HL Deb 28 March 1871 vol 205 cc734-52

, rose to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the state of law respecting the control of the Reserve Forces in the several Counties of Great Britain. The noble Lord said that the object of his Motion was to ascertain what was in point of law the power of Lords Lieutenant of counties in regard to the appointment of officers of the Militia. He need hardly remind the House that when, a few evenings since, he brought forward the case of his own appointment of an officer to the Royal Cornwall Rangers, which had been disallowed by the Secretary for War, the noble and learned Lord (Lord Cairns), and the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack had given two different interpretations of the clause of the Act of Parliament which regulated those appointments. This difference was one reason for an inquiry. Another was that since the recent discussion he had made further inquiries, the result of which had been to confirm his opinion of the inexpediency of appointing Major Trelawny to the command of the West Cornwall Rangers, and he had therefore informed the Secretary for War of his intention to adhere to the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel the Hon. Charles Edgcumbe, which appointment he should have gazetted but for that gentleman's indisposition, notwithstanding the view taken by the War Office. He had, in return, received what was vulgarly called a "snub," the Secretary of State having informed him that he saw no reason for approving the appointment, and that he must again signify Her Majesty's disapproval of it. He thought it was another reason that he should ask for inquiry, that a very able and deserving officer had suffered both in character and position through the slur cast upon him by the rejection of his nomination to the command of the Militia regiment in question. He wished, then, to know whether that disapprobation applied to Colonel Edgeumbe personally, or whether it was simply on account of the officers of the regiment being passed over? He could not help thinking there was some personal feeling mixed up in the opposition of the Secretary of State to the appointment—he could not account for his continued opposition on any other ground. While giving the Secretary of State every credit for capability, he could not understand how he could judge of the character of the officer of a Militia regiment 400 miles from London better than himself, who lived in the county, and knew all the circumstances. He presumed that the right hon. Gentleman acted either on the opinion of the Inspecting Officers, who simply went down for a few hours, and had no opportunity of knowing the general character of Militia officers, or on that of other persons quite unknown to himself. Who would be responsible for the regiment, now about to go into the field without a lieutenant-colonel, and commanded by an officer whom he held to be disqualified through want of popularity, and whom he therefore had declined to appoint? The Secretary for War, not thinking it right apparently to take his advice upon any matter whatever, had given him snub No. 2. It had been customary for the Secretary to write to the Lord Lieutenant, suggesting a date for the calling out of the Militia, and asking him, if he had any objection to it, to name another day. A circular issued by the War Office last year—which he believed to be waste paper, as it had never been laid before Parliament—directed that the Reserve Forces should be under the joint authority of the General Officers commanding within the districts and of the Lords Lieutenant, who were to consult as to the time of calling out the Militia. On the General Officer of the Western District asking him (Lord Vivian) what time he proposed, he suggested, instead of the 1st of May, the usual date, the middle of June. His reason for this was the irregularity and want of discipline attending the billeting system, which induced him last year to suggest that the Militia should be quartered in the forts. The War Office objected that these would not give half space enough; whereupon he (Lord Vivian) suggested that the force should encamp under canvas in the vicinity of the forts; but to this it was replied that the medical officer objected to an encampment under canvas as early in the season as May. He, accordingly, suggested this year the middle of June. Major Trelawny, he understood, at first fell in with this proposal, but afterwards asked him to re-consider the point, on the ground that the date would interfere with the hay harvest. He (Lord Vivian), however, believed that this would be completed by that time, and saw no ground for altering his opinion. The result had been an intimation from the Secretary of State that the regiment would be called out on the 1st of May—which he could only regard as another snub. He could cite other grievances; but he did not choose to receive any more of these little courtesies, especially as he did not believe that in any other case had a Lord Lieutenant been so treated, the War Office having in several similar instances given away. He presumed the War Department would continue to struggle against him, and he should seek to struggle on against it, not being disposed to submit to the Secretary of State's dictation in a matter which he himself could better understand. He thought, besides, that the Secretary of State had exceeded his powers, for he maintained that his disapproval, not being given within the 14 days prescribed by the Act, was invalid, yet the right hon. Gentleman still persisted in setting the appointment aside. He was anxious for an inquiry which would settle the meaning of the Act, and would enable Lieutenants of counties to know what their duties were.

