§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
, in moving—That an humble Address he presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the dismissal or removal from active service of officers of the Army under the rank of Major 1427 General, not incapacitated by bodily or mental infirmity, and who have not been allowed the option of being brought before a Court-Martial,said, that when in the course of last Session the Government was asked to concur in the spirit of this Resolution against the removal of officers of the Army without trial—the reason assigned for refusing the Motion was that no sufficient case had been made out calling for the interference of Parliament with the Royal Prerogative. He did not understand the Secretary for War to say there was no justice in what was urged; but it was not unreasonable in the right hon. Gentleman to ask who it was that demanded the change which was proposed. Since last year there had poured in from every quarter of the Empire complaints from persons who felt themselves aggrieved by the exercise of this power of summary dismissal. There had been laid on the Table of the House many Petitions from persons who had nothing in common but their sense of wrong. They came from officers of every branch of the Service, and of every rank in life—from officers of the Guards, of the Cavalry, of the Indian Service, and of the Staff Corps. Some of the complainants had been born to wealth and position; and there was, at least, one Petition from a man who had risen from the ranks. Surely such a concurrence of complaint afforded strong presumption, if not proof of the existence of such hardship. The hon. and gallant Member for Ayrshire (Colonel Alexander) had given Notice of his intention to move as an Amendment—"That to restrict the undoubted Prerogative of the Crown would be neither wise nor expedient." He (Mr. Torrens) had no objection to accept those words—which could not, he apprehended, in point of form, be put by way of Amendment—as an addition to the Resolution; and then, if the Secretary for War declared that what was sought would derogate from the dignity of the Crown, he would withdraw the Motion. He and those who supported the Motion had no idea of doing anything in derogation from the Prerogative of the Crown, and he would observe that the true answer in reference to the Prerogative was given long ago in the House of Lords by Lord Chesterfield. He said—I understand the Prerogative of the Crown to be this—that the Sovereign may do the 1428 greatest amount of good to the subject that she pleases, but the presumption of the Constitution is that the Sovereign can do no wrong; and they are the true friends of the Monarchy who would take care that the Sovereign was not betrayed into doing an unintentional wrong. It was the duty of Parliament to prevent the Crown being misled into doing a piece of the highest injustice to a faithful soldier, and to prevent a good and brave officer from being reduced to a starving condition.These are the words of no subversive demagogue, but of the courtliest of courtiers, the friend of Swift and Bolin-brooke, a Tory of the Tories. All that those who supported the present Motion desired was that the Queen's name should not be abused by men who were in a subordinate position, through want of care on the part of the Minister of War, and that the power of the Prerogative should be invoked only where wise, honest, and disinterested men would like to see it invoked.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. W. M. TORRENS
resumed: He would have to state some instances of the manner in which the present system worked, and show that what he ventured to recommend was perfectly compatible with the Prerogative of the Crown. What he contended for was, that when a man had no fault or default proved against him in any branch of the Service, it was wrong to put him on penal half-pay or to dismiss him the Service altogether, without giving him the option of defending his character and conduct. Courts of In-inquiry were a modern innovation, and were unknown in the best times of our Constitution. He admitted the stringency and rigour of courts-martial, but he did not believe that officers in any branch of the Service would shrink from being made amenable to such tribunals, They did shrink from being driven out of the Service which they had chosen as a profession on rumours and ex parte evidence, or what was, in fact, no evidence at all, or upon whispers which did not venture to make themselves audible. They did object to being condemned without being allowed an opportunity of making themselves heard. He would remind the House of what the late Lord Derby had stated on this subject, in a discussion raised on the dismissal of an officer on the report of a Board of Inquiry. 1429 That officer was a Peer of the Realm. He was in command of a Queen's ship; the ship went aground; the Admiralty ordered a Court of Inquiry, and without hearing the noble Lord, without confronting him with his accusers, on ex parte evidence, not on oath, they came to a decision that he had neglected his duty, that he was highly censurable, and should be relieved of his command. The case was brought before the other House by Lord Hardwicke as one of grievance. In the discussion Lord Derby said—The real ground of complaint was that he had been deprived of his command on the finding of a Court which sat without his knowledge, in his absence, and took evidence wholly ex parte, and that consequently he had not had a fair trial.He (Mr. Torrens) was content to be as Conservative as the late Lord Derby, and he only asked his Friends opposite not to be less Liberal than that noble Earl. But he might quote even a more striking case from the annals of their own House. In the time of Mr. Perceval a charge of a grave character