HC Deb 28 March 1881 vol 260 cc20-42

Order for Second Reading read.


in rising to move that the Bill be now read a second time, said, he understood that it was the general wish of the House that the debate should conclude at an hour which would enable the hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. E. W. Harcourt) to bring forward the Motion for which he had twice secured a first place, but which place he had each time lost through what he (Mr. Osborne Morgan) might call the fortune of war. It would, however, scarcely be respectful or fair to the House if a Bill of this importance, involving, as it did, a considerable change in the discipline of the Army, should be thrown upon the Table of the House without a single word of explanation. What he proposed to do was to make the statement which he would have made if he had had the opportunity on the bringing in of the Bill, and he would confine himself to that which was the only novel or controversial point in it—he alluded to the abolition of corporal punishment, and the substitution for it of other summary punishments. He knew that was a question upon which military men felt strongly and expressed themselves warmly; and for that reason, as well as for every other, he would take care not to say a single word which could offend, he would not say the prejudice—that would not be the proper word—but the honest conviction of any hon. or gallant Member on either side of the House. He need not appeal on that point to the right hon. and gallant Member opposite (Colonel Stanley), because he was always fair, and no Minister ever encountered a more courteous critic or a more generous opponent. But he would ask, was it possible, or if it was possible, was it desirable to retain this shred—this mere fragment of punishment—which was condemned by popular opi- nion, which had been discarded by every other European Power, and which military critics admitted, however efficacious it might have been at former times, was, as at present restricted, not now worth keeping? That question would, no doubt, have to be determined by professional experts; but it could not be looked at altogether from a military standpoint. It must also be looked at from a popular point of view, for the numbers of our Army were kept up entirely by voluntary enlistment. As the Inspector General of Recruiting said— It must always be borne in mind that the Army is a voluntary Army, and that the secret of its strength in a recruiting point of view consists in its popularity throughout the country. If, therefore, there were any cause which kept the best men out of the Army, it would not be denied, he thought, that a primâ facie case had been made out for the removal of that cause. Public opinion had undergone a very great change with respect to this question. There was a time when men were flogged for slight breaches of discipline. In the year 1868 his hon. Friend the Member for Rochester (Mr. Otway) carried an Amendment to the Bill with reference to the abolition of corporal punishment in time of peace. He was not in the House at the time his hon. Friend did so; but he well remembered the prophecies which were indulged in as to the future of the Army if the Amendment were carried. It was said that the Army would become a mere armed mob—that if corporal punishment were abolished other punishments would have to be doubled or tripled. Those were the prophecies; but what, however, were the facts? He had examined the Returns of general, district, and regimental courts martial at home and abroad from 1865 to 1879, with especial reference to the number of punishments inflicted. In the year 1866 the total number of punishments—510 men being flogged—was 22,832; but in 1868—the last year in which corporal punishment was inflicted—the number of punishments rose to 25,804. He ought, however, to say that this was the year of the Abyssinian War, and in war time it might, perhaps, be expected that the number of offences would increase. In the year 1869, when no man was flogged, the number of punishments fell to 18,128; and in the following year, in which there was only one flogging, it had come down as low as 12,664. Between that time and the year 1879 the number of punishments fluctuated; but it never rose higher than 15,877, which was the year of the Afghan War. The proportions of punishments per 1,000 men in the Army were—In 1866, 125; in 1867, 124; in 1868, 144; in 1869, 107; in 1870, 77; and in 1878, 88. The decrease in the gross number of punishments by court martial was doubtless due, in some degree, to the fact that, in cases of drunkenness, fines had been inflicted by commanding officers; but it was also due, and he thought in a large extent, to the abolition of the lash, which had decreased the ratio of crime in the Army, by inducing a better class of men to enlist. He was sorry he could not bring his statistical statements down to a later date, owing to the fact that the Returns had not been completed. That brought him to the Army Discipline Bill, 1879, during the passage of which his noble Friend the present Secretary of State for India (the Marquess of Hartington) introduced a Motion the object of which was to condemn the permanent retention of corporal punishment in the Army. That Notice was rejected by a large majority. But did that majority represent the feelings of the country? Anyone who pleased might easily test that for himself. Let him go down to any borough in the Kingdom, and put at the head of his address—"I am in favour of retaining flogging in the Army." He wondered what that man's chances of being returned would be. But he would not rely on his own opinion. At the commencement of this Session the hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Slagg), who seconded the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, and who had a better right to speak on the subject than any man in the House, for he had been returned by the largest number of votes recorded for any candidate at the late Election, said that in the large constituencies, which were the largest recruiting grounds for the Army, no Message from the Throne could be more acceptable than that which promised an abolition of corporal punishment in the Army. It was the opinion of the men best qualified to judge that the punishment of the lash had had the