said, he rose to bring forward the subject of which he had given notice relating to Distinguished Service Colonels, He might state at the outset that it was not his intention to ask for any expression of opinion on the part of the House; his only desire was that the subject to which his Motion referred might be thoroughly investigated by persons of high character and competent authority. Much misapprehension prevailed on the matter both in and out of the House. The case was somewhat complicated and difficult to explain, but the misapprehension in relation to it had arisen more from the appearance than the reality of its complication. He regretted to be obliged to bring forward this Motion. He had endeavoured, as far as he could, to get it settled outside the House; but he felt that he brought it forward with considerable moral influence, for he found his views were supported by no less than three Secretaries of State and a considerable number of prominent officers. The facts of the case were these:—A Royal Commission was appointed in 1854 which recommended the abolition of general periodical promotion, and the establishment of a new system of promotion from the rank of lieutenant colonel to colonel after three years' service, the interests of those who were then lieutenant colonels being protected. If the recommendation of the Commission had been carried out, it would not have been necessary for him to bring forward his case. A warrant was issued which left out the protection recommended. Lieutenant colonels were promoted who had completed three years in command, passing over existing lieutenant colonels who had not. In 1855, while the Russian war was going on, it pleased Her Majesty, under the advice of the Secretary of State for War and the Commander-in-Chief, and acting on her own Royal prerogative, to select for promotion as aides-de-camp to the Queen a certain number of officers serving in the rank of lieutenant colonels for good service in front of the enemy; and these officers, by the recommendation of the Royal Commission, had been deprived to an undue extent of the position they attained by the promotion which had been conferred upon them. In 1858 the grievance was found to be so great that General Peel, then Secretary of State for War, had 861 appointed another Royal Commission, who recommended that the whole of those lieutenant colonels passed over should be reinstated above those who passed over them by the three years rule. In carrying out that recommendation they thought it would be least invidious to the officers who had been promoted under the three years rule if the commissions of the other officers were antedated four years. That was done, and the effect was that those aides-de-camp who had been promoted for service in the field fell at once, some to the bottom of the list; and some of them, who had been colonels before June 1854, lost all the promotions they had gained by service in the field, and, indeed, might as well have been in bed instead of in the Crimea. No complaint was made that the ninety officers who had been superseded by the three years colonels were restored to their position, which was but a just proceeding; but there were other officers, about sixty in number, who were in no way entitled to take rank above the Queen's aides-decamp. The question was no new question; for as soon as the Commission of 1858 had reported, he applied upon the subject to the gallant General who was then Secretary for War; but he shortly afterwards went out of office and was succeeded by Lord Herbert, who, upon the case being stated to him, admitted that the case of those officers had been overlooked by the Commission of 1858, and immediately proposed their restoration to their rightful position. Lord Herbert, however, proposed to restore them in a manner which was not approved by the Commander-in-Chief—namely, by antedating their appointments to November 28, 1854; but Sir Charles Yorke wrote that the Commission had assumed that all lieutenant colonels who held that rank before June 1854 had claims in the nature of vested interests not to be passed over in any promotions made in consequence of any regulations not then existing. But the Commission of 1858 had made no such assumption, as they were fully aware that the right to promote Queen's aides-de-camp existed. He afterwards moved in that House an Address to the Crown, which was acceded to by the Under Secretary for War, in consequence of which a Committee of general officers was appointed to investigate the subject. He could not but think that that Committee was not quite fairly constituted, and that some other person than Sir Charles Yorke, who had expressed a decided opinion on the case, should have 862 been placed at its head. That Committee made a Report, which did not touch upon the merits or the justice of the case, but came to the conclusion that it was inexpedient to disturb the existing arrangement. As a Member of the Committee, he dissented from the Report, and made a counter Report. Sir George Lewis, whose loss he, in common with the whole House, deeply lamented, put aside Sir Charles Yorke's Report, and adopted a portion of his (General Lindsay's) counter Report. He had suggested, as one mode of meeting the difficulty, that these officers should be made, as their turns came, supernumerary generals, and that the Treasury should be requested to allow them to remain so until they should be absorbed. Sir George Lewis adopted that suggestion, and proposed to the Treasury to pay £11,000 to enable justice to be done to these officers. Lord Herbert, in a letter to the Military Secretary, expressed his opinion that the plan he proposed would be least detrimental to the colonels in the army generally, and at the same time would be fair and equitable to the general service officers. That suggestion, however, found no favour with the Commander-in-Chief, who thought it objectionable that the commissions of these officers should be antedated to a period when the