§ The Order of the Day for the Second Reading having been read,
§ EARL GREY
said, that their Lordships might remember that, before this Bill was brought up from the other House, a noble Lord whom he did not then see in his place (the Marquess of Londonderry) had stated to their Lordships some reasons why their Lordships should refuse their consent to such a measure as this; and the noble Lord had also stated the objections he entertained to the principle of enlistment in Her Majesty's Army for a limited instead of an unlimited period. He (Earl Grey) had, on that occasion, felt it to be his duty to protest against what appeared to him to be a premature discussion of a Bill not then before their Lordships' House; but in doing so he had stated that, when the Bill came up, he should give the reasons which had induced Her Majesty's Government to adopt this measure, and answer, as well as he could, the arguments of the noble Lord. In redemption of that pledge, it was now his duty to state the views on which the Bill had been founded. In the first place, he must observe that this ought not to be considered as a single or isolated measure. Their Lordships would entirely fail to form a correct judgment if they considered this Bill by itself, and apart from the measures for the benefit of the Army which had been adopted in former years, and which were now in contemplation, with which it was closely connected. This Bill, in fact, was only part of a course of policy and of a series of measures which for the last twenty or twenty-five years had been passed with the object of raising the character of the Army, and improving the condition of the 1317 soldier. The noble Marquess had spoken of this measure as if it had been preceded by no such measures, and had treated it as a piece of great presumption for Her Majesty's Government, who had not had that experience in military matters that proceeds from a great deal of active service in the field, to take up a subject of this kind. On this point, with all due deference to the noble Marquess, he must observe the Government for the time being had always means at its command for obtaining the best professional advice and assistance on this subject; and with that advice and assistance which Her Majesty's Government had enjoyed, like those who preceded them, they were perfectly capable of forming a sound and correct judgment upon the subject. He would further take the liberty of observing, that experience had proved that not any injury, but, on the contrary, very great gain had resulted to the Army from the circumstance that the regulation of its condition had not been resigned exclusively to those who were professionally connected with the Army, but had also occupied the attention of the servants of the Crown, and of Members of the Legislature who had not themselves served in its ranks. When the noble Marquess contended that because the Army had been victorious, it must necessarily be perfect, and that there ought not to be any interference with the present system, he (Earl Grey) assumed that the noble Marquess meant that there was no room for improvement, and no necessity for any change such as was contemplated to be effected by this measure. That he understood to be the drift of the argument of the noble Marquess. But here, again, he (Earl Grey) was compelled to differ from the noble Marquess. He conceived not only the room for improvement to be great, but that the improvement which had been going on in the Army under successive Administrations for many years ought not now to stop. When he said this, let it not for a moment be supposed that he was insensible to the merits of the British Army, or inclined to undervalue its achievements. On the contrary, he could assure their Lordships that there was no one who entertained a more enthusiastic admiration of the great achievements of the British Army than he did; but it was perfectly consistent with the highest appreciation of the merits of that Army to observe that by the derangements and deficiencies of the system those great achievements had been in some respects disfigured. 1318 It was from an anxious desire to remove as far as possible those deficiencies that he now advocated this measure; deficiencies which every real friend of the Army was more inclined to assist in removing, than to conceal or deny. To show the fallacy of the argument of the noble Marquess, that because the Army had been victorious, therefore the system was perfect, he might appeal to an illustrious authority, who was then among their Lordships. The noble Duke who sat on the cross-benches (the Duke of Wellington), in his despatches, which were at once the best and most authentic record of his great achievements, and therefore the most endurable monument of his fame—the noble Duke in those despatches had repeatedly described the difficulties with which he had to struggle in consequence of the defects of the Army he commanded; and he (Earl Grey) would say this, that their Lordships would not fully appreciate the great achievements of the noble Duke, and the great debt which the public owed to him, if they did not remember what those difficulties were; if they did not understand that the noble Duke had to a great extent created the means by which those immortal victories were gained; and that, by the discipline and instruction which he himself had imparted to the officers and soldiers of the Army under his command, he, in the course of a few years, at the head of that Army, rolled back the tide of conquest that had spread over a great portion of Europe, and ended by the victory achieved on the plains of Waterloo, that memorable contest which he commenced on the shores of the Atlantic. These despatches were the best evidence of the serious defects of the system existing in the Army at that day, notwithstanding the noble Duke by means of that Army was so eminently successful. At the same time their Lordships would recollect that these defects in our military system were much more observable in a time of peace than in a time of war. When called upon to fight, the inherent courage and determined spirit of the British soldier, more especially when that spirit was encouraged by high military talent, such as that possessed by the noble Duke, insured distinction in the field. But during the war their Lordships would recollect that it was principally during the intervals of active operation, and occasionally when called upon to retreat, as the most successful armies were sometimes required to do—and to be able to do that well was no less an essential proof of a gallant 1319 army than to achieve success—it was upon those occasions that the noble Duke had most to complain of the deficiency of the army which he commanded. But in a time of peace, those defects were still more perceptible. He would not go into the ungracious topic of pointing out in detail what were the faults of our military system during the earlier period of the peace, and before those faults had attracted, as they afterwards did, the attention of the military authorities and the Government of the day, and of the public. Instead of doing this, he considered it better to point out to their Lordships what were the improvements which since that time had been introduced—but so gradually introduced, from time to time, by successive Administrations, that he believed their Lordships were hardly aware of the extent of the change in our military system. Having pointed out those improvements, he would then endeavour to show their Lordships that the measure which they were now asked to read a second time, was strictly in conformity with the measures already adopted, and formed a step—and he (Earl Grey) believed a most important step — in that progress of improvement so long going on; and that it was, therefore, a measure which their Lordships would do well to sanction. The first fault of our military system which had most strongly attracted public attention, was the extent to which corporal punishment prevailed. It was in the recollection of many of their Lordships that the lash was, unfortunately, the main instrument of maintaining discipline in the Army. Offences, great and small, were punished by it; and for the more serious description of offences it was inflicted with a degree of unsparing severity, from which, in the present day, we should recoil with horror. As an instance, he would relate to their Lordships what occurred so lately as the year 1825. In that year a general court-martial sentenced a man to receive no less a punishment than 1,900 lashes; of that sentence no fewer than 1,200 lashes were actually inflicted. This subject long occupied the attention of the other House of Parliament; many debates took place upon it; but it was long before any material alteration was made in the system. It was true that, in the year 1815, and only in the year 1815, it was made illegal to bring out a second time to receive the remainder of the punishment a man who had been sentenced to receive a greater number of lashes than human nature could at once endure. In 1320 former times it had been the practice to bring out an unfortunate man who had received a portion of his punishment to undergo the remainder. In 1815 this was made illegal. It was a considerable time before any further change took place. It was not until 1832 that the number of lashes which could be inflicted by the sentence of a regimental court-martial was reduced from 300 to 200; and by a district court-martial from 500 to 300. But even then there was no limit to the number of lashes that might be awarded by a general court-martial. On the 24th of November, 1833, a general order was issued by Lord Hill, which restricted the infliction of corporal punishment to a small number of serious offences only, it formerly having been the practice to punish minor offences by the lash. By the Mutiny Act of 1836, which he (Earl Grey) had the honour to lay before the House of Commons, the number of lashes that could be inflicted was still further reduced. By that Act, for the first time, a limit was introduced upon the power of general courts-martial, which after that had no longer the power of awarding a greater number of lashes than 200; and the powers of the district and regimental courts-martial were also limited to the extent of 150 and 120. To complete the series of changes in this respect, last August a general order was issued by the noble Duke upon the cross-bench (the Duke of Wellington), by which the number of lashes to be given, under any circumstances and for any offence, was, as he (Earl Grey) thought, most properly, reduced to fifty. Observe the gradual nature of the change with respect to a mitigation of the law within this short period. In the course of twenty-one years from the infliction of 1,200 lashes as part of a sentence, of 1,900, they had come down to a state of things when the infliction of fifty lashes was the maximum of punishment for any offence. He should be able by-and-by to show that the practical administration of the law had diminished its severity no less than the law itself. But connected with this subject of corporal punishment, he thought it very important here to remark another change, which, in the course of a few years, had been adopted for the benefit of the military service. When corporal punishment began first to be abated for small offences, imprisonment was substituted, and military offenders were sent to the ordinary prisons of the country. There they necessarily mixed with offenders of 1321 every description of character, and, in many instances, the alternative of imprisonment for flogging was attended with the worst results. In the course of the last few years, however, arrangements had been made for the erection of military prisons, and also for the formation of cells for solitary confinement in the barracks. This had been attended with the happiest effects. But this was one side only of the question which he had to deal with. He had pointed out to their Lordships the improvements in the penal branch of the system, and what had been the changes made in the modes of punishment, by which it was endeavoured to advance the discipline of the service. He had, however, on the other side, to point out those changes and measures which had been adopted in order to render punishment unnecessary; namely, changes by means of which the condition and comforts of the soldier might be improved. This was a most important part of the subject, and one which had received a great deal of consideration from him. On looking back to a comparatively recent period, it was extraordinary to see how much, in most essential points, the comfort of the soldier had been promoted. One of the most remarkable of these particulars was the state of the barracks. The barrack accommodation, more particularly in the tropical climates, was most inadequate. The situations were in many cases badly chosen, the barracks badly constructed, and, besides, the space allowed for the soldiers was altogether insufficient for the health of the men. He found that the ordinary rule in constructing barracks in the tropical climates was to leave somewhere about 300 cubical feet for each soldier; but it had been discovered that for the healthy accommodation of the men, at least double that space was necessary, and that instead of 300 cubical foot for each man, at least 600 cubical feet should be allowed. A great improvement had taken place in this respect. The Board of Ordnance had taken very great pains gradually to improve the barracks of the soldier; but he was sorry to say that the improvement was still far from having attained the point that was desirable, and that the accommodation was yet very far from what it ought to be. In the improvements which had been made, a point was not lost sight of, which he thought very important—namely, providing in the barracks places for the recreation of the troops; and also another matter which he considered 1322 most useful—the making arrangements for the formation of libraries for the men. There was another matter, if possible, still more closely connected with the health of the troops in the colonial service; and he should remind their Lordships on this point, that it was the severe pressure of that branch of the service which had alwas rendered enlistment