HC Deb 23 March 1871 vol 205 cc463-517

, in rising to move the following Resolution:— That this House, whilst approving the abolition of Purchase in the Army, is of opinion that the Army may be put in a state of efficiency without increasing the ordinary Military Estimates of last year, said, in bringing this Resolution forward he disclaimed the remotest desire on the part of the country to interfere with the most ample and efficient means of defence. They did not seek to promote economy at the expense of national safety or the risk of national honour—their aim was rather to secure efficiency without extravagance, and security without wasting the national resources. They believed that, after all, one of the greatest elements of national defence was the power of the purse; but the greatest element of all was found in the patriotism of a loyal, intelligent, and united people. While they disclaimed any desire to reduce the national forces below the point necessary for the national defence, they, on the other hand, professed to have no monopoly of these patriotic feelings. These aspirations, they believed, equally animated the Government, which was shown by the large reductions they had made in the expenditure during the last two years, and in the corresponding reduction of taxation which had taken place to the great benefit of the country. But while the reduction of expenditure in the Navy had been attended with increased efficiency, the same result had not been attained by the War Department. The reduction which had taken place in that Department had not been made without some sacrifice of the military defences of the country, though that had arisen, not from the lack of ability or devotion in the Secretary for War, but in the Herculean character of the task before him, and the total absence of that co-operation which was necessary in order to carry out the reforms of which the War Department stood so much in need. They were all aware that, however good retrenchment was in the abstract, it was of all things the most difficult to carry into effect. That could not be done without striking friend and foe. The Prime Minister, in 1868, spoke of the watchful class who were always on the alert to increase the expenditure of the country, and no one could be familiar with official circles, or could have mixed at all in the fashionable life of the metropolis, without observing, during the past two years, scenes of lamentation in all quarters at what was termed the cheeseparing economy of the Government. The bitterest opponents of the Government had been those on whose co-operation they had had most right to count, and on whom they must rely in order to carry out their reforms. Even in their own ante-chambers the Ministers had been anathematized for their economies; and it was hardly to be wondered at that, during the past six months, and in the face of a great European crisis, the Government had yielded somewhat to the pressure and opinion of that class who had access to the Press, and who had most influence in promoting the expenditure of the country. It was needful to strengthen the hands of the Government occasionally; and when they grew discouraged to remind them of those principles on the faith of which they received the confidence of the country. When such Estimates as the present Army Estimates were brought forward, the occasion was a suitable one for calling attention to lavish expenditure, and asking for a revision of those Estimates. We had lately been subjected to a panic, and as most panics had their origin in the clubs, so this last one had not found many converts outside the district of Pall Mall. These panics were generally got up for the benefit of the tax receivers, and almost invariably ended in increasing the burdens of the taxpayers. All past experience showed how utterly hopeless it was to attempt to satisfy panic, which, as Shakespeare said of time— Hath a wallet at his back Wherein he puts alms for oblivion, A great-sized monster of ingratitudes. Such men were afflicted with periodical panic, and there was no complaint so incurable. During the recent Recess, the Minister for War quoted with approbation a saying of Mr. Sydney Herbert, that the nation was constantly oscillating between panic and parsimony. We might have had many panics during the last 35 years; but parsimony had certainly been the exception in our military expenditure. The whole military and naval expenditure from 1835 to 1845 was from £12,000,000 to £14,000,000 per annum. An impetus was given to expenditure in 1847 by the Duke of Wellington; and from 1847 to 1853 the cost of the joint services ranged from £15,000,000 to £17,000,000. In 1852 there was another invasion panic resulting from the establishment of the French Empire; the Militia was re-organized, the Army and Navy were augmented, our coasts and dockyards fortified, yet, in the year 1853, we were at war with Russia, with France as our ally. From 1853 to 1857, the joint expenditure of the services was £29,000,000 a-year. The close of the Russian War found us in the possession of the greatest naval armaments the world had ever witnessed. In 1857 and 1858, which were years of peace, when we were in the closest alliance with France, the expenditure arose to the very high level of from £22,000,000 to £23,000,000. But even this profuse expenditure did not secure us against another and a most humiliating panic in 1859 and 1860. The Volunteers were constituted, our fleets and armies were further augmented, and Lord Palmerston induced Parliament to acquiesce in that gigantic folly, his fortification scheme. From that time our expenditure had been raised from £26,000,000 to £28,000,000. Where in all this had there been parsimony? Since the present Government had been in office, the House and the country had been frequently assured that never in our history had our fleet been so strong; and yet since the introduction of the Army Regulation Bill, hon. Members had declared that we were absolutely defenceless. The hon. and gallant Member for Tipperary (Colonel White) said the other night that our very existence depended upon the doubtful result of one naval engagement. That state of things did much discredit to the organization of our military and naval forces. Although we had an invincible fleet, and our geographical position enabled us to adopt means of defence more easily than any other nation, the cost of our military defences was larger than that of any other Power in Europe. From 1866 to the present time the expense of the Prussian Army of 280,000 men on a peace establishment, and 610,000 on a war footing, was only £7,000,000, and during the last year the cost of the entire Federal Army of Germany was only £10,250,000, and of the Navy £550,000. No doubt, in consequence of the system of quartering men upon the inhabitants, and from the fact that a class of German volunteers bore their own expenses, the total cost did not appear in this Estimate; but even making a considerable allowance on that account, our own expenditure was still excessive in comparison. It might be fairly asked how he could show that our armaments might be put in a state of efficiency without increasing the ordinary Military Estimates of last year. Those Estimates were about £13,000,000. The first method of attaining the proposed result was to eradicate existing abuses in the Army, and the next, to carry re-organization very much further than was intended by the Bill of the Government. It was due to the Government to acknowledge that such reform was only rendered possible by the measure which the Minister for War had had the courage to introduce for the abolition of purchase, and he trusted that the discussion which would be raised by this Motion would give the Government confidence to make a further advance, and by a revision of the Estimates to prepare a more thorough system of re-organization. He believed that the Prime Minister had now fully grasped the importance of this matter and realized the fact that in the whole of our expenditure there was no such unworked mine—no such virgin vein of economy as in the Army Estimates. Of all things it was most difficult to find out what anything cost under that system. To those who said the people of England were impatient of all taxation, there could not be a better answer than the manner in which they had received the proposal to spend £8,000,000 in the abolition of purchase in the Army. While, however, no complaints had been made on that score, public meetings had been held all over the country, and numerous Petitions had been presented to the House against the increased expenditure on other matters provided for by the Estimates. So long as purchase existed we had no fixed establishment, and that was the first principle of sound administration. The result was that we were obliged to supplement the pay of our officers by indirect and secondary modes of increasing expenditure, which it was now almost impossible to remove except by most sweeping measures. A Return recently presented showed that we had at present 580 generals, of whom only 30 were employed at home and in the Colonies. We had also 8,477 officers on full-pay, and 1,667 on half-pay or retired allowance. Omitting the latter, we had 1 officer to every 22 men in the service, our force amounting to 180,671. When a regiment went to India on a war establishment it had 1 officer to 31 men. In Prussia they had 1 officer to 45 men; in France, 1 to 50; in Russia, 1 to 40; in Austria, 1 to 52; and in Italy, 1 to 38. [Lord EUSTACE CECIL asked where the hon. Member obtained his figures?] They were from the Returns and the Army Lists of the respective countries. He got some statistics concerning the Prussian cavalry from Captain Hozier, and from these it appeared that in that force there were 18 officers to every 600 mounted men; whereas in the English cavalry there were 31 officers to 300 mounted men. A great saving might be effected amongst the higher ranks of officers. The honorary colonels received £167,000, and that amount was improperly included amongst effective services; the pay of the general officers was £72,800; a large portion of the Non-effective Vote was for what was called distinguished services, but they were really undistinguished; there was also a portion of the Vote for half-pay received by general officers not placed on either of the preceding lists; and, lastly, there was the Staff pay of those general officers who were employed at the Horse Guards, in the command of divisions, and other Staff appointments. So that general officers received pay from five sources. Under a good system every general ought to have a defined employment, which he would retain until he retired on full-pay and with an adequate pension. There were, however, 148 honorary colonels, drawing £167,000 a-year; and he hoped, after the debate on Monday night, the Vote on that account would steadily decrease. He now came to the privileged corps. The Guards had the pleasantest quarters, and all the privileges of rank—which officers valued more than money. In the cavalry of the Line a colonel's pay was 23s. a-day; but a lieutenant - colonel of the Guards received 29s. 2d. a-day. A major of the Line received 19s. 2d., and of the Guards 24s. 5d. [An hon. MEMBER: There are no majors in the Guards], a lieutenant-colonel of the Line receiving 17s. The Guards had also a special allowance of £11,500 and £5,000 a-year for the mess-table, which was charged in the Civil Estimates. He hoped the item of £40,000 for Army agents would never appear in the Estimates again. Why could not paymasters pay the officers in this country as they did in every other country in the world? It would probably also be found that paymasters could do much of the work of quartermasters, and in these two items a saving of something like £60,000 a-year would be effected. The greatest moral and social results to be effected in the Army must come from the system of short service. Long service made the Army a curse, both to itself and the community. Such a system led to enforced celibacy, and a celibate Army could never be anything but an instrument of vice. Major Edwards, in his report, deprecated the pothouse system of recruiting, by which men of the lowest class were drawn into the Army. The extent of the vicious element in the Army was evident from the statement that in 1868 there were 25,612 convictions by courts martial, and 8,672 imprisonments in military prisons, and 1,651 men marked as permanent deserters. There were also 70,000 admissions into hospitals, the great majority being cases of diseases resulting from vicious habits. Under such circumstances, how could we have an effective Army? General Moltke recently said that battles were won by legs and not by arms. A British officer had expressed an opinion that 20 per cent of our Army would break down under long marches, these being chiefly men who had enlisted on long service. In 1869, of the whole metropolitan police force of 8,803 men, there were only 16 charged with offences involving imprisonment, and of that number only two were sent to prison. Soldiers who were not employed fell into bad habits, and thus an idle Army became demoralized. This was evident from statistics which he would give on the authority of Sir Charles Trevelyan. The death-rate of men under 20 years of age in the Army was 3.7 per cent, as against 5.83 of males in the healthiest parts of England and Wales; showing an advantage of 45 per cent in favour of the Army. From 20 to 25 years of age the mortality in the Army was 5.80 against 7.30 in the general population, being 40 per cent in favour of soldiers. From 25 to 30 the death-rate amongst the population and in the Army was equal. But from 30 to 35 there was a marked change, the mortality amongst troops being 12.3, and amongst civilians 8.26, being 45 per cent against the Army. From 35 to 40 it was still worse, the death - rate in the Army amounting to 15.89 per cent against 9 per cent of civilians, giving 75 per cent against the Army. From 40 years of age and upwards the deaths amongst soldiers reached 18.94 per cent, while amongst civilians the rate was only 9.86, showing an increased mortality of 90 per cent among the troops. [Major General Sir PERCY HERBERT: Is that home service?] These statistics referred to troops serving in the United Kingdom. In fact, as had been well said, our pothouse system of recruiting soldiers for long terms of service gave an encouragement to drunkenness, debauchery, and disease after a soldier had learned his profession; whereas the Army might for a short term be a training school of the highest value. When he was in Germany last year an eminent officer, who had been engaged in the construction of great engineering works at Berlin and elsewhere, told him that no man guilty of any crime was allowed to remain in the