effect of deterring the best class of men from which the rank and file of the Army could be drawn from entering the Army. It did not, of course, deter the village ruffian class from joining the Army; but it had certainly kept out of it many men of a higher class who would have been glad to look on the Army as a profession. Of late years, and particularly since flogging had been reduced to a minimum, this better class of men were beginning to join the Army in such considerable numbers as to lead to the conclusion that the soldiers of the future would be a very much superior class of men to the soldiers of the past, or even of the present time. He gathered this from the Annual Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting for 1881. The Returns of the Army on the educational acquirements of the men serving also showed a decided improvement. On the 1st of January, 1861, there were 76 per 1,000 of superior education, and on the 1st of January, 1872, the ratio had increased to 137 per 1,000, from which year the increase became much more rapid, until the proportion on January 1, 1880, reached 576 per 1,000. But there was one more important fact which was constantly overlooked in dealing with this question. In 1879 flogging in the Army was abolished altogether, even in time of war, except for offences punishable with death, which were those of treachery, cowardice, mutiny, or violent insubordination, and in a few other cases, such as that of a sentry sleeping at his post. As to cases of cowardice, you could not make men brave by flogging them; and it was mere maudlin sentimentality to say that a man guilty of treachery should not be shot, because if such a man should not be shot, he did not know any crime for which the punishment of shooting should be inflicted. In the German Army there was no punishment for mutiny except that of death. Yet, during the whole of the Franco-German War, only three men were shot for the offence in the German Army. By the course taken by the late Secretary of State for War, by far the largest proportion of the offences for which in former days the lash was the punishment were no longer so punishable. He alluded principally to offences which were the result of drinking, a habit to which English soldiers were, perhaps, more prone than the soldiers of any other European country. It was said, with at least some share of justice, that the lash was the readiest, and perhaps the most appropriate, punishment that could be inflicted for drunkenness, and the crimes which resulted from that inherent vice of the British Army; but the late Secretary of State for War, by the changes which he had made in the Bill of 1879, had deprived himself of this plea for its maintenance, and he supported the proposal of the noble Lord. Flogging, as limited by that Bill, could not be defended. The only excuse for it—namely, that it could be resorted to when imprisonment was impossible and death too severe—was gone. As his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) had stated in 1879, some other form of punishment would have to be devised to replace it, and that speedily. He had taken the trouble to have a Return prepared of the number of cases of corporal punishment which had been rife in the field, and reported to him, since the 12th of May, 1880, when he entered Office. Since that time we had had two serious wars—one in the Transvaal, during which only one case of corporal punishment had at present been reported to him, and that had been remitted, and the other in Afghanistan, during which there were only 15 cases of corporal punishment. Practically, therefore, corporal punishment had been killed by the Act of 1879. A letter on the subject, which had appeared in The Standard recently, proved too much; for if it proved anything, it went to show that the Act of 1879 should be repealed altogether—a course which Parliament, he felt sure, would not be prepared to adopt. Practically, therefore, there were only three courses open to Her Majesty's Government in this matter. They might have left things as they were—a course which it was impossible to take at the present time. Secondly, they might have abolished flogging in the Army altogether, as they had done in the Navy, without providing any substitute for it; but, in doing so, they would have done that which had been done in no other Army in the world. It must be remembered that while on the march a soldier could not be put in irons as a sailor could be at any time on board ship. The third course was that which was proposed by the Bill—namely, to abolish corporal punishment altogether, and to substitute for it some other form of summary punishment, not that, as he hoped, these summary punishments would, with the improving condition of the Army, be often resorted to. No doubt, the punishment list of the British Army was a very black record. But there were not wanting signs of a better state of things. A Return lately moved for by the hon. Baronet the Member for King's County (Sir Patrick O'Brien) of the number of offences committed in each regiment showed a most extraordinary result; in some regiments crime being almost unknown, while in others nearly every third man was a criminal. There was a redeeming feature in the Return, for it did seem to show, some way or other, how he would not pretend to say, that you could make the British soldier pretty nearly what you liked; and that if, on the one hand, he could be powerfully influenced for evil, on the other hand he could be powerfully influenced for good. How was that object to be carried out? They would not do it by the lash; they would not do it by these summary punishments, however necessary they might be; but they would do it by raising the character and morale of the soldier, by removing the temptations to drunkenness, which was his greatest curse. They would do it by the means which his right hon. Friend proposed to adopt, and he hoped successfully. They would do it by raising the character and status of the noncommissioned officer. They would do it by giving the soldier something to live for and hope for, and by cultivating in his breast that sentiment of self-respect which, in the opinion of one of England's greatest soldiers, Sir Frederick Roberts, so far from being an enemy of discipline, was its surest and firmest ally.

