HL Deb 15 July 1856 vol 143 cc812-4

said, that it would be in the recollection of their Lordships that two years ago, when the Department of the Secretary for War was created, considerable discussion took place in both Houses of Parliament on the relative duties of the Secretary for War and the Commander in Chief. It was then the impression that those two departments would never act harmoniously together, that differences of opinion between them would occasion delays, that those delays would be attended with inconvenience to the public service, and that the responsibility which was considered essential for the efficiency of the service would be neutralised. An opportunity, which they all regretted to have occurred, had now presented itself for making an alteration, if requisite, in the position of the Commander in Chief, and he wished to know whether, in making the new appointment, Her Majesty had been advised to make it in a different way from the mode in which former appointments of the same kind had been conferred; and whether the position of the Commander in Chief in regard to the Secretary for War had been in any way altered, and whether it was proposed to create any Board to assist the Commander in Chief?


said, he thought that in answering the questions put to him, it would be best to state briefly that with regard to the office of Commander in Chief no alteration had taken place in the shape of giving that officer any Board to assist him in the performance of his duties; and, in respect to the present appointment, no difference had been made in the relations which existed between the Secretary for War and the late Commander in Chief. In the relations which existed between the Secretary of State for War and the Commander in Chief, he considered that entire responsibility for all acts of the Commander in Chief rested with the Government of the day. The Commander in Chief made no appointments in the superior departments without consulting and obtaining the concurrence of the Secretary for War; and in the administration of the minor patronage of the army that officer acted on his own responsibility, but subject always to the control of the Secretary for War. Having thus answered the questions put to him, he felt he should not be doing the duty he owed to the late Commander in Chief if he did not express his deep regret at the circumstance which had induced the noble Lord lately at the head of the army (Viscount Hardinge) to resign his command. He knew no individual who had filled that situation with such entire satisfaction to the army, the Sovereign, and the country as the noble Lord whose services had just terminated. He knew of no individual so entirely qualified to undertake that most responsible duty as that noble Lord, from the fact of his having been brought up at the feet, he might say, of the Great Captain of the age, of his having gone through the Peninsular War, of his having been connected not simply with the British army, but also with foreign armies; and, finally, in consequence of his having seen war on the largest scale on the plains of India. To all this general experience, the noble Lord added the experience of Master General of the Ordnance; and for all these reasons he knew of no individual so highly qualified to fill the office of Commander in Chief. There was no doubt that the army would greatly miss his services; and for himself he must say, that since he had held the office of Secretary for War he had had no difference with the noble Lord, and all business transactions had been conducted between them with a harmony and friendship which he should never cease to remember.


said, he had derived great satisfaction, and he was sure the whole army would also derive satisfaction, from the testimony given by the noble Lord to the character and services of the late Commander in Chief. He must say, with the experience he had had in service, and in consequence of what he had witnessed during the last year and a half, he thought the time had now come when a Cabinet Minute should be drawn up, to receive the sanction of Her Majesty, defining where the duties of Secretary of State for War ended, and where those of the Commander in Chief began. In order to provide for the efficiency and proper organisation of the army, he thought it indispensable that all promotions should be vested in the Commander in Chief, as well as everything relating to the discipline of the army. At the present moment there was a divided authority, and great difficulty had in consequence been experienced in carrying on the duties connected with the administration of the affairs of the army.

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