§ Sir Robert Wilson,
rose and said:* if, sir, the object of the present motion were limited to matters of a personal and private nature; if my own individual character or particular interests were alone concerned, deeply as I feel myself outraged and aggrieved, I should still, from various* From the original edition printed for Ridgway.283 considerations, some of which may develope themselves in the course of this discussion, have been disposed to submit in silence. Feeling, however, as I do, that this question involves others of most serious importance to the public interests—sensible, as I am, that it touches even the safety of the people of England—I should most justly subject myself to reproach, if I shrunk from the discharge of my duty, and refrained from bringing this question under the consideration of the House.
Arduous and painful as is the duty which is imposed upon me—and I can assure the House that I feel most sensibly the arduous and painful nature of that duty—I must still confess that I feel this to be one of the happiest hours of my life, because, I see the moment at length arrived when I can, in the face of my adversaries, in the face of this House, and consequently of all Europe, redeem the pledge which I have given to my constituents, and vindicate my honour to a generous and confiding public.
I am sure I need not, under such circumstances, ask the patient and indulgent attention of the House. I feel confident that I shall experience that courtesy and liberality which are the usual characteristics of a British House of Commons.
When I first gave notice of this motion, the House heard me address myself to the noble marquis, with a view of ascertaining whether it was his intention to grant or refuse the papers which it was the object of my motion to obtain. The noble lord's answer left no alternative but to open the whole question of my removal from the army, and, as far as I am able, to bring every circumstance connected with that transaction into direct statement and discussion.
I had certainly flattered myself that the noble marquis and his colleagues would have adopted a different course; that they would at length have abandoned their most unjust, ungenerous, and unmanly silence; and although they refused, in the first instance, to grant me a trial; though they had heretofore shrunk from confronting me with any accuser, that they would, upon the opening of parliament, have readily and cheerfully seized the first opportunity to accept my renewed challenge, and afford me the means of grappling with some substantial charge.
I was the more disposed to persuade myself that such would be the course 284 adopted by his majesty's ministers, when I recollected the recent accession to the administration—when I considered that I should see upon the opposite benches, some gentlemen who had always professed to act under the counsels, and regulate their conduct, by the constitutional doctrines of a noble baron in the other House, who had said, on a recent occasion—"God forbid I should ever see the day when his majesty's ministers wished to suppress any evidence, or conceal any circumstances, necessary for the justification of an arraigned individual."
The more I reflect on the fact, the more I am astonished, that in England, this vaunted sanctuary of justice, a condemned individual should be obliged to come here and pray for respect to the first principles of equity. That he should be obliged to solicit from his punishers, not having had any accusers, communication of the fact or facts upon which he was arraigned in secret councils, and the exparte statements upon which he has been adjudged by clandestine process.
It is not my intention at present to enter into the question of the asserted prerogative of the crown to dismiss officers at its will and pleasure—I do not wish to engage in that discussion, lest it might occasion any division of opinion unfavourable to the object of my present motion; but I reserve to myself the right of maintaining, on some future occasion, that this asserted right is a violation of the spirit of the constitution and of that part of the law regulating military discipline, which is annually enacted in this House. That, in every point of view, this prerogative, exercised in the manner in which his majesty's ministers are exercising it, is incompatible with the honour and just interests of the army, and irreconcilable with the freedom and safety of the people of England. That such a prerogative would wholly disqualify officers from acting as members of parliament, and, consequently, would deprive the army of a description of persons necessary to the preservation of its character and independence. That it is a prerogative which would, moreover, incapacitate officers from acting as judges in criminal matters cognizable by courts-martial: and, above all, that it would disqualify them from discharging those inalienable duties which they owe to their country, to the laws, and to society; that it is a power dangerous for all bad purposes, unnecessary for all good ones, and which could never be exercised 285 arbitrarily (that is, without the consent of the parties), but to the abuse of individual right, and to the prejudice of the public welfare.
But, sir, the question which I am now bringing under the consideration of the House, cannot be considered as trenching upon any prerogative of the Crown; no, not even in the view of its most partial zealots, because I believe no man in this House will venture to affirm, that any act of the prerogative can be exercised, except under the sanction of responsible ministers, and through the agency of responsible servants.
I am aware that there have been times when different language has been held; when the most base and slavish doctrines have been openly avowed and defended—when the maxim à deo rex, à rege lex, has been maintained in the senate and on the bench—when political judges have declared, that "the king of England was the law of England; that the king could control and dispense with the law as he thought fit: that the penal laws themselves were not made to control, but to Dive effect to the arbitrary will of the monarch; and that, as the king had the power to pardon, so had he the power to punish."—I am aware, sir, that there were generals, such traitors to their country, as to declare, that they would hang up any lawyer who ventured to dispute this doctrine: or to maintain that the king at his will and pleasure had not a right to subject every man in the kingdom to the action of martial law.—I know, also, sir, that there was a king who said, "that as it was atheism and blasphemy to dispute the will of God revealed in his word, so was it presumption and sedition to dispute the will of the king, revealed in his own law"—but, sir, the revolution of 1688 admonished judges, generals, and kings, that prerogative could not be stretched to the power of doing wrong: that if so stretched, it would not only relax, but break: and that it was in fact but discretionary power, which, if abused to the public detriment, could only be so abused by evil councillors and wicked ministers, who might be cited, examined, and punished.
Before I enter into the proof which will, I think, establish the culpability of ministers in this transaction, and prove that they have been guilty of an act of arbitrary power, to the prejudice of individual right, and the detriment of the pub- 286 lic safety, I beg leave to direct the, attention of the House to the description of person who is now preferring a complaint against his majesty's ministers.—First of all, that person was an officer of twenty-nine years standing in the service, who, although he had no proof of those services having been requited by his own government, could nevertheless produce a letter of the commander-in-chief, declaring "that his services deserved those professional distinctions and rewards to which his ambition aspired." He was an officer, also, who was a member of parliament, one, who had felt it his duty to oppose his majesty's ministers, and I declare to God, for no other reason, but because he considered the policy pursued by them to be fatal to the interest, the character, and the honour of the country—because he believed their measures were calculated to establish a violent government—because he believed them to be enemies to a fair and free representative system—therefore, the enemies of their country, and of the general liberties of mankind.—Under such circumstances, unless strong grounds could be shown for the removal and degradation of such an officer, there was reason to infer that his majesty's ministers were actuated by some morbid resentment, or some malignant political feeling. If this were not the case, whence arose that violation of the property which he had vested in his commission? Why was his property confiscated in so illegal and unprecedented a manner?
Great misconceptions have gone abroad on this subject. It has been supposed, that his removal from the army necessarily entailed the loss of the money vested in the purchase of his commissions. But on this subject, I beg leave to read an extract from a letter of the commander-in-chief, and from which it will appear, that, in the year 1814, a new regulation was adopted—major-generals holding field-officer's commissions were requested to accept an unattached rate of pay, and allow their regimental commissions to be filled up by effective officers—an arrangement which in no way benefited lieutenant-colonels of cavalry, the pay proposed being the same with that enjoyed; but to secure them from any loss of that property which was vested in their regimental commissions, the commander-in-chief wrote, in an official circular, dated July 24, 1811—"I am further to acquaint you, that any of the present general-officers 287 holding regimental commissions, may have the option of retiring from the service by disposing of the same at a regulated value; or, should they now accept the allowance, they may hereafter have the power of disposing in like manner of an unattached commission, similar to that which they have relinquished." Why, then, did his majesty's ministers inflict the punishment of cashiering? a punishment considered, in the Annual Mutiny bill, next only in gradation to that of death—was it in the miserable hope of making that officer feel pecuniary privation, and in the expectation, that under the pressure of pecuniary embarrassment, a man who had rendered himself obnoxious to them would be obliged to resign his seat in parliament, and seek refuge in a foreign country?
It is extremely painful to be under the necessity of alluding to private and family circumstances: but, painful as it is, this view of the question has so important a bearing upon the case, that I cannot refrain from adverting to them. They are circumstances connected with my case, which I think will engage the sympathy as well as the justice of this House.
It is well known that it has pleased Providence to afflict more than one member of my family with one of the greatest calamities to which human nature is liable—and it is equally well known, that this calamity had excited feelings of strong sympathy and interest in the mind of the king. When, therefore, his majesty's ministers advised the king to subscribe his hand to the instrument which was not only to effect my ruin and degradation, but to levy war on the domestic comforts of that family, and mar the prospects of unoffending children, it was inferred that I must have been guilty of some heinous and enormous offence—such as to make even this accumulated severity of punishment a measure of lenity and forbearance. I state this more feelingly, because I know that British officers of high rank, who were not enemies to me, nor in any way disposed to aggravate the distress to which I was exposed, felt persuaded, in their blind confidence of the justice and humanity of his majesty's ministers, that I should not have been thus removed from the army without inquiry, if the publicity of a trial had not been calculated to augment my disgrace, and aggravate the calamity and distress of my family. The journals, supposed to be under the influence of his 288 majesty's ministers, were constantly throwing out the same insinuations: and scarcely a day passed in which I was not made the subject of some scandalous libels. The authors of those libels knew that they could propagate slander with impunity—they knew that they were not amenable to the laws; because there was the fact, that I had been dismissed the service under all the circumstances stated; and the inference was reasonable, that I could not have been so dismissed, without having dishonoured, and rendered myself unworthy of, my profession.
Will his majesty's ministers persist in this system? Will they deprive a man who has contended in so many battles; and toiled in so many campaigns, for the honour of his country, of that protection which the laws extend to the humblest artisan and mechanic? If they will persist in this course, I call upon this House, as dispensers of law and justice—I call upon them, as legislators and as gentlemen, to protect me on this occasion. I entreat them not to be influenced by motives of political bias. I conjure them to cast away all party feeling—to do by me as they would be done by; and to extend the same measure of justice to me, which they would wish to see extended to themselves, their children, their relatives, or their friends. If I am innocent, I have a right to be tried, that I may receive an honourable acquittal—if I am guilty, the law, the country, the army, have a right to know my offence. They have a right to know the nature and character of that offence, that the punishment which it demands may serve as an admonition to others. What is the object of all punishment? Example. And where is the example? What benefit can be derived to discipline, to society, to the civil or military establishment, by inflicting a punishment, while at the same time the offence is studiously concealed? This is conduct irreconcilable even with a system of wild justice: it is, in fact, no justice at all—it is more atrocious and more destructive, in its consequences, of the rights and liberties of a people, than the dark, mysterious powers of the Inquisition. Even the Turk, now the object of our fostering care, when he applies the bowstring or strikes off the bowstring, head of his slave, condescends to affix a label on the breast of his victim, announcing the crime for which he suffers.—If I am to be deprived of all protection—if 289 the House sanction a system of terror, the sure precursor of a military despotism—if they sanction the irresponsible power of punishing without accusation, they will make the officers of the army the blind instruments of the will of the sovereign—they will enable the sovereign to annihilate our free institutions at his pleasure, to frustrate all the glorious labours, and render nugatory all the generous sacrifices, of our ancestors.
I have not brought my case under the consideration of this House, without having first done every thing in my power to keep it in the official channels. I applied to the commander-in-chief, until I was refused access; I applied to the home-department, until I was told that perjury would be protected by the seals of office.
I am aware that, in bringing forward this question, I may subject myself to the imputation of innovating upon the rules of equity, and that the course I am taking may appear in some degree prejudicial to the interests of others who may be placed in the same situation—for I stand here—not to grapple with charges, but with shadows—not with substantial accusations, but with surmises, rumours, and reports—still it is the truth. It is the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, that on this night I feel it my duty to expose. I shall do so with a relation of all the circumstantial details that have occurred; and I call upon any hon. member of this House, acquainted with any of the particulars, to state them; as I declare, on my honour, that it is my conscientious wish every circumstance connected with those proceedings, to which I have been a party, should be thoroughly exposed and canvassed.
In the ignorance in which, though punished, I have been kept, I am only left to presume that his majesty's ministers have recommended my removal from the army, in consequence of certain transactions which occurred either on the 14th of August last, or on some occasion connected with the events of that day.
It was, sir, on the 9th of August, at count Orloff's, that I was informed by sir Charles Stuart, he had just received a telegraphic communication of the demise of the Queen. I beg most particularly to call the attention of honourable members to this fact, because I know it has been falsely represented for the purposes of calumny. It has, I know, been most in- 290 dustriously circulated, that I first received the intelligence of her majesty's demise at a dinner in Paris, at which were assembled thirty French officers; and that when the communication was made, I used an expression which outraged the feelings of all present. The answer to that base calumny is, that the communication of her majesty's demise was, as I have stated, imparted to me by the British ambassador; and I can appeal to his testimony in verification of that fact.
Having understood that the member for Coventry (Mr. Ellice) was in Paris, on his way to England, I hastened to find him, and we made arrangements to travel together, that hon. member having postponed his journey from Thursday until the Saturday morning, at day-break. The hon. member will testify to the truth of this statement; he will also confirm what I now say, that when we left Paris, we had no intelligence of any particulars, only of the mere fact of the queen's death.—We travelled to Boulogne, where we arrived on the 12th, and it was there that I was informed, by a French courier, that her majesty's funeral was to take place on the 14th, and that she had left orders to be buried at Hanover—[some honourable member, in a low tone, said Brunswick.] Hanover, I think, was the place the courier mentioned. I wrote to Dr. Lushington, as one of the executors of the Queen, and in that letter, "I placed myself at the disposition of the executors, as being anxious to pay a last tribute of respect to her majesty, by attendance at the funeral." I wrote also to my son, who was an equerry to her majesty, desiring him to wait upon the executors, and inform them that I should be in London on the afternoon of the 13th. I arrived on that afternoon, and was informed by my son, that if I went to the Queen's town-house, I should find a carriage to take me to Brandenburgh House, where her majesty's executors would be in attendance, and where they expected me.—I went immediately to South Audley-street, but was too late. I crossed over to the house of Alderman Wood, whom I found just preparing to set out for Brandenburgh House, with Mr. Ellice. I accompanied them; and I call upon Mr. A. Wood to confirm the statement I now make. Speaking of myself and the hon. member for Coventry, I mentioned our mutual intention to attend the funeral of her majesty in one 291 of the mourning-coaches furnished by his majesty's government. Having learnt from Mr. A. Wood, in reply, that his application had been refused, I told him "that I then should not make any application, as I did not wish to expose myself to a similar refusal, or in case I obtained permission, to aggravate the affront he had received."
