§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading read.
THE EARL or WICKLOW
objected to the measure being passed with so little delay between its stages. The object of the Bill was to give three months' time to the officers of the Irish militia in which to lodge their qualifications, in default of which they became liable to certain penalties. It was rather hard to introduce this Bill at the present moment. If its provisions had been introduced into the Bill of last year no complaint could have been made, but the officers had since incurred the expense of uniforms, &c., and there were captains who were qualified at the time they received their commissions, but who had since lost their qualifications, and would now be unable to lodge them in compliance with the Act.
§ LORD PANMURE
said, that he had 1285 moved the third reading that night because he was not aware that there were any objections to the passing of the measure. As, however, there seemed to be some, he had no objection to postpone that step until after Easter.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
My Lords, a few days ago I moved for returns relative to the militia, which met the approval of the Minister of War, and were ordered by the House to be printed. These returns referred to the number of men who had volunteered front the different regiments of militia into the regiments of the line and the artillery, and the Royal marines. The noble Lord had recently issued a circular, of which I approve; and I certainly think the noble Lord the Minister of War has done all that under the circumstances could be done, disagreeable and difficult as those circumstances are, in giving the additional bounty to the militia, although they were enlisted under the Act of 1852. Those persons entered the militia before the 12th of May, last year, and are now, under the operation of the Act, legally compelled to remain permanently with the embodied militia; but, until the noble Lord and the House shall see the result of the proposition which the noble Lord has made, there must still be considerable anxiety upon the subject, and even that which we have before us is sufficient to excite great alarm. We have before us the fact that, the establishment of the militia being 136,000 effective men, the number of effective men is now only 44,000, and I am afraid that, under the operation of the difficulties which have now arisen, the number of those effective men will be very materially reduced. I certainly am of opinion that it is to keeping up the militia nearly to its full complement that we must in a great measure look for filling the ranks of the regiments of the regular army during the war. I find that during the period from 1803 to 1813, while 116,000 men were obtained by ordinary recruiting for the regular army, 100,000 men were at the same time obtained from the militia; and while the establishment of the militia then amounted to 93,000 men, the number of effectives in the last year of the war was 63,000. Under the operation of the law, therefore, as it then existed, you drew from your militia a number of men nearly equal to the number you otherwise obtained for the regular army, and, at the same time, during five or six years at the conclusion of the war the effective force of the militia suffered no diminution, 1286 notwithstanding these constant draughts into the line. I apprehend it is to a similar source we must look at present; but, disregarding all the experience we might; derive from the past, we are now attempting to establish and maintain a militia, not only without having recourse to the ballot, but without substituting any coercive measure whatever in the districts from which that militia is to be obtained. I apprehend it is perfectly impossible for us to continue in that course. But while I again —I fear for the third or fourth time— earnestly press this matter upon your Lordships' attention, there is another matter to which I particularly desire to draw the immediate attention of the noble Lord the Minister of War—It is this—while we have so much difficulty in obtaining men for the regular army and keeping it up to its establishment, it is surely of the highest necessity that we should be able to avail ourselves in the field of the effective services of every man who carries a bayonet. I believe that if the noble Lord will make inquiry he will find that at the present moment, in the Crimea, the number of good soldiers who have become non-effectives in consequence of being employed as servants, bâtmen, clerks in offices, and under the commissariat, is so very large as most materially to diminish the efficiency of the regiments in the field. I am afraid to state the proportion which the persons so abstracted from the real strength of the regiments bears to the total effective strength of those regiments. I know the fact, but I am sure I should not obtain credence if I were to state the numbers to your Lordships; but I earnestly desire the noble Lord to give his immediate attention to the subject. Be it understood that the best men, not the worst, are taken for these services, and the consequence is that the raw recruits, the raw lads, are employed in preference to the best and strongest men in the performance