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


after expressing his pleasure at finding that the right hon. and learned Gentleman entertained an earnest desire to promote the welfare of the soldier, said, the events of 1879 were not far from them, and so many of the Members took place in the discussions on the subject in that year, that he did not think it either incumbent or advisable for him to speak more than very briefly on the references which the right hon. and learned Gentleman had made to what passed in 1879. This, of course, had been apparent all along—that the debate which they were commencing pointed really only to one foregone conclusion; and, therefore, he might confine himself to some very few points on the several questions which had been raised by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The right hon. and learned Gentleman talked of corporal punishment as it was formerly understood—namely, punishment by the "Cat," as being done away with by this Bill; but, undoubtedly, it was to be replaced by a corporal punishment which might be one of extreme severity, and which, as far as the soldier was concerned, if carried out publicly, might convey to his mind a very considerable sense of degradation. The right hon. and learned Gentleman had read to the House certain figures with the view of instituting a comparison between the Army at one period and another; but such a comparison was fallacious, inasmuch as the conditions of the Service were not identical at both periods. The right hon. and learned Gentleman said that corporal punishment had a deterrent effect on recruiting; but that was a point on which there was a variety of opinion, for while there were many who would agree with him, there were others who took an opposite view on grounds equally satisfactory to themselves. The right hon. and learned Gentleman also pointed out with satisfaction that the class of men who had lately been coming into the Army was of a better class than formerly. That was an argument that cut both ways, because, if a better class of men had come and were now coming into the Army, it was quite clear that the existence of corporal punishment had not deterred that class from entering the Army. It would be remembered that when this subject was before the House in 1879, he (Colonel Stanley) was pressed very hard to abolish corporal punishment by the lash. The Army was then in the field, and such information as he was able to obtain did not satisfy him that it was right at that time to abolish the punishment. The Government, however, thought that if they could possibly meet the general feeling of the House they ought to leave nothing undone calculated to lead to that result; and as the Returns of courts martial showed that in the large majority of cases of corporal punishment the number of lashes given was 25 or under, they thought they could adopt the system embodied in the Act of 1879 without injury to the Service. The right hon. and learned Gentleman pointed out that the concessions then made, and the general feeling of the House as it was then expressed, had so minimized the amount of corporal punishment that its retention was rendered practically of no importance. He (Colonel Stanley) might be thought obstinate or prejudiced; but he adhered to the opinion that the course which the late Government took in 1879 with regard to corporal punishment was the right course to take at the time. He was pretty conversant with the arrangements which the right hon. and learned Gentleman proposed; and though he (Colonel Stanley) might have been wrong, he came to the conclusion, at the time he was the responsible Executive Minister, that they could not be carried out satisfactorily to the maintenance of discipline in the Army. He thought that when they reached the stage of Committee, it would be incumbent on the right hon. and learned Gentleman, and on those who acted with him, to make it perfectly clear that discipline could be kept up effectually under this measure. If their positions were reversed, what interruptions would have proceeded from Benches on that (the Opposition) side of the House if he (Colonel Stanley) had ventured to say that for many crimes which came under the notice of the Judge Advocate General the appropriate punishment would be death. The right hon. and learned Gentleman was not fettered by professional prejudice; and he, no doubt, looked at the matter from a popular point of view. Whether in a constituency or in the Army, he did not think there would be much hesitation as to the answer that would be given if the alternative were proposed between death and corporal punishment, as they proposed it in 1879. He did not think, in the General Election of 1880, a question on the subject was asked him half-a-dozen times; and, so far as the persons with whom he came into contact were concerned, there seemed to be no very strong general feeling about it. As regarded this stage of the Bill, it was not his own intention, nor, he believed, the intention of those with whom he habitually acted, to offer any opposition. Of course he felt strongly on the subject; but if the Government were satisfied they could maintain discipline in the manner proposed, so much the better. The responsibility must rest with them; and he only hoped that the present proposal was well considered, and not made merely with the view of redeeming a pledge given in a moment of excitement. He hoped, also, that they were not now making an alteration which would in any way weaken discipline or diminish the power which a commander in the field should have in his hands. It was not only for the internal discipline of the Army, but also for the protection of the civil inhabitants of a country in which an Army was engaged in the field, that they should have the power of inflicting summary punishment; and he hoped that the application of this punishment might be so regulated as to give the commander in the field the most absolute power over the discipline of the men, should it be necessary. In view of the general tone of the discussions on the subject, and the very natural jealousy of the House and the Legislature to part with any of their authority over the Army, it seemed to him that the Secretary of State for War was claiming a very considerable power when he asked that the substitutes for flogging should be certain summary punishments regulated by rules to be made from time to time by the Secretary of State. That was a very great and vital departure from the old system. When the annual Discipline Bill was brought before the House for the future, there would be no power on their part to interfere except by way of address to the Crown. He could not sit down without saying he was glad to hear that the Judge Advocate was able to bear testimony to the general good working of the Army Discipline Bill of 1879. It was always satisfactory to hear that the gloomy predictions indulged in in former times had not been realized. He had no doubt upon the point himself; but he was glad to have his conviction confirmed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman. The whole responsibility for the course now proposed must rest with the Government; and he hoped, if they should find that the proposed arrangements did not work satisfactorily, they would not be precluded, by any feeling of false pride, if he might use the phrase, from making such changes and revisions in the rules as might be thought necessary; and it would add to the power of Ministers in this respect if they made the House of Commons one of the principal parties in the matter.


