§ Order of the Day for the Second Reading, read.
§ LORD NORTHBROOK
The subject of Army organization has been already so much discussed here and elsewhere, and your Lordships are doubtless so fully impressed with its importance, that I hope I shall be excused for proceeding, without further preface, to describe the contents of the Bill "for the better regulation of the regular and auxiliary Land Forces of the Crown, and for other purposes relating thereto," which I shall have to ask your Lordships to read a second time—to make some observations respecting its scope—and to state the principal features of the general scheme of Army organization which has been commenced by Her Majesty's Government, and for the further prosecution of which it is necessary that this Bill should become law.
1545 I wish at the outset to remove two misapprehensions—the first is that the Bill ought to contain in itself a complete scheme of Army organization. Your Lordships must be aware that such details do not find their proper place in an Act of Parliament, but are carried out on the responsibility of the Executive Government of the Crown by Royal warrants and regulations. All that the Legislature has to do is to confer powers or remove obstructions, and having paid attention to what has passed in "another place," I am not aware that anyone has suggested any grant of powers or removal of obstructions not comprised within this Bill. The other misapprehension is that the Bill, having been originally introduced with a two-fold object—the abolition of purchase and Army organization—the latter, that which the country most prized, has been abandoned, and the Bill has been left a crude, naked, and deformed measure for the mere abolition of purchase. [Opposition cheers.] I infer from the cheers with which I am met that this opinion is entertained even now by some of your Lordships, but it is one which has no foundation. Only three provisions have been omitted from the Bill. The first is the power of transferring soldiers from active service into the Reserve after less than three years' service with the colours. Now, this is simply an extension of the powers conferred by the Army Enlistment Act of last year; it is a power not likely to be exercised, and the only reason why it was introduced was to provide for a contingency rendering it desirable, at any time of reduction, to pass men into the Reserve after a shorter service than three years. The Government are satisfied to abide by the powers conferred by that Act, and the abandonment of the provision does not affect the power of thoroughly carrying out the short service system of enlistment. The second omitted provision relates to the Ballot for the Militia. I will not assert that this is of no consequence, for it raises the question—one of considerable interest in this country, and still more so on the Continent—whether, if compulsory service be established, substitutes shall be allowed. The Act of 1860, however, gives full powers for resorting to the Ballot should it at any time be required, and it being the opinion of the Government that the 1546 principle of compulsory service is only to be applied after clear proof that the voluntary system is insufficient, this part of the Bill, however interesting and important, can obviously be postponed to a more convenient season, the enormous length of the discussion in "another place" rendering it impossible to give sufficient time for its consideration this Session. The third omitted provision is one of very slight importance. It enables counties to raise money for the purpose of building barracks for the Militia, and though it might have been a useful power had the counties been disposed to act upon it, the exceedingly narrow majority by which the House of Commons negatived a proposal to repay the money already expended by counties for similar purposes—a proposal not resisted by the Government on its merits, but reserved for future consideration—is a sufficient proof that Courts of Quarter Sessions would not have been likely to take advantage of it.
I have tried to show that the Bill is not open to the objection, either of not containing a complete scheme of Army organization, or of having been mutilated and rendered useless for any practical purpose. I proceed to explain the powers to be conferred and the obstructions to be removed by it. Its most important provisions are those which abolish purchase, and withdraw the power now conferred by law on Lieutenants of counties, as to the command of the Militia and Reserve forces. Clauses 2 to 5, and 10 to 13, relate to the abolition of the purchase and sale of commissions, the protection of officers from prosecution for past illegal transactions, the pecuniary indemnity to be provided for officers holding saleable commissions, and for the customary bonus given to officers of old Indian regiments. The second principal provision of the Bill relates to the resumption, by the Crown of the powers given by law to Lords Lieutenant over the Militia and auxiliary forces, except those relating to the Militia Ballot. The third provision withdraws the limit as to the number of Militia laid down by the Acts of 1852 and 1854, takes power to train men for a longer period than that now allowed by law, and confers powers to obtain land for ranges and other purposes for the use of the Militia. The fourth provision withdraws the statutory limitations to 1547 the number of the Reserves for the Army. The fifth provision places the Volunteers, when in training with the Regular forces or the Militia, under the provisions of the Mutiny Act. The sixth, and last, will enable the Government to take possession of the railways in case an emergency requiring it should arise.
With respect to the question of purchase I hope I may be excused if I decline to go into the general arguments for and against that system. The action of the Leaders of the Conservative party makes it clear that they, at least, do not seriously defend the system. When a Motion was brought forward in the other House of Parliament affirming the maintenance of the purchase system, it was negatived without a division by the express advice of Mr. Disraeli, who certainly did not himself defend the system. Then a gallant and distinguished Officer in the other House, who has been consistent in his opposition to the Bill of the Government (Colonel Anson) admitted before the discussion closed that purchase was doomed. And if I look to the Amendment about to be proposed by the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), I gather from it that the noble Duke will not seriously attempt to defend the purchase system. If I am mistaken in that opinion, I must observe that his Amendment is open to the fatal objection that it does not raise the real issue on a question of high public policy. I will therefore leave the general arguments for and against purchase to the exhaustive statement contained in the Report of the Royal Commission of 1857, presided over by the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Somerset) and in which the noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) bore an active and distinguished part. I will only call attention to one most important reason why at the present time in the opinion of Her Majesty's Government, the system of purchase must, for the true interests of the country, be abandoned. That reason is that, with such a system, it is impossible to secure a professional body of officers for the Army. ["Hear, hear! and "No, no!] It appears by that expression of dissent that some noble Lords do not agree with me. I will therefore give the reasons which appear to lead irresistibly to that conclusion. The whole merit, if it be a merit, of the purchase system is that by frequent 1548 changes among the junior officers it conduces to rapid promotion at no expense to the public. But that merit is inconsistent with the possession of a high professional knowledge by the average of officers. Probably your Lordships and the public are not aware of the effect of those rapid changes on the officers of the Army. The calculations on this subject, which will be found in the Appendix to the Report on Promotion and Retirement in the Ordnance Corps, 1870, page 112, show that, out of 1,000 officers who enter purchase regiments of infantry of the Line, only 183 attain the rank of major or lieutenant colonel, and only 48 that of major general; the great body of the officers retiring, selling out, or dying in the junior ranks. Of those who sell out, 161 are ensigns, 281 lieutenants, 185 captains, 38 majors and lieutenant colonels: total, 665. In other words, 66½ per cent retire from the Army by sale alone, of which only 38 are in the rank of field officers. Now, however anxious officers may be to acquire a knowledge of their profession—and I believe there are very many of them most anxious to do so—it is utterly impossible that such a system can produce a body of thoroughly instructed officers. In the Artillery and Engineers, on the other hand, where high professional knowledge is required, very few officers retire. Those who are placed in a position which obliges them to consider this question, have been struck very sensibly from recent events on the Continent, with the necessity of having the Line officers in our Army highly qualified by professional training and careful study. That opinion is strongly entertained by a noble and gallant Lord (Lord Strathnairn) who recently brought forward a Motion on the subject. That distinguished and gallant Officer gave evidence before the Royal Commission on Army Education, which is doubtless in the recollection of your Lordships, and which showed not only the importance which he attached at the present day to complete professional instruction, but also the opinion which he entertained that our officers, with all their merits, are, speaking broadly, deficient in that respect. I know that old times will be appealed to, and it will be said that the officers of the British Army have always done their duty. I should be the last man to deny it; I should be 1549 ashamed of being an Englishman if I did not look with admiration upon the way in which the officers of the British Army have done their duty. But recent alterations in the art of war, the introduction of improved weapons, the rapidity of movement, the new system of tactics which prevails in the Prussian Army—a system which is, I believe, being adopted by Italy and France, which will probably be adopted by all the European Powers, and which sooner or later must be adopted by ourselves—makes it far more important than ever that our officers should possess professional knowledge. Some works have been published of late years which will probably take their place in classical military literature. The highest place will, perhaps, be taken by a work called A Tactical Retrospect, which was written after the Austrian and Prussian War, by an officer who unfortunately lost his life in the late campaign. The reason why I call it a classical work is because there is not a suggestion in it which has not been adopted by the highly distinguished Chief of the Staff in the Prussian Army, and carried into effect in the late campaign. Captain Mai, the author of this work, after describing the Prussian system of infantry tactics, says—Such a disposal of men is only possible when the officers of all ranks, without exception, are educated in the highest degree, both in an intellectual and military point of view, and are in a position to rely on their own tact for the solution of difficult and weighty points rather than on any prescribed scheme of tactics. One single individual who is destitute of the above qualifications, has the power of causing the most ruinous consequences, which is a further proof of the great advantage to be pained by having all officers formed on one principle.Those who are best qualified to judge of the causes which have produced recent events abroad will not give the lowest place to the high professional qualifications possessed by the whole of the officers of the Prussian Army. I cannot too strongly impress upon your Lordships the conviction of those entrusted with the administration of the British Army of the necessity of giving to our officers a high professional training.
I will now refer to a few of the obstructions which the purchase system throws in the way of a re-organization of the British Army. The purchase system can only be correctly described 1550 as a spider's web of vested interests. ["No, no!] If any doubt was previously entertained by the public on that point it must have been entirely removed by the discussions in the House of Commons. Those who have watched those discussions must have felt that the attention of the House and the public was diverted from the real issue of Army organization to collateral issues, important and interesting no doubt as affecting the officers, but still inferior, in a national point of view, to the far greater questions to which I have referred. Wherever those who attempt to reorganize our Army turn they are met by vested interests. Take an instance. In the Guards an alteration was recommended by the illustrious Duke at the head of the Army, and adopted by the Secretary of State; but they were met at once by the fact that if this simple alteration for the benefit of the service were carried out, two gallant colonels would lose a large sum of over-regulation money. Again, if we want to appoint subalterns of the Militia to regiments of the Line, how can it be done under the purchase system? If we want to transfer officers from the Line to the Militia, there will be great difficulty in doing it under the purchase system. The question will be, not who is the best man, but how his "money can be made up?" A man cannot leave his regiment without getting his price, and who is to pay the price? Supposing it to be desirable to increase the number of cadres of infantry battalions, and to raise further battalions in order to connect them with the Militia in different counties; how can this be done without either creating a vast mass of new vested interests, or mulcting the officers who are posted to those battalions? The purchase system meets us at every step; but if the reason of the thing, and the opinion of those who are practically conversant with, and responsible for, the organization of the Army is not sufficient to convince your Lordships, I submit that the recent history of the question is conclusive.
In 1868 Sir John Pakington, then Secretary of State, determined, in concert with his military advisers, to abolish the rank of cornet and ensign. The approval of Her Majesty was obtained, and on leaving office Sir John Pakington recommended the measure to 1551 the notice of his successor. Mr. Cardwell, in 1870, in introducing the Army Estimates, announced his intention to carry out this small and simple measure; but a fortnight did not elapse before he had to abandon it. The reasons which he (Mr. Cardwell) gave on the 14th of March, 1870, were these. He said—It appeared to me desirable to take this opportunity of accomplishing a purpose which I thought would be beneficial to the subaltern officers of the Army, and which was recommended to me by my predecessor in office—I mean the abolition of the ranks of Cornet and Ensign—and for that purpose I introduced into the Estimates the further sum of £45,000. Looking to the advantages of that proposal, I thought it might have been accepted without raising the general question of the over-regulation prices, which it was neither my intention nor desire to raise. That view, however, has not been taken; the general question has been raised; and, as I feel that the proposal I have made is not of sufficient importance to bear the weight of the general question, I do not propose to persevere in it, but, on the contrary, to lake that sum of £45,000 as an addition to the saving to be realized by the present Estimates. The question having been raised, Her Majesty's Government are of opinion that it ought to be thoroughly examined. They have no desire to deal with the question of purchase except upon principles of perfect equity. What is known to every one is that, notwithstanding the prohibitory provisions of the statute, over-regulation prices are generally paid; but there is no information which can be officially considered by the Crown or laid before Parliament, and it is the intention of Her Majesty's Government humbly to advise Her Majesty to institute inquiries by a Commission for the purpose of obtaining that information."—[3 Hansard, cxcix. 1876.]I submit with great deference that if the purchase system in a matter involving so small a proportion of over-regulation money is sufficient to prevent a change so small, it will be impossible to carry out the larger and more important changes without—what?—?the abolition of purchase? No; but without injustice to the officers of the Army if purchase is not abolished. That is the answer I give, by the way, to the statement that everything that is proposed can be done without the abolition of purchase.
The history of this case naturally leads me to the present position of the question of purchase. In 1870 a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire into the extent of the system of over-regulation prices, the incidents of that system, and the degree of recognition it had received. The Report of the Commissioners is in your Lordships' 1552 hands, and their two main conclusions were—First, that—There has been a tacit acquiescence in the practice, amounting, in our opinion, to a virtual recognition of it by civil and military departments and authorities.And, secondly, that—Not the least important incident of the practice is the habitual violation of the law by officers of all ranks under that of major general, supported by long-established custom and unchecked by any authority.Her Majesty's Government, being in possession of that Report, felt bound to deal with the question, and had to consider the manner in which it should be dealt with. Could they venture to render extra-regulation prices legal? None of your Lordships would recommend that course. It would simply be to put promotion in the Army up to the highest bidder. If your Lordships doubt that statement, I can appeal to one of the highest authorities that this country has ever produced upon Army questions—the late Lord Palmerston. Lord Palmerston said, in 1824—If commissions were allowed to be sold it was obviously necessary to limit the price that was to be paid for them; for if not, and if every officer were permitted to bid according to his means and to his desire for promotion, abuses would take place beyond all calculation.Could they have determined for the future deliberately to connive at the illegal practice? I will quote the authority of my distinguished relative, Sir George Grey, the Chairman of the Royal Commission, on that point. Sir George Grey, speaking on the 30th June, said—With regard to the future it was the bounden duty of the Government to declare in the most explicit manner that they would no more be parties to this violation of the law, and that they should take every means in their power to stop the practice.It is no light matter for those at the head of the Government of the country to connive deliberately at the violation of an Act of Parliament. The last and only other alternative was to put an end to the practice, and at the same time to condone past violations of the law. It may be suggested that for this purpose it was not necessary to have abolished the purchase system, but that over-regulation prices might have been prevented, and the system of purchase for regulation prices left untouched. The answer is that the experience of two centuries has 1553 proved it to be impossible. What does the Royal Commission say on that point?Where one man has something of value to sell which can legally be sold, and another man is desirous of purchasing it, the opportunity being afforded them of coming to a mutual understanding, it has been found useless to prescribe by law or regulation the precise terms on which the sale is to be effected.The only course, therefore, left was to abolish the purchase system. That may be done in different ways. The Government might have followed the recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1857, presided over by the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset), that purchase should be abolished with respect to the rank of lieutenant colonel, a course which was adopted and announced to Parliament by Lord Palmerston's Cabinet in 1860. But difficulties arose, and for reasons which I am unable to explain, for 14 years the recommendations of that Commission have never been acted on. I am inclined partly to attribute the delay to the lamented death of Lord Herbert, who was one of the strongest advocates for the system of selection in the British Army. But, however that may be, Her Majesty's Government, seeing the great difficulties of dealing partially with this question, arrived at the conclusion that the only course to be taken was to abolish the purchase system altogether, and in this they had the authority of the illustrious Duke who sits on the cross-benches. The illustrious Duke, when examined before the Purchase Commission of 1857, said—I should be sorry to see any partial change adopted; I think that any change should comprise the whole question, so that there might be security to the officers of the Army, for any partial change would lead to doubt and uncertainty.The same question will probably be asked now which was put to me by the noble Earl on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) when the Army Enlistment Bill was introduced last year—Why is it necessary to come to Parliament to abolish purchase? It is not necessary to come to Parliament to abolish the purchase system. By the Act of 1809, purchase became penal, except so far as "fixed by regulations made, or to be made, by the Crown." Regulation prices have always depended upon such regulations, and instances are doubtless in the recollection of many of your 1554 Lordships of those regulations having been altered. Therefore, for the purpose of abolishing purchase, nothing more is required than that the Crown should be advised to cancel the existing regulations, and all purchases of Commissions would at once become illegal. An Act of Parliament is not necessary for the purpose of securing to the officers repayment of the regulation prices. A vote of the House of Commons is sufficient for that purpose. This is proved by a vote having been passed by the House of Commons last year for a similar purpose in respect to certain absorptions of commissions, as well as by the proposal made last year to take a vote to provide for the prices of cornetcies and ensigneies. The reasons why the Government have applied to Parliament in relation to the abolition of purchase are these. It is advisable, in their opinion, in a matter of such importance to give a statutory guarantee to the officers who will be affected by the proposed change. It is advisable also to protect officers from prosecution for the illegal acts which have been committed by them up to the present time, although it is hardly likely that anyone would take advantage of the law in that respect. But the main reason for coming to Parliament is to enable a pecuniary indemnity to be given to officers for over-regulation payments. Those payments, however sanctioned by custom, were illegal acts, and Her Majesty's Government desire to obtain for the indemnity the sanction of the same authority which created the illegality—that is, the sanction of the whole Legislature.