German Army, and stated further that the men whom they were most anxious to employ were those who had just completed their three years' service. The fact was that the Army was to German soldiers a University; their education was re-furnished; and they were trained in a way which we could hardly understand. Thus he knew of a case in which a German officer was found lecturing his non-commissioned officers upon topography, and English topography. An English officer said to him—" I have passed through Sandhurst, and never opened a book upon topography," and English officers hardly ever knew anything of it. He did not mention the fact to the discredit of English officers, for the more intelligent among them resented this state of things, were tired of the want of employment, and desired to do something to bring themselves up to the Continental standard. The fate of the French armies showed what was the consequence of neglecting the education of troops. General Trochu almost predicted what had happened, and in his book repeatedly referred to the demoralizing effect of idleness on old soldiers. He did not speak on this matter from mere observation, but also from the Reports which had been presented to the House. Captain Boyle, the Governor of Weedon, reported in 1867 that the conduct of the prisoners was very bad, and that 51 offences had been recorded against four men. Colonel Wellesley, the Governor of Gosport, stated that chronic evildoers were allowed to remain in the Army; and Captain Allen, the Governor of Edinburgh, made a still worse Report than the others. The Inspector General's figures showed that the number of soldiers committed had risen from 355 in 1859 to 2,657 in 1867, being an increase of 2,302 in nine years. The result was that our military prisons cost, on an average, about £80,000 per annum, and the medical staff and hospitals about £250,000. Another matter was that we had to pay large bounties because men would not enter our Army without them. Was this to be wondered at when the Army was in the state to which he had referred; and when any mother would look upon her son who entered the Army as lost? The cost of recruiting must be large so long as the present system prevailed, and there were retained in the Army some of the worst offenders in the country. He believed that with short service and an open career they could enlist a class of men such as had never yet entered the ranks. If there were 1,000 young men of 18 or 19 wanted to-morrow as clerks at £40 a-year there would be 10,000 applicants, persons who had the education and demeanour of gentlemen. Why should not such people enter the Army? But, of course, they could not do so whilst there were such bad characters among our long-service men. They ought to retire 20,000 or 30,000 men, and amongst them weed out the doubtful and disreputable ones; and to attract recruits of the better class—they should throw open appointments in the Customs, Post Office, and police to men who had served in the Army. If this were so, they would not be thrown upon the dregs of society for recruits. He was a Member of a Royal Commission engaged upon a subject neither pleasant nor savoury; and he must express his opinion that they never could have a celibate Army without it being a curse to itself and to the rest of the population. Another thing that would tend to enable them to keep their Army at a small cost was, that they should accommodate the drill to the emergencies of civil life. Rough, unmannered men, came out of drill improved in every respect; he had asked some such why they did not re-enlist in the Militia. They said that they could not afford to go 20 miles away, and live for a month on the small pittance allowed, and at the same time keep a wife and family and take the chance of losing their employment. He asked whether they did not think that they could keep up their drill, and one smart fellow who had been a sergeant said that he could never forget is drill. Now, if they could give men two or three hours' drill on holidays and on evenings 10 times a year, giving them 1s. on such occasions, they might soon have plenty of men, many of whom would be quite content to remain until they were 40. For his part, he thought that the Volunteers had hardly been well treated during this debate. As an old Volunteer officer, he was much struck by the remark of the head of the War Department as to Volunteers firing away 60 rounds of ammunition in two minutes, for by the regulations of the War Department itself a man was not allowed to fire more than 30 rounds a-day. It might be possible with a breech-loader and at one distance to fire 60 shots in a couple of minutes; but for squads who had to fire man after man, and at various distances, that firing was the hard work of two mornings. As to regiments in which he had served, they were told year after year that they were fit to stand in Line with Her Majesty's forces. He was one of the first officers in the Robin Hoods, in which regiment there were 997 effective men, most of them—180 per cent, he believed—extra efficient. That regiment had drilled 3,500 men, most of whom had left and become lost to the country. No doubt they might be found in case of danger; but, still, they were not upon paper, and no one knew where to find them. The truth was that there was no organization; there was no head of the Volunteers; and hitherto they had simply been allowed to play at soldiers. He believed that the Volunteer movement had well drilled and made efficient marksmen of 450,000 men, although there were only 170,000 upon the muster-roll of the day. When he heard of more men and more money being wanted, he asked why should they not have more organization? When the American War was at its worst, and when everybody was crying out for "more men," a poet wrote— 'More men?' More men—that's where we fail; Weak things grow weaker yet by lengthening. What is the use of adding to the tail When it's the head's in want of strengthening? It was quite possible to induce every Militiaman when he left the Militia to join a Militia Reserve, and every Volunteer on retiring to enter a Volunteer Reserve. He was aware that the right hon. Gentleman would tell him that the Army no longer contained the bad characters to whom he had referred. But The Pall Hall Gazette, in January last, published a statement to the effect that the Horse Guards took a positive delight in refusing to allow men to be turned out of the Army who had been sentenced to be discharged as a punishment for their offences; and enforced the observation by referring to the case of a private in one of the battalions of the Guards, who had committed almost every crime except murder, and who had been sentenced twice by courts-martial to be discharged, but who had been retained in the service by the Horse Guards. That man still wore the uniform of the service. He had shown that statement to the Surveyor General of Ordnance, who, on seeing it, remarked that it was impossible to believe all that appeared in the newspapers. Under these circumstances, he had instituted inquiries into the matter on his own behalf, and he obtained a list of the names and offences of men who were a disgrace to their regiments, which list was at the service of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War. These men would be a disgrace to any community, and they were the terror of all civilians in whose neighbourhood they happened to be quartered. Several of these men, some of whom had been convicted 60 or 70 times of different offences, had been sentenced to be discharged; but that punishment had not been carried into effect owing to the sentence being overruled by the Horse Guards. If such was the course adopted by the Horse Guards, how could it be expected that respectable men would enter the Army? After the occurrences of the past six months it was evident that centralization was needed at headquarters. The day after the order for the mobilization of the Prussian Army had been issued, a gentleman who called upon Count Moltke apologized for intruding at a time when his attention must be so much occupied; but the latter placed him at his ease at once by informing him that the order for the mobilization of the Army had been sent by telegraph the day before, and that he was then reading an amusing book. He believed that that was a story the accuracy of which could be vouched for. Now, in our case, upon such an occasion, all would have been confusion. There were a hundred reforms that anyone who had studied the Army Estimates could point out, and there were some things that were most necessary. He begged to preface the remarks he was about to make by stating that he had no sort of antipathy to, or prejudice against, His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, whom he had always heard spoken of as being a brave officer and a good soldier, and were he to say anything respecting him that was inaccurate, His Royal Highness had plenty of able defenders in that House who would set him right. He maintained that it would be impossible to carry out the proposed reforms in the Army unless they had the hearty, cordial, and enthusiastic co-operation of the Commander-in-Chief. If the Government plan was not approved by the Horse Guards it would be thwarted and be rendered nugatory. The Bill of the Government proposed to place in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief a power hitherto unprecedented, and which, if improperly used, might prove exceedingly dangerous. Were he not to point out these facts he should be guilty of cowardice or of flunkeyism. What was the probability of His Royal Highness approving the plan of the Government? About 10 months since His Royal Highness made a speech in which he adverted to the great changes that appeared to be going on all round us, and observed that among the other institutions threatened with change was the Army; the Army had, however, rendered valuable services, and he would ask, if it were efficient, what was the use of effecting changes in it unless it were to be improved by them? It was not in such a spirit that the radical reforms required in the Army could be carried into effect. He asked whether it was not well known among the officers of the Army that the proposed changes were opposed at the Horse Guards, and that all reforming and scientific officers were not in very good credit at head-quarters. If necessary to do so he should have no difficulty in proving his case, inasmuch as he had communications from officers of all ranks on the subject, who spoke with bated breath, and who begged that neither their regiment nor their names might be given, because they were aware that if their sentiments on the question were to be known their prospects would be blighted. Under these circumstances, if the five years rule could not be agreed to, it was important that the stricter rule should be adopted, which would prevent the Horse Guards from opposing the proposed reforms. He knew that he should be told that the things sought for were not all to be accomplished in a day, and in this he agreed; but surely it was possible to order all men who were medically, morally, or physically unfit for the service to leave it. This alone would make an immense reduction. It would also be possible to put a stop to the appointment of honorary colonels, and this would make a difference for the better. It was possible also to carry out further reforms in the clothing and factory departments. He knew a case in which a boot had been submitted to the War Department; it was a better boot than the Army had ever had, and by its adoption £30,000 a-year would have been saved. It was only the other day, however, and after long delay, that his right hon. Friend had succeeded in getting that pattern sealed, and now a few of the boots were ordered. There wanted a little more enterprise in this direction. His right hon. Friend the Secretary for War came down in August last and asked for a Vote of £2,000,000 to enable him to raise an additional 20,000 men. There was every prospect then that the war would extend throughout Europe. A conspiracy was brought to light at that moment also, which affected materially the neutrality of Belgium. Again, when he framed his Estimates in the beginning of December last, there was every appearance that the war would be continued. He did not complain of the Estimates as they then stood. But what was the condition now? Things had altogether changed. There had been a Conference; the Black Sea Question had been settled. [Ironical cheers.] He did not say it was settled to the satisfaction of the hon. Gentlemen opposite; but it was settled. France, however, was unhappily in a position which they must all regret, and he hoped that the present state of France would be a warning to us. If France had only spent half the money on her military expenditure during the last 20 years which she had done, and had spent one-fourth of the remainder on the education of the people, she would now have been intact, prosperous, and happy. It was her infatuation for military glory which had brought her present terrible calamities upon her. The Vice President of the Education Department told them they could not afford to pay for teaching extra subjects in their schools, and they were threatened with a deficit of £3,000,000. Yet all Europe was again at peace, and their differences with America were also on the point of settlement. This, then, was not the time to vote these extravagant Estimates. Never since Waterloo had any Minister come down to this House and demanded such a sum for military expenditure. Therefore, he said to his right hon. Friend—take back your Estimates, for the condition of things is changed. The Navy of France had often been the bugbear of that House; but of what use had that Navy been during the late war? The words addressed by the Emperor of Germany the other day to his Parliament were well worthy the attention of Members of that House. It was the part of true patriotism to indicate the weak points of this country in reference to the new conflict with Germany which lay before her, and to which the Emperor alluded when he declared that henceforward it would be the task of the German people to make themselves victorious in the universal competition of nations in the arts of peace. Now, he believed that we were not so well prepared for a pacific struggle of that kind as we were to defend our shores from attack, and he trusted that that additional £3,000,000 for the Army would not be asked for, but that something more would be given to strengthen us where we were weakest—namely, in technical questions, in education and social questions, and thus to make our people more intelligent and more prosperous than they now are. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Resolution of which he had given Notice.


