§ On the resolution "That 28,894l.18s. 1d. be granted for the Garrisons at home and abroad,
§ Mr. Hume
hoped many of the offices held by persons who did not perform the duties of them would be abolished on the death of those individuals. He did not think the charge for garrisons ought to be so large, and unless he heard that which should induce him to change his opinion, he would submit a motion to the committee for deducting something from it. He particularly noticed the establishments in the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, and the charge for the militia which he understood was hardly called out oftener than once a year. He also offered some remarks on the taxes raised in Gibraltar, and on the charge which it threw on these estimates. He wished to know if it could not be lessened. He thought 22,000l more than ought to be demanded for garrisons in England.
§ Lord Palmerston
said, that the islands of Guernsey and Jersey, threw no expense upon this country beyond that for the staff, the remainder being paid out of the revenues of the islands. The militia, instead of being called out but once a year, was called out once a fortnight, and the inspector had reported them to be a most efficient body of men. With respect to the charge for Gibraltar, it was less than formerly by 3 or 4,000l. When asked, if some diminution of expense could not be effected in the present charge, he did not feel himself at liberty to hold out any expectation of that kind. Some offices in the garrisons, on the extinctions of the interest in them, had not been filled up; but with respect to the governors, so far as his influence extended, he would not diminish the number of such appointments. These appointments had been considered the honourable rewards for military services. They had been bestowed in a way which the country must approve, and in the present holders of them, the committee would recognise many of the most distinguished ornaments of their country. These offices had been approved by suc- 1242 cessive committees of that House, and therefore he did not fell in to be his duty to propose that any of them should be abolished.
said, that those who had shed their blood in defence of their country ought to be liberally rewarded; but, in his opinion, those who deserved such rewards would feel the honour to be greater if they were conferred by parliament. When parliament sanctioned a reward for faithful service, no person could doubt that the reward was justly bestowed; because the case of the individual was brought forward openly. But this was not the case with reference to the Crown. It was in the power of the Crown to grant rewards from motives of the merest favouritism. Therefore, arguing on principle, the system appeared to him to be excessively bad; and, in proportion as it was objectionable, it must appear evident, that to place the duty of rewarding merit in the hands of parliament, would be infinitely better. He could not conceive why such an expense at Gibraltar should be countenanced, when it was known, that during the last reign, no less than 124,000l were received from Gibraltar, and placed in the privy purse. This was contrary to every principle on which Gibraltar, was held; for most assuredly any taxes levied there ought to be appropriated to, the necessary expenses of the local government. In his opinion, there was not a single station abroad, that was not made, some way or other, subservient to a system of corruption.
§ Colonel Gossett
said, the militia of Jersey was not only assembled every fortnight, but every Sunday, after divine service. Those who belonged to the militia had certain privileges, with respect to taxation; but then they received no pay, and were only clothed once in even years. The salary of the governor of he island was defrayed out of its revenue.
§ Sir I. Coffin
deprecated the idea of any attempt to alienate the islands of Jersey and Guernsey from this country, considering the important services which they had often rendered to this country in defending it against France, and that since the days of William the Conqueror, there never had appeared more loyal subjects in the empire. As to the governments of the several garrisons, he thought them essential to the Crown as the rewards of merit; and the manner in which these appointments were usually disposed of, 1243 proved the eminent utility of the arrangement.
said, he had no indisposition to reward military men in the most liberal manner but the question was, in what way provision was to be made for them? The noble lord could, no doubt, adduce a long list of highly respectable names by whom these governorships had been held. The same might be done with respect to every public office. But, that was no argument for keeping up useless places. When it was attempted to do away the board of trade, the names of Gibbon, of Addison, and of other celebrated men, were mentioned as having been connected with that office, and therefore it was contended that it ought not to be suppressed. But, the question was, not who held the, office, but whether it was of any public use? He could see no reason, if military merit were to be rewarded, why it should not be brought before that House There was one argument strongly in favour of such a proceeding; namely, that no case would be brought before the House that would not bear the light. He did not mean to say that government would, unless peculiarly pressed, confer rewards on undeserving men; but they ought not to be left open to temptation. "Lead us not into temptation," was a prayer which they were constantly putting up; and to prevent ministers from encountering that temptation, which night lead them to abuse the power of the Crown, he would remove from them the authority by which they disposed of those governorships.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, that last year there was a governor of the Isle of Wight, who never held any other military appointment. The governor of Dartmouth was also a gentleman, formerly a member of that House, who had no other military connection whatever. He did not know to what extent such instances might avail, but he held them to be improper.
