HC Deb 14 March 1826 vol 14 cc1370-1

On the order of the day for the third reading of the Mutiny bill,

Mr. Hume

observed, that the feeling of the country, which had been so pointedly referred to in the discussion of the question just now disposed of, was, without question, diametrically opposed to the system of military flogging. He hoped the time would soon arrive, when Englishmen would no longer be the only European subjects whom it was thought necessary to goad to the completion of their duty with the whip. Why should it be presumed that British soldiers would fail in that sense of honour which animated all other troops? The reason was to be found in the very nature of the punishment. They brutalized men by their discipline, and then complained that the men acted as brutes. He protested against the continuance of the system.

Mr. Hobhouse

congratulated himself on having been one of the minority of forty-seven who voted against flogging the other evening. He felt the more justified in that sentiment, by the recollection that his hon. colleague (sir F. Burdett) when he first introduced the subject to the House, was one in a minority of six at the utmost. Last year the minority was considerable, and this year more so. After the holidays, he proposed to move for returns for two different periods, which would show the progress which this subject had made in the public mind. It was highly satisfactory to know the opinion entertained of it by the commander-in-chief and several of the first generals of the army. But if, according to the opinion inculcated by those high military authorities, and enforced by their practice, the discipline of the army had notoriously improved by the relaxation of that inhuman mode of punishment, how could gallant officers assure the House that it was necessary that the power of inflicting it should remain with the officers of the army? The House must feel great deference for the opinion of practical men, but could not listen to them when they proposed to the House to act upon what they considered to be a safe understanding as distinguished from feeling. The fact was, that the House would be safer in legislating upon feeling, which in such a case would be an indication of the soundest general opinion, than upon understanding taken in hostility to feeling. He hoped to live to see the day when those who abetted the continuance of this discipline would be ashamed of their former opinions, and feel glad that more humane sentiments had prevailed.

The bill was then read a third time.