Moved, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of the law respecting the control of the Reserve Forces in the several counties of Great Britain."—(The Lord Vivian.)


said, he wished, in the first place, to explain that not the slightest disregard was intended towards the noble Lord in fixing the proper time for calling out the regiment in question. It had nothing whatever to do with the disputed appointment; and the existing arrangement had been made on the recommendation of the general officer of the district, by an officer subordinate to the Secretary of State, to whom it was not considered necessary to refer. There had been no intention of "snubbing" the noble Lord in the matter; and he thought it very inconvenient that every such detail should be brought before the Secretary of State. With regard to the main question, the noble Lord asked for an inquiry into the state of the law respecting the control of the Reserve forces in the several counties of Great Britain; but a Committee of their Lordships' House was hardly the proper tribunal to decide on the interpretation of an Act of Parliament. With respect to the statement of the noble Lord that, since he first brought the subject forward in their Lordships' House, he had received further information confirming his opinion with regard to the unfitness of Major Trelawny for the command of the regiment, the noble Lord had communicated to the Secretary of State no further information on the subject, though he should have brought under his notice any information likely to affect his decision. He would not again trouble their Lordships with the reasons which induced the Secretary of State to recommend Her Majesty to disapprove the appointment of Colonel Edgcumbe. As to what was stated about Major Trelawny not being popular, no Militia officer would be safe if his promotion were to be stopped on the allegation of unpopularity—a very vague term at best. Some of the best officers in the service had been "unpopular." The Duke of Wellington was, at one time, by no means popular; and, in the sister service, Lord St. Vincent was by no means popular. Major Trelawny had received a regular military education at Sandhurst, where he had won both his commission and a certificate; he had served three years in the 36th Foot, and eight in the Inniskilling Dragoons, seven years as an Adjutant of Militia, and 10 years as Major of the Royal Cornwall Rangers. He was, moreover, in other respects, both as regarded his family and position as a magistrate and deputy Lieutenant of the county, undoubtedly, in every way, fit to be put in command of the regiment. Besides which, he ventured to say that the Reports of the Inspecting Officers spoke of him in terms not exceeded by the encomiums applied to any officers in the service; in fact, an officer on the Staff of Sir Augustus Spencer had authorized him to say that, in the opinion of that distinguished officer, he was one of the best officers he had ever seen in command of a battalion. He hardly supposed that the noble Lord desired to refer the question of the fitness of Major Trelawny to a Select Committee. The noble Lord had asked whether the disapprobation of Her Majesty of the appointment of Colonel Edgcumbe, communicated on different occasions, was, or was not, a personal disapprobation. He should have thought the noble Lord, who was contending for the rigid interpretation of an Act of Parliament, would have been careful not to ask such a question; because the Act of Parliament simply required the Crown to express disapproval of any appointment of which it did not approve, and the Act of Parliament had been strictly followed. As to the command of the regiment, he believed it devolved, in the absence of the colonel, upon the next senior officer; and this officer was Major Trelawny. He could assure the noble Lord that nothing could have been further from the wish of the Secretary of State than to cast a slur on anyone in the course which he had felt called on to pursue. The Secretary of State gave the noble Lord full credit for honesty of purpose, and he asked, in return, credit for equally upright motives in the performance of a painful duty. He assured the noble Lord that no private communications had passed between him and anyone else relative to this appointment, excepting the noble Lord himself and a near relative of Colonel Edgcumbe. He hoped the noble Lord would not press his Motion.


said, that as a Lord Lieutenant of many years' standing, he should like to know what the law really was. It was his experience that Lords Lieutenant, on making recommendations, always received notice in a few days in the form prescribed by the Act in case of approval or disapproval. They were authorized to take silence for consent, and if 14 days passed, without an intimation that the Crown disapproved a recommendation, the officer would have a right to the appointment, and would be entitled to complain if it was not gazetted. It was objected by the Government on the last occasion, that to write a simple letter of recommendation was not to "certify" within the meaning of the Act; but such a letter was surely an official intimation; and when was disapproval to be signified by the Secretary of State, if not after the receipt of it? Surely not after the appointment had been gazetted. The other night, when the matter was before their Lordships, a noble Duke (the Duke of Buccleuch) stated that he had always been in the habit of writing to the Secretary of State, stating the person whom he proposed to appoint, and if he heard nothing to the contrary, he concluded that the appointment was allowed. This was the course usually adopted, except that, as he (Lord Lyttelton) had said, Lords Lieutenant received express intimation of approval from the Secretary of State before completing the appointment. It seemed that under the new organization of our military forces, Lords Lieutenant were to have nothing more to do with these appointments—for which he did not in the least care; but during his short remaining term of official existence he should continue, unless otherwise advised, to write letters recommending certain persons, and if no disapproval were signified within 14 days he should proceed to gazette the appointments; this being not merely what he was empowered, but required by the Act to do. If this were not so, he should be glad to be informed; and unless some other mode of ascertainment was suggested, he should be glad if the Committee were granted.


