§ Sir William Molesworth
.—The object of the motion, of which I have given notice, is to call in question an appointment in the army. I do this, upon the principle that some officer of the Crown ought to be directly responsible to this House for the administration of the military department of the State. I contend that the Commons of England have a distinct right to demand an explanation with reference to any appointment in the army which may seem to them objectionable. That right is founded upon the same basis as all the other rights possessed by the Commons. It will be said that this is an attempt to interfere with the prerogative of the Monarch.— By no means.—I make use of a perfectly constitutional doctrine, when I affirm that the prerogative of the Monarch can never be injurious to his people; consequently, if I prove that the appointment is an improper one, I prove, by the very terms of the proposition, that the appointment in question could not result from the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, but must have resulted from the power of some one who ought to be made responsible for his conduct. But the people have to pay for these appointments; therefore, it is the duty of the representatives of the people not to pay for any appointment which is not a fitting one, and, if this be their duty, it is clear that they are bound to examine into the fitness of every appointment with reference to which there may be any reasonable grounds of suspicion. The Commons have the power of controlling all the departments of the State, and have exercised that power; over some departments that power is exercised more frequently,—over others less so. The mode in which that power is generally exercised is, first, by asking an official explanation with reference to an appointment; if that explanation be not satisfactory to the House, and the appointment be persevered in, the next step is to move some Resolution condemnatory of the appointment; if this be carried, and without effect, the next step is an address to the Crown to cancel the appointment, or to dismiss the person who made the appointment, or an impeachment of the person responsible for the appointment; if all this be vain, then the next step is to stop the Supplies; and if this be likewise ineffectual, the last and ultimate appeal is those who sent us here to be their faithful representatives.
534 Such is the constitutional chain by which the representatives of the people have asserted their right, and proved their power to control all the departments of the State. The first step, namely, that of demanding an official explanation, is generally sufficient; for then the arguments for and against the appointment are stated, and, from the tone of the House, it appears whether the appointment can be persevered in or must be cancelled. Thus, a few weeks ago, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, asked certain questions with reference to the appointment of magistrates;—the answer of the noble Lord who is responsible for those appointments was satisfactory to the majority of the House, and then the question dropped. Thus, last year, a noble Lord was appointed to an embassy to a northern court; that appointment was deemed an objectionable one by the noble Lord, the Member for Stroud, who put a question with regard to it. The subject was subsequently brought under the consideration of the House, by my hon. Friend the Member for Tipperary, who was seconded by the right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Kirkcudbright, and supported by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Nottingham. These right hon. Gentlemen very properly disregarded the assertions of the other party,—that they intended to interfere with the prerogative of the Crowe. They, by their acts, distinctly asserted the right of the Commons to control all departments of the State; they demanded an official explanation; the explanation of the right hon. Baronet opposite did not appear satisfactory; the appointment was given up,—in other words, it was cancelled, —and my right hon. Friend had the extreme satisfaction of vindicating the power of the Commons, in defiance of those who endeavoured to shield themselves from responsibility behind that which they were pleased incorrectly to term the prerogative of the Monarch. Indeed, when-ever we hear that term "prerogative" made use of within the walls of this House, we may feel convinced that some abuse is about to be defended—some attempt is about to be made to escape inquiry—to shrink from responsibility.
In times past, the prerogative of the Monarch was said to extend over every department of the State. Loud would have been the outcry and imminent the danger of being sent to the Tower, if any hon. 535 Member had then presumed to question the fitness of an ambassador, or the appointment of a magistrate. Those times are passed; and now the heads of each department in the State, except one, are responsible to the Commons, either by themselves or delegates, and may be called upon to answer for their conduct by any Member of this House. From this responsibility they never shrink. Thus, in matters concerning the Home Department, the noble Lord is responsible for each individual act. In matters concerning the Colonial Office, my hon. Friend, the Member for Devonport, is responsible in the name of Lord Glenelg, whose conduct he invariably explains in the most ample manner. In the navy, the First Lord of the Admiralty is a Member of the other House; but some of the junior Lords are in this House to answer for his conduct: similarly, in all other departments of the State, except one—in the army. I have shown that the Commons have the same right to demand an explanation with regard to the appointments in the army, as they have to demand an explanation with reference to the appointment of ambassadors, magistrates, &c.; consequently there ought to be some person connected with the Government in this House who should be held responsible for the administration of the army; but there is no one. I asked a question some time ago with reference to an appointment in the army, the propriety of which seemed to me questionable. I demanded an official answer. The Secretary-at-War told me that he was not responsible; the leader of the House of Commons informed us that the Ministers of the Crown were not responsible for the individual acts, but only responsible for the general conduct of the Commander-in-Chief. Now, I wish clearly to be understood not to impugn the general conduct of the Commander-in-Chief—not to call in question his general administration of the army, which administration, I believe, is satisfactory and deserving of high praise —but I demand an official explanation with reference to a particular act of the Commander-in-Chief, which act I intend to impugn. The right hon. and gallant Officer, the Member for Launceston, was the only person who seemed desirous to take the responsibility for this act of the Commander-in-Chief upon himself; but I hardly suppose his Majesty's Ministers would consent that he should be con- 536 sidered the official organ of the Commander-in-Chief in this House, how eminently so ever the right hon. and gallant Officer may be qualified for the task. Thus it appears there is no one within the walls of this House connected with his Majesty's Government who is directly responsible to the Commons for the administration of the army. This, Sir, is a great evil; for the only responsibility, in the first instance, is that of the Ministers of the Crown to this House, and that responsibility is founded upon the power which the House possesses of withholding its support to those Ministers; if, therefore, the head of one of the great departments of the State be not a Minister of the Crown, the control of the House over his conduct would be very slight; in other words, he would be irresponsible. But it is the acknowledged principle of the Constitution that every officer of the State, except the Monarch, is responsible. Because the Monarch is not responsible, every one of his acts must be performed with the concurrence of some person who is responsible. In the army this person is the Commander-in-Chief. This responsibility being admitted in principle, what is the provision made for enforcing it in practice? The old mode of enforcing responsibility was by punishments; but this mode has become obsolete and nugatory; moreover, by its very nature it is inapplicable, except in cases of definable crime. The days of impeachment are passed; moreover, it would be absurd to impeach the chief of a department for merely one objectionable appointment; and it would be equally useless to move an address to the Crown to remove the functionary. Thus it is evident, if these were the only means of enforcing responsibility, an immense number of objectionable acts would be performed; for it is the nature of all Ministers—the past, the present, and the future —to do objectionable acts, if they can do them with impunity. I affirm not this in reproach of any individual Administration, but I affirm it universally of all men vested with power, whatsoever their political sentiments may be; if they possess power and can abuse it with safety, they will abuse it; and the means by which they ought to be prevented from doing objectionable acts are—not to deprive them of power, but to make them truly responsible to those who alone have a permanent interest in good government—viz. to the people 537 through their representatives. I have shown that the old mode of enforcing responsibility by punishments is become obsolete: unless, therefore, its place had been supplied by a new mode of responsibility, there would be no responsibility at all, and the recognised first principle of this and every other representative government would remain a dead letter. This has been prevented by the growth of a less severe, but far more effectual, responsibility, which consists in the liability of being called to account by this House, with the consequent chance, not of punishment, but of losing office. Such, Sir, is the real responsibility of the Ministers of the Crown to the nation. It consists, in the first instance, in their being obliged to answer the questions of the representatives of the people—in their being compelled to give satisfactory explanations of their conduct. I call for the extension of this species of responsibility to the chief of the army. He is acknowledged to come as much as any Minister of the Crown within the constitutional principle of responsibility. He is, in consequence, liable along with them to the severe, but for that very reason, practically obsolete and ineffectual responsibility. He wears, like them, the badge of responsibility, but they have happily become liable to the reality of it; so ought he. How eminent, how illustrious, soever he may be—how irreproachable soever his general conduct may have been—(and none of these positions do I intend in any way to controvert)—nevertheless I contend that he ought not to escape from responsibility. For these reasons, I consider that one of his Majesty's Ministers ought to be at the head of the army—ought to be held responsible to this House for the administration of the army, and be present by himself or delegate in his place in the House of Commons, to answer to the questions and complaints of the representatives of the people, with reference to his conduct in the administration of military affairs. The consequence of there not being any one within the walls of this House, who is authorized to explain the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief is this, that I am most reluctantly obliged to bring a specific charge against him, and to call upon the House to appoint a Committee to inquire into his conduct.
