HC Deb 30 July 1835 vol 29 cc1254-75
Mr. Maurice O'Connell

said, that it was with great unwillingness that he troubled the House at this late period of the Session, but he begged to say, that it was not his fault if the subject was not brought forward at an earlier period. He would state the facts of the case as they were related to him, and he would state them in the briefest way possible. At the outset he would state the nature of his motion. It was for a "Select Committee to inquire into the conduct of General Darling while Governor of New South Wales, particularly with reference to the grants of the Crown lands made by him, his treatment of the public press, the case of Captain Robison and the New South Wales Veteran Companies, and the alleged instances of cruelty towards the two soldiers Sudds and Thompson, and other persons, and to report thereon to the House." In the first place it would be found that the grants of the Crown lands made by the various Governors of New South Wales were made on a smaller scale and with less partiality than those made by GeneralDar-ling. That General had made double the quantity of grants of Crown lands that any former Governor had made. That Governor who preceded him, granted, in twelve years, 400,000 acres of those lands. General Darling, in the same space of time, gave away upwards of a million of acres of the Crown lands. Besides this he had to charge General Darling with great partiality in the manner he disposed of those lands. To a brother-in-law, who was in the full receipt of an income of 600l. a-year, he made a free grant of 10,000 acres of land, though there was an order from the Government at home that no grant should exceed 9,600 acres. To the Colonial Secretary he made a grant of 1,280 acres in the first instance, and to a cousin of his General Darling gave no less than 2,568 acres. It would be found on inspecting the documents that the aforesaid Colonial Secretary received in all upwards of 10,000 acres of the Crown lands. Captain Robison was refused a grant of land, on the plea that he was in the receipt of full pay in his Majesty's service, whilst the two other persons received grants of land though they were also on full pay. He thought that he had established sufficient grounds for the appointment of a Committee to inquire into the partiality with which those grants were made. A stronger case remained behind. Close to Sidney, about two miles to the southward lay a tract of land to the extent of 180 acres, which was particularly rich and fertile. It was Crown land, and Government at one time intended to erect upon it a lunatic asylum. However, General Darling had authority to divide it among eight or nine officers, to all of whom except one he gave about nine or ten acres each. To one person, however, a Mr. M'Kay, he gave fifty-four acres, and those acres were the very best of the lot. Several years ago each acre was valued at fifty pounds, and lately a very large sum (upwards of 500l.), was refused for one acre. He thought something ought to be done to prevent Governors wasting the public property in this way. In 1828 a person of the name of Onslow arrived in New South Wales. At first he was not known to any one in the Colony. He soon, however, became acquainted with M'Kay, and through him was intro- duced to the Governor. Onslow held an office of 500l. a-year under the East-India Company, besides another in the Colony, and on marrying a daughter of M'Kay he received a grant of land in one of the very best situations, together with other assistance. In 1828 a large number of convicts were landed, and they were distributed with partiality. To the Lieutenant-Governor were given twenty-four. The hon. and learned Member next alluded to the case of a person named Hall, who was stated to have been formerly a hot-headed and rather violent person, but who was now under General Bourke a very quiet citizen. It appeared that Hall, in a newspaper, said that the Archdeacon of Sidney was not a man of peace. This was considered a libel, and he was tried before a military tribunal. Hall wished to have the case deferred, in order to have Captain Green, a liberal and humane man, upon the Jury; but three successive times when it came to be Captain Green's turn to be on the Jury that Officer was sent to perform other duties. Hall, finding it impossible to have Captain Green on the Jury went to trial, and was convicted—the sentence being a certain imprisonment, and a certain fine. Some of the Officers sat twenty, sixteen, seventeen, eighteen, and fifteen days and they were all paid by the Governor at the rate of 15s. a day. Hall commented on this in another paper, and the result was a new trial for libel. No less than six ex officio informations were issued against him—his recognizances were estreated—and he was condemned to three years' imprisonment and a fine of 1,000l. He suffered sixteen months' imprisonment, and was let out on bail only in consequence of the general pardon granted by his Majesty to such offenders. Hall then proceeded legally against the Governor and other persons, and in every instance recovered damages and costs, which were paid by the Governor out of the Colonial funds. He would now come to the case of Captain Robison, who had been a number of years in his Majesty's service, and who had received his first education at the Military College of Great Marlow. He entered the service in 1805 and commanded for six or seven years a cavalry regiment in India. On his return to this country he was appointed to the command of a veteran company and proceeded to New South Wales. On arriving in the colony he was appointed to the Bathurst district, the most important district in the Colony. Captain Robison soon perceived several abuses, particularly in the way convicts were disposed of by the Lieutenant-Governor, Stewart, and represented the matter to the Governor. A copy of the representations he made to the Governor he sent home. He, however, received no answer, and instead of the charge being inquired into, he was recalled to head quarters; and as, according to the rules of the colony, he could not be superseded, the district which he commanded was done away with, solely for the purpose of depriving him of the command. Upon tins he asked leave to return home, and was not only promised leave, but was also promised the charge of troops and a free passage; yet in the very next Government order he found that he was commanded to proceed to Norfolk Island, the penal settlement, although that order was afterwards superseded, on account of his being a married man. He was then sent to Newcastle, and while in that station, it was so contrived that he was unjustly deprived of the Government-house and allowances. The hon. Member then alluded to the charge which had been brought against Captain Robison, of feloniously breaking open the mail bags, and contended that there was nothing in Captain Robison's conduct in regard to that matter which deserved punishment. The next charge brought against Captain Robison was for reading a private letter from Captain Sturt, the Colonial Secretary, to Lieutenant Sweeney, without Lieutenant Sweeney's leave. Upon this charge Captain Robison was tried by Court-martial, and dismissed the service, although it was proved, upon the evidence of Lieutenant Sweeney himself, that he had given permission to Captain Robison to read the letter. The Court-martial acted in a most singular manner; it rejected Mr. Sweeney's evidence in justification of Captain Robison—namely, that liberty had been given him to read the letter by Lieutenant Sweeney, but the Court listened to all the evidence implicating in any degree the conduct of Robison. He did not mean to impugn the character of the officers who sat on