The provisions of the Bill with regard to the indemnity are that, excluding any fancy prices given from time to time in special cases, indemnify will be payable to officers precisely under the same conditions, as they would have received their purchase money if purchase had not been abolished, but with better security; for, whereas extra-regulation payments under the old system were exceedingly insecure, the Royal Commission having reported that—The circumstances under which the sum so paid is irrecoverable are so various and uncertain that the payment of it, if regarded as an investment, is attended with great risk of loss,officers will now obtain a statutory guarantee for the payment of those sums. The cost of abolishing purchase has been 1555 estimated at a maximum of £8,000,000, which would be spread over 25 years. I believe the officers of the Army regard the provisions of the Bill with respect to indemnity as not only just but liberal on the part of the Government; but a proposal has been made which attracted considerable attention—namely, the proposal to pay the money down to the officers at once by some system of commutation. The present value of all the effective commissions is £10,800,000, and the present value of the sum payable under the Bill—namely, £8,000,000, which would be spread over 25 years—is, in round numbers, £7,000,000. There is, therefore, no difficulty in calculating the rate of commutation; but if the commutation is optional, the public will suffer; if commutation is made compulsory, it cannot be carried out without great injustice to the purchase officers of the Army, for an officer who intends to sell at once would only receive three-fifths of the money which he is now secure of receiving in full. But there is one crowning argument on this matter. How would the non-purchase officers of the Army look upon such an arrangement as that? It would simply be to allow men by the system of purchase to pass over the heads of others, and when they have got all the advantages thereof, to pay them back the money, or part of the money they had spent. Therefore, it appears to me that the proposal to pay compensation at once cannot be adopted; and I am confirmed in that opinion by the discussions in the House of Commons on these proposals, the last of which was negatived without a division. The purchase system being abolished it is absolutely essential that it should be replaced by a system of selection. It has been admitted by all that to abolish the purchase system, and to substitute for it a system of pure seniority, would be of no advantage to the Army or to the public. I will postpone, if your Lordships will allow me, a full explanation of the manner in which the system of selection will be carried out till I describe the plan of Her Majesty's Government. Suffice it now to say that selection must be exercised sufficiently freely to make it certain that no new system of purchase can be established, and it has been stated all through the discussions of this Bill that it is intended to use selection as far as possible with every regard to a due 1556 preservation of the regimental system of the Army. I will only say further on the subject of selection that it cannot be held that ample materials do not exist for enabling the authorities to exercise selection with a full knowledge of the professional character of the officers. I will quote on that subject an authority which I believe will be as satisfactory to your Lordships as to the Army—that of the illustrious Duke on the cross-benches. In answer to a question put to the illustrious Duke, he said—I think, from an inspection of the returns which be receives from officers, if those returns are fairly given, as I apprehend they ought to be and might be, there is no officer in the Army whose professional character the Commander-in-Chief might not and ought not to be acquainted with.It has been stated that selection must be either by seniority or favoritism. I have not so low an opinion of public men, or of the other House of Parliament and your Lordships' House, as to believe that those who may be intrusted with such powers will exercise them improperly, or that, if they do so, they will not be called to the Bar of both Houses of Parliament and removed from positions which they would be unworthy to occupy. It has often been alleged that the example of the Navy is sufficient to condemn selection in the Army. On that subject I am glad to have an opportunity of stating my deliberate opinion, because it is a matter of which I have considerable personal knowledge. My father, Sir Francis Baring, was First Lord of the Admiralty. I served in the position of private secretary to my noble Friend the noble Viscount behind me (Viscount Halifax) two years during the time he was First Lord of the Admiralty. I am well acquainted with the officer who succeeded me, Captain Drummond, now Admiral Drummond. I was afterwards a member of the Board of Admiralty under my noble Friend, and subsequently Secretary to the Admiralty under the noble Duke behind me (the Duke of Somerset). And I venture to assert deliberately, and challenge inquiry by anyone who desires to dispute my assertion, that for many years there has been an honest and conscientious exercise of the powers of patronage and selection by successive First Lords of the Admiralty.
1557 Some objections have been raised to the Bill to which I will now shortly reply. It has been stated that by the system of selection and the abolition of purchase the regimental system of the British Army will be destroyed; that the general tone of officers will be lowered; and that, in point of fact, to use the expression of a distinguished statesman, the measure is a "sop to democracy." In order to answer that argument it is necessary to ask what is the regimental system of the British Army? because the term is used in very different senses. If the regimental system means the influence which the officers of the Army possess over the men under their command, to say that the abolition of purchase would destroy the regimental system of the British Army is simply to insult the officers of the Royal Artillery and Royal Engineers, in which the purchase system did not exist, and the whole of the non-purchase officers in the Line. If, on the other hand, it is meant by interference with the regimental system that by selection officers would be introduced from other regiments, the fact is that, under the present system officers are frequently removed from one regiment to another. I have here a calculation which shows how many field officers now serving have remainded in the same regiment, and how many have not done so: 80 lieutenant colonels have remained all through in their regiments, and 87 have not; 185 majors have remained in their regiments, and 137 have not. So much for the present time. It is said that the regimental system worked admirably during the Great War. If, therefore, it be essential to the maintenance of the regimental system that officers should command the same regiments in which they have served during the early part of their career, we should expect to find that, 18 years after the close of that war, the general officers of the Army had, as a rule, served in one regiment only. But this is not the case. From the Report of the Committee on Garrison Appointments (1833), it appears that out of 52 officers of the highest distinction, 12 had served in one regiment, 4 in two regiments, 8 in three regiments, 9 in four, 11 in five, 4 in six, 3 in seven, and 1 in nine. It is therefore clear that such transfers were not, and are not, inconsistent with the maintenance of the regimental system. Moreover, the abolition 1558 of purchase, by taking away the inducement now given to officers to exchange, for the sake of getting into a regiment where their is a better prospect of promotion by purchase will so far tend to decrease the number of transfers. The social aspect of the regimental system is no doubt admirable in many respects, but have your Lordships heard nothing of the extravagant habits of some regiments, and the ruin which is brought upon young men who enter them and obtain, money from a low class of moneylenders, who know that they have the security provided by the purchase system of the value of an officer's commission? A great point has been made in the discussion of this Bill in the other House of Parliament of the fact that the Secretary of State has declined to produce an estimate of the cost of retirement. The Secretary of State declined to produce an estimate only because he had no data on which an estimate could be made. It is impossible to say what will be the precise effect of the abolition of purchase upon the annual number of retirements in the Army, although Her Majesty's Government hope that the result of the abolition of that system will be to cause officers to remain longer in the service than they do at present, and so far some increased retirement will probably become necessary. On the other hand, after the abolition of purchase, officers will be employed more extensively in the Reserve forces, and so create a flow of promotion. This point I will further explain when I come to deal with the plan of Army re-organization proposed by Her Majesty's Government, my present object being to show that any attempt to furnish an estimate of the probable number of retirements under the new system would merely mislead the public. But although the Government are unable to furnish such an estimate of their own, it has been possible for them to investigate the calculations furnished by others. According to the estimate put forward in the House of Commons by Sir Percy Herbert, the annual cost of retiring allowances to be entailed upon the country by the abolition of purchase would be £1,977,000; but even admitting his data to be correct, which assume that the rate of retirement from the Army under the new system would be no faster than that which now exists in the Navy, the estimate, 1559 on examination, was reduced to £727,638. Taking into consideration the fact that the officers of the Army have no less a capital than £6,000,000 tied up in the purchase system, and taking the whole non-effective cost of the Army together, there is no good reason to apprehend that the whole cost of the non-effective Votes for the Army under the new system will ultimately be greater than it is at present. As to the immediate necessity for a plan of retirement, it is obvious that for the next three or four years no new system is required, because the inducements now offered by the purchase system will remain in force, and indeed will be even greater than now, because officers, instead of having to wait until they can find some person willing to purchase their commissions, will find a ready purchaser in the Government. In my opinion it would have been most unwise for the Government to have attempted to lay down any cut-and-dried scheme of retirement, and the more so as we know that the system of retirement in the Navy has had to be frequently changed in order to suit circumstances as they arose. It seems to me that no more could be said than has been often said by the Secretary of State—namely, that a reasonable rate of promotion will be ensured by such retirements as may be found necessary for the purpose.
My Lords, I have now brought to a conclusion the remarks I have to make in reference to that part of the Bill which deals with the abolition of purchase; but I will venture to address one remark to those noble Lords—of whom I cannot conceal from myself that there are many—who regret that Her Majesty's Government have decided to propose the abolition of purchase in the Army, but who feel at the same time that, from the various circumstances of the case, it is impossible to prevent that conclusion, and that, to use a current expression, the system of purchase is doomed. This is, I believe, the general feeling not only of the public but of the officers of the Army themselves. I desire to ask noble Lords, who hold that opinion, whether it is wise further to postpone the settlement of this question? Is it wise as regards the public interests—is it just towards the officers? It must be remembered that over-regulation prices depend, like all similar transactions, 1560 upon confidence, and if that confidence is shaken over-regulation prices must simply disappear. And, lastly, I ask in all seriousness those noble Lords who entertain the opinion that purchase is doomed, whether they do not think there will be great risk and danger in allowing this question to remain unsettled—I will not say to the discipline of the Army, because it stands far too high to be affected—to be shaken even—by any such circumstances; but that irritation, uncertainty, and dissatisfaction may arise through all ranks of the purchase officers of the Army.
It now becomes my duty briefly to notice the other provisions of the Bill. Those, provisions have doubtless been less discussed than that which relates to the abolition of purchase, but not because they are of small importance. Her Majesty's Government attach considerable importance to the provisions contained in the 6th clause, which reinvests the Crown with the powers over the Militia now delegated by statute to Her Majesty's Lieutenants of counties. I need scarcely say that this change in the law has not been proposed with the slightest intention to detract from the high positions of the Lords Lieutenant of counties, nor because they have in any way improperly discharged the duties which have been imposed upon them. It has, however, been felt that the old constitutional doctrine that the Militia is to be a force entirely distinct from the Line, and under separate civilian command, must be set aside, and that the force must, as far as possible, be connected with the Regular Army. Under these circumstances, it is necessary that the command over the Militia should be transferred from the Lords-Lieutenant of counties to the Crown. Lords Lieutenant will, however, be consulted with respect to appointments to first commissions in the Militia. It is further the intention of Her Majesty's Government to take advantage in future of the advice and assistance of the Lords Lieutenant in dealing with many branches of the auxiliary forces, and they are anxious it should be clearly understood that it is merely the statutory powers of those officers that are intended to be withdrawn. The next important clause in the Bill is that which repeals the restrictions placed upon the numbers of the Militia, which hereafter will be 1561 fixed annually by Parliament. If this clause does not meet with the sanction of Parliament great inconvenience will arise, because the limits of the numbers of the Militia have been very nearly reached already. The next clause in the Bill is that which places the Volunteer force under the Mutiny Act, when assembled for the purpose of being trained and exercised with the Militia or the Regular forces. I believe that, notwithstanding a small amount of opposition which this clause met with in the other House, it has been accepted generally by the Volunteer force, not as placing them in an inferior position, but as placing them on a par with the Yeomanry Militia and the Regular forces. It is evident that it would be impossible to bring the Volunteer force into intimate connection with the other forces, in such cases, for instance, as during the manœuvres that are to take place in the course of the autumn, unless some such provision as that to which I refer is agreed to, otherwise the discipline of the Volunteers would depend upon the discretion of the commanding officers of each separate battalion or corps. By Clause 16 power is taken by the Government, on occasion of emergency, to take possession of the railroads, and I need not discuss this provision at length, inasmuch as it has received the assent of the great companies.