§ Lord Palmerston
said, it was very true that lord Malmsbury, the governor of the Isle of Wight, never was in the army; but the governorship was conferred on him, in consequence of his giving up a pension of 2,000l. a-year, which had been granted to his father for public services, and which he would have enjoyed in reversion. The situation of governor of the Isle of Wight was worth between 1,00l. and 1,200l. a-year; so that the public were benefited by the transaction, to the 1244 amount of 800l. per annum. As to the propriety of leaving with the Crown the power to reward military merit, he was completely at issue with the hon. members for Worcester and Shrewsbury. The principle they wished to enforce was the most unconstitutional that could be imagined. They admitted that it was right and proper to have rewards for military merit; but they went on to say, that while those rewards were placed in the hands of the Crown they might be misapplied; and, in order to prevent an abuse, they argued that the power of granting such rewards should be taken front the Crown, and given to the House of Commons. Such a doctrine was utterly at variance with the principles of the constitution, and if acted on, must lead to the most dangerous consequences. Be would contend, that it was necessary to place the command of the army in the hands of the Crown, and that it was equally necessary that the reward of military merit should be left with the sovereign. If ever the day came when the power of rewarding military services should be transferred from the Crown to the House of Commons, those who saw so baneful an alteration might Say, that they had witnessed the deathblow of the constitution.
said, could not possibly be inconsistent with the constitution to apply to parliament for the reward of military services, as ministers themselves had proposed so many pensions to military officers at the close of the late war, which pensions too were adjudged with an alacrity that amply proved the disposition of parliament to recognise the justice of such claims.
thought, that unless it was meant to dispute the old constitutional maxim, that the Crown was the fountain of honour, the proposition of the gentlemen opposite could not be consistently maintained. History should show gentlemen the danger of transferring to any other power than that of the Crown, the grant of military, rewards and distinctions. Upon such a transfer, the country must, whatever gentlemen might mean, become an absolute republic, for he was persuaded that they who began by petitioning; would very soon end with demands. Let the House consider how short a time elapsed before the parliamentary army in the reign of Charles the 1st, insisted upon their claims being attended to. This would always be the case when a popular assembly 1245 attempted to distribute military rewards and to keep in its own hands the command of the army. He objected also to this mode of distributing rewards, because he was satisfied that it would be in the end the most expensive mode. It had always been found that that House was disposed to go beyond the measure of reward recommended by the Crown in cases of extraordinary merits.
§ Mr. Hume
said, his object was, to see whether the House would consent to cut down useless offices and sinecures, and leave that just and legitimate influence to the support of the monarchy which it was the intention of the constitution that it should possess. He had never heard, until within the last week that the keeping up of sinecures was necessary to the influence of the Crown. He would always maintain, that that Crown did not deserve to be supported, which could not stand upon the legitimate influence to be derived from the patronage of so vast an expenditure as that which was incurred by the government of this country. With the view of ascertaining how many advocates there were for that system, he would move a reduction in the estimate of 12,344l.
Mr. R. Smith
was of opinion, that, for all practical purposes, the House possessed a due control over the power of the Crown. He would not support the amendment, however useless the places might be, unless it could be proved that they were conferred without any merit on the part of those who held them. Let any instance of a reward conferred without merit be produced, and he would support a proposition for abolishing the place.
