Order of the Day for resuming the debate on the Amendment on the Motion for the Second Reading—which Amendment was, "to leave out from ("That") to the end of the Motion, for the purpose of inserting the following words:—
That this House is unwilling to assent to a second reading of this Bill until it has had 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,)
read; debate resumed accordingly.
§ EARL RUSSELL
My Lords, the illustrious Duke on the cross-benches who moved the adjournment of the debate last night, having waived his right to open this evening's debate in my favour, I have now the honour of addressing your Lordships on this important subject—a subject not only in itself of the deepest importance and the greatest difficulty, but one rendered far more difficult by the ambiguity and obscurity—I may say, indeed, the dim twilight—in which the plans of the Government are left. For this reason I find it difficult to treat the subject as a whole; but I will endeavour to explain, as clearly as I can, the views which I take of the different parts of the Bill, going, in the first place, over the arrangements regarding the Army which require to be abolished; next over those parts which should be preserved; and, lastly, over some which require to be improved. As to the first, my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State for War (Lord Northbrook) is preaching, to use a French phrase, to a man already converted. The system of purchase is so defective in principle that it only requires that the Government should propose a plan of getting rid of it, and declare themselves ready to provide compensation, and it would be condemned immediately. As was stated last evening, the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) was at one time at the head of a Commission which proposed a partial plan of abolition of purchase, 1680 and some doubt has been expressed as to why it was not carried out. Now, as far as my recollection goes, it was intended, when Lord Herbert was Secretary for War, to adopt it; but Sir George Lewis, who succeeded him, was very much in favour of purchase, and declared that no better plan could be devised, and in face of his opposition the Cabinet agreed to go on in the course hitherto pursued. The present Government, however, have declared that purchase is to be abolished; and although in practice it has worked far better than could have been expected, and although it is difficult to find a satisfactory alternative, it is in principle so defective that I do not think it can be any longer maintained. With regard to compensation, two men of different political views—I mean Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Bright—who have taken a large share in political affairs, agreed in one point—first, in a detestation of political abuses, and, next, in compensating in a large and liberal spirit all persons who may have been interested by accident or position in the maintenance of those abuses. With respect to some very flagrant sinecures in the Court of Chancery, Sir Robert Peel advised that the most liberal compensation should be given, affirming that it was well worth the while of the nation to provide a high compensation provided the abuses were removed. On the subject of the Irish Church, Mr. Bright, who was a great opponent to the existence of that Church, always maintained in the same way that it was right to make the plan of disestablishment work smoothly, and that this could only be done by having the most liberal regard to the interests of individuals. I believe that those opinions of Sir Robert Peel and Mr. Bright were exceedingly wise as well as liberal, and that in abolishing purchase you ought to go to the utmost extent of fairness and liberality. Persons who have grown up under the system, and have adopted it as the only method by which they could serve their country in arms, should have a most liberal compensation, including a compensation for what is called over-regulation prices. I have heard it said—but it is so incredible that I cannot give any credence to it—that if the noble Duke's Resolution were carried, there would be an attempt, favoured by the Government, to do away 1681 with these over-regulation prices in granting compensation, and to compensate only for the bare legal right. That, I think, is quite incredible—for the Government, in producing the plan now under consideration, and in giving us the scale of compensation which it contains, must have proposed compensation for over-regulation prices either because it was justly due to the officers of the Army, or as a bribe to induce them to consent to the plan. Now, I cannot think that any Minister of the Crown would propose it as unjust and as a bribe; and the Government must, therefore, have believed that it was a claim founded in justice. Being so founded, that which was right last March must be right also five months later. I hold, therefore, that it is impossible, if the Government go on with this scheme, to do otherwise than propose the compensation for over-regulation prices which they have already proposed. I cannot imagine that with any respect for their own characters they could think of taking any other course. My Lords, I now pass on to the arrangements with respect to the Army which, in my opinion, ought to be preserved. For a long time there has been an arrangement with respect to the government of the Army, by which at one time the Secretary at War, and afterwards Secretary of State for War, has conducted the whole civil business of the Army, has prepared the Estimates to be submitted to Parliament, and with reference to all political questions has framed the measures to be proposed to the Legislature. There was a considerable difference of opinion between Lord Palmerston, when he was Secretary at War, and the Commander-in-Chief, his Royal Highness the Duke of York. By the mediation of Lord Liverpool it was arranged that the patronage and discipline should rest with the Commander-in-Chief—that there should be no interference in that respect unless in the case of some distinct difference of opinion arising, and that if any difference arose on that point the question should be referred to the Prime Minister. In point of fact, very few differences have arisen, and in point of principle this arrangement should, it appears to me, be cautiously and sacredly adhered to. The political arrangements to be made regarding the Army are fit subjects for the consideration of the 1682 Secretary of State for the War Department; but great inconvenience I believe always would arise were the patronage transferred to that political officer. So long as I have been acquainted with the Army—I have had much acquaintance with what has been going on, both from official circumstances and from my intimacy with Lord Fitzroy Somerset—and whether under the Duke of Wellington, Lord Hill, Lord Hardinge, or the most illustrious Duke the present Commander-in-Chief, I have always found that whatever fault might be found with the dispositions of particular regiments, one thing was perfectly clear—that the Commander-in-Chief never had any party bias or prejudice, but that the patronage was distributed according to his view of the merits of different officers, and that appointments were never affected by political bias. Now, my Lords, you will consider that a great advantage—an advantage so great that nothing could induce your Lordships, as I hope nothing will induce the Crown, to make an alteration in that direction. With regard to the discipline of the Army, that is entirely a military question—it is one that is unfit for a political Secretary of State, and therefore is most properly under the control of the Commander-in-Chief. I come now to the question what the improvements in our military system ought to be:—and here there appears to me a vast field upon which Parliament ought to be consulted, and, above all, upon which the Government ought to lay down strict rules by which they will be guided. With respect to enlistment the usual custom has been that the term of enlistment should be defined by Act of Parliament. Mr. Windham got the assent of Parliament to a limitation of service; and my noble Friend who spoke last night, and who has been Secretary for War (the Earl of Dalhousie) in 1847, proposed a plan according to which, I believe, nine years should be the first term of enlistment, and eleven years the second; so that a soldier who had consented to re-enlist and to serve for 20 years became entitled to a pension. Now, I believe that the arrangement by which a soldier who had devoted himself during the first years of his life to military duties, and having performed those duties for a number of years to the satisfaction of his commanding officer and himself, is encouraged at 1683 the end of the first term to enlist for a further period, so that at the end of his days—having in the meantime gained the confidence and respect of his fellow-soldiers and of those over him—he may obtain a pension, is an admirable arrangement. It seems to me, however, that there is upon this point, as upon others, a change of opinion, and it is now said that it is not wise to give a pension to the soldier. According to that view, after a term of service the soldier will be let loose upon the world without any provision for his old age. I quite agree with those who think that pensions for the soldier form a very heavy burden. When I was Paymaster of the Forces they amounted to £1,300,000 a-year, and of late years they have been from £1,300,000 to £1,400,000. That, no doubt, is a considerable sum; but for that money you obtain men to be trusted not only for valour, but for faithful services and good conduct; and for my part I consider that the money is well laid out in obtaining those great qualities in our Army. I know there has been a fashion of late years to look to the saving of something in the Estimates of the year; but I cannot but think that parsimony most unwise. That parsimony which has led to the loss of a great ship, the Captain, is a very unworthy policy, and I maintain that it would be better to have an Army that you can entirely trust than to endeavour to save by depriving the soldier of that provision to which he may properly look forward for his old age. There was a most extraordinary clause in the Bill as originally printed which gave to the Secretary of State the power, from time to time, to make special regulations and vary the conditions of service, so that the soldiers at an early period might be transferred to the Reserve. Now, it appears to me that that clause gives too wide a discretion to the Secretary of State in a matter where an unwise exercise of that discretion might be most injurious to the public service. According to that clause a man might serve in the Line for five, six, or seven year, and pass the rest of the prescribed time in what are called the Reserve forces. But the great security you have under the law passed last year is this—that a man having enlisted for 12 years, you are sure of your man, and the man is sure of his employers. You gain 1684 thereby steady, good soldiers. But a soldier may enter the Reserve, and who can tell whether, when he is wanted, he may be found? He may not be found, like the Prussian or the Frenchman, in his native village; on the contrary, he may at the moment you want him be working in the mines of New Zealand, or building a log-house in the backwoods of Canada. No Commander-in-Chief, no Secretary of State, can tell where the men who are thus sent into the Reserve may be found. It seems to me, therefore, that it is far better to go back to the old terms, and say—whether it be for 10 or 12 years—that the soldier may enlist for that time, and afterwards, if he chooses to re-enlist, until he complete 21 years' service he will be entitled to a pension. In that way the State would enjoy the benefit of the loyal service of a good soldier, and the soldier would enjoy the pension which would be his proper reward. With regard to this part of the Bill, I am of the opinion of my noble Friend on the cross-benches (Earl Grey)—I believe you have not at all the number of men you ought to have for the proper defence of a great country like this. My noble Friend said that we had an Army Reserve of 9,000 men. Now, what a thing it is for an Empire like this to say that with some difficulty, and in some years, it has been able to collect an Army Reserve of 9,000 men. But even these 9,000 men have not been collected without difficulty. I see a noble Earl opposite (the Earl of Derby) who never takes extreme views, and is exceedingly prudent in the expression of his opinions; and yet, in a speech which he made last autumn in Lancashire, he said he thought it might possibly happen an enemy's force of 100,000 men might land on our shores. But then, of course, the Secretary of State will say—"Oh, but we have got an Army Reserve of 9,000, and surely 100,000 men would be nothing at all in such circumstances." Then we have 30,000 men in the Militia Reserve. I think those 30,000 men were raised according to a plan of General Peel. But speaking to him on that plan the other day, and asking for further explanations, he said he thought it good for its purpose, but that the men were picked men; and therefore you never could be sure you could carry the plan much further. Then, it may be said, you 1685 have a force of Militia upon winch you may calculate in addition to the Army. By this Bill it is provided that a man entering the Militia may be trained for six months. That is a very good provision; but what becomes of the men after that? They are to be trained every year for 28 days. But I confess it appears to me, and I am confirmed by the testimony of all the Militia officers to whom I have spoken on the subject, that 28 days are insufficient to make a good Militiaman. Sir John Burgoyne, for instance, and others who have given an opinion as to the time in which a soldier can be made, say that in three years you may make a good soldier, though he will improve by serving after that. A great authority, Count Moltke, the adviser of the Prussian Government, seems to have concurred in the opinion that in three years a soldier can be made. Sir John Burgoyne and Count Moltke say three years; but our Minister of War, Mr. Cardwell, says six months are quite sufficient, and that after six months the men will require no further training except for one month a-year. For my part, I confess I should be glad to see one plan or another calculated to give us a larger force. My noble Friend said last night that, taking into account the Army Reserve and the Militia Reserve, we should have an Army of 147,000 men. But my noble Friend says, I think justly, that is an insufficient force for this great country. You ought to have either a Reserve of the Army or a Reserve of the Militia. I do not wish to condemn either the Army Reserve or the Militia Reserve, but one or the other I say you should have. If you take the Army Reserve, you will then have those men of a few years' service, and you can make them an Army Reserve. If you have a Militia Reserve, you may adopt the Prussian plan of three years to begin with to make them soldiers, four years following with very little duty, and five years after with hardly any service at all. That is the Prussian plan; and I confess I was at a loss to understand why when my noble Friend the Under Secretary mentioned that plan he said it was clear it could not be adopted by this country. His only reason was that the Prussians have regiments of three battalions, which was not suited to this country. I confess I cannot see why it is not suited to this 1686 country. If agricultural labourers, who live near their homes, were to serve their country first for three years, then, with very little demand upon their time, for four years, and afterwards with scarcely any for five years, it would strengthen your forces very much. But if you rely entirely on a Militia Reserve, we should then consider where it may be obtained. It cannot of course be obtained, as the present Government thought, in three years or in ten years. I read in the newspapers that the Secretary of State, in reply to a Question, stated that this Army Reserve would be fit to act in 12 years. Now, it appears to me that this plan, which has been produced with very great pomp and circumstance—this plan, which is to prevent us not only from incurring any danger, but feeling any apprehension of danger, and which promises that the men will be made effective and valuable in 12 years, is a very great disappointment. What I would say, then, is that you had better in that case have Militia to serve for 12 years in the Army Reserve. I saw in a newspaper the other day that the ancestors of the men of the present generation were contemporary with the war of Napoleon. Now, I am one of the ancestors of the present generation, and I happened to go down to Dover at the time of the Great War, and found in garrison there three regiments of Militia to all appearance most excellent—and certainly the Government of the day would never have put them in garrison there unless they had confidence in their steadiness. During the Crimean War we had, as your Lordships are aware, regiments of embodied Militia which went to Malta and Gibraltar. One way of securing the country may be preferable to another; but when the Government asks us in confidence to adopt a plan which involves the expenditure of £8,000,000—a plan which they say is to relieve us from all further peril or apprehension of outbreak of war or invasion—they should have a better and more complete plan than they have produced. Then, my Lords, I come to the question whether we should at once give a second reading to this Bill, or whether it would not be better to adopt the Amendment of the noble Duke, which does nothing more than require information, require plans, require some details of the mode in which this country is to be defended. 