I have now concluded my observations with regard to the provisions of the Bill; but, as many observations have been made to the effect that no general plan of re-organization of the Army has been stated by the Government, I feel it absolutely necessary, especially in view of the Notice of Amendment that has been placed upon the Paper, to state as shortly as I can the general outline of the scheme of the Government. The foundation of their plan of re-organization was laid down by the War Office Act of 1870, by which Act, and by the subsequent Orders in Council, for the first time, in my opinion, the organization of the various Departments of the Army were established upon a sound basis. The way for further changes has been prepared by diminishing the colonial service, by which a much larger number of battalions are retained in this country; by improvements in the condition of the soldier and in the system of recruiting; by the Army Enlistment 1562 Act of last Session, which established the system of short service in the Army; by which, in the opinion of the Government, an efficient Reserve of trained men can only be obtained; and by a substantial increase of the Royal Artillery, it being one of the objects of the Government to maintain the scientific services on a higher comparative scale of numbers than the rest of the Army during peace. The number of field guns have been doubled, and we shall now possess a force of artillery sufficient for 150,000 men, besides 5,000 garrison artillerymen, supported by nearly 50,000 Militia and Volunteer artillerymen. Another step will be taken by the proposed camp of instruction in the autumn, on the system which has been pursued with such advantage in Prussia, where the Reserved forces will be brought into intimate communication with the Regular forces. Although not included in the present Bill, it is necessary for me to mention these important points, which are prominent features in the scheme of the Government. I will now proceed to describe the plan which the Government propose to carry out under the powers which this Bill would confer. First commissions will be obtained—first, by competitive examination, to the rank of cadet. The cadets, when they have been some time with their regiments, will undergo a course of military instruction at the Royal Military College at Sandhurst. This is a slight variation from the plan announced by the Secretary of State for War in introducing the Army Estimates in the House of Commons, on the 16th of February last, when he stated that admissions into Sandhurst would be obtained by competitive examination; it being found that it is better that these young men should be subjected to the discipline of the service for some time before they were sent to that College. Many of your Lordships are aware that this plan has been carried out with great success in the Prussian Army. Commissions will also be given to a certain number of non-commissioned officers, to a certain number of Militia subalterns, who have undergone two trainings, who are recommended by their commanding officers and approved by the colonel of the Staff of the district, and who pass a professional examination; a certain number of commissions will also be given to properly qualified members of the Universities. 1563 First commissions in the Militia will be given by the Crown after consultation with the Lords Lieutenant of the counties. Promotion in the Army will be by selection, sufficient uncertainty being introduced into the system to prevent illegal practices, but due regard being had to regimental considerations. The rank of cornet and ensign will be abolished; promotions from lieutenancies to captaincies will be mainly regimental, those from captaincies to majorities, and from majorities to lieutenant colonelcies will be mainly Army promotions, due regard being had to regulate them as far as possible in accordance with regimental considerations. In all cases the successors of the officers retiring will not be known until the vacancies are entirely complete. The promotions will be made by the Commander-in-Chief, with the approval of the Secretary of State for War, in accordance with the Order in Council fixing the duties of the Commander-in-Chief. The character of the office of Military Secretary will be altered and made of greater importance and of limited duration. The reports of inspecting officers will be made more complete, and tabulated and recorded in the office of the Military Secretary, and reports against officers will be communicated to them. The appointments of field officers will be limited to five years; they will be renewed if considered advisable; but there will be a limit of age for these appointments. As I have already stated, the rapidity of promotion will be maintained at about its present rate by the adoption of a system of retirement if necessary. Promotions in the Militia will be regulated by the same principles, the Inspector General of the Reserve forces being consulted with reference to such promotions. There will also be a limit of age with regard to the officers in the auxiliary forces, and no officer will be allowed to hold more than one effective commission. In dealing with the constitution of the infantry, it is intended to increase the number of cadres of officers with the view of having regiments of more than one battalion, which process will be carried out, as far as possible, without destroying the esprit de corps of existing regiments. It has been determined to create a local connection between the Army and the Militia regiments, and, as far as possible, to recruit 1564 regiments from particular districts. The recruits of both forces will be trained together, and the Militia recruits will receive a longer training than they now receive. And here I may be permitted to supply an omission in an earlier part of my observations, by saying that, with the exception of the two main points of the scheme, the Government attach greater importance to the extension of the time for the training of the Militia than to any other part of their proposals. It is clear that if we can got the stout agricultural labourer, and give him three months' training in the first place, and one month every subsequent time he is called out, we shall be able to convert him into a very good soldier. Therefore, we entertain, in common with many Militia officers, high expectations from the extension of the training for the Militia. These expectations are not merely theoretical, because this year we have extended the training of recruits for the Militia from a fortnight to a month, and there has been a very marked difference in the efficiency of the regiments in consequence even of that small increase. We think, also, that the general views of my noble and gallant Friend (Lord Sandhurst), that the Line should be recruited from the Militia, may, to a considerable extent, be found practicable and expedient; and what encourages us to believe that Militiamen will be found ready to join their county regiment of the Line in considerable numbers is the fact that up to the present time, when the training for the Militia has not been concluded, and the Returns are therefore incomplete, nearly 5,000 recruits have joined the Line from the Militia since this time last year. As part of the same system of combining the Regular Army and the Militia, Line officers will be appointed as adjutants of Militia, and will hold their appointments for five years, renewable, however, if specially recommended. They will be supernumerary in their regiments. In making appointments of adjutants, there is every intention to consult the wishes of the commanding officers of Militia regiments, because those officers, having so much to depend upon their adjutants, it will be unwise to neglect their reasonable wishes in regard to the selection. Existing adjutants will not be interfered with, but will remain in their positions as long as they are active and 1565 efficient. Officers of the Line will be allowed to go upon half-pay after comparatively short service, on condition of their serving in the Militia. The Line regiment of the county will also assist the Militia regiment with non-commissioned officers if required; and the amalgamation between the Line and the Militia will be gradually made as complete as it can be with advantage to both forces. The military districts have already been divided into sub-districts, and a colonel on the Staff will be appointed in each sub-district to have general charge of its auxiliary forces. These officers have been already selected, and their appointments are only waiting until the Bill becomes law, because obviously none of these arrangements can be carried out as long as the command of the Militia remains in the hands of the Lords Lieutenant. The Militia Reserve of the sub-district will, as a general rule, in the event of war, be draughted to the regiment of the same sub-district, though from the exigencies of the service, it may not be possible to do so in all cases. This is an outline of the mode in which it is proposed to localize regiments of the Line to a certain extent and amalgamate them with the Militia. It is, however, impossible in this country, and with our Army, to adopt the Prussian system, under which a regiment is localized and used as a tactical unit—that is to say, it goes into the field as a regiment of three battalions, an arrangement which is feasible in Prussia, where there is no foreign service, but with us impracticable, because one of the battalions comprising the regiment will usually be abroad. The Militia and Volunteer Artillery will be placed under the command of lieutenant colonels of the Royal Artillery, who will supervise their instruction, and bring them, as far as possible, into the general system of the Royal Artillery—that magnificent regiment with which they will, I know, be proud to be united by closer bonds. The adjutants of Volunteers will be appointed on the same conditions as those of the Militia. A stricter system of inspection will be carried out in respect to the Volunteers, whose officers, after a limited time, will be required to show that they are thoroughly acquainted with their duties.
I have spoken at greater length than I wished, because I have felt myself bound 1566 to meet the assertion—never yet supported by argument—that no plan has been proposed by the Government of the measures they intend to carry out, supposing this Bill to become law. Hardly a word that I have uttered from the beginning to the end of the scheme that I have just explained, with the single exception of the proposal as to the cadets at Sandhurst, was not contained in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, on the 16th of February last in the other House of Parliament, and repeated from time to time during the progress of discussion there. There are none so deaf as those who will not hear; and when I remember how it has been over and over again repeated that the Government have no plan, and that the questions put to them on that subject have never been answered, I cannot help thinking that those who say so must be "as deaf as Ailsa Craig." To go into further details seems to me neither to be necessary nor, in some cases, is it possible, for in these complicated arrangements difficulties constantly present themselves which require careful consideration, and to be met from day to day as they arise; and I contend that the plan of the Government has been explained as completely as the nature of the case admits. The whole scheme is based upon the position that it is undesirable to introduce compulsory service if, as Her Majesty's Government hope, the voluntary system will suffice for the maintenance of an adequate force, and that it would be unwise to do as some have suggested—disband the Militia and dismiss the Volunteers. I hope the Government will be met in this House by serious criticisms and by alternative proposals, which may be contrasted with these measures, which I can assure your Lordships have been considered with a deep sense of responsibility, and which we shall proceed steadily and vigorously to carry into effect as soon as the Bill, of which I now beg to move the second reading, shall have passed into law.
§ Moved, "That the Bill be now read 2a."—(The Lord Northbrook.)
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
My Lords, I can assure your Lordships that I approach this subject with feeling of the deepest anxiety, on account of the 1567 great interests that are involved in the measure which is now before your Lordships' House, and also because I consider the subject is one we cannot deal with otherwise than with the gravest and most serious deliberation. My Lords, in the outset I at once claim for myself, and for those who act with me, that your Lordships will do us the justice to believe that in adopting the course we take upon the present occasion we are actuated only by the most patriotic and conscientious motives; and at the same time we desire to assure Her Majesty's Government that we give them full credit for being urged by no other motive than the most sincere desire to promote the honour and glory of the country, though we think the mode in which they seek to arrive at that object is not one which should commend itself to our approbation.
My Lords, with regard to the concluding remarks of the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War, I cannot help characterizing them as altogether outside of the Bill now under discussion; they were a mass of details of a general scheme connected by no link whatever; they were the general views entertained by the noble Lord himself as to the various modes of meeting the difficulties of the case. The noble Lord told us how the education of officers was to be conducted—as to which I did not quite follow him; he told us that non-commissioned officers were to be sent from the Line to the Militia, but he did not condescend to particulars as to how such an operation would be carried out. In short, the whole of the noble Lord's concluding remarks indicated some large scheme; but, being made up of a mass of details, and those details were not shown clearly to your Lordships, I must decline to enter into that part of the noble Lord's speech. I will at once address myself to the measure now under consideration. And in doing so I would venture to ask your Lordships to consider what was the condition of things in the course of last year, when the attention of everyone was called to the military position of the country. My Lords, a tremendous war—a war which I may say paralyzed everyone in this country with amazement—broke out in the centre of Europe, almost at the very time that the noble Earl the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs told us there was not a cloud in the political horizon of the whole world. Shortly after that assurance 1568 of the noble Earl the war was declared. The position of things in Europe appeared to be so grave, and of such consequence, that the noble Earl (Earl Russell), who is now sitting at the Table, thought it right to bring forward, upon his own responsibility, a measure dealing with the Militia of the country. My Lords, Her Majesty's Ministers, though they had previously reduced the standing Army of this country to a considerable extent, thought it right—and in that course they were backed by both Houses of Parliament—to make a very large addition to our military forces. I hope your Lordships will not forget that this subject of the war then pending on the Continent was discussed at every public meeting and by every private person throughout the kingdom. Therefore it was not astonishing to find that, at the commencement of the Session of Parliament, the subject was referred to in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne. The noble Lord (Lord Northbrook), in his introduction of this measure, told us these are matters which do not find a place in Acts of Parliament. If that is so, I want to know what is the meaning of the paragraph in Her Majesty's Speech from the Throne at the opening of Parliament last February which says—The lessons of military experience afforded by the present war have been numerous and important. The time appears appropriate for turning such lessons to account by efforts more decisive than heretofore at practical improvement. In attempting this you will not fail to bear in mind the special features in the position of this country, so favourable to the freedom and security of the people, and if the changes from a less to a more effective and elastic system of defensive military preparation shall be found to involve, at least for a time, an increase of various charges, your prudence and patriotism will not grudge the cost, as long as you are satisfied that the end is important, and the means judicious. No time will be lost in laying before you a Bill for the better regulation of the Army and the auxiliary land forces of the Crown, and I hardly need commend, it to your anxious and impartial consideration.What, then, becomes of the assertion that these are not matters to find a place in Acts of Parliament—because the only object of that passage in the Queen's Speech was that they should find a place in an Act of Parliament? Then, explaining that Bill on February 16 in the other House, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of Stale for War said—Events have occurred in Europe of so marvellous a character that I think it no exaggeration to say they have no parallel in the records of 1569 history from the pages of Herodotus to those of Sir William Napier. These events have excited in the minds of the English people an anxious interest and a settled purpose to review their own military institutions, for the purpose of placing them on a basis of permanent security. … Our more grateful, but not, perhaps, necessarily easier task is to combine in one harmonious whole institutions which have great excellencies, but which require considerable improvement in order to bring them up to the requirements of the time. …And he winds up by saying—It is the opinion of the Government that, if we are to deal at all with a question of this magnitude and importance, we ought not to deal with it in a superficial and partial manner, but ought to take a broad and comprehensive review of the subject, and endeavour to lay the deep foundations of a system which may render danger or the apprehension of danger in the future altogether unknown."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 327–8.]These, then, being the views entertained by the Secretary of State for War, what I want to ask your Lordships is, whether the measure introduced by the right hon. Gentleman on behalf of the Government, is a large and comprehensive scheme? We have had a description of the measure from a journal not unfavourable to the Government. The Times of March 27 says—It may be as well, perhaps, to state again in plain words what this Bill will do for us, and what it will leave undone. It will give us an Army of Regular soldiers competent to encounter any invading force, the whole of this Army being so efficiently organized and equipped that it can take the field at any moment. Practically, therefore, our available strength in this respect will be doubled, for instead of putting only 50,000 men in line we shall be able to put 100,000. The artillery in particular will be so largely increased that, instead of 180 field guns, we shall have 336, all horsed and manned. In support of this active force we shall have the auxiliary forces of the Militia and Volunteers. The Militia will be raised by an addition of 45,000 men to a total strength of 139,000, and the quality of the force will be improved by an extension of preliminary training as well as annual drill. Arrangements are made for the instruction of Militia and Volunteer officers at camps of exercise, and all establishments together will be so organized as to facilitate a flow of officers from one service to the other, and of soldiers from the active Army to the Reserve. …. That, as regards immediate results, is a fair description of Mr. Cardwell's Bill.I want to ask noble Lords opposite whether they can conscientiously say that this is contained within the four corners of the present Bill. That is my case;—this Bill, which is supposed to provide for all those contingencies, is a Bill for the abolition of purchase and for the abolition of purchase alone;—because I 1570 put aside the clause relating to the transfer of the powers of Lords Lieutenant of counties to the Crown in regard to the Militia—and I say that such a Bill does not come up to the character given to it by the Secretary of State for War when he called it a large and comprehensive measure. I will appeal to the noble Lord opposite (Lord Northbrook), who is candid on all occasions, whether, after the paragraph which I have quoted from Her Majesty's Speech on opening Parliament, and after the speech afterwards made in the other House by the Secretary of State for War, he thinks the Government have redeemed their promises and declarations in a manner which can secure the confidence of the country?
Now, my Lords, I am not about to defend the theory of the purchase system nor the vested interests of this or that class of officers; but I propose to show your Lordships that purchase is a very different thing from what has been alleged, and has done a great deal more for this country than the noble Lord opposite was willing to allow when he described it as a "spider's web of vested interests." My Lords, the system of purchase is a system of retirement—a system of retirement provided by the officers themselves at no cost whatever to the country—one by means of which a constant and steady flow of promotion is maintained, and by which also we have now in the British Army a set of officers who, taking their average age, are younger than those of any other Army in the world. I can hardly think the noble Lord was speaking seriously when he said that the evils of the purchase system were shown by the fact that young officers, on obtaining their commissions, receive a number of letters from moneylenders. I confess I cannot see the connection which the noble Lord would indicate by this remark. If you look into the Civil Service you will probably find that a large number of letters from money-lending lawyers are circulated among the clerks of the different departments; I may go further—at some of our public schools and at the Universities, where your Lordships' sons are educated, a very similar state of things would, I believe, be found to prevail if the noble Lord would make inquiries into the subject. Therefore, it is unfair to attribute that evil to the existence of 1571 the system of purchase, with which it has no necessary connection. As I have said, purchase is a system of retirement by which the flow of promotion is kept up:—I may add, it is a system by means of which the country has received very large sums of money from time to time, and the retirement of officers has been effected. Since the year 1841 the Government has received, through the Reserve Fund, no less than £1,712,000; out of which sum they have expended £115,000; and there is a balance unaccounted for in the hands of the Government of £824,000, which has been entirely provided by the sale of officers' commissions. I have no difficulty in saying that if a better system could be found, I would not object to the abolition of purchase; but I object most strongly to the abolition of a system which, in my opinion, has worked well, unless we have before us something better to substitute for it. It has often been said that the purchase system is a system which benefits the rich men in the Army at the expense of the poor men. I have heard it stated that it is an aristocratic service, and that those who have money get on, and that those who have not do not. But, my Lords, this is not the case. I would venture to ask your Lordships to peruse the statistics produced before the Committee on Purchase and Retirement, and say whether they support this view, and whether they do not show that, so far from the purchase officers benefiting by the system, the benefit really accrues to the non-purchase officers. The evidence given before the Committee shows that officers who had reached the rank of lieutenant colonel without purchase numbered 83, as against 70 by purchase; it also shows that while it took a purchase officer 22 years and four months to get his lieutenant colonelcy, the non-purchase officer succeeded in 25 years; so that he was only two years and eight months behind in point of time, and having reached that position he is able to retire on half-pay and with a good purse, without having expended a single farthing upon the system by which it was raised. Lieutenant Biddulph, who gave evidence before the Over Regulation Commission some 12 years ago—I think in 1858—stated the case very clearly when he said that the condition of a non-purchase officer in a purchase corps was 1572 far better than the position of any officer in non-purchase corps, and he based his opinion upon his own experience in the 19th Hussars, a non-purchase regiment. Purchase, in fact, clears the way for the non-purchase officer, who, although he might be slow in procuring promotion in the lower ranks of the service, rises rapidly in the higher ranks and finds himself only two years and eight months behind in the end. The Secretary of State for War said that henceforth promotion would be by merit and not by money—a statement much to be deplored considering its source, because if it means anything it means that now promotion is by money and not by merit. I say that that is contrary to the fact, ["Hear, hear!] Why, at this very moment, according to the admission of the noble Lord, promotion by selection exists in the Army to a very great extent. [Lord NORTHBROOK dissented.] I understood the noble Lord to say that officers went from one regiment to another. [Lord NORTHBROOK: By exchange.] And is there no selection in such cases—is there no veto, and has there not always been such a veto? The subject is evidently much misunderstood. Upon no subject is the country so misinformed. I have heard of a case in which a gentleman wrote to an Army agent for his list of prices in the Artillery, Cavalry, and Infantry, and to give him an idea of his requirements, added that he should like to begin with a captaincy in the Guards. It is perfectly well known to everyone conversant with the subject that if a senior captain or any other officer is incompetent to get his majority, or that it would not be for the interest of the regiment that the major should get his regiment, the fact was known at the Horse Guards; that officer would be informed or become acquainted with the fact that he would probably not be recommended for promotion; he would accordingly sell out, and nobody would hear anything more about him. I say, therefore, that at present selection is practised at the Horse Guards. Lord FitzRoy Somerset, giving evidence before a Royal Commission presided over by the Duke of Wellington, said it was the rule at that time, and that a case was at that moment pending. The custom is therefore of long standing, and it is wrong to say that at the present moment money and not merit regulates 1573 promotion. My Lords, I do not know what you are going to substitute for purchase, and what is more, you do not know yourselves; and therefore, unless you can show me a system by which you can have selection, impartially taking the place of the present, I must decline to read this Bill a second time.