In order to justify the House in acceding to this motion, I must state reasonable and apparent grounds of suspicion with refer- 538 ence to the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief. I charge the Commander-in-Chief with having made an improper appointment. My grounds for suspecting that appointment are founded upon the fact, that the officer appointed was censured in terms so strong, that if that censure be a just one, he is, in every way, unfit to command a regiment. On the other hand, if that censure be an improper one, it cannot fail to be highly injurious to the army to place in a station of important trust an officer against whom that censure stands recorded and uncancelled in the order-books of the army. I wish distinctly to be understood to pronounce no opinion whatsoever with regard to the justice or injustice of that censure,—not that I should (if I felt it necessary) in any way shrink from avowing my opinion; but, because this subject is beside the question, as I do not intend to impugn the past conduct of the officer in question, but the present conduct of the Commander-in-Chief, in assenting to this appointment after having promulgated the General Order which I will now read to the House. This General Order is dated February 1st, 1834, and contains the decision of a court-martial with reference to certain charges brought by Lord Brudenell against Captain Wathen. I will read the decision to the House:—The Court having taken into its serious consideration the evidence produced in support of the charges against the prisoner, Captain Augustus Wathen of the 15th, or King's Hussars, his defence, and the evidence he has adduced, is of opinion, that he is not guilty of any of the charges preferred against him. The Court, therefore, honourably acquits him of each and of all the charges.Bearing in mind the whole process and tendency of this trial, the Court cannot refrain from animadverting on the peculiar and extraordinary measures which have been resorted to by the prosecutor.Whatever may have been his motives for instituting charges of so serious a nature against Captain Wathen (and they cannot ascribe them solely to a wish to uphold the honour and interests of the army), his conduct has been reprehensible in advancing such various and weighty assertions to be submitted before a public tribunal, without some sure grounds of establishing the facts.It appears, in the recorded minutes of these proceedings, that a junior officer was listened to, and non-commissioned officers and soldiers examined, with a view of finding out from them how, in particular instances, the officers had executed their respective duties— a practice in every respect most dangerous to 539 the discipline and subordination of the corps, and highly detrimental to that harmony and good feeling which ought to exist between officers.Another practice has been introduced into the 15th Hussars, which calls imperatively for the notice and animadversion of the Court— the system of having the conversations of officers taken down in the orderly-room without their knowledge—a practice which cannot be considered otherwise than revolting to every proper and honourable feeling of a gentleman, and as being certain to create disunion, and to be most injurious to his Majesty's service.His Majesty has been pleased to approve and confirm the finding of the Court.Although it would appear upon an attentive perusal of the whole proceedings, that some part of the evidence might reasonably bear a construction less unfavourable to the prosecutor than that which the Court has thought it their duty to place upon them; yet, upon a full consideration of all the circumstances of the case, his Majesty has been pleased to order that Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Brudenell shall be removed from the command of the 15th Hussars.The General Commanding-in-Chief directs that the foregoing charges preferred against Captain Augustus Wathen, of the 15th or King's Hussars, together with the finding of the Court, and his Majesty's commands thereon, shall be entered in the general order-book and read at the head of every regiment in his Majesty's service.By command of the right hon. the General Commanding-in-Chief.JOHN MACDONALD, Adjutant-General.Either the decision of the Court-martial is correct, or it is incorrect. Either the order of the Horse-Guards, founded on that decision is proper or improper. I wish to argue this question in the manner which may be least painful to the feelings of individuals. I wish to call in question as little as possible the past conduct of the noble Lord. I am grieved that it is necessary for me even to allude to that conduct; for he, I think, has been most severely and most painfully punished, in the manner most agonizing to the feelings of an hon. Gentleman; nothing could justify the dragging of this question again before the public, except the circumstance of that noble Lord's being appointed to a situation of high trust. I do not seek to censure, again, that noble Lord; but I seek to censure him who has appointed the noble Lord. I ask, how the confidential adviser of his Majesty in military affairs has dared to make this appointment, after having sanctioned the General Order which I have read to the House, after having directed the General Order to be proclaimed at the head of 540 every regiment in his Majesty's service? Perhaps it may be said, that the Com-mander-in-Chief considers the decision of the Court-martial to be incorrect. If there be in this House any Member authorized to speak in that functionary's name, I call upon him hereafter, in reply to me, to answer that question distinctly in the affirmative or negative. Perhaps it may be said, the Commander-in-Chief means this appointment as a sort of underhand atonement to the noble Lord, as a species of underhand acknowledgment of the injustice with which he considers the noble Lord has been treated. If this be the case, then, Sir, I affirm the noble Lord is one of the most deeply-injured individuals—one of the most cruelly-treated persons in this country —deeply injured and cruelly-treated in not having been permitted to exculpate himself by means of a general Court-martial; for this appointment in no way or manner effaces the decision of the Court. The decision still remains, and can only be blotted out in the same manner as it was made known—namely, by a General Order to be issued from the Horse-Guards, to be read at the head of every regiment in his Majesty's service, proving that the decision in question is unjust, false, and calumnious. Will the Commander-in-Chief dare to take this step? But it may be contended, that the noble Lord is satisfied; this, unfortunately, is not the question. The question is, will the public be satisfied? Will the British army be satisfied? Will the officers of the gallant regiment which the noble Lord is appointed to command—will they be satisfied? No; they will not consider this appointment as tantamount to a proof that the decision of the Court-martial was incorrect; they will reason in the following manner; they will refer to the tribunal which passed this sentence; they will read over the list of gallant and honourable names—they will say, these men, on their oaths, came to this decision. They will then refer to the circumstances of the trial —they will find that the noble Lord brought charges against one of the officers of his regiment for conduct unbecoming the character of an officer and a gentleman—they will find that the Court-martial fully and honourably acquitted the prosecuted officer of each and all the charges brought against him. They will then find that the Court deemed the charges so weighty and so serious, and the evidence adduced in support of them so weak, so frivolous, and so unsatisfactory—they will find that the 541 Court thought that the measures adopted to obtain evidence were so improper and so reprehensible, and the defence so complete and so ample—that the Court were convinced that the noble Lord had been induced to bring these weighty charges by other motives than those solely of upholding the honour and interests of the army—they will find that, in consequence of all this, the Court felt it to be its duty (following thereby the daily example of the Judges on the Bench) to animadvert on the conduct of the prosecutor, and to reprimand the noble Lord in the harsh and reproachful terms which I have read to the House.
Though it may be asserted, that the Court went out of the line prescribed, to it in coming to this decision, that question is one of no import. The question which the British army will canvass is this:—Was the decision correct or incorrect? To this they will reply, by referring to the names of the officers of whom the Court-martial was composed, and then pronounce, unfortunately, in the affirmative. They will then consider the circumstances which followed this decision—they will find the noble Lord applying for a new trial—they will not, however, consider this fact as the slightest proof of the injustice of the decision; for they will observe that every person, how justly soever condemned, would wish, would call, for a new trial, as much might be gained—nothing could be lost— thereby. But, Sir, the refusal to grant a Court-martial will, to them, seem overwhelming proof that the Commander-in-chief could find nothing in the proceedings of that Court-martial which could justify a new trial, though he palliated the hardship of the decision by stating that some portions of the evidence might reasonably bear a construction less unfavourable to the noble Lord. Thus, Sir, the officers of the British army will, undoubtedly, consider that the decision of the Court-martial is a correct one, and will persevere in this belief till the contrary be proved. I again ask, what is the opinion of the Commander-in-Chief with reference to that decision? Why, if it was an incorrect one, was it not cancelled at the time, and a new trial granted? If the contrary be the case—if the Commander-in-Chief consider the decision to be a correct one, I ask, how he dares to make such an appointment?
An attempt has been made to throw a portion of the responsibility for this appointment upon my right hon. Friend, the Member for Coventry, because, in 1833, he 542 stated to the Commander-in-Chief that no officer ought to be put upon half-pay who was not entitled to be re-employed. This principle is, perhaps, a very correct one, but the question is not with reference to the principle, but whether the Commander-in-Chief ought, after the decision of the court-martial, to have put the noble Lord upon half-pay? For this act my right hon. Friend could not be responsible—for this act the Commander-in-Chief is responsible, and now the Commander-in-Chief is again responsible for appointing the officer in question as the fittest person to command a regiment-It may, perhaps, be contended that, though the decision of the court-martial is correct, yet the noble Lord has been sufficiently and severely punished; this I do not deny—. those strong and reproachful terms must have been almost maddening to a person of the noble Lord's honourable feelings. But he who discusses this question as one of punishment utterly misunderstands the whole subject. The question is not with reference to punishment, but with reference to the fitness of an individual for an important trust. Undoubtedly, it is a great hardship to an officer that he should never be re-employed. But that hardship is the result of his own alleged misconduct—that hardship is no concern of the public—the question for the public is, not whether sufficient pain has been inflicted upon the noble Lord—not whether sufficient pain has been inflicted, in order to deter the generality of persons from the commission of similar offences;— but the question is, whether it be proper to confide so important a trust as the command of a regiment to one whose conduct, in a similar command, was so solemnly decided to have been most reprehensible, most dangerous to the discipline of his corps, and most injurious to his Majesty's service. This is the view of the question which will be taken by the officers of the regiment which he is about to command. They will not unreasonably ask these questions—they will say, "is the harmony—is the good feeling, which has so long existed amongst us, of so little consequence in the eyes of the Commander-in-Chief, that he should appoint to command us, one who has been solemnly declared to have introduced into his previous regiment a practice 'highly detrimental to that harmony and good feeling which ought to exist between officers?'" They will again ask, "is the discipline and subordination of our regiment of so little consequence in the opinion of the head of the army, that he should send 543 amongst us a lieutenant-colonel whose conduct in his previous regiment is stated, by a court-martial, to have been "in every respect most dangerous to the discipline and to the subordination of his corps?" "Is," they will again ask, "our honour to be considered as nothing by the Commander-in--Chief, that he should place at our head a person whom he himself had only two years ago directed us to proclaim to our brother officers,—three times on parade to make known to our men,—as having introduced into his regiment 'a practice, which cannot be considered otherwise than revolting to every proper and honourable feeling of a gentleman?'" "Our commanding officer," they will say, "must not only be without fear, but without reproach; wipe out this reproach; prove, proclaim to the British army, that the decision of these gallant officers and honourable men is unjust, false, and calumnious;—then, and not till then, shall we receive the noble Lord with pleasure, shall we obey him with satisfaction." These, Sir, if I mistake me not much, will be the terms in which the officers of this gallant regiment will express themselves. A more gallant regiment does not exist in his Majesty's service, nor one that has better served its country—in Egypt, in the Peninsula, at Waterloo, with the army of occupation in France, thence,—seventeen years ago, removed to India, at Bhurtpore, and elsewhere, it has distinguished itself: some of its officers have been nearly as many years in the army as the noble Lord has lived years in this world. The two majors have served with this regiment since the years 1806 and 1811. With what feelings will they view the advancement over their heads of this young officer, who has never heard the sound of a musket, except in the mimic combats of a review, who entered the army in 1824, with unexampled rapidity obtained an unattached lieutenant-colonelcy in 1830—in 1832, the command of a regiment—in 1834, two years afterwards, was removed from that command for alleged misconduct—and now, in 1836, two years more, is deemed the fittest and most proper person to command their regiment? They will murmur, and most justly—loud will be their indignation; they will say, that which is said in every part of this town where this question is discussed—they will say, that courtly influence, courtly favour, and courtly intrigue, have biassed the otherwise sound judgment of the Commander-in-Chief, and compelled that distinguished and otherwise irreproachable officer, to make 544 this seemingly most reprehensible appointment—an appointment which cannot fail to produce the painful belief in the minds of all connected with the British army, that provided an officer possess wealth and influence, it matters not what his past conduct may have been—it matters not what the solemn decision of a court-martial may have been against him; neither that conduct nor that decision will be a bar to his future promotion, nor an impediment to his advancement, over the heads of veterans, to the command of those whose conduct has ever been irreproachable. This belief, if it were to become general, in my opinion, is one highly injurious to the honour, to the discipline, and to the subordination of the British army, and this fully justifies me in demanding from the House a Committee to inquire into the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving—That it be referred to a Committee to inquire into the conduct of the Commander of the Forces in appointing Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Brudenell to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 11th Light Dragoons.
§ Lord Brudenell
Sir, I must crave the indulgence of the House, for a short time, whilst I make a few observations with reference to the subject which has been brought under their notice—and in rising to justify my own character, I am aware that I have rather a delicate task to perform, on account of the very limited space which is left open to me; for, on the one hand I am bound carefully to abstain from impugning the decision of the court-martial, which was held for the trial of an officer of the 15th Hussars, whilst that regiment was under my command; and, on the other hand, to avoid saying anything which might appear disrespectful with reference to the exercise of the King's prerogative, which deprived me of the command of that regiment. For the House will readily believe, that if I bowed with submission to that decision— that if I suffered with patience and becoming deference to the King's authority, and the recommendation of the General Commanding-in-Chief, that severe infliction— that I should be little disposed now to deviate from that respectful course after having succeeded in being reinstated in my former position in the King's service.