said, he hoped the noble Lord would not press his Motion, for a Committee, as pointed out by the noble Under Secretary (Lord Northbrook), could not give an authoritative construction of an Act which, as was evidenced by the discussion the other evening, was not very well laid down or very clear. On the other hand, it was quite clear what the true interpretation of the Act was in accordance with the spirit of our Constitution, for whatever might be the technical meaning of the section, it was certainly the intention of Parliament that the Lords Lieutenant should act under the direction of the Crown in these matters. And it was not only the right of the Crown to exercise a complete control over its Lieutenants; it was also armed with ample authority for the purpose. The Lords Lieutenant held office during pleasure, and if they declined to submit to the decision of the Crown, signified to them by the proper authority, the Secretary of State would have only to inform them that Her Majesty had no further need of their services. That was the remedy, in the event of a difference of opinion arising, which ought not to be the case, for, whatever the technical construction of the Act, he should feel it his duty—and he thought that the noble Lord, on reflection, would see the matter in the same light—to act under the express direction of the Crown, signified by a responsible Minister. While, however, fully admitting the power of the Crown and the duty of Lords Lieutenant to obey the commands of the Sovereign, he admitted the full right of any Member of the Legislature to question the discretion with which Her Majesty had been advised to exercise the power committed to her. If any noble Lord should think there had been something wrong in the manner in which an appointment had been checked, it was open to him—and it was open to any Member of the other House—to move an Address to the Crown praying the withdrawal of her disapproval. That seemed to him the proper and formal way of raising the question.


My Lords, I regret to find myself differing entirely from the noble Earl who has just sat down (Earl Grey), and upon a point in reference to which his authority is so valuable. The noble Earl states that the proper course on an occasion like the present—and I think he implies that it is the only constitutional course—is, that an humble Address should be presented to Her Majesty begging that she will withdraw her disapprobation of the appointment. Now, my Lords, I venture to think that would be begging1 the whole question; because the point raised by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Vivian) will have no effect whatever if the disapprobation of the Crown be signified within the proper time. And when the noble Earl says that the noble Lord ought to move an humble Address to the Crown, he is implying that which has not been admitted, even for a moment, in the course of the former or the present discussion—namely, that the Secretary of War has acted according to the powers as contained within the four corners of the Act of Parliament. It appears to me that the silence of the noble and learned Lord on the Woolsack on this occasion affords a strong ground for inducing your Lordships to appoint a Committee to investigate the question before the House; for I cannot but think that during the time which has elapsed since the former discussion took place, the noble and learned Lord must have been so occupied as not to have looked again into the various Acts of Parliament bearing upon this question.


intimated that he had done so.


