HC Deb 21 February 1865 vol 177 cc515-35

rose to call attention to the present mode of recruiting for the army, not merely with a view to the difficulties now found of keeping up the strength of the army, but also of placing it on a sounder and better footing in case of war. The military strength of the nation depended not only on keeping the army in a state of efficiency in time of peace, but on the means of recruiting it to whatever extent was necessary in case of war. The efficient power of recruiting was the best guarantee for peace, because it enabled us at short notice to be ready for war. Every one who compared the military condition of this country with that of Continental nations must see that the question of recruiting was considered the weak point in the English army. Alone of all the great Powers of Europe we relied on voluntary enlistment in opposition to conscription. There could be no doubt that every Continental nation looked with confidence to the result of a lengthened recruiting as a considerable difficulty to the commanding strength of our army in time of war. In other countries where conscription existed reserve after reserve could be called into the field. In France, for instance, the strength of the army was 400,000, but it could easily be increased to 700,000. It was only necessary to call out one class after another, and the effect was immediately produced. He was justified in saying that military men had great doubts whether the present system of recruiting would be sufficient to keep up the strength of the army required for home, colonial, and Indian service. In consequence of the number of men who took their discharge on limited enlistments, great difficulty was found even now; but the difficulty would be much greater in a time of pressure and of war. In the Crimean war, and during the Indian mutiny the difficulty of recruiting the army was extreme. To what did our system amount? Recruiting sergeants were sent into the towns, chiefly the great towns, to pick up a casual acquaintance with the waifs and strays of society, and induce them to enter the army partly through destitution and want of employment, and, in very many instances, through the inducement of drink. From these sources the army was recruited in time of peace; but in time of war these sources were soon exhausted. The bounty was then raised, and that enabled us to get still farther the sweepings of the town; but when we had exhausted that class we were very nearly at the end of our resources. We could not fall back on the agricultural class, whom we could not induce to enter the army; and what was more, we found that the very increase of our bounties and the exertions we had made produced evils of another class. The Times gave an account of the organized system of enlistment and desertion which had been found to exist in North America; but it was supposed that nothing of the kind ever happened in this country. That was a mistake. During the Crimean war and the Indian mutiny a very similar state of things prevailed. A Parliamentary Return showed that out of 90,000 soldiers enlisted in little more than a year, 20,000 deserted. In fact, the crimps who kept the taverns at which recruits were obtained put them up to the trick of deserting, and the proceeding was reduced to a regular system. It was, however, brought under the notice of the War Office, and measures were taken to check it. The reason of the evil was manifest. It was said that our system of enlistment caught only the idle classes of the towns. In fact it was, especially in time of war, only another form of the pressgang, with drink as its instrument instead of violence. Our system of recruiting did not bring us at all in contact with the steady agricultural population, it did not bring home to their knowledge the real position of a soldier; and, therefore, did not strike its roots into the country from which the class we recruited did not come, and to which they did not at the expiration of their service return. Yet much had been done to improve the condition of the soldier. At least a penny a day had been added to his pay in the shape of rations; he was well lodged, well educated, well treated in every way. In fact, the position of a soldier was really a very desirable one for a young man in a rural district with a turn for that sort of life. In that capacity he was paid as well as, if not better than, most agricultural labourers. But, notoriously, this was not the common belief. Fathers of families, and all the respectable part of the community, still looked with horror on the army as a career, and the recruiting sergeant never thought of going into the country for men, because he had little chance of getting them there. He recollected one who had much practical experience on the subject being asked why he did not seek recruits in his own village. His reply was, "If I' listed any of the lads, I should have to be off very quickly, for the place would soon be too hot to hold me." Now it is to be observed that the principle of local enlistment, that is, enlisting for a particular service, and seeking recruits for such particular service in certain fixed localities, is one already recognized in our service; and which has produced the best results. All men are enlisted for a particular battalion; and the special character and historic recollections of each battalion are carefully preserved. An Irishman enlists to be a Connaught Ranger in the 88th, or a Welch Fusilier in the 23rd, or a Cameronian Highlander in the 79th, and the value of forming a local connection between a line regiment and a certain district, in obtaining numerous and good recruits is shown by the fact that such regiments find it much easier than others to keep up their numbers; men enlist freely when they know that their neighbours or relatives have gone into the regiment before them; thus certain districts always supply recruits to the