, in seconding the Resolution just moved by the hon. Member for Sheffield said, that question was of the greatest importance, not only to the taxpayers of this country, but as the inauguration of an era of increased military expenditure on the part of Her Majesty's Government, the moral effect of which on this country, and also on Europe at large, it behoved the House well to consider. He looked upon the question of purchase as comparatively settled on the point of principle; and the matters of detail, such as the repayment to those officers who had purchased over the price of their commissions, and the over-regulation prices, were questions which could be settled in Committee. As he understood the meaning of the Resolution it was that the amount of £12,900,000, which had been voted as the ordinary Estimates of last year, was sufficient to procure a more efficient Army than we had had in the past, without adding £3,000,000 more to it, to put the Army on an increased footing. He might be told that he held extreme views on questions of that kind; but he hoped he had not earned in the House the character of a man holding extreme views on any subject. If he advocated disarmament, he did not advocate it in reference to one nation only, but to all nations; and in the present state of things he was obliged to look upon the question of a standing Army or a Reserve as one to be regulated by the position of different countries towards their neighbours, by their mutual relations, whether of peace or war, and by the resources of all kinds possessed by each. It might be said by the War Minister that instead of attacking his Estimates en bloc they ought to attack them in detail; but it was almost impossible for any man who had not the same means of information which the right hon. Gentleman himself could command, and who did not know what stock of different articles the Department had in hand, to check each particular item of expenditure, and to say, for example, whether they did not want more than a certain quantity of gunpowder, provisions, saddlery, and so forth, or whether £2,000 increase for second-class chaplains was right or wrong. Therefore, he preferred to take the Estimates as a whole not as feeling any want of confidence in the Government, but because the Estimates had been prepared, as the hon. Member for Sheffield had shown, under a very different state of things from that which now prevailed. If, however, the right hon. Gentleman persisted in asking them to deal with his proposals in detail, he should endeavour to follow him—Estimate by Estimate—in no factious spirit, but with the hope of preparing himself in another year, more than he was prepared at present, to enter into the question in detail. The cost of our naval and military armaments during the last year of the late Administration was £26,282,000. In the first year of the present Government their cost was reduced to £23,910,000; and in the year following to £22,097,000; but in the year after that it rose again to £25,434,000. This comparison showed that we had got up again to very nearly the mark of the expenditure of the late Government. But he wished to go a little further back than that. He had marked out a few figures from the Parliamentary Returns exclusive of special grants amounting to £29,000,000, and he found that for the five years from 1840 to 1845, we spent on an average £8,185,000 on our Army; during the following five years, from 1845 to 1850, the average was £9,400,000; during the next five years, from 1850 to 1855, the average was £10,089,000; and passing over the years of the Crimean War, the five years from 1860 to 1865, showed an average of £15,165,000; while the five years ending 1870, showed an average of £14,492,000. For this year the amount was £15,800,000, a sum higher than the average of any year excepting the period of the Crimean War. Taking the averages of total expenditure by 10 years, it appeared that we had spent between 1840 and 1850 the sum of £156,000,000; between 1850 and 1860, including the Crimean War, we had spent £243,000,000; and during the 10 years between 1860 and 1870 we had spent £260,000,000; so that during the 10 years between 1840 and 1850 we had spent £104,000,000 less on our Army than during the 10 years between 1860 and 1870. In presence of such sums the cost of the abolition of purchase sank into insignificance. Two years ago the right hon. Gentleman had had asked for a sum of £22,000,000 for the Army and Navy; but what change had occurred in the condition of the nation to warrant the increase in his present Estimates? It was true that the recent war had discovered much that was before unsuspected by the country at large; but surely Her Majesty's Ministers must have been long and intimately acquainted with the Prussian and French systems, and he contended that the country was in no more danger now than it was two years ago—the war was over and peace was made. There were two things for which we kept up this Army; one was the preservation of our character abroad, and to have the means of taking part, if we were so minded, in any European disturbance. But it was admitted on all sides that we no longer desired to go abroad to seek for war. We no longer meddled with the affairs of our neighbours, and everyone who had spoken on the question of the Army had spoken of war as a purely defensive one. It had been said that this country might require to defend Canada against America; but what had had been the American policy? The American Government had at one time upwards of 1,000,000 of men under arms, and they had gone on decreasing their forces until they had now only a standing Army of 37,000 men. That Army was officered by 1 general, 1 lieutenant-general, 16 brigadiers, 60 colonels, 83 lieutenant-colonels, 270 majors, 39 aides-de-camps, 538 captains, and by other officers, which brought up the total to 2,350; whilst we had officers amounting to 3,588 only, including lieutenant-colonels and majors, all in full pay, and each of these two ranks in full pay were a regiment in themselves. The disposition of the American Government towards us might be estimated from the fact of their having apprehended the Fenian conspirators who retreated from our forces on the frontier, and the manner in which they had behaved in the negotiations on the Alabama question—a most sore point on the other side of the Atlantic. In addition to this, we had sent a Commission to America, and we had everything to hope from a Commission formed of the leading statesmen of both countries. Next, did the danger come from Russia? We were not going into a new Crimean War; everything, so far as we in this country knew, was settled; and if it was not settled, he believed the feeling of the House was very strong against going to war with that great country. We wanted no new Crimean War. The noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) was the only Member who had come forward with a scheme of an Army fit for going to war. Well then, were we going to be attacked by anyone? The noble Lord (Lord C. J. Hamilton) the other night thought certainly not by France; but France had been our great bugbear. It was France that caused us to create our Volunteers, and it was France that made us increase our Navy Estimates year by year. But France had also been our ally, and the friendly feeling of the two countries was shown in the large sums of money which had been collected in this country to relieve the distress caused by the war. Next there was Prussia, allied to us by the ties of marriage—so strong as to arouse the jealousy of the hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea (Sir Henry Hoare), of religion, and, stronger still, of interest; but what had the Prussians done to us, or we to the Prussians, that they should attack this country? And if not by these Powers, where else were we to be attacked from? And were these attacks going to be made without navies? He might ask what was the position of our own Navy as compared with the navies of Europe? The Russian Navy had 290 steamers, carrying 2,205 guns, and 29 sailing ships, carrying 65 guns, and it cost only £3,000,000, whilst ours cost upwards of £9,000,000 annually. He believed that the Turkish Navy, which was the best navy in the world next to our own, had 13 ironclads, 27 screws, 23 paddles, and a few smaller ships, and they carried 2,283 guns. The Prussian Navy had 38 steamers, carrying 320 guns, 6 of these were iron-clad, and 7 sailing vessels carrying 160 guns; and amongst them was the Renown, a ship which we sold to the Prussian Government, and which carried 54 guns, or one-eighth of the whole guns of the Prussian Navy. The annual cost of the Prussian Navy was £1,291,000. The English fleet—which had always been, and would always be, our first line of defence—had 54 iron-clads in or out of commission, and 174 steamers, carrying in all 5,594 guns. Comparing the fleets, guns against guns, the Prussian carried 480 guns, the American 1,366 guns, the Russian 2,270, the Turkish 2,283, the French 3,045, and the English 5,594 guns. Behind this first line of defence was the standing Army, the Militia, and the Volunteers. Surely the comparison was favourable, and if a real panic arose in the country the advice of his noble Friend (Lord Elcho) was the only one that could be adopted. He cordially agreed with the hon. Member for Sheffield that the way in which the Volunteers were treated showed their services were ill appreciated. Successive Governments had failed to treat them with respect, because there was no general fear of attack in the country. In his own district—and he presumed in most others, the men had been impelled to enrol themselves simply by a feeling of patriotism. It was possible that he might take rather a prejudiced view of these matters, because he came from a district where there were no barracks, no dockyards, and no arsenals, and where the inhabitants, nevertheless, entertained a sense of perfect security, and supposed the taxes they raised were spent in other parts of the country. He objected to the increase of the Army expenditure because he believed that there never was a time when an Army was less required, and when it could be better placed in the position described by the First Minister as that in which it ought to be placed—"a small Army in time of peace, but capable of great elasticity in time of war." This increase of Army expenditure implied that so many more men, practically useless in time of peace, were to be supported by the earnings of the industrious classes of the country, and locally an increase of barracks and the disorders attending barrack life, and an increase of special legislation. The increase of civilization entailed increased expenditure in the way of education, sanitary improvements, and in those things which increased the well-being of mankind, and this increased expenditure could only be met by a diminution of those charges from which humanity naturally shrunk. With respect to the course proposed by Her Majesty's Government with reference to foreign affairs, he believed it commanded universal, or almost universal, satisfaction. The Government had pursued a policy of peace, and the honour of the country had not been affected. They had proposed reforms which had been adopted, with some modifications, from the other side of the House. Their policy with respect to finance had been to keep down the expenses of the country; but it seemed to him that a change had come over the spirit of their dream, and that they had gone over to the other side of the House for a policy. He desired to see them adopt the policy which they pursued when they first took their seats on those Benches. The House was told that this cheeseparing policy was impairing the prestige of the country. [An hon. MEMBER: Yes.] When was that the case? Had our merchants lost their prestige, who make their voices heard in both Houses of Parliament? Had our soldiers lost their prestige? He would refer to Inkermann and Balaklava. Had our officers lost their prestige? He would refer to the events of the Indian Mutiny which, cruel as he considered many of them to be, showed that neither officers or soldiers had failed us. Had our diplomatists lost their prestige? He would refer the House to Lord Clarendon, Lord Derby, and to Lord Granville, and would say that the country had never seen in the best of days gone by, three men following each other of whose services the country had more reason to be proud, or to whom the country ought to be more grateful. There was great danger at a time like this in increasing our military expenditure, and he appealed to the Prime Minister, of whom he had been a faithful follower in large divisions on that side the House, and in small divisions on the other side the House, to reconsider the retrograde step he was now taking; it was unsound, economically; politically, an error. It was an immoral proceeding, internationally, for this country to set the example of a large military expenditure. It was a policy that was weakening the Liberal party in the country as well as in that House, and if the present Ministers kept their seats, it would only be with loyalty weakened—it might be only in degree—behind them, and with a great loss of confidence in the country; if they were driven from office, they would only be able to come back by returning to the policy which in a moment of panic they seemed to him needlessly—he had almost said recklessly—to have abandoned.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "this House, whilst approving the abolition of Purchase in the Army, is of opinion that the Army may be put in a state of efficiency without increasing the ordinary Military Estimates of last year,"—(Mr. Mundella,) —instead thereof.