I am very glad to hear it; and I can only, therefore, hope that, having informed himself as to the Acts which have been expressly quoted on this subject, the noble and learned Lord considers that this is not the proper place for discussing the question, and that we could better discuss it in Committee of your Lordships' House. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for War (Lord Northbrook) says that a Committee of this House is not a competent tribunal to decide a disputed interpretation of a law. But this is a very simple matter. If your Lordships will examine the Act of George III. you will at once see that its requirements have not been complied with in this case. The intimation given by the noble Lord (Lord Vivian) was clearly the legitimate mode of announcing the appointment, for in the very same letter another gentleman was recommended to the command of a company, and that appointment has been gazetted. I will not go into the question whether Major Trelawny was popular or unpopular in the view of the Government; whether he was educated at Sandhurst; whether he was brought up in the Army, or whether the experience he obtained in the cavalry was likely to make him a good field officer of infantry; for with these questions the Secretary for War, or the Lord Lieutenant, are much more competent to deal than I am; but I may remind my noble Friend the Under Secretary that he has not answered one point put by the noble Lord opposite—whether the objection the Secretary for War made was personal as regards the fitness or unfitness of Colonel Edgcumbe for the command of the regiment, or whether he considered that Colonel Edgcumbe should not be appointed because the Major ought not to be passed over? That is a question to which it is very easy to give an answer; it is a question to which we have a right to expect a distinct answer, about which there can be no mistake whatever. I have not the honour myself of holding the commission of Lord Lieutenant, therefore I may be supposed to speak purely from disinterested motives, and on public grounds alone; and I do say that there is much ground for complaining that the Lords Lieutenant of counties should be treated in the manner which, according to the noble Lord's (Lord Northbrook's) own showing, the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall has been treated. We have always been taught to look up to the position of Lord Lieutenant of a county. He holds a high position in his county—he represents, if I may say so, the Sovereign, and is frequently expected to convene, and generally to preside over, meetings of the county in regard to any public matters. What do we find is the conduct of the War Department? According to the Instructions issued by the Secretary for War under the Act of 1856, the Lord Lieutenant is to consult with the general commanding the district as to the times at which the Militia shall be called out. The noble Lord opposite, as Lord Lieutenant, considered that it would be much better to call them out in the summer, than to billet them in towns at the earlier period of the year; and he conveyed this view to the general commanding the district, with whom, according to the Order issued by the Secretary for War, he was to put himself in communication. The first thing the noble Lord ascertained was, that the arrangements made were entirely in opposition to the view he had expressed; and now the answer he receives, by way of consolation, is that the subject of the recommendation of the Lord Lieutenant was considered to be of such small importance that it was looked upon as a mere matter of detail to be dealt with by a subordinate in the War Department; that, in point of fact, the opinion of the Secretary for War was not given at all. Surely that is not the proper manner in which Lords Lieutenant of counties ought to be treated by a public Department like that of the War Office. We all know with regard to the billeting of the Militia in towns that the system is not healthful for the morals of the men, and that it is a system which ought to be avoided as much as possible. Yet this opinion, expressed by a Lord Lieutenant, was dealt with by a subordinate, and not by the Secretary for War. There is a somewhat extraordinary coincidence connected with this which I ought to mention—if, indeed, it really is a coincidence—the time selected for calling out the Militia, as decided by the subordinate in the War Office, happens to be exactly that recommended by the major of the regiment, whose opinion ought not to have prevailed in the matter at all, because the major is not the person indicated in the rules who should make a recommendation. Under these circumstances, I quite agree with the noble Lord opposite that there is a grievance of which he has every right to complain; and I venture to hope that the Lords Lieutenant of this country will not, in future, be treated by the Secretary for War in the way the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall has been treated on the present occasion.


My Lords, I cannot help thinking that the question before the House, so clearly stated by the noble Earl on the cross Bench (Earl Grey), has been somewhat mystified by what has fallen from the noble Duke opposite. The question is— To move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the state of the law repecting the control of the Reserve Forces in the several counties of Great Britain. In dealing with this question, it is quite true the noble Duke (the Duke of Richmond) has given his own construction of the law—and I have no doubt his opinion upon it is as good as that of any other layman; but the whole question is one which arises purely from the ill-drawing of the Act of Parliament, which is differently interpreted by two of the most eminent Law Lords in this House; and I think it is quite impossible that, in opposition to the opinion stated by the noble Earl (Earl Grey), your Lordships should refer to a Committee of the House a question of the legal construction of an Act of Parliament. The noble Duke has complained of the manner in which the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall has been dealt with by the Secretary for War. For my own part, I do not think, after hearing the statement of the Under Secretary, that the Secretary for War could have adopted a different course from that which he has pursued, under the circumstances of the case. Some years ago a Commission was appointed, of which one of the most eminent Members was the noble Duke's Father, who perhaps took a more than usually active part in performing the duties of Lord Lieutenant—especially with regard to questions affecting the Militia and Reserve forces; and it was on his suggestion that the Commission made the recommendation which they did, to the effect that promotion, as a general rule, should be by seniority; and that in the event of any proposed deviation from this principle, it should be made known to the War Department, with a statement of the reasons for the deviation. A circular to the same effect was issued by Mr. Sidney Herbert. If that circular meant anything, it meant that the Secretary for War was bound to exercise his discretionary judgment upon the reasons so submitted to him. It has been objected that this circular was not a legal document; but I think the objection entirely fails, since it ignores the Secretary for War as an Adviser of Her Majesty, and as the head of the Executive Department, dealing with the matters committed to it. The noble Duke then goes on to encourage the noble Lord to consider it a snub that his recommendation had not been followed with regard to the particular time at which the Militia should be called out. The answer which the noble Lord (Lord Northbrook) gave, as I understand him, was an answer to the charge the noble Lord (Lord Vivian) brought against Mr. Cardwell, that the right hon. Gentleman had shown animus towards him, and my noble Friend has properly answered that no animus existed in the case at all on the part of Mr. Cardwell. The noble Duke then regards it as an intolerable slight upon the Lords Lieutenant that this case should not have been determined immediately by the Secretary for War himself. I think your Lordships will readily admit that in a large Office, where there is much red tape and mere matter of detail, it is impossible that the Secretary for War can himself personally attend to every matter appertaining to the Department without neglecting the essential duties attaching to him as a Minister. I think that the noble Duke, in his anxiety to do justice to the position of Lords Lieutenant, has, in some degree, confounded the duties which attached to them as the heads of the counties with those which properly belong to another class of functionaries—the high sheriffs. At the same time, I do not in the least question the high honour and position of Lords Lieutenant; and I am quite sure that the more anxious they may be to give example to those placed under their superintendence, the more anxious they must be to act in perfect accordance with the Crown, when properly advised by those who are bound to advise them. I certainly do enter my strong protest against your Lordships entertaining this Motion, which I really think is absolutely without precedent, being a Motion to refer to your Lordships' Committee a discussion between two of the Law Lords as to what is the real construction of an Act of Parliament.