said, he felt thankful to Her Majesty's Government for having dealt with this matter boldly and completely, and in a manner which, he believed, would be satisfactory to the country at large. The very best way for getting the Army recruited by a class of men not likely always to be in the hands of discipline was by doing away with a degrading punishment. The fact that it was possible for those who became soldiers to be exposed, under certain conditions, to such a punishment, caused men who respected themselves to shrink from entering the Army. While prepared to criticize the punishments substituted for flogging, he presumed the Government would say that those punishments were to be put upon their trial, and that, therefore, there should be a certain amount of elasticity in regard to them, so that the hands of the Administration might not be too closely bound, and that after a time they would consider whether any change should be made. He sympathized with the late Secretary of State for War in his remark as to handing over to the Government a very important power outside the control of Parliament. He would ask for some assurance that, after the experience of a year or two, the Government would put in the Bill itself a Schedule containing the punishments. Perhaps the right hon. and learned Gentleman would not be unwilling to consider, during the present year, whether he could not undertake that any changes made in the punishments should be laid upon the Table of the House.


said, he was inclined to exclaim, "How are the mighty fallen!" when he saw the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) so meek and submissive. If his right hon. and gallant Friend the late Secretary of State had ventured to propose one tithe of what had been proposed by the right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite, words could not have expressed the abhorrence of the hon. Member. But now the hon. Member was like a sucking dove, he was so meek and mild, and ready to support the Government in any way. The hon. Member had forgotten his old characteristics, and had subsided into a humble follower and partizan of the existing Administration. The Judge Advocate General said, most truly, that it would not have done to lay so important a measure on the Table without a single word. He had hoped that the right hon. and learned Gentleman would have told the House something of the working of the Act of 1879, considering that recent wars must needs have enabled the authorities to form some opinion on the subject. Speaking of the war in the Transvaal, the right hon. and learned Gentleman had praised the behaviour of the troops, saying that there was no accusation against them, and that only one man had been flogged. But the right hon. and learned Gentleman must have been aware that very grave charges had been made against the troops both in Zululand and in the Transvaal on the well-known authority of Dr. Russell; charges which ought to have been at once refuted or withdrawn. It was understood that an inquiry had been ordered; but the result of the investigation remained unknown. If those charges were true, they proved the absence of proper discipline and the insufficiency even of the present military punishments; and if they were not true, they constituted a calumny on the British Army which no Minister for War should rest for one moment without authoritatively refuting. In any case, it was due to the Army that the real facts of the matter should be made known. No doubt there had been a denial by Sir Garnet Wolseley; but the statements to which he referred had not been authoritatively refuted; and he had heard it again stated that they were true. The House had been told by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that up to a certain point there was an enormous amount of crime, and that afterwards it gradually diminished. Thus in 1866 510 men were flogged, and, altogether, 22,832 were punished; while in 1868 the number of floggings had fallen to 412, though the total of punishments had risen to 25,804. The fact was that since this latter year a better class of men had been entering the Army, and the extreme punishments naturally be- came less frequent; but even now there was a yearly average of 15,000 punishments. He complained that the question had never yet been fairly dealt with, either by the House or by the public. The right hon. and learned Gentleman opposite had been unintentionally unfair to the late Parliament in stating that the majority in favour of retaining corporal punishment did not represent the views of the constituencies. It ought to have been said that flogging had been advocated by the present Secretary of State for War when he was at the Admiralty, and by the noble Marquess when Secretary of State for War, that the Leaders of both sides of the House had believed in its necessity, and that the military authorities were of the same opinion. No question had been more unscrupulously used against the late Government and the Conservative candidates at the time of the General Election; and even hon. Gentlemen who had given no vote on the subject had been denounced and caricatured as advocates of flogging. The truth was that no one wished to retain corporal punishment for its own sake, though the circumstances in which our Armies campaigned in various quarters of the world made it difficult to find a satisfactory substitute. For instance, it was hard to see in what other way such crimes as drunkenness in the face of the enemy could be punished—a crime which might lead to the most disastrous consequences. If the Austrian manacles were to be tried, he hoped that the hon. Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) would insist on having them exhibited in the Library, like the sealed patterns of the regulation "cats," so as to be seen by everyone. Hon. Members were not, as a rule, familiar with the punishments used in foreign Armies; but, whatever was done in the present case, it was certain that the new punishments would not be applied brutally. Again, all the rules made should be clear and explicit, and be inserted in the Bill; and when sanctioned by the House they should remain till another year, and not be altered at the will of any Minister. With regard to another point, the able Report of the Inspector General of Recruiting had just been received. He did not know why it had not been received before. It carefully distinguished between the two classes of deserters—namely, those who deserted absolutely, and those who, having deserted from one regiment, re-enlisted fraudulently into another regiment. At the same time, more complete statistics were wanted as to the number of deserters ultimately recovered. It appeared that in 1880 the net loss from desertion was 3,284 men, the total number of deserters being 4,811, of whom 1,527 rejoined; while in the year before the net loss was 1,800, and the total of deserters 3,050, of whom 1,250 rejoined. There were one or two other points which he desired to mention. In the first place, he should like to know why £10 was fixed upon as the sum to be paid by a recruit who at the expiration of three months did not wish to remain in the Service. Then there were very few cells at the depôt centres; and the consequence was that when a Militiaman had to be punished he was sent to the prison, instead of being placed in a cell. This was, in his opinion, detrimental, as far as the Militia was concerned. He had no doubt that the Secretary of State for War would do everything he could to maintain discipline. He was not asking for the retention of flogging; but he had ventured to make these remarks in order to show that hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House were just as anxious as hon. Gentlemen opposite that flogging, if it was possible, should be abolished. Still, discipline must be maintained; and on the Secretary of State for War he threw the whole of the responsibility.