I rise, Sir, for the purpose of offering what I trust will be a short statement on the part of Her Majesty's Government, in the belief that by doing so at this early period it may be for the convenience of hon. Members, and may possibly tend, in some degree, to limit the range of this discussion. And, before adverting to the general subject of the Motion, I wish to say a word upon a single and isolated point noticed by my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) in the course of his speech. I refer to that portion in which he alluded to the influence to be exercised by the military chiefs of our military system, or to what is usually called the influence of the Horse Guards. Now, I cannot state too clearly what I conceive to be the necessary relation between the Executive Government of the day and the military authorities of the Army. With the general politics of the military authorities of the Army we have nothing whatever to do, and with them it would be presumption and impertinence on our part to interfere. But we are convinced that their views, as well as ours, is this—that as far as the military politics, so to call them, of the Executive are concerned—as far as the military plans and measures of the Executive Government are concerned, the Executive Government must always have the energetic co-operation, not merely the passive neutrality of the military chiefs of the Army. That is the foundation upon which alone the Army and the military system of this country can be possibly kept in harmony with its general constitution. I was anxious to offer these few words, because I thought my hon. Friend appeared to be under a somewhat different impression. His Motion, as I understand it, means this—that the Estimates of 1871–2 ought to be, and might be, reduced to the level of the Estimates of 1870. I know not whether I quite understand the Motion as referring to the Estimates of 1870 as presented at the commencement of the Session, or to the Estimates of 1870 as they were subsequently enlarged. ["No, no!"] Then, I understand the Motion to mean that between £2,750,000 and £3,000,000 ought to be taken off the Estimates now before the House, and to mean that that might be done without impairing the efficiency of the Army. I am not prepared to accede to that proposition. I am not prepared to accept the invitation of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield, that we should take back and revise our Estimates. I have listened with much attention to the speeches of both my hon. Friends, who are Gentlemen eminently qualified to do justice to any view which they may adopt, and though I heartily concur in much that has fallen from them as to the general principle on which the Army ought to be governed, and as to the aims which we ought to have in view, as an ordinary rule, in our military expenditure, yet I confidently submit that they have in no degree proved their case, and that it is impossible to deduct from the Estimates now upon the Table the sums which they would have us deduct, and to present those Estimates upon the same scale on which we were happy to present them last year, without impairing the efficiency of the Army. There was one portion of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield in which he seemed to assume that the whole saving might be accomplished by the dismissal of bad characters from the Army. [Mr. MUNDELLA: That was only a portion of my argument.] I understood my hon. Friend to say that the whole thing might be effected by that very salutary operation. The operation, meanwhile, is one that is being carried on by the War Office, and I trust that it will be conducted more and more satisfactorily from time to time, for I am convinced that nothing can be more fatal to a sound military system than the toleration of what can be properly called bad characters in the Army. But if my hon. Friend did not mean to say that this £2,750,000 might be saved by a thorough and radical weeding out of bad characters from the Army, I am at a loss to know to what particular points of the Estimates he looks for the purpose of effecting this sweeping change without a diminution of efficiency. The only other two heads which I recollect him to have mentioned were the sinecure colonelcies and the Army agencies; upon both of those undoubtedly he laid his finger, but so far as I can recollect they were the only additions which he made to his suggestion for the removal of bad characters. [Mr. MUNDELLA: And of men medically unfit.] That is perfectly true; my phrase was too narrow. My hon. Friend spoke of men who were physically and morally unfit. But the abolition of sinecure colonelcies can only be carried out by stopping appointments which would have but a very small effect on the Estimates for the present year; and the abolition of Army agencies connects itself with improved methods, which we are most anxious to adopt, in reference to stores and clothing. In truth, therefore, the speeches of my hon. Friends the Mover and Seconder were much more speeches in favour of retrenchment generally than in support of the particular Motion before the House. My hon. Friends no doubt will say that we ought not to rest satisfied with pointing out what appears to us the insufficiency of their arguments to sustain the Motion which has been made, but that the Government ought to put forward their own view of the Estimates which they have proposed. That is a very fair challenge, and I will endeavour to do so. Let me state generally our position in regard to the Estimates, as compared with what it was three years ago. I refer to that date not for the purpose of raising any controversy whatever, but simply for the purpose of placing the facts before the House. If we take the Army Estimates of this year as compared with those for the year 1868–9, the gross totals, as printed, would show an increase only of between £300,000 and £400,000; but after allowing for changes in the method of account, the increase upon the Army Estimates such as we found them when we took office would be between £700,000 and £800,000. It is fair, however, in taking into account the defensive expenditure to take into account the whole expenditure. And accordingly we find that the Naval Estimates this year, as compared with those of 1868, exhibit a diminution from £11,157,000 to £9,756,000, or a reduction of about £1,400,000. After allowing, therefore, for the increase which has arisen this year in the military expenditure, the total defensive expenditure for the year—which I wish to speak of as a whole, for as a whole it ought to be viewed—would exhibit a sum to the credit of the present year of between £600,000 and £800,000. If my hon. Friend asks me whether the augmentations which have been made are indications of any intention on the part of the Government to depart from the system on which they have acted, I answer him emphatically in the negative. No person would be more grieved than we should if it were supposed, or turned out in practice to be true, that this prolonged scale of military expenditure, which the circumstances and exigencies of the time require us for the moment to adopt, were to become the normal measure of the military expenditure of the country. It is due to my hon. Friend and to the House that we should point out in what way this additional charge has arisen. I say that the Estimates, as they are now printed, are, in an emphatic and peculiar sense, to be considered as transition Estimates—having reference to two great causes. The first of these causes has been the state of the world and the conditions existing as to peace or war upon the Continent; the second cause has been the necessity and the strong desire on the part of the country for an extensive change of its military system. When I refer to the state of the world and its relations to peace or war, my hon. Friend need not fear that he will trace in my remarks any sympathy with that propensity to panic upon which he has severely, but I must say, in my own mind, and speaking for myself, I think he has justly animadverted. That propensity, as we have seen it from time to time during the last 20 years, has been a weakness and discredit to this country; and I earnestly hope whatever proposals or recommendations we may make, that they will never be so couched as to foster or encourage that somewhat unhappy disposition, little worthy, as we think, of the masculine character of the country. But while I am not among the people who would thus be disposed to overrate the possibility of danger to this country, the House would not permit the Government to jump at once to the conclusion that the military establishments of the country should be limited, absolutely and rigidly, to what is required for the defence of its shores. It is hardly necessary for me to remind the hon. Member for Sheffield how, in his own speech, he has recognized that, though we may be happily and mercifully spared many of the dangers that beset others, yet our duties extend somewhat beyond the limit of our territories, and that we are not prepared, absolutely and irrespective of circumstances which may arise, to withdraw from a position in which we may be called on to perform duties over and above what pertains to the immediate safety of the country. I find no fault with those who think fit to hold and propagate the other opinion and to say that absolute non-interference in the politics of Europe should be our rule. I deeply deprecate the view of those who, on all occasions, are so morbidly sensitive as to national influence, that England forsooth, according to them, must be called on to interfere by force of arms, even when she has no duty or call whatever; or, if any, merely a secondary duty. But the absolute opposite of that proposition neither I myself nor the Government, nor the House of Commons, nor the English people, can be prepared to sanction. The Estimates of last year we did not regard as the ne plus ultra of reduction and reform. Indeed, one objection which I should venture to take to the Motion of my hon. Friend, is, that he seems to give too high a sanction to those Estimates, as if they were proposals by which all future movement on behalf of the taxpaying community was to be absolutely arrested. The Estimates of last year were good Estimates at the time, and relatively to the circumstances in which they were made; but they were greatly enlarged by the Vote of Credit taken towards the close of last year. That Vote, as my hon. Friend justly observed, had reference to the state of war then existing in Europe. We know that the preliminaries of peace have been signed, and an hon. Friend of mine is about to call upon us to undertake some discussion on the subject of these preliminaries. I can only say that he will be a very sanguine man if he contends that because these preliminaries of peace were signed, or even at the moment when they were signed, the peace of Europe therefore is to be considered without a cloud. It would even be, I think, a sanguine expression, in the actual circumstances of the time to say that things have gone back to the condition in which they were 12 months ago. We must still hope that affairs will take a favourable turn; but I think any Ministry would be an over-sanguine Ministry which should venture at this moment to submit to the House of Commons Estimates framed entirely on the supposition that the exigencies which arose last year had wholly passed by, and that we could consider Europe as having returned to a state of solid peace and settlement. Therefore, as far as regards one of the two causes out of which this augmentation has arisen, we could not adopt the proposition of my hon. Friend. At the same time, it is obvious—and there will be no difficulty in making the admission to him—that, although it is our duty at the commencement of the year to ask on every point for the confidence and enlightened judgment of the House of Commons, what we think an adequate and sufficient supply for the whole service of the year, upon what I may call safe suppositions and calculations, yet every improvement that is made in the condition of affairs abroad may undoubtedly tend to modify the situation; and my hon. Friend may rely upon it that if we witness such an improvement in the course of the year, we shall not be slow to allow it such influence as it may fairly exercise on such expenditure of the public money in regard to military or any other Estimates, because the responsibility of the Government does not terminate as soon as it has obtained the vote of the House of Commons, it being still their duty to expend the money in such a manner as the circumstances of the time seem undeniably to demand. Then comes the other cause out of which the changes in the Estimates have grown—namely, the tendency to alterations of our military system. And here I may observe that there is one tendency to augmented military expenditure of which my hon. Friend complains—namely, the adoption of all the changes which are necessary to give to the military service such a character as may enable us to reckon upon bringing into it by voluntary means a class of men, whether as officers or soldiers, whom it is desirable for the country to have. My hon. Friend ought to bear in mind that we cannot extend even the Militia and Volunteers to a very considerable degree without producing an upward movement in the Military Estimates. I will endeavour to place before the House a sort of analysis of the increase in our Estimates, which analysis shall be very simple in its character, exhibiting to the House our good faith and sincerity, and showing that the present Estimates belong to a period of transition, and do not indicate the future scale of the military expenditure of the country. If, then, I take the whole augmentation in the Estimates over those of last year it is, I believe, £2,886,000; but of that sum more than one-third, or about £1,050,000, arises out of the increase of the Army by 20,000 regulars and between 4,000 and 5,000 horses. Now, I ask, is it desirable that we should part with that increase? We have thought not. But I am not about to argue the question on the present occasion. We come here not simply on a question of the political exigencies of the moment; but, at the same time, there is not a doubt that the maintenance of this increase greatly enlarges the means possessed by my right hon. Friend near me of carrying on with despatch the process of the formation of an efficient reserve; and independently of questions of danger, independently of questions connected with any risk or necessity for action, which I trust we are justified in considering as exceedingly remote, we do think the mind and judgment of the country is set upon carrying forward with rapidity of execution the plan which has been formed for the efficient introduction of the system of short service—a system that has been highly, but not too highly, eulogized by my hon. Friend—and for the formation of those Army Reserves which we must hereafter look to as a means both of safety and of economy. Therefore, I point to this augmentation with a specific purpose, apart from the necessity existing at this moment, and as an augmentation justifying, as far as it goes, the description I have ventured to give of those Estimates as transition estimates. The next augmentation is that of more than £500,000 in respect of the auxiliary forces, and this added to the augmentation from the regulars forms somewhat more than one-half of the whole increase. With respect to this, I will only say it is a kind of force which is more than any other under the control of the House of Commons, and, as far as I can read the signs of public opinion and can judge of the manifestations made in this House, it appears to me that, under the head of Auxiliary Forces, there is anything but a disposition to contract the proposal of Her Majesty's Government. I now come to the charges in respect of stores and works, amounting together to about £1,300,000, and I will show my hon. Friend how the great bulk of the items respecting these stores are made up. There is about £158,000 to complete the reserves of armaments for the Navy; and this is an expense which I believe may be called, strictly, an occasional expense—that is to say, it is for the purpose not of maintaining but of completing the reserves. When the reserves are brought up to the point which will be secured by those figures you will have no expenditure to meet except what lies wholly outside them—namely, the necessary expense of their maintenance, extension, and increase. Next I come to the item of £170,000 for the purpose of arming the fortifications which, as my hon. Friend says, Lord Palmerston induced the House to agree to. And here I must say one word with respect to the share Lord Palmerston had in inducing the House of Commons to agree to the erection of those fortifications. It is perfectly true that Lord Palmerston was most friendly to the plan, and attached to it a very high value—perhaps a higher value than many others may have been disposed to assign to it—but it is far from true that the House of Commons wanted any inducing at all at that period in order to agree to the fortifications, for I will recall to the knowledge of my hon. Friend and of the House that when Lord Palmerston came into office in the summer of 1859, and it was thought prudent by his Government to have the whole subject investigated by a Commission in order to ascertain how far it was necessary or desirable to adopt plans for fortifying our arsenals, or any portion of the coast, so impatient was the House of Commons of that resolution of the Government, because it delayed the adoption of the scheme, that a Motion was made in this House, and received the support of so formidable a minority as to compel the Government to go forward without the intermediate process of a Commission. However this may be, I presume my hon. Friend thinks that as these fortifications have been erected we are right in proceeding to arm them. But that is also an expenditure of a temporary nature. I cannot, however, say that it will be altogether confined to the present year; but within about four years this charge of £170,000 will altogether disappear. Then there is a sum of £43,000 to be taken for the purpose of re-modelling the siege train, which sum is entirely occasional, and belongs only to the present year. The next item is £169,000 for bringing up the arrear of carriages and projectiles, and here my hon. Friend will allow me to state what that arrear consists in. It appears to have been a principle of military administration in this country that when it was thought necessary for the defence of the country to provide a certain number of guns, the carriages of the guns and the supply of ammunition should never be provided in the same year, but always in the year after. We have applied our minds as well as we could to this matter, and have come to the conclusion that it is not wise to have guns without any carriages and without any ammunition. This sum of £170,000 is therefore to make up what has really been a permanent arrear, and it is a sum which cannot possibly re-appear. There are other items connected, with equipments and camps of instruction, which are in the same manner connected with the completion of our system. In the first place, there is a sum of £276,000 for small arms. This is in consequence of the necessity of arming the Volunteers and introducing the Martini-Henry rifles into the Regular Army. We expect that if the Snider rifle is not wholly rejected as far as regards the Reserve Forces, the process of arming the soldiers with the Martini-Henry will be terminated in the course of three years. That is the statement of the Government as to one million of the money which we look upon as being connected with causes of expenditure that will not in an ordinary state of things recur. We have been called upon to maintain our military system and to carry it on from year to year and to bring it up to that state in which the country thinks it ought to be. Undoubtedly, we must not be too sanguine with regard to each and all of these heads that extra expenditure will not be necessary; but some of them evidently carry upon their own face their temporary and occasional character, and so far as we are able to judge, the placing of a million of money to meet the various heads coming under the description of stores may be considered as not belonging to the permanent expenditure of the country. Well, there only remains the sum of £288,000 under the head of works, to account for the remainder of the difference between the two sets of Estimates. Of this sum £100,000 is for the expenditure upon a torpedo cable, which is connected with the introduction of a new system, which will not require to be repeated. The other works are works for Malta, Dover, and Harwich, on which £100,000 is to be expended, and with the particulars of which expenditure I need not trouble the House. After all, though I have given this information in order to fasten upon the Government a certain responsibility, and to enable my hon. Friend, if the prospects I have held out be not fulfilled, to charge us in after years, yet I know very well that none of these statements can carry absolute conviction. But I look to the indulgence of the House to judge of our future intentions by our past performances, and I ask them confidently to believe that, which on my own part, and on that of my Colleagues, I can confidently assert, that while we shall never be backward to do what we did last year—that is, to call upon Parliament to supply us with the means that we may think the honour of the country requires, yet, apart from those special exigencies that occur from time to time, my hon. Friend need not in the slightest degree apprehend that the temper of our minds has undergone any, the smallest, change, that we are more disposed than we have heretofore shown ourselves to encourage unnecessary alarm, that we are less sensible of the duty and the value of endeavouring to retrench public expenditure, or that we are less disposed, and, so far as depends upon us, less determined to apply that principle, according to the varying exigencies of the time, with a firm and steady hand during the period, whether it be long or short, that we may have the honour to administer the affairs of the country.


