HC Deb 16 March 1812 vol 21 cc1313-5

On the third reading of this Bill,

Sir F. Burdett

wished to propose a clause to prevent the infliction of the punishment of flogging in the Local Militia.

The Speaker

apprehended it was too late to introduce a clause, but the hon. baronet could move an amendment to any clause he might object to, and doing so, he would have an opportunity of making any remarks he might win to offer.

Sir F. Burdett,

in consequence of this suggestion, arose to offer an amendment. He prefaced his motion with a few remarks on the impropriety of resorting to the punishment of flogging. Adverting to the case of Mr. Taylor, to which he had alluded last year, he maintained that what he then stated was correct, and that subsequent information had satisfied him that Mr. Taylor was a man of excellent character, of good education, and considerable talents. Education had been recently spoken of as likely to tend to the abolishing of flogging, but here was an instance from which a different inference might be drawn, as Mr. Taylor's education had led him to write that song for which he was punished. He then noticed what had taken place at the isle of Ely, where, on account of a squabble between the officers and men about the marching guinea, to which the latter thought they were entitled, their conduct had been said to be mutinous, and a number of these young men who had but just put off their smock frocks, had been sentenced to receive 500 lashes. He would ask, if such punishment was not out of all character? and since there were persons who seemed to resort to it with such alacrity, it seemed to him highly expedient to prevent its being inflicted. This was the more necessary as the country were likely to be called out; and it was too much that the punishment of flogging should be inflicted on our entire population. He concluded by moving, that to that part of the act extending in case of invasion, the provisions of the Articles of War to the Local Militia, the following words be added "Except so far as shall extend to inflicting the punishment of flogging, which shall in no case be inflicted on any officer, private, or drummer, serving in the Local Militia."

Mr. Goulbourne

opposed the motion. The hon. baronet, by the amendment he had moved, would exempt the Local Militia from the regular discipline of the army, at a time when they were called upon to act as a regular army, while he left them exposed to the punishment of flogging, during their being raised and trained. The cases to which he had adverted, of Mr. Taylor and the men at the isle of Ely, were cases in which punishment was imperiously called for, and in which it had been inflicted with justice and moderation, as he believed would be admitted by the parties themselves; an acknowledgment of the justice of his sentence could be produced in the hand-writing of Mr. Taylor.

Colonel Wood

said it was believed in this country that corporal punishment was not inflicted in the French service. He, however, had to state, that one of their books had fallen into the hands of a division of our army, at the battle of Fuentes d'Honore, which contained the proceedings of their court martials, from which it appeared, that within a very short time, 320 men, chiefly deserters, had been sentenced to death. Not only in such cases was the offender put to death, but his parents might be imprisoned for six months, and those who had harboured him were fined 1,500 francs. The book was afterwards lost; but he was authorised by an officer to state what he had advanced, and if it were necessary, he was at liberty to mention the name of his author; and at the same time to say that if another book of that description fell into our hands, care would be taken of it, that gentlemen might see it and make their own comments.

Mr. W. Smith

was of opinion that the argument to be deduced from the circumstance last mentioned cut quite the other way, as it shewed that even a capital punishment was more tolerable to the French army, than that of flogging.

Mr. Giddy

objected to a relaxation of discipline, though he thought severity of punishment in the Local Militia would be best avoided.

Mr. Whitbread

supported the amendment, and contended that the abolition of flogging would tend not to relax, but to improve the discipline of the army. As to the book which they had been told was found, and afterwards lost, and which was to be taken such care of if found again, and for which he supposed the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would advertise, offering large sums for its production, as he had done for another celebrated book (the Delicate Investigation) on a former occasion, it seemed after all to make against his argument, as it turned out that there was no proof of corporal punishment being inflicted in the French service, to prove which it was brought forward.

Mr. Herbert, of Kerry,

said a few words in support of the original clause.

Lord Palmerston

was of opinion, that if corporal punishment was considered necessary in any part of the army, it was equally so in the Local Militia.

Admiral Harvey

said, that to his knowledge, the French prisoners at Gibraltar had borrowed our cats to flog their own people.

Mr. H. Thornton

professed himself to be adverse to the infliction of corporal punishment in the Local Militia.

Mr. C. W. Wynn

wished that some clause had been introduced which would direct a reference to the Secretary of State, previous to the infliction of corporal punishment. He did not know, at the same time, how to vote with the hon. baronet, as he conceived a case might arise to make corporal punishment necessary.

The Amendment was negatived without a division, and the Bill passed.