HC Deb 01 June 1874 vol 219 cc756-87

, in rising to move, That an Humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that, before Her Royal sanction in time of peace is asked for the permanent removal from active service of any Officer who shall have held a Commission in the Army for three years, Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to direct that an option may be given him of having his case heard and adjudicated upon by Court Martial, said, he thought that now, when they were in the midsummer of Conservative repose, such a question as that might be advantageously dealt with. A just and jealous care for the position of officers in the Army was the duty of Parliament and their due. The nation was ready to bear the charge of a great and splendid Army, and to-confide its ordering and discipline to the responsible Ministers of the Crown; but it could not afford to pay £15,000,000 a year for an Army, however numerous and well appointed, unless it was assured that its officers were contented with the manner in which they were ruled. He wished it, however, to be distinctly understood that he did not in any way question the right of the Commander-in-Chief or the Secretary of State for War to remove any officer. What he wanted the House to consider was the way in which this should be clone. Where there was sufficient cause, neither House of Parliament had ever hesitated to tender its advice, with loyal deference to the Crown, as to the method by which the Royal functions should be used with most honour and advantage, and even to suggest respectfully the discriminating limits within which they were least likely to be abused. When the only regular Force in the Kingdom consisted of a few regiments and squadrons raised, equipped and paid by the Crown, it was natural that commissions should be held at plea-sure, and should be terminable at will; but on the establishment of Constitutional government, Parliament had undertaken to pay, to arm, and to provision the troops, and a Royal guard was exchanged for a National Army. In truth, this was an old controversy, which had originated at the time the first Mutiny Bill was passed. And it must not be imagined that what he had to propose was any new or theoretic thing. The ways and habits of authority changed from time to time, like the uniforms and arms of our troops; but the love of unlimited power never died, and the business of Parliament was to observe its mutations, and prevent authority, in new forms, from being misused. The power of the Crown to remove officers from its service, no one was at present prepared to dispute; and from him the House would hear no word questioning the legality, and impugning the validity of this Prerogative. What he had to say related entirely to the mode in which that power had hitherto been exercised, and the precautions Parliament might counsel the Sovereign to take for its legitimate exorcise in future. As times and circumstances changed, the exercise of Prerogative must either be adapted or abandoned. When they made themselves responsible for the cost, discipline, and efficiency of the public force, they loft its disposition and command to the King; but they kept the control of the money in their own hands by the annual Estimates, and the definition of military offences and punishments in their own hands by the annual Mutiny Bill. The terms of the Act, and the nature of the offences cognizable under it, were not easily settled by Parliament to its mind. In the brief statute, passed to quell the mutiny at Ipswich in 1689, certain powers were given to enforce discipline and obedience; but even in that day of haste and misgiving, Parliament took care, in the Preamble, to remind the new Executive— That no man may be prejudged of life or limb, or subjected to any kind of punishment—by martial law or in any other manner—than by the judgment of his Peers, and according to the known laws of the Realm. The difficulty of that troubled period was to get officers and soldiers; and, when they were got, to keep them in order. Parliament provided for the actual need, and did not stop to guard against unseen contingencies; it declared that every man, officer or soldier, should be punishable in any sort only after public trial, and the judgment of sworn Judges; it left many things unspecified which the Executive might do—amongst the rest, the power of removal and dismissal. For the moment, perhaps, it never occurred to Peer or Commoner that a Stadtholder King, with war abroad, and civil strife at home, would throw away the sword of any officer, if he could keep it. They would as soon have thought of forbidding the captain of a ship on fire to throw one of the pumps overboard. The whole history of our Legislature, as of our law, had been made up, precept upon precept, and line upon line, as practical need required—here a little and there a little. But we should not forget whence the ground plan of a constitutional army was furnished, and how it came to be adopted. There were no words in the first Mutiny Act to prevent dismissal of an officer without legal cause, but in its spirit there was much, and in the circumstances of the time there was more. Flatterers in office told the grandson of Charles, the son-in-law of James, that by Prerogative he could remove anyone he would, but William had not forgotten the teachings of De Witt. He felt that if he could not keep his English Crown by the confidence of Englishmen in his justice, he would not keep it through their fears. And when called upon to dismiss an officer who had offended one of his Ministers, he quietly laid down the pen of right-divine, saying—"I suppose the Gentleman voted according to what appeared to him just and right at the time; he is a brave and good officer, and one who has always done his duty in his military capacity, and I will not remove him from his command for a political cause." Throughout his reign Parliament evinced its readiness and asserted its privilege to watch over the interests of the Army, and to advise the Crown upon the subject. In 1695 an Address was presented to the King, setting forth the pecuniary grievances of subaltern officers who were oppressed and impoverished by their superiors in command— Notwithstanding they had a greater pay than was given in any other part of the world they were yet reduced to inconveniences and extremities which ought not to be put upon those who venture their lives for the honour and safety of the nation;" and the Commons represented their "confidence that those would be remedied by His Majesty's justice and wisdom. William replied, "That he would take all possible care to have the grievances redressed." And he named accordingly a Commission to hear complaints and report to him. He was a statesman as well as a soldier, a philosopher as well as a King, and so it came to pass, that, after a life of storm and battle, he died in his bed at Kensington. The first Sovereign of the House of Hanover had certainly as much need of discipline in the troops a jealous Parliament allowed him, as any Prince who ever occupied the Throne. Unread in the literature, and inapt in the language of his people; with a rival claimant of his Crown, born in the purple, and backed by the still unbroken power of France, the founder of the present dynasty had need of all the unity of action and all the decision of authority he could command; but he was fortunate in having Ministers at the most critical junctures of his reign capable of appreciating alike his personal interest, and that of the nation. Stanhope, then a soldier of distinction, and a politician of the highest promise, framed and carried more than one important measure while in power. A Bill was prepared by him, adopted by his Colleagues, and approved by George I., "for the securing the Constitution by preventing the officers of the land forces allowed by Parliament from being deprived of their commissions otherwise than by Court-Martial." The Bill provided— 1. That no Colonel or officer of lower rank shall be removed or discharged from his commission, or be deprived of the pay belonging to the same, in any other manner than is hereafter prescribed, any usage to the contrary notwithstanding. 2. That in case of any breach of duty or misbehaviour, he shall be tried by Court-Martial. 