Guards, and he (Mr. O'Reilly) knew of the families of small farmers in the north of England, some of whose members had for generations succeeded each other in those regiments. So, too, at the close of the Crimean war, when many regiments were below their strength, such localized regiments as the 88th Connaught Rangers and 18th Royal Irish numbered 1,800 and 2,000 men. Again, the principle of using the militia as a feeder to the line, especially in time of war, is one which we have recognized and adopted. Napier, the historian, had truly said that the militia (with the ballot) was a conscription with two links in the chain. The militia was bound to the country by local ties, its character was familiar to all, and hence there was no reluctance on the part of farm labourers and others to join it. Having entered the militia, the men had opportunities of seeing the life of the regular troops, with whom they might be quartered, and there was then no difficulty in inducing them to enlist. But how were volunteers too often procured? He knew one instance, and he feared it was far from a solitary one, when a whole regiment of militia was confined to barracks for a week, the men being discharged from all duty, and unlimited supplies of spirits being permitted to pass into the barracks. At the end of the time the regiment gave a quota of intoxicated volunteers to the line; but the means by which they were obtained was the more pernicious and unjustifiable, because he believed nearly as many recruits might have been got in an honest way, without any sacrifice of character on their part or on the part of the country. In another case, the colonel of a militia regiment said to the authorities, "Do not demoralize my men; tell me the condition of the regiments which you want to fill up, and let me talk it over quietly with the men." He did so, and the result was, that when the regiment next paraded, on the reverse flank of every company stood the volunteers ready to be marched off to the regiments they had chosen. There was one other practical remark to be made with regard to our present mode of obtaining volunteers from the militia; or rather the mode practised when in time of war the militia is embodied. The practice was to send sergeants from a number of different line regiments to a militia regiment, and each endeavoured to obtain volunteers for his own regiment; the consequence was unseemly competition, rival stories; and as the volunteers went in very small numbers to each regiment no connection was kept up with the militia regiment, and others were not induced to follow. On the other hand the happiest results had been attained where, in a few cases, efforts had been made to direct all the volunteering from a militia battalion to a particular line battalion; a number of men had gone in a body to their new regiment; a connecting link was established, and a steady flow of volunteers for that particular corps set. Before he passed from this branch of the subject he wished to notice one small but very important point which required amendment. If a militiaman enlisted directly into the line, he received a certain sum of money; but if he deserted and then entered the line, concealing his connection with the militia, he received 18s. more. He was aware that, in the balance of accounts, the bounty was the same in each case; but it would be well to do away with all misapprehension on the subject, and to encourage men to pass openly and honourably from the militia into the line. Another principal which had been deliberately adopted in our system of recruiting was that of limited enlistment, and increased rewards for good conduct and length of service. And he believed that it would be found practically impossible to return to the twenty years system although it was service for that term of years which they wanted to secure. Experience, however, showed that enlistment for twelve years instead of ten, whilst it did not chock enlistment, greatly facilitated re-enlistment as the man felt he had served more than half his time for pension. He had said that we recognized the principle of local enlistment and local associations, and that the local militia having its ramifications throughout the country should be a feeder to the line; and that we also recognized the principle of limited enlistment and increased incentives to re-enlistment. Now his proposal was this, to combine and carry out these two principles to their full development, and that in the following way. He must premise that he would speak now only of the infantry of the line. Let each regiment of the line have attached to it a special militia regiment. In point of fact this connection now nominally existed, for most of our regiments had originally been raised from local forces, and out of the 100 regiments of which our army consisted, up to the Indian amalgamation, eighty-four had a local designation, and only sixteen had not. Let the recruiting for the line regiment be carried on as much as possible from, and through, its own militia regiment; thus, let the Northumbrian fusiliers seek their recruits through the Northumberland militia, and so on; at the end of their twelve years' service will come for the men the question of re-enlistment; let it be proposed to them to re-enlist for five years more service in the same regiment of the line, and after that six years more in their own regiment of militia, and that then they should be entitled to a pension. It must be observed that this principle of two years service in the militia counting as equivalent for pension to one year's service in the line, is already adopted with regard to militia sergeants. The practical effect would be that the authorities of militia regiments would be induced to supply recruits for the line, if they knew where the men were going, and had a reasonable hope of their ultimately returning. As matters at present stood, the interests of the two