HC Deb 04 August 1835 vol 30 cc49-58
Mr. Thomas Duncombe

hoped the noble Lord would at once grant the Motion of which he had given notice. Such a course would be received with gratitude by Colonel Bradley, would be agreeable to the military profession, and would save this House the necessity of occupying its time by a painful discussion. He had prepared a list of ten military men, Members of the House before whom he was content to carry this case, and abide by their decision. [Lord Viscount Howick declined.] There was then nothing left for him but to proceed; and he would, as briefly as possible, detail to the House the oppression, that Colonel Bradley had endured. He would say nothing of the early part of Colonel Bradley's military career till, after twenty years of hard service in a tropical climate, having enjoyed the esteem and respect of his equals and superiors—he found himself in 1818, second in command to Colonel Arthur, at Honduras. Colonel Arthur belonged to the York Chasseurs, Colonel Bradley to the Second West-India Regiment. In October, 1819, the York Chasseurs were disbanded—an event anticipated by both these gentlemen, and, in various conversations that passed between them, it was frequently admitted by the former, that upon such reduction, the command at Honduras would devolve, as a matter of course, upon Colonel Bradley, May, 1820. Colonel Arthur making no arrangements for giving up the command to Colonel Bradley, although he was aware of the reduction of the regiment, which had taken place. Colonel Bradley, as in duty bound, addressed a letter to Colonel Arthur, requesting to know by what authority he retained the command, when his regiment was disbanded, and he placed upon half-pay. Colonel Arthur returned no answer, but convened a meeting of the officers, and stated to them, that he was still on full-pay, and had authorities under which he felt himself justified to retain the command; but amongst these authorities, he never once alluded to the Commission from General Fuller, produced at the trial in 1824, but rested his claim upon being upon full-pay, and having also received a Commission from General Con-ran, then Commanding the troops in Jamaica. An hon. and gallant Friend of his, Colonel Fremantle, many years aide-decamp to the Duke of Wellington, during the Peninsular War was Deputy-Adjutant-General, at that time in Jamaica, and he told him, "that if ever there was a cruel and an unjust or an oppressive dismissal from the army, it was Colonel Bradley's; for so impressed was General Conran of the illegality of Colonel Arthur's continuance in command at Honduras, he (Colonel Fremantle) had special instructions from General Conran, never to address the military orders or despatches to Co Arthur, as he would not, and could not acknowledge him, but to direct them always to the officer commanding the troops at Honduras, leaving it thereby to either Colonel Arthur or Colonel Bradley to take the responsibility upon themselves of opening them or not, as they might think fit," that was the evidence of Colonel Fremantle, which he would substantiate before a Committee if the noble Lord would accede to his proposition. After the meeting of officers at Colonel Arthur's quarters, Colonel Bradley was placed under arrest, and remained 312 days. Upon a former occasion, the noble Lord stated, that that arrest was one of extreme lenity and pleasure. Colonel Bradley had prepared an affidavit, in opposition to this, in which he stated "That for the seventy-one days of close arrest, this deponent never quitted his quarters, nor did Lieutenant Colonel Arthur ever offer this deponent the slightest indulgence, and that for the remaining 241 days of enlarged arrest, lieutenant-Colonel Arthur never offered this deponent any indulgence whatever; that during the whole period of arrest, the officers had orders not to hold any communication whatever with this deponent, and he was even refused the usual supply of dinners and wine from the mess; that during the arrest, this deponent suffered from two attacks of malignant fever, one of which very near proved fatal to him; that during his arrest various brutal and barbarous acts were committed in the grounds around, and adjoining this deponent's quarters, such as hanging criminals, carrying their dead bodies in an open cart past his door, erecting a pile of tar and flour barrels, and burning thereon the bodies of two criminals, and so causing for several hours, a most disgusting scene of stench and smoke, and afterwards burying a man and driving a stake through his body, for committing suicide, and also inflicting corporal punishment on soldiers." Was that lenity? During his arrest, Colonel Bradley learned with astonishment and surprise, that he had been dismissed the service, and that the price of a Majority was lodged in the agents, Messrs. Cox and Greenwood's hands, upon which he immediately returned to England, demanded a Court-martial, and was refused. He then commenced an action against Colonel Arthur for false imprisonment, which was tried in the Court of King's Bench, in 1824; and he obtained a verdict with 100l. damages. Lord Brougham, with a consideration and humanity most creditable to that noble and learned individual, hearing that he was to bring Colonel Bradley's case before this House, addressed to him a letter, in which that noble Lord declared that all the bar were unanimous in saying that Colonel Bradley had been very ill treated, though he might, as a point of military discipline, have been mistaken. Such was the opinion of that noble and learned Lord; but the noble and learned Lord was not acquainted with the fact that Colonel Arthur, in 1821, swore to being on half-pay. He held that officer's affidavit in his hand. It was as follows.— George Arthur appeared personally before me, and made oath, that he is the person entitled to half-pay, as a reduced officer of the York Chasseurs, and that he had not during any part of this period, from the 25th of October 1819, to the 21st of February, 1821, both days inclusive, any other place or employment of profit, civil or military, under his Brittanic Majesty, or in the service of any other government, besides his half-pay, except superintendent and commandant of militia. (signed) GEORGE ARTH Sworn before me at Honduras, this 21st of February, 1831. (signed) JAMES HYDE, Magistrate for Belize. If that affidavit, which has only recently come into Colonel Bradley's possession, together with Colonel Fremantle's evidence, had been before the Court, a different verdict would have been returned, and Colonel Bradley would have been restored to that rank of which he ought never to have been deprived. Why was Colonel Arthur defended at the public expense, while Colonel Bradley was 800l. out of pocket by the trial? Taking into consideration the fact, that an officer upon half-pay, which Colonel Arthur was when he placed Colonel Bradley under arrest, could not enforce or execute military law upon an officer on full pay, this was a fit case for investigation. It might be said, that he was invading the prerogative of the Crown. It was undoubtedly the prerogative of e King to dismiss any officer, whenever he should think fit; but it was equally the prerogative of the House —it was the duty of the House— to see that the prerogative of the Crown was not abused, and that a meritorious officer, after twenty years' hard service was not dismissed upon an ex parte statement, without any trial, whereby all his remaining days were embittered. The noble Lord would certainly not oppose the motion, and if the noble Lord did, he would not be supported by any Reformer. He concluded by moving "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into Colonel Arthur's treatment of Colonel Bradley in Honduras, and also into all the circumstances that led to his dismissal from the army without a court-martial, and to report their opinion thereon.