1687 I may be told that the Under Secretary made an excellent speech. I admit it was an excellent speech; but the greater portion of it was confined to good and, to my mind, conclusive arguments for the abolition of purchase. His statement as to other points was by no means equally forcible and conclusive. But the question with respect to the adoption of the noble Duke's Amendment is this—whether we can feel sufficient confidence that, although we may not have this plan in July, 1871, at the beginning of next Session such a plan will be agreed to by the House of Commons as will make this country safe. My noble Friend (the Duke of Somerset) who sits behind me spoke to that point last night, and said—what is perfectly true—that there are very able, and, no doubt, very conscientious, men in the House of Commons, whose opinions with regard to the defence of the country are entirely at variance with those of my noble Friend on the cross-benches (Earl Grey), with those of my noble Friend behind me (the Earl of Dalhousie), and with mine, and which, in fact, are founded upon the assumption that nobody will ever wish to go to war with England, and that if so that they would be unable to do it. That may be a very comforting reflection; but I must say I cannot entertain it. It is an opinion that many people hold that the country requires no further armaments. It has happened to me to have to defend the Army Estimates against a party of that kind in 1848, when I said I knew very well that certain hon. Gentlemen were favourable to low establishments, low estimates, and low views. My noble Friend mentioned a very remarkable circumstance when he reminded your Lordships last night that Mr. Stansfeld, who is a very able man, gave Notice of a Motion for a great reduction of our military forces. We could not agree with that Motion. The Cabinet met, and I took a great part in drawing up a Resolution against the Motion of Mr. Stansfeld, stating that we were willing to make every proper reduction, but condemning altogether that merciless and unflinching economy which found favour with Mr. Stansfeld. That Resolution was carried by a great majority. Mr. Stansfeld then supported the Government. He was then an independent Member of Parliament—he is now a Member of the Cabinet. The 1688 question arises, when, being a Member of the Cabinet, he again brings forward a Motion for the reduction of the Army—he may do it not as the representative of the Government, but with the consent of the Cabinet? What would our position be in that case? Suppose, as is very probable, that in February next there is no menace of war—suppose the Powers of Europe and the Powers of the world in general to be on friendly terms with this country—what will Mr. Stansfeld say then? Mr. Stansfeld will say—"Surely you cannot keep up your present forces, much less add to them. The world is so peaceable that you need not add to your forces; you ought to reduce them. You paid £1,000,000 last year, and you will have to pay another £1,000,000 this year, and you will have to go on with these payments year after year. Is this a time for adding to the burdens of the nation? Must not you agree with me and with the party in the House of Commons—I think they were nearly 90 or 100 this year—who, when there was great apprehension in the country that our forces were not sufficiently large, voted for a reduction of those forces? There is now no fear, no panic; agree with me, and reduce the forces of the country." In like manner, may we not be sure that when these apprehensions have passed away the strength of the party favourable to a reduction of the Army will greatly increase? Now, I am not speaking without book on this subject. I looked at Mr. Stansfeld's speech when he accepted office as a Member of the Cabinet, and went down to his constituents to ask for re-election, He said—It is quite true we have agreed to increase considerably the Army Estimates, but that was to meet the contingency of the moment. There was danger at the time that we agreed to that; but it is to be hoped, and I myself hope, that that amount will be lessened, and that the Army will be reduced. They cannot for another year make such large drafts upon the patience and the money of the people as they used to do.Well, this is what you have to count upon. My noble Friend the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) drew a distinction. He said—Mr. Stansfeld being now a Member of the Government, and the Government having pledged themselves to increased expenditure, you may rely upon it that that increased expenditure will be incurred, and that they will not leave a great country like this without a sufficient Army for its defence.1689 But my inference is quite the opposite. So far from having any confidence or any hope in Mr. Stansfeld being a Member of the Cabinet, I infer that Mr. Stansfeld, being a man stiff in his opinion, will much more likely induce the Government next year to reduce the Army than to make any addition to it. Instead of making a Militia Reserve or an Army Reserve, a reduction of the Army will be the popular measure of 1872. These are the main reasons which induce me to vote for the Resolution of the noble Duke. I think there is but little authority to hope, and but little prospect of the promises of the Government with reference to the future re-organization of the Army being carried into effect. I think that you ought to have now, before this Bill leaves this House, the plan of the Government for the re-organization of the Army. If you insist upon that plan being laid before you—if it is produced and proves satisfactory—I shall have great hope that the abolition of purchase may really do no harm. Purchase is very bad in principle, but I cannot see that the abolition of purchase will, in point of fact, and in point of practice, give us a better military system than we have at present. I feel very great reluctance to touch, and especially to touch in the manner that is proposed, this great fabric of the British Army. It is an Army that a century and a-half ago laid low the power of France, and freed the Continent from the weight of her preponderance; an Army which, in the beginning of the present century, trod into dust the Empire of the First Napoleon; an Army which in every recent case of internal commotion has done its duty steadily and well, whether in putting down the gallant but mistaken Highlanders, and preserving the dynasty of the House of Hanover, or on other occasions in upholding the cause of order and peace; an Army which only a few years ago, defended and maintained our Indian Empire with a gallantry and a persistence of pluck against numbers which extorted the admiration of every foreign military Power. Those are but a few of the things that the British Army has done. I have no expectation that, under any new regulations, it will do better in future; but, at any rate. I cannot consent to destroy the system under which that brave body of men 1690 have been so well led, and so well commanded, and have themselves fought so well on a hundred fields of battle. Therefore, my Lords, I hope you will take time, and consider well, before you pass this Bill.
§ THE DUKE OF CAMBRIDGE
My Lords, the allusion which my noble Friend the noble Earl (Earl Russell) has made to the special position of the Commander-in-Chief of Her Majesty's Army justifies me in bringing prominently to your notice, on rising on this most important occasion, the peculiar position which that officer fills when he accidentally forms a Member of your Lordships' House. I say accidentally, because your Lordships must be aware that my position here is not by virtue of any specific appointment, but that I hold my seat here merely as an individual Member of the House. At the same time, I cannot lose sight of the fact that, holding that status, I have a great responsibility in connection with the Army of the country. That point has been most forcibly placed before you by the noble Earl who has just sat down, and I thank him for the very kind manner in which he has done it. I should have felt at any moment, and I feel now more especially, that if ever there was a moment when the opinions which the noble Earl has expressed on that point must strike more forcibly than at another it is at the present moment, when, if this measure be passed into law, on the Commander-in-Chief is to devolve the most serious responsibility of that selection, which all admit is difficult, and many declare to be next to impossible. My Lords, an idea was expressed yesterday that if selection were to become the rule of the service it would fall entirely into the hands of the Gentlemen of the Treasury bench who conduct the business of the country. I hope that would not be the case. My Lords, I venture to hope that such a state of things will never arise—I hope it will never arise because the Minister charged with these responsible duties should be entirely free from all political bias, all political feeling, all political impulse; and, if not, he cannot hope to command the confidence of the Army over which he presides and the confidence of the country. Therefore it is that I heard with great satisfaction the opening observations of the noble Earl. 1691 My Lords, though selection is not the subject that is uppermost in my mind, still there are reasons why I refer to it first. The noble Lord has said that the proposed system of selection must entirely break down the regimental system. If it is to break down the regimental system, I, for one, cannot conceive anything more detrimental to the interests of the Army of this or any other country. I believe that the efficiency of the English Army, and of every Army, depends entirely upon the regimental system. Without it there would be little or none of that esprit de corps which is the very quintessence of a good Army. The regimental system represents the unit of the service and is the tie and bond that make an Army out of what would otherwise be a mere collection of soldiers. But I venture to imagine that when this question of selection was put forward—extremely dangerous as it may be to whoever has to administer it—it was not contemplated to break down the regimental system. On the contrary, when the question of selection was raised, I distinctly said that I did not for a moment wish to see the regimental system broken down. It is intended, unless I am greatly mistaken, that after purchase has been put an end to the system shall be one of seniority tempered by selection; for example, if an officer is unfit to command a regiment he will not, by the course of promotion, receive the command of one, and, on the other hand, eminent professional talent will be recognized and encouraged; but care will be taken, as I understand, to preserve the regimental system as far as possible, providing also that purchase does not revive under a new form. My Lords, I observed that last night the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State dwelt upon the fact that out of a number of officers commanding regiments one-half were men who had served in various regiments. That statement is doubtless correct; but I do not think that it altogether justifies the inference the noble Lord drew from it. I think it is to be accounted for by the great addition made to our forces during the Crimean War. Several battalions were then raised, and for the purpose of officering those battalions it was necessary to take officers from various other regiments; and then your Lordships must remember that the Army has been 1692 largely increased of late years, which has led to many more changes than would otherwise have taken place. Moreover, it is beyond dispute that it is sometimes very desirable that an officer should be brought from one regiment into another, and that the regular and usual flow of promotion should be occasionally deviated from. As I have said, the regimental system is one of the most important of this or any other Army. If care is taken that purchase does not again become the ordinary course of promotion, and if promotion is made to flow on regularly as a matter of certainty in a regiment—and that, I think, is the intention of selection—I am sure it was the intention of the noble Duke and of the Royal Commission which proposed the question of selection as regards the command of regiments—I think that selection, however painful it may be to the officer who has to perform that most delicate and most difficult task, may be carried out with the confidence of the Army and the confidence of the country—and he must, of course, keep himself entirely removed from all political bias. I said, in 1857, I was prepared to undertake that office if required, and if I have the confidence of the Army and the confidence of the country, I am prepared to undertake it. Having thus dwelt upon the question of selection, I hope your Lordships will bear with me while I draw attention to the circumstances under which this subject has been brought to your notice. In the course of last summer, to the indescribable astonishment of every nation in Europe, and of no nation more than our own, we found that an immense European contest had sprung up within a short distance of our own shores; and undoubtedly the feeling of this country, shared by everyone of your Lordships and by every Member of the other House was that the military status of this country was not in a condition to meet, at a very short notice, the emergencies that might arise. We had treaty engagements which the nation was fully prepared to maintain; but when we came to examine into the state of our disorganization—as I may term it—there was little ground for satisfaction. The spirit and high character of the British nation were still the same; but our Army organization was so utterly defective that the time had evidently arrived when something 1693 should be done in order to place our Army on a more secure and satisfactory footing. That was the origin of the measure that is now before your Lordships. That measure, and every part of it, was introduced and recommended to Parliament on the responsibility of Her Majesty's Ministers. The person holding the office I have the honour to fill has not to initiate measures to be brought forward. He has executive duties to perform, and those duties he performs under any Government so long as he thinks he can do so with credit to himself and to the satisfaction of the country. The initiation of measures like this rests with the Government; but in the performance of my executive duties I acted in conjunction with the Cabinet in the preparation of this measure. It is essential that these things should be known in order that your Lordships may see the course of events with reference to this measure. My Lords, one of the most important points is recruiting. I have never denied—nay, I have said repeatedly in this House that I have great doubt about the question of short enlistment; still the proposal was a tentative one, and I thought short enlistment was the best course to adopt at a time when we had no Reserves, and the Government wanted Army Reserves. If you could maintain your Army to the extent which is required by long service, I, for one, should not hesitate to say that long service was the only policy to pursue, and I believe that it is the most acceptable and the most suitable to the country. But that was not the question. I do not believe that Her Majesty's Government wished to throw the slightest slur on the British Army. Your Lordships know very well that I should be no party to any course intended to throw a slur on the British Army. I thought it was right to make a tentative effort to get more men at shorter notice, and the only way of arriving at that was by a shorter enlistment. If they were not required, we had the means of reverting to the old system, and of getting back those dashing follows whom the noble Earl has so well described. Well, that is the history of the short service proposal. I may observe, in passing, that I do not think the Secretary of State for War ever said that a six months' drill was enough for a soldier, but only that six months' drill is a great advantage; and 1694 undoubtedly for a Militiaman six months' drill is much better than 28 days. Of course I could not for a moment subscribe to the idea that six months' drill can make a thorough soldier; indeed, I should be very sorry to see three years' service made the rule, because I think that six years is hardly enough. Then as to the question of purchase. No doubt when the proposition for the abolition of purchase was first propounded, every person acquainted with the subject felt that to abolish that system would involve an enormous expenditure if justice were to be done to the officers, and but few were of opinion that the country would be inclined to submit to the necessary sacrifice in order to carry out the change. It was natural, under these circumstances, that many should have preferred rather to retain the purchase system than to be parties to what they regarded as injustice. But viewing the matter in the abstract, I must say I coincide with the noble Earl (Earl Russell), that as a principle it cannot be defended for a moment. Therefore I entirely agree with the noble Lord who moved the second reading of this Bill, that the purchase system ought to be abolished. I have said so before, and I say so now. But it may be asked—"Why, holding that opinion, did you give evidence in favour of retaining purchase before the Committee that sat to inquire into the subject?" I did so for this reason—because I felt it to be absolutely necessary that there should be a flow of promotion in the Army, and because the purchase system maintained such a flow; and the money came out of the pockets of the officers. But now that the country is prepared to make the necessary sacrifice, and is willing to incur a vast expenditure in order to put an end to the system, and is also willing to provide good retirements, the injustice of abolishing and the advantages of retaining purchase have disappeared altogether. It must, however, be borne in mind that this is an essential element in the case, and it strikes me I have read speeches in "another place" in which my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War has declared most distinctly that he intends that the flow of promotion shall be maintained at its present rate. That is the essential point. If the retirements are such that the flow of promotion is maintained at the same 1695 rate without as with purchase, there can be no two opinions but that it is the better way to do away with purchase. It is essential, however, that that flow should be kept up. Let there be no mistake about that—upon that the efficiency of the British Army will depend. It is very important that I should make this statement to the House, because it might be asked how, after what on former occasions has fallen from me, I could carry out the new system. But the difficulty always in my mind was the expense of the abolition of purchase, and it was only the Royal Commission which enabled the Government to meet this objection, by admitting the necessity of paying the over-regulation price, which, in strict point of law, is indeed inadmissible, but which was and is called for by principles of equity and justice. This admission of the Royal Commission, and the attitude of the Government, have entirely altered the conditions from those which existed when I gave my evidence before the Committee presided over by Sir George Grey. I frankly confess that in 1867 I was not prepared to believe that the House of Commons would act so liberally as they have done. It is very proper that they should take that view, and having taken it the matter assumes a new shape. I believe their offer to be a very liberal one—more liberal than I could ever have expected. I think it is unnecessary that I should enter into the details of this question. I may, however, state that I think that facilities should be given to every