said, that in the debates on the Army Discipline Bill of 1879 he expressed opinions in favour of retaining corporal punishment, on account of its being the most convenient and efficacious mode of dealing with cases of drunkenness or insubordination in presence of the enemy, or of marauding in the enemy's country. To that opinion he still adhered, and he would go even further, and say that the experience of the last campaign showed that a serious punishment was necessary, and that, failing the "cat," a graver one would probably have to be inflicted—namely, the punishment of death. He thought, however, when the late Secretary of State for War in his Schedule abolished corporal punishment as a means of meeting flat particular class of offences to which he had referred, that at once and for ever the ground for the retention of corporal punishment in other cases was cut from under his feet. In this country public opinion would never allow them to take a backward step. Until the last General Election he had no idea how widely prevalent was the detestation among civilians of this kind of punishment. That detestation, no doubt, originated in the brutal manner in which corporal punishment used to be inflicted 25 or 30 years ago. The recollection of what then occurred had remained in the minds of the classes who had not themselves passed into the Military Service; but he believed that if the soldiers were polled, the universal opinion among them would be that no one need fear corporal punishment except by his own deliberate and wilful misconduct. The tenacity of popular delusions was most extraordinary; but as they existed they must be taken into account by legislators. As to the proposed alternative punishment, he was bound to say he did not feel sanguine that it would prove efficacious to put down drunkenness and insubordination in face of the enemy. He did not believe that by substituting it for flogging we should diminish either the cruelty or the degradation of the punishment. However, as soon as the House accepted the proposal of the late Secretary of State for War, that corporal punishment was to be done away with for the class of offences he had referred to, the decision was irrevocable. He thought the figures quoted by the right hon. and learned Gentleman afforded grounds for expecting a favourable solution of this matter eventually, unconnected with the degree and nature of the punishment which might be awarded. He believed that Government had settled the question in the only way open to them, and he had great confidence that the abolition of flogging would lead to the influx into the Army of a better class of men, who would be above committing the kind of crime for which corporal punishment was now inflicted.


