HC Deb 07 August 1835 vol 30 cc139-44
Mr. Thomas Attwood

presented a petition from Lieutenant Parrott, of the royal navy, complaining of great cruelly and oppression practised towards him by the Board of Admiralty. He had taken pains for the last two years to make himself fully acquainted with the case of the petitioner, and the more he had inquired into it the more he felt convinced of the hardship and injustice with which this offence had been treated. When this case was brought before the House in the last Session of Parliament, the right hon. Baronet (Sir James Graham), who was then at the head of the Admiralty, offered to give Lieutenant Parrott 700l., the arrears of pension due to him to the year 1825, provided he would relinquish all claim to be restored to his rank in the navy; but this brave man, who had served in twenty three naval engagements, who lost an arm in the service of his country, and who has at this moment two bullets lodged in his body, indignantly refused any compromise that would stigmatise him as a dishonoured man, and, although he was in a state of the deepest distress at the time, declined accepting of a sum that under his circumstances must have been to him a fortune, because the offer was attended with a demand to relinquish his claim to rank as a British Officer. A gallant Admiral (Admiral Adam) had on a former occasion, when the case of this Officer was before the House, called it a trumpery case. [Admiral Adam never used the word "trumpery" on that occasion.] He was bound to admit the denial of the gallant Admiral, and that his own memory must have failed him. But at all events the gallant Admiral had said, that it was not a case worthy of attention. Now, if the case of an honourable man, an Officer of the navy, against whom no guilt had been proved, and who had been deprived of his rank and pay for no crime, was not worthy of attention, he did not know what case was. The fact was, that Lieutenant Parrott felt that he was the victim of a prejudice entertained against him by certain persons at the Admiralty; but he was of opinion that the Admiralty had enough of odium to sustain without the additional burthen of doing an injustice to a gallant and meritorious-Officer. All that he now asked on the part of Lieutenant Parrott was, that the 700l. arrears of pension, which the late First Lord of the Admiralty offered, should be given to this Officer without the accompanying condition that he should relinquish all claim to be reinstated in his rank in the navy. He hoped the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, whom he saw in his place, would accede to this proposal; but if he should not be disposed to do so, he (Mr. Thomas Attwood) would consider what further step he should take—to move for a Committee, or by some other mode to procure redress for an injured man. It had been said, that Lieutenant Parrott was removed from the service for some crime of which he had been convicted; but the falsehood of the charge was afterwards made manifest, and the Judges quashed the conviction, and was it not, therefore, cruel to punish a man for a crime of which, properly speaking, he had been acquitted? The hon. Member brought up the petition, and moved that it be printed.

Mr. Labouchere

said, that the hon. Member had not, in the statement he had made to the House, added one single new fact to those which he had stated when he brought the same case before the House in the last Session, or anything that could shake in the slightest degree what was said on that occasion by the right hon. Baronet who was then at the head of the Admiralty. He was not disposed to go into all the particulars of the case, as he did not think that the presentation of a petition was the most fitting occasion to discuss such a subject. He would, however, say that there was not the least ground for the charge of prejudice which the petitioner had made against certain Gentlemen, by name connected with the Admiralty, or of his case having at all suffered through their means, and it was perfectly unwarrantable to make such an assertion. With respect to the offer which the hon. Member represented to have been made by the late First Lord of the Admiralty, of 700l. to the petitioner, he (Mr. Labouchere) knew nothing whatever of it; but this he knew, that the hon. and learned Member for the Tower Hamlets (Dr. Lushington), who took an interest at that time in the case, said afterwards, that from the statement made by the First Lord of the Admiralty, he was convinced that Mr. Parrott was an unworthy and undeserving person. He should like, therefore, very much to hear from that hon. and learned Gentleman what he knew of this offer of 700l. The facts of this case must surely be now perfectly understood after the many discussions it had undergone. This individual had been tried by Court-martial, and dismissed the service for disgraceful conduct, but he was afterwards restored as an act of favour by the Board of Admiralty, but when he was again guilty of the scandalous conduct of extorting money from poor seamen, under the pretence that he could give them a protection against impressment, the Admiralty justly considered him as no longer worthy to belong to the navy. He had also obtained his pension originally under false pretences, and if dealt with as he deserved, he would have it taken from him, but there was a reluctance to deprive him of it, as he was in great distress. He obtained the pension by a representation that he had lost his arm in the King's service while practising with one of the great guns on board his ship at Portsmouth harbour, when the fact was, that he lost it by the bursting of a fowling-piece while he was amusing himself by firing at sea gulls. Even this falsehood would have been enough to warrant his dismissal, if there had been nothing else.

