§ EARL GREY
My Lords, the subject to which I propose this evening to call your attention is one which, in the present circumstances of the country, is of such extreme importance that I assure you I feel very painfully how unequal I am to the task I have undertaken; but I entertain so strong a sense of the urgency—of the absolute necessity—of some such change as that which it is my purpose to recommend, that, however unequal I may be to the proper performance of this task, I have not thought myself at liberty to avoid it. Before I go further, I ought probably to offer some apology for having taken the somewhat unusual course, after giving notice of my Motion for Thursday next, of bringing it under your Lordships' consideration to-night. My reason for doing so was this:—I had learnt, in common with the public, that certain circumstances which have recently occurred rendered it not improbable that some changes might take place with reference to the administration of the affairs of the army; and it appeared to me—and I found also, from communications with noble Lords on both sides of the House, that it appeared to them—that before any such changes were carried into effect it was desirable that this House should have an opportunity of expressing its opinion as to the principle on which such changes should be made.
I intend to move that your Lordships should agree to a Resolution declaring your opinion that serious evils have arisen from the present division of authority and responsibility in the administration of the affairs of the army; and that therefore the business relating to this most important branch of the public service, which is now distributed among various different offices, should be placed under the immediate control of a single and well-organised Department. I must remind your Lordships that twice in the course of the last Session of Parliament I called your attention to this very important subject. In the debate on the Address in reply to Her Majesty's gracious Speech from the Throne, I called the attention of the Government and of your Lordships to the great inconvenience 1067 which was certain to arise from the present constitution of the military departments, in the event of that war taking place with which we were then threatened. On that occasion, which was about two months before the war broke out, I urged, as strongly as I could, that preparations should be made for it in this respect; and subsequently, after the war had commenced—on the 7th of April—I again, by a distinct Motion, called your Lordships' attention to the subject. I then moved for certain papers; but, as I wished to leave the matter in the hands of Her Majesty's Government, I carefully abstained from making any motion which would lead to a difference of opinion, and I only asked for papers about granting which there could be no difficulty. The production of those papers was acceded to by Her Majesty's Government; and, as I have referred to them, perhaps I may be permitted to pause for one moment to say that I think my noble Friend, the noble Marquess below me (the Marquess of Clanricarde), was quite right in calling the attention of your Lordships to the irregular nature of the return which was, in the first instance, laid upon the table. I consider that, in order to enforce the respect due to this House, it was quite proper on the part of my noble Friend to call attention to a return in which the very unusual course had been taken of including in the correspondence laid upon the table an elaborate answer to the speech of the Peer who moved for that correspondence. But, so far as I was individually concerned, I have not the least objection to that answer having been placed upon Lordships' table. On the contrary, I am rather glad that your Lordships should have seen what are the arguments and statements which can be advanced in this manner in reply to those which I submitted to you. With regard to that part of the letter which controverts certain statements made by me, I Will only say that the most important of those statements—those relating to, the rations supplied to the troops in the West Indies—were founded upon official correspondence which was laid upon the table of the other House in consequence of a Motion which I myself made in 1840; and, if any of your Lordships will take the trouble to refer to that return, which is in the library of this House, you will find that it bears out to the very letter every word I uttered. The remaining part of my statement which was contradicted, and which does not rest 1068 upon that correspondence, was founded upon reports made to me officially when I was Secretary at War, by a gentleman whose accuracy I never in any one instance found at fault, and upon whom I have the most perfect and entire reliance.
But, returning from this digression, into which I should not have entered had I not been charged with inaccuracy in this matter, I beg to say, that the object of the Motion which I made last year was not to call for any expression of opinion on the part of this House, but to direct the attention of your Lordships, of the Government, and I will also say of the public, to a subject which appeared to me very urgently to require consideration. Nor do I think that I was altogether unsuccessful, or that I failed in making some impression even upon the Government; because, although the noble Duke, now at the head of the War Department, argued at great length, in reply to my speech, that the existing arrangements were perfectly satisfactory and were working admirably, and stated that he had no doubt they would continue to do so, and that he anticipated no difficulty in carrying on the war under those arrangements, yet, within about two months from that time, it was announced that it had been found necessary to divide the Colonial and the War Departments, and to appoint a Fourth Secretary of State to take the exclusive charge of the Department of War. I hold in my hands a paper which has been laid upon the table of this House—in consequence of an Address to Her Majesty which I moved before Christmas—explaining, so far as it does explain, this division of offices. I cannot help expressing my great disappointment that that explanation should be so imperfect. I confess I did expect that when a measure of such importance was adopted, there would have been some regular and official record of the manner in which it was to be carried into execution—that there would have been some Minute by Her Majesty in Council, such as has been made on former occasions, or some other equivalent official document, accurately defining the limits, of the duties of the new office to be created, and pointing out how the business was in future to be conducted. I cannot help thinking that the absence of any such formal document proves in itself that the measure was a crude and ill-digested one. I must add, my Lords, that from what we know of the measure from this very short account of it which has been laid before us, and 1069 from what we learn from the public newspapers, it is, in my opinion, anything but satisfactory. I would remind your Lordships that in bringing this subject under your notice last year, I pointed out two great objections to the existing arrangements. The first was, that the business relating to the administration of the army was divided among far too large a number of independent departments; and the second was, that the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies, whose authority was supposed to keep all these independent departments in one line of action, had far too much to do to enable him to execute that task. Now, it is quite true that, by the arrangements which have been made, the second of these objections has been removed. A Secretary of State has been appointed whose special and exclusive business it is to take charge of all that relates to the conduct of the war; but the first, and by far the most important, of those objections remains altogether untouched;—you have as many independent departments as before concerned in the administration of business relating to the army. Nay, I should say that the objection has rather been aggravated; because, instead of simplifying a machine which was already too complicated, what you have done has been to introduce into it a new and unnecessary wheel, and the only step in the nature of a consolidation which has taken place was the transfer, on the 22nd of December, of the Commissariat to the War Department. I cannot, however, call that a consolidation at all. I cannot, for my own part, understand how a description of business involving so much detail and so many matters of finance, can be conveniently dealt with in an office constituted like that of a Secretary of State. I certainly think it is a description of business that would have been more properly united to departments which are more conversant with pecuniary transactions and with matters of detail. The other departments continue precisely as they were:—you have still the same number of entirely independent departments, and your only security for their working harmoniously together is, that they may be made to do so by the common and superintending authority of the new Secretary of State. I cannot help thinking that the experience of the Admiralty might have taught us that the expectation that these independent departments would be made to work well together, by one superintending authority 1070 of this description, could not be realised. I may remind your Lordships that when the Navy Board and the Victualling Board were distinct departments under the Admiralty, although they were entirely subordinate to the Admiralty, it was found that difficulties and delays were constantly occurring, and the inconveniences at length became so great that Parliament—in my opinion, very wisely—abolished these independent Boards, merged them in the Admiralty, and brought the whole business relating to the Navy under one single authority. But the Navy Board and the Victualling Board were far more completely subordinate to the Admiralty than the various departments connected with the Army are to the new Secretary of State. One of the Army departments is presided over by a Cabinet Minister. You have a Secretary at War and a Secretary for War, both in the same Cabinet. Again, you have a Commander in Chief—a Minister of very considerable authority—who takes the pleasure of the Sovereign directly on business relating to his own department. You have, too, the Master General and Board of Ordnance likewise possessing a very large independent authority. It seems to me, therefore, that it was vain to expect that so cumbrous a machine would work with the necessary promptitude and vigour. I think it was easy to predict, from the commencement of the war, that a machine so constituted would not be found to answer.
Unhappily, the anticipations to that effect which I entertained the moment I heard of the measure which was contemplated have been far more than fulfilled. I have only to point your attention to the calamitous events of the last few weeks and to the present position of our army in the Crimea, to convince your Lordships how far this system has failed provide for the satisfactory management of military affairs. I will not attempt to harrow your Lordships' feelings by describing the present position of our army in the Crimea. I will not attempt to give an account in detail of the various acts of mismanagement to which that unhappy condition is attributable. I wave any advantage I might obtain for my argument by doing so, in order that I may spare your Lordships and myself the pain of dwelling upon such topics, and also that I may avoid the risk of making those observations which I mean to direct against the system, appear as if they were intended as personal censures 1071 upon individuals. It is sufficient that I should assume that your Lordships are well acquainted—indeed, who is there who is not well acquainted?—with the present state of the army in the Crimea; and, knowing what that condition is, I would point out to you that the statements which have been made by Her Majesty's Government in their own defence afford the strongest and the most conclusive arguments in favour of that view of this subject which it is my object to press upon you. My Lords, you will remember we have been told that ample stores of every description have been sent to the Crimea—that food, and clothing, and medicine, and everything required for the comfort and convenience of the soldiers, have been despatched in quantities ample, if not profuse—that mules and horses have been bought for transport, and have been sent, or rather have been ordered (for unfortunately this is an important distinction), with provender for their support, to the East. You have been told all this, and I have not the slightest doubt that you have been correctly informed; but, though all this has been done, it is unfortunately but too certain that, owing to defects of organisation—of which the noble Duke very frankly acknowledged the existence, in the short Session before Christmas, these supplies have not been available at the time and at the place where they were wanted; and because those supplies were not so available when and where they were required, as a direct consequence of this failure our gallant army has been reduced to its present condition, for its losses by sickness and death, brought on by fatigue and by want, infinitely outnumber the losses occasioned by battle or by non-preventible diseases. We know this. It is acknowledged on all sides that from the want of organisation these unhappy consequences have resulted. Then, let me ask, how is it that errors having such fatal consequences have occurred? To that question, my Lords, I am quite unable to return a complete answer, but I think we can form a very safe judgment as to how these errors are, in part at least, to be accounted for. These mistakes—these errors, are, I think, the natural, if not the inevitable result of that complicated and cumbersome mode of transacting the business of the army which has so long prevailed in this country.