My Lords, I attribute nothing bad whatever to the motives of the present Government. Mr. Cardwell, however, seems to think his plan, as far as he has described it, a novelty in the administration of the Army, for on the 16th of February he said—To secure fairness of promotion, the reports of general officers inspecting will be furnished in greater completeness to the General Commanding-in-Chief, and be tabulated and recorded in the office of the Military Secretary.These reports, however, are made now.These will form the basis for selection according to the regulations about to be laid down.Are they laid down?But I will not enter into details upon the mode in which security is to be afforded to the Army for the impartiality and fairness of promotion, because the matter is still being carefully considered by some of the most eminent officers in the Army."—[3 Hansard, cciv. 346.]The Government is therefore uncertain whether it can carry out its scheme with impartiality and fairness, and yet it does not hesitate to ask for authority to introduce it—an authority which—under the circumstances, I cannot endorse. The noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) in the course of his remarks has, no doubt unintentionally—cast a slur upon the Army when he spoke of the impossibility of securing "professional officers" under the present system. What the noble Lord meant by "professional officers" it is difficult to say. Was the Duke of Wellington a professional officer? Did Lord Clyde come within the description? or does it embrace Sir Henry Havelock, Lord Hardinge, Lord Hill, Sir Hussey Vivian, or Sir James Outram? If these commanders come within the description, why is it thought necessary to change a system which has produced such men? Why do you want to alter the character of the men who are to lead your Armies? No doubt it would be advisable to provide better means for instructing officers; but this is a very different thing from upsetting the whole system. What is required of an officer? Not merely to storm a redan and to take part in operations 1574 in the field. The way to test the quality of the British officer is first to settle what is required of him, and then to see how far he fulfils those requirements. This can be done by the mouth of two unimpeachable witnesses. In the first place, the Duke of Wellington, in a letter to Lord Hill in 1833, described what was required in the British officer in these words—From the moment at which the officer enters His Majesty's service till he attains the rank of general officer he must be prepared to serve in all climates, in all seasons, in all situations, and under every possible difficulty and disadvantage. There is no peace or repose for him, excepting that some powerful party in the State should think that his services can be dispensed with, in which case he will be put upon half-pay. While thus serving, he must perform all the duties required of him. He must be in turns gaoler, police-officer, magistrate, Judge, and jury. Whether in peace or war, in the transport in charge of convicts, or acting as a magistrate, or sitting in judgment, or as juryman, or engaged in the more active duties of his profession in the field, either against the internal rebel or the foreign enemy, he must never make a mistake, he must never cease to be the officer and the gentleman; cheerful, obedient, subordinate to his superiors, yet maintaining discipline, and securing the affection and attachment of his inferiors and of the soldiers placed under his command, upon his scanty allowances—so small, in some instances (that of lieutenants and ensigns of the three regiments of Foot Guards as one), as not to be sufficient to pay for his lodgings.Such is the character of the British officer who is not the "professional" officer. As to his efficiency, testimony has been given by the Royal Commission presided over by the Duke of Wellington in 1840 in the following words:—The general efficiency of the Army, as shown in the returns previously quoted, fully justifies these opinions. It is manifested in those returns that by far the largest portion of officers are perfectly qualified for their duties; and it is equally apparent that this efficiency is maintained by the system of purchase. In fact, it should be remembered by those disposed to cavil at the system that the British Army, except for the very short interval in William III.'s time, has never known any other; and, whatever may have been the triumphs or glories that Army has achieved during the last 150 years, they have been secured by an Army commanded by officers, a large proportion of whom have obtained some advancement by the system.I am prepared to rest the character of the British officer upon those statements, and to assert that the present system having brought the Army to this point, it should not be abandoned for an uncertainty.
1575 My Lords, the noble Lord, as I expected, touched upon the question of retirement; and, notwithstanding it is really a very material point, he dealt with it but lightly. It is an essential part of the scheme—you must meet the difficulty—you must provide for the retirement of officers. They now provide it for themselves, and by means of purchase keep up a constant and rapid flow of promotion. The noble Lord alluded to the condition of a non-purchase corps—one of the scientific corps of the Army—the Royal Artillery. But surely the noble Lord must be aware that very great complaints are made on account of the block in promotion existing in that corps? And it was well known that, in 1800, when the Great War was about to commence, the senior officers of the Royal Artillery were so old that the charge of the corps had to be put into the hands of a captain (Sir Alexander Dixon). This was the Utopia of non-purchase which the noble Lord asked the House to inaugurate.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I understand the proposal is to introduce a system of promotion by seniority tempered by selection.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
I should be very sorry to misquote the noble Lord; but I certainly understood him so. At any rate, if they are not the words of the noble Lord, they were the words of the Financial Secretary to the War Office. And what does the Duke of Wellington say of this system? I ask your Lordships' attention to a Memorandum by the Duke of Wellington, the object of which was to accelerate promotion by permitting the sale of commissions. The Duke said—It is adopted at present solely with the view of remedying an existing inconvenience and evil, and no officer is to consider himself in future entitled to found upon this arrangement any claim to sell his commission.In The Gazette of the 17th of June, 1828, is to be found a specimen case showing how the sale of a commission remedied the evils resulting from a block. It is there stated that Lieutenant Colonel E. P. Wilgness, then on full-pay of the Royal Artillery, was allowed to sell his commission, receiving £4,500, the regulation 1576 price of a lieutenant colonelcy, which was made up in the following manner:—Major Drummond, 4th Foot, promoted to unattached lieutenant colonelcy, paying the regulated difference of £1,300, the succession going in the regiment; Captain Mackenzie paying for the majority, £1,400; Lieutenant Williams, for the company, £1,100; Ensign Brooke, for the lieutenancy, £250; Mr. Haley, for the ensigncy, £450. Between 1823 and 1828 41 officers of the Royal Artillery were allowed to sell their commissions, in order to relieve the block then existing in that corps. Captains, brevet-majors, and lieutenant colonels were allowed to sell, some having previously retired on half-pay; but many, as in the case of Lieutenant Colonel Wilgness, were allowed to sell direct from full-pay of the Royal Artillery. What could have been done at that time if there had been no purchase system to relieve the block in the Artillery? The noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) has also dealt cautiously with the scheme of retirement; but in the absence of anything like statistics from the Government, I have been obliged to form my own calculation of what the cost of a system of retirement will be. Taking the Royal Marines, I find that the retirement for 500 officers costs £60,000 a-year. Taking the number of our officers at £6,000, I presume the cost of retiring them will be about £800,000 a-year. That is a moderate calculation, and it tallies pretty well with a calculation by the Financial Secretary to the War Office (Captain Vivian), made before he took office; and although the hon. and gallant Gentleman has seen cause to moderate his estimate, probably from something he discovered in the archives of the Department, I know he has been chosen for his present position as much for his ability as a financier as for his military experience, and therefore I take his calculation as tolerably accurate. Captain Vivian, on the 19th of May, 1868, concluded his computation as follows:—Therefore, the House must be prepared, not in the course of a generation, but at most in 20 years, to spend first of all £10,000,000 in round figures to buy out the vested interests of the Army.
§ THE DUKE OF RICHMOND
But that is not what the present Financial Secretary of the War Department said it would cost. 1577But that was not all it would cost them to get rid of purchase, for they would have to revise their whole system of retirement. Officers in purchase corps were now entitled to retire on half-pay after 25 years' service; but in the Committee of which he had been a member it was suggested, as the only means of increasing the flow of promotion, that officers in non-purchase corps should be able to retire on full-pay after 22 years' service. Then, in addition to paying the sums he had already stated, they would have to provide for a system of retirement on full-pay after 22 years' service, instead of on half-pay after 25 years' service. What that would cost, he was not in a position to say; but he thought he was much below the mark when he said that, besides the £500,000 that would be added to the Estimates for 20 years at least, they would have to pay £1,000,000 a-year for ever, or, in other words, an additional 1d. of income tax for ever.A pleasant reflection for the ratepayer!Surely it was idle complaining of the extravagance of the Estimates if, in the pursuit of a chimera, they were to saddle the country with that increased expenditure."—[3 Hansard, cxcii, 537.]That is precisely what I complain of on behalf of the country—the Government is about to saddle the country with an unknown expenditure in the pursuit of a chimera. No doubt the money will be forthcoming; but is it well to increase the ordinary charge for the Army by unnecessary expenditure, considering it will add to the difficulties which in the future will attend the raising of any additional sum of money absolutely necessary for increasing the efficiency of the Army and Navy. Your Lordships ought to look at this matter as commercial men, and I ask you whether a commercial man would embark in an expenditure the result of which he did not know, and without being able to ascertain where he would be landed, or whether he would get any return for his money or no? Unless there be some better system shown to me which can take its place, I shall look upon the abolition of purchase as, in commercial language, "a bad investment." The noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) says it is impossible to carry out a system for the amalgamation of the Regular Army with the Reserve forces without abolishing purchase. But I cannot see how purchase stands in the way. The noble Lord says that the scheme will put the officers of the Regular forces into the Militia—how is that to be done? Is the senior captain of the Rifle Brigade to be attached for six weeks to the Middlesex Militia? Will he do it willingly? To put all the most efficient 1578 officers into the Militia would be to injure the Army; and to transfer officers of the Militia into the Line would do no good to that branch of the Reserve forces. Is the noble Lord correct in saying that there is no military element in the Militia now? It has been argued that the abolition of the purchase system in the Army is a necessary preliminary to the amalgamation of the Reserve forces with the Army. What is the case at the present moment? At the present moment there are serving in the 99 corps of English Militia 365 officers who have served in the Regular Army. Of the 99 commandants of such corps there are 64 who have served in the Army. There are 39 honorary colonels, of whom 19 have served in the Army. In the Militia of Scotland there are 16 corps in which there are 48 officers who have served in the Army. Of the 16 commandants of those corps there are 10 who have served in the Army; there are five honorary colonels, of whom four have served in the Army. As regards the Militia of Ireland, there are 44 corps, in which there are 127 officers who have served in the Army. Of the 44 commandants of corps there are 33 who have served in the Army. There are 25 honorary colonels, of whom 10 have served in the Army. The total shows that there are 584 officers serving in the Militias of England, Scotland, and Ireland, who have served in the Regular Army, and there are 159 commandants of corps, of whom 107 have served in the Regular Army, under the system of purchase. It is therefore conveying a wrong impression to say that the abolition of purchase is required to get officers of the Regular Army into the Militia. But take the other case. Is it to be said that Militia officers cannot be put into the Line unless you abolish purchase? Noble Lords who say that must have forgotten what happened in the Crimean War and at the time of the Indian Mutiny. Was it not a notorious fact that during the Crimean War a Militia officer who could raise 100 men at once obtained a commission in the Line? And the same thing, I am reminded, took place during the Indian Mutiny. I cannot admit that in order to carry out the scheme of the Government it is necessary to abolish purchase; and if such abolition is necessary in order to put both the Regular and the Reserve forces of the country 1579 into a satisfactory state, how are the Government going to do it? According to their actuarial return, they could only abolish purchase by the year 1906. The fact is that all these arrangements which have been shadowed forth by the Government have begun at the wrong end; for if instead of abolishing the purchase system and dealing with the officers they had devoted themselves to improve the condition of the soldier, they would have rendered a greater service to the country and have had a much better prospect of a successful result. If they applied the £8,000,000 which the extinction of purchase would require, and the £700,000 or £800,000 which must be annually spent to keep up the system of retirement to increasing the pay of the men, and giving them better pensions, the Government would be doing better than by paying off the officers. There is great force in what has been said in this House on previous occasions as to the inconvenience and undesirableness of sending out very young soldiers to India and the colonies. If the Government would apply such money as they have at their command to forming second battalions and so feeding the service companies, and retaining men in this country until they are of an age at which they can endure a foreign climate, they would be dealing with this matter in a comprehensive and statesmanlike way. How were the Guards fed during the Crimean War but by the second battalions at home? All that the Government had hitherto done in this matter had been in the wrong direction. Let noble Lords consider the uncertainty of your system of recruiting. Major General Edwards, the Inspector General of Recruiting, in his Report dated 10th of January last, alluded to the Army Enlistment Act, 1870, and remarked—The soldier has, therefore, less inducement now to re-engage than formerly, and will not do so unless he is conscious that he could not earn a livelihood in civil life; but he has still, if deserving of it, the option of re-engaging and completing his service to pension.And describing the changes introduced by that Act, he said—The second and most important change is that introduced by the Army Enlistment Act, 1870 (dated the 9th of August), and which was put into force as soon as it could be circulated. By this Act the recruit is enlisted for 12 years, and has the selection of a long service for that period in the Regular Army, or a shorter service 1580 in the Army combined with a service in the Reserve force, the two to complete the 12 years for which he originally enlisted, When a recruit selects the long period of service for 12 years, he may, at a stated time before the expiration of that period, re-engage to complete 21 years.That was written in January last; but in May it was entirely abrogated by the Government, who, under the Act of 1870, had no right to deprive a recruit of the power of selecting his term of service. But what have you done now? You have inaugurated a new system of recruiting and fixed a term of service for the soldier which will render it perfectly impossible for you to get a single noncommissioned officer; for I appeal to every noble Lord who has been in the Army whether it is not impossible in a term of six years to make a man first of all a soldier, and then a non-commissioned officer. It is notorious that even with the 10 years' service it is difficult in the Guards to get non-commissioned officers; for in its earlier stages the life of a non-commissioned officer is one of great drudgery, and unless the men have a prospect of serving some time and of getting a pension at the end of the service you cannot get the class of men you ought to have for such posts.
My Lords, I have now—no doubt imperfectly—pointed out my reasons for moving the rejection of this measure. I object to it on the part of the Army, because I believe it will not give us that constant, ready, even flow of promotion which we have under the existing system. I protest against it on the part of the taxpayer, because you are going to impose on him a large and unknown expenditure which, up to this time, the officer himself has willingly borne, and which the taxpayer has never been called on to pay; and because you do not show him how, under the new system, he will be so much better circumstanced than under the old one, so as to make it worth his while to pay for it the amount that is required. And, further, I object to the Bill on the part of the country, because the nation has a right to expect that you will bring forward a large, and comprehensive, and statesmanlike scheme, and not a mere fragment of a crude experiment, the result of which you yourselves are utterly unable to predict. I beg to move the Resolution of which I have given Notice.
