§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
said, that in rising to ask his noble Friend the Secretary for the Colonies the question of which he had given notice, relative to the reward 1138 of medals for actions by sea and land from 1794 to 1814, in pursuance of the general orders of the Admiralty and Horse Guards, he must say that he was much gratified at finding that an award had recently been made in favour of certain claims which he had advanced last Session on behalf of those brave men who had maintained the glory of the British arms in Egypt. Though it must be grateful to the feelings of the two services that Her Majesty's Government had done justice to the services of those gallant men, yet, with the strong feelings he entertained on the subject, he should never remain quiescent until the same justice was performed to all who were engaged in the various actions from 1794 to 1814. It would be invidious to call attention in that House to individual cases, or to institute comparisons between those cases in which medals had been given, and those in which they had been withheld, and to draw a comparison between the services for which they were rightly granted, and those to which they were refused. He might perhaps be met with the objection that this was not a matter which ought to be discussed in that House. To such an objection he would merely reply, that in his opinion the grievances of any portion of Her Majesty's subjects might very properly be discussed before their Lordships; and more particularly so, when he found a long list of gallant achievements performed by our naval and military forces which had received the Thanks of both Houses of Parliament, yet had not been followed by any other result than the expression of that Vote of Thanks upon the Journals. When he found that the military achievements of the various regiments in our service were emblazoned on their colours, whilst the efficers and men who by their energy and courage had gained those honours for their regiments did not wear any decorations on their breast to show that they had been instrumental in procuring those honours, he felt himself entitled to call upon the Government to advise Her Majesty to make a further award of medals to those who had been ready to shed their blood in the defence of Her crown and dignity. The noble Duke then referred to the different rules which prevailed in the Navy and Army respecting the granting of medals for distinguished services, but in so low a tone of voice that it was impossible to catch more than the general import of his remarks. Now, there was never a 1139 case in which a higher reward was deserved than that of Sir James Gordon, whilst in command of the Active frigate in the action off Lissa. The rule which the Admiralty had laid down was, that when the first lieutenant was promoted after an action, the captain of the vessel should have the gold medal awarded to him. In the army the gold medal was awarded only to the officers in command of regiments on all occasions of distinguished service. Sir James Gordon did at last get the gold medal, and rightly; but, during his services in America, when he was employed in making a diversion in the Potomac, for which he had deservedly received a medal, the officers of the marines and of the army, and the private men of both services, who fought at Bladensburg, and took Washington, got no reward at all, and remained to this day without any decorations. Again, at the storming of St. Sebastian, the officers of the fleet who co-operated in that siege, and whose services on the coast had been most valuable, obtained a medal; but the British infantry who had fought on that day at St. Sebastian, and that part of the army which at the same time repelled the attack of the French at St. Marcial, received the Thanks of Parliament indeed for those two battles, but were not honoured, either officers or men, with any medals. They could not expect that either seamen or soldiers would remain satisfied when such anomalies exist in the two services. There were 40,000 men in arms traversing the Bidassoa, but no medals did those brave soldiers receive. There were a great many other actions in the same condition, that is, the soldiers who fought in them had the Thanks of Parliament, but no medals. Here he might be met with the objection that there was a difficulty in drawing a line on such a point. He saw no difficulty in drawing it at all. If there were any, he would recommend the noble Earl opposite to refer it to a committee of flag and of general officers to look over the lists of battles in which medals had been given, and those in which they had been refused, and to report what other battles ought, in their opinion, to be added to the former list. He was not asking their Lordships at present for any multiplication of the orders of the country. He was delighted, however, to find that there was a prospect of those orders being further extended, and that the medical officers of the Army and the Navy were likely to be admitted 1140 into the Order of the Bath. He was not, however, discussing that point at present. He was only asking that medals should be given to those men who had fought in gallant actions during the last war, as proofs that they had been present in those actions. The noble Duke then read a long list of battles in which great services had been performed and acknowledged by Parliament, but for which no medals had been given. The Thanks of Parliament were given to the officers and soldiers engaged in the operations in the West Indies in 1794—but no medal. They were also given for the expedition to Corsica in the same year—but no medal. They were given, too, for the descent on Holland, and for the preservation of the Dutch fleet in 1793—but no medal. So, too, for the Mysore war—but no medal; again, for the victory off Ferrol in 1806—but no medal. Thanks were also voted to officers and men for the capture of Monte Video on the 16th of April, 1807—but still no medal. The siege of Copenhagen, in 1808; the victory over the French fleet in Basque Roads, in 1810; the defence of Portugal, in 1808; the operations in the islands of Mauritius and Java; the battles of St. Marcial, and the passage of the Bidassoa,—all were commemorated by the thanks of Parliament—but by no medal. He wished to know on what grounds Her Majesty's Government had decided to give medals to officers and men engaged in naval actions—aye, and in boat actions—when it had decided to refuse them to those engaged on the memorable naval and military occasions which he had just mentioned? In the object which he had in view he might be wrong—he thought that he was right—but, even if he were wrong, no mischief could be done in referring the matter in question to a select committee of naval and military officers. He hoped that he should not be put off by a plea of expense when he was demanding the payment of a mere act of justice. In conclusion, he asked whether it was the intention of Government to take these cases into consideration.
