. Therefore, there is nothing in the argument that you can obtain efficient officers by the abolition of the purchase system. But it is most important that our officers should be trained on a war footing. You have never done that, and you make no provision for it under your new system. Thus you have absolutely neglected the most important part of the training your officers ought to receive. Then it is stated that under the new system the command of a regiment will be prevented from falling into incompetent hands. But under the existing system the Commander-in-Chief has a veto upon the appointments to the commands of regiments, and he has confidential reports placed in his hands which tell him the character of every officer in the Army. If you choose to do so, you can say at 1694 the present time to every officer that they shall undergo a general examination before they are appointed to the command of regiments. Then as to the veto possessed by the Commander-in-Chief. It may be said the Commander-in-Chief does not exercise that veto; but if you find he fails to exercise it where he ought to, withdraw his letter of service, and be thankful that you are enabled to do so, as he has not got a five years' tenure of office. Appoint some other Commander-in-Chief, and go on appointing fresh ones, if necessary, until you get one who will carry out his duty properly; for it is the duty of the Commander-in-Chief not to be deterred by the "Dawkinses" of the service, but to exercise the veto intrusted to him by the Constitution in such a way as will add to the efficiency of the service. As regards the opening of the Army to poor men who cannot afford to buy their promotion, there is nothing in the present system which prevents that being done. The Artillery and the Engineers are open at the present moment to that very class of men. I need not read the figures I have in my hand, because it is needless to weary the House by doing so; but here is a statement of the number of commissions given at Sandhurst without purchase, and of the number at the Universities which are paid for. Therefore it is absurd to say that you cannot throw open the Army to poor men under the present system. Then comes the question of the promotion of non-commissioned officers. But did not the hon. Member for the Border Burghs himself point to what occurred in the Crimea, and say that upwards of 100 non-commissioned officers had been raised from the ranksthen, and had received commissions. That statement begs the question on my side, because it shows that, under the present system of purchase, you can give commissions to whatever number of noncommissioned officers you think right. I said just now that we heard very little now about commissions being given to non-commissioned officers, and with good reason. What was the sort of language used upon this subject three years ago? The hon. Member for the Border Burghs said—If we could once prevail upon the War Office to set aside some fixed proportion of vacancies, say one-third or one-fourth, for men promoted from the ranks, all else would in good time follow.1695 But the French and Prussian War has occurred since then, and the non-commissioned officer question "won't wash" now; and, consequently, we have heard nothing in this debate about the giving of commissions to non-commissioned officers under the new system. It would certainly be a great inconsistency to say that while our great want is trained officers, we intend giving commissions to non-commissioned officers. We need not enter into the aristocratic question—do not let us talk such rubbish as that—but the class of officers we want is that which we find in the Artillery and in the Engineers. Sir Robert Anstruther took up this question rightly when he said that we want officers from the middle class of society. But the object of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs is to democratize the Army. Three years since the hon. Member said—"We could not go on much longer officering our Army from the froth, and manning it from the dregs of society." That was said by the hon. Member in this House three years ago. But he finds it desirable and convenient to change his tone now. [Mr. TREVELYAN: No.] The hon. Member adjured his friends to "provide us with a national and, in the truest sense, a democratic military force." It is not for me to stand up here to defend the officers of the Army—God knows they want no defenders. Looking at their acts, whether before regular armies or savage tribes, or in the Indian Mutiny, is there a man in this House who will say that our Army is officered by the froth of the nation? Even in the heat of debate such language would be strong; but when the hon. Member calmly reiterates the charge, I can only say that I do not take the view of the question which he does—my nature, thank God, does not fit me for it. There remains, then, but the fifth point for me to deal with—namely, that which relates to the officering of the Reserved forces. I maintain that the Reserved forces can be officered without getting rid of the purchase system. Glancing over the Army List yesterday, I found that in the Essex Rifles out of a total of 15 officers eight, including the honorary colonel, are men who have served in the Army, and that in the Royal Glamorganshire Regiment, which has no honorary colonel, out of 16 officers nine have served in the Army. 1696 Those were the only two regiments I looked at; but I dare say they were a fair sample of the rest. Therefore it is a mistake to suppose that in the Militia we have not numbers of officers who have served in the Regular Army. If you have not enough now, why do not you get more? You have only to say that officers on half-pay shall serve in the Militia as a condition of their half-pay, and you would obtain any number you thought fit to accept. I know numbers—I am afraid to say how many—of officers who have asked over and over again for employment in the Militia, and have been refused. As regards the Volunteers in like manner, I am proud to say that officers in many of the regiments have been in the Regular Army. I myself have the honour, unworthy as I am of it, of commanding the holder of a Victoria Cross in the person of one of my majors, who was aide-de-camp to Sir Hope Grant, and my other major was aide-de camp to Lord Clyde during the whole of the Indian campaign. Therefore, upon all these points the difficulty can be met, if the Secretary of State chooses, without doing away with purchase. Now what are the sums that will have to be paid. The Secretary of State has given an estimate of from £7,000,000 to £8,000,000, but he did not touch upon the question of retirement. And why did he not do this?—because, as he said, he was no prophet. Non meus hec sermo. Far be it from me to say whether he is or is not a prophet; but I will say it is a thing almost unheard of for a Secretary of State for War to ask the House to sanction an expenditure of £8,000,000 for the abolition of purchase, and to add that there would be a further charge for retirement, but he had no notion what it would be because he was not a prophet. There have been many extraordinary things spoken in this Session from the Treasury Benches, but none of them have been more extraordinary than the statement I have just quoted. If there is one parallel, it is to be found in what my right hon. Friend said last year. He was trying to get rid of purchase by buying up the first steps in promotion; and in the course of his speech he said that the whole system of purchase was one which no man could understand. My right hon. Friend will forgive me for saying that he did not quote accurately—the words should have been, "which no 1697 fellow can understand." But upon this question of retirement my right hon. Friend has no excuse for not being a prophet, for he sits among the prophets, and, by mesmeric or other influences, he might or ought to have been endued, to some extent with the spirit of prophecy in regard to this subject. I find that in 1868 a speech was made in this House having reference to the state of things in 1856, and the speech contained the following calculations as to the regulation value of commissions:—Cavalry, £1,335,290; Foot Guards, £610,110; and Infantry of the Line, £5,180,630; total, £7,126,030. Having quoted these figures, the hon. Member who was speaking proceeded to say that—Justice required them to pay not only the regulation price, but also whatever additional sums had really been paid under the system now connived at. Mr. O'Dowd had gone pretty closely into that matter in his pamphlet."—[3 Hansard, cxcii. 536.]Mr. O'Dowd—who, I would remark, is now Deputy Judge Advocate, and therefore a Government official—made out that the over-regulation prices of commissions were—Cavalry, £1,735,000; Foot Guards, £435,000; and Infantry of the Line, £2,849,000: a total of £5,019,000; which, added to the regulation prices—£7,126,030—gives a grand total of £12,145,030. [Mr. OSBORNE: That does not include the artillery.] Do not be in a hurry. We have the retirement to come, and with it the prophecy. This Gentleman said he took the grand total I have just mentioned "as representing the real value of the vested interests in the Army," and then proceeds to say—He took off 20 per cent as a fair deduction for promotion to the rank of general, retirement on half-pay, and other vacancies. Therefore, the House must be prepared—not in the course of a generation, but at most in 20 years, to spend first of all £10,000,000, in round figures, to buy out the vested interests of the Army;"—[Ibid, 537.]which is only different by the sum of, say, £1,500,000 from the sum which my right hon. Friend gave the House the other day as the anticipated cost of the Government scheme. Then the prophet proceeded to say—But that was not all it would cost them to get rid of purchase; for they would have to revise their whole system of retirement."—[Ibid.]He did not say they would have to increase the pay of the officers, though 1698 that must be done; but he said a revision would be necessary to "increase the flow of promotion." I particularly ask the attention of the House to these figures. They have not been laid before us by the Government, and I maintain that they ought to have been. He goes on to say—In addition to paying the sums he had already stated, they would have to provide for a system of retirement on full pay after 22 years' service, instead of on half-pay after 25 years' service. … . He thought he was much below the mark when he said that besides the £500,000, that would be added to the Estimates for 20 years at least"—to get rid of regulation and over-regulation purchase—"they would have to pay £1,000,000 a-year, or, in other words, an additional 1d. of income tax for ever."—[Ibid.]Now this prophet, not satisfied with this very clear and I think valuable and effective statement, which supplements the deficiency of the Government scheme, drew a moral and uttered a warning, as prophets usually do. This moral or warning was not addressed to the House in general; but to those hon. Members who sat below the Gangway, who were most active and urgent on such questions, and who believed they were doing their duty to their constituents by voting for a Bill like that now under discussion. The hon. Member's moral and warning was couched in these words—Surely, it was idle complaining of the extravagance of the Estimates if, in the pursuit of a chimera, they were to saddle the country with that increased expenditure. He confessed that he should feel much surprised at finding such a proposal supported by the Members of the Liberal party, who had always been the strenuous advocates of retrenchment."—[Ibid.]["Name!"] I do not think it would be kind to mention the name, though the whole point of the observations I have quoted from the hon. Member lies in the fact of his name. ["Name!"] Well, then, these statements were made by no other authority than the present Financial Secretary to the War Office (Captain Vivian), who sits by the side of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. But I will say more. These figures have a great value, because when my hon. and gallant Friend was appointed to his present office, he appeared in the Order in Council almost on a level with the Commander-in-Chief and Controller General. He was appointed in consequence of his financial knowledge and ability, and on his appointment he told his constituents that he was responsible for 1699 the finances of the Army. These figures, therefore, have a very peculiar value. They have a value which no figures that may come again from the hon. and gallant Member can possibly have, for they are unofficial figures. They are the product of the pure and virgin financial mind of my hon. and gallant Friend before he was corrupted by office and debauched by the Secretary of State. Now, Sir, I am inclined to think that this addition of 1d. to the income tax for ever is one of those measures which are like a fence — the more you look at it the less you like it. That is why I do not intend to vote on this question. I intend to walk out of the House, because I do not think the issue has been fairly sifted; but when it has, I think, the House will find the Government proposal to be the chaff and not the wheat. The more hon. Members who advocate economy look at it the less they will like it. When the hon. Member for the Border Burghs was speaking the other night, he was cheered very loudly by an hon. Member who was near me at the time. I said—"I am glad you like it; but do you know that it will cost the country £10,000,000 down and at least £500,000 a-year for ever?" What was his remark in reply to this? "The deuce!" A deputation came up to me from the country, and, amongst other matters, we spoke of the question of Army purchase. I asked if they knew what it would cost? They had not an idea; and when I gave them some information on the point, they did not answer in the same terms as my hon. Friend, but their remark was one which will have even more effect upon hon. Gentlemen opposite. They said—"But do the constituencies know this?"