It is because you have had a Secretary at War, a Commander in Chief, a Board of Ordnance, and a Commissariat 1072 Department, carrying on a voluminous correspondence with each other, with the other departments of the Government, and with the officers serving abroad, that, in such correspondence, the essentials of what was to be done have very often been lost sight of, and mistakes and errors have taken place, and, when mistakes have not occurred, the most ordinary arrangements have only been effected with a great loss of time, which, in war, is too often a loss of everything. I will not trouble your Lordships with more than one or two instances of the mistakes to which I refer; but although I am anxious, as far as possible, to avoid touching upon particular errors and blunders, still, as an example of the working of the system, I think it is necessary that I should mention one or two cases. One of those cases we have heard of for the first time this evening, and I certainly regard it as a very remarkable one. We have learnt, from the question which has been put by my noble Friend on the cross benches (Earl Fitzwilliam) that an offer having been made to Her Majesty's Government by a most eminent engineer—Mr. Nasmyth, a man of European reputation—and the Government having determined to employ his great talents in manufacturing artillery of a certain description, he applied himself to the work: but while he was in full work to meet the requisition of Government, the work was suddenly interrupted and suspended—for, I believe, as long a period as a fortnight—owing to some misapprehension between the different departments. I read, too, the other day, in the newspapers a correspondence with regard to an offer to supply the army with candle stoves. A firm in this country—Price's Patent Candle Company—a firm known, not merely commercially, but for its success in what I may call one of the greatest philanthropic experiments ever made—seeing how grievously the army was suffering for want of fuel, from mere patriotic motives suggested to the Secretary at War that it was very desirable that a contrivance called "candle stoves," which were extremely portable, should be supplied for the use of the troops, and that thereby the great difficulty of carrying up heavier stoves and fuel from Balaklava might be surmounted. It seems that this suggestion or offer was made to the Secretary at War before Christmas; it was at once entertained by him, and was referred to the Board of Ordnance. Mr. Price, or the company, 1073 was for a long time without hearing from the Board; they complained through the public papers; and the result was the publication of two letters which I cannot help reading, illustrating, as they do, the mode in which the present system works. The first is from the War Office, and is as follows:—War Office, Jan. 3.Sir,—I am directed by Mr. Sidney Herbert to thank you for the anxiety and zeal you have shown for the welfare of the public service, but he regrets to say that he has no authority to accept any tender—that must be done through the Ordnance Department; and Mr. Herbert has requested that no delay should take place in coining to a decision on the matter.I am, Sir, yours most obediently, "GEORGE D. RAMASAY.Well, I do not wonder that the Messrs. Price, having received that letter from the Secretary at War, thought they were quite safe in applying to the Ordnance, and that the necessary authority was, at all events, to be obtained there. But it appears that these arrangements are so complicated, that very often the heads of departments themselves do not know what is the proper quarter to which particular applications should be addressed; for the following is the answer received from the Board of Ordnance:—Ordnance, Jan. 18, 1815. W—4,431.Gentlemen,—With reference to your letter of the 13th instant, addressed to the Lieutenant-General of the Ordnance, requesting to know whether the Government is likely to require any, and what quantity, of your candle stoves for the use of the army in the Crimea, I have the Board's commands to acquaint you that they have no cognisance whatever of this subject, not any communication having been made to them respecting Messrs. price's stoves. They are, therefore, unable to give you the information you desire as to the intention of the Government with regard to these stoves.—I am, Gentlemen, your obedient servant, "J. WOOD.I really think that it is very remarkable that the Messrs. Price, being referred from one office to another in this manner, did not give up the business altogether. They did not do so, however, but they went next to the War Department, and this is an account of what occurred when they went there—On receiving the Ordnance letter we went to a third office—that of the Secretary of State for the War Department—to try if we could there get an answer to the tender. We fined that it was under consideration, but that two difficulties existed in the way of its acceptance—first, that a number of ordinary stoves, with ordinary fuel for them, had already been sent out, so that Government was doubtful about sending any of these 1074 new ones except for some special purposes—such as warming camp hospitals; and, secondly, that in all hospital matters it was necessary to consult the proper medical authority, and he had been ill, so that his report had not yet been received, but was daily being looked for, and on it being received our Company's tender would be answered,Now, my Lords, that was a matter which, if it were to be useful at all, was to be useful in the shortest time. Candle stoves should have been sent out by the quickest possible conveyance;—as fast as they could be got ready they should have been despatched to the Crimea, if they were to be of any use at all. But the suggestion was made before Christmas; and here I find, upon the 22nd of January, Messrs. Price still waiting for a decision; and the subject is still under consideration and hung up, while they are driven about like shuttlecocks from one office to another, and at last waiting until the director of the medical department is well enough to give an opinion upon it. Really, this is an instance which is in itself an epitome of the whole system. I am sorry to go into these details, but those who have not themselves been concerned with the working of these departments cannot understand the question without having one or two of these particular instances brought before them. Take one more case—that with reference to which I asked a question an evening or two ago of the noble Duke. I asked whether it was true that the 91st Regiment had been sent for from the Cape, and that the ship which ought to have brought it back had come home empty, because the necessary order for sending it home had not been sent by the Commander in Chief to the General commanding on that station. The noble Duke said that it was true, and he stated certain circumstances explaining how it had happened. Those circumstances were, that the noble Duke had written to the noble Viscount the Commander in Chief, informing him that the regiment was to come home, and that he had also informed the Lieutenant Governor of the Cape that it was to come home; but no despatch had been written to the, military authority at the Cape. The Lieutenant Governor being a civilian, and having no authority over the troops, undoubtedly the General in command had a right to expect that a despatch would have been addressed to him. I do not express any opinion whether in the circumstances of the case he ought to have been satisfied with the information received through 1075 the Lieutenant Governor or not. That is a question which it is quite unnecessary for me to enter on; for it is clear, that it ought not to have been left to that chance, and that he ought to have had direct orders from his superior in this country to forward that regiment. I see exactly how this arose—it was precisely from that division of authority of which I am complaining. The noble Duke no doubt thought that the noble Viscount had written to order the regiment home, and the noble Viscount, upon his side, believed that the noble Duke had given orders—[Viscount HARDINGE: Orders were given.] The noble Viscount says, that orders had been given; yes, but only to the civil Lieutenant Governor, and in all official correspondence I have always found it most strongly insisted that orders to military authorities were not to go through civil authorities, and that when there is a civil Governor of a colony, orders for the removal of a regiment should be addressed not only to him, but also to the officer in command. That is a rule which I, in my experience, never knew departed from; and, when I had the honour of holding the office of Secretary of State for the Colonies, certainly if I had departed from it I should have had a remonstrance of a kind which I should by no means have liked to have received from the then Commander in Chief the Duke of Wellington; and a very just remonstrance it would have been.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
Perhaps it will save time if I state what the facts were. Precise orders did go out from my noble Friend the Secretary of State for the War Department. Those orders were precise that the 91st Regiment was to return to England. The Lieutenant Governor and the General commanding conferred together upon the propriety of that order. It appeared that there were 300 men under the establishment of 5,000 which it was thought prudent to maintain in the colony; and in consequence of the concurrent opinion of the Lieutenant Governor who received the order from the Secretary of State, and of the General commanding, it was decided that the 91st Regiment ought not to return. Those are the real facts of the case
§ EARL GREY
I can only say, that if I made a mistake I was led into it by the answer of the noble Duke the other day; because I appeal to your Lordships whether he did not distinctly state that I was correctly informed, and that the reason 1076 why the regiment was not sent home was because the military authority at the Cape had received no direct orders himself? Therefore, if I have made a mistake, I can only say that I am not responsible for it. Now, see how this has worked upon the public service. You have not only incurred the unnecessary expense of the ship coming home empty, but you wanted this regiment urgently fur the war in the East. It is a very fine regiment, which had gone through the Caffre war, and consisted of trained and disciplined soldiers, and was worth—I need not inform your Lordships, two or three times the number of freshly-enlisted men from this country, whom alone you could otherwise have sent. But you have by this mistake between the departments—a mistake, I say, directly arising from the multiplication of unnecessary authorities—been deprived of the services of this regiment which were so much required.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
was understood to say that his order had not gone to the Cape, but that the order of the Secretary of State was quite sufficient to have warranted the sending home of the regiment. In consequence of the state of the colony, however, at that moment, and the arrangement before entered into that there should not be less than 5,000 men in that colony, the Lieutenant Governor and the officer commanding both determined that the regiment ought not to be sent home.
§ EARL GREY
That is my case. The military authority at the Cape did not receive direct orders from the Commander in Chief because the order of the Secretary of State was sufficient. The noble Viscount will excuse me, but I think that he had better comment upon this afterwards, instead of interrupting me in the progress of my address.
My Lords, I say that mistakes of this kind have had a most material and most unfortunate influence upon the progress of our arms in the East; but it is an act of justice which I am glad to pay to Her Majesty's Government—even if it were not necessary to my argument, of which, however, it is a most essential part—it is, I say, an act of common justice to Her Majesty's Government, to observe that the want of success which we have experienced in the East, is to be accounted for not merely by errors which have been committed since the commencement of the war, but by errors of much longer standing—errors in the management of the army which no 1077 Government for many years past has been able to avoid—errors of at least as long standing as from the commencement of the general peace in 1815. My Lords, I say that it is to errors in the administration of the army of that long standing that a great part of our misfortunes are to be attributed; and I think I shall be easily able to convince your Lordships that that is a correct statement. In the first place, let me ask you, is there any man who does not feel that the want of success in the East has been in no slight degree attributable to the deficiency which has existed of officers of rank and experience who are at the same time of such an age as to make them efficient in the field? Has not the want of a sufficiently wide field of selection for general officers to be employed in the Crimea, been one great difficulty with which Her Majesty's Government have had to contend? Does any man doubt that? If not, let me ask how that deficiency is to be accounted for? It is to be accounted for by the circumstance that during a long peace, in spite of many remonstrances, you have adhered obstinately to that system of promotion to the rank of general officer by seniority, and by seniority alone—and, although I think that it would be absurd to expect by mere seniority to get efficient general officers, even if confined to officers who were actually serving, our system is infinitely more absurd than that—a man rises to be a general officer not by serving, but by simply living upon half-pay. When a man has once attained to the rank of lieutenant colonel, under certain circumstances, he then, without doing another day's duty, and fit or unfit, rises by seniority alone to the rank of a general officer, and it is the only way in which he can attain that rank. Let me show you the consequence. I had the honour of serving last spring upon a Commission of Inquiry upon this subject, and it was proved by the papers placed before that Commission, and it is stated in our report, that of the general officers employed during the last twenty years more than half bad been above ten years out of active employment in their profession previous to being appointed to the staff as general officers:—that many had been for periods exceeding twenty years unemployed:—and that in one case an officer actually had done no military duty of any description for very nearly thirty-seven years before he was so employed. Now, my Lords, I wish to ask you whether you can expect, with such a system of ap- 1078 pointing general officers, to have them efficient? Can you expect that, even during peace, all the important functions which general officers have to perform in maintaining the efficiency of the army, by inspecting regiments, and seeing that on distant stations, and at the various garrisons, discipline is properly maintained—do you think it possible, I ask, however excellent an officer a man may have been in early life, that one who has been thirty-seven years out of the exercise of his profession, and who is appointed because he has outlived all his contemporaries, can perform efficiently, even in peace, the duties of a general officer? You will find also, my Lords, from the report of the Commission, that the actual average age of the major generals appointed at the last brevet under this system was not less than sixty-one. My Lords, I say that the consequence is, that it is actually impossible under this system that you should have any number of officers who have seen service in the rank in which you want to employ them, and upon whom, being at the same time of a suitable age, you could depend for service in the Crimea. The choice of officers by the Government has, I am sure, been restricted by this system in a manner which must be most painful to them; and at the same time it has had no slight effect in producing those consequences which we so deeply deplore.
