HL Deb 18 May 1847 vol 92 cc1019-40

On the Order of the Day for the recommitment of the Bill being read,

EARL GREY moved, "That the House do now resolve itself into such Committee."


said, he hoped he might be permitted to occupy a small portion of their Lordships' time on this most important military measure; and he craved with confidence their indulgent permission, because the noble Earl who introduced the measure had done him the honour in his unavoidable absence to animadvert upon and answer some points in his former address; and although he was sensible of that noble Earl's condescension, yet he thought the speech of a noble Earl (the Earl of Cardigan) on the same evening, and who was present on the last occasion, would have been far higher game for the noble Lord to have grappled with, inasmuch as it was a far better speech than his, and the noble Lord's antagonist would have been before him. However, as the speech of the noble Earl deserved every respect on his part, and as still further a most unexpected, and he must candidly say rather complicated, speech of his illustrious friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington) had been delivered in that House since he presumed to raise his voice against this Bill, he now ventured to address their Lordships. The noble Earl had said, that he (the Marquess of Londonderry) considered the Bill as apart from the measures adopted in former years, whereas it was the continuation of a course of policy long pursued. He certainly to that pleaded guilty, and admitted that he had argued the Bill on the limited service alone. He did not refer to or go into all the improvements of our military interior details for twenty-five years, which the noble Earl had no more to do with than the child unborn. But he denied that he had asserted it was great presumption for Her Majesty's Government, who had not seen any service, and as civilians, to take up the subject of improvement of the Army. But he did say, that in their alterations they should be fortified by, and should have received, the advice of general officers of high service, rank, and talent in the Army. For that reason he had moved, as Mr. Yorke did in 1806, for the opinions of such general officers. The noble Earl was certainly right in stating that the Government could command such; but if he had received them, and they were favourable to his plan, would he not have produced them? The noble Earl, however, gave his answer to his own observations, for would he deny that if he had not at the last squeezed out the military opinion and vote at least of the Duke of Wellington, he would never have carried his Bill? And did not their Lordships (as the country and Army he was sure would admit) agree with him that without that great professional vote, which greatly neutralized every other military opinion, the Bill would have been lost? The drift of his (the Marquess of Londonderry's) argument, according to the noble Earl's opinion, was, that there should be no interference with the present system, but to let well alone, at least as to the introduction of limited service; but undoubtedly he did not mean to disapprove of any wise regulations and improvements the Commander-in-Chief of the Army and the Government might think proper to recommend. But he wanted the sentiments of the Army authorities on these monstrous innovations. He desired to have the opinions of our illustrious field-marshals, the heads of the Army, and general officers; knowing that if the Army was consulted, the very large majority, ay nine-tenths, would he against this new plan. The noble Lord, then, with much eloquence, seemed to have admitted the prowess of our arms under our invincible leader, and then he launched into a most eloquent harangue as to the deeds of his predecessors for twenty-five or thirty years, and told them of regimental savings-banks—the change as to corporal punishment—the powers of general courts-martial restricted—imprisonment substituted for the lash—comforts for the soldier's condition in barracks—health of troops on their colonial service, and supply of provisions—great encouragement for good soldiers under Mr. Sidney Herbert's Bill of 1843—regimental schools, &c. The practical effects of all these improvements the noble Earl most forcibly and most eloquently enumerated. But what had they to do with the actual measure of limited service, which had been tried over and over again, and had always failed? and the noble Lord did not, in all this beautiful statement, touch the question before the House. It really was like a quack doctor, who was called in by chance, and gave a little white powder, and then launched into all the benefits of the remedy, and took credit for the scientific system of years previously pursued by the regularly bred faculty. The noble Earl then entered into some not very complimentary observations to commanding officers of regiments, on which, differing with him in toto, he was not inclined to say all he thought. He stated that the indirect effect of the ten years' enlistment system on the commanding officers would be highly beneficial; for, when they knew, at the end of ten years, the soldier had the power, if he thought fit, to leave his regiment, they would study much more than they now did the comfort and welfare of the soldiers, and endeavour to make them more happy in their ranks. With great respect to the noble Earl, he would tell him, as an old commanding officer, that he never was more mistaken in his life, both as to the conduct and character of the majority of commanding officers of Her Majesty's Army. Then, concluding his speech, the noble Lord called on their Lordships to adopt the Limited Service Bill, without saying one single word as to its effects on the discipline, or the feelings, the jealousies, the injustice, between the old soldiers and the new, which it entailed on the Army. He now came to a much more extraordinary matter, and attended by more important consequences, than the noble Earl's able and long oration to their Lordships. Had his noble and illustrious Friend given his opinion, or rather intimated his vote, at an early stage, it was more than probable that his great devotion and respect for his illustrious Commander would have enforced his silence. With the greatest possible attention he had read over and over again that speech, and he could only say, as an old soldier, that he cordially embraced what he understood to be the sentiments of the speech; but he deplored the vote. To presume to characterize that speech was not his province. He must leave it in the hands of the noble and learned Lord, and the able leader of Her Majesty's Opposition. But he thought he could confidently assert, that the noble Earl opposite could not be very well satisfied with the speech, though he might hug himself most lovingly as to the vote; while he (the Marquess of Londonderry), on his part, deplored the vote, and was satisfied that the Army should construe the opinions in that now celebrated speech as they thought proper. He might, however, now be permitted to observe upon the construction of that speech, and that of the right hon. Secretary at War, both advocating this same Bill now before their Lordships. He thought the Secretary at War followed up his opinions by saying—"What an excellent rural force these men of ten years would make hereafter, by acting when they received their reserved pensions, if necessary, behind walls and houses." Possibly the right hon. Gentleman was thinking of a French invasion, and conveying these his new experimental levies hereafter over the border. But to return to the Bill, and nothing but the Bill—his objections to it were in a few words, and so strong in his mind, that no Amendment, he thought, could avert the evil. It was injurious to discipline. They placed two men alongside each other in the same rank and service in a totally different position. The old men might be termed the Sepoys of the Army; the limited men the experimental levies. There was evident prejudice to the old soldier. There was a mere chance or surmise if by re-enlistment after ten years they would get the old soldiers to remain or not. They might lose a large number of them at a moment the Army's service might be most required. They gave to the new soldier a right of discharge when he had voluntarily enlisted under the present Mutiny Act, which should alone be held and exercised by the commanding officer and Commander-in-Chief. As to arguing dissatisfaction of the men and desertions from the unlimited service, it was clear from returns on the Table they did not exist. In seven years there were only 2,000 for limited service, and in the same period 22,000 unlimited. Much more might be said. It was understood that in the event of the Duke's support, there would be an increase of pensions to the present Army; but he yet feared that Her Majesty's Government had no intention whatever of raising the pensions. It had been argued by the promoters of the measure that they would obtain a better description of men. Where were they to come from? Did they want them morally or physically better? Look at the Household Brigade, the finest troops in Europe. Compare those men with any others, where would be found a better description? This idea, therefore, was a perfect fallacy. He could not help, however, remarking, that even in this measure the noble Duke admitted, that though he was willing to give it a trial, yet that it was an experiment. They knew, as a matter of history now, that they had been and were blessed with a Government of "all the talents." He thought that they were now about to be again blessed with one of "all the experiments." They had experiments in Irish Poor Laws, in finance, in railways, and, last and worst of all, in Army ser- vices—worst, because it was an old experiment that had over and over again failed. But, if this measure was to be carried, he could not help bitterly lamenting, and all the Army, who opposed the measure, would deplore, that it had been so unfairly treated, and so strangely, if not cunningly, carried. In the House of Commons it was always introduced very late in the evening, if not towards the morning; at no time were there more than 140 Members in the House, and they were mostly Government placemen, and the division was not above forty or fifty strong. The Bill was then sent up to their Lordships; and he could not but with all due respect remark, that in spite of the noble Duke's vote assisting the Government, the Bill was carried at the second reading by a very small majority; constituted of the votes of a certain light political section, who came to the rescue of the Government, although not one of them was pleased, any more than their great political head, to give the House any reasons which, he owned, he had expected from it; and also by the aid of certain prelates—the right rev. the Bishop of St. Asaph, the right rev. the Bishop of Worcester, the right rev. the Bishop of Salisbury; and, he lamented personally to add, the Lord Bishop of Durham. To these rev. personages then, and to the section he had adverted to, let it be observed, the Army owed this revolution. He hoped the right rev. Prelates would even now give them the opinion of their military friends whom they met after their vote upon this measure; for it was quite clear they must have been advised and directed by them, as he was sure none of the right rev. Bench would stand up in their places and admit they knew anything, or ever did know anything, of a soldier, of his discipline in camp, quarters, or in the field, or of his feelings as to the service in which he was engaged. The noble Marquess concluded by moving to leave out "now," and insert "this day six months."