When I arrived at Brandenburgh House, I had no conversation with any person who was not of her majesty's household. I mention this circumstance the more particularly, because I know information has been given, that I had attended a clandestine meeting at Hammersmith, at which arrangements were made for the obstruction of her majesty's funeral. We came to town at five o'clock, and found Dr. Lushington and Mr. Wild engaged in a correspondence with lord Liverpool, there being a doubt whether or not the funeral would take place next day; it having been understood by the executors that no arrangements were made at Stadt for the reception of the body.—After waiting some time, the hon. member for Ilchester, Dr. Lushington, observed, that if I could see the hon. member for Aberdeen, at the Freemasons' Tavern, at nine o'clock, it was possible that I might receive some information whether or not the funeral would take place on the next day. Not having seen the hon. member for Aberdeen, at nine o'clock, according to a request conveyed to him through Mr. Alderman Wood; and believing that he had gone to the Freemasons' Tavern without calling on me, I determined to go there. On my arrival, I entered a room, where a few gentlemen, not more than eleven or twelve, were assembled: I was asked to go into a larger room, where I understood a number of gentlemen were assembled, (and amongst them some of my own constituents) anxious to know the particulars as to the funeral: I declined, "as I had no information to give, or explanation to make." I almost immediately went away, and so quickly returned to my own house, that my brother-in-law, lieutenant-general Bailey Wallis, whom I had left there, ob served, "that although he knew I moved rapidly, he could not believe I had been to Great Queen Street." I do not think my stay at the Freemasons' Tavern exceeded five minutes. This I feel to be most important, because I know it has been stated that I came from Hammer- 292 smith to the Freemasons' Tavern, with appearance of haste, in order to take a art in the proceedings of that meeting. I vent afterwards to Brookes's Club House, where I met the hon. member for Winchelsea (Mr. Brougham) who was quite ignorant of the definitive arrangements which we presumed had been concerted between lord Liverpool and the executors: but, before eleven o'clock, Dr. Lushington and Mr. Wild came, and we found that they were still engaged in their correspondence with lord Liverpool, and that nothing had been settled. We separated after midnight, with an understanding that we should meet, at all events, at Brandenburgh House in the morning.
Before six o'clock on the morning of the 14th, I called on Mr. Brougham, who was still in his apartment; and I then proceeded to Mr. Alderman Wood's house, where I mounted a small handsome well-conditioned horse belonging to him. I mention the description of the horse, because I know there have been depositions relative to a man mounted on a tall, thin, dark-brown horse. Proceeding to Brandenburgh house, I held no conversation with any individual whatsoever, except with the worthy alderman, whose carriage I overtook: nor did I observe the slightest indication of any preparations to obstruct the intended route of the funeral. The worthy alderman will, I am sure, also confirm this statement.
At Brandenburgh house I held no conversation with any one, except the members of her majesty's household. There I remained in the room which I first entered, until I was called upon by the hon. member for Ilchester, Dr. Lushington, to accompany him in his capacity of an executor, to the room where the Queen's body lay, and hear the protest which the hon. member found himself bound to make. The protest was read, and a demand was made upon the undertaker to produce the authority under which he was about to remove the body. He produced a paper, not signed by any secretary or under secretary—it was merely a programme of the procession, and that unsigned, which he called his authority. I then addressed myself to sir G. Naylor, who was there in some heraldic character, observing "that there were some hon. members who wished to pay their tribute of respect by riding at the side of the hearse." His reply was, "that it was not regular on such occasions, 293 and that the proper place for those gentlemen would be after the last mourning coach." I immediately conveyed that information to those gentlemen, and about eight o'clock the funeral procession, in the manner arranged, left Brandenburgh house. It proceeded without a halt, until the advanced post arrived at the road which struck off by the church at Kensington. Some time after the halt, myself and other hon. members of this House, heard several persons, coming down the line of the procession, say "there was much confusion amongst the parties at the head of the procession, and that the soldiers were cutting down the people." It was remarked to them, "that they were wrong in spreading false rumours, and that they ought to be more careful." After about an hour's halt, the report of some contention between the people and those who conducted the funeral, being repeated by others passing from the place where the interruption occurred, I asked my hon. friend the member for Aberdeen, to accompany me to the spot, in order to ascertain the real cause of the halt. Sonic gentlemen wished to accompany us, but this was positively refused. We proceeded until we arrived close to the officer who commanded the blues. His countenance was familiar to me, but his name unknown. I believe him to be lieutenant-colonel Bouverie. I entered into conversation with him, and said "I understood that a message had been sent to the earl of Liverpool, for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not the procession should be allowed to pass through the city. That I thought this would be the best way to settle the question, for the undertaker did not seem to have any powers, and certainly none which would justify the interference of the military." The officer answered, "that he considered himself in command of a guard of honour, and that he did not feel it his duty to interfere without an express order and sufficient authority." "But," he added, "the people are acting very wrong. They have stopped a baggage-waggon proceeding to Windsor under the charge of a non-commissioned officer of the foot guards." I observed to him, "that it was very hard on the soldiers, and the poor women to be kept in that deluge of rain, and I would endeavour to persuade the people to release the waggon." The commanding officer said, "he only expressed an opinion;" to which I replied, "that I considered it only as his opinion." 294 I moved forward and expostulated with the people, stating "the hardship upon the battalion which had marched, to be deprived, on arrival at their quarters, of their comforts and their wives;" when the people very good-humouredly assented to my proposition, and the waggon was allowed to proceed on its route. The non-commissioned officer touching his cap in token of acknowledgement.
I then resumed my place in the rear of the mourning coaches, from which I never stirred but to go up what appeared a blind lane, but which I found was connected with Kensington. The only person to whom I spoke was a gentleman's servant, who, seeing me very wet, civilly asked me to take shelter in his stable. In five minutes the procession moved forward in the direction of Hyde Park; and soon after, a gentleman rode down the line, communicating the information that Sir R. Baker had agreed to the progress of the procession through the city, in compliance with the wishes of the people. The head of the procession had actually passed the gate of Hyde Park, when to general surprise, the hearse was turned round and entered the Park gates. The people seemed very angry, and expressed themselves as if they felt deceived. The gentleman who had communicated the consent of Sir R. Baker to the movement through the city, appeared again, and was obliged to pacify the people, irritated against himself, by declaring that he had only repeated what Sir R. Baker had authorised him to state. The procession moved on very rapidly through the Park, a great mass of the people accompanying.—When near Stanhope Street gate, the rear coach was halted, and I saw colonel Cavendish in coloured clothes, riding fast back from Cumberland-gate. He saluted us as he passed; and I imagined, by his manner and pace, that he was going for troops. In a few minutes a party of the Life-Guards moved rapidly by our right towards Cumberland-gate.—The House are aware that the accelerated movement of cavalry has always an aggressive character, more particularly when the advance is made through collected crowds. The people thought so—hooted, and used some offensive expressions.—I saw no stones thrown at the time, but an hon. member present has told me that he did—presently we saw the people flying back in great confusion from Cumberland-gate and the adjoining parts; the life-guards 295 were also seen through the railing galloping backwards and forwards, and flourishing their swords; many persons came back and said, "the cavalry were cutting at the people." These reporters were again rebuked, for we imagined the cavalry were only clearing the way, with that temper and harmless intimidation which, in most cases have characterized their interposition. Presently a shot was heard—a second, and a third followed.—I determined immediately to go forward. Some honourable member * advised me not, from personal considerations. I replied, "that it was my duty to preserve or restore the peace if I could; that I thought I might be useful, and that no personal considerations should influence me to neglect my duty." In advancing I spoke with lord Hood, and when I reached Cumberland-gate, I found a difficulty in passing, as the leaders of the leading mourning-coach stood in the gateway. Some person, however, who knew me, lifted up the bars of the traces, and I got through—a circumstance which I state to enable others to fix the moment of my arrival. On passing the gate, I saw the hearse in the middle of the street with the Blues steadily formed round it, but the life-guards in great confusion, similar to that which occurs when cavalry are suddenly thrown back or unexpectedly, checked in some deployment. With one glance of the eye, I perceived, that whatever might have been the original orders, the men had now broken away from all authority—that whatever might have been the original provocation, a continued firing, instead of assisting the restoration; tended to promote a further breach of the peace. I asked for a magistrate—I could be directed to none—I asked for an officer—I could find none at the moment—I rode forward to the advanced groupe, and asked them, by whose orders they were firing. They said, "they had no orders, but that they had been ill-treated." I put the question to another party, firing towards the turnpike-gate, who were in equal disorder, and I received many a similar answer. I heard the people say, "they wish to kill more of us;" a man showed me his wounded hand, and almost at the same instant a pistol-shot, fired from behind, passed so near my face that I thought the skin was grazed, a circum-* Mr. Hume stated in the House, that I held this conversation with him.296 stance which made a greater impression on me, as some person, I believe one of the marshalmen, had said on my going forward, "Sir Robert, they are only firing blank-cartridges to frighten." I turned round immediately to the man who I conceived had fired, when I saw two or three men reloading their pistols. I immediately said, "It is quite disgraceful to continue firing in this manner, for the people are unarmed: remember you are soldiers of Waterloo, do not lose your honours gained on that occasion. You have had cannon shot at your head, never mind a few stones." I solemnly declare, that so far from being carried away by passion, I did not even use an oath on the occasion. The soldiers seemed sensible to the rebuke, and one of them said, "Come, let us put up pistols and form." The firing immediately ceased; and I almost immediately perceived a gentleman, mounted on a troop horse, who I imagined was a magistrate, and who proves to be Mr. White. I said, with some animation, "Sir, there has been firing, and a magistrate ought to be with the troops in such a case. With great mildness, he replied, "he had been where there were impediments, and there it was his duty to have been." I was struck by his manner, and as courteously as I could, observed, that "no doubt he had done what he ought, but he must be aware that officers and soldiers were placed in the most painful and embarrassing situations when a magistrate was not with them;" and I conjured him to keep by the commanding-officer; he said "he would," and made an observation which fully confirmed the view I had taken of the whole proceeding. [State, state! from many members of the House]. (No, I do not wish it. I am here, not in the character of an accuser. I am now upon my own defence.) At that moment I saw the commanding-officer of the life-guards coming from Cumberland-gate rapidly. I lamented what had passed.—He said "he had given no orders to fire, and that he regretted the soldiers had done so." I then begged him to keep a magistrate close by him. He said "he would."—I perceived Mr. White and presented him; adding to major Oakes, "you had better order a dragoon by his side to keep him near you." Observing, however, that the tumult was likely to be renewed, I mentioned to major Oakes, "that I feared angry feelings, after what had passed, would con- 297 tinue so long as his detachment remained on the ground." He said, "that having done his duty by removing the impediments at Cumberland-gate, he did not feel it necessary to stop any longer, but he would go to the commanding-officer of the blues, as I understood him, and mention his intention to withdraw." He returned, and gave an order for the detachment to file from the right to the front, with the view, as I conceived, of passing back through the park. I, therefore, took the liberty of remarking, "that he had better not move his detachment back through the crowd, along a line of loose flint stones, and by the hearse, but advance along Edgware-road, and take the first street to the right." He said "he would execute that suggestion." On turning the corner, I did see one soldier struck violently by a stone on the casque, who showed the greatest temper and forbearance: but I declare, that from the moment of my passing through Cumberland-gate, there was only an occasional stone flung, which seemed to be provoked by the firing.—It being difficult to get back at the moment, I proceeded up the Edgware-road a few yards, when an officer of the horse-guards, accompanied by six men, came up and delivered an order, which I do not think it proper to state, as I overheard it incidentally, to the officer of the blues. Seeing him with so small a detachment, and fearing, from what I perceived, a renewal of hostile feelings between the life-guards and the people, I said, "You are not aware, perhaps, that there has been firing from a detachment of your regiment: your party may be mistaken, and as you have so few men, would it not be better to avoid the risque of any further contention?" He said "he had executed his orders, and would retire." He did so—on passing round the leaders of the leading coach, there was some entanglement, which I assisted in removing, and the procession moved on along the New-road. Having determined to fall back and replace myself in my station, in doing so I joined a gentleman, who, I believe, was sir R. Baker, to whom I expressed regret that the tumult had occurred, and observed, "this was the most improper of all occasions for such disorders: but it was fortunate the blues seemed popular,* as that might prevent the renewal of the tumult."* The term "popular," applied to the298 Having regained my place behind the mourning-coaches, I remained there till we reached Ilford, when I returned to town about nine o'clock at night, and dined at my own house—a circumstance which I state, because I know, and the noble marquess, I believe, knows, a gentleman, no, he cannot deserve that name, an individual, who went to one of the departments, and officially affirmed, "that on this very day I dined with a person whom I never saw in my life, and drank a most vulgar, if not a most treasonable, toast."