service for which they were promoted had not been performed. Lord Herbert again returned to the charge. He stated in 1860 that these officers appeared to be entitled to some remedial measure, and he suggested that his Royal Highness should reconsider the subject; but the answer of the Military Secretary referred Lord Herbert to the concluding paragraph of his former letter on the subject. The next proceeding was taken by Sir George Lewis. Sir Edward Lugard, writing by his direction, reminded the Treasury of Lord Herbert's opinion, in which Sir George Lewis fully concurred that these officers were justly entitled to some relief, and suggested that the distinguished service officers should be made supernumerary major-generals. That was followed by a minute signed by Mr. Frederick Peel, writing on behalf of the Treasury, who appeared to recommend that these officers should stand next in the list to the three years qualified colonel who was promoted immediately before the Queen's aides-de-camp were selected. Sir George Lewis adopted that suggestion, and wrote to the Military Secretary to say, that if it were inexpedient to antedate the commissions of these offi- 863 cers, they should be promoted to the vacancies on the regular establishment of general officers next after officers who had qualified by the three years rule. The Military Secretary, writing on behalf of the Commander-in-Chief, said that his Royal Highness would not object to the course proposed by the Treasury. Accordingly, in January 1863, Colonel Gordon, of the Royal Engineers, was informed that the case was decided in his favour, and that the Commander-in-Chief would promote these officers to vacancies in the regular establishment. Among those who had appeared before the Commission, to remonstrate against any alteration in favour of the Queen's aides-de-camp, were Colonels George and O'Halloran. He did not ask the House to express any opinion upon the merits of any of these officers. They had to deal with facts, and not with feelings. It had pleased Her Majesty, under responsible advice, to select certain officers as her aides-de-camp with the rank of colonel. He deeply regretted to say, that as Colonels George and O'Halloran had not served in the Crimea, they could not be selected, and others wore chosen who, serving as lieutenant colonels at the time, were placed before them. These two officers, having no claim in June 1855 to be colonels at all, either upon the old or the new system, had no right whatever to be placed above those officers promoted to be aides-de-camp of the Queen. Then there was the case of Colonel Brownrigg, who was one of the distinguished service officers, and who, being an officer in the Guards, said that his promotion in the Crimea was withheld because he was in the Guards. The facts were these:—That Colonel Brownrigg was promoted in November 1855 for distinguished services, and that others had been promoted in June who were his junior officers. The Commander-in-Chief had recommended him to be promoted in November; and unless he could show that he was a colonel before those officers, he had no right to complain. Colonel Brownrigg was opposing his own class, because service staff offificers were promoted before them. If they had any right, he ought not to take his place before those other Queen's aides-decamp who were promoted before them. There was another case which he wished to mention to the House—that of Colonel Gordon, of the Engineers, who by his conduct at Sebastopol had won a world-wide fame. He was promoted to a colonelcy, but for the rank of general he had been 864 twice passed over. He ought to hare been a general a year ago, but in consequence of the proceedings consequent on the Warrant of 1858 he might not have a chance of promotion for four or five years to come if something were not done to remedy the existing evil. Lord Herbert had not known that the interests of those officers would be affected by the Commission of 1858, and he had the authority of General Peel for saying, that if he had known it before he took the warrant of the Queen, he would have referred back to that Commission the case of those officers. He had also the right hon. and gallant General's authority for saying, that if he did not ask the House of Commons to decide on the merits of the question, he would support him in asking for an inquiry. He regretted that a domestic calamity, of which the House were aware, prevented the right hon. and gallant Gentleman from being present to give him his valuable support. The opinion of the noble Lord the present Secretary of State for War was well known, and other distinguished authorities had also pronounced a strong opinion on the subject. He only asked for an inquiry of such a character as would set the question at rest, and do justice between competing claims; and it was important to bear in mind that the inquiry would be a limited one. No court of inquiry would be more fitting to investigate the matter, or to do justice to all parties than a Royal Commission; and to show how strongly it was felt in the army that injustice had been done, he would conclude by quoting a letter from one of the veterans of the Peninsular war—an officer of the highest character and of unblemished honour—which showed what a noble soldier thought of the case. Sir William Napier, writing to one of the officers on the 10th of December 1858, who had brought his case before him, said that he had never heard of such flagrant injustice or shameful treatment, and he recommended his correspondent to address an earnest and respectful memorial to the authorities, stating all the particulars of the case. He thought he had shown sufficient reasons why there should be such an inquiry as he demanded, and he hoped the House would agree with him in addressing the Crown for the Commission he asked for.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously
pleased to appoint a Royal Commission to inquire into the claims of twenty-one Officers of the Army, who were promoted to the rank of Colonel in 1855 and 1856, as Aides de Camp to the Queen, and for distinguished service in the Crimean War, who, by a recommendation of the Royal Commission of 1858, which had reference to another class of Officers, have been deprived, to an undue extent, of the position they attained by the promotion conferred upon them; and to report to Her Majesty whether they are entitled to any redress; and, if so, to recommend in what form such redress should be accorded to them.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that although it was his duty to ask the House not to agree to the Motion which had just been made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, he hoped both he and the House would acquit him, in the very few remarks with which he should have to trouble them, of any intention either to depreciate the services which had been rendered by the officers in question—which services he begged to assure the hon. and gallant Gentleman he fully appreciated—or for one moment to deny that those officers had a claim to their most attentive consideration for certain injuries and losses which they had sustained. He had little to object to in the statement of facts made by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, though at the same time he must remind him that the terms of his Motion did not altogether bear out what he had said at the outset—that he did not wish the House to come to any decision on the matter on that occasion. The Motion towards the end referred to these officers as having been "deprived, to an undue extent, of the position they had obtained by the promotion conferred on them;" and if the House affirmed that statement, the Commission which would have to be appointed would be one not to inquire simply, but it would be directed to inquire with a particular object and intention. Though he had little difference with the hon. and gallant Gentleman as to the facts which he had stated, some of them might certainly be viewed in a different light, and he hoped the House would excuse him if he travelled briefly over them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said that the Commission of 1858 did not take the case of these officers into their consideration. It was true that no mention of them was made in the Report of the Commission, but on referring to the Minutes of Evidence it would be seen that the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself was examined on their case before the Committee, and the following was the Report 866 of the most important part of his examination:—CHAIRMAN.—Do you consider that by that arrangement you will get all those officers to stand in the same relation to one another, just as if the warrant had never been in operation?—No doubt of it. But there is one class of officers who intersect them, and those are officers who have been promoted for distinguished service, and they will occasionally intersect their dates.But if an officer, being a lieutenant colonel, is promoted to colonel for distinguished conduct in the field, he would not carry anybody up with him; would you not consider that an exceptional case?—Yes, in this way; if what we are calling justice was given to those officers who are passed over, they would have been promoted to colonel before the officers who were promoted for distinguished conduct in the field; and therefore they would be above them. In that way the officers who are promoted from lieutenant colonel to colonel will be affected, and in no other way.Therefore, though the case of these distinguished service officers was not mentioned in the Report, the Commissioners did take it into their consideration, and the fact of their having omitted all mention of it in their Report was as completely decisive as if they had devoted a special paragraph of it. The Commission was composed of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, six ex-Secretaries of State, and six distinguished officers of every branch of the service, and it must be admitted that no Commission could have been more competent to inquire into a complicated question like promotion by service or otherwise. It was scarcely possible for the House to conclude that such a Commission would altogether overlook the case of twenty-two distinguished officers, not obscure men, but well known to every Member of the Commission. The next circumstance in the case was the letter of Mr. Sidney Herbert, written on the 24th of September 1859, when it was found that the Commission had taken no action upon it. In that letter Mr. Herbert stated that in his opinion these distinguished officers had a grievance, and proposed to the Commander-in-Chief a mode of redressing that grievance. Sir Charles Yorke replied on the 26th, and in his letter were contained some of the principal and most material arguments against proceeding further in the matter. Sir Charles said—It is, of course, to be assumed that what was then done should have been done in 1854; and if it had, the officers then promoted, being full colonels before the promotion of any of the lieutenant colonels promoted for distinguished service, could not have been passed over by any of them. Their claim having been thus admitted, and deemed 867 strong enough to justify so extraordinary a measure as that which was adopted, in order to remedy what was considered to have been an injury done them, it is difficult to reconcile with justice to them the placing subsequently any officers over them whose claim to promotion did not exist before the following year.He then proceeded to state a material objection to the plan which Mr. Herbert had proposed—Nine of them were lieutenant colonels prior to the 20th of June 1854, and would therefore have been promoted with the other lieutenant colonels in the brevet given in that year, standing exactly in the places that they now do; and being full colonels previous to the war, could have obtained no further promotion, unless their services should have been of