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glory of England “at the same height at which it had been held through many generations."
Mr. Goschen found himself saddled with a duty not so agreeable in defending the conduct of his predecessor in a matter which had caused much discussion. Vice-Admiral Sir Spencer Robinson, Third Lord of the Admiralty, and one of the most distinguished officials connected with that department, had been dismissed from his post by the Premier in consequence of differences with Mr. Childers. A long correspondence, in which Sir Spencer Robinson, Mr. Childers, and Mr. Gladstone had among others taken part, was published in the newspapers, and did not reflect any high credit on the Ministers. One letter of Mr. Gladstone's, in which he took the extraordinary step of requesting Sir Spencer to alter the date of one of his letters for publication, was the source of much amusement to the public, especially to those interested in the complexities of the Premier's character. It seemed only too clear, on the whole, that Sir Spencer's dismissal was referable to the sad loss of the “Captain," of the peculiar mode of construction of which vessel, as of Captain Coles's system generally, which Mr. Childers had strongly advocated, Sir Spencer had as strongly expressed his disapproval. The matter led to a discussion in Parliament, which, but for the illness and absence of Mr. Childers, would probably have taken a much more severe turn. As it was, Mr. Bouverie
gave expression to a very general feeling when he said that Sir Spencer Robinson had been treated “unjustly and ungenerously.” It cannot indeed be said that justice and generosity were this year conspicuous in the measures and conduct of Mr. Gladstone's Government,
The History of Purchase-Debates upon the Army Bill—Its altered form-Debate
in the House of Lords—The Duke of Richmond's Motion-Speeches on the Motion-Majority against the Government-Abolition of Purchase by Royal Warrant-Effect of the Proceeding-Vote of Censure on the Ministry passed by the Lords—The Army Bill passed—Proceedings in the Commons-Letter of Sir Roundell Palmer-Article in the “ Journal des Débats ”—The Ballot Bill-Con. servative Tactics-Meeting of Liberal Members—Their Policy-The Bill thrown out by the Lords—University Tests Bill-Mr. Fawcett's Bill relating to Trinity College, Dublin-The “Megæra"-Epping Forest and the Thames Embankment -Deceased Wife's Sister's Bill— Female Suffrage – Mr. Miall's motion for the Disestablishment of the English Church-Mr. Bruce's Blunders- The Washington Treaty-History of its Discussion—The Berkshire Campaign and its
Abandonment-Privy Council Bill — Elections for East Surrey and Plymouth. In the year 1683, a Royal Warrant was issued ordering the payment of 18. in the pound on the surrender of a commission to the person surrendering, and by him to whom the surrender is made. Ten years subsequently, William 'III., by a warrant, interdicted the payment“ of any present or gratuity” for obtaining a commission, every officer being obliged to take oath that he had neither directly nor indirectly given any money to any one for his commission, The oath was omitted in the Mutiny Act of 1701, and in the following year purchase was legally recognized by the decision in the case of Ire r. Ash, where a lieutenant who had repudiated his engagement to pay 6007. for a company was bound to perform it, the Court of Chancery overruling the plea that the transaction was a frandulent one. In 1711 Queen Anne issued a warrant interdicting the sale of commissions without the royal approbation under the sign manual, and in no case under twenty years' service, or unless the intending vendor were disabled while serving In 1719-20 some important regulations were issued limiting the sale of commissions to military purchasers; in 1725 a commission was appointed to inquire into the practice of over-regulation payments; in 1765 another commission was appointed under Lord Ligonier with the same object. One result of this commission was a fixed scale of prices, by which it appears that an ensigncy cost 4007., and the command of a regiment 35001.