of duties of the most arduous kind. It is not in the Crimea that this difficulty can be met. The army is not in a populous country, the inhabitants of which can assist the commissariat in providing provisions, or can be employed in the different offices; that country is not like India, in which every fighting man is left for fighting purposes alone; because, in the Crimea, persons are taken from the effectives of the army to perform civil duties which it is absolutely essential should be performed. These duties must be performed; and unless persons qualified to perform them are sent 1287 from this country, or are found elsewhere, it is impossible for the General Commanding in Chief to restore to the ranks the good soldiers who have been taken from it. I can assure the noble Lord and the House that this is a difficulty—I may almost say a danger—of the most pressing urgency. There is another point to which I must request to draw the noble Lord's attention. When the noble Lord stated the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel M'Murdo to the command of the land transport corps, I entirely approved of the appointment of the individual and the formation of the corps, which I thought was a very great practical improvement; but I gave the noble Lord this advice: I told him that unless he confided to the officer who had the direction of that corps the power to feed his own animals, the corps would become inefficient and the animals would be starved. I said, besides, that it was necessary that that officer should have at his disposal vessels by which he might transport food for the animals to the Crimea. I beg to repeat that suggestion most earnestly; for I feel even more satisfied now than when I first made it, about two months ago, that if the feeding of these animals is left to the ordinary commissariat they will be starved by the same mismanagement as that by which the other animals have hitherto been starved. Observe, my Lords, what will be the consequence. It is idle for any man to expect that, proceeding as the army now proceeds, it can ever succeed in taking Sebastopol; no reasonable man can entertain that expectation. It is only by making the army moveable, by enabling it to enter the field and beat the enemy in the field, and drive him from the neighbourhood of the fortress, that ultimate success can be obtained. But, unless you establish a system by which not only these animals may be supplied and kept in good order, and the persons attending them kept in good discipline, but by which the animals may also be fed, you deprive yourselves altogether of the only hope you have of the successful termination of the war. As the matter now stands, every arrangement of the commissariat is directly the reverse of that which should be established with a view to the efficiency of the service. All the persons at the head of it are civilians, all the subordinates are soldiers; the exact reverse is the true principle upon which you ought to proceed—all the superior officers ought to be military officers, and all the subordinates ought to be taken 1288 from any source rather than from the army in the field.
§ LORD PANMURE
I think that the noble Earl is under some misconception with regard to the number of the militia, for when I stated that the number of effective men belonging to it in England was 44,000, I did not include the effectives of the Scotch and Irish militia. I do not know that I quite agree with the noble Earl in thinking that the militia is entirely to be looked upon as a nursery for the line, although, no doubt, it was so to a very great extent during the last war. The noble Earl must recollect that there are very good grounds for accounting for the present discrepancy between the number of effectives in the militia and the force at which it ought to stand. At this moment we are acting on a totally different principle from that which guided us during the last war; we are endeavouring to accomplish by voluntary means that which could formerly only be accomplished by compulsory means; we are now relying upon the patriotism of the country to supply of its own accord that which the country was compelled to supply during the last war. I should be very sorry if this experiment failed; I should be very much disappointed as to the feeling which ought to exist in this country if it should be unsuccessful. I am not in a condition at this moment to say that it may not fail; but I earnestly hope that the people of this country will think better of the course the Government are pursuing, and that the ranks of the militia will, by voluntary enlistment, be kept in that condition which we have a right to expect. With reference to the noble Earl's remarks respecting the regular army, I am afraid he is not sufficiently acquainted with the history and versed in the details of that branch of the service to know that there has been a contest almost ever since the regular army has been constituted as to keeping up the force of effectives at the number at which it has been borne on the Votes of the House of Commons. There are various reasons to account fur reductions in the number of effectives; and, do what you will, even in time of peace, as I have found from my own experience in the War