that distinguished character as would have justified their advancement to the rank of major general from a very low position in the list of colonels. Five others were not lieutenant colonels on the 28th of November 1854, and four more were not at that time majors, The plan therefore proposes to antedate the commissions of lieutenant colonel of the first five, and of major and lieutenant colonel of the four last, in order to make it possible to antedate their colonel's commission to the 28th of November 1854.Mr. Herbert again called the attention of the Horse Guards to the subject on the 25th of July 1860, and on the 7th of August a reply was received stating that His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief was not satisfied with the convenience of the proposed change. The next important step was the Committee of 1861, appointed by the War Office, chiefly on the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman. The gallant General had objected to the constitution of the Committee. He said that Sir Charles Yorke, having given a strong opinion against the claims of these officers, ought not to have been a Member of the Committee; but surely if that were a reason against his appointment, the hon. and gallant Gentleman himself, who had given quite as strong an opinion in favour of their claim, ought not to have been appointed on it. It was natural, that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman was appointed as an advocate of these officers, Sir Charles Yorke was equally eligible as an advocate of the views of the Horse Guards. The hon. and gallant Gentleman said the Committee in their Report did not go into the merits of the case. That, however, was entirely a matter of opinion. The Committee had all the evidence before them. They had the letter of Sir Charles Yorke before them, and they stated very clearly the reasons of the decision to which they came. On the 22nd of May Sir George Lewis wrote a 868 letter to the Treasury, making a proposal, which was rejected by the Treasury, who were not willing to sanction an expenditure of some £11,000. They suggested another mode by which the same object might be obtained. The Commander-in-Chief then gave an unwilling assent to the proposal made by the Treasury, and threw the responsibility of it on the War Office. His Royal Highness showed that he was not prejudiced against these officers, but that he was willing to relieve them, if he could consistently with his public duty. The assent of the Commander-in-Chief was followed by many interviews between his Royal Highness and the Secretary of State, the result of which was that on the 7th of February General Foster wrote to the Secretary of State, stating that the Commander-in-Chief could not entertain the proposal. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had referred to the case of Colonel Gordon, as having been taken into consideration, but no sort of promise whatever had been made in that case. Sir Edward Lugard's letter contained no promise to Golonel Gordon that anything would be done for him, and therefore it was perfectly open to the Secretary of State and Commander-in-Chief to subsequently alter their decision. Within the last few days papers had been laid on the table of the House which were before, the Secretary of State and Commander-in-Chief during those conferences, which had a large share in influencing them in the decision to which they came. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had referred to one or two of them, and he would entreat the patience of the House while he read one at length. The letter was from Colonel Yorke—11, Gloucester Terrace, St. George's Road,Pimlico, Jan. 17th, 1863.Sir,—Hearing a rumour that I am in danger of being superseded by twelve junior officers, may I be permitted to compare my case with that of the senior officer who thus claims precedence over me?I find I am the senior officer in the army disabled during the Crimean War, and beg to state that I was lieutenant colonel in command of my (late) regiment for a considerable period prior to the war. On the 25th of October 1854 I was disabled at the head of my regiment, and ten days subsequently the officer I allude to was likewise disabled, but as junior major of his. We were therefore both incapacitated from further active service in the field. The officer I allude to, however, was specially promoted three times since he was disabled, whereas I received no promotion beyond my just claims on the Royal Warrant of the 6th of October 1854.May I therefore beg the favour of your consideration in my behalf with his Royal Highness 869 the Field-Marshal Commanding-in-Chief to spare me from being thus superseded?—I have, &c.JOHN YORKE,Colonel, late 1st Dragoons.The Military Secretary, Horse Guards,Whitehall, S. W.Another letter, from Colonel Brownrigg, was too long to read; but that letter and others received in the interval between the decision and the reconsideration by the War Office were such as to show the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State that such a change would create widespread dissatisfaction in the army. It seemed to him that the hon. and gallant Member wished the House to understand that the distinguished service officers had derived no benefit from their promotion. [General LINDSAY said he never wished to lead the House to understand anything of the kind.] He certainly understood the hon. and gallant Member to say that they might as well have been in bed. [General LINDSAY: Hear, hear!] Sir T. Troubridge gained 109 steps. He was a major when wounded. He was made lieutenant colonel on the 9th of March 1855, and in ordinary course he would not have been lieutenant colonel until the 9th of March 1858. Colonel Gordon gained 499 steps. He was made lieutenant colonel on the 1st of August 1856, whereas in ordinary course he would not have been lieutenant colonel until the 1st of August 1861. Although the rewards had not been so great as it was intended these distinguished service officers should receive, they had not been wholly neglected, and there was a difference of opinion among themselves whether the change desired by the hon. and gallant Gentleman would be of unmixed advantage. It was not worth while for an ambiguous benefit to disturb the Army List, which had now been undisturbed for five years, and to introduce a feeling of uncertainty and confusion. For these reasons he submitted that it would be better not to reopen the question, although, on the part of the Secretary of State and on the part of the Commander-in-Chief, he was authorized to say that they had no objection to a Commission to re-investigate that which had been already very fully investigated, if it were the desire of the House of Commons that a Commission should be appointed.