Viscount Howick

in rising to oppose the Motion of the hon. Member for Fins-bury, said, he should be very happy to do what was consistent with his duty in affording relief in any case of real hardship. It was always a painful thing to see, that an officer who had distinguished himself in the service of his country should, in consequence of an indiscretion arising from some fault of temper, be degraded and expelled from the army. But it was so essential that the discipline of the army should be maintained—that on subjects of this kind there should not be the least possibility of receiving the decision of a Court-martial come to on proper grounds by the regular authorities—that he trusted the House would support him in resisting this inquiry, — an inquiry, from which he, for one, could anticipate no good effect whatever. The hon. Member had spoken a great deal about the legality of Colonel Arthur's Commission; that had been decided upon authority so much higher than his own, that he (Lord Howick) did not mean to enter on it. The Commission under which Colonel Arthur acted was produced in Court, and sworn to by two officers most distinguished in character and experience, both having filled the office of Adjutant-General, (Sir Herbert Taylor and Sir Henry Torrens,) and who gave it as their opinion that the Commission was sufficient to authorise Colonel Arthur in retaining the Command, it having been dated several years before this transaction. But more than that, Colonel Bradley was dissatisfied with the amount of damages he received on the trial which took place for false imprisonment—and which clearly proved that the Court did acknowledge the legality of the Commission because the damages were given not for Colonel Bradley's confinement before his removal from the army, but in consequence of his having been continued under arrest subsequently to his removal from the army when Colonel Arthur's military authority was, of course at an end. It was impossible to believe that the Court would have given such small damages (viz. 100l.) on any other supposition than this view of the case; he was supported by the course taken on the part of Colonel Bradley himself, who, feeling that if the case were as he represented it, the damages were too small, applied for a new trial, in order, on the ground of the invalidity of the Commission, which was refsued. He had the authority therefore, of the Court of King's Bench as well as that of the two distinguished officers he had just named in support of the view which he took. But the case did not rest here, for he contended, had Colonel Bradley's case been as correct and just a one as he represented it, that the Duke of York exercised a sound discretion in depriving him of his command. The grounds on which he formed that opinion were these. Had Colonel Bradley felt himself aggrieved, the proper course would have been to make a formal application to the authorities at Jamaica or at home; but what he did was this, he endeavoured by actual appeal to inferior officers to deprive Colonel Arthur of his command, which he (Lord Howick) could prove by extracts from the evidence on the Court-Martial which he held in his hand. He was of opinion that if the House reflected on the consequences of transactions like these, they would agree with him in thinking that it was the duty of all who were interested in the command of the army to mark in the strongest way their sense of such conduct. For what could be more dangerous than, when two officers disputed which of them should hold military command at a station so far distant from the mother country that one of them should attempt the settlement of the question, not by appeal to the superior authorities at home or abroad, but, by appeal to inferior officers. Why, let the House suppose, if one part of the garrison had taken up the cause of one officer and the other part had sided with his opponent the whole colony would have been in confusion, and perhaps civil war would have ensued in consequence of this dispute between two officers! It was therefore on those grounds that he contended it was the duty of Colonel Arthur to arrest Colonel Bradley, and of his Royal Highness the Duke of York to remove Colonel Bradley from the army, even hah cause been ever so just. Indeed the only reason for not bringing Colonel Bradley to a Court-martial was, the consideration that