My Lords, I do not think it worth your Lordships' while to refer this legal point to a Committee. The course that has been adopted in the case of the Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall is so manifestly wrong, that I think it would be a work of supererogation for a Committee to inquire into the matter. To ask a Committee to investigate the subject would be practically to ask them to determine whether a fortnight was a month, and that, I think, is hardly a proper subject to submit to the meditation of a Committee. But the question which has given rise to the question now before us, and to a debate which has already taken place, appears to me to throw considerable light upon the probable effect of the legislation on military affairs with which we are threatened. Two cases have been brought forward—two cases of "snubbing," to use the strong and just vernacular of the noble Lord—for the consideration of the House. With regard to the first case, we have heard that under the present state of things the control of military affairs is so intensely centralized, that when a Lord Lieutenant brings a certain matter relating to county policy and morality under the notice of the Secretary for War, so heavy is the business of his Department that the Minister of the Crown finds it impossible to attend to the matter personally, and the Lord Lieutenant is left to be snubbed by any underling. That appears to me to be treatment most unworthy of the dignity and position of a Lord Lieutenant. I do not blame the Minister of the Crown in this case, because I believe he knew nothing of the affair—neither do I blame the Office; but I ask your Lordships to note the results of that centralization into which we are rushing. It is the inevitable result of placing so much work upon one responsible Minister of the Crown that he had more to do than he can personally accomplish, and the result is that the duty is transferred to persons who are unknown, and who have no responsibility. The second snub which has been put upon the noble Lord is a rather awkward circumstance, because the neglect to lay the matter before the Secretary of State succeeded in point of time the displeasure of the War Office which the Lord Lieutenant had been unfortunate enough to incur, which rather gave ground for the suspicion that if anyone was bold enough to challenge the decision of the War Office, or so unfortunate as to incur the displeasure of that mysterious tribunal, he would find his access to the Secretary of State not so easy as before. But there is a much more serious question at the bottom of this matter. Why are these two officers passed over? Is it true that one of these officers is a Member of Parliament and that the other is not?


That is not the case.


I was informed that such was the fact. However, I do not stand up for the purpose of making personal imputations upon anyone. My object is to point out the enormous danger that is likely to result from the unrestrained system of selection which it seems to be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to introduce. If such a system be adopted, your statesmen may be as pure and as free from party bias as possible; but, as long as officers of the Army are Members of Parliament, or are selected from the class from which Members of Parliament come, and their interests have to be decided upon by the Secretary of State, so long will cases of this kind crop up, and your whole military administration will be tainted with suspicion. I entirely agree with the noble Lord that Colonel Edgcumbe has been hardly treated in this matter, and also that the Lord Lieutenant has been hardly treated; but what is proved by this case is the utter incapacity of our military system to bear either a great increase of centralization, or to allow the invidious and onerous duties of unrestrained selection to be placed in the hands of a political officer.