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Sir, as I had the honour to be a Member of the Commission which sat in 1854, and as my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (General Peel) is prevent- 870 ed from being present by a domestic affliction, I hope the House will allow me to intrude upon it for a few minutes. I am sure I need not say that it was not the intention of the Commission to do injustice to any class of officers. Nor, indeed, would any injustice have been done if the recommendations of the Commission had been carried out. But the warrant which was drawn up was not in accordance with the views of the Commission. The result was that some officers found that injustice was done to them, and their claims were submitted to a Commission in 1858, which sat when my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire was Secretary for War. I think the noble Lord was incorrect in saying the Commission was quite aware of the claims of those distinguished service officers, whose claims have been brought forward with such perseverance and ability by my hon. and gallant Friend. The noble Lord admits that the Report of the Commission does not touch the case of these officers, and my right hon. and gallant Friend who was then Secretary of State for War, if he was here, would tell you, that had he been conscious that such would have been the effect of the Report of the Commission, he would have referred the subject back again to the Commission for further consideration. The noble Lord has made no answer to this case. His speech has not touched it, and I appeal to the House whether it is a light consideration, that officers who have gallantly served their country with such distinction as to receive rewards and honours, should feel aggrieved by the conduct of the War Department. And who are those officers? I will mention only two of them. The first is a most gallant officer, who some time since was a distinguished Member of this House—I mean Colonel Percy Herbert. He left this House because, though but a young man, his services have been so conspicuous that he has been called on for employment by the Horse Guards. He has served his country with the greatest distinction in Africa, in the Crimea, and in India. Colonel Percy Herbert gave evidence before the Commission which took these complaints into consideration, that a number of officers, over whom he had been promoted in the field, were afterwards put over his head. Another officer has been already mentioned—that very distinguished man, who has been mutilated in the service of his country, Sir Thomas Tronbridge. Many hon. Members 871 will remember seeing Sir Thomas Troubridge pass in his wheeled chair before Her Majesty, when she distributed the Crimean medals at tile back of the Horse Guards. He passed in that way because both his feet had been shot off. Now, it is no light matter that such men should labour under a sense of injustice. All they ask for at the hands of the Government is inquiry. But if these men are suffering under a sense of injustice, the question will immediately arise whether that feeling is well founded or not. Have they any good reason for thinking so? What is the answer to that question? And let me again remind the noble Lord that it is a question which he has passed over. The answer to that is, that their case has been recognised by three successive Secretaries of State. General Peel not only says that the case is a case of injustice, but that he never would have taken that warrant to the Queen if he had known its effect. And who are the other two? They are men whose memory Her Majesty's Government would not wish to treat with disrespect. The one is the late Lord Herbert; the other is that distinguished man whom, I am sorry to say, we have just lost. Was Lord Herbert a man likely to arrive at an unsound conclusion on this point? Was Sir George Lewis likely to be led into an erroneous opinion about it? What were the opinions of Lord Herbert and of Sir George Lewis? In a letter written by Sir Edward Lugard, in the name of Sir George Lewis, he says—It was the opinion of Lord Herbert—in which Sir George Lewis fully concurs—that these officers had reasonable grounds of complaint.And immediately afterwards General Lugard says that Sir George Lewis, though fully alive to the inconvenience which might be occasioned, is nevertheless of opinion that these officers are justly entitled to some relief. Well, what is the answer of the noble Lord? That it would be inconvenient to disturb the Army List. That is the only answer that we get in the case of men who have bled for their country. Now, I repudiate such an idea, and I tell the noble Lord I do not believe that there are a dozen men to be found in the army who would not rather have the Army List disturbed than that injustice should be done to these officers. This may be a complicated matter, but the issue before the House is a simple one. There are twenty-one distinguished men who 872 say, "You have done us injustice," and there are three successive Secretaries of State all acknowledging the justice of the plea; but all the answer the Government can give is that it would be inconvenient to disturb the Army List.