With reference to the court-martial held in the 15th Hussars,—in consequence of the acquittal of the officer brought to 545 trial, I have been much blamed for having instituted those proceedings. Sir, I am quite willing to take my full share of whatever blame may be attached to that transaction; but I beg that it may be clearly understood, that, on that occasion, I acted under the guidance—more or less by the advice, and certainly with the full sanction —of the general officer commanding the district. I shall first show to the House that, upon any emergency of the sort, I was bound, by the orders of the army, to consult the General commanding the district. The reprimand which I am about to quote upon a field-officer, in temporary command of a dragoon regiment in this country, about four years since, will prove to this House, to what danger I should have exposed myself had I not followed that course:—REPORT OF A COURT OF INQUIRY.That—acted injudiciously in not suspending all proceedings against— in relation to the military offence wherewith he was charged, and laying before the General of the district a full statement of the case of℄and of the opinions so expressed by him, in order to obtain from the General commanding the district instructions applicable to the occasion.And this officer was in consequence reprimanded in a General Order issued from the Horse-Guards in 1832, for "a deficiency in care, discretion, and judgment."
With the recollection of this reprimand, passed upon another officer, I consulted the general officer commanding the district upon every point, and so entirely did he concur with me in opinion relative to the conduct of the officer in question, that he transmitted to the Commander-in-Chief a special report on the subject, in which, after stating that that officer had conducted himself so improperly in his presence, that it was unfit and inexpedient that he should remain any longer in the 15th Hussars, he concluded by recommending Lord Hill to remove him from the regiment.
This was the ground-work of the court-martial, and when I was afterwards ordered to prefer charges against the officer, I submitted them to the general officer of the district, who revised and approved of them.
Why do I mention these circumstances? In order to prove to the House that if the bringing those charges against the officer in question was the cause of my removal 546 from the command of that regiment, that surely I was treated with sufficient harshness and severity.
The officer was tried upon those charges. The general officer to whom I have already referred,—and who is still in command of the same district;—was the principal evidence upon the trial: the officer was honourably acquitted of all and every one of the charges, and upon that part of the subject, Sir, I shall not think it consistent with my duty to make any further observation. But if any hon. Member really thinks that I have not been treated with sufficient severity, I beg now to state to the House, that although there are numberless cases upon record of officers having been brought to trial and honourably acquitted, I am not aware that any commanding officer, after having acted as prosecutor, has ever been deprived of his command. I believe that there was no precedent for my removal.
The court-martial, after the acquittal of the officer brought to trial, proceeded to pass very strong animadversions upon myself as prosecutor; and I must now repeat what I have already stated in those official letters which have been printed, and laid before this House, that those animadversions were not borne out, or justified, by the evidence; neither were they afterwards sanctioned by the terms of the General Order which removed me from the command of the 15th Hussars.His Majesty has been pleased to approve and confirm the finding of the Court.Although it would appear, upon an attentive perusal of the whole of the proceedings, that some parts of the evidence might reasonably bear a construction less unfavourable to the prosecutor, than that which the Court have thought it their duty to place upon them; yet, upon a full consideration of all the circumstances of the case, his Majesty has been pleased to order that Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Brudenell shall be removed from the command of the 15th Hussars.And this view of the case was afterwards corroborated by a letter, dated Horse-Guards, 22nd of February, 1834:—The King is graciously pleased to signify his satisfaction at the temperate and judicious manner in which your Lordship has, in that memorial, entered into the explanations which appeared to you requisite in consequence of the animadversions made on your conduct by the general court-martial lately held at Cork. His Majesty is further pleased to observe, that those explanations have tended to confirm the opinion which his Majesty has already expressed through the medium of the 547 General Order of the 1st instant,—namely, that some parts of the evidence adduced before the court-martial in question might reasonably bear a construction less unfavourable to your Lordship than that which the Court have thought it their duty to place upon them. It was on this mitigated view of the case, that his Majesty acted when he directed the removal of your Lordship from the command of the 15th Hussars, without proceeding to any measure which could affect your Lordship's place and rank in his Majesty's service.This letter was written in answer to a memorial which I had submitted to his Majesty through the General commanding-in-chief, earnestly requesting that my conduct might be brought before a general court-martial, composed of officers competent to try an officer of the rank which I held in the army, or that my conduct might be investigated by a court of inquiry. I should have endeavoured to show, before either of these tribunals, that my conduct did not merit the strong animadversions passed upon it by a court-martial before which I was not upon my trial, and which was not competent to try me. I should have also shown, that the measure which was so severely animadverted upon by the Court, was not unprecedented in the service, although, perhaps, that would not be considered as any very strong justification of it.
Now, Sir, with regard to that measure, —I resorted to it only upon a few occasions during the time I commanded the regiment, under particular circumstances, and always on points of duty; neither did I desire that any secrecy should be observed, in proof of which I have to state, that I was the first to tell an officer, under my command, that I had adopted it.
But, Sir, I have been informed by the highest military authorities, that the measure which I resorted to was an objectionable one, and that the adoption of it was an error in judgment. Sir, I am bound to believe, and therefore to admit, that this was the case; and no officer could more deeply regret than myself, that in my zeal and anxiety to maintain the discipline and efficiency of that corps which I had the honour to command, I should have been guilty of an error in judgment,—but further than this I will admit nothing;—on the contrary,—I here firmly and confidently deny, before this House and before the public, that I ever committed any act during the time I have served in the 548 army, which can reflect the slightest degree of discredit upon my character.
The good feeling and good opinion of all ranks in the army, not excepting the great majority of the officers who served under me in the 15th Hussars, have been manifested towards me in a variety of ways, which I will not occupy the time of the House by endeavouring to describe to them, further than by presently reading a few letters which I have received from some of the most distinguished general officers in the army, expressing opinions favourable to my re-appointment; but I must first take the liberty to quote, as briefly as possible, the proceedings of two or three courts-martial, to prove to the House, that neither under the circumstances of an officer brought to trial being honourably acquitted, or, even with the addition of animadversions passed upon a commanding officer who had acted as prosecutor, has it been the usual custom of the service to deprive a commanding officer of the command of a regiment. The first case which I shall read to the House, is a court-martial which took place in the East Indies, and I here beg to state that I shall give neither the names of the officers, the regiments to which they belong, nor the quarters in which they were stationed,— and it is rather a curious fact, that this court-martial took place in the very same month, and the same year, in which the court-martial was held in Cork.EAST-INDIES.—It appears by the proceedings of a general court-martial, held at—in 1833, that Lieutenant—of the—regiment of Infantry, was tried on the following charges, namely—For conduct to the prejudice of good order and military discipline, and unbecoming, contemptuous, and insubordinate towards Lieutenant-Colonel—in the following instances, &c. &c.'The following is the sentence; namely,—The Court having found the prisoner, Lieutenant——,of his Majesty's— regiment, or — regiment of Infantry, 'not guilty' of any of the criminal acts set forth on the foregoing instances, do therefore acquit him of the charge.The Court, in closing their proceedings, feel themselves imperatively called upon to record, that the foregoing charge originally preferred, and subsequently persisted in, arose from private feelings, and had not for its object the well-being of the service.Which sentence was approved and confirmed as far as relates to the acquittal of 549 the Lieutenant, but the animadversion upon the commanding officer was disapproved of by the Lieutenant-General commanding the presidency.
This sentence was read at the head of every regiment in the service, and the commanding officer retained his command. And what afterwards happened to this Lieutenant-Colonel? He was in temporary command of the regiment; and upon the senior officer, Lieutenant-Colonel— returning from the command of a province, he was himself brought to trial, and the following are the charges:—Head Quarters,—East Indies,—1834.At a General Court-Martial, holden at —, in the — 1834, Lieutenant-Colonel —, of his Majesty's —regiment, was arraigned on the under-mentioned charge.For disobedience of orders, and highly insubordinate and general disrespectful conduct, unbecoming the character of an officer, and a gentleman towards me when in command of the—provinces, in the following instances, &c. &c.Signed by the senior Lieutenant-Colonel.The Court finds the prisoner guilty of 'disobedience of orders,' and of disrespectful conduct,' but acquits him of all other charges.The following is the sentence:—The Court having found him, Lieutenant-Colonel ——, guilty to the extent above stated, doth sentence him to be reprimanded in such a manner as the officer to whom these proceedings are to be submitted may see fit, and further specially to be admonished, to be more circumspect in future in his conduct towards his superior officers.The Court then proceeded to animadvert upon the conduct of the prosecutor in strong terms, and the proceedings are approved by the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in the East Indies.
Therefore this Lieutenant-Colonel stood, after the first general court-martial, in a similar situation to the one in which I was placed after the court-martial, held in Cork; he is afterwards himself brought to trial, found guilty of some of the charges, sentenced to be reprimanded in a General Order, which is read at the head of every regiment in the service, and I need scarcely add, that he still retains his command.
The next case I have to adduce is a court-martial held also in the East Indies. 550At a general court-martial holden at ——, on—1832,&c, Major—, of his Majesty's—or— regiment of foot, was arraigned upon the following charges, namely.1st. For highly unofficerlike and disrespectful conduct, in having suspended, and thus rendered ineffectual, a standing order of the regiment.2nd. For conduct highly unbecoming the character of an officer, in having wilfully and knowingly made a false report, &c.3rd. For conduct subversive of good order and military discipline, in having on or about the — last, ordered the officer of the main-guard to leave his guard, &c.The Court acquitted the officer brought to trial of all these charges, and animadverted upon the conduct of the commanding-officer in the following terms:—The Court cannot conclude their proceedings without expressing their regret, that the prosecutor did not adopt the means which he had at his command to ascertain how far the charges now investigated were susceptible of proof, before he resorted to the extreme measure of bringing an officer of Major —'s standing and high character before a court-martial.The above proceedings were confirmed, but disapproved of by the Lieutenant-General commanding the presidency.
The Major brought to trial was an officer of twenty-four years' standing in the service, and he and the same Lieutenant-Colonel are still doing duty together in the regiment.
The only other case which I shall ad-duce; is one to show, that commanding officers are sometimes severely reprimanded in General Orders, for errors in judgment, or negligence, without being removed from their commands. The following is a copy of a reprimand promulgated in a General Order, dated Horse Guards,—,1819, upon Lieutenant-Colonel—,commanding the—The Prince Regent considers such inattention and negligence in a commanding officer to be highly reprehensible and deserving of his marked disapprobation, which his Royal Highness has been accordingly pleased to command shall be communicated to Lieutenant Colonel—.The Commander-in-Chief directs that the foregoing charges preferred against Lieutenant Colonel—, of the—, together with the finding of the Court and the Prince Regent's pleasure thereon, shall be entered into the General Order Book, and read at the 551 head of every regiment in his Majesty's service.By command ofHis Royal Highness,the Commander-in-Chief,(signed) "HARRY CALVERT,Adjutant-General.These commanding officers were all left in command of their respective regiments: three out of four are still in command; the fourth was only removed in consequence of his regiment being disbanded.