officer to exchange when he desires to take such a course, care being taken that purchase shall not be introduced under another form. I am quite satisfied that in determining the question now before them the House will take into consideration the fact that this very liberal offer has been made to the officers in the Army and the circumstances under which it has been so made. At the same time it is of course part of your Lordships' functions to exercise caution and prudence and to weigh carefully the whole facts of the case before you proceed to determine it finally. I am not aware that there is any difference between your Lordships' House and the other House of Parliament; but still the debates in this House are distinguished by a moral sharpness and accuracy not always to be found in those of the other 1696 House of Parliament; and under the peculiar circumstances of the case, I feel assured that the question will meet with that calm consideration at the hands of your Lordships which it so fully deserves. My Lords, I have endeavoured to avoid wearying you by entering into the details of the subject which have been very carefully dealt with by my noble Friend the Under Secretary of State, and I have carefully confined my observations to the leading features of the question. If anything has fallen from me that may tend to bring your deliberations to a satisfactory issue, I shall have the pleasure of feeling that I have performed, to the best of my ability, a public duty. But before I sit down, with your Lordships' permission, I should like to take this opportunity of stating that whatever your decision may be, I feel satisfied that the officers of the British Army of the present day—who challenge our admiration and respect, and of whom it may be said with truth that they have deserved well of their country—they are men under whose leadership the Armies of England have been successful under every clime and under every circumstances, and I for one should deeply deplore any change that might be produced by legislation in the character of our Army. With that feeling few are more deeply impressed than the Members of Her Majesty's Government. They are satisfied that the officers of our Army have always conscientiously done their duty, and that any shortcomings that may have been apparent on the part of some of them have arisen solely from the want of that experience and information which we all admit they ought to possess. I trust most sincerely that your Lordships will believe that there is no reason to suppose that the abolition of purchase will lead to any relaxation of fibre which they have hitherto shown in the performance of their duty. Had such been the case I should have been the first to have referred to it. But that character will remain intact. I believe that the character of the British officer is such that as long as the present class of gentlemen enter the service—and I am happy to say that there is an abundance of candidates for commissions—so long will the British Army be able to keep up its good name, and so long it will reflect lustre on and be honoured by the country. If the officers were not well instructed, 1697 I should take that blame upon myself rather than throw it on them—for whom individually, indeed, I am not responsible, but for whose education, as to its mode and effectiveness, I am answerable—and I am perfectly certain that the present Secretary of State or any of his predecessors would not have hesitated in enabling me to give to them facilities for acquiring a thorough knowledge of their profession. I believe that the spirit of the British gentleman and of the British citizens is the same now as it was formerly, therefore I do not see that by making the proposed change we shall be doing anything calculated to lower the tone of the British Army. I have endeavoured to explain to your Lordships my official position in connection with this subject. I have pointed out that I have done my utmost as an executive officer to assist the Secretary of State in bringing this matter before your Lordships' House and before the country; and I can only say that, whatever may be the result of your Lordships' deliberations, the utmost efforts that I can bestow on the service to which I have been devoted from my earliest days, and to which I trust I may be permitted to consecrate the last energies of my life, to the advantage of the Crown, and in the interests of my country, shall be given—I say I am anxious to conclude by assuring you that whatever your Lordships may decide, it will be my utmost endeavour, earnest desire, and most anxious thought to carry out to the best of my ability.
§ EARL DE LA WARR
said, he would endeavour to show that the interests of the Army as well as those of the country would be materially benefited by the abolition of the system which had hitherto regulated the accession to military rank. That system had been inquired into by Committee and Royal Commissions, many of whose Reports had not been favourable to it, and all the evils that attached to the system would, he believed, be put an end to if their Lordships took the decisive step which they were now invited to take. The question involved was whether merit should prevail. Under the purchase system the buyer of a commission attained military rank irrespective of his merits; and even when his incompetency for the position was manifest, it was always difficult to remove him from his command, because the autho- 1698 rities hesitated to inflict the serious pecuniary penalty upon him that such a step would involve. When it was thought advisable some years ago that the junior officers should be promoted on account of good service, the senior colonels objected to the arrangement being carried out on the ground that having purchased their posts they ought not to be superseded;—and thus the intentions of the Crown were defeated by the vested rights of the senior colonels. The fact that the officers had invested large sums in the purchase of their commissions had a tendency to weaken their sense of the duty and obligations which they owed to the State, as it engendered the notion that they served for nothing. It could scarcely be maintained that it was good policy for the nation to accept their services on such terms. It had been objected against the measure that great evil would result from disturbing the regimental system. It was well known that the service was greatly benefited by fresh blood being infused into commands. But he had himself served in three regiments, and therefore he could speak emphatically of the evil of a too strict adherence to the regimental system—the old traditionary trammels in regiments being thereby swept away. The esprit do corps was felt the moment a man became connected with a regiment; but the system contemplated by the Government did not mean that the regimental system of promotion should be abolished, but merely enabled them to promote senior officers if they were fit and to put them aside if they were unfit. Without the abolition of purchase the authorities could not have that free action so essential to responsibility, and privileges should give way in order that Government might resume their normal position. The question of retirements was one that would scarcely be of much importance for the next five or six years, because until the expiration of that period the existing system would secure a sufficient flow of promotion; and even when it became necessary to provide for the retirements of officers the expense would be little more than the amount expended in half-pay under the existing system. He believed if that Bill passed it would be productive of immense benefit to the country. It would give a great increase of efficiency to the Army, and ultimately lead to a reduced expenditure. On all 1699 those points, however, an element of uncertainty must mingle with the most sanguine hopes. But there could be no doubt whatever that the interests of the officers were closely bound up with the speedy settlement of that question. The officers saw that under that Bill they were offered the most liberal compensation, and what terms they would get under any other measure they could not foretell. If the present Bill were rejected it was impossible to foresee the embarrassments that would arise. A high legal authority had given the opinion that, if their Lordships threw out the Bill, there would exist no machinery for compensating officers for over-regulation prices, even if the amount to be expended on that object were to be voted by Parliament with the other grants for the service of the year; that the Government would be able to do all they sought to do for the abolition of purchase without the aid of an Act of Parliament except the granting of compensation for the over-regulation prices, and that it was doubtful whether the officers would be very grateful to the House of Lords for placing them in that position.
§ THE DUKE OF RUTLAND
said, he thought their Lordships had been prepared for a large measure of Army reorganization and would have accepted it with gratitude at the hands of the Government, convinced that it was right to re-organize the Army. But their Lordships could not say that the measures of the Government were adequate for that purpose for the sufficient reason that they did not know what those measures were. There was no plan before them, and no proper substitutes provided for the system sought to be abolished. The present Bill was one simply for the abolition of purchase, and the question was whether purchase was so deleterious to the Army and the country as to make it worth their while to spend £8,000,000, probably £12,000,000, to abolish it. The substance of the arguments of noble Lords opposite was that the abolition of purchase would do no great harm, and that if a proper plan were substituted for it the abolition might be safely adopted. The noble Lord the Under Secretary of State in proposing the second reading of this Bill endeavoured to show that there was a scheme, and a very comprehensive scheme, which the Government intended to propose some 1700 time or other; but there seemed to be no other scheme than that proposed to the House of Commons on the 16th February last. The noble Lord seemed to have been told that he had to lead a forlorn hope, and that when it was objected that there really was no scheme, he must make the best answer that he could. It seemed as though the noble Lord had found in the pigeon-holes of the War Office the notes of the speech delivered by Mr. Cardwell in the House of Commons on the 16th February, for all the arguments offered by the noble Lord were the very same as those offered by Mr. Cardwell in February; and he had fallen back on the plan of re-organization then announced, although it was a remarkable fact, that in all the subsequent discussions on the Army Bill it appeared never to have had a substantial existence—for from that day to this no Member of the House, either on the Government or the Opposition side, had said one word about the scheme, and the inference was that the House of Commons did not think it worth a moment's consideration. The Bill introduced with great pomp, had shrunk into insignificance—the mountain in labour had produced a ridiculous, though very expensive, mouse, and the scheme for re-organizing the British Army had dissolved itself into a proposal for the abolition of purchase. The only argument of any validity that he had heard in favour of abolishing purchase was that under the present system the officers did not obtain that professional instruction that they should have. The noble Lord who introduced the debate said that if they did away with purchase the officers would be properly educated; but how would that come about? Why was it that they could not receive that education under the purchase system? If they did not now receive such an education it was not their fault, but the fault of the War Office. The illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), to whom he gave every credit for impartiality, said that he was himself in favour of a long as against a short system of service; but he said that the Government were anxious to introduce a system of Reserves, and therefore he would yield his own opinion upon the subject. It was to be hoped that they would not ruin the Army for the sake of the Reserve. The illustrious Duke also said that if promotion were equally rapid under the new system, 1701 then he did not know that there would be much harm in the Government scheme. But why were we to pay £8,000,000, or it might be £12,000,000, for this doubtful experiment? The noble Lord who last spoke (Earl De La Warr) said that there was a difficulty in removing an officer who had obtained a command by purchase; but the fact was that if the illustrious Duke thought fit to remove such an officer he could easily do so. Mr. Gladstone had talked about the education which was necessary in all professions; but if it was necessary to dispense £8,000,000 to enable officers to have a professional education, would he be prepared to spend another £8,000,000 in order to send persons who were to join other professions to be educated at Oxford and Cambridge? He now desired to make a few remarks upon the competitive examination system. No doubt the system was admirable in many respects, but he believed that the illustrious Duke would agree with him that passing an examination would not furnish the only test of a good officer. They wanted for this position not only a man who could pass a competitive examination, but a man who possessed courage, physical power, and health; and one also who possessed those moral attributes that were essential to all men. He should be a man who had kindly feeling towards his men; one who studied the character of every man under him, and who, when a private soldier got into a scrape, would consider not only the fault but the general character of the man. Such an officer would say—"I know this man; he has a good heart. I would trust him in time of danger and of difficulty; he has been led by bad companions to commit this slight folly, and I will not impose upon him the full penalty, but will let him off as easily as I can." That was the way in which officers and men became endeared to one another. But the system under which these feelings had grown the scheme of the Government would break down without having anything to supply its place. Any system of selection for promotion must surely lead to jealousies and heartburnings, and to the attribution of wrong motives to those who exercised the power of selection. Such a system it would be most difficult if not impossible to work satisfactorily. The illustrious Duke said that he was willing to undertake the difficult task of 1702 selection; but even the new mode of promotion showed that there was want of plan. The illustrious Duke, it was said, was to have the selection of officers for promotion, but subject to the approval of the Secretary for War—who was to be responsible for them—a responsibility which to be effectual must draw after it all the real power. He hoped that if the Government could not now give them a scheme of Army reform, that, at all events, they would consent to the appointment of a Commission upon the subject. It appeared to him that the real difficulty that they had to meet was to find men, not officers, for the Army. It was proposed by the Bill to take away the power from the Lord Lieutenant. If that was thought to be likely to conduce to the welfare of the Militia he would willingly resign that power; but his fear was that they would lose the local influence, and that the men they would henceforth obtain for the Militia would be the men who should be recruited into the Line. He, however, thanked the Government for one boon they were willing to grant—namely, the extension of time to be henceforth given to the Militia for training.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
said, he had anticipated, after the speech from the Throne, that he should have been called upon to co-operate with the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War in passing some well-devised scheme for the reorganization of the Army—a scheme which, by common consent, was much needed; but, unfortunately, Her Majesty's Government had thought fit to import into the consideration of that question that element of discord—the abolition of the purchase system, upon, which so many different opinions existed. He could not help thinking that the plan proposed by the Government was so very vague and sketchy in its character that their Lordships would scarcely be justified in abolishing purchase on the strength of such vague promises. He should, therefore, support the Amendment moved by the noble Duke. He viewed this Bill as a measure which unsettled everything and settled nothing—that, whether it were for good or for evil, it was calculated to create a great revolution in the character of the Army—that it swept away a system, whatever its demerits might be, which had 1703 hitherto produced the ebb and flow of promotion in the ranks of the Army, without which he did not think any proper Army could exist. As to the qualification of officers, the Under Secretary of State had quoted the Report of the Purchase Commission, to the effect that the purchase system prevented the testing the merits of officers; but it was impossible that the merits of officers could be adequately tested in time of peace. They were told it was impossible to re-organize the Army without first abolishing purchase, a system which, whatever its demerits, had secured a rapid flow of promotion, the value of which had been certified to by the Royal Commission in the following passage—The military force of a State is efficient in proportion as it is ready to take the field and enter on the hardships of a campaign. For this purpose it is essential that the officers should not only be acquainted with their profession, but should be qualified by their strength and vigour to sustain exertions inseparable from active warfare. A scheme of retirement which induces old officers to retire from the Army, and which replaces them by younger men, must be beneficial to the Army, and this benefit is greater if effected without cost to the country.If they were about to organize an Army de novo, he admitted that they ought not to adopt the system of purchase. But, considering that that system had been in existence for a great many years, that it had become identified with our whole military system, and that under it the British Army had always maintained a glorious character in the field, it appeared to him that its sudden abolition was a step fraught with the most dangerous consequences to the country at large. He had listened with the utmost attention to the able speech of the noble Lord who introduced the measure to their Lordships, but regretted that in one part of it the noble Lord seemed to cast a slur upon the character of British officers generally.