this Court-martial, but he could not help feeling some surprise at their conduct, which probably arose from want of experience in matters of the kind. It should also not escape recollection that the Judge-Advocate who presided at the trial was a man of but little experience. From the period of Captain Robison's return to this country, he had pertinaciously endeavoured to obtain inquiry into his conduct, with a view of getting redress. He (Mr. O'Connell) had seen a good deal of that officer lately, and he had never remarked anything in his conduct which was not characteristic of a gentleman, and at the same time he manifested a fixed determination not to relax in his endeavours to obtain justice. Captain Robison had written a pamphlet respecting the conduct of General Darling in the colony, and had brought a number of charges against him for acts done by him in the performance of his official duties. In consequence of this General Darling had instituted proceedings against him for a libel, and from the course pursued, Captain Robison was prevented from proving any of the charges he had made. The result was, that he had been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, and had now been some months in prison. The next thing he came to was the conduct of General Darling in the cases of Alexander Edwards and Dennis Mac Hugh. Edwards had been an attorney at the Cape, and had been transported to New South Wales in consequence of a libel he had written on Lord Charles Somerset. He had been allowed to reside at Bathurst, without direct control being exercised over him, but in consequence of removing for a short period to some distance, he was seized and brought back to Bathurst. He was then sentenced to seven years' transportation to Norfolk Island, on a charge of having attempted to escape from the colony before the termination of his sentence. The next case was that of one of the persons who had been transported from Ireland in consequence of some political offence—he believed under the Insurrection Act, for being out after dark. He had a ticket of leave in the colony, and was married to a woman in good circumstances, to whom he had been assigned as a servant. On one occasion he went to the Bank to get some notes exchanged which belonged to his wife. On his presenting them, the clerk asked him how long he had had them? and he replied, six months. He was asked whether he would swear to this? He consented to do so, and the oath was administered. It appeared, however, that the notes had only been issued about five months. He was prosecuted for perjury, and was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. He applied to the Judges, and was taken before them under a writ of habeas corpus; the case was argued before them, and the sentence was declared to be illegal; but, notwithstanding this, he was sent to a penal settlement, on the plea that the Governor could revoke a letter of leave, or withdraw an assigned servant. The wife of this man had then demanded the notes or the money, but it was refused, and she had never been able to obtain it. The next case he would advert to was that of Sudds and Thomson, two soldiers of the 57th regiment. It appeared that the former did not bear a very high character in the regiment, but this was not the case with the latter. The regiment was about to proceed from New South Wales to India, and these men being unwilling to go, determined to commit some offence, which would lead to their detention in the colony. They went into a linendraper's shop in Sidney, and openly committed some act of larceny. They were tried by a Court-martial and sentenced to seven years' transportation. The Governor, by the authority vested in him, reversed the sentence, and commuted it to working on the road in irons for four years. They were clothed in a military dress, and had irons rivetted on them. These irons were of such construction that they inflicted the most cruel torture on these men. Indeed such was the sufferings of these men, that Sudds died in the course of a few days. A post mortem examination took place, and the surgeons declared that they could not account for his death otherwise than from the treatment he had experienced. An inquiry had taken place into the circumstances of the case before the Legislative Council of the Colony, but the Governor presided on the occasion, and directed the inquiry. He need hardly say, that such an investigation was anything but satisfactory. After this the Governor ordered Thomson to be released from his irons. He contended that the trial itself was illegal, as well as the commutation of the sentence. The Colonial Office had declared that the latter was so. He thought that there would be no difficulty in showing that the death of Sudds was occasioned by the treatment he had experienced, Mr. M'Intire, the surgeon, said, Unit the death of the man had been caused by putting him into irons too small for him, and by the harsh conduct pursued towards him. The irons were in all respects too small, and the collar which was placed round his neck was so tight that he could hardly breathe. A spike, six inches long, projected in front and behind the collar, and there were also bars of iron on the breast and back of the men. A person who had seen Sudds in his irons said that nothing could be inserted between the collar and neck. This man never held up his head afterwards, nor was he able to take anything; but died in a miserable condition. It had been asserted that he was in irons only for a short time; but Mr. M'Intire said that he was kept in them twenty-eight hours. The irons that Thomson wore were lighter than those placed on Sudds. When they were taken from the former, they were exhibited as those worn by the latter. The weight of the irons Thomson wore was thirty-five pounds; but the others were considerably heavier. Sudds died five days after the infliction of this punishment, and the surgeons gave it as their decided opinion that his death had resulted from being placed in these irons. Was not this a case which called for inquiry? It had been brought before the House in 1830, and some of the papers then moved for were granted; but circumstances had since taken place, and new facts, which were not previously before the House, had been adduced. This he thought was a sufficient reason to justify the House in granting an inquiry before a Committee. It was stated that there were no precedents, but he would refer to the case of Governor Wall, who had been capitally punished for having illegally tried some soldiers before a Court-martial, and for having inflicted extremely cruel punishment en them. He contended that the two men he had alluded to had been illegally tried and convicted; that the commutation of their sentence was illegal, and that one of them had died in consequence of the infliction of this illegal punishment. If these men had been made to work in the irons commonly put on persons sentenced to labour on the roads, Sudds would probably be alive at the present time. He might be told that it was too late to call for inquiry, but he contended that it was not too late to do justice. He thought that he had shown sufficient ground to justify inquiry into the whole question, and especially as to whether or not Captain Robison had been properly tried and convicted. He concluded with moving, "That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of General Darling, while Governor of New South Wales, particularly with reference to the grants of Crown lands made by him; his treatment of the public press: the case of Captain Robison and the New South Wales veteran companies; and the alleged instances of cruelty towards the soldiers, Sudds and Thomson, and other persons, and to report thereon to the House."