Then, let me ask you whether the instruction of our Army during peace is what it ought to have been in order to prepare it for war? Let me remind you that it is only about two years since you formed your first establishment for teaching, upon anything like a system, the use of improved firearms to the troops. The French have had establishments of that kind, in which the use of the Minié rifle was taught upon a most admirable plan, and with the utmost care, for years. The deficiency was over and over again pointed out; but it is only two years or two years and a half since such an establishment was formed for our own Army. But more than that—I have it upon the authority of the noble Viscount himself (Viscount Hardinge)—that he has ascertained that one battalion of our Guards—which ought to be one of our best, and almost model regiments —had actually never had any ball practice for a space of three years. My Lords, that is the manner in which the use of arms has been taught to your troops. But is it merely 1079 the use of their arms and drill—is it the mere knowledge of these things which makes a good soldier or a good officer? Ought he not to know something more than that? Ought he not to know how to perform outpost duty—how to take advantage of all the accidents of the ground for offence or defence—how to construct small works for similar purposes—how to build huts for his own shelter of such rude materials as are to be found wherever warlike operations are carried on? Ought he not to know all the best modern contrivances for facilitating labour and for employing the joint efforts of large bodies of men with most effect in the prosecution of any work to be carried on? Ought not all these things to be taught to both officers and men? It is quite clear that instructions of this kind would have been of the very highest value to our troops in the East. I think it was Napoleon who said that, in all the armies of Europe there was a great deficiency in this respect, in his day, and that they had much to learn from the ancient Romans, by whom no soldier was considered fit to take his place in a legion until he had been taught the use of entrenching tools as well as of his weapons. Napoleon, in expressing his admiration of this system, said that, with an army so instructed, a good general would fight as much with the spade as with the musket. How deeply has the want of this kind of instruction been felt in our army, and how much is its inferiority in some respects to the French army to be attributed to a deficiency of knowledge of this part of the business of a soldier? Why have they not known it? Simply because no attempt has ever been made to teach them. There has never been anything like a systematic attempt to teach your officers and men this most necessary and important part of their duty as soldiers. Would there have been any difficulty in teaching them? Far from it. There is no reason why every soldier in the British Army should not be as well instructed as the Sappers and Miners. I will answer for it that, in a long peace, with proper arrangements, there would not have been the slightest difficulty in devising means by which every single soldier in the British Army, before he took his place in the ranks, should have gone through a perfect system of instruction of this kind. Look at the indirect advantages which would have arisen to him from it. In the first place, we know now that the soldier, if he gets 1080 tired of a military life and buys his discharge, has often great difficulty in maintaining himself, owing to Ids understanding no useful description of labour. The Sappers and Miners, on the contrary, are so useful in civil life that it is actually difficult for the Government to keep them—there are such constant attempts to bribe them out of the service by persons who know how valuable they would be in any employment to which they might be turned. That instruction, therefore, costing nothing, would lead to a vast improvement in the condition of the soldier after his discharge. Nor is that all. There is another indirect advantage which would have arisen of not less importance. I believe that nothing would have so much contributed to improve the British army as to have occupied some of their spare time by some useful employment of this kind. My Lords, forced idleness and the tedium created by it have been the curse of the army. It is these which have driven your soldiers into those habits of drinking which have been the opprobrium of our service—which, though I am happy to say that they are now much diminished, still continue to prevail to far too great an extent. It is these which have driven your young officers into those irregularities of which some painful exposures have lately taken place. My Lords, I do not blame those young officers. Young men cannot be expected to submit to what are often very dry, and apparently uninteresting studies, with no immediate result, if they have not some stimulus to it. If they know that it will not have the smallest influence upon their promotion, how can you expect young men to devote themselves to studies of that description? There would have been no difficulty in inducing them to acquire a competent knowledge of the scientific, as well as of the practical part of their profession, which should be a necessary qualification for officers to obtain promotion. There would have been no difficulty in making them feel that those who took great pains and acquired all this sort of knowledge would advance their chances of promotion—but I know that the opinion in the army has been that such was not the effect of such studies. I have myself heard the remark made by officers,—"Why should we take the trouble to instruct ourselves, and get the highest place at Sandhurst, when we know that distinguishing ourselves in that way will not advance us at all, if it does not rather create a prejudice against us?" I firmly believe 1081 that they were wrong in that impression; but I cannot deny that I have heard men say, that it would even create a prejudice against them, and would make them be regarded rather as what are called "book-men" than as practical officers. Now, my Lords, look at the advantage of instruction of this kind, for your staff particularly. In this present campaign, is it not the general cry of every man, that the want of the proper instruction of your staff officers has been one of the greatest difficulties which you have had to contend with? I fear there can be no doubt that the complaint is as well founded as it is general. In the French army we know that no officer can serve on the staff until he has passed a most severe examination as to his knowledge of every practical detail. In our army, unfortunately, that is not the case. But there is another circumstance which has increased the deficiency of your staff officers. It is this—more than twenty years ago a Committee of the House of Commons pointed out that it was very desirable that the same officers should not be engaged for too long a continuance upon the staff, and they recommended that staff officers should not be employed for more than five years at a time; assigning as a reason, not only that it would distribute more fairly to the whole army the rewards of the profession, but that it would create a class of educated staff officers who would be very useful in time of war. That was the recommendation of a Committee of the House of Commons twenty years ago. How has it been treated? It has remained front that day to this a dead letter, and the recommendation has only lately been repeated by that Commission to which I before referred, of which I had the honour to be a Member last spring. I might point out other deficiencies: I might refer to the want of improvement in the clothing of the troops, in their arms, in the artillery—to delays in adopting the latest scientific discoveries for adding to the power of our arms—and many other matters—I abstain from doing so, I think I have said enough to show your Lordships that, during a very long peace, our army has not been managed in such a manner as to fit it fur the emergency of war. I know it has been said, and upon high authority, that this state of things has been produced by the niggardliness of Parliament, that it is because we have not kept up our establishments upon a sufficiently large scale that these evils have arisen; and I per- 1082 ceive, from the cheers which have followed my mention of this, that some noble Lords are of that opinion. For my own part, I utterly deny the correctness of such a statement. In the first place, the improvements I have pointed out would not have cost the country one single farthing; I mean to say, that every one of those improvements to which I have alluded might have been introduced with the most perfect facility without one single shilling of expense. But more than that—I deny that the House of Commons has shown that niggardliness in voting the sums necessary for the proper defence of the country which has been imputed to it. For nineteen years I had the honour of being a member of that House, and I do not believe that in the course of those nineteen years I was ever absent when military estimates were discussed. In four of those years it was my duty to submit them to the House of Commons, as Secretary at War, and I will assert that in all that time I never yet saw a single instance in which the House of Commons refused a vote of money which was necessary for the real efficiency of the service. I am by no means sure that I could say the reverse with equal confidence—that they had never made grants with injudicious liberality, which were not called for by the circumstances of the country. Well, I say, then, there has not been this niggardliness which is so often dwelt upon. I do not, indeed, pretend to say that they have kept up military establishments during peace sufficient to enable us, without large augmentations and without some time spent in preparation, to enter upon an offensive war. Certainly not; and I hope and trust that this country never will consent to keep up its peace establishments upon any such scale as would be adequate for the necessities of war. To do so would be to commit the greatest blunder which could be imagined; because, independently of the expense, of the great drain upon the resources of the country, preventing the real increase of power which the accumulation of wealth in a kingdom creates,—independently of all this, independently also of the great evils arising from the jealousy which would be excited by such armaments in foreign countries—the just and natural jealousy which would exist in those countries upon finding that our armaments were kept up on a scale sufficient at any time for offensive operations, which would drive them into 1083 a similar course, and would leave both parties pretty much where they were before—independently, I say, of all this, I assert that, if you do keep up these establishments upon such a scale, you will be in a worse situation at the beginning of a war than you actually are now,—you would be in a worse position for this reason. You would have your Army still more full than it is of officers advanced in age and without experience in war; and you would have your arsenals and harbours filled with arms, ships, and stores of obsolete pattern, and not embodying all the improvements which modern science has suggested. I firmly believe already that it would have been better for us if, on the breaking out of this war, we had been thrown to a greater extent upon the re-Sources which we could create at the time, and if we had trusted less at the commencement of the present contest to those relics of a former war then in existence. I say, therefore, that over-economy does not account for the evils which we now have to deplore; they arise from a very different source. Let me remind you how very large have been the grants which Parliament has made for the support of our military and naval establishments during peace. By a return which was laid upon the table of the House last session, it appears that the total money spent upon our Army, Ordnance, and Navy, during the fourteen years ending in 1853, was no less than 217,000,000l., giving an average of 15,500,000l. annually voted for our naval and military establishments; and will any man tell me that so vast a sum as 15,500,000l. a year, if judiciously applied, was not ample to keep up an armament quite sufficient for all peace purposes, and sufficient as a nucleus for more extended preparations when war takes place? When war breaks out you never want to commence offensive operations immediately; there is always some time for preparation. For instance, in the present war, it was not until six months after the declaration of war that the expedition sailed to the Crimea, which we must call the beginning of offensive operations. Your expedition sailed, I believe, from Varna in September, while war was declared in March. Even before these six months expired there was still more time for preparation. [VISCOUNT HARDINCE suggested, that our troops had been sent to Gallipoli some time before the end of the six months.] Yes, but Gallipoli was 1084 not an offensive operation. I say, that offensive operations did not commence until six months after the declaration of war, and until fully twelve months after war must have appeared so probable that preparations Might have been commenced. That time, if well used, and if your establishments had been previously upon a proper footing, was ample for you to have made every effort which could reasonably be expected from this country. I repeat, then, it is not to over economy that we must attribute the existing evil, which has quite a different origin. The fault is that to which I have already adverted—the division of authority and of responsibility in our military departments. There is a homely saying, that "too many cooks spoil the broth;" and you have had too many cooks. What you want is something like the administration of the Navy by the Admiralty. The Admiralty performs every function with regard to the Navy which one would expect to devolve upon it. It builds the ships; it appoints the officers; it gives all the requisite directions with regard to manning, discipline, and provisions; and everything is complete within itself. What is the consequence? No doubt there have been some errors of judgment committed, even by the Admiralty, during the present war. It would not be difficult to point out some of those errors; but still, upon the whole, the Admiralty has furnished to the country a most splendid fleet, and the efficiency of that fleet has not been impaired by such mistakes as have occurred with regard to the Army. My Lords, I say, therefore, that if you wish to apply a remedy to this state of things, you must consolidate the many independent departments which have now concurrent power and authority with respect to the administration of the Army. Unless you do that, you will effect no real good, and I must say that that consolidation cannot, in my opinion, be effected by the appointment of a Secretary of State for War, and placing under him the whole management of the Army. The Secretary for War has to direct not only the Army but the Navy. He is supposed to be the organ of the Government for directing all your warlike operations. Now, it seems to me to be quite inconsistent with this function that he should have under his charge all the details connected with the management of the Army. Complaints would probably arise from the Navy that they were put under the authority of a de- 1085 partment which had authority over the Army, and in this way jealousy might arise between the two services, as well as a conflict of authority between Secretaries of State. What is really wanted is, as I have stated before, the consolidation of the offices of the Secretary at War, the Commander in Chief, the Board of Ordnance, and the Commissariat, You ought, in my opinion, to have one single and well-constituted department, which should do for the Army that which the Admiralty now does for the Navy—that is, provide an efficient instrument to execute the orders of the Government, whatever those orders may be. If you do this, I cannot believe that a fourth Secretary of State would be necessary; for I concur with the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) who spoke upon this subject some time ago, that the real direction of the war ought to rest with the Prime Minister. There is no other authority in the Government who can direct every functionary of every subordinate department for the conduct of the war in the same manner as the Prime Minister, because when the country is engaged in war it naturally absorbs everything else. The business of the Treasury, of the Foreign Office, of the Army Department, and of the Navy are of equal importance in forwarding the one common object, and, except the Prime Minister, I know no one man who can have an efficient directing authority over them all.