confessed that it was very painful to him to offer any opposition to a Bill connected with the Army which had received the support of the noble Duke; and he would have felt greater pain were it not that he recollected the very qualified support which the noble Duke gave to it in his speech. One of the avowed objects was to enlist into the Army a superior class of recruits, and yet the noble Duke did not consider that such would be its result; whilst the other object was to make the Army more popular; but, considering the recent increase in the Army, and the readiness with which the ranks were filled, their Lordships would not suppose that the Army as it existed was an unpopular force. It must be remembered that the British Army, unlike other armies, was dispersed all over the world, and he could not see how the Bill could be carried out when the term of service expired; certainly, it could not be accomplished without great expense, and certainly not without great inconvenience. When the Bill was in force, the changes in colonies must be more frequent than at present; this would involve great expense, and it was the duty of Parliament to consider whether such an expenditure was proper or necessary. Was the battalion to which the men belonged to lose its term of colonial service? If so, it would create the greatest possible confusion; and if their places were to be filled by draughts from other regiments, it would destroy the esprit de corps. With regard to the pensions, there was no doubt that the addition of 2d. to the 6d. would be considered a been to the Army; and if the Government were anxious to make the Army still more popular than at present, they would give fair rewards for services, and enable the soldiers to settle down afterwards. He thought it desirable to tie the men down to good conduct by the interest they felt in their pensions. But if they dispersed a discontented military body over the country, they would find it formidable for mischief, and an assemblage formed from them would be more difficult to deal with than the ordinary population. He thought that all the advantages of the proposed plan, without its manifold disadvantages, might have been attained by effecting improvements in the condition of the soldier. At all events, if a limit were resolved upon, he thought the first period should be longer, say fourteen years, and the second shorter, say seven years. At the end of the first period the soldier would have arrived at a time of life which admirably adapted him for pursuing his profession; and were good encouragement offered, his belief was that in the majority of cases the soldier would re-enlist. As to the officers, the great majority were opposed to the Bill—he believed that, generally speaking, the officers looked upon it as a dangerous and visionary measure. He did not presume to think that his opinion would have the slightest weight with their Lordships. He was well aware that as a military man he had not seen much active service; and, after a period of thirty years of peace, few officers, comparatively speaking, could bring the experience which was gained in a time of war to bear upon such a question. But let the weight be what it might which was attached to his opinions, they were the honest opinions of a Member of their Lordships' House, and of one who had sincerely at heart the welfare of that profession to which he had the honour to belong.