—I said—"No, they don't." ["Oh, oh!"] They certainly would not know it from the figures put before them. "But," I said, "there are some of us in the House who will take good care that it is known." My impression is that when this question comes to be well sifted in Committee by men who are conversant with the details of the subject the Government will fail to carry their proposal as to Army purchase. At any rate, it is the most wicked, the most wanton, the most uncalled for waste of public money that in 30 years' experience I have ever seen. The proof of that is, as I have demonstrated, that there is not a single thing 1700 which you say it is necessary to get by the abolition of purchase that you could not get without it. I will pass on to some of the other provisions of the Bill. The next important question is that of the Ballot. You have 10 clauses for the Ballot, and 44 provisions. That part of the Bill is an absolute waste of paper, in this sense—that the Ballot is to come in force in case of an emergency. Now, I should like to hear my right hon. Friend define what an emergency is. Judging by what has taken place on the Continent, an emergency now-a-days means your capital occupied by the enemy, and a treaty of peace such as has recently been signed at Versailles. Any Bill that comes before us with the word "emergency" is almost self-condemned, even if the means of meeting the emergency were effective. The effect of these 44 provisions will be simply this—that when the emergency in the opinion of the Secretary of State has arisen — and we know how long it is before the Government think an emergency has arisen by the experience of the past—Parliament is to be called together to see that these clauses are to be enforced; and from the time that Parliament meets to decide whether this Bill is to be put into operation, a minimum of 30 days must elapse before you get a single man to meet your emergency, and that man not a trained soldier, but a man whom you then begin to train before he can be put into the ranks to meet Prussian or French soldiers—by that time the French will not be worse than Prussian soldiers. I should like to have the value of 30 days for the purposes of training defined by M. Gambetta, by General d'Aurelles des Paladines, by General Chanzy. They will tell you it will take much more than 30 days to make any man fit to be put into the ranks to defend a nation's safety and honour. I say, then, deliberately, this proposal about the Ballot has been introduced to throw dust into the eyes of the country. It is an absolutely dead provision as it stands. I am an advocate for some arrangement in connection with our military system; but I would sweep such provisions as these away, knowing them to be entirely worthless. I want to see every man serve in his own person; but in this Bill there is a clause that leaves it in the discretion of a magistrate to impose a fine of £100 in case of failure to answer 1701 the call under the proposed system. What is that provision but a device to enable a man to get rid of the necessity of personally serving in the defence of his country? I come next to the saving clauses; I thought they might save the Bill. I find one of them is specially introduced for the benefit of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Gilpin), as its object is to exempt Quakers from the operation of the Bill. But that is not necessary, as I have just shown. As to the Army Reserve, there is nothing in the Bill which offers any greater inducement than exists at present to men to enter the Reserve. The Secretary of State proposes that there shall be power to transfer men to the Reserve after one year's service, instead of three years, as before. The idea of transferring a man into the Reserve after one year's service never before entered into the head of anyone. Therefore, I maintain this Bill does absolutely nothing in the way of giving us immediate Reserves. The Report of the Commission shows this. It shows how slowly these Reserves have come in. The Bill does not prevent competition with the Militia; it does not give you men with better physique, and it only provides for 14 days' increased drill. With regard to the Volunteers, it gives you no hold over them. We are told that the Mutiny Act has been applied to the Volunteers by this Bill. The impression conveyed by the statement of the right hon. Gentleman was that the Bill was intended to give the Government increased power over the Volunteers; but it does nothing of the kind. You cannot force a Volunteer to attend parade, or to go to Wimbledon, Brighton, or anywhere else. All it does is to require a year's notice before a man can leave the force, and as the Ballot is a dead letter, that provision is of no effect. If, however, Volunteers are brigaded with the Regular military, they are both under the Mutiny Act. Now, I have a strong feeling on that point. I wish to see the Volunteers as highly disciplined as it is possible for a force to be. I believe that the Volunteers might be made one of the finest and most reliable forces in the country; but you must get a hold over them if you wish to make them so. You must be able to train the men. But, instead of proposing to get a hold over them, all that the Government do is to endorse all that has been 1702 said falsely with reference to their want of discipline. The powers in the hands of the commanding officers for the maintenance of discipline among Volunteers are extreme when they are out; but the difficulty is to get them out. When you get them out you have complete power over them. If a Volunteer be insubordinate, the commanding officer may put him under arrest. He is kept under arrest during the whole of the parade, whether at Brighton, at Wimbledon, or in camp. The commanding officer has complete power to dismiss an insubordinate Volunteer—he has greater power in that respect than a colonel of Militia or of the Army. Therefore, I contend that for the maintenance of discipline among Volunteers the proposition of the Secretary of State is wholly unnecessary. I must say that this country deals discreditably towards the Volunteers. At one moment the country extols us to the sky, and at another moment it insults us. We have undertaken for our country's sake to do a duty that is incumbent on all, and we ought not to be unfairly treated if, accidentally, some want of discipline occurs among a small portion of the force. I am astonished not that you should have had one or two cases of want of discipline in the Volunteer force, but that you should have had 170,000 men, for 11 years with arms in their hands, assembling in large bodies, and yet that during all that time you have had so few cases of that kind. It is a most wonderful instance of the power of moral influence, moral restraint, and a sense of public duty. And what is their reward for all this? The Government endorses every falsehood that has been said against them, and puts in these Mutiny clauses. The Government goes out of its way—I will not say to insult them—but to pay them a very poor compliment. That is the view, in the main, of the officers with whom I have conversed on this matter. These Mutiny clauses give you, as I have said, no hold upon the Volunteer force. Therefore, whether you look at the Army, or the Militia, or the Volunteers, this Bill wholly fails in its intended purpose; and in everything, excepting that portion which relates to the abolition of purchase, is unnecessary and absolutely worthless. I apologize to the House for having detained them so long; but I do not think that the time has been wasted 1703 if it has enabled hon. Gentlemen to gain a correct view of this question. At the close of last Session the Secretary of State stated that our defences were satisfactory. But public opinion has pressed them during the Recess, and this measure which they have brought in is a tribute to public opinion. It appears to me that this is a political and not a national measure. The whole soul of it is in this purchase question, and that, if I am not mistaken, has been introduced to silence the hollow sound from the Provinces that we have heard during the winter, and to satisfy a section of the Liberal party. The Under Secretary of State said that his right hon. Friend had stated publicly, and in a solemn manner, the fact that the House needed no assurance of, that efficiency and economy went hand in hand. Now in this Bill, I see neither efficiency nor economy. Is it economical to waste for any purpose public money to the extent to which this House is to be asked to waste it, when the objects to be attained can be attained by cheaper and surer means? And is there anything in the Bill which tends immediately—I may almost say remotely—to the efficiency of the Army? All that it does with regard to military organization is to take a leaf out of the Fenian book, to establish a system of "head centres" who are to have charge of what are called brigades of 20,000 men—that is to say, to establish a position in peace which will have no counterpart of any kind whatever in war. It is nothing else but inspection under another name. I say that this money, which is going to be wasted on a secondary question altogether, might be, and ought to be—and it is a breach of trust on the part of the Government that it is not—employed in furnishing greater inducements to men to come out of the Army into the Reserve, greater inducements to men to join in completing your artillery, in giving protection to your commercial harbours, in building a second arsenal, in providing reserve stores of guns, and in arming your forts. What the Government have done is this—they have added 20,000 to the Army. I think so little of these 20,000 men, that if there should be a Motion made by the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham) to strike off this 20,000 I intend to vote with him—that is, to a certain extent. He will 1704 move to reduce the number by 20,000. I should like it to be reduced by 10,000, and that the other 10,000 should go altogether to the artillery, in which you are utterly wanting, which is absolutely essential, and without which you cannot pretend to exist as a nation. But these 20,000 men in addition to your Army are neither here nor there. They are here to-day and gone to-morrow, and if you want proof of the soundness of the words of the Resolution which I have put on the Paper, but which the forms of the House do not allow me to move, that proof is to be found in the total inadequacy of such an increase to meet a great European crisis. Would it have enabled you to have driven the Prussians out of Belgium; would it have enabled you to have fulfilled your treaty obligations? It would not. I maintain, therefore, that this Bill, while entailing further permanent charges on the people of this country, fails to establish a military system on a sound, economical, and enduring basis. These 20,000 men are not enduring; they will be off, and you have nothing to supply their places with. You will also have no certain Reserve. Now, Sir, I hope that this Bill will not pass. I hope I have said nothing in the course of my remarks which could in any way bear a party character, and if right hon. Gentlemen on this (the Opposition) side had brought in this measure, I should have spoken in exactly the same sense. I hope it will not pass, because I think that the honour, the dignity, and the safety of my country at this present moment are at stake. It is for my country's sake that I hope this Bill will not pass. Pass this Bill and you throw away this golden opportunity of once and for ever settling this great question of your Army organization on a sound, an economical, and an enduring basis. Pass it as it stands, every provision, every line, every word; and three years, six years, ten years hence, if we were to find ourselves in the position in which we stood in the month of August last, and during this fearful war, what would it be worth? If, during the years I have mentioned, the teeth of the French were to be cut anew and we were to be engaged in war with that Power with which they have now made peace, if, possibly vivisected daily by the Engllsh Press, they were to look across "the silver streak" and threaten us, not a 1705 word, not a line, not a provision of this Bill is calculated in any way to meet the emergency or to save us from panic and alarm. Try it by the gauge of my right hon. Friend. According to my right hon. Friend, this measure is intended "to lay the deep foundations of a system which may render danger or the apprehension of danger in the future altogether unknown." I say try it by that gauge, and this measure will be found absolutely wanting. My right hon. Friend in this Bill, so far from laying foundations such as he would lead the House to believe, is inviting Parliament to sow salt on the seashore—to cast millions fruitlessly away. He is endeavouring to build up a military system on which the honour, the influence, nay, perhaps the safety of our country depend; but which I maintain is nothing but quaking bog and shifting quicksands.