Sir George Grey

said, that it was with great pain that he felt called upon to say anything respecting two officers, who had both served their country well. They had to decide between two officers, one of whom was now in prison, and against the other charges of the most serious nature had been brought, and the most opprobrious epithets had been applied to him. It was not necessary for him to go into many of these charges or accusations, it would be sufficient for him to confine himself to some of the chief points of the case. The main question they had to decide was, whether this was a fit case for the House to take up, and refer to a Committee up stairs for the purpose of investigation. Did it appear that inquiry would lead to any useful practical result? He thought that that had not been shown. It was proposed also that it should extend over the whole period of time that General Darling was Governor of the Colony. The first charge was relative to the grants of land that had been made during his administration of the affairs of the Colony. Now, what was the object and use of inquiry into this part of the case, even if the facts which had been stated were admitted? It was undoubtedly true that most improvident grants of land had been made, but this was rather the fault of the old system than of any individual, and such steps had been taken as would prevent the recurrence of any such grants. It had been admitted that the regulations which had been sanctioned by the Colonial Office in 1831, as to grants of land in New South Wales, had been found sufficient to put a stop to this ground of complaint. What more then could a Committee do on this point after inquiry, than to express their satisfaction at the result, and to state that the object they had in view had been anticipated, and future improvidence in the grant of lands prevented. With regard to General Darling, and in justice to that Gentleman, he was bound to observe, that the large grant of land made to his brother-in-law had been made by his predecessor in the governorship of the Colony. With regard to the refusal of the grant of land to Captain Robison, he would only state that General Darling was not responsible for it, for, according to the regulation long in force in the Colony, no officer on full pay could have a grant of land made to him. However much he (Sir G. Grey) might regret the apparent hardships this officer was subsequently exposed to, he felt bound to say that General Darling could not have complied with the request. It had also been stated that Captain Robison had been refused the grant of land which was always given when a person married the daughter of a settler in the Colony. There certainly was much difference between this case and the former, but still the regulations of the service might have been an impediment. If, however, on inquiry, it should appear that no satisfactory reason could be assigned for what had taken place, he would take care that Captain Robison should receive the grant of land usually given under the circumstances of the case, notwithstanding what had taken place subsequent to the former refusal. If injustice had been done in this case, nothing which had since transpired should prevent reparation being made. With respect to the charge of libel being tried before a military tribunal, he had only to state, that at the time there was no other tribunal before which the trial could take place. Civil tribunals now existed, and charges of the nature he had alluded to were tried before a jury of twelve persons, as in this country, instead of before a military tribunal. The Libel Law was not passed at the period alluded to. He was anxious to bury everything connected with this subject in oblivion, for he feared that the recital of it would risk the renewal of excitement in the colony. He was satisfied that inquiry before a Committee, on this point, would not lead to any satisfactory result; and the less so as there appeared something like the manifestation of a vindictive feeling in some of the charges preferred against General Darling. He was satisfied, that the House would not take up the subject with the view of supporting the cause of either General Darling or Captain Robison, but would adopt such a course as seemed most likely to promote the general interests of the colonists and the rights of the subject. He was sure, therefore, that the House would agree with him, that inquiry into the libel case could not be pursued with advantage. With respect to the next charge, all that he could say was, that the Governor of this penal colony had ever possessed the right of removing any assigned servants who were convicts from the persons with whom they had been placed. If objection were made to the principle, the subject was rather a matter of inquiry before the Committee on Secondary Punishments, than before that now moved for. As to the case of Captain Robison, he must observe that this was a military case, on which he was not a competent person to decide, but no doubt his right hon. Friend, the Judge-Advocate, would give his opinion on the subject. The charge against Captain Robison was a military charge, and was tried before a military tribunal, composed, as he sincerely believed, of men of integrity, anxious to perform their duty faithfully. With respect to the case of Thomson and Sudds, General Darling had nothing to do with the passing of the sentence; therefore, whether it was legal or illegal did not affect him; his only interference was after the sentence was passed, and then he commuted it, the power of commutation resting with him. If the sentence were illegal, an application to a court of law would have set it aside. It was the desire of General Darling to put a stop to certain abominable practices that had crept into the army, and in determining upon the commutation of the sentence General Darling kept that object in view. Whether the sentence was illegal in the first instance, or whether the punishment under the commutation was improper in the second instance, it did not appear from the evidence, which he had read with great care, that any improper motive could fairly be imputed to General Darling. Everybody who knew him—and he was known to many hon. Gentlemen in that House—must bear testimony to his being a man of high integrity. As to the chains that were put upon the man, and the substitution of a heavier for a lighter set, it did not appear that the charges which had been made were borne out by the evidence. He must confess he did not think that the use of the iron collar was a punishment that ought to have been resorted to, except in a case of extreme necessity; but General Darling believed that a case of extreme necessity had arisen. It was also the foundation of a part of the charge, that one of the parties suffered much in his health in consequence of the severity of the punishment he underwent; but there was no tittle of evidence to show that General Darling was acquainted with that fact. Under all the circumstances, he was prepared to contend, that every paper in the case having been laid upon the Table of the House, and hon. Members having had the opportunity of acquainting themselves fully with the facts, the appointment of a Committee offered no particular advantage. It was, by giving publicity to the acts of public officers, that such persons were best made to feel the full weight of the responsibility which devolved upon them: and that publicity having been in this case obtained, he did not see that the appointment of a Committee would afford any additional security for the due observance in future of the public interests. Allusions had been made to the trial instituted by General Darling in the King's Bench; General Darling, himself, regretted the form of proceeding which was adopted on that occasion. The course then taken was advised by others. But it was fair to say, that an inquiry into the merits was not altogether shut out from that trial. Affidavits were put in on both sides, and the Judge, in summing up, said, looking at all that had been proved, there was no reason to impute improper motives to General Darling; at the same time, he admitted, that a different mode of proceeding would have been more satisfactory. In conclusion, the hon. Baronet called the attention of the House to the address which was presented to General Darling on his leaving the colony; that address described him as having laboured during his Administration for the benefit of the colonists, and was signed by a numerous body of official and professional individuals—merchants and residents— who inasmuch as they lived on the spot, must be supposed to have had the best opportunity of forming a fair estimate of their Governor's public character.

