§ Major Fancourt
rose to bring forward the Motion of which he had given notice on this subject. He said, that in submitting to the House some of the considerations which induced him to move a clause for the abolition of military flogging, he was anxious that the motives by which he had been induced to come forward should not be misunderstood. He could assure the House, that if any hon. Gentleman, whether connected with the Ministers or not, had evinced a disposition to take up the question with a view to its final settlement, he should have been content to give a silent vote for the abolition of military flogging; but when on a late 222 occasion he saw the hon. member for Sheffield abandon his motion on what (to him at least) appeared a somewhat vague and unsatisfactory promise from the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he thought it his duty to give notice of a Motion on the subject, and for this reason—that whether the punishment of flogging was necessary for the preservation of military discipline or not, it was of great importance that the question should be fairly met and disposed of by a definite expression of the views of Parliament. The discussion of such a question year after year, in almost the self-same terms, and meeting it by a promise of gradually diminishing a practice which, if indefensible, should be abolished at once, was not a course calculated to lend dignity to any deliberative assembly. He, therefore, indulged a hope, whatever resolution the House might adopt on the present occasion that one advantage at least would be gained,—namely, that the country would be enabled to judge from the votes of its Representatives in Parliament whether the degrading practice in question was likely to be discontinued. Certain it was, that its discontinuance might now be most naturally demanded; for, without enumerating the long list of distinguished persons who had so often and so eloquently denounced this practice, he might observe of the present Government generally, that looking at the reiterated professions of its Members, and the avowed character of its policy, the country had a right to expect something more definite than the order lately issued from the Horse-Guards. In the humane and enlightened views of the right hon. Gentleman (the Secretary-at-War) he felt disposed to place full confidence; but if the practice complained of was, as he contended, a national disgrace, its longer continuance could hardly be justified on the ground that the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues were anxious to abolish it. Before proceeding to a more close consideration of the arguments urged in support of military flogging, he would just say a word on the order lately issued from the Horse-Guards, in compliance with a pledge given to that effect by the right hon. Gentleman. The order was very short, and with permission of the House he would read it.—"His Majesty's Government having signified to the General Commanding-in-Chief the King's command, that until further orders corporal punishments may be ap- 223 plied to the following offences only, I have the honour to express Lord Hill's desire, that you guide yourself accordingly, taking care that, except in the instances herein specified, the said punishment shall on no account be inflicted:—1st. For mutiny, insubordination, and violence, or using or offering violence to superior officers. 2nd. Drunkenness on duty. 3rd. Sale of, or making away with, arms, ammunition, accoutrements, or necessaries, stealing from comrades, or other disgraceful conduct. It will doubtless occur to you that the object of these instructions is not to render the infliction of corporal punishment for the future more frequent or more certain than it is at present, even in the cases in which it, is now to be restricted; but, on the contrary, that the intention is to restrain it as much as may be possible to do so with safety to the discipline of the army." Now, it really appeared to him, that this order left the matter much in the same state as that in which it originally stood. It was true, that they got rid of flogging for desertion; but a more comprehensive phrase than "insubordination and other disgraceful conduct," could hardly have been selected. The offences enumerated in the Mutiny Act under this latter head, he would read to the House. [The hon. Gentleman here read some extracts from the Mutiny Act, which showed that this phrase embraced many offences.] It appeared to him, that an officer disposed to undue severity would find nothing in this order to restrain him. Some Gentlemen might be disposed to ask, if it was probable, that officers would act in a manner at variance with the spirit of the order? That was a question which he did not feel called on to answer. He was to judge of the spirit of the order by the manifest import of its wording; and this was, he would contend, of a nature to admit of almost any abuse of authority on the part of a superior officer. Far be it from him to accuse officers generally of a disposition to abuse their authority; but his object was to place the soldier beyond the reach of any such abuse, and towards the attainment of that object, the order lately issued from the Horse-Guards, was, in his opinion, of no assistance whatever. But let them examine the actual working of the present system, and what advantage resulted from the possession of that power which it was sought to abolish. In the first place, he was anxious to point out 224 one very important error into which many hon. Gentlemen had fallen. They entertained an opinion, that it would be inexpedient and dangerous to deprive courts-martial of a power, by the possession of which alone they could hope to deter the ill-disposed from the commission of extreme offences. Now, in point of fact, these were the very offences which were not visited by the lash. Flogging, as at present inflicted, might be termed a punishment for such offences as were tried by district or regimental courts-martial, which were the tribunals for lesser offences. District courts-martial were limited to the infliction of 300 lashes, and regimental, to 200 lashes. General courts-martial, on the contrary, before which the graver offences were tried, might inflict any number of lashes; but, as they were no longer permitted to bring a culprit up a second time for the purpose of receiving that portion of the punishment which, from exhaustion, he might be unable to undergo, general courts-martial, for the most part, passed sentence of transportation or imprisonment, as being a punishment more commensurate to the crime than the infliction of the number of lashes which, ordinarily speaking, the prisoner was able to bear. Thus the practice in question was brought into operation precisely in those cases where it was least called for, while the most flagrant violations of military duty were differently treated. But, in refutation of the fear, that the lash was necessary to keep the soldier to his duty, he would observe on a very important fact which had singularly enough been passed over in all previous discussions of this question; it was, that in the Horse-Guards the punishment of flogging could hardly be said to exist, for a man, if flogged, was usually expelled the regiment. Were they not to infer from this, that the punishment of flogging was in those regiments regarded in so disgraceful a light, that a man once flogged, was for ever degraded in the eves of his fellow-soldiers? He might, perhaps, be told, that a superior class of men enlisted in the Life Guards. That great inquiries were made as to the characters of men who wished to enlist, he was aware; but he questioned much whether men able to stand the test of such inquiry, would join the regiment but from the very fact, that they could not be subjected to the lash for any offences, save 225 those which rendered them unworthy to remain in that regiment; and this he conceived to be a strong proof of the debasing nature of corporal punishment. He would not detain the House by any description of the barbarity of this punishment, or of the brutalizing influence which it must have on the minds of those subjected to it; on those points all, he believed, were pretty well agreed: then, surely, it was the solemn duty of Parliament to inquire, whether some efficient substitute might be provided for a class of punishments liable to such grave objections. For his own part, he was convinced, that such a substitute might be furnished in solitary confinement. That this latter would be the more efficient punishment for the reclamation of offenders, he was justified in believing, from the result of many and anxious inquiries, and also from what had fallen under his own observation, with respect to the effect of the punishment in regiments in India. He remembered one instance, in particular, of a man in a regiment in India, in which he (Major Fancourt) had the honour to serve. He was sentenced to 300 lashes, and the commanding officer told him, that he might escape the infliction of the corporal punishment if he would submit to three weeks' solitary confinement. The man said, he would rather undergo the lashes. He was aware it was unusual to give such an option; indeed, the practice was subsequently repressed by Lord Hastings, the then Commander-in-Chief; and he merely mentioned the fact as illustrative of the horror with which the soldier contemplated the punishment of solitary confinement. It might, perhaps, be said, that this case went to prove the small degree of apprehension with which the soldier regarded the infliction of the lash, but he begged further to add, that the man in question was an old offender, and, in his case, as in almost every other, it might be confidently asserted, that a man once subject to the lash, so far from being reclaimed, became a hardened and incorrigible offender. At present, the punishment of solitary confinement in the hands of regimental courts-martial, was limited to twenty days; if substituted for the lash, it might be extended in duration, and accompanied with circumstances of severity with reference to diet and other things, as the court-martial should ad- 226 judge. As to the objection to solitary confinement on the score of the expense of building cells, surely the consideration of expense would not be urged, when they were called upon to put an end to a national disgrace. But some hon. Members might say, why interfere with the punishment now, when, by universal acknowledgment, Year after year, the lash was falling gradually into disuse? This argument, if good for anything, was, he thought, favourable to the abolition of the punishment; for why preserve to courts-martial a power the exercise of which was yearly decreasing? Unless necessary for practical purposes, why should the