said, he was of opinion that the dignity of the Lords Lieutenant of counties had been somewhat neglected in the present case. He held it to be the law that the whole responsibility for the well-being of a Militia regiment rested mainly with the Lord Lieutenant of the particular county to which it belonged; and in accordance with that responsibility the noble Lord the Lieutenant for the county of Cornwall had intimated to the War Office his recommendation of the appointment of a certain officer to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the Royal Cornish Rangers. What struck him as being somewhat singular in the case was, that before communicating with the War Office his noble Friend informed Major Trelawny that it was his intention to make a recommendation, the effect of which would be to pass him over, and that Major Trelawny entirely approved of that course on account of his want of knowledge of the new drill, that he considered the appointment of Colonel Edgcumbe to be a good one, and that had he himself been appointed he would have been as a square block in a round hole. After that Major Trelawny wrote to the War Office, stating he was about to be passed over—which seemed to be playing a double game. Colonel Edgcumbe, it appeared, in anticipation of being appointed to the command, had been induced to resign his commission in the Grenadier Guards; and no doubt, with his full knowledge of all the new military duties required of him, he would have been a most valuable commander of any Militia regiment; but he afterwards received an intimation that the recommendation which the Lord Lieutenant believed had been accepted by the Crown had, for reasons which were not given, not been approved by the Crown. That was not the way to enable a Lord Lieutenant to maintain his position in his county; and from what had appeared, the noble Lord's recommendations had been set aside without any reason assigned, and the command of the regiment allowed to fall into the hands of an officer who acknowledged himself incompetent to discharge the duties. How could a Lord Lieutenant who could not be trusted to appoint an officer to the command of a regiment be fit to take charge of the affairs of a county? The question of popularity was one that never ought to have mentioned, and it was one that ought not to weigh in considering the qualifications of an officer. It would be a dangerous thing either to select officers to command regiments, or to reject them on account of their popularity or unpopularity. The simple question ought to be, who was the best man to command a regiment? The danger of principle of selection had been exemplified in this case; and what alarmed him was, that when the principle came to be carried out it would often be challenged, and would have to be argued out in Parliament. But he did not think the Motion would have any effect in settling the construction of the Act; and, under the circumstances, he would ask his noble Friend to be content with the discussion, and not press his Motion to a Division.


I was certainly surprised to hear the noble Marquess opposite (the Marquess of Salisbury) state his intention of supporting the Motion, on the ground that the Government had acted in this matter on the principle of what he was pleased to term unrestrained selection. He has overlooked that the Secretary of State—whether he has acted rightly or wrongly—has stood up for seniority, and therefore shown that he is not likely to exercise in an unrestrained manner the principle of selection. He must have forgotten that in the present case it is the Lord Lieutenant who has adopted the principle of unrestrained selection, while the Secretary for War has strictly followed the principle of seniority. The noble Marquess also stated that the Lord Lieutenant had received more than one "snub;" that he had been turned over to a subordinate officer of the War Department, and that the matter of the calling out of the Militia regiment had been decided by an underling. But who is this "underling" who signed this appointment? Why, he is the Inspector General of the Militia. And I must ask the House whether it is possible for the War Office administration to be properly conducted, if it is to be said that a matter of this kind is not to be decided by a general officer, who, in all probability, is a much more competent person to determine such a question than the Secretary for War himself would be. Quite apart from this particular case, the whole discussion is a very apt illustration of the necessity for the military reforms which have been proposed by the Government. If the country has made up its mind upon one thing more than another, it is that our Army organization should be made practical and real. Much as I respect Lords Lieutenant and the Militia service, and the laudable desire of country gentlemen to belong to that force, and that they should be treated with respect by the Government, it is far more important that the Militia should be made real regiments, and form part of the general organization of the Army, and not be regarded as a kind of civilian portion of the Army. If it is so regarded, it is impossible for the Secretary of State for War not to take the opinion of competent general officers and officers commanding the districts, in preference to the recommendations of Lords Lieutenant, and as a part of the new system we are about to introduce, Militia regiments to be more efficient must be absolutely more and more under the control of the Secretary of State for War and the officers of the Army. As regards the particular case which has arisen in the county of Cornwall I do not wish to say anything, for enough has been said about it already; but, however much the unfortunate position in which Colonel Edgcumbe has been placed may be regretted, I cannot but think that the county of Cornwall has not been ill-treated in having Major Trelawny placed in command of this ex- cellent regiment. I hope your Lordships will not agree to the appointment of the Committee.