said, that as he did not understand that the noble Marquess or the noble Earl who had addressed their Lordships in opposition to the Bill, intended to oppose it in a substantive manner, he would not occupy time in repeating arguments in reply which had already been addressed to their Lordships. Instead, therefore, of repeating any argument which had been previously used, he would mention one fact which had come to his knowledge since the measure had been discussed. There was now serving a gallant officer, who, in consequence of his good conduct as a private and a non-commissioned officer, had received a commission without purchase; and his opinion having been asked of the proposed measure, his answer was, "All that I can say is, I have been all my life in the Army, but I never enlisted for life; I was a seven years' man."


said, that this was only a solitary instance out of 82,000; and he disapproved of the Bill.

Amendment withdrawn,

House in Committee.

On Clause 1 being read.

The EARL of LUCAN moved, as an Amendment, that twelve years' service be substituted for ten years in the infantry, and fourteen years for twelve in the cavalry, artillery, or other ordnance corps. It might appear a small matter to propose an increase of two years to the period of service; but, in his opinion, it was of great importance. The last two years of a twelve years' service were the most valuable portion of the whole period. In making this proposition, he disclaimed on his part, and he thought he might do so on the part of the officers of the military profession generally, being actuated by any party spirit whatever. The principle of the Bill having been adopted by the House of Commons, and by their Lordships, all he now sought was to make the measure as little mischievous as possible. He entreated their Lordships, that while passing this Bill they would not deprive the country of the services of the old soldier, whose continuance in the Army was absolutely necessary to its very existence.


observed, that those noble Lords who did him the honour to listen to the speech he delivered on moving the second reading of this Bill, would recollect that he declared it to be his wish that such a system should be introduced into the Army as should make the being discharged from the service considered not as a reward, but as a punishment. That was the main object and scope of the whole Bill. He wished it to be considered a reward of merit to be allowed to continue in the Army, rather than a punishment to be retained in it. This principle, he conceived, applied to the Amendment now proposed by the noble Earl. When a man had served for a period of ten years, and had not proved to be a good soldier, it was perfectly just that the commanding officer should have it in his power to say to such a man—"I will not allow you to continue with us. The bargain was for ten years. It is at an end; you may go and seek a livelihood somewhere else." This to a man who had only served ten years, while it was just, would not be severe, because it might be fairly presumed that he would then be in the prime of life, and capable of getting a livelihood in some other occupation. But it would be a very different thing if the period of service were to be prolonged, and the man were to be retained in the Army to a time of life when he would not be qualified to provide for himself in any other pursuit. If they were to adopt this measure at all, he did not see any advantage that was to be derived from the Amendment of the noble Earl. If they were to try the experiment of limited enlistment, let them try it fairly, as he believed it would be under this measure.


was in favour of the Amendment. At the end of ten years a man might be turned adrift without good reason; and, if he had a wife and children, they would be looked upon as an encumbrance. What would become of a man in such circumstances as that, without a pension, and, in all probability, without any means of supporting himself?