3. That nothing herein is to prevent reduction of troops or regiments; The 4th clause authorized removal without trial of any officer upon an Address from either House of Legislature. Before the Bill was brought forward its gifted author was struck down by a mysterious fate within the very walls of Parliament. Less patriotic men succeeded him, and under the corrupt and enslaving influence of Walpole, the condition of the Army sunk to perhaps the lowest point of inefficiency and subserviency of which we have any record. Officers were often dismissed without trial avowedly for no other reason than because they held opinions inimical to the party in power. General Wade and others stated in their places that they had been warned at their peril not to vote with the Opposition, and many excused themselves from taking part in military questions upon the ground that they did not choose to compromise themselves with the heads of their department. At length the Minister thought fit to dismiss the Duke of Bolton and Lord Cob-ham, confessedly for no other cause than their opposition to Government. Independent men of influence, both Whig and Tory, looked round for weapons of resistance to the overweening insolence of the Executive. Mr. Pulteney in one House, and Lord Carteret in the other, undertook to lead an attack upon the system; and the Bill drawn by Stanhope in the previous reign was furnished them by his kinsman, Chesterfield, and in 1734 it was brought in by the Duke of Marlborough. What purported to be a copy was given in the Parliamentary History; but lest any doubt should be raised as to its accuracy, he had obtained leave to have a search made among the records of the House of Lords, and he was indebted to the courtesy of the keeper of their Lordships' archives for permission to have a perfect transcript made, which he then held in his hand. An interesting de- bate arose upon the second reading, in which several of the foremost politicians of the time took part, and in the course of which Lord Chesterfield made the best and most brilliant speech he ever delivered. When the measure was defeated through the influence of Government, a protest in strong terms was signed by upwards of 30 Peers. A Motion to the same effect was made in the Commons by Lord Morpeth, but the power of Sir Robert Walpole was invincible, and the attempt to give protection to officers against capricious and unjust removal failed. He (Mr. Torrens) ventured, with all respect to the Crown, to say he believed that when Prerogatives had become out of date, it was the duty as well as the privilege of Parliament to endeavour to adapt them to the altered circumstances of the time, lest, leaving them unamended, they might some day have to be abandoned altogether. They all knew that in former days the power of removal had been seriously abused, and that officers had declared in that House, that they had been warned by the Government of the day not to vote on military subjects, as if they did they would hazard the withdrawal of their commissions. Those abuses had passed away, but other abuses far more general and common had arisen in later days. During the administration of the War Department by Lord Castlereagh, and subsequently during his Leadership of that House, dismissals without trial were frequent, and the irritation thereby occasioned gave rise to more than one unsuccessful protest by Members of the Opposition. On 7th March, 1815, Lord Proby moved a clause in Committee on the Mutiny Bill, preventing dismissal of officers without previous inquiry by Court-Martial. He stated that in Austria and Russia no such practice existed. Lord Palmerston, Secretary at War, opposed the Motion because no sufficient case of grievance had been made out, and no abuse of the discretionary power vested in the Crown. But Mr. Tierney, in supporting the proposition, said— On sound constitutional principles it merited his assistance. The decision of the House in 1734 only showed that Sir Robert Walpole's House of Commons approved of their patron's conduct. By the present practice the character of an officer might be whispered away, and no reason given, but the caprice of power, for depriving him both of that and of his commission. The renewal of the war against Napoleon led soon afterwards to a vast augmentation of the Army, and during the same Session a similar Motion was made by Mr. Bennett, ending, as before, in rejection. Waterloo stifled all criticism of military organization for a time; and the arbitrary practice continued without check, limitation, or control. It reached its climax in 1821, when a General Officer of heroic fame, who had served his country nine-and-twenty years, was, on the demand of the Home Secretary, summarily dismissed from the Army. Political passions ran high; discontent and distress prevailed, and the Government had become odious by their baffled prosecution of the Queen. In the tumult that occurred at her funeral the soldiers came into collision with the populace, and to prevent senseless and shameful carnage, Sir Robert Wilson, happening to come up at the moment, forgot his sense of discipline in his pity for an unarmed crowd, and implored the Guards to desist from firing. Without the semblance of a legal investigation, he was forthwith gazetted out of the Army. In vain he asked for a Court-Martial. In vain he cited the opinion of the twelve Judges, in the case of Lord George Sackville, who had had that opportunity of defending himself after dismissal. He was too conspicuous an opponent to be spared; and, officially, he got no quarter. In his place he appealed to Parliament against the injustice of dismissal without trial. Fifty years have come and gone since then, and we could look dispassionately at the case, as few men in that troubled time could do. In the angry discussion which ensued, scarcely a word was said on either side about the General's impulsive act. The whole of the controversy turned upon the question whether a gallant and generous man should be stripped of his rank, reduced to penury, and branded with military disgrace, without a hearing, without evidence, and without the judgment of any but his political enemies, who happened to be in power. His appeal was overborne by numbers, but in the minority were found Denman, Brougham, Tierney, Whitbread, Lushington, Scarlett, Lord William Bentinck, and Lord John Russell. Lord Castlereagh on the occasion, with characteristic intrepidity, argued for the absolutism of the Executive. Disdaining alike history and logic, he took his stand upon the official practice in which he had been bred. He held in his hand, he said, a paper containing the names of 212 officers who had been dismissed without trial within the last 10 years. When Returns were subsequently moved for, it appeared that from 1793 to 1821 seven colonels, 56 captains, and about 900 subalterns had been dismissed without trial; but from the night when Sir Robert Wilson's appeal was rejected, the power of deprival went more softly. The days of Castlereagh were already numbered, and under the sway of Mr. Canning a new system was adopted. It was a period of gradual thaw in the rigour of administration. Religious disability remained on the Statute Book, but Roman Catholics, wherever possible, were admitted to office. The severity of the Criminal Code was relaxed, and ex officio prosecutions for libel were discontinued. Instead of the forfeiture of their commissions, officers who were not favourites were permitted to sell out, or were compelled to go on half-pay; and, as Court Martials for trivial offences were certain to prove unpopular, recourse was more frequently had to Boards of Inquiry. The Duke of Wellington never retracted the words of condemnation which he poured upon Boards of Inquiry in 1809. He habitually turned a deaf ear to trumpery complaints. When officers got to loggerheads among themselves, he left them—to use an American phrase—to "worry through it;" but when a man did anything seriously wrong, he sent him to be tried, not by a Board of Inquiry, but by a Court-Martial. He, and after him Lord Hill systematically set their faces against the substitution of the lawless, secret, unauthorized, and thoroughly pernicious system of Boards of Inquiry for the open and lawful inquiry of a Court-Martial. They were also strongly opposed to resorting to the miserable system of compelling men to go on half-pay as a mode of punishment. In 1841, when the Government was called upon to dismiss, or put on half-pay, Lord Cardigan—a bitter opponent of the then Administration—Lord Melbourne, who in Army matters was mainly guided by the Duke's advice, firmly refused to seek popularity by such an abuse of power. As Secretary at War, Mr. Macaulay, speaking, as he said with the sanction of the greatest captain of the time, as well as of Lord Hill, said that, "except for some heinous fault, no man, without sentence of Court Martial, ought to lose his commission;" and that, "as a punishment, no officer ought ever to bereduced to half-pay; that was not the principle on which the Half-pay List had been established, nor to which, while he held office, it should be perverted." He added "that the half-pay was no punishment. It was given partly as a reward for past services, and partly as a retainer for future services. Why, then, should it be made a reward for offences while there remained the alternative of a Court Martial? for the other alternative of a dismissal from the service without Court Martial would, he had the authority of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army for saying, be a serious and, perhaps, fatal injury to the Army." These words of Mr. Macaulay ought not to be now forgotten. Lord Dalhousie told the Purchase Commission of 1857, that he invariably refused to act on suggestions to reduce men who