thought that they should have had from the Prime Minister at least some intimation that the wishes so ably expressed by his hon. Friend would meet with greater consideration from the Government. He had been requested by his constituents to express their opinion on this subject to the House, and after the speech of the Prime Minister he felt that it was all the more incumbent that he should do so. Birmingham, of all the constituencies, might be supposed to have the greatest personal and pecuniary interest in a state of warfare, and in the increase of the means of war, and yet they took the opportunity at every public meeting, held at Birmingham, to declare themselves opposed to the increase of our armaments, and in favour of the maintenance of peace. On three separate occasions during the late Recess, while the war was carried on with vigour, the public voice of the people of Birmingham, was utterly opposed to war. A town's meeting had also been held to protest against an increase of these Estimates. He believed Her Majesty's Government, in the formation of the Estimates, had acted upon the erroneous impression that there was a general demand for an increase of our armaments. There was, however, a feeling in the great constituencies that if ever there was a Government that would preserve at a low level the military expenditure of the country, it was the present Government; but the confidence of the people had been entirely shaken by these Estimates, and the Government would find that it had misinterpreted the feeling of the great body of the nation, and that a considerable portion of the popularity they had hitherto enjoyed would be withdrawn, in consequence of this easy adoption of what had been heretofore called the policy of the Opposition. The Prime Minister had said that we ought to be in a state of greater preparation for a possible war; but, so far as he (Mr. Dixon) knew the opinions of the people of England, they believed that at no period of our history was England in a condition when she might less apprehend being engaged in war than at the present moment. They were desirous that our Army should be re-organized; that our military defences should be made more perfect; but they were also convinced it could be done without any increase in the Estimates for the year. So far as he knew, on no point had any attempt been made this year to reduce the great expenditure under which we were suffering. The proper course for the Government would have been to say—"We think certain improvements ought to be made, which will cost a certain sum—we ask the House to give it. At the same time, we believe there are certain items which we can do without, and we propose to strike them out from the Estimates." Certain intimations had, it is true, been given by the Government, which were received by the House with some degree of satisfaction; but these intimations were not made with that distinctness which was desirable. When his hon. Friend the Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) brought forward his proposition the other night to discontinue the appointment of honorary colonels, a proposal in the principle of which the Secretary of State for War said he agreed, and avowed his conviction that certain alterations ought to be made; yet the right hon. Baronet the Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington) characterized it as a "presumption" on the part of his hon. Friend to come forward and point out special methods of reform. Well, if it were a "presumption" in independent Members to make any proposals, all that was open for them to do was to come forward and say—"We desire that there shall be no increased Estimates; we maintain that further saving might be made, but we decline to say in what way." He (Mr. Dixon) was convinced that a saving might have been effected, and he was confident that the people would not be satisfied with the statement which the Prime Minister had that night made. He was assured that the great constituencies, which had hitherto supported Her Majesty's Government, would be impressed by that statement with the simple notion, which the best speeches and the ablest arguments would not be able to drive out of their heads, that the Government, which they had mainly created and supported, and which they considered were pledged to economy, had failed to carry out those reforms to which they had pledged themselves. These large constituencies did not believe in the probability of any invasion from abroad, or in the necessity of any interference with the quarrels of any nation in the world, and they would say that Her Majesty's Government had played into the hands of the very men whom they had always strongly opposed. This Government, created and supported by a large majority throughout the country, had given hoed to the representations of the Opposition and to certain metropolitan newspapers which did not represent the feelings of the people. They had given way to a difficulty which everybody knew existed, and which had been caused by those who surrounded the Minister of War and the Government; and, instead of doing the work they were sent to perform, they had yielded to those who regularly and consistently opposed these reforms; and to that extent the Government had forfeited their hold upon the great popular constituencies. He did not mean to say that the majority which had hitherto so loyally supported Her Majesty's Government would dwindle away, because it was in that House, and could not therefore, for the present at least, do so; but it would be a source of weakness for the Government to reckon upon the support of the Opposition, as they had done upon some recent occasions, to carry their measures. After certain important Divisions lately, it was found that the majority of the supporters of the Government had gone into the Opposition Lobby. This was likely to be repeated if the present policy was continued, and strong as Her Majesty's Government was, and entitled as it was, in many respects, to the faithful adherence of all the Members below the Gangway, yet it was a dangerous game for the Government to play, and one which they would probably have reason to regret; and independent Members, whilst they opposed them, would oppose them with much unwillingness and sorrow.