such a proceeding would deprive him of the proceeds from the sale of his Commission; and, in recollection of his preivous good character and long services in the army deterred the authorities from taking such a severe step. As to the opinion of the Council on the trial, that was the very last species of opinion on which he should place any confidence in any case; much less in a military cause like this. With respect to the assertion of the hon. Member, that Colonel Bradley had received a promise from Colonel Arthur, that when the regiment was disbanded he, (Colonel Bradley) should have a command, that was the first time he (Lord Howick) ever heard it, officially at least, referred to, and considering that circumstance, of its being brought forward at a time when Colonel Arthur being in Van Die-man's Land could not contradict it; and also the fact of its not having been at all mentioned in the large correspondence that took place on the subject, during two different Secretary ships-at-War who had agreed with him (Lord Howick) he was not disposed to place much credit on the assertion of such a fact now. On the whole, then, the opinion which he now expressed was not one which he had recently formed. The first time he had the honour of a seat in that House he had expressed that opinion when in opposition, and after hearing the statement of, the hon. Member for Middlesex himself, without hearing the other side of the case; and that opinion continued unaltered at the present moment. It was to be remembered also that Colonel Bradley was not displaced on the representation of Major Arthur, but by the Duke of York himself on the advice of the officers alluded to, who gave it as their opinion that he ought no longer to remain in the army. Under those circumstances, he (Lord Howick) hoped the House would not set so very dangerous a precedent as that of granting a Committee of that House, a precedent which, if set, would in his opinion, go far to shake the very foundations of justice in the army.

Mr. Hume

was glad to hear the candid statement of the noble Lord who had just spoken, who admitted that there was some degree of doubt in the case; and he, on the other hand, admitted that, if Colonel Bradley was to blame at all, he had taken the course in which he certainly was blameable: viz.—the being too forward to assert the authority committed by his Majesty into his hands. The case was this: Colonel Bradley alleged that, in virtue of the army resolutions, and as a matter of course, Major Arthur going from full to half-pay, was no longer capable of commanding an officer on full pay—that was the only point of Colonel Bradley's case. The subject was not new, it had been twelve times before the House, and if the noble Lord appealed to the House for justice, certainly, if it could be proved that an individual after years of faithful and arduous service, had been removed from the army and ruined, his friends had an equal right to appeal to the House for its attention to their claim of justice, notwithstanding the opinion of the noble Lord. It was to be remembered, that Colonel Bradley several times asked Major Arthur to declare whether he was on full pay, and Major Arthur always refused to answer him. Now, he asked any gentleman what would have been his feelings under such circumstances? Colonel Bradley wrote a letter to Major Arthur, telling him that under such circumstances he (Colonel Bradley) was invested with the proper authority over the regiment, and considered himself justified in holding the command. For that assumption of power, which Colonel Bradley believed was correct, he had been prosecuted and dismissed the army. Now, if there were any doubt in the case, he (Mr. Hume) put it to the House, whether it were not a fit subject for inquiry? and whether the conduct of individuals on the spot, and under particular circumstances, ought not to be looked into? He thought the Committee would bring out the facts of the case, and would prove, as he considered, that Colonel Bradley was an ill-used man. It was not the only instance in which the gentlemen at the Horse-Guards had maintained what they considered the discipline of the army at the expense of humanity and justice. The hardship inflicted on an individual before the House was, he thought, good ground for granting an inquiry.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