had got into scrapes by placing them on the Half-pay List, as that list should not be made a refuge for officers who had misconducted themselves. He (Mr. Torrens) regretted to say that in the changes which took place subsequently to the death of the Duke of Wellington the whole of these principles had been allowed to disappear, and recently they had painful knowledge that the whole system had been changed. In the Regulations issued in 1868, and again in January, 1873, it was distinctly laid down that the Minister for War might, on the recommendation of the Commander-in-Chief, place any officer upon penal half-pay, and further reduce that half-pay to any amount he might think fit. Such a system would place officers at the mercy of the Minister of the day. He (Mr. Torrens) was not dealing with individuals, but with a system. The people were anxious that an efficient Army should be maintained to uphold the dignity of the Monarchy and to defend the country, and, accordingly, the expenditure of the War Department was never greater than now; but they were anxious, while seeing that they got a proper return for the money, that the Army should be governed upon principles of national and constitutional justice. As long as the Army was small—and he found its average strength in time of peace in the last century did not exceed 20,000—dismissals could not excite any great feeling, and the officers were men of rank and influence, who could take very good care of themselves; it was in their favour that the Purchase system was mainly kept up, so that few grievances could arise; but what was our position now? We this year voted pay for upwards of 7,000 officers, and it was only two years ago that the House had set aside all the other business of legislation and devoted its attention for three months to re-organizing the Army fundamentally. It was agreed to do away with purchase, and open the door to the friendless and the nameless who should have had a decent education, who were to rise by "selection," whatever that might mean; but what was to be the position of those men, judging by the cases—which, unfortunately, were numerous—when getting to loggerheads with their fellow officers about trifling matters, or, what was more difficult to deal with, incurring the prejudice or disfavour of their commanding officer? As long as men could appeal to a sworn tribunal, friendless men might be safe, but they could not feel safe if on a charge by an unknown accuser, and judged by men nominated by the Secretary for War or the Commander-in-Chief, sitting with closed doors, they could be condemned without a hearing, and on the report of an unsworn tribunal be driven from their profession, and cut short in their career without appeal and without any sort of reparation from the Civil Courts of the Realm. He would mention an instance. An officer who had served 20 years with honour, who bad been decorated by his own Sovereign and by the late Sovereign of France, and against whom nothing whatever had ever been alleged, except that he had incurred the displeasure of his commanding officer, was removed from the service by the present Commander-in-Chief, with the sanction of the Minister of War, upon the report of a Court of Inquiry, which Court was not ostensibly summoned to inquire into his fitness to be retained in the service, but which had secret instructions to report thereon. The gravamen of the charge against him was that having been impeached before a previous Court of Inquiry, which acquitted him of any blame, this officer, like an honourable man, could not choke down the sense of injustice which he felt. For reiterating the acquittal of the previous Court of Inquiry, he was considered insubordinate by those who had failed in the first instance to convict him; and for that insubordination he was brought before the second Court of Inquiry, and, upon its recommendation, was removed from the Service with a loss of about £7,000, the value of his commission and pay, and at the present moment he was on penal half-pay and without any redress whatever, for on being advised to bring an action against his superior officer, he was told by Mr. Justice Blackburn that evidence as to the truth or malice of the allegations against him could not be admitted. In the Exchequer Chamber, 10 Judges confirmed the ruling that Courts of Law could not interfere in military matters, and that even when the adverse report of a Board of Inquiry was said to have been obtained by unfounded or malicious allegations, an action for libel by the deprived officer could not be maintained against his military slanderers. Lord Chief Justice Cockburn, whose name would for ever be indelibly inscribed among the greatest and the best defenders of constitutional rights, hesitated not to express his reluctance to recognize a state of the law which left a brave and honourable man without any remedy against intolerable wrong, and he did not conceal his hope and conviction that such a condition of things would not be suffered to continue. In "Dawkins v. Lord F. Paulet," when giving judgment in demurrer, he pronounced his opinion to be in favour of the plaintiff and against the demurrer, which necessarily, in point of form, admitted the averments in the replication to be true, and that the representations made by the defendant, Lord F. Paulet, in reference to the plaintiff had been made dishonestly, maliciously, and without a belief in their truth. He said— To support this demurrer, it was necessary to maintain that in all matters relating to military authority and discipline a subordinate officer is, so far as civil redress is concerned, entirely at the mercy of his superior; that the latter may institute proceedings against him, without right or reason, on charges which he knows to be unfounded, may, under the disguise of duty, write concerning him that which he knows to be false, and may thus bring upon him consequences the most disastrous, without the party injured being entitled to redress in a court of law. While I fully agree that acts done in the honest exercise of military authority are entirely privileged, I confess that I am not prepared to arrive at a conclusion so startling and apparently unjust as that, if the opportunity it affords is intentionally abused for the purposes of injury and wrong, no redress is to be had by the sufferer in a court of law. Sir Alexander Cock burn then proceeded to comment on the case of "Sutton v. Johnstone," and referred at some length to the judgment of Eyre, B., and to the remarks of Lord Mansfield, and to a subsequent case of "Warden v. Bailey," and on hearing afterwards before the Court of King's Bench, as a Court of Error, in which the reasoning of Lord Mansfield in "Sutton v. Johnstone "as to the action not being tenable was not adopted or followed, and in which Justice Laurence, in the course of the argument before the Court of Common Pleas, stated that he had heard— from good private information that the reasons assigned by Lord Mansfield were not adopted by the House of Lords though his judgment was affirmed. While no man would more strenuously uphold military authority when legitimately exercised, or would more earnestly urge upon juries the propriety of presuming everything in favour of its legitimate exercise, and of requiring the most cogent and conclusive evidence of its abuse, to entitle an inferior officer to recover in an action against a superior, I cannot bring myself to think that it is essential to the well-being of our military or naval force, that where authority is intentionally abused for the purpose of injustice or oppression, where charges are preferred which to the knowledge of the party preferring them are intentionally unjust, where representations are made which the party making them knows to be slanderous and false, the party injured, whoso professional prospects may have been ruined and whose professional reputation may have been blasted, is to be told that the Queen's Courts, in a country whose boast it is that there is no wrong without redress, are shut to his just complaint. On the contrary, I cannot but believe that to a force depending on voluntary augmentation, it will be far more beneficial that its subordinate members shall know that against intentional oppression and manifest wrong, leading to consequences disastrous to professional interests or character, redress may be found in the civil tribunals of the country. But I think that if the law is to be thus settled it should he done by legislative enactment, or at all events by a court of error, and that, acting as a Court of First Instance in dealing with this demurrer, we should give judgment for the Plaintiff; but my learned brothers have arrived at a different conclusion, and therefore judgment must be given for the Defendant. That was no isolated instance, and he had not the least doubt that the Secretary of State for War only did what he was advised to do, and what he had abundant precedents for doing; but the fact remained that Colonel Dawkins was deprived of his honours and emoluments