17 May 1857
Thanks him for draft Report; abolition of purchase for the lower ranks; she has read the resum6 of Lord Grey'sl evidence2 with dismay; doubtful value of competitive examinations; the regimental system and the sanitary and moral reform of the army.
4p Copy CLAYDON
Xerocopy: WELLCOME INST
1. Henry George Grey, Viscount Howick and 3rd Earl Grey (1802-1894); Secretary at War 1835-1839; Secretary for War and Colonies 1846-1852. After 1852 Grey did not again hold Cabinet rank.
He opposed Britain's entry into the Crimean War, and in 1857 the expedition to China.
2. See Commission appointed to inquire into the system of purchase and sale of commissions in the army with evidence and appendix, London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, for H.M.S.O., 1857, pp.236-255 [Parliamentary Paper, 1857, sess.2, xviii]. Lord Grey was reluctant to support any move to abolish the system of promotion by purchase before 'sufficient' substitute had been devised.
He argued that if purchase were abolished promotion would tend to be on the basis of seniority alone, particularly in peace time; whereas under the existing system promotion during war time tended to be on the basis of merit anyway. Nevertheless, he did propose that entry to the lower ranks and for promotion to Captain should be by examination. A further argument adduced in favour of the purchase system was that under it it was easier to get rid of officers who were found to have been promoted to positions beyond their capacity, Grey pointing out that a man who had acted well in a subordinate position was not infrequently found to be quite unfitted for higher command. Though this may have been the case under Wellington, it had certainly not been so during the Crimean War. However, in the event purchase was not abolished until Cardwell's Army Regulating Bill was forced through Parliament in 1871.
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