was brought against an officer of high rank. By the Premier's advice that officer addressed a letter to the then Speaker (Mr. Abbott). That letter was on the records of the House. It was not merely a protestation of his innocence, but it contained a statement of his past services and character. The letter that was then read from the Chair was dictated by Mr. Perceval, as we now know from his Memoirs, and approved of by Speaker Abbott, and signed by the accused at the Bar. The letter was to this effect—I claim from the House, justice that I may not he condemned, except upon evidence taken under the sanction which every other British subject is entitled to claim in the administration of the law.Who was the accused? Why, the son of a King and the Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. He was accused of having sold the patronage of the Crown to strumpets and jobbers, and when brought before the House on that tremendous accusation he claimed a fair trial and testimony on oath. Would they not ratify the prayer of the Duke of York, and say that every man who had served the Crown up to the day of his accusation should at least have that justice meted to him which was given to every thief and ruffian made amenable to law. He maintained that 1430 what was then asked was not in defeasance or diminution of any just Prerogative of the Crown. There were no fewer than a dozen Petitions on the Table complaining of injustice in this matter. He would state succinctly, and without exaggeration, the facts set forth in two or three. But before doing so, let him briefly recall the circumstances of a case which had been brought before Parliament in a former Session. Lieutenant Robins was a man of good extraction. When serving in India he had the misfortune to take a severe cold, which took the form of acute neuralgia, and whilst in that state he was ordered to take a long journey in the discharge of his duty. Travelling at night, and suffering great agony, he found himself at the door of an outpost in a wild country. Eager to obtain relief he called upon the guard to admit him without stating who he was. The men were asleep, and did not like to be disturbed. He got angry, and when the door was opened, forgetting that he was not in uniform, he pressed in, and a scuffle ensued. The circumstances were reported to head-quarters, a Court of Inquiry was ordered, and upon its report Lieutenant Robins was told that he must retire on half-pay or sell out, and if not he would be dismissed the Service. He applied for a court-martial, but it was refused; and when he came home he was told by the Horse Guards authorities that he must sell out. That he said he would never do—that he would never take anything but an acquittal. He was, however, informed that he must leave the Service, because the decision that had been come to in his case would not be revised. Up to the present hour that egregious act of injustice remained un-atoned; for, dispairing of redress, their victim had ceased to complain; but no honourable man could cease to feel such wrong; and who could set limits to the evil influence of such an administrative scandal? In the old Army of the East India Company the enterprize and valour of our middle classes were long accustomed to seek and find distinction and reward. It was a perilous, but always a popular service. The veteran father came home to enjoy, in honourable competence, the evening of his renown, and sent forth his nephew or his son to follow in the same career, for the Company was a liberal and a reliable master. Irish and Scotch families often had 1431 many of their members in that Service, and there was no family that could furnish more notable and illustrious instances than the family of Grant. The name occurred very frequently with honour in Indian annals. But the name of Lieutenant-Colonel Doverton Grant no longer appeared in the Army List. This gentleman entered the Indian Service in 1842, and rose until he reached his present rank. After he had been more than 31 years in the Service the Government said they had no further need of his sword, and in order to effect a pettifogging and unjust economy, he was forced to retire upon the ordinary pension of £1 a-day, the smallest retiring allowance paid to an officer of that rank. Had he been allowed to complete his regular term of service, as he was willing and able to do, his life risk and life toil would have been requited by a pension of £1,100 a-year. This was what he had been told to look forward to for 31 years; but this was what he had been deprived of by an arbitrary and indefensible decree. He had never been tried, never had a single intimation of any charge whatever against him on the part of the authorities. He (Mr. Torrens) had here his letter—the letter of a brave and bold, but of a grave and decorous man, and he asked what he had done that after 31 years' service he, the son of a man who had served the country for 46 years and died in uniform, with two brothers in the Service who had obtained the rank of field officers—he asked what he had done that he should have been thus stigmatized in the face of his comrades and friends without having been told why or having the power to defend himself? If such doings could be defended, then he was unfit to have a seat in the House of Commons, for he did not know the difference between right and wrong. Well, what was the answer this gallant gentleman received from the authorities? It came to this—"It is true that you have been 31 years in the Service, that you have obtained honours, and that your bravery was conspicuous; but seven years before this an assistant-surgeon of a regiment in which you were serving wrote a depreciatory report to head-quarters, which the Government kept in its pocket for seven years, and which they rummaged out when they wanted