soldier labour under the degrading consciousness of its existence? If the army, by the progressive improvement of its men, or by the more temperate and judicious decisions of its courts, could dispense with the odious practice, was not that an additional reason for consulting the national feeling, which justly revolted at the subjecting a British soldier to the lash? He, for one, thought so; and when hon. Gentlemen talked of the yearly decrease of the punishment, he found in their argument an additional reason for its total and final abolition. But to return to the question of the substitute: if by this term was meant the substitution of one system of savage torture for another, then he would at once confess, that he had no substitute to propose; but, that a class of punishments fully adequate for the enforcement of military duty, and, at the same time, offering no outrage to humanity or natural feeling, might he adopted, he was fully convinced. The House was not, probably, aware, that there already existed in the army a class of secondary punishments, which, in addition to the solitary confinement of which he had already spoken, would, he thought, leave little to be desired in this respect. Such were the forfeiting of all advantages as to additional pay or to pension on discharge, confinement to barracks, extra duties, and other punishments of a like nature,—all, be it observed, exceedingly vexatious to the offender, while they excited none of that commiseration in the minds of his fellow-soldiers which was caused by the infliction of the lash. To these be might add, what, he thought, would be an equally just and efficient punishment—namely, the withholding the soldier's daily pay on every occasion on 227 which the regiment was deprived of his services, either by drunkenness or misconduct, on such occasions putting him for the time on prisoners' diet. In the instance of an incorrigible offender, he could not but think, that expulsion with ignominy from the army would be the preferable course in every point or view. If it were true, that flogging seldom, if ever, reclaimed a man,—nay, that on the contrary, it caused a reckless abandonment of character, so that the soldier once subjected to the punishment, became comparatively hardened to it, and, consequently, to the offences by which it was incurred—if this were true, then what possible advantage could be gained either by the infliction of the punishment in the first instance, or by retaining such a person in the regiment at all? Granting that the pernicious influence of such a man should be productive of no contaminating effects, a supposition scarcely possible, still a well-conducted body of men had just cause of complaint if one or more incorrigible offenders, notorious for disregard of duty, were suffered to remain among them. The self-respect of the soldier must necessarily be lowered by such a course. But how different would be the result were ignominious expulsion adopted as the extreme punishment! Not only would the regiment get rid of an incorrigible offender, but his comrades would be made to feel, that an obstinate adherence to unsoldier like and disgraceful conduct, rendered a man unworthy of remaining one of their body. The moral effect of such a course was, he thought, self-evident. But some hon. Members would say, this is beginning at the wrong end; you must first persuade a superior class of men to enlist before you can bring the soldier to this lofty sense of his duty. With great submission, he (Major Fancourt) thought, that they never would be able to recruit their army from a class of men superior to the present, until they removed the disgraceful badge which now distinguished the soldier from the citizen—namely, his liability to the lash; and he further ventured to affirm, that this humane and necessary step once taken, they would find respectable persons in the working and middle classes, not only willing, but anxious to embrace a profession presenting many advantages. There was only one more point connected with this question, with which he thought it 228 necessary to trouble the House. Many Gentlemen, officers of the army and others, though favourable to the principle or abolishing the practice of flogging, seemed to consider the power of inflicting it as necessary during active service, or during the line of march. Now, what was the fact? A man flogged under such circumstances, was necessarily disabled for a considerable time—he was laid on the hospital carts an object of sympathy, rather than a salutary example, to his fellow-soldiers. The course adopted by the French army was, he thought, much more efficient. The offender was ordered to the rear, treated as a prisoner, handcuffed during the day's march, and at night confined in the gaol of the town at which the regiment halted, till at the end of the journey he was formally tried and sentenced to such further punishment as the nature of his offence might demand. It might, perhaps, be urged, that offenders would regard such a punishment with indifference—that, in fact, it would be matter of indifference to them if they were ordered to the rear or not. Such an argument might be applicable, were being ordered to the rear the full amount of their punishment; but it was to be remembered, that in addition to being cut off from all communication with their fellow-soldiers during the day, and confined in gaols at night, they had before them the certainty of trial, and the probability of severe punishment at the end of the march; so that the period looked forward to by others as one of comparative relaxation, presented to the mind of the delinquent the fear of rigid investigation, and such further punishment as the nature of the offence might demand. By this means, also, while undergoing his punishment, the man's efficiency was unimpaired,—a point not unworthy of remark while considering the case of a soldier on active service. As the experience of officers might be quoted, he begged, in corroboration of the view which he had taken of this subject, to allude to some very striking observations in a work published by s Lieutenant Shipp, of the 87th regiment. He was not about to allude to any case of cruelty, but he thought, that even those who were unacquainted with this officer's distinguished services in India would hardly question his experience, when they were informed that he raised himself from the rank of a private soldier to that of a com- 229 missioned officer. In the course of that gentleman's remarks on the practice of military flogging, he quoted ten instances, as having, out of many others, claimed his particular notice. In four out of these cases, the punishment of flogging was followed by habitual drunkenness and abandonment, till a premature death closed the offender's career. In five out of the remaining six cases, the soldier-like character and general efficiency of the soldier were utterly destroyed; while, in one instance, and one only, the man was reclaimed. But how was he reclaimed? By the lash? No; but by a few words of kind remonstrance from his colonel—by an unconditional remission of his sentence after he had been tied up to receive it, and by a promise, that if by his future conduct he should deserve promotion, it was open to him. This man had been flogged into obduracy, but, even in that stage of demoralization, he was subdued by a change of treatment from his superiors; and it was added, that, under such treatment, he became an exemplary soldier, and deserved and obtained promotion. Now he really thought, that, if the experience of officers was to guide them on matters of that nature, the testimony of one who, like Lieutenant Shipp, had seen thirty-four years' of active service, passing, as he himself said, through the several gradations, from the drum-boy upwards, should receive attentive consideration. The hon. Gentleman here read the following extract from the Memoirs of Mr. Shipp:—"I am fully persuaded, from my long experience, that flogging will never urge men to reformation; for I have ever observed, that it causes increased disobedience and discontent, and at last drives them to acts of sad desperation. Some of the vehement advocates for the cat also argue (but I think very fallaciously), that the minds of common soldiers are, from their early habits of life, barren and uncultivated, and hence more callous, and not so susceptible of the tenderer and nicer feelings, as those of the more enlightened. This is not quite so obvious to me, who have lived with them both boy and man. I would ask those who are enemies to the abolition of corporal punishment a few simple questions. Have they served in the ranks, and mixed and lived in social friendship with the private soldiers of our country? Have they ever sat at the bedside of a flogged man, and witnessed the agony of his heart, and 230 the distraction of his mind? Have they ever heard the unintimidated and unbiassed opinions of the soldiers in their barrack-rooms respecting the ignominious lash? If not, they are but half-competent judges on this great question." He had thought it right to submit these few considerations to the House. In so doing, it had been his object to compress, within the shortest possible compass, any arguments or suggestions that appeared conclusive to his own mind, for he was well aware that the subject had been frequently before the House, and also that many hon. and gallant Members were qualified by long experience to propose the most efficient remedies, should the voice of Parliament pronounce the present practice a decided evil. That it was so, he, for one, was fully convinced; and he trusted that all those who shared that opinion with him, would honour its expression with their support; by so doing, they would consult the feelings of a large majority of their fellow-subjects, not less than the honour and true interests of the army itself; nor, in his opinion, would such a course be productive of any embarrassment to his Majesty's Government. It was true that, in the opinion of the country, the practice of flogging ought long since to have become obsolete; but he hoped the House would not regard this subject with the narrow views of professional prejudice, or as one at all invested with party feeling. However happy he should feel in seeing it intrusted to able and influential hands, still he could not but regard such a question as something more than a Ministerial one. It was, he conceived, a national question, and he trusted it would be entertained and disposed of in that light only, and not with reference to the narrow views of professional prejudices or party predilections. He should now conclude by moving the resolution,—"That from and after the passing of this act, the punishment of flogging should be entirely abolished in the British army."