But I know it is said that such a consolidation would be objectionable, because it would place the command of the Army and the patronage of the Army too immediately in the hands of the Government of the day. My Lords, I know how much stress has been laid by many persons upon this objection, but I am prepared to meet it. With regard to the prerogative of the Crown, which has been sometimes dwelt on, I will not repeat the arguments I addressed to your Lordships upon a former occasion with regard to this point, because, if I am not mistaken, the noble Duke (the Duke of Newcastle) gave up every ground of objection of that kind to the change I proposed, and admitted that the prerogative of the Crown was not affected by the question one way or the other—that all executive duties belong equally to the Crown, but that they are all equally exercised by means of responsible advisers, and subject to the criticism of Parliament. When you say there is an objection to putting the command of our Army too directly under the Govern- 1086 ment of the day, let me remind you that the existence of a Commander in Chief, such as he is now known, is a very modern introduction. Until after the revolutionary war, I believe you can find no instance of a Commander in Chief during peace. You never had such an officer during peace, and even during war the Commander in Chief was generally what his name implies, the commander of a certain portion of the Army directly under his orders, and of which be acted as general. The pleasure of the Sovereign upon all military business, including the granting of commissions, was then taken by the Secretary of State or the Secretary at War, and not by the Commander in Chief. The Commander in Chief recommended, but it was a Member of the civil Government who took the pleasure of the Sovereign. It was not until 1812 that the Commander in Chief 's office was placed upon the footing of a public department; until then lie was only an officer commanding a certain portion of the Army. At the same time, I am ready to allow that, although this change was not formally completed before 1812, yet, substantially, it took place at a considerably earlier period, and probably for fifty or sixty years the department of the Commander in Chief has been pretty much what it now is. But, further than this, I hold that, according to the duties now performed by a Commander in Chief, his title is a misnomer. He is not Commander in Chief. To my notion, the name implies an officer who is in military command of troops, who is constantly at their head, and acting as their general. Now I need not tell your Lordships that the Commander in Chief in this country is never seen at the head of troops, unless, indeed, it be at a birthday parade or a review in Hyde Park. Except at some State pageant of that kind, I say, the Commander in Chief never appears in command of troops, and his duties might be perfectly well performed without his ever putting a red coat on his back. He sits in his office at the Horse Guards, and upon him there devolves the duty of organising and superintending the British Army all over the world. It is a duty which, in every other country, is performed, not by a general commanding, but by a Minister of War. In this country the Commander in Chief is a Minister of War, but a Minister of War shorn of a great part of his proper power and authority. He is a Minister of War, with very little power over the artillery, 1087 with no authority in matters of expense, and with scarcely any as regards the provisioning, clothing, and arming of the troops. He is a Minister of War deprived of all these essential parts of his functions. I say, then, that the obvious remedy for this anomaly is to get rid of this department. Appoint a general to command the troops in England, and, under the direction of the Minister, to undertake the important duty of watching over the discipline and the training of the troops at home and of preparing them for service abroad when they are called upon. Let him be an officer who will train the troops in arms—not a Minister of War with a pen in his hands at the Horse Guards; and, as to duties of a different description, which now belong to the Commander in Chief, give them to a Minister of War—no matter what you call him—it is comparatively unimportant whether he is first Commissioner of an Army Board, or Secretary at War, with a sufficient number of officers under him; in either way you might constitute a department for the management of the Army, and to this you ought to transfer the duties belonging properly to a Minister of War, now performed by the Commander in Chief. Among those duties I do not hesitate to say you must include the patronage of the Army. I know how strong is the prejudice which exists upon this subject; I know how many persons believe that you cannot, without danger, place the patronage of the Army under the control of a Member of the Civil Government. But let me point out to you that it is impossible to invest a Minister with the power necessary for the efficient management of the Army, unless you give him complete control over its patronage. Can any Minister be justly made responsible for the conduct of a department if he is not allowed to choose the instruments he employs; if he is not intrusted with the means of rewarding those who do good and faithful service? I would ask my noble Friend the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs whether he would consent to be responsible for conducting the foreign relations of this country if he had no voice in the appointment of any member of the diplomatic body, from the Attaché up to the highest Minister acting under him—if he had no means of advancing those who did well, or of recalling those who were deficient in performing their duties? Would he consent to undertake the management of our foreign relations upon 1088 these terms? I think I cannot be at a loss for his answer. But with regard to the Army, it is more particularly necessary that this power should be exercised by the person responsible for its efficiency. Upon what does that efficiency mainly depend? If there is one thing more than another upon which it depends it is upon the manner in which the patronage is exercised—upon the care taken to advance deserving officers, and sternly to refuse promotion to the incompetent. It is upon the care and zeal with which this is done that it mainly depends whether your Army is efficient or the reverse. Let me also observe that in every other department of the public service you do trust the Minister of the Crown with patronage. I have already referred to the Diplomatic service. The Naval service is the same; and throughout the whole of the Civil service the different branches are subject to the control of Her Majesty's Government. I do not deny that abuses may be committed in this way. I should be the last to deny that under every Government, and in every time, Parliamentary interest and other improper motives have influenced the appointments and promotions in the public service. Such abuses, I am afraid, have existed, and while human nature is what it is I am afraid they will continue to exist. I know no country, no form of Government in which abuses in the distribution of patronage have been avoided. The greatest and most difficult problem for the solution of a Government is to secure the appointment of the right men to situations in the public service. Upon the whole, however, admitting the abuses which have taken place in the administration of patronage, I believe that placing it under the control of a responsible Minister of the Crown is the best security you can obtain for the due discharge of this most important duty. I know that a comparison has sometimes been drawn between the distribution of patronage in the Navy and in the Army to the advantage of the latter, and in proof of the alleged benefit of removing the patronage from the influence of party politics; I should be prepared, for answer, to take issue upon that as a matter of fact. I deny that for the last sixty years the distribution of the patronage of the Army under the existing system has, upon the whole, been more pure than that of the Navy. The abuses may have been of a different character, and I believe they have. But if you will 1089 go into detail and scrutinise appointments, I will undertake to show you that the public service has suffered more in the Army than it has in the Navy during the last sixty years from injudicious appointments, and from appointments made from improper motives. My Lords, I cannot help stating that, even now, at this moment, in the Crimea, judging by results, I cannot believe that the patronage of the Army has been exercised with so much greater judgment and discretion than that of the Navy. This I know—and I see a noble Lord here present who can confirm the truth of what I am saying—this I know, that there is in the Army at this moment great dissatisfaction at the recent promotions for service; and I am told that it is the opinion of the Army—whether correctly or not I have not the means of judging—that men who were not really under fire at Inkerman, or the Alma, or at Balaklava, and who have never undergone the perils and the hardships of the trenches—that men of this kind have received the promotion which has been denied to most meritorious regimental officers. I know not whether that allegation be true; but I think it is a pregnant example of the inconvenience of the existing system that such an allegation and such complaints can be made; and that if it be true no man in this house can distinctly say, if the mistake has been made, who is responsible for it. Is it the Secretary of State for War, or is it the Commander in Chief? I think it would be one of the great advantages of the change I propose, that in these matters any future responsibility would be brought distinctly home to one individual, and thus this great and important power of promotion and reward, upon the judicious use of which the whole efficiency of an army depends, would be exercised under that check and under that feeling of responsibility which would thereby be created. Whilst touching upon promotion, I cannot avoid mentioning one other subject. Look at the medical staff and at the medical service. I believe there has been no branch of the service which has been so completely withdrawn from the control of the civil Government of the country as the Army medical service; and, I ask, does the present state of that service, and the manner in which the duties have been performed, justify you in believing that that patronage has been so much more judiciously exercised than patronage in other branches of the service? I say, 1090 then, that you have failed in preventing those evils against which the measure was directed, by withdrawing the patronage of the Army from the control of the Ministers entrusted with the government of the country. But in making a vain attempt to avoid one class of evils, see what serious evils of another kind you have incurred. As the management of the Army cannot be separated from the patronage, both have been thrown into the hands of the Commander in Chief, as a kind of independent authority. But as it is impossible, under our constitution, that any great branch of the public service can be altogether withdrawn from the control of the Ministers, who are held responsible by Parliament for the manner in which the Executive powers of the Crown are exercised, you have entrusted to the Commander in Chief only a crippled and divided authority—an authority powerful in obstruction, but powerless for action—very strong as an obstacle to the civil servants of the Crown in acting upon their own views in the management of the Army, but too feeble to enable him to act upon his own. Hence all the weakness and uncertainty of action which have characterised our military administration, and which must ever be expected from divided authority and divided responsibility.