without just cause. His object was to plead in favour of a class of men who were defenceless, and not to make any complaint against any particular Minister or Department. A few weeks ago a man sought an interview with him who had been deprived of his commission with ignominy after 28 years' service, after 14 of which he was promoted from the ranks. At the end of that second period his commanding officer, Colonel Wilbraham, wrote him this letter— Dear Hawtree,—I cannot leave the corps without expressing to you my sense of the exemplary manner in which you have behaved on all occasions, and of the advantage I think you have been to the service. He asked if a man with such antecedents was not entitled to consideration even if in fault? He put it to the feeling of the country, was it right or prudent that suddenly, in his 29th year of service, this man should be ordered to give up his sword, and should be kept in arrest for a period of six months without any charge being brought against him in any tangible or definite form? At the end of that time he was, however, released from arrest and ordered to hold himself in readiness to serve on the West Coast of Africa. Two months elapsed, and by January re-inforcements were suspended, the authorities once more changed their minds, and the following order was sent to the commanding officer at Netley:—"In consequence of the facts found by the Board of Inquiry, Lieutenant Hawtree is called on to resign his commission." He was assured by this unfortunate man that he was, up to the present moment, left in ignorance of the specific charges reported against him by the Board of Inquiry, on whose ex parte decree he was doomed to professional ruin. If Captain Hawtree had been guilty of deficiency in his pay-lists or misstatements of accounts, why was he not confronted with his accusers? Told to resign his commission without indictment, proof, trial, or conviction, he did what every honest man would do—he refused, and asked earnestly and repeatedly to be tried by a Court-Martial. Why was his request not granted? There was not a pick- pocket collared by the police—there was not a welcher on Newmarket Course—there was not a burglar caught in the act, with centre-bit and jemmy found in his possession—who was not certain of more justice than they had given this man. But he could mention another case, which was treated in a similar manner. Within the last three years the colonel of a regiment serving in India was accused at head-quarters of inebriety. A Court of Inquiry was appointed to investigate the charge. They sat several days with closed doors, and examined—not upon oath—many witnesses, all of whom denied the allegation, and said they had never seen him unfit for duty. The Report was unanimous that no case had been made out. Yet within a month he was dismissed from his command without any cause assigned. He was struck off the Staff Corps without trial, proof, or sentence of any sort. He (Mr. Torrens) complained of these so-called Courts of Inquiry, not for examination, not for advice, but for colourable trial and injudicial judgment. To use the words of Mr. Wyndham, the proceeding before a Court of Inquiry was in the nature of a preliminary investigation to report confidentially as to whether a public trial should take place— Its members were a set of advisers, and not Judges; or, if Judges, Judges who were to judge of nothing but whether the matter ought to be submitted to judgment. But to pervert the tribunal is to produce a strange, anomalous, and inconsistent proceeding; a trial—which is no trial—for it can neither condemn so as lawfully to inflict punishment on the guilty, nor lawfully acquit, so as to protect the innocent. It was a mere evasion, under a certain form, of that which was the great protection of Englishmen. Military Boards of Inquiry, when kept to their proper purpose—namely, that of preliminary investigation and confidential advice—no one objected to. But a Board of Inquiry consisted of any three nominees of the officer who might be the accuser; it had not even the faculty of inflicting punishment where it condemned; and, what was far more important, it had not the blessed faculty of giving a man a full acquittance when he had been proved to be innocent. These wretched and lawless tribunals, so far as they were substitutes for Courts-Martial, only served to afford a screen or hoarding behind which something might be done which it was not convenient should be seen by the public, and they infringed and subverted the spirit of the Mutiny Act. A Court-Martial was a sworn Court which tried upon evidence given under the sanction of an oath; but these Boards of Inquiry were exactly the reverse, for they were not sworn and had no power to administer an oath, for that House had always refused to give them power to take evidence on oath, and the Duke of Wellington strongly objected to their having such a power, as tending to enable them to supersede the legitimate Courts of the Army. He hoped that in future every officer before he was deprived of rank and pay would have a lawful trial, according to the principle and practice which every year Parliament ratified anew by passing the Mutiny Act. When the Government of India was taken over by the Crown the two Armies were amalgamated, and now the officers of the old Indian Army bitterly complained that they could not obtain a fair consideration for what they held to be their just claims. He maintained that it was the duty of the House to open their ears to the fact that there was great discontent among military officers owing to the insecure tenure by which they held their position. The Duke of Richmond in the late Parliament brought before the other House the grievances of the officers of the Army arising out of the abolition of purchase, and "defied any man to deny that great discontent existed among them, because they did not receive what they felt themselves entitled to when that great change was made." Ought not the House of Commons diligently to see that justice was done to that poor and friendless class of men who in future would have nothing to receive when they were compulsorily put upon half-pay or dismissed from the service? It could not be objected that in making his Motion he was interfering with the Prerogative of the Crown. He had no such intention, and he was prepared to alter the terms of the Motion, if it were necessary, to remove any doubt upon the point. A far more serious objection which might be urged was, that by doing what might be justice in one or two individual cases, he was risking the security for discipline in the Army. Upon that matter he had learnt what was done elsewhere, and he would confidently challenge any one to name a country in the world, enjoying Representative institutions, where this arbitrary power of removal without trial was used as the means of discipline in the Army. The Dutch in their days of greatest danger, never allowed the officers of their Army to be removed at the pleasure even of the great commanders to whom they were so much indebted for their emancipation; and in Holland at the present time no officer could be removed except by a Court-Martial. Before Parliament with us began to exercise control over the Army, our free and stout-hearted neighbours over the sea had taken thought about this matter and settled the conditions on which the Executive should raise and rule a national force. Having driven out the sea and beaten back the stranger, they were not the men to yoke the bravest of their youth to a lawless and capricious power of its own making. Willing to furnish troops and to pay for them under the command of princely generals, they never dreamt of putting either recruits or veterans beyond the pale of law. Soldiers, they thought, who renounced the protection of Civil Courts, all the more needed the protection of military tribunals, for the Dutch were a law-abiding people. The sagacious Princes of the House of Nassau who did so much to build up seven jealous provinces into one infrangible federalty, carefully kept faith with them in camp and garrison. They knew the indispensability of that public confidence which, in a free country, had its root in the sense of individual justice. Holland was indeed a little land, but in the history of European progress it had played no little part; it sheltered our fugitives for freedom's sake—many and notable—and when our fathers wanted help against the Stuarts they sought and found it there. From the earliest days of a regular standing force the colonels of regiments and all field officers were irremovable by the Commander-in-Chief; and even when the States General had acquired the functions of a national Parliament, they were not allowed to discuss the fundamental conditions which secured the rights of the Army. Throughout every vicissitude of fortune, our shrewd and self-respecting neighbours held on the even tenor of their way. Hear, after three centuries, their conclusion of the whole matter. In the Army Regulations, published by Royal Authority in 1851, he found