in the Army unpopular in this country; and, therefore, to render the colonial service more popular was a matter of the greatest importance. In respect to the supply of provisions in the colonies, a very great improvement indeed had taken place. Their Lordships were hardly aware, perhaps, that so late as the year 1836 it was the practice to allow the troops only two days fresh provisions in the week; and even that allowance was a considerable improvement on earlier times. In 1836, when he (Earl Grey) held the post of Secretary at War, his attention was called to the fact that the soldiers in tropical climates had five days salt provisions in the week; and measures were at once taken to make an effectual improvement in that particular, and but a very small quantity of salt provisions was now given to them in those stations. He would state by-and-by the actual effect of those measures on the health of the troops; but he wished, in the first instance, to refer to some other improvements that had been adopted within the last few years. He should beg to remind their Lordships that until a very recent period indeed there was no distinction whatever between the good soldier and the bad soldier. The only difference between them was, that the good soldier escaped imprisonment, extra drill, and the lash; and he possessed, no doubt, also the good will and respect of his fellow-soldiers and his officers; but in other respects the good and bad soldier were entirely on a level. After fourteen years' service the good soldier and the bad were each entitled to an increase of 2d. a day in their pay; and at the end of twenty-one years, if they were disabled or unfit for further service, they were equally entitled to receive their discharge, and received the same pension. In point of fact, the advantage, in this respect, was with the bad soldier; because a man who was in the constant habit of intoxication, provided he did not actually incapacitate himself for duty, though in other respects worn out by dissipation, being found unfit for service, was discharged with a pension; while the good man — the sober man, who had resisted 1323 temptation, and taken care of his health, and was always efficient to do his duty, from that very circumstance, and because he had been a good soldier to the end of the twenty-one years, was refused a pension, and compelled to continue in the service. In 1836 a change was introduced in this respect. An increase of pay was made no longer to depend upon length of service; it was made to depend on good conduct; and by the system then introduced, improved as it had been by a subsequent warrant, issued when Mr. Sidney Herbert was Secretary at War, and dated December, 1845, great encouragement was given to the good soldier. A man who behaved well got an additional penny a day for every five years he remained in the service; so that at the end of twenty-five years the good soldier had an increase nearly equal to half his pay; and he was, besides, enabled to carry this addition of pay to his pension. Another measure of great importance in encouraging good conduct in the Army, had also been adopted. Their Lordships were aware that the great cause of crime in the Army was the disposition of the soldier to spend his spare money in drinking. Within the last few years, however, a regulation was adopted, which, he believed, tended very powerfully to discourage the men from spending their spare money in this manner, namely, the establishing of regimental savings banks. By this means, the soldier might be enabled to accumulate his small savings, and receive interest upon them upon very advantageous terms, before he retired from the service. Much had been also done for the instruction of the soldier. Regimental schools for children and recruits had been some time established, and was a measure of great importance; but this provision had been extended within the last few years, and means now existed for giving instruction to the men themselves. This was a matter of considerable importance, because the future welfare of the discharged soldier greatly depended upon the instruction he might have received during the time he had been in the Army. It was found that pensioners who had received instruction, obtained situations of considerable value; for the very fact of his having a pension that could be taken from him, cast a responsibility upon a military pensioner, which made him useful in various situations, such as that of policeman on a railroad; an old soldier, from the habit of 1324 discipline which he had acquired, was found the very best man for such purposes, provided he had received the required amount of instruction. He believed that by these and other measures of improvement, much would be done to make the military career much more desirable for the better classes of the labouring population than it was at present. Having stated the most important measures which had been adopted within the last few years for the improvement of the soldier, he would now call the attention of their Lordships to the practical effects which those measures he had described had already been attended with. There were two tests which he thought might well be applied, in showing what the improved state of the Army was. First, the amount of punishment that had been inflicted, and next the mortality which had taken place in the Army in stated periods. In both these respects, the improvement was something which he should say was extremely remarkable. With regard to punishment in the Army, he was sorry to have to state that the returns were very imperfect in the older dates, so as to render it impossible to institute a comparison such as was desirable. From facts which came to his knowledge, he knew that if such a comparison could be instituted, it would display an amount of improvement very remarkable indeed; but even from the materials that were before him it would appear that the improvement which had taken place was very great indeed. For the year 1818, a very short period after the war, he had a return of the number of soldiers received in the hospitals after having undergone corporal punishment, in a certain number of foreign stations. The returns were not complete, but they included a great many stations, the troops amounting in all of them to 28,900. Out of that number, there were of men sent to hospital after receiving corporal punishment no less than 2,273—in other words, 80 men were corporally punished for every 1,000 in the service. In the same stations the number of soldiers receiving corporal punishment last year was only 4 in every 1,000, instead of 80, showing a diminution to the extraordinary proportion of 1 to 20. He would not trouble their Lordships with the details; but he held in his hand returns of the corporal punishments in the Army from 1829 to 1836, and they came down in the proportion, for every 1,000 men, of 19, 16, 14, 11, 10, 9; and in 1836, the proportion was but six nine-tenths. From 1325 1838, the progress downwards was continuous until in 1845 it was six seven-tenths; and in 1846, though the returns were not completed in consequence of the distance of some of the stations, still from the portions of the Army for which the returns had been received, the number receiving corporal punishment was not more than 4 in the 1,000. When he came to consider these returns, he expected that the great diminution in corporal punishment would be accounted for by other punishments having been substituted for it; and that an increase would be found in the returns of other punishments. Such, however, was not the case, as there was also a great diminution in the number of other punishments, more especially the more severe ones. In ten years, between 1826 and 1835, there were no fewer than 76 sentences of death actually passed on military offenders, and of these 41 were actually carried into execution, and 35 were transmuted into transportation. On looking to the period which occurred since, he found that, with the exception of a mutiny which occurred in a negro regiment in Trinidad, when a considerable number were sentenced to death, the diminution in the sentences for death was considerable, though the total strength of the Army was much increased. In 1839, there were only 3 sentences; in 1840, only 2; in the next 2 years only 1 in each year; and in 1845 only 2. The number of sentences for transportation was also considerably diminished; but without entering into details, he might say that for the two years 1844 and 1845 the sentences of transportation were 160 and 155 respectively, they having averaged 178 a few years before, when the Army was much less. Even the sentence of imprisonment was diminished. In 1838, when the Army numbered 96,800 men, the imprisonments were 7,900; and in 1845, when the number of men was 124,400, the number of imprisonments was very nearly the same, but rather less, being 7,857. He thought their Lordships must see in this statement of the diminution of punishments most satisfactory evidence of the improvement of discipline in the Army. But he would proceed to show, from the evidence of diminished mortality in the Army, even in the colonies, results no less remarkable. The mortality amongst our soldiers was, in former years, very great. He had a return which would show what the effects of the measures he had described had been upon their health; for all those 1326 measures had contributed to render the soldier more contented with his lot, and to make his condition generally better, so that they all contributed to reduce the mortality of the Army, and to produce a beneficial effect upon the health of the troops. In 1835, an inquiry was instituted into the health of troops, more especially in foreign stations; and it was most ably and satisfactorily conducted by the two gentlemen to whom the task was entrusted. From a comparison of the returns for the two last years, ending in March, 1846, with the twenty years from 1815 to 1835, some remarkable results might be arrived at. The colonies were arranged in groups, according as they were more or less healthy, and in all a very great improvement in the health of the troops was apparent. In the twenty years between 1815 and 1835, the mortality in the Mediterranean stations was 23 5–10ths a year for every 1,000; and in the two last years it was but 14 for every 1,000 men, showing a saving of human life to the extent of 9 5–10ths per 1,000 persons in the year. In the North American colonies, including the Bermudas and Newfoundland, the reduction was from 21 2–10ths in the former period, to 13 7–10ths per 1,000. In the Australian colonies, including St. Helena, the reduction was from 15 to 12 8–10ths. In respect to the Isle of St. Helena he would make one remark. Their Lordships were aware that during the imprisonment of the late Emperor Napoleon there, a considerable garrison had to be kept up there; and during the entire time, they never got any fresh provisions, except on Christmas days, and some few other remarkable festivities. The consequence was, that there was a very severe mortality amongst the private soldiers; while, at the same time, the officers, who were not so restricted, were to a most remarkable degree exempt from disease—in fact, he believed that only one natural death occurred among the officers during the entire six or seven years. In the tropical colonies, and above all in Jamaica, the improvement was most remarkable. It should be observed that he confined his statement exclusively to the white troops in these returns. In Jamaica, the deaths for the twenty years between 1815 and 1835, were no less than 128 6–10ths per 1,000 annually; but within the last two years, partly in consequence of arrangements having been made to keep the white troops on the higher grounds, except when they were actually wanted be- 1327 low, and by other arrangements, the mortality had been actually reduced from 128 6–10ths to 29 7–10ths per 1,000. Even this did not show the full extent of the improvement, because from accidental causes it was necessary to have a small detachment of white troops in an unhealthy quarter, from which they were, however, latterly withdrawn. He believed, in fact, that Jamaica would soon be actually as healthy as Van Diemen's Land. Taking all the tropical colonies, the mortality was decreased from 84 2–10ths, in 1825, to 42 1–10th, or precisely one-half. To put these facts in a more striking point of view, he would take the actual saving of human life within the last few years. Taking the average number of men employed in the colonies at 35,000, and comparing the deaths for the last two years with those for former periods, they had a saving of no less than 1,035 men, or a number equal to an entire battalion, which had formerly been annihilated by death in each year. From this statement he had excluded India. He was sorry to say that the improvement of the army in India, from causes which he was unable at present to state, had not been the same as in our other colonies; he trusted, however, that in future years it would keep pace with them. He had felt bound to enter into these details, to prove the fallacy of the argument that no improvement in the Army was required since our Army had fought well; he was bound to show the utter fallacy of that argument, by demonstrating the extent of the improvements actually made, and the good effects which had resulted from them; because the state of things which admitted of such improvements, must have been a state of disorder; whilst their results afforded an argument in favour of perseverance, and show ed that the Bill before their Lordships was a necessary and proper measure. For what had been done he did not claim credit for any one Administration, because, during the war, it was impossible to give the requisite degree of attention to the details upon which improvements in the Army depended; but since the peace, constant inquiries had been going on, and the utmost attention had been exerted to ascertain what improvements were practicable; and the improvements he had described had been carried into effect. Much, however, was, in his opinion, still required to be done before admission to the Army would be regarded, as he thought it ought to be 1328 by the better class of the labouring population, as a boon and a