I shall now proceed to read the letters which I have received from general officers relative to my re-appointment; but I must first, with the permission of the House, commence by reading a letter, which I received some time since from Major-General Sir Henry Bouverie, under whose orders I was stationed more than half the period during which I had the honour to command the 15th Hussars.Head Quarters, Northern District,Ledstone Hall, Pontefract,April 15, 1834.My Lord,—Your Lordship's letter of the 11th reached me here yesterday. I can have no hesitation in declaring that, with the exception of one occurrence, I had every reason to be satisfied with the conduct of the 15th Hussars, under your Lordship's command, during the period which they passed in this district, and that occurrence, which it is needless to say more about, was not, in my opinion, to be attributed in the slightest degree to your Lordship.With respect to the discipline of the regiment in quarters, and to its efficiency and appearance in the field, the riding and the precision and quiet with which the movements were executed when I reviewed the regiment, I cannot speak too highly; and if my testimony on these points, as well as to your zeal and unwearied attention to all parts of your duty as Commanding Officer, is acceptable to your Lordship, I beg that you will do me the favour to accept of it.—I have the honour to be, your Lordship's most obedient humble servant,H. BOUVERIE, Major-General.Lieut.-Colonel the Lord Brudenell, &c.The next which I have to read is one from the present Master-General of the Ordnance, Sir Hussey Vivian:—O. O., Nov. 4,1835.My dear Hardinge,—I know not how I can assist Lord Brudenell further than I have done, and that was by stating to Lord Melbourne that, as the circumstances that occasioned his removal from the 15th, took place whilst he was serving under my command, I was quite prepared to say, and would say, were I in the House of Commons, that I should be very glad to see him replaced in a 552 regiment of cavalry. I told Lord Melbourne, and I at the time reported to the Horse Guards, that I never saw a regiment in finer order than the 15th, or an officer more zealous in the discharge of his duty, than Lord Brudenell; that he had faults, no doubt; for these he has suffered very severely, and is still suffering, and it would give me great pleasure to assist in restoring him to the service; and seeing no reason whatever why he should not return to the service,—on the contrary,—being of opinion that his case was, upon the whole, a hard one, I can have no objection to this, my opinion, being made known; of all men, perhaps, I have the greatest right to give an opinion, from the circumstance, as I began by stating, of my having commanded in Ireland when the general court-martial took place.Ever very faithfully yours,H. VIVIAN.The next is an extract from a letter from Lieutenant-General Lord Strafford, lately a Member of this House, as Sir John Byng.London, November 8th, 1835.I cannot hesitate to commit to writing what I said to you, that if Lord Hill (who must be the most competent judge) should think fit to re-appoint you to a regiment, I should be ready to defend such re-appointment, either in Parliament or in private society.The next is from Major-General Sir Frederick Ponsonby.March 20, 1836.My dear Lord,—I have given every consideration in my power to your case, and I must say that, in my humble opinion, you have been treated with great severity; and if you are not permitted to effect the exchange into the 11th Dragoons, you will be treated with positive injustice.I gave you this opinion in December last, and I am strengthened in the belief, that it is correct, from having conversed with many officers of all classes in the army, and I have found scarcely any one who has differed in opinion with me.Believe me, very sincerely yours,F. PONSONBY, Major-General.And the last is from Major-General Sir Edward Blakeney, at present commanding the forces in Ireland, under whom I was for some time stationed, and who inspected the 15th Hussars under my command:—Dublin, April 28, 1836.My dear Lord,—I have had great pleasure in seeing that the General Commanding-in-Chief has recommended you to his Majesty for restoration to full pay, and your consequent appointment to a lieutenant-colonelcy in the 11th Light Dragoons.In field movements, and the ready appli- 553 cation of cavalry, I considered you one of the most intelligent officers that served under my orders; and I confidently anticipate, from your experience of the past, and the judicious application of your zeal for the service in future, you will prove to the army at large that you are deserving of the act of justice Lord Hill has performed, in recommending your restoration to full pay.With wishing you, my dear Lord, every success, believe me always very faithfully yours,EDWARD BLAKENEY.These are the general officers who are favourable to my re-appointment to active service; their high characters and distinguished services are well known to the public; and no person who has listened to their names can suppose that party-bias could have influenced their favourable opinions with regard to myself.
And, Sir, I may here state, that the opinions therein expressed, as far as they relate to the 15th Hussars whilst under my command, are only confirmatory of all the Reports which were addressed to the Commander-in-Chief by the different general officers who inspected the regiment previous to the court-martial in question.
And, perhaps, I may here add to the testimony of these general officers one other circumstance—that, immediately after the close of the proceedings of the court-martial at Cork, the general officer (Sir John Buchan) who had presided on that occasion, gratuitously made a request to inspect the service squadrons of the regiment under my command (for the regiment had been for some time under orders for Portugal), when, after a more than usually minute inspection, he expressed himself in the strongest terms of approbation. Undoubtedly, Sir, the great portion of that praise was addressed, as it was justly due, to the distinguished regiment under my command: but, perhaps, it was excusable in me, as the commanding officer, to take to myself some small portion of it; and it was under this impression that, when that general officer left the garrison of Cork, I felt confident that he entertained a very favourable opinion of me as a commanding officer.
Sir, there are many cases upon record, both in the navy and army, of officers who have been reinstated by the King's prerogative—some, after having been dismissed the service by sentence of courts-martial, others, after having had their 554 names erased from the Army List, by the prerogative of the King. I am well acquainted with some of the circumstances of these cases: but as the faults of those officers have been forgiven by their Sovereign, and probably forgotten by the public, I think it would be an invidious course for me to drag their names again before the public; and, therefore, I shall refrain from doing so, whatever advantage I might possibly thereby derive in point of argument.
The House heard, upon a former occasion, the candid and manly statements of the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Home Department, and the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War, relative to the understanding which was come to between the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary-at-War, at the time I was placed upon half-pay, with regard to my eligibility for future employment. Until then, I was not aware of that circumstance:—but I do not hesitate to say, that unless I had felt confident that after a certain period of time I should be restored to my former position in the service, I should have resigned my commission; for, Sir, it is not-to be supposed that unless I am fit to serve the King in the profession to which I belong, that I could derive any satisfaction from having my name left on the Army List, and continuing to draw half-pay from the public purse.
Sir, it is under these circumstances that the General Commanding-in-Chief has recommended his Majesty to appoint me to a second lieutenant-colonelcy in the 11th Light Dragoons, stationed in the East Indies.
Having made this statement to the House, in which it has been my most anxious desire to pay all due respect to the King's Prerogative, as well as to the noble Lord who holds the situation of Commander-in-Chief, and feeling that I have nothing more to add, I shall think it the more proper course for me to withdraw from the House during the further discussion upon a subject which is personal to myself; but, Sir, before I do so, I must return my thanks to the House, for the kindness and attention with which they have been pleased to listen to this my statement of details—details which I am aware must be very uninteresting to the great majority of the Members of this House, but which relate to a subject of the great- 555 est importance to myself, as being intimately connected with my honour and character, which are as dear to me as life itself. [The noble Lord left the House.]
§ Viscount Howick
I feel sure, Sir, from the tone this discussion has already taken, that the House entertains much the same opinion as I have myself adopted of the course pursued by the hon. Baronet, and that they think with me, that he has submitted the present motion rather with the view of placing a formal question before the House, on which to raise a debate, than with any serious intention of calling upon the House to accede to the terms of the proposition he has submitted. The hon. Baronet has moved for a Committee to inquire into the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief, who has appointed the noble Lord (Brudenell) to the lieutenant-colonelcy of the 11th Dragoons. I believe most Members of the House are aware that the motion which the hon. Baronet has now submitted to the House, is not the one of which he originally gave notice. Almost every gentleman, who hears me, is aware that, in the first instance, the hon. Baronet gave notice of a motion, not for a Committee to inquire into the proceedings of the Commander-in-Chief, with reference to this subject, but of a direct vote of censure upon that officer. The hon. Baronet has, however, departed from his original intention, and has substituted for the motion of which he at first gave notice, that which he has just now submitted to the House. The hon. Baronet has not stated to the House his reasons for this alteration; but I think, in the course of his speech, he afforded sufficient indication of what those reasons were, and if I do not greatly mistake their nature, he has acted quite rightly in withdrawing the motion he originally proposed.