did not see how, when they were all liable to be flogged for certain offences, the soldier should be exempted from similar treatment when he was guilty of the like offences. Fifteen or sixteen years ago an hon. Member was garotted on his way home, and next day they all came down to the House—a Liberal Government being in Office—and passed an Act of Parliament through both Houses to give the lash to any person guilty of garotting. Why should a soldier garotting his comrade escape from a punishment to which every one of them was liable? He could see no reason for it. It had been alleged that hon. Members were afraid to defend corporal punishment on the hustings, or before their constituents. He had defended it before his constituents, and on these particular grounds—that it would be very hard on any respectable person if he had not the same appliances for protection against disorderly and violent conduct in a soldier that they could get applied against anyone in civil life, and that it was a foolish pandering to ignorant prejudice, and that the result would be, in the first place, absence of discipline, and then the infliction of various tortures. Dragging men for 14 days with irons on their persons would be found impracticable, and the Secretary of State would then go in for the thumbscrew or the "Boot," or some of the modes of torture adopted in foreign countries; and he anticipated that that would be followed by a re-action in the country in favour of the lash. He would have an opportunity of speaking at greater length on the Navy Bill; but he thought it right to call attention to the circumstances of which he had spoken, before they passed an Act which he believed would be to the disadvantage of the Army.


said, he wished to say a few words on this matter from a different point of view than other Members who had spoken. He had been a private in the Army during the time that flogging was permitted for offences now described as trivial, and he heard the same argument used, that it would cause a relaxation of discipline if flogging were abolished. If hon. Members opposite knew the feeling of the soldiers at that time it would have much modified some of the speeches delivered to-day; and the hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) would be surprised to hear the number of letters he had received from private soldiers asking him to speak on this subject to-day. There was a feeling of utter detestation against the punishment, not simply on the part of the men who were likely to suffer from it, but on the part of everyone else. Private soldiers in Eng- land occupied a position which no other private soldier in the whole of Europe occupied; and he did not know any other country in the whole world where it was a disgrace to wear the uniform of the country. He remembered, upon one occasion, he went into an hotel in a great city and ordered a cup of coffee, and was told that he could not be served because he wore the uniform of his country. All punishments which made soldiers seem less reputable than their fellow-citizens ought to be abolished. He asked the Government to allow nothing whatever to influence them in favour of this most degrading punishment. The men who once felt the lash were not loyal to any command, and they felt a bitterness and an abhorrence of everyone connected with the ordering of the punishment. If they flogged a man engaged on active service he was either a good man or a bad man—a man of some spirit or none at all. If he were a man of any spirit there were weapons in his hands, and he might use them for purposes of revenge. The right hon. and gallant Member for Wigton Burghs (Sir John Hay) talked of men who preferred the lash. The Army would be far better without such men. He had seen the lash applied—the man tied up and stripped in the sight of his comrades; he had seen the body blacken and the skin break; he had heard the dull thud of the lash as it fell on the blood-soddened flesh, and he was glad of having the opportunity of making his voice heard against it to-day, and trusted that nothing would induce the Government to retain, under any conditions, such a brutal punishment.


said, he was in the Service when corporal punishment was in full swing; and he never in his life witnessed such degrading, revolting scenes as when the soldier was lashed to the triangle on which he was placed, and had to submit to this degrading punishment. As a punishment for drunkenness, for which it was inflicted, he could say that it was perfectly useless. They would never flog a drunken soldier into sobriety. He hoped the Government would insist on carrying their Bill through. What they had to consider was, how they were to raise the tone of the British Army; and he held that they would never raise the moral tone or social position of the British soldier as long as corporal punish- ment remained. Only the other day he had the opportunity of discussing the subject with his constituents, including several who had sons enlisted in the Army; and they considered that those sons of theirs were lost to society, because they had enlisted in a Service in which punishment of this sort was involved. Instead of marching the soldier for hours in a barrack square, which did him no good, he submitted that he should be ordered to attend a military school, where education of some kind should be enforced, for it was only in that way that they could hope to make the soldier a more intelligent, reasonable, and valuable man.


said, the real question was the punishment they proposed to substitute for the flogging; and he feared they would not have much opportunity of discussing that in Committee. He wished to know whether, when it was stated on the part of the Government that the new Rules had received the approval of the highest military authorities, it was meant that they were sanctioned by the Commanderin-Chief and the Adjutant General, who were responsible for the discipline of the Army? He hoped the Secretary of State for War, when he came to speak on the subject, would tell them whether this was the case or not, because the statement would have great weight with the House. Of course, if those high authorities were in favour of these Rules the House would approve of it. He had seen sundry punishments put in practice both in the English and the French Army. The had seen a soldier lashed to the tail of a cart and drawn along the road because he would not march, and he had seen a French soldier lashed to a horse or a mule on the line of march—just as Mazeppa was lashed to the wild horse in the plain; and he should never forget the writhings and agony of the man to free himself from the position in which he was placed.