said, in replying to the speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, he would confine himself strictly to the question which was, or ought to have been, under discussion. Yet his noble Friend had made this task difficult, for for one hour and 20 minutes by the clock he had talked upon every subject under the sun connected with military organization except what related to this Bill. His noble Friend began by a long dissertation on foreign policy; but into that subject he did not believe it his duty to follow the noble Lord. But the very last thing which he should attempt was to reconcile the noble Lord's opinions with his acts. His noble Friend had told the House that he was its most independent Member. [Lord ELCHO: I never said that.] His noble Friend had not said so now; but he had frequently heard the noble Lord say so before. His noble Friend had gone so far as to say that he was the only "unwhipped" Member of the House—using that word in a Parliamentary sense. But, if his noble Friend was not "whipped," he begged to remind him of the old nursery phrase—"Spare the rod and spoil the child." He was ready to give his noble Friend credit for the greatest amount of independence that he could assert Nay, he would go so far as to say that if his noble Friend lived in the days of Noah, sooner than enter the Ark with Shem, Ham, and Japhet, he would prefer to "paddle his own canoe." His noble 1706 Friend had told the House that the proposal of the Government to abolish purchase was a most wicked and uncalled-for waste of public money; and yet what was he going to do? How could a noble Lord, representing an English constituency—[Lord ELCHO: Scotch]—reconcile his opinion of the conduct of the Government in proposing a most wicked and uncalled-for waste of public money with what he had told the House in the next breath, that instead of voting he would walk out of the House? How, then, was it possible to reconcile the noble Lord's acts with his words? His noble Friend said — "You don't provide men. What I want is men;" and in the next breath he told them he was going to vote with the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Leatham), who proposes to reduce the number of men by 20,000. [Lord ELCHO: I want Reserves.] Reserves could not be made in a day, unless his noble Friend could propose a scheme by which, with the wand of a magician, he could conjure up armed men from the earth. His noble Friend was as impossible to understand in his actions as in his arguments. When at last his noble Friend came to deal with the provisions of the Bill, he told the House they contained the whole scheme of the Government. He would lead hon. Members to believe that outside these provisions his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War had done nothing to create Reserves, or to re-organize the Army. He would ask the House to ignore the fact that last Session a Bill had been brought forward by the Government for the purpose of establishing a system of short service—a system not previously existing, and from which only the formation of a Reserve could be expected. His noble Friend did not, he might add, hesitate to say that purchase was the backbone of our military organization; and, having said that purchase would not be defended, he set to work most elaborately to defend it. [Lord ELCHO: In theory.] A system that could not be logically defended must be practically wrong. The Government, his noble Friend went on to contend, had only two reasons for abolishing purchase—the one being the wish to conciliate the favour of hon. Gentlemen sitting below the Gangway, the other the desire to amalgamate the forces. When at that point of his speech he ventured to 1707 interrupt his noble Friend he became very emphatic in his action; but he could assure him there was another reason besides those which he had given. Did not his noble Friend remember that when last year the Secretary for War came down to the House with a very small proposal in the way of the abolition of purchase—namely, to abolish the rank of cornet and ensign—he was met by the obstacle presented by vested interests, and was unable to carry his proposal into effect? There had been since then a Royal Commission, of which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Northamptonshire (Mr. Hunt) was a Member, and that Commission had unanimously reported that the system of over-regulation prices had been so tacitly admitted that it was no longer possible that they could be ignored. What, then, he would ask, would have been the position of the Government if they had not faced the question of over-regulation prices? They could not have ignored them after the Report of the Commission, and the result would be that they must have asked the House to legalize them. What, again, would be the effect of taking that course? Why, that a colonel's commission, worth £4,000 or £5,000, would have risen in value to something like £7,000, and that a further limitation would be placed upon the class from which our officers were drawn. He did not for a moment mean to contend that our Army was officered by what was known as the aristocratic class; but it was alleged, and he thought with truth, that it was officered by the moneyed classes, and that it was necessary to have money to get on in the service, as, indeed, his noble Friend had himself admitted. It was, indeed, a misrepresentation to say, as had been stated on a former evening by the mover of the Amendment, that a man could get on in the military profession by means of money alone; but he should like to know whether any instance had of late years occurred in which a man having paid his money to obtain promotion was passed over. He, however, took a different ground for wishing to abolish purchase; it was not because a man with money and the necessary qualifications could get on in the Army, but because a man, however great his qualifications might be, could not get on because he did not happen to possess money. An hon. 1708 Member (Mr. Buxton) gave as an instance the other evening the case of two of our most famous generals—Lord Clyde and Sir Henry Havelock—who had been, passed over dozens and dozens of times because they could not purchase their promotion, and who, there was no doubt, ought in the bloom of their youth to have been in the highest grades of the service because of their great military talents. Such instances as these were, he maintained, of themselves sufficient to condemn the system of purchase. Some of his noble Friend's arguments in favour of the system were, he might add, the most extraordinary to which he had ever listened. He said that purchase enabled us to obtain the services of officers of great physical capability; but, for his own part, he was at a loss to know how health or strength were to be bought. The noble Lord then went on to refer to a speech of his, and had twitted him with inconsistency, although he was kind enough to spare his feelings so far as not to mention him by name. He would, however, beg to remind his noble Friend that the speech in question was not one in favour of purchase, which he proposed should be abolished in every grade except the lower, the reason why he did not propose abolition in the junior ranks being that at the time there was no scheme in contemplation for the amalgamation of the Militia with the Army in any considerable numbers. It was now, however, proposed that officers of Militia should, under certain conditions, get commissions in the Line, and he should like to know how it would be possible to take officers under a non-purchase system and place them side by side with officers in the Regular Army, each of whom had paid £450 for his commission? His noble Friend had proceeded to refer to the cost of buying up the vested interests of officers, observing that the Secretary for War had no right to bring forward any plan involving so large an expenditure until he was prepared to show what the scale of retirement under it was likely to be. Now, as to the cost of abolishing purchase, the figures he had given on a former occasion were pretty much the same as the figures given by the able actuaries, on which the Government calculation was made, and which amounted, in round numbers, to a total of £7,995,000. He must also remind his noble Friend that on 1709 the occasion to which he had referred he was speculating on a state of things which would involve promotion by seniority, and not by selection as was now proposed, and when it was not contemplated that a large number of officers should be removed from the Army to serve in the Reserve forces, thereby creating a flow of promotion. As to the flow of retirement under the present scheme, it was impossible to mate any reliable calculation with respect to it, until there were sufficient data upon which to proceed, for what would be the state of things two years hence must be a matter of mere speculation. Certain hon. Gentlemen said the other night—"Look at the artillery, and see what you are obliged to do for them." The cases of the Royal Artillery and the Royal Engineers were by no means analogous to that of the Army. And for three reasons—first, the scientific corps were in an abnormal condition, because during the time of the Crimean War, and the Indian Mutiny of 1856, those corps were very largely and suddenly increased, and large numbers of officers were introduced into them, all at once, from the colleges, all exactly of the same age, and who were now naturally stopping—blocking promotion. When those blocks of officers, numbering about 70 of the same age, were broken up and dispersed, and the artillery got into its normal condition, there was no reason why promotion would flag. Again, promotion in the artillery was purely by seniority; whereas it was proposed to introduce, to a certain extent, into the Line the element of selection, which would make a material difference. A third reason why there was no analogy between the officers of the scientific corps and those of the rest of the Army was that the former, who had to undergo the severest examinations, and to be as highly tempered and as highly educated as possible, stayed in these corps and made them a profession to a much greater extent than officers did in other branches of the service. He was glad that some hon. Gentlemen had referred to the principle of selection, because he was very near missing it, and it was a point of very great importance. His noble Friend had said tonight that our regimental system was the best thing for the Army. No one could echo and repeat that opinion with more sincerity than he did. He believed 1710 every word of it. There was nothing in the whole of our military matters in which we were so superior to other nations as in our regimental system. But, then, the question that he wanted to ask was this—Did the regimental system depend on the officers going up from the bottom to the top of the regiment? In the first place, hon. Gentlemen must remember that, at the present moment, the authorities, who were responsible for the proper condition of the Army and for the regimental system, sanctioned, to a very large extent, exchanges in the Army. He apprehended that if the regimental system depended so much upon officers staying in the regiment, those changes would not be sanctioned to so great an extent. His noble Friend opposite echoed the sentiment, that the regimental system entirely depended on promotion. He held in his hand a Return, most carefully prepared, showing the present condition of the Army, in which mention was made of the number of field officers now serving in their regiments who had risen from the lowest commissioned rank in them, and the number of those who had come in from other regiments, exclusive of the non-purchase regiments. This Return showed that the number of lieutenant colonels who had stuck to their regiments was 80; those who had joined, and were now in command of regiments to which they did not originally belong, were 86. Going a stop lower, he found the majors who had stuck to their regiments were 175; those who had joined from other regiments were 137. Therefore, in round numbers, they might fairly say that one-half of the Army at the present moment were commanded by field officers who were not originally connected with their respective regiments. [Colonel NORTH: You have accounted for 166 lieutenant colonels; but we have not so many.] The Return was perfectly correct. There were 80 lieutenant colonels who had gone from other regiments, and 86 who had not. He could not say when the changes took place. He did not learn that these regiments were less efficient than such as were commanded by field officers who had passed through their respective grades in the same regiment, and it was therefore fair to conclude that the regimental system they all admired did not depend upon the rise of officers through their grades in the same 1711 regiment. In the regiment in which he had the honour of serving—the 11th Hussars—the colonel established an admirable system, and no regiment could be in better order. Afterwards Colonel Fraser came into the regiment, and, finding a perfect regimental system, never changed a bit of it; the system remained exactly the same as that instituted by Lord Cardigan. Therefore, general promotion, if it were adopted to some extent, would not affect the regimental system. The Surveyor General would by-and-by reply to the figures of his noble Friend affecting the Control Department; but with regard to the Martini-Henry rifle, whose fault was it if we had not yet a sealed pattern? If it was anybody's fault, it was the fault of his noble Friend. Almost every day they heard of changes of pattern, screws, and so forth, which made it absolutely impossible to have a sealed pattern, or adopt a rifle on the merits of which the Committee had not reported. As to the Ballot, his noble Friend said he would try the Government by his gauge, and asked—"What are your armaments, and what should they be?" Now, before discussing the question of compulsory or voluntary service, it was necessary that the House and the country should make up their minds what they really wanted. Gauging his noble Friend by what he required the Government to buy in the shape of artillery, one thing was clear—if his advice were followed, the Government would have a most astounding bill to present to the British taxpayer. His noble Friend wanted 645 guns, all manned and horsed and fully equipped, and always maintained upon a war footing. If this advice were followed, there must be a standing Army to match the guns. If we were to have an Army ready at any moment to cope with the great Powers of the Continent, he admitted at once that our system would not meet any such requirement, and nothing short of a conscription on the Continental system would meet it. But what did they want? Did they want to keep up the traditional policy of England—the policy based on making their Navy their first line of defence—certain and undoubted supremacy of the sea, and keeping an Army to protect us against invasion, and supplying an ordinary contingent for foreign requirements? If they said this was what they wanted, then he 1712 said the Government scheme would meet it, and provide all that was required. He regretted that his noble Friend did not go into the state of our home defences. We had now in the Estimates at home 108,000 Regular soldiers; 139,000 Militia; 9,000 Army Reserve; 44,180 Militia Reserve and Pensioners—a total of 300,180 men, or, adding a force of 170,000 Volunteers, 470,180 men. He was not defending the Reserve as it stood. It was not on a proper footing, and that was the reason why his right hon. Friend had proposed a short service system, in order to establish a fitting Reserve. You could not bring trained men up through the floor all on a sudden; but his right hon. Friend hoped to create a proper Reserve by means of the short service system. The next thing was to see whether this force could not be maintained by voluntary enlistment. They had got on the Estimates a total of Regular forces amounting to 197,111, and that produced of rank and file 180,939. If that system was to become popular, the recruiting system must be largely extended. Last year the House of Commons had to add 20,000 men to their forces. He held in his hand a Return from the Adjutant General of the recruits who had joined in each month from the 1st of August. It was as follows: — During August, 1870, 5,523; September, 4,449; October, 3,410; November, 3,190; December, 4,268; January, 1871, 3,715; February (to 15th), 2,222—total, 26,777. So that if they wanted to get up the strength of the Army to that which he had described, he had no doubt that they would be able to get 32,000 men by voluntary enlistment. With regard to the Militia, communications from the commanding officers showed it to be their almost unanimous opinion that there would be a better chance of obtaining recruits by voluntary enlistment than by compulsory measures. His noble Friend trod very lightly on the question of compulsory service. [Lord ELCHO: I will give you another opportunity.] He knew that every step we took was dangerous—Fools rushed in where angels feared to tread.The noble Lord had proved himself an angel that night. His opinion as regarded the Ballot had undergone considerable change; and he did not appear to have quite made up his mind about it. 1713 In October, 1870, he spoke of the compulsory service as a bugbear, and said the Militia should be recruited by voluntary enlistment, and supplemented by the Ballot; but in a more recent letter the noble Lord expressed his opinion that there should be compulsory service without any substitutes. In September his noble Friend was for the supplemental Ballot; and in October he was for the Ballot pure and simple; to-night he