that no commissioned officer could be discharged against his will, from the active or non-active service, except upon the judgment of a military Council or Court. The constitution of the Council was provided for with scrupulous precision. Of seven members, three must be of the same rank but senior to the accused; and all were chosen by lot from the regiments of the district. The forms of procedure were laid down with nice regard to equity; and every document, however confidential, touching the conduct of the defendant must be furnished to him. If acquitted he could not be deprived of his commission, if found guilty the head of the State could only vary the sentence in his favour; no officer could be put on half-pay except for specified cause:—ill health, the reduction of his corps, the abolition of his post, a superfluity for the time being, of men of the same rank, or his being elected to the States General—but he waited to be recalled as soon as there was a vacancy to active service, when the opportunity was by rule afforded him in his turn by a Government with whom economy was a traditional maxim. Such were the prudent and righteous principles of the Dutch military system. Truly it might be said of them, as Lord Bacon said of the Swiss, that with great natural disadvantages "they last well, for utility is their bond and not respects." There was another monarchical but free country with high traditional claims on our consideration for haying early set an example of maritime enterprise and well ordered liberty, and whose means of military defence as a bulwark State against the further encroachments of semi-barbarous ambition, we were bound to note with solicitude and sympathy. Sweden might not occupy as prominent a place for deeds of arms as in the day of mediæval chivalry, but it was her good fortune to have a sailor and a man of science for her King, a Legislature that reflected every feeling of the community, an industry that never tired in the race of free competition, an Army and a Navy recruited from her labouring classes without difficulty, and officered by men of honour and education. But then they were by law secure of treatment befitting honourable and educated men. He was indebted to Count Lewenhaupt, himself a soldier of old standing, for these particulars of their system. By the Ground Law which he was kind enough to procure for him (Mr. Torrens), the Sovereign at his discretion had the right to place, replace, and displace, all the supreme functionaries of the State, naval and military, diplomatic and executive. Admirals and generals were included in this category of Royal patronage; but up to the rank of colonels and commandants of fortresses no officer could be removed from the active service list without conviction and sentence by Court-Martial. Promotion was solely by seniority in the grades of lieutenant and captain; selection was absolute in the higher grades; in none could an officer be dismissed or compelled to retire from active service without judgment of a Court-Martial; when disabled by wounds or illness the officer retained his pay; when found incompatible with fellow officers he was transferred to another regiment; power of arrest and temporary imprisonment was in the general commanding; but if the subaltern felt aggrieved he might insist upon a formal trial, taking the risk of consequences if judgment were adverse. Let them turn now to their oldest rival in times past, and see if they managed things better in France. He (Mr. Torrens) had a letter from a Minister of the late Emperor, personally known to many around him, and who, by long residence in other countries than his own, was not likely to be undecerningly prejudiced in favour of French institutions. In answer to an inquiry whether the status of officers had been modified materially by the changes of government in France of recent years, the Due de Grammont, writing on the 22nd of November, 1873, said— The law of 1838 is still the law which rules in France. It has not been changed, and that is a miracle in our country, where a street cannot keep its name five years. King becomes Emperor, and then Chief of the State; and Lieutenant-General becomes General of Division, but the law of the Army has remained as it was 36 years ago. The rank of an officer is a possession of which he cannot be deprived, unless guilty of some fault named in the Law, and in a legal way, according to the law, not by the decision of a single chief, however great he may be, but by a judgment. Suspension by the Minister can only be for a time. After that period the officer is called before a Court, where he can defend himself, no officer is exposed to the effects of caprice as regards employment or advancement. The mere idea that an officer could be cashiered, or humiliated, or punished, otherwise than by arrest, without a regular trial, would in France upset every military notion. This was Imperialist testimony. What was the Republican view? An officer of distinction, holding a diplomatic position under the Government of which Marshal M'Mahon was the head, had within the last few days confirmed the accuracy of all those statements respecting military organization; and, if anyone still doubted its correctness, he (Mr. Torrens) would afford him the opportunity of reading in the Ordonnances of 1838, then before him, the minute details in which the equitable rights of all grades of the French Army were protected from bureaucratic, or military oppression— Officers are only dismissed the service after having been found guilty by a Council of War of the following offences:—Absence from their corps for a period of more than three months if on active service or for residence out of the country without permission of the chief of the State after five days' absence. Officers are also for other offences condemned to various punishments which carry with them loss of rank, but which do not entail their dismissal from the service. No one on active service can he placed on the non-active list, except for one of the following reasons:—Disbanding of his corps, suppression of employment, return from captivity with the enemy after his post has been filled, temporary infirmity or superannuation or suspension of office. An officer is placed in non-activity by retirement or suspension of office, by decision of the Chief of the State on the Report of the Minister of War. Non-active officers by disbandment of corps, suppression of office, or return from captivity are called to fill up half of the places of their rank as they become vacant in the corps to which they belong, the time passed by them in non-activity is counted as effective service for their promotion, half-pay, or retirement. Non-active officers from temporary infirmity and by retirement or suspension of office are liable to be replaced in activity; the time passed in non-activity is considered as effective service only for half-pay or retirement. Half-pay is the position of the officer without employment, who, not being liable to be recalled to active service, acquires no rights to a retiring pension. An officer may be placed on half-pay cither in consequence of incurable infirmity, or for considerations of discipline, by order of the chief of the State, upon the finding of a duly-constituted tribunal. A retired officer is in the position of one who has returned to civil life and the enjoyment of a pension, conformably with the laws in force. There are three kinds of military Courts—regimental, divisional, and special. Each Court is composed of five members, selected according to the rank and occupation of the officer impeached on the questions on which the Council have to decide. The voting is by ballot, and the vote of the majority forms the verdict of the Court. A procès verbal is then drawn up and submitted to the Minister of War, who acts in accordance with the verdict. Then as to Prussia: an officer of rank (Baron Weitzleben) lately told him that a German subaltern, whatever his extraction or intellectual capacity, had practically complete protection against injustice. The complaint against him must be made, in the first place, to the field officer who was his immediate superior, and who would call upon him for explanation. If he failed to clear himself the matter was reported to the colonel or brigadier of the district, and before each in turn he had an opportunity of exculpation. So that before the case came, not as a favour, but as a right, before the War Office or the Military Cabinet of the Sovereign, the officer had three or four opportunities of hearing everything that had been reported to his detriment. The power of the Emperor to remove without cause assigned was undisputed, but its exercise was practically unknown. In Russia similar safe-guards existed. The Emperor of Russia was an absolute Prince, unembarrassed by constitutional prejudices or forms; but when one of his officers was asked the other day what the course in the Russian Army was, he answered that it was not the custom to have a man removed from the service without