to get rid of you." Suppose every word of the report was true, was it justice, was it common sense, was it 1432 decency, to keep in petto a report like that until it suited the Government to make use of it? It appeared that during 31 years this officer had been 166 days invalided, and therefore the insinuation of the assistant-surgeon was, that he was not fit for the service of the British Crown. Not long after the clandestine and calumnious report was made, being removed from the unhealthy station where he had been placed, Colonel Grant got perfectly well, was in the enjoyment of robust health, and did active duty under three distinguished officers. The East India Company well understood how to keep up their military force. They had built up their Empire in India by offering brilliant inducements to the youth of this country to enter their service, and by steadfastly keeping faith with them. They knew that they required veteran soldiers who were accustomed to stand firm in the face of enemies that far outnumbered them, and they felt that they must not break faith with these brave men, so they gave them high pay and good pensions. The result of such a system was that we had now our Indian Empire. Was ever Empire kept by breaking faith with those who helped to win it? In drawing attention to this subject he was anxious that it should not be supposed that he had any party feeling in the matter—he found as much fault with the late as he did with the present Government. They had the painful confession already in the Blue Books that the Government at home had got bewildered in the maze of Indian finance, and had been tampering with the question of economy at the expense of gallant men, who were cut off from the Service before they could earn their promised pensions. He regretted to say that the deplorable suggestion had been made and entertained that they should weed out of their Army a number of honourable men who had unsuspectingly continued in the Service in the hope of obtaining the prizes that had been held out to them. A "Black List," in which were entered the names of those who were to be got rid of had been prepared in 1870, but Lord Mayo, to his honour, had refused to be a party to the proceeding, and he (Mr. Torrens) blessed his memory for it. If we could not afford to spend so much money, let us retrench our expenditure, but do not let us attempt to save out of the pockets defenceless individuals; that was spolia- 1433 tion. It had in it all the vice and curse of Communism, and was sure to draw down retribution sooner or later. If our officers were incompetent, it must be from one of two causes—either because they were suffering from physical or mental incapacity, which could be ascertained without difficulty by proper examination, or because they had committed some fault or default or had been guilty or some misconduct under the Articles of War. If a man had done anything wrong, by all means let him have a fair trial before he was cut adrift. Why, vermin that were hunted to death were given a fair run, and why should not our officers receive at least equal consideration? If they were incapacitated from serving their country, he did not ask that they should be kept in the Force; but do not let a man be dismissed for some vague incapacity, neither moral, physical, nor intellectual, because somebody did not like the cut of his whiskers, or because it was found that he could not agree at mess with some coxcomb of quality or some influential fool of rank. It was too late to ask the House of Commons to sanction such reasons as these for dismissing a man from the Service. Why did they abolish Purchase, except with the view of opening a profession of arms to persons in the middle class, and to give a career to fidelity and merit, irrespective of rank? For the sake of those who had neither interest nor influence, he as a middle-class man, said that they would not have their sons and brothers made the sport of cabal and slander. They were willing enough to trust to the law and to the Articles of War, and to receive the decisions pronounced in the name of our gracious Sovereign with respectful submission; but it could not be for the interest of Her Majesty that men should be turned out of the Army without any fault having been proved against them. He had now to ask the attention of the House to a still graver case. He knew that it was not the fashion just now to express any doubt that recruiting was in a first-rate condition. He hoped that there was no doubt upon the subject; but if we were going to keep up our recruiting we must not allow cases of great and glaring injustice to become public, and no injury could be greater than, if he were correctly informed, that which he was now about to lay before the House. 1434 After the Crimean War it was resolved that a larger number of commissions should be offered to men in the ranks than had formerly been the case—and, surely, after the abolition of Purchase no one would say that we ought to undo what we had done in that direction, because it afforded a great inducement to decent, well-bred, and educated men to enlist in our Army, and it should be our object to make every English soldier believe that he, as well as the French soldier, carried a Field Marshal's bâton in his knapsack. This was a life covenant that when a man had won the prize we would treat him fairly. The case he referred to was that of a man whose Petition was on the Table, and which last year he had glanced at with caution and reserve. William Hawtree entered the service of the Queen in 1846, at 19 years of age. So well liked was he that before 18 months he was made a corporal, before the end of three years he became a sergeant, and was thought so reliable a man that he was sent into Hertfordshire, his own county, to recruit, which he did with