did not state what kind of Ballot he supported. But after the criticism to which he had subjected the plan of his right hon. Friend, the noble Lord ought to have told the House what it was he proposed to substitute for it. He would now refer to the effects of the Ballot with substitutes. In 1807 there were 22,956 substitutes to 3,129 men serving in person. In 1810, 8,101 substitutes to 797 men serving in person. In 1807 the price of a Militia recruit was in three counties from £41 to £45; in six, from £16 to £20; in the Isle of Wight, £10; and, in all other counties, from £20 to £40. In 1810 the price in Merioneth was £15; Tower Hamlets, £12 12s.; the rest of Middlesex, £20; Yorkshire, £46 to £55; Wigton, £48; and in addition to these bounties the substitutes in 1810 received £10 10s. from Government. On the whole, the aggregate bounty of Army Reserve substitutes and Militia volunteering to the Line cannot be taken at a lower average than £40 per man. Those enrolled for the Militia in 1810 may be taken at £50. The Ballot for the Army Reserve and Militia commenced about August, 1803, and continued till July, 1804. During that period the recruiting for the Army, which in the month preceding the Ballot had raised 1,827 men, dropped down to an average of 688 men per month. During the first six months of 1807, when there was no Ballot, the ordinary recruiting produced 10,418 men more than it had produced in the whole year of 1804, when there was a Ballot for half of the year. During the last six months of 1807 there was a heavy Militia Ballot for about 37,500 men. The ordinary recruiting produced 7,342 men, or above 3,000 men less than in the preceding half-year. The following arguments against raising recruits for the Army by Ballot were advanced by Mr. Windham in the debate on the military establishments of the country in 1806:— 1714Do we mean a conscription which, proceeding by ballot—the only mode I presume to think of—shall be conclusive as to the person on whom the lot falls, and compel him, whoever he may be, to served for a limited term as a soldier? If we do, the hardship would be found to be such as no country could endure.He compares this to a tax of £1,000,000 divided into 20,000 shares of £50 each, or 50,000 shares of £20 each, levied on persons selected by lot, and remarked that it was easy to see what calamity it must produce. Nothing, he thought, could be so false in principle or oppressive in practice as measures of compulsory service, "which so many without consideration are perpetually calling for." He declared that the feeling of the country was decidedly against the renewal of any measure of the sort for the Army of Reserve, the effect of the trial not encouraging a repetition of the attempt. He added—I will not pretend to say that no such measure can at any time be resorted to. It is impossible to say to what the exigencies of the times and the necessity of the State may drive us. But of this I am sure, that without a more urgent necessity than exists at this moment, measures so oppressive in their immediate effects and so injurious in their lasting consequences, should not be resorted to till it was seen that milder and more legitimate methods were incapable of succeeding."—[1 Hansard, vi. 652.]These were the feelings which operated upon his right hon. Friend, and which had induced him to put aside the question of the Ballot. The noble Lord had railed against every part of the military organization, and said that the right hon. Gentleman had done nothing whatever to reform it. The noble Lord said the whole proposal might be thrown on one side if the abolition of purchase were given up. But, under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman, it was proposed to establish, by means of short enlistments, a system of Reserves calculated to come into operation with great rapidity. It was further proposed to localize regiments, and to connect them more closely with the places from which they took their names; to form camps of instruction, where the soldier could learn what he had not the opportunity of learning now—almost every description of work that might be expected of him in the field; to provide for regimental depôts; and the removal of the patronage from the Lord Lieutenant to the Crown — a proposal involving 1715 an almost constitutional change; but because the scheme did not involve the Ballot—the noble Lord's panacea for all the evils in the Army—he treated all those proposed changes as mere trifles, unworthy of notice. What could be more important than that the Militia should be brought directly under the control of the Secretary for War, and that Militia officers should hold Her Majesty's Commission? Then came the question of the Reserve. It was admitted that it was desirable to increase the number of men in the Reserve as speedily as possible, and how did the noble Lord seek to accomplish that object? Why, by moving that the number of men in this year's Estimates should be reduced by 10,000. The right hon. Gentleman proposed that during peace the Army should feed the Army of Reserve, by passing men through the former as rapidly as possible, in order that in time of war the Reserve might feed the Army. If that principle were adopted, the number of the regimental cadres might be safely reduced, as a supply of young and trained soldiers would be forthcoming whenever they were required. The noble Lord had proposed a plan of his own which he had got Sir Hope Grant to endorse; but before he adverted to that proposal, he must be permitted to state that this question was simply one of actuarial calculation to be based upon the maximum which could be arrived at. The calculations which he relied upon were made by two eminent actuaries at the War Office, and had been approved by Mr. Finlaison, the well-known actuary. The plan of the Government was as follows:—That in artillery, engineers, and cavalry one-fourth of the men shall serve for 21 years with the colours, the remainder serving eight years with the colours and four in the Reserve; also that in the foot guards and infantry, one-fourth shall serve with the colours for 21 years. That, as regards the other three-fourths, the regiments for foreign service shall serve six years with the colours and six in the Reserve. That the balance of infantry at home shall serve three years with the colours and nine in the Reserve. Under the plan of the noble Lord the troops would have to serve seven years with the colours, seven years with the first Reserve at 4d. a day, and seven years with the second Reserve at 8d. a 1716 day, making a total of 21 years with a pension of 1s. a day. Taking the Regular Army, as it stood in the Estimates, to number 180,989 non-commissioned officers and men, the Government plan would require an annual supply of 32,449 recruits, while the noble Lord's would require only 28,203, and therefore it must be admitted that the latter had the advantage of the former to the extent of 4,000. In the Reserves the Government plan would provide 13,674 men in the fourth year after the system commenced, which number would rise to 61,266 in the seventh year, up to which time the noble Lord's plan would have produced none. In the eighth year the noble Lord's Reserve would reach 22,528, while the Government would have 81,811. The Government Reserve would attain its permanent maximum of 178,964, all under the age of 31, in the thirteenth year. The noble Lord's would reach its permanent maximum of 152,253 in the fifteenth year. In the twenty-second year the noble Lord would have a second-class Reserve of 139,088, consisting entirely of men aged from 33 to 40 and not liable to general service. There would be in the country under the Government plan, under the age of 40, trained men to the number of 202,120, on whom the Government could draw in time of emergency, but who, in the meantime, would cost nothing for pay or pension. The Government Reserve, when full, would cost £1,266,884 a-year. The noble Lord's Reserves would cost: first Reserve, at 4d. a-day, £926,163; second Reserve, at 8d. a-day, £1,692,281; total, £2,618,444. Pensions.—The Government plan would give 36,285 Pensioners, who, at an average pension of 1s. 4d. a-day, would cost £882,923 a-year. The noble Lord's plan would produce 519,410 Pensioners, who, at only 1s. each a-day, would cost £9,479,240 a-year. The total charge for Reserve and Pensioners would, under the Government plan, be £2,149,807, or £12 0s. 5d. per man in the Reserve, while the noble Lord's would reach £12,097,684, or an average of £41 10s. 6d. per man in the Reserve. He doubted whether his noble Friend had ever submitted his plan to actuaries, and was glad, therefore, to be able to lay before the House and the British taxpayer a statement of what they might expect when his noble Friend resigned the command of the London Scottish Volun- 1717 teers, of which he was so brilliant an ornament, in order to take charge of the War Department of the State. He thought he had shown that the time had not come for introducing a system so unendurable by a free people as the Ballot, and believing that the principle on which the Government scheme was based was the only one which would secure, at the same time, efficient Reserves and economical Army Estimates, he recommended that scheme to the House, in the language of the noble Lord, as being at once sound, economical, and endurable.
§ MR. J. S. HARDY
said, the Secretary of State might have in the recesses of his mind, or pigeonholes of the War Office, the economical plan of Army re-organization of which he had spoken; but, so far as the present Bill was concerned, there was no indication of it, and no one could doubt that the real object aimed at was the abolition of the purchase system in the Army. He was sufficiently Conservative to object to the policy of destruction. When people attacked a system which had worked well, provided a satisfactory system of retirement, and excited the admiration of officers in the Army which had recently run so victorious a course in France, they should at least find something to replace it. It was acknowledged on all hands that benefit had resulted from purchase. Although no one could defend the system theoretically, its practical advantages were so great that one was naturally led to ask what were the causes of the present Bill. The causes were only two. Either the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War Office had been convinced by arguments adduced against purchase and its evils, or, yielding to the great outcry raised by him, he had found it necessary to outbid a certain ex-Member of the Government. There were no advantages likely to arise from the abolition of purchase that justified such an enormous outlay of public money. The very worst and weakest arguments against the abolition had been used by military men who were supposed to know most of the subject. It had been said that it was unfair to call upon an officer to go into action with the price of his commission hanging over his head, and that an officer so situated might perhaps neglect his duty on account of his responsibilities 1718 as the head of a family; but if the present measure passed, and the Army was officered by a poorer class of men, the same result would be more likely to follow, because the officer would go into action with the knowledge that he and his family had only his pay to depend upon. He was surprised to hear that there was no way of rewarding deserving officers, because the system of brevet was very well known, although no civilian could understand it. The Judge Advocate General (Mr. Davison) had referred to the cost of commissions; but that was only the theoretical argument tried over again. The Financial Secretary at the War Office (Captain Vivian) had used a most extraordinary plea, contending that it would be impossible to amalgamate the Militia and the Army if purchase were continued. After the Crimean War, it was constantly the practice to draft officers from the Militia to the Army, and a first cousin of his own went directly from a Militia regiment of artillery into the Regular Army; and he (Mr. J. S. Hardy) had been himself introduced to a regiment without purchase over the head of, and in the same Gazette with, an officer who had purchased his commission. In the cavalry, where large prices were paid, promotion was rapid; in the infantry, where commissions brought a moderate price, promotion was fair; while in the artillery stagnation prevailed which threatened evils to the country, and which it would be very undesirable to perpetuate. By the abolition of purchase, selection or the seniority system must be adopted. The latter could be recommended by nobody, and it had been carried too far even in the purchase time. If selection were adopted, no system of confidential reports could put the Commander-in-Chief in a position to know the minutiæ of officers. He believed that confidential reports from others than the colonels of regiments would create an ill feeling between officers of every grade, and would be unsatisfactory both to Commander-in-Chief and all parties. He thought they must allow the lower grades to be put in nomination by the commanding officers. If field officers were to be brought in from other regiments, the result would be that the field officer, for at least a year, would have no knowledge of the officers belonging to the regiment to which he 1719 was removed, and he would be totally unable to give advice to the general commanding-in-chief. He (Mr. J. S. Hardy) had served in the Rifle Brigade for a short time, and would have declined to take promotion in another regiment, because he preferred to remain in his own regiment. Reference had been made to the exchanges which were constantly taking place, and the Financial Secretary had calculated that a large number of the colonels did not originally belong to the regiments; but he did not state from what rank they had exchanged, or from what cause they had exchanged. There were many causes for exchange. There were some few in which ambitious men exchanged, thinking they would get on better by the purchase system. Some exchanged for the benefit of their health, and many because they did not like their regiment. He believed that if officers were promoted from one regiment to another, as proposed by the right hon. Gentleman, the esprit de corps of regiments would be totally destroyed. At present there was a great demand for commissions, and whilst that demand existed he thought the Government might force upon the officers of the Army a more extended education, so as to improve their military knowledge; but he considered it unnecessary to force this enormous cost upon the country when the benefit would be little or nothing, and the disadvantage to the Army would be very great. With respect to the period of service, he had no doubt that if short service became popular it would be a valuable improvement. The change with regard to the Militia was an enormous change for the better, and also the change in the system of nominations by the Lords Lieutenant, although it might, in some respects, be regarded with suspicion. There was one change that would do immense good if it did not stop the supply of recruits. No one could doubt that the system of taking them for six months for drill would put into the ranks of the Militia a set of men who, when they joined the ranks, would be as well drilled, as the recruits joining the Army. But he warned the right hon. Gentleman that it would be useless to attempt to improve the condition of the Militia so long as the system of billeting was pursued, a system which was enough to ruin the discipline of the best regiment in Her Majesty's service in the 1720 course of a month. Nothing could be more absurd than the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman that counties should provide the cost of building barracks for the good of the country. That was a national object, and the nation, not the counties, ought to pay the cost. As to the Volunteers, he believed they would never be made a thoroughly satisfactory force until the War Department had a hold over them. The Bill proposed that if a man enlisted for a year he should be exempt from the Ballot for the Militia; but it was stated that except in case of war the Ballot was not to be resorted to. If a Volunteer, however, enlisted for a year and then wished to leave the corps, he simply ceased to attend drills, and the commanding officer had no power over him, except that of turning him out of the corps, and that was exactly what he wanted. Unless some better system than that was adopted, he (Mr. J. S. Hardy) thought the Government would not be justified in making the alterations as to the capitation grants, &c., which the right hon. Gentleman hinted at in his speech on the introduction of the Bill. He could not help thinking that in the present Bill the Government were throwing away a great opportunity. In favour of the purchase system as he was, he should not have opposed the Bill had he seen in it the elements of the future increase of strength in the Army and of prosperity in the country. The right hon. Gentleman had had an opportunity which might never occur again, for many parts of the country were prepared for a much stronger measure than the present. He regretted that the opportunity had been thrown away, and that a parrot cry raised by a Member of the House of Commons should have been taken up by Her Majesty's Government, who were the responsible parties. He regretted that something more solid and beneficial to the country had not been introduced. Had that been the case he should have supported the measure. He should vote with great regret against a Bill which contained so many good clauses; but felt bound to support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay).