said, he concurred in what had been said by the hon. Member who had just addressed the House, that a defence of some kind or other might always be set up in favour of an extravagant expenditure of money, and that the arguments of the Prime Minister in support of this increased expenditure had not been satisfactory to hon. Members below the Gangway. The Government had been taunted from time to time during the Session with reverting to a scale of expenditure which a little while ago they very much condemned, and those taunts were not wholly without justification. What was the origin and what the history of the present Government? They went to the last General Election with two great questions before the country, one undoubtedly the more prominent—the question of the Irish Church; but there was another scarcely second in importance—the question of national expenditure. The Gentlemen who then aspired to govern the country, and especially the Prime Minister, made powerful speeches in various parts of the country, condemning the extravagance of the men who were then in office. They obtained a great majority at the elections, came into office, and spent two laborious years in reducing expenditure. They took great credit for the task, and to that credit they were fully entitled. But now the House was asked by the Government, at a single stroke as it were, to vote away almost as many millions as it took them two years to save. The only conclusive reason that the Prime Minister had given for it the House probably would think was the present state of Europe. There were not many hon. Members on that (the Opposition) side at present; but when the Government which they supported was in office, the peace of Europe was in a much more dangerous state than it was now, for then France and Prussia were on the very point of war on account of Luxemburg. But now the passions of those two Powers were exhausted, the contest was decided, and there was no danger from that quarter. There had existed difficulties with America; but those he hoped had been settled, and he must be a madman who believed there was the slightest probability of their being engaged in war with that country, which now had neither Army nor Navy. The Eastern question, which had troubled them of late, was now settled; but if it had not been, he undertook to say that it would have required a stronger Government than the present to have dragged this country into another Crimean War, and he did not believe that any Member of the Government really believed that it was necessary to spend this year a larger sum upon our Army than was spent the beginning of last Session, and yet they were asked to add from 20 to 25 per cent on the £13,000,000 then spent. There was not a military Power in Europe that had ever spent so much. If the House had sufficient wisdom and patriotism to say that that large sum should not be increased, but reduced, the Treasury Bench would have a better opinion of it, and every one of them would go home with the feeling that the country was in a state of security. According to his view, the higher the character and the greater the ability of a Government the less was it necessary to spend large sums to have bloated armaments. An able Government seldom got a country into a difficulty, and when it did it had sufficient ability and moral resources to get it out of it, instead of resorting to that barbarous and criminal practice of war. They had such a Government, and their treatment of foreign questions had met with the sanction of the House. The country never had greater confidence in a Government in the management of foreign affairs than the present; but if it should happen, which he hoped not, that the party opposite should again come into power, it was only fair to them to say that he should probably have as much confidence in their management of foreign affairs as he had in the present Government, and that confidence rose from the fact that he found on looking back to the official history of the party opposite that they had been as prudent in the treatment of foreign affairs as the Government of the party to which he belonged. He wanted a better reason than any that had yet been given why this increased expenditure was required—why £13,000,000 could not provide the country with an efficient defensive Army. Nobody outside the House had asked for this increased expenditure, though some newspapers had asked for it, but there had been no public meetings and no Petitions in favour of it. Amongst the numerous reasons that had influenced the Government in departing from their policy of economy was this—that they had yielded to pressure from that class which benefited by taxation painfully wrung from the people. There was a class in this country that was powerful because it was organized in the pursuit of a common object, and who were unwilling to live by the ordinary productive operations of the people. That class was to be found in large numbers in the London clubs, surging with clamour around the various Departments, and enjoying a powerful representation in both Houses of Parliament. To that class any Government, no matter to what party it belonged, found itself sooner or later obliged to succumb. The barometer was not more sensitive to atmospheric changes than were those men of what was likely to occur on the Continent. The moment there was a panic, no matter where, they set to work, in an elaborate and mysterious manner, to create one in this country, and it invariably addressed itself to the illogical and weak minds amongst them. There was scarcely a panic in this country, except when those who were likely to do harm were engaged in deadly strife, and were so absorbed as to be scarcely conscious of our existence. They were told by that class—he would not say the war party, of which they had heard so much out-of-doors—but by the party who wanted money that did not belong to them—that the country was liable to invasion, and sometimes that it was imminent. He would not say he had a contempt for those men—because probably it would be improper to feel contempt for any man—but he did entertain a feeling of wonder and pity for those who said that the invasion of this country was imminent. There had been no invasion of this country for 800 years; no hostile force had set foot upon these shores from across the sea during the whole of that period, although they had had powerful enemies, and had given provocation. During that period there was probably not an accessible country in the world they had not invaded; but the reasons, probably, why this country had not been invaded was the inherent difficulty and almost impossibility of the task. If the task had been difficult in the past, was it likely to be less difficult in the future? They had ceased to give provocation to any Power to attack them, or to supply any motive for warlike aggression against them. They owned no territory on the Continent, unless it was that unfortunate rock at the mouth of the Mediterranean, which no Minister had been wise enough to relinquish to the country to which it belonged. We had no frontier to rectify, and were not in a position to cause suspicion in any quarter. Invasion in the future was therefore, he thought he was justified in saying, much less likely than it had been in the past. Had science too, he would ask, done nothing to add to the difficulties of any such attempt? Could we not, owing to the action of the telegraph and the railway, concentrate our forces in a few hours on any given point? It took us, according to Mr. Kinglake, five days to land 26,000 troops in the Crimea, without guns, and unopposed by an enemy. If it took a Power like England five days to do that with her vast fleet and her great resources, how could any enemy with which we would have to contend hope to effect a landing here in the face of the difficulties he would have to encounter? The fact was something like a craze took possession of men's minds when they spoke of an invasion as at all probable. But then if the great expenditure in which we were about to embark was not required for the purposes of defence it was only fair to assume that it was to be incurred in contemplation of the possibility of a foreign war. If that was the view taken, he must say it was contrary to the growing sentiment of the country. There never was a time, he believed, when the principle of non-intervention was more generally and firmly held than at the present moment. There was in this country a peace party, to which he had the honour to belong, but not as his hon. Friend the Member for Chelsea (Sir Henry Hoare) would say, "a peace-at-any-price party." It was a party growing in influence and in numbers, and who believed that the British Government could do more for civilization and humanity by developing wealth at home and her vast Empire over the world than by becoming an engine of destruction in any country outside our territories, no matter where. But he should probably be told that the peace party entirely set aside national obligations; but he could assure the House they did not disregard the obligations which one nation might be supposed to lie under with regard to another, though they differed from many persons as to what those obligations were. The first and foremost international obligation devolving on any country was to have within its own borders a justly governed and well instructed people, in order that it might not, by tumults at home or by false notions of honour and military glory abroad, become a nuisance to its neighbours and the world. He should no doubt be told there were treaties it was necessary to uphold, and they had had a good many lectures upon that subject already this Session. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) told them something about the sanctity of treaties, and that unless that feeling were maintained society might as well dissolve into its elements. He did not exactly know what that meant; but he believed that great wars, whether in defence of treaties or anything else, did more to resolve society into its elements than allowing treaties, from some cause or other, to become extinguished. In this country a profound feeling had been produced by the way in which, during the last six or eight months, treaties had been disregarded in Europe; and the inference drawn was that, seeing how they were treated, these political instruments ought no longer to be purchased by the sacrifice of tens of thousands of British lives. So far from wishing to maintain a selfish isolation, this country, since the principle of non-intervention had been taught and largely accepted by the people, and to a considerable extent practised by the Government, had been less isolated than ever it was before. The United States was not in the position of selfish isolation, because she did not go marauding over every other country. It was as easy for her to send troops to Ireland or France as it was for England to send them to the Black Sea, and yet she abstained from doing so, and was respected, and her conduct had weight in the councils of the world. England—which was, perhaps, the only nation in the world that did so—opened her ports to the whole world—was the great asylum for oppressed peoples. We raised contributions to assist the unfortunate of other countries, and if our Government employed its influence wherever it could to the advantage of others, and refused to carry slaughter into other lands—if that were called selfish isolation, he wished to God that other countries would follow our plan. If France, for instance, had done so 20 years ago it would have been a priceless blessing to her people and to Europe, and would have made her the admiration of this House, this country, and the world. It would not have been a proof of growing selfishness, but of growing knowledge and of a political development rarely seen. He did not want to see this country in a state of selfish isolation, or neglecting her national obligations. There was one obligation he could have wished had been fulfilled by the Government. There was a desire over England that the Government would do something to bring about even a beginning of general disarmament. He was forced to say, however, that the position in which the Government had placed themselves rendered them merely incompetent to undertake any such service. Supposing Her Majesty's Ministers went to the foreign Powers with the suggestion the reply would undoubtedly be—"Instead of precept, give us a little example. You are an insular people. You have an unrivalled fleet, and a maritime supremacy beyond question. Your policy is not one of aggression. You supply no motive, then, for attack or invasion. Yet you are not content to spend £13,000,000 on your Army; you are going to spend £16,000,000, and to arm from 400,000 to 500,000 men." At the present moment unfortunate France was in a position to consider afresh what she would do with regard to the extent and character of her armaments, yet here was the British Government inviting her into the dangerous path of military emulation. The House was asked at the end of last Session in what was called a panic—but which never spread beyond the House—to vote £2,000,000; and now they were called upon for a sum equal to nearly £3,000,000—thus making £5,000,000 in all in the course of a few months. Hon. Members opposite were in the habit of crying down and grumbling about local burdens. But here was a sum equal to one-fourth of the whole of the annual local burdens, and he should like to see how many of these hon. Gentlemen would take the opportunity of saving their constituents from additional taxation. But this House was composed, for the most part, of rich men. It was easy for them to vote away millions of public money, because rich men could pay increased taxes without sacrificing their comforts, or even trenching on their superfluities. Poor men, however, paid increased taxes, as the Prime Minister recognized in his famous Budget speech of 1863, not alone out of the comforts of life, but from their very necessities. He (Mr. Bright) had a theory that the Government were pursuing this course not because they had not the knowledge to do right, but because they had not the courage. The Government had no business to talk of panics; they should rather lead the House in the right path. There were scores of weak brethren in that House who would be set right, and could be kept right, by the Government at any time; and there were scores and hundreds who would go wrong on the subject of expenditure if the Government only led them wrong. A great deal was spent in this country; he was speaking of it from the point of view of those who had very little to give. The whole taxation was equal to £15 a-year for each of the six millions of families in the United Kingdom; and he had seen it stated that every man, woman, and child who worked for a living worked one hour per day, not to satisfy the ordinary demands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but those made for past and present warlike preparations. The proposition of the Government was to press more heavily upon those toiling masses. Now, those competent to form an opinion declared that a desire for Republican institutions was growing up in this country, and The Times to-day reported a statement that people believed the present vast and dangerous expenditure was inseparable from monarchical and aristocratic institutions. This was a growing feeling, and, if so, it became a source of danger to those who wished to continue as they were. For himself, he was anxious to live under existing institutions so long as we had power to modify them according to the wants of the times; and he wished that, in the interest of those institutions, the Government would cultivate greater respect for the uncertain incomes and precarious earnings of perhaps the most laborious people on earth.


said, that if ever there existed an occasion for regret on account of a personal cause, the occupants of these Benches had much reason to regret the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), of his eloquent tongue, his clear head, and his warm heart. Had he continued on the Treasury Bench such Estimates as they now had to consider would not, in all probability, have been laid before the House. However, some compensation for that right hon. Member's absence was derived from the speech of the hon. Member for Manchester, who had amply justified the name he bore by the observations he had just offered to the House. He considered that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government was much to be regretted. It was not a justifying, but merely an excusing speech. Anyone who knew the ability of the right hon. Gentleman was well aware that no man could put before the House more plausible grounds for any proposition than the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government. It was at once weak and unworthy of him to stoop so low as to justify the Estimates before the House by a comparison with the Estimates of the right hon. Gentleman sitting on the Opposition side of the House. The right hon. Gentleman the First Minister of the Crown complained that the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) had not made out his case; but his case was simply this—that the country was not prepared to expend £16,000,000 a-year on the Army, and it was for the Government to provide an efficient Army for the sum which his hon. Friend had indicated. A more suicidal course had never been taken than that which was now adopted by the Government. The justification of the Resolution of his hon. Friend lay, first of all, on the face of the Estimates; secondly, in the feeble defence of the right hon. Gentleman himself; and, thirdly, on the wish of the country in reference to the Estimates. There was to be an addition of about £1,000,000 to increase the standing Army. That proposal carried, on the face of it, its own condemnation. If there was no need for such an increase last year there could be no justification for it now. We had for years lived in apprehension of France; there was no ground for apprehension now. The right hon. Gentleman said that peace preliminaries had been signed but not ratified. Did anyone believe in the possibility of the resumption of war between Prussia and France? Those countries were so exhausted, and the craving for peace was so universal in both, that we were never more secure against European disturbance than at the present moment. These Estimates condemned the previous policy of the Government; for, if we wanted those increased armaments now when those two Powers were utterly prostrate, it was much more necessary when the struggle was going on, and when we might have been called upon to interfere. The right hon. Gentleman said—"Give us the money, and if peace settles over Europe, and the money is not needed, it will not be spent." But had not the state of Europe improved most materially since these Estimates were framed? They were framed in December or January, when Prussia and France were engaged in deadly strife. The improvement which the right hon. Gentleman desiderated had already set in, and yet the Estimates were undiminished as if the European struggle were still at its crisis. But it was said they had foreign treaties to uphold. It was high time to learn that our safety lay in abstention from European obligations. We ought to awake to the fact that treaties were devices by which the designing and unscrupulous might overreach the honest and conscientious, and were found by experience to be utterly worthless when the interest or ambition of those who promoted them rendered it convenient to set them aside. He trusted that the time would never come when an English soldier in arms would again appear on the Continent of Europe. In the interests of peace, in the interests of progress, and in the interests of an advancing industry, he regretted that the Government had not acceded to the suggestions which had been put before them for the last fortnight to revise and reduce their Estimates.