pointed out that in the campaigns in Afghanistan, and particularly in Zululand, there had been many reports in the public Press of various disorders among the soldiers, for which corporal punishment was formerly authorized to be inflicted. Under this Bill, however, this kind of repression could no longer be applied, and it became important to find out the mode of maintaining discipline in the field. Now, he must remark that these disorders, he considered, arose from the fact that they sent men out into the field before they had been brought into a proper state of discipline. Seeing that Parliament had granted funds on a lavish scale for the efficiency of our Army, he complained publicly against that system of sending inexperienced men into the field—men who had been insufficiently drilled, who had not been trained to discipline, and who, by their ages and physical condition, were utterly incompetent to do the heavy field work. The first consideration was that no man should be allowed to join the Army as a soldier until such time as he had been proved to be fit for the ranks. That was a point to which the House of Commons had never given sufficient attention. No doubt, assurances had often been given in Parliament that no soldier under 20, and none under two years' service, should be deemed fit soldiers for war; but from the Reports and Returns and from newspaper articles it was clear that those assurances had not been kept. Nothing could be more conducive to the improvement and discipline of the Army than that the Commander-in-Chief should make annual Reports to the Secretary of State for War, on the state and condition of the soldiers in all respects, and that these Reports should be laid before Parliament, so that the Legislature might know whether our soldiers were qualified for duty in the ranks, as well as to take the field. In order, also, to prevent men from committing crime, he thought there should be a larger police force in the Army. Such a force would be invaluable in preventing young soldiers from getting drunk. It was folly which was more to be feared than any military crimes, of which there were usually few in active operations.


observed, that there was the greatest unanimity in the House in favour of the Mutiny Bill passing; but he had not heard a single word said by anyone in favour of the new Rules. The hon. and gallant Member for Sunderland (Sir Henry Havelock-Allan) spoke with regard to the abolition of flogging for such crimes as drunkenness in the field; but it remained to be seen how such a crime as that was to be met by the new Rules. He that, for a great and powerful Government, such as this Government professed to be, and one specially dedicated to humanity, he would desire, above all things, that the punishments inflicted upon our soldiers should not be of a degrading kind; but to find a Government of that kind proposing the Rules laid before the House a few days ago was a matter of great surprise to him. He would say nothing about putting an offender in irons; but he wondered what was to be said about attaching an offender to a cart or a horse while the men were on march. What kind of horse was this man to be attached to? If a horse of no value, it ought not to be retained in the Service; if a horse of any value, it would kick the man—and thus the proviso that no permanent mark should be left on the offender could not possibly be secured. There was, further, a provision that whilst the offender was in irons, or otherwise attached so as not to injure him, he might be moved from place to place in a cart or other vehicle. But there was the drunken soldier on a hot day in the cart, or a number of them, on the line of march. Could anything be more degrading, or anything more difficult to carry out? He should think that the self-respect of the offenders was likely to be offended by the punishments proposed. The hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had spoken about the degradation of flogging, and also about the degradation of not being able to obtain a cup of coffee; but the connection between the two was not pointed out. If they were going to substitute a punishment which would not inflict injury on the self-respect of the soldier, it would not be found in those precious Rules laid on the Table. His own opinion was that no good soldier need ever in the least fear a flogging, and that the soldier not likely to be flogged was not likely to have his self-respect injured. If at all likely to be injured by flogging, it would be injured by these Rules. He would like to know whether the Rules had the sanction of the highest military authorities. If these Rules had not obtained their sanction, they were not likely to be looked upon by the House in a very favourable manner. But they knew the present Government did not lay great stress upon the opinions of such individuals, where not convenient. He was astonished that the terms of the Rules should not receive more attention from the House, as he did not see at what other time they could be discussed. In conclusion, he would suggest that specimens of the new manacles to be used should be hung up in the Members' cloak-room, after the same fashion as specimens of the "cat" were two years ago.


alluding to the early efforts of the advocates of the abolition of flogging in the Army, observed that it was a matter for regret that the disciples of progress opposed the change for some time in a very determined manner. That the leaders of the Liberal Party had at last been induced to take a course which ought to have been taken years ago was due to the persistent efforts of a small number of Members. The mistake made by hon. Members opposite was that they thought British soldiers were not constituted like the soldiers of other countries. He held that the English soldier was not a foul and degraded brute, who could only be disciplined by the lash. He had always felt, when asking the House to adopt a Resolution in favour of the abolition of flogging, that it was better to limit the change to the period of peace, as there was a great difficulty in finding a suitable punishment in the field. But he felt, also, that the question was one of such a character that whenever it came to be discussed it would have to be settled by abolition. It was quite possible that in a campaign it might be necessary to have the punishment of death; but he was certain that after that punishment had been inflicted the crime of which it was the penalty would cease, because soldiers were not fond of exposing their lives in that way any more than civilians. He thought that on the subject of flogging the statement of the hon. Member for Northampton would outweigh the opinions of hon. Members on the other side. By the abolition of flogging the Army would be relieved of a great degradation. He shared the opinion expressed by Jerome, King of Westphalia, that flogging "degrades the man and destroys the soldier." Although he could not express any enthusiasm about the new Rules, or even an appreciation of them, he heartily congratulated his right hon. Friend on having done so thoroughly that which he believed would prove to be a most beneficial reform.