But further, the management of the Army even in peace ought to be one of the most important of the functions discharged by the Executive Government of the country; and in time of war the management of the Army and Navy are clearly the two most important duties appertaining to the Government. If this be true—and no one will, I think, deny that it is so—is it either more or less than a palpable absurdity to say that, while we have a Government responsible to the country and to Parliament for the general line of policy which they may adopt, the whole control over the Army shall be given to military authorities, who shall enjoy a quasi independence in carrying on that branch of the public service? My Lords, I say that at this moment you are suffering from the effects which have been produced by that kind of independence of the Queen's Government which has for the last fifty years been enjoyed by the military authorities. I make this assertion without hesitation, because while I think I have shown that it is owing to errors in the past administration of the Army, that in the day of trial it has failed to answer the expecta- 1091 tions of the country, and has proved less equal than it ought to have been to its duties in war, I am also prepared to maintain that these errors of administration have arisen directly from the want of sufficient power on the part of the civil Government to introduce from time to time those improvements which have been known to be necessary. I believe that most of the Governments which have existed in this country for many years have been aware of the paramount importance of introducing various improvements into our system of military administration. I can assert that such has been the case with all those Governments with which I have had the honour of being connected, and I believe it to have been the case with most other Governments which have of late years conducted the affairs of this country. It is now nearly twenty years since I had the honour of accepting the office of Secretary at War, and I had not long entered upon its duties before I discovered how many measures there were not merely practicable, but easy, by which the Army might be rendered more efficient, and how many glaring evils there were which required correction. I certainly spared no exertion of which I was capable in order to effect the reforms which seemed to me so necessary, and I hope and believe that I was not altogether unsuccessful in accomplishing some improvements, but it was slow and weary work to carry even minor reforms with the complicated and cumbersome constitution of our military departments, and I retired from that office with a painful consciousness that what had been done was a small part indeed of what ought to have been effected. I believe that other Secretaries at War have experienced the same feelings; because I have perceived that gentlemen who have successively held that office have endeavoured to carry forward the work of improvement, and that yet all that has been done falls far short of what is necessary. I am persuaded that there never will be, nor ever can be, any effectual correction of the evils which I have pointed out; you never will have a really vigorous administration of the Army until it is brought, like all other branches of the public service, under the direct and immediate control of some one minister holding office by the same tenure as the other advisers of the Crown. One great advantage of our system of government is, that while on the 1092 one hand you have the benefit of experience in carrying on the public service, from the practice which has happily grown up of allowing the great body of our public servants to hold their offices virtually during good behaviour; on the other hand, you obtain some security at least against the administration of the affairs of the nation degenerating into a mere system of routine, by placing at the head of the several branches of that administration Ministers who are responsible for the manner in which the business is conducted, who retain their places only while they possess the confidence of Parliament, who perform their duties under the constant criticism of political opponents, and who practically seldom hold their offices for many years together, so that new minds are periodically brought to bear upon the conduct of affairs, by which provision is made for introducing from time to time those improvements which the progress of society demands.
The Army alone has hitherto been an exception to this general system of our constitutional Government. Under the pretence of taking it out of the influence of party, its management has been removed from the direct control of the Government, and has been left in purely professional hands. The administration of the Army has for a series of years been intrusted to officers who have risen to high rank in their profession, and who are, therefore, generally men advanced in life, and on whom it is no reflection to say—what, indeed, may be said of those who have risen to eminence in all other professions—that they are indisposed to consent to any alteration in that system under which they themselves have risen to distinction, and which was in existence at the time when they entered the service. But you place the administration of the Army not only under professional men, but you add to that arrangement the difficulty that the chiefs of the profession to whom you entrust this duty have not their hands free to adopt any measure which they may think necessary, but they are checked at every turn by requiring the concurrence of other departments; and, from the manner in which the different offices are constituted, they can scarcely avoid being influenced by a natural jealousy of the civil departments. You are now, my Lords, reaping in the Crimea the fruits of this policy. The Army is now what it has been made by a long series of years of 1093 professional management, and I think the deficiencies it has shown have, beyond all doubt, contributed in no small degree to bring it into the condition we deplore. But let me not be misunderstood. When I say that the Army has not shown itself as efficient as it ought to be, I am far from meaning to deny its valour or its many great excellences, of which I am as sensible as any of your Lordships. No man more admires the heroic valour our troops have displayed in battle, and the still more heroic fortitude they have displayed under privations almost incredible. No man, I say, admires these excellences more than I do; but the more I admire them, so much the more do I desire to see the administration of the Army placed under a system of management which will relieve it from those faults which I have long foreseen would lead to unhappy consequences whenever we should be involved in war, though, unfortunately, I have seldom found any officer of high rank prepared to believe it. My Lords, I say that I admire the valour and fortitude displayed by our Army, nor do I doubt that their efforts, in spite of those faults to which I have adverted, might have been attended with success, had they been better directed and seconded by better arrangements for providing for the wants of the troops. It is to the confusion and almost incredible failures which have happened in all these arrangements, that the disastrous condition of our Army at the present moment is chiefly to be attributed. These errors and blunders are precisely in kind what I anticipated when, in the debate on the Address last year, I ventured to predict to your Lordships that, unless some great changes were made in our departmental arrangements, we should not be many months engaged in a serious war without meeting with some great calamities. I made those observations a year ago, and, although I felt in doing so that I was guided by reason, still I little believed that the prediction would be so soon and so fearfully fulfilled. Errors of the kind which have been committed I did expect; but I must admit that in degree those which have been committed exceed anything that I could have believed possible. They are more than can be accounted for merely by the inconvenient organisation of the military department, and therefore I think that what has occurred must form the subject of a strict inquiry. There must have been great faults committed somewhere, and those faults should 1094 hereafter be inquired into, when the inquiry can be entered into without interfering with the energetic prosecution of the war. But in the meantime your Lordships I am sure will agree with me that the position of our brave army is one which must inspire the deepest anxiety, and which requires that, without even one day's delay, there should be a complete change in the manner in which the war has been conducted. If such a change does not take place at once, the consequences may be such as I positively shudder to contemplate. My Lords, it is this feeling which induces me to ask your Lordships, as the first step towards effecting the improvements which are necessary, to express your opinion of the necessity of a change being made in the constitution of the military departments. The noble Earl concluded by moving to resolve—That it is the Opinion of this house that great Evils have arisen from the present Division of Authority and Responsibility in the Administration of the Army; and that the whole of the Business connected with this important Branch of the Public Service, which is now distributed among different Offices, ought therefore to be brought under the direct Control of a single and well-organised Department.
§ THE DUKE OF NEWCASTLE
My Lords, as it is not my intention to oppose the Motion of my noble Friend; and as I entirely concur with a great deal of what has fallen from him, it will not be necessary for me on the present occasion to trespass for any considerable length on the attention of your Lordships. I shall confine myself to two points, believing that this is not the proper occasion to touch upon others. A noble and learned Lord (Lord Lyndhurst) has given notice that upon this day week he will draw your Lordships' attention to the whole conduct of the war, and as it is his intention to move a Resolution strongly condemnatory of the whole conduct of the Government in that respect, I think your Lordships will agree with me that I ought not upon the present occasion to travel into those subjects which must then be discussed, but that, on the contrary, I should reserve myself for that future day, when it will be my duty to offer to your Lordships the vindication of which I believe the conduct of Her Majesty's Government to be capable. There is one point which I shall postpone with regret, as it is one of a more personal nature, having reference to my own conduct in the department to which I have the honour to belong. Under 1095 any other circumstances, I would prefer to meet on the instant any accusations against myself; and what has taken place in the other House of Parliament so recently as Friday last, would render me most anxious to trouble your Lordships with some explanations on that subject; but I am prevented doing so on the present occasion by two considerations. One of those reasons I do not think it necessary to explain; but the other is, that the Motion of my noble Friend is of such vast importance, involving, as it does, the consideration of the welfare of the army, and, therefore, at the present time, the well-being of the country, that I should be most reluctant to mix up with the consideration of such a subject anything relating to myself. If, however, on this occasion I avoid touching upon that topic, I trust that I may be permitted to state that, at the very next meeting of your Lordships' House, I will venture to trouble your Lordships with some observations upon it.
My noble Friend must forgive me if I say that he has not quite correctly represented what fell from me about ten months ago. My noble Friend, in the commencement of his speech, represented me as having maintained that all existing arrangements were satisfactory. I am sure that the noble Earl did not intend to misquote, but he has forgotten what fell from me on the occasion to which he has referred. I did not deny that some changes might be necessary, and I will admit that the experience of the last nine or ten months has strengthened my opinion that I was right in not making any such denial. What I really did say on that occasion was, not that all existing arrangements were satisfactory, but that my noble Friend carried his views on this subject to a somewhat extravagant length. I did not think that the moment when we were just involved in a great war, and when it was necessary to make every exertion to carry it on, was the proper time to introduce great and radical changes into our system, or that we should at such a moment throw out of gear all the departments of I the army, and endeavour to introduce into its administration an entirely novel system. What I said was, that if any changes were introduced, they should only be introduced after due deliberation; and I believe that even in time of peace, when a small mistake would lead to results of comparative unimportance, that is the cor- 1096 rect principle to act upon; and, if it be so, it surely is of more importance to act upon it in time of war, when a small mistake may lead to results the most calamitous.