privilege. He thought it was impossible not to conceive the condition of the soldier under these improvements, as an improvement on that of a large portion of the labouring classes. The soldier was certain by good conduct to obtain a very great increase of pay, amounting even in the earlier stages of the service to 7s. 7d. a week; while the average earning of the labourer was not more than 7s. or 8s. a week. The soldier had besides, lodging, bedding, fuel, and a portion of his clothing, gratis; and no matter what the price of provisions might be, he could never be charged more than 6d. a day for his support. He had also the prospect of promotion; and taking all these things together, and comparing this state with that of the labourer in Dorsetshire or Wiltshire, he could only account for the unpopularity of the service by the dislike the poorer classes naturally had to be separated from their relations for life, as unlimited service might be considered to be. The present Bill would take away the great ground of this dislike; and he trusted yet to see the day when the military authorities would be in a position to say that they would take no man into the service who could not bring a good character with him. When they could once effect that change, they would see how beneficially it would operate. But to effect so desirable an object, there was no improvement more desirable or more necessary than to show the soldier that by enlisting he was not binding himself for life, and that it would be possible for him to retire after a moderate period of service from the Army, and return to those early associations with friends and relations which were by many so much coveted. An argument which had been adduced by a noble Marquess opposite against the principle of the Bill the other night was, that if men were enlisted for only ten years, every man at the end of that time would go away. Now, he would show that the noble Lord had founded his argument entirely upon the state and condition of things in the Army during his early knowledge of it, and not upon what had occurred of late years. The noble Lord's whole argument against the Bill was founded upon the assumption that every man who was in the Army was anxious to leave it—that, in fact, every man in it would leave it as soon as possible. He (Earl Grey) would show that it was not so. But if it were so—if it were the fact 1329 that every man who could leave the Army would leave it, and would consider the option of leaving not a punishment, nor a loss, but a boon: if such were really the case, it would add tenfold strength to the argument for the Bill. It would show the necessity for such a measure, and that there was an absolute and immediate necessity for improvement in the condition of the Army. He would observe, in passing, that the indirect effect of such a measure on commanding officers would be highly beneficial. When they knew that, at the end of ten years, a soldier had the power, if he thought fit, to leave his regiment, he believed that they would study much more than they now did—and he was perfectly aware of the great care and attention generally bestowed by officers on that object—the comfort and welfare of the soldiers, and endeavour to make them happy in the ranks, and thus induce the best men to continue in the service. This was what he (Earl Grey) should call the principle of the Bill. Its principle was to introduce the regulation that, in future, the soldiers of the British Army should be enlisted not for life, but for a limited period of service; and, according to Parliamentary usage, that simple principle was all that their Lordships were called upon to discuss. If they should, adopting the principle, sanction the second reading of the Bill, they would have to consider in Committee the various details of the measure—whether, for instance, the period fixed for service was too short or too long. They would also have to consider whether the special circumstances under which the engagements might be prolonged, had been defined as well as they might be; and he might state that, on this point, it was his intention to propose an Amendment suggested by the noble Lord who was lately Governor General of India (the Earl of Ellenborough)—an Amendment for which he felt much indebted to him, as it cleared up an ambiguity which might arise as to the legal sense of certain words used, and by which actual war might be made the only term on which a soldier could be retained beyond ten years. He would, therefore, propose an Amendment on that subject; but at present it was better that they should confine themselves strictly to the principle of the Bill, viz., whether they would or would not limit the period of enlistment. Considering, then, that their Lordships were now to determine only the principle of the Bill, he should state to 1330 them some of the considerations on which it was founded. They were aware that he was expected on the present occasion to endeavour to show from experience what would be the effects of the measure; but he regretted to say that he was unable to do so satisfactorily. The only period for which the system of limited enlistment had been tried was so short—he referred to Mr. Windham's Act — and the circumstances of the country were then so peculiar and so very unlike those at the present day, that any attempt to argue from the analogy of that Act would be inconclusive. But, so far as he could judge, the experience of the working of that Act was on the whole rather in favour of the principle for which he contended, than otherwise. They must, in considering the measure, look chiefly to general considerations. They must endeavour to ascertain as well as they could, from what they knew of the condition of the Army, what would be the probable effect of the proposed measure. He had stated that, in his opinion, the most important consideration was that of endeavouring to render the service in the Army more popular; but there were other considerations too important to be passed by. In the first place, in the present state of public opinion, they could not look upon corporal punishment as being of any great use. He was afraid that it was premature as yet to part with the power, in special cases, of inflicting that punishment; but, at the same time, they all felt that its practical use must be diminished to the greatest possible extent. The noble Duke at the head of the Army had already taken a great step in that direction; and he (Earl Grey) had shown to how small an extent corporal punishment was now made use of. But in these circumstances it did become of importance to find some efficient substitute, to adopt some mode of getting rid of bad soldiers. Now, once create in the minds of the soldiers and the people of this country an impression that to be dismissed from the Army was not a reward, but a punishment, and, practically, they would have got rid of the difficulty. In the police force no such thing as corporal punishment existed; and how did they keep up the system of discipline? Why, because the men felt, their position to be good, and, that to be dismissed from the force was the severest punishment. He wished, then, to be able to say to the soldier, "If you don't behave well, you shall not have the advantage of serving in Her 1331 Majesty's Army; you must not have these advantages arising from the service of Her Majesty in the Army which you cannot otherwise procure;" and, he believed, they were not so far from arriving at that state of matters as might be supposed. But it was altogether inconsistent with the policy which would establish such a state of things, that the man should be enlisted for a life service. There was another, and one which in his opinion was a very important, consideration connected with the reduction of the period of enlistment. It was the having a body of well-trained soldiers dispersed throughout the country, ready to be called on for the defence of the country in time of emergency. Many of the Continental States—he believed indeed all of them—had adopted the policy long since of making the period of service in their armies extremely short, and thus making a large proportion of the population in turn go into the ranks. In Prussia, for instance, the army was composed of men serving for the short period if three years, who after that period left the ranks, but were liable to be called upon to serve again in one of the forms of militia. Now, if that country were attacked, she could, at any moment, depend upon being able with certainty to call out a very large number of trained and disciplined soldier to form her army. The great proportion of the male inhabitants of that country were trained in this way to be soldiers; and it was impossible not to see how greatly it added to the safety of the country. No doubt it was more necessary in a Continental country, surrounded by active and ambitious neighbours, than here; but he had no hesitation in saying, and it was the opinion of others far better able to form an opinion than he was, that we had trusted far too much to the supposed safety arising from our insular position; and that, he thought, we ought to have more efficient means than we now had of getting, at short notice, in the moment of danger and invasion, the service of a large number of men trained to the use of arms. To a certain degree this policy had been already adopted. Four or five years ago a Bill was passed, brought in by Lord Hardinge, then Secretary at War, by which discharged pensioners were enrolled for service in companies to be called out periodically and at all times when considered necessary. The principle on which those companies was formed was, that they should serve for twelve days in each year, 1332 and at all other times when it was considered necessary to call them out. Under the provisions of that Act, a considerable number of men had been enrolled for service; the number now amounted to 13,000, and he had been told by many officers of high rank, who had seen them when called out for training, that though many of them had been for several years out of the Army, yet, having in their youth been trained as soldiers, it was wonderful how rapidly they regained all they had lost, so that in a very few days they could go through all their military exercises and evolutions with as much facility as in their best days. All the military authorities he had consulted concurred in this that in garrison, and in defence of our great arsenals, those pensioners would be found quite as efficient as any body of men that could be employed. If, then, in case of any emergency, these pensioners were thrown into such places as Portsmouth, Plymouth, and other garrisons, they would set free an equal number of active soldiers for service in the field. But if the anticipations of those who objected to the Bill were well founded, and if soldiers generally accepted their discharge after a ten years' service, that was at the age of twenty-eight years, they would have in the course of a very few years a large number of men scattered throughout the country perfectly trained to arms; and that, he might venture to say, would be a consideration of very great importance. One of two things should, therefore, happen. They should either relieve the Army from the unjust odium of retaining a great number of soldiers in the ranks against their wish or inclination, whereas he (Earl Grey) believed, they really staid of their own accord; or else, if he should prove to be wrong in that opinion, they would insure to the country a large trained reserved force against any emergency that might arise. Much stress had been laid by the noble Lord opposite, on a former evening upon the extreme inconvenience of losing so many of the best men at the end of a few years' service. He (Earl Grey) knew that no commanding officer liked to lose his most experienced and best-trained men; but his own anticipation was, that a much smaller number of men would quit the Army than was believed; and he thought he was justified by the experience of the few last years, in saying that the great majority of men, after learning their profession, would choose to continue in the Army. In the year 1829, a 1333 Bill for permitting soldiers to obtain their discharge from the Army had been first introduced. That regulation had been introduced by Lord Hardinge; and the period of service required before it would be competent to the soldier to obtain his discharge, was fixed at sixteen years. To that measure precisely the same opposition had been offered, and the same sort of prophecy as to the results uttered as now. But so far were those anticipations from being realized, that the period was reduced, to fifteen and subsequently to fourteen years; and, under Mr. Sidney Herbert's regulations, it had been permitted that soldiers who could produce good-conduct testimonials, might obtain their discharge upon the same terms as before, after a service of twelve years. [The Duke of RICHMOND: Hear hear.] The noble Duke cheered that observation. He (Earl Grey) understood the cheer to imply that the effect of the measure would be to get rid of the good soldiers, who would avail themselves of the opportunity to retire. But he (Earl Grey) thought that if the good soldier left them so gladly, there would be no vise in keeping the bad against his own consent; and if they should find, as he expected they would, the result to be that the good soldier would not, generally, leave the Army, there would be no cause for apprehension, for the bad soldier might go if he pleased, and welcome. But, from a memorandum which he held in his hand, he would show that instead of the soldiers having manifested any anxiety to accept the opportunity of obtaining their discharge, the contrary had been the fact. Between the years 1830 (when the first Act enabling them to obtain their discharge came into operation) and 1844, inclusive, the total number of soldiers who had applied for and obtained their discharge, gave an average of only fifty-five annually out of the whole British Army, being less than one man for every two regiments. Let their policy be of a more manly character, and let it be known that soldiers would not be kept in the ranks compulsorily, and they might depend upon it the effect would be to retain men in the service. They might form some judgment of the effects of enlistment for limited service from the working of the system in France, where, although it was compulsory on men to serve, they being drawn under the law of conscription, yet it appeared that they became reconciled speedily to the service, because they knew that they would be obliged to serve for only a short time; and in the great ma- 1334 jority of cases it was found, that military habits being once formed, men very willingly either continued to serve in the Army, or enrolled themselves among the gens-d' armes. As to the chances against the men who should accept their discharge enrolling themselves again for home service, he was perfectly persuaded that, whether they enrolled themselves or not, if danger to their country should arise from a threatened invasion by any foreign enemy, their loyalty to their Queen and their love of country would be sufficient inducements, especially when added to the desire to meet again their former comrades, to draw them to the service; and if danger really approached the British shore, those men, whether compelled by law or not, would, he was persuaded, willingly come forward, and risk their lives with their ancient comrades, in the defence of their country. As a proof of the state of discipline in which the enrolled pensioners appeared to be, he would state that when the first detachment of pensioners, consisting of seventy men, were embarked for service in Now Zealand, there were only three of the number who unfortunately got drunk; and the only punishment inflicted upon them had been to send them ashore in custody, a punishment which they felt to be a deep degradation and disgrace. Now it was alleged that there was no inducement held out to the pensioners to enrol themselves except the chance of meeting their old comrades during twelve days in the year, whilst on training and duty; but to those men who under the now Act would, after their ten years' service, enrol themselves again for the deferred pension, there would be a pension granted, when they might be only fifty years of age, of sixpence a day. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) smiled at the smallness of the sum; but it should be borne in mind that that would be given to men still able to do a great deal of work of many kinds. The inducement would be therefore not quite so small as at first sight it might appear to be. He was aware that the smallness of the pension had been objected to; but they should look to the many difficulties which surrounded the question, financial as well as others. In 1829 a warrant was issued allowing men to retire with a full pension after twenty-one years' service. Thus men at the age of thirty-nine would receive a pension equal to the pay given on remaining in the service; thus all inducement for such men to remain in the Army was taken away. 1335 In 1829, the pensioners in the Army amounted to the large number of 85,900, while the whole Army was only 98,000. The charge also for these pensioners was 1,348,000l. Thus it was found that the charge for pensions for the peace service was as rapidly increasing as that for the war service had done. The state of things also which existed under the warrant issued shortly afterwards, by which it was rendered necessary that a soldier should go before the medical board at Chelsea, before he received his discharge and pension, operated in such a way as to give an advantage to the bad soldier over the good. For instance, men who were the most inveterate spirit drinkers would go before the board at Chelsea Hospital, and from the ruined state of their constitution would be discharged as unfit for farther service, and would thus, after twenty-one years' service, obtain a full pension; whereas a sober and steady man, who had taken care of his health, would be sent back to his regiment, or not obtain a full pension. To avoid such an evil as this, the system was revised in 1833, when it was declared that after that period the soldier, at the expiration of his twenty-one years' service, should not be entitled to a higher pension than sixpence a day. He was perfectly willing to admit that there was a fault in this warrant on the other side, as it gave too low a scale of pensions to the soldiers; no doubt it was sufficient for the bad soldier, but it was a very inadequate remuneration for the good. The consequence of this was, that in 1835, he (Earl Grey) had the honour of proposing, as Secretary at War, a measure by which the soldiers would be entitled to get additional pay for good conduct. This warrant was further extended by one issued by Mr. Sidney Herbert, in January 1845, by which a soldier, in addition to his pay of sixpence a day, might receive fourpence a day more for good conduct, thus making together ten-pence a day; and if the period of his service extended beyond twenty-one years he might receive even more. It was now suggested that the minimum pension should be increased: that instead of 6d. there should be given 8d. a day, and that the additional 4d. for good conduct should still be granted, in order that the full pension of 1s. per day should reward the temperate and good soldier on his retirement from the service. It had been proposed to extend the allowance for good conduct to sixpence a day. He would only say on that point, 1336 that the proposition should receive every attention from Her Majesty's Government. There were two or three other points to which he had intended to allude, as they had been introduced into a discussion which took place on this subject a few nights ago; but in consequence of the great length to which his observations had extended, he would not enter upon them; but he trusted the House would allow him to supply any deficiency which might appear in his statement in reply. In conclusion, he would at once move the second reading of the Bill, and in doing so he felt bound to thank the House for the indulgence with which they had listened to his long statement on this very complex subject.
§ VISCOUNT COMBERMERE
, who was almost inaudible, was understood to object to the principle of the Bill, and to the mode in which the changes were proposed to be carried into effect; they might have been made by the Commander in Chief under Royal Warrant as well as by an Act. He was of opinion, and he knew that others who possessed great practical experience on the subject coincided in opinion with him, that the proposed system would not improve the condition of the Army, or induce a better class of men to enter the service; nor would it tend to improve the moral condition of the soldier. He should be glad to know what better class of men they could expect to enlist than those who were now in the service; for now they obtained their recruits chiefly from the agricultural population, which was the best class for that purpose. He objected to the plan because it would create two kinds of service in the Army; it would entail an enormous expense upon the country to discharge and return the men whose services should have expired, while it would impair their efficiency as a military body. He thought, moreover, that the men themselves would not understand the difference between limited and unlimited service. It appeared that the condition of the soldier had been stigmatized by the term slavery. From this assertion it might be assumed that it was derogatory to the character of an Englishman to be a soldier under the present arrangement. If, however, this was the case, why not put the present soldiers on a footing with those who would hereafter exist? Out of the 121 regiments in the service, 72 were constantly on foreign service, and about 6,000 every year went abroad or came home. If they passed, not merely this Bill, but any Bill for limited 1337 enlistment, they would find that the greatest confusion would arise, not merely in time of war, but in time of peace; and it would be utterly impossible to carry the plan into effect in the East Indies. Not only the inconvenience of trying the scheme would be very great, but the expense attending it would be enormous. He concluded by moving that the Bill should be read a second time that day six mouths.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
My Lords, certainly it was unnecessary for my noble Friend to apologize for addressing your Lordships on this subject. There is no officer in the service better qualified than he is, from his long experience and acquaintance with military transactions in most parts of Europe and Asia, to judge of the effect likely to be produced by the measure under your Lordships' consideration. I agree with my noble Friend, with respect to the importance of this measure in its bearing upon the interests of the Army; and I assure him, that if I thought it was calculated to deprive the Army of the old soldiers, I would be the first to object to its adoption; but, having well considered the measure ever since it first came under the deliberation of Her Majesty's servants, it is my opinion that it will not lead to any diminution of the number of the old soldiers in the service. My Lords, I maintain that old soldiers are absolutely necessary to the very existence even of the Army. I will not direct any observations as to what ought to be the condition of the Army when engaged in active service, because I am aware that it is unpalatable to a British House of Parliament to consider in time of peace what is necessary in a period of warfare. I, therefore, will refer only to the Army in time of peace. I say that you must have the best disciplined troops in the Army which you maintain for the service of the country. This country cannot exist without such a body in its service; and I earnestly entreat your Lordships to attend to that circumstance in dealing with this measure, and to take care that it shall not deprive the country of the services of its old soldiers. It is they who set the example; it is they who maintain discipline and good order; it is they who at all times put themselves at the head of all great enterprises; and it is they upon whom you must rely for the performance of those services which are required from an Army in time of peace as well as in war. I must observe that, although this country has been 1338 under the protection of treaties of peace for thirty years and more, I have, during that time, had under my consideration military operations of great extent and importance, not only in the Mediterranean, but in North and South America, in South Africa, and all over Asia, nearly at the same time; and if you had not had the highest discipline and the best troops in the world, it would not have been possible for you to carry on those operations. Look, my Lords, to the case of China. In that case it was necessary to transport troops from Australia, and land them in China, where they were called upon to act on rivers, in creeks, and upon islands, in concert with the ships of Her Majesty. They succeeded in effecting all that was expected from them. How was that done? It was done by the discipline of your troops—the discipline maintained by the old soldiers. They were the men who led the young ones, and, acting together, they are able to achieve any conquest. I may also, my Lords, refer to another transaction which was mentioned in one of the despatches of my noble friend Lord Hardinge. One night, during the operations against the Sikhs, a regiment was lying on their arms, and Lord Hardinge was lying on the ground at their head. The enemy opened a fire upon them and annoyed them very much; in consequence of which my noble friend ordered the regiment to rise and advance upon the guns. The order was obeyed, and the guns were captured. This was at night, remember. Now, my Lords, I ask whether such a feat could have been performed, under such circumstances, except by old soldiers? It would have been impossible. Bear in mind the conduct of the Emperor Napoleon with respect to his old soldiers. Remember the manner in which he employed them. Recollect, too, how much they are prized in every service all over the world; and then I will once more entreat your Lordships never to consent to any measure which would deprive Her Majesty's service of old and experienced men, and thus pave the way for disasters which would assuredly follow when the Army should come to be employed in war. It is my opinion, however, that the present measure is not calculated to have such an effect. It is my opinion that, considering all the circumstances connected with this measure—considering the comforts which the soldier already enjoys—considering the other advantages about to be conferred upon him, it is not likely to be attended 1339 with the effect of diminishing the service of the old soldiers. I beg to remind your Lordships that the servants of the Sovereign of this country have always had it in their power to enlist soldiers for limited or unlimited service—at least such power has been vested in them since the failure of the experiment of 1806, to which my noble Friend referred. The Government fixed the amount of bounty, which, as has been truly stated, regulates the enlistment for limited or unlimited service; and, therefore, the proposition of limited service is not exactly new to the Army. It is new, practically, as far as this, that there are not now any limited service men in the Army except in some of the bands. In point of fact, the whole of the Army at the present moment is enlisted for unlimited service. It is now purposed that henceforth men shall enlist for limited service. The noble Earl who so ably addressed your Lordships in moving the second reading of this measure anticipates that one of its consequences will be, that a superior description of men will be induced to enlist in the service of Her Majesty. I sincerely hope that such a result will follow from the adoption of the measure; but I confess I very much doubt it. But, putting that out of the question, I believe that, looking at all the circumstances of the case—looking at the advantages held out to the soldier, in the rewards for good conduct given after five, ten, fifteen, and twenty years of service, the Army will suffer no injury from the measure, that the soldiers will re-enlist at the of ten years' service. That being opinion, I requested the noble Lord at the