Large over-regulation sums, however, continued to be paid, a practice which was rendered penal by an Act passed in 1798, the interference of all persons with the sale of commissions save authorized army agents being at the same time interdicted. In 1833 the Duke of Wellington addressed a famous Memorandum to a Committee on Army and Navy Appointments, in which he extolled the Purchase System, In 1810 the Report of Lord Melbourne's Commissions was issued, bearing the signatures of the most eminent soldiers of the day. This Report dwelt upon the advantages of the Purchase System as furthering promotion and retirement, and thereby securing physical efficiency among officers. In 1850 the Report of a Committee on Army and Ordnance Expenditure contained the approval of purchase by the Duke of Wellington, Lord Raglan, and Lord Panmure. Further commissions were appointed in 1854 and 1856, the Report of the latter recommending the cessation of the sale of commissions at the rank of lieutenant-colonel. Among the witnesses examined by this commission were" Jacob Omnium" and Sir Charles Trevelyan. During the following years various commissions were appointed for the consideration of such questions as promotion in the higher ranks (1858), distinguished service colonels (1863), retirement (1867), supersession of colonels (1870), promotion and retirement in the ordnance corps (1870), and overregulation prices (1870).
Such briefly is the history of the Purchase System in the British Army, an anomaly which it was clearly impossible to maintain after the Government of the day had declared that its abolition was necessary, and when the House of Commons was prepared to deal justly and liberally with the private interests which were affected. For Parliament was invited to compensate officers, not only for the legal value of their commissions, but for the excess of prices beyond the regulated amount which they had paid in accordance with the usage of the service. Mr. Cardwell may, perhaps, have fallen into some exaggeration when he asserted that reforms in the Army were impeded at every turn by the direct or indirect operation of Purchase. Many military authorities approved the practice, on the ground, or on the pretext, that it tended to accelerate promotion among regimental officers; and some political theorists regarded with complacent toleration a custom which secured the predominant influence of civil and social opinion in the Army. But as Lord Derby observed during the debate in the House of Lords, no institution is tenable in England which cannot be defended by arguments intelligible to the mass of the constituency. When purchase became the subject of discussion, no authority could dispel the popular belief that promotion obtained by the payment of money involved an undue and corrupt advantage to the rich. A Royal Commission had recently reported that the practice of bargaining for commissions was inseparable from the permission to buy them; and there was, perhaps, a certain scandal in the notorious frequency of transactions which were still prohibited by law. The strongest obstacle to the proposed abolition was the necessity of spending several millions for a purpose which tended but indirectly to promote the efficiency of the Army, and which had no bearing on its numerical strength; yet it was certain that purchase was destined to extinction sooner or later, and some deference was due to the judgment of the Government that the proper time had arrived. Mr. Cardwell, in his opening speech, had given no undue prominence to the part of his Bill which provided for the abolition of Purchase; but the discussion which occupied the greater part of the Session was almost exclusively confined to the expediency of the change. Lord Elcho alone raised the serious question of compulsory Ballot for the Militia, but the sense of the House was clearly against his proposal. From that time, in concert with Colonel Anson, Colonel Loyl-Lindsay, and other zealous opponents of the Bill, Lord Elcho with persistent iteration discussed the question of Purchase on every clause and at every stage of the Bill. An amendment against the abolition of Purchase, moved by Colonel Loyd-Lindsay, was, after a long debate, withdrawn by the advice of Mr. Disraeli. The discussion of the clauses continued night after night, as if for the purpose of excusing the Government for its failures in general legislation. So obstinate was the resistance of the military members, that even Sir Roundell Palmer, no friend to radical measures, rose in the House to rebuke them. “A course," he said, "had been taken the like of which he never remembered. Other great measures affecting great interests had been opposed without the minority endeavouring to baffle the majority by mere consumption of time. The minority who resisted the Irish Church and Land Bills had recognized the duty of respecting the principle of Parliamentary government, that the decision of the majority shall be binding. Conduct like that was neither in the interest of the country, of the Army, nor of Conservative principle.”
creditable as in the opinion of the best Conservatives they were, proved successful. In the second week of June, after four months of discussion which had done, after the first formal debate, nothing to illustrate the subject in dispute, Mr. Cardwell informed the House that in consequence of the opposition to the Bill, which, as Mr. Gladstone subsequently said, threatened to "make legislation physically impossible," the Government would only insist on the Purchase clauses, and the transfer of power over the Militia and Volunteers from the Lords-Lieutenant to the Crown. The first object of the Bill
was the reconveyance of the Army from the officers to the nation. Thereupon Mr. Disraeli sprang up to say that he had not approved the abolition of Purchase for itself, but as a means towards the reorganization of the Army now abandoned, that Government had acted with singular disingenuousness, and that the Bill should be withdrawn. Mr. Gladstone replied that the abolition of Purchase had always been the leading feature of the Bill, that the opposition deserved an epithet he would not apply to it, and that the Government must, and would, clear the ground for reorganization, by abolishing Purchase and the privilege of the Lords-Lieutenant.