§ Mr. John P. B. Chichester
seconded the Motion. He complimented the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had introduced this subject to the House on the very clear and able manner in which he had brought it forward. There was a universal feeling in the country that this punishment of flogging ought to be abolished. He was not a military man, and was, therefore, perhaps, not competent to speak on this matter, as it regarded discipline; but he could, at all 231 events, say, that, within the last ten years, in the country districts in which he had resided, objections to the system had been becoming more and more general, and existed now almost universally. With a view to the improvement of the moral condition in the army, there ought, he conceived, to be changes and improvements of a character to keep pace with the advances that had been made in civil society. In support of this position, he hesitated not to appeal to hon. Members present who were of the military profession, and to the former debates which had taken place within the walls of Parliament. He would refer to what passed with respect to picketing, a sort of punishment in the horse regiments, which was formerly in vogue, by tying a man up to the ceiling by his wrists and placing his toe on a pointed stake driven into the earth; thus reducing him to the necessity of hanging his whole weight upon his wrists, or of running this spike into his toe. When it was proposed to abolish this punishment, several high authorities, military men, declared that the discipline of the regiments could not be kept up if they were to be prohibited from having recourse to it. Their prophecies were disregarded, picketing was abolished; and let him ask whether the discipline of the army had suffered in consequence? The same species of reasoning might, in the year 1834, be applied to the abolition of flogging; and he had very little hesitation in stating it to be his opinion, that the fears for the discipline of the service were fully as chimerical in this case as they were in the instance he had just referred to. He, therefore, most cordially seconded the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member.
§ Mr. Robert Grant
could not but congratulate the hon. and gallant Member who had brought forward the present Motion upon the great temper, moderation, and conciliatory spirit, with which he had submitted it to the House. He thought it necessary, standing officially as he did in the House, to call its attention to the true position in which the important subject now under its consideration really stood, because he thought that the hon. and gallant mover of the proposition now submitted to the House had been guilty of an oversight in this respect. He was the more desirous of reminding the House of these circumstances, because it had been charged as a great omission on the part of the hon. member for Sheffield, that he had 232 not persisted in bringing forward the Motion of which he had given notice. That hon. Gentleman was even blamed for having acquiesced in what were termed the vague assurances of his right hon. friend. It appeared to him, that, if the hon. and gallant Member had accurately remembered all that took place last Session on the subject, he would have been better content with his right hon. friend's conduct, and with the conduct of the hon. member for Sheffield. He did not pretend to say, that any hon. Members were precluded from offering any proposition to the House, that, in their judgment, they might determine on; yet he must say, that, referring to what took place last Session, in his opinion, an understanding was come to, which precluded them from viewing this as an open question. But he would not speak with reference to the expression of the opinion of the House last Session, and the course upon that expression of opinion taken by his Majesty's Government. At a late period of the Session, a motion was made by the hon. member for Middlesex, not for the abolition of flogging as a general proposition, but for its complete abolition within the United Kingdom. It would be recollected that several hon. Members, who readily acceded to that motion so limited, took occasion to declare, that, if it had gone further—if it had extended the prohibition to foreign parts, where our interests were in a more critical situation—they could not have gone along with the hon. member for Middlesex in that extension. It was said, however, by other hon. Members, and with great force, that it would be perfectly inconsistent, and very impolitic, if one system of punishment were allowed to exist in the army in this country, while another system existed in our army abroad; those, too, were to continue liable to the infliction of a punishment declared to be the more degrading, who were most exposed to dangers and hardships, and who were called upon for the greatest exertions in the discharge of their duties. Such being the state of opinion, a proposition was submitted to the House to limit the experiment, not locally—not so as to have one system abroad and another at home—but to confine it for the future to three classes of crime; viz., mutiny, drunkenness on duty, and theft. Upon this proposition of the hon. Baronet, the member for Westminster, the House divided, when there appeared in its favour 233 certainly a large minority—a minority so large, that his Majesty's Government felt that an opinion thus expressed was entitled to considerable weight in their deliberations. The Government had various discussions on the subject, as he happened to know, for he was called upon to take his share in them. Some time after—he forgot exactly the date—a motion was made by the hon. member for Sheffield, in which he pledged himself that his Majesty's Government meant to adopt a principle of restriction, agreeable to the general terms, almost of that restriction adopted by what was almost a majority of that House. Some few weeks elapsed before that pledge was redeemed, the Government feeling naturally anxious to take every possible precaution before they committed themselves to a change of such great importance. The question, then, was, whether the instructions given in the circular issued by the military authorities at the Horse Guards corresponded with, and amounted to, the pledges given to the House last Session. He would bring to the recollection of the House the part which he took in the discussion when the question was formerly before them. On that occasion he had stated, freely and candidly, that he felt himself absolutely bound by the military authorities in regard to the orders to be issued by them on the subject of Corporal Punishment; and he hoped the House would give him equal credit for candor on this occasion, when he stated, on his own responsibility, now that the orders were issued, what their effects were. He would implore the House to pause before they rushed into the plan proposed by the hon. and gallant officer, and to consider what the effects of it would be. Having said this, he would proceed to state the grounds upon which he ventured to call upon the House to suspend their decision upon the question. It would be in the recollection of hon. Members, that when the hon. member for Middlesex brought forward his Motion last Session, it was entirely different from that which they had now to consider. The proposal of that hon. Member was neither more nor less than an experiment for the purpose of endeavouring to mitigate this species of Corporal Punishment, and it was restricted in its operation to Great Britain and Ireland. The question, then, for the House to consider was, first, whether, in the time that had elapsed since the question was 234 formally before the House, the experiment had been fairly tried; secondly, whether, if the experiment had been fairly tried, it was sufficiently so to enable them to judge of its effects; and it was only after these two questions had been discussed, that they could consider the proposition made by the hon. and gallant Member for the utter abolition of corporal punishment. He would venture to say, that the debate of last Session, on both sides of the question, gave sufficient reasons for not adopting the propositions now made by the hon. and gallant Officer. He maintained, that the experiments which the Government pledged themselves to try, and which were embodied in the Circular issued from the Horse-Guards, had been tried, and were now in the course of trial; and he would further maintain, that they had not been sufficiently tried,—at least not so completely as to warrant the House to proceed further by way of change. He would not then read the circular, as it had already been read. He observed, however, that the hon. and gallant Officer complained, that it was vague and unsatisfactory, and not agreeable to the pledges given to the House. He (Mr. Grant), on the other hand, contended, that the circular was of that general nature which ought to be issued; and that it was entirely in unison with the pledge given to the House. The wish of the authorities was not to specify the punishment to be awarded to each particular offence; but to divide the offences into classes, and to specify the punishments to be awarded to each class. They wished, also, to restrict those classes to as small a number as possible. There was, for instance, mutiny; which, with all its subdivisions, was the subject of one class, and corporal punishment was awarded to it. The only difficulty in that class was, whether insubordination should be included in it; but it was considered proper that it should. The next class was that of disgraceful conduct; and corporal punishment was awarded to every offence which could be included under that head; for it was not thought that corporal punishment should be inflicted upon one person found guilty