As it is not my intention on the present occasion to refer to any events connected with the war, I shall pass over what my noble Friend has said on that subject, as illustrating the necessity for some changes in the administration of the army, with the passing observation that I do not think that my noble Friend has proved so completely as he appeared to think he had, the connection between the distress of the army in the Crimea and the departmental system in this country. I will not enter now into any consideration as to what led to that distress, but I do not think that it has been proved that it is the constitution of the departments to which that distress is entirely owing. The noble Earl has referred to the loss of time which, he says, has taken place in giving orders for what was necessary to carry on the war, and he has produced two instances; but I believe that similar instances of delay might be found under any system, for it is impossible that delays and accidents should not sometimes occur. The noble Earl has referred to the case of delay in the orders given with regard to Mr. Nasmyth's guns; and there was, no doubt, some delay owing to a departmental misunderstanding; but that misunderstanding was not between the Departments of the Army, but between the Admiralty and Board of Ordnance. The noble Earl proceeded to deduce, from the delay that took place, an argument that the different departments were not under the proper and efficient control of one head; but in this he is mistaken. Let me state what steps I took when the circumstance was brought to my notice. Without inquiring how the mistake had arisen, or into the error which had taken place, and being desirous that there should be no further delay, I communicated with Mr. Nasmyth, directing him, on my own responsibility, to proceed with his guns, and telling him that subsequently the departmental mistake should be set right. The second instance to which the noble Earl referred was that of Price's Candle Company. I was not previously aware of some of the circumstances to which he has referred, for I had not seen the letters in the newspapers from which he has quoted; but the delay that did take place might have taken place under any system. When this ingenious invention of the candle stoves was 1097 brought under my notice, it occurred to me that it might not be so applicable to service in the field as for hospital purposes, and I ordered a quantity to be made in order that they might be tried on a somewhat extensive scale; but feeling that in a matter connected with the hospitals which might prove of so much importance I ought not to proceed without communication with the Medical Board, I directed that the matter should be referred to that department before any order was given; and in this case there arose a delay of nine days in consequence of the illness of the head of that Board. I have entered into these details, not with the view of defending the existing system, but to show that in these instances the delay ought not to be attributed to the system. I will refer, however, to the case of the Prince, in order to show that the system does not prevent prompt action. One morning I received a message by telegraph from Bucharest, stating that there had been a great storm on the 14th of November, in the Black Sea, and that many transports had been wrecked. The message gave the names of some ships rightly, and of others wrongly, but among the names given was that of the Prince. Recollecting that on board the Prince there was an immense quantity of stores and warm clothing, which would soon be of the greatest value to the troops, although I knew how little faith could be placed in telegraphic messages, yet, without waiting for any confirmation of the intelligence, agents were sent to the manufacturing districts to purchase similar clothing, and to the same extent as that lost in the Prince, so that when, some days later, we received authentic intelligence of the loss of that vessel, we had fresh supplies ready to be shipped and sent out by the first steamer that could be got in readiness. My Lords, although I mention these circumstances to show that in them the delay which has arisen cannot fairly be attributed to the system of the administration of the army, I do not deny—and I do not think that by anticipation I took a different tone last year—that great alterations in that system may be beneficial. I do not think at the present moment that the system in that department works well; but, as my noble Friend has avoided referring to any alterations which may be effected, I will follow his example, though, at the same time, I must express my belief that great alterations ought to be effected.
My noble Friend has referred to the 1098 Medical Board, and there, again, I consider great improvements ought to be made. An attempt has been made, possible in a time of peace, but impossible in a time of war, to maintain a medical system exclusively to the army. I think that it has broken down. I am ready to do all justice to the eminent and zealous men serving in a professional capacity with the army in the Crimea, but of this I am certain, that in the present state of the army and of the hospitals it will be absolutely necessary, in spite of all opposition and all professional feelings to the contrary, to introduce into those hospitals the civil element. I believe that the organisation of the Medical Board at home is also defective, and there, again, I agree with my noble Friend that alterations ought to be introduced.
But, my Lords, when my noble Friend used the term "consolidation," and stated that consolidation is absolutely necessary, I do not think that he sufficiently explained what he means by the word "consolidation." If my noble Friend means that he thinks the Ordnance Department, the duties performed by the War Office, the Commissariat, the Commander in Chief, and all the other departments which are at present separated, should be comprehended under one roof, and superintended by one head, then, I believe, it is absolutely impossible to carry such a change as that into effect. I can only say that I have found already, even under the existing system, during the short time the Ministry of War has been separated from the Secretaryship of the Colonies, that I have been overburdened and crushed by details to an extent which has frequently left me but too little time to attend to many great and paramount objects which ought to occupy the attention of the Secretary for War. If, therefore, you pursue consolidation in that sense to a greater extent, I am confident that, instead of gaining efficiency, you will render the office still more inefficient. But if my noble Friend means that he wishes to produce a greater unity of action, and to insure the complete supervision and control of one paramount authority, then I should be prepared to agree with him. I believe you may extend the system further than it has been already carried; but I beg to assure my noble Friend that, so far from its being possible in a time of war to carry consolidation further than it has been, it has been found that consolidation with reference 1099 to war time has been carried too far as it is. Already in two important points we have found it absolutely necessary to separate departments, one in the administration at home, and the other in the administration of the army in the field. My noble Friend has pointed to the advantages which have been gained by the consolidation which has taken place in the Admiralty; and I agree with him, so far as a time of peace is concerned. I believe the measure introduced in 1832 by my right hon. Friend, now, as then, at the head of the Admiralty, to consolidate the Transport Board with the Board of Admiralty, acted admirably, and worked well in a time of peace. But, my Lords, if I were to point at this moment to that which has more failed and broken down than any other part of our system, so far as the home departments are concerned, I should be compelled, notwithstanding the eminent qualities, the zeal, the industry, and the abilities of Captain Milne, who has had more especially the control of that department under the First Lord of the Admiralty, to point to our transport system as having failed more than any other during the time we have been at war. To the transport service, my Lords, may be traced many of the misfortunes which have attended carrying out the instructions which have been given at home. I could prove this to your Lordships, and upon some future occasion I will do so; but, so sensible is my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, who introduced the system, and who would be naturally proud of what had been done and what had worked so successfully in time of peace, that it is inefficient in a time of war, that he has proposed to the Government to depart from it so long as the war lasts, and to establish a Transport Board for war service, but to revert to the system adopted in 1832 as soon as the war shall have ceased. Now, my Lords, there is another point in which I have myself found that, so far from consolidation, separation was absolutely necessary. In connection with the army in the field, I found that the Commissariat had been completely overburdened,—that step by step you had placed upon that department more than it could possibly perform, and that the result was, that you were deficient of the means of forming a proper land transport service. I believe that if you were to continue the present system of leaving the Commissariat the duty of procuring animals and all other 1100 means of conveyance, as well as the purchase and transport of provisions and stores, your army in the field would never be in a really effective and movable condition. So satisfied have I been of that fact, that I have separated the land transport service from the Commissariat, appointing a military man of great abilities to organise that service under a military system and under military rules. Though there has not yet been time to bring the alterations into play, I feel confident that when they come into full operation they will be the means of placing the army upon a better and more satisfactory footing. I am aware, my Lords, that by multiplying departments at home, there may be a tendency to increase those jealousies and misunderstandings which often lead to a want of co-operation; but,. as I have said before, much of the proper working of a system depends upon the head at home, or the Board with which the direction is entrusted. In placing the transport system in the hands of the Commissariat you entrusted that department with duties of vital importance—no less than the feeding of the army; but it was impossible that those duties could be satisfactorily executed, unless the Commissariat had ample means at their command, in the shape of transports, to carry them out. I consider it highly necessary that a good understanding should exist among all parties concerned, and that it would be far better to separate the transport corps from the Commissariat than to allow it to remain as at present, overburdening a department which has quite enough to do to provide food and fuel and forage for the army.
Having explained to your Lordships the view I take of consolidation and the point in which I differ from my noble Friend upon that head, I come now to the observations which were made by my noble Friend with reference to the state and condition of our officers and men, and to that want of instruction to which he has referred, from which he states that such serious evils have arisen. This is a most important part of my noble Friend's speech, and I entirely concur with him in the importance of the subject. I do attribute a great deal of what the army is now suffering to the want of that education to which my noble Friend alluded. I mean not only the instruction of the officers, but the instruction of the men; and in co-operating, as we have now done for some months with the French army, the errors and failings of our 1101 own system have become still more perceptible. While the French soldiers—I speak more particularly of those who have gone through an African campaign—are always ready and able to help themselves in every respect, our soldiers are comparatively helpless, not because they are less intelligent or less zealous, but because they have lacked those means of instruction which our Allies have possessed for many years past. I hope that the want of instruction in the use of arms, to which my noble Friend referred, has now been, to a great extent, rectified, if not entirely removed; but in other important matters connected with the camp our soldiers went to the Crimea entirely ignorant, and all the little knowledge they possess has been picked up by experience or gained from those who had some knowledge of past campaigns. When my noble Friend referred to a want of instruction in the use of arms as one of the misfortunes under which we were labouring, he might have added, also, that upon the breaking out of war we laboured under that most serious deficiency, the want of arms themselves—not merely those improved arms to which my noble Friend has alluded, but arms of all descriptions. I rejoice to say that this evil is being rapidly removed, and that our arsenals are being quickly replenished; but, at the same time, I point out the matter as one of the errors which have been committed during a long peace. I do not mean to say that you are to have great accumulations of arms of a kind which may be superseded by subsequent inventions, but what I say is, that the armouries of this kingdom ought never to have been allowed to fall into the condition in which they were at the breaking out of war. I am now speaking of the Minié rifle, of carbines, and swords; but I may go further, and say that we had no efficient means of providing our army with shells, rockets, and other armaments of that description. So deficient were we that we have been indebted to individuals for inventions, which they have made upon the spur of the moment to remedy our defects; and I rejoice to think that we have not been found to suffer materially from that cause. I confess, however, that when I look back upon our deficiencies a year ago, I look back with horror to the absence of all provision of that description. And, my Lords, I here beg to say that I blame nobody in particular for what has occurred. Every Government in succession has been to 1102 blame for permitting our arsenals and armouries to be in such a state, and I trust sincerely that, if it please Heaven we soon arrive at peace, one of the first steps which will be taken will be to place not only our arsenals at home, but those abroad, in a state of efficiency—not overcrowded with arms likely to become obsolete, but with such supplies as would allow us to take the field, if necessary, without those disadvantages which, as I have mentioned, have occurred on the present occasion. My noble Friend said there had also been, upon every occasion during the last thirty or forty years, a great delay in adopting scientific improvements. There, again, I entirely concur with my noble Friend; and I think I may have been to some extent slightly instrumental in correcting that evil. My noble Friend, and others who have turned their attention to this subject, will be aware of the manner in which scientific improvements have hitherto been investigated at Woolwich. I believe that these investigations have been upon the whole unsatisfactory, notwithstanding the zeal and good intentions of the officers who have had the management of them. I have now entirely reorganised the scientific Committee, and I cannot but hope, when at the present moment the attention of so many individuals is turned to scientific improvements, that the reorganisation of that Committee may be found of great importance and utility.