I know not whether any other calumny has included me in any transactions at Colchester; if it should have done so, I assert, that my only acts there, were, to attend, as a mourner, the removal of the coffin from the hearse into the church, and to advise adjournment into the vestry-room, after a controversy with the executors and undertakers had commenced. Having left the funeral at Harwich, I returned to London. On my arrival, I met a friend in the street, who told me, "that I was to be hung and quartered, as it was supposed I was the person who had prearranged all the obstructions to the funeral of the Queen." I considered it as a joke, and at that moment paid no farther attention to the subject. I heard the same charge more gravely stated afterwards by persons of high consideration; and in consequence, I went to the earl of Harrington, tile colonel of the life-guards, but not finding him in town, I begged his son to communicate to his lordship the general facts of the case, and the feeling by which I had been actuated; but as the reports increased of al. intended inquiry—as I heard of threats and menaces that I should be turned out of the army, I consulted some of my friends, and, amongst others, my honourable colleague, stating, that I was unwilling to take any public step, as I did not wish to influence, by any statement of mine, the opinion of the inquests then sitting—they concurred with me that it would be unadvisable to volunteer any communication, but they agreed in the propriety of my going to the duke of York. I went to the horse-guards on the 27th of August, and found his royal highness was absent, at Brighton, but I saw sir Herbert Taylor, his secretary, and stated to him, "that I should have goneincidents of the day, and was, I am confident, so understood by the magistrate.299 to Brighton, but I thought the duke of York might not wish to have attention excited by my arrival there—that I wished to state to his royal highness, I was aware there were many defamatory reports in circulation to my prejudice; that I thought, however, it would not become me to notice them unless they had made some impression on his royal highness's mind; but in case they had done so, and assumed any official shape, that I was willing and eager to meet them." I added, "that I was moreover controlled from giving in any statement, by a desire not to appear in the character of an accuser, when the coroner's inquest was still sitting; and that as I had left two children unsettled in France, unless I received some official communication, I should, within a short time, go back to Paris." The conference ended in the drawing up of a minute, which I shall now read to the House:Horse Guards, 27th August, 1821.Major-general sir Robert Wilson called upon sir Herbert Taylor, and stated, that he understood that there were many calumnious misrepresentations afloat, in regard to the part which he took in the proceedings of the 14th August; but that, as no official communication had been made to him on the subject, and as he learns from sir Herbert Taylor that he had not been instructed by the commander-in-chief to make any to him, he did not feel that he was called upon, or that he could with propriety notice them in any representation to his royal highness, but that he feels at all times prepared to refute them. Under these circumstances, sir Herbert Taylor declined receiving any private communication from sir Robert Wilson, Read to sir Robert Wilson and approved by him.(Signed) H. TAYLOR.I had offered to show the statement I had drawn out to sir Herbert Taylor in private confidence, and for such use as he might judge expedient, having no wish to conceal any part of the transactions in which I had been concerned, except as far as the publicity might be prejudicial to others. I did not receive any communication: and on the 5th of September I went to Paris; but on the 19th of September I received a note from sir C. Stuart, requesting me to call upon him, as he had a communication to make me from his majesty's government. Before I called on sir C. Stuart, upon the morning 300 of the 20th, I went accidentally into a public coffee-room, and there I saw a paragraph in a French paper, extracted from the English Courier, stating my dismission from the army, in the same terms as I subsequently found were used in the official letter. I proceeded to sir C. Stuart, and he gave me a letter from the commander-in-chief, which I shall now read to the House:Horse-Guards, September 15, 1821.Sir,—I have it in command from his majesty, to inform you, that he no longer requires your services. I am, sir,FREDERICK, Commander-in-chief.Sir Robert Wilson.Thus, in two lines and a half did I find myself stripped of my commission—degraded of my rank—plundered of my property—with every professional expectation annihilated! 1 considered the letter of the commander in chief an official communication, and nothing more as regarded himself, to whom I have always felt, and shall always feel, grateful for many previous acts of kindness: but still, as the letter is signed by his royal highness, I shall not dwell more upon its style and contents. The same day I dispatched the following letter to his royal highness:
Sir;—The letter of your royal highness, dated the 15th of September, was delivered into my hands this morning by his excellency sir Charles Stuart. After the interview I had with sir Herbert Taylor, your royal highness's secretary, on the morning of the 21st of August, in which I stated my personal desire to meet and challenge inquiry into calumnies and misrepresentations notoriously circulated, together with the motives of my forbearance, until officially called upon, from giving in any statement of the conduct I felt it my duty to pursue on the 14th instant, when attending the funeral procession of her late majesty; I could not but be greatly astonished to find the newspaper statements of my dismissal from the service, without any inquiry, or previous communication of alleged charges, thus officially confirmed. But I still appeal with confidence to his majesty's sense of justice, that he will grant my application for the institution of some military court, before which I may have an opportunity to vindicate myself, and prove the falsehood of those accusations, whatever they may be, which have disposed his majesty to remove me from an army in which I 301 have served twenty-nine years, and in which I purchased every commission, with the exception of the junior one. I await, at Paris, your royal highness's answer, but shall be ready to appear before any court of inquiry, or court-martial, at the earliest notice. I have the honour to be, &c. (Signed) R. T. WILSON.
Paris, September 20, 1821.
On the 24th September, I found myself obliged to write a letter to major Oakes, in consequence of a statement in the papers which completely misrepresented the conversation I had held with that officer, on the 14th of August. It is my intention to read to the House the correspondence which passed between us, but, to avoid confusion in the narrative, I shall suspend the recital until after I have adverted to all the official correspondence which took place between his royal highness, lord Sidmouth, and myself, in pursuance of my object to obtain trial and redress. On the 29th September, I received the duke of York's answer, dated September 25, in which his royal highness stated, that "his majesty does not judge it proper to comply with the wish expressed in it." On October 3rd, I left Paris, and reached London on the 7th, having received major Oakes's answer on the preceding evening at Dover. On the 8th, being still anxious to keep, if possible, the proceeding in the regular military channel, and disconnect it with political considerations—motives that had determined me to remain at Paris until I received his royal highness's first answer, I addressed a second letter to his royal highness, in which I referred to my Cornier letter, "stating defence where there was no charge had been rendered impossible; but that I denied the truth of all the reports in circulation, and that I had proved their falsehood in every case which admitted of contact with them. That there could be no doubt I was amenable, before dismissed, to a court-martial, and that I was still ready, after dismissal, to submit voluntarily to military jurisdiction." This was not without precedent. It had happened in the case of lord George Sackville, who, on the opinion of the twelve judges, was, after dismissal, tried by a court-martial, and there were many other instances of the same kind. On the next day I received a letter from his royal highness, stating "that having communicated his majesty's 302 sentiments upon my former letter, he did not consider himself warranted in taking any further steps." Thus did I find myself permanently dismissed from the service without inquiry, my income confiscated, my property plundered, and my name and character exposed to every obloquy which malice might invent, and slanderous tongues circulate — still I did not despair —I hoped still that I should obtain justice from his majesty, and with that view, I made an application to lord-viscount Sidmouth, stating "that as I heard it had been given in information, I had attended some meetings at Mr. Youde's house, in Hammersmith, previously to the Queen's funeral, and had then and there planned all the obstructions to its course, I requested a copy of the information, that I might prosecute the party, who had so sworn, for perjury." Lord Sidmouth replied, "that he did not conceive he was the proper channel through which this communication should be made." I immediately wrote to sir Richard Birnie, a letter, dated October 20, "in which I requested a copy of an information that had been lodged at Bow-street." Sir Richard Birnie, after one or two interviews, authorised me to publish the minute, in which it is affirmed, "that the magistrates who had assembled at Hammersmith, were unanimously satisfied that sir Robert Wilson had never been in the house of Mr. Youde, and that the information was false." I had, however, ascertained that depositions against me had been lodged at the home-department; and that one in particular stated, "that I had been seen with a pewter-pot in my hand, encouraging the people to pull up the pavement, and offer obstructions to the funeral." I accordingly wrote again to lord Sidmouth for a copy of the deposition, stating, "the motive was to prosecute the party for perjury;" and his lordship, in his letter replied, "that he should not think himself justified in giving the directions for which I had applied." It was to me, however, a very hard case, that such depositions could be lodged, and I could obtain no copy to enable me to prosecute for perjury, the person, who had sworn so falsely, that the means were denied me to vindicate my own character from those aspersions which naturally must have had some influence on the measure of punishment that his majesty's ministers had, in their notions of justice, thought proper to inflict.
303 Before I make any further comments, I will now read to the House the correspondence which passed between me and major Oakes, which has not been published, and which the House will, I have no doubt, consider to possess an important bearing on the case. It was on the 24th September, that I first wrote to major Oakes, and addressed him the following letter:Paris, Sep. 24th, 1821.SIR;—Having just seen in the Times newspaper of the 20th inst. the statement of a reported conversation that passed between you and myself, on Tuesday the 14th of August, I address myself, with confidence, to you, for the contradiction of that statement; as you will be sensible of its perversion of the fact, and the injurious tendency of its fabrication. You will doubtless have felt, that, so far from any hostile language having been uttered by either party to each other, I presented myself to you with such peaceable spirit, that you-informed me you had given no orders to fire—that you regretted the firing had taken place —that you, moreover, kindly received the suggestion made to keep the magistrate (whom I introduced to you at the same time) close by yourself; and that, eventually, according to another suggestion, when you stated, you conceived your further continuance with your detachment was no longer required by your orders; that instead of passing your detachment to the rear (to use my own expressions at the time), by the hearse, through an irritated populace, and a long line of flint stones, you advanced your detachment, and took the first street in the New Road, leading into the town.I have already requested a court of inquiry, or court-martial, before which all the transactions of the day, in which I was concerned, may be investigated:—but I could not treat a relation, which engaged so much attention, from the introduction of your name, with that silent forbearance which I have observed towards the other various calumnies to which active currency has been given in some public journals; and as it would appear from them in magisterial inquiries. I have the honour to be, &c.R. T. WILSON.As your receipt of this letter, and your answer, is of so much consequence, I have passed it through the hands of a 304 friend (General Long), who will charge himself with the conveyance of your reply.The House will be pleased to keep in its recollection, that there are three principal points in my application to major Oakes. 1st, That the major stated to me, he had given no orders to fire. 2nd, That I presented the magistrate to him. 3rd, That I suggested a movement of the military in their interest, and the general interest, to prevent a renewal of the tumult. Major Oakes replied in a letter, dated the 30th September, which I shall now read to the House, as it is also the first time this letter has been made public:Hyde Park Barracks, 30th Sept. 1821.SIR;—In reply to your communication, recorded yesterday evening, I have to inform you that I cannot consent to to make myself the organ of contradiction to the various reports in circulation, respecting the affair in which we have been represented as mutually concerned. Were I to yield this point in one instance, I should feel myself bound to notice every succeeding rumour; or my silence would be a sanction to the inferences which might be drawn from it.—I have no hesitation in saying, that the statement to which you have particularly alluded, did not originate with me; and I have not a suspicion who can be the author of it. Beyond this, I must decline a compliance with your request: but, as in the hurried and tumultuous scene, to which you refer, some misconception may be supposed to arise; I think it right to admit, on the one hand, and declare my ignorance, on the other, of the different points you enumerate. It is distinctly in my memory, that you asked me upon that occasion, if I had given orders to fire, and my answer was that I had not: also, that I retired by a blank movement, I believe down King-street; which, though pointed out by you, would naturally have occurred to myself, as the most eligible; but, as to any expression of regret that the firing had taken place—any exchange of courtesy between us—on being introduced by you to the magistrate, until the very moment I received his orders to withdraw, when you announced me to him, by saying, Here is the officer," I have not the least recollection.—From the commencement of this business, I have most scrupulously avoided making a matter, so closely connected 305 with a public question, the subject of private communication; and, though consistently with this principle, I have found myself at liberty thus to notice the points you have particularized in the letter to which I am now replying, you will perceive how impossible it is that I should further depart from my first resolution.I have the honour to be, &c.RICHARD OAKES.Thus major Oakes admitted that he had not given the soldiery any orders to fire: that I had presented the magistrate to him: and also, that the movement which he terms the flank movement, was suggested by me: though it was so eligible, that it would have naturally occurred to himself. What motive, then, could I have had, but the restoration of the law's authority, blended with due consideration to every corresponding interest? Still, sir, there was another proof wanting to establish my pretensions, and that proof I immediately sought by addressing myself to Mr. White, the magistrate. I therefore, sent the following letter to Mr. White, the Police magistrate.Sir;—Understanding that you were the magistrate to whom I had the satisfaction to address myself on the 14th of August, and who permitted me to present him to the commanding-officer of the detachment of life-guards, towards the conclusion of the tumult at Cumberland-street, I apply to you, under the circumstances in which I am placed by a proceeding of his majesty's government, for an answer to the following questions, to which I hope you will not find it inconsistent with your duty to reply. In the intercourse which we had on the 14th of August, did I, or did I not, express to you an earnest desire for the restoration of tranquillity, and the authority of the law? Did you, or did you not, observe my conduct to be in unison with that declaration? I think it right to add, that my wish is, to have the power of referring to, or producing your answer in parliament, or wheresoever else I may judge such reference or production to be essential for the interests of justice.' I have the honour to be, &c. R. T. WILSON.Howick, Nov. 16th, 1821.I quit this place on Tuesday, and shall be at Lambton Hall, Durham, till the 1st of December.Mr. White replied,Sir;—Your letter of the 16th instant 306 was delivered to me to-day; and though I am not aware of any thing inconsistent with my duty as a magistrate in replying to your questions, relative to your conduct on the 14th of August; yet, as you have candidly stated that you would wish to refer to my answer in some proposed proceedings in parliament, as well as to produce it elsewhere, if you should think it necessary; and having a great disinclination to be brought into notice at all upon such a subject, if it can be avoided, I must take the liberty of declining to give any answers to the questions proposed. I have the honour to be, &c. W. A. A. WHITE. Police Office, Queen Square, Westminster, Nov. 19th, 1821.I felt it to be my duty to answer Mr. White, and which answer I shall now read:Lambton Hall, Nov. 23rd, 1821.Sir;—I have received your letter. I lament you should have refrained from giving an answer to the questions I proposed, not merely in behalf of my own individual interests, but of those of truth and justice. I think it, however, right to acquaint you, that I shall be obliged to advert to the conversation which passed between us on the 14th of August: nor will it be possible for me to avoid noticing the application which I have subsequently made, with your reply thereto. I have the honour to be, &c. R. T. WILSON.But sir, notwithstanding the reluctance of Mr. White to give his testimony, I again challenge it, and ask, that Mr. White may be placed at the bar of this House. I know nothing of him individually; I have heard he is a man of truth and of honour, of strict principles, and of strong religious feelings. I call upon him, then, with confidence, to affirm that which he cannot deny, if he respects truth and justice, that my acts were in unison with my language, and that I enabled him to restore and maintain the peace.
