§ CAPTAIN LEICESTER VERNON
said, he rose, pursuant to notice, to call the attention of the House to an Order issued from the Horse Guards materially affecting the organization of the Corps of Royal Engineers. He was sure, when the House recollected that it was to this corps they committed the scientific shore-defence of the empire, hon. Gentlemen would extend their courteous indulgence to him for a few minutes. The Order was addressed to the Deputy Adjutant General of the Royal Engineers, and was thus worded:—Sir—The Inspector General of Fortifications having been relieved of his military duties, I have the honour to signify to you the desire of his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, that you will report to the Adjutant General of the Forces on all matters relating to the corps of Royal Engineers. General Sir John Burgoyne has been apprized of the arrangements on the subject. A. G. WETHERALL, Adjutant General.If it were possible that any Order emanating from the Horse Guards, and bearing the signature of the Adjutant General, could be wanting in regularity, he should say this Order came under that category. It was irregular because it was contrary to the rules of the service to communicate with an inferior officer, excepting through the channel of his superior officer. Now, until the Inspector General of Fortifications was denuded of military command, which could not be until after the promulgation of this Order, he was to all intents and purposes in command, and therefore none of his subordinates could he communicated with excepting through his medium. This fact lay within the official knowledge of the Adjutant General, and, knowing this, the course he adopted was irregular. He would not say it was more irregular, because the Order was directed against a high military position occupied by a general officer of high rank; he would not say it was more irregular, because the Inspector General of Fortifications chanced for the time to be one of the most distinguished soldiers of the day—a soldier who has seen more battles and sieges than any living man; for he did not approach the subject on special but on general grounds. 274 This Order had given great dissatisfaction to the officers of the Royal Engineers. They did not understand what was meant when it was said that the Inspector General of Fortifications, still being Inspector General, was relieved of his military duties. They had yet to learn that fortification was not a military duty. If it were not military, what was it? Was it a civil duty? Was it architecture? Was it building? Was it the greatest science of war presided over by military officers of rank, or was it a mere heaping together of bricks and mortar, which could as readily he ruled by an eminent contractor as by Vauban himself? Recent events in Italy had answered that question. When the so-called victorious armies of France and Sardinia, after the battle of Solferino, stood paralysed on the banks of the Mincio, they were checkmated by the four fortresses which it was the fashion to call the quadrilatêre. That proved that fortification was a military duty. Now, you could not cut the corps of Royal Engineers in two; you could not divide their duties under the different heads of bayonets on the one side and brickbats on the other; you could not deprive the Inspector General of Fortifications of the military control over the military officers under his command without sacrificing the service. In the Royal Commission which sat in 1836, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Henry Hardinge, and Sir James Kempt (then Master General of the Ordnance), gave it in evidence that the duties of the officers of Engineers were so blended that it was impossible to separate them. If you destroyed the unity of the corps, you destroyed the esprit de corps; if you destroyed that, you destroyed the corps altogether. He had said this Order was irregular. He went further; he demurred to its legality. When the office of Master General of the Ordnance was abolished, the duties of the office of the Inspector General were defined by an Order in Council and by Royal warrant, and he doubted the power of any department to make any alteration in this without an Order in Council. The officers of the scientific corps, both Artillery and Engineers, saw with much dissatisfaction that there was a growing disposition to set aside senior officers and to rule both services by junior officers, inferior in position, inferior in rank, inferior in experience. This gave great umbrage to a large body of officers, and he ventured to warn the Secretary for War that the setting at nought the very first clause in 275 Her Majesty's Regulations for the Army—that command belonged of right to the senior officer—was invidious in practice and vicious in principle, because it was subversive of discipline. He would ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he had any objection to lay on the table the correspondence which had taken place on this subject?
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
said, he regretted that the hon. and gallant Officer had thought it necessary to bring this question before the House. The change referred to was, after much consideration, made some time ago (not by the present Government) for the purpose of carrying out the recommendation made, that there should be a division between the personnel and matériel of the army, the former being placed under the Commander-in-Chief and the latter under the Secretary for War. He would not now express an opinion as to the wisdom of such an arrangement, he would merely state that the subject was referred—at all events, it was a part of the subject referred—to a Select Committee now sitting upstairs, under the presidency of his right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham) who were inquiring into the whole question of the organization of the military department. Probably, the hon. and gallant officer was not aware of this fact. [Captain VERNON: "Hear!"] At all events, as the subject was under consideration, he hoped the Question would not be pressed.