§ Mr. W. Smith
said, that would be the most invidious shape in which the question could come before them, as it would he going into the merits of an individual. The Crown was the fountain of honour, it was true; but it could not be said to be the fountain of reward, at least, in the sense of pecuniary recompense. It had the power of nominating to certain offices, but it was the duty of that House, as guardian of the public purse, to control and regulate the amount of pecuniary compensation for public services.
§ The committee divided: For the Amendment, 21; Against it, 80.
|List of the Minority.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Bright, H.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Bernal, R.|
|Belgrave, vis.||Pares, Thomas|
|Crompton, Sam.||Ricardo, D.|
|Crespigny, sir W. De||Russell, lord J.|
|Hume, Jos.||Robinson, sir G.|
|Leycester, R.||Sykes, D.|
|Monck, J. B||Smith, W.|
|Martin, John||Wood, ald.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Davies, col.|
§ On the resolution, "That 137,297l. 11s. 4d., be granted for Full Pay for retired Officers,"
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the whole charge for retired allowances in the year 1819 did not amount to more than 107,000l.; but a new system had been recently adopted. When the garrison battalions were called out, the noble lord selected from the full and half-pay some officers who had never served more than a year, and others who had actually not joined the army for 25 years. These persons were put into the veteran corps, and, after a few months, placed on full pay for the rest of their lives. The number of officers who had been transferred from the full pay and half pay to veteran corps, were 247 officers in all; 68 from the full pay, and 179 from the half-pay. The public burthens from were by this proceeding increased to the amount of 13,870l. a-year. He had no hesitation in declaring it to be illegal, for, by the act of parliament, no man was entitled to enter a veteran corps unless he were unfit for active service. One individual was put on half-pay after three year's service. In the first battalion of the 8th dragoons, an individual, after four year's service, was transferred to a veteran corps which was disbanded the next month. A person, named Prichard, had only served one year. He was appointed to the wagon train in October 1794; and in August 1795, he was put on the half-pay list, where he continued until Jan 1821, when he was transferred to a veteran battalion, which was shortly after disbanded, and he was placed on full pay for life. He should conclude by moving, "That the vote be reduced by he sum of 13,870l."
§ Lord Palmerston
apprehended, that the House must be aware of the grounds upon which officers were appointed to veteran battalions, and also of the circumstances under which they were allowed to retire from such battalions on full pay. The conditions attendant upon such permission was, that they abandoned all claim to fu- 1247 ture promotion in the army. The committee would also remember, that the difference between half pay and full pay, was as 2 to 3 only, and not as 2 to 4. The hon. member seemed to think there was some act of parliament requiring medical certificates of incapacity for service, in all cases where officers were appointed to veteran battalions; but he defied the hon. member to produce it. The fact was, that the hon. member. (Mr. Hume) entirely mistook the effect of the act to which he alluded. The act provided, that where an officer desired to retire from any existing regiment of the line, or existing veteran battalion on full pay, there certificates were necessary; but no certificate was required where the removal was the act a government. The case of Mr. Pritchard was a peculiar one. In the early part of the late war, he had been a resident in Flanders, and, in consequence of considerable services which he rendered to the British army, he had been compelled to fly from that country, and his property had been confiscated by the enemy. Being admitted fro have strong claims upon the English government, he had been appointed, in 1795 or 1796, to a commission in the waggon-train; he had had subsequently been reduced, in consequence of an alteration in that corps; and the commander-in-chief, finding him in indigent circumstances, had, as a reward for his past services, appointed him to a veteran battalion.
