HC Deb 01 August 1834 vol 25 cc889-91
Sir Francis Vincent

presented a Petition from an individual named Home, late Lieutenant-Colonel in the army, complaining of having been unjustly deprived of his Commission, and praying redress. The hon. Member said, that all he should ask on that occasion was, a copy of the Minutes of the Court of Inquiry which recommended his dismissal, as the military officers who composed that Court were charged by the petitioner with having forged and fabricated the documents on which the decision was come to.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

did not understand that the hon. Member meant to request a copy of the minutes of the court of inquiry at a period when the Secretary at War was not in his place. The papers connected with this case were not at his office, but at the Horse Guards; but he would undertake to say, that whenever the hon. Baronet thought proper to make an application, by a distinct Motion to the House, for the production of the minutes of evidence taken before the court of inquiry, he should be fully prepared to submit such a case to the House as would satisfy them of the impropriety of acceding to the application. He had had only three days' notice of the intention to make this application, and as he had had so very short time to examine the circumstances of the dismissal, he would only observe, that what he had seen was quite sufficient to satisfy his own mind, that the deliberate opinion of his right hon. predecessor, as well as that of the Secretary at War, upholding the justice of the determination to which the court of inquiry had come, was perfectly correct and well founded. He must reprobate in the strongest terms the language of the petition, which heaped upon individuals of the highest character for honour integrity, and humanity, the foulest abuse and the grossest charges that had ever been contained in any petition. It went the length of accusing Lord F. Bentinck, Sir H. Calvert, Major-General Torrens, and the other distinguished officers who composed the court of inquiry, with having forged and fabricated the documents on which he was dismissed. He thought that such an allegation alone against the high character of these distinguished individuals would show that little credit was to be attached to the statements of Mr. Home. If the allegations had been true, why had he not preferred an indictment against them? but, on the contrary, he suffered ten years to elapse before he thought fit to make any application on the subject. He must also deprecate the practice of making that House a court of review for matters of military discipline, and in opposition to the decisions of military tribunals. If any such cases ought to be entertained by the House, it was those where the matters were of a recent date, and where the witnesses were alive to substantiate them; but in this case it was not found convenient to make the gross allegations against the honourable and distinguished persons to whom he had alluded until after some of them were dead. The case had received the particular attention of his late Majesty and the Duke of York, the latter of whom, after a most attentive and deliberate consideration of the case, though disposed to deal tenderly with Colonel Home, declared him a person unfit to remain in the army. The prerogative of the Crown was accordingly exercised, and a court of inquiry was directed. The petitioner had entered into certain mining speculations in partnership with others, and had drawn bills above the amount specified in the deed of copartnership. These Bills were put into circulation, by which there was a chance of defrauding the persons among whom they might circulate, as was proved by the action brought against him by the Court of King's Bench. The court of inquiry very properly decided that such a transaction was incompatible with the honour of the British army, and Colonel Home was, therefore, in his opinion, very properly dismissed. Whenever the hon. Member thought proper to move for a production of the minutes of that court of inquiry, he should be perfectly ready to meet the case.

Colonel Williams

said, that he had great doubts whether the prerogative of the Crown to direct a dismissal in such a case as the present was justifiable. He thought it was not.

Sir George Murray

was of opinion the Crown possessed that prerogative, but that it should only be exerted in extreme cases. He (Sir George Murray) was connected with the regiment to which the petitioner formerly belonged, and knew that in the present case a court of inquiry was directed, consisting of the most experienced and humane officers in the army, thereby showing that there was no disposition to act severely toward the petitioner; and yet these gross allegations were not brought against those most honourable and amiable persons until they were no longer alive to refute them. In his opinion, for the honour of British officers, for the maintenance of its high character, and for the honour of the country it served, the dismissal of this individual, founded upon the verdict of the Court of King's Bench, was perfectly justifiable and was required. He was convinced, that if the petitioner had had justice on his side, there was no quarter from which he was more sure of attentive consideration than from the humanity of his late Royal Highness, then Commander-in-Chief.

Petition laid on the Table.

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