HC Deb 08 March 1832 vol 10 cc1324-31
Sir William Ingilby

said, in bringing the Motion on this subject forward, of which he had given notice, he trusted that he might be allowed to enter into a history of the facts of the ease, in order that the grounds upon which he went might be fully understood. After the late prorogation of the Parliament, in October, his duties had called him into the county of Lincoln, which he had the honour to represent, much about the period when the two Militia regiments of that county were called out to perform duty. According to the notice of the Lord Lieutenant of the county, who was the Colonel, the South Lincoln Militia met, on the 15th of November, at Stamford. It was, however, worthy of remark, that many of the officers of that regiment thought proper to be absent; in particular the Lieutenant Colonel, whom he saw opposite, had not cared to show himself on the occasion. To be sure, there were a Captain or two and some other officers with the regiment at Stamford, but, generally speaking, he might say, that there was a very shy muster in the officer department. Indeed the Commander himself seemed to think that his subordinates were setting him a very good example, for, having a little private business of his own, he took the hint, and retired to his own abode on the Saturday, and contented himself with coming back on the Monday morning. When he thus came back, it turned out that something had occurred at Stamford to excite the passions and stir up the irritated feelings of the noble Earl, which certainly were quite at variance with the sentiments that the noble Earl afterwards expressed in his speech to the regiment. In consequence of these angry feelings, the noble Earl wrote—he hardly knew what to call it—a puling sort of a letter to the Clerk of the Ordnance, calling upon him for his interference with certain parties in the borough of Stamford, whom the noble Earl supposed to be under the influence of that gentleman. This letter was replied to by his right hon. friend (Mr. Tennyson), in what seemed to him to be a very proper and satisfactory sort of a way; but it was not, however, his intention to read the letters to the House, as they had already been fully before the public. The material correspondence to which he wished to call the attention of the House was that which had taken place between the Government and the Lord Lieutenant; and he certainly thought that the relative situation in which these two parties stood to each other was a little curious. The noble Earl was what in those days was called an Ultra-Tory; and where an Ultra-Tory Lord Lieutenant had to act with a liberal Reforming Government, the very natural consequence was, that they were pulling two very different ways; but even though this was the case, he thought that, between them, they might have avoided casting a stigma on the county of Lincoln. In the observations that he had made he did not intend to complain of the noble Earl having retired from Stamford from the Saturday to the Monday. Being a family man, no doubt the noble Earl was very right; for though he had to serve the king, that did not exempt him from serving his family too; and as Saturday was a convenient sort of a day, it was all very natural that he should have made choice of it to wend his way homeward; but though there was this justification for the Colonel, there could be no doubt that the Militia had lost great opportunities of efficiency of service by the additional absence of the Lieutenant Colonel, who, having seen service all his life, and having been in Portugal, Spain, and Waterloo, and he knew not where besides, would, beyond all doubt, have been highly useful in the way of illuminating the Lincoln Militia; and no doubt it was owing to the hon. Gentleman's absence that the regiment was as blindly ignorant of service on the last day of the three weeks as they had been on the first. Having said thus much of the South Lincoln Militia, he would now pass on to the North Lincoln Militia. He happened to be in the neighbourhood, looking after some of his farms, and, therefore, could speak as to the impression made on him on seeing them going into Lincoln. All that he had seen were parties of fennmen, going, about six at a time towards the city, and withal so blithe and frisky, that to him they looked more like lively Emeralders than the sober men of Lincolnshire. Now, as to the officers of this regiment, he might say of them as he had of those of the other regiment, that they did not appear particularly active in making their appearance. He did not, however, intend to specify the whole corps; and he might, therefore, content himself with observing, that, with respect to the Lieutenant Colonel, the thing for which he appeared to be best suited was, to be a member of the Charles-street Club, and about as much might be said of the Adjutant. But, however, to return to his narrative: from the time that the men came into Lincoln nothing whatever happened, except that there was a muster (he believed) of the clergy and the old women of the place in the cathedral yard; but, of course, no harm came from that. But though this was all that took place with respect to either of the two regiments, to their great surprise they learned, that, pursuant to a direction from Lord Viscount Melbourne, they were to be disbanded before the regular time, in consequence, as he felt justified in saying, of the correspondence that had taken place between the Lord Lieutenant and the Government. He thought, therefore, that, in moving for a copy of this correspondence, he was doing nothing but what was fair and proper with the view of discharging the county from that disgrace which was now hanging over it, in consequence of the sudden and unexplained disbanding of its Militia force. He must confess, however, that he had some difficulty in reconciling this correspondence of the noble Earl with what had taken place when the noble Earl subsequently attended at Stamford, for the purpose of discharging the South Lincoln regiment. On that occasion the noble Earl addressed the corps in what had been called a high-minded speech in the paper published by the Marquis of Exeter; and he preferred quoting from that paper, because, as both the noble Earl and the noble Marquis were members of the Charles-street Society, of course they perfectly understood one another, and what was therein published might naturally be received as quite agreeable to both. The address was couched in the following words:—"Soldiers of the Royal South Lincoln Militia! It having been found necessary to shorten the period of training and exercise to twenty-one days, in consequence of the advanced season of the year, this is the last opportunity for drill; and I am bound to say that you have made as much progress in your military exercise as could be expected from the shortness of the time, and the state of the weather. I must also declare to you that your general conduct has been satisfactory to me, for, although attempts have been certainly made, by designing and ill-judging persons, to pervert your minds, little effect has been, I am quite sure, produced by such artifices, which artifices have been, I trust, nearly, if not altogether, as unsuccessful as the hope expressed by the same mistaken persons of scaring me from the execution of my duty in this place; for those, indeed, can know but little of my character who suppose that I am to be easily deterred from a strict performance of that which I feel to be upright, just, and honourable. I have been long enough engaged in military business to know that if a commanding officer will be at the pains to do his duty towards his men, they, as British soldiers, will not fail in their duty of manifesting towards him their good will, esteem, and confidence. As I can make the appeal on the subject of my own conduct towards you, without the least hesitation, I tell you, in the language of sincerity and truth, that I do place the fullest confidence in your behaviour and general conduct. I have now only to require that you will conduct yourselves during to-morrow, with the sobriety and good order due to the solemnity of the Sabbath day, and also that you will, early on Monday, according to the orders which you will hear read, appear at the muster, and, having been settled with by the officers of the companies, repair quietly to your respective homes." He quite agreed with the newspaper which was under the patronage of the noble Marquis, to whom he had before alluded that this was a high-minded address, but surely the inference to be drawn from it was, that the noble Lord had the fullest confidence in his men. What, however, was the result? Why, that Major Campbell of the 19th regiment with about 200 of his men, who were marching northward, were suddenly countermanded, and directed to remain in the neighbourhood to overawe the Militia, and protect their commander; that this was the fact, was proved by the resignation of Major Calcraft, who retired from the Militia in consequence. After this statement, although his Motion might be negatived in that House, he trusted that the noble Lord, the Lord Lieutenant of the county, would produce the correspondence, and satisfy the people of the county that he at least was not to blame. If it were produced, he entertained not the slightest doubt that that correspondence—that noble-minded correspondence, as it had been designated—would turn out to be what his hon. and learned friend, the member for Kerry, would call so much blarney. He expected that the hon. and gallant Member opposite would reply to him, and he hoped that, when he did, he would practise more courtesy than was usual with him—that the gallant Member would not inflict upon him a repetition of those observations concerning the county meeting, at which he had united with his constituents for the attainment of a public object, and which the gallant Colonel called an assemblage of 400 ragamuffins. The hon. and gallant Member was in the habit of sitting growling and grumbling like Etna, and then a crater would burst, and out would come—nothing but smoke and rubbish. He hoped that when the hon. and gallant Member came to speak of him and of his county, he would observe truth and correctness. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving for a "Copy of the Correspondence between his Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department and the Lord Lieutenant of the county of Lincoln, upon the subject of the dismissal of the two county regiments of Militia before the expiration of the term of service for which they were embodied."