opposed the Motion, and said, that a decision in support of Major Arthur had been repeatedly-made by different parties. The sentence of the Court-martial had been confirmed by the Commander-in-Chief, by his Majesty, and by the House of Commons, on the several occasions, amounting to eight or ten, when a motion similar to this was brought forward and rejected. He did not think that Colonel Bradley had made out to the House a sufficient case to justify them in inquiring into it, and to review and reverse the decision that had been already come to with regard to the conduct of that officer. The Motion interfered with the prerogative of the Crown. He was, therefore, surprised that the hon. Member for Finsbury, who admitted that he did not approve of Colonel Bradley's conduct, should have brought the case forward. If the Motion were agreed to, there would be an end of the discipline of the army and the authority of the Crown. The right hon. Gentleman concluded by expressing a hope, that the House would not consent to send the matter before a Committee of Inquiry.

Sir Charles Dalbiac

considered, that it would be an act attendant with extreme danger and injustice if the House sanctioned the precedent the hon. Member for Finsbury wished to establish.

Sir Robert Peel

said, that he should vote against the Motion of the hon. Member for Finsbury on three grounds:— First, on the ground (and that embraced, perhaps, all the merits of the case) that the conduct of Colonel Bradley was subversive of all military discipline. Secondly, on the ground that the case had been already decided by the competent authorities, against whom no suspicion could be raised, and who came to an unanimous decision on the subject. And, thirdly, on the ground that that House had already decided the case, according to the testimony of an hon. Member opposite, twelve times. There never would be an end to cases of this sort, if repeated decisions come to by that House were not finally agreed to. Every applicant would be encouraged to make the same repeated appeals, and the time of the House would be fruitlessly taken up. He begged to assure the hon. Member for Finsbury, that those were the grounds on which he opposed the Motion, and that his opposition was not influenced by any desire to screen the conduct of the Horse-Guards in this matter.

Mr. Pryme

was in favour of the Motion for two reasons:—First, Major Arthur ought to have shown to Colonel Bradley the Commission which authorised him to take the chief command; and, secondly, because the decision against Colonel Bradley was a private one of the Commander-in-Chief, which it was competent in the House to reverse. Persons should not be dismissed the army without a full, complete, and public inquiry, and it was lot subversive of military discipline, if the House took upon itself to inquire into the private decision of the Commander-in-Chief.

Viscount Howick

begged to observe, that the hon. Member was not correct as to one point. Major Arthur offered to show the Commission by virtue of which he took upon himself the chief command, to Colonel Bradley if the latter would wait upon him at the Government House.

Mr. Thomas Duncombe

in reply, said, that the Commission made use of by Major Arthur was considered to be a forgery; but, even if it had been real, that it could not have entitled Major Arthur to take the command.

The House divided on the Motion: Ayes 36; Noes 104—Majority 68.

List of the AYES.
Aglionby, H. A. O'Connell, J.
Barnard, E. G. O'Connell, M. J.
Barry, G. S. Palmer, General
Bish, T. Pelham, Cresset
Blake, J. M. Potter, R.
Bridgman, H. Roebuck, J. A.
Brotherton, J. Sheil, R. L.
Butler, Colonel Sullivan, R.
Crawford, S. Tancred, H. W.
Ewart, W. Thompson, Colonel
Fancourt, Major Townely, M. G.
Fielden, John Wakley, T.
Finn, W. F. Walker, C. A.
Grote, G. Wallace, R.
Hawkins, J. H. Williams, W.
Nagle, Sir R.
O'Connor, Don Duncombe, T.
O'ConnelL, D. Pryme, G.