Court-Martial. The late Emperor Nicholas had, indeed, on two occasions, exercised his power of dismissal; but accompanied it by a voluntary declaration that it arose from circumstances of great exigency, and was not to be regarded as a precedent. If they turned to the United States, whose laws and institutions were more like our own than those of any other great nation, they would find that officers were amply protected. George Washington adopted the English Mutiny Act of 1774, and got it re-enacted by Congress, only substituting President for King. During the great Secession War, Congress passed a law conferring and declaring the power of the President to displace and dismiss any man deemed unworthy of trust in the Army. It was not a time to be nice, and President Lincoln during the struggle broke several officers without waiting for trial. A general officer told him (Mr. Torrens) that during the cam- paign of 1864, a young officer under his command was ordered to occupy a post on the extreme flank, which the Confederates threatened to turn. He was overpowered, and the post was lost. His comrades, under the smart of repulse, reported ill of him, and the General suspended him. The young officer appealed to the President for a Court-Martial, which declared him not to blame, and his commander acknowledged publicly that he had made a mistake, and restored him to his former position. The experience of that case and one or two others led to an alteration in the law, and an Act was passed in 1866 which annulled the law which had hitherto been in force on the subject, and declared that in future no officer of the United States Army in time of peace should be removed excepting after trial by Court-Martial. The American Secretary for War, in a letter dated December 29, 1873, addressed to General Schenck, wrote— A commissioned officer of our Army can he dismissed only by sentence of a Court Martial, except in the single case of officers absent three months without leave, who may be dropped from the rolls.' Placing on half-pay, as the proceeding was understood in the British Army, was wholly unknown, and no punishment could be enforced against an officer upon the recommendation of a Court of Inquiry. For this purpose there must be a trial and conviction by Court-Martial. Officers were commissioned by the President and with the advice of the Senate, and held their commissions during good behaviour. The President could not dismiss an officer, although he was formerly invested with this power, Under the present law an officer could not in time of peace be removed from the service but by the sentence of a Court Martial. In the discussions of 1734, Lord Carteret and others, adopting the analogy in the case of the Judges, proposed that no officer should be removed without an Address from both Houses of Parliament. That was, perhaps, going too far, but he (Mr. Torrens) claimed that they should hold their office during good behaviour, and not during pleasure. He would leave the Crown its present entire liberty and discretion; but the Minister of War should be told that a man must not be deprived of his rank and pay without giving him the chance of vindicating himself. Why should a man be crushed who more especially needed protection, or why should our officers labour under injustice to which no other class of society was subjected? Lord Palmerston once said, in reference to a proposal similar in effect to that which he was then laying before the House, that such a change as was involved would give to officers in the Army freeholds in their commissions. The answer made to this by Mr. Tierney, the Leader of the Liberal party, was that there was no desire to endow the officers with freeholds in their commissions, but it was not right that they should be mere tenants at will. In conclusion, he would repeat that he did not want to limit the power of the Secretary of State for War, all that he wanted was the establishment of a fair system, under which officers who were charged with any offences might have the opportunity of defending themselves before legally constituted tribunals, and in a proper legal form. It was an important change that he advocated, for they could not afford to have either an unpopular or dissatisfied Army, and he would accordingly submit his Resolution to the House, merely promising that in order to obviate objection he had modified it by inserting after the words "any officer" the words "under the rank of Major General." At a cost of many millions, Parliament, as was said, had bought the Army out of mortgage; it would now be their duty to take care that it was not sold into bondage. The wealthy and the well-born were never in danger of being enslaved; and relying on their varied means of social and political influence they would possibly be content that the arbitrary power of removal and promotion should continue uncontrolled. But the interest and the honour of the greater number of middle class officers must be ever deeply concerned in the establishment of a definite and equitable rule of military administration; and if Parliament were sincere in the reasons assigned for the abolition of purchase, they must wish and expect that the proportion of men in future entering the Army without connection or fortune, would every year increase. He asked for them security and justice—he asked no more. It might be now refused as most things intrinsically good and right often were; but the demand would be reiterated until it was obtained.


seconded the Resolution.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying that before Her Royal sanction in time of peace is asked for the permanent removal from active service of any Officer under the rank of Major General, who shall have held a Commission in the Army for three years, Her Majesty may be graciously pleased to direct that an option may be given him of having his case heard and adjudicated upon by Court Martial,"—(Mr. Tarrens,) —instead thereof.

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


said, the hon. Member for Finsbury had made, as was usual with him, an eloquent and interesting speech, to which he (Mr. Stephen Cave) had listened with great attention, but he did not think it would be the general opinion of the House that his Motion was a necessary one. In his opinion, the hon. Member had not made out a single case of hardship that should call for the interference of the House with the exercise of the Royal Prerogative. The hon. Member had referred to three specific cases of hardship. Two at least, of these, he thought he recognized. If he was correct, one was well known to the House, and had been long decided. The second was a case with which also, he believed, he was acquainted, and in which, if he was right, he thought there was little ground of complaint. The third he did not remember. With respect to the Resolution itself, there was no doubt that cases of individual hardship might occasionally arise—a state of things which could never be guarded against. The hon. Member also referred to former times, in which commissions had been lost in consequence of the political opinions of their holders; but he seemed to forget that it would be as difficult to revive such a state of things as to restore the Star Chamber. Again, reference had been made to the practice in foreign armies; but, in the first place, they knew very little of the internal organization and working of those armies; and, in the next, their main circumstances and conditions were different from our own. It would not be said that there had been very few removals in the French Army in consequence of political opinions, while in the Prussian Army there were preliminary Courts of Inquiry. In this country there was between Courts of Inquiry and Courts- martial a material and important difference in favour of the officers, and he thought the hon. Member had been mistaken in his views on this subject. No one, of course, would wish a man to be punished in any case except by process of law; but there were many cases in the Army in which it was absolutely necessary that the power vested in the War Minister to dispense with the services of particular officers should be exorcised; and surely it would be scant mercy to any officer to insist that, because his services were so dispensed with for the good of the country and of the Army, he should be considered to have committed a criminal offence, and should therefore be tried by Court-martial. There might be many cases in which an officer was palpably unfit for his position, and in which his retention of it or promotion would be most unadvisable, but yet there might be no criminal act to bring him within the scope of a Court-martial. In such cases it was clearly for the advantage of the Service, which ought to be paramount, that such a man should not remain in a place where he might do infinite mischief. An officer might have mistaken his profession, and it was the kindest thing for himself, as well as for his comrades, that he should be quietly removed from it. In matters of conduct, the Crown—which