Mr. Hume

said, that this subject had been before Parliament for the last nine years; but, if late Governments had acted on such opinions as those which had been expressed this evening by the hon. Baronet, it would have been disposed of long ago. Unfortunately, however, it had been the policy of late Governments to defend all abuses, and to sanction a system of oppression which had the very worst effect on our colonial Governments. Captain Robison was only one of twenty or thirty who had appeared at the Bar of the House as complainants against the conduct of General Darling. Some of these individuals were now dead, and others had returned to the colony, bad as their situation there might be, despairing of being able ever to obtain justice here. Last year, when the case was brought forward, the question was put, would the House institute an inquiry, with a view to come to a judgment in a matter which was about to undergo investigation before a legal tribunal? It was said, let them only wait, and upon the trial of the cause there would, of course, come out all the evidence. He felt the full force of this objection, and acquiesced in it. Surely from this the natural inference was, that General Darling would bring his action against Captain Robison in such a form as would allow him the opportunity of proving the truth of his charges, and the notice of proceedings which was first given was to that purport; but the course was subsequently altered, and instead of bringing an action to recover damages for defamation, he filed an ex officio information, by which the Court was shut out from receiving every proof that might have been offered of the truth of the charges. Did that look like meeting the case fairly? With regard to the address to which the hon. Baronet alluded, he had expected that document to be used, and was prepared with an answer to it. The same address was produced in this House three years ago, in the course of a debate which then took place on the subject of General Darling's conduct. Shortly afterwards he sent a copy of the address to the colony, and in due course received a reply. The question was asked, Did the learned puisne Judge sign the address? And the answer was, No. Did Major Mitchell, a private friend of General Darling, sign the address? No. Did the Colonel of the 57th regiment, who had retired from the army, sign it? No. Did any of the independent members of the Bar? No. Indeed it was signed by only two legal functionaries, by the Attorney-General and the Commissioner of the Court of Requests. Out of twenty-five solicitors, only one could be prevailed upon to sign it. Of the clergymen, seventeen in number, but four had affixed their names. Of the magistrates, 127 in number, only nine not connected with the Government had signed; the remaining fourteen all held offices at the will of the Governor. In the Surveyor-General's department, out of twenty-six only one had signed, and all were requested to do so; in short, out of the whole body of persons constituting the Colonial Government, only thirty signatures were obtained. Out of the merchants, who might be estimated at 1,000, only 100 had signed. Lastly, out of the free population, amounting to 21,000 souls, only 111 signatures were obtained, notwithstanding that every possible influence had been exerted to induce people to subscribe their names. Such was the true character of the address which had been produced. He was further informed that it was got up at a private meeting, the previous addresses to Governors on their quitting the colony having been agreed to at public meetings, and then signed. No piece of plate had been voted to him as to former Governors; no request had been made to him to allow his portrait to be taken, as had been made to former Governors. In short, his departure was hailed with rejoicing—in the evening of the day on which he quitted there was a general illumination. Captain Robison was at this moment a prisoner for publishing a pamphlet in answer to a libel written by General Darling himself. On the 12th of July, 1831, he presented a petition to the House, complaining of General Darling's conduct, and then made such observations as the facts justified. General Darling and his brother thereupon published a pamphlet on the colony, abusing him, and representing his statements as false. A copy was sent to him, and he forwarded it to the colony, saying that he would take no further notice of it than to move in that House for documents which would show that every statement he made was accurate. The pamphlet was circulated privately, but the one he sent to the colony was noticed in The Sidney Monitor, and in short taken completely to pieces, every paragraph of it being examined, and their misstatements exposed. Captain Robison applied to him to know whether he would publish what appeared on the subject in The Sidney Monitor: his answer was, that he would not. In reply to another application made to him by Captain Robison, he said he should not object to Captain Robison undertaking the publication, provided he did so on his own responsibility. That publication was the libel for which Captain Robison was now in prison. Would it be said that a trial in which the truth of the charges brought were not allowed to be proved was satisfactory to the character of a public officer? It appeared that fourteen convictions were obtained in three years by General Darling against the newspapers of the colony, the party having been tried by a