head of the Government and the Secretary at War to insert in the Mutiny Bill and into the present measure a clause to enable men to re-enlist at the end of ten years. I believe that, under the circumstances, they will re-enlist. I, therefore, have no objection to try again the measure of limited enlistment; and I entreat your Lordships to adopt the measure. It is my firm belief that this measure will make no difference in respect of the number of old soldiers in the Army. It is quite clear, from the statement of the noble Earl, that the soldier who re-enlists, will, at the expiration of his second period of service—that is to say, twenty years—if he be a well-conducted man, be entitled to the accumulation of good-conduct rewards amounting to 4d. a day, as well as to the present pension of 6d. a day, making altogether 1340 10d. per day; and, if the proposition adverted to by the noble Earl be adopted, and the pension fixed at 8d. instead of 6d., the soldier would, in that case, be entitled to 1s. per day, which was the amount of the retiring allowance established in 1806. The soldier will also be entitled to another advantage — if well behaved he will at the end of twenty years receive a bounty of 5l. Then, there are the various advantages held out to non-commissioned officers, as well as good-conduct allowances, after having served the number of years specified. The prospect of becoming a non-commissioned officer will be another inducement to the soldier to continue in the service. I maintain that, in consequence of these rewards for good conduct, men will acquire the habits and qualifications which are the characteristics of good soldiers, and become much attached to the profession in which they enjoy so much comfort; and knowing the advantage which they will eventually obtain—an advantage which, is possessed by no man in any other walk of life—they will be desirous of re-enlisting and remaining in the Army. All I desire is, that they should so remain, and give their country the benefit of their services during the whole period for which they are capable of serving. I do not desire this for the sake of the commanding officers. I know that commanding officers are naturally anxious to have old soldiers in their regiments instead of young men; but I do not take their wishes into consideration; I desire it for the sake of the public service. For the reasons which I have stated, I think your Lordships will run no risk of injuring the Army by adopting this Bill, more particularly if the Government should make the pension for good service equal in amount to that fixed by the Act of 1806. My noble Friend referred to the inconvenience which was experienced under the Act of 1806, in consequence of the men receiving their discharge at the expiration of the first period of service, which I think was in 1813. I recollect there was some inconvenience of that nature; but it was met as the British Army would always meet any inconvenience to which it might be exposed. The great thing is to secure the service of the men; and, if we succeed in doing that, I do not care much for the inconvenience which may arise. It is true, as my noble Friend has stated, that expense will be incurred in bringing the men home from distant colonies. That cannot 1341 be helped; the troops must be brought home at any cost. It is a great hardship upon regiments to be kept abroad, as they are now, for 20, 25, or 26 years. Many persons think that the present measure will greatly improve the service. As I before said, I hope that will be the result, though I am not so sanguine as to expect it. All that I can say is, that I shall do my best to carry the measure into execution, and to see it fairly adopted; and being convinced that it can be adopted without the risk of losing the services of the old soldiers of the Army, and being certain that it is the wish of Her Majesty's Ministers, as it is mine, to retain the old soldiers in the Army, I earnestly recommend your Lordships to let this measure pass. My Lords, the noble Earl has referred to two other questions, namely, the question relating to pensioners, and the question relating to punishments. With respect to the pensioners, I beg to warn the noble Earl, and I beg to warn your Lordships, against the belief that the old soldiers who are in the way of receiving pensions, are at all to be compared with the veterans of whom I have been talking. These veterans are the leaders of their regiments—they are the mainstay of the service. The pensioners may be very good men; they may do very well when embodied in another form, or even when embodied with those veterans; but they are not the men of whom I have been talking, who are the heart, and soul, and courage, and life, of a regiment. My opinion is that you will not lose these men by the measure you are now called upon to adopt. My opinion is that these men will re-enlist; I have no doubt that they will be induced to do so by the advantages held out to them. My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Earl in the observations he made relative to punishments. I sincerely wish that circumstances may enable us to diminish corporal punishment still more, and that at length it may be entirely abolished. The Mutiny Bill which was lately passed contains another measure, with the view of enabling the officers of the Army to do without corporal punishment. The Mutiny Bill authorizes the officers to commute sentences of corporal punishment for other punishments, which they are enabled to inflict. I have no doubt that use will be made of that authority, in order still further to diminish the amount of corporal punishment. I hope it will be found to have been still further diminished when the next return is laid before Par- 1342 liament; and that, finally, we may be enabled to put an end altogether to a punishment which is so much in opposition to the feelings of the country. My opinion is that this punishment or any other punishment has nothing whatever to do with the question of limited or unlimited enlistment. That which affects the character of the Army is the hardship of the service, the regularity of the discipline, the necessary severity of the discipline, the hardships which the men are obliged to undergo in long service in our colonies abroad—it is these things which affect the popularity of the Army. Punishment has not the smallest effect upon it. What I want to see is good conduct prevail by means of those inducements which produce good conduct among other classes of society—not by punishment, not by fear, but by good treatment and justice. I believe that these effects can be produced. I believe that the system of education which is encouraged by Her Majesty's Government will have a great effect in inducing that good conduct, and in rendering the soldier aware of the superior benefits he enjoys compared with other classes of men in the same ranks of life. I do not believe that the measure will have the effect apprehended from it by my noble Friend (Viscount Combermere), namely, the removal of the old soldier, and therefore I entreat your Lordships to adopt it.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
observed that after the speech of the noble Earl who had moved the second reading of the Bill, and of the noble Duke who had supported it, he could not for a moment suppose that the Government intended to do anything but what they professed, viz., to endeavour to ameliorate the condition of the soldier. He most sincerely believed that such was their intention; but he could not refrain from looking with much doubt and hesitation at the Bill now before them. The noble Earl who proposed the measure had told them that a short period of service would have the effect of inducing a better description of men to enlist in the ranks of the British Army, and, at the same time, he said that dismissal from the ranks would be the severest punishment that could be inflicted upon them. He (the Duke of Richmond) believed that considerable difficulty would arise in the Army at foreign stations or in regiments ordered to the coast of Africa, for instance, or the West Indies; but he did not believe that the West Indian colonics were disliked by 1343 the soldiers. The duty to be performed in the latter colonies was not as severe as the duty in Ireland, and, he believed, many men did not object to go there; but order a battalion of 1,000 men to Africa, let their head-quarters be at Sierra Leone, and he asked how many men who were within a few months of the expiration of their period of service would like to reenlist for that service? Not one; and the result would be, that if out of the battalion of 1,000 men 200 claimed their discharges after ten years' service, it would occasion the greatest dissatisfaction among the 800 who remained. He believed that at the present moment the Army, in point of morality, discipline, and general efficiency, was never better, an I that mortality had very much decreased in it. Now if it were generally and gradually progressing, why not let very well alone? If all those benefits which the Army now enjoyed, were obtained under the system of unlimited enlistment, why did they now wish to change it? The noble Duke told them, he recommended them to vote for the Bill, because its operation would not occasion the loss of the old and experienced soldiers. But suppose those soldiers had inducements offered to them to leave the Army, the country would lose the benefit of their services, and the desideratum of their continuance in the ranks would be lost to the country. He objected very much indeed to the period of service which this Bill proposed. What inducement did it afford? It provided that the recruit was to enlist for ten years, and if he wished, at the expiration of that time, he might enlist for eleven years. Now, he asked, if they were to pass any Bill (and he entirely denied that they ought), why not have made the period of the first service fourteen years, and of the second service seven? It would have been much better to have done so, and he trusted that his noble Friend opposite would see the necessity of taking this suggestion even now into consideration. The Bill as it stood was at all events clearly defective in one respect, namely, that it did not make any provision for the passage home of soldiers whose period of service expired while they were stationed in the colonies. It was nothing less than a mockery to tell a soldier whose period of service might happen to expire in New South Wales, that it was at his option to remain in the service, or to re-enlist, unless, in the event of his preferring the former, they provided him with 1344 a free passage home. The object of the Bill was declared to be that of introducing into the Army a better class of men, and inducing good conduct on the part of soldiers; but he very much questioned whether it would have any such effect. The surest way to insure those desirable objects was to increase the pension, and to give additional encouragement to the soldier. The necessity for a measure such as this was entirely superseded by the admirable arrangement introduced by Mr. Sidney Herbert, on the 3rd of December, 1845, whereby a regulation was made that a soldier who had been so well conducted as to receive two good-conduct stripes, should, at the end of a service of twelve years, be entitled to demand his discharge. That was a good measure, because it offered a great inducement to the men to behave well. The object of the Bill, as he had already stated, professed to be that of raising the character of the soldier; but he very much feared it would have a very different operation. The effect of the 10th Clause would be, or might be, that a soldier who had been transported for twelve years would be permitted to re-enlist. The Army would gain an oldish man, no doubt, to drill the recruits; but it was very much to be apprehended that he would drill them in habits and practices that were anything but desirable.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
He was far from saying that the present system was totally free from objection. He considered that the English nation treated their old soldiers, and particularly their wounded soldiers, in a most ungrateful manner. If a man lost his leg in action, a distinction was made as to the exact part of the limb in which amputation took place. He knew a case in point, in the person of a soldier in the 92nd Highlanders, who lost his leg in Holland. On coming home he received a pension of 9d. a day; but, finding this sum insufficient for the support of himself and his wife in their decline of life, he applied to the Chelsea Commissioners for an increase of his pension. The Commissioners, who answered his application with characteristic courtesy, wrote to him to say, that if the amputation had been above the knee his petition would be laid upon the board for 1345 decision; but, inasmuch as the doctor had thought fit to cut off the limb below the knee instead of above it, the poor man, although now nearly seventy years of age, was not allowed an increase of pension, and had still to endeavour to support existence on 9d. per day. It was said that the increase of soldiers' pensions would be attended with expense; but he liked it all the hotter for that, for the more expensive war was the better, as nations would be prevented from engaging thoughtlessly in it, as in olden times. He had to take exception to certain expressions which, in the course of the debate in another place, had fallen from his Friend the Secretary at War, who stated that unlimited enlistment was slavery for life. Well, they were going to keep 90,000 men in a state of slavery for life—was that a judicious thing for the Secretary for the War Department to tell the soldier? But he (the Duke of Richmond) denied that it was a slavery for life, for if a man chose to behave himself well, he would receive the good-conduct stripes, which would entitle him to receive his discharge in twelve years. If the Government wished to benefit their old soldiers, he would tell them what to do. Let them appoint old soldiers to such offices as they might be fit for: for instance, make them park-keepers, instead of giving such posts to the sons of voters for Members of Parliament. He should cordially support the Amendment.