I conceive, Sir, that the hon. Baronet was influenced by the consideration that a motion for a vote of censure upon Lord Hill, for appointing the noble Lord to this commission, could be considered in no other light than as a vote of this House, pronouncing that noble Lord unfit, for evermore, to serve his Majesty. The hon. Baronet felt that such a vote would necessarily bear this construction; and natural considerations of justice and equity at once made him sensible that the proceeding would be one of such monstrous and crying injustice, that he 556 could never, for one moment, call upon the House to accede to it. Because, Sir, what is the position in which the noble Lord stands? He was, it is true, openly censured by the court-martial, and it is equally true that, in pursuance of that censure, he was removed from the command of his regiment; but as I said on a former occasion, and as the papers before the House clearly bear me out in stating, it was, at the time of his removal, most distinctly understood that he was not to be considered as a person unfit ever again to serve his Majesty. The whole of the correspondence proves this fact in different ways. In the first place, the Commander-in-Chief and my right hon. Friend near me had, most properly, only a few months before, come to the distinct understanding, that no officer, who was considered unfit ever again to serve his Majesty, should be placed upon the half-pay list—that the half-pay list, to use the words of my right hon. Friend, should not be made the refuge of officers removed from the service on account of their misconduct. More than this, Sir, in the letter in which the King's pleasure respecting Lord Brudenell was formally communicated to the Secretary-at-War, it was distinctly stated, that his rank and place in the army were not affected by that proceeding. Under these circumstances, I apprehend, it is quite clear that the noble Lord was not considered, at that time, as removed from the army, and I am quite satisfied that the hon. Baronet felt, that—not having been visited with the punishment of removal—it would be the very height of injustice, if, without any opportunity of being heard in his own defence, the noble Lord were to be adjudged to suffer a punishment of such severity, not by the sentence of a court-martial, but by the vote of a popular assembly, in which subjects of this nature cannot possibly be discussed with that fairness and that temperance which are so essential to their impartial consideration. Well, but the hon. Baronet has asked, why Lord Brudenell was not, at the time, brought to a court-martial? I will fairly admit to the hon. Baronet, that I am not in the slightest degree acquainted with the reasons of his not having been brought to a court-martial. All I know is, that the noble Lord applied for a court-martial, and that the court-mar- 557 tial was refused; but that if it had been granted, and he had been brought to a general court-martial, the severest sentence that would have been passed upon him would have been, in all probability, the very one which he underwent. I ask the House,—the noble Lord having applied for court-martial, and that court-martial having been refused—I ask, whether it would have been just to him if he were afterwards told that he was condemned by a parenthesis in the finding of a court-martial,—a court-martial on another officer,— without the noble Lord's being called upon to offer any of those explanations of his conduct, of which, from what we have heard in the House to-night, there can be no doubt that it is to a greater or less extent susceptible? I do not say whether those explanations would be satisfactory or not; on the contrary, I, for one, have thought it my duty carefully to abstain from even reading the evidence on this subject. I have felt that I had no right to do so, or to form my opinion on such grounds, when the officer implicated had no opportunity of explaining himself, and was not called upon for his defence. I say it is impossible, on the finding of the court-martial, conveying the censure, which I admit it does, without having heard the noble Lord, to come to a resolution that would, in fact, subject him to the punishment to which he would have been justly subjected, had he, after a full, fair, and adequate opportunity of explanation, been found guilty of the misconduct imputed to him. The hon. Baronet then, feeling that for these reasons it would not be an act of justice to the noble Lord to come forward with so severe a Resolution as he at first contemplated, alters his motion; and what is it that he now proposes? A Committee of Inquiry. A Committee to inquire into what? Not, be it remembered, into the failure of the Commander-in-Chief to visit with due severity the offence of Lord Brudenell, supposing any to have been committed, but to inquire whether the Commander-in-Chief has or has not properly exercised his discretion in restoring the noble Lord to full pay. In what manner this inquiry is to be conducted, I own, I am altogether unable to understand. What facts are the Committee to elicit, of which we are not now possessed? Let me ask the hon. Baronet what he proposes that the Committee shall do? This House, indeed, can at 558 once censure the appointment; but if it shrink from performing this act itself, will it delegate to a Select Committee the odious act which it will not take upon itself? Does the hon. Baronet want a Committee to condemn the appointment?—[Sir William Molesworth: For the purpose of inquiry.]—For the purpose of inquiry! Yes! but with what view is it to inquire into the appointment? With a view to condemn it; or with a view to approve of it?—[Sir William Molesworth: Either the one or the other.]— The hon. Baronet says either the one or the other. He will not ask the House to appoint a Committee with a view to no condemnation, because it is evident and palpable to everybody, that this means nothing at all; on the other hand he will not appoint it with a view to censure, because that is only another way of committing injustice. If the hon. Baronet proposes a Committee of this kind, that Committee, if appointed, could only be considered as appointed to re-try the case—as a Committee appointed to do that which, if it ought to have been done at all, should have been done by a court-martial. Well, Sir, then the hon. Baronet says that a court-martial ought to have been appointed for the purpose. As I said before, I am not here to express any opinion upon that point, either for or against the propriety of such a step. Of course I was not in office at the time, and I am not aware what were the considerations on which the prayer of the noble Lord was rejected. But I say, the court-martial having been refused, this House having taken no proceeding to insist on that court-martial being summoned, and this House having been perfectly aware, all along, that the noble Lord was placed on the half-pay list, we have no right now to go back; to declare that a different course shall be pursued; and that the noble Lord shall be tried—not by a fit and proper tribunal, to take cognizance of military offences—but by a Select Committee of the House of Commons. I believe it is generally admitted—I have not heard it disputed by any one—that under the circumstances in which the noble Lord was placed on the half-pay list, he was not necessarily to be considered as a person incapable of all future employment in his Majesty's service. The moment this is admitted, the question simply becomes one as to the exercise of discretion by the Commander-in-Chief, in selecting this 559 particular officer for employment. Is there any ground whatever for imputing misconduct to him? If there be, then I admit a Committee of Inquiry would be the proper and legitimate resort; but if there be not, it certainly does appear to me that there are no Parliamentary grounds whatever for instituting the inquiry which the hon. Baronet proposes. Although the whole of the latter part of the hon. Baronet's speech was occupied with the individual case of Lord Brudenell, the earlier portion of it bore on a totally different subject. The hon. Baronet said, that there must be some responsibility for the manner in which all the functions of the Crown are exercised. No man can possibly dispute the soundness of that doctrine. It is a position in which I, for one, most cordially concur.
My noble Friend distinctly proved, on a former evening, that there is a person responsible for the exercise of all the functions of the Crown in this House. The Commander-in-Chief is the person who is responsible for individual acts connected with the management and control of the army. No acts connected with its regulation can take place but by his advice and his recommendation, and for his conduct in advising and recommending the Crown he is most distinctly responsible. Beyond this, as my noble Friend has justly observed, the Members of the Government in this House are distinctly responsible for continuing the Commander-in-Chief in his office. I admit to the hon. Baronet that there is a distinction between the responsibility of the administration for the time being for the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief, and the responsibility he bears for the acts of those officers who are more immediately connected with the Government. The hon. Baronet, in the opening of his speech, stated this point very fairly. He said that so long as the general conduct of the Commander-in-Chief,— (to which he himself admitted no objection could be made in the present instance, inasmuch as he conceded that he had no fault to find with it,)—that so long as the general conduct of the Commander-in-Chief was unimpeachable, so long the Government of the day were justified in maintaining him in his office. But, says the hon. Baronet:—This is not a sufficiently close and stringent responsibility—I want a different kind of responsibility—that kind which consists in an 560 officer being here, in this House, to answer any question and meet any objection that may be made to the exercise of any particular power of the Crown committed to the department over which he presides—I want somebody like the Secretary for the Colonial Office, or the Secretary for the Home Office, to answer for the acts of the Commander-in-Chief.Upon this question I can only say, that whenever the hon. Baronet chooses to bring it before the House, it will be perfectly open for its inquiry and consideration. If he be dissatisfied with the existing state of things in this respect, he may suggest a remedy, and bring it specifically under the consideration of the House; but I say that upon the present occasion I will not debate the question. I will not commit so great a cruelty and so great an injustice towards an individual, as to debate, under his name, a great general question. If the system be faulty, let the system be attacked, and let the system be changed; but do not let us try to wound the system through the side of an individual—do not let us, under another pretext, aim at an individual Member of this House, and an officer, who, I am sure, every Gentleman must feel, from what has passed in this House, has already suffered most severely. I say, do not let us punish him for the purpose of introducing such a change of system as we may, on general grounds of policy, hold to be expedient. That is an entirely separate and distinct question. It is one on which I think, in the present case, it would be an act of injustice towards the noble Lord whose name is involved, if I were in the slightest degree, one way or other, to pronounce an opinion. For these reasons it appears to me that the Committee which the hon. Baronet has asked for is one which cannot be granted. The only real, tangible, and useful object for which that Committee can be required, is the establishment of some general change of policy. If an inquiry of that description be required, it is not the motion the hon. Baronet has made; and I therefore call upon the House not to give their assent to a motion which cannot be considered otherwise than as a censure passed upon an individual who has not had a fair and legitimate opportunity of being heard in his own defence.
Lord George Lennox
Seeing so many hon. Members anxious to speak upon the present question, I shall detain the House only for a very few moments. The hon. 561 Baronet, the Member for Cornwall, has stated that the decision of the court-martial must be either correct or incorrect. Now, Sir, I boldly avow that, in my opinion, their decision was incorrect: but at the same time, I beg not to be misunderstood, and that I attribute no improper motive to any member of that court-martial, who, I have no doubt, were actuated by most honourable feelings, but I maintain that they have, by their decision, fallen into error. I find they state that "his (Lord Brudenell's) conduct has been reprehensible in advancing such various and weighty assertions to be submitted before a public tribunal without some sure grounds of establishing the fact." Now, Sir, what are the facts? There were six charges preferred against Captain Wathen. The three first were revised and approved of by Major-General Sir Thomas Arbuthnot. Nay, more than this; the three first charges were supported on oath by Major-General Sir Thomas Arbuthnot, and corroborated by the evidence of Colonel Turner and Captain Cochran, the Major-General's aide-de-camp. Now can it be said Lord Brudenell's conduct has been reprehensible in advancing such weighty assertions, and that he had not some sure grounds of establishing the facts, when the charges were not only supported by the evidence of the Major-General commanding the district, but brought forward by his order? The hon. Baronet has also stated that Lord Brudenell's promotion has been most rapid, and that he has obtained the command of his regiment after having been only six years in the service. I admit that Lord Brudenell has been most fortunate, and his promotion most rapid; but it must be remembered that he has obtained that promotion by purchase, and in his own regiment, and when he has been the senior officer for purchase; that he has never been jobbed from regiment to regiment to obtain promotion, or put over the heads of older officers, but has obtained it by being the senior for purchase in his own regiment. I shall only add, that, for my own part, after twenty-four years' service, I should be proud, indeed, to be able to produce such high testimonials as Lord Brudenell has this night produced, and which must be the more gratifying to that noble Lord, coming as they do from some of the most distinguished officers in our service.