Such, sir, is the true relation of facts—such is the narrative that I am prepared to establish at the bar of this House, or before any tribunal whatsoever. What, then, has been my offence? Was it that of paying a tribute of respect to the memory of a deceased and unhappy queen—a tribute due not only to her, but also to my own constituents, who had expressed such a deep interest in her cause—a duty that I owed, moreover, to my own consistency, and which was in unison with every feeling of my nature. Had I 307 refrained from discharging this duty, from the fear of incurring any displeasure from any quarter whatsoever, I must have been —not what I am—but the basest and most worthless of men. Let the House recollect, that even his majesty's ministers themselves had thought proper to change their conduct towards that illustrious deceased, whom they had endeavoured to load with all possible obloquy while living.—They who had refused her any marks of distinction in her life-time, thought it right to order a guard of honour to grace her obsequies!
But, sir, if I have not been dismissed the army for being an. attendant at this funeral, "for being there at all," let me ask, was it for the offence of having interposed to prevent the effusion of blood, and that blood the blood of our fellow-citizens? To prevent intemperate proceedings fatal to the military as well as the people, not only in their immediate but ulterior consequences? I have shown, by my correspondence, that my object was, the restoration of the law's authority, and it is further proved, by the fact, that after my interposition, the procession moved on in the course which was prescribed by the civil and military authorities. When it again deviated, I was far removed, and knew nothing of the obstacles until the line of funeral coaches had passed by them.
With regard to any language I might have used to the soldiers, I beg the House to recollect the circumstances which were occurring at the time, nor did the language apply to any of the preceding incidents of the day. It was directed and confined to the object of calming angry feelings and checking acts of violence which, if justifiable at the commencement, as acts of self-defence, though not sanctioned at any moment by the civil or military authorities, were no longer to be permitted or tolerated.—Why, sir, I am confident that the very soldiers themselves, who are, I doubt not, as generous as they are brave, would on reflection be the first to thank me for an interference which had saved them so touch affliction as well as misfortune—at all events, I have the satisfaction to know that my words made no widows or orphans, but that they probably averted that calamity from many of the assembled multitude.—With regard to that language, I shall also say, that it was impossible for me intentionally to insult a corps commanded by a noble 308 earl, whose friendship I have thought myself truly honoured by possessing; or of which the lieutenant-colonel (Cavendish) was an hon. member of this House, nearly allied to another hon. member (Mr. Lambton) who has long had claims on my most affectionate regard, and whose conduct on this occasion has entitled him to my most devoted gratitude. I appeal, moreover, to every soldier who has ever been under my command, if I have ever shown myself a soldier's enemy. If I have not, on all occasions, been not only anxious to provide for his comforts, but to respect his feelings. I appeal, also, to every official military member of this House, if on all occasions where military transactions came under conference or discussion, I have not at all times, whilst discharging my public duty, endeavoured to blend with that duty, considerations which evinced my attachment to professional ties.
The law regards all men as accomplices, who do not prevent the commission of offences, and yet his majesty's ministers would have had me sit idly and ignominiously on my horse, whilst such a scene was going on as that which has been described. Is there such a distinction between civil and military duties? Is there such a collision between civil and military obligations, that a service rendered the community in behalf of the law, should be punished by the military authorities, if the individual rendering that service, should happen to be a registered member of the military community? Will this House sanction such a doctrine? Will it declare, that above 20,000 officers shall be thus exempted from discharging their duties as citizens?—I call upon the House to afford the refuge and protection I require—I call upon the House to oppose its ægis against an abuse of power so unjust to an individual, so pregnant with fatal consequences to the liberties and best interests of the country. Let the House prove its attachment to the Crown, not by any servile dereliction of its trust, but by showing that it will hold the balance between the Crown and the people—by showing, that whilst it will support just authority, it will not make itself the instrument of oppression. Let it show its attachment to the king, by being jealous of the royal character, and affixing censure on censurable acts done in the king's name.—I call upon the House, also, to recollect that the pre- 309 sumed want of sympathy between this House and the people, its presumed indifference to their safety and welfare, has been one of the chief causes why the empire is now ringing with the cry of reform.
I confess I felt a pride in wearing the British uniform, not only because it was worn by brave men, but because it was recognized throughout Europe as being worn by men who were the protectors of the laws, and who were themselves protected by them. But if the officers of the British army are to be subjected to the action of this irresponsible prerogative, there is an end to their distinctive glory. Sir, I do not know how far my character may be affected by the decision of the House; but I have an approving conscience, which assures me I discharged my duty faithfully to the king and the country, on the 14th of August; and that I am entitled to the protection and redress that I now solicit from' this House. I therefore move, "That copies of the correspondence between his royal highness the commander-in-chief, lord viscount Sidmouth, and sir Robert Wilson on the subject of his removal from the army, be laid before this House."
§ Lord Palmerston
said, that the hon. member had himself stated, that his observations were not grounded on the comparatively narrow basis of personal injury, but on broader and more enlarged principles; and that the interests of a large class and the liberty and safety of all Englishmen were involved. Now, he was prepared to resist the motion, by appealing to the very same principles, and to call on the House to resist it as calculated to affect one of the main pillars which upheld the balance of the constitution, and on which the lives and safety of every Englishman depended. If there were any prerogative of the Crown undisputable and undisputed, it had been always held, and was now held to be that of the right of dismissing any officer without trial, without assigning, reasons, and without reference to whether his commission had been purchased or not purchased. It rested on the most ancient and uninterrupted usage. Instances innumerable were to be found, not only in late times, but in those times which gentlemen on the other side, were accustomed to call the best of times. But he appealed to facts which were admitted in both Houses of Parliament in 1734, when 310 bills had been introduced whose object had been to restrain this prerogative. In the public debates it had been most broadly and unequivocally admitted, by both those who supported and those who resisted the bills, that the prerogative had always existed, and continued to exist. No law was passed to restrain it. By usage and parliamentary admission, therefore, it had been avowed as existing. No prerogative, he would venture to say, was more essentially necessary, not only for the Crown, but for the benefit and interest of the people, for whose sake all the prerogatives of the Crown existed. Without the possession of such a prerogative on the part of the Crown, it would be impossible to preserve the discipline of the army; whether with reference to its internal subordination, or to the intercourse of the military with the civil population of the country. In both those points of view, the prerogative in question was indispensable to the good conduct and discipline of the army. If that prerogative were relinquished—if an officer could not be divested of his commission but by the decision of members of his own body, a fourth estate would be created in the realm, most prejudicial to the constitution. This prerogative, therefore, was necessary, not only for the maintenance of discipline in the army, but also for the maintenance of the integrity of the constitution. Let parliament once make the army independent of the Crown, and it would not be long ere the army would make itself independent of parliament. In support of this truth, be would appeal to the annals of our history, in which the fact would be found, written in characters of blood. No sooner had it been declared by parliament, that the army could not be dissolved by the Crown—no sooner had the army thus been pronounced independent of the Crown, than it brought the monarch to the scaffold, and turned the parliament out of doors. The same cause would no doubt produce the same effect in the present day; and he could not believe therefore that that House, and especially that any hon. members who professed themselves to be distinctively the champions of constitutional principles, would be found to sustain a proposition, wholly subversive of the constitution; tending as it did, to destroy an undoubted and necessary prerogative of the Crown, of which the Crown could not be divested without the destruction of the balance of the constitu- 311 tion. While, however he firmly main-tamed this point, he freely admitted, that the prerogative under discussion, as well as all the other prerogatives of the Crown, must be exercised by the counsel of responsible advisers—of men who were bound to abide by the advice which they gave. But of all the royal prerogatives, this was unquestionably the one which a well-informed and well-intentioned House of Commons would be the least inclined unnecessarily to meddle with; for he was sure the House would see, that the gradation between a frequent interference with the exercise of that prerogative, and taking the prerogative entirely into their own hands, was so easy, that if they indulged in the former they would soon virtually do what, substantially, they would never be disposed to agree to. Before the House could be induced to enter into any investigation of the exercise of the prerogative connected with the command of the army, there must be a strong presumption of abuse in that exercise. He was prepared to say, that in the present instance not only was there no presumption of an abusive exercise of the prerogative, but, on the contrary, the hon. member had, in his own statement, furnished the House with a presumption which led to the directly contrary conclusion. The hon. member clearly wished to insinuate, that he had been divested of his commission on account of his political conduct in the House of Commons—that such had been his hostility to government, and such the apprehension with which they regarded him, that they wished to punish him for his parliamentary conduct, if they could not deliver themselves from so formidable an opponent [loud cries of hear, hear, hear!].
Undoubtedly, he could perfectly understand the spirit of those liberal and enlightened politicians, who could so deal with their political opponents as to suppose them capable of the mean and disgraceful conduct of getting rid of a political opponent, by an act of official hostility [hear, hear!]. But really he thought the hon. member estimated his powers of hostility to his majesty's ministers at too high a rate, when he conceived that those powers had drawn down upon him such an exhibition of resentment. Against this invidious supposition on the part of the hon. gentleman, he would confidently appeal to the experience of the House and of the country, whether the conduct of 312 his majesty's government in matters of that sort had been influenced by such a pitiful principle? Was the hon. gentleman the only member of the army who had evinced a systematic opposition in that House to the measures of his majesty's government? Were there no other military members, either at present or formerly, on the other side of the House, who had constantly manifested the most decided hostility to his majesty's government? If the opposition of the hon. gentleman in parliament were really the chief cause of his removal, at least that principal of conduct had not been seen in the case of a gallant general opposite, the representative, he rather believed, of some Scotch Boroughs. It had not been seen in the continuance of the hon. gentleman himself in the army so long as he had been continued. Had his majesty's government been influenced by any such mean and miserable feelings of resentment towards the hon. gentleman as that which he ascribed to them they needed not have waited until the 14th of August. 1821, for ample opportunities of gratifying that disposition. The fact, however, was, that the ranks at which he was then looking abounded with officers of the army, voting independently on all great questions; and be boldly put it to the recollection and fairness of every gentleman in the House, if there had been any thing in the conduct of his majesty's government which justified the imputation cast upon them by the hon. member of having dismissed him from the army in consequence of his parliamentary opinions? He dared any man to the proof of the justice of such a charge.—He had already shown that there was no presumptive evidence that the prerogative in this instance had been abused. But he would go further, and he would venture to say, without entering into all the details of the hon. gentleman's speech, that that speech itself afforded a strong presumption, that the prerogative had been justifiably exercised in the present instance. First, he would say, that when a person held a commission in the service of the king, when he received the king's pay, when he was decorated with orders and titles, which as a British officer, he could not have worn without the gracious permission of his Sovereign, and when he nevertheless continued with a number of persons engaged in illegal proceedings, and opposing the legitimate orders of the king, his master, 313 he was guilty of a direct and gross insult to the Sovereign whom he served. This was a prominent feature in the hon. gentleman's own statement, which independently of any other consideration, justified the step which had been taken with respect to him. The hon. gentleman had I stated, that when he came up to Cumberland-gate he saw the life-guards broken and in disorder—that they appeared, to an eye experienced in military matters, as if they had been checked and repulsed. The hon. gentleman found them venturing their lives in an attack on a furious populace: he found these brave men, who had so gallantly fought for their country, in a situation of considerable jeopardy. What did the hon. gentleman do on the occasion? He must have been aware of what was the duty of an officer under such circumstances. If he was not aware of that duty, he was unworthy of the commission which he bore. Was it possible, however, that the hon. gentleman could have acted in a manner more calculated to promote military insubordination than—officer as he was—holding a commission but not having any authority on that occasion—by addressing either the soldiers or the officers who were employed at the time, and who were responsible for the manner in which they performed their duties? It was an act of great military insubordination to address troops under such circumstances at all: but the language in which, by the hon. gentleman's own admission, he addressed them, highly aggravated the character of his military offence. The hon. gentleman admitted that he told the soldiers they had disgraced themselves [cries of no, no!]. He had taken the hon. gentleman's words down and that was their import.
§ Lord Palmerston
observed, that it was immaterial whether the precise words used by the hon. gentleman were, that the men "had disgraced themselves," or that "it was disgraceful to continue firing." The meaning was the same in both cases. What judge was the hon. gentleman whether the men had disgraced themselves or not? The hon. gentleman had admitted that he did not know at the time whether they were acting under orders [no, no!]. Why, the hon. gentleman said, that he afterwards asked the officers whether they had given orders to fire? If at the time 314 at which he addressed the men he was satisfied whether or not they were acting order orders, would he have subsequently asked the officers if they had given orders to fire? But that was immaterial to the point. The bon, gentleman—a general Dfficer—knew, or ought to have known, that by the rules and discipline of the Army, he was guilty of a great breach of those rules and that discipline, by interfering with soldiers while in the discharge of their duty. What he maintained, therefore, was, that the conduct of the hon. gentleman tended to a gross breach of military discipline and subordination; and that there was no presumption that the prerogative was abused in the dismissal of the hon. gentleman from his majesty's service; but, on the contrary, that from the hon. gentleman's own shewing, there was an abundant presumption that the prerogative had not been abused. Under all these circumstances, he did not think the House would be induced to coincide with the hon. gentleman, or to comply with his motion.