, looking at the events which had occurred since the battle of Sadowa, thought they ought to put their house in order as thoroughly and as quickly as they could. Whatever criticisms were made in that House he was convinced criticisms would also be made by the nations of Europe, and they would not be slow to discover any weak point which might be left in our system of defence. France had been overwhelmed with disasters arising very much from too great self-complacency at her position, a blind confidence in certain parties, and the want of men to speak out frankly the truth in regard to the country. Now, he intended to speak out frankly on this subject; and he must begin by stating that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War had received but scant justice for the course he had taken even before the war began. The right hon. Gentleman was treading in the right path both as regarded short enlistments, the abolition of purchase, and the mode in which he dealt with our colonial forces; and he was glad to find that the right hon. Gentleman had, for the first time in the history of this office, placed the Estimates on the Table in a businesslike form. He agreed in the policy of the Government with respect to the abolition of purchase, and wished to state why he should give his vote in favour of that object, which was to obtain professional men instead of amateurs. With that view every inducement should be offered to the present officers to retire as fast as possible; for unwilling servants were always an incumbrance. He believed the country would be willing to sanction the outlay if they felt quite sure that the purchase system would cease, and he had no doubt that this would, be effectually secured by the Bill now before the House, in which seniority was tempered with selection. As regarded the non-purchase regiments in India, he had been informed that although purchase did not exist there, yet that a purse was usually made up to induce the major to retire. This, of course, would cease when it was known that the authorities had the power of selecting a major for the vacant place from another regiment. Unfortunately, the Government had not given us any idea of what would be the cost in the future of promotion and retirement after purchase had been got rid of. There had been many guesses; but there existed data of a very simple kind. The Committee appointed to inquire into the promotion and retirement of officers of the Ordnance Corps found that they were in a healthy state at the time of the inquiry. For five years the annual sum voted was £42,400, which maintained that force of 787 officers in a satisfactory condition. The officers of the Line on full-pay amounted to 6,327, and on half-pay to 1,097. On the same calculation that number of officers would require £398,000, from which must be deducted £65,500 now paid, leaving a sum of £332,500 required, for retirement. He was in favour of our having greater military strength than we had now, and also in favour of a diminished expenditure; and he did not understand the Secretary of State this year simply saying in the old fashion—"If you give me so much money I will give you so many men." The people of the country had expected to learn from the right hon. Gentleman how it was that in the past, with expenditure so enormous, we had gained so little efficiency, and they were disappointed. If the right hon. Gentleman had asked for money to be invested as capital the people would have understood that; but he did nothing of the kind. We wanted armaments that would be readily expanded, and which, when expanded, would be homogeneous, and we wanted them in two parts—one to be a Reserve, which would be equal man for man to the standing Army, which would be equally equipped, organized, and officered, which would be more numerous, and which would include all the branches of the Army—artillery, cavalry, and infantry. The plan of the Government wanted the first necessary element of simplicity. Our present system was complex enough, and it was proposed to introduce one that would be more so. It was proposed that men should be enlisted into the Army and the Reserves for several different terms—namely, for the Artillery, Engineers, and Cavalry, one-fourth for 21 years with the colours, and three-fourths eight years with the colours, and four with the Reserve; for the Foot Guards and Infantry, one-fourth 21 years with the colours, part six years with the colours and six with the Reserve, and part three years with the colours and nine with the Reserve, and he expressed the opinion that any man could more easily understand the way in which soldiers were raised in Prussia or in Switzerland. The right hon. Gentleman had not favoured the House with any idea as to probable reductions of expense in future, except as regarded certain charges for guns in forts and for small arms. By the Government system they were to have in four years a Reserve of only 13,000 men, and nothing but a continuance of the large Estimates that they had hitherto had. The Government proposed to enlist the artillery for an average period of 11 years 3 months; and therefore the artillery could not pass through the Reserve at the same time as the infantry, who were to be enlisted for a shorter period. He held that the artillery should not be called on to serve for more than three years. Everybody must admit that in the late war the Prussian artillery did their work well; and surely we could get as good artillerists in three years as the Prussians could. By the plan of the Government the men were to remain in the Reserve for 13 years, and there was to be entailed upon the country for pensions £862,000 a-year. This he thought monstrous, his opinion being that there should be no pensions at all connected with the Reserve force. He would ask whether it was not possible to raise a Reserve force quickly, and by that means reduce the present expenditure? There were various modes of bringing about such a result. In the first place, all the married men who were not non-commissioned officers might be invited to go into the Reserve; all the men over 30 years of age might follow them, and others should be induced to pass on in the same way, so as to make room for the new men who came forward. This rapid formation of a Reserve was the turning-point in the re-organization of our Army, and in this respect we might with advantage take a leaf out of the Prussian book. The largest possible number of men should be passed through the Army into a Reserve during the next few years, and there would be no difficulty in supplying their places with new and younger men if a proper recruiting system were adopted. Upon what should the country rely with confidence in case of war? Not on the Volunteers, nor on the Militia, but on the Reserve Force No. 1, which was established by the right hon. Member for Droitwich (Sir John Pakington). By means of short enlistment, and a system of rapidly passing into the Reserve, this country might have a force of 100,000 men, and effect a saving of £15,000,000, while a large sum would also be saved to the nation owing to there being no necessity to withdraw from labour a large number of men. What the country might reasonably expect, and ought to receive, was to have an Army of that strength at a cost of not more than £10,000,000 per annum. Due efforts had not hitherto been made to enlist men of good character, and he demurred to the statement that we readily obtained recruits, because of the 20,000 men voted last August only 13,000 had been enlisted up to the 1st of February. The depôts should be made more comfortable, and the barrack accommodation improved, by a smaller number of men being placed in them. The House seemed to count too much on the apathy of the people about this subject; but if the nation saw resistance on the part of the Government to such just reforms as the extinction of honorary colonelcies, their feeling would be changed. He was convinced that real economy in military matters would be impossible until they had a better system of administration at the War Office. The Finance and Supply Departments were amply sufficient to occupy the attention of one man, and they ought to be separated from the Ordnance Department, so ably conducted by the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Sir Henry Storks). It was also high time that there should be an independent audit at the War Office. He would not further occupy the attention of the House beyond expressing his regret that the Government had not been able to give a little more clearness to their view of the time when a reduction of the present high Estimates would be possible.


repudiated the charge brought by the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright), and denied that the class who were connected with clubs—by which he meant the landed interest of the country—were either the promoters of war or in any way encouraged it. If the mercantile interest created the wealth of the country, the insurance upon that wealth had to be paid out of the taxes upon property, as well as by the revenue derived from the trading portion of the community. He did not wish to institute any injurious comparison with the mercantile interest; but he must say that it was much more calculated in the ordinary course of things to bring the country into complications with foreign nations than was the landed interest. For instance, the importation of munitions of war was a purely commercial undertaking; but it had, on several occasions, given rise to angry feelings on the part of one or other of the belligerents. How had the agricultural interest been concerned in the quarrels with China or Abyssinia? The truth was that the charge broke down at the first investigation. There was one other point that he wished to refer to. An hon. Member (Mr. Jacob Bright) had asserted that for 800 years no foreign foe had landed in this country. That was hardly historically accurate, because they had all read of the Dutch fleet that, within a much more recent period, had burnt the shipping in the Thames; and he himself had the honour to represent a county where a foreign foe had actually landed. But he would also point out that the absence of the enemy from our shores was the strongest possible argument in favour of that system of defence which had kept them at bay, and to adopt the opposite line of reasoning was to imitate the example of those foolish persons who considered it a waste of money to pay for the police because their houses had never been robbed. It was generally understood when the lamentable accident occurred at Birmingham that the cartridges that exploded were not intended for a pacific purpose in England, but for exportation to a foreign belligerent.


I shall only occupy the attention of the House for a very short time in making a few remarks upon the question under discussion, which the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government has so fully stated that, were it not for respect to the hon. Members who have taken part in this discussion, I should scarcely have thought it necessary for me to rise on this occasion, more especially as I believe it is understood that the debate is to come to a conclusion at no very long interval of time. Some hon. Members have expressed their surprise, having regard to the Estimates we have introduced into this House in former years, that we are not able to agree to this Motion. I hope it will be recollected that the Estimates of last year were a very great reduction upon the Estimates of former years. The expenditure of the year 1869–70 upon the Army was the smallest of any year since the Crimean War—that of 1870, that as originally proposed, was smaller than that which had been proposed for many years, and I do not think it is reasonable, when we consider what were the circumstances under which we had to prepare the Estimates for the present year, that it could be expected that we could keep them as low as those of the year 1870–1. Indeed, some hon. Members have admitted that to be the case; but there are others who assert that this increase in the Estimates is owing to the fact that the Government has weakly yielded to the influence of panic. I maintain that we have never yielded to the influences of panic, and that in preparing the Estimates we have been guided by the necessities of the case alone. It has been said that we have yielded to influences, not from within, but to those outside the House of Commons. But what are the real facts of the case? Let me first deal with the point of the addition of the 20,000 men to the Army. That addition has been sanctioned by the voice of the House of Commons in a Division in which there were only 5 dissentients. If there is one thing that this House has desired, it is that there should be an increase in our auxiliary forces—the Militia, which I am sure the House has been desirous should be increased, and the Volunteers, for whom many hon. Members of the most economical views have said, in the course of this debate, we have not done enough. Therefore, as regards the increase of 20,000 to the Regular Forces, and the increase in the Militia and the Volunteers, I think I may safely plead the sanction of the House of Commons. In regard to another point—the forts—no one can deny that in a peculiar degree they are the work of the House of Commons; but when they were ordered to be built it was surely intended that at the proper time guns should be placed in them; and any Minister would have been inexcusable who had failed to provide for that expense as soon as the right moment had arrived. The House has also taken a great interest in the subject of torpedoes, as offering us a remarkable defensive weapon and after the observations that have been made in this House respecting these instruments of war, it was impossible for us to submit Estimates which made no provisions for supplying the country with a sufficiency of them. I trust, therefore, I have shown that in preparing the Estimates for the present year Her Majesty's Government had been influenced not by external opinions, but by the determination of the country, expressed by its representatives in this House and by their sense of duty. It has been said—"You might reduce the number of men you have taken for the standing Army." I do not intend to go into the question now, as we shall have an opportunity of discussing it when the Estimates shall be laid before you. I would, however, say to those who have raised this point that the only way in which their object can be accomplished is by means of short service and by passing men rapidly through the Army into the Reserve. It is to short service that I, in common with the hon. Member who spoke last but one (Mr. Holms), look as the future means of securing for us both efficiency and economy. But if we are to look forward to short service, are we to discharge men now in the service, or to stop recruiting? If we are to have voluntary service, and are to engage it, as we are now, for the first time, doing, without the bounty, we must be very careful not to disturb the recruiting market and not to create, in that class from which we hope to obtain recruits, any feeling against joining the Army or the Reserve. What we have done is this—we have directed the military authorities, when the numbers of the regiments are full, or nearly so, as they are now, to offer admission to the Reserve to meritorious and well-conducted men, who may be willing to enter that force as far as that can be done without doing mischief. These men will still be borne on the books of the regiments, so that it will not, perhaps, be necessary, looking at the state of Europe, to fill up their places in the regiments. But either to discharge men against their own inclination, or to stop recruiting, would be at the present moment most pernicious. It is most important that our system should be elastic in order that we may not, by suddenly discharging men or stopping recruiting, lose the confidence of those from among whom we obtain our soldiers. After what my right hon. Friend at the head of the Government has said in regard to the diminished expenditure, after the supply of guns for the fortresses shall have been completed, it is unnecessary for me to say anything on that head. I will only add that I am as desirous of simplicity as my hon. Friend (Mr. Holms), or as anyone in this House; but simplicity, in a complicated system like ours, it is absolutely impossible to obtain all at once. The Prussian system has been held up to us as an example which we ought to imitate. But it must be recollected that the Prussian system is backed by compulsory service; whereas the very root of our system is voluntary service, and therefore, although there are some parts of the former system which we might do wisely to copy, yet it is impossible to argue from one system to the other on points where the analogy does not hold good. I believe that the proposals of the Government have commended themselves to the approval of the country, and I am sure that they will also be sanctioned by the House. I have only said these few words in reply to the observations that have fallen from hon. Members in the course of this debate on points which I thought it my duty to express my opinion.