Court-martial, the officers of which were appointed by the Governor. The party was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, and to be fined 2,000l. It appeared that he subsequently brought his actions in a Civil Court for the illegal prosecutions, and obtained damages in every one case. The Judges of that Court declared that the conduct of General Darling had been oppressive and illegal. He trusted it would not be said that this was a case which was not worth notice. It had been said that vindictive feelings had been entertained towards General Darling. Might nothing be said of the vindictive proceeding of General Darling towards Captain Robison? The result of the trial upon the action brought by him against that individual, and the Judge's charge on that occasion, sufficiently proved that General Darling had unjustifiably injured the character of Captain Robison. Justice required that there should be a full inquiry into all the circumstances of the case, in order that truth might be elicited, and some redress afforded for the wrongs which had been inflicted upon many individuals.

Mr. Cutlar Fergusson

would confine his observations to the point of Captain Robison having been found guilty of opening a letter marked "private and confidential," and mentioning its contents to General Darling, after having pledged his honour to Lieutenant Sweeney, to whom it had been addressed, not to divulge them. That point had been brought fully under the notice of his right hon. Predecessor, who had since left this country; by him the most diligent and careful consideration had been given to it, and the result had been a conclusion that the finding of the Court-martial was just. He was quite sure that nothing could have induced a man of so mild and forbearing a character as was his right hon. Friend, to do an act of injustice to Captain Robison or any other man; and had he, after a full consideration of the minutes of the Court-martial— every word of which he had stated himself to have read—been led to the conviction that their finding was not strictly correct, he would unquestionably have thought it his duty to declare that Captain Robison had not had justice done to him. The subject had been also under his own consideration; and after giving to it most complete attention, the conclusion to which he felt bound to come was, that Captain Robison had not suffered any injustice in reference to it, and that the Court-martial having before them the evidence which they possessed, and viewing it as they did, were justified in the finding to which they came. Before the House could pass so grave a censure upon that tribunal as to refer it to a Committee to inquire, whether their finding was just or not, they ought to be satisfied not only that the judgment of the individuals composing it was wrong, but also that they had been actuated by corrupt motives in coming to it. It had been said, indeed, that General Darling had packed the Court. In that respect the greatest justice had been done towards Captain Robison; for the individuals selected to form it were men of the highest and most unimpeachable character. The judgment in question was that which had been come to on the eighth charge, or rather upon that portion of it which said that Captain Robison had been guilty of an act derogatory to the character of an officer and a gentleman, in possessing himself of a private letter, addressed by Captain Sturt to Lieutenant Sweeney, containing the subject matter of his accusation against Captain Robison, and informing the Lieutenant-General (Governor Darling) of Captain Sturt's having so written privately, after having pledged his honour to Lieutenant Sweeney that he would not divulge the same. The charge having been found true, there was no discretion in the hands of the Court-martial as to awarding the sentence of dismissal. He did not mean to justify the letter itself, which had been written by Captain Sturt; on the contrary, he thought it a most imprudent and indiscreet letter; but it ought not to be concluded that the object of it was to suborn Lieutenant Sweeney as a witness to the accusations against Captain Robison, still less that General Darling was privy to its contents. In fact, it was distinctly sworn in the affidavit of Captain Sturt, that the Governor was in no wise aware of it. It should be recollected, however, that there were other grave charges against Captain Robison, which might justify the sentence of the Court. The propriety of the sentence removing Captain Robison from the army might be justified, on the ground of his having opened and read a secret and confidential letter to a brother officer (Lieutenant Sweeney), and communicated its contents. The judgment of the Court of King's Bench, before which Captain Robison had been brought by General Darling, fully confirmed the finding of the Court-martial. Mr. Justice Littledale said, it was the opinion of the Court, that no person of correct feelings could do otherwise than condemn Captain Robison's conduct with regard to the secret and confidential letter. Would the House, then, he asked, send this case to be tried over again by a Committee of that House? Captain Robison, he must observe, had had opportunities afforded to him by his hon. Friend the former Judge Advocate General, such as had never before been accorded to any individual similarly circumstanced. He had been allowed to inspect the proceedings of the Court-martial from day to day in the office of his hon. Friend.