success. With the 96th Regiment, he was then sent to India, where he served for eight years. Without his knowledge, he (Mr. Torrens) wrote to his commanding officer, Colonel Cumberland, and the reply he received was a letter stating that he had no fault to find with him, and considered that he was, during those eight years, a most valuable soldier. Returning to this country, he was given charge of a medical station, and for two years acted so creditably in that capacity that the War Office, in consideration of his services and character, gave him a commission, and he was made captain of orderlies at the hospital at Southampton. For 10 years he had charge of that establishment, and during that time tens of thousands of pounds' worth passed through his hands, and no complaint was ever made against him. Unfortunately, the Control department was at loggerheads with the authorities at Netley, and Captain Hawtree wrote letter after letter, as was his duty to do, complaining on behalf of the poor sick fellows under his charge of the short weight and bad quality of the fuel and food furnished to the institution. He asked the Minister for War what became of those complaints, and whether they would be produced? Board after Board of Inquiry was held as to these 1435 matters, and over and over again it was found that the weight and quality of the fuel and food were deficient. What was done? When numerous faults were found, and it was thought malversation was going on, two officers of the Control department were placed under arrest; but to balance the account the petitioner was arrested also, and that after 28½ years' creditable service, he was kept in illegal arrest without accusation or trial. A Court of Inquiry sat, before which he was never called. The result was that he was kept under arrest for seven months; and when at length he was released he found his place filled by another. Was that treating the man with common fair play? Was that the way to encourage men joining the Service, or to assure them that good conduct would meet with due reward? What was done with the other? One of the two offficers of the Control department was tried by court-martial and cashiered. In the course of a few months Captain Hawtree would have been entitled to retire on full pay; but he was still kept on his allowance of 10s. a-day. After his release he was told to be in readiness for the West Coast of Africa; but on the news of the fate of King Theodore his services were not required, and he was called before a second Board of Inquiry, whose report the War Office had, but which he did not ask for. For his part they might do with it what they liked. Let there be a clear and impartial examination of the facts, and if he were wrong, he should not regret to find that he had been misled; but he could hardly school his features to the gravity of the occasion when he recalled the charges brought against this injured man. The pay of the orderlies varied from £4,000 to £6,000 a-year. There were 200 of them, and they were frequently sent long distances. Altogether, the accounts dealt with an amount of about £70,000. This officer of 28 years' standing was, however, called before a Board of Inquiry. Certain items were pointed out to him, and he was asked whether there were not errors in his accounts. He admitted that certain figures had been placed by a clerk in the wrong column. There were two days too much, amounting to 1s. 4d., charged in one case, and two days in another, making 2s. 3d. altogether; and this was at the end of an account extending over 10 years There were two other items of 1436 8s. in regard to men who were told off to go to Aldershot. Altogether, the errors of account amounted to 18s. or 19s., and these were the only items in which errors were found. He expressed his regret that his clerk should have made these mistakes; but for these errors of 19s. in accounts spread over 10 years, this friendless man was not tried, or convicted, or suspended, but actually gazetted out of the Army as a thief, and held up to the reproach of all who knew him. Suppose him even to have been guilty, were there no errors in the accounts of Government Departments or mistakes of more than 19s.? If there was something behind all this, why did not the Government disclose it? Why was it not proved? This officer had challenged the authorities to bring him before a court-martial and he (Mr. Torrens) now demanded that he should have a court-martial, before which he might be either cleared or condemned. If the War Office would not tell him what his fault had been, let there be a fair inquiry instituted as the authorities pleased. If there was no charge against him, or if they had no evidence to offer, in the name of justice, let the inquiry be held and the man be acquitted. This was not the only case which had been before the House. Some years ago more than one officer was, by the Horse Guards, compelled to go on half-pay against his will, because he could not find favour with persons in high quarters. One was Colonel Lothian Dickson; the second case he did not know much about; but the third was the case of Colonel Dawkins. He had been kept in arrest and suspended from his command on certain charges, and a Board of Inquiry sat. It was proved to their satisfaction that nothing had been done to justify his suspension, and he was informed that he might return to his duty. This was told him after he had been wrongly accused and kept under arrest. The Court recommended that he should be restored to his position in the Coldstream Guards. Colonel Dawkins warmly protested against the treatment he had received. The Horse Guards endeavoured to induce him to withdraw his indignant protest against the unfounded imputations brought against him but of one thing at least he was tenacious—his honour as a soldier and a gentleman—as a soldier and a gentleman, he could not stultify himself by making such an admission. 