branches of the service were almost antagonistic—at all events, they were certainly not identical. The officers of the militia regiments, with the exception of the sergeants who gained a small pecuniary advantage, had no inducement at all to further volunteering into the line, for when a man once left them, they could not trace him, nor could they feel any pride in following his future career. If his plan were adopted, he believed the result would be this:—A young labourer, artisan, or countryman would enlist probably at about eighteen into his own militia regiment; at twenty he would possibly volunteer into the line; and at the end of his twelve years' service he would be thirty-two. He would re-enlist for five years, and at the end of which time he would be thirty-seven; when he would return to his own county and continue in his own militia regiment, whence he would send up a succession of volunteers to the regiment with which he had always been connected. A country gentleman had complained to him only the day before that if young men in the country wanted to enlist, they could only do so by drifting into the towns, and coming into contact with the scum of our city populations. This was the main proposal he desired to bring forward. It had this advantage—that it not only afforded an easy means of recruiting in times of peace, but in time of war the whole efforts of the militia regiments would be directed towards keeping up the strength of their regiment, and thus supporting its honour in the field. He anticipated two objections to his plan. It might be objected, in the first place, that it would tend to localize the regiments too much, and make them too clannish; but to this objection he did not attach much importance. He believed that there was not a single Englishman in either the 88th, the Connaught Rangers, or the 18th Royal Irish, and there were several Scotch and Irish regiments almost wholly consisting of men from those parts of the United Kingdom. Indeed, he believed that most of them came from particular districts, but he did not know that any inconvenience had arisen from that circumstance. It might also be thought unadvisable to compel the soldiers to serve any part of their time in the militia regiments; but he would call the attention of the House to the fact that he did not propose that this service should be compulsory; simply that it should be proposed to the man, so that if he pleased he could accept the alternative. A man might not unnaturally wish, when grown up and married, to return to his militia regiment for the purpose of serving out the time which would entitle him to the receipt of a pension. He would now make one or two remarks upon other obstacles which hindered successful recruiting. One of these was undoubtedly the question of marriage. Every officer must be acquainted with the difficulty of inducing men to re-enlist. A man would generally enlist about twenty, and at thirty or thirty-two, when he would have the option of re-enlisting for ten years, he would know that in all probability he would not be allowed to marry during that period—for only six men in a company were allowed to marry. The question of allowing men of good character and steady conduct to marry after their re-enlistment was one, he believed, entitled to consideration. The Return of the comparative rates of sickness in married or unmarried soldiers would show that, on the score of economy itself, an alteration in the present state of things might be desirable. The great difficulty in the way of increasing the number of married soldiers was, of course, the question of transporting the men with their wives and families to distant colonies and to India, and for that reason he did not press for any great alteration in the present state of things; but, at the same time, it might be extended in cases where regiments were known to be destined for a lengthened home service. It was also well worth consideration whether it would not be advisable to increase in some degree the pay of the re-enlisted men. Many officers of experience in the service would find men grumbling at receiving, after a service of twelve years, the same pay as a raw recruit. In this respect the system which he suggested was already at work in the navy. He did not believe that the adoption of that suggestion would largely increase the Estimates, while it would not only encourage re-enlistments, but would tend to raise the character and status of our soldiers, and improve their moral and social condition. So much had been done already to improve the moral and social condition of the soldier that he was anxious to put our system of recruiting on such a footing that these advantages should be known to the people, and that recruiting should not be left in the hands of crimps and pot-house keepers. He had no wish to enlarge on the present difficulties of recruiting, because the more important matter was to set our house in order now in time of peace, and not to have the necessary changes forced on us in time of pressure, as was the case during the Crimean war, when we were obliged to take boys of almost any age and size, in the hope that they might grow into soldiers. Every year recruiting became more difficult, and there was one town in Ireland he knew where recruits were formerly obtained by the hundreds, but where now only thirty two had been made in four months. As the subject had been considered by a Commission two years ago, he had a difficulty in pressing for a definitive inquiry, but he felt so strongly the necessity of making the militia a steady feeder of the line, and the line a steady support of an army of reserve, which we had not at present, for it was admitted that the experiment of the Reserve Force was a failure, that he had ventured to place this Motion on the paper. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving the Address for a Commission to inquire into the subject.