§ MR. RYLANDS
, having complimented the Secretary for War on the ability and clearness with which he had introduced his scheme of Army reform to the House, 1721 expressed his disappointment at the fact that the country was to be called upon to bear increased burdens for the purpose of military defence. Past schemes for the re-organization of the Army had not been very encouraging in their results. There had been numerous Royal Commissions, Select Committees of both Houses of Parliament, and departmental committees, and yet the only results of their labours had been continued dissatisfaction with the state of the Army, combined with a constant increase of expenditure for military purposes. It was certainly most disheartening that, although this country paid such enormous sums in comparison with Continental nations, we were yet told that our Army would be found entirely useless for the defence of our shores. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho), in a letter to The Times, said that—Without the Ballot our whole military system must continue to be what it now is—an extravagant and wasteful sham, that gives us no real influence abroad, and fails to save us from periodical and well-founded panics at home.It was, perhaps, true that the vivacity of declamation of the noble Lord, which so often charmed the House, was not always associated with exactness of expression, and in this case there was, probably, some exaggeration; but he was bound to say that many persons believed that there was a considerable substratum of truth in the remarks of the noble Lord, and that, notwithstanding the vast sums expended upon them, our military forces were not in a satisfactory position. What, then, must be the feelings of the poorer taxpayers throughout the country when such things were told them of a system which they were called upon to support by taxes drawn from the labour of their hands and the sweat of their brows? The scheme of the Government, in fact, left untouched the main evils of the present system, and it was proposed largely to increase the expenditure instead of diminishing it. It was, however, maintained by some of his hon. Friends near him, and would no doubt be urged by the Government, that the abolition of purchase—the cardinal feature of the present Bill—would make up for all deficiencies; but even that abolition might, in his opinion, be purchased at too great a cost, and the House ought, at all events, to be made ac- 1722 quainted with what it was proposed to give us in exchange. It was proposed to leave the administration of the Horse Guards untouched, and to place in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief a great increase of patronage and influence. Under those circumstances, he (Mr. Rylands) felt no security that evils might not spring up as great as those of purchase. He was aware that the House had, by a large majority, expressed its confidence in the administration of the Army by the Horse Guards; but out-of-doors a very different opinion prevailed, and if under the rule of the present Commander-in-Chief, and after the large sums of money expended upon it, the Army was considered nothing but a "sham," it was but natural that the blame should be laid upon those who were at its head. In dealing with the question of the abolition of purchase, there was one point upon which he wished to lay great stress—he alluded to the proposal of the Government to give compensation for over-regulation prices. Now, what were over-regulation prices? They were illegal prices, to give compensation for which would cost at least £3,000,000. That proposal the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the War Department sought to justify by reference to the Report of the Royal Commission. He said—They reported unanimously, and he thought he might, without fear of contradiction, say that their Report was strongly in favour of over-regulation prices.He (Mr. Rylands), having carefully read the Report, ventured to dispute the statement of the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Member for Morpeth (Sir George Grey), who was the Chairman of the Commission, had said in that debate they had no right to make any recommendation in favour of over-regulation prices, and his hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Muntz), who was also on the Commission, did not consider that their Report bore the character attached to it by the Secretary for War. But they had the Report actually before them, and what did the Commissioners say? They reported that—The practice has received no formal or express sanction from any public Departments or officers, and the regulation price only of commissions has been recognized and paid by the War Department in the case of payments to the families of officers killed in action, and of purchase of commissions by means of the reserve fund.1723 That, he thought, could scarcely be considered to be reporting "strongly in favour of over-regulation prices." But no doubt the Secretary for War would urge that the Royal Commission reported that the authorities made no attempt to stop the practice by enforcing the law against it. The Commissioners did say—There has been no real discouragement of the practice by any authority,and then concluded by saying that there has been—A tacit acquiescence in the practice, amounting to a virtual recognition of it by civil and military departments and authorities.That conclusion was scarcely consistent with the fact previously stated by the Commissioners in relation to officers killed in action. If in any case the practice should have received a "virtual recognition" on the part of the authorities, it should have been in the interest of those men, who, fighting as they believed for the benefit of their country, fell in the field of battle and left widows and families, to whom the value of their commissions would be of considerable importance. But even in those cases the Government only paid the regulation prices, and refused to recognize the over-regulation value. Further than this, the Commissioners quote with approval the Report of the War Office Committee of 1859, to whom had been referred the question of the value of commissions, and when it was complained that they had omitted to take into calculation over-regulation prices, they said—It would ill become them as members of a public military department to put forward an estimate of the sum which the public would have to pay as reward or compensation to those who, for their own convenience or their own interests, had deliberately violated one of the most positive and stringent enactments in the statute book.He commended that opinion of a Committee, composed of distinguished officers, to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman and of the House. The simple fact had been, that the authorities had failed to do their duty in administering the law; but the Commissioners, in reporting upon that fact, cannot surely be taken as reporting "strongly in favour of over-regulation prices." The argument in favour of compensation rested entirely on the plea that the authorities had "winked at" the practice; but why did they not enforce the law? They tell us distinctly that they did not know the law was broken. The 1724 Duke of Cambridge, in his evidence before the Committee on Military Organization, in 1859, said—I can positively state that, officially, I know nothing of it, and that it is impossible that we should, for if we did know it officially we should instantly take notice of it.He subsequently said he should be very glad if he could see any way in which they could officially put a stop to it. Again, he said—A military authority can only take cognizance of what comes to him officially, and as such, I state positively that we are not aware of any more money being paid.General Forster, the Military Secretary, gave similar evidence before the Royal Commission last year. He said "in the position he held he knew nothing of the matter whatever," and if it were found out the offenders would be punished. Bnt he went further than that, because, in reply to a further question, he said that not only could they not obtain any any evidence sufficient for a conviction in a Court of Law, but they never acquired any moral certainty of the existence of such transactions. But the fact that the authorities profess to be unable to detect and punish the violation of the law is surely no argument for treating positive and stringent enactments as of no effect. Just consider what had been done by Parliament and the Crown to put down this practice. For 150 years there had been a succession of measures, all directed to that end. The Army regulations in 1720 prohibited over-payments, and in 1766 any officers who so offended were threatened with the "highest displeasure" of the King. In 1783 a remarkable general order was issued, under which every officer who bought or sold a commission was bound to make a solemn declaration, on the word and honour of an officer and a gentleman, that neither directly nor indirectly was anything beyond the regulation price paid or received for the commission; the commanding officer being also required to state, that, to the best of his belief, the regulation price had been adhered to. The order was rescinded in 1824, but during this period, officers and gentlemen were able, by some subterfuge, to make this solemn declaration, paying over-regulation prices all the while. In 1804 the Duke of York sent out a circular to Army agents, 1725 who were warned against being parties to such transactions, and informed that the commissions so obtained would, on discovery, be immediately cancelled. The Mutiny Act of 1807 contained clauses on the same subject, and penalties were imposed upon Army agents guilty of the offence. In 1809 an important Act of Parliament was passed, and still remained the law of the land, providing that any officers paying or receiving over-regulation prices should be cashiered; the commission sold, the informer should receive £500 from the proceeds, and persons knowingly abetting should be deemed guilty of a misdemeanour. Every officer, therefore, who had taken part in these transactions was liable to two years' imprisonment. Yet the right hon. Gentleman proposed that the taxpayers of this country should pay £3,000,000, or, as competent persons believe £4,000,000 or £5,000,000, in order to compensate officers, who, for their own convenience and interest, had deliberately violated the law. The right hon. Member for Oxford University (Mr. Gathorne Hardy) said yesterday, upon a Bill then before the House, that that was the first time he had known the Legislature called upon to sanction a deliberate breach of the law; yet the Secretary for War now called upon the House not only to sanction such a breach, but to compensate those who had been guilty of it. If this proposal for compensating officers for breaking the law were carried into effect he (Mr. Rylands) believed it would have a bad moral influence on the working classes, and would lessen their regard for the sanctity of law, when they saw an influential class of society were not only allowed to break the law with impunity, but were rewarded for so doing, and allowed, in addition, to retain the rank illegally purchased. He admitted that it was a vulgar prejudice to say that the Army was an aristocratic service, for there were a number of wealthy men connected with the middle class of society in it. Nevertheless, a large number of the people whose class had no representatives in Parliament, would not be satisfied when they were told that the House was prepared to vote several millions, to pay men for having broken the law of the land. He found already that this feeling was being expressed out-of-doors, for he had seen a news- 1726 paper representing the sentiments of the working classes — he alluded to Reynold's Newspaper—and in a leading article the remark was made that the principal ground on which the Royal Commission recommended the payment of this great sum was because the violation of the law had become a system, and because the Commander-in-Chief was fully aware of the practice, and, by not stopping it, was supposed to countenance and sanction it. The article went on to say that it was intolerable that the country should be giving so many thousand pounds a-year to the Royal Commander-in-Chief for encouraging breaches of the law; and if he could not prevent this payment being made, another instance would be afforded of how easily the law was overridden when the interests of the privileged orders were at stake. He knew it was said that the abolition of the purchase system could not be obtained unless the Government were supported in their proposition to pay the over-regulation price; but in his opinion it was far better to wait for a good measure than do wrong to carry a good measure. In 1785 a statesman came down to that House and proposed the disfranchisement of 36 boroughs with compensation; but in 1832 a great number of rotten boroughs were disfranchised without any compensation at all. An additional argument against the proposal of the Government to give compensation for these payments was furnished by the fact that, if such compensation were granted it would offer a great encouragement for the breach of future regulations, and for the growth of another system of illegal payments. Nothing could be clearer than the expression of opinion from competent authorities on both sides of the House, that it would be almost impossible to prevent illegal payments for promotion in future. There was also the distinct evidence of the Duke of Cambridge, who stated before the Committee on Military Organization, in 1859, that if you did away with purchase to-morrow he believed that those officers of the Army who were rich would somehow or the other induce those above them to leave in order to make room for them. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War was quite alive to this difficulty. He said, in laying his scheme before the House, that— 1727There was one important consideration at the root of this part of the question—namely, that if you did not retain selection at every part of the system, you would immediately find, as soon as you had spent a large sum of money in abolishing one system of purchase, you had laid the foundation of another. The security against the growth of another system of purchase was first a rigid enforcement of the law. The next principal consideration would be, that the successor should never be known until his predecessor had left his place; and the third was that, wherever there was the slightest suspicion that any corrupt pecuniary arrangement had formed the basis of retirement, selection should be vigorously exercised to put it aside.But it must be remembered that all these securities upon which the right hon. Gentleman relies have been tried for a century and a half and have failed. The very Act of George III. which is embodied in the Bill now before the House, is the Act enacting penalties now in operation, but which have been entirely disregarded. Nay, more than this, the Secretary for War does not propose even as many securities as at one time existed, for he omits the declaration upon the honour of an officer and a gentleman which had formerly to be taken. Then he relies upon the principle of selection; but even upon the plan, as laid down by the Government, it is intended that promotion up to the rank of captain shall be regimental, and clearly that promotion must be by seniority, unless in extremely exceptional cases of surpassing merit or extreme incapacity. The Horse Guards could never be justified in passing over a subaltern, for no fault of his own, in favour of another officer of slightly additional merit. You must be careful to insist upon the necessary qualities and attainments in all those who acquire first commissions, and then, practically, in almost every case, seniority must form the basis of promotion. But the right hon. Gentleman says he will stop regimental promotion at the captaincy, and that all higher grades must be Army promotion. He (Mr. Rylands) did not venture to express any opinion upon questions of that character, upon which he had no sufficient means of forming a judgment; but he had been much struck with the fact that, in the course of the debate, hon. Gentlemen of authority, on both sides of the House, had urged very strong arguments against removing officers on appointment, to higher ranks from the regiment with which they had been previously con- 1728 nected. The plan of the Secretary for War, as regards promotion, would not have the force of law, and if, as would be probably the case, the pressure of interests within the service, as well as that of opinions outside, forced the Horse Guards to carry regimental promotion, in most cases, up to the lieutenant colonelcy, the main securities relied upon by the right hon. Gentleman would disappear. If you have regimental promotion chiefly by seniority, no Acts of Parliament, however penal, and no Royal Warrants, however stringent, could prevent the junior officers in a regiment clubbing together a sum of money to induce a senior officer to clear out of the way so as to secure a flow of promotion. But how did the public suffer by a proceeding of that kind? He was unable to see the slightest public disadvantage in this system of bonus on retirement, which prevailed both in the Indian Army, and in the non-purchase regiments at home. Now, he wished the House to consider for a moment what the nature of regulation prices was. It was simply that the Government, finding that commissions in the Army were articles that could be bought and sold, determined to fix the market price of the commodity, and naturally failed as Governments always have failed, when they have sought to fix by law the market prices of commodities, which necessarily rise and fall with supply and demand. The over-regulation prices represented, in fact, the premium which the commissions commanded in excess of the regulated market price, and this premium rose and fell with the fluctuations of the market. In time of war it disappeared altogether, for men were disinclined to pay a heavy premium for the privilege of being shot at. In the Crimean War there were no over-regulation prices, whilst at the present moment, when the prospects of peace were greater than had been known during that generation, the value of commissions was at its maximum. It was under these circumstances that the Government asked the House to buy up these over-regulation prices—not as a prudent merchant would do in purchasing goods when the market was at the lowest—but at a time when the market value of the commodity was exceptionally high. If the House sanctioned this impolitic proposal, what would be the consequence? The right hon. 1729 Gentleman might entirely fail in preventing bonus payments taking its place, and in that case the expenditure, on account of over-regulation prices, would clearly have been useless and wasteful. But supposing he were to succeed, what would be the consequence? You must either find money out of the public purse to induce the retirement of senior officers, or you would have a block in the Army without any flow of promotion. You would then have the Secretary for War coming down to the House asking for a Vote for retirements, amounting to a large sum, estimated by competent authorities at from £500,000 to £1,000,000 a-year. He (Mr. Rylands) strongly urged upon the Government that they should content themselves with paying the regulation prices and abolishing the purchase system—that would get rid of the vicious element in the system, by means of which deserving officers were bought over by young men whose only qualification was their wealth. The over-regulation prices, in the mode in which they now existed, would disappear without any cost to the public, and then would only remain the system, under which, by the voluntary contributions of his juniors, compensation would be given to a senior officer on his retirement, and so the flow of promotion would be secured, which was necessary for the contentment and efficiency of the service.