Mr. Heneage

seconded the Motion, and, observed, that, he could by no means understand on what grounds the dismissal took place, for, although an offence was committed during the first week the regiment were at Stamford, no one was punished for a repetition of it during the after period of the training. The dismissal of the regiment had caused much surprise in the county, as no other reason was assigned for it than the cold which prevailed at that time, and which, being no uncommon occurrence, might easily have been foreseen.

Mr. Lamb

assured the House, that he would detain it but for a very short time upon this not very interesting subject. He should resist the production of this correspondence upon general grounds. The House would readily perceive that the correspondence between the Government and the Lord-lieutenant of a county must often be of the most private and confidential nature, and, therefore, nothing but the strongest necessity could ever justify the production of it. No such necessity had been made out upon the present occasion. If he were to explain the reasons why the period of service for the Lincolnshire Militias had been shortened from twenty-eight to twenty-one days, he might as well produce the correspondence for which the hon. Baronet moved. This shortening of the service of the Militia was not at all unusual: it had taken place in two other instances besides this during the short period in which he had been in office: and could assure the hon. member for Lincolnshire, that it neither was a slur, nor intended to be a slur, upon the Militia regiments of his county. He would, therefore, content himself by re- peating his intention to resist the production of these papers.

Colonel Sibthorp

said, that, although the hon. Baronet had paid him some compliments at the outset, the termination of his speech was of a totally opposite tendency. He wished the hon. Baronet to understand, that his compliments, or the reverse, were matters of perfect indifference to him. When he stated that his absence, which had been alluded to, was caused by indisposition, he hoped that he had given a sufficient answer to that part of the hon. Baronet's observations. If he were to move for the production of the correspondence between the hon. Baronet and the editor of one of the most scurrilous and venomous papers that ever came from the press, it would be quite as reasonable as the present Motion. If the hon. Baronet would consent to the production of the correspondence, between him and Messrs. Drakard, Northhouse, and Co., he Colonel Sibthorp) should not object to the production of this correspondence. The subject to which the hon. Baronet's Motion applied could not be understood by any other than a military man.—"Fit fabricando faber." He must say, that if the hon. Baronet would not interfere with matters of which he was utterly ignorant, but would let the House have the advantage of his eloquence upon subjects with which he was conversant—if he would favour the House with his ideas upon the tobacco trade, with which he was perfectly conversant—he would have a better chance of obtaining the approbation of the House.

Mr. Tennyson

said, that the Lord-lieutenant, for whom he had the highest respect personally, had shown that he was mistaken as to the facts which occurred at Stamford, among his constituents by a letter which the Lord Lieutenant had addressed to him, and which had been made public. If the letter which the noble Earl addressed to the Government contained similar representations, he had only to say, that the information upon which Government had acted must have been incorrect. He trusted that this transaction would afford a lesson to the Government, and would make them reflect how they consulted the wishes of individuals, who, having no consideration for what the people deemed their interests, had little feeling in common with them. Civil authority, unless exercised by those who sympathised with the people, was ineffective.

Mr. Cust

observed, that he merely rose to say, that nothing which had Occurred in the course of this debate rendered it necessary for him to say anything.

Motion negatived.