Admiral Adam

said, that what he had stated on the former discussion of this case in the last Session was, that he hoped the Admiralty would not disgrace itself by entertaining a case like this, and he hoped so still. The Board of Admiralty had the right to strike out of the list of the navy any Officer who disgraced himself, which he considered the petitioner had done.

Sir Edward Codrington

protested against the power of the Board of Admiralty to scratch any man's name out of the Navy List without some inquiry, by Court-martial or otherwise, into his conduct. No other class of his Majesty's subjects were liable to such arbitrary treatment. He knew nothing of the present case, but he knew several cases of great hardship, and had a number of petitions to present on the subject from suffering individuals, which he should bring forward when he moved for the papers of which he had given notice. In one instance a man had been dismissed the service for an offence alleged to be committed by him eleven years before, without the slightest investigation, and he had been that very day told of an old officer, seventy years of age, now on his death-bed, and in a state of starvation, who declared that to this hour he did not know what he was dismissed for.

Sir George Clerk

said, that it was many years ago since he first became acquainted with the case of Lieutenant Parrott. He had been convicted of extorting 10l. from a seaman, under the pretence of giving him a protection against impressment, and although the conviction was afterwards set aside, there was not the slightest moral doubt of his guilt. The gallant Admiral who spoke last was mistaken in supposing that any officer was dismissed without inquiry. He could assure the gallant Admiral that the most strict investigation took place into every case, and every opportunity was given to the accused party to explain or justify his conduct, and it was not until he had been clearly proved to have acted disgracefully as an Officer and man of honour that he was dismissed. The power of dismissal by the Board of Admiralty was absolutely necessary for the good of the service, but, at the same time, if any improper dismissals took place, he should not be opposed to an inquiry into such cases. No case, however, had undergone more frequent and full investigation than that of Lieutenant Parrott, and none had ever been more impartially considered; and he had, therefore, hoped that it never would have been heard of more. In fact he had been treated with great lenity. The pension which he held originally was given to him by Greenwich Hospital while a midshipman, but on his promotion to the rank of Lieutenant, he of course, according to rule, lost the pension. When he was struck off the list of Lieutenants for extortion, he had no pension; but in the year 1825, as an act of indulgence, the Admiralty applied to the King in Council to continue, the pension, which he had since enjoyed. He (Sir George Clerk) could not, therefore, possibly see what arrears could be due to the petitioner.

Mr. Hume

said, that he it was who brought forward the case of the petitioner in 1825, and he was free to admit that Lieutenant Parrott had been removed from the service in consequence of the verdict had against him at Maidstone, on a charge of extortion. But soon after the conviction one of the prosecuting parties died, and the other admitted that the charge had been fabricated, and, upon this, the Judges quashed the whole proceedings. After this, he contended that Lieutenant Parrott ought to have been restored to his rank in the service. It was on that occasion that the Government offered him the pension he now enjoys of 2s. 6d. a-day; and he (Mr. Hume) advised him to accept it as an instalment of his claims. He was disposed, therefore, to support any course of inquiry that would lead to justice in this case.

Sir Thomas Troubridge

said, he did not think it possible that any man would have had the hardihood to bring this case forward again, after the facts that had been proved against the petitioner, by the documents brought forward by the late First Lord of the Admiralty. He considered the conduct of the petitioner to have been as bad as any that had ever come under the consideration of the House; and perhaps in the end, the friends of Mr. Parrott might do him more injury than service by bringing his case forward; for he now only held his pension as a matter of the most lenient indulgence.

Petition to lie on the Table.

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