said: I shall confine myself to the Amendment of the noble Earl, because on a former occasion I stated my reasons for thinking that your Lordships might safely adopt the principles of this Bill, and that there is every reason to believe that you will retain the old soldiers in the Army under the Bill as it stands. I stated my reasons on that occasion, and I only revert to them now to state that they have not been at all shaken by what has passed during this debate. My opinion is, that the advantages held out to soldiers by the warrants issued by Her Majesty and the late Sovereign, which ensured good conduct as far as it can be ensured by law, and which give to the soldiers that which is best for them—the habits of good conduct—more especially by the warrant recently issued, securing to a man at the end of his twenty or twenty-one years' service, together with the good-service money which he may have received during the twenty or twenty-one years, a pension amounting altogether to 1s. a day —that these advantages do give us every reason to believe that the services of the old soldiers will be retained with their regiments; and that being the case, I think that that which it is most desirable to retain will be retained for Her Majesty's service. I sincerely wish that this new state of things in the Army may enable Her Majesty's Government and the officers in command to make a discharge from the Army considered a punishment. That is a most desirable object—and this feeling does exist in two or three regiments. It exists, I believe, in the troops which are immediately about Her Majesty's person. I wish to see the same object attained in all parts of the service; and the system proposed by this Bill does, I think, give a prospect that it may be attained. Then the noble Earl comes and says that it may be attained by twelve years as well as ten; and another noble Lord, a noble Friend of mine, has another curiosity of his own—by which he thinks the same object may be attained. My Lords, there may be many modes by which it may be accomplished; but this is the mode proposed by Her Majesty's Government, and adopted by the other House of Parliament, and therefore I recommend your Lordships to adhere to the mode proposed in the Bill now before you. I do not think the noble Lord has made out any case for his proposition; I beg your Lordships to keep that object steadily in your view, the object of retaining the old soldiers in your service during the whole time that they are capable of rendering service, that is, until they are forty years of age, and my opinion is that that may be attained as well with ten as twelve years. Make dismissal a serious punishment, and in the meantime retain the services of the old soldiers as long as you can. I confess that I do not understand exactly the meaning of the noble Earl when he speaks of the object to be attained by allowing commanding officers to get rid of bad soldiers at the end of their term of service; for they may be got rid of as easily at ten as at twelve years. But, my Lords, I do not want to get rid of the services of any men; and my opinion is for the adoption of the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Government, believing that in the allowance for good service, and in the pension of 1s. per day, the great object which I have stated will be attained, There is only one other point to which I will refer relating to the question at large, I mean the difficulty and inconvenience of providing for the relief of troops under the Bill as it stands; but I entreat your Lordships to remember, throughout the consideration of this question, that the law of this country has invariably enabled the Government to raise men for seven, fourteen, or twenty-one years' service; it has always been in the power of the Government to order an enlistment for any period; and the person filling the office which I have the honour to hold must have obeyed the order. Now, as to the inconvenience and difficulty attending the relief of troops, the Government is perfectly aware that it is bound to provide for the removal of all, and for the relief of troops at the proper period. In respect to climate, the noble Marquess appears to have forgotten that every regiment serving abroad has a depôt of men in this country, to fill up the places of those who are serving abroad; and it will, of course, be the business of the officers to take care that men are sent out regularly to fill up vacancies as they occur in the regiments abroad. Such an arrangement will undoubtedly entail expense, and the expense must be incurred; but if the service derives advantage from the system, for that expense the country will, in my opinion, be amply compensated. I see no reason, my Lords, for the Amendment proposed by the noble Earl. I do not think that the principles upon which the Bill rests have been at all shaken by this night's discussion; and I cannot, therefore, recommend your Lordships to adopt the Amendment.