§ LORD NORTHBROOK
begged to say most distinctly that he had no intention directly or indirectly to cast a slur upon any officer or body of officers in the British Army.
§ VISCOUNT HARDINGE
said, he was very glad to find that he had misunderstood the noble Lord. Nevertheless, the plan proposed in the measure of the Government seemed to imply that the British officers under the existing system were not competent to discharge 1704 the duties that devolved upon them. [Lord NORTHBROOK: No, no!] At any rate, it had been asserted, over and over again. He met this assertion with the most unqualified denial, and would support his assertion by the evidence of Lord Clyde, and other distinguished officers, before the Royal Commission. Many attempts had been made in "another place" to obtain a better arrangement for the retiring officers in regard to compensation, and to modify many of the other provisions of the Bill; but the Government appeared absolute in their determination to act upon the motto—Sic volo, sic jubeo, stet pro ratione voluntas.In respect to the matter of exchanges, he thought it hard, when an officer was unable to proceed to India, that he should not be afforded the means of exchanging with a poorer officer, to whom the extra Indian allowances were desirable. Side by side with this was the proposal to pass officers from the Line to the Militia. But how was this to be done? Officers could not be forced from the Line to the Militia, and if they could not be forced, how could they be induced to go? The interchange of officers, on which so much stress had been laid, would not work well; and as to abolishing the power of Lords Lieutenant over the officers of the Reserve forces, how, he asked, was the Secretary of War to be made aware of the qualifications and local connections of officers, because it was probable that Lords Lieutenant would decline to recommend? Their Lordships should be careful in dealing with this question of patronage on account of the political pressure which might be brought to bear on a central authority. The general scheme that had been sketched by the Under Secretary for War was vague, and required much more explanation than it had hitherto received. He should like to know how it was to be carried out. If, for instance, Militia regiments in Ireland were to be affiliated to regiments of the Line, were they always to be quartered in that country and recruited there? All they knew of the Volunteers was that they were to be put under the Mutiny Act—a change which met with his entire approval. There had recently been several discussions in their Lordships' House on the subject of recruiting, but that department of 1705 our military system was still in a state of confusion. Circulars that were sent out one month were abrogated the next. At one time men were to be enlisted without pensions, then for three years, and then again with pensions, all of which tended to unsettle the minds of the soldier. Under these circumstances, their Lordships were not justified in giving that unlimited confidence to the Secretary of State for War which the passing of this Bill would vest in him. He was not prepared to do so, as he considered that their scheme ought to be elaborated, for Parliament ought to have some control over the re-organization of the Army, which by this Bill was taken out of their hands. A Royal Commission would be a proper tribunal to which to refer the questions which arose in this matter, and believing that that step should be taken he would vote for the Amendment. In this Bill the Government failed to conciliate the officers of the Army; they did not add to the strength of the country, but swept away a system that had worked well, and they did so without providing a substitute.
§ LORD STANLEY OF ALDERLEY
thought it useless to dwell upon the fact that hitherto the purchase system had worked well for the British Army, and that therefore no change was needed. Those who argued thus had entirely lost sight of the recent change of circumstances. Owing to what had occurred on the Continent, England required larger armaments, and the Government sought to provide a more expansive system by which they could amalgamate the various branches of the service. It was not for the interest of the nation that this question should be postponed to another Session; while to reject the Bill would be to damage the interests of the junior officers in the service, as it was doubtful whether similar terms would again be offered to them: he spoke, however, more in the interest of the country than of the officers, since he feared that if the Bill did not pass, the country might be led into some great act of dishonesty. By passing this Bill their Lordships would be imposing on the Government a moral obligation to lose no time in proceeding with the re-organization of the Army.
§ LORD VIVIAN
said, he had always been in favour of the abolition of pur- 1706 chase; but he objected to the Government attempting to attain that object by bringing forward the crotchet of a Minister which would not tend to the improvement of the British Army. The purchase system was to give way to that of selection; and, as he understood it, the Secretary of State for War, after receiving the reports of General Officers, such as they now furnished when they made their inspection, was to have the power of selection, subject to the authorities of the War Office, who at present consisted of Mr. Cardwell, Lord Northbrook, Sir Edward Lugard, the Duke of Cambridge, Sir Henry Storks, and Captain Vivian. He admitted that among them were two General Officers of distinguished merit; the Under Secretary for War had served a certain number of years as captain in the Yeomanry; and as to his (Lord Vivian's) brother, he had held for some years a commission in the Army, but he did not think him capable of assisting in the selection of officers under the new system. The Secretary of State for War was to have the future power of selection in the Militia. He could see a strong objection to the proposed system of selection, for he had been long enough in the House of Commons to know the pressure that was brought to bear upon a Minister by his supporters and friends; and he thought the noble Viscount on the Treasury bench was well aware of the fact.
§ LORD VIVIAN
Did the noble Viscount mean to say he had sat so many years in the House of Commons, and did not know that pressure was often brought to bear upon a Minister? It was preposterous to say anything to the contrary. He knew perfectly well that pressure was put on the heads of Departments.
§ LORD VIVIAN
No—the pressure first put on the Secretary to the Treasury, and through him on the heads of Departments. The noble Viscount must know that the pressure so brought to bear on the heads of Departments was such that no man could resist it without running the chance of losing his popularity and his supporters, and that was his reason for objecting principally to that part of the scheme relative to the Militia. He regretted to hear last night the threat that issued from the Treasury 1707 bench, that if the Bill was not passed this Session they would feel bound to take such a line as would prevent the officers from getting one farthing more than regulation prices. He contended that the Government by bringing forward this Bill had pledged themselves to a certain course, and from that they ought not to withdraw. So far from privileged officers standing in the way of Army reform, it had been the common practice, when a regiment was reduced, to put the officers on half-pay, without giving them a fraction of compensation. He regretted, too, that so much had been said with regard to "professional" officers, as if they had not hitherto existed. He ventured to assert that in no Army in the world could they find officers more qualified to lead men, or to teach them their duty, or more able men to do their duty, than were to be found in the British Army; and he was shocked recently to find a General Officer who had commanded Armies, speak of these officers as if they were unfit to discharge their duties. The measure before their Lordships was simply one for the abolition of purchase, and for that he thought the Government were to blame, for it ought to have had a much larger scope. What the country wanted was an Army of increased strength; and the Government had met that demand by calling on the ratepayers to pay £8,000,000 for the abolition of purchase, and an additional sum of £800,000 a-year for retirements. The British Army at present was not in a position to meet a foreign foe, or even to guard our own shores properly, and the first step which the Government should have taken was to have so increased the numerical strength as to answer that necessity; if after that they found purchase in the way, they might proceed to abolish it. He regretted to have to oppose those with whom he had hitherto acted; but he looked upon this question as one in which all party spirit and feeling ought to be set on one side.
§ THE DUKE OF BEAUFORT
said, he should support the Amendment for the rejection of the Bill. He had listened with great attention to the speech of the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge), and if that speech had contained a declaration that the flow of promotion would go on after the passing of this Bill in the same way as hitherto, 1708 he should have had some hesitation in adopting his present course. But the illustrious Duke had carefully guarded himself with "ifs," and was evidently not confident as to what would be the result of the measure. Indeed, the illustrious Duke's speech had confirmed him in his intention of supporting the Amendment. He (the Duke of Beaufort) admitted that the purchase system was indefensible, because it was not possible to defend that which was illegal; but if over-regulation prices were legalized, as they would be by the passage of this Bill, then the purchase system would become thoroughly defensible. The measure was simply a plunge into an unknown stream, and it would saddle the country with an untold outlay in order to do that which it was by no means necessary to do. It had been stated by the Press that their Lordships were interested in keeping up purchase; but having sons already in the Army, or anxious to enter it, his own interest would rather lie in the other direction. He was sure that the feeling of the officers of the Army was against the abolition of purchase; nor did he believe there was any jealousy between the purchase and non-purchase officers. The first injury inflicted on the British Army occurred 18 or 20 years ago, when an Act was passed to shorten the period of service—the real object being not to benefit the soldier, but to benefit the taxpayer by saving him from the payment of pensions, and he pointed out at the time that after ten years' service in the Army the men would have forgotten their trades, and would have no means of subsistence; and his prediction had been realized, for he was constantly meeting discharged soldiers at a loss for means of earning their livelihood. We should never have a good Army and a good Reserve force until we resorted to the long service system, and enlisted our troops for 21 or 24 years. A man who joined the Army ought to make it his profession for life, as was the case with any other man who joined any other profession. With a long service system the men could be sent for four years to a depôt, and then they could join their regiment for ten years; after which they might spend the rest of their time in the Militia, or in any other Reserve force. Instead of abolishing purchase the Go- 1709 vernment should make the service more popular by bettering the condition of the soldier, and allowing pensions for good conduct. With regard to the powers which would be taken by this Bill from the Lords Lieutenant in the matter of signing commissions for the auxiliary forces, he, as a Lord Lieutenant, himself, agreed that such a provision would save these officials a great deal of trouble and inconvenience; but he doubted whether it would be a benefit to the Militia and Volunteers that they should be withdrawn from that personal knowledge and superintendence which the local information of the Lord Lieutenant enabled him to exercise over them. As to the proposal to select officers from other regiments to command strange regiments, that seemed to him to be a most dangerous proposition, which would have the effect of making the adjutant the real commanding officer, as the adjutant would know a great deal more about the arrangements of the regiment than would a now colonel so appointed, and practically he would have all the power in his own hands. The present Bill was perfectly useless, and it would only make the service more unpopular than it was at present.
THE EARL OF CAMPERDOWN
said, that the history of this question deserved an attention it had not yet received. Their present system of Army organization had come down to them with very slight alteration from the days of Charles II. Repeated inquiries had been made by Committees and Commissions—the most notable being that of 1857, which was presided over by the noble Duke who spoke last night (the Duke of Somerset), and which recommended the abolition of purchase. That was 14 years ago; but during that interval it had not been found practicable to carry that recommendation into effect. But last year the dreadful occurrences on the Continent, and the total breakdown of the military organization of France, had forced upon them the consideration of their military position, and the result was the introduction of the present Bill. The measure of the Government, as it had come up to their Lordships, had been objected to as being simply a measure for the abolition of purchase; but that objection was no longer tenable, for after the speech of 1710 his noble Friend the Under Secretary for War it could hardly be said that the Government had put forward no proposals for re-organization. It was admitted on all hands that purchase in the abstract could not be defended; but it was urged that it was very valuable in respect that it kept up a constant flow of promotion. But it was forgotten that that flow of promotion was only an interchange among the younger officers of the Army, and did not affect those officers of experience and acquirements which were essential to high commands:—and it did not touch the scientific branches at all. It had been said that the purchase system had never broken down. Of course, in time of peace it would never break down—and in time of war it was superseded. With regard to the question of Army organization, it must be evident to all that it would have been impossible to have laid a complete scheme of re-organization upon the Table of the House. One of the chief things to be borne in mind in discussing the question of Army re-organization—and it was a point which was too often forgotten in military debates—was, that they had no compulsory service, and that the country, through its representatives, had again and again refused to adopt the compulsory system. That, no doubt, made the subject of recruiting a difficult and complicated question. With regard to the vaticinations uttered on the working of the principle of selection, he felt confident that they would prove as unfounded as those which were offered respecting its operation in the Navy. The noble Earl on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) had expressed great fear of the importunities of the Secretary of the Treasury; but during the time he (the Earl of Camperdown) had been at the Admiralty he had never seen that gentleman, and did not remember any instance of his making recommendations. The noble Earl was afraid also that the Commander-in-Chief would wish to promote some person and the Secretary of State another, and that the former would be in the invidious position of having either to affront the Secretary of State or to give up his own opinion of fitness. But such collision was not very likely to occur. In the Navy when a question of promotion arose the First Lord read the tabulated reports, consulted his naval advisers, and then made 1711 the promotion: and he had no doubt that if this proposal of the Government was adopted the Secretary for War would not treat the Commander-in-Chief as a person of no consequence, but, on the contrary, that he would take no step with regard to promotion without consulting him. He now came to the opposition to the Bill on the ground that no scheme of retirement had been formed. But the reason was because there were no facts to go upon. In the Navy the case was very different. There all the officers were in the same position; there were not some purchase and some non-purchase officers. Then the number of ships in commission and the complement of men and officers that would be required were known, and thus calculations for a retirement scheme were very simple. In fact, it all came to this—how much money would be required in order to pay the officers a proper consideration for retirement. But a retirement scheme had nothing to do with a Bill which dealt with the abolition of purchase. But in the Army they had not the same data to go upon. They did not know what effect the abolition of purchase would have on retirement, nor the number of officers that would be employed in future, nor the effect of interchanging officers between the Line and the Militia, and so on. Sir Percy Herbert had attempted to draw up a scheme, but his figures were found to be all wrong; nor had the noble Duke who moved the Amendment (the Duke of Richmond) been more successful. But this, at all events, might be said—that if we were to keep up an efficient Army, whatever retirement might cost, we must make up our minds to pay it. But even if their Lordships had a retirement scheme before them, it would be of very little use. Since the year 1816 their whole naval system had been nothing but a succession of retirement schemes. Under the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) there were three schemes, and when Mr. Childers came into office, he introduced another. If therefore their Lordships threw this Bill out because a retirement scheme was not laid before them, they would do something absolutely contrary to common sense. He wanted to know whether it was in the interest of the officers themselves that their Lordships desired to keep up the purchase system? It should be remem- 1712 bered that it was proposed to recognize the over-regulation price; the offer was considered most liberal by no less an authority than the Commander-in-Chief; the country had manifested its opinion; and it could be hardly in the interests of the officers that their Lordships should continue to protest against what everybody saw was coming.