of an offence which could come within the denomination of disgraceful conduct, while another escaped. He need not remind the House of the aphorism, that disgraceful punishment should follow a disgraceful offence; for it was as old as the Roman 235 law,—infamia facti, infamia juris; but that was not the ground upon which he defended this general classification in the present instance. The ground upon which he defended it was, that an offence in itself disgraceful should not be punished more lightly than one which was not in itself disgraceful, but which the discipline of the army required to be severely punished. There was no distinction, therefore, between the degree of punishment awarded to theft, and all that class of disgraceful offences and drunkenness on duty, which was not in itself so disgraceful to the individual, but was a grave offence in a military view. If, then, they made drunkenness on duty liable to corporal punishment,—a punishment disgraceful to the individual,—they would be doing an injustice if they allowed the person guilty of a disgraceful crime to escape with a lighter punishment. It would be most unfair if a person guilty of purloining could boast over the man who had been guilty only of being drunk, and taunt him with having been whipped, while he (the thief) was exempt from that disgraceful punishment. He, therefore, maintained, that it was impossible to exempt persons guilty of that class of offences, which were disgraceful in their character, from corporal punishment. He felt it to be due to the military authorities to state, that they had limited corporal punishment to the very narrowest bounds which they could prudently do; and that in every case where a doubt had arisen as to the necessity of inflicting corporal punishment in any case, they had always interfered to prevent it. He could but refer the House to one paragraph of the circular to show what the feelings of the authorities at the Horse-Guards were upon this subject. They said, "These orders are not intended to render corporal punishment more frequent or more certain than at present. It must he evident, therefore, that an experiment to carry the wishes of the House into effect had been fairly and bona fide tried; and the question for the House to consider was, whether or not it had been sufficiently tried, and if the success of the experiment was such as to entitle them utterly to abolish corporal punishments in the army? It would be in the recollection of the House, that the proposition of the hon. member for Middlesex, last Session, was to abolish corporal punishments within Great Britain 236 and Ireland, but to continue it in foreign parts. But it was admitted, that nothing was so dangerous as to limit and declare illegal the punishments at home which were still continued in foreign parts, especially as in foreign parts it was much more difficult to obtain those mitigations of punishment which, by an application to head-quarters, might, in proper cases, be obtained at home. He (Mr. Grant) contended, that, in the short time since the order was issued, it was almost impossible to judge how the experiment worked, even at home; that, as to its operation in foreign parts, it was perfectly impossible to judge. In some of the very distant Colonies the order had hardly yet arrived, or at least been put into operation; from others there had yet been no returns; and from some that were not so remote, there had been returns, but they extended only to a month or six weeks from the time when the order was promulgated, and its operation could not possibly be known. Yet, in the ignorance of the state of the experiment abroad, and with the very little opportunity of knowing the result or its operation at home, the House was called on by the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member utterly to abolish the punishment of flogging in the army. He would bring one more proof of the sincerity with which the experiment was tried by the military authorities. The House might, perhaps, wish to know what the result of the experiment, as far as it went, was; and he now held in his hand a return made to the House on the Motion of an hon. Member, which showed the number of corporal punishments inflicted by sentence of Courts-martial for the last four years, and which included the punishments both before and after the order was issued. From this Return it appeared, that the number of corporal punishments inflicted by sentence of Courts-martial, during the year,
So that they had decreased nearly one-half within the last four years. He (Mr. Grant) had, besides this, made up an account of all the punishments inflicted under sentences of regimental, district, and general Courts-martial in the kingdom, from the year 1820 till the year 1833, and taken the average of them. He had divided that time into four periods, till 1833, 237 and divided the latter part of 1833 (during which the orders were in operation), and he had made an average of the proportions which the corporal punishments bore to the whole of the other punishments. From this account he found that, during the years 1821, 1822, and 1833, the number of corporal punishments, out of all the punishments inflicted, was one out of two; during the years 1825, 1826, 1827, and 1828, one out of three; during 1829, 1830, 1831, and 1832, one out of six; during the part of 1833, previous to the issuing of the Circular from the Horse-Guards, one out of nine; and during the latter part of 1833, while the orders were in operation, one out of fourteen. This showed that the military authorities had acted bona fide, and meant to make a fair trial of the experiment. But it was quite impossible that in the few months' experience which they had had, they could judge what the result would be; and that he conceived to be conclusive of the proposition of the hon. and gallant Officer. He felt it as a misfortune to himself, that he had another communication to make to the House, connected with the question, of a very painful nature. He was sensible that it was impossible to come to a right judgment as to the result of the experiment until it was ascertained whether crime had, or had not decreased in the course of the experiment. It was with regret that he had to state the result, because the announcement was liable to erroneous inferences; but still he felt it his duty to make it, and it was this:—that in exact proportion its corporal punishment had decreased, crime had increased. He, himself, however, did not believe that the whole of this increase was to be attributed to the diminution of corporal punishment. He thought that a portion of it was to be attributed to another cause; and, in stating this as his opinion, he threw himself upon the indulgence of the House, because the proportion to be attributed to the cause he was about to mention was merely conjectural. He considered, then, that a part of the increase of crime in the army was to be attributed to the circumstance, that many offences which formerly were submitted to Regimental Courts-martial were now brought before District and General Courts-martial, and were, consequently, more cursorily examined into than if they were brought before Regi- 238 mental Courts-Martial, as formerly. This, he thought, would account, in part, for the increase of crime; but it was impossible to say to what extent. He knew that it had been said, "rob the military authorities of the power to inflict corporal punishments, and that will force them to make improvements in the army which will render these punishments unnecessary." But crimes would still be committed, and when committed must be punished. That brought him to the subject of a substitution of punishments for those that are abolished. On this he might remark, that there was no part of our internal policy more important, and, at the same time, so little understood, as that of secondary punishments. There was no comprehensive treatise on the subject, and no Report of any Committee of Parliament. Very small progress had been made in forming a good system of secondary punishments, although some of the most acute men of the time had attempted it. This, on the one hand, showed the difficulty of coping with the subject; and, on the other hand, was a strong reason why the House should not be precipitate in taking measures upon it. Yet this subject, which, in civil cases, was admitted to be difficult, they were told was quite easy in military matters. The hon. and gallant Officer had proposed that delinquents should be mulcted in their pay. But the House should know, that private soldiers were mulcted as much as it was possible for offences under the Mutiny Act. In regard to this part of the question, the Government had ventured to give a little more power to Regimental Courts-martial; and, further than that, there was little more to do. Then, there was transportation. But transportation had been found a most unmanageable species of punishment, even in civil cases, as was well known to the right hon. Secretary to the Colonies; but whatever its success might be in civil cases, to the army, and especially to that portion of the army which was abroad, it was totally inapplicable. The common objection to that species of punishment applied doubly in the case of soldiers; and the common recommendation of it was totally inapplicable to a soldier. The great objection to it was, that there was no means through it to make an example of the delinquent, to prevent others from following like practices. The objection of Mr. Shipp to corporal punishment was, that it 239 failed in reforming the delinquent. It might be true, that corporal punishment had a bad influence over the person punished; but, on the other hand, it was an example to those who witnessed it; and if it deterred others from committing like offences, it