The amendment was negatived, and the resolution agreed to. On the resolution, "That 764,200l. be granted for the Charge of Half Pay to Reduced Officers for Great Britain,"
§ Mr. Hume
called the attention of the committee to the present amount of the half-pay estimate. At the sitting of the finance committee in 1817, the charge of the half-pay had been 647,000l., and the committee had promised a probable reduction of, annually, about 7 or 8 per cent. But, instead of any such reduction, the charge had, from year to year, gone on increasing. In 1818 it became 651,000l.; in 1819, 737,000l.; in 1820, 783,000l.; in 1821, 765,000l., and in the present year 808,000l. or 809,000l. Here, instead of diminution there was a regular course of increase. He was quite aware of the answer that would be given to him. It would be said, "The half pay is increased, because you have reduced the full pay." Yes; but he would not admit 1248 the application of that answer. He contended, that the full pay had not been diminished in a proper degree; promotions had taken place, and fresh officers had been brought in. Reduction, no doubt, had taken place in the army, and he gave the noble lord opposite credit for it as far as it went but his complaint was, that it did not go far enough. Then it would be said, that he was never satisfied. But he denied that fact. Let the regulation for the army be only fixed upon the proposition brought forward by a gallant officer with respect to the marines. Let one vacancy in three be a promotion, and let the other two be filled up from the half-pay; and his side of the House would remain silent and content upon the subject. But how was it possible for the country to sit down under the pressure of the existing system? In the course of less than seven years from the end of the war to Jan. 1821, there had been no fewer than 2,553 new commissions: of these, 1,103 had been first commissions, 597 being obtained by purchase, and 506 by gift. It was to this system that the increase of half-pay was to be ascribed; and seeing the chancellor of the exchequer in his place, he would submit a plan to his consideration. Ministers had been endeavouring to lower the interest of the national debt from 5 to 4 per cent. and the scheme which he had to propose would save a great deal of money. Many officers were now, from time to time, leaving the service, finding no doubt, that they had no chance of getting on—that young men were put over their heads, and that their services were neglected: now he (Mr. Hume) desired, that when a lieutenant, for instance, wished to retire, and was to receive 400l. or 600l., or whatever the value might be, for his commission, that the chancellor of the exchequer, who could borrow money at 3 or 4 per cent, should become the purchaser, and pay the 400l. or 600l.borrowed at 3 or 4 per cent, instead of granting an annuity at 13 or 14. The list of officers, he (Mr. Hume) believed, now amounted to 8,000. No such number could be wanted; and a saving of the difference between 3 per cent, and 13 per cent, upon the cost of a commission would be the effect of the system he proposed. Another consideration which he would submit to the noble lord opposite was this: that officers should be prevented from going upon half-pay for life, until they should have gone through 1249 a certain length of service. It was a common practice now for gentlemen to buy commissions with a view to being immediately put on half-pay. He knew that in more than 300 instances commissions had been bought, and the purchasers put on half-pay the same day. The purchase, in fact, of a commission, was the purchase of an annuity. Now, the navy did not pay pensions until after seven years' service; and what reason could be shown why a mere lad, an ensign, receiving his commission, perhaps, as a gift from the commander-in-chief, should, in the same hour, sit down with a provision for life. He doubted how far such gifts could lawfully be made by the commander-in-chief; and was quite sure that, under the circumstances of the country, the power of making them ought to be restrained; but, if the appointments were given, let a regulation be made, that any officer retiring under ten years' service, should receive, not half-pay for life, but merely the price of his commission. If some such regulation were not brought forward by the other side, he should feel it his duty to do so before the close of the session.