§ MR. BUXTON
said, he had looked very carefully into the case; and while there could be no question whatever as to the grievance, the only question was whether the injustice could be properly remedied. There were upwards of twenty officers in the Crimean War who by their bravery and skill had obtained great distinction, and the Queen was advised to make them colonels. Two years afterwards a very large body of officers were also made colonels, but their commissions were antedated by four years, and the consequence was that the men who had been first made colonels found themselves planted at the bottom of the list. It was easy to understand what a blow that must have been to their professional prospects. In a case of such extreme importance as that those who had distinguished themselves, and had been promoted for merit, should not be deprived of the advantages of the promotion which the Queen had given them, there were grave public considerations which ought to induce the Government to consent to the Motion.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he happened to have been a Member of the Royal Commission of 1858, and he felt bound to state that in the investigation, which was presided over by Lord Herbert, and was carried on with great care, the question of these officers he believed never came before the Commission, and they were lost sight of in the Report. He hoped, therefore, the inquiry which was asked for would be granted, as, if the decision of the Commission of 1858 were right, it might be re-affirmed; and if wrong, it might very properly be set aside. Those distinguished officers were very deserving of the rewards which had been given them, but they were deprived of those rewards by having a vast number of officers put over their heads. The least the Government could do was to have the matter reconsidered by a subsequent Commission, and then no one would have grounds of complaint.
, said, he was rejoiced to observe that the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War (the Marquess of Hartington) was too honest to undertake very seriously the task of making the worse ap- 873 pear the better cause. He (Mr. Kinglake) had made it his duty to look a little into the question, and he could honestly say, the moment the mass of technicality which covered it was removed, no one could doubt for an instant the justice of the claim. The clearness of the case might be seen in this way. It would have been possible to describe the effect of what was done by the Warrant of 1858 in two ways. It might have been said either that the 140 colonels who were then placed over the 21 should have been raised in the Army List; or the 21 colonels—to use a public school phrase—should be "turned down." The form of expression that was used referred to the exalting of the 140 officers, and therefore the objectionable character of the transaction did not appear. But had the other form of expression been used, had it been proposed that Sir Thomas Troubridge and the other officers in the same position should be degraded in the Army List, he would venture to affirm that not a man in the country would be found to support the proposal. They must not be told that it was a case of military technicality. It was not. It was true his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief had been eon-suited, but the wrong had been done by a Secretary of State, who had admitted that he had done it. Under the circumstances, he trusted that the Government would act according to the all but complete concession which was afforded by the noble Marquess the Under Secretary for War, and assent to the Motion, with the omission of the three objectionable words, which, as being argumentative only, were not necessary to give effect to the gallant Officer's intention. He admitted that there was a good deal of difficulty in repairing errors of the kind, but that was a difficulty which must be met by the Royal Commission. He believed that there was one simple mode of rectifying it, without endangering the position of any other officer—namely, by granting so small a sum of money as £11,000; and he was told that the only objection which the Treasury had felt to asking the House to grant that sum was, that the injustice was so obvious that it ought to have been remedied in the other way.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, there are two things which I think it desirable to avoid, if possible. One is, the habitual interference of this House with the detailed management of the army, because 874 that is no part of the constitutional functions of the House of Commons, and, if continued, must naturally lead step by step to very objectionable results; and the other is, the presence in the public mind of any circumstances which give rise to the opinion that injustice has been done to any class of deserving public servants. I will not enter into the details of the question. I think that what was stated by my noble Friend shows, that when the matter was last looked into by a Committee of officers in 1861, the majority—I believe all the Members, with the exception of the hon. and gallant Member—were of opinion that it was not advisable to disturb the existing arrangement. At the same time, I can quite understand that the parties concerned and their numerous friends, interested in regard to all that concerns them, and impressed with the distinguished services which they have rendered, may leave, not only upon the minds of hon. Members of this House, but also of the public, the impression that some wrong has unintentionally been done which will admit of a remedy. The course which I should venture to suggest to the hon. and gallant Member opposite, would, in my opinion, meet both objections. I should propose to him to withdraw his Motion, thereby avoiding committing this House to an interference with the detailed military administration of the army; and, if he adopts that course, I will, on the part of Her Majesty's Government, engage that a Commission shall be issued. I trust that that will show that Her Majesty's Government have no desire to avoid inquiry, and have no wish to resist any suggestion which is founded upon a sense of injustice, whether rightly or wrongly entertained. Whatever that Commission may recommend will probably meet the merits of the case, as regards these officers, on the one hand, without doing injustice to the corresponding claims of other officers on the other.