I rise, Sir, to express my astonishment and my regret that the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has not thought proper to take any notice of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) in moving his Resolution. I had the good fortune to hear that hon. Member's very able speech, and I recollect that, among other things, he complained that bad men are kept in the Army, and kept there, too, by the Horse Guards, against the wish of the Secretary of State for War. Now, I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman, and, indeed, to anybody who knows anything about the management of the War Department, or about the customs and rules which regulate the Army, whether the Commander-in-Chief has power to discharge a single man from the Army. That depends upon the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War, who sends the instructions to discharge the men; and when such an attack is made upon the Commander-in-Chief, the right hon. Gentleman sits still in his place, or when he and the Prime Minister rise to address the House, neither of them offer one word in defence of the illustrious Duke at the head of the Army. That is, to my mind, an entire neglect of duty on the part of the Government. ["Oh, oh!"] I do not say it was a personal attack, and no doubt the hon. Member (Mr. Mundella) fell into an error on that point in perfect good faith; but I maintain that it ought to have been corrected by the Minister. Again, the hon. Member for Sheffield asserts that the clothing department for the Army is in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief. How can it be said to be in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief? It might just as well be said to be in the hands of the Pope of Rome or of the Archbishop of Canterbury.


I did not say that the clothing was in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief; but that the assent to changes in the dress of the Army was.


The assent certainly is so; but the ruling of the question is entirely in the hands of the Secretary of State. The Secretary of State may ask the assent of the Commander-in-Chief; but he is at liberty to act whether he gets that assent or not. But, as to the discharge of men of bad character, I know that officers commanding in the Army and the Horse Guards also have often been anxious to get rid of such men, but have been prevented from doing so by orders from the War Department. And why have they been thus prevented? Because as long as the bounty system existed, if a soldier of bad character, but who had not had his person branded as such, was discharged, he might re-enlist in another regiment and obtain another bounty. There is no other reason, except the financial ones put forward by the Secretary for War, or contained in his order, that interferes with the discharge of bad men from the service; and there is nobody in the Army, from the colonel of a regiment to the Commander-in-Chief, who would not be only too glad to get rid of those men; and therefore, I repeat, it is too bad that Members of the Government should allow such statements to be made in this House unchallenged. The hon. Gentleman also stated that our police are better behaved than our soldiers. I would only ask him to try soldiers at a guinea a-week, and see whether he would not get better behaved men. The hon. Gentleman compared our soldiers with the men in Continental armies; but he must recollect that in Prussia men are taken, as it were, by the "scruff" of the neck for the Army, and when they are taken by force and by conscription, of course you may find men in the ranks of the Prussian Army who are just as well educated as any man in this House. But how is that to be done in this country by voluntary enlistment for 1s. 2d. per day? The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Candlish) said this country is not in imminent danger, and therefore the right hon. Gentleman should abandon his Estimates. Well, but if you wait till the country is in imminent danger there will not be time to raise your Army. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) said he belonged to the Peace party, and enlarged much upon that; yet he desired that the Government should attend to British interests all over the world. I do not, however, quite understand how British interests all over the world are to be attended to unless you have something more than mere moral force—unless, in fact, you have some physical means of enforcing what is due to them. The hon. Member for Manchester said something disrespectful of treaties, and also spoke about maintaining international obligations; but he limited the international obligations which he would have us maintain to the Quixotic proceeding of asking the Governments of Europe to disarm. I will refer only to one other remark of the hon. Member for Sheffield. The hon. Gentleman said that among other things the Government have settled the Eastern Question. Now, I feel pretty sure that so far from settling they have only re-opened it. There is no doubt that what we went to war for was the closing of the Black Sea to the Russian fleet. Well, the Black Sea is now open again to that fleet; and, as far as the Conference is concerned, its result appears to me to be this, that we have deserted Turkey; that we have affronted France, by going into a Conference on the Black Sea Question when she was incapable of taking her rightful part in it; that we got a slap in the face from Russia, and that our Government invited the Plenipotentiaries of every Power in Europe to witness the insult offered to us.


I am indebted to the hon. and gallant Gentleman for reminding me of what had entirely escaped me; but there is no doubt that the indisposition to discharge bad men from the Army was entirely due to financial considerations, because it was feared that the men so discharged might obtain the bounty a second time. I had fully intended to say—and I am very glad to have this opportunity of saying—that having abolished the bounty, we have taken measures for expediting the removal of bad characters from the service.


said, as he sat below the Gangway on the Ministerial side—the quarter from which the opposition to the present Estimates proceeded—he wished to state his reasons for supporting what he believed to be the excellent measure of the Government. He believed that a re-organization of the Army was necessary for the security of this country and the maintenance of its honour and influence. The fact that we had studiously avoided giving offence to foreign nations and refrained from mixing ourselves up with the war had not retained to us that amount of influence which we ought to possess in the councils of Europe, and had not removed that feeling of envy, jealousy, and hatred with which we are regarded. The present Lord Derby stated, during the winter, that if he knew what the policy of foreign nations was to be he would say what ought to be our military system; and the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Otway) said tell him what was our military system and he would state what our foreign policy would be. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Jacob Bright) had said he wished to see the influence of this country always properly exerted in foreign affairs; but what had been the effect of the suggestion of this country that the indemnity levied by Prussia upon France should be reduced by £40,000,000? Nothing; but had our position been equal to the occasion our suggestion would have been differently received. The hon. Member had also said the Government listened to the voice of the London clubs rather than to the voice of the country; but what need had a Government with 100 majority to listen to the clubs? The proposals of the Government had been entirely misunderstood; one-third of the increased expenditure was for arms of precision, torpedoes, and such matters, the charge for which would not recur; another £1,500,000 would be expended in organizing Reserves, and as this expenditure would tend to the reduction of future charges it could be objected to by none.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 294; Noes 91: Majority 203.


said, he would not vie with the hon. Member for Sheffield (Mr. Mundella) in the attempt to regulate the business of the House, nor would he, in a dramatic tone, tell the Secretary for War—"Take back your Estimates!" Holding views, however, on this subject which it would be impossible to state in Committee, he hoped he should be allowed to state them now. The right hon. Gentleman had stated very forcibly the objections to the purchase system, but that system was not proposed to be done away with under the Bill; it was to be continued, as far as he could make out, until the year 1906, and meanwhile the anomaly so much spoken about, of officers who had purchased their commissions serving beside other officers who had won their promotion, would continue to exist. The hon. Member for the Border Burghs (Mr. Trevelyan) had been kind enough to read a lecture to Members on the Opposition side of the House, saying that, instead of studying figures of rhetoric, it would be better for them to study figures of arithmetic—a remark which was rather a strong thing for a young Member to say, considering the elasticity of the figures which he himself had given upon platforms and in that House. The hon. Member had also indulged in a tirade upon the corruption existing in the United States of America. No doubt, corruption did exist there, and he himself had been very much struck with what he had witnessed in the course of an extensive tour in the United States. But there was another evil just as baneful in its way, and that was the evil of stump oratory. To the hon. Member, who prided himself on being the political bantling of the right hon. Gentleman at the head of Her Majesty's Government, he might take the liberty of giving this bit of counter-advice—for they had been old schoolfellows at Harrow—"although stump oratory may serve a momentary purpose, it will never pay in the long run." He was himself desirous to hold to the motto of the Government, to combine efficiency with economy; but he denied that the principle now enunciated by them would tend to that end. It was not questioned for a moment that we ought to maintain our honour abroad. What the country required was a moderate but movable Army—four corps of 25,000 men each, which should be ready to embark at 48 hours' notice; and that not with attenuated squadrons and batteries half-horsed, but complete in every respect. His view of enlistment was that men should be passed through the different services—first, that they should be enlisted in the Regular Army; then, that the second period of service should be in the Militia, with liability to be recalled to the colours; and the third period in the Militia simply, for the home defence of the country. This would be carrying out the Prussian principle, and having the Landwehr and Landsturm in one. If this scheme were thought out by hon. Members he believed they would find that something could be said for it, especially in regard to its economical bearing. Another point was that which had been decided upon by the Government, to hold out a prospect to the men who would enlist on these terms of having something to retire upon in the end. Nothing would do more to secure efficiency in the Army than that. But what had the Government done for the immediate efficiency of the auxiliary force? for that was the main point, and he would suggest that the training of the Militia should be extended, at least, a fortnight in each year, in order that they might derive benefit from the camps of instruction which he was glad to find the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War intended to establish. He thought it was time the House should be informed where these camps of instruction were to be situated, how many it was proposed to establish, and what was to be the organization of the system. It was because he believed that the whole scheme of the Government was merely to abolish a system which had worked very well, in order to replace it by a system of selection which was odious in principle, and unworkable in practice, that he entreated the Government to consider the observations he had addressed to the House. The only effect of the Bill would, he believed, be the utter disorganization, instead of a salutary re-organization, of the British forces.

Main Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.

Back to