§ Mr. Hume
was anxious to state to the House how much he differed from the noble Lord, and how completely the noble Lord had, in his opinion, established grounds in favour of the inquiry which he opposed. The noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War, was not the only hon. Member who had done this. The noble Lord who was the object, as some considered, but whom he did not consider the object of that motion, had made statements to the House which induced him to think that he had good reason to complain that he had been very ill-used, and that an inquiry was due, in justice, to him. The noble Lord who had spoken last, had brought forward a new point. He had told the House that the court-martial had acted improperly, and that persons who supported, on oath, the charges brought against an individual officer, had given a verdict in opposition to the evidence. The noble Lord in thus impugning the conduct of the most hon. tribunal that could be established for the trial of military, had, in his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, made out a case for inquiry. He would only add on this point, once for all, that in his opinion the noble Lord (Brudenell) had made out a case of great grievance. He was undoubtedly unfortunate in bringing forward charges which, in the opinion of the court-martial, were not substantiated; but he did think, from the noble Lord's own statement, that there were grounds of complaint against Lord Hill's exercise of discretion. He (Mr. Hume) had no hesitation in saying that, for himself, the complaint he made was principally against Lord Hill, for having, as Commander-in-chief, sanctioned the verdict of the court-martial, and proclaimed its sentence, in the terms they had heard that night, at the head of every regiment in the service, and now coming forward and re-appointing the noble Lord, without any explanation to satisfy the minds either of officers or men that that sentence was a harsh and unjust one on the noble Lord. He now wished to address himself to the observations of the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War, relative to the alteration in the motion of his hon. Friend. His hon. Friend had undoubtedly departed from his original intention—and why? Because, not having paid attention to the practice of the House in former instances, when it had exercised its undoubted right of instituting an inquiry into similar transactions, he found that he might have been 563 met with an objection on a point of etiquette and form had he adhered to his original motion, and moved for an inquiry, not only into the circumstances of the appointment, but of the disgrace of the noble Lord, by his removal from the command of the 15th Hussars. The course his hon. Friend had now taken, was warranted by what had taken place in 1788, on a charge brought in that House against the Admiralty for having passed over several officers in a promotion, which was discussed on three occasions. He would quote the opinion of two of the first men whom the House would be disposed to follow, as far as regarded the precedent. The case on which he rested the justification of the hon. Baronet was this:—A motion was brought forward by Mr. Bastard for a select committee to inquire into the conduct of the Admiralty, and the discussion was terminated by the rejection of the proposition, though certainly not by a very great majority. Both Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox condemned the conduct of the First Lord of the Admiralty. The motion which Mr. Bastard then brought forward was, "That it be referred to a committee to inquire into the conduct of the Admiralty in the late promotion of Admirals." On that occasion Mr. Pitt said, that "the present was the proper mode of proceeding, and that the House had a constitutional power of inquiring into the conduct of any department of Government, with a view either to censure or punishment, was unquestionable, and whenever a case was made out strong enough to warrant suspicion of abuse, that deserved either censure or punishment, he should ever hold that to be the indispensable duty of the House to proceed to inquire." Mr. Fox on that occasion said, that "the motion being a motion for a committee he should vote for it; because it was the constitutional province and the undoubted duty of that House to watch over the executive departments, and, where they had cause to suspect abuse, to institute an inquiry, with a view either to censure or to punishment." Taking the opinions of these two eminent statesmen for his guide, his hon. Friend, the member for Cornwall had an undoubted precedent on which to proceed on the present occasion. The House had now only to inquire whether it had. a case such as Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox both alleged to be sufficient to justify inquiry—namely, a case which warranted suspicion that the 564 conduct of the Commander-in-Chief had not been such as that House would be prepared to sanction. He asked the House to consider what effect the re-appointment of Lord Brudenell to the command of a regiment, after the sentence of a court-martial had led the Commander-in-Chief to remove him publicly from the command of another regiment, would have on the private soldiers of the British army. Hon. Members had defended flogging a few nights ago in that House, on the ground that it was necessary to maintain the discipline of the army. How could that discipline be maintained when the privates saw an officer re-appointed to a regiment, who had been removed from another regiment as unfitted to command it? Hon. Members might not like the contrast which he was going to draw between the mode pursued by the Commander-in-Chief to maintain discipline among the officers in the army, and the mode pursued to maintain it among the privates. He contended that Lord Hill as Commander-in-Chief had done great injury to the army by promoting an officer on whom a court-martial had infixed so severe a censure. He admitted that Lord Brudenell had not been permitted to defend himself before that court-martial. He admitted also that Lord Brudenell had shown a proper sense of what was due to his own character, by demanding that his conduct should be submitted to the consideration of another court-martial. When the noble Lord asked for that court-martial, he ought to have had it granted to him, and Lord Hill had, in his opinion, treated the noble Lord with great harshness in refusing it. He said that Lord Hill had refused to grant Lord Brudenell the court-martial for which he asked; for Lord Fitzroy Somerset, in reply to Lord Brudenell's letter, which he stated had been laid before the General commanding-in-chief, used these words; "There is nothing in what you have now brought under his Lordship's notice which would justify him in re-opening the question, or in recommending that the decision, which has been come to upon it should be reversed." What were they to conclude from such language, except that Lord Hill considered the conduct of Lord Brudenell to be such as the sentence of the court-martial had described it to be —that he was not inclined to reverse it, 565 and that he had therefore removed the noble Lord from the command of his regiment? He believed that it was a regulation well-known in the army, that an officer who was deemed unfit to perform the duties of his station in one regiment, was also deemed unfit to perform them in any other. If that were so, then he contended that Lord Hill's conduct in re-appointing Lord Brudenell to the command of a regiment, exhibited a want of that due attention which justice required to be paid to the officers of the army, and in the maintenance of discipline set a very bad example to the private soldiers. It would be impossible to maintain discipline among the private soldiers, if they allowed the General commanding-in-chief to declare in one day, in front of every regiment in the service, an officer guilty of unofficer like behaviour, and to re-appoint him on the next to a high command, without making any attempt to remove from his character the stigma which the previous declaration had cast upon it. He maintained, that under all the circumstances of the case, the House must come to this conclusion, that Lord Hill had not made this appointment upon principles of justice, but upon grounds of private favour and partiality. ["No, no"] Had Lord Brudenell been a poor unsupported subaltern, instead of being the son of a powerful nobleman, would Lord Hill have dealt so favourably with him as he recently had done? Lord Hill, he insisted, had either been guilty of injustice towards Lord Brudenell, in not granting him a court-martial, or, if he thought the sentence of the former court-martial could not be reversed, had been guilty of injustice to the service, in placing an incompetent and incapable officer at the head of a regiment. Lord Brudenell had read to the House several letters from officers of high military rank, declaring that they were dissatisfied with the sentence which the court-martial had given against him; but surely the House would not consider those letters, however respectable the authors of them might be, as equal in authority to the sentence which thirteen officers had given upon their oaths. In point of fact, those letters did not apply at all to the merits of the present case, and did not shake in the slightest degree the justice of the sentence. If Lord Brudenell had been harshly used, and he did not mean to say that his Lordship had not 566 been harshly used, who was it, he would ask, that had used him harshly? Who but the General commanding-in-chief? The noble Lord who filled the office of Secretary-at-War had taken great pride to himself, in the speech which he had delivered against the present motion, for not having read any part of the evidence produced upon the court-martial. To him it appeared that the noble Lord had taken pride to himself for a circumstance which he ought to have been most reluctant to acknowledge. Filling the situation which the noble Lord did, it was his duty to have made himself master of the whole of that evidence, and the House had a right to expect from him (Lord Howick) an expression of opinion upon it. The noble Lord ought to be responsible to the House for appointments like the present. We ought not to have a Commander-in-Chief whom nobody knows. It was with a view of ascertaining by whose authority Lord Brudenell had been re-appointed to the command of a regiment, and whether it was by the authority of the noble Lord, that the present motion had been brought forward. He now, therefore, came to the conclusion that the motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Cornwall, ought to be supported—1st, because it was conformable to precedent; 2nd, because there was no other tribunal competent to inquire into the merits of this appointment; 3rd, because Lord Brudenell asserted that he had been denied justice; and lastly, because Lord Hill had set a bad example to the army in placing at the head of a regiment, without any additional inquiry, an officer who had been declared, but two years ago, by a court-martial, whose sentence was read to every regiment in the service, incapable and unworthy of command. ["No, no."] If a committee were granted to him, he would undertake to prove before that committee other instances of gross partiality and oppression on the part of the Commander-in-Chief. Why did hon. Gentlemen opposite murmur when he said this? Because they were afraid, that if a committee were granted to him, he should prove all his allegations before it. He admitted, that in his private character no man stood higher in his estimation than Lord Hill; but in his official character, in his management of the patronage of the army, Lord Hill set a bad example both to officers and privates, by rewarding with one hand the 567 man whom he punished with the other. ["Oh, oh!"] Hon. Members might cry out "Oh, oh," as long as they pleased; but to all such cries he would persevere in answering "Yes, yes." Why did hon. Members opposite contend for the continuance of the use of the lash in the British army? Only because they said that it was necessary for discipline; therefore he contended that the same degree of discipline that was measured out to the high officers of the army should be carried downwards to the privates. The most ample grounds had been laid for inquiry, and he hoped that the House would do justice to its own character, and to all parties by granting it.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
I do not mean, Sir, but for a very few minutes to interfere with the natural impatience of the House to come to a division upon this subject; for there is no doubt that that impatience has been universally expressed, both before and after the hon. Member for Middlesex sat down. I do not mean to follow that hon. Member through his unconnected and somewhat contradictory speech. Indeed, it would be difficult to follow him in his praise of Lord Hill for his private merits, and through his dispraise of Lord Hill for his official demerits;—in his eulogies upon Lord Hill as an honest and independent man in private life, and in his accusations of that noble Lord as a Commander-in-Chief, influenced by his love of the nobility and by his oppression of the poor unsupported subaltern. All these topics of praise and dispraise, of eulogy and censure, have been so oddly dovetailed one into the other in the hon. Member's speech, that I fairly confess it is beyond my comprehension how these glaring contrarieties can be made to cohere at all together. It is no easy matter, then, to follow the hon. Member through the various topics of his incongruous speech, and, for my part, I. will save the time of the House by not attempting so unprofitable a task. Still there are some points in the observations of the hon. Member, to which I must be permitted briefly to advert. The hon. Member has taken pains to collect the different circumstances of the Admiralty case, in which those illustrious statesmen, Pitt and Fox, are stated to have concurred in the opinion, that the House had a right to inquire, when circumstances strongly warranted a suspicion, that the mode in 568 which the patronage of the different public Boards was managed, was by gross partiality and corruption. Now, I will briefly inform the House in what respect the case to which the hon. Member has referred differs from the case which is now before the House. The Admiralty case was a case of patronage—the present case is a case of discipline. It is not the province of this House to inquire into the discipline of the army. The Legislature passes the Mutiny Act, by which the King is empowered to make Articles of War for conducting the discipline of the army. The discipline of the army is vested in the King, and not in Committees of the House of Commons. If this House should be of opinion that the patronage of the army is disposed of corruptly by those in whose hands it is placed by the King, it would be a just and legitimate exercise of its powers, on a strong case of corruption being made out, to inquire into the manner in which that patronage is managed; but this case, being a case arising out of the sentence of a court-martial, is not one of patronage, but is a mere matter of discipline. What are the facts? A court-martial was held, an officer was accused, and was acquitted, and the conduct of the prosecutor was animadverted on severely in the finding of the Court. The Commander-in-Chief, it is said, assented to the animadversions made upon the conduct of the prosecutor at the time the sentence was confirmed, and, therefore, it is argued that he has acted inconsistently in now restoring the prosecutor to the full pay from which he was removed. On the contrary, I assert that the Commander-in-Chief never gave his unqualified assent to the animadversions of the court-martial on the prosecutor. He did, indeed, assent to the sentence of acquittal upon Captain Wathen, which was pronounced by thirteen officers of rank, acting under the solemn responsibility of an oath; but in the General Order, promulgating the sentence of the army, it is distinctly stated, that the evidence will bear a construction less unfavourable to Lord Brudenell, than that which the Court have put upon it. I will not impugn the justice of that sentence, for, as the noble Lord, the Secretary-at-War, has well observed, that is quite foreign to the question now before the House. I will give Captain Wathen the full benefit of his acquittal by that court- 569 martial. But when that court-martial, having fulfilled their duty, which was to to try Captain Wathen, and not Lord Brudenell, travelled out of its proper course to censure Lord Brudenell, who was not on his trial, and was never heard in defence, I trust that the House will not consider me as saying too much when I assert that, in that respect, they came to an erroneous decision. My opinion is decided on that point. I think that the animadversions made by that court-martial upon the motives and conduct of Lord Brudenell, were made on a mistaken view of Lord Brudenell's proceedings, and an exaggerated impression of the evidence. First, with regard to the motives of Lord Brudenell in instituting the charges against Captain Wathen,—they state that "they cannot ascribe them solely to a wish to uphold the honour and interests of the army." Now, I contend that there is not a tittle of evidence to support that allegation. It is an allegation made without evidence—it is a mere suspicion—it is an impression produced by the nature of the defence made by Captain Wathen—it is an impression not supported, but contradicted, by the evidence and all the undisputed facts of the case. In my opinion, the Court proceeded on suspicion and not on evidence, in attributing motives to Lord Brudenell on a point where his conduct in making the charges against Captain Wathen were actually approved and recommended by his superior officer, the Major-General of the district. Then they call that "a system" and "a practice" which, according to the evidence, was not done in more than a single instance. They complain that Lord Brudenell listened to a junior officer, and examined non-commissioned officers and soldiers, with a view of learning how the officers executed their duty; and this they stigmatize as a practice most dangerous to the discipline of the army. I am convinced that if Lord Brudenell had known that he was on his trial, and was to be censured for this single act, and had been openly and fairly examined by the Court upon that point, he could have satisfactorily explained to the members of the Court that what they, contrary to evidence, term his "practice," was not his "practice"—that it was a solitary act, in which he was justified by the peculiarity of the case—that it was the only act of the kind that he had committed during the two years in which he 570 had been in command of the regiment; and that which was called his system and his practice, was in reality no system, no practice, but was an act which the conduct of Captain Wathen justified him in adopting. I could, in like manner, go into other details, but the able statement of my noble Friend himself has rendered such a course unnecessary. It appears, however, to me, that the object of the present motion is to attack the conduct of Lord Hill, rather than that of Lord Brudenell. The merits, however, of Lord Hill's administration of the army are too well known to the House to require any vindication on my part; they have recently been admitted by his Majesty's Government, and the House at large, and I shall therefore leave the imputations which have been made against it, without any reply, under the full conviction that none is required. The House will, perhaps, do me the kindness to recollect, that I have, upon all occasions, objected to the practice of converting this House, being a popular assembly, into a court of appeal from the decisions of courts-martial; but as some doubts have been expressed as to the intentions of Lord Hill, when he removed Lord Brudenell from the command of his regiment, in consequence of the sentence of the court-martial, it may, perhaps, be as well to explain why I have said, that Lord Hill did not assent to the justice of the animadversions of the Court upon Lord Brudenell's conduct. In the General Order, announcing that his Majesty had been pleased to confirm and approve of the sentence of that court-martial, the Commander-in-Chief stated very distinctly, that "upon an attentive perusal of the whole proceedings, it appeared that some parts of the evidence would reasonably bear a construction less unfavourable to the prosecutor than that which the Court had thought it their duty to place upon them." This appeared to me, at the time, to be tantamount to a declaration on the part of Lord Hill, that he did not assent to the animadversions which the court-martial had passed upon Lord Brudenell. This, my impression, was confirmed by the correspondence which passed on this subject between the War-Office and the Horse-Guards, when Lord Hill placed Lord Brudenell's name upon the half-pay list, because he could not have been placed upon half-pay unless it was with the intention of restoring 571 him to the service after he had suffered some time the penalty of being removed from activity to inactivity. In fact, the harmony of the regiment seemed to the Commander-in-Chief to justify the removal of the commanding officer; but it is very evident from the correspondence, and the refusal to grant Lord Brudenell a court-martial, that it never was intended to remove Lord Brudenell permanently from the active duties of his profession. To restore him, from the command of the 15th Hussars to the second lieutenant-colonelcy of the 11th Light Dragoons, cannot, therefore, be deemed an act of patronage, but is simply an act of discipline, resulting from a court-martial, on the details of which this House, or any Committee of this House, ought not to sit in judgment. This view of the question is capable of proof, and appears from every part of the correspondence.