succeeded in the main purpose of punishment,—that of deterring others from committing like crimes; though it failed in the secondary purpose,—that of reforming the individual. But punishment, though the fear of it might deter some, who were surrounded by friends and by ties to a particular spot, from the commission of crime, could have no such influence on the soldier, who had no such connection and no such feelings. On the contrary, a soldier, if he found his regiment disagreeable, or from a wish for change, might, very likely wish to move to a place where he hoped, that in the chapter of accidents, a bright page might turn up for him. Was it likely that a soldier stationed on the West Coast of Africa should be horrified at the prospect of banishment to the delightful climate of New South Wales. Was there any thing very terrible to the soldier stationed at Halifax in being sent to the Bermudas? Or was it likely that a soldier smarting under the broiling sun of Middle India, would object to a trip to the cool and pleasant climate of Sydney—the very place in which his, perhaps, broken health would be recruited. Within the last two days, two cases had come within his knowledge, which happened in distant colonies, and colonies which were distant from each other; but the events happened about the same time. In both assaults had been made; but in one of them, a cruel assault was made by a soldier on his commanding officer, without even the shadow of a reason for it. The culprit was asked, what his motives were, and he said, he wished to be transported; but the crime he had committed was of such a nature, that it was necessary to put the extreme penalty of the law in force, and the man was shot. He merely mentioned this to show, that soldiers might be induced to commit crimes, in order to be banished. The hon. and gallant Member who brought forward the Motion, had suggested the substitution of solitary imprisonment. He could assure the hon. and gallant Member and the House, that that species of punishment was under the serious consideration of Government; but the question was, could it 240 be applied? At present, the complaints with officers was, that soldiers who were put into jails, never returned improved; but, on the contrary, that they were invariably worse. But he (Mr. Grant) would ask, if there was such a thing in this country as a system of solitary confinement? For years past, experiments had been made on the subject—a number of lessons had been given by persons knowing in these matters—there was even a Penitentiary within a few hundred yards of the House; but had they yet succeeded in establishing solitary confinement as a secondary punishment even in civil cases? How, then, could it be said, that it was so easy to introduce that into the army which had been so difficult in civil cases, where the facilities were greater? How could they, then, call upon the military authorities to abolish the present system of punishment, and adopt solitary confinement, not only in England and Ireland, but in the deserts of Africa, in the wilds of America, and the plains of India. If discipline were to be kept up in the army abroad, it would be impossible to abolish corporal punishment. Besides, the military authorities had no funds at their disposal which they could appropriate to the erection of the prisons which would be necessary to put the plan in practice. The House of Commons would be guilty of a flagrant solecism, if, under pretence of substituting one species of punishment, on pretence of solitary confinement, in all the stations where the army is near, they should unadvisedly adopt the resolution proposed by the hon. and gallant Member. He fully believed, that great anxiety had been felt by the hon. and gallant Member on the subject; but he might say, that there was, however, no one who felt more anxiety, or had given more deep, painful, and anxious attention to it than the humble individual who had then the honour of addressing them. The hon. and gallant Member, however, says to the House, "Deprive the officers of this power of corporal punishment—circumscribe them in the round of punishments—take from them the rod, and they will soon find out some other way of maintaining military discipline." The advice given by the hon. and gallant Member was, in effect, to borrow an illustration from the profession to which he belonged, to break down a bridge behind an invading force, or to burn a fleet of ships which had conveyed an army to an enemy's shores. 241 There would, as the hon. Member asserted, be no greater difficulty behind to be overcome, and the critical situation in which they would find themselves placed, would infuse into them resolution and stoutness of heart. This might be true; but what could be done, if their advance were checked, their retreat being thus cut off? What, if there were a frightful increase of crime, and the abolition of corporal punishment were to be purchased at the expense of severer, or even capital punishment? The situation of the Government was at present that of a surgical practitioner hesitating to perform a difficult operation; the hon. Member then comes, cuts off the limb with a hatchet, and says, "Now at your peril tie up the arteries—stanch the blood—apply the proper bandages, and take every possible care to save the patient." The Government was placed in a very difficult position. They had taken the matter into their hands; they were acquainted with the difficulties that surrounded the case; and he trusted they would be allowed to proceed with what they had begun, and be spared the embarrassment of having the power of exercising this species of punishment rashly removed. To do this, would remove the terror, as well as the actual use of it. He would say one word more. Did hon. Members mean or not, that the abolition of corporal punishment should be accomplished? He had told thorn fairly and plainly, that the Government wished to abolish it, and he had told them of the probable increase of crime consequent on the abolition being immediate; he had stated, that this punishment was now in progress towards extinction, and he entreated the House not to embarrass Government in the conduct of this experiment. He did not pretend to say that, what was an experiment—which ex vi termini must be doubtful—would succeed; he would not predict that it would be expedient to extinguish this species of punishment; that it might be found so, was his most earnest hope. For its success he gave his warmest wishes, but he gave no promise; he threw out no conjecture—he held out no assurance but this—that the experiment should be fairly tried. He begged the House would trust to that experiment, and to the hands which had the conduct of it; and if the experiment should terminate according to the hopes and wishes of the majority of that House, none would be 242 more gratified than those who had made the trial. The difficulty and anxiety sustained during the progress of the experiment would be overpaid by its eventual success.
1830 was 658 1831 646 1832 485 1833 370
§ Lord Darlington
said, he would oppose the Motion; but begged the House would not infer from that circumstance, that he was an advocate for the infliction of corporal punishment, except for serious offences. In expressing his conviction, that it was expedient to invest the military authorities with the power of so punishing their men, he thought it proper to state, that he grounded that conviction on his own personal experience during the twelve years he had been in the army. In the recent discussion which had taken place in that House on the subject of the impressment of seamen, it had been justly remarked by a gallant Admiral (Sir Edward Codrington), that the scum only of the service were subjected to the lash. It was precisely the same with regard to corporal punishment in the army. The bad only were subjected to military torture; the good escaped that species of punishment. If solitary confinement were had recourse to as a substitute, the consequence would be most injurious to the discipline and morals of the army. The offender would come out of prison more demoralized, from his unavoidable occasional association with felons, than when he went in. If the power of inflicting corporal punishment were withdrawn from the Military Authorities, it would soon be found that crime greatly increased in the army. It was indispensably necessary, that severe punishments should be resorted to among the British troops. It was found necessary by the Civil-law, to inflict severe punishment for the offence of theft. It was still more necessary that such offence, when committed in the Army, should meet with severe punishment; particularly when one soldier stole from another. It had been said that, though it might not be advisable to dispense with corporal punishments in all instances, they might be dispensed with in some. He would answer that position by appealing to the House, what they conceived would be the effect of enforcing corporal punishment abroad, which was the thing meant, while the punishment inflicted at home was only solitary confinement. Would not the consequence be, that soldiers would have an aversion to going abroad, and that, therefore, we 243 should not be able to obtain sufficient troops for our colonies in distant parts of the world? There existed the same grounds in the army as in the navy for a uniformity of punishment in the different places in which soldiers were stationed. He was aware, that in thus expressing his opinion in favour of corporal punishments, he differed from many of his friends for whom he had a high respect. Nevertheless, he could not refrain from conscientiously discharging what appeared to him his duty on the present occasion, and the consideration of that circumstance would afford him satisfaction.