seconded the Motion.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the subject of Recruiting for the Army,"—(Mr. O'Reilly.)


in supporting the Motion, said, that having served in two regiments which had that advantage, he was in a position to bear testimony to the importance of having regiments connected with different localities. He knew of a soldier in one of those regiments who, being minded to desert, in order that the fact might not come to the knowledge of his friends and relatives, had volunteered into another regiment and then deserted from that. He was sorry to remark a tendency to discontinue the practice of allowing particular regiments to wear distinctive badges or ornaments. Not that regiments which had not distinctive badges were in a position of inferiority to the others, but it was a great thing for a regiment to have something to swagger about. It was a help, too, to the recruiting sergeant to be able to say, "Our regiment is the only one which has a right to such and such a badge,"—it made the recruit fancy that it must be a fine regiment to join, and it promoted the esprit de corps, which was of such importance to the army. He believed, too, that it would be a great help to recruiting if increased pay were given to lance-corporals.


said, he thought it impossible to over-rate the importance of the subject, and the House was much indebted to the hon. Member for Longford for the manner in which he had brought it forward. The recruiting of the army, he believed, had now come almost to a dead lock. The ten years' service system was a complete failure; it entailed upon the country an enormous expense, and occasioned great inconvenience to all parties concerned. As the hon. Member truly observed, this, after all, was a finance question. Looking at the wages which our operatives and labourers were now receiving, it was impossible that the soldier should not need an increase of pay. It was natural, too, that the soldier should be discontented at finding that at the end of ten years' service, in which he was not only exposed to the enemy's bullet, but was called upon to perform more arduous duties in more deadly climates than the soldier of any other European army, his services were rewarded by exactly the same rate of pay as that given to the recruit who had joined only the day before. He (Colonel North) had last year asked for a Return of those men who were entitled to their discharge in 1864. That Return was refused, on the ground that it would not show the number of those who, being entitled to, had not claimed their discharge. He had, however, that evening given the noble Lord the Secretary for War notice that it was his intention to move for a Return, not only of those who were entitled to their discharge in 1864, but also of those who had availed themselves of their right to a discharge. He would also include in his Motion a Return of the expenses incurred in bringing the discharged men home from India and the other foreign stations, and likewise the expenses incurred up to the very moment of their discharge. He believed that the people of this country were by no means aware of the enormous cost which our present military system entailed. He considered that it would be a much more satisfactory arrangement to extend the period of enlistment to eighteen years instead of ten, and to give the same pension at the expiration of that time as was now given at the end of the twenty-one years' service. Our soldiers were enlisted generally at the age of eighteen years. At the end of his service of eighteen years, though he might be a little broken down in health, he might yet he young and strong enough for some civil employment. In corroboration of what the hon. Member (Mr. O'Reilly) had said as to the difficulty of getting recruits during the Crimean war, it was well known that not only had the recruiting officers been told to take boys of any age, but that the medical officers generally had received instructions not to be too particular as to the health of the men who offered themselves for the service. The consequence was that many delicate boys were enlisted, whose health broke down in the first year of the Crimean war; and in all parts of the country might be seen men whose constitutions had been thus undermined, and who had been discharged on pensions of 6d. a day after eighteen months or two years' service. These men were standing obstacles to recruiting. He thought that if a man knew he was to be enlisted for eighteen years he would have no objection to enter the service; but it was by no means encouraging, the reflection that, after ten years' service he was entitled to his discharge, perhaps, in the prime of life, upon a wretched pension of one shilling a day! The reckless and discreditable marriages which soldiers were permitted to enter into proved also most injurious to the interests of the service. He thought it would be well if leave to marry were withheld from the soldier until the first ten years of his service had expired. As he (Colonel North) had before observed, this was a finance question. The pay of the soldier should be increased according to his service; for it was sheer nonsense to suppose that men could be induced to expose their lives to bullets and bad climates for the pay of one shilling a day! There was no respectable manufacturer or other employer in the country who would hesitate for a moment to increase the pay of those who had faithfully served them according to their length of service. If the Government would but increase the soldier's pay at the end of ten years' service by twopence a day, it would amount only to an addition of £3 0s. 10d. in the year. By the adoption of such a system they would probably obtain the best men for the service, and such as could be trusted under any circumstances whatever. Many of the hon. Gentleman's suggestions were well worthy of consideration, and although there were some which it would be difficult to carry out, in consequence of the length of time our regiments have to serve abroad, he thought the hon. Gentleman was entitled to the thanks of the army for the manner in which he had brought the subject under the notice of the House. The right hon. and gallant Member for Huntingdon (General Peel), the late Secretary for War, last year called the attention of the House to the injurious effects of this ten years' service system; and he had himself received letters from experienced officers serving in all parts of the world, saying that it had been the ruin of their regiments.