Amendment moved to leave out from ("That") to the end of the motion for the purpose of inserting the following words:
("This House is unwilling to assent to a second reading of this Bill until it has laid before it, either by Her Majesty's Government or through the medium of an inquiry and report of a Royal Commission, a complete and comprehensive scheme for the first appointment, promotion, and retirement of officers; for the amalgamation of the Regular and Auxiliary Land forces; and for securing the other changes necessary to place the military system of the country on a sound and efficient basis.")—(The Duke of Richmond.)
said, he had some difficulty in reconciling the opening sentences of the noble Duke's speech with the Motion with which he had concluded. To say that there had been no full and comprehensive scheme of military reform laid before the House on the part of the Government was to put aside the speech of the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War, and to proceed upon that imaginative basis which had characterized much of the opposition to the measure since its introduction in the House of Commons. The Bill had been denounced as insignificant, as inadequate to the occasion, and as unworthy to be passed, because it did not contain within its four corners the whole scheme propounded by Her Majesty's Government for re-organizing the military forces of the country. The case of the Government was simply this—The Government having planned a scheme of administrative reform of the Army, found in their way certain obstacles which it required the aid of the Legislature to remove; and for their Lordships to hold the Government responsible for the reform of our military administration, and then to reject this Bill, would be as reasonable as to tie a man's legs and then complain that he could not run quickly. What their Lordships had to consider was, whether the purchase system ought to be abolished; and if so, whether the mode proposed in this Bill was fair and reasonable. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) said he was not going to defend the system of purchase; but his whole speech was, if not a defence, at all events, an apology for that system, and a statement of the manifold benefits and great advantages which had accrued to the country from it. As to the system of selection which would come into operation 1582 under this Bill, he (Viscount Monck) joined issue with the noble Duke's statement that that had never been explained, because the whole principle of it was distinctly stated by Mr. Cardwell when he brought the matter forward in February last. For his own part, even if their Lordships had not possessed the information which the Government had furnished, he looked upon the purchase system as so indefensible, so utterly discordant with the principles observed in other branches of the service, and so pernicious to the character of the officers of the Army, that he thought it ought to be abolished, even if he were not so well satisfied with the system proposed to be substituted for it. What had been the effect of the purchase system on the average of professional knowledge among British officers? Obviously it was for the public interest to obtain that system of promotion which would secure the highest average of professional knowledge among the officers. The present system of purchase, coupled with a pass examination, was found by experience to tend to deteriorate the standard of acquirements, there being no inducement to a man to obtain more than the necessary information; but the system of selection necessarily implied competition, which would induce a man to acquire all that he could in order to insure success, and therefore must tend to raise the standard of the average information of the whole body. The noble Duke had talked much of the expense of a system of retirement; but his calculations were in one respect fallacious, for he took the cost of the retirement of the officers of Marines, and thence sought by a rule of three sum to ascertain what the retirement scheme would cost. This calculation took no account of the sum now paid for retirements, which, he believed, was nearly half the amount estimated by the noble Duke as the expense of retirements under the new system. With regard to the system of retirement, he (Viscount Monck) entertained a very strong feeling. The Government had announced their intention of providing a system of retirement; but it appeared to him that a system of retirement, except in very special cases, was a very great mistake. Our object ought to be to assimilate the condition of the Army as a profession to that of the open professions. Purchase gave the purchaser 1583 such a claim as no other professional man had; and the proportion of failure to success in all departments of life being very great, he (Viscount Monck) wanted to know why an officer or soldier who failed in his profession had a greater claim on the country than a barrister or a physician who failed in his profession? Why should, he not betake himself to some other profession in which he might hope to succeed without making any claim on the taxpayer? ["Hear, hear!] He could perceive that these opinions were not received with sympathy by their Lordships; but he could not see how they could be refuted. The noble Duke's main argument was a réchauffé of the old contention that, however indefensible in principle, purchase worked well in practice. Now, this was the argument in favour of all abuses, and had it been allowed to prevail all the abuses which had been extirpated during the last 50 years would still be in existence. Was it the fact, however, that the system gave us a highly efficient and professionally trained body of officers? He should be sorry to hurt the feelings of British officers, for they possessed that, pluck, determination, and energy which had placed their race in the front in all the arts of war and peace, and almost all his near relatives, including his father and brothers, had belonged to that class. He felt bound, nevertheless, to declare his opinion that the system of purchase had tended to deteriorate the professional acquirements of officers; and in corroboration he would cite the opinion of one of the most distinguished Generals in Her Majesty's service. Lord Strathnairn, speaking, no doubt, with great pain and under a sense of duty, had stated that our officers as a body were absolutely ignorant of one of the principal branches of professional knowledge. The noble and gallant Lord did not blame them for this ignorance, nor did he (Viscount Monck), for it was caused by the defective character of the books of instruction issued to them. This threw the ultimate responsibility on the purchase system, for those books were compiled by men brought up in it, and the same causes which discouraged a high standard of acquirements in the lower ranks affecting also the higher, therefore books drawn up by men who had never learnt and could not appreciate particular subjects 1584 were naturally defective. Hence for generation after generation officers were kept in ignorance on a subject which was likely to bring disaster on the Army if we were ever at war. For the reasons which he had given he thought it high time that the system of purchase should be put an end to, and that a system of selection by merit should be substituted for it. He considered the system of abolition proposed by the Bill a just and a fair one. He thought the details were such as no one could find fault with—unless, indeed, it were because the proposals of the Government were too liberal. There were two classes of officers who would be affected by the measure—one class were officers who had attained the rank of lieutenant colonel, and had exhausted all its advantages; the other class were officers below that rank, who if the purchase system should continue would have the opportunity of purchasing on. He could not see what the first class had to complain of, for every advantage which they now possessed was preserved to them, for they could sell their commissions and obtain the regulation and over-regulation money. With respect to the second class—those who had not yet attained the rank of lieutenant colonel—it was alleged that they had not only bought their commissions, but the right of purchase hereafter. Now, he could not conceive how such an argument could be seriously advanced. All that the Bill did was to raise the standard of efficiency, and to enable officers to obtain promotion without paying for it. He believed the Bill to be absolutely necessary to promote that professional knowledge which every day rendered more essential to the officers, and in his opinion it would not only have that effect, but would also, although not immediately, be productive of economy to the State.
THE EARL OF DALHOUSIE
My Lords, I find myself in a position than which nothing can be more disagreeable to a man with a long experience of public life—namely, that of differing from those with whom I have been accustomed to act all my life on a question of grave importance. But, respect for my consistency during my whole public career, and regard for the interests and welfare of a noble service in which many years ago I commenced my career, 1585 and with the administration of which I have been so long connected in public life, leave me no alternative but to vote for the Resolution of the noble Duke. When first introduced the Bill contained various other matters to which prominence was given above the clauses abolishing purchase; but these have all vanished, and we have now little more than a naked proposition for the abolition of the system by which appointments, promotions, and retirements have hitherto been regulated. Whatever may be said about the purchase system—and I am not one of those who maintain that, it is defensible on all points—it has given a system of promotion free from all party or Parliamentary influence—a system which has been carried on honourably and to the satisfaction of the profession, and which I have never heard challenged with success by any demagogue or stump orator. We are asked suddenly to tamper with the administration of a great institution to which the country looks for protection and defence without being told how we are to place the matter on a footing of at least equal efficiency. I think that those who have grappled with this question have begun at the wrong end. It is, I believe, admitted by the War Department that there was not a single proposition in the original Bill which could not have been carried out as easily without touching purchase as by abolishing it. I was surprised, therefore, to hear it stated by my noble Friend (Lord Northbrook) that the abolition of purchase is essential to the proper organization of the Army. The noble Lord who has just sat down (Viscount Monck) goes further, and attributes to the present system every fault that can be detected in the officers of our Army. The system, however, has been at work ever since we have had a standing Army. It was introduced in order to enable officers to retire, and a system of retirement by sale naturally involves a system of purchase. Our Army has ever since been furnished with officers under that system, and no Army in the world has done an equal amount of work in every climate, and opposed superior numbers with the same constancy of success. If the Government are so anxious to re-organise and reform the Army, they might find enough to do in the non-combatant departments, in setting to rights 1586 the supply of stores, their proper delivery in times both of peace and war, in regulating the transport of the Army so as to enable it to take the field, and in preparing for the chances of war—all which matters are as incomplete as possible. When they have succeeded in organizing these, let them turn their attention to the re-organization of our officers; and if they can find a system better than purchase they shall have my cordial support; but to abolish purchase without knowing what is to take its place is to take a "leap in the dark," and, to use a sporting phrase, they must excuse me if I "crane" considerably before I do so. It must, moreover, be borne in mind that the abolition of purchase will place a great burden on the shoulders of the taxpayer, who certainly has a right to know what advantage he will gain; and I believe that when he considers the nature of purchase and its advantages, he will find that they outweigh its disadvantages, and will prefer to retain it to being taxed to a very large amount to provide another. Then, with regard to retirement, the present system offers a self-working means by which officers retire. Now, many hundreds enter the Army with a view, not of making it their profession, but for the purpose of making themselves acquainted with its duties, and of retiring after making themselves perfect up to a certain point. Is it, then, a bad system which trains up a certain number of the youth of the country to the profession of arms, and which restores them to their counties with the full knowledge of it, fully qualified for attaching themselves to the local forces which constitute our Reserves? While it is a good system of retirement for that description of officer, I appeal to anyone acquainted with the government of the Army whether it is not an excellent and convenient mode of retirement in many other cases? How many instances are there of men who have mistaken their vocation! Now, you cannot touch them by any tangible institution; but under the purchase system you can tell them quietly that they cannot expect to go on purchasing, and that they had better retire. This saves a great deal of bad blood, and relieves superior officers from a very disagreeable task. Her Majesty's Government, however, cannot exist in peace unless purchase is destroyed; and what is to be 1587 substituted? Seniority, they say, will not do, for they see the effect of promotion by simple seniority in the Artillery, the Engineers, and the Marines. You go a little abroad, and see the effect of promotion by seniority in the Prussian Army—for I am told that it is not unusual to find captains at the head of troops at the age of between 50 and 60. All I can say is that of all the systems ever proposed the system of selection introduced into the British Army would be the most unfortunate. The Commission which sat in 1857, presided over by the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset), considered the question of promotion from first to last; the subject of selection was carefully submitted to all the witnesses, and there was hardly one who did not condemn it at once from beginning to end. The illustrious Duke at the head of the Army said that if heartburning existed in consequence of one officer purchasing over the head of another, it would be tenfold intensified if one officer were selected over another officer's head. I hold, my Lords, that in the most virtuous hands possible, and guarded by every security that could be devised, the principle of selection cannot possibly be carried out; because, no matter in whose hands it may be, the country would never have confidence that it will be fairly employed. But suppose this power unfortunately fell into unscrupulous hands;—suppose the Government did not shrink from converting promotion by selection to its own purposes—to what a length might the abuse be carried! If that system is adopted, what man will undertake the office of Commander-in-Chief or Secretary of State for War—open as he will be to solicitations of all kinds—the Secretary of State from the political party to which he may belong, the Commander-in-Chief from private persons. I do not think a Secretary of State could exist a single day under such pressure. And if, unfortunately, the pressure was yielded to, what would be the consequence? I cannot express it better than in the language of a small pamphlet I have seen on this subject. The writer says—"At present the Army has absolutely no politics whatever." In that I entirely agree; the officers as citizens are entitled to their private opinions, and to act upon them; but the Army as an Army has no politics whatever, and I defy anyone to show me an instance in 1588 the history of our country in our own time in which the Army has ever taken any part in politics, or refused to do its duty in times of political excitement. The writer says—At present the Army has absolutely no politics whatever; its promotion flows on in a regular course; it seeks the approval of its military chiefs, but knows and cares absolutely nothing whatever about civil strife and competition. The day the patronage of the Army gets into the hands of political leaders all this will cease, and the Army become more or less a political power in the State. Promotion by selection would soon become the reward of political supporters, and officers of the Army would soon find that their career depended more on the votes of their friends, or on their own political professions, than on any other claims; change of Ministers, party conflicts and strifes that now are to them matters of the most utter unimportance, would soon become of paramount interest.This system of selection, however much you may "temper" it with seniority, will have much the same effect in the end. It is not safe to rush into it with excessive haste. Any attempt to do so will end in ruin to the Army and danger to the Constitution. With respect to this question of the abolition of purchase, I cannot for the life of me see why we should not do all that is necessary for the purpose of procuring efficient and competent officers without having recourse to so extreme a measure. As to what has been said about the books for the Army having been condemned by Lord Strathnairn, the fault must be with those who have issued the books. There is a power in the Secretary of State and the Commander-in-Chief to say what books the Army will receive. But those who are candidates for the Army and look forward to promotion in it, do not confine themselves to the books issued by authority. They study other books, the history of armies, and make themselves acquainted with the details of their future profession. Something has been said about the professional ignorance of our officers. I cannot admit that such ignorance exists nearly to the alleged extent. When I was Secretary for War my noble Friend the late Lord Hardinge, who was then at the Horse Guards, came to me one morning with a satisfaction and pride I shall never forget, and showed me the performance of two regiments quartered at Windsor—one a regiment of the Guards, the other a battalion of the Rifle Brigade. Those regiments had been ordered to march out 1589 into the country as if they expected to meet an attacking enemy, and the officers were called upon to make a report of all they had seen, accompanied by sketches of the ground and suggestions as to how it could be best defended. The reports which Lord Hardinge brought me, drawn up by the captains and subalterns of those regiments, proved to me that the officers, so far from being in a state of professional ignorance, possessed professional accomplishments in a very high degree—and that was before professional instruction was as much thought of as at present—and possessed an aptitude that would enable officers, even under the much-maligned system of purchase, to discharge their duties in the field as ably as the officers of Armies of any other country could produce. The system, moreover, has produced officers who are beloved by their men—and who are attached to their men and their men to them—and who, although they are not on the familiar terms with the men that prevails in the French forces, nor, on the other hand, treat them with the hauteur that marks the relations of officers and men in some Armies, yet have such a hold on them that they can trust them to do their duty with hearty and cordial readiness whenever called upon. Nor is there any Army whose officers have shown such courage and endurance under suffering, and patience in every respect, as the officers of the British Army. Now there is a system of professional study going on in the Army, and it will be found that if the necessity arises we shall produce officers quite equal to the occasion. All this is under the much-abused purchase system. I tell you, then, beware how you break it down; take heed how you are to supply its place. It will not do to tell me that the Secretary of State is laying the foundation for a general system of Army re-organization. Instead of destroying the old system under which the Army has been so successfully administered he should rather endeavour to remove the temporary obstacles that may stand in the way. If my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War will only give his attention to it, he may put the Army on such a footing as will enable it to take the field efficiently if called upon on an emergency should our shores be suddenly invaded, and he may reserve to himself a future opportunity of considering what will be the system of appointments, 1590 promotions, and retirements. If he can show me a system that will be attended with greater advantages than the present, I will be the first to give him my support. But before you destroy the present system, I hope your Lordships will remember that under it all the glory of the British Army has been gained, and I hope that it will not be abolished until the Government are prepared with a better system, to put in its place.
§ LORD SANDHURST
My Lords, in rising to address your Lordships after the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie), I feel that I stand at a great disadvantage. The noble Earl addresses your Lordships with all the influence which attends a long and successful career in Parliament, and which belongs to one who administered the office of Secretary of State for War in times of difficulty and danger with the greatest success. My Lords, I have no such advantages. I stand before you on the merits of the question raised by my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War; and so confident am I in the cause which I advocate that I do not fear to meet the noble Earl or those who have addressed this House before him in the same sense. The noble Earl alluded to the Commission of 1856 and 1857, which was presided over by the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset). I have been a careful student of the proceedings of that Commission, and I read with the greatest attention possible the evidence given by the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie). I am not able to taunt the noble Earl with being laudator temporis acti—with being one who stands still and neglects the progress of the present day. On the contrary, I find by the evidence he gave before the Commission that in those days he was one of the most ardent and practical military reformers that this country has produced. I think I am justified in saying that, because many of the reforms suggested by the Royal Commission had the fullest approval of the noble Earl. In the first place, he condemned the system of exchanges as leading to great mischief and jobbery. He was in favour of limiting the terms of command of regiments.
