HC Deb 12 May 1809 vol 14 cc528-30
Mr. Whitbread

rose to revive a motion which he had proposed yesterday, but which he was then induced to defer at the request of the noble lord opposite to him (Castlereagh). It was for a return of the names of all the officers attached to the foreign corps, raised under colonel Charmilly: the various sums advanced to them in the way of allowance, or otherwise; and also their present state in his majesty's service. It did not strike him that there could be any objection to comply with the motion. The whole of those officers were known to be Roman catholics: he believed there were many of them, who from their conduct had not proved themselves to be men of the most unexceptionable character, although there were many others whose conduct was certainly irreproachable. It was, however, pretty extraordinary, that in 1794, when the letters of service were issued to French officers to enlist French soldiers from a military prison into his majesty's service, a positive refusal was given by the government, of the late duke of Bedford's request for a commission for the command of his own armed tenantry in the defence of his own country, under an apprehension that to trust that nobleman with the command of his own armed tenantry, would have been dangerous to the state. The hon. member concluded by moving, "That there be hid before this house, an account of all foreigners holding commissions in his majesty's service, and the dates of their first and present commissions, together with an account of all extra allowances of every description made to such officers, if any, and the reason for such allowances; also, an account of the present state of service of such officers, whether upon the staff, or with the regiments to which they may belong."

Lord Castlereagh

said, that he only requested the hon. member yesterday to postpone his motion, in order to have an opportunity of consulting with others, how far it might be adviseable to grant the return. Upon the fullest consideration, however, it was thought that the names of those officers, and their present situations in the service, could not be communicated without exposing them to great hazard and injury at some future time; and, upon this account only, he must resist the motion.

Mr. Whitbread

said, that the names of those officers were by no means secret; they were inserted in an authentic list of the army, published monthly, and must be known to every body desirous of learning their names. Therefore, he must consider the reason assigned by the noble lord, as a mere subterfuge for withholding the document he required. He could not, however, avoid remarking again, that while his majesty's government had thought fit to refuse the late duke of Bedford a commission, for the command of his own tenantry, in the defence of his native land, as too dangerous a confidence to repose in a nobleman who differed from them in politics, and also to refuse to lord Petre a commission for the command of 400 of his own infantry, armed and clothed at his own expence, for the like purpose, upon no other pretence than that of his being a Roman catholic; still they felt no hesitation in granting to colonel Charmilly, a Frenchman, an utter stranger, and a Roman catholic, letters of service to recruit French soldiers at the door of a military prison, for his majesty's service, and at a bounty of sixteen guineas per man; and afterwards, when they deemed it expedient to disband this regiment, to turn them loose upon the public. One of the motions he made upon a former night, was for an account of the money advanced to colonel Charmilly, but to this no proper return was made. He must therefore press the present motion, and take the sense of the house upon it.

The question was immediately put, and the house divided. Ayes, 29. Noes, 54.

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