I have not the presumption to enter into discussion upon these points with the noble and gallant Duke; but he will forgive me for saying, that to a certain extent I think he has misunderstood the object and intention of the noble Earl who proposed the Amendment, and that he has also, in some degree, misapprehended the effect and principle of the Bill as it stands. The noble Duke has stated truly, that if this Bill had not been introduced, it would be competent for Her Majesty's Government to introduce, by their own authority, the provisions of this Bill; and that, my Lords, is one of the reasons why I say that we need not and ought not to be called upon to interfere with the authority of Parliament in a matter for which the ordinary powers of the Executive Government are sufficient. Therefore, I am not in the least alarmed by the announcement which the noble Earl opposite has thought proper to make, that on the adoption of the Amendment of the noble Earl he should not feel it his duty to proceed further with the measure; and it is not an announcement which will, I think, alarm the military portion of those whom I have the honour to address. But when the noble Duke goes oh to say that this Bill must be better than the present state of the law, because it is now competent to the Government to order the Commander-in-Chief to give directions for an enlistment for even a more limited period than the Bill proposes, I beg to remind your Lordships that that power of the Executive Government is not taken away by this Bill. This Bill does not prevent the enlistment for a shorter, but it does prevent the enlistment for a longer, period than ten years: it deprives the Government of the power of enlisting for fourteen or twenty-one years; but it does not deprive the Government of the power of doing that which the noble and gallant Duke would, I believe, condemn in common with every officer in the service and every Member of this House, of ordering an enlistment for a period shorter than ten years. It takes away the power of extending the enlistment, but it leaves the Government as competent to order an enlistment for seven years as they were previous to the passing of this Bill. The difficulty of dealing with this question would, I think, be greatly simplified, if we could be sure that we were all aiming at the same object. Now, my object is the same as that of the noble and gallant Duke, and of the noble Lords connected with the Army, who have opposed the Bill. We wish to retain the old soldiers in the Army at the expiration of their first period of service; but I am not quite sure that the object of the noble Earl opposite is the same. I rather incline to think that he is not so anxious to secure that object as he is to carry into effect his own favourite project of veteran battalions, and to induce the old soldiers to quit their regiments for the purpose of entering the veteran battalions. My noble and gallant Friend has also misunderstood, if he will allow me to say so, what my noble Friend said about the power of the officers to get rid of bad men in the Army. What my noble Friend said was, that he would not oppose the principle of limited enlistment, because it had this redeeming quality, that in a given period of time, whether ten or twelve years, at the expiration of that time it would give the commanding officer the power to get rid of bad men. But my noble Friend advanced that argument, not on the question whether the period should be ten years or twelve years, but as a ground upon which he modified his objection to a period of limited enlistment, by stating that among the disadvantages to which this principle was liable, it had this redeeming advantage, that it would enable the commanding officer at the expiration of his period of service to get rid of a bad man. But, my Lords, the single question before you is this—you may retain the old soldiers under a system of ten years' enlistment: is it less likely or is it more likely that you will retain them under a system of twelve? The noble Earl opposite talks of the great hardship we shall inflict upon a man by throwing him out of the service at the expiration of a period when he has become unfitted for anything else; and he says, see what an advantage you will give to a man by enabling him to return to civil life after the expiration of ten years, so that he will be able to turn himself to other pursuits. Now, my Lords, the whole difference that there is between the clause and the Amendment is a difference of two years—the difference between a man at the age of twenty-eight, and the same man at the age of thirty. But the real question after all is, when is the soldier the most likely to re-enlist? I do not say that there will be any very great difference between the two periods; but I do say that the difference will in all probability be in favour of the first period being twelve years, and the second being nine; rather than that the first period should be ten years, and the second eleven. And for this simple reason, that at the expiration of ten years a soldier feels he has not got half through the period of the lengthened service, he thinks that he shall probably get tired of it before it is concluded, and, therefore, that he had better take the opportunity to leave the service while he can get it. Whereas, a man that has served for twelve years will feel that he has served through more than half the period which entitled him to the retiring pension; and that he has a comparatively short period to serve for his second. I hope that the noble Earl, after what passed here the other night, and after what has passed in the other House, will not persevere in his announcement, that upon the period we now fix for the first period of service will depend the soldier's pension. The soldier is equally entitled to that pension by a service of twenty-one years, whether that service has been served in periods of twelve and nine years, or in periods of ten and eleven. If the noble Earl should persevere in that, I must say that the Army and the country will have a right to regard this decision as founded not upon principle, but upon political, if not personal, feeling. I trust, that whatever may be your Lordships' decision, the soldier's pension will not be made to depend upon it. If the noble Earl (the Earl of Lucan) persists in his Motion, I shall certainly vote for it, though I am far from undervaluing the opinion which has been expressed by the noble and gallant Duke, that under the present Bill you may expect the re-enlistment of old soldiers; but looking to this— and this point was not touched by the noble and gallant Duke at all—that if you can reckon on their re-enlistment for a period of eleven at the end of ten years, you may with much more confidence and certainty reckon on their re-enlistment for nine at the end of twelve years.

The Committee then divided on the Amendment:—Contents 38: Non-Contents 30; Majority 8.