1437 He had served his country for 20 years, and had been decorated by the Queen and Emperor of the French for his services in the Crimea; and all he wanted was to be restored to his command without any imputation whatever. But the Horse Guards converted his refusal to withdraw his protest into a new offence, and another Board of Inquiry, consisting of five members, was constituted to inquire into Colonel Dawkins's supposed ineligibility for promotion. Instructions were, he believed, given to the Board to find, whether although there was then no vacancy, he was eligible to take a higher position in the Army. It was not stated to him when the Board was constituted that this was to be the object of their inquiry, and it was at least unusual to appoint a Board to inquire whether, if an officer should live for a few years, he should be eligible at the end of that time to hold a command. The Court of Inquiry came to an adverse determination in the case of Colonel Dawkins; but Sir Henry de Bathe differed from his colleagues, and believed that no charge affecting the honour or soldierly qualities of Colonel Dawkins had been sustained. Why, then, did he acquiesce in the judgment? For the same reason that Arthur Wellesley did in the Convention of Cintra—which was that he thought it his duty in the interests of the Service at the time not to set up his own opinion against that of his superior officers. Colonel Dawkins was told he must not resume his command, and in vain did he again and again demand that he should be brought before a court-martial. Let it not be said in this case that it was too late to do justice in some form. Let equal justice be done in both the cases he had just named, as it was in the case of a noble Earl whose name was mentioned by hon. Members sitting near him, but which he would not repeat, and who was re-instated because he had been wrongly removed. Without desiring to raise any question of Prerogative, and without desiring the House to pledge itself to any question of policy, he desired the House to accept his Resolution.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "an humble Address be presented to Her Ma-
jesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to issue a Royal Commission to inquire into the dismissal or removal from active service of officers of the Army under the rank of Major General, not incapacitated by bodily or mental infirmity, and who have not been allowed the option of being brought before a court martial,"—(Mr. Torrens,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ COLONEL ALEXANDER
moved the Amendment of which he had given Notice—that to restrict the undoubted Prerogative of the Crown was neither wise nor expedient. He did so on the ground that the adoption of the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury would be virtually an infringement of that Prerogative, and it would, moreover, be fraught with mischief to the best interests of the Army and of the country. What was the Motion of the hon. Member? The Resolution was based upon two Bills to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded, and to which he alluded at greater length on a former occasion. Both were brought forward in 1734—one in the Lords by the second Duke of Marlborough, and the other in the Commons by Lord Morpeth, and their object was to prevent the removal of officers under the rank of Colonel of regiments, except after trial by court-martial or by Address from either House of Parliament. The introduction of these Bills lent a certain degree of plausibility to this Motion, and it might be asked why, if 62 Peers voted for the Duke of Marlborough's Bill, the House should not adopt this Resolution under the more enlightened and purer administration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Buckinghamshire. There was, however, no parallel between the cases of 1734 and 1875. The humane object of the Resolution was to protect friendless and nameless officers from oppression by an undue use of the Royal Prerogative. It was not implied that officers were liable to be removed now for their political opinions and actions. The removals which occasioned the debates of 1734 were due to political causes alone. Two great and distinguished Peers, the Duke of Bolton and Lord Cobham, were deprived of their regiments at a time of political excitement, because they did not vote for the Excise Bill of Sir Robert Walpole; and this, as Lord Stanhope 1439 told us, was done by an unjustifiable stretch of the Prerogative. Lord Chesterfield surrendered his White Staff; Lord Clinton, Lord of the Bedchamber, was also removed. There was conclusive proof that at that time officers of the Army having seats in Parliament were expected to vote, not according to their consciences, nor even with their Party, but with the Crown; and General Wade, Commander of the Forces in North Britain, subsequently stated in a debate in this House that messages were sent to him threatening deprivation of employment if he did not vote straight, and that he did not care to have recourse to a court-martial, for the rather curious reason that there was a difficulty in getting a sufficient number of officers to serve upon one. At that time it was the practice to cashier officers who happened to be Members of Parliament for not voting with the Government. They all remembered the story of the military officer in the time of James II., who, having voted against the Court on a question of great importance, was accosted by the Minister thus—"Sir, have you not a troop of horse in His Majesty's Army?" "Yes," was the reply; "but my elder brother is just dead, and has left me £700 a-year." In order to show the entirely political character of the events in those days, he