It was believed at first that the Colonels would continue their opposition, but a strong hint from Mr. Cardwell that he could stop the payment of extra-regulation money by putting the law in force had its effect, and the Bill escaped through Committee. In its novel form it abolished Purchase, and depriving Lords-Lieutenant of their anomalous power of appointing officers in the Militia, restored to the State the government of the Army, while also enabling Parliament to fix from year to year the number of the Militia, authorizing Government to insist on six months' continuous training as the condition of entering that force, and making Volunteers when under training in the camps subject to the Mutiny Act.
About the probable action of the House of Lords much doubt was entertained up to the moment when the Bill was sent up to them, and even after their first day of debate. It was reasonably hoped that the Peers would defer to the opinion of the House of Commons, and that they would, even against their own judgment, close a controversy which admitted of only one final solution. It was resolved at a meeting of Conservative peers, held at the Carlton on the morning before the debate, to reject the Bill; but only eighty of the Lords were present, and it was known that Lord Derby for one dissented from the resolution.
Lord Northbrook opened the debate with a clear exposition of the policy of the Government, denying absolutely that they were, as had been freely charged against them, without a plan. Their plan, he said, was to introduce the Prussian system into this country without compulsory service, by dividing the total forces of the country into districts, linking together Army, Militia, and Volunteers, giving the Militia a first training of three months,
allowing officers to transfer themselves from one service to another, raising the Artillery until it was sufficient for an army of 150,000 men, and educating all officers employed. He showed by exhaustive illustrations that none of these things could be accomplished until Purchase had been abolished, and the Crown reinvested with the right of selecting officers for the Militia, and concluded by an emphatic declaration that all he had said had been said at the very beginning by the Secretary of State for War, and that no portion of the Bill essential to the Government plan had been dropped in the other House.
The Conservative attack took the shape of a motion by the Duke of Richmond that the House should not pass the second reading until it had before it a comprehensive plan. He admitted that Lord Northbrook had described a large scheme, but refused to consider it because it contained a mass of details which would have to be considered first. He declared that no reorganization could be found within the four corners of the Bill; defended Purchase, not in theory, but in practice, as a cheap scheme of retirement, securing a rapid flow of promotion; argued that the officers were very good; complained of the unknown expenditure with which the Government intended to saddle the country ; and thought that every thing good in the new scheme could be obtained without abolishing Purchase. In short, he made a Purchase speech, and was supported by Lord Dalhousie, who described the abolition of Purchase as another “ leap in the dark," and predicted that the Army would become political. Earl Grey argued on the same side, professing, however, not to defend Purchase, but only to attack the alternative systems of selection and seniority. His main point, however, was that the Regulars should be increased and the Militia abandoned ; while the Marquis of Hertford, who followed him, defended Purchase absolutely, as being approved by the forty men who in his own regiment in his own lifetime had risen from privates to be officers.
The only independent speech in defence of Government made during the first day's debate was by Lord Sandhurst, who spoke heartily and even warmly in favour of abolition. Promotion, he said, did depend on money, and he did not believe that the moral influence of a commanding officer could be maintained over a thousand men while they knew that command was being put up to auction, and they sold like a flock of sheep Purchase arose in the days of the Stuarts, and was part of the corruption of their time. He denied the alleged difficulty of administering selection, asserting that he had tried it in large armies, and was not more troubled by solicitations than the Duke of Cambridge was under the present scheme. He believed that the social feeling of regiments, which was so valuable, would survive Purchase, and held that the prophecies of enormous outlay on retirements were unfounded. Upon Colonel Anson's own figures, the amount could not exceed 250,0001. per annum. He concluded a very powerful speech by declaring