was proud of the triumph won by the Liberal Party in abolishing the odious punishment of flogging. It was the triumph of common sense over a brutal mode of dispensing justice and maintaining discipline; the triumph of the civilian population over those who governed the Army, and it was a triumph of the civilian Members of that House over those who claimed exclusive authority on discipline. Experience taught us that mere flogging would do little good. It was well known that one commander without punishment maintained discipline better than another could maintain it with the utmost severity. He congratulated the Government for having, so early in the Session, redeemed the pledges which they had given in the last, and satisfied the earnest desires of the whole civilian population from which the Army came; and he was quite sure there was no man belonging to the British Army that would not walk a prouder man from the day that the Bill received the Royal Assent.


thought the House would be anxious to pass from the present subject to the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Harcourt). He had, at first, thought of putting the substituted punishment in the Bill; but on consideration he thought the best course to pursue, until they had had some experience, would be to give the Secretary of State power to make, from time to time, the rules for the substituted punishment, although it was a responsibility which he by no means desired to undertake; but it would be very unfortunate if, by putting the Rules in the Schedule to the Bill, they should stereotype measures which it might be found convenient to alter. His hon. and gallant Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Sir Alexander Gordon) had asked him whether the proposed Rules had been approved by the highest military authorities? His reply was that those authorities had been consulted; but that he had taken the same view of his duty which had been laid down in 1879 in reference to a similar question by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Devon, who was then Leader of that House, and who said that, although the Government had consulted the military authorities, they declined to shelter themselves behind them, and took upon themselves the full responsibility of what they had done. With respect to the question of the hon. and gallant Member for West Sussex (Sir Walter B. Barttelot) about the controversy between Dr. Russell and Sir Garnet Wolseley, he could not without Notice say more than that he thought Dr. Russell had written well, but Sir Garnet Wolseley had written better. The criticism of the hon. Member for Buteshire (Mr. Dalrymple) on the suggested rules was very amusing. He said—"Imagine a drunken soldier in a cart on a hot day." He (Mr. Childers) had seen this terrible sight, and he must confess that it did not appal him. But he had every reason to anticipate that if the Bill passed in its present shape he would be able to substitute an efficient punishment for what the country had determined to abolish as a punishment for military offences.


hoped they might have an opportunity of discussing the new Rules in Committee. He thought the punishment of tying to a waggon ought only to be applied to the case of a man refusing to march. He did not, however, propose to enter upon the question of punishments; but desired to offer a few observations upon the violent revolution attempted in Clause 5. It was actually proposed to abolish the oaths of members of courts martial and those of the witnesses. A private soldier was therefore liable, under this Bill, to be convicted upon unsworn evidence. That was a great revolution in courts martial. If ever this country were placed under martial law what a dreadful latitude was given by this Bill to those courts which might have to try the civil inhabitants. He would endeavour to show the way in which summary courts martial had grown and become adopted in the Bill. For the last 60 or 70 years there had been a detachment general court martial; but that was carefully limited to a specific class of offences. It was limited to offences against the inhabitants of the country; and if a sentence of death were passed it could not be put into execution without being confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief of a force in the field. Practically the whole responsibility rested on the Commander-in-Chief. The summary court martial applied to every military offence; but instead of having the Commander-in-Chief to confirm the sentence, the duty might be performed by any major in command of a detachment; he might command a baggage guard, or rear guard, or perhaps only a picket. The lives of our soldiers, therefore, would be at the mercy of a single colonel or major. His experience was that lawyers, when dealing with military matters, sacrificed all their ideas of law and equity. He believed that the introduction of this clause would very seriously demoralize all courts martial, and have an extremely bad effect.


said, that serious complaints had been made to him by licensed victuallers of the inadequate compensation made to them for the accommodation they afforded to soldiers on the line of march; and he must say he thought, when he considered that 13½d. was all they received for the stipulated refreshment they had to provide, exclusive of the lodging and attendance of 2½d. in return for attendance and plenty of elbow-room for the troopers, their complaints were not unreasonable. He thought those allowances were very insufficient, and he hoped the right hon. Gentleman would see his way to augmenting them.


said, his opinion was that the new mode of punishment would have little effect in the field. There was a certain class of men who would rather be punished than occupy an unpleasant and dangerous post on guard or picket in an enemy's country.

Motion agreed to.

Bill read a second time, and committed for Thursday.

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