My noble Friend, towards the close of his observations, said he found, during the four years he was Secretary at War, that it was slow and weary work to introduce improvements. I do not hesitate to say that my experience corroborates that of my noble Friend; but I believe he will admit with me that, if in times of greater leisure improvements were even then a slow and weary work, it is not surprising that in the last nine or ten months we should not have made vast progress in amending errors, which, for twenty years, every successive Government has found plenty of fault with, but has never been enabled properly to correct. My noble Friend touched at some length upon the exact constitution of the authority he would advocate. He said le thought it was a mistake to have appointed a fourth Secretary of State, and he said, also, that he thought the alterations which ought to have been made should have been effected upon the various Boards. I am not quite certain whether my noble Friend intended to repudiate an opinion 1103 which, I believe, he has expressed upon more than one occasion, that the best authority to constitute is a Board with a Minister at its head. I confess that there are considerable advantages to be derived from a Board, and particularly when it is constituted with a responsible authority at its head. That is to a great extent the principle on which I have been endeavouring to conduct the business of my department. I have had periodical meetings with my noble Friend the Commander in Chief, with my right hon. Friend the Secretary at War, and with the Lieutenant General of the Ordnance; and at these meetings various requirements have been discussed, and letters written, our proceedings being similar to those of a Board, though, of course, without any exact legal constitution. But I must frankly confess that I am not so much enamoured of the working of a Board as my noble Friend. There are assuredly certain advantages to be gained from a Board, but at the same time there are great disadvantages; and one of those disadvantages is, that it does away to a considerable extent with individual responsibility, dividing the responsibility among several persons. Even though there be a head to a Board, he does not feel that undivided sense of individual responsibility which he does under the existing system; and, moreover, the satisfactory working of a Board must depend entirely upon the character of the individual placed at its head. If he be a man of paramount abilities and authority, the Board will work well, because the members will become merely his subordinates; but if he be not such a man, then you will find that the Board will become merely a room, with a certain number of gentlemen meeting in it, each pressing his own opinions, going back to his own individual department, and preferring to carry out his own views rather than those of his chief. In short, as I said before, I believe a Board works well when it is practically under the paramount supremacy of one individual, but not otherwise. To show my noble Friend that I have not been unmindful of the advantages we may gather from the experience of others, and that the organisation of the military departments in England is by no means satisfactory, I may inform him that I have considered it advisable to follow the example set us by the French in 1820. At that time they considered our military system superior to theirs. Our allies, however, have now had the advantage of twenty- 1104 five years' military experience in Algeria, and I have therefore followed the example set by them in 1820, and have appointed three Commissioners to investigate in Paris the whole of their system, culling from it such suggestions and improvements as may be found to work satisfactorily; and concurrently with this commission, I have instructed Lord Raglan to appoint a corresponding commission of officers of the army in the Crimea, to examine the French camp for a similar object, and acting under instructions sent by myself. I do think, my Lords, that from these investigations great advantages are likely to accrue, inasmuch as we shall obtain the theory of the French system from the Commissioners in Paris, and at the same time obtain from competent officers in the Crimea the results of the practice of that system as exemplified in the field. I do not know whether it is worth while to mention that in this investigation I have instructed the Commissioners to make particular inquiries as to one department of the French system which is extremely perfect, but which in this country is not only defective, but absolutely and altogether deficient—I mean the Dépôt de la guerre. Since the establishment of the Ministry of War I have taken the first steps towards initiating such an institution in this country, and I have been in communication with foreign Governments, and with Lord Dalhousie, in India, with a view to obtaining a collection of maps; but of course it will take considerable time to organise such a department.
Now, my Lords, it does appear to me that my noble Friend, especially when advocating the engrafting of a new system upon the War Office, has lost sight of the financial system of the army. No one has ever touched upon that very important point, the auditing of the Army accounts. At present it is done by the War Office; and if you entirely change the character of the War Office, and give it the supreme controlling power over other departments, you must provide an entirely different system both of auditing and controlling the accounts. It might, for instance, be desirable to place the original financial control now exercised by the War Office in the hands of the Treasury, and the audit of accounts in those of the Audit Board; but there are difficulties connected with the subject to which my noble Friend has not adverted.
As I said at the commencement of the 1105 observations which I have made to your Lordships, it is not my intention to oppose the Motion of my noble Friend. If he thinks it desirable to place this abstract resolution upon the books of the House, I am not inclined individually, or on the part of the Government, to dissent from it. At the same time, I frankly admit that inconvenience sometimes arises from placing abstract resolutions of this kind on the records of Parliament; and I submit to my noble Friend, whether it is worth while, after the declaration I have made, to press his Motion further? If, however, he does so, all I can say is, that on the part of the Government, and personally, I have no objection to it. I agree with him that material alterations are essentially necessary, and, whatever Government may have to carry them out, I hope they will be enforced with as great promptitude as circumstances will admit; but, at the same time, that they will not be carried out without having first received due consideration, without which they will, I feel assured, do more mischief than good. In consequence of the discussion about to come on next week, and certain other explanations to which I shall call your Lordships' attention at your next meeting, I do not feel disposed to extend my observations, and shall, therefore, conclude with the expression of my general assent to what my noble Friend has said; at the same time suggesting to him that, inasmuch as no particular mode of carrying out his views is mentioned in this Resolution, unless there should be an expression of dissent from any part of the House, which I do not anticipate, his object will have been attained, and that it might be better, under these circumstances, not to place this Resolution permanently on the books of the House.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
said, that the observations he should address to their Lordships would be few. He was supposed by his office as Commander in Chief to be divested of political feeling, and not to take party objections to measures proposed by noble Lords for the improvement of the Army. But he wished to remark on an assertion of the noble Earl that one of the battalions of the Guards was, in consequence of its being detained longer than usual on London duty, for three years without the opportunity of having practice with ball cartridge. I may say, that owing to circumstances such was the case; it arose from an accidental change in the stations of the battalions some years ago. 1106 He would, however, remind the noble Earl of what had been done subsequently. Not only had Minié rifles been introduced, but considerable opportunities of practice had been afforded and had been carried on with great care and attention. No recruit had gone abroad since the spring without being practised with the Minié rifle, and a school of musketry bad been established, where it had been shown that the rifle in use was superior to any weapon which our army had yet had, and better than that used by any foreign army. It was therefore quite accidental that four or five years ago the battalion of Guards, by being three years on London duty, had had no opportunity of practice with ball cartridge, and would not occur again, as a practice range had been hired. There had not only been a school of musketry established, and the rifle adopted, but the excellence of the arm was proved at Inkerman, where the balls not only went through two or three men in the advancing columns of the Russians, but its efficiency in keeping down the fire in the enemies' batteries by means of its long range and great accuracy was most remarkable; and the consequence was, that now, whenever a Russian battalion was opposed to one of ours armed with the Minié rifle, they held their ground before it with much less tenacity than formerly. With regard to the superiority of the civil departments of the French army over ours, one cause of it was this—they had for twenty-five years been carrying on war in Algeria, only sixty hours' distance from the coast of France, and where from 80,000 to 100,000 men had been constantly engaged in war. This had not been the case with us, we had not had such opportunities of improving and gaining experience. He did not agree with the noble Earl that military education had been neglected. The officers at Sandhurst were now educated on the same principle as was adopted during the last war, when Sir George Murray and Sir Charles Napier were students in the senior department; and the école d'état major of the French, now so much eulogised, was, in fact, copied from our staff system in 1815, when the army of occupation was in Paris. When the present war broke out, he felt it so important that officers of merit should be advanced (and he denied the assertion of the noble Earl, that none were chosen for merit, for General Eyre and others were instances) that he sent to the Senior Department, Sandhurst, and directed that 1107 the ablest young men there should be selected for appointment to the Quartermaster General's department, and eight were sent to him, who were appointed deputy-assistant quartermasters general. He knew none of them, except by their credit as having passed good examinations, and none were appointed from aristocratic influence. He believed, however, that at Sandhurst the mathematical instruction was carried too far, for one of the officers in question, who had particularly distinguished himself in mathematics, had been found not to be so quick in his military duties as others who were far behind him in mathematical acquirements. It would give him great pleasure to aid in any measure by which promotion could be regulated according to the attainments and abilities of officers; but it would be very difficult to do this, and you could not test the abilities of an officer till he had been tried in the field. One or two campaigns would test his abilities, but till then it would be difficult to ascertain his merits. With regard to promotion in the Army generally, he could only say that this part of the duty of the Commander in Chief was a very disagreeable one. It was very difficult to satisfy claimants, and also to ascertain whether they were qualified to be appointed as staff officers. He understood the noble Earl to say, that the promotion for services at Alma and Inkerman was not given to proper persons, and that it had caused great dissatisfaction in the Army.
§ EARL GREY
What I said was, that I had heard that there was great dissatisfaction in the Army with regard to the promotions; but that I do not know personally whether that dissatisfaction was just or not, as I had no means of forming an opinion on the subject, but I thought it should be known who was responsible for those promotions.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
The way in which the promotion was regulated was this. The Commander in Chief in the Crimea, who had personally seen services performed, noticed those whom he wished to be marked for promotion, and if a staff officer is named in a despatch he is entitled to be promoted. The senior major of a regiment got a brevet lieutenant-coloneley, and the senior captain received a brevet majority; but there it stopped, and could go no further. If an officer distinguished himself in a skirmish or in the trenches, his conduct was mentioned by the Commander in Chief, and his claim was laid 1108 before Her Majesty, and in every instance was acceded to. If any mistakes were made, he should be happy to correct them. It was very difficult for the Commander in Chief at home to know who was the senior captain of a regiment who might or might not be at Scutari or elsewhere; but he acted on receiving such names as the Commander in Chief in the Crimea sent home. With regard to the preparation made to meet this war, he believed that, as far as the Commander in Chief could go, every assistance was afforded. When he (Viscount Hardinge) was Master General of the Ordnance, under the Government of his noble Friend opposite (the Earl of Derby), the artillery was in so low a state that there were only forty or fifty guns, and their equipments were so rotten that if four or six horses had pulled them through a rough field they would have gone to pieces. He wrote a memorandum to his noble Friend (the Earl of Derby), and he received from him every encouragement, and the result was the immediate establishment of 300 pieces of artillery and 600 ammunition waggons. As far as his knowledge had gone, the civil departments of the Army, as they had worked, had been no impediment. It was true that the Commander in Chief had very little to say to an army abroad, for as soon as a war breaks out the Secretary of State for War takes upon himself the important duty of the management of the Army. He had given to Lord Raglan the same instructions as the Duke of York gave to Sir Arthur Wellesley at the commencement of the Peninsular war, and he was directed to report all matters of discipline and promotion, and the routes by which the army moved. But the Commander in Chief at home was not permitted to correspond with the Commander in Chief abroad, for the purpose of advising him; and that system had been adopted for wise reasons; the instructions of the Commander in Chief might be opposed to those of the Government under whose control the conduct of the war was placed, and thus conflicts of opinion create much embarrassment and difficulty. He could only say, that the noble Earl knew that he had given every assistance in his power to the commission which sat on the subject of the present system of promotion in the Army. He believed the noble Earl would not say that he had done anything to oppose the scheme which he had in view. He knew the plan of the noble Earl was to make the Commander in Chief a major general, with 1109 different duties to those at present existing, but he did not think that plan could succeed. He should, of course, in the present stage of such questions, give no opinion on subjects connected with the office which he himself held, but leave that to others. He could say that it was not possible to find in any continental army a better regimental system than ours; and as to the efficiency of the British soldier, the infantry were not surpassed by any in the world, while Balaklava said as much for the cavalry. As to the artillery, it was true that the system of promoting officers by seniority caused them to reach the higher ranks when they were too old; but yet he must admit, notwithstanding that disadvantage, it was excelled by no artillery in the world. Our system had been copied by every continental Power; and most of the new inventions, such as rockets, and detonating shells had proceeded from the British artillery. He denied that the inconvenience which had attended the present war had arisen from the system of the Army itself. The defect lay in the Commissariat transport branch, which, as the noble Duke had said, had been overwhelmed, and ought not to have had the duty of transporting as well as providing the supplies of the army imposed upon it. He believed that there was not such a want of consolidation as had been spoken of; but he could only say that he should be ready to give every assistance to any Commission which might he appointed to improve the system of the Army, in the same spirit as he had done in the spring of last year for accelerating the promotion of the Army.