said, that some remarks which fell from his noble Friend the Under Secretary for War in a former debate would lead to the impression that Colonel Edgcumbe had resigned his commission in the Guards with the full knowledge that his appointment to the Royal Cornwall Rangers was extremely uncertain, in consequence of the claims of another officer having been put forward. The noble Lord referred to a warning which he had conveyed through him (the Earl of Mount Edgcumbe); but he was not at the time aware that the conversation to which he alluded was held more than a fortnight after Colonel Edgcumbe's resignation had been sent in. In point of fact, at the time Colonel Edgcumbe resigned, he had not the slightest reason for apprehending that the power of veto would be exercised against his appointment, nor was it until it was too late to recall the step he had taken that he had any intimation whatever of Major Trelawny's intention to protest. Referring to a remark that had fallen from the noble Earl on the cross Benches (the Earl of Dalhousie), he felt sure that Major Trelawny was not a man capable of any double dealing, although it was to be regretted that the letter referred to was not more explicit.


said, he should be sorry if it was thought that all Lords Lieutenant were opposed to the proposed change as regarded the Militia, for their position in that respect certainly was not a very comfortable one. For himself, his belief was, that when the new system was established by which the Reserve forces of the different military divisions of the country were to be brigaded and drilled from time to time with the Regular troops, the most perfect machinery would exist for finding out what officers were good and what were not, so that good men could be put in command. That was a very difficult matter now. What could the Lord Lieutenant of the county know in regard to the discipline of a regiment, except from the officers in command, and what he might gather from his own observation and from the general feeling of the country? He did not think any of these were a good means of forming a judgment. He was himself the Lord Lieutenant of a small county, and although, if a vacancy occurred in the command of the Militia there to-morrow, he might not experience a great difficulty in recommending an officer to fill it, because the officer who was second in command was a good man, yet he could well understand that in such cases a Lord Lieutenant might have great difficulty in finding out who was the best man; and at present, even after that difficulty should have been overcome, and the Lord Lieutenant had had the misfortune of quarrelling with many people in consequence of his selection, his decision might be thrown over—he did not say wrongly—by the War Office. Surely, if after all the trouble he had taken, the Lord Lieutenant was not certain that his recommendation would be attended to, the sooner that state of things was put an end to the better. The discussion of that evening would have convinced him, if he had not been convinced before, that the Lord Lieutenant would be in a more pleasant position, and the service of the country be better carried on under the proposed new system than was the case at present. He had no desire to find fault with the present authorities of the War Office; but he was afraid that anybody who had anything to do with that Department had occasion sometimes to complain that it allowed his letters to remain unanswered.


said, that the position of the Lords Lieutenant, in regard to the appointment of Militia officers, appeared not to be understood by many noble Lords. The reason why the Lord Lieutenant had vested in him the appointment of these officers, subject to the approval of the War Office, was that he was cognizant of the persons in his county who were best fitted for such positions, which the authorities of the War Office could not be supposed to be. It must be recollected that hitherto the Militia had been a voluntary force; that it had belonged to the county, had been raised in the county, and was officered by gentlemen of the county, inasmuch as it was supposed that the gentlemen of the county had more influence in obtaining men to fill the ranks than any other class of persons. It would seem that now, however; if he rightly understood the remarks of the noble Earl (the Earl of Kimberley), the Lord Lieutenant was to be superseded altogether; that he was not to be consulted in any way, not only as to officering the Militia, but even as to the best and most suitable time and place for assembling the men for training—matters which, in the case of a local force, depended less on military considerations than on the season for taking the men from their ordinary labour and occupations with the least inconvenience to them. If, therefore, those questions were to be taken out of the hands of the Lord Lieutenant, who was most acquainted with them, and transferred to the Inspector General of Militia, who knew nothing about them, very great injury would be done to the Militia itself. Manifestly, the first object they should have in view was to fill the ranks of the regiments, and as long as they maintained a local force and officered it from the county, and as long as the leading persons in the county, or any person in the county, took an interest in that force, so long the Lord Lieutenant ought to have a voice in all questions that concerned it.

On Question? Resolved in the Negative.