§ MR. DISRAELI
If I understand the speech of the noble Lord, in substance the Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend is conceded, and I am sure I never heard a case recommended to the consideration of Parliament on a clearer principle of justice, or one which so completely enlisted the sympathies of both sides of the House. I should not have risen had it net appeared to me that the advice given by the noble Lord might really place the House in an inconvenient and almost ridiculous posi- 875 tion, and I must say to a certain extent even the Government itself. The constitutional practice, entirely recognised, that it is not the business of Parliament to interefere with the Government of the army—is one which I am sure no one will dispute; but surely the noble Lord does not lay it down as a principle that Parliament, and especially the House of Commons, which is called upon yearly to consider the Army Estimates and to Vote large sums for the maintenance of the army, cannot exercise its privilege in a constitutional manner of expressing its opinions upon any point connected with the management and organization of the army. It is necessary, and the practice of this House has provided, that this privilege of Parliament should be exercised with a due deference to the prerogative of the Crown. And how has it made that salutary provision? In this way. If it be the opinion of the House of Commons that some arrangement with respect to the management of the army is faulty, it cannot, and it does not, presume to pronounce a decision to that effect by a Resolution of this House, but it humbly approaches the Throne with a respectful and loyal Address praying Her Majesty to exercise her prerogative, and to take those steps which may bring about the result which the House desires. There is therefore nothing unconstitutional in proposing an Address to the Crown on the subject of military affairs, and requesting Her Majesty to deign to interfere to bring about the result which the wisdom of Parliament suggests. But it is not constitutional, when the House of Commons unanimously agrees that a grievance exists in the management of the army, that it has not been redressed, and that it ought to be redressed, and at the same time confesses and announces, under the advice of the leader of the House and the chief adviser of the Crown, that this House has not the power of redressing the grievance, that they should be silent, with the secret understanding that the Government is to take some step behind the scene that will accomplish the redress which the House has acknowledged to be absolutely necessary. The advice which the noble Lord has given to the House to my mind is erroneous. The course which my hon. and gallant Friend has adopted is a constitutional course; it is the only decorous mode in which the result which every Member on both sides of the House 876 wishes to be accomplished can be really effected. The feeling of the House having been evidenced by the discussion which has taken place, the Government have conceded the object of the Motion; and I should not have interfered had I not thought that the House was taking a course which they might regret hereafter, and that the Government was adopting a step which I do not think wise or dignified. I think that Her Majesty's Government will upon second thoughts feel, that if redress is to be given, there is only one constitutional manner in which this House can act, and that is by humbly placing ourselves at the foot of the Throne, and begging Her Majesty to exercise her prerogative, and redress those grievances which Her Majesty's subjects have experienced, and which Her Majesty's Government have acknowledged.
said, in bringing forward his Motion, he considered he had adopted the most constitutional form of procedure. He had not asked the House to decide the question, but he had moved an Address to the Crown, the legitimate authority, from whence sprang command in the army. With regard to the offer made by the noble Lord, he had had the pleasure of sitting opposite to him for seventeen years, and during that time he did not think he had ever seen anything in the noble Lord's conduct which could at all warrant him in declining the pledge the noble Lord had offered. Therefore, in faith that the noble Lord would, on his own authority, appoint a Commission, he would be most happy to withdraw his Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.