§ COLONEL LEARMONTH
said, he thought that the House would admit that the present subject was a most serious one, for it was neither more nor less than an entire revolution in the whole system of our national Army. He had some practical knowledge of this matter, having spent some years in the Army. The re-organization of the Army had been brought before the country during the Recess, and the Government had no course open to them but to bring in some scheme, and their scheme should have calm consideration on both sides of the House. Having listened to the whole of the debate, and considered what had been said, he must say that he had heard nothing that at all altered his opinion that it was a most serious thing to interfere with the present system of officering the Army. He had served both in the Crimea and in the Indian Mutiny with his regiment, and he felt bound to stand up in defence of the regimental system, to which he at- 1730 tributed the great success of our Army both in the Crimea and also during the Mutiny, where that system was tried most severely. Our regimental system was as near as possible perfection, and it was a most serious thing to attempt to interfere with it. While protesting against the total abolition of purchase in the Army, he must express his still stronger disapproval of the system of promotion by selection. He was convinced that such a system would really work very badly for the interior economy of regiments. An officer entering the Army under the present system had a certain prospect, if he did his duty and arrived at the position of senior captain, of becoming major, and a very good prospect of obtaining the command. This was a great inducement for the right class of men to enter the Army and to remain in it. Under the proposed system an officer would have no such certainty; he would have the chances both of seniority and selection against him, and this would throw a cloud over the prospects of every officer and damp the esprit de corps that now existed. An officer would say to himself—"This is not my regiment; I have no chance of succeeding to the command of it; I do not care about the regiment, and I will take things easy." At present a man's regiment was his home, and it was his one idea to act so in his military career that he should be a credit to the regiment which he hoped to command. Our Army was totally different from those of other countries, and no hon. Member must try to model our Army upon the German and the French system; it was the British system that they must look to—that, and that alone. Our Army was different from all others in this—that it was a voluntary Army. We had no conscription, and he hoped that we never should have. We had the highest gentlemen in the land, men from the middle class, and even from a lower rank still, as officers for our Army; so that different classes were very properly thrown together. We had officers whose whole care and thought were for the benefit of their men, and their men would follow them anywhere in the world. No task had ever been set to our Army that they had not performed. The Government said they were prepared to pay the regulation price and the over-regulation price; but this was 1731 wasting the time of the House. He wished that hon. Gentlemen would hesitate before they meddled with the present system. The Financial Secretary for War had given details of colonels having commands of regiments who had not risen from the lower ranks in their regiments; but, no doubt, most of those cases resulted from the fact that second battalions had been added to the regiments in question, or that the officer had returned to his regiment after a temporary absence. In his own regiment not one officer had risen to the command who had not risen from the lower ranks. He knew at the present time a regiment, second to none in the Army, where the officer at present in command of it had not purchased a single step, except his first commission as cornet. There were doubtless anomalies in the purchase system; but with all its faults it was a system which had worked admirably. The Army had never failed. It had always performed its duty. Why, then, alter it? They had officers of the very best kind; but they wanted men. It was a step in the right direction to have cadets attached to regiments in the way which had been proposed. They wanted re-organization, a proper system of transport, the supply of provisions and medical comforts. It was the civil element that failed. The chief lesson which he had learned from the late war between France and Germany was, that in the German Army care was taken that the fighting men were at the front provided with everything necessary to keep them in the field. This was a point where the English failed. They nearly failed in the Crimea from the foolish economy of starving the soldier. In Abyssinia we had not a very great enemy to contend with; but the country was unhealthy. And how was that war made successful? The general had everything that was wanted; and the honour of the country was saved.
§ MAJOR DICKSON
regretted that Estimates should have been laid upon the Table which did little more than restore the men removed by the Estimates last year, which made no provision for the increase of the Militia, and which made no additions to the purchase of war material. Even those whose interest in the Army extended no further than a desire to see a good defence of our shores 1732 maintained, would be disappointed by a measure which simply trifled with the great question of the re-organization of the Army. The world had just witnessed events which had no parallel in history; and those events showed how necessary it was for a country wishing to preserve its position in the world to be prepared for war even in the time of peace. Was the first duty to be provided for to place England in a position not only to defend our shores, but to guard the honour of England under any circumstances? Did it mean the maintenance of any treaty to which we had become a party, believing that its maintenance was necessary for the welfare of mankind in general? How were they to organize a body of trained soldiers, so that they might be able to resist an invasion? The affairs of Europe were never more critical. Undoubtedly, in theory, the purchase system was wrong; and, if about to establish a new Army, he would not introduce it; but in practice it had worked well, and this was not the opinion of merely English officers, but of the officers of Europe, General Blumenthal among the rest. Ought they not, then, to pause before they put the country to this enormous expenditure, to abolish a system admitted on all hands to work well, and especially as the abolition of the system was not accompanied by anything like an extensive system of re-organization. He could not think the experiment was worth the cost; while in establishing in the Army two classes of officers—the paying and the nonpaying—it would raise difficulties greater than could be at present imagined. It was not consistent in the right hon. Gentleman to refuse to allow more than a certain number of officers to realize their commissions in any one year; for many private and domestic reasons might render such a realization necessary. Under the Bill, an officer could not retire, no matter how urgent might be his case, unless he was prepared to sacrifice his money for the benefit of the State, and if the right hon. Gentleman thus refused to do justice to the officers who were now serving he would be insulting a body of brave men. The right hon. Gentleman, on introducing the Bill, truly said that the purchase system was co-existent with the Army, and under that system English officers had, with rare exceptions, 1733 done their duty. The difficulty of providing a sufficient amount of promotion under the non-purchase system was one that would inevitably have to be encountered, yet the Government had not come forward with any adequate scheme of retirement. That very fact was in itself an admission of weakness, and an evidence of want of statesmanship. The rules and regulations which were intended to supplement the abolition of purchase were looked upon with alarm by officers, who feared that those rules would lead to favouritism; and, although the right hon. Gentleman might not desire to work injustice, he must remember that he was legislating not for himself only, but also for those who would have to follow him. The arguments usually alleged in support of selection were fallacious, and would not bear examination. In the case of the Indian Army the system had been introduced under circumstances sufficiently familiar to hon. Members, and which had no parallel in the circumstances of our own Army. And even in that instance the officers were selected not in the manner now proposed or possible, but from the great mass of officers thrown out of employment. The regimental system was involved in the present proposals of the Government, and the sacrifice of that would involve the destruction of the esprit de corps which was so indispensable an element of a satisfactory Army. He could not congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the manner in which he proposed to re-organize the auxiliary forces. For many years we had maintained a Militia which was of little more use than to afford a field for the exercise of patronage by political Lords Lieutenant, and the Volunteer force, in its present stage of organization, only gave the opportunity to a few local celebrities to assume military rank. The proposals of the right hon. Gentleman would fail to re-organize these forces. The Militia and Volunteers were the most unsatisfactory of our Reserves. They were badly officered, had little discipline, and their interests were antagonistic. If the Volunteers were to be of real service, they should be placed under military discipline and control. By all means let gentlemen play at soldiering as much as they pleased; but if men received the money of the State they were bound to render in return real and substantial 1734 service. Every Volunteer, he considered, ought to be bound to serve for a fixed period, and during that time the State ought to have the absolute power to command his services in case of invasion. In regard to the Militia, the Bill fell far short of his expectations. He had hoped that the line of demarcation between the Militia and the Line would have been absolutely swept away. He believed that England required only an Army composed of two parts; the first drilled and disciplined for garrison work at home and abroad in time of peace; the second, an Army of Reserve; but, unless under any other system that might be adopted they were prepared to adopt compulsion, short service might be a failure, for they would never have the bloom of the youth of the country in their ranks. It was his conviction that permanent service abroad demoralized both officers and men, and that it was succeeded by insubordination. When he first landed in India he found a state of things that was enough to make his hair stand on end; there was insubordination to an alarming degree, and he understood that it was ultimately succeeded by mutiny. In regard to the proper method of military re-organization, he considered that every regiment in the Line ought to have two battalions; that England ought to be divided into military districts, to be sub-divided into regimental head-quarters, at which either the first or second battalion should always have quarters, and that each regiment should have a reserve battalion formed by the re-organized Militia. But he found that this Regulation Bill would unsettle everything, and would regulate nothing. He opposed the Bill, because it put the country to an enormous expenditure with no equivalent results; because it abolished purchase without doing full justice to officers; because it contained no comprehensive scheme of retirement; and because the substitute provided by selection would introduce favouritism and political patronage into the Army. Had the right hon. Gentleman called to his counsels practical military men he would have found no insuperable difficulty, but he would have given the country an Army which would have commanded confidence at home and respect abroad.