§ Mr. Buckingham
said, having been twice personally alluded to in the course of this debate, first by the hon. and gallant Officer who opened this question, and since, by the right hon. the Judge Advocate, he felt it his duty to rise, in order to explain more clearly the circumstance referred to, in connexion with the mention of his name. The hon. and gallant Member—inadvertently, no doubt—spoke of his abandonment of this question, on what the gallant Officer deemed insufficient grounds, and assigned this as his reason for taking it up. The House would probably remember, that during the last Session, and subsequent to the debate on the Motion of the hon. member for Middlesex, he (Mr. Buckingham) had a notice on the books for the abolition of military flogging. On that occasion, when he rose in his place to bring on that Motion, the right hon. the Secretary-at-War (Mr. Ellice) addressed the House, and stated, that not only was this subject under the anxious consideration of his Majesty's Government, but that an Order was actually in preparation at the War-Office, which would be speedily promulgated to the army, in which the punishment of flogging was strictly enjoined to be confined to the three great crimes of mutiny, drunkenness on duty, and theft. The right hon. Secretary then appealed to his (Mr. Buckingham's) sense of justice to wait at least until the Order should be issued, and the effect of the restrictions tried:—and, confiding, as he was not ashamed to confess he did, on the assurance of the right hon. Gentleman, that the Order alluded to, would restrict the punishment to the offences named, he expressed his willingness not to abandon, but merely to postpone the Motion until the Order appeared, and wait until the next Session 244 before he renewed any notice on the subject. There was, however, much more delay than had been anticipated in the appearance of the Order; for its official publication did not take place until after the Session was over; and candour obliged him to say, that when it did appear, it tell far short of the expectation he had been led to form; for, after enumerating the three specific offences already named, it added the words, "and other disgraceful conduct," which opened so wide a field for the discretion of the Commanding Officer, as to enable him to punish almost any offence with flogging, by bringing it within that denomination. He felt, therefore, in common with many other hon. Members, extreme sorrow and disappointment at this result, and repented the too willing confidence into which he had been betrayed. Still, however, he would do the right hon. the Secretary-at-War the justice to express his belief, that had the matter rested with himself individually, or even with the Administration with whom he acted, the pledge held out would have been redeemed. But he feared there was a higher power which ruled at the Horse-Guards, and which all their influence was unable to control, and that to this power, rather than to the right hon. Secretary-at-War, was to be attributed the extension of the offences included within the Order alluded to, and its promulgation in that objectionable shape. On the question now before the House be might be permitted perhaps to offer a very few remarks. No one, he thought could deny, but that one of the chief characteristics of the barbarism of nations was the sanguinary nature of their punishments—and one of the surest tests of progressive civilization was, the gradual amelioration of these barbarous practices. In comparing different nations with each other, this was strikingly perceived. If we looked abroad to China, to Persia, to Turkey, we should find their punishments cruel and sanguinary in the extreme. If we regarded the codes of England and America, we should find them comparatively mild and merciful. In the one case barbarism and ferocity went hand in hand—in the other, civilization and mildness gave lustre to each other. To what principle could such a contrast be traced, but to this: that in proportion as men are steeped in the debasement of ignorance, so is it necessary to coerce them by a force 245 and suffering, and, as brutes, to overawe them by brutal punishment; and that in proportion as men advance in the scale of civilized beings, so is it found advantageous to substitute milder for more cruel punishments, and overawe the mind by the stimuli of hope and fear, rather than lacerate the body by stripes and pain. If we passed from a comparison of nations with each other, and regarded the same nation under different periods of its own history, we should come to the same result. If we looked, for instance, at England, in times past, and compared her civil or military code with times present, what should we perceive, but in the former case, the most cruel and sanguinary tortures, in the latter, a gradual abatement of these as civilization advanced, and the substitution of more humane and more rational modes of correction or reformation. It was true that these changes had been slower than could have been wished; and that too many sanguinary punishments still disgraced our penal code. But he would ask, whether it had not been the constant aim of some of the noblest and most benevolent of our fellow-countrymen to remove even those that remained. Why then should not the British soldier be included among the objects of our Legislative protection? We had abolished flogging of the person, as a punishment for civil offences: we had taken measures, Session after Session, to mitigate the flogging of negro slaves, and had now placed it under considerable restrictions, with a view to its speedy and total abolition; flogging had been almost entirely discontinued in the native army of India, and we had carried our philanthropy so far as to pass an Act of Parliament for preventing Cruelty to Animals, prohibiting or punishing by fines and penalties the infliction of stripes on the bodies of the brute creation; and yet, with strange inconsistency; we objected to the abolition of this inhuman torture on the backs of our fellow-countrymen and brave defenders. Did the House suppose that the soldiers of the British army never thought of these things, never talked of these things, and compared opinions on the great care bestowed on others, and the neglect shown towards themselves? If so, the House deceived itself; and would do well before it acted on such an impression to make it a subject of inquiry. But the practice, though ad- 246 mitted to be crud, was defended on the ground of its producing a salutary example on those who witnessed the punishment, and deterring them from insubordination or other crime. Now, in answer to this, it might be asserted, as matter of notoriety almost beyond dispute, that the example of sanguinary punishments had generally the very contrary effect. It excited sympathy for the sufferer, and awakened a feeling of indignation in the witnesses of the pangs under which he groaned: the consequence was, that both in the Navy and in the Army, wherever the practice of flogging was most frequently resorted to, there the discipline was the most disorderly and disorganized; and in those ships and regiments in which the lash was least used, there the subordination and happiness of all parties were the most complete. He hoped the House would remember well the expression that fell from the right hon. Gentleman, the Judge Advocate, who asserted, that in consequence of the large minority on the last division on this question, the Ministry felt themselves bound (as indeed they always did) to respect the powerful expression of opinion, even by minorities, and the Order for restricting and mitigating their power of corporal punishment was the result. He intreated hon. Members, therefore, who desired to see this cruel practice for the present still further mitigated, and ultimately abolished, to give the Motion of the hon. and gallant Officer their support, in order that by another large minority, another restrictive Order might be obtained, and the punishment still further diminished. There was another reason, however, why the House should speak out on this occasion. There were good grounds for believing, that if it depended on the right hon. the Secretary-at-War, or his Majesty's Ministers, the question would be carried even now. But the military authorities at the Horse-Guards were known to be averse to the measure, and to have power and influence enough to prevent it. It was, then, a question, whether the voice of the people, as heard in that House, its constitutional organ, through the speeches and votes of its Members, or the voice of the Commander-in-Chief of the Army should prevail. Many hon. Members had given to their constituents, at the time of their election, a pledge to promote the abolition of naval and military flogging. Let them now 247 prove the sincerity of those pledges, by acting on them in support of the Motion; and let them, by this means, also assist to rescue the Administration from that secret influence by which they were at present overruled, and make the dignity and power of the House of Commons felt and acknowledged, as the constitutional organ through which all abuses, whether civil or military, might be most effectually redressed.
protested altogether against the argument urged by the right hon. Gentleman the Judge-Advocate, to the effect that, because a fair experiment was in course of trial, the Motion before the House was inadmissible. That experiment could only properly be tried by first taking away the power of inflicting corporal punishment, and then seeing whether it could be dispensed with. As far as the soldier was concerned, it made little difference to him, whether the punishment was inflicted in a greater or a less degree; what the soldier desired was, to get rid altogether of that which he felt to be a degradation. He altogether dissented from the opinion, that flogging was a punishment which, as the British army was at present constituted, could not be dispensed with; and he was sure to find very many most competent authorities coinciding with him in that opinion. He implored the House to accede to the Motion, and at once relieve the British soldier from that unenviable uncertainty as to the future enforcement of corporal punishment, to which the right hon. Gentleman, the Judge Advocate, seemed disposed to abandon him.
would have given a silent vote, but for the observation of the hon. Member who had just resumed his seat. That hon. Member spoke of the question as being left in a state of uncertainty by his Majesty's Government; but he was sorry to say, it was not even uncertain. Not the least hope was held out that the brutal and disgraceful practice of military flogging would be abolished. There would, however, he trusted, be a division. He should, at all events, have the satisfaction of recording his vote in favour of the Motion. To no set of men would he intrust the power of flogging their fellow-beings; but least of all, would he entrust that power to the officers of the British army. The idea that a set of mere striplings should have the power of torturing their fellow-subjects, was perfectly 248 abhorrent to his feelings as a Briton, and he would ever oppose it. The strong desire to retain the power of flogging, argued badly for the character of a British officer. The Motion was resisted by Government on the ground that they were going through an experiment for the purpose of ascertaining the practicability of abandoning the power; but he put it to the House to say, whether any experiment was necessary to ascertain whether they were likely to have a well-disciplined army without flogging? What was the result of the experiment in other countries? In France or Belgium there was no such thing as military flogging; and could it be said the French army was undisciplined? What was it gained England the battle of Waterloo? Some persons were silly enough to suppose it was the talents of the British leader; but that was not only disputed, but much doubted. But it was never disputed, it could not be disputed, that the battle was gained from the French by the superior bravery and firmness of the British army; and was it not, he asked, a disgrace to the British nation, that that army, which had thus proved itself the superior, was exposed to a degrading punishment unknown to their vanquished opponents? One of the grounds for the abolition of negro slavery was the practice of flogging; and was it to be said, that a British soldier was to be exposed to a punishment which the House had decided was too degrading for a negro slave? The time was come for making the experiment as to whether corporal punishment was necessary for the efficiency of the army; and he thought the Government would justly meet with public reprehension for the course they had taken on the subject.