§ LORD SANDHURST
And the noble Earl introduced the system of competition 1591 for entrance into Woolwich. Well, the Royal Commission said very frankly that they adopted all his recommendations and some additional ones which, in their view, led up to the principle of selection for regimental commands. I will, for the present, leave this part of the subject and address myself to the remarks of the noble Duke opposite. The noble Duke seemed to say that notwithstanding the very careful details furnished by the noble Lord the Under Secretary, no scheme had been submitted to the House or the country in which noble Lords can have any confidence. Now, I venture to say that it would be impossible for any one to have given in greater detail, with more exactness or decision, any scheme than my noble Friend has done in the statement he laid before the House. I was almost unprepared to hear these details given with such elaborate exactness or such perfect decision of conclusion. I was not aware that the Government had arrived at such an absolute conclusion; but after hearing the statement of my noble Friend, I do think it must be admitted that the Amendment moved on the other side cannot hold water. It cannot now be said that there is no scheme before the country, or that the House has not been furnished with the fullest details. I think this a very unimportant consideration when your Lordships are asked to throw back to the other House of Parliament a Bill affirmed by large majorities—a Bill, the details of which have been canvassed with a persistency and acrimony rarely witnessed—a Bill touching private and public interests in so remarkable a manner. I think it a very curious thing that your Lordships should be asked to send the decision of the other House to a Royal Commission. I am a stranger in Parliament, but I believe that such a proposal, although not out of Order, is almost without precedent. To come back to the question raised by the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie), let us consider what is gained by the abolition of purchase. We have been told in moving terms that the Army is going to be ruined. It is suggested that something very novel and dangerous has been put before the country by Her Majesty's Government—that the officers will be ruined, and that the Army which carried us to victory in former days will carry us to victory no more if this ancient 1592 practice be abolished. Well, what is the value of such an assertion? I have now for many years been in the Army, and I say, as a matter of personal experience, having served under Commanders-in-Chief from the days of Lord Hill and the Duke of Wellington to our own—that the assertion of the noble Duke that promotion in the Army rests not on money, but on merit, is one that is not justified by facts. I assert, with the most absolute certainty, that if there is a certain theory that selection is practised by the Horse Guards, with the approval of the Secretary of State, this theory is not justified by practice, and has no existence in fact. The practice is that any officer whose name comes to the top of the list for purchase succeeds, unless there be something so dreadful against his character as would cause him to be turned out of the service. I have been watching those things from the days of Lord Hill, during the times of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Hardinge, and the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), and I have not found any difference; and I believe that it is impossible that there can be even the minutest change in that practice so long as the system of purchase exists. It is a system that fills up places of regimental command by the absolute process of chance. It has been described in "another place" as a system of seniority—seniority among gentlemen in a regiment. My Lords, it is the seniority of those who have money in their pockets, and, consequently, the seniority of those who have no money is forgotten, while the seniority of those who have money is considered to be a vested right, which must be regarded as sacred. I will now say something as an old commanding officer of a regiment, and as a commander of armies. I ask, is it possible that the moral influence of a commanding officer can be maintained over a body of 1,000 men if they know that they are being dangled about from year to year to be sold like a flock of sheep—that they are merely waiting for the convenience of such a commander until he determined in his mind whether they should be sold or not? ["Oh!] It is a fact. I have known it occur. I have known a commanding officer wishing to leave, but desirous of first securing a large sum which he had a right to receive, 1593 and everyone in the regiment knew that he was waiting for the money. Am I to be told that such a commanding officer wields that sort of influence over his men which stops crime, which leads his men to victory, and which enables them to perform their duly to their country? It is quite true that this system of purchase has lasted for 200 years; but from what did it arise? It arose from certain notions of the sale of offices, and the manner in which money was made by Ministers in the days of Charles II. and in subsequent times. If we trace this strange and ancient practice to its source, we really find that it is part of a system which we should call corrupt. Lord Macaulay, speaking of the age in which this system arose, says that from the noblemen who held the White Staff and the Great Seal, down to the humblest tidewaiter, gross corruption was practised without disguise and without reproach. Titles, places, commissions, and pardons were daily sold in market overtly by the great dignitaries of the realm, and every clerk in every department imitated to the best of his power their corrupt practices. That, I believe, was the origin of purchase in the British Army. After it became a matter of favour whether a regiment should be raised, and during the reign that succeeded Charles II. very much the same kind of thing was seen in England as was seen in France in the days of Louis Quatorze and Louis Quinze. The noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) has told us that promotion based on the principle of selection is a process that will lead to all imaginable evils, which it is impossible to control. If that assertion can be proved, even in part, I admit that the noble Earl is justified in the manner in which he adheres to the evidence which he gave 15 years ago. But what is there in the nature of the Army, or of the officers, or of the civil functionaries that administer the Army, to cause it to be more difficult for them to administer a system based on the principle of selection in a fair manner, such as we are accustomed to see in other establishments? I am perfectly at a loss to know why such a pother should be made about the selection of officers to command a certain number of regiments. For a good many years I have presided over Armies in which this system of selection was carried out to the 1594 utmost. During that time, of course, one was subject to solicitation—but not to more solicitation, I have reason to believe from personal experience, than that to which the illustrious Duke is now subjected by the present system of purchase. There was no great difficulty in administering that system. If the system of selection, be administered with a real desire to promote the public interest, I believe there would be no greater difficulty in administering that system than has been found to exist in the Navy, or in any other department of the public service, or in any great private establishment. As to the Memorandum of the Duke of Wellington, which was read by the noble Duke opposite, I draw an entirely different inference from that drawn by the noble Duke. If it is true that duties of such an important character are imposed on the modern British officer—if it is true—and I believe it is true—that in general he is able to meet those duties in a satisfactory manner—can there be any difficulty in an honest authority exercising selection among officers who are so tried as they are declared to be in that extract? There is one class in great force in the other House who, of all others, should demand that this system of purchase be abolished. I allude to the officers themselves. In consequence of the system of purchase, the officers of the Army are placed in a false position towards the country. They are the victims of most unfair detraction on the one side; and, on the other, they are often the victims of class panegyric. I believe that there is much injustice in the allegations that have been made with regard to the officers' want of professional knowledge, and that as regards education they represent very favourably the progress which has been made in the country with respect to that matter for many years. Is it just that officers who have been well educated and have some professional knowledge should remain un-promoted because they have not got a few hundred pounds? As to the regimental system, I have reason to believe that there is a good deal of misapprehension in the use of those terms. I was myself for a good many years a regimental officer, and I believe I am right in stating that the regimental system is in reality the application of certain general rules laid down by the 1595 War Department for the government and administration of regiments, and that commanding officers are held very strictly to those rules. The regimental system, as it is called, applies far more to the means adopted for the preservation of order and discipline, and the instruction of officers than to that which it has been supposed to represent; and I venture to submit that a mistake is very often made by calling that a regimental system which is really a regimental social feeling. That social feeling may be very valuable, but is it to be supposed that it would be rendered less powerful or less useful if we got rid of the system of purchase? I do not think that as long as the inequalities and disadvantages of the present system exist the regimental esprit can possibly be what it ought to be. We find that the details of the proposed system of selection have been fully thought out. And that brings us to the question of retirement. I believe there is no intention at present to interfere with the existing very complete system of retirement. That system is one which already entails a very considerable annual cost upon the State; and when it is alleged by the noble Duke opposite that it may possibly come upon us hereafter as a charge of £750,000, or perhaps of more than £1,000,000 a-year, it is clear that it must have escaped his memory that at least half the cost is incurred for retirement under the present purchase system. In discussing this question of retirement, I would ask leave to refer to a very admirable letter written by an hon. and gallant Member of the other House (Colonel Anson), which appeared in The Times a few days ago, which appears to me to be one of the most valuable contributions upon this subject that has been made public in the course of the discussions on the abolition, of purchase that have occurred during the last four or five months. If your Lordships will permit me to do so, I will lay before you some of the conclusions at which Colonel Anson has arrived. Taking the case of the non-purchase corps first, he shows that, reckoning per head of the private soldiers, the cost of retirement upon full and upon half-pay in the Artillery amounts to £3 8s.; in the Marines, whose retirements are all upon full-pay, to £3 15s.; while in the Line it only amounts to an average of £1 12s. But 1596 assuming that the average half-pay retirement under the new scheme will average £2 per man for the whole Army more than it does at present, even in that case, in place of the enormous sum stated by the noble Duke, we shall only have an additional annual cost to meet of somewhere about £240,000 per annum. I do not say whether or not these figures of Colonel Anson's are correct. I believe them to be so, and at all events he has given a fair challenge to anyone to show that they are inaccurate. I must remind your Lordships that this question of the abolition of purchase is not only a military but a constitutional and a popular one; that it is being discussed in every constituency throughout this country, and that we must look not to the effect of this Bill upon the Army or the Estimates, but to the effect that will be produced upon the feelings of the country with regard to the Army if we throw it out. In all solemnity and seriousness I say that this is the gravest measure that has been brought before your Lordship's House for many years; and if the threat I have heard uttered to-night is carried into effect, and this Bill is thrown out, the officers of the Army, to whom the Government has striven to do justice—those men to whom we are all under such great obligations for the manner in which they have done their duties—sometimes glorious, sometimes most arduous, but, for the most part, difficult and obscure—will be placed in such a position towards the country as will cause your Lordships bitterly to repent of your act. This is a subject upon which I have most deeply felt—and indeed there are few men among your Lordships who are under such obligations to the officers of the Army as I am, and I feel deeply, indeed, that they should be exposed to this trial. It is impossible not to attach great weight to the emphatic warning uttered by the Prime Minister in a recent debate in the other House, in which he showed that it would be impossible for the Government to permit henceforward any officer to take the over-regulation price for his commission. From this time forward the whole system of over-regulation prices in the Army must disappear, and any officer who shall attempt to violate the law on the subject will run the risk of being prosecuted. Therefore, I say, it seems to me that, taking all the circumstances 1597 into consideration, whether we look at the question in the interests of the officers of the Army, or whether we take into consideration the necessity that exists of placing the country and the Army in perfect harmony, it is absolutely necessary that we should pass this Bill. To throw out the Bill because there is no perfect scheme of re-organization laid before the country is not the way to meet the propositions of the Government. To avail yourselves of such a pretext to throw it out will be merely to insure the measure coming back to you again, perhaps much altered in its character, and to run the danger of events that may occur in the meantime. You are bound in determining this question to take into consideration not only what actually appears on the face of the Bill, but also the whole Government scheme, of which this Bill only forms a part. We have now an armed force of something like 500,000 men, and we have upwards of 400 field guns, and, under these circumstances, it is impossible to say that the country is not in a position to defend itself. But it should be remembered that any measure of this kind depends for its success chiefly on its details, and we should give the Government credit for coming forward not only with a scheme for abolishing purchase, which they believed to be obsolete, but that there being a system of defence in the country there would be proportionate arrangements for organization. Having only lately returned to this country, few things have taken me more by surprise than the rigid analysis to which every measure is subjected in this country, everything that has an existence, everything on which we rely being subjected to a rasping criticism—this being more especially true in regard to the Army, so that nobody would believe it possible that we had so large a number of men under training. This language is repeated in the newspapers from day to day, and in a periodical notoriously hostile to the Government, an amusing squib has been written and taken to represent the true state of the country. I must hope, however, that your Lordships will pause before you condemn a scheme which appears to be in all repects well considered.
My Lords, I do not think any case has been made out for accepting the Bill. The question before us is a very important one—it is whether we shall give our consent to the abolition of the system of purchase in the Army without knowing in any way what is to be substituted for it. I am most desirous of learning what the new scheme is to be, because I am sure, after the debates in this House and the various discussions which have taken place elsewhere, we may see that the existing system does furnish us with a body of officers who very efficiently and very ably perform the duty which is placed upon them. The only exception is the noble and gallant Lord who spoke last (Lord Sandhurst), and I was, indeed, astonished to hear a man, after his experience in command of British soldiers, ask was it possible that a colonel commanding 1,000 men, having bought his command, should, under the circumstances now in existence, exercise on them the moral power which he ought to possess.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I rise to Order. I have been in this House now for many years, and it has never been questioned during a speech in which a noble Lord misquotes what he has said, a Peer may be allowed to explain what he did say.
I never before saw a Minister rise up and go to a noble Lord to ask him to rise to explain.
I ask the clerk to read the Standing Order on the subject. ["Order!]
The Clerk then read the Standing Order as follows:—No man is to speak twice to a bill at one time of reading it, or to any other proposition, unless it be to explain himself in some material pact of his speech; but no new matter, and that not without the leave of the house first obtained. That if any lord stand up and desire to speak again, or to explain himself, the lord keeper is to demand of the house first whether the lord shall be permitted to speak or not; and that none may speak again to the same matter, though upon new reason arising out of the same; and that none may speak again to explain himself, unless his former speech be mistaken, and he hath leave given to explain himself; and if the cause require much debate, then the house to be put into committee.
§ EARL GRANVILLE
I rise to a point of Order. Two instances occurred to-night in this House, and I certainly was surprised to hear cries of "Order! upon the noble Lord (Lord Sandhurst) quoting the speech of a Minister of the Crown, from the bench opposite, who have so constantly been in the habit of quoting Mr. Gladstone's speeches. It was perfectly in Order that my noble and gallant Friend should be stopped when about to read from a speech of Mr. Gladstone's. But as regards the noble Lord's present wish to complain, it has been the constant practice when a noble Lord was misrepresented that he should do so.
§ LORD SANDHURST
said, what he had wished to explain was that he did not say what was put into his mouth by the noble Earl, but that he knew the case of a colonel who, from the use he made of the system of purchase, lost his moral control over his regiment.