§ SIR HENRY STORKS
I have listened with great attention to the speeches made on both sides of the House in 1735 support of the Amendment of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Berkshire (Colonel Loyd Lindsay); but I have heard no solid reason or good argument why that Amendment should be supported, and why the second reading of this Bill should be rejected. I am not going to trespass on the House with any lengthened statement of the merits or disadvantages of the present Army system; but I may be permitted to observe that it does appear a strange anomaly that this House should be called on annually to pass an Act regulating the numbers and discipline of the Army, which Act commences by stating in its Preamble that the keeping of a standing Army in time of peace without the consent of Parliament is contrary to law; and, at the same time, that officers of that Army should have acquired vested rights and pecuniary interests requiring the Government to come down to this House for an Act of Parliament and for a large Vote of public money with a view to their extinction. The purchase system is conducted according to a procedure so complex, so extensive in its ramifications, and so varied in its transactions, that I do not hesitate to say that the dealings and transactions of the Stock Exchange, with its bulls and its bears, its script and debentures, its time bargains and its contangoes, are much more intelligible than the rules and regulations which govern the system of purchase in the Army. Moreover, it is not only the system of purchase and sale of commissions, but there is also the question of exchanges between officers on full and half-pay, and between officers in one regiment and in another. These transactions are conducted by irresponsible agents, and extended even to adjutancies of Militia and Volunteers. I hold in my hand a paper published last month, and headed "Army Arrangements." Now, I find that almost every rank in the Army is here represented. We have colonels, seven lieutenant colonels, besides those on half-pay, seven majors, besides those on half-pay, 26 captains, besides those on half-pay, and 19 lieutenants. One person offers to give a bonus, and so the list goes on. Now, all those transactions and Army arrangements have a pecuniary value attached to them, and therefore they are equally as complicated as the system of purchase and sale in the Army. I may mention 1736 that this paper is published by an unauthorized agent; but I do not choose to give his name in public, though I shall have no objection to give it to any hon. Member who may feel interested in the matter. I ask hon. Members whether they think transactions of this kind conduce to the efficiency of the Army? Certainly no one can defend the principle of such transactions. I can only regret that such dealings, whether in the sale and purchase of direct commissions or in exchanges, have got to the pitch and height at which they have now arrived. My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle (Mr. Headlam) adverted the other night to the position of officers ordered either on active service in the field or to the Colonies, and I entirely agree with him in what he said as to the position of officers so circumstanced. I do not believe any officer goes on foreign service, or on active service in the field who does not think of the danger he runs in connection with the price of his commission. The Government have found, in considering every project submitted to them for the re-organization of the Army, that these vested interests presented themselves at every turn. No reform in regard to the organization of the Army can be effected until these obstructions have been removed. My right hon. Friend behind me (Mr. Cardwell) came down to the House last year and proposed the abolition of the rank of cornet and ensign — a proposal which emanated from my right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) when he was Secretary of State for War. My right hon. Friend was, however, obliged to withdraw his proposal in consequence of these obstructions. Even if you want to raise a new battalion you experience difficulties of the same sort, for if you do not give the promotion in the regiment you interfere with the vested interests in the promotion. Thus, whenever the Government attempted to do anything, they always found these vested interests in the way. The experience of modern warfare, and the great events we have lately seen, have shown that a professional class of officers in the Army is absolutely required; not only officers who are sufficiently instructed in the ordinary regimental duties of their grade, but officers professionally instructed in the more or less scientific 1737 parts of their profession, and who, when they take the field, will be thoroughly capable of performing their duty in every situation in which they may be placed. Now, it is very difficult to get that class of officers under the purchase system ["No, no!"]; because it is difficult under that system to get a class of officers who are determined to remain in the Army, as many persons enter the Army with the intention of retiring from it after the lapse of a few years. I appeal to my hon. Friends in the military profession on both sides of the House to say whether this is not the case. The Government, under these circumstances, have come forward with a measure of a very liberal character. It is not intended in any way to improve the condition of purchase officers; but it is intended to meet every equitable and just claim which may be brought forward for compensation. Nevertheless, I hold that the proposals of the Government do improve the position of the purchase officer. Under the present system, an officer, wishing to retire from the service, has to wait till he can find a purchaser, and, as many of us very well know, it is often very difficult in regiments to "make up the money;" but, under the Bill, a purchase officer who wishes to retire from the service will not have to wait till he can find a purchaser, as he will always find the Government ready to purchase both with regulation and over-regulation prices. The Government had been charged with acting unfairly because it limits the number of officers who will be permitted to sell out. It is obvious, however, why this restriction was introduced. If every officer had a right to sell, great inconvenience to the public service would result. The Government, therefore, determined to limit the number of sales, and their proposal is based on the average number of sales during the last five years. A clause has, however, been inserted in the Bill enabling the Government to deal with any extraordinary cases which may arise. I hold, therefore, that no injustice is done to the officers in the Army by the limitation. It has been mentioned, in the course of this debate, that it would be a right thing immediately to reimburse the purchase officers the money they have expended in purchase. But I cannot help thinking there would be great injustice in that, independently of the fact that it would stop promotion. 1738 Perhaps, I may be pardoned for illustrating this personally. When I was a lieutenant, I purchased over four lieutenants and became a captain; when I was a captain, I purchased over four captains and became a major. Now, according to the theory laid down in the course of this discussion, I ought, under these circumstances, to get all my purchase money back, and still retain my commission, pay, allowances, prestigé, and everything. Why, what would my brother officers, over whose heads I passed, say to such an arrangement? I would also ask hon. Gentlemen who propose such an arrangement what would become of officers who have gained the money value of their commissions by length of service—£100 a-year for every year of foreign, and £50 a-year for every year of home service? Are all these claims to be liquidated? With reference to promotion, the proposal is that ensigns and lieutenants should be amalgamated. Having looked very carefully into the question of selection, I do not think it is open to the objections which have been urged against it. If general officers commanding districts and divisions do their duty, I cannot see that selection will be a very difficult thing. I do not think there is that objection to confidential reports that has been suggested. They now exist; they are made every half-year; but when a report is not in an officer's favour, he ought to be told what is wrong, in order that he may have an opportunity of amending. I never made a confidential report against an officer without informing him of it. It is very important he should know what is defective on an inspection, because by the next inspection he may improve so as to be worthy of promotion. I really cannot see there is any difficulty in the matter. The system prevails in other countries; it exists in Austria. I have seen a good deal of the Austrian Army, and I never heard any objection urged against the means instituted to test the capabilities and the qualities of officers. We have heard a good deal said about the regimental system, and it may be viewed in two aspects—military and social. With regard to the military aspect, if we understand by the regimental system the superintendence of the men by their officers, I cannot see why they should not be as well looked after under a non- 1739 purchase system as they are now. I doubt very much whether it is desirable that officers should continue to serve in the same regiments. By doing so I think officers are apt to get narrow ideas; to think nothing of the general service and only of their own regiments; and to become restricted in their views like persons who live in small communities. On this point I will, with the permission of the House, quote a letter I have received from a distinguished officer who has seen considerable service. He says—I am entirely in favour of the abolition of purchase, and think the Government have acted in the matter with the greatest liberality. The purchase system is, in my opinion, bad in every way. It has a tendency to make officers think less of their obligations to the public and the duties of their profession in time of peace; they are apt to look on their commissions as their own property, and there is great reluctance in getting rid of inefficient officers on account of the large sums they may have invested. Our best officers are frequently lost to the service (especially when married and with families) rather than risk the money they have paid. … Under the regimental system, by which an officer, as a rule, rises from ensign to lieutenant-colonel in his own corps, his ideas become prejudiced and confined, and he has less at heart the interests of the service at large than those of his own regiment. There are a sensitiveness and touchiness about regiments which render officers of other corps extremely reluctant to act up to the Queen's regulations in checking irregularities which come under their notice on duty and otherwise. It must strike everyone the great want of unanimity among military men on the most important subjects of the day in connection with their profession, and, consequently, the little weight our opinions have with the public; and this is more or less traceable to the present system, and the difficulty an officer has in freeing himself from the prevailing opinions of the regiment he has spent his life in. … For an Army to be successful in the field it must be carefully trained in time of peace, requiring all the care, energy, patience, and professional pride of which officers are capable. … In time of war there is no self-sacrifice or privation that our officers are not equal to; but in these days of rapid campaigns—of railroads and telegraphy, and other means of improved communication and locomotion—there is no longer the time to train on the commencement of hostilities, as in the long wars of former days, when organization was pretty much on a par among the armies of Europe, and no breech-loaders and arms of precision existed, which render mistakes so fatal, and call for the most intimate knowledge of their profession and the art of war from officers of every rank. It is admitted on all sides that our officers do not make a profession of the Army in the same sense as abroad; off duty military topics are looked on as so-called 'shop,' and considered by the junior ranks rather a bore. I really think that the purchase system tends so much to impair the efficiency of the officers of the Army, especially 1740 in the junior ranks, that the country ought to get rid of it at any expense.It is only fair I should mention who my correspondent is, and he has given me permission to mention his name; it is Colonel Cameron, of the 4th Regiment; and perhaps I may trespass on the indulgence of the House by stating what are his claims to attention, as recorded in The Army List—Colonel Cameron served in the Grenadier Guards during the Eastern Campaign of 1854, including the battle of the Alma and the siege of Sebastopol, as Assistant Engineer, Right Attack. He was severely wounded on the 20th of October, while in command of the Volunteer Sharpshooters of the 1st Division (medal with two clasps, Knight of the Legion of Honour, fifth class of the Medjidie, and Turkish medal). Commanded the 3rd Regiment German Legion, with commission of lieutenant colonel, from May, 1855, to November, 1856, out of which time seven months in Turkey. Commanded the 1st Battalion 4th King's Own Regiment throughout the Abyssinian campaign, and was present at the action of Arogee and the capture of Magdala (mentioned in Lord Napier's despatches as having won his admiration by the manner in which he has commanded his excellent regiment, and the soldierlike spirit which, by his teaching and example, he has so well fostered and maintained); brevet of colonel, C.B., and medal.Even now officers do not always remain in the same regiment, and there are some who have been in many regiments, and my hon. and gallant Friend (Captain Vivian) quoted a Return relating to field officers now serving with their regiments which showed that while there were 80 lieutenant-colonels who had risen from the lowest commissioned rank of their present regiment, there were 86 who had joined them from other regiments. I do not think that what is called the regimental system will in any way be injured by the abolition of purchase. I am sure that every hon. Member will agree with me that the social system of the British Army is, on the whole, excellent, and that there is a good feeling among the officers. If anything can be done to stop extravagance and expenditure it would be most important not only as affecting the happiness of the officers, but also as affecting the well-being of the men. Coming to the second part of the Bill, I may say I do not believe compulsory service to be possible in England. In the Bill there is a clause empowering resort to the Ballot in an emergency. My noble Friend (Lord Elcho) has asked what an emergency is. I should think it would be anything like a threat of invasion. Although you may have in 1741 your Bill power to resort to the Ballot, which means compulsory service for the time, such is the feeling of this country that it would be quite unnecessary to resort to the Ballot, because men would voluntarily come forward to defend their country in such numbers as to supersede the necessity for the Ballot. As to Reserves, time is required to form them. That could not be accomplished in a day. What is wanted is sustained and not spasmodic effort — constant, steady, persevering effort to arrive at perfection. Such is the system pursued in Prussia and in the German Army. When we see the great results of the recent war, we cannot but admit the perfection of that system which Prussia has been steadily completing since 1806, after she had suffered very great losses. Our policy ought to be continued, steady, persevering efforts until we arrive at perfection. To arrive at that the abolition of purchase is the first step. I cordially concur in what has been said about improved organization; a great deal has been done in that direction, but much remains to be done. The object we have in view is to define duties and fix responsibilities. Our endeavour has been to decentralize the Army, and to make general officers commanding districts responsible for the discipline and efficiency. They should be held responsible, and should not be able to blame either the Horse Guards or the War Office; and the policy of enabling them to discharge their duties properly and of holding them responsible is that which it is intended to pursue. Before sitting down, I wish to say a few words on another branch of the subject. I wish to live with the times, and to see the Army, like other institutions, reformed; but as a great deal has been said against officers in the Army, I wish to say for them that I think they should be treated with some indulgence. I can recollect the day when a professionally educated Army was decried, and I have been told that I am acting contrary to constitutional principles when I say that we really do require an Army of men educated for their profession, and not an Army officered by men competent to perform ordinary duties only, and who, when those duties are performed, retire to the enjoyment of the special pleasures belonging to their social station. The officers of the British Army have done 1742 their duty on all occasions, and under all circumstances, although they are placed in a position different from that occupied by the officers of any Army in Europe. They are called upon very often to perform duties of a very distasteful character, involving long exile in unhealthy stations, and with none of "the pomp, pride, and circumstance of glorious war." I am not a laudator temporis acti; but I must be permitted to express an opinion that in all cases they have done their duty with zeal, loyalty, and efficiency. I would also, with the permission of the House, say one word in favour of the rank and file. The rank and file of the Army, no matter how they have enlisted, or whence they come, have proved themselves brave men in battle, patient under privation, loyal to the Crown and country, devoted to their officers. They have been brave men, and I think the Army of the future—if I may so style it—will do their duty with equal zeal, efficiency, and courage. But, Sir, I think it will be well also if the Army of the future turned occasionally to the page of history, and learnt to emulate the great deeds of those who have gone before them.