Office, it is almost impossible to maintain idle effective strength of the army at the numbers voted by Parliament. With regard to what the noble Earl has said as to the number of effective men in the field, having been greatly reduced by men having been taken for other engagements, to 1289 some extent the noble Earl is perfectly right; but I believe that the attention of my noble Friend Lord Raglan must have been turned to this, for, on comparing the last statement, of the 16th of March, with the previous one of the l3th of March, I find that a great reduction has taken place of not fewer than one-half of those who were employed in the camp in the occupations described, who have been transferred to the fighting ranks of the army. I have had some practical experience as to this, and know that the strongest and best men of the regiments are not taken for officers' servants, tailors, shoemakers, and other employments of the camp, but they are generally those men who are least likely to be useful in the field. No doubt they must have gone through the regular discipline to qualify them for the service; but I should be very sorry if the strongest and best men in the regiments were taken for such employments. If we were to follow out the plan which the noble Earl is desirous of seeing carried out, of supplying bâtmen, pioneers, and others, from civilians and the inhabitants of the country, the army would find itself in the state of the Indian army, and, instead of being merely regiments in the field to the amount of 1,000 men, we should have also some 2,000 camp followers attendant upon them; and how, with our Commissariat, could we supply such numbers? I think, if we had to purvey for 3,000 men instead of 1,000, we should experience far greater difficulties than we do at present. Under these circumstances, I think the best mode of proceeding is to carefully watch the evils that might arise from employing the best men in these situations—still to allow the camp duties to be performed by your enlisted men, allowing them such aid by procuring the assistance of the inhabitants of the country as may from time to time be deemed necessary. With reference to the land transport corps, the advice which the noble Earl gave on a former occasion has not failed to attract my notice; it may appear very proper that the land transport corps should be charged with the maintenance of its own animals, but, then, you would have to attach to this corps, not only a body of people to look after the animals, but also a Commissariat of its own; and when you came to add to this the vessels to carry forage to the land transport corps, I think the noble Earl will see that we should be taking from the Commissariat its own proper duties, and should again be falling into that error from 1290 which most of our difficulties have arisen, namely, that of dividing the duties of one department between two corps, and not getting them properly performed by either. I therefore think that all responsibility for the transport of cattle, and for the providing Of supplies for all the animals of the army, and for all the men, had better be left, as at present, to the Commissariat.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
There can be no doubt from what the noble Lord has stated that a great abuse has existed, if between the 13th and the 16th of March the number of regulars in civil occupations in the army has been reduced one-half. My information happens to be of the 12th of March, and I therefore spoke of facts which I thought necessary to bring under the observation of the noble Lord. With respect to dividing the duties of the Commissariat, there seems to me to be a great difference between providing forage for animals and food for human beings, and there could be no difficulty in separating the one from the other. I am not desirous of being a prophet of ill, but I do prophesy, with the most absolute certainty, that my prediction will be fulfilled, if we leave the Commissariat in the Crimea in the hands in which it now is, the animals will be starved and the army will be unable to move.
§ EARL GREY
I think my noble Friend (Lord Panumre) has come to a right conclusion on the last point to which he referred, and that it would be an error to have one office providing for the horses of the land transport corps, and to have another for providing forage and food for the horses and men of the regular army. Such a system would give rise to the difficulties of former times, and we should have officers raising prices by bidding against each other in the same market. It is quite another thing as to whether the Commissariat should be left in the same hands as at present. On this I can offer no opinion; but of this I am certain, that, providing the Commissariat is placed in good hands, the same hands had better provide the supply of forage both for the horses of the land transport corps and for those of the regular army.
§ THE EARL OF ELLENBOROUGH
I did not propose to separate the supply of forage for the animals of the land transport corps from that of the cavalry and artillery, but desired that the whole should be supplied by one office—that the food for the animals should be found by one body, and the food for the men by another.