said, he should like to suggest a question. The three gallant Officers who had addressed the House had stated that a great difficulty was experienced in getting soldiers. Now, he thought that every Member of the House must frequently have seen able-bodied men with medals on their breasts sweeping crossings, and filling the lowest and meanest occupations, and even begging—men, too, who were evidently fit to serve as soldiers. He wanted to know the reason of such a state of things. It was a very painful spectacle to any one who respected the military profession, and he thought it showed there was something wrong in the system or these men would not have left the service, or, if they had done so, they would have joined it again.


was glad that the hon. and gallant Officer the Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel North) had brought under the notice of the House the expense of discharging the men at the end of their ten years' service. The fact was that to bring home a man from India and to take out a recruit cost from £90 to £100. The soldiers knew this, and talked over in their barrack-rooms the circumstance that while the country only gave them 2d. or 3d. a day more for re-enlisting, it was put to an expense of £100 if they did not re-engage. Every reason of economy and of social and political advantage required that they should look this matter in the face, and not adhere to the very trifling increase of pay which was given to soldiers upon re-enlistment. There were some points connected with the condition of the soldier which had not been fully brought before the House. For instance, how was it that the marine, although receiving no higher pay than the infantry soldier, was able to save every farthing of it, while the soldier paid from 4½d. to 5d. a day for his food? All classes of workmen now received higher wages than they did formerly, and it was but fair that the pay of soldiers should be increased also. He should never be satisfied until the soldier returned to his village upon the expiration of his term of service a model of good conduct, and a man whom every respectable person would be glad to welcome. There was no reason why soldiers should not be the best portion of our population. Something had during the last few years been done towards making them so. Some of the suggestions which had been thrown out in so agreeable and sensible a manner by the hon. Member for Longford deserved the best consideration of the House. He should be glad to hear that the Government were willing to grant this Commission; but if they refused it he sincerely hoped that they would direct their own attention to this subject, which was of the greatest possible importance to the country.


I do not intend to follow the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite (Colonel North) into a discussion which I think had better be reserved for the Army Estimates. The hon. and gallant Gentleman has, however, thought proper to comment upon our military system generally, and the effect of the Limited Enlistment Act. I do not think that I can take too early an opportunity of giving the most emphatic contradiction to his statement that recruiting is at a standstill and that that Act has been a failure. Recruiting, on the contrary, has been going on with the most remarkable regularity during the last twelve months—the whole number, or very nearly the whole number, of recruits intended to be raised during the year, have been obtained—and the Limited Enlistment Act is working exactly as its promoters and advocates anticipated that it would. The proportion of men who re-enlist after taking their discharge remains pretty nearly the same as it was at first—about 60 per cent. I believe that when the Returns for which the hon. and gallant Gentleman asks, and which I shall have great pleasure in laying on the table, are presented, he will find that that is the real state of the case. I do not think that the speech of the hon. and gallant Gentleman was one that, if read by the class from which our soldiers are drawn, would be calculated to increase the recruiting which he informed the House had come to a standstill. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, whose object, no doubt, is to furnish as plentiful and as good a supply of recruits as possible, gets up and tells the class from whom they are taken that the pay is totally inadequate, and that any man who has any respect for himself and can do anything else had much better not dream of enlisting in Her Majesty's army. I imagine that he is one of those country Gentlemen who make the Tillage too hot for the recruiting sergeant if he ventures to show his face in it. It is a great pity that any Member of this House who is supposed to represent the army should attempt to send it forth to the country that the shilling a day is the real pay which the soldier receives. The hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) has put the question more fairly, inasmuch as he stated that the advantages which the soldier gets in the way of good food, good lodging, good clothing, education, and innumerable other particulars, are such that the pay is, I think he said, fair and adequate. It is nothing but a misrepresentation of the most mischievous kind to announce to the working classes that the pay which they may expect to get in our army is a shilling, and a bare shilling, a day. I do not understand that the hon. Gentleman intends to press this Motion to a division, or to urge the Government to appoint another Commission, considering how recently the Commission which was appointed in a former Session has reported the result of its inquiries. I quite recognize the great importance of the subject, and I also admit that the hon. Member brought it forward in a most temperate and able speech. The suggestions which he has made are worthy of the most attentive consideration; but I think that the House will agree with me that the time has hardly arrived at which it would be desirable to appoint another Commission to inquire into a subject which has so lately been reported upon. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) appointed a Commission, of which the noble Lord opposite (Lord Hotham) was Chairman, which went very fully into the subject. Their instructions were very wide, and I do not think prevented them from considering any scheme which might be proposed. They reported in the year 1860, or 1861, and a great many of their recommendations were carried into effect. I can assure the House that the subject of recruiting has not been lost sight of. A great many of the subjects which have been brought under the notice of the House by the hon. Member are under the careful consideration of the Commander-in-Chief, and although I shall not have to propose any alteration in the system of recruiting during the present year, or any increase of pay after a service of ten years, it may be found necessary to make some change at a future time. I will not follow the hon. Gentleman into the details of the scheme which he has sketched, nor into the various objections which he has made to our system of recruiting. Indeed, I feel assured that the hon. Gentleman himself would be the first to admit how much depends, in dealing with the question, on a minute examination of its details, both financial and otherwise, and that no opinion worth attending to can be pronounced until the examination has been made. The opening portion of the hon. Gentleman's speech was directed to an exposition of the evils of the present recruiting system. He said that system answered fairly enough in time of peace; but that great pressure arose in time of war, when it became necessary to obtain recruits in large numbers. Now I quite concur in the opinion that there are many inconveniences attendant on the system of recruiting by bounty, and that the money given probably does not do the recruit much good, and that men who enlisted for money are probably not of a very good class. It must, however, be borne in mind that one of the advantages of enlistment by bounty is that it is capable of indefinite extension in time of war, and that when the pressure ceases the scale of bounty may be reduced; while, in the event of the adoption of any system by means of which it might be sought to secure a better class of men by giving them increased pay, it must not be forgotten that increased pay to one soldier must lead to giving increased pay to all. We have seen that the Americans in their great emergency have found it to be necessary to resort to the system of bounty, and that having to deal with a population very much the same as our own, engaged in industrial pursuits and earning good wages, they yet have, by offering high bounties, been able to recruit the ranks of their armies without resorting to any great extent to the pressure of conscription. The hon. Gentleman having pointed out the evils which he thinks are connected with the system of bounties, went on to explain the merits of his own scheme by which the regiments might be recruited than at present. But it did not strike me that although that scheme might work very well in time of peace, it could be relied upon to furnish a sufficient number of men in any sudden emergency unless it were supplemented by bounties. Without entering at length into the details of the scheme, I must observe that it appears to me to require even fuller explanation than the hon. Member has given the House that evening; and I cannot help thinking that it may with more advantage be discussed in Committee on the Army Estimates, when explanations might be elicited which it is not possible to obtain at the present moment. I at all events feel certain that the hon. Member does not wish me to express offhand any opinion as to the practicability of his proposal. It should not be forgotten that a scheme tending in exactly the opposite direction has been very strongly pressed on public attention; and there can be no doubt, that if it were found possible to substitute a system of general for one of merely regimental enlistment, it would have the result of rendering the services of a number of men more available than is now the case. As matters now stand, when a man has arrived nearly at the end of his term of service it is not worth while to go to the expense of sending him to serve abroad, as the cost of his passage out and home again would have to be paid. The result is that he is sent to the depot of his regiment, where he remains practically of little use to the country during the remainder of his term. If, however, he had been enlisted under a general system, as has been proposed, his services might be turned to account for a year or two in some other regiment in which they happened to be required. I must not, at the same time, be understood as expressing any opinion upon the comparative merits of the two schemes to which I refer. Until we have had a larger experience in the matter, it would, I think, be premature to do so, especially as the whole subject is one which is under the anxious consideration of the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary of State. In reply to the hon. and learned Member for Dundalk (Sir George Bowyer), who asked me a question with reference to soldiers being found engaged in sweeping crossings, I can only say that they must be men who, having enlisted for ten years, were unwilling to re-enlist at the expiration of that period. Those men, no doubt, did very good service during the ten years; but then the hon. and learned Member would scarcely contend that they ought to get a pension, to which they were not entitled. It is sometimes said, I may add, that the class of men who enter the army at present is not of a very respectable character. I quite admited that such is the case. Our system of enlistment has, I believe, swept to a great extent the refuse of large towns; but I am not sure that it is desirable our army should be composed of a very superior material. The sweepings of our cities having been subjected for a time to severe discipline, a very good article is in my opinion turned out, and better members of the community might be almost thrown away if employed in doing that which the men whom we obtained did so well. Everybody, he thought, concurred in the opinion that our army, as an army, was as efficient as that of any of the Continental nations, and if the system secured the sweepings of large towns and turned them into good soldiers, there was not much to complain of on that ground. I have only to say, in conclusion, that I hope the House will think the explanation which I have offered sufficient to show that it is not desirable to appoint another Commission on this subject. At the same time, I tender my thanks to the hon. Member for Longford (Mr. O'Reilly) for the manner in which he has brought the subject forward.