List of the CONTENTS.
DUKES. Clarendon
Bedford Devon
Norfolk Fingall
Wellington Fitzwilliam
Anglesey Shaftesbury
Headfort Suffolk
Clanricarde Verulam
EARLS. Zetland
Auckland Wicklow
Burlington Galloway
Camperdown VISCOUNT.
Chichester Falkland
BISHOPS. Erskine
St. Asaph Foley
Peterborough Montfort
BARONS. Monteagle of Brandon
Bruce Mostyn
Byron Strafford
Camoys Leigh
Campbell Churchill
Cottenham Beaumont
List of the NOT-CONTENTS.
DUKES. Ellenborough
Cleveland VISCOUNT
Newcastle Combermere
Downshire Blaney
EARLS. Bolton
Brooke and Warwick Boston
Cardigan Clancarty
Desart Colchester
Hardwicke Colville
Lucan De Ros
Mountcashel Kenyon
Ranfurley Redesdale
Rosse Sondes
Eglintoun Southampton
Longford Stanley
Romney Forester
Paired off.
Earl of Malmesbury Lord Wrottesley
Lord Willoughby D'Eresby Earl of Leicester
Earl of Tankerville Marquess of Conyngham
Earl Charleville Earl of Granville
Earl of Orkney Earl Fitzhardinge
Lord De l'Isle Lord Crewe
Earl Orford Lord Sefton
Duke of Richmond Earl of Yarborough
Earl of Winchilsea Earl Ducie
Lord Templemore Marquess of Lansdowne
Viscount Lake Bishop of Durham
Marquess of Ailsa Bishop of Lincoln
Earl of Munster Viscount Clifden
Lord Wynford Lord Denman
Lord Heytesbury Lord H. de Walden
Earl of Somers Bishop of Hereford
Earl Digby Lord Kinnaird
Earl Stradbrooke Viscount Melbourne
Viscount Canterbury Lord Beauvale
Duke of Manchester Lord Colborne
Earl of Sheffield Lord Glenelg
Marquess of Exeter Lord Lilford
Earl Delawarr Marq. of Northampton
Viscount Strangford Earl Waldegrave
Earl of Eldon Lord Sudeley
Lord Ashburton Earl of Rosebery
Marquess of Ailesbury Bishop of Salisbury
Duke of Montrose Earl of Ripon
Marq. of Winchester Marquess Camden
Earl of Kinnoul Earl Morley
Earl Leven Earl Spencer
Viscount Beresford Earl of Effingham
Lord Saltown Lord Vivian
Earl of Lonsdale Lord Hatherton
Viscount Sydney Marq. of Westminster
Lord Walsingham Lord Wharncliffe

then moved the Amendment of which he had given notice:— That any soldier, at any period within one year previous to the completion of the term of limited service for which he shall have been first engaged, or, in the case of every regiment under orders for service, other than in Great Britain and Ireland, within two years previous to such completion, being approved as a fit person, &c, may (at any time) be re-engaged for the further term of six years and seven years; and in like manner, within the like period, previous to the completion of such second engagement, for a further term of five years, whether in infantry, cavalry, or ordnance corps; such further term or terms to date from the expiration of the first or second period of service, as the case may be. The noble Lord made a few observations in support of his Amendment, which were inaudible.


observed, in reference to this Amendment, that it appeared to him there would he some advantage in not confining too closely the period within which a soldier might re-enlist in the Army. On the other hand, it had been pressed upon him that there would be considerable danger and much inconvenience in extending this period in the manner now proposed by the noble Lord. If, therefore, he (Lord De Ros) would limit the period to six months after the completion of the service, there would be no objection to an Amendment of this description.


was understood to assent to this proposition.


approved of the limitation, and suggested to the noble Earl (Earl Grey) the importance, in this case, of making some distinction between regiments on home and regiments on foreign service. If men belonging to a regiment ordered on foreign service sailed at a time which was within one year of the period when according to the terms of their enlistment they could claim their discharge, the result would be great expense to the country, and great mischief to the particular regiment, and he therefore put it to the noble Earl for his consideration, if it would not be advisable that power should be given to re-enlist the men in such a position previous to their sailing. The principle of re-enlistment would not be interfered with by such an arrangement; and in this way, it was indisputable, they might avoid the chance of losing the service of men in a foreign station. He suggested, as the noble Earl was determined not to extend the period for men in regiments on home service beyond six months, that in case of regiments ordered abroad the period should be twelve months, and that power be granted to re-enlist those soldiers whose term of service would expire within one or two years.


would have no objection to adopt the suggestion made by the noble Lord. He thought, however, that the better way of obtaining the desired end would be to name no particular number of months, and to leave to soldiers under orders for foreign service the power to contract a new engagement.

Amendment agreed to.

On the Clause as amended being put,

The EARL of ELLENBOROUGH moved an Amendment. As the Bill stood, soldiers out of England could only be re-enlisted by the same persons who had power to enlist men under the Mutiny Act; that Act prohibited general officers and regimental officers from enlisting men; but abroad there would be many occasions when no qualified civilian could be found, or when it might be extremely inconvenient to interpose a civilian between the soldiers and the officers, particularly in India. It would be better to adopt the words of the Mutiny Act, adding, any person "duly appointed by Her Majesty, by any warrant signed by the Secretary at War," to attest and enlist soldiers for Her Majesty's service.


had no objection to the Amendment, which was inserted, and

The Clause was agreed to.