§ Mr. Lambton
confessed, that he had entered the House with feelings of indignation at the treatment his hon. and gallant friend had received. He would not drop the title of "gallant," although gentlemen on the other side had dropped it. He still remembered that his gallant friend had been an officer twenty years, and that he had fought and bled in the service of his country. [Cheers.] The feelings with which he had entered the House were not molified by the tone which the noble lord had taken on the other side; by the sneering style which that noble lord had adopted, not only to the gallant gentleman below him, but also to another hon. and gallant member on his right hand (sir R Fergusson), whose military services perhaps, if well appreciated, might bear comparison with the civil exertions of the noble lord himself; and of whose title even to sit in the House the noble lord was so ignorant as to say, that he sat, "he rather believed, for some Scotch boroughs." The tone which had been used towards both these honourable members, reflected very little credit upon the feeling of the noble lord, or upon the manner in which ministers were disposed to treat appeals for justice. The House had been told of the antiquity and prerogative in question. He denied the fact. Was it necessary for him to remind the noble lord, that in ancient times no such 315 prerogative had been known? Could the noble lord be acquainted with the history of his country, and not recollect that, so late as Charles 2nd, the power of the Crown to dismiss militia officers had been given by two specific acts of parliament—the 13th and 14th of that king? The noble lord talked of the impossibility of preserving discipline in the army without the use of the prerogative in question. He (Mr. L.) did not know what kind of discipline was meant. If by discipline was to be understood prevention of military offences, then a court-martial was the correct and the recognised tribunal; but let it not be allowed that the Crown should assume power to dismiss an officer, without even naming the offence of which he was guilty. To use (with permission) a favourite expression of the noble secretary for foreign affairs, this was the most "distinguishing feature" of the gallant member's case. He had been dismissed from the service, and no one dared to assign a cause. But the cause, if not stated, was sufficiently understood; the offence committed was not a military offence—it was the offence of having been present at the queen's funeral at all. Let the House consider the situation in which sir R. Wilson stood, and they would see that he had acted upon the best feelings of the human heart. To pay the last respects to a queen whom he had served, was consistent with the honour and the gratitude of a gentleman. The noble lord opposite had spoken of the necessity of a religious adherence to prerogative. Did the noble lord forget that the Crown had parted with the prerogative—the important prerogative, of removing the judges from their offices? And no one had discovered that the dispensation of justice was impeded by that act. Nay the act had been one of a most popular character. The noble lord had said, in his observations upon discipline, that the power which the army once assumed was written in letters of blood; and that it had been the means of bringing a monarch to the scaffold. It was that monarch's too frequent exertion of prerogative—of that prerogative, one branch of which the noble lord would fain uphold—that had brought him to the scaffold. It was not the power assumed by the army, but the unconstitutional stretch of power by the Crown, which had led to the lamentable consummation to which the noble lord alluded. He would not detain the House by observations upon the state- 316 ment which had been made by his gallant friend. Of course, the facts of that statement had been long known to him; and he had known that there was no act of his gallant friend's on the day in question which had not been consistent with his duty, both as an officer and a man. But the noble lord opposite had charged the gallant member with having continued with persons engaged in an illegal proceeding. What did the noble lord mean? If the noble lord meant only that the gallant member had continued with the soldiers, then he agreed with him; for, if he meant to say that the soldiers were acting illegally, he was right [Hear hear]; but if he meant to insinuate that the gallant member had continued with the multitude, he insinuated that of which he did not dare to produce evidence, and that which the gallant member's own statement did not admit. The fact was, that sir Robert Wilson had continued with the soldiers, despising danger then, as he had so often despised it before; it was natural he should feel something irritated when he found a ball passing close to his face, and that when he looked back and saw the soldiers loading a second time, be should tell them that it was disgraceful to continue firing after the disturbance was over; but that he had ever gone farther than the making such an appeal, or that he had in any way assumed the functions of a military commander, was disproved by all the evidence of what passed on the occasion. The noble lord said, that it was an act of insubordination in the gallant member to interfere in any way with troops under the command of another officer. True; if, on the occasion in question, he had in any way been engaged in military service. But he was not there as a military man at all. He was on half-pay, and in the situation of a civil individual. He left his station in the procession merely to keep the peace, and actuated by the same motive which might have induced him (Mr. L.) or any other member of the House—the wish to prevent outrage which endangered the king's subjects. Would not the noble lord himself have interfered with a similar motive? It was neither more nor less than an act of humanity; and it was one of the brightest points of his gallant friend's character, that, during the most horrible carnage in his professional career, he had never suffered the feelings of humanity to be deadened in his breast; and there was 317 evidence from general officers, and from monarchs, to prove that in the midst of unparalleled horror, be had found means to devote time to the aid even of suffering enemies. It was disgraceful to England that such a man should be dismissed for saving a few harsh words to soldiers who were returning from the murder of their fellow citizens. He did say from the "murder;" and he was justified in the expression; for a constitutional tribunal of the country had applied the term of "murder;" to the conduct of both officers and soldiers on that day. [Hear, hear.] The whole tendency of the speech of the noble lord opposite was, to repeat the argument which had been used in 1734, when the duke of Bolton and lord Cob-barn had been dismissed the service, on the motion of lord Carteret. On that occasion a most important Protest was signed by more than thirty peers; and an additional Protest entered on the Journals by the noble lords themselves. The reasoning adopted in both so exactly applied to the case of his gallant friend, that he should read them to the House:—Dissentient, 1st. Because we conceive it is the inherent right of this House to address the Crown, to be informed, who are the advisers of any measures that may he prejudicial to his majesty's government, or dangerous to the liberties of the nation—2nd. Because the removal of two officers of such rank and dignity, and of such known fidelity to his majesty's person and government, without any cause assigned, or any known or alleged neglect of their duty, gave the greatest alarm to many of his majesty's most faithful subjects; we therefore thought it for his majesty's service, to give him this occasion to publish to the world, the just grounds of his displeasure, or to detect the calumny of their accusers: and consequently to withdraw his confidence from such pernicious counsellors.—3rd Because, that as the practice of displacing officers has grown more frequent in proportion to the increase of their numbers in both Houses of Parliament, the world may entertain (however unjustly) an opinion, that the free use of their votes has been the real cause of their disgrace; and the more so, since most of the persons, who have been removed have happened to be members of one or other House of Parliament.—4th. Because applications of this nature to the Crown may hereafter protect many of his majesty's faithful subjects from the 318 secret malicious representations of some minister in future time, who (though unrestrained by any sense of truth, regardless of his Prince's real interest, and animated only by his own passions) may however be checked by the just apprehensions that the applications of parlialiament may lay open his calumnies, and bring upon himself the disgrace he had prepared for others.Dissentient, Because we were not conscious, that any neglect or breach of our duty can be laid to our charge, much less any want of zeal and attachment for his majesty's person and government; we therefore must testify our earnest desire, that this motion had past in the affirmative, that we might have had an opportunity given us of knowing our supposed crimes and accusers; and we hope, of justifying ourselves to his majesty and the world,(Signed) "BOLTON, COBHAM.His gallant friend was entitled to say, in the language of those noble lords, that he had a right to know his offence, in order that he might justify himself before his country. He had asked for a copy of the accusations against him. He had asked it from lord Sidmouth; he had asked it from the commander-in-chief; he had asked it in every possible quarter; but in all quarters it had been refused to him. He had offered to meet the charges one by one, and prove himself innocent of them; and no person who had listened to his statement of the present evening, but must be convinced that he could fully have redeemed his pledge. No one who had heard that statement could believe that he had stimulated the people to violence—that he had tried to obstruct the procession—or that he had authorized the attack of the multitude upon the soldiers. What he (Mr. L.) said on this occasion, was said, he protested, independent of any feeling of opposition to ministers. It rose purely out of his friendship for his gallant friend, whom he believed to be innocent. He did entreat the House to attend particularly to what his gallant friend had said: he had declared upon his honour that he had come direct from Paris to the funeral, and that, even without time or opportunity for consultation, he had found himself at Brandenburgh-house. Before he came into the House, he had expressed his conviction that his gallant friend would justify himself; and the statement he had made had fully borne out his expectation. 319 The noble lord on the other side had failed to produce even a tittle of the evidence against him. With respect to the treatment which his gallant friend had experienced, a greater tissue of persecution had never been contrived; and he was acquainted with the fact which would show to the House that the instigators of that treatment—and he did not mean to charge it upon all his majesty's ministers, for he had heard, however truly, that some of them had been adverse to it—he would show to the House, however, that the instigators of that treatment had gone into lengths which no feeling ought to sanction. Having succeeded, as they thought, in ruining his gallant friend, by depriving him of the commission which he had purchased, and which they were as little justified, according to the principles of equity, in confiscating, without trial, as they would be, if they seized on any man's freehold property without cause, or the award of a court of justice, they thought it necessary, if possible, to distress him farther. And how had they done this? One of sir Robert Wilson's sons had been placed at the military college as the son of an officer. Now he was in possession of a letter announcing to sir Robert, that he must pay a larger salary for the education of that lad, because he could no longer be considered the son of an officer. [Cheers.] The letter was dated October 3rd, 1821; and it called upon sir Robert Wilson to pay 150l. per annum, instead of 75l., because his son could no longer be held the son of an officer, and he must be transferred to the class of sons of private gentlemen. Was not this done to show sir Robert Wilson that he was under severe punishment? Was it not a part of that system under which gentlemen had been annoyed and attacked, when they differed from government upon political questions? Was it not the system which had dismissed earl Fitzwilliam for his political conduct in Yorkshire, and lord Fife for voting for the repeal of the malt-tax? [Much Cheering.] The whole course proved that there was a system afloat for destroying all independence of feeling in persons any way dependent on the Crown, that was, upon the ministers; and to establish a military despotism in the country. The hon. gentleman concluded an animated address by alluding to the various services in which sir Robert Wilson had been engaged, and particularly to his service in the Lusitanian 320 Legion. Wherever hard duty was to be performed his gallant friend was sure to be found; but when rewards were to be lavished, his name was not forthcoming; he had fought against the enemies of England with his heart and with his soul; and upon the conduct of government towards him, it was for the House to form an opinion.
§ Mr. N. Calvert
was of opinion, that the prerogative in question was advantageous to the people, as well as to the Crown, when properly exercised; but allowed that it might be abused in such a manner as to become highly obnoxious. In the present case, he confessed that when he came down to the House it was with a strong impression on his mind unfavourable to the hon. member. Having, however, heard the clear statement made by the hon. member himself, and having heard the speech of the noble lord in reply, he could not do otherwise than vote for the motion, as the hon. member's case seemed to him to prove the truth of the old adage, "When you want to beat a dog it is not difficult to find a stick."
§ Sir I. Coffin
adverted to the dismissal of lord G. Sackville, and declared it to be his opinion, that no unprejudiced man, either in that House or out of it, would say, that the royal prerogative had been exercised harshly, or unjustly in the case of the hon. gentleman.
Sir R. Fergusson
said, he did not know whether he was to be the next victim or not but he would tell the noble lord opposite and his adherents, that in spite of all their power and all their threats, while he sat in that House he would always give an independent vote. After the plain statement made by his gallant friend, it appeared to him impossible for any candid man to deny that his gallant friend had been grossly injured. It was evident that the exercise of the prerogative had been abused. Ministers were responsible for the advice which they gave in the exercise of every prerogative possessed by the Crown. It was so with regard to the highest of those prerogatives, the extension of mercy; and surely it ought to be so with regard to that inferior and more painful prerogative, the infliction of punishment. With respect to the treatment which his gallant friend had endured, it appeared to him to be a miserable, a base assassination of private character for the purposes of political intrigue [hear, hear, hear!] His gallant friend, (gallant he 321 still would call him, for, though no longer a general in the British service, the remembrance of his deeds could not be obliterated) had made out such a case, that ministers did not dare to grapple with it. It was not the first occasion on which they had endeavoured to shelter themselves under the pretence of exercising the royal prerogative. The moment the express arrived from Manchester communicating the occurrences there, ministers hastened to avail themselves of the prerogative by thanking those to whose conduct the fatal events of that day were mainly attributable. So, in the present instance the king's name and privilege had been equally profaned by using them for the dismissal of his gallant friend, and of a respectable police magistrate, whose only crime was an attempt to save the lives of his majesty's subjects.