said, that as one who had served for 50 years in Her Majesty's Army, he wished to address a few words to their Lordships on this Bill. He had yet to learn why it should be necessary to do away with a system from which the country had derived such great advantages. It had been said that a proper re-organization of their military force was not possible so long as purchase existed. But purchase had nothing whatever to do with their having an effective force—to say that purchase stood in the way was a pretence—a subterfuge—nothing else. The Army at the present moment was as inefficient as it could be—the review on Monday was a proof of it. In regard to the abolition of purchase, according to the Paper that had been laid on the Table the payments were to be made in sums spreading over a series of years—a sort of promissory notes, of which the security was extremely bad. Everyone knew that the temper of Parliament changed in the course of time, and who could say that the Government of the day for the next quarter of a century would be able—even if it were willing—to obtain the continuous payment of these sums? He thought that far better security than that that was now proposed should be given to the officers. It had been argued that many officers now entered the Army for a time only, and with no intention of making it their profession. However that might be, he was certain that the British officers were the equals of any to be found in any Army. And would the officers be more likely to remain if purchase were abolished? What inducement was offered to anybody to enter the service? As a mere commercial speculation, would any father, after spending £1,000 on the education of his son, put him into the Army, where on entering he would be paid as much as a footman, and after 25 years' service, and when he became a lieutenant colonel, as much as the foreman of a large shop? He must say one word, before sitting down, as to 1713 the efficiency of their Army at the present moment. If a war were to arise, they had not an effective regiment to send out of the country; while the condition of the Cavalry made him quite melancholy; and as to the Army Reserve, it was a fiction—it did not exist. The Duke of Wellington dwelt strongly on the necessity of keeping up an efficient force. Last year 20,000 men were voted, and when February came they were not forthcoming. He did not attach much importance to depriving Lords Lieutenant of their power of appointment; but would warn the Government against destroying local influence on which Militia recruiting depended and the Militia frequently enlisted. Believing that the scheme of the Government would not bring them a better class of officers, and that there was no guarantee that these sums would be ultimately secured for the officers, he would give his vote in favour of the Resolution of the noble Duke.
THE MARQUESS OF HUNTLY
said, the noble Viscount who had just sat down (Viscount Melville) complained of the smallness of the British Army; but surely he must know that its numbers had been increased lately. The British Army was now larger than it had been at any previous time in this century. He wished the noble Viscount to inform the House to what numbers he wished their forces to be increased.
I should like to see an Army of 200,000, or at least 150,000, men in England and Ireland, and a Militia of 200,000.
THE MARQUESS OF HUNTLY
wanted to know how many men the noble Viscount would wish to see in India and Australia. He (the Marquess of Huntly) did not think that their Army ought to be a large Army. He rose merely to notice some observations which fell from the noble Earl sitting on the cross-benches (Earl Grey) with reference to the Army in India. He did not catch those observations last night, and he waited to see the report of the debate in The Times this morning. The noble Earl, speaking on the question of selection, was reported to have said—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 a man by selection on grounds 1714 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 claim?The noble Earl might as well have said that the Government of this country was despotic as to have so characterized that of India; and it was as absurd to say that the Commander-in-Chief in that country was ignorant of the qualifications of those of his officers who were quartered in unhealthy districts as it would be to say that the Commander-in-Chief in this country was ignorant of the qualifications of officers who happened to be quartered for the time in the North of Ireland. He believed that the system of selection carried out in the old East Indian service was the best that could be devised, and it was under it that such men as Neill and Outram had obtained their promotion. He had the same confidence that selection would be fairly and efficiently carried out in this country. Unless the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary for War were competent to select their officers, they were unfit for their posts. As His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief had pointed out, great danger would result from leaving the Army in a state of expectancy with regard to this measure—more especially when it was understood that the House of Commons were willing to provide the funds necessary to carry out the proposed change, including the cost of the over-regulation prices. In his opinion this measure ought not to be fought on the question of purchase alone, it being a mere branch of a great scheme for the re-organization of the Army, and it being impossible that any such scheme could be even commenced to be carried out until the system of purchase was abolished. Under these circumstances, he should support the measure on the ground that it proposed to abolish purchase, and to place the power of selection in the hands of the Commander-in-Chief.
§ THE DUKE OF MANCHESTER
said, he entirely agreed in the statement that had fallen from one of their Lordships in the course of this debate, that if the abolition of the purchase system were to be properly carried out it would do no harm to the Army. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for War had suggested that under the proposed new system they would obtain "professional officers." But the question was, who were to be considered "professional officers:"—because if that term applied to those officers who intended to devote their lives to the service, then all those who did not intend to sell out were entitled to the appellation. Many of their Lordships were aware how very large a number of thoroughly efficient officers were in their Army. He had conversed with many German officers with reference to a very gallant English officer, formerly in the Scots Fusiliers—Colonel Pemberton—who lost his life during the late war, and they one and all bore testimony to the esteem in which he was held for his great professional knowledge. Colonel Pemberton, however, had not been specially educated, he had not served on the Staff, but was simply a regimental officer. Their Army might boast of many officers of equal attainments. Some remarks had fallen from the noble and gallant Lord who had lately commanded the troops in Ireland (Lord Strathnairn) which might be construed rather to the disparagement of certain officers who had been under his command, but the deficiencies to which he referred had nothing to do with the system of purchase, nor indeed with the want of book-learning. What their officers required in order to render them efficient was not so much book-learning as practice in the field, so that they might be able to act against bodies of troops who might be opposed to them on ground of various characters. He hoped the Government would provide some means of giving their officers the opportunity of practising the movement of troops, because in that way they would obtain higher professional capacity. He agreed with His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief that if the existing system of retirement were to be abolished a complete system of retirement would have to be established in order to maintain an equal flow of promotion to that that they had at present. 1716 He grudged the enormous expense of the abolition of purchase, thinking the money might be much better employed in increasing the defensive power of the country. When the war broke out on the Continent last year, the one thing that struck him was that they had no Army in England. They had undoubtedly good "tactical units"—to borrow the phrase of the Under Secretary of State; but it required organization among the regiments as well as organization in the regiments to make them efficient in the field. Unfortunately, at present their tactical units were exceedingly weak; they had also heard lately that many of the men in their regiments were extremely young; and it would take 10 or 12 battalions to make up a respectable brigade, instead of two regiments, if they had to send a force against an enemy. When they were brought together they would have to attach to each brigade, and still more to each division, waggons for the supply of ammunition, of regimental equipments, of food, and of tents. He did not know whether those waggons were at present in existence—if they were they were probably lying in store at Woolwich with their wheels off. In the late campaign what really prevented the French from concentrating in an efficient way was the want of waggons. Another deficiency that would be found to exist if they had to send a force into the field was in artillery. The Government took credit—and so far they deserved credit—for having increased their artillery; but they had only enough at present for 80,000 or 90,000 men. The Secretary of State for War had calculated the number of troops available for the defence of the country, including the auxiliary forces, at 500,000 men; and the complement of guns required for such a force was 2,000. Therefore, if the country was invaded, they must either send out those troops without a sufficient amount of artillery, or they did not reckon on their auxiliary forces being used in the field at all. A distinguished Member of the Government—Mr. Goschen—said, at a recent public dinner, that he would have "faith in the inexhaustible pluck of Englishmen to pull the country through all its difficulties." What did that mean? He thought it meant an awful sacrifice of life, in order to repair the disastrous results of maladministration. He said 1717 it was criminal to send troops into the field in such a state that their "inexhaustible pluck" alone could pull them through their difficulties, and that troops, however brave, ought not to be exposed to unnecessary disadvantages. The Secretary of State for War stated in the other House that in a case of supreme necessity the obligation to defend the country would be universal, and would, no doubt, be readily and universally responded to. But another lesson to be drawn from the late war was that when an actual emergency arose it was months too late to make preparations. Those preparations should be made beforehand; and, as was shown by the experience of the French, especially on the Loire and at Le Mans, the troops whom they brought into the field should not only be properly drilled, officered, armed, equipped, and clothed, but also organized in regiments where they knew each other, and their officers and noncommissioned officers knew them, and they again knew their officers. The raw levies of the French were annihilated or scattered like sheep before the disciplined forces of Germany; and though they, no doubt, claimed some successes, their successes were chiefly outpost affairs. With all their "inexhaustible pluck," Englishmen could not be expected to show their valour unless they had been previously drilled and were properly organized. It was said the interruption of industry incident to compulsory service was a more costly mode of raising an Army than by hiring men to enlist voluntarily. He did not think so. In a recent debate on recruiting, it was stated, and not contradicted, that by the time young men reached 20 they had generally chosen their occupation in life, but had not done so at 18. If therefore they were drilled while between 18 and 20 they would be making no sacrifices of their time nor deranging the industrial operations of the country. It would be impossible to adopt the strict Prussian system in England, because of the necessity they were under of sending troops to India and their colonies; but they might still apply certain valuable parts of the Prussian and Swiss system to their defensive organization, by which every man in the country would be drilled and trained. That would be a cheaper and more advantageous mode of expending their money than in the abolition of 1718 purchase. He was convinced that the abolition of purchase would not improve the character of their officers or add to the strength and efficiency of their Army, and he should therefore support the Amendment of the noble Duke.