Mr. Richards

supported the Motion. He believed Captain Robison was a most ill-used man. He had been persecuted by General Darling in a most shameful manner, and that House was bound to inquire into the conduct of that General. Captain Robison had usefully and honourably served his country for five-and-twenty years. That House possessed a power which they might properly exercise in this case, of reversing the finding of a Court-martial. The only point the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Fergusson) could make against Captain Robison was, that he had read a confidential letter written to a friend, with the permission of that friend. Now really it was absurd to say, that a man ought to be tried by a Court-martial for such an offence. Nothing was more common than for officers living in a state of social intimacy, to read each other's letters; and a man who viewed such a practice as a grave offence, was not fit for the business of the world, but should be sent to live in some El-Dorado grove. The conduct of Governors in distant colonies ought to be closely watched by that House.

Lord Dudley Stuart

said, the Motion involved the honour and fortune of one distinguished Officer, and the honour, and probably the happiness of another. He knew nothing of either party, and therefore his opinions were unbiassed by partiality, prejudgment, or friendship. He should give his hearty support to the Motion; and he believed that those who opposed inquiry were not the true friends of General Darling. Avoiding inquiry was a presumption of anything but innocence. He believed, on the best evidence which had been adduced as yet, that Captain Robison was an injured man; how far that belief might be changed if inquiry were instituted it was not for him to say. He should support it for the sole purpose of eliciting truth and doing justice. The charges against General Darling were two-fold:—first, on account of the Court-martial which tried Captain Robison; and, second, on account of the illegal punishment of two soldiers, one of whom died. The complaints against the Court-martial were three in number — 1st. Against its constitution. 2nd. Against the course of proceeding relative to the evidence adopted by it. 3rd. Against its sentence. The Court was, no doubt perfectly legal, as though there were actually nine Officers present five were sufficient by the Mutiny-laws. But then the general number was thirteen; and where there was no want of Officers to make up that number, any lesser one was rather against than for it. It was said that it was a packed Court. He did not mean for a moment to impugn the high honour of the Officers who composed it, but still he could not help thinking that human nature was liable to receive unfavourable impressions in a moment of excitement or under other circumstances, as well as it was liable to err in all cases. But there were still greater objections to the Court than either of these, and one of them which he should particularly adduce was that part of the evidence which related to the letter alleged to have been opened by Captain Robison. Captain Sturt, General Darling's private Secretary, swore on his oath that he believed Cap- tain Robison incapable of opening a letter; and yet the Court rejected this testimony, as well as the denial on oath of the facts put in by Captain Robison, in favour of a letter written by the same Captain Sturt, in which the charge against Captain Robison was repeated. There was another charge against the evidence. Captain Sturt, it was alleged, was allowed to see his testimony after it had been taken down, for the purpose of correcting it, which, if true, would be a departure from all justice, and would vitiate the whole proceedings in any Court of law or equity. He saw no way in which his right hon. Friend could satisfy the House that these allegations were unfounded, except by producing a copy of the minutes of the Court-martial. There was another charge also, that General Darling had tampered with one of the witnesses, and which was very faintly attempted to be rebutted on the trial, by the testimony of a third party. Surely a case like that required investigation. The second branch of the charge against General Darling, that of the death of the soldier Sudds during his illegal punishment, came next. It was a strong case, and one deserving the fullest consideration. The soldiers Sudds and Thomson were, according to a printed statement of General Darling, convicted of felony, and the utmost of his offence in this respect was changing their punishment; extenuating he termed it, but he should feel disposed to call it a great aggravation. The printed statement said that irons of the weight of a musket were put on the soldiers; but that Sudds was unwell, and consequently could receive no inconvenience from them as he was unwell, and therefore quiescent. As if a sick man should be ironed—as if a man in a state of avowed illness, when perhaps even his clothes were an intolerable burthen to him, should be ironed! But what right had General Darling to change the mode of punishment prescribed by the law? He (Lord D. Stuart) much questioned whether the survivor Thomson could not have his action of damages for false imprisonment against him, and recover too; backed, as his application for justice would be, by the letter of the Secretary for the Colonies to the Governor, General Darling, declaring his conduct in regard to these men illegal, and pointing out the discharge of Thomson as the only remedy left for the evil. Besides, there was another strong objection to the proceedings, equally in a military and in a humane point of view. The punishment was inflicted without a surgeon's advice and without a surgeon's presence. He was surprised to hear his hon. Friend pour out on Captain Robison the vial of his wrath, when the only fault of that unfortunate Gentleman was lifting up his head against tyranny. General Darling might call him a troublesome fellow; but every opponent of tyranny was a trouble to a tyrant. Hampden was, no doubt a troublesome fellow in his day. The prosecution of General Darling was in pursuance of vengeance. It was said, that he repented the proceeding. If so he gave no sign of repentance; for Captain Robison still languished in prison. The noble Lord concluded by expressing his determination to support the Motion.