Though I came down to the House prepared to enter fully into this part of the subject, I am not disposed to detain the House in its present temper of decidedly negativing the motion. I am also equally indisposed to enter into the other question which has been mooted, somewhat irregularly, this evening, as to the duties of the Commander-in-Chief, and his responsibility to this House in the performance of his duties. I will avow, at once, that in my opinion, the Commander-in-Chief ought not to be a political character. He ought to manage the army without reference to political bias; and the best mode of securing that freedom from political bias in the Commander-in-Chief is by taking care not to make him a political character, if you make him a political character, it is all but impossible that political motives will not interfere with the impartial discharge of the duties of his office. As to the motion of the hon. Member for Cornwall, "that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief of the Forces in appointing Lieutenant-Colonel Lord Brudenell to the command of the 11th Light Dragoons," it is, in reality, a motion to censure Lord Hill for an act of discipline—not for any misconduct in the exercise of his patronage, for there is no patronage in the case. It is, therefore, a motion calling upon the House, and on very slender grounds, to take under its charge the discipline of the army—to usurp one of the most ancient 572 and most important prerogatives of the Crown, and to do that which has not been attempted by any Government, or Parliament, in this country, since the year 1642.
I will suppose, for the sake of argument, that the hon. Member has carried this his most unconstitutional motion. I will suppose that he has obtained his Committee. The hon. Member has already before him all the details of this transaction; but he may say,—when Lord Hill appears before the Bar of the Committee, and alleges that he has meted out justice to Lord Brudenell by punishing him for a time, and by restoring him afterwards to his rank and duties, on the ground that he never intended to ruin Lord Brudenell's prospects in the army; that the case did not require his removal from the service, and that he has been already severely punished; the hon. Member may say— he is not satisfied with that explanation, and that he wishes the members of the court-martial to be summoned before him, to explain the grounds on which they passed those animadversions on the motives and conduct of Lord Brudenell. I will next suppose that my gallant and valued friend, the president of the court-martial, and the hon. and gallant Member for Rye, who was also a member of it, are called before this Select Committee, sitting in judgment on Lord Hill on a professional question of military discipline. To the first question which the hon. Member for Cornwall would put to the president, he would reply, "This Committee is neither a court-martial nor a court of law. I have taken an oath not to disclose to any person any of the opinions or votes of the members of the Court which have come to my knowledge, and with all deference, I cannot, and I will not reply to your question." The necessity of secrecy is so binding on the members of the court-martial, that they can only be absolved from their oath by a court-martial or a court of law; and my feeling on this point is so strong, that when I was asked on a former evening by the hon. and gallant Major opposite, who was a member of the Court, whether I intended to impugn the finding of that court-martial, I declined to answer the question, from a feeling that, if I had impugned it, the hon. and gallant Major could not have disclosed any of the circumstances which might have formed its justification; but which would have dis- 573 closed his opinion and vote on those transactions. How then can the hon. Member for Cornwall hope to carry his case further than it is carried at present? The plain matter of fact is, that this Committee is intended to be nothing: else than a fishing Committee to attack Lord Hill; for what said the hon. Member for Middlesex?—"If I get this Committee, I shall be able to produce other instances of partiality and oppression on the part of the authorities at the Horse-Guards."
This Committee, then, is to be a Committee to usurp the prerogatives of the Crown; such a Committee as no House of Commons has appointed since the sitting of the Long Parliament, and which, I trust in God, no House of Commons will be induced ever to appoint again. With regard to my noble Friend, Lord Brudenell, I could read to the House a letter from my gallant Friend, Sir Hussey Vivian, the Master-General of the Ordnance, speaking in the highest terms of his qualifications as an officer of cavalry; but, after the handsome testimonials which my noble Friend has this evening produced of his high character as an officer and a gentleman, any further addition would be a mere work of supererogation. I have no doubt that a question of this kind will not be decided by party feelings, but by that impartial spirit of justice which ought to characterize, and always has characterized, English gentlemen; but I beg to remind those who think that party considerations ought to overpower all others, that the majority of the testimonials which have been given to my noble Friend, proceed from officers of rank and station, who are not of the same party politics with my noble Friend, but who generally support or vote with the Members of his Majesty's Government. It may be said, that these testimonials being of recent date, have been given for a particular purpose,—to bolster up a weak case; but such a suspicion would be refuted by the evidence which could be furnished previous to the existence of the court-martial, from the inspection of Reports of every General-Officer under whom Lord Brudenell has served, and which constitute so many unexceptionable proofs of Lord Brudenell's ability to command a regiment; and, consequently, so many justifications for Lord Hill's exercise of judgment in replacing him in another regiment. Under these circumstances I con- 574 ceive that the animadversions which have been thrown out are as uncalled for, as the Select Committee of Inquiry, and I repeat my deliberate opinion that the mode of Lord Brudenell's restoration is merely an act of justice to the individual and to the service, and I cannot refrain from again offering my noble Friend my sincere congratulations on his restoration to the active duties of his profession, in which I am convinced I am joined by the great majority of the most valuable officers in the British army, and I am equally convinced that he will prove, as he has previously done, that he is well qualified to serve the King with credit to himself, and advantage to the service.