§ THE EARL OF DERBY
My Lords, I hope it will not be necessary for me to occupy your Lordships' time for more than a few minutes;—and, indeed, if I had consulted my own feelings and wishes, I should have remained altogether silent to-night. But having been a Member of the Royal Commission which sat in the year 1857 on the subject of Purchase in the Army, where for the first time the whole principle and working of that system were fully and seriously examined—having from that day to this watched the progress of opinion upon that question with considerable interest—and having, moreover, the misfortune to differ, not indeed from all, but I am afraid from the majority of my Friends on the subject, I do not feel that I should be justified in giving my vote in the division without stating fairly and frankly beforehand what course I intend to take, and what are the reasons that influence me in taking it. The scheme the Government has laid before us may be divided into two parts—One proposes to abolish purchase, the other consists of a vast mass of details which I do not purpose now to criticize, but as to which I hold my noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) was perfectly justified in saying nine-tenths of them might very well be carried into effect whether purchase was abolished or retained. In fact, those changes must be made if they are agreed on irrespective of the abolition of purchase, because that process cannot be completed until the last purchase officer has retired—an event which will not happen for some 40 years to come. Of course, no one would contend that the other changes in the Bill could be postponed until then. It is a fair matter for comment how far these various measures—including short service, the creation of Reserve forces, and the reorganization of the military system—realize the expectations held out at the beginning of the Session. Another question of more interest and importance to those who look at the matter rather as an Imperial than a personal question is, how these changes will work in practice; but that is a branch of the subject 1719 I will leave to those who have more military knowledge than I can lay claim to, because I have seen enough to show me that when outsiders take up military questions they generally make curious mistakes, especially when they come to details. I do not know much of military matters; but I know enough to induce me to leave their discussion to those more competent to deal with them than myself as far as the details are concerned. And I am the more willing to leave on one side this part of the question, because it is perfectly clear that if we had simply to deal with the creation of a Reserve and the re-organization of the forces—important as those subjects are in a national point of view—we should not be discussing the subject in a debate of two or three nights, nor would the points at issue create one-tenth of the interest this question now attracts out-of-doors. My Lords, the issue before us—not of course the only issue, but still that which is by far the most pertinent and important—is, whether we intend to abolish the system of purchase in the Army. We may comment on other matters; we may discuss other projects for amending our military arrangements; but this, after all, is the question as to which the country is waiting to see whether we say Aye or No. If the Government are wrong in this proposal, then I should be the first to say their plan ought not to be accepted merely because it may contain some other proposition which we think it desirable to accept; if, however, they are right in this proposal, I do not think the plan which they lay before us ought to be rejected merely because some, or many, or even most of us, may think it imperfect and incomplete, and may consider that many other provisions ought to be included in it which we do not find there. It is upon the purchase question that we have to say Aye or No, and my noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond), whose straightforward way of dealing with public questions is acknowledged on all hands, would, I am sure, be the last person to deny that the proposal to appoint a Commission to inquire into the whole subject—considering that, if appointed, it could not come to a decision for a year or two—is only a polite way of telling the Government and the majority of the House of Commons that they must take back this Bill and re-consider 1720 it. I agree with my noble Friend that if it be right to reject the Bill, it is quite right to do so in the most agreeable manner; but your rejection of it will not be the loss a rejection because it is couched in the least offensive form. I confess it seems to me useless if you think the abolition of purchase is right in itself, or, even doubting its expediency, if you consider it as unavoidable—it seems to me it would be useless to say you will not take that step because you wish some other and further step to be taken at the same time. The only argument I have heard bearing on that point is one which has been referred to by the noble Duke who spoke last (the Duke of Manchester). It has often been said that the cost of compensation on the abolition of purchase would add £1,000,000 a-year of dead weight for many years to the Estimates, and that this extra charge would leave a smaller sum available for other reforms which are more urgently needed. That is a perfectly fair way of putting the question; but, before we admit the validity of the plea, you must show that you will not want that money for other military reforms 10 or 15 years hence, or are less likely to want it then than you do now. If the ordinary expense of the Army continues as at present—and some wish it increased—and this irrepressible purchase question is to crop up again, you will be brought face to face with this alternative—either you will have this £1,000,000 a-year to add to the Army Estimates, or you will have to lesson the Army Estimates by that amount in order to get rid of it. What I contend for, then, is that if the thing is to be done you cannot show any valid reason why the present time should not be as good for doing it as any other. Well, the first question I have to ask myself is—supposing I personally saw nothing to object to in the purchase system, supposing I took a lenient view of purchase, or even a highly-coloured view of its merits, such as is taken by those distinguished officers who have so energetically defended it in "another place"—still the question I have to ask is, not whether these are my own views personally—not whether they are the views of a small or even a large number of people in my own class of life—but whether they are likely to be the views which will be adopted by those who are the governing power of 1721 this country. What is in the last resort the governing power in this country? It does not rest with this House—and I may say so with perfect absence from offence, because I can equally say that it does not rest with the other House any more than with this. My Lords, the final, the decisive appeal is to the constituencies, and the question you have to ask yourselves is, supposing you can postpone the question one, two, or three years, what will be the decision when the judgment of the constituencies comes to be taken upon it? I suppose everyone will admit that there is no gain, and there may be considerable inconvenience, in throwing out a Bill of this kind for a year or two if at the end of that time we are necessarily called upon to pass it. I cannot think it a dignified course—I cannot conceive of a course more useless either to ourselves or to the public—than to put out our strength merely for the purpose of postponing for two or three years a settlement which we believe to be ultimately inevitable, unless we have a reasonable and well-grounded hope that in the interval we shall be able to modify the terms of the settlement which will be ultimately come to. Is there any reasonable prospect of that? No institution can stand in the long run which does not admit of being successfully defended before an audience composed to a great extent of partly educated—and I am afraid in no small extent of uneducated—persons in all the excitement of a contested election. It is not enough that the system should commend itself to those who have had practical experience of its working. Any institution which is successfully to be defended must carry its justification upon its face, or else it is quite certain to go down in the first gale of popular opinion. And of this I am sure, that there is no subject which is so easily obscured by misrepresentation—whether wilful or the result of ignorance I will not say—as the system of military purchase. If you were to ask the first 20 persons you met in the street what their opinion of purchase is, perhaps nine out of ten would not know what you meant, and, on the other hand, probably the tenth man, if he were examined as to his belief, you would find had some vague idea that at the War Office or Horse Guards there was a shop kept open for the sale of military commissions, and any- 1722 body who had in his pocket £5,000 or £10,000 might go in and buy a colonelcy, just as he would a picture or a park. Notions of that kind may show great ignorance; but, recollect, although that may be an unpleasant consideration, it is useless to ignore the conditions under which we live. Recollect, the ultimate decision of this question rests with persons to whom views of this sort may be reasonably ascribed. And I do not think I am alone in taking this view. I have watched—as we have all watched—with great interest the proceedings on this subject "elsewhere," and I confess I have been very much struck with the fact that those who most strongly opposed the Bill of the Government have shrunk from committing themselves to any direct defence of that system with which you are proposing to do away. They complained of the incompleteness of the measure, and found fault with its details; but I do not think I observed, even among those of whose genuine Conservative feeling there could be no doubt, any declaration that they thought the purchase system a good one, and that they intended to stand or fall by it: and if the question should come before the country in the shape of an appeal from the Government, I wonder how many candidates would permit the success of the election to depend upon their adherence to the purchase system. It is hardly necessary to go into the abstract question, because an institution of which the public are determined, for whatever reason, to get rid is simply "a dead horse." The animal may have every conceivable merit that a horse can have, but you cannot bring him to life again, and there is an end of the matter. If that is to be the end of it, what is to be gained by delaying the settlement? If nothing worse happened, still to a large number of persons whose interests are concerned, the mere suspense is exceedingly inconvenient. No man at the present time can sell his commission, because selling implies a buyer, and I apprehend that in the uncertainty which actually exists you are not very likely to find anyone who will buy. Suppose that state of suspense prolonged for two or three years. In the course of nature a certain number of officers intending and desiring but unable to sell their commissions will die, and in every case of that kind the value of the commission will 1723 be lost to the family. And though I do not want to go over ground that has been often trodden, still you must consider what will happen with regard to over-regulation prices. They have been tolerated, they have been recognized, but they have never been legalized. Supposing you continue the purchase system for an indefinite number of years, what is to happen as regards over-regulation payments? It is not enough to say that you will not abolish purchase. Now that attention has been called to the subject, it cannot be left to go on on its old footing. One thing or another must be done—either by Act of Parliament these over-regulation prices must be expressly legalized—and I leave noble Lords to judge for themselves as to the chance of a Bill of that kind being passed by the House of Commons—or the officers must lose their £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 which they have invested in that manner. We must not lose sight of this. I heard it said by a noble Earl, who spoke with all the authority of venerable age and great position (Earl Russell), that the Government ought not to interfere with over-regulation prices, because they are pledged by the offer they have made, and that that offer, if it was an unfair one, ought not to have been made in the first instance, but that if it was fair they ought not to withdraw from it. As far as the Members of the Government are concerned, I am perfectly ready to accept that argument; but we must recollect that the matter may not rest either with them or with the House of Commons. It may go to a very different tribunal, and if a little popular feeling is excited on this subject, I would not answer for it but that there may be a considerable number of electors who would rather enjoy the safe spoliation, under what would be a plausible pretext, of men whom they consider to belong to the richer classes. If the system is doomed, I cannot see what is to be gained by delay. What does that delay involve? It involves inconvenience and uncertainty, and certain loss to the families of those who may die in the interval. I do not suppose that any are so sanguine as to imagine that they will obtain a better settlement than is now offered, nor do I believe that any considerable number would ask for it. I say nothing as to the obvious inconvenience to the military service that would 1724 arise if this question is hung up for some years. You have two classes of men to consider—those who enter the Army under the purchase system, and those who would enter it if that system were abolished; but one thing is perfectly certain, that neither the one nor the other will be very ready to enter the profession while a state of uncertainty exists as to whether purchase will be continued or not. After all, the main point is this—The officers of the Army are a class for whom we feel, and ought to feel, the greatest consideration. They have invested a sum which has been variously reckoned at from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 in what I may call a Government security. That investment has, by the force of circumstances, been rendered very precarious; and the question which I have now to ask myself and you is—"Are we acting as friends of these men; are we giving them judicious advice if we counsel them to refuse a settlement of their claims, which a great majority of them admit to be not only just but liberal, and if we advise them to hold on in this investment which is becoming more precarious from year to year?" There is another point from which this subject can be looked at. I look at it as it bears on the power and position of this House. Is it quite certain that our consent is in strict law required to the proposal contained in this Bill? I do not speak without the sanction of high legal authority, and legally I believe our consent is not necessary. Purchase does not rest upon any Act of Parliament, and it can be abolished without an Act—the abolition can be effected by a Royal Warrant; and as to compensation, certainly for the legalized price—and, as I believe, for the over-regulation price, too—a vote of the House of Commons is sufficient. If we object—if we record our objection, and yet the step is taken without our consent, does not our position became—I use the word with all possible respect—somewhat ridiculous? I quite admit that in such a case, whatever ridicule there may be will not be confined to one side of this House, because it is eminently inconsistent and even absurd for a Government to begin by asking the authority and the sanction of this House to a step which they contemplate, and then, if that sanction is not given, to say—"Never mind; we can do just as well 1725 without it." In a party point of view that might be some consolation; but I confess it does not reconcile me to the fact that in the ridicule or discredit—if discredit there be—both sides of this House, and both parties, would share equally. The objections which have been raised to the abolition of purchase mainly resolve themselves into two—one is the social argument, that you will lower the general status of the officers; the other is the professional argument—that under a non-purchase system retirement will not be effectually provided for, and a block will occur. As to the first of these objections, although I do not agree with the reasoning, I confess I do very thoroughly sympathize in the feelings by which that reasoning is prompted. It may be a matter of prejudice, but for my own part I should very deeply regret if the officers of the Army, as a class, were to become different from what they are at the present time. The popular notion on the subject is that the officers are an especially aristocratic class; but that is nothing else than a delusion. No doubt, many commissions are held by members of the aristocracy—most of your Lordships have relatives in the Army as you have in other professions; but the great bulk of those who constitute the Army, as anybody may satisfy himself by looking through the Army List, may be very fairly divided between what we vaguely call the upper and the middle classes. I have never been able to see why or how the abolition of the money qualification is to make any difference in that respect. Many officers, with the smallest private means, are gentlemen who are connected, not remotely, with very distinguished families; younger sons we know are almost proverbial for their poverty. On the other hand, we find in modern society a large number of men who have possessed themselves of very abundant material resources, but who cannot be said to have any other claim or qualification to the title of "gentleman." If you substitute for the money an educational test—which seems to be a very favourite theory at present—still careful training and cultivation from the earliest years are articles involving some expense, and comparatively few persons will be able to obtain them in a gratuitous manner. From a national point of view, I must 1726 admit the other question involved to be a more serious one. I mean the matter of retirement, and I should not feel that I was arguing the question fairly if I did not admit that there is, with regard to that, a difficulty which it is useless to ignore. The noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), in calling attention to that part of the subject last evening, stated some facts relative to the delay of promotion in non-purchase corps which I think formed a most important contribution to our information upon the subject, and of those facts no one has effectually disposed. But then the question is whether you will not retain, at any rate to a great extent, that main advantage of the