LORD DE ROS
said, that the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) had rested his support of this measure on the likelihood of its detaining the old soldier in the service. He (Lord de Ros) much doubted whether there were sufficient inducements held out by Her Majesty's Government for that purpose. Considering the time and experience that were requisite to make a good cavalry or horse-artillery soldier, he thought the period of enlistment by far too short.
§ The DUKE of CLEVELAND
said, the Army was never in a more efficient state than at present, and yet the noble Earl (Earl Grey) said that it wanted great changes. How could this be? He could not reconcile such a contradiction. Time might have done something towards improving the habits of our soldiers; but he much doubted whether they were much better than when he commanded a regi- 1346 ment twenty-five years ago. It was said that this Bill would induce a better class of men to enlist, and that it would very much diminish the necessity of military punishments. If it would have that effect, he would support it; but he did not see how it could. He never knew an instance in which recruits, on enlisting, had preferred a limited service, and naturally for this reason, because a common soldier, when he enlisted, looked to the Army as a provision for the rest of his life. He thought twenty-one years the longest term which a soldier ought to be called upon to serve, for during fifteen out of the twenty he was generally on foreign service, and exposed to all the vicissitudes of climate, from hot to cold and from cold to hot. When the soldier served for twenty-one years, on the whole he thought he was entitled to a pension of 1s. a day; and after ten years' good service he would wish to see a rule made whereby he might be entitled to a pension of 6d. per diem. He thought the experiment about to be made hazardous and unnecessary, and regretted the Government had attempted it.
, who was in parts inaudible, said, he felt that he was presumptuous in addressing their Lordships upon this Bill, not having the honour to belong to the service to which it referred. He should certainly feel that presumption much more strongly, if, upon a question of this nature, he could believe that Her Majesty's Government had the support of the deliberate and favourable judgment of his noble Friend the noble Duke at the Table (the Duke of Wellington). It was true the noble Duke had intimated his intention of voting in favour of the second reading, and he (Lord Stanley) was well aware of the great impression which that determination must have upon the minds of their Lordships; but, if he (Lord Stanley) was not mistaken in his recollection of the words of the noble Duke, they tended only to express an intention not in his public character to oppose the proposition of Her Majesty's Government, although the noble Duke's private opinion was, that the measure was one of doubtful utility, and of no inconsiderable hazard. He (Lord Stanley) was decidedly of opinion that the measure was one which did not promise to realize the expectations held out by the noble Earl. It was one incurring an unnecessary risk, and therefore most unwisely interfered with the best and most efficient Army they had ever had in this country, 1347 and, he might add, the best that any country in the world could boast. It ran the risk of a dangerous interference, without holding out any reasonable prospect of gaining the advantages proposed. Even if the Bill were wholly unobjectionable—even if its principle were right, and it was wise and judicious to try the experiment of limited enlistment, there was no need of it; and, if no need, then it was not desirable that their Lordships should be called upon to sanction the measure. In 1806, when Mr. Windham brought forward his measure for limited enlistment in the Army—and their Lordships would bear in mind that that was the single instance and precedent adduced in support of the present measure—a precedent which the noble Duke had designated as a failure—when Mr. Windham brought forward that proposition in Parliament, the objection was taken, and repeatedly urged, and never answered, that, admitting the experiment to be reasonable, the Crown had full power by its own prerogative to make that experiment without asking Parliament for its sanction. The same remonstrance might now be justly made to the Government. This was not an enabling—it was a restraining Bill—it was a restriction upon the prerogative of the Crown—that prerogative, which, though it might not now be improperly exercised under the noble Earl opposite, might be, at some future time, exercised under the advice of very different opinions. He would repeat, that it belonged to the prerogative of the Crown, in this as well as in other kingdoms, to say under what terms, circumstances, and for what duration, the armies of the Sovereign should be recruited. It was the right of the Crown to enlist with or without limits. This prerogative conferred that power to the fullest extent. Why then, unnecessarily, hazardously, and, as many thought, unwisely, ordain that in future no man was to be enlisted except for a limited period? But what were the objects which the noble Earl contemplated by this measure? He thought he represented the noble Earl correctly when he stated, that he sought by it to make the service popular—to introduce a better class of persons into the Army—and to have a large portion of the population of this country trained to arms and ready to assist in the military defence of their country. His noble and gallant Friend, whom he did not see in his place, said, this Bill, so far from having a tendency to promote, had rather a tendency to check enlistment. 1348 He had a strong opinion that such might be the result. But let them see the arguments of the noble Earl in favour of the measure. The first hour, or hour and a half, of the noble Earl's speech, was occupied with statements exceedingly interesting and important; but they were interesting and important only as they bore upon the present condition of the soldier; for they had no sort of reference to the present Bill—not the slightest reference to any one of its provisions. There was not in that part of the noble Earl's speech the shadow of an argument bearing upon the provisions of this measure. Nay, more, not only was there no argument in favour of the Bill, but the whole tendency of those observations was to show that the Bill was wholly unnecessary. He alluded to the period of 1806, when Mr. Windham's Enlistment Bill was brought forward. The noble and gallant Duke (the Duke of Wellington) was then hardly known in connexion with the European Army. His experience was, of course, great; but yet he would appeal to him or to any gallant officer in the country, who knew by experience, or who had studied the history of the Army, if the Army, as it stood in 1806, was at all comparable to the Army of 1847? Successive Administrations had gone on since then improving the condition, of the soldier. The noble Duke had been also instrumental in that improvement. Did he say that improvement ought to stop? Far from it. In God's name let the Government go on and improve the condition of the soldier. Let them confer upon him all the advantages which the noble Earl had enumerated—let them go on with the reduction of corporal punishments—let them go on with the improvement of barracks—let them go on improving their rations—in making places of recreation—in forming military schools—in giving them libraries, and in making the Army as desirable as he anticipated. They were agreed on all these questions. But the question they then had to consider was, whether or no there was anything in that measure which would make the Army more efficient, better ordered, and more popular than it was; and if so, whether such prospective advantages would compensate for the risk. The single precedent by which the Bill could alone be supported was under very far different circumstances. There was a difficulty in procuring troops sufficient to fill up the vacancies occurring, and the country was in the midst of a dangerous, a bloody, and a protracted war. 1349 It was under these circumstances Mr. Windham brought forward his limited Enlistment Bill. Were there any such circumstances to justify the introduction of the present measure? The noble Earl said the Army was unpopular. Where was the proof that the Army was so? He could not see any dislike to entering the Army amongst that class from which the Army had been hitherto supplied. They entered readily enough into its ranks. The noble Earl had made the assertion—he wanted the proof. He knew no such proof. But he did know, that in the course of the last seven years 37,000 had been enlisted, and no less than 12,000 or 13,000 who offered themselves had been rejected. He knew, also, that recruits to the extent of 50,000 had offered, and that the average enlistment was only 10,000 or 11,000. Did that show the Army was unpopular? But the noble Earl said it was so. Then he demanded, once more, the proof. They had some experience on their side. He had collected a few figures in the course of the morning. He would not weary their Lordships, but he would just state some of them. But first, he would say that there was this difference between Mr. Windham's Bill and the present, that whereas the former applied only to a portion of the Army—and that to a small one—the present one applied to the whole Army. And yet, Mr. Windham complained most grievously in 1808, after the experience of some fourteen or sixteen months, of the success of his measure, and put in a clause enabling them to contrast fairly limited with unlimited enlistment. At the time of the war, there was, he admitted, an increased bounty for unlimited service; but that was soon materially diminished, and in a short time sank to almost nothing. He had then before him the returns of enlistment in the London district from 1817 down to 1828. The whole of that period was one of peace. From 1817 to 1828 the returns of limited and unlimited enlistment were concurrent in their regiments. Let them go to plain figures. If that limited service was so popular, let them see how the figures supported it. He found, by the returns before him, that from 1817 to 1828 12,006 were enlisted for an unlimited period. How many, did they think, were enlisted for limited service during the same period? He would tell them. Two hundred and eighteen men were all that chose the "popular" alternative. But he had a stronger case. He would take the Dublin 1350 district. In that district, during the period he had stated — from 1817 to 1828–39,687 men were enlisted. How many of these were for limited service? A very considerable number they would say, no doubt. How many thousands?