Mr. O'Connell

said, that as he was able to judge, not a shadow of charge was intended to be brought against the present excellent Governor of New South Wales. The hon. and gallant Member opposite had made a suggestion, but it was under the misconception that the present Motion accused Captain Robison as an individual, and that, if carried, it would immediately affect his interests and condition. It was no such thing, for the Motion related only to General Darling, and was merely for an inquiry to be instituted upon the conduct of that person. Let the House, however, bear in mind, that Captain Robison was now actually in gaol, suffering under a very severe construction of the very dubious law of libel, and let it also be recollected, that the very man who had contributed to put him in his present miserable condition had avoided—had shirked the witness-box on the trial of the indictment, and thus had evaded the cross-examination to which he would have been subjected on behalf of his victim. There were four distinct grounds of complaint, or rather charges against General Darling, into all of which it was competent and even incumbent on the House to institute an inquiry. The first related to the malversation of which the General was alleged to be guilty, in misusing his power of granting Government lands by partial allotments of those lands amongst his own connexions. The second related to his tyrannical prosecution of the press of Sydney, no less than fourteen or fifteen Government prosecutions being at one time pending against its conductors. The third and fourth charges related to the conduct of General Darling with respect to the Court-martial on Captain Robison. The Court-martial was ordered to try that person upon two grounds—first, for having broken open the mail; and, secondly, for having dishonourably read and used a confidential communication not sent to him. Now, with respect to the first charge, let it be recollected that Captain Robison had already been acquitted of any guilt in opening the mail-bag by the civil Magistrate of Sydney, who, moreover, declared the prosecution to be frivolous and vexatious. Yet, in despite and defiance of the civil authority, the Governor made this one of the charges before the Court-martial, and actually got Captain Robison condemned upon it. The second charge was supported by the evidence of Mr. Sweeney, and let him state what sort of evidence that was. Mr. Sweeney, in his viva voce evidence given upon oath, acquitted Captain Robison of the charge of having dishonourably used a private and confidential communication; but to counteract this, a letter of the same Mr. Sweeney was brought forward, and actually made the means not only of contradicting that person's evidence upon oath, but of illegally convicting Captain Robison. Now, with all respect for the learned Judge-Advocate, he totally dissented from his opinion on this matter, and would state his conviction that the sentence and finding of the Court-martial were illegal. And there was a feature in the case which Ought not to be over-looked, and which was to be found in the letter addressed by the Governor's Military Secretary to Mr. Sweeney relative to this case, wherein the witness is cautioned not to be guilty of any rashness, lest he himself be implicated. Now, what did the word rashness mean there? Was it not a direct tampering with this Mr. Sweeney, and could it be denied that this was done by a confidential servant of General Darling, the prosecutor, aye, and with his privity, too, as it subsequently appeared? Why, such an act deserved to be stamped with the opprobrium of felony, and as such ought it to be treated; yet it was upon such testimony as this Sweeney's that Captain Robison was first deprived of his rank and pay, and next cast into gaol, whilst his miserable family were destitute and starving. Another circumstance attending this letter was, that the man who was concerned in it denied its having been sent or received, in an affidavit before a police Magistrate; but he did not venture to do so when placed in the witness-box in the Court of King's Bench; nor had General Darling, upon oath, denied its having been written by the Secretary. In point of fact, he was instructed to put the point of Captain Robison's infamy or honour upon this single issue— namely, the fact that General Darling had not denied in his affidavit the circumstance that Mr. Sweeney had received this letter: and if this hideous, this unparalleled incident should be established, what could it be termed but tampering with a witness, and the principal witness too, in this case. Now, was that not enough to induce the House to grant the Committee demanded—aye, or even to warrant them in calling General Darling to the Bar of the House, in order to let the country see how the Colonies had been governed in past times, and how they might again be governed; but of that, thank God, there was no immediate prospect. The hon. and learned Member concluded, by emphatically declaring that there never was a case, since that of a too celebrated Governor, which more imperiously demanded inquiry than did this of General Darling's conduct.