purchase system—for I do not deny that it is such—without retaining the system itself. I entirely concur with those who say that it is important not to exclude altogether, nor in a great degree, from the military service that large class of officers who go in the Army for a few years, not relying upon it for a living, and not intending to follow it to the end of their days. If you are to have in the Army none but needy men—none but men who depend for their living exclusively upon their pay—of course all of them will hang on as long as their health or the rules of the service will allow, and then there will be either great hardship if you compel them to retire, or great public inconvenience if you allow them to remain. What I would point out in reference to this matter is that when you say the purchase system shall not be continued you do not by any means pre-judge that which is in the power of the Crown, or practically of the Government of the day—namely, the manner in which the first admissions to the Army shall be made. It is proposed that a certain number of those first admissions shall be made by competition; and I do not object to that, for I was one of the very first who supported the system of open competition for the Civil Service. It has given you very good Indian civil servants; it will, doubtless, give you very efficient clerks, and I have no objection to try it with the Army. But it does not follow that a system which has given you good clerks will also give you efficient officers, and I therefore recommend you to try the system as an experiment, but as an experiment only, and not to rely exclusively, or even 1727 mainly, upon it. Quite apart from the question of personal efficiency, you have to bear in mind that in the nature of things you will always want a much larger number of officers in the lower grade than in the upper one, and, therefore, if you can only get useful and effective service out of an officer during the time he is in the service, he who is willing to retire before he comes to the upper grade is a benefactor to his comrades and to the service. Tolerably hard work is done in public offices and in Parliament, not to mention other branches of the public service, by men under no stimulus of pecuniary pressure. I am not saying anything against the proposal to increase very largely the class of what are invidiously called "professional officers." By all means have enough of them to leaven the lump, and leaven it thoroughly; but do not totally exclude men who are willing for very small pay to devote the best years of their lives to the Army, and who are kind enough to take themselves out of the way just at that point at which the competition becomes severe. I see nothing in the Bill to make it impracticable that, while you have a certain number of first appointments by competition, you should leave a large number to be made otherwise, and I am therefore ready to accept this part of the scheme. As to the rest of the plan, not having the practical knowlege of many of my noble Friends, I am not prepared to criticize it. I am surprised that the system of universal and compulsory soldiership should have found so much favour among a section of the public, and I am glad the Government have not introduced it into the Bill. I am convinced that any arrangement of that kind is militarily unnecessary; that economically it would be wasteful; that practically it would be unworkable, and that were it introduced it would in a very short time become so odious to the community at large that, at the cost of some discredit and loss of reputation abroad, you would have to abandon it. The weak point about this scheme, and perhaps about all schemes that are likely to be brought forward, is that it will obviously involve a great expenditure. Now, I am afraid we must look forward to a time when, if peace continues—as we hope it will—the British taxpayer will not be content to contribute £16,000,000 1728 a-year for Army Estimates. What I fear is, that a cry for economy will again be raised; that it will of necessity be given way to; that we shall have reductions made in haste, at great hardship to individuals, and with great waste of material resources; and when that economy has prevailed for a few years we shall have another panic, and the expenditure will be raised again. It is not a matter which is in our hands, nor, except to a very slight extent, in those of the House of Commons to remedy; but it is not altogether creditable to the people of this country that there is this liability at one time to foolish and unnecessary panics, and at another time to exaggerated demands for immediate reductions, which cannot be made without injurious consequences. The noble Earl who addressed the House last night (Earl Grey) spoke of the possibility of the promises which the Government have made in reference to their future scheme of Army organization not being fulfilled. All I can say is, that if and when that is so let us by all means find fault. Either things ought not to be promised, or being promised they ought to be performed. That is a question which may or may not arise. The question immediately before us resolves itself mainly into this—whether purchase should be abolished or maintained; and on that subject I am compelled by a conviction of many years' standing to say—Get rid of the system now, get rid of it while public opinion is favourable to a fair and liberal settlement, and while you can do it without wrong or injustice to any individual or class.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
My Lords, I have known my noble Friend so long and so well, and have learnt to appreciate so much the force and vigour of his logical mind, that I always prefer to agree with rather than to differ from him, but I cannot, he must pardon me for saying, on this occasion, follow his course of argument. I agree with him, indeed, that if it is intended by a small section of the extreme Liberals by this measure to involve a total change in the character of our officers, they will probably be disappointed. I agree with him also that a great deal of misapprehension with regard to purchase exists in the public mind:—but I think that the debates which have now taken place on the subject will have effectually dis- 1729 posed of the notion that commissions are put up to auction, and that the highest bidder can obtain whatever he wants. I share also my noble Friend's apprehensions that a time may come when the cry for economy would be raised, and when the legislation now proposed will be thought too liberal. I must, however, demur to one or two points which he has addressed to your Lordships. He prefaced his observations by saying that we ought not to reject this Bill merely because it comes before us in a very imperfect shape. In this question of purchase is unfortunately involved the whole question of Army organization. The illustrious Duke on the cross-benches remarked this evening with perfect truth that the question of purchase is in fact a question of retirement; and therefore I maintain that the subject of retirement is of the very essence of the matter. My noble Friend used an argument with which I cannot agree. He said, as I understood him, that every institution of the country must stand or fall, not by the light of calm and dispassionate reason, not by the fair requirements of ordinary English intelligence, but by the claims and requirements of the lowest class of intelligences, who form a portion at least of the electors. Now, I am quite aware that there are a proportion of electors who are inclined to take sometimes a less reasonable view of public questions than might be desired, and who are liable to be carried away by unreasoning impulse; but I should think poorly of the common sense of the great mass of my countrymen if I did not believe that such a question would, on the whole, meet with a fair and candid reception, and would be measured and decided by all the requirements of a reasonable intelligence. I am aware that in the times in which we live every institution must show a raison d'étre—must to use a legal phrase, "show cause" for its existence. But my noble Friend's argument would carry him a great deal further than he desires. I venture to say that if my noble Friend's argument were to prevail, no institution in the country, from this House to the Church, and from the Church to the Monarchy itself, could bear to be submitted to such a test. My noble Friend also alluded to the possibility, if this Bill should be rejected by your Lordships, of the Government 1730 having recourse to a Royal Warrant and a financial vote of the House of Commons to carry out this scheme. I will not attempt to argue on the supposition—my noble Friend himself disposed of it when he pointed out the inconsistency, the palpable absurdity, of such a course; and I think he might also have well alluded to the utter want of good faith which would be displayed by any Government that dared to act in that manner. It has been repeatedly urged that we on this side of the House do not vindicate the purchase system. Now, I frankly admit—as, indeed, I stated at the beginning of the Session—that I have no theoretic love for the purchase system. Stated in the abstract, it involves many obvious anomalies; but at at the same time I desire to show on what grounds I am prepared to accept the Resolution of my noble Friend. I object to the Bill, first, because it neither contains or is accompanied by any real scheme of re-organization; next, because all the essential principles of Army re-organization and reform which you desire to be carried out can be carried out quite as well without the abolition of purchase as with it; thirdly, because in thus summarily abolishing purchase you incidentally lose certain indirect advantages which attend it, and still more, incur very serious risks; and, lastly, because the measure must involve an enormous and perhaps indefinite burden on the taxpayers. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for War, when he addressed the House last night, met the Resolution of my noble Friend by affirming that he had a plan to submit to the House. I thought it singular that it should have been concealed for so many months from the House of Commons and reserved for the last moment here, and I could not but think it was a poor compliment to the House of Commons to allow them to discuss the details of the Bill for three or four months without the plan being communicated to them. The noble Lord, however, proceeded to give us a string of very interesting details, but details which I recognized as very old friends, being scraps and odds and ends of all the General Orders and Circulars which have been issued during the last few years. I read them all in the papers at the time, and I believe there was scarcely one which the Government have not admitted in 1731 the House of Commons could be carried out quite as well without the abolition of purchase as with it. But, then, what becomes of the famous plan? It consists in a certain measure of details without, as my noble Friend (the Duke of Richmond) remarked, any link or connecting principle; while they are so essentially matters of detail that it is impossible to understand them unless the details are given. For instance, the noble Lord talks of a general system of competition, but only in the vaguest manner—he does not say what are the terms and conditions, and to what extent it is to be applied. On these points we are left in the dark. So, again, of the system of selection, he throws no light on that subject. Then he tells us that the Militia is to be trained for a longer time, but he says nothing more about it. He tells us that a system of retirement is to be framed, but most carefully guards himself against giving us the faintest idea how it is to be carried out. Then there is another point. My Lords, there is a vast difference between the promises which Her Majesty's Government make of future organization and those promises reduced to Acts of Parliament. [Cheers.] My noble Friend opposite seems to doubt that; but I am sorry to say that the experience of this Session has convinced me that the promises of Her Majesty's Government, though, no doubt, made in good faith, are not always carried out exactly. I have heard of a Licensing Bill of enormous importance to the country. That Bill has been dropped. I have heard of a Sanitary Bill, which in itself would be a great reform. That also has disappeared. My Lords, it is true that Her Majesty's Government promises; but who will say that Her Majesty's Government will be in office when the time for fulfilling their promise arrives? Who will say that circumstances may not change—or that if they remain in power they may say they have changed—and that they may allege that as a reason for not doing what they have promised? In fact, the whole thing is lost in complete uncertainty, and I do maintain that the Resolution of my noble Friend on this point at least is thoroughly and entirely sustained. But I venture to say further, that everyone of the great cardinal changes which may be necessary as a matter of Army organization may be ac- 1732 complished quite as well without the abolition of purchase as with it. Take, for instance, one or two great questions. There is the question of enlistment. I do not know why enlistment cannot be improved without the abolition of purchase. There is the question of education for officers, to which my noble and gallant Friend (Lord Strathnairn) not now in the House, adverted some weeks ago. In that you have nothing to do but to follow the Report of the Commission on Military Education, and that certainly does not lead to the abolition of purchase. Take selection—the strongest case of all. You have it in your power at this very moment, and, I believe, as a matter of fact, selection is put in force. The commanding officer may, if he so pleases, decline to recommend for appointment any person whom he considers incompetent, and the Commander-in-Chief is bound, as a matter of duty not to make such appointment, if an unworthy recommendation is made to him. Some years ago, in a single cavalry regiment, where, unfortunately, the habits of discipline had been greatly relaxed, the Commander-in-Chief removed no fewer than six officers—that is to say, he intimated to those officers that unless they retired of themselves he would be compelled to remove them. Allusion has been made so often to-night to the loss of certain indirect advantages which will result from the abolition of purchase that I should be ashamed to take up the time of the House on that particular point—all I will say is this—they seem to resolve themselves into these main considerations. First of all, the facility of getting rid of incompetent officers without public scandal, disgrace, or inconvenience. I look upon that as a matter of no light moment in so large and complicated a machine as the British Army. In the next place, it gives you, what has been explained over and over again, a rapid flow of promotion. It gives you young officers, and that which a Commission appointed years ago, when this question was debated with far less acrimony, pointed out—it gives you physical efficiency in those young officers. And, lastly, there is no doubt that it does act as a bond of efficiency in what is termed the regimental system. That regimental system is cherished in Prussia; it has suffered much in France. You have, at all events, that practical 1733 experience to guide you, and those who remember the remarks of General Trochu, some eight or ten years ago, will bear me out when I say that even at that time he almost foreboded what was about to come to pass, when he pointed out that the French soldier was wanting in those marks of external respect for his officer which not only indicated, but really represented the discipline which should be in a regiment. But, then, my noble Friend the Under Secretary said last evening that we require a "professional class" of officers; and he went on to advocate the matter upon this ground—that at present the officers pass so quickly from the regiment that those rapid changes were fatal to the existence of a professional class. But did my noble Friend forget at the moment he said that the change—the most unadvised change—which is at this moment being carried out in a purely scientific and professional branch of the Army where you have made this unfortunate regulation that no officer, however high his attainments, shall retain his office for more than five years? Therefore, my noble Friend, while he complains of those rapid changes in the Line, is himself in the War Office sanctioning in the highest branch of the Army that which he has condemned in another part of it. It does seem to me that that argument does not lie in the mouth of my noble Friend, at all events. My noble Friend says we must have this professional class, and he even implied that there is an indifference on the part of the younger officers of the British Army to avail themselves of the means of military instruction. I know this opinion has been very frequently expressed abroad, and I am glad to hear that it is not the opinion of my noble Friend. And here I should like to read from the letter of one who is most high and eminent in the British Army, a testimony to the character of English officers of the Line. He says—Now, the Army is full of sportsmen who, without the accomplishment of surveying, are, nevertheless, just the officers a General Officer would seek in a campaign to execute a dangerous reconnaissance, and for bringing back accounts of positions and roads, and the force of an enemy in his front, at the risk of their lives. I am most adverse to discouraging this class of English gentlemen, whom I believe to form the very marrow of the Army in time of peace. Some of these officers are those who may appear in time of peace 1734 to be idle, and to think only of amusement, but the sterling British quality is found when they are really tried. This is infinitely valuable when we have to fall back on courage and manhood and quick observation, amid the most dangerous circumstances.And he adds these words—It will be gathered from the foregoing statement that I should deplore any step which would cause regimental promotion to hinge upon purely educational tests.These were the words of the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Sandhurst) who spoke last evening in opposition to the implied opinion which I have cited just now. I believe, for my part, that the real want in this case is the want of instruction under the system established by Her Majesty's Government—sufficient schools and classes are not provided. I know of my own knowledge that young officers returning from India have been excluded because the schools are full. My noble Friend the Under Secretary dwelt the other evening on the principle of selection; and my noble and gallant Friend opposite (Lord Sandhurst) yesterday laid great stress upon that principle, and said that he had administered it himself in India without complaint.