meant the responsible Ministers of the Crown—must decide. They, not the members of the Court-martial, were responsible to Parliament for the good government of the Army, and if their power was limited by the decision of a Court-martial, then such matters would be placed beyond the control of the Crown. Again, if no one were removed from the Army except by Courts-martial, how could the plan of selection be carried out? The tendency of all modern changes in the Army had been to guard against incapacity, as distinguished from crime, in the officers; and the same rule had obtained in the Navy and the Civil Service, to the advantage of both. Again, there might be cases of gross immorality among officers of certain rank in the Army which did not come within the purview of Courts-martial, and nothing could be better than that in such cases there should be Courts of Inquiry dealing with the offence by putting the offenders quietly on the shelf. It was not the case that the Courts of Inquiry always sat with closed doors. The proceedings were sometimes public, and the officers charged could always speak in their defence; the witnesses were cautioned that they must be careful, because the proceedings might lead to a Court-martial; not unfrequently newspaper reporters had been present; and by the 12th Article of War an appeal was given from the decision of the Court to the Commander-in-Chief. The danger that the hon. Member had hinted at, that an officer might be persecuted by a clique, was therefore amply guarded against. It was not merely cases of personal disagreement between officers that had to be provided against, because that might be done by permitting them to exchange into another regiment; but it was to meet cases of such unfitness of an officer for his position of command as would be calculated to cause discontent in the Army, to the detriment of the Service, that these Courts were appointed. Speaking as Judge Advocate, it appeared to him a merciful, kind, and considerate way of removing an officer from a situation to which he was unsuited, for a Court of Inquiry to tell him that his further services must be dispensed with, and that he must retire upon half-pay. Undoubtedly, the Duke of Wellington was quite right to refuse to substitute generally Courts of Inquiry for Courts-martial, inasmuch as there was a great difference between the matters those tribunals were appointed to consider; but it would be impossible to establish the converse proposition—that all Courts of Inquiry should be superseded by Courts-martial, and no man exercised the power of quietly getting rid of incompetent officers more frequently than the Duke of Wellington. The hon. Member appeared to think that because we were paying £15,000,000 a-year for our Army, and because we had reconstructed the Service, that now was the proper time for putting an end to Courts of Inquiry. He (Mr. Cave) ventured to think the hon. Member's suggestion was not well-founded. In former days, when men paid large sums for their commissions, there might have been some ground for saying that they had a vested interest in their commissions, and therefore that they should not be deprived of them without a Court-martial; but things had altered now, and he was surprised at hearing the hon. Member speak as though commis- sions were the property of the officers who held them. Taking the power of the Crown to dismiss as granted—which, indeed, the hon. Member did not dispute—while fully acknowledging that such power should be exercised with great care and judgment, he thought that the Court of Inquiry was, in fact, a protection to the officer, who was not obliged to criminate himself when before it. The cases mentioned by the hon. Member proved nothing further than that it was possible for Courts of Inquiry to make mistakes. It was an error to suppose that these Courts of Inquiry were criminal Courts; they were merely tribunals appointed with the view of assisting the Commander-in-Chief in arriving at a just conclusion with regard to any particular officer's case. Taking a general view of the subject, he thought that where there was incapacity or unfitness of character on the part of an officer not punishable as an offence by Court-martial, it was most desirable that the circumstances of the case should be investigated by a Court of Inquiry. To restrict removal from the Army to cases of conduct punishable by Court-martial would be a retrograde step, and would be quite opposed to the desire of the nation that the Army should be led by competent officers, in whom it could place the most implicit confidence. Under these circumstances he thought that the hon. Member had not proved his case, and that it would be very much better that the present system should be retained, exercised, as it usually was, with the greatest caution.


, in supporting the Motion, said, the modification introduced by the hon. Member for Finsbury into the original Motion now enabled him to give his vote for it, and he likewise strongly wished the Secretary of State for War favourably to consider the question as to the continuance of the practice of dismissing officers without trial. If he (Sir George Balfour) thought the carrying of the Resolution would endanger the discipline of the Army, he would be the last to support it; but he did not think it could possibly have any such effect. On the contrary, he believed that officers, knowing that they would be more liable to be tried by a Court-martial than hitherto, would become more circumspect. He was sorry to hear the right hon. Gentleman the Judge Advocate General state his preference for Courts of Inquiry to Courts-martial. A worse system than Courts of Inquiry could not possibly exist, and his own experience showed him that they were partial Boards, entirely at variance with the Articles of War and the Mutiny Act, and he regarded them not as the opportunity for an officer to defend himself, but as affording an opportunity to the commanding officer to judge as to what further steps he should take. The object of this form of inquiry had always been looked on as aids to the Commanding Officer. An officer of inferior rank had no chance of protecting himself before such Courts. If the opinion expressed by this Court proved favourable to the accused party it was not binding on the Commanding Officer. But it was often the practice to confine the inquiry to the collection of evidence, and not to record an opinion. Indeed, this was the proper form for such Courts to follow. It was different with Courts-martial. Few men would call such a Court into operation without some very strong ground indeed. The officer was defended, his explanations could be given, and the proceedings did not necessarily involve any criminal taint, as the Judge Advocate General remarked. He knew the very contrary to have been the case in India, where he had served from his youth upwards, and had known officers called before Courts-martial for trifling offences who had afterwards died gallantly at the head of their regiment. The consequence of the favourable action of such trials in India was that the Court of Inquiry had been superseded by the Court-martial, which had been attended by very beneficial results. He knew of no means by which they could better uphold discipline, and prevent the oppressive action of senior officers over juniors, and at the same time prevent the tittle-tattle of the Army, than by a Court-martial. He held that the Court-martial was not necessarily limited in any way to the nature of the charge before it—being of a criminal character, he believed that Courts-martial could be as-assembled for the trial of any conduct incompatible with military discipline and military efficiency, and if the opinion of the authorities were opposed to the extension of functions of such Courts, then he would urge this change upon the Secre- tary for War, because the Army had been greatly altered within the past two years, and the exercise of the Queen's Prerogative was by no means likely to be so satisfactory now as when the purchase system was in operation. The right of dismissing an officer could not, of course, be withdrawn from the Grown, but it ought to be exercised with the greatest care and caution; and he thought it most advisable that every officer ought to be taken before a proper tribunal, which should judge whether he was fit or unfit for his duties. He trusted that in all such cases as involved dismissal without trial there would be the greatest caution exercised, and the utmost regard for the character and interests of the individual officer. If the power of removing an officer for incapacity were given to a Court-martial, or if Courts-martial were so constituted as to enable the authorities to send incompetent or unfit officers before such Courts, no greater benefit could be conferred upon the Army; and if the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War could discover a means of doing this, by bringing the matter before a competent tribunal, he would be adding to the efficiency of the Service.