§ Lord Palmerston
assured the gallant general that he had not the slightest intention to reflect upon his parliamentary conduct. He had merely said, that no officer had ever been dismissed the service for his conduct in parliament, and had instanced the gallant general, who had always (conscientiously and constitutionally, no doubt) voted against his majesty's ministers. He was therefore justified in contending that the reason given on the other side for the dismissal of the hon. mover, was not the true one.
said, that although his gal-taut friend was no longer an officer in the British service, he stood high in rank abroad, and was possessed of a character as a soldier of which no minister could deprive him. He should always call him the gallant officer as he had been accustomed to do. He could bear testimony to the accuracy of the statement of his gallant friend, for he had accompanied the funeral procession of her late majesty to do honor to the character of the illustrious deceased, and to mark his hatred of her inveterate persecutors. Up to the arrival of the procession at Cumberland gate he accompanied his gallant friend the whole of the way; and he could declare that with respect to the whole of what passed during that time, the assertions of his gallant friend were perfectly correct. For the sake of the argument, he would admit the king's prerogative; but it should not be forgotten, that the prerogative must be exercised by responsible advisers, and all that was desired was, to know who those advisers were on the present occasion. The 322 noble lord opposite had not met the statement of his gallant friend by one single piece of evidence. He hart merely perverted that statement. The present motion ought to be agreed to, upon the principle of the case of lord Chatham in 1809. Lord Chatham was the commander of the Walcheren expedition, and had privately conveyed to the king a paper libelling the conduct of a gallant officer sir Richard Strachan. A resolution was proposed for an address to his majesty, calling for the production of that paper; and so strong was the justice of the case, that although the motion was resisted by all the influence of ministers, the address was carried by a majority of seven: and the paper, when produced, was the means of forcing lord Chatham out of office. If the House did justice, not to his gallant friend, but to truth and its own character, it would accede to the present motion. His gallant friend had distinguished himself by almost a romantic attachment to his profession. It was observed by foreigners, that he had led them on to battle and to victory; that he had earned and been rewarded by honours among, themselves, but had been neglected in his own country. His situation was not like that of many unfortunate officers of inferior rank whose loss might be equally flagrant, but not so prominent as that of his gallant friend. He stood before the country with nine and twenty years of service in his favour: and he believed one of his gallant friend's offences was, the having attended the funeral; and on his conscience he believed, that another of his offences was, the having, prevented the shedding of human blood. Yes, on his conscience, he believed that his majesty's ministers wished for a military execution in the metropolis on that day, similar to that at Manchester. Of this he was convinced by the conduct which had been displayed towards sir R. Baker; and he believed, from the tone which was observed by those who were called the upper classes, that an opportunity was desired to punish the people for their attachment and love to the queen. What other charge had there been against his hon. friend? His gallant friend had sustained a robbery of his property: and was it to be endured that a minister should stand at the elbow of the king, to blacken the character of a valuable military officer, and advise his dismissal without conviction, nay, without accusation? Let them recollect, for a moment the demand of the commander in 323 chief himself, when he was arraigned at the bar of that House. He had extracted it in order to shew how different was his request, when he was accused, from the measure of justice he had extended to him whom he had condemned. When the conduct of the duke of York was the subject of discussion in that House on the occasion which led to his retirement from the office of commander in chief, his royal highness had said, in his letter to the House, "I claim of their justice that I shall not be condemned without trial or be deprived of the benefit and protection which is afforded to every British subject, by those sanctions under which alone evidence is received in the ordinary administration of the law." On the same occasion one of his majesty's ministers, the late Mr. Perceval, had said, that "no British subject ought to be punished in his life, limb, or character, without having the charges against him in writing, or having the opportunity of being heard in his defence." His gallant friend had now been punished, not only without having the charges against him in writing, but without having even a hint of what they were. The noble lord had, however, rested his defence solely on the ground that it was not the practice of parliament to interfere with this blessed prerogative. Not a word else of defence had been offered. This was all they knew of a matter as revolting to taste as it was to reason. This was all they knew besides sneers and insinuations; and on such a case, it was said, the fifteen cabinet ministers had given their unanimous voice to deprive his gallant friend of his property—they could not deprive him of his character. Thank God, the people of England did not feel in this matter as his majesty's ministers: they had stepped forward to succour the oppressed. The only ground on which the adherents of ministers defended the dismissal of his gallant friend, was this—"wait till parliament meets; then the cause of his dismissal will be made clear and satisfactory." Parliament had now met, and not a word of explanation had been given. It was the duty, therefore, of the House to step forward and to prevent the ministers from debasing the character of the army, and above all, to defend the rights and property of British subjects.
The Marquis of Londonderry
said, he could assure the House, that in rising after the hon. gentleman who had just sat 324 down, it was not his intention to enter into any defence of his majesty's government, either against a charge of having planned a massacre of his majesty's subjects on the 14th of August, or of having entered into a conspiracy to deprive the hon. mover of his property. He admitted that every allowance was to be made for the warmth with which the hon. gentleman (Mr. Bennet) had taken up this question. He did not blame his feelings; they were those of private friendship; and, however, much credit might be given to them on this occasion, they ill assorted with the question upon which the House was to decide. That question lay in a very narrow compass; and in offering a few remarks upon it, the House would excuse him if he did not feel the same warmth which had been shown by the hon member. He should feel it his duty to oppose the motion; and, however painful it might be to express his disapprobation of the hon. mover's conduct on the occasion which led to this discussion, it was only a sense of his duty which urged him. He would in the outset admit, that he knew of no other bounds to inquiries by parliament into such subjects as that now before it, but the discretion of parliament itself. But he must contend, that it did not follow, because parliament possessed this power, that they must therefore exercise it on the suggestion of any hon. member, Surely it would not be contended, admitting the principle of inquiry in its fullest extent (and he spoke this with every respect for the hon. mover), that he had any greater claim to have his case considered by parliament than any other individual who might come to their bar through the interposition of any hon. member. Every officer in the army with whose services the Crown might have dispensed without a trial, had just, in principle, the same claim on the interference of parliament as the hon. mover. But the House. without reference, for a moment, to the particular case of the hon. mover, ought to consider what would be the convenience or inconvenience of inquiries of this nature. They would, he contended, be most inconvenient; and the hon. member for Hertford, (Mr. N. Calvert.), must give him leave to say, that the House was not by its duty bound to charge itself with an inquiry on every occasion into the conduct of the executive government towards its servants, and particularly into its conduct towards military officers. He viewed 325 the conduct of the executive government in a different light. He had, perhaps, been brought up in a prejudice, but he had always imagined, that there was something summary in the power of the Crown, especially in military matters: he had supposed, that this summary power was more necessary even than in the civil branch of the government. He saw now, however, that he had been mistaken, and that every military officer held under a freehold tenure; and that it was an act of robbery to affect him in any way, unless after trial. He saw now, that instead of being peculiarly subordinate, the military officers of the Crown were as independent as the holders of offices in the civil departments, having places not at pleasure, but for life. He certainly should have been disposed to say that the case of other civil officers holding their places at pleasure was more analogous; he certainly should say, if a civil-office-holder were dismissed, that it was a question of confidence, and not of crime; he should say, that this principle was not less essential to the military than to the civil service; and as it was manifest that in the civil department the duty could not go on from hour to hour, and from day to day, if there were not confidence; and if it were necessary to prove a crime before there was an alteration in an office, so he should say, that the army, still more, could not exist without confidence, but must become a prey to disobedience and disorganization. Now, he would read the words of the law, which completely bore him out in his view of the subject. They were, that no officer should be dismissed from the service, "except by the king's order or the sentence of a general court-martial."
The Marquis of Londonderry.
—It is the 22nd Article of War. It was made law by the Mutiny act. Besides if the hon. gentleman objected to this article of war, why had he not long ago, and before he himself felt the operation of it, brought it under the consideration of parliament? He held in his hand a paper containing the names of no less than 212 officers, who, in the last ten years, had been removed without a trial; and that paper proved, that so far from the doctrine being true, that a court-martial was the only ground for proceeding to the dismissal of an officer, there were instances after instances in which, after acquittal by a court mar- 326 tail, the parties had been dismissed; and. this not from any notion that the court-martial had decided improperly, but because there were many cases in which legal guilt could not be proved, but in which, notwithstanding there were circumstances to affect the character of a gentleman, or the harmony of a regiment, or in some way or other the good of the service. Nothing was so common as to aggravate the sentence of a court-martial. Nothing was so common as to dismiss those whom a court-martial had not ordered to be dismissed, leaving or not leaving to the individual the price of his commission— for that was another circumstance on which the Crown might exercise its discretion. To this he might add, that no officer entered the army without the full knowledge that it was in the power of the King to decide, on the advice of his ministers, whether or not it might be for the benefit of the service that he should remain. But he felt that he was stating truisms. He would now quote an authority on the question; and he selected it as that of a man for whose opinions he was satisfied the hon. mover had a very high, and he would not say, an undeserved respect. It was the opinion of lord Erskine, then Mr. Erskine, given on a case of some officers who had been dismissed the service without trial, and was dated Sergeants'-inn, Sept. 8, 1801. "I am bound to add," said Mr. Erskine, after stating the arguments on the case, "that the parties are wholly without remedy. The king is the acting party here. He is at the head of the army, and the grounds of his decision cannot be questioned in any court of law; and whenever his majesty dismisses an officer, whether of the highest or lowest rank, he loses all benefit belonging to his situation, according to the articles of war; and this every soldier must know when he enters the army." This was the opinion of Mr. Erskine. How far it was coincident with that expressed by the hon. member (Mr. Lambton), he would leave himself to judge. He would now give him the opinion of sir Charles Morgan, who, in alluding to the case of a militia officer dismissed with out trial, observed, amongst other things, that he had no hesitation in saying, that his majesty was quite competent to remove any officer without producing any grounds for his removal, or of bringing him to any trial. It was sufficient that his majesty did not think fit to retain him any longer in 327 his service. He should like to know, if, after the authorities he had cited, it would be any longer contended, that an officer's commission was like a freehold and that it could not be taken from him without a trial and conviction? The advisers of the Crown, had, on the present occasion, given that counsel which they conceived it their duty to give; but be hoped he should get credit for the declaration, that it was not the wish of ministers to do any thing which could affect the hon. mover personally. If the step taken had that effect, he should regret it; but as to any feeling of hostility personally to the hon. gentleman he could assure him that it did not exist on the subject, and particularly in a high quarter; and though the warm imagination of the hon. member for Shrewsbury might have led him to look upon ministers as a band of plunderers, ready, on the first opportunity to confiscate the freehold of the hon. mover, he could assure him that no such feeling existed. But the hon. member had mixed up matters on the present motion which it would have been much better if he had not touched. Every thing had been laid at the door of government; and the circumstance about the hon. member's son, of which he felt it almost unnecessary to say he had never heard before, had been brought forward with every possible effect. If the government had been anxious to look for occasions on which to exercise personal hostility—if they could ever have felt any—towards the hon. mover instances were not wanting before the present, of conduct on that hon. gentleman's part, which was marked, to say the least of it, with great indiscretion. But that had been overlooked; and it was not until the conduct which had brought on the present crisis, that they conceived it their duty to advise the sovereign not to detain him any longer in the service. To go into detail upon the transaction out of which this arose, would be inconsistent with the principle with which he had set out; namely that it was not one into which the House was called upon to inquire. It would be then said that he had pleaded, and he might be asked to bring to the bar 150 guards, against which the hon. gentleman might offer to bring 350 of his constituents, or 350 witnesses, good men and true, to state the case as it appeared to them. But into such an inquiry he would not consent to enter. It would be highly improper, in every sense 328 of the term. At the same time, without that inquiry, he thought these grounds fully sufficient for the measures adopted towards the hon. gentleman. Was it prudent, he would ask, to point out one part of the soldiers as popular; thereby insinuating to the people that the others were not so? His noble friend had not charged the hon. gentleman with gross misconduct. He had stated that his conduct was imprudent; and of that it appeared to him there was sufficient proofs. But were the government, in the case of an officer, in whose conduct that impropriety was known, to go upon the Old Bailey principle of examining every minute circumstance? The thing was unnecessary; for sufficient had been done to justify them, in the advice of this removal without trial. It would, however, be a waste of time to dwell upon the details of the case, where every shred of evidence that was adduced would tend to farther inquiry. Enough was admitted on both sides, to satisfy him that an inquiry by parliament would be superfluous. His noble friend had shown that it was indiscreet, at the least, in an officer of rank to have so acted as to draw upon the soldiers the indignation of the people, as it was necessary we should have a standing army for the protection of our liberties. [Loud cheers from the Opposition.] Why, it was only three nights ago that he had heard gentlemen on the opposite side call loudly and anxiously for martial law. [Cheers from the ministerial side.] So little horror did they then seem to have of the standing army, that their only cry was for an increased military force in Ireland. It was all a joke, it was said, to pass any law for the relief of Ireland unless it was to give her more soldiers. Honourable members hated the Insurrection act. They did not think it would do. They would rather confide in the officers of a marching regiment. The hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) was quite enthusiastic on the subject, and eloquent in his intreaties for military interference. It was the same in the other House of parliament, where a noble baron [Order, order.] "Well, then, in another place, a noble lord who had a perfect hydrophobia for military power, was quite astounded that the discretion of the military was not to supersede the law in Ireland. This was the manner in which hon. gentlemen then felt, who could not patiently hear the name of an army at the present moment. To pro- 329 ceed with the remarks which he was about to offer, he would repeat, that his noble friend had not stated that inquiry or any examination of the transactions of the day in question was necessary to form an opinion upon the conduct of the hon. gentleman. It was of a nature not to be misconceived; and surely nothing could tend more to destroy the regular discipline of the service, than for an officer, not on professional duty, to interfere with soldiers on duty, and upbraid them with conduct which he stated would bring disgrace on them and the whole army. Was it proper conduct in the hon. mover, covered with the insignia of the service, to address the soldiers and brand their conduct with the epithet "disgraceful?" Why, he would ask, had not the hon. gentleman, as he had chosen to be present—and no one would dispute his right to attend to pay any mark of respect he might think proper to the memory of the Queen—why had he not discountenanced such conduct, or why had he clothed in military colours? [Cries of "No, no."] He did not mean to say that the hon. gentleman wore his regimental uniform, but he wore his star on his breast. Every body knew it was sir R. Wilson. Why had he taken upon him to reprimand the king's troops, over whom he had so immediate command, and thereby expose them to the indignation of the populace? Was that conduct which could be called prudent? Or was it not that which called loudly for the visitation which it had afterwards received? What could be more likely to encourage the disgraceful conduct of the people? To encourage those factious spirits who degraded the Queen while living, and could not be satisfied without attempting to promote their views by her death? The plan for obstructing the procession was perfectly systematic; for entrenchments had been cut in the road through which it was to pass; and, under these circumstances, it was, that the hon. member, arrayed in the distinctive marks of his profession had appeared among the crowd, and held a language which was calculated to call down upon the troops the indignation of the populace. The hon. member had said, that he saw no stones thrown at the soldiers. Where then were his eyes? Forty-three of the soldiers who left the barracks in perfect health had been sent to the hospital in the evening, in consequence of the hurts they received. He would admit the right of the hon. gen- 330 tleman to pay every respect he pleased to the memory of the Queen; but was it prudent, after the outrageous conduct he had witnessed on the part of the populace, to have followed the procession which they succeeded in forcing through the city? The moment the law was set at defiance, it became his duty to retire; or if he had resolved to remonstrate, he ought to have remonstrated with the populace, and not with the soldiers. Neither could he feel that, according to the sound principles of the constitution, parliament was the place where such summary judgments could be revised. In considering that point, it would be well to look back to the proceedings of 1734, when a motion being made for that purpose, parliament refused to abridge or regulate the power in any way which the Crown had previously exercised. With this precedent before them, it was now too late to say that they ought to erect themselves into a court for the purpose of revising such proceedings, when they had not even the power to administer an oath to the witnesses on whose testimony they must decide. Nothing could have been more unwise, in these dangerous times, than to assist the factious purposes of those who undertook to compel the procession to take its course through the city. If officers of the army, not being on duty at the time, and consequently having nothing to do with the arrangements of the day, were to be permitted to interfere with the soldiers acting under orders, there must be an end to the discipline of the army. Were he a soldier, he could not continue in the service of that state which would not protect him from such interlopers. No one could more regret than himself the necessity of pressing with any severity on the hon. gentleman; but ministers had a duty to perform, and if they omitted to advise his majesty on the occasion, they would have failed in their duty to the Crown, and their regard for the best interests of the people.