—how many hundreds? Just ninety-five men. Ninety-five men, out of 39,687—the remainder preferring unlimited to the limited and "popular" enlistment. In the year 1829, it was thought that this experiment had been tried long enough. In that year, the Commander-in-Chief, by a general Order from the Horse Guards, directed that enlistment of recruits for limited service should be discontinued. If, then, Her Majesty's Ministers were now of opinion that their experiment was necessary, and if the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) thought it was safe, why not issue an order; because, by the testimony he (Lord Stanley) had produced, it required nothing more than an order from the Horse Guards to say, that henceforth limited service should be the rule of enlistment? Try your experiment, but don't call upon Parliament to sanction it. It was in the power of the Secretary of State to make the experiment upon his own responsibility without calling upon Parliament. But it was said, that this measure was to make the Army popular. The noble Earl was of opinion that the Army was at present unpopular. He (Lord Stanley) denied the fact. The noble Earl thought that this Bill would make the Army more popular. He (Lord Stanley) doubted the conclusion. The noble Earl had said, that the Bill would bring a better class of men into the Army. Now, what was the remark of the noble Duke upon that point? The noble Duke said, "The noble Earl says, that the Bill will bring a better class of men into the Army. If it do so, I shall be very glad to see it, but I must say I very much doubt it." That certainly was no very strong argument that the Bill would bring a better class. But why should there be a better class? Better, for what purpose? Better, in what way? Better, as soldiers? Where would they find better men than composed the British Army at the present time? They were as well disciplined, as gallant, and as well-conducted soldiers as any Army in the world. Did the noble Earl mean by the term "better," that tradesmen would enter the Army? In the first place, he (Lord Stanley) doubted whether the noble Earl would got them; and, in the next place, he very much ques- 1351 tioned whether, if he did get them, they would be better soldiers. If this country began to enlist their Army from lawyers' clerks, bankers' clerks, and that class of persons, the result would be that the Crown would not have a better class of soldiers, but that they would be the worst of soldiers and the most turbulent men in the Army. He (Lord Stanley) did not believe that unlimited service enticed bad men to enter the Army, and kept good men from it. With an Army of 100,000 men, he admitted it was more than they could expect, that all the men should be of unblemished character; but it was not a limited service that would change that character. The noble Earl had said, that the alternative of a limited service was a service for life. It was not so. It was for so long as the men were capable of serving. However, he (Lord Stanley) did not believe that recruits would enter the service calculating upon the term they would have to serve. If any such calculation should be made, it would be the rash, headstrong, and ungovernable boys, who, knowing that the term of enlistment was but for ten years, would in a moment of disobedience run from their masters and rush into the service. It was not the man himself, but his relatives, who cared about the period for which he was to serve, and they would look at the ten or twelve years proposed by this Bill as being as great a separation as the period of service at present required by the Army. If any recruit should draw a distinction in his mind between the two services, it would be only such scapegraces as those. The noble Earl seemed to desire that their service should be the same as the Continental service, and that the whole of their male population should be trained to arms. He (Lord Stanley) very much doubted the advantage of that system. He thought it most desirable that, when a man went into the Army, he should go with the view of making that as much his profession as any other party did who entered a civilian profession, make that the profession of his life. The soldier should feel that the Army was to be the field in which he was to display his exertions and capacities—he should feel that the duties of the soldier were those which he would have to perform as long as he was able—that the rewards to which he was to look were to be the rewards conferred upon him in case he conducted himself well—that it was the profession by which he was to live—that it was the profession which he ought to follow as long as he was 1352 able, and not merely for a period of ten or twelve years. But the noble Earl said, it was a great advantage to have the whole population of a kingdom trained in the use of arms. He thought, on the other hand, that such a system was liable to very grave objections. He did not, for a moment, doubt the advantages stated by the noble Earl, to have been reaped from the plan introduced by Lord Hardinge, when Secretary at War, the object of which plan was to keep the pensioners in close connexion with each other—to separate them from the evil influences to which they might be exposed. That was an admirable plan; but such was not the principle of that Bill. If the present Bill was to be carried out, men entering the Army would feel that nine-tenths of their lives might be devoted to civil professions, and that one-tenth only would have to be passed in the Army. Did they believe that the inducement which was offered by that Bill to a man to re-enlist, would be a sufficient consideration to any man to do so? The noble Earl said, he was desirous of making the Army popular, and he was also desirous of keeping good men in the Army. But then the noble Earl went on to express his hopes, that when that Bill had come into operation, they should have a fine military population. He meant to have a fine body trained up in the use of arms, ready to be called up in case of emergency. But then, after the noble Earl had talked so much of the benefits to be derived from such a body, the noble Duke at the head of the Table (the Duke of Wellington) said, that he did not believe that that Bill would have the effect of withdrawing the old soldiers from the Army. Now, one of two things must happen—either the Bill would withdraw the old soldiers from the Army—and then, as had been said by the noble Duke, it would seriously injure the character of the Army—or it would retain them, in which case the hopes of the noble Earl as to a military population would not be realized. It had been truly stated by the noble and gallant Duke, that the old soldiers in a regiment were of great advantage to the younger portion of it; that the younger soldiers profited much by their example; that they were guided by the influence and counsel of the old soldier; that, in fact, he was a sort of leader of his regiment; but all these advantages they would lose, if the hopes of the noble Earl were to be realized. The noble Earl said, that enlistment under the present system was very much like 1353 slavery for life; he, in fact, told the soldiers "you are soldiers for life." Now, he believed that such language coming from an individual holding the distinguished position of his noble Friend, would have a most injurious effect upon the discipline of the Army. But he did not believe that the Army believed the present service to be a sort of "slavery for life." He did not believe it. He did not say it disrespectfully—he meant he did not believe that the feeling in the Army was, or that the result would be, such as the noble Earl anticipated. He thought he had adverted to the three points which the noble Earl had placed before them, as to the want of popularity of the Army—as to the better class of men who would enter the Army under that Bill—and as to the advantage of having a population trained in the use of arms. He would say one word, and only one word, upon those remarks of his noble and gallant Friend whom he did not then see, who spoke with all the experience of an officer of very high character and very long service. He would wish to ask whence the desertion which he alluded to arose? Did they believe that desertion took place in consequence of the period of service which soldiers were then obliged to serve in the Army? Did desertion take place with the old men in the regiments? Why, it was notorious to every man who knew anything about regiments, that almost the whole of the desertion was from the recruits. He had a return from the British Army for the last eighteen years, which showed the greatest number of desertions that had taken place during any one year in that period to be 1,757. Of whom did they think that number of deserters was composed? Why, of the 1,757 who deserted, 1,177 men were recruits who deserted in the first year of their service, when they were, sick of their new labours, and tired of learning their new profession; when they were disgusted with the constant drilling to which they were unaccustomed: 170 more of the whole number of deserters consisted of men who had not been two years in the service, and 109 of such as had been two or three years; and of the whole number there were only 212 who had been five years in the service. With such facts before them, let him ask what ground they had for supposing that desertion would be prevented by that Bill? He begged to call their attention to some of the duties which the soldier had to perform, and to the calls which they made upon them. There was no Army in the world that was subject in time of peace to 1354 one half of the labour and fatigue to which the British Army was subject. Two-thirds of that Army were constantly abroad, protecting their foreign possessions. It had been the anxious desire of successive Administrations so to divide the Army, that every soldier should be ten years abroad, and five years at home: during ten years out of fifteen, and, he might say, twelve years out of sixteen, the British soldier was subjected to every variety of life; and they told him by that Bill that he was to have a right of claiming his discharge at the expiration often years. Suppose that after he had served nine years at home, he was sent out to India or Canada, and circumstances should occur in the country to which they sent him which rendered it necessary that his discharge should be delayed: he claimed his discharge, and they refused it. He was angry; he got, perhaps, half drunk; he was in a state of excitement, he was one of their best men—in fact, it was on account of excellence that they retained him—he quitted their service, and took his knowledge, experience, and discipline over to the other Power, whom they had intended to overrule by his aid. It was said, that in case of peace the commanding officers would be empowered to retain a man one year more than the specified period of service, and two years in case of war, if they should deem it necessary. But what was war? The operations in China and other countries where they had recently had engagements, were not wars. What were the cases of emergency in which it would be lawful for commanding officers to retain their men longer than the ten or twelve years specified in that Bill? Suppose a soldier claimed his discharge after having served the specified period abroad, and the commanding officer, on the plea of "emergency," refused to grant him his discharge: the soldier might bring the question before a court of law in England, on the ground that he had been unjustly detained by his commanding officer; and a jury would have to try the question between the commanding officer and the soldier, whether there had been such a state of affairs in India as constituted an emergency, that would justify the commanding officer in detaining the soldier. He believed that the great bulk of the improvements in the condition of the soldier, for which the noble Earl took credit on the part of the civil Government of the country, had been wrung from successive Administrations by the repeated and constant applications 1355 of the commanding officers of the regiments. The noble Earl said, and his noble and gallant Friend also said, "I know the feeling of commanding officers; I know that they would do a great deal to keep a good man; but I think that it is a dangerous inducement to say to a man, 'You are known to be a good man, and means will be taken to secure your advancement.'" He felt that he had to apologize to their Lordships for presuming to give an opinion on this subject, or to trouble them with any observations on a question on which he had had no experience; but looking at the results of the regulations of 1806, he thought he might be permitted to express his opinion that the anticipations of the noble Earl would not be realized. He believed that all the arguments of the noble Earl about the improved comforts of the soldier, only furnished the strongest arguments against the measure; but, above all, he felt that if this great experiment was to be tried, the responsibility of trying it ought to rest with the Executive Government—with the constitutional advisers of the Crown. He entreated them not to let Parliament be forced to take a part in that unwise interference with the Army. He asked their Lordships not to take a part in that interference; or make themselves partners in a responsibility which did not properly belong to them. He called upon them, notwithstanding all the arguments in favour of the Bill—notwithstanding the speech of the noble and gallant Duke—he called upon them to say, "This responsibility shall rest with the advisers of the Crown," and to refuse to give their sanction to this most unnecessary and dangerous Bill.
§ The EARL of HARDWICKE
begged their Lordships to pause before they determined to give their support to this measure, which he feared would prove prejudicial to the interests of the Army and the country generally. If their Lordships decided that this Bill, which related to the Army only, should be passed into a law, they might depend upon it that they would see a Bill introduced for the purpose of granting similar privileges to the marines. He therefore called upon their Lordships not to treat the subject lightly.