§ EARL GREY
replied, that it was not the intention of Her Majesty's Government to make any further award of medals. As his noble Friend had not submitted to the House any definite plan—as the subject itself was one very inconvenient to discuss in that place—and as the grant of honours ought to emanate from the Crown, and not from either House of Parliament, he must 1141 ask his noble Friend to forgive him if he did not follow him into his various arguments. Without at all differing from his noble Friend as to the importance of the great achievements, military and naval, to which he had referred, he must say that there was extreme difficulty, after the expiration of half a century, in reviving any question as to the discretion exercised by the Government of the day in the past distribution of military honours. His noble Friend had complained that a certain officer, who acted with much gallantry, had not got a gold medal fifty years ago. That was the act of a former Government, and it would not be wise to revive that question now. With regard to the distribution of medals to the Army, his noble Friend the Commander-in-Chief had recommended a rule which he conceived to be the best that could be adopted. His Grace had recommended that those battles should be entitled to the distribution of medals to all concerned in them wherein the general officers had received a medal at the time from the King's Government. He (Earl Grey) did not mean to say that that rule had not led to some anomalies; but he thought that, under all the circumstances, no better rule could have been adopted. Since the time when that rule was originally issued as a general order, it had been discovered that some eases of hardship had occurred under it; but in order to remedy those eases, medals had been issued to those officers and men who had served with the army in Egypt, and to whom medals had been previously issued by the Grand Sultan. By a recent order the services of the men in Egypt had been adequately commemorated. No further extension of the order appeared to be expedient; and he believed that both the noble Duke and his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty agreed with him in that opinion.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
said, that as the noble Secretary for the Colonies had referred to him for his opinion, he must observe that he had formed and stated his opinion when former applications were made on this subject, not only to that, but also to the other House of Parliament. It had been stated that the army in the Peninsula had not been treated in the same manner as the army in Flanders, and as other armies which had served in China, and in the East Indies, and elsewhere. It appeared to him that the plan which would be most in confor- 1142 mity with the wishes of those who made the former applications, and of those on whose behalf the noble Duke had addressed the House, and which would be most calculated to gratify all parties, was to grant a medal to all those engaged in those great actions and achievements which, by order of the Sovereign of the day, had been commemorated by the grant of medals to the principal officers engaged in those battles. On that ground he had recommended the principle which was subsequently adopted, and which, he believed, had given general satisfaction. Whether that principle should be extended further, was for the consideration of Her Majesty's Government. All he could say was, that whenever he should receive Her Majesty's orders for such an extension, he would set to work to carry it into execution with the utmost diligence.
§ LORD COLCHESTER
regretted that the order had not been carried further than it went at present. He was of opinion that when lieutenants had been promoted, medals should be given to the men engaged in the action. The first medal given was for Maida; all actions previous to that were excluded. The Thanks of Parliament, however, had been voted to the Army and Navy several times before that action.
The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
, being an old officer, hoped that he should not be considered as intruding unnecessarily on their Lordships when he gave his opinion upon a question so important to the military profession. He declined entering into the consideration of the system on which medals were distributed in the Navy. He held that there was a great difference between the two services, and the rewards to which they were respectively entitled. His noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) would recollect that when he originally brought forward this question for the extension of medals to the whole Army, officers and men, he (the Marquess of Londonderry) differed from him, on the ground that Parliament was not the place in which their services should be rewarded, but that their rewards should come from the officer commanding in chief on the field of action, and from him alone. The contrary rule would enable any officer who had strong Parliamentary influence to get himself rewarded, when, perhaps, he did not deserve it; and, if Parliament were called on to decide who should have medals and who not, there was no knowing where such a system would end. To appoint such a Committee 1143 as his noble Friend asked for, would be a condemnation of the Government of former days, or, at any rate, a questioning of the discretion with which they had bestowed rewards on important and serious services. If his noble Friend had not left the Army in his youth, he would now have been a major or a lieutenant-general, and would have discovered that he could not be so liberal in the distribution of honours as he was at present. The noble Duke at the table (the Duke of Wellington) was the best judge on such a subject. His (the Marquess of Londonderry's) opinion was, that his noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond), by increasing the number of medals, was decreasing their value; and, now that medals were distributed among the commissariat, you could scarcely go into a room where you did not find every man with either a star or a medal on his breast. He was well aware that the objections which he was then urging would expose him to animadversion; but, as the discussion was on a military subject, and in Parliament, he felt himself bound to urge them. He regretted that his noble Friend was still pressing for a further distribution of medals, and hoped that this would be the last time their Lordships would have a discussion as to the extent of reward to be granted to the officers and men of the Army—a point which ought to be decided by the commander-in-chief on the field, and by no other person.