§ Sir R. Wilson
said, the noble lord was mistaken in having supposed that he had addressed the people, and told them the blues were popular. That was not the case. The fact was, he had met a gentleman, whom he was told was sir R. Baker, and to him he said, that the blues were popular, and it was so far fortunate, as it would be more likely to prevent mischief. At this observation, there was not more than one person present.
The Marquis of Londonderry
was sorry to have mistaken any part of the transaction. He had understood that this observation was made to the people, or made loudly in their presence.
§ Mr. Lambton
said, that the noble marquis had unintentionally, no doubt, misrepresented what had fallen from him. He had not said that an officer had as much right to his commission as if it were his freehold. What he had said was, that it would be as unjust to deprive an officer without trial of his commission, as it would be to deprive a man of his freehold without a cause.
§ Sir John Newport
said, that his vote upon the question before tile House would have no reference to the motives which actuated his majesty's ministers to advise the Crown as they had upon this occasion. It appeared to him, that the House had but one choice in a case of this nature, which was between the prerogative in question being left in the hands of the Crown without any control or being liable to appeal to the House of Commons, in order to review the decisions of the Crown in the exercise of it. The latter he thought to be full of extreme dangers; especially as regarded its consequences upon military discipline. In the first place, such a course would tend to bring the officers of the army and that House into dangerous contact. They all knew the consequences of the fatal error, in a former period of our history, of bringing the officers of the army and committees of the House of Commons, into too close a communication. It was, therefore, because he thought a most unadvised act had been committed, which he felt the House was not empowered to go into, that he could not support this motion. For such was the nature of the act, that if the papers were laid on the table, the House must inquire into the subject matter of them. The principle went to render the army independent of the Crown, and dependent upon that House, or rather upon any party it might be able to command in it—a principle which, it was obvious involved many dangers.
§ Mr. Hume
said, he was anxious to offer himself to the attention of the House on this question, as he had accompanied his gallant friend on the day to which the motion referred. He had witnessed the whole of his conduct on that occasion, not having been absent from him for ten minutes during the day; and he could 332 testify that the conduct of his hon. and gallant friend was, throughout the whole of the transaction, most correct. The noble marquis had, instead of confining himself to the question before the House, gone into the subject of the Queen's funeral, which, though it might have given rise to these transactions, had nothing to do with the motion upon which they were to decide. The noble marquis had talked of the prerogative. What was it? Blackstone had defined the prerogative of the Crown thus—"Prerogative is a discretionary power of acting for the public good where the positive laws were silent." But the laws were not silent on this case. There were rules and regulations for the army which were supported by law. The army was, it was true, at the discretion of the king, but that discretion did not mean, the whim and caprice of his ministers. There was a regular act to regulate it. Now, the preamble of that act said—"Whereas no man shall be forejudged of life or limb, or punished in any manner without a trial by his peers." This applied to a civilian, and if his hon. and gallant friend was considered in that light, he was not at all amenable to military law; but, being a soldier, he was to be judged after trial, and the act especially laid it down, that no man should be dismissed without a trial, The noble lord had stated, that his hon. and gallant friend had no right to complain of the treatment which he had experienced, since there were at least two hundred cases in which the same exercise of prerogative had been made by the Crown. To such a statement he would take the liberty of replying, that supposing it to be true, the sooner such acts of tyranny were put an end to, the better would it be for the country, and also for the army, which formed a part of it. Indeed, till some check was put upon this despotic practice, which the noble lord had declared to be so usual in the army, the army would not be placed upon that footing of respectability on which it ought to be placed in a country boasting of the privileges of a free constitution. The noble marquis then joined with the noble lord in saying, "all that we have to say against the gallant officer is, that he was guilty of a military offence, in interfering with the soldiery whilst they were in the discharge of their duty." But what was the purpose for which his hon. and gallant friend interfered? Was it not to prevent the effusion of human blood, 333 and to preserve the lives of his majesty's subjects? The noble marquis then said, that government had dismissed the hon. and gallant officer, not merely on account of his interference with the military, but also because they were anxious to give every protection to the lives and property of the people. Why, it was that very anxiety which had led his bon. and gallant friend to act as he had acted upon the memorable day of her majesty's funeral; and strange to say, such was the monopolizing spirit of humanity which had seized upon his majesty's government, that they publicly dismissed him for having been animated by the same feelings which they themselves professed to entertain. The noble marquis had asked his hon. and gallant friend, whether he had interfered with the people, and had endeavoured to make them desist from their violent conduct. He could answer that question. His hon. and gallant friend had interfered with the people: he had requested them not to throw stones, otherwise it might irritate the soldiers, who were merely acting in obedience to orders. Indeed, he was a little surprised that his hon. and gallant friend had omitted that circumstance in the plain unvarnished statement of facts which he had that evening submitted to the House. Standing, therefore, as the matter did, it was unfair in the noble marquis to upbraid his hon. and gallant friend with having interfered with the military, and with not having interfered with the people. He was prepared with proof, that his hon. and gallant friend had used the language which he had just repeated to the House, though he was not himself present when it was employed. At the time the firing and the cries of murder first commenced, he was riding with sir R. Wilson in the rear of the carriages, "As soon as I heard them" continued Mr. Hume, "I turned round to him, and said, for God's sake, sir Robert, don't let us go there." [Shouts of laughter from both sides of the House, intermingled with cries of "hear."] I see what conclusion I am to draw from those cheers, but I can assure the House that it will not prevent me from stating what occurred, or from doing what I conceive to be my duty. I foresaw the misconstruction which would be put on our conduct, if we approached the place where the firing was going on, and I was going to state it to my gallant friend, when his humanity, which other 334 cowards dared not to practise, hurried him away to see whether he could not put a stop to the firing, and to the cries of murder. —The noble marquis had said, that those who had made themselves so busy on the day of the Queen's funeral were a remnant of a pitiful faction, that was anxious to keep up the spirit which some time be fore that occurrence had unfortunately agitated the country. Now, he would ask the noble marquis, who and what it was that had given birth to that spirit which he was then so loud in condemning? Was it not the ministers themselves, by an act of oppression, which was unparalleled in the history of the country; which had cast the foulest blot upon parliaments that was to be found in their an-nals—an act of oppression which was not even terminated by the death of her who fell a victim to it? [Cheers.] He would their violent conduct. He could answer repeat the expression—the course of insult and oppression which ministers had pursued towards her late majesty was continued even after her death. [Cheers.] In her life they would never bestow upon her those marks of honour and attention which were due to the high rank and station which she occupied in the country; but on her death, as if in solemn mockery of her situation, they insulted her obsequies with the idle and unnecessary parade of a military escort. The last persons to complain of the factious spirit which it was said had agitated the country, were the wretched and heartless drivellers who had raised it. He trusted that the time would come, when they would meet the condign punishment which they merited for the numerous acts of oppression which they had committed to wards her late majesty; and he did not doubt but he should see them called to the bar of the House to answer for their conduct towards that illustrious individual, as well as for their various other acts of enormity towards the people, if ever there should be such a thing as a reformed House of Commons. [A laugh.] Gentlemen might smile, but many extraordinary things had recently happened—some of which were not half so likely as the event to which he had alluded. Let that matter, however, be as it might, of one thing at least he was sure—that, either here or hereafter, Heaven would punish them for their oppressive conduct. The whole case of his gallant friend was now before the public, and, being so before it, he would leave the decision on it 335 to the country. If the House refused to afford protection to an individual under such circumstances as these, it was high time for the country to open its eyes to its situation. Nothing could prove more clearly the necessity of parliamentary reform than such a refusal.
§ Mr. Twiss
said, that the hon. members opposite seemed to be all agreed, that the case was one which ought either to have been sent to a court martial, or submitted to that House. It was on this proposition that he desired to say a few words, with a view to show in what way such a suggestion, coming from his side of the House, would have been met by the same hon. members with whom it originated. If his majesty's ministers, instead of meeting the case manfully as they had done, by the exercise of that power which they possessed, had brought forward a proposal that such a matter should be referred to a court martial, it would have been said, and with truth, that they were afraid to advise the exercise of the prerogative. It would have been said, that they wished to take an indirect means of accomplishing their object without suffering the odium of it; and that for this purpose they selected a body so constituted as to be under complete subjection to their will—thus substituting for a responsible an irresponsible power. His majesty's ministers, however, not having done this, the thing was now seen in a different light; and the act was arraigned as unconstitutional, and as depriving the individual of the security of martial law. He did not mean to say that military officers might not be competent to meet a question of this nature; but, at the same time, it certainly was one upon which it was almost impossible for military officers, in the employment of the Crown, to be free from bias. It was plain that there must be many objections to entrusting the important power of dismissing officers from the service to a tribunal, which, though not free from ministerial influence, was free from its responsibility. A minister, however, might be responsible, though not accountable. In cases of money, the minister was both responsible for its use, as well as accountable for its application; but he was not accountable for the administration of a prerogative.