rose merely to urge upon the noble Earl (Earl Grey) not to withdraw his motion. It had been frankly met and acceded to, and he thought it highly advisable that the Resolution should be placed on the records of the House, as it was the unanimous opinion of all present. They did not presume to enter into details. They left that for the Government, but he was sure that it was of the utmost importance that it should be known that the House was of opinion that to the present system and not to the default of individuals, must be ascribed the misfortunes of the war, and he believed they might now look forward to a more auspicious day.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, I cannot agree with the noble and learned Lord who has just urged upon the noble Earl who brought forward his Motion 1110 the propriety of now pressing it. It is a Resolution of the greatest possible importance, and I do not recollect a single instance in which any Member of any House of Parliament has endeavoured to induce the House to agree to a measure of this importance while the Government was in the position in which the Government is now placed. We have to-day a noble Duke, the Secretary for War, but we do not know who may be so to-morrow—perhaps the noble Earl himself who has brought forward this Motion. He had been designated for the office, and might possibly hold it. Her Majesty's Government were at the present moment in the position of prisoners at the bar, while the jury have gone out to consider their verdict. They do not know whether tomorrow may dawn on them as a Government, or as gentlemen who may have to take their seats on this side of the House. I say, therefore, that it is contrary to all precedent, and contrary to public policy that a Motion of this importance should be made when practically there is no Government in existence to pronounce an opinion on it. Under these circumstances, I shall say very little; and I regret having even to say that I must beg to differ from the noble Earl who introduced this Motion; for I understand that he attributes most, if not all, of the ills, disasters, and errors which have affected our army in the Crimea to the conflict of departments—to the confusion that exists here in our military system—to the impossibility of doing justice to the service of the State in the condition in which the departments now are. I have frankly expressed, at various times, my opinion of the conduct of Her Majesty's Government since the commencement of the war. I have expressed my opinion that they have shown want of knowledge, want of promptitude, and want of forethought. At the same time, I must say that I think that I shall be guilty of the grossest injustice to them if I do not admit, after the fullest consideration that I have been able to give to the subject, that by far the greatest calamities by which our army is now oppressed in the Crimea have originated there, and not here at home; and that if we had had a Duke of Wellington or a Sir George Murray there, the public would never have heard of any, or only of a small portion, of the distresses which have arisen. I object altogether to any new arrangement of the system of governing the Army which should place all its 1111 patronage in the hands of the Crown. I told the noble Duke at the commencement of last year that I thought it to be his duty, under the existing circumstances, to require that the name of every officer proposed by the Commander in Chief for staff appointment should be submitted to the noble Duke before it was submitted to Her Majesty; for I consider the Minister of War to be responsible for all such appointments. I do not know whether this has been done, but I believe it to be absolutely essential. Beyond this I do not go. I do not know whether the patronage at the Horse Guards has been perfectly administered, but all will concur with me in considering it contrary to constitutional practice and to the feelings of every gentleman in England desirous of obtaining a commission in the Army for his son to have to ask it as a favour of the existing Government, That ought never to have been submitted to in this country. I must, on another point, give a decided opinion—I object to the amalgamation of the departments, and the government of the Army by a Board. A Board involves the absence of all responsibility and the creation of all inefficiency. I have seen one in another country, and do not wish to see it again. It is perfectly impossible for any man who has to perform the duties of a Minister—to attend Cabinet Councils—to receive letters which ought never to have been written—to read them so far as to understand what they contain and to write something by way of an answer—that that Minister should be compelled by the practice of the country or the courtesy of office to undergo interviews which appear never to terminate, and which have no public object in view, and are often only sought to gratify the personal vanity of those seeking them—that that Minister should be bound to give his attendance in this House, or, if he were a Member of the other House, he would have to attend during a very large portion of the week in his place, to vote or to answer questions that ought never to be put, or to take part in debate; and thus one-half, at least, of whose busy period of the week is subtracted from the service of the country by this useless and pernicious arrangement—to impose on him the necessity of looking into all the details of accounts, to oppress him with business of a most trivial importance—it is impossible that such a man should have time to consider matters of the very greatest moment to the country—would be a system 1112 the most injurious that could possibly be adopted. I know this, my Lords; for I have served in this country, as well as in another country, where no letter is received, where no man is admitted to an audience, where the sixteen hours of every working day are, day after day, devoted to the public service, and in which ten times more work is done well than is here very indifferently performed. I object, therefore, altogether to the amalgamation of Boards, and I deplore the position of the Secretary of State for the War Department, on whom has been thrown the Commissariat Department, of which all the awful details have been described by Sir C. Trevelyan in a paper which I have endeavoured to understand. It is contrary to the public interest, and utterly unnecessary that the War Department should be oppressed by all these idle and useless details. My Lords, I say so, because I know it; and I trust your Lordships will not think me guilty of pedantry in referring to what happened to me in another country where I conducted a war department, and at the same time, a financial department, as well as the whole diplomatic concerns of a great empire without the slightest difficulty. No one there ever resisted an order; it ran at once through the country, and was obeyed; but never did I look into details of account, nor did I attempt to do all those things which are paraded before your Lordships' eyes in the paper of Sir C. Trevelyan. What is the consequence? Here we have a small military force, in India we have a large military force. The necessities of the case have compelled the Government to adopt a suitable expedient there, by investing in the Governor-General, alone, all the powers of the Governor-General in Council, who thus made orders which his absolute will made respected and obeyed throughout the country. There, wars are carried on with success—overwhelming forces well equipped are concentrated on the cardinal point of the theatre of war, and success certainly and speedily follows. Therefore in this country in war time, when I find a General telling people who came to congratulate him on success, that you must wait two or three years before you can expect to obtain a decisive success, I say "No" to the system. I believe that, if you could only do what common sense suggests—make an order of the War Minister sufficient in every department, a complete authority in every case, and a justification 1113 for every officer in obeying it, you would give all the efficiency you desire to your military system, and at the same time would avoid breaking up departments whose aid might be valuable. I am sorry to have said so much just now, for I should regret that your Lordships should place on the records of the House an abstract Resolution which, after all, means nothing, and which at the present time certainly ought not to be pressed on this House. Can any one doubt but that, if any idea had existed of any important question being discussed tonight, we should have had a different attendance from that which we now have? But now, with literally no Government at all, the House is called on to agree upon one of the most important principles—how the government of the Army is to be carried on.
§ EARL GREY ,
in reply, said, that after the appeal which had been made to him he felt it impossible to press the Resolution. He would, however, make a few remarks with reference to some observations of the noble Earl. With respect to the patronage of the army, the noble Earl had said it would be a bad system when a gentleman, wishing to obtain a commission for his son, had to seek it as a political favour; and in that he (Earl Grey) quite agreed. But the First Lord of the Admiralty felt it his duty to give commissions to applicants according to his best ability, and was restrained from allowing personal motives to interfere by the power of public opinion. He believed that if the same system were adopted in the Army—the patronage being under the control of the Government—the bad effects anticipated by the noble Earl would not follow, as the very efficient control of public opinion would prevent abuse. Even granting, however, that there might be some abuse, he repeated that we were not now safe from the same evil, and there would be this great additional one from acting on the views of the noble Earl, that while the patronage remained beyond the power of the person who was responsible for the efficiency of the Army, it would be impossible for that person properly to do his duty. So long as an independent authority continued to be given to the Commander in Chief, it must necessarily be an imperfect and incomplete authority; because, according to our constitution, the Minister of the Crown was responsible for the manner in which the money voted by Parliament for military purposes was expended. 1114 Hence, under the existing system, responsibility was divided, between the Ministers—who were changed as the Government changed, and the Commander in Chief who was considered a permanent officer, and the consequence was that the affairs of the Army had not been managed as they should have been. The noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) appeared to imagine that he (Earl Grey) had imputed all the mistakes that had occurred in the Crimea to the present constitution of the departments at home. If what he had said bore that construction, he must have ill expressed his meaning, for nothing could be further from his intention. He agreed with the noble Earl, that much of the evil had arisen out there, but then that only took them one step further, for it showed the necessity of a better supply of general and staff officers, who would have prevented the occurrence of such mistakes. The noble Earl had given an amusing description of the interruptions to which a Minister was subject, and he (Earl Grey) could not deny but there was much truth in it; but this did not appear to have much bearing on the question of what would be the bearing substitutes for military departments. He concurred in thinking the transfer of the Commissariat Department to the Secretary for War as that department was at present constituted, was a grave and obvious error, but it did not follow that the Commissariat business might not be united with the rest of the military business in an office properly organised for the purpose. He believed it would be by no means impossible to constitute a Board, the chief of which should bear the responsibility of all that was done, and yet not be required to do everything himself. By a proper system, and by a judicious division of labour, the Chief of a department, without being unduly burthened with details, might ascertain whether all the business was properly performed. It could not be necessary for the head of that department to look into minor details, or inquire personally into matters of account; but, at the same time, he thought it was possible, by a proper system of supervision, for the chief authority to be satisfied that all the business of his department was properly done. No doubt no department of the service could be carried on if the head of it attempted to do all the work himself, what was required was, that he should make good use of those under him, and at the same time maintain that general supervision which 1115 would enable him to ascertain whether all matters were proceeding properly, and, if otherwise, that he might interfere himself. He could only repeat his opinion that, while it was true that much of what had gone wrong in the Crimea had been from errors committed there, yet he adhered to the statement that those mistakes had been aggravated by our defective system at home. Several causes, no doubt, contributed to our failure, and among them was the circumstance that we had entered upon a war with an army not properly qualified to deal with the difficulties which they were called upon to meet. However, in accordance with what appeared to be the wish of the House, he would beg leave to withdraw the Resolution.
Motion (by Leave of the House) withdrawn.
House adjourned to Thursday next.