said, he did not imagine that much good was likely to arise from prolonging the discussion, nor did he think that a practical remedy for the evils complained of was to be found in the issue of a new Commission. He felt, however, called upon to deprecate the manner in which the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) had, in some respects, treated the Motion; because the House might be led to believe that no great apprehension was felt by officers in the army with regard to the operation of the Ten Years' Enlistment Act. Every officer in the army knew that the very reverse was the case. That sort of treatment of a Motion which spoke of Acts working well, and of Returns to be made on some future day, did very well—as the phrase went—for the House of Commons; but there were many officers sincerely desirous for the welfare of the army who would be much disappointed at the speech of the noble Lord, It was perfectly notorious that numbers of the best men who had arrived at the end of their term of service, when they were of the greatest use to their country, were leaving the army in great numbers to the great regret of their commanding officers who saw no means of retaining them. He had heard, with regret, that the noble Lord had thought fit to meet the candid statement of an hon. and gallant Gentleman, who was only known in that House to be respected, with remarks of a character which he (Sir James Fergusson) must say were very ill-directed towards him. The hon. and gallant Officer who sat behind him (Colonel North) had devoted considerable time and attention to this subject for a long series of years, and no one of greater experience in that House than the noble Marquess would have so far mistaken the purport of the observations made by that gallant Officer. There was nothing in the remarks of his hon. and gallant Friend which would bear the interpretation which the noble Lord had put upon them. All that he had done was to point out how much more valuable men at the expiration of ten years' service must be than were recruits, and how desirable it consequently was to offer them inducements to remain. And it was vain for the noble Lord to assure the House and the public that there was economy in turning adrift the drilled soldier; even though he might have the figures on his side, there was a more than equivalent loss in efficiency. The noble Lord pointed out that if the pay of these men were once raised, it could not be lowered again. But there was no need to lower it again. It would not be a temporary measure prompted by necessity, like the increased bounty in time of war, but an act of justice to men rendering services of additional value to the country, because of the experience which they had gained. The noble Lord could hardly he satisfied with his own arguments. He had pointed to foreign countries, and especially to America, to illustrate the facility of increasing armies in times of emergency by means of bounties. The example, however, of America, whether groaning under the debts entailed by this unhappy war, or resorting to the expedient of repudiation to get rid of them, was not one which could be recommended with confidence to England. If the noble Lord had searched through the world for a warning against depending on a system of high bounties he could not have found one more directly to the point than the case of America. We had experienced the difficulties arising from the necessity of recruiting an army in time of emergency, and we should not forget the consequences of a British army being suffered to fall too low in time of war. Only recently they had heard by means of the telegraph of shiploads of negroes having been bought and imported by the Governor of Massachusetts for service in the war. He thought we ought rather to try and keep these men in our ranks, who did a credit to the service, rather than to have to look danger in the face and repeat the evil results of our want of providence.


said, he was very much inclined to give to Irishmen about to enlist in the British army the same advice which Mr. Punch once gave to persons about to marry, and that was "Don't." Until they received better treatment than at present, they would be wrong to do so. The hon. and gallant Gentleman who had last spoken seemed to ignore the drain which emigration was causing from Ireland. That drain, which was at the rate of 100,000 annually, if it continued, might some day lead to the importation of shiploads of white niggers from Germany. That was plain speaking, but it was not the less true. The worst of it was that these 100,000 annual departures were in reality-equal to double that number, because they went over to the enemy. He stated these things in the interests of England. He knew that in making these statements he exposed himself to a storm of ridicule, and to the attacks of scurrilous scribes in The Star newspaper. But it was the part of a true friend to point out defects, and the best mode of remedying them. It was better not to mince matters; and for his part, he never held one language in the lobby and another in the House. The sooner the British people knew that the best mode of recruiting for the British army was by stopping the drain of emigration from Ireland the better. Under the existing system Irishmen were not fairly treated. Gentlemen, perhaps, remembered at the opening of the Indian mutiny that an artilleryman was stated to have highly distinguished himself in Delhi by blowing up the powder magazine there when it was about to be seized by the mutineers. That man was called in the newspapers "Gunner Scully," and what reward had he received? He got, of course, his shilling a day until he blew himself up, and since then some of his children had been put into a Protestant proselytizing asylum, where, being Catholics, they were now being brought up in what was considered the orthodox faith of the State. Until there was absolute equality between English, Scotch, and Irish; no Irish soldier would enter the British service with his whole heart and soul, notwithstanding the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Longford.


said, there were one or two isolated questions connected with this subject which might well occupy the attention of the House. One question was this—How far might Roman Catholics in the British army be relied upon in certain emergencies for their allegiance to the Crown, in spite of that higher allegiance which they were called upon to yield in religious matters to a higher authority? The Duke of Wellington, although he was the means of passing the Catholic Emancipation Act, would not allow a single Roman Catholic to be entered upon one particular branch of the army—the artillery. ["No, no!"] But he wished to call the attention of the House to this fact, that while in the last five years the number of Catholics and Protestants in the army generally continued in the same proportion—that was to say, about half and half—the Roman Catholic soldiers in the artillery increased from 2,300 to 8,700. He thought it right to call attention to this remarkable fact.


in reply, said, he wished to advert to two points which had been raised in the discussion. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Peterborough (Mr. Whalley) had stated boldly that Roman Catholic soldiers were not to be trusted on their allegiance. Now, he felt he should lower himself and degrade the House if he wasted its time in answering such a charge. He would say for himself that, as a Roman Catholic, he would yield to no man in attachment to his religion and in his respect for every one of its precepts, and in obedience, so far as their authority extended, to the heads of that religion. He wished to make no species of reserve for himself—such as was sometimes made by persons like the hon. Member for him. He was a Roman Catholic of the Roman Catholics, and he yielded in a faithful observance of the oath of allegiance to no man of any religion. The hon. Member had unwittingly uttered what he would not call a calumny, but which was certainly a statement very injurious to the memory of a great man, the late Duke of Wellington. He would, on another occasion, take an opportunity of asking some one competent to answer on the part of the Government whether it was true that any order was issued or now existed by which Roman Catholics were excluded from any branch of Her Majesty's service. If any such order existed he would scorn any Roman Catholic who entered a service in any branch of which he was held unworthy to serve. The noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) had inaccurately represented him as depreciating the effect of bounties in securing a large enlistment in time of war. His objection was to that system of enlistment which sought our recruits solely in the great towns and through the attractions of the ginshop. The noble Lord told the House that the sweepings of the towns were good enough for the army, and that they made good soldiers. While he did not think it desirable to recruit the army from the upper or middle classes, or, indeed, from the skilled classes, he yet thought that the army was an honourable profession for the young men of the labouring classes, and it was to the honest and respectable members of that class to whom they should look to fill the ranks of the army. He would not press his Motion to a division, being convinced that if his proposals, which were new, were founded in truth, they would gradually make their way and be adopted in time. Last year he pointed out four branches of the Estimates on which he thought retrenchment might be carried out. He did not press his views to a division, but he saw by the Estimates this year that a reduction had been made in each of those four points. He should be emboldened by that experience to leave what he had said to be considered by the Government and by the House, and he would now ask leave to withdraw his Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.