Mr. Horace Twiss

said, that the present case between General Darling and Captain Robison called for no such proceeding as that which was demanded on the other side of the House. The only instances in which the House could ever with propriety interfere, were those wherein the Judges below had misconducted themselves; for if they were to grant Committees of inquiry upon all individual cases which, under the plea, as was the case in the present instance, of injustice, they would never have done. The charges against General Darling were comprised within narrow bounds. He was accused of having made grants of Government land to his own connexions. His conduct herein had been bounded and guided by the law, and certainly it was natural he should favour his own connexions. He was accused of having instituted prosecutions against the Press of Sydney, but did the House know, as he had the ample means of knowing, the turbulent and disorderly condition of the Sydney Press, more especially of one journal, called the Sydney Monitor, they would be aware, as he was, of the impossibility that the Government could be advantageously carried on, unless this libertinage of the Press was repressed and punished. The next charge was, the vindictive prosecution of Captain Robison, before the Court-martial; and herein he must not only vindicate General Darling-, but he must declare that the Court-martial had been impartially chosen, and had, moreover, impartially discharged their duty. Captain Robison was honourably acquitted on the charge of opening the mail bag, and it was only on the charge of communicating the contents of a private and confidential letter, which he had promised not to disclose, that he was found guilty. This it was quite clear placed him out of the pale of honour. The Court of King's Bench had decided the question, and exculpated General Darling. Now, what sort of person was Captain Robison? He was clearly a gentleman who, on all proceedings, viewed circumstances with a warm and irritable temper. He was sent to Norfolk Island, where another officer would have considered it an honour to be sent, and he deemed it a degradation. Necessity demanded that a man should be imprisoned and put in irons. The irons weighed 14lbs, and Captain Robison marks them 30 or 40lbs,, and persists in believing that they were 40lbs., He trebled all his grievances and more than trebled them. The court of King's Bench had decided the seventh time against him, and an eighth and now a ninth time the case was brought before Parliament. He contended that the decision of the court of King's Bench had completely exculpated General Darling, and that no person had ever been subjected to a more grievous persecution than that gentleman.

Mr. Maurice O'Connell

briefly replied, and the House divided—Ayes 55; Noes 47; Majority 8

List of the AYES.
Attwood, T. Cayley, E. S.
Bannerman, A. Chalmers, P.
Barnard, E. G. Crawford, N. S.
Bewes, T. Dunlop, J.
Blake, M. J. Elphinstone, H.
Bowring, Doctor Easton, Earl of
Brady, D. C. Ewart, W.
Bridgeman, H. Fergus, J.
Brotherton, J. Fielden, J.
Buckingham, J. S. Hector, C. J.
Bulwer, H. L. Jephson, C. D. O.
Macleod, R. Sheldon, E. R. C.
Marsland. H. Smith, B.
Musgrave, Sir R. Stuart, Lord D.
O'Brien, C. Strutt, E.
O'Connell, D. Thornely, T.
O'Connell, Morgan Trelawney, Sir W.
O'Connell M. J. Tulk, C. A.
O'Connell, J. Wakley, T.
Oswald, J. Wallace, R.
Palmer, General Walter, J.
Pease, J. Walker, C. A.
Pelham, Hon. C. A. Warburton, H.
Power, P. Wason, R.
Pryse, Pryse Williams, W.
Raphael, A. Wyse, T.
Richards, J. TELLERS.
Scholefield, J. Hume, J.
Sheil, R. L. O'Connell, Maurice.
List of the NOES.
Arbuthnot, Hon. H. Grimston Hon. E.
Barclay, C. Hardinge, Sir H.
Baines, J. Hawse, B.
Baring, F. T. Hobhouse, Sir J.
Blackburne, J. J. Hogg, J. W.
Bonham, F. R. Howard, P.
Buller, Sir J. Y. Inglis, Sir R.
Campbell, Sir J. Irton, S.
Cole, Hon. A. Lincoln, Earl of
Cole, Viscount. Lygon, Hon. Colonel
Compton, H. C. Nicholl, J.
Dalbiac, Sir C. Patten, J. W.
Darlington, Earl of Pringle, A.
Dundas, Hon. T. Rice, Rt. Hon. T. S.
Egerton, Sir P. Rolfe, Sir M. R.
Egerton, W. T. Scarlett, Hon. R. C.
Elley, Sir J. Shaw, Rt. Hon. F.
Fergusson, Rt. Hon. R. C. Stormont, Viscount
Forbes, W. Twiss, H.
Forster, C. Vere, Sir C.
Freshfield, J. Verney, Sir H.
Goulburne, Rt. Hn. H. Wilbraham, Hn. R.B.
Gordon, Hon. W. TELLERS.
Grey, Sir G. O'Ferrall, M.
Grimston, Viscount Stuart, R.