§ Sir Harry Verney
denied, that British officers desired to retain the power of flogging, except as a necessary means of enforcing the discipline of the army. He appealed to every military man present whether a military execution was not regarded by British officers as by many degrees the most painful part of their duty? On such occasions, the general appearance of the officers would induce a common spectator, ignorant of the real cause, to conceive that some great misfortune had befallen them. Until distinct military prisons were secured, the experiment, as to whether military flogging could with safety be abolished, would 249 not receive a fair trial; and, if the Motion had no other effect than to direct the attention of the Government to that fact, he should not regret its having been made.
§ Sir John Byng
felt it necessary to intrude himself upon the attention of the House, in consequence of an expression which had fallen from the hon. and learned member for Dublin, relative to the officers of the British army. That hon. and learned Member, in his ignorance of every quality constituting the character of a British officer, had the charity to say, that they were the last men to whom he would intrust the power of flogging. He would beg to tell the House, and he did so with all the sincerity of a soldier, that the officers of the British army were the first to whom he would intrust such a power. He knew the character of a British officer well, and if there was any point on which he was inclined to find fault with it, it was a proneness to mercy where mercy was ill-advised. With regard to the Motion, he implored the House not to consent to it. In fourteen days the Mutiny Bill would expire; and if the Motion were carried, the army would, in point of fact, be left without control. If the abolition of flogging was to take place, he strongly and earnestly recommended the House to let it come from the proper authorities. The less the question was agitated in that House the better it would be for the discipline of the British army. Since the subject was first agitated it was undoubtedly true, that corporal punishment had not been so often put into requisition as before, but he regretted to say, it was not because crime had decreased. On the contrary, crime had increased; and his conviction was, that, if the power of inflicting corporal punishment was altogether removed, until an efficient substitute was provided, that increase would be carried to a truly alarming extent. He had himself spoken to many old soldiers on the subject, and they one and all concurred in declaring that, if the power of flogging was taken away, no good could be got of the soldiers.
§ Mr. Sheil
rose to ask one question. In July, 1832, an order was made by the House of Commons for a Return of the number of cases of corporal punishment from 1825 to 1831. He wished to know where was the Return to that order? Sir 250 John Hobhouse, then Secretary-at-War, stopped the Motion, and said he would give the Returns from 1825 to 1831. Why had they not been made? [Mr. Grant: They had been given from 1830]. He thought it extraordinary that the Returns should stop at 1830, and that the House was furnished with no specific information, from which they would have been enabled to see what effect had followed from the mitigation of punishment. The House had been told, that it would be prejudicial to the discipline of the army if the question were agitated within that House. Had the "agitated" of the question been productive of no advantage. It was at one time customary to sentence a soldier to, suppose 1,000 lashes, and after the infliction of some 300 or 400 to throw him upon his mattress, until sufficiently recovered to endure the remainder. Had not the disgraceful practice of thus inflicting punishment by instalments, been abolished by the "agitation" of the question within that House. The right hon. Gentleman opposite, had, in illustration of his argument, supposed the case of a practitioner called in to amputate the limb of a patient. The right hon. Gentleman asked the House what would they think of the professional skill of such a man, if he were to chop off the limb with a hatchet, having made no previous arrangement for taking up the arteries or staunching the blood? Now he (Mr. Sheil) would ask the House, what value they would attach to the professional character of a man, who, having deprecated a particular mode of treatment, had, when called in himself, adopted the very practice he had censured in another?
§ Mr. Ellice
, in answer to the inquiry of the hon. and learned Member, could only say that the Returns moved for had not been ordered during his possession of office. As he had risen to answer the question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he would observe, that with respect to what had taken place with regard to the hon. member for Sheffield and himself last Session, he had given a correct statement. But he had stated to that hon. and learned Gentleman, that measures were in contemplation which would, as far as possible, meet the wishes of the minority on that occasion. He had distinctly reserved to himself the power of acting upon the spirit of the feeling of the House at that time—reserv- 251 ing also to himself the terms in which the order alluded to should be made. The hon. and learned Gentleman, however, had exhausted that subject. His hon. friend stated, that this experiment, as he called it, in the terms of his right hon. friend, was the most objectionable part submitted by his right hon. friend to the House. Now, the experiment of last year was to endeavour to limit as much as possible the infliction of corporal punishment; and he would offer to lay a Return upon the Table of the House, to prove, at all events, that there had been a very great diminution in the number of punishments inflicted. His hon. friend had stated, that soldiers were now punished for those petty thefts which they committed occasionally, with greater severity than civil persons; that the latter class who were punished for such offences, were punished in a much more lenient manner before the Magistracy. Now, he could not say where his hon. friend derived his information from; but he was quite willing to furnish him with all the information connected with every Court-martial, and every punishment inflicted during the last year; and, if he could prove any case in which the punishment awarded had not been accompanied with aggravated circumstances, he would then admit, but not till then, that the order of last year had not been complied with. Let it be remembered, that the proceedings of every Court-martial were strictly examined into by the Judge-Advocate-General; and he had sufficient evidence laid before him, to show that there existed no wish on the part of officers to act with severity. He could assure his hon. friend, that this punishment of flogging was not resorted to for trivial offences. He would not, however, pursue a subject which had already been exhausted by his right hon. friend, but he would wish to impress upon him and the House in general, the consideration, that an immediate change of system could not be carried into effect, even if they acceded to the wishes of the advocates of the abolition of the practice of flogging. And time must be given to the consideration of how far the peace and security of the civil citizen were concerned in this question. If his hon. friend were in the situation which he had the honour to hold, he would find that there had been a considerable increase in one species of offence—namely, that of assaults 252 upon civil subjects by the military; which offence was not visited with the punishment of flogging, and when the number of cases was so great, was it to be expected that they should, perhaps, fill the gaols without much advantage to the public peace, and certainly render the greatest injury to the character of the soldier? He could assure the House that this subject was under the consideration of his Majesty's Government; but, being aware of the increase of crime in the army, they were sensible that it was necessary to substitute some secondary sort of punishment. The conviction of this necessity had been forced upon his Majesty's Government during the last year. The order which had been alluded to, had been enforced some nine months, and the Government were now constructing plans of confinement in different stations, and separate prisons for military offenders; and other means of punishment were under consideration. He entreated the House to reflect upon the difficulties which must attend any immediate change of system in the military law, and how difficult it was for those who had to administer it, to meet the Motion which had been that night proposed. His hon. friend, he trusted, would give him credit for this—that while he held it to be necessary to continue the power now vested in Courts-martial, he was still equally anxious to restrict this practice of flogging, especially if the Government were allowed to proceed in the course hitherto proposed, of endeavouring, as far as it might be practicable, consistently with the discipline of the army and the security of the civil subject, to diminish the number of inflictions of corporal punishments. Under these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman would arrive sooner at the objects he had in view by trusting to the Government, than by moving the resolution proposed, which, if carried into effect, must be destructive to the discipline of the army and the public peace. It was impossible, indeed, that the punishment of flogging could at the present moment he abolished in the colonies, and it never could be endured that the soldier who was undergoing hard service in foreign parts, should be placed in a worse situation than his comrade at home. Ministers, he could assure the House, required not the hint of a large minority to instruct them in their duty. They would persevere in the course they had com- 253 menced, whether the question were agitated in that House or not.
thought, it must be allowed that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was satisfactory in many particulars. With respect to his observations, however, upon secondary punishments, there were one or two in which he did not coincide. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to condemn the appeal to any legislation upon the subject, by the Parliament; but the feeling of the public was, that the system of punishment by flogging was monstrous, and that feeling was not to he allayed by the prospect of its diminution merely. The public feeling had been excited for a long time with reference to this question, and there was no probability of its ceasing; and it must have an effect upon the minds of the soldiers generally. The noble Lord had described in strong terms, the class of men who enlisted into the army; but, as long as the punishment of flogging existed, so long would the class of persons who enlisted into the army be bad.