It amounts, then, to this—that the noble and gallant Lord in his long experience has known but one case in which, owing to some particular circumstances, a commanding officer has lost what he called his "moral command." I admit that you might have that happen occasionally, but it does not at all shake my general statement that under the existing system, as a general rule, it is found that British officers have confidence in their men and British soldiers have confidence in their officers. If that system is to be changed, it should be changed with deliberation and a perfect understanding of what is to be substituted for it. I listened with the greatest pleasure to the very able speech of my noble Friend the Under Secretary for War. It was impossible for anyone to have stated the case of the Government better than he did. Nothing could have been more clearly, nothing more skilfully placed before your Lordships than the statement which he made. But on two great points with respect to promotion his explanation was defective. There are two things wanted in this matter. The first is that promotion shall take place in such a manner that there shall be a general feeling on the part of the officers that it is fairly given; and in the next place it is very necessary that by some means or other provision should be made by which the current of promotion should be so regulated 1600 that men should not be left in the Army at an unsuitable age, and that officers should not be of an age unsuitable to the rank they hold in the service. How will this be attained under the new system now proposed? My noble Friend (Lord Northbrook) said yon must have a system not of seniority but of selection, and that the system of selection will be strictly guarded and guided by the reports of commanding officers. Does my noble Friend really think that system can work practically in the British Army and in our regiments without producing jealousies and heartburnings? Is he not aware that if it is known that promotion is to be entirely a matter of selection, there will be a constant feeling among the officers that some advantage over them is being taken—that one man may be afraid of another, and suspect that he is in communication with some superior officer who can represent his case favourably to the authorities, and may there not be intrigues on the part of officers to obtain promotion? I believe that under this system you would practically come to the system of seniority, except in extreme cases. Contrast that with what exists at present. It is admitted that you now have great facilities for getting rid of an officer who is not fit for promotion; that there is a moral pressure which induces him to sell out. He can retire with the price of his commission, and, practically, promotion goes to a fit officer. It is a rule, if I mistake not, at the Horse Guards that no man is to be held to have a right to promotion unless the Commander-in-Chief thinks him qualified for it. Formerly, perhaps, that rule was not applied as strictly as it ought to have been, and the standard for promotion was not as high as it should have been, and this may still be the case. But that is a fault which could easily be corrected, and by the purchase system you have enjoyed to a great extent the advantages of selection. But the case will be very different when an officer cannot sell out, and, on leaving the Army, has to give up all his prospects and all hopes of securing a return. He cannot go on half-pay. A rule prevailed at the War Office when I was there 35 years ago, and it probably still exists, that no man is allowed to be put on half-pay because he is incapable of efficient service on full-pay. 1601 Under such circumstances it will be so much more difficult to get a man to go out of a regiment as to render it practically impossible, except in gross cases of unfitness, and it will often happen that an officer whose retirement would greatly benefit the service will be allowed to go on because it would be so great a hardship to him to be dismissed without any provision. But we are told that the objections to selection are visionary because it answers in the Navy and in India. Now, I believe that in the Navy promotion has been generally given most fairly and justly, but I ask whether there is a confidence on the part of the public that that is so, and whether it is not supposed that favouritism and partizanship have some share in the distribution of naval promotions? I do not say that there is good ground for that impression in the public mind, but only that it exists. Remember, too, that there is this distinction between the Navy and the Army, that in the Navy a ship is commissioned, say, for three years, that at the end of that time she is paid off, and the officers are dispersed, never perhaps to meet again afterwards. But in the Army, on the other hand, unless you destroy the social system of the regiments, the advantages of which are acknowledged, the officers must live together for many years; and if you promote one man over another by selection on grounds which cannot be very clearly explained, how are you to expect either the officers themselves or the public to be satisfied that the promotion is fairly given? Again, the noble and gallant Lord says he has seen Armies worked very successfully in this manner in India. Yes; but India has a despotic Government, and there is no Secretary to the Treasury in India; there are no constituents, and no Members of Parliament in India to come forward and press the claims of particular officers. And do you think that an officer serving perhaps in some unhealthy part of India, and doing his duty faithfully and honestly at that distance, would stand a fair chance in competition with some officer at home with powerful friends and relations in Parliament to back his claims? Well, it is said there is a security in the selection being left to the Commander-in-Chief. But how is it left to him? Why, subject to the approval of the 1602 Secretary of State for War, who is to be responsible to Parliament for the manner in which it is exercised. I ask, can responsibility and power be separated? I say that where the responsibility lies there the power also must be. Suppose the Secretary of State should express a certain opinion as to the claims of a particular officer, and that the Commander-in-Chief, taking a different view, should recommend some other officer. Then in what a position the Commander-in-Chief would be placed! Up would start some Member of the House of Commons to accuse the Commander-in-Chief of a great job in having refused to accept the advice of the Government. I ask, then, will not the whole power fall practically into the hands of the Secretary of State? The Secretary of State would not only have the power and responsibility in his hands, but it is desirable that he should have them; for I should deprecate nothing more than to see the Commander-in-Chief erected into an imperium in imperio, or an independent officer able to beard the Government of the day. Nothing could be more injurious. I have always contended, and I still contend, for the complete authority of the Ministers of the Crown over the Commander-in-Chief. But if that authority is to be real—and it must be so—by your system of selection you will incur all the dangers connected with partizanship in relation to promotion in the Army. Then, with regard to retirement. An Army cannot be maintained in a proper state unless its officers can retire in reasonably quick succession. A noble Viscount who spoke some time ago (Viscount Monck) did not admit this, but said retirement was not more necessary for the Army than for any other profession. But the efficiency of every Army in the world largely depends upon having men in command of a suitable age and not too old, and that can only be secured by a tolerably rapid flow of promotion. Therefore, not on account of the officers, but for the sake of the public interest, you must have a due rapidity of promotion maintained in your Army. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State, in condemning purchase, pointed out what appears to me one of the great advantages of the system. He pointed out how far more common it is for officers to retire before they attain high rank 1603 under a purchase system than under any other system. Precisely so—that is the great value of the system. Without any cost to the country you get your officers of a reasonable ago, and stagnation of the service is prevented. We are told that the purchase system prevents our getting officers professionally instructed. I quite admit that a great mistake has been made in this country, and in many countries in Europe, in not requiring officers to study and make themselves acquainted with the art of war, both theoretically and practically; but the fault of not attending sufficiently to the acquisition of scientific knowledge of their profession by officers has had nothing to do with the system of purchase. It arose from very different causes, and has no doubt been a great mistake in our military administration. But that mistake is capable of correction—I believe it has been already corrected to a very great extent, and is likely to be corrected still further. And in spite of the little encouragement they have received from military authorities, it is very remarkable how many of our officers have carefully studied the art of war. I believe it to be a matter of fact that the Army has produced no inconsiderable number of able writers in every department of the profession. On the question of retirement, I quite admit it is impossible to make a perfect estimate of its cost; nor do I find fault with the Government for not having produced such an estimate. But it is certainly possible to draw up rules to regulate the conditions on which officers should retire on half-pay and full-pay. This ought to have been done, and the rules laid before us; and that I believe would have met the requirements of the noble Duke who has moved the rejection of the Bill. As it is, we are only given vaguely to understand that when the necessity arises the Government will draw up some scheme of retirement—which may be unsatisfactory. The noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) has said that the abolition of purchase is necessary, because purchase has hitherto been an obstruction to all other reforms in the Army. I must confess I am altogether in the dark as to the manner in which that obstruction arises. The greatest want of the present moment is that we should be able if a sudden war broke 1604 out to have command of a larger Regular force than we now have. But how does the system of purchase interfere with that? No one says we are deficient in officers. We have plenty of them—indeed, the only difficulty is to meet the many implications which are made for commissions; but our real want is more rank and file, and I want to know how the abolition of purchase in time of peace gives you a greater command of rank and file in time of war. That is a matter which is beyond my comprehension. This brings me to the consideration of the general policy of the Government. Remember that the Bill before us was brought forward as a part of a great measure for placing the country in a state of safety, and the policy which the Government announced at the time this measure was first submitted to the Legislature was perfectly sound. The Government laid down four cardinal rules for making the country not only free from danger, but free from the apprehension of danger. The first was that the country must mainly depend upon the Regular force, and if that force could not be very large, it should, at least, be very efficient. Secondly, as it is impossible, without throwing an undue burden on the country, to maintain constantly under arms a sufficiently large force to meet an emergency, it was held to be expedient that a large part of the force to be relied upon for our protection in war should consist of a Reserve in close connection with the Line. Thirdly, that, in order to create such a Reserve, it would be absolutely necessary to make service in the Line, as a general rule, as short as possible. And fourthly, it was said the Government were to rely, as far as possible, upon voluntary enlistment rather than compulsory service, unless some great emergency arose. I believe these were the rules laid down—I think them perfectly sound, and I heartily subscribe to them all;—but I say that the measures proposed to the country do not correspond to the promises held out. How far has the execution fallen short of the promise? We are told our main trust must be in the Regular force; but in the course of the present year we are provided with 108,000 men in our Regular Army, with 9,000 in our first Reserve connected with the Line, and 30,000 in the second Army of Reserve, 1605 including the pensioners—making altogether 147,000 men—a totally inadequate force; for with these men, to say nothing of deductions on account of the sick, we should have to provide not only for our garrisons at home, but for a probable increased demand for garrisons abroad;—and I want to know how many we should have left for the field. Will the remainder form an Army sufficient to give us not only safety but complete freedom from apprehension? If we are to rely on the Regular force—and seeing how scientific a business war has become, it would be unsafe to trust to anything in the main but the most highly trained body of men it is possible to obtain—I say 147,000 is quite inadequate for that Regular force. We may be told that in a few years we shall be in a better position, because a powerful Reserve is in the course of formation. I hope it will be so; but in the meantime I maintain that our Regular Army should be larger, not only because it is necessary in itself, but because a small force under the colours necessarily involves a slow formation of Reserve forces. Nor is this all—we have to consider that by keeping the amount of force so low while our Reserve is being formed we impair its efficiency. It is not very long since that a noble and gallant Lord (Lord Sandhurst) proved that the state of our Army was most unsatisfactory, in respect of the large proportion of mere boys in its ranks. And how was that statement met? Why, the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for War answered, on behalf of the Government, that the proportion of recruits over 18 years of age now being enlisted was very much larger than it was in former times. It may be so, and yet this would not prevent our having a great excess of mere lads in our regiments compared to former times, because instead of encouraging men to remain 21 years in the Army they are now to stay in it, as a rule, only six years, and in some cases only three. Under this system it is obvious that a very large proportion indeed of our whole force must consist of quite young soldiers. Nor is it disputed that such is the fact. When the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Sandhurst) complained not long ago of the practice of sending such young soldiers to India, the Under Secretary for War, in reply, admitted that in the regiments about to proceed 1606 to India there were many soldiers too young for this service; but he said the evil of sending out these lads would be prevented by exchanging young men in regiments ordered for India into others at home. But if this were continued in conjunction with short service, the Army at home would be mainly composed of young men and recruits, and that important element of strength in a regiment, its esprit de corps, would be destroyed. It appears, then, to me that Her Majesty's Government have not redeemed the pledge which they gave of laying the foundation of a better and more efficient system. We may be told that all this is necessary as a foundation for the system which is to secure the country against even apprehension from danger; and we may be asked—"How can you be so unreasonable as to demand more when we have increased the Estimates by £2,500,000 already?" But if we consider the policy of the Government as a whole, and look back, what do we find? Two years ago the Government diminished the strength of the Army by 20,000 men, and it was defended on the ground that the reduction was made in colonial defences. This, however, is most fallacious, because a regiment in many of the colonies is just as useful as a Reserve for an emergency as if it were at home. A regiment from North America or even from the Cape can in these days be very speedily brought home if we have reason to expect war. It is absurd, therefore, to contend that because you keep up the number of men at home by re-calling troops from the colonies, the reduction of 20,000 men did not reduce the force available if danger should arise. The Government have had not only to replace the 20,000 men by whom they so imprudently reduced the Army, but they have also had to restore their manufacturing establishments and to increase their stock of gunpowder—the result being that when the country took alarm the taxpayers were immediately put to great expense to restore what had been lost. What has been the effect? On the plea of those reductions, which experience has shown to be fallacious, the Government made a most flourishing statement of their financial arrangements to Parliament; they abolished taxes of which no complaint had been made, and then they took great credit 1607 in their Budget for a large remission of taxation. But in less than two years there came an alarm, and they had immediately to restore what they had foolishly abandoned; their only resource, then, was to increase taxation, and as they said that all the unobjectionable taxes which had been remitted could not be re-imposed, they could do nothing but put this charge on the unfortunate payer of income tax. Another part of the increase of their expenditure arises from their being about to spend half a million of money on the Militia, for the purpose of making changes in the constitution of that force which will prove, I believe, to be both useless and costly. Commissions in the Militia are no longer to be given by the Lords Lieutenant of counties. To this I make no objection. I have the honour to hold Her Majesty's commission as Lieutenant of a county—but I put aside altogether any consideration for the Lords Lieutenant, and say that if there is the slightest advantage in depriving them of the authority so long vested in them, let this be done by all means; but I object to the considerable expense which will be incurred by the proposed changes with regard to the Militia. There are only two purposes for which a Militia is considered useful; in the first place, some people think it useful in our present condition as a reserve in case of sudden danger; others think it is a means for supplying the Regular Army. The Government have rejected the first plea, for they have clearly stated that in the present condition of Europe, with the facilities for communication that now exist, and when vast hosts of men are maintained as thoroughly trained soldiers, who might be assembled against us at any moment, the Militia cannot be relied upon to furnish our principal Reserve force. That opinion has been distinctly expressed by several Members of the Government; who have also declined to adopt a system by means of which the Militia could be completely trained, so as to be fit to contend with Regular troops. It has been said in the other House of Parliament that to train the Militia so as to make them good soldiers would involve such an interference with the labour of the country and the employment of the men that the proposal could not be entertained; and I concur in that opinion. 1608 It is said that the Militia may be made a source of supply to the Regular Army; but we have only been given a very faint notion of something floating through the minds of the Government; we have never yet been informed how their plans are to be carried out, nothing even approaching to a well-considered and digested scheme having yet been brought forward for making the Militia available as a supply to the Regular Army. We have been told, indeed, that the Militia is to be amalgamated with the Regular Army; but all we have been yet told respecting that amalgamation is that subalterns after a certain service in the Militia are to receive commissions in the Line, and that some officers of higher rank on leaving active service in the Army are to be employed in the Militia. Will these changes make the Militia more efficient? I cannot believe that a plan which would take the best of its young officers out of the Militia and leave to it only the refuse of those who join that force will answer. And how will it tally with the plan for appointing officers of the Line by competitive examinations? I do not see how the two systems are to work together. It will be a further discouragement to the Militia to fill up the superior commands with officers of the Regular Army; promotion in the Militia is already extremely slow, in the future, under this scheme, there will be none at all, and I doubt very much whether you will get officers to accept commissions. We are told, also, that the men are to be kept longer together in the annual training; but that, I think, is a very doubtful experiment. The men who join the Militia are not of the class of men who enlist in the Regular Army. They are men who go into the Militia because they have occupations that prevent them from giving the whole of their time to the public service; while the training is to many of them a month's holiday from harder work and higher pay. Such a holiday they like; but if you make a greater demand upon their time you will drive them from the force altogether, and thus lose the services of the very best recruits that now enter the Militia, and especially the Militia Artillery. With regard to the Militia, I maintain the opinion which I expressed in 1852, when it was re-established, that it is not formed on a ju- 1609 dicious principle; that it is very costly in proportion to the services it renders; and that it was a great mistake to spend money on a force which, after all, is not equal to the task assigned to it, when that money might be more usefully applied to the Regular Army and the Reserves in connection with it. I admit that the Militia is a popular force; that great expense has been incurred upon it; and that it has been trained to a degree of efficiency that is really marvellous, considering its faulty principle; and, therefore, while I adhere to the opinion that a great error was committed in forming it, I admit the expediency of maintaining it, at least for the present. But I hold it to be unwise to go further; I believe the expense it is proposed to incur in trying to improve and increase the Militia will be wasted. With regard to the expediency of requiring only a short period of service from soldiers, I entirely concur with Her Majesty's Ministers. What I object to is their having adopted this system so imperfectly and without proper precautions. If a man is to be in the Army for only six years, it ought to be six years as a man; service as a boy ought not to reckon, or our real will fall lamentably short of our nominal force. We have been told that grown men cannot be induced to enter the Army, and I admit the difficulty; but it ought to be met, and there are two ways of meeting it. You might either, as I suggested in a former discussion, send lads, when enlisted, to be trained in depôts, and only allow them to join their regiments and to be counted in the strength of the Army when fully able to perform useful service, or you ought to increase the pay or advantages given to soldiers so as to enable you to compete with success in the labour market for the services of full-grown men. You have done neither; but, on the contrary, have diminished the advantages offered to recruits. The prospect of a pension was formerly an important part of the inducements to enlist; but you have, in fact, abolished pensions by reducing the term of service, so as to deprive soldiers of the power of earning them, and that you have virtually reduced the pay of the Army. It appears from this review that by adopting the measures proposed by the Government we shall not make any effectual advance towards 1610 establishing that state of security which we were promised by Her Majesty's Speech and by the declaration of Ministers. And it is on that ground, not because it abolishes purchase, that I object to the Bill before us. I regard the abolition of purchase as unwise; but I recognize its necessity when it has been determined upon by the Ministers of the Crown. I am therefore prepared to acquiesce in it as a change that must take place; but I maintain that before it is carried into effect we are bound to require Ministers to show that they are ready to introduce some other system by which the Army shall be as well officered as before, and, also, that they are adopting measures to raise the Army to the state of efficiency required by the country. But we have no definite information as to the new rules to be adopted for the promotion and retirement of officers, and I can find nothing in this Bill which will tend to increase the efficiency of the Army; on the contrary, I believe, so far from promoting that end, it will prove an obstacle to it, because it will absorb so large a sum, for many years to come, for the Army as to disincline the Government of the day to propose further measures for improving it involving expenditure. For these reasons I shall record my vote in favour of the Resolution of the noble Duke behind me. I am sensible of the consequences of leaving the Army in the condition it will be in if this Bill is rejected, and I am ready to concur in any arrangement for the abolition of purchase, as you have determined upon it; but it is our duty to the country not to acquiesce in it until it is joined with those measures by which it ought to be accompanied.