§ Mr. Ellice
said, that he was anxious to offer a few words of explanation on this subject. The House was aware, from the correspondence which had recently been laid on the Table relative to this case, that he had expressed his opinion to the Commander-in-Chief as to the mode in which officers were placed on the half-pay in cases of this kind. The Commander-in-Chief announced to him, in this case, the reason for the course he intended to take before laying the new appointment before his Majesty, previous to placing the noble Lord on the half-pay. He then stated, that with respect to placing the noble Lord on half-pay after what had taken place, he entertained very serious doubts. He did not think that the noble Lord should be placed on half-pay, unless they allowed him to be brought before a court-martial, or unless they should qualify the sentence of the court-martial by the proper military authorities to meet his objection. The noble Lord having, however, taken the line which he had thought proper to do, and demanded a court-martial, he (Mr. Ellice) stated to the Commander-in-Chief that if he, under the circumstances, had been placed on half-pay, he would have resigned his commission rather than have accepted the pitiful allowance of half-pay, when he found that inquiry was refused him. Lord Hill did qualify the sentence of the court-martial in the way which had been stated to the House. He agreed with the right hon. and gallant General opposite,—that the members of the court-martial had gone beyond the duty prescribed to them. The same proceeding often occurred in the other courts of justice, when the jury expressed an opinion on the conduct of the prosecutor. Where, 575 however, it was followed by so severe a sentence as the removal of an officer from his regiment, the circumstances would appear the more striking. He felt, then, that if there was not some qualification placed on the sentence, that the full effect of it would be felt as a punishment. Lord Hill, he knew, had great doubts on the subject, and it was not without hesitation and the greatest consideration that they agreed on the course that was followed. The Judge-Advocate had been consulted on the subject, and his opinion had been laid before his Majesty. Under these circumstances, it followed that it could not be otherwise than that the appointment, by Lord Hill, of Lord Brudenell was in unison with his own opinion. He was aware that nothing could be more objectionable than inquiry into the proceedings of a court-martial. But he still thought that they should not punish an officer without hearing him in his defence, or hearing from the competent authority a declaration that the opinion of the court-martial went further than the case called for. He might have thought a little more favourably of the case at the time than he ought, because it appeared to him that Lord Brudenell had been borne down by the decision of the court-martial. He thought that the proceeding was hard in itself,—stronger than the circumstances of the case justified. The Secretary-of-War, however, had no discretion in these cases; indeed, he had no more to do with them than the hon. Member for Middlesex, or any other hon. Gentleman. With respect to not pressing Lord Brudenell's demand for a court-martial, he would read an extract from the letter of Lord Fitzroy Somerset to that noble Lord; he states,—While, however, the King feels for the situation in which your Lordship is placed, and does justice to your anxiety for an inquiry into your conduct in those respects in which it has been impeached on the occasion referred to, his Majesty is yet clearly of opinion that, to assemble a court-martial, or to institute any other proceeding for that purpose, would be to depart from long established practice, to contravene principles of acknowledged authority in the military administration of justice, and to set a precedent of most inconvenient and injurious example.If such were the opinion of those to whom was intrusted the discipline of the military force of the country, it would not have become him to press for a court-martial. 576 He was sure that every hon. Gentleman must agree with him in admiring the conduct of the noble Lord, after he had been censured by the court-martial, and for the language he had used with respect to it. He also concurred with the gallant General in saying, that he was sincerely glad that the noble Lord had been replaced in his Majesty's service. In consequence of what had fallen from his noble Friend, as to the general question respecting the army, he would only observe, that that question required such dispassionate discussion, that he thought it could be better taken up by the Government than by the House. A Commission was appointed for the purpose of considering whether the civil and military departments in the army could not be consolidated, each under their respective heads. The Commission sat a considerable time, and examined a great many witnesses. Upon this commission he and Sir James Kempt attended, but it had not been his good fortune to agree with that gallant General in his opinions upon the subject. His opinion was, that the separation which already existed was too great, and was attended with very considerable inconvenience; and, moreover, that any further attempt to separate the two departments would be attended with considerable danger. What at present was the condition of the army in consequence of these divided functions? The Commander-in-Chief had a thousand appeals made to him, and so great were the subdivisions, that he himself did not know on what or on whom to depend for the defence of his own conduct, if defence should become necessary. It was astonishing how many persons were connected with the war department. The Judge-Advocate, the Secretary-at-War had each his own department independent of the Commander-in-Chief. As to the Secretary-at-War, that functionary had less to do with this department than the Home-Secretary; for every commission was countersigned, not by the Secretary-at-War, but by the Home-Secretary. [No!] There was not a commission of an Ensign which was not signed by the Secretary of State, and usually the Secretary of State for the Home Department. The Home-Secretary, the Commander-in-Chief, the Lords of the Treasury, the Judge-Advocate, had all to do with the matter before it came to the Secretary-at-War. The House would not 577 find him hazarding a rash opinion upon this subject; but of this he was perfectly satisfied, that things could not safely remain as they were. He would not trespass upon the House by stating what he conceived Would be the consequences which might ensue; but this he knew, that the army suffered very much from not having a sufficient protection from high quarters, from not having a high and responsible authority to represent them in his Majesty's Councils, as every other department of the state had. There ensued great difficulties, also, from these causes to the colonial service,—difficulties which deserved the particular attention of the Government and Legislature, if it were considered a desirable thing to maintain an army in a state of effectiveness. He had stated the difficulties of the case; but he was not prepared, at the present moment, to propose a remedy for them. He was well aware that any change in a long established system must be attended with great difficulties. Yet, notwithstanding the difficulties, something must be done to unite the various branches of this department of the State under one head. He would not then go into any details of the remedy. He must deprecate any motion which would have the injurious effect of interfering with the general, calm, consideration of the subject. He could not but think, moreover, that any such Committee as that moved for might lead to interminable inquiries. He therefore hoped the hon. Baronet who brought forward the motion would withdraw it, more especially as the hon. Baronet must see that all had been done by bringing it forward which he could have desired.
asserted the strict honour and impartiality of the court-martial, and considered the censure passed upon it as most undeserved. The members of it were highly honourable men, and returned their finding upon oath. As for the noble Lord, he most cordially desired to tender to that noble and gallant officer his congratulations upon an appointment which he was so well qualified to fill, with honour to himself and advantage to the army.
Lord George Lennox
begged to say, that he for one had not passed any imputation upon the motives of the court-martial.
hoped the hon. Baronet would not press his motion. [Divide.] He could assure hon. Members, that unless he felt it his duty to express 578 his opinion upon this question, he should not trespass upon the House at that late period of the evening. He had one strong objection with regard to the course which had been already pursued in bringing forward this motion—namely, that, whilst it was apparently levelled against one individual, it implied censure on the conduct of another. If the conduct of the noble Lord (Brudenell), who was indirectly censured by the motion before the House, deserved to be attacked, why was not that attack made directly? If the attack had been made directly, he was convinced it would, because it ought to, fail. He had a deep and strong conviction that Lord Brudenell was an injured man. He had been convicted without a trial, and punished without any charge having been brought against him. He gave the court-martial that decided on the case of Captain Wa-then, full credit for integrity. He personally knew but one man amongst them; but he knew that one would not do an intentional wrong. They did, however, err most grossly—they were decidedly wrong,—and went far beyond the bounds of their duty in censuring a man who had not been heard upon the point which incurred their censure. Why should they censure an officer who was not called upon, or prepared for a defence? Surely, though the peasant had a right to equal justice with the peer, the peer had also an equal right to it with the peasant. Was censure to be passed upon a man against whom no direct charge was brought—who was not, therefore, prepared with witnesses on the subject for which he was censured; —and when this man demanded a fair and full trial, for the purpose of bringing forward evidence, was that trial to be refused him? The noble Lord called for a court-martial, and he was refused. Was that justice? He begged leave to differ from the right hon. Baronet (Sir H. Hardinge) in his notion of discipline. He knew of no advantages of discipline which were at variance with justice. The right hon. Baronet denied the right of that House to interfere with the decision of a court-martial. Why, courts-martial acted under an Act of Parliament, and, therefore, like other judicial proceedings, their verdicts were subject to revision. If the circumstances had occurred to a person of lower rank, would justice have been done? No; nor had it even been done in this case. Here there was conviction without a trial— 579 punishment without proof offered of a charge. The noble Lord's name had a censure set down against it in every orderly book in the service; and his future descendants were liable to have it cast up against them. Here was a stigma fixed on the noble Lord. It was said, that to grant a court-martial under these circumstances, would be against the practice. To do justice would be against the practice. To give a man who had been condemned unheard, an opportunity of vindicating himself, against "practice?" Indeed!—so bad a practice should not be suffered longer to remain, and the sooner it was done away with the better. The noble Lord, in his speech of to-night, had attracted the sympathy of all who heard him; but still that was not a vindication— not the vindication he had a right to demand—whilst the censure remained in the regimental books. The conduct of the Commander-in-Chief was wrong and unjust; and he hoped the poorest man in the army would reap the advantage of the censure which had to-night been cast upon the practice. If the motion related only to Lord Hill, and did not involve Lord Brudenell, he certainly should have supported it, not from any feeling which he entertained towards the former, but merely to express his abhorrence of a practice which condemned a man unheard; and, when he demanded a trial, refused it.
could not agree in the opinion that this question ought not to be pressed to a division. He thought, in justice to Lord Hill, in justice to Lord Brudenell, the sense of the House should be taken upon it. The motion might certainly have been brought forward in a better form. If its object were to attain the ends of justice, some other mode should have been adopted; but it seemed as if it had been framed for the double purpose of attacking Lord Brudenell through Lord Hill, and Lord Hill through Lord Brudenell. The proper form would have been, if there were no ulterior object in view, for the hon. Baronet to have moved for an humble address to his Majesty, praying him to grant the court of inquiry which had been eagerly sought for on behalf of Lord Brudenell. As to the stigma which was said to attach to the noble Lord, he must differ from the hon. and learned Member for Dublin. He would merely state a fact, which would also answer as a contradiction to what was 580 said by the hon. Member for Middlesex, that if this had been the case of an humble man, and not one of noble blood, no redress would have been accorded. The hon. Member for Middlesex, by-the-by, seemed desirous to push the punishment of Lord Brudenell to a degree of harshness not hitherto known. The fact to which he alluded occurred in his own profession (the navy). It was the case of a man who rose from before the mast, and who, though once condemned to death, by his good conduct afterwards raised himself so high in the profession, that he died holding the rank of post-captain.
§ Sir William Molesworth
was quite ready to comply with the suggestion of the hon. and learned Member for Dublin, not to take up the time of the House by dividing. There were, however loud calls for a division, and
§ The House divided;—Ayes 42;—Noes 322:—Majority 280.
|List of theAYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||O'Connell, D.|
|Attwood, Thomas||O'Connell, J.|
|Barnard, E. G.||O'Connell, M. J.|
|Bish, T.||O'Connell, Morgan|
|Bowring, Dr.||Phillips, Mark|
|Brady, D. C.||Pryme, George|
|Bridgman, H.||Roche, D.|
|Brocklehurst, J.||Roebuck, J. A.|
|Brotherton, J.||Ruthven, E.|
|Buller, Charles||Scholefield, J.|
|Crawford, W. S.||Strutt, Edward|
|Divett, E.||Thompson, Col.|
|Dundas, J. C.||Thorneley, T.|
|Ewart, W.||Villiers, C. P.|
|Gillon, W. D.||Wakley, T.|
|Grote, George||Wallace, Robert|
|Hector, C.J.||Warburton, H.|
|Jervis, John||Wilbraham, G.|
|King, Edward B.||Williams, W.|
|Leader, J. T.|
|Marsland, Henry||Molesworth, Sir W.|
|O'Brien, Cornelius||Hume, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Adam, Sir Charles||Barclay, Charles|
|Agnew, Sir A.||Baring, Francis T.|
|Alford, Lord||Baring, H. Bingham|
|Alsager, Captain||Baring, W.|
|Alston, Rowland||Baring, Thomas|
|Angerstein, John||Barry, G. S.|
|Arbuthnot, hon. H.||Bateson, Sir R.|
|Archdall, M.||Beckett, Sir J.|
|Ashley, hon. H.||Bell, Matthew|
|Attwood, M.||Bentinck, Lord G.|
|Bagot, hon. W.||Beresford, Sir J. P.|
|Baillie, H. D.||Berkeley, hon. F.|
|Baldwin, Dr.||Berkeley, hon. G. C.|
|Balfour, T.||Berkeley, hon. C. C.|
|Barclay, David||Bernal, Ralph|
|Bethell, Richard||Eastcourt, Thos. G. B.|
|Blackburne, I.||Fancourt, Major|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Fector, John Minet|
|Boldero, Henry G.||Feilden, W.|
|Boiling, W.||Fergusson, Sir R. A.|
|Bonham, R. Francis||Ferguson, G.|
|Bradshaw, J.||Fergusson, rt. hon. C.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Finch, George|
|Bruce, Ld. E. A. C.B.||Fitzroy, Lord C.|
|Bruce, C. L. C.||Fleming, John|
|Bruen, Col.||Foley, Edw. Thomas|
|Bruen, Francis||Folkes, Sir W.|
|Bulwer, Edw. G.E L.||Forbes, Wm.|
|Burrell, Sir C. M., Bt.||Forester, hon. G. C. W.|
|Butler, hon. Pierce||Forster, Charles S.|
|Byng, G.||Fort, J.|
|Byng, G. S.||Fremantle, Sir T. W.|
|Calcraft, J. H.||Freshfield James W.|
|Campbell, Sir H.||Gaskell, J. M.|
|Canning, Sir S.||Geