This being the day fixed by colonel Wood for his motion for the production of the proceedings of the court martial, relative to sir John Duckworth, he rose in his place and stated to the house, that he was willing to defer his motion for some days longer, that every gentleman might have sufficient opportunity of informing himself on the subject. This delay had been suggested by some hon. gentlemen, and should it meet the approbation of the house, he would renew his notice for that day se'nnight.
did not wish to oppose the delay proposed by the hon. gent. but could not help remarking that this was the second time be had deferred his motion without adducing any satisfactory ground for that delay. He complained at the same time that the hon. member had handed about papers on this subject, one of which he had got put into his hand on entering the house, and which was calculated to make an impression on the public mind, to the prejudice of the hon. baronet who was the subject of the intended motion.
then stated, that though he wished to give members time to consider the subject, he had no objection to bring it forward then, should it appear to be the desire of the house. The paper of which the hon. member complained captain Wood's memorial to the lords of the admiralty) he stated to be a public document, and therefore a proper subject of attention for the house.
§ Admiral Markham
saw no reason why the question should not then be determined, as it merely related to the propriety of producing the proceedings, and not to the merits of the court martial. For his own part he acknowledged himself hostile to the production of these papers. On Colonel Wood's rising to explain,
§ The Speaker
observed, that there was no question before the house, and it remained for the hon. gent. to determine whether he would defer his motion, or now bring it forward pursuant to notice.
§ Colonel Mark Wood ,
seeing the house 194 disposed to proceed, said he should no longer delay his intended motion. The hon. colonel spoke as follows:—sir, the proceedings of the late naval court martial held upon vice-admiral sir John Duckworth having been printed and published by the admiral himself, it cannot be the wish either of the admiral nor that of his friends to suppress or keep from public discussion a subject to which they have themselves given such publicity, and therefore I trust there will not be any difference in opinion to prevent those proceedings, and other papers relating to this business, from being laid upon the table of this house. With permission of the house, I will beg leave to read captain Wood's memorial to the lords commissioners of the admiralty, together with the legal opinions given upon a case, for the purpose of ascertaining how far the court martial decided according to their oaths, and according to the 18th article of war.
"The Memorial of Captain James Athol Wood,
"Humbly sheweth, that the sentence of the court martial lately held upon vice-admiral sir J. Duckworth having not only most honourably acquitted the vice-admiral of the several charges preferred against him, but having also declared in general and unqualified terms those charges to have been gross, unfounded, malicious, and scandalous, your memorialist would consider himself unworthy of the commission which he has the honour to bear in his majesty's service, as well as wanting in that respect which he owes to the lords commissioners of the admiralty, were he not, with the greatest deference and respect, to state to their lordships, that so far from the charges which he preferred against vice-admiral Duckworth having been either gross, unfounded, malicious, or scandalous, your memorialist trusts he shall be able to satisfy your lordships, that such charges have been as fully substantiated as it was possible for them to be, under all those unfavourable circumstances under which your memorialist was placed.—With respect to the first charge, for oppression in superseding your memorialist in the command of the Acasta, under the pretext of appointing him to the Hercule, a ship of greater consequence, your memorialist begs leave to submit the following observations for your lordships' consideration: after having been constantly and 195 actively employed under admiral Cornwallis, off Brest, from the commencement of the war, towards the end of last November your lordships were pleased to direct him to proceed to the West Indies with a large and valuable fleet; and on the 2d of February your memorialist arrived with this fleet at Port Royal in Jamaica.—The second day after the arrival of your memorialist at that station, vice-admiral Duckworth gave him notice of his determination to remove your memorialist from the command of his own frigate the Acasta into the Hercule, 74-gun ship, at that time at sea; alledging for so unusual and so cruel an exertion of power, not only the good of his majesty's service, but his intention of promoting your memorialist to the command of a ship of superior class. It appears, not only from the evidence of captain Dunn, admiral Duckworth's captain, by whom your lordships' appointment was superseded, but also by the evidence of the admiral's secretary, that admiral Dacres,long before the Acasta arrived, had declared his intention of hoisting his flag on board of the Hercule, and to carry with him his captain and officers. This fact admiral Duckworth never has denied; and accordingly admiral Dacres did hoist his flag on board of the Hercule before your memorialist sailed from Jamaica.—It is therefore evident, that the reason which the vice-admiral assigned in his public letter for superseding your memorialist, namely, the good of the service, and giving him the Command of a ship of greater consequence, was false and groundless, and calculated merely to give a colour of justice to an act of the greatest stretch of power, cruelty, and oppression.—If the ostensible pretext, that the good of the service required the vice-admiral's return to England on board of the Acasta, your memorialist was surely fully competent to have commanded to England that ship which the lords of the admiralty had so long been pleased to entrust to his charge.—Thus, after serving in his majesty's navy upwards of thirty years, without any alledged offence, but on the contrary the strongest testimonies of zealous services, your memorialist has been most oppressively and most unjustly deprived of the command of his majesty's ship Acasta; and, in aggravation to his grievances, compelled to beg and to intreat a passage to Europe on board of his own ship, in a situation very however, inadequate to his rank; whereas two pas 196 sengers, totally unconnected with his majesty's service, occupied his former cabin; all of which tending to degrade and to lessen your memorialist in the eyes of a ship's company, so long devoted and attached to your memorialist.—The second charge against the admiral was, for having, in violation of the 18th article of war, loaded on board of the Acasta various goods and merchandizes, otherwise than for the sole use of his majesty's ship. In support of this second charge, your memorialist has proved by the admission of the admiral himself, that he had loaded on board of the Acasta eleven logs and two slabs of mahogany, measuring at least 16 tons; about 150 1b. weight of Spanish snuff, of the value of upwards of 200 guineas; from 30 to 40 casks of shaddocks and fruits, upwards of 20 pipes and puncheons of wine, rum, &c. &c. exclusive of liquors and various articles of household furniture, allowed to be 40 tons and upwards, but which, in the belief of your memorialist, exceeded 100. By the evidence of captain Dunn, the Acasta appeared to him to have been so loaded and lumbered as to have resembled a West Indiaman, and that in direct violation to the printed instruction, the spirit-room prepared for preserving in safety his majesty's spirits, had been cleared out, and the ship's spirits removed into the hold, a very dangerous and insecure place, to make room for the vice-admiral's wines and spirits. It has also been proved, that many of the seamen had been removed from their mess places and births, to stow betwixt decks logs of mahogany and articles of household furniture made up in the island of Jamaica, where, by the evidence of the joiner of the Hercule, he had been employed at the admiral's pen three years.—By the 18th article of war, it is expressly declared, that if any officer of any or his majesty's ships of war, shall receive on board, or permit to be received on board such ship or vessel, any goods or merchandizes whatsoever, excepting for the sole use of the ship or vessel, and being convicted thereof, shall be cashiered, and for ever afterwards rendered incapable to serve in the naval service of his majesty. Exclusive thereof, it is further enacted, that any officer so offending, or owner of such goods, shall be liable to forfeit the full value of such goods, to be recovered in a court of law. It is, however, evident from the sentence of this court martial, that nothing loaded on board 197 of the Acasta, were deemed by those who have so decided, goods or merchandizes, either, because they had not been loaded on board by merchants, or proof adduced of the vice-admiral's intention to sell or to dispose of such goods. If under the head of "goods or merchandize," the legislature only meant goods of which undoubted proof could be adduced of the officer's intention to sell, and the evidence of such intention is to be the confession of the party accused, or the evidence of those connected with him; your memorialist begs leave most respectfully to submit to your lordships, that a door would in such a case be opened, and a most dangerous and extensive latitude given, to the greatest possible abuses. Under the name of "presents," his majesty's ships of war might be converted to the private emolument of individuals, to the utter ruin and destruction of the naval service of his majesty.—From this consideration, as well as for the purpose of satisfying himself and friends, that the sentence of the late court martial had been most unjust, founded upon most erroneous opinions, and had grossly injured and insulted the character and feelings of an officer, over whose conduct they had no cognizance; your memorialist was induced to state a case for the opinion of the first lawyers in this country, a copy of which he begs leave to submit for their lordships' information.—This case your memorialist begs leave to observe, has been drawn in the most favourable terms for the vice-admiral; admitting that every article loaded by him on board of the Acasta, could be proved to have been intended for presents, and not for sale. Notwithstanding of which, the most eminent lawyers in England have given it as their opinion, that if the court martial had decided according to the 18th article of war, the vice-admiral must inevitably have been cashiered, and for ever rendered incapable of serving his majesty.—That the admiral's conduct, in super-seding your memorialist in the command of the Acasta, was unjust, cruel, and oppressive, and that the lords commissioners of the admiralty had not deemed the charge unfounded, your memorialist is warranted in appealing to your lordships, having been pleased immediately on hearing of so unprecedented a stretch of power, to re-appoint your memorialist to the command of the Acasta; a circumstance of which he was unacquainted at the time when he requested a court martial to be 198 held upon the vice-admiral.—That the sentence of the court martial, in acquitting the vice-admiral of the second charge, viz. loading on board of the Acasta, goods and merchandize not intended for the sole use of the ship, is highly illegal and unjust, and is in direct violation of two acts of parliament made for the express purpose of restraining naval officers from such unofficer-like practices, he is warranted in asserting, upon the first legal opinions of England herewith inclosed.—Under all these circumstances, and a due consideration of the harsh, cruel, and unmerited treatment which your memorialist has received, he trusts your lordships will be pleased to direct that the proceedings and sentence of this court martial, together with this memorial, be submitted for the opinion of his majesty's law officers, or if, judged necessary, for that of his majesty's judges, in order that your memorialist may have an opportunity of vindicating his character, and of obtaining that justice to which he may appear entitled: and your memorialist shall ever pray. James Athol, Wood, captain r. navy." Pall-Mall, May 25, 1805.—xviiith article of war. "If any captain, commander, or other officer of any of his majesty's ships or vessels, shall receive on board, or permit to be received on board such ship or vessel, any goods or merchandizes whatsoever, other than for the sole use of the ship or vessel; except gold, silver, or jewels, and except the goods or merchandizes belonging to any merchant, or other ship or vessel which may be shipwrecked, or in imminent danger of being shipwrecked, either on the high seas, or in any port, creek, or harbour, in order to the preserving them for their proper owners; and except such goods or merchandizes as he shall at any time be ordered to take or receive on board by order of the lord high admiral of great Britain, or the commissioners for executing the office of lord high admiral for the time being; every person so offending, being convicted thereof by the sentence of a court martial, shall be cashiered, and be for ever afterwards rendered incapable to serve in any place or office in the naval service of his majesty, his heirs and successors. And whereas, by the said act, intituled, "an act for the more effectual suppressing of piracy," it is amongst other things enacted in the following words, that the said captain, commander, or other officer of the said ship or vessel of war, and all and every 199 the owners and proprietors of such goods and merchandizes put on board such ship or vessel of war as aforesaid, shall lose, forfeit, and pay the value of all and every such goods and merchandizes so put on board as aforesaid; one moiety of such full value to such person or persons as shall make the first discovery and give information of or concerning the said offence; the other moiety of such full value to and for the use of Greenwich hospital; all which forfeitures shall and may be sued for and recovered in the high court of admiralty: now for making the said in part recited act more useful and effectual, be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that from and after the twenty-fifth day of December, one thousand seven hundred and forty-nine, if any captain, commander, or other officer of any of his majesty's ships or vessels shall receive on board, or permit or suffer to be received on board such ship or vessel, any goods or merchandizes contrary to the true intent and meaning of the eighteenth article in this act before mentioned and hereby enacted, every such captain, commander, or other officer shall, for every such offence, over and above any punishment inflicted by this act, forfeit and pay the value of all and every such goods and merchandizes so received or permitted, or suffered to be received on board as aforesaid, or the sum of five hundred pounds of lawful money of great Britain, at the election of the informer or persons who shall sue for the same, so that no more than one of these penalties or forfeitures shall be sued for and recovered by virtue of this and the said in part recited act, or either of them, against the same person, for one and the same offence; one moiety of which penalties or forfeitures shall be forfeited and paid to the person who shall inform or sue for the same, and the other moiety thereof to and for the use of the royal hospital at Greenwich; which forfeiture shall be sued for and recovered by action of debt, bill, plaint, or information, in any of his majesty's courts of record at Westminster, or in the high court Of admiralty, at the election of the informer or person who shall sue for the same; and the court shall award such costs to the parties as shall be just; and in all cases where judgment or sentence shall be given against any such offender, the court where such judgment or sentence shall be given, shall, with all convenient speed, certify the same to the lord high admiral, or to the 200 commissioners for executing the said office."
Case.—"An officer of the navy, commanding a king's ship, not fully aware of this article of war, has inadvertently brought home with him (as a present for various friends, and not intending them for sale) on board the said ship, about sixteen tons of mahogany, and some large pieces of mahogany furniture, from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and fifty pounds weight of Spanish snuff, a couple of hundred weight of arrow root, some puncheons of rum and pipes of wine, and from thirty to forty casks of shaddocks; and has been threatened with a court martial for bringing on board such articles, as coming under the head of "goods and merchandize not being intended for the sole use of the ship or vessel."—Your opinion is required, how far any officer bringing on board such articles, can in any respect subject him to the penalty of the above clause of the 22d George II. being the 18th article of war; as the officer will be able to prove they were intended for presents to his friends, and not to be sold."
§ Mr. Garrow.
—"I am of opinion that the facts here stated would inevitably subject the officer to whom they apply, to a conviction under the article of war before stated; and it seems to me, that the value and quantity of the articles received on board, would but too probably render it impossible that the members of a court martial charged to enquire into the circumstances, should ascribe it to mistake or inadvertency, or any other excusable cause. W. GARROW." Lincoln's-Inn, 3d May, 1805.
§ Mr. Dallas.
—" The above case, it appears to me, falls directly within the words of the article in question, and these words are so strongly restrictive, viz. for the sole use of the ship, that I do not see how they can admit of any equitable enlargement, so as to exempt from their operation articles intended for presents, and not for sale. The object of the provision may have been to prevent a trading by the king's officers, but it may also have had other objects with respect to the state and navigation of the ship; but at all events, whatever may have been the aim, the words are positive and peremptory, and nothing appears upon the face of the act to give them any particular qualification. I take, however, for granted, that a court martial would give to every such case a most liberal considera- 201 tion, and would not construe a few articles intended for the use of friends, and as presents merely, into a breach of the provision of the law; they would probably be considered as part of the captain's stores, or upon some ground or other, would not be treated as amounting to a breach of the law; but this would depend upon degree; and in the present instance the articles are of such a nature, and such in point of amount, that it does appear to me to be of a very unfavourable nature, taking it even for granted, that it can be proved, that which is stated, namely, that they were intended for presents merely, and not to be sold; but at any rate, should a court martial be held, this should be pressed as strong as possible, even though it should not operate as an absolute defence. R. DALLAS." Lincoln's-Inn Fields, May 3d, 1805.
—" I cannot say that strictly this case does not fall within the 22d of George II. chap. 33d, art. 18. The prohibition is general, without any exception of presents; and even if it be usual to overlook the case of presents, it is possible that the quantity of goods may have raised some doubt whether they were so meant, and may have occasioned a stricter scrutiny than usual upon this occasion. V. GIBBS." Lincoln's-Inn, May 1st, 1805.
§ Hon. S. Perceval.
—" I am of opinion that the case mentioned above, certainly comes within the words of the clause, and if it be made the subject of charge before a court martial, will not, as I apprehend, be thought by such court to be justified by reason of the articles being intended as presents. SP. PERCEVAL." May 3d, 1805, Lincoln's-Inn Fields.
The Hon. Thomas Erskine.
—" I am very sorry to be obliged to say, that the purpose, the honourable purpose for which the unfortunate officer appears to have taken on board a king's ship the goods in question, would be no defence, it he were prosecuted; neither could the sentence be mitigated, nor could the king pardon the offence under such circumstances; therefore, it would be a harsh thing to prosecute upon the statute, the language of which is peremptory. T. ERSKINE." May 30th, 1805.—After reading the above,
§ Colonel Wood
proceeded as follows:—Whatever my feelings may be for the character, of a brother that has been most grossly traduced and calumniated by the sentence of this naval court martial; much as every man must feel for captain Wood 202 on account of the unprecedented, harsh, and cruel treatment which he has suffered, in being deprived of the command of one of the first frigates in the service, to answer the interested and private views of vice-admiral Duckworth; yet probably there might be a difference of opinion, whether full and ample redress might not be obtained for this officer, without legislative interference.—Had this therefore been the only object for my wishing those papers to be laid upon the table, I might probably have paused a little longer before I had troubled the house upon that subject; but when, sir, this act of unparalleled violence and injustice to a meritorious naval officer whilst employed in the service of his country, is immediately connected with the violation of an act of parliament, the foundation and key-stone of our naval discipline and glory; when the violation of this law is sanctioned by the late naval court martial, and a door thereby thrown open to the greatest abuses in the naval service of this country; I am sure, sir, there is not any member of this house, however much connected with the vice-admiral, whose conduct is so deeply implicated in those abuses, who must not feel the necessity of attending to a subject of so great national importance—Captain Wood, the officer whom sir J. Duckworth deprived of his ship for the purpose of conferring the command upon his own captain, has served in the royal navy upwards of thirty years, and is a post-captain of eight or nine years standing.—About three years ago lord St. Vincent appointed him to the command of the Acasta frigate of 44 guns, one of the finest frigates in the navy; and from the recommencement of the war until last November he was employed under admiral Cornwallis in the blockade off Brest, and other French ports.—Were it necessary to have references to captain Wood's character in the navy, lord St. Vincent, admirals Cornwallis and Harvey, and many other distinguished officers will bear ample testimony to his merits. Towards the end of last November, the lords commissioners of the admiralty ordered captain Wood to Jamaica with a. valuable convoy of ships, where he arrived the beginning of February. He was the unfortunate bearer of vice-admiral Duckworth's recal, and of admiral Dacres' appointment to succeed him in that command.—Admiral Duckworth determined upon returning home in the Acasta, which, as senior officer, he had an un- 203 doubted right to do, although, had the good of his majesty's service been consulted, he would not have kept that frigate under the walls of Port Royal idle one month until the yellow fever commenced its havock; there were many other frigates that required coming home to England, in which the vice-admiral might have been accommodated. Had admiral Duckworth returned in the Acasta under the command of that captain to whom the lords of the admiralty had thought proper to intrust the command of her, not only the common usage of the service, but that attention which every officer is bound to pay to the common calls of justice and of humanity would have been preserved, but this would not have suited nor have answered the admiral's purposes.—The Acasta was a large roomy frigate, and the admiral had a number of things to bring home, which he durst not ask any captain, a stranger, to permit to be loaded on board, and which no one but a confidential friend would have suffered to pass unnoticed. There was also a large freight of treasure to be brought home from Jamaica, 7-eighths of the commission on which captain Wood was entitled to; the other eighth to the admiral. Admiral Duckworth therefore not only determined to return to England in the Acasta, but to deprive captain Wood of the command of her, for the purpose of conferring it upon captain Dunn, the admiral's captain and confidential friend; and for this purpose the vice-admiral appoints capt. Wood to the Hercule, a 74-gun ship, at that time at sea, and assigns as his reason, the giving him a ship of greater consequence. This reason captain Wood knew to be false and groundless, and, as I shall shew hereafter, the vice-admiral himself acknowledged to be so. Independent of this confession of the vice-admiral, admiral Dacres (his successor in the command) bad informed captain Wood officially that he had determined to hoist his flag on board of the Hercule the instant she returned to port, which he accordingly did, and which the vice-admiral knew he would do, before the Acasta arrived at Jamaica.—In this manner, sir, was capt. Wood dispossessed of the command of his ship, the distress and mortification resulting therefrom had nearly deprived him of his reason, and labouring under this affliction without a friend on whom he could confide, or with whom he could advise, for the vice-admiral had shifted all the officers; 170 of the ship's com- 204 pany, as well as the captain of the Acasta, is it to be wondered at, that the vice-admiral should have had the advantage of him at his trial, whose honest sensibility had to contend with power and systematic arrangements, supported by prejudice and partiality, nay even perjury?—Exclusive of losing his ship, admiral Duckworth deprived him of at least 2000l. commission, to which he was entitled as commander of the Acasta, as much as to his pay, either given to captain Dunn, or arranged in whatever other manner the admiral chose to dispose of it.—To reconcile to the common feelings of mankind, much more to justify so strong a measure, common prudence required that the motives of the vice-admiral himself should have been perfectly pure and disinterested, but it can be proved, that so far from having been actuated by any disinterested and honourable motive, that at tins very time he must have had in contemplation the violation of an act of parliament for which the removal of captain Wood from the ship was absolutely necessary.—In the first place, let me call the attention of the house to the defence which the vice-admiral offers for superseding an officer commanding one of his majesty's ships under a commission from the lords commissioners of the admiralty, to give her to a protégé of his own; viz. "that he could not commit the honour of his flag, and his own character to the chapter of accidents, nor cross the Atlantic in a ship commanded by a stranger." Good God, sir, could there be a more gross or more scandalous libel against the whole of the captains of the British navy? Excepting captain Dunn, this admiral durst not trust himself in a ship during a few weeks' passage with any British captain with whom he had not a personal acquaintance, and, strange to relate, there could be found a majority of three admirals and nine captains of the British navy, deliberately, in the character of judges, to recognize and approve of this act of violence. by which they acknowledge, that a commission from the admiralty is no protection to them against the whim, or caprice, or revenge, of a commander in chief on a foreign station, who may shift them from the finest frigate in the service into any old hulk bearing a pendant, so that she happens to be of a superior class in the navy list, even when recalled from command, and not going upon service: what have not those gentlemen to answer for to their 205 brother officers?—Let me now submit to the house how totally at variance are the actions and professions of the vice-admiral. By the 18th article of war, "every naval officer, who either loads on board, or permits to be laden on board of any ship of war, goods or merchandize, excepting for the sole use of the ship, is not only to be cashiered, but to be rendered for ever incapable of serving his majesty. Admiral Duckworth had loaded on board of the Acasta, by his own admission, 11 logs and 2 slabs of mahogany, large wardrobes made at Jamaica by the carpenters of the ship who were eating the king's provisions, and receiving the king's pay, and employed by the vice-admiral for the purpose of making the furniture to be used in his house in England. Any noble-minded man, sir, would have said to his successor, "these are articles which I found necessary to the convenience and comfort of my command, they have been made at little experience to me, pray consider them as belonging to the house assigned for the commander in chief, and as I now transfer them to you, do you take care that they are transferred to your successor." This, sir, might have justified the making them at the king's expence; but to manufacture them at Jamaica, and send them to England in packages, (for it is not pretended that they were put on board for the admiral's use on the passage home,) they can be considered only as articles of trade. I should be glad to know how the captain of the ship, who mustered Redhouse, the admiral's joiner, (as he is called in the minutes of the court martial,) for the three years he was working, on shore, would answer to a charge of false muster, were it to be brought against him and the admiral. With regard to the mahogany, of which there were eleven logs from two to three feet thick, and from 10 to 14 feet long each, also two slabs (stock for a first-rate cabinet-maker in London), I will venture to pronounce, that there is not a member of this house who will say, that those articles could be considered as any thing but "goods and merchandize," within both the spirit and the letter of the act of parliament. There were also shipped on board the Acasta about 20 casks of wine and rum, and from 30 to 40 casks of fruit, besides various other articles not worthy of notice; none of which have been alledged as for the ship's use. To make room for those, he was obliged, if not actually to turn seamen out of their usual 206 sleeping places, at least to make it very inconvenient to them, and to deprive them of those comforts to which our gallant tars were so well entitled. Capt. Dunn has acknowledged that he ordered the spirit-room to be cleared out and the spirits belonging to his majesty to be stowed in the hold, for the purpose of stowing the admiral's wines and spirits in the public spirit-room, in direct violation of the naval printed instructions, which state particularly the manner in which the spirit-room is to be fitted up, and the wine and spirits are to be taken care of by the purser, who (say the instructions) is never to expect any allowance for leakage of wine or spirits, but to see that the casks be sound and full at their coming on board, and to be answerable for the care of them afterwards, there being proper conveniences made in the hold for securing them from abuses, which are not to be employed to any other use whatsoever.—Had captain Wood commanded the Acasta, not a log of mahogany nor any of those various articles enumerated, and acknowledged to have been loaded on board, could have been introduced on board his majesty's ship, without subjecting himself to the penalties of the 18th article of war. Captain Dunn, by his friendly complaisance to his admiral's wishes, is now placed in that unfortunate situation, liable to be tried by a court martial, and dismissed the service.—Notwithstanding admiral Duckworth's oppressive and unjust conduct was most clearly proved before the court martial, and indeed admitted by the lords of the admiralty themselves, by their having immediately re-appointed capt. Wood to the command of the Acasta; notwithstanding it was clearly proved by captain Dunn, that the spirit-room, in direct violation of the naval instructions, (pages 120 and 203,) was cleared out to make way for the admiral's liquors; notwithstanding it was admitted by the admiral himself, that he had on board 11 logs and 2 slabs of mahogany, several wardrobes, 200 guineas worth of Spanish snuff, 20 casks of wine and spirits, and 30 or 40 casks of fruit, with various other articles. A naval court martial has not merely acquitted him, but most fully and most honourably acquitted him, of every part of the charge; navy, not satisfied with his acquittal, they have declared the charges gross, unfounded, malicious and scandalous. So illegal and so unjust a sentence, I will venture to assert, upon the 207 never was pronounced by any court martial.—Thus, sir, has not only an act of parliament, formed for the express purpose of restricting naval officers from converting his majesty's ships of war to the private emolument of individuals, been not merely set at defiance, but by the sanction of a court martial the door has been thrown open to abuses, which if not speedily remedied, must end in the ruin of the discipline and good government of the naval service of this country.—When even the laws of the country may not have provided any direct and easy road for the protection of individuals from gross and premeditated violence and injustice, but more particularly when those acts of injustice and oppression have been committed against a servant of the public, employed on the public service. I humbly conceive, sir, it is the bounden duty of this house, not merely to enquire, but to sift such matters to the bottom, that they may support, without affection or favour, that high character to which I trust the country will ever look up with confidence.—In the present instance, sir, it is not merely acts of gross violence and injustice that is complained of, but the most daring breach of an act of parliament of the very first importance to this country. Under such circumstances, sir, precedent would be unnecessary, but there must be upon record many precedents, not merely respecting the interference of this house, but of courts of law to correct and controul the unjust and illegal proceedings of courts martial. One immediately occurs, and is mentioned by that very able and respectable gentleman, Mr. Mac Arthur, to whom the public is so much indebted for his excellent treatise upon naval courts martial.—Capt. Norris was brought to a court martial at his own desire, for misbehaviour off Toulon in the business of Mathews and Lestock; the prosecutor lieutenant Jekyll of the same ship.—Lieutenant Jekyll, Palliser, and others addressed the admiralty, complaining of the proceedings of this court martial; the same as captain Wood has done in the present instance. The proceedings were laid before the house of commons, and they were declared to have been partial, arbitrary, and illegal. Admiral Rowley was the president of 25 captains, members of this court martial. Another instance happened the year before of the interference of the court of common pleas.—Lieut. Frye of the marines was brought 208 to a court martial, by the captain of the Oxford man of war, for his disobedience of orders. Sir Chaloner Ogle was president of this court martial. He was sentenced to imprisonment, and to be dismissed the service. He recovered of sir Chaloner Ogle 1000 guineas damages; and lord chief justice Wills told him, he would support an action against every other member of the court martial. He next proceeded against two other members: admiral Mayne and captain Renton, at that time members of a court martial, assembled at Deptford to try admiral Lestock. The court martial addressed the admiralty and his majesty, violently complaining of judge Wills's intereference. The judge issued his capias against every member who signed the address, and they were only pardoned upon the most submissive apoloigy.—I shall therefore move, "that there be laid upon the table of this house the proceedings of a late naval court martial held upon vice-admiral Duckworth; the memorial of Captain Wood to the lords commissioners of the admiralty, dated the 25th instant; accompanying a case, and opinions of the attorney and solicitor general, Messrs. Erskine, Dallas, and Garrow, respecting the 18th article of war; also a return from the customs and excise of all articles loaded on board the Acasta that had been entered and paid duty."
Mr. W. Dickinson, jun.
said, he had listened to the hon. gent. in the expectation of learning some sufficient grounds to induce the house to order these papers before them. He however was perfectly disappointed in such expectation. He saw no advantage likely to arise to the public from the house interfering with the sentence of a court martial, the proceedings of which were already sufficiently known to convince the public, that no reflection could possibly with justice be cast upon him. He justified the censure of the court martial on captain Wood. It was according to precedent. In the case of sir Hugh Palliser, who brought admiral Keppel to trial, the court martial that acquitted Keppel declared the charge vexatious, in consequence of which sir Hugh lost his seat at the admiralty board, his colonelcy of marines, the government of Scarborough Castle, and was induced to resign his seat in parliament. The motion of the hon. colonel would be of no advantage to the public or individuals, and therefore he should give it his opposition.
§ Sir William Elford
testified, of his own, knowledge, the excellence of the character of the gallant admiral.
said he should feel disgraced if he were to remain silent. He had no other interest in this motion, but that which he took in behalf of a very revered friend, who had been honourably employed, for forty years, in the naval service of his country; not less than thirty of which were passed on ship-board. Though his long and meritorious services had been honoured and rewarded by his majesty, it was impossible that he could have been in so many situations, without being subject to some slight charges of this nature. He said, he could not consider the present proceeding as a very fair one, for, no sooner was the verdict of the court martial known, than captain Wood had served the admiral with notice of a civil action, pending which, this criminal proceeding was attempted.
spoke in favour of the admiral. Many officers of the navy whom he knew gave him the highest character. Their testimony was of the most unqualified nature. Besides, the production of the papers moved for would be a dangerous precedent.
§ Admiral Markham
stated what he knew of the gallant admiral. He had served under his command; he had known hint 30 years; he went out with him to the West Indies in 1789. In 1797 and 1798, he was under him on the coast of Ireland; he went to the Mediterranean in 1798; in the end of 1798, he went, subject to his orders, to Minorca, second in command. Knowing so much of the gallant admiral, he felt it to be incumbent upon him to give his opinion on this occasion to the house, and he could honestly declare, that during the whole period, he never knew him to do any thing that was oppressive to the officers under his command. With respect to the law opinion, he would just say, that probably, not an officer in the navy but might be superseded on such an opinion; for, hardly one of them was free from the sin of transgression as to the 18th article of war. [A laugh.] Most captains brought home a pipe, or even more, of wine for himself and friends, when on a wine station; and he himself had, when at the admiralty, requested some of his naval friends to bring him some wine. An hon. gent. over against him 210 (sir Philip Stevens) must remember the practice before he was born. [Laugh].
§ Colonel Wood
said, that as it appeared to be, the wish of the house that this matter should not be brought forward at present, he should withdraw it, with the intention of taking another opportunity next session to bring it under their consideration.
said, that as the hon. colonel had thought proper to bring forward such aspersions against the character of such a highly respectable and gallant officer as sir John Duckworth was, notwithstanding the decision of the court martial, he thought it was highly proper that the question should be put, so as to have the sense of the house upon the subject.—On this, the question that the motion be withdrawn, was put from the chair, and loudly negatived without a division.