said, he had no hesitation in giving the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had seconded the Motion the assurance for which he had asked—namely, that in all those cases—cases of the most disagreeable, trying, and responsible nature—the Secretary of State would not proceed without the utmost caution and regard for the position and character of the officer. The Prerogative in question was one which the Crown by no means sought to exercise. Whenever exercised, it was one which was, so to say, forced upon the Crown, and not made willingly available. The hon. and gallant Gentleman himself felt the enormous difficulty of the situation, because he said that if the Motion were to have the effect of interfering with the power absolutely, he for one would not support it. Well, but what he proposed to do was practically to take away that power which the Crown had always possessed. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury had quoted great authorities, but he might have quoted equally great authorities on the other side. Mr. Fox, when a question arose with respect to a noble- man who had been dismissed from the Army, said—"Heaven forbid that I should deny the right of the Crown to dismiss an officer without assigning a reason." There was, in fact, no officer who entered the Army who did not know that he held his commission at the absolute will of the Crown. His hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury forgot how far his Motion would carry them. It would deprive the Crown of the power of disbanding or of retrenching, of placing officers on compulsory half-pay, or of removing them on other conditions, however necessary it might be to do so. Courts-martial now were held in all cases affecting the honour of the Service—as, for instance, for cowardice in the field; but there were a great number of other cases in which something must be done, and when they considered what a number of qualifications were requisite for the making of a good officer, it was obvious that there must remain somewhere a power of absolute dismissal. As he understood the altered Motion of his hon. Friend, he proposed that no officer below the rank of major-general should be dismissed without a Court-martial or placed on compulsory half-pay; but all other officers were to remain subject to the Prerogative. Upon that principle, a major-general who had had 48 years' service—for so slow was promotion in our Army that he might have been that number of years in the he attained the rank in question—might be summarily dismissed, while an officer of three years' service could demand a Court-martial. He could not think such a change desirable. An officer, as he had said, received and accepted his commission subject to this power, and the power must reside somewhere. In the case of the decisions of Courts-martial, the Crown had the power of revising those decisions. It was true that Lord Londonderry had referred to the fact that 210 officers had been dismissed in 10 years without Court-martial, but there were many instances on record in which officers acquitted by Courts-martial had been dismissed, and why? Because, while guilt could not be legally proved, there were circumstances affecting the character of the officer or the harmony of the Service which called for and required the exercise of the Prerogative of the Crown. The existence of this power Lord Palmer- ston had over and over again insisted upon as a matter of absolute necessity, and he supported his opinion by pointing to the fact that without it the officers of the Army would have the power of forming a fourth estate, and of saying whether one of their own fellow-officers should or should not be dismissed; and he added that a time might come when the officers of an Army might be compacted together, and when the Crown would be obliged to exercise with prompt decision the power of which it was sought to deprive it. His right hon. Friend the Judge Advocate General had gone so fully into the question that it was not necessary he should further detain the House. The question was, he admitted, one which threw upon the Secretary of State for War a deep sense of the responsibility which he owed at once to the Army and to the country. If he were to show an inclination to do injustice to any one by acting upon the decision of an improper or insufficient Board of Inquiry, if he were to take up a trumpery case for the purpose of getting rid of a particular officer, then he would deserve to receive the censure which he would have placed upon another. He could not, therefore, exaggerate the importance of the position of the Secretary of State for War in reviewing decisions or advising the exercise of the Crown's Prerogative; and while the holder of that office was as sensible as he was of his responsibility to the House and the country, there was, he thought, little fear of the power he possessed being exercised to the prejudice or detriment of the British Army.


said, it appeared to him that the Secretary of State for War and the hon. Member for Finsbury were in substance agreed as to the principle which ought to be acted upon, although not agreed as to the precise mode in which it should be carried out in the future. The hon. Member proposed that within a certain limitation no officer who had served in the Army three years should be removable without being first offered the alternative of a Court-martial. No one could be more anxious than he was that the Prerogative should be preserved in its full integrity. He had served for 28 years in every part of the globe, during 18 years of that time in Staff employment, 12 of the 18 in the Adjutant Ge- neral's Department, which was specially charged with the discipline of the Army. He could therefore, he thought, speak on the question with some little experience, and that experience made him entertain strongly the opinion, that to have a Court-martial in every case of removal would meet with the hearty concurrence of the whole Army and the country in general. It appeared to him that the right hon. Gentleman (the Judge Advocate General) had stated that which, while apparently opposed to the Motion, was virtually a development of the same idea. Supposing it were possible that in any case in which an officer's conduct should be impugned, and that conduct should be submitted to the judgment of a Court-martial, the officers composing it, sworn to administer justice, should acquit him, then, if Her Majesty were advised by the Commander-in-Chief to exercise Her Prerogative, he was sure that that would meet with the hearty concurrence of the whole Army, and of the country in general. It had more than once happened that an officer had been dismissed by the exercise of the Prerogative who had been denied a Court-martial; but it would have been conducive to discipline and more satisfactory to the Army had he been so tried, even, if after the Court-martial had acquitted him, the Prerogative had been exercised for his removal. All the circumstances would then have been investigated on sworn evidence, whereas suspicion might arise under the present system that the officer had been unfairly dealt with or had been the victim of his superiors' caprice. It was obviously desirable that no ground should exist for these insinuations. The argument adduced by the Judge Advocate General that an opportunity should be afforded of removing an officer who could be charged with no offence, but was unfit, from age or other causes, really told on the other side; for were the Motion adopted the epithet "penal half-pay list" would no longer be applicable, whereas the half-pay list now confounded together men incompetent through age and infirmity, and men against whom there had been a case, though not sufficiently strong to warrant a Court-martial. The right hon. Gentleman wished to reserve to the Crown the power of placing on half-pay for in-competency, but in his 28 years' experi- ence he had never known an officer placed on half-pay for that reason. In fact, he should like to see some mode of making plain to an officer that he did not come up to the standard of efficiency, and inducing him to request his own removal. While at Berlin last year he was allowed by the favour of the Emperor, to see a great deal of the Prussian military establishments; and he thus obtained a great deal of information which could not otherwise be acquired. He asked what means they had of securing efficiency by the removal of inefficient officers; and he was told that if an officer was notoriously incompetent, he would receive a hint to that effect. If that were not enough, at the next promotion the man below him in rank would be placed above him. If he still resisted this hint that he was not up to the standard of efficiency, it was repeated; and the result was, that for more than a century an officer had never been thrice passed over; but, that were there one so lost to delicacy and right feeling as to allow this to happen, his inferiors would soon cease to salute him, a position which no officer could tolerate. If a few words were added to the Resolution to the effect that there should always be a distinction drawn between offences against moral character and mere professional incapacity—leaving untouched causes over which the best men had no control—it would act most effectually to meet the case, and accord much nearer with the views he entertained on this question; and he believed that with such a proviso the proposal of the hon. Member would work well. The more our Army became a professional one, composed of men whose interests were entirely bound up with it, the more necessary would be some safeguard of the kind proposed, drawing a broader line of demarcation between removal for misconduct and removal for temporary incapacity from unavoidable causes.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 91; Noes 31: Majority 60.

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