§ Sir. J. Hardinge
said, that however frequently he differed from the opinion of the hon. member for Aberdeen, in military matters, he perfectly agreed with him, in respect to the wisdom of taking officers from the half-pay list to active service. There was a statement of that hon. member to which he was desirous of calling the attention of the House. It was one which he had repeatedly made in that House and elsewhere, and particularly at Hereford, and other county meetings. This statement was, that during a period of five years, there had been in the army 2,553 appointments—["Promotions," from Mr. Hume.] —well, promotions; and that if these had been made from the half-pay list, there would have been a saving of 200,000l. annually to the country, and of two millions and a half eventually. He had been surprised at the largeness of this number, and was consequently led to examine into it, when he found that so far from there having been 2,553 promotions, the whole number of actual vacancies which occurred in the five years, was 663. So that the hon. member had actually overstated 1,890 in the number of appointments, and 1,800,000l.in the saving which would have arisen by filling them up form the half-pay list. He would explain how the hon. member had 1250 committed a gross error, which was made up of the most inconceivable collection of errors, that ever any one man committed. He had made his calculations upon this principle:—If a lieutenant-colonel retired, his rank was filled by a major, the majority by a captain, the captain's by a lieutenant, and the lieutenant's by an ensign. This, of course, made only one vacancy to be filled from the half-pay; but, strange to say, the hon. member had taken and calculated upon five, and thus he had made his overstatement of 1890 in numbers, and 1,800,000l. in expense. And this too he had stated openly, in the face of the country. The effect of this must, have been, to prejudice a great portion of the people against the manner in which the army was administered, and against the, valuable services of the commander-in chief. This error of the hon. member was a sufficient test of his general mode of calculation. With respect to the half-pay list, there were but two modes of relieving it either by deaths or casualties. There were 600 reductions last year, and the whole which could be reduced, so as to bring in an actual saving to the public, was about 30 commissions. Was it, he asked, advisable to interfere with the half-pay list, for the value of thirty commissions—to take away hope and honorable ambition, and disgust the army? What, substantial saving would there be in taking away from the commander-in-chief, a fair source of patronage, which, in. point of fact, was a part of the constitutional influence of the Crown?
§ Mr. Hume
said, he had not expresses any wish to take from the Crown the power of appointing officers. All that he contended for was, that a reduction of these objectionable appointments would be a real service to the army. He admitted that the gallant officer had shown that he had made a mistake in his statement, upon a former occasion. But it was the only mistake, in point of statement, he had ever committed in that, House. He had discovered the mistake afterwards, and had mentioned it to his hon. friend the member for Shrewsbury, who recommended him to correct mistake the first favourable opportunity, and this he had resolved to do. With respect to the gallant member's remarks upon county meetings, he begged to say, that he had attended but one county meeting since the time of his making that statement. If hon. members would look 1251 at the number of calculations and statements he had brought before the House, it would be matter of surprise that they were in general so correct. He thought if one in three were accurate to the letter, it was as much as could be fairly expected; but he was persuaded that the hon. members opposite would sleep soundly now that they had detected him in one mistake.
§ Lord Palmerston
said, it appeared, that the hon. member's calculations were made upon the principle adopted in venturing a smuggler's cargo; namely, that if one in. three was safe, there was still a profit. The mistake of the hon. member was no slight one. He had not only stated it in his speech of last June, but had repeated it in December, when addressing the people of Hereford, who had voted him a cask of their generous beverage, for the accuracy of his calculations. It was a pity the hon. gentleman did not discover his mistake before he received the reward, that he might have undeceived them at the time that he received so grateful a token of their approbation. The error was not one of calculation only, but of reasoning and logic. The very document from which he drew his statement, by containing the number of promotions by purchase, showed, that the vacancies could not have been filled up from the half-pay list. The noble lord here detailed the number of commissions given since the peace, the proportion of vacancies filled up from the half-pay list, from purchase, or the free exercise of the patronage of the commander-in-chief, and contended that the commander-in-chief had attended to the claims of the officers on half-pay as much as was consistent with the good of the service, and the just expectations of the other class of officers. During last year, his royal highness had given 25 commissions to civil persons, and 23 to officers on half-pay.
stated, that six weeks ago, on going over the estimates with his hon. friend, he (Mr. H.) declared to him the mistake. He also expressed his surprise that the acuteness of the gentlemen opposite had not discovered the mistake before. It was his advice, that his hon. friend should take the first favourable opportunity of setting himself right with the House. The noble lord thought it most strange that his honourable friend should fall into such an error, because-it was a mistake of logic. Now he (Mr. B.) had 1252 sat long enough in that House to be well convinced that there were no mistakes into which that House fell more frequently than mistakes of logic. The surprise of the noble lord reminded him of the scene in the "School for Scandal," where Mrs. Candour affects such astonishment at finding other persons as wrong as herself. The resolution was agreed to. The chairman reported progress, and asked leave to sit again.