§ LORD GEORGE HAMILTON
said, he was bound to admit that the opinions of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down were worthy of respect; but he could not agree with the opinions he had expressed in reference to the abolition of purchase. In the few remarks he intended to make he should consider the question—firstly, in the interest of the officers—in the interest of those men who had invested large sums of money in the purchase of their commissions; and, secondly, in the much wider interest of the nation. He should consider whether they were likely to obtain so much more efficiency in the Army, by adopting the proposals of the Government concerning it, as to justify the expenditure of the enormous sum necessary to effect the abolition of purchase. He admitted there were anomalies in the purchase system; but the blame for them was due to successive Governments, who had been paid large sums of money for commissions by officers, and who believed the conditions of their contract to be that if they remained in the service and proved themselves efficient, they would one day command the regiments in which they had the honour to serve. 1743 The Government now, however, sought to break their contract, and ought, therefore, to bear the consequences of so doing by compensating the persons injured by the line of action they proposed to take. The Government Bill would, by abolishing purchase, place officers of great experience and length of service under great disadvantages as compared with their juniors, and even if it would effect reforms in some directions it would be unwise to cause officers to associate these reforms with the Bill which had, in their opinion, inflicted great personal hardship upon them. He was, therefore, in favour of the proposal of the hon. Member for North Lancashire (Mr. Stanley) that Government should either compound at once with the officers, or enter into an engagement to pay them a certain sum of money in the shape of compensation at the expiration of a stated time. He had thought before hearing the speech of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had last addressed the House, that Government expected after their Bill passed to draw the officers from the same social rank which now supplied them; but the right hon. and gallant Gentleman expressed a wish to have in the future a professional class of officers. [Sir HENRY STORKS: "Professionally instructed" was the phrase I used.] By such an officer he should understand one who was dependent for the means of sustenance solely on his pay, and, if he was right in so thinking, the successor to the present Lord of the Admiralty in the post he lately held would have his hands full of work in attending to the large number of applicants for out-door relief who would be called into existence by the working of the plan. It had been said that the regimental system would not be affected by the adoption of the new mode of promotion proposed by the Government; but his experience taught him that the contrary would be the case. Now that a man knew he would be promoted in the regiment in which he had served he would remain in that regiment, though, as in the Rifle Brigade, promotion was slow, and would do his utmost to maintain and improve the efficiency of the regiment whose traditions he so much loved. The case of the 11th Hussars, to which Colonel Fraser had been appointed from another regiment, and in which the excellent service in existence before Colonel 1744 Fraser's appointment had been maintained and continued by him, was alluded to in support of the theory that the Government plan would not effect the regimental system. But it simply proved, if it proved anything, that Colonel Fraser was a practical officer, for, if the officer appointed had, instead of being sensible and conciliatory, been cross-grained and self-opinionated, he would probably have thrown over the traditions of the regiment in favour of his own views, and nothing but dissatisfaction and heartburning would have resulted. On a previous evening the hon. and gallant Member for Hereford (Major Arbuthnot) called attention to remarks made in a preceding debate by the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Fawcett) to the effect that Government could not expect competent engineers to go out to India for a miserable annual pittance of £240, and he asked how, then, could they think it likely men would enter the Army for pay amounting to only £90 a-year. This was a very clear and convincing way of putting the point. It was a matter of pounds, shillings, and pence. If Government wished to secure the services of professionally educated soldiers, who were entirely dependent on their pay, they must construct an increased scale of remuneration, and so entail much additional expense on the country. One of the objections raised against the purchase system was that under its operation incompetent officers could not be got rid of; but those who brought this objection forward forgot or chose to ignore the fact that the Commander-in-Chief was bound to rid the Army of any officers who proved themselves to be either incompetent or inefficient. It was the height of absurdity to talk about the competency or incompetency of the men in the lower ranks in the Army. To ensure an efficient and economical Army some practical test should be applied to the heads of Departments, because it was absurd to lay down regulations for the lower grades of officers when it was well known that the heads of Departments appointed were entirely ignorant, as in the present instance, of the wants of the services over which they were to preside. The right hon. Gentleman the present War Minister had, however, during the two years he had presided over the War Department, applied his great ability to the subject, and had 1745 succeeded in becoming pretty well acquainted with the subject, and he had no doubt the present First Lord of the Admiralty would do the same. At present heads of Departments had entirely to rely for information on subordinates, which was a bad system. As long as their subordinates knew that they were dependent on them for information, they would take a great deal more upon themselves than they otherwise would do. As to the proposal for the abolition of purchase, he could not see in whose interest it was made. If we were to have exactly the same class of officers hereafter as now—that was to say, officers in the same social grade — men with some slight means of their own, and the majority of our officers were such—and who did not object to the purchase system, it was perfectly clear there was no use in abolishing purchase for their sake. As to non-purchase, or poor officers, it was perfectly clear the abolition of purchase would not benefit them, because they rose more rapidly under the present system than they would under that which was proposed. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just sat down gave a few instances of officers who had been unable to rise on account of a want of money, and he thought it was the hon. and gallant Member for Truro (Captain Vivian) who said that no man, whatever his qualification, could ever rise in his profession unless he had money. Now, in the regiment in which he (Lord George Hamilton) had the honour to serve, there were two gentlemen who had risen from the ranks; one of them was a Staff officer and the other was paymaster. The Staff officer was a most distinguished man. He had served in almost every part of the world, and he had requested, him (Lord George Hamilton) to oppose the proposed change—it worked well for the Army, and in his case it represented many thousands of pounds. Turn whichever way he would, he could not see in whose interests this proposal was made. It might be said that clamour out-of-doors had urged the Government to make this proposal; but he should have imagined that the Government was strong enough to have resisted clamour out-of-doors. No doubt the purchase system was wrong in principle; but every practical man knew that it worked well. The more men examined into the purchase system 1746 the more they became in favour of it. Strange to say, a Vote was to be taken on the Estimates of £5,000 to pay out old captains and lieutenants out of the artillery, in order to give some impetus to promotion, and it does seem absurd that we should pay an immense sum of money to abolish a system which has worked well for one which, as this Vote clearly demonstrates, has not worked well. If the present proposal were carried, it would be impossible to go on with the regimental system, and hon. Members on the Treasury Bench were aware of that fact, for nothing would give greater dissatisfaction, and destroy that esprit de corps that at present prevailed, than to adopt a system that would put young majors over the heads of old captains in the same regiment. The House had been told that the officers of Her Majesty's Army were opposed to all reform. He denied that they were opposed to reform; but they had a great dread of civilian interference, and he thought the reasons were obvious. It was just possible that in the wars in which the Army had been engaged during the present century the generalship was not so good as it might have been, and that there had been a little want of stratagem. That, however, was made up by hard fighting and valour on the part of officers and men; but everyone of those departments in which the civilian element predominated was characterized by incapacity and inefficiency. During the Crimean War the Commissariat broke down in a manner almost unparalleled in history Committee after Committee were appointed to examine the cause of that break-down, and if the officers of Her Majesty's Army had a dread of civilian interference, they had a greater dread of the influence of the hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) than any hon. Gentleman in England. They had been told he was an hereditary Army Reformer, and it would no doubt be recollected that a certain relation of the hon. Member had accomplished a reform—namely, the transfer of the Commissariat from the Treasury to the War Office, but it was an involuntary reform, and only accomplished after the Crimean Army had been almost destroyed. It was not, therefore, surprising that the officers and men of the Army looked forward with some dread to any proposal that came from 1747 a member of the same family. He was afraid that hon. Members below the Gangway had not paid sufficient attention to the merits of the purchase system, which had certainly acted well in practice. He felt bound, as representing a constituency which would have to pay a considerable portion of the sum that would be required, to point out his objections to the proposed scheme, which were that it would not conduce to efficiency, that a system of selection must be a system of favouritism, and that it would be the means of introducing politics into the Army. Whichever way he looked at the proposal, he found it to be more and more objectionable, and that it combined, in a manner which he thought nothing but the most perverted ingenuity could devise, the elements of confusion, inefficiency, and extravagance.
§ MR. STAPLETON
said, that the Amendment the House was asked to support was so drawn that hon. Members opposite could vote for it, and yet afterwards when in office carry a measure similar to that of the Government. It was no such great exaggeration to say that commissions were put up to auction. Rich and ambitious officers bought over the heads of those who could pay customary over-regulation price, giving them money to withdraw their names, and when they could not get on in one regiment by this means they exchanged into another. He thought it would be better to discuss the mode by which the Government proposed to carry out the scheme rather than the necessity of the scheme itself, that being beyond further argument. The Government proposed to repay to each officer the over-regulation price of his commission; but that payment would be deferred, contingent, and conditional. It would be deferred, because only a certain number of officers would be allowed to sell out in any one regiment; it would be contingent, because if an officer should die before his time of selling out came he would lose the whole of the purchase money; and it would be conditional, because in order to obtain the money the officer would have to relinquish his profession. But surely the immediate payment of the regulation price would be preferred by many persons to the deferred contingent and conditional payment of the over-regulation price. By paying the regulation price at once we should do 1748 justice to the officers; by withholding the over-regulation price we should avoid the scandal of rewarding men by Act of Parliament for violating the law. Coming to the expense of retiring officers under the new system, he did not think it was necessary that the whole expense should be borne by the country, for what could be easier than to require that each person obtaining a commission should place a sum of money in a sort of insurance in the hands of the Government, to be returned to him, with increment, when he was superannuated. Of course those officers who died, who left the service before the time for superannuation, or who attained the rank of major-general, would not have the money returned at all. He considered that these points were worthy of the attention of the Government. What the House wished was to have our officers better educated, so that they should be able to act if left to themselves as the Prussian officers described in The Times were said to be.
§ Moved "That the debate be now adjourned."—(Sir John Pakington.)
said, as it appeared to be the wish of the House that the debate should be adjourned, he did not rise for the purpose of objecting. But he hoped there would be an understanding that if the debate was adjourned now it would be finished on Monday evening. [Cries of No; no understanding.]
§ Debate further adjourned till Monday next.