On Clause 4 being proposed,


proposed to insert after the 4th Clause the following provisos:— Provided further, and be it enacted, that if, at the expiration of such first or second term of limited service, or of such term of prolonged service, any soldier entitled to his discharge, being on any foreign station, shall not be willing to reengage or to continue in Her Majesty's service, or in the service of the East India Company, the commanding officer of the regiment in which he may be serving shall, as in the case of soldiers invalided, take the usual measures, with all convenient despatch, for the conveyance of such soldier to England, and on the arrival of such soldier in England he shall be finally discharged: provided always, that during such time as may elapse between the expiration of such terms of service as aforesaid, and his final discharge in England, such soldier shall remain subject to all the provisions of any Act which may be then in force for punishing mutiny and desertion, as fully as he may have been subject thereto before the expiration of such terms of service. Provided also, that if, at the expiration of any such first or second term of limited service, or of such term of prolonged service, any soldier being in any of Her Majesty's colonies shall claim his discharge, and shall signify to the governor of such colony, through the commanding officer of the regiment in which he may be serving, his de- sire to remain in such colony, it shall be lawful for such governor, if he shall think fit, with the consent of such commanding officer, to permit such soldier to remain therein; and thereupon such soldier shall be finally discharged, and shall not be entitled to claim to be conveyed to England at the public charge at any future period. He said, his object was to take the time necessary for bringing home the soldier from a foreign station not out of his period of enlistment; but after that period had expired, and at the same time to keep the man under military discipline. In the West Indies and the Mediterranean stations there could be no difficulty in sending the man home at any time; but it was by no means so with regard to Australia, and more particularly the East Indies, and also to a certain extent in the case of regiments quartered in Canada. In order to insure a favourable passage, it was necessary that the soldier should not leave India before the 15th of November, or after the 15th of March. He would thus be sent from the distant stations so as to arrive in Calcutta by February, and reach England in July, though his time of service might not expire until the April following. In the case of Canada, also, there were certain periods of the year when the men could not be sent home, and he thought that in all these cases it was better that the loss of time should fall on the men than on the Government.


said, according to the term of his enlistment, a man would be discharged the day it terminated, at the place where his regiment happened to be at the time; and being so discharged, he would of course be conveyed home in the same manner as the men discharged as unfit for service. Soldiers engaged for ten years, must serve those ten years where they were wanted, and would continue to do duty with their regiment till the day of their discharge; if they accepted it, they would be conveyed home, unless they preferred settling in the country, which in some of the colonies might be the case. In those instances no inconvenience would arise. But a great inconvenience would be created by fixing by law a matter that should be regulated from time to time according to the necessities of the service; if they gave a right to the man to be conveyed home by the first convenient opportunity, they left it to the man to judge when that opportunity occurred: this might give rise to inconvenient differences between him and his officer. It would be better to let the law stand as it was; he believed the conduct of the Government of this country to the soldier would always be fair and satisfactory.


said, his object and that of the noble Earl were the same. The noble Earl wished to retain the men till the end of their term of service, and admitted they wore to be sent home at the public charge. But the noble Earl confounded the position of the soldier who would be sent home under this Bill, with that of a soldier sent home under the present law. At present the man never ceased to be a soldier, and remained subject to martial law. A soldier discharged in India became immediately a free man; they could not prevent him from settling as a colonist, or even taking foreign service. The noble Earl did not know the danger of this in India; the colonization of India would be its separation; could they set free 200 or 300 soldiers in the city of Benares without danger? The noble Earl risked the creation of insurrection: he did not know the country for which he legislated; he entreated him to reconsider the subject maturely. He agreed that the time occupied by a man's return ought not to be taken out of his term of service; but he wished to give him a right by law to that which he was sure no Government would refuse; above all, he wished the noble Earl to consider the dangers that might arise from the colonization of India, from the insults that might he offered by the soldiers to the religion and prejudices of the natives of the country.


said, the number of soldiers discharged in India was exceedingly small. As he already stated that evening, it was not for all the colonies quite one per cent, and it was still less in India than elsewhere. The noble Earl must be well aware, that in India soldiers entitled to their discharge were all anxious to volunteer into other regiments, or into the East India Company's forces, to such an extent, that very serious complaints had ever been made by the East India Company at the large number of non-effective men that were thus allowed to remain in the service. He thought the provisions under the Bill as it stood were sufficient, and that it would be exceedingly dangerous to keep men under military law indefinitely, and at the same time give them a legal right of judging what would be the first convenient opportunity of sending them home.


said, the noble Earl quite mistook the condition of soldiers in India, if he supposed that all were equally desirous of remaining there. The old Indian soldier certainly was in general anxious to remain; but it was different with the man who was but a short time in India, and was unaccustomed to the climate. It did not follow, because a man was ten years in the Army, that he might be more than half a year in India; and it should be borne in mind, that when this measure was in full operation, the number of men entitled to their discharge annually in India would be the eleventh or twelfth of the entire Army in the country. The number of men who would have to be marched down from the upper provinces every year to be sent home, would not be less than 700 or 800; and he would leave it to their Lordships to judge of the consequences of such a body passing through the country, and no longer subject to military control.


thought the absolute provision of the Act, by which the men might be detained two years above the term, would enable them to obviate any inconvenience. He hoped the noble Earl would not press his Amendment.