§ The MARQUESS of LANSDOWNE
(who was very imperfectly heard), was understood to say that the Crown could not risk the responsibility of such a measure as the one before the House. He felt confident that the Bill was not liable to the objections made to it by the noble Lord (Lord (Stanley). 1356 He was fully convinced that the measure now under the consideration of their Lordships would have the effect of popularising the Army, and of enlarging the field of selection. If the noble Duke near him (the Duke of Wellington) had made the remark imputed to him, "that he saw in the measure no inconsiderable degree of danger," he (the Marquess of Lansdowne) would most probably have withheld his assent to the measure. But, independent of the authority of the noble Duke in support of the measure, the Government had the benefit of experience in their favour. A considerable portion of the Army in Canada were entitled to their discharge, and many others would be so in the course of a short time; but he had been informed by an officer who had recently returned from that, country that although desertion had formerly been very common, not one of those soldiers who had now the prospect of being discharged had deserted. He believed that the alteration proposed would so much improve the service, that men would afterwards enter with the consent of those who were the most near and dear to him.
said, that he should not trouble their Lordships at any great length, on account of the fatigue which he had suffered from attendance to the judicial business. Many of their Lordships had been in the House since five and six o'clock; but he himself had been there since ten o'clock in the morning, and was now thoroughly worn out by business and want of sustenance. Although he complained of want of sustenance, he had to admit that he had been sustained and edified, as well as amused, by the able speeches he had heard; but he laboured under a want of that sustenance which one generally expected after thirteen hours' work. He would fain not enter into the present debate at all, seeing that he had no military knowledge or experience to make his observations carry any weight, and upon that account he would willingly have dispensed with making any observations; but still he felt he was bound to state his view of the measure before their Lordships. He must say that he was more alarmed than he could well express at the measure before the House. At the same time he felt bound to say, that if he could believe the measure was heartily approved, or even really sanctioned by the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), the highest of all authority on such a subject; if he could believe that the Government had brought it forward on the recommen- 1357 dation of the Commander-in-Chief, then he should feel not only diffidence but shame in setting up his opinion or stating his fears against that noble Duke's transcendent authority. But in point of fact, the Commander-in-Chief never recommended the proceeding; the Commander-in-Chief was the last man in England who would have made such a recommendation; and if there was any man who could, before this night, have supposed there was a possibility of his giving such an advice—if there was any man who had so far forgot his noble Friend's usual circumspection, which was so large, and his sagacity, which was so great, and his providence, winch was so safe—and no one who knew the sagacity, the circumspection, and providence of his noble Friend, could entertain a doubt that he never could have proposed such a measure; but let any such man, if such there was, cast his recollection back upon the last hour or so of the debate, and remember the manner in which his noble Friend lent his support—he would not say his sparing, parsimonious, stingy, support — but he would only say his most moderate support, to this measure, accompanied by his reasons, which told all against it, and then believe, if he could, that the measure could have been recommended by his noble Friend. They must have observed the warning which he gave; that warning went to guard his own consistency, which needed no defending, and his wisdom, which needed no protection—the warning which he gave Government as to the proceedings they were now taking. He (Lord Brougham) never could forget what this reminded him of, having read under the noble Duke's own hand his reply to a gentleman who had asked for materials to write a history of the battle of Waterloo. The noble Duke said—"If you wish it, I will give you the information; but my advice is, leave the battle of Waterloo alone." Now, his (Lord Brougham's) advice was, "leave the English Army alone." It was the best Army, he believed sincerely, the best composed, the best trained, and the best commanded Army in Europe or the world, or that the world ever saw or was likely over to see again. The noble Duke had given them a most solemn answer to the question that had been raised as to the danger of the measure. It went to the heart of every one who heard it; and it awakened the suspicions and aroused the fears of many. The fears which were awakened had refer- 1358 ence to disastrous possibilities which might happen; possibilities only, if you will, but that was quite enough for him. He was not bound to show ruin and destruction as flowing from this measure, or from any other charge. But the bare possibility of injury to the Army, that Army which the noble Duke had led on to conquest—and such an Army! the possibility, and the not remote possibility, of mischief accruing to it, was enough to excite fear and alarm. What the noble Duke had said, and his elaborate and earnest manner of saying it, respecting the "old soldiers," who were the strength and heart of the Army, was enough to awaken his suspicions not only as to the consequences of this measure, but as to the Duke's original opinion of it. He concluded that the reason why the Bill was not made retrospective was perfectly evident—the promoters of the measure did not wish to lose the services of the old soldiers, but also they durst not encounter the opposition of the noble Duke. The speech of the noble Mover, and the speech of his noble Friend who last addressed the House, furnished that opposition of one argument to another, that self-destructive array of diverging reasons, which usually left the hearer incapable of saying which side was the stronger. The noble Duke's speech was plainly made against another Bill; it was directed against the Bill as at first framed, and that Bill no longer existed. It had been changed to escape the noble Duke's opposition; but he delivered his speech all the same. There was the greatest inconsistency in the statements which had been made in favour of the Bill; and the Bill itself was full of contradictions. The object was, as it had been expressed, to popularize the Army; and the effect would be to leave the inducements to entering it just as they stood. It was a delusion to suppose that such a measure would facilitate the recruiting service. It was now always in the power of the Commander-in-Chief to issue a prohibitory order, preventing any enlistment except for limited service; and this was, in effect, an Act for removing the power and option, and prohibiting the Crown from enlisting except for limited periods. This interference was most injudicious and most dangerous. They fixed periods of ten years and twelve years for the enlistment; but if a recruit was guilty of bad conduct then, to raise the character of the service, he was dismissed at once. Was not this an inconsistency—was not this favouring the bad 1359 soldier? He (Lord Brougham) disliked all interference between the Crown and the soldier; and he must disapprove of every measure which went to restrain the power of the Crown in dealing with enlistments, for all such measures necessarily placed the Army and the Crown in a most invidious and perilous posture towards each other. The Bill was likely to produce the greatest discontent among those 27,000 men whose enlistment was for an unlimited time; it would proclaim to all those men that the service was one to be avoided, and that they suffered the severest hardship in not being at once liberated from their engagements. There was not a word which had been said in that House that night which would not be the subject of conversation in every canteen in England; and was it to be thought that discontent would not be produced in our colonics, especially among the native troops in India, when it became known that every speaker, on every side, in their Lordships' House had declared that the Army was ill treated, and that the pensions which were received after long service were altogether inadequate as a reward for the duty already performed, and the duty still expected to be clone? He did not blame noble Lords for having expressed that opinion; it was the inevitable result of the debate. His late Friend, Mr. Windham, had a notion—at the time it was called a crotchet, but now it might be called a notion—that the country and the service would be gainers by enlistments being made limited: that notion was not shared in by any of the noble Lords opposite who were then in the Ministry; and the notion was pursued altogether contrary to the views and wishes he would not say of every one of Mr. Windham's Colleagues, but certainly of all their supporters, who all were sick of his crotchets. For these reasons, holding that the Bill was absolutely useless, needless, superfluous; holding that it would do harm instead of good; holding, even by the admission of its promoters and authors, that it was only to do that by statute which it was now in the power of the Crown to do without statute, he felt himself bound to give to it his most strenuous and firm opposition.
§ EARL GREY
would trouble their Lordships with a few words in reply. He was well aware of the distinguished talents of the noble and learned Lord (Lord Brougham); he was well aware of the noble and learned Lord's command of language and power of expressing himself, so marvellous to the listener and to the 1360 hearer: but he was also aware, and he did not learn the fact now for the first time, that the noble and learned Lord never displayed his abilities more astonishingly than when dealing in romance; and much of the reasoning of the noble and learned Lord on this occasion was based on romance. The statement made by the noble and learned Lord in reference to the proposition of Mr. Windham, was not only not accurate, but directly the reverse of the fact. The noble and learned Lord impressed on them the expediency of leaving the British Army alone. Why, that advice might have been given with as much reason preliminary to the adoption of any of the improvements which had been effected during the last ten years; and, strange to say, that advice on every occasion had been given by the noble and learned Lord himself. But the noble and learned Lord had himself given him a justification. In June, 1811, the noble and learned Lord made a speech against flogging in the Army; he did not then say, "Let the Army alone!" But in the general tissue of error of which the noble and learned Lord's speech that night was composed, he did think he would have contrived to be right on a point of law. The noble and learned Lord said they had no business to effect the change by Act of Parliament; why did they not do it by the Royal prerogative? This was very remarkable; for the noble and learned Lord had recently found extreme fault with the Government for taking on itself to issue an Order in Council in a matter in which Parliament distinctly authorized it to do so. But he could further inform the noble and learned Lord (and it was remarkable he should be ignorant of it), that, in time of peace, the Crown had no power to enlist troops except by virtue of an Act of Parliament. One of the earliest measures of the Revolution was a declaration that the maintenance of a standing Army in time of peace, otherwise than with the consent of Parliament, was contrary to law. In time of peace, the Crown could not enlist one man, except under the Mutiny Act, and as that Act provided; and if the House did not pass the present Bill, men would not be raised for ten years' service. Instead of being unnecessary, it was absolutely required. The Mutiny Act, though passed every Session, was not generally printed. What would the noble and learned Lord have said, had the Government altered the schedules of the Mutiny Act, of which no one would have been aware till it received the Royal Assent? Would 1361 that have been proper? Was it not the fairer course to come down to Parliament boldly, stating the purpose of changing the law, and explaining the grounds on which they asked their Lordships to consent to it? He would only allude to one other point that had been mentioned by the noble and learned Lord, and other noble Lords who had addressed the House. He (Earl Grey) had been misrepresented as having described the state of the British soldiery as one of slavery. Nothing could be more inconsistent with what he really said; he had argued that, practically, they did not retain men in the Army for life. He had shown that men with good-conduct marks could obtain their discharge after twelve years' service, and without those marks at the end of fifteen years. He showed that this privilege of obtaining a discharge was not used to any considerable extent; and his argument on that was, if the longer service was voluntary, was it good policy to keep up a law which made it apparently a system of slavery and compulsion? They ought to make the law correspond with the practice. Men did not stay in the Army beyond those terms by force, but because it presented an advantageous career. He had contended, that changing the law would have a good effect on the relations of those young men who might enlist; at present the great objection in their minds was, that a young man was contracting an engagement for life. At the present moment there were nearly 27,000 men in the Army who might have their discharges by asking for them.
explained what he stated of Mr. Windham's measure to be this—that it was regarded as injurious to the Government by the friends of the Ministers, not by Mr. Windham's Colleagues. But he found he had understated the case; a noble Friend sitting near him informed him that a person then holding a high office, speaking of the measure, used this somewhat coarse phrase, "We must get rid of this man and his plans together." He would give the name of this person to the noble Marquess opposite, and he would understand the likelihood of such an expression having been used.
§ Their Lordships divided:—Contents, present 64; Proxies 44: 108:—Not content, 53; Proxies 41: 94:—Majority 14.1363
|List of the CONTENTS.|
|Galloway||Monteagle of Brandon|
|Suffolk and Berkshire||Leigh|
|Albemarle||Stuart de Decies|
|Fitzhardinge.||Stanley of Alderley|
|List of the NON-CONTENTS.|
|Winchester.||Leven and Melville|
|Moray||Willoughby de Broke|
|Brooke and Warwick||Grantley.|
|Earl of Leicester||Earl of Lauderdale|
|Earl Speneer||Earl of Charville|
|Earl of Radnor||Lord Walsingham|
|Earl Ducie||Marquess of Salisbury|
|Lord Beauvale||Lord Gardner|
|Lord Crewe||Lord De Lisle|
|Lord Langdale||Lord Willoughby de Eresby|
|Marq. of Conyngham||Viscount Strangford|
|Earl of Fingal||Duke of Montrose|
|Marquess of Donegal||Lord Boston|
§ House adjourned.