§ EARL GREY
If the land transport corps were to have to supply forage for all the horses, I think that even such an arrangement would lead to complications and difficulties. But there is another point on which I wish to say a few words. I heard the statement of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough) with regard to the militia with great apprehension, and I am persuaded that if your Lordship rely on that statement, you will be led to very erroneous conclusions. I have the means, which few of your Lordships can possess, of forming an opinion on this subject; for when I held the office of Secretary at War, circumstances rendered it necessary that I should look closely into the history and operations of the militia during the last war. In doing this, I had the assistance of a gentleman unfortunately now no more, the late Mr. Raper (one of the best public servants the nation ever had). He was thoroughly acquainted with this subject, and from the detailed information which he laid before me, the results at which I arrived were totally different from the statements made by the noble Earl. The noble Earl has said that the militia was the great means of keeping up the army during the late war, and quoted the numbers drawn from the militia into the regular army. That fact, if taken by itself, proves nothing, for at that time the bounties were so arranged that a man had the advantage of at least 2l. or 3l., if my recollection does not deceive me, by going into the army by the road of the militia, instead of entering the regular army at once. This being the case, the men naturally entered the army through the militia. But with reference to the late war, I would particularly call your attention to the fact, that instead of the compulsory raising of men for the militia having been found useful, it was the very reverse. It was clearly shown to me, by returns of the whole number of men raised for the army and militia together, month by month, that the recruiting for the regular army fell off the moment it became known that you were going to raise men for the militia by the ballot. Instead, therefore, of the militia having been an effective mode of recruiting the regular army, I came to an opposite conclusion to that arrived at by the noble Earl, and was satisfied that it had been injurious to it, and that if the ancient law of England had been maintained, by which volunteering from the militia was prohibited, and if, instead of allowing such volunteering, the bounty for 1292 directly entering the army had been increased, more men would by that means have been raised than were obtained from the militia. That is the conclusion to which Mr. Raper came, and in which I agreed after having carefully considered the subject. The Government of that day must, I presume, have been satisfied that the ballot was not upon the whole useful, for, if I am not mistaken, during the last years of the war, when the demand for men was greatest, they discontinued it. But even while the ballot remained in use, the number of men really raised by it for the military service of the country was exceedingly small. It was found that the percentage of balloted men who ever joined the militia regiments was miserably small. The men who served in the militia were almost entirely substitutes, who were obtained by bounties paid by the persons liable to the ballot, who generally belonged to clubs formed for this purpose. Thus, as was stated by a noble Earl, whom I do not see in his place (the Earl of Derby), in explaining his own Militia Bill in the year 1852, the militia during the last war was really raised by bounty, and the only operation of the ballot was to provide the money from which that bounty was paid, not by fair and equal taxation, but by that most unfair of all taxes, an infamous poll tax, which pressed severely on the poorest classes of the community. This was the result of the system of balloting in the late war, and I hope and trust that we shall hear of no proposal for now recurring to a practice so unjust and also so extravagant. As to the strength of the regular army not being able to be maintained unless the militia is brought up to its full complement, I ask whether it is possible that 136,000 men—which I understand to be the proposed number—can be permanently embodied in the militia without interfering with the recruiting for the regular army? The moment your militia is embodied you want the services of precisely the same class of men—namely, those not bound by family or other ties—that you require for the line; and your militia force virtually becomes neither more nor less than another regular army. It is as expensive as troops of the line while it is out on service; but there is this important difference between the two, that you cannot order the militia to go abroad. It appears to me, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government would act on a wiser plan if, instead of resorting to violent measures in order to raise the militia to its full 1293 strength, they turned their attention more to the recruiting of the regular army—the true professional service.
§ THE EARL OF HARDWICKE
thought it was en important question for Parliament the country to consider whether, under the present system of voluntary enlistment, with hardly any bounty, it was possible, even by straining that system to the utmost, to maintain in the field an army of the magnitude which the exigencies of the war demanded. He, for one, was of opinion that it was not possible. Again, as regarded the navy, we had already raised 44,000 seamen, 10,000 boys, and 15,000 marines, and should we be able under the existing system to maintain the present number of ships afloat, and to place still more of them on active service, if it should be necessary for us to do so? These questions had a very important bearing upon the security of our foreign alliances. Foreign nations had the highest opinion of our troops, and the utmost confidence that when in the field their gallantry would secure the victory; but, if our army was again to be wasted as it already had been, and we should be unable to renew its strength with properly disciplined soldiers, then those nations might say that that dependence could not be placed on our power to sustain the brunt of the struggle which the adoption of a different system from our existing one might justify. These were serious considerations, which ought to be pondered over in the public mind; for, if the war was to go on and be prosecuted with vigour, the country must make up its mind to maintain its army and navy in an efficient state.
§ Order of the Day for the Third Reading discharged; and Bill to be read 3a on Thursday the 19th of April next.
§ House adjourned till To-morrow.