§ Lord Dudley Stuart
, even at that late hour of the night was anxious to explain the motive upon which he should found his vote. When he had come down to the House he had hoped to have been able to support the Motion of the gallant officer, for no man in the world could have a greater abhorrence of the practice of flogging than he had. He could not join the gallant General in deprecating the discussion of this question, particularly when he looked to the small majorities which had been obtained. On the contrary, he thought that this subject was one which ought to be unceasingly agitated; and, though it was not his intention to support the Motion of the gallant Officer, yet he felt obliged to him for calling the attention of his Majesty's Government and of the country to the matter, because he was quite sure that the effect of these discussions must be to improve the situation of the army, and to prevent a recurrence of those distressing scenes which had occurred in respect to flogging in future. The right. hon. Gentleman (Mr. Ellice) might say what he pleased about the Government not being compelled to act upon the fact of large minorities in that House, but there could be no doubt that the minority of last Session had had its effect, as large minorities at all times had upon the Government. The reason 254 why he could not vote for the Motion of the gallant Officer was, the want of another substitute in the way of punishment.
§ Sir Edward Codrington
wished to say a few words relative to a statement which had been made, that in the navy it had been found that the less punishment there was, the better discipline prevailed. This was an error. The good discipline of the ship depended, not upon the quantity of punishment, but upon the justness of the punishments, however severe they might be. He would state as an illustration the case of a vessel in which in a short space of time the different courses were adopted. At first there was no pretence at discipline in this ship, and consequently nobody did his duty, if even he knew it. After this a lieutenant was promoted to the command, who determined upon introducing the severest discipline amongst the crew; punishments were rigidly inflicted when necessary, but it soon turned out that a necessity very seldom occurred for punishment. When the ship was thus reduced to good order, another officer was promoted to the command, who set out by determining to do nothing as it had been done by the previous captain. The consequence was, that the ship no longer was like a man-of-war. He was on board of this ship when twelve men were obliged to be punished in one day to keep down a mutiny. Such was the case in the navy, and he dared say it was the same in the army, that the best soldiers were to be found where punishments were inflicted, however severe, provided they were just.
§ Sir George Grey
hoped, he should not be accused of inconsistency in giving a vote this evening, at variance with the vote he had given last year upon this question. He had voted for the Motion of last Session because he had looked forward to its leading to a good practical result. He should vote against the Motion now before the House, because he did not consider it practicable forthwith to abolish all corporal punishments in the army. He was sorry that a more cautious and limited Resolution had not been brought forward. He was prepared to support any proposal to limit the extent of punishments in the army, and the nature of the offences to which they should be attached. There were crimes of a disgraceful nature which warranted a disgraceful sort of punishment. But there was no pretence to justify the infliction of absolute torture. The words 255 of the Mutiny Act legalized "the infliction of punishments to any extent short of loss of limb." Yet there were some punishments awarded by Courts-martial which, if carried into effect, would be attended by loss of life. In these cases a surgeon, whose business it should be to heal and assuage the sufferings of mankind, was appointed to stand by, not to assuage the sufferings of the prisoner, but to see the utmost limit to which those sufferings could be endured without loss of life.
Mr. Mark Philips
said, he had come down to the House prepared to vote for the Resolution of the hon. and gallant Member; but the arguments which he had heard in support of the conduct of Government, in this affair, were so just and persuasive as to warrant him in, at least, suspending that vote. He believed Government were anxious to do their best; and believing this he should suspend his vote, to give them an opportunity, before another year and another renewal of the Mutiny Act came round, to complete the arrangements they doubtless had under their consideration.
was also about to give a different vote to the one he had given last year. He should now vote for the Motion of the hon. and gallant member for Barnstaple, it being his firm conviction that unless some alteration was effected in the present system of military punishment, the army could not be maintained in a state of subordination.
§ Mr. Hume
would candidly say, that if his Majesty's Government had the power to abolish the practice of flogging, he would leave the matter in their hands. It was because they had not the power that flogging was not done away with, and their intentions were not honestly carried into effect. He would say, that no such order as that which had been adverted to had been carried into effect; and why was this? Was it not because the Commander-in-Chief ruled the whole country, and did what he pleased—and because his Majesty's Government had not the power to act, as, he believed, they wished to do? The House would certainly not do their duty unless they compelled the military authorities to abolish this system of punishment.
§ Lord William Lennox
, at that late hour of the evening would confine himself to one or two observations, but he could not listen to a sentiment expressed by the hon. member for Rye, who had preceded him—that if corporal punishment was not abolished, the discipline of the army could not be carried on. He thought such an expression from a military man would have a direct tendency to promote mutiny. He was no advocate for the lash, but he could not support so visionary a plan as that brought forward to abolish corporal punishment all over the globe; it was impracticable; in countries where spirits were cheap, the whole army would be in a state of insubordination if the punishment were withdrawn. Solitary confinement was inefficacious; besides, a man's pay accumulated, and the moment he was released, he again got into the same state of inebriety. Corporal punishment was degrading, and yet many there were who had turned out good soldiers after receiving it. He knew officers who had risen from the ranks who had been punished. He would vote for a limited flogging, but not to its entire abolition, especially abroad.
§ The House divided on the Resolution—Ayes 94; Noes 227: Majority 133.
§ The Report was received.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Goring, H. D.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Grote, G.|
|Bainbridge, E.||Guest, J. J.|
|Baines, E.||Hall, B.|
|Beauclerk, Major||Hoskins, K.|
|Beaumont, T. W.||Hughes, H.|
|Bish, T.||Hume, J.|
|Blake, Sir F.||Hutt, W.|
|Boss, Captain||Leonard, Sir T.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Lennard, T. B.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Lister, E. C.|
|Buckingham, J. S.||Lushington, Dr.|
|Bulwer, H. L.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Buxton, F.||Mildmay, P.|
|Chichester, J. P. B.||Parrott, J.|
|Clay, W.||Pease, J.|
|Curteis, H. B.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Curteis, Captain||Potter, R.|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Poulter, J. S.|
|Dawson, E.||Rippon, C.|
|Divett, E.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Evans, Colonel||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Ewart, W.||Romilly, E.|
|Faithfull, G.||Romilly, J.|
|Fancourt, Major||Rotch, B.|
|Fielden, J.||Simeon, Sir R.|
|Fryer, R.||Strutt, E.|
|Talmash, A. G.||Sinclair, G.|
|Tennyson, Rt. Hon. C.||Stuart, R.|
|Thicknesse, R.||Wallace, R.|
|Todd, J. R.||Bellew, P.|
|Tooke, W.||Blake, J.|
|Turner, W.||Jacob, E.|
|Vincent, Sir F.||O'Connell, D.|
|Walter, J.||O'Connell, M.|
|Warburton, H.||O'Connell, M.|
|Warre, J. A.||O'Connell, J.|
|Wason, R.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Whalley, Sir S.||O'Reilly, W.|
|Wigney, I. N.||Roche, W.|
|SCOTLAND.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Ewing, J.||Ruthven, E.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Sheil, R. L.|
|Johnston, A.||Sullivan, R.|
|Oswald, J.||Tennent, J. E.|
|Oswald, R. A.||Vigors, N.|
|Parnell, Sir H.|