After a few words from LORD COMBERMERE in support of the Amendment.


thought, on a question of such importance he was justified in appealing to the noble Duke at the head of the Army, who was so well acquainted with India, for his opinion upon it. The object of all parties was the same. The question which thus had been brought under the notice of their Lordships amounted to this: were the troops which from time to time might be discharged in India, and in similar possessions of the British Crown, were they to be discharged, and at the moment of their discharge were they to be released from all military discipline or restraint? It appeared to him that, according to the Bill as it stood, they would not remain under military authority up to the time of their landing in this country: but, on the contrary, would be set free from all such restraints. He conceived, that until the discharged soldier could actually be landed in England, he ought to be continued on the strength of the Army, and he ought to receive pay and subsistence till he reached this country. The question before the House was one most important in its principle, and most important, also, in its probable consequences—so important that he begged the attention of the noble Duke to the subject: and he begged, in addition to what he had already said, to ask the noble Duke if he thought it would be safe to send soldiers home, and place them on board ship, without placing them under any military authority or control? It might he thought that the noble and gallant Duke had already given his sanction to this part of the Bill; but he could not bring himself to believe this till he heard it from the noble Duke himself.


said, before the noble Duke answered the question, he wished to make a single remark. The question put by the noble Lord was not one that was likely to arise in practice, because it should be recollected that by the 4th Clause it was provided that the commanding officer could direct the service of the soldier to be prolonged, after the term should expire, to a period not exceeding two years, which was quite long enough to enable the Government to have the men sent home.


said, he thought it would be exceedingly inconvenient to discharge soldiers in India, and not leave them under the control of military commanders. He conceived it would be most necessary that they should remain under the control of their usual commanders until they reached their proper port of embarkation; and, above all things, he deprecated soldiers being sent home on board ship without being kept, and continued under the direction and control of their usual commanders, or, at least, under some military discipline. No doubt, the men when they quitted the Army ought to be sent home; but there would be great inconvenience in their being set free from military restraint until they reached this country.

The Clause was understood to be postponed.

Remaining clauses agreed to, as were the schedule and the preamble of the Bill.

House resumed.

The following Protest was entered on the Journals of the House against the Army Service Bill:—


  1. 1. Because an attempt to introduce limited service was first proposed in 1713. The system, or plan, lasted two years, and was abandoned from its total failure. It was tried, however, again in 1775, and continued to the end of the war, but was unsuccessful in its operations during the American war. In later periods—in 1806— it was resorted to in another form of periods of limited service; but signally and completely dis- 1040 appointed the expectations that were formed of the measure to obtain more recruits and a better class of men; and in the midst of the war in the Peninsula much inconvenience and disorder might have arisen but for the foresight and precaution of the Great Commander—the limited service men being then his best troops, who had served seven or eight years, and who had a right to their discharge; and had not very large bounties been given they might have been lost to the Army, and their loss would have been most fatal.
  2. 2. Because whilst it is most desirable to adopt every possible measure for improving the comforts, and the social and the moral conditions of our soldiers, it is highly injudicious and inexpedient to attempt experiments (which are avowed as such), and which experiments may tend to shake the good feelings now existing, and the discipline hitherto prevailing in the British Army, which never at any moment in history stood higher for its warlike achievements and admirable conduct.
  3. 3. Because while it is admitted from the very highest authority that the old soldiers of the British Army give to it all its perfection and matchless excellence, it is manifest that the present Army Service Bill presents a risk, and offers an occasion, of losing the very men, who, after their service of ten years, become the most valuable, and who still may be in the prime of life— from thirty to forty—for all purposes of hard fatigue and military service. It is therefore highly impolitic to hazard this experiment, and far more judicious to retain the present regulations, which allow all soldiers, under a most liberal plan, and with good characters, to receive their discharge by the recommendation of their officers and the decision of the Commander-in-Chief.
  4. 4. Because, as has been clearly and unanswerably shown, great inconvenience must result to our colonial service from the plan now proposed; and especially in the minutiae of every regimental arrangement. If men had six or eight months to serve, and were ordered out to India, that circumstance might occasion a degree of discontent among them. The Army in the East, as has been ably shown, presents many further obstructions to the eligibility of this measure; and it will be necessary when it shall be in full operation, and one-tenth annually of 72,000 men (our average force serving in the colonies) shall be entitled to discharge, and must be brought home, to make frequent reliefs of corps, at great difficulty and inconvenience.

"Finally, because the Government must either have a most extraordinary confidence in themselves, or expect an unlimited confidence from others, if they imagine that a measure of such magnitude, sanctioning changes so hazardous and on such fanciful theories, and, above all, against the opinions of nine-tenths of the British Army, can be carried into effect without stronger and more cogent reasons than have hitherto been advanced by them for these new experiments under their Army Service Bill in the British Army.


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