might remind them that in the debate on Lord Morpeth's Bill, Sir William Windham said—Let the merits of the officers in their military capacity be never so great, let their fidelity to their King and country be never so conspicuous, let their past services be never so meritorious, if they do not implicitly obey all the orders they shall receive from the Crown or rather from the favourite Minister of the Crown, if they do not submit to propagate the most slavish schemes of a projecting Minister, they may probably be turned out of their employments in the Army.Was there any parallel in these times to such a state of things? Was there any favourite Minister of the Crown now-a-days? Was it not perfectly immaterial to the Crown whether the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire or the right hon. Member for Greenwich was at the head of the Queen's Government, or could either be termed a "projecting" Minister in the sense in which Sir William Windham applied the term? Lord Chesterfield said—There are now many military Members in both Houses of Parliament, and it has become 1440 the prevailing opinion of late years that the only way of obtaining military preferment is by obtaining a seat in either House of Parliament;" and he added, "The only object of that Bill was that in future no Minister of State should have it in his power to say to any officer in the Army having a seat in Parliament, 'Sir, you shall do so-and-so or starve.'A few years afterwards Pitt, "that terrible Cornet of Horse," was deprived of his commission in the Blues because he voted against the Government. He need not say if such a policy was pursued in these days they would have been deprived of the means of carrying on those discussions which had been held on the Purchase System and the state of the Army, and the military advisers of the Secretary of State would have been reduced to the noble Lord the Member for Haddingtonshire (Lord Elcho) and the hon. Member for Hackney (Mr. Holms). The hon. Member for Finsbury in quoting the debates of past times was referring to a state of things which had entirely passed away—Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.He was entitled to express his surprise that the hon. Member for Fins-bury had not brought all ranks of officers within the scope of his Motion. Why did he draw this distinction between the different grades of officers? Why was the one taken and the other left? The illustrious Duke of Marlborough himself had been arbitrarily removed from his command—the Queen wrote with her own hand his dismissal, and his enemies resorted to every art, first to procure and then to justify his removal. It was said because the Judges were irremovable and held office quamdiu se bene gesserint, so should the officers of the Army be, except on conviction by a court-martial. But the cases were entirely different, for what similarity was there between Judges who ministered justice not only between subject and subject, but also between the subject and the Crown, and officers whose sole duty it was to obey orders emanating from the Crown through the Commander-in-Chief? Besides, when the great employers of labour and the Heads of Departments were allowed at their will and pleasure to dismiss those who did not come up to their standard of capacity, why should the Crown alone be debarred from that privilege? Courts-martial were not always looked upon in so favourable a light. The hon. Member seemed to be 1441 much in love with courts-martial; but they had not always been held in high esteem. Lord Westmoreland, for instance, had once declared that he would rather die by the bow-string of a Bashaw than be tried by a court-martial. Lord George Sackville had very little reason to thank the tender mercies of a court-martial. He had been dismissed by the Crown, but he applied for a court-martial; his request was granted; the court-martial convicted him; he was cashiered and was declared incapable of serving Her Majesty in any military capacity. This was for disobeying the orders of Prince Ferdinand of Brunswick at the battle of Minden. This Motion had been submitted to Parliament more than once. It was brought forward in 1808 by Sir Francis Burdett, who said there were persons whom it was hard to expose by courts-martial, but it would be harder still to retain them in the service. It was again brought forward in 1815, when Mr. Tierney vindicated the right of officers to be tried by courts-martial, because, having purchased their commissions, they were entitled to be protected in the enjoyment of them. Lastly, in 1823, when a similar attempt was made by Colonel Davies, Lord Palmerston, who was then Secretary at War, asked whether a man could be tried for want of talent. Could anyone conceive anything more ridiculous than that a commanding officer who had discovered the incapacity of a young subaltern should have to submit his judgment to a court-martial, upon which other young subalterns might sit? At the beginning of the present century five or six officers of the 85th Regiment brought several charges against their commanding officer, only one of which, and that a minor one, they were able to substantiate. The Court reported that in making these charges those officers were not actuated by regard for the public good, and His Majesty dispensed with their services. Insubordination, however, still continuing, His Majesty was obliged to dismiss every officer; and the regiment being re-officered, afterwards distinguished itself in the Peninsula and in America. A case had occurred in his own recollection, in which several officers were dismissed without trial for playing practical jokes of a very disagreeable character upon an unpopular brother officer. What would 1442 have been the effect in those cases of trying those officers by courts-martial? Why, that every officer of the Court would take his seat with a bias in favour of the accused. Again, in 1823 it was sought to make capital out of the fact that from 1795 to 1823 some 929 officers had been dismissed without trial. But Lord Palmerston pointed out that in almost in every case these officers had been suspended for absence without leave. No doubt, cases of hardship occasionally occurred, and Lord Palmerston admitted that in regard to Caulfield, Captain of the Navy, the Crown had been improperly advised; but might not the Crown be wrongly advised in the exercising the Prerogative in other matters—as in declaring war, making peace, or dissolving Parliament? The case of Sir Robert Wilson had been mentioned. He maintained that that officer was not improperly removed. Sir Robert Wilson told the Life Guards at Queen Caroline's funeral that they were disgracing themselves by firing on a crowd. He had nothing to do with the troops, being in plain clothes, and was guilty of interfering with troops not under his command. The hon. Gentleman disclaimed any intention of doing away with Prerogative. But the Motion, if carried, would assuredly have that effect—as might be inferred from the answer of Lord Chancellor Cowper, who being asked by Queen Anne whether it would be illegal for her by patent to make the Duke of Marlborough Commander-in-Chief for life, thus limiting her own Prerogative, replied—"I do not know whether such a patent would be illegal, but I know it would be unconstitutional." Similarly, he believed, this Motion of the hon. Gentleman to be unconstitutional. He was certain it would obtain no sympathy from the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government who, in a debate on a kindred question in 1855, said he was not inclined to take a pedantic view of the Royal Prerogative, or uphold the dogma that it was too strong, as he would rather see the influence of the Prerogative increased than diminished. It was said, that we were unlike other countries in this respect. If so, so much the better. It was very seldom that we could boast of anything original; then, when we had got it, for Heaven's sake let us keep it, especially when, being original, it was also good. Believing as 1443 he did that the Royal Prerogative was never, on the whole, more judiciously exercised, and that the Motion was both uncalled-for and inopportune, he hoped the House would reject it by a decisive majority.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
rose to address the House, but—
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
proceeded to say that he did not understand the hon. Member for Finsbury to have alleged the existence of any political corruption in the matter; and doubted whether hon. Members were advancing the interests of the Army by perpetually calling the attention of Parliament to alleged grievances.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
proceeded. He did not intend to address himself to the general question of whether or not courts-martial were pleasant tribunals, but rather to call attention to some personal hardships that were within his knowledge. He denied that there was any analogy between the case of a military officer dismissed from the service and that of a railway employé dismissed by his employers, because there was no career open to a military officer on his dismissal from the Army, whereas a man who had been discharged by a railway company might obtain some other employment. A gallant Friend of his who became a cornet in 1826, and who had served 32 years in India, came to this country in 1853 on 10 months' leave in consequence of illness, which leave was granted on a medical certificate. On his arrival in England he read, to his surprise, a notice in The Gazette that he had been dismissed from the Army with a pension of £400 a-year. He had a wife and family, and that was the small allowance that was granted to him after he had spent the greater portion of his life in the unhealthy climate of India. If he had not been thus removed from the Army, he would have been entitled to a bonus of £4,700, and would also have had a chance of promotion. He had no right of appeal. The hardship was even greater in the case of the Indian officers 1444 than the officers at home, for these had the Secretary for "War, the Commander-in-Chief, and public opinion to support them, and he hoped to hear from the Government some explanation of the case he had referred to.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. STEPHEN CAVE
said, he had some reason to complain of the hon. Member who had moved this Resolution, because he had not only made a speech wide of the Resolution itself, but he had concluded with a Motion which was not that on the Paper. He had moved for a Royal Commission to inquire, not into the general question, but into the cases to which he had referred. He thought that it would have been very much better if the hon. Member had given Notice of the particular cases he was going to bring forward, because there might then have been some means of answering him satisfactorily. He denied that the Government had admitted last year that the Motion was a reasonable one, provided a sufficient number of cases was adduced in support of it. They objected to it then on principle, and they did so now. He did not deny that cases of hardship might have occurred, and he had no wish to stand in the way of reparation: nor did he object to such cases being brought before the Great Inquest of the nation, where the Secretary of State could answer for himself; but he did not admit that the House was a proper tribunal for deciding such matters. He would not go into all the historical cases which the hon. Member had brought forward. The Army had been wholly changed since the earlier cases he mentioned had occurred. When the Secretary for War had stated that he wished to give the scheme of his Predecessor a fair trial, surely this part of the scheme of his Predecessor ought to have a fair trial too. If there was one thing which was contended for more than another by Army reformers it was that supersession and not promotion by seniority was to be the rule. The hon. Member seemed to have forgotten his own Motion, which was that officers below the rank of Major General were not to be dismissed without Court Martial, for he had brought forward, in illustration of his 1445 demand, the case of the Duke of York, and that of an Admiral of the Navy. It was not fair to bring forward single eases; he did not admit the accuracy of the statements made, and there was no means of testing them on the spur of the moment. He had no doubt the hon. Member had given what he believed to be a true representation of each case; but it must be remembered that these cases were episodes, single instances in men's careers, and therefore they were not to be considered fair samples of general administration. It was quite impossible in some instances that courts martial could have been held. How could a court martial consider whether a man's intellectual and moral capacities were sufficient, and whether his bodily health was good? Yet these were matters which the hon. Member wished to be brought before a court martial, which was really a Court of Criminal Jurisdiction. This question was fully debated last year and in 1865, and he was not about to repeat the arguments which had then been used. He was surprised to hear a Motion brought forward from the other side of the House in favour of individuals at the expense of the public and of privilege at the expense of the Service. Would it be tolerated in the Civil Service or in any other employment that a man could not be got rid of unless he had committed some crime? He would not allude to individual cases of supposed wrong, because if such cases existed they ought to be brought forward, not as an Amendment to going into Committee of Supply, but in the form of a Vote of Censure against the Secretary of State for War, who was superior in such matters to the Commander-in-Chief. As a rule, a Court of Inquiry was a much more fit tribunal to try the cases that came before it than a court martial would be. Courts martial could not try the state of a man's health, nor want of qualification, nor offences which were neither civil nor military. Employers had often to make up their minds in cases where the evidence would not be sufficient to obtain conviction in a Court of Law. In his opinion, a Court of Inquiry was a very merciful institution in many cases, by protecting an officer from having his character taken from him simply by private report. To sweep away the system on account of a few hard cases arising 1446 under it would be most unwise and most unstatesmanlike; while, on the other hand, it would not be right to protect inefficiency for the sake of preserving a theory. It would be absurd to say that no man should be prevented from commanding a regiment unless he had committed some military crime. A man and his friends always thought that he had been illused when the decision of the authorities had gone against him; and it could not be said that the individuals who complained the most of their treatment were friendless men, many of them being of the highest rank and influence in the country. Hard cases made bad laws, and it would not do for the House to allow itself to be influenced by the statement that in a few instances hardships had been endured under the system. It was impossible that the Commander-in-Chief could maintain the discipline of the Army unless some such power as that referred to was given. The charge which had generally been brought against the military authorities was that they had acted the other way, and had kept in high positions men who were inefficient. He was surprised to hear hon. Members who were usually so careful of the finances of India now proposing that they should be burdened with enormous pensions to incompetent men, who were already retired with pensions due to their rank. This question ought to be left to the Executive, who had a most disagreeable duty to perform, unless, indeed, the command of a battalion was again to go by seniority, or the appointment was to be vested in the House of Commons. His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief was most unwilling to exercise the arbitrary power that was intrusted to him, and when he had been pressed by the Army Organization Committee to select officers for the command of regiments, he had declined the responsibility, but surely he ought to have a veto. Some time since His Royal Highness had told the Army Purchase Commission that the exercise of the power of retiring officers must be backed by public opinion. The Commander-in-Chief, therefore, was the last man to exercise the power oppressively, but if he did he was under the Secretary of State, who was responsible to that House and might be censured for his conduct. The hon. Member was not alone in de- 1447 siring that we should have a contented Army. He believed that so far from this prerogative causing discontent in the Army, it had been felt in more than one case, not by Englishmen only, but by foreigners who observed closely, that it had been the means of preserving the honour of the British Army, and that its just and resolute exercise had given relief and satisfaction to every class of officers. Under these circumstances, he must offer his humble but very earnest opposition to the Motion of the hon. Member.
§ GENERAL SIR GEORGE BALFOUR
rose to address the House; but—
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members not being present,
§ House adjourned at a quarter before Twelve o'clock, till Monday next.