Sir F. Burdett
said, that the noble marquis would not, by granting the papers moved for, give the House an opportunity of going into an inquiry into this extraor- 336 dinary, this unconstitutional, he must say, this abominable transaction. He therefore felt it his duty to expose the very extraordinary doctrines which the noble lord opposite, arid the noble marquis had held. The House would do well to keep in mind the bearing which this question had upon the constitution; and that the doctrines of the noble lord and the noble marquis were most hostile to every principle of that constitution. The noble marquis did well to desist from entering into any statement of particulars on this question: for those particulars were what he did not dare to meet. But, leaving the particular case entirely out of view, he thought the general doctrine such as the House and the country ought not to tolerate. The noble marquis had declared, that the prerogative of the Crown was quite uncontrollable; and had called upon the House to believe this, without having gone into any argument or statement whatever upon which it could be substantiated. As far, however, as the noble marquis had gone, there could be little doubt that those majorities, which were well understood to vote according to the dictum of the noble marquis upon other occasions, would vote for his present assertion, although he had not only not proved it, but tacitly admitted that it could not be proved. The case was one of the most flagrant nature. He would ask the House whether, if the government had an irresponsible power over the army, that power should not have been particularised? A standing army, unless for the purpose of defending the country from enemies abroad, was hostile at all times to the constitution; and a standing army kept up in a time of profound peace was not more wasteful of the public wealth than it was dangerous to liberty. But, even this was nothing compared with the monstrous doctrines which the noble marquis called upon his majority to believe. What! Were British soldiers, whose valour had defended the country, to be shut out from the constitution? He would say, that if this degradation of the army were to be permitted, the avowed purpose was, that, the whole army, being debased and enslaved itself, might be turned to the enslaving of the country. Many officers of the army might he in that House; and there were 20,000 half-pay officers, all of whom had, in effect, returned to the situation of citizens: now, if ministers could, at their pleasure, 337 deprive them of that rank and those emoluments, which they had purchased in war, they could not hold any one independant political opinion; they could not, if in that House, give one free and unfettered vote. If, then, the doctrine of the noble marquis was to be received as true, every military officer should be turned out of that House; because they could serve no other purpose in it than that of enabling the noble marquis to enslave the country. The noble marquis might think this question unfit for discussion, and had attempted to treat with levity, a case which no man out of that majority upon which the noble marquis depended, could contemplate without horror. It was one in which the soldiers stood accused of shedding blood. They had been let loose upon the people, with-out the control of any magistrate; and, so let loose, they had committed murder. If officers were thus to be degraded—if they were to be cut off from the constitution—and if those feelings of liberty, which should be common to every man in the country, were to be destroyed in their breasts, he would say again, that that House ought to be cleared of officers. Yes, if they were to be so degraded, and deprived of the very feelings of liberty, then they were the slaves of despotism, unworthy of being even the nominal representatives of a free people; and, as such, they ought to be expelled the House. The noble marquis had I quoted the authority of Mr. Erskine, to show that officers of the army have no means of redress at common law; but, that instead of being any reason why they should be denied protection from the House, was the very best reason why that protection should be afforded them. If the common law did not afford them the same redress that it afforded to other men, was that a ground upon which they might be insulted at the caprice of any minister? No. The House was bound to see that they were treated with justice. Whatever the noble lord and the noble marquis might say about irresponsible prerogative, the Crown had no power but what it derived from an act of parliament; and if there existed no act to protect the soldiers from this irresponsible power, then the parliament should lose no time in passing such an act. In so far as regarded the honour and character of his gallant friend, no parliamentary proceeding was necessary; for no man 338 could dare to say, that that gallant soldier lad done wrong. In the eyes of every unprejudiced man, he stood clear; and no one would dare to affix the smallest stain o it. He stood high in the face of Europe; and he could appeal with confidence o the public. Still the House had a duty to perform towards him, and towards he public. It had to take care that no headed dismissal should influence any other gallant soldier, although it was to be hoped that British officers would always do their duty to their country, as his gallant friend had done, without being influenced by the dread of dismissal. So far from the act for which apparently his gallant friend had been dismissed, being any degradation, it did him the highest honour. For that conduct the country owed him gratitude; and it was such as ought to have won him the applause of the sovereign. Not only was he entitled to the civic crown for having saved the lives of the citizens, but he had rendered the most important services to government. If the people, wounded in their feelings and ill-treated as they had been by the army, had been driven to despair, and had resisted the military, mere physical force might have overpowered the handful of soldiers that were there. What, then, would have been the train of outrages, of mischiefs, and of miseries that would have ensued; and what the disorders to which the country would have been exposed! To every man having the least spark of feeling for that country they would have been dreadful even in the contemplation. If, on the other hand, the military had kept their ground and gone on firing, would not that have been a renewal of that massacre which had before disgraced the noble marquis and his colleagues? The House had to consider that lives had been lost, and they would know how to feel on such a subject. They would bear in mind too that on the day when these transactions took place the gallant officer made no exertion and had no view but to prevent massacre. It had been said, on the other side of the House, that the gallant officer had brought no proof of his statement; but he would tell the noble lord that his gallant friend had no need of descending to individual testimony. The people were his witnesses. "In re non dubia utitur testibus non necessariis." In such a case, his gallant friend wanted not witnesses. The question, however, was of great im- 339 portance as a public question, and one that involved deeply the rights of the people. For it would be a most outrageous invasion of those rights, if those men—if that army, which had defended the country from foes abroad, should be employed for the destruction of liberty at home—the use to which the noble marquis seemed anxious to degrade them. To prevent this—to rescue men who had braved danger for their country, and who were maintained at its expense for other purposes—from this degradation, something ought to be done. It might be true, as had been admitted by an hon. gentleman opposite, that nothing could be effected in that House, unless the noble marquis chose to recommend it to his majority; and, though this could not altogether be expected, yet it would be right to show the country, that an opportunity had been offered for this purpose. Perhaps the matter might with more propriety have been taken up by his hon. friend near him, because that gentleman had been an eye witness of the proceedings to which the question alluded. If, however, nobody else should take it up, he would himself, when the Mutiny bill came under their notice, propose the addition of a clause, which should rescue British officers from the degrading situation in which, according to the unconstitutional and abominable doctrine attempted to be held, they were at present placed. The noble lord had made a great parade about the discipline of the army, as if that discipline could not be maintained without destroying the character of the army. But he would tell the noble lord, that were this to be the law, it would at once destroy all discipline. Our armies when abroad have always done their duty manfully; and this has been in a great measure owing to the feeling that they had a right to all the privileges of British subjects. If once they were given up to this irresponsible prerogative, they could not fail to be degraded. An attempt had been made to explain away the unconstitutional nature of this extraordinary prerogative of ministers. If he understood rightly what was said in this way, they were accountable in some cases without being responsible, and responsible in other cases without being accountable. To all useful purposes, however, the distinctions were quite nugatory. The greatest despots on the continent had not their armies in this debased and degraded situation; and yet, in other re- 340 spects our soldiers were different from theirs. Our soldiers went to the army with all those feelings which characterize the inhabitants of a free country, and in the hope that they might again be restored to it; and there was not a doubt that to those feelings and that hope they were indebted for that superior valour which, on all hands, they were allowed to possess. It was in vain to talk of discipline as being necessary to place the soldier beyond the power of the constitution to protect him, and leave him at the mercy of an irresponsible prerogative, to be punished without guilt and without trial. The most despotic government in the world could not do this. The king of Prussia could not dismiss an officer without the sentence of a court-martial; nay, a proceeding so arbitrary and tyrannical durst not have been attempted by Buonaparté, in the acmé of his power. And, shall that be done in this free country which could not be done under the most confirmed despotisms? He, therefore, again expressed a hope, that the subject would be introduced, when the House came to the annual passing of the Mutiny bill. The noble marquis and his coadjutors might oppose it, on the pretence that it was an innovation; but he would tell the noble marquis, that the whole of his political career had been one series of innovations—innovations, inroads, be would call them, upon the constitution. He had begun that career by destroying the liberties of his own country: and, having accomplished that, he had come to this country to play the same abominable game; and in so far he had succeeded. Those infamous acts which he called laws, though they were subversive of all law, had done this to an intolerable extent. Then, when the system of misgovernment pursued by him and his colleagues had driven a part of the population of Ireland to desperation, that misgovernment was aggravated by the passing of the Insurrection act, or rather, as he should term it, the Curfew act, by which every man, however, honest and loyal might be his intentions, and however urgent his necessity, was liable to be thrown into a dungeon, if found merely on the outside of his own door after a certain hour. Besides, there was that of which an Englishman could never think without horror—that which at once destroyed the whole safety which was afforded by the constitution—the Suspension of the Habeas 341 Corpus; so that now there was, in fact, no regulation, for all that had been done was destructive of the law, and of every thing constitutional. The noble marquis had said, that this Insurrection act was milder than the proclamation of martial law. But the proclamation of martial law had never been hinted at by those who had resisted the passing of this harsh, and unconstitutional measure. It was military regulation, and not the proclamation of martial law that had been recommended. The state of Ireland certainly did require both wisdom and vigilance. The effects of the system of mis-government with which she had been cursed, were such, that every man's hand was, as it were, turned against the throat of another; and necessity, like an unarmed man, called loudly for some means of preventing the mischief. Now, what prevented them from merely passing some military regulations, which should have left all oppressions perpetrated under them punishable at common law? For it was nonsense to suppose that the harsh measures which the majority of that House had recently passed, would do any thing but exasperate the people. If ever there was a time when large discretionary powers could have been trusted to a lord lieutenant of Ireland, that time was the present; for he knew that the noble marquis (Wellesley) had right feelings towards the sufferings of mankind generally, and towards some of the wrongs of Ireland in particular. He had found a clear proof of this in the sentiments towards the noble marquis expressed by the tenants of an estate which had once been his; and he was sure that the conduct of the marquis Wellesley would endear him to the warmhearted population of Ireland; for that nobleman had more liberal and extended views with regard to Ireland, than any man who had occupied the same situation in it. With regard to the question then before the House, if they valued the portion of character which was still left to them—if they had any desire to act consistently with the principle of their ancestors—if they did not wish to make the House of Commons a mere court for registering the arbitrary decrees of a despotic ministry, and the mere machine for extracting money from the pockets of an impoverished people, they would inquire into this case which had every appearance of harshness and injustice about it.
§ Sir Robert Wilson
said, he should not 342 abuse the indulgence of the House by any lengthened reply, which, indeed, was rendered the more unnecessary by the kind and affectionate support he had received from his friends. He would not notice the speech of the noble secretary at war, for he felt satisfied, that the tone and the arguments were quite at variance with his private feelings. The noble marquis opposite had accused him of not having done any thing to quiet the people. It was true he had omitted in his statement to notice that fact; but if the noble marquis had been in the House when his hon. friend, the member for Aberdeen, was speaking, he would have heard that member certify, upon statements made to him, which were, that he (sir Robert Wilson), had rebuked the offensive expressions and endeavoured to check all violence on the part of the populace. He had also been accused of wearing a star. He was surprised at such a charge coming from the noble marquis, who must know the usages, it might be said, the duties of a decorous etiquette. But what was the fact? He had on several occasions during the life of the Queen, when in attendance on her majesty, worn the same star, and it being a Prussian star, worn also formerly by her Father and brother, her majesty had expressed herself pleased by the attention. It was, therefore, more becoming on his part to wear it, when his object was to Jay respect to the memory oldie deceased, mil when the memorial associated with former recollections. On the same principle respect, he had only a week before he left Paris, attended the funeral of prince Gallitzin and wore his Russian decorations, in common, with every one present, who had the power to pay the same compliment. He would reduce to two heads the offences committed on the day of the funeral, for which he must now presume he had been made to suffer so severely:—1st. That he had assisted the multitude to extricate a baggage-waggon from a barricade; the obstruction of which was the subject of regret to the commanding-officer of the military escort. 2dly. He had, by a rebuke to several soldiers, terminated acts of violence, which had never been sanctioned by the military or civil authorities, and which, it the time he addressed the soldiers, could be considered but as acts of contiued, and no longer (if ever they had been) legally justifiable irritation. He Ailed, that whatever might be the divi- 343 sion of the House, he should consider those who had inflicted the punishment, without making him acquainted even with a charge—and who should still deny him all means of redress—as lawless and vindictive oppressors.
§ Mr. Brougham
said, he could give the most ample confirmation to that part of the gallant officer's statement which fell under his observation. There were no preparations for any obstruction when he passed the church at Kensington in the morning, where he believed the first obstruction to the procession took place.
merely rose to confirm, so far as his knowledge went, the statement of his gallant friend. What he could say was, that, after his own coach had passed through Cumberland-gate, he for the first time heard the firing. It naturally attracted his attention, though he had no idea that it was firing with ball. Where he was at that moment, there were certainly no stones thrown: he would not say that none were thrown, but he certainly did not see any. Sir Robert Wilson rode at that time up to his coach, and said that he believed the military were firing; and that he should go up and prevent the consequences. He (Dr. L.) remarked, that such an interference would expose him to danger, and that he had better not. He, however, persevered in saying that he would go. He soon after returned and stated, that he had found the military in disorder, believed that he had prevented further firing, and hoped that no more bloodshed would take place.
§ Mr. Ellice
assured the House that he had travelled from Paris in company with the gallant general, and that he had not quitted his company until four or five o'clock on the evening previous to the day of the Queen's funeral; so that it was impossible that what was stated to have taken place at the public house at Hammersmith could be true. He could further state, that the gallant general had, before returning to Paris, consulted him, as to the best mode of proceeding with respect to the rumours which appeared in the public papers, and observed that he should wish to contradict them, were it not that he feared his doing so would be the cause of his being called as a witness before the coroner's jury, to which he had a decided objection, as he did not wish to prejudice the question either way.
felt it necessary to 344 say a few words upon what had fallen from the member for Durham. That hon. member had called the regiment with which he was connected "murderers," upon the verdict of the coroner's jury, who had decided upon perjured evidence. Having said thus much, he felt it necessary, from the delicacy of his situation, to leave the question to the decision of the House.
§ Mr. Lambton
said, his statement was, that murder had been committed on that day; and he had used the expression on the authority of the verdict of a coroner's inquest. It was a fact that two men were killed on that day, and unless gentlemen could say that the multitude had fired upon each other, he was at a loss to know how they could be shot but through the instrumentality of the military. With this explanation, he begged to stand on his original expression.
said, that the hon. gentleman had spoken on the authority of an inquest, the evidence adduced at which aught not to be believed. As a proof of it, he would only say that there were a number of men ready to go up in a body before the coroner, and swear that he (lord Uxbridge) was the man who shot one of the persons who fell, when it was notorious that he was more than 200 miles from the spot at the time.
§ The House divided: Ayes 97. Noes. 199.
|List of the Minority.|
|Abercromby, J.||Denison, W. J.|
|Althorp, visct.||Denman, T.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Duncannon, visct.|
|Baring, sir T.||Dundas, C.|
|Barnett, S. M.||Ebrington, visct.|
|Benyon, B.||Ellice, E.|
|Bernal, R.||Farrand, R.|
|Birch, J.||Fergusson, sir R.|
|Brougham, H.||Grattan, J.|
|Browne, D.||Graham, S.|
|Bright, H.||Guise, sir W.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Gurney, H.|
|Bury, visct.||Hamilton, lord A.|
|Bentinck, lord W.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Buxton, T. F.||Heron, sir R.|
|Boughton, sir. W.||Hill, lord A.|
|Calvert, C.||Hobhouse, J. C.|
|Calvert, N.||Honywood, W. P.|
|Chaloner, R.||Hughes, W. L.|
|Calcraft, John||Hume, Joseph|
|Chamberlayn, W.||Hurst, R.|
|Carter, John||Hutchinson, C.|
|Clifton, visct.||James, W.|
|Coke, T.||Johnson, col.|
|Crespigny, sir W.||Lenox, lord G.|
|Creevey, T.||Leycester, R.|
|Davies, T. H.||Lushington, S.|
|Marryat, J.||Russell, R. G.|
|Maberly, John||Rice, T. S.|
|Macdonald, J.||Smith W.|
|Monck, J. B.||Smith, Samuel|
|Moore, Peter||Scarlett, J.|
|Normanby, visct.||Scudamore, R.|
|Nugent, lord||Sefton, earl|
|O'Callaghan, J.||Stanley, lord|
|Ossulston, lord||Stewart, W.|
|Palmer, col.||Stuart, lord J.|
|Palmer, C. F.||Sykes, D.|
|Pares, Thos.||Tennyson, C.|
|Phillips, G. R.||Tierney, G.|
|Powlett, hon. W.||Webb, colonel.|
|Price, Robt.||Whitbread, S.|
|Plummer, John||Williams. W.|
|Rickford, W.||Wilson, sir R.|
|Ramsden, J. C.||Wood, M.|
|Ricardo, D.||Wyvill, M.|
|Roberts, Geo.||Bennet, hon. H. G.|
|Robinson, sir G.||Lambton, J. G.|
|Rowley, sir W.||PAIRED OFF.|
|Rumbold, C.||Lemon, sir W.|
|Russell, lord J.|