THE EARL OF CARNARVON
I am not, perhaps, quoting the noble and gallant Lord's very words; but I understood the noble and gallant Lord to say that selection had been adopted in India; and we know that he described the system that prevailed under his administration as a perfect Utopia. But the noble and gallant Lord forgot that in India there is no Secretary to the Treasury, no House of Commons, none of that pressure which is brought to bear here in England; and therefore any system of selection that may be partially carried out in India, is, at all events, administered under far more favourable circumstances than can possibly exist in this country. I, for my own part, cannot but express the fear which I entertain on the grounds mentioned by the illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) this evening, that though it is not absolutely impossible, as I understood, to administer a system of selection, yet that it would be a most delicate and most difficult task, and that, above all, it would depend on having at the head of the Army one who should stand 1735 in a position wholly uninfluenced by the gusts of passion and feeling of the political life around him. I say I should greatly fear the effect of the system of selection in this country. The noble Duke on the other side (the Duke of Somerset) said last night that while at the Admiralty he never experienced any pressure or inconvenience. I am willing to admit that. I am quite satisfied of this—that if any man would resist that pressure, and put it down worthily, it would be the noble Duke opposite. But, while I gladly pay homage to him, there are a great many other persons who have filled high offices whom I should regret to see placed under this pressure. It is said that in the Navy you have the system of selection in full force. My answer is that in the Navy it exists under wholly different conditions. You have 5,000 officers in the Army and 1,000 officers in the Navy. That alone is a great difference. But even in the Navy the system has so far failed that in the command of ships you had to go back to the principle of seniority. ["No!] There is one branch of the Army to which you have applied the system of selection. I believe the Commissariat is what may be described as a mixed system of seniority tempered by selection. What shall I say of that particular branch? Why, that it is a branch which has singularly broken down. There was another point in the plan, as my noble Friend was pleased to call it, of Her Majesty's Government. There is to be competition. If I fear the system of selection on political grounds, I doubt very much the principle of competition. It is like bad money and good money circulating in the same country, and I believe the experience of economists is that the bad money generally drives out the good. Of one thing I am quite sure, that when once you have taken that step of competitive examination for the Army, be it for good or be it for evil, the die is cast—you cannot go back to the old system. I doubt very much whether you can get by competition the class of men you require. My noble Friend who spoke last evidently doubted that. There has always been a distinction between men of the pen and men of the sword, and it has been men of the sword, as a general rule, that have governed and administered 1736 and led Armies worthily in the field. Scientific studies are not very congenial to military men, and I think it will not be a very profitable state of things when bookworms find their way into the Army. One point, at any rate, seems to me very clear—that one of the results of competitive examination would be that you would create a separate caste of officers in this country. Now, up to this moment the cry against the British officer has been that he is unprofessional, and his highest boast has been that he has been unpolitical. But by this competitive system you are extremely likely to turn these officers into a separate and professional class. Up to this time every English officer has been first a gentleman and then an officer. Henceforward, he will be first an officer and then he may or may not be a gentleman. I think one thing is clear—that you will have for the first time a class of men holding a great and, I venture to say, even a formidable position in this country who will be cut off from the rest of the community, and be, in the people's eyes, a separate class. Lastly, there is this—and I venture to urge it very strongly on the Government—if you sweep away this system, suppose that the House of Commons next Session turn their attention to some other matter in their opinion of equal importance, and debate it as they have debated this subject and some others—what chance have the Government of redeeming the pledges they have given? It seems to me, knowing what the House of Commons is, knowing what the state and condition of legislation in this country are, if you sweep away this system without having got any substitute for it, you may wait for years before a substitute is provided. And I beg to point out that last night when the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond), with all his usual candour and force, asked Her Majesty's Government what security they were prepared to give that, some substitute should be found, I listened with the greatest anxiety for any words—for any sign—from the Treasury bench; but its occupants were all absolutely mute. And I doubt whether such security can be given. There is one other point. It is the ques-of cost. That is a very serious one. Her Majesty's Government came into office as an economical Government. I am bound to say that in this as in other mat- 1737 ters they have, no doubt unintentionally, not been able quite to fulfil their promises. It is only a few days ago that we discussed and sanctioned a Treaty in which we were made liable to damages of a most enormous and indefinite character. What you have done in the case of the Alabama you are now doing in the case of the Army. [Laughter.] I am at a loss to see what the joke is which seems to excite my noble Friends on the other side. I believe I have somewhat understated the case, because it was stated the other evening that the damages in respect of the Alabama will probably not exceed £4,000,000, whereas the cost of the abolition of purchase will be at least £8,000,000. But over and above that cost you have the cost of retirement. We have had no explanation that seems to me to deserve the name of explanation on the subject. Besides that, remember you will certainly have to increase eventually the pay of the officers. If they are a needy class—if they are to be a highly educated class—they will require still more pay. And, lastly, you will have all those expenses which run up in the course of time in Army administration from which no country can be wholly free, and which even such an economical country as Prussia is already beginning to complain of. The result of all this will be that the country will become disgusted at the enormous cost which you are heaping upon it, and in its disgust it will sweep away such expenditure, and that utter disorganization of our military system which Her Majesty's Government have professed a wish to prevent will be brought about. What is the duty of this House under the circumstances? I have no doubt that it is our duty to reject this Bill. If I am asked on what grounds I make that recommendation, I say we are bound to reject it—not on the grounds of party, of mere dislike to the Bill, of pique, or from a desire to assert our authority, not in the interests of any particular class of officers—but upon the ground that it is our duty to throw it out. The principle has received the assent of both sides of this House that we are bound to reject all rash, immature, and incomplete legislation. If this House possesses any function at all, it is the revision of legislation sent up to us from the other House, and if measures are 1738 sent up to us of the nature I have stated, it is not only our right but our absolute duty to reject them. What is the character of this Bill we are now discussing? It is obviously incomplete; it is mere fragment of the original measure; and no one can doubt that had it been introduced in its present form into the other House in the first instance it would not have had the slightest chance of success. But more than this. Everyone of the great Army reforms that are demanded could have been carried into effect without there having been any necessity for bringing in this Bill, which, in my opinion, is absolutely mischievous, and may actually prevent that very re-organization in the Army which is so much desired being carried into effect. It is very costly, and I, for one, have seen no evidence of a wish on the part of the country that the measure should become law. The newspaper Press appears to be equally divided in opinion on the subject—indeed, I think that the balance turns rather against than for the Bill. Not a single public meeting has been held in its favour—I beg pardon, a noble Lord informs me that there has been just one such meeting. Only two Petitions have been presented in the House of Commons in its favour, while 258 have been presented against it, and an analysis of the Division Lists of that House show that the majority of the English Members are opposed to it. These facts do not support the assertion that the opinion of the country at large is in favour of the Bill. Therefore say that as legislators, as statesmen, and more especially as men of business, we have no right to pass this measure. But what is the argument in favour of the Bill? It resolves itself into this—that Her Majesty's Government say that it is necessary. But if Her Majesty's Government desire us to repose confidence in them, they must show a little confidence in us; and they are bound to give us some insight into their plan, if they have one. When they ask us to trust them, then we ask them in return whether they are entitled to our confidence from what has passed this Session? In the Speech from the Throne, and in that of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War in moving the Army Estimates, we were promised a strong Army—and we have it not; and we were promised an Army of Reserve—and we have it not. What 1739 is the state of things with regard to the Army? I believe that some of the Reserve Corps have nothing in the world but the clothes in which they stand. The Transport Service and the Supply Service require to be re-organized, the great commercial towns remain absolutely undefended, and the whole military manufacturing force in the country is concentrated in the neighbourhood of the Metropolis. Following upon that, we have evidence to show that your short service system has not worked as well as you supposed it would, and you have numerous desertions. You have lowered the standard height, breadth and eyesight. The British Army under your hands has become helpless for purposes of attack, and almost equally defenceless for purposes of defence. On this subject I appeal to the common consent of mankind. Have Her Majesty's Government been fortunate in securing the support of any great speakers in either House of Parliament? Scarcely any have supported this measure except those who sat on the Treasury benches. The illustrious Duke (the Duke of Cambridge) who to-night took part, in the debate did not oppose the Bill, it is true, but he took the part of a neutral—I may say, indeed, of an armed neutral. Not a single writer of note has written in favour of the measure, but many have utterly condemned it. In fact, with the exception of a few friends and partizans of the Government, the voice of the country has been unanimous in calling for the rejection of the Bill. Indeed, the illustrious Duke to-night told us that the measure was merely a tentative one—which, however, with his usual loyalty, he declared himself ready to carry out to the best of his ability if it should meet with the approval of your Lordships' House. But the most fatal condemnation of the measure came from the noble and gallant Lord opposite (Lord Sandhurst), who informed us that under the fatal reforms which the Government have inaugurated the Army is becoming an Army of mere striplings; that it has been deprived of its best men, and that it is too full of very doubtful characters, and that they are, by the course they are pursuing, providing for us a future of defeat, disaster, and disgrace. And yet this is what the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War calls a satisfactory state 1740 of affairs! And if this be the case at home, what is the position of things abroad? Almost every country in Europe is either heaving with the secret fires of social discontent, or is organizing its whole population into a great military force. We alone are standing by in a state of self-complacency and self-gratulation, buoyed up with the recollections of past glories, and incapable of realizing the doubtful position in which we stand, which renders us helpless either for attack or defence. If, indeed, we wish to salve our consciences we introduce some wretched Bill like this, which is impotent for good, although powerful for evil and mischief. I heard with the deepest regret the threats which were uttered by the noble and gallant Lord (Lord Sandhurst) in this House last night as to what might be done in the event of our rejecting this Bill with regard to the interests of the officers. I can only hope that the noble and gallant Lord spoke without the sanction of the Government, and I am certain that Her Majesty's Government would act most unwisely if they endeavoured to put that threat into execution. It is not pleasant for the House of Lords to have to reject this Bill, nor for us to see Her Majesty's Government obliged to swallow their professions and to eat their own words which they uttered at the commencement of the Session; neither is it pleasant to know that the whole of this Session has been wasted without a single important measure having been passed. All these are great evils, and they are not less evils because they show Parliamentary institutions and representative Government in a very unfavourable light. But, on the other hand, it does seem to me that to take this leap in the dark, to adopt measures which may jeopardize the whole efficiency of the Army, and, above all, to saddle the country with an indefinite amount of expense, to impose at least an additional penny on the already heavily burdened income tax payer, is a still greater evil, and one to the creation of which this House in its legislative character ought not to be a party. And, my Lords, upon these grounds, not without reluctance, but still without hesitation, I shall record my vote against the second reading of this Bill.
§ LORD LAWRENCE
said, he would not, especially at that late hour, occupy much of their Lordships' time; but 1741 feeling deliberately and conscientiously that this important measure was one which had been long wanted and long delayed, he desired to be allowed to say a few words in its support. The noble Earl who had just sat down (the Earl of Carnarvon) had spoken of the proposal to abolish purchase as hasty and rash; but the question of purchase had been under the consideration of the country since the year 1840, and the system had been condemned by many distinguished officers, and by high authorities, as injurious to the interests of the Army. If then, to get rid of a system which had been so generally condemned was hasty and rash, then, perhaps, this Bill deserved to be so designated. Assuming that the expense of the extinction of purchase was spread over a space of 25 years—and there was little doubt that it would be distributed over a longer period—it would not cost the nation on an average more £320,000 a-year; and he did think that it would be an unwise parsimony to hesitate fairly to compensate existing officers for the amount they had spent in purchasing their commissions in order to deliver the country from the incubus of that system. It could not be denied that with all their great merits there were some important shortcomings in the officers of our Army, nor that those shortcomings were not largely, if not altogether, traceable to the system of purchase. No man could be behind the scenes, or have seen what had occurred in Europe, and more especially in India, without observing that whenever an emergency arose there was a difficulty in finding efficient and skilled officers to undertake special duties. It seemed to him only human nature that if men had invested their money to secure their promotion in the Army, the majority of those who had done so would rest satisfied with the certainty of that promotion and would not bestow on their profession that time, attention, and labour which were essential to attain excellence in it. Therefore it was that a want of intellectual vigour, and a deep and thorough acquaintance with higher pursuits was often observable in British officers. Another evil of the system was, that no thoughtful man would desire to place his son in the Army unless he could afford to pay for the chances of promotion which in the course of time would offer 1742 themselves to him; and, that being so, it was unquestionable that much of that peculiar ability, that aspiration for military employment and distinction inherent in so many of the middle class, was not fostered, but rather discouraged by the system of purchase. Again, if a man placed his son in the Army without having the means of purchasing his different commissions, he entailed on him an immense amount of vexation and discomfort. He had himself heard the late Lord Clyde describe the difficulty he had in purchasing his majority. It took him years to save up the money with which to pay for his commission. Nor was that an isolated instance; there were many cases of the same kind. The feeling that a man had been passed over in his profession simply because another man could pay money which he could not pay, struck at the root of all military feeling and desire for distinction. Again, the fact that he had purchased his commission made an officer and his friends feel that a double injury was done him if by chance for any reason, however good his superior military authority should refuse to allow him to purchase another commission. That was to say, if a man who had purchased his lieutenancy, his company, and his majority, was denied the power of purchasing his lieutenant coloneley—that was, the command of a regiment—he felt doubly aggrieved; he felt not only that he was undervalued as an officer and a soldier, but that he had expended his money and had very little prospect of recovering it. That circumstance, and a regard for vested interests, made his superiors very often more tender than they otherwise would be in refusing to allow him to purchase the command of his regiment. And thus it was that officers unsuited for the commands they desired to hold were sometimes placed in positions in which there was great danger of their bringing discredit on themselves and on those under them, and also of their inflicting injury on the public interests. He was perfectly certain that the success of Her Majesty's Armies depended to a most material extent upon a very careful selection of officers, especially in the higher ranks. He admitted there had been very great improvement in this respect of late, especially in India; and it could not be urged against the system that promotion 1743 would go by favour. His experience in India showed him that the Acts of the Commander-in-Chief would be subject to very severe criticism, not only on the part of the officers among themselves, but by the Press; and any neglect of duty would assuredly meet with public censure. The noble Earl who had last spoken (the Earl of Carnarvon) seemed to disparage the educated officer; but his experience led him to prefer those who were as ready with the pen as the sword, and if he had nothing else to guide him in his choice between two candidates for promotion, he would choose the more highly educated. If culture were more appreciated in the Army, its officers would be in the highest sense gentlemen, and the Army itself would be a body distinguished for knowledge and intellectual attainments, as well as gallantry and devotion to their Sovereign.
§ Then, on the Motion of The Lord ABINGER, the further debate on the said Motion adjourned to Monday next.
§ House adjourned as a quarter before One o'clock A.M., to Monday next a quarter before Five o'clock.