§ THE DUKE OF SOMERSET
said, he was quite ready to admit the consistency of the noble Earl (Earl Grey) in opposing the abolition of purchase, for he expressed the same opinion in his evidence before the Royal Commission of 1857, of which he (the Duke of Somerset) was himself a Member, and he repeated his evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons in 1860. The noble Earl, in answer to Sir James Graham, General Peel, and other members of the Committee, advocated the management of the Army by a Board, which should administer the patronage; he thought 1611 the position of the Commander-in-Chief should be essentially altered, a great part of the duties falling into the hands of the Military Department; and when asked whether he would retain a single officer at the head of the Army, he replied, "No, I don't think I would." A dreadful picture had been conjured up by the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) and other speakers, of the jobbery and corruption which would prevail under any other system than purchase, and they had described the Secretary to the Treasury constantly besieging the War office for some piece of promotion or jobbery. He did not believe that such a practice would arise as to the Army, which had not of late, at least, existed in the Navy. There was, he admitted, only a choice of difficulties; for while the purchase system was advantageous as regarded retirements, it had other great disadvantages. Lord Clyde was strongly against it; and Lord Clyde's evidence, in which he pointed out the sufferings of an officer under that system, inclined Lord Derby, Lord Herbert, and himself to recommend an alteration, with the view of getting rid of it. Lord Clyde was 18½ years in unhealthy climates, constantly suffered fever in the West Indies, yet stayed there seven years, thinking it would be considered meritorious—though it did not help him at all—and ultimately he obtained his promotion by purchasing over the head of one officer. Lord Clyde also mentioned the case of Major Ferguson—an officer possessed of every qualification—who, after having frequently been passed over, was offered the command of a regiment, but resolved to decline it, on the ground that he could not afford to buy promotion, and was with difficulty persuaded to accept it, the other officers subscribing to enable him to do so. Now, cases like this would exert an Influence on the country if Parliament went on discussing the purchase system. If that system were to be retained, the proper way would be to bring in a Bill to legalize the over-regulation price. The noble Earl did not object to the over-regulation price. [Earl GREY dissented.] The noble Earl in his evidence certainly said that he saw no great objection to it, and that as long as there were people disposed on the one hand to pay, and on the other to receive it, any attempt to put down 1612 an extra price would fail. It was ridiculous to talk of returning to the regulation price. As for educated officers, they could be got under any system—though, according to a learned Gentleman in "another place," neither barristers, attorneys, nor Members of Parliament were sufficiently educated. The speech of the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) tended entirely to the maintenance of purchase; but the country would not be persuaded to take this course, nor could the over-regulation, price be maintained, and when this went the rest would go too. There was no doubt serious objection to this expenditure for the abolition of purchase, for he remembered that in 1862 a Motion against the expenditure of £25,000,000 on the Army and Navy in time of peace was proposed by Mr. Stansfeld and seconded by Mr. Baxter. Economy having such strong advocates in the Government, he was afraid that when this money had been spent on the abolition of purchase we should get no further, and should next year be educating the Irish, or entering on some other exciting business, and altogether forgetting the Army. While supporting the Bill, therefore, he should like a pledge from the Government that they would go on and render the Army efficient in other and more important respects—for really the greater part of the Bill related to very small points. He was glad, as a Lord Lieutenant, to be relieved of his functions with regard to the auxiliary forces; for the patronage was not worth having, the responsibility was great, and it was difficult to find officers of sufficient military standing and local position to command the Militia and Yeomanry. When this Bill was carried a great responsibility would rest on the Government; for all this was merely clearing the way, and they would have to re-organize in earnest, and incur considerable additional expense. He hoped they would make up their minds to this, and also that that they would not throw the whole expenditure on the income tax, whereby a considerable section of the community were relieved from their due quota.
THE MARQUESS OF HERTFORD
said, he would in the first place bespeak the indulgence of their Lordships on addressing them for the first time, but he felt that he could not, having belonged to the Army for 44 years, give a silent 1613 vote on a scheme fraught, in his opinion, with ruinous consequences to the military profession. He approached the question in no party spirit. He had long believed that a re-organization of our Army was necessary—and now more especially, considering the great events that had recently occurred on the Continent. He must say, however, that that measure had come before their Lordships in a very mutilated shape, and when this measure was first proposed in the other House of Parliament he regarded it with interest and anxiety. He had hoped for a scheme which should amalgamate all our forces—not omitting the Volunteers, of whom he had always been an ardent admirer—and he could not conceal his disappointment when he saw what he must call the miserable failure of this Bill. It really did not help us forward one bit. It did nothing whatever except abolish purchase, and that at an enormous cost at a moment when the country could ill spare the money. Very wrong impressions prevailed in the country on the subject of purchase. It would be better to apply the millions which the scheme would cost not in putting down purchase, but in increasing the rank and file of our Army, our means of transport, and in forming a new Arsenal in some safer place than Woolwich. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) stated that purchase was certainly bad in theory, but not bad in practice. Now, he (the Marquess of Hertford) would say that purchase was defensible if people looked at it calmly and tried to understand it. The matter had been put before the country as if a vacant commission had only to be put up to the highest bidder, and as if the longest purse determined how a man made his way in the Army. But that was not so, as had been shown by the Commission over which the noble Duke opposite had presided. It appeared from the Report that—According to the practice of the Army, no officer who is able and willing to pay the regulation price is passed over by another in the same regiment unless some flagrant conduct or notorious incapacity should justify the withholding his certificate. The two principles which regulate promotion are said to be—first, that no officer, however deserving, shall be promoted without purchase over the head of his senior in the same regiment; secondly, that no officer shall be promoted by purchase over the head of his senior 1614 officer in the same regiment, provided such senior officer has stated his claims to purchase conformably with the regulations. When an officer has reached the position of lieutenant colonel the power to purchase any higher rank ceases.The Report of the Duke of Wellington's Commission in 1840, stated—Having reference to the great extent of colonial service which has followed upon a long protracted war, we can have no hesitation in expressing our conviction that under no other system than that pursued in the British Army, with its advantages of early advancement by purchase, would it be possible to find so large a proportion of officers physically efficient as is shown from the returns placed before us to exist in the several regiments. The result would inevitably be either to maintain an enormous retired establishment at the public charge to furnish a provision for the worn-out officers, or to leave the commissions of the Army in the hands of those incompetent to discharge the duties attaching to them, if it were not for one of those very anomalies to which we have alluded—namely, the system of sale and purchase of commissions authorized by the regulations of the service. With regard to the system of purchase generally, we have the strongest testimony as to its practical success in having, during a long peace and notwithstanding the severity of the colonial service, afforded the means of maintaining the efficiency of the Army, in so far as it depends upon having a body of officers in the vigour of their age and health.Considering the Reports of the Commissions that had been appointed specially to inquire into the subject, he (the Marquess of Hertford) was surprised that the advice of anonymous newspaper correspondents should be preferred to the professional experience of men who had spent their lives in learning and applying the theory of the service. General La Marmora, when over here some years ago, expatiated at length on the merits of the British Army, admired, above all, the manner in which the officers of the Staff rode, the intelligence and gallantly which they displayed, and said—"We have no such thing as purchase in the Sardinian Army—you have it, and therefore you can get the flower of your nation." The testimony of Sir George Cathcart, Sir John Burgoyne, and Lord Hardinge was to the same effect. The question, however, was not what was best for the officers, but what was best for the nation, and if their Lordships succeeded—as he hoped they would—in throwing out this Bill, he trusted that another Bill would be introduced next year which would embody a well-considered scheme for putting the country in a state of defence, which we were far from being in now. 1615 He must speak up for the non-purchase officers. He held that the poor man was quite as much interested as the rich man in the retention of the purchase system. If that system were abolished, the clergyman's and lawyer's sons would not be able to go into the Army or to maintain themselves there without an increase of pay. The Duke of Wellington, with that great wisdom for which he was remarkable, said the expenses of the Army should be kept down, lest it should become too burdensome to the country, and then the capacity of the Army for the service of the nation in times of emergency would be annihilated; and then the reaction would come, and we should fall back into the state of things described by Mr. Sidney Herbert as "parsimony and panic." He (the Marquess of Hertford) hoped their Lordships would not pass a Bill that was not called for by the Army or by the country. Having been in the Army, he had had a good deal to do with the promotion of men from the ranks. No less than 40 men in his regiment had been promoted from non-commissioned officers to be officers since he first joined in 1827. All of those officers, with one exception, were more or less in favour of purchase. He ascertained their sentiments on the subject by sending a circular to them. One of them wrote, in reply to his inquiry, as follows:—I am of opinion 'selection' under the proposed system would have prevented my obtaining my present rank and pay. I was not purchased over, having been appointed captain and adjutant to the Queen's Own Royal Regiment of Staffordshire Yeomanry Cavalry from the 17th Lancers, where I was serjeant-major. But had I obtained my commission in the 17th, and knowing the class of gentlemen in the regiment, all of whom purchased their commissions, I would not have been disappointed; but I would be both disappointed and mortified had this taken place under the proposed system of 'selection.' I feel satisfied that doing away with purchase will be one of the greatest misfortunes that ever happened to the British Army, for where there is one case of insubordination tried by Court Martial, ten or a dozen may be expected under the new system of 'selection.' The cause will be want of respect to their officers, I think I may be allowed to say want of respect, having had good opportunities in the barrack-room of hearing and knowing the feelings of soldiers on the subject of those who purchased and those who did not.Therefore the view taken by Mr. Trevelyan that the purchase system found so many advocates in the House of Commons only because the non-purchase 1616 officers were not represented there, had not the force that appeared to attach to it. He besought the House to reject a measure which would squander twelve millions of money without benefiting either the Army or the country—by doing so their Lordships would entitle themselves to the gratitude of the whole nation.
§ THE MARQUESS OF RIPON
said, the noble and gallant Marquess who had just sat down (the Marquess of Hertford) had throughout his speech offered an uncompromising resistance to this Bill. But that was not the position assumed by the noble Duke opposite (the Duke of Richmond) who moved the Resolution. He (the Marquess of Ripon) heard the speech in which the noble Duke moved that Resolution, but he was not able to make out whether the complaint made by his noble Friend was that no statement was made of the intentions of the Government on the various questions alluded to in the Amendment, or that those points were not embodied in the Bill. Various noble Lords who had spoken appeared to make it a matter of complaint that the Bill did not contain a vast number of provisions which were utterly beyond its scope—such as the promotion and retirement of officers. But he would ask their Lordships, was it wise to tie the hands of the Executive Government by forcing on them a stereotyped scheme of appointment, promotion, and retirement to be fixed by Act of Parliament? These were questions which had always been dealt with by regulations issued by the Executive—by Royal Warrants, General Orders, and documents of that character; and no man who had ever had anything to do with the administration of the Army would deny that it would be impossible to carry on that administration if the Executive was tied down by statute to minute particulars. They had been reminded on previous occasions by the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) that the Government ought to proceed tentatively in these matters; but if they were to proceed tentatively how was it possible that they should embody their whole system in an Act of Parliament? The scheme of the Government had been admirably detailed in the speech of the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War. He had shown that the Government plan involved three great points—the granting 1617 of first commissions, the regulation of promotion, and the system of retirements; and he had not heard a single argument of any value adduced against either of these branches of their plan. The noble Earl on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) complained that the Government had laid no definite plan before the House with regard to the re-organization of the Army, but in the same breath he had proceeded as he thought to tear their plan to pieces. It was of course open to any Lord to take exception to the plan of the Government, but it was scarcely fair after taking exceptions to it to allege that they had put forward no plan whatever. But what were the objections that the noble Earl had taken to their plan? He said, in the first place, that the system of selection would lead to jobbery; but then at the same time he admitted that the system had been in force at the Admiralty for a long time without leading to such a result. The system of selection certainly was not unknown. It had been tried not only in the Admiralty, but also in the large Indian Army, with marked success; and if it had worked well in those instances, why should it fail when applied to the British Army? Doubtless, like any other system, it had dangers that must be guarded against, but this was no reason why it should be entirely thrown aside. But a system of selection, instead of being unknown and unheard of in this country, had always been in existence here and had always been worked with perfect fairness. The principal objection that had been raised that night to the Government scheme was that it involved no definite scheme of retirement. He (the Marquess of Ripon) quite agreed that when purchase was abolished it would be necessary to adopt such measures as would secure a good stream of promotion, and no man was less inclined than himself to underrate the great importance of having young men in high positions of command in the Army; but the system of purchase would only be gradually abolished, and for a long period it would be in full operation, and would produce the same stream of promotion and retirement as at present. Was it then desirable to produce now a scheme of retirement in regard to a matter which would be a question for future experience? But this was a subject that must be left to the future—because scheme after scheme of 1618 retirement had failed in the Navy, and the result was that there now existed in that force numbers of officers who were subject to different rules of retirement. The noble Duke who moved the Amendment (the Duke of Richmond) admitted that it was impossible to give an accurate estimate of the cost of retirement, but had made a rough estimate for himself, founded on the retirement of the Marine Corps, and calculated on that basis that the system of retirement adopted by the Government would involve an expenditure of £750,000 per annum; but the noble Duke had omitted to deduct from that sum the £450,000 which was now paid for retirement, which would leave an additional sum of only £270,000 to be provided for that purpose by the nation. He (the Marquess of Ripon) would now turn to the question of purchase. On this point their Lordships had received a clear and lucid statement from his noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for War, which complied with all the requirements of the Resolution of the noble Duke. The proposal of the Government was founded on the existing state of things, and he was prepared to contend that the system of purchase could not be maintained, and that it opposed a serious obstruction to the changes necessary to be made in our military system. The small operation on the organization of the Army recommended by the late Government and adopted by the present Secretary of State for War was stopped in the other House of Parliament owing to the objections taken to it, because it did not provide for the payment of the over-regulation prices; and after that fact it was essential that the question of over-regulation prices should be fully inquired into. That investigation had been made, and the Report of a Commission had shown to the whole world that a system of over-regulation had been pursued for a lengthened period, with at all events the tacit knowledge of the authorities in distinct violation of the law. When once the matter was put before the public in that shape, it was impossible that such a state of things could be permanently continued. No man could doubt, after recent events, that it was necessary for the Government to turn their attention to every branch of our military administration, and to introduce great changes; and in order to do so it was necessary that the hands of 1619 the Government should be set free by the abolition, on fair and just terms, of the system which fettered their course of proceeding. It had been asked how purchase offered as an obstruction to short service and large Reserves—principles which lay at the basis of a sound military system. But if purchase was not an obstacle in the way of those principles, it was a serious obstacle in the way of very many of the improvements required for our Army. His noble Friend on the cross-bench (Earl Grey) and the noble Earl (the Earl of Dalhousie) both sat on a very important Royal Commission on Army Promotion in 1854, which recommended certain changes with respect to the promotion of general officers; and the colonels of the Horse Guards afterwards addressed a Memorial to Her Majesty objecting to the recommendations made by that Commission on public grounds with regard to officers of the Guards, because they interfered with their rights on the faith of enjoying which they had expended large sums of money. He (the Marquess of Ripon) did not say who was right in that controversy; but the objection to which he referred was taken by officers of great weight and authority to the change so recommended by that Commission. If, again, they wanted to change the present organization of their regiments, and to have three battalions to each regiment, they would find difficulties immediately rising out of the just claims of officers to retain the position which they expected to occupy. In fact, they were met at every turn by questions arising out of the claims, it might be, of a single officer, which could not be disregarded without gross injustice. Formerly, the chief questions connected with the War Department that had to be dealt with related to fortifications, armaments, and the like; but after the lessons taught us by the wonderful events of the last few years, it behoved us, like every other country in Europe, to turn our attention to every branch of our military administration, and to introduce large improvements. But in order to do that it was essential to set free the hands of Government and of Parliament itself by abolishing on fair terms a system which fettered them at every turn. A good deal had been said with regard to "professional" officers, and his noble Friend the Under 1620 Secretary of State had been unjustly accused of casting a slur upon the officers of the Army; but what his noble Friend said, and said truly, was that they required for their infantry and cavalry regiments a more special professional training than had been given in times past. The qualifications which were formerly sufficient were not sufficient for the present day and for the future. The example of Prussia—the greatest military nation of the age—had shown beyond dispute that our infantry officers, the great mass of the officers of our Army—must be trained, and trained specially—as much as those of the Artillery and the Engineers. He believed that the question of promotion lay at the root of Army re-organization, and must be settled first. He entreated their Lordships to consider the position in which they would place the interest of the Army officers if they rejected the Bill. The principle of purchase was indefensible in principle; it led to illegality; it had been condemned by large majorities in the House of Commons, and by prolonging the controversy their Lordships would only prolong a state of uncertainty, would inflict a grievous injury upon the officers, and would destroy over-regulation prices as effectually as if it had been done by Act of Parliament, and would only succeed in shackling the hands of the Government and of Parliament for a short period.
LORD DE ROS
said, that he must for a moment detain their Lordships, even at that late hour, to protest against the distinction which had been drawn by the noble Lord opposite between Professional and non-professional officers. He must also say that he had the greatest contempt for the custom which too much prevailed of praising the Prussian officers at the expense of the English. He knew the Prussian Army and officers well, and he admitted that they were very efficient; but he wholly denied that they were in any respect better than our own, though of course recent experience in war had done much to develop their military capacity He believed that in our own Army the principle of selection would be found to be utterly impracticable.
§ Then, on the Motion of the Duke of CAMBRIDGE, the further debate adjourned 'till To-morrow.