§ The DUKE of RICHMOND
could not promise the noble Marquess that this would be the last time he should bring this subject forward in the House of Lords; for he had been educated in a school in which every man was taught that, if he had justice on his side, he ought to persevere, ay, and to persevere until he obtained success. The noble Marquess had said that he bad left the Army, and that, therefore, he could not be so good a judge as others of the rewards due to the services of the Army of England. Now, he had never considered himself as good a judge on that subject as his noble Friend, nor had he ever said or thought that he was a better judge than others. The noble Marquess had said that if he had remained in the Army, and become a lieutenant-general, he would not have been so liberal to officers and men as he then was. Now, he had not quitted the Army until all chance of foreign ser-vice was at an end, and until he found that, owing to a severe wound which he had received, he was not fit either for colonial ser- 1144 vice or for service in the East Indies. Such being the case, he had scorned to remain in the Army, when he knew that by length of years alone he might in all probability win a regiment, and so take the emoluments of the service from those who stood in more need of them than himself. He wanted this medal to prove that the red coat and the star of a general officer did not extinguish the gratitude which he ought to feel towards those brave soldiers who had enabled him to render service to his country. He could assure his noble Friend opposite (Earl Grey) that those felt grateful who had received these medals, and that those were deeply disappointed who had not. On a former occasion the noble Marquess had declared that not one soldier cared for a medal unless it were the spontaneous gift of the Sovereign, and had then proceeded to charge him with hunting after popularity in bringing forward a Motion to grant them. It was right and proper that this subject should be often discussed. Could any man expect Her Majesty to be acquainted with the merits of services performed before She drew her breath? It was the theory of the constitution that all honours proceeded from the Crown; but the practice was that they were bestowed by Ministers on their responsibility. He gave high credit to the present Ministers for having overthrown the antiquated prejudices on this very question. He bowed to the authority of his noble Friend at the table, from whom he always differed with pain, but he hoped that he might tell his noble Friend, without offence, that he did not believe that the rule which his Grace had laid down for the distribution of medals to the Army had satisfied the Army. Many of the soldiers could not see the reasons for the difference drawn between the various actions in which they had fought; and among the old soldiers now discharged—for very few of them were still in the ranks—there was considerable dissatisfaction. The medal of the Admiralty was granted even for gallant boat actions. If private soldiers, and noncommissioned officers, could be recommended for commissions by his noble Friend at the table on account of their extraordinary gallantry on trying occasions, surely such men ought to be entitled to wear a medal appended to their breasts. His Grace then proceeded to express the surprise with which he had heard, in the last two or three weeks, that the good-conduct medal, which was one of the best founda- 1145 tions for the good discipline of the Army, had been recently granted under regulations which were very objectionable. He did feel that it was very hard upon the soldier that, because the medals were sent to the Mint to be engraved, and the Mint could not engrave them fast enough, the soldier was to have his medal transmitted to his regiments, and was there to pay 2s. 6d. out of his pay for the engraving before he could receive it. If the Mint could not engrave the medal in time, that ought to be a charge on the Mint, and not on the soldier. He (the Duke of Richmond) was a strong advocate for economy, but this was too stingy an economy to find any advocate in either House of Parliament.
The MARQUESS of LONDONDERRY
had not blamed the noble Duke for quitting the Army; on the contrary, he had expressed his regret for it. He agreed in all his noble Friend had said as to the charge for the engraving of these good-conduct medals. They should be no expense to those who received them, and they should have the word "Richmond" engraved at their bottom.
§ EARL GREY
said, that it was not owing to any motive of economy that the present charge was made for these medals. To put an end to that which had caused great dissatisfaction in several regiments—namely, that discharged soldiers could not get their medals at the time of their discharge—the present arrangement was made, by which they were forwarded to the captains of their respective companies.
§ The DUKE of WELLINGTON
said, that the reason why this charge was made to the soldier was, that the expense of engraving the medal could not be charged to the public until there was a grant to that amount made by Parliament, and that required time. The Commander-in-Chief had no power and no funds to meet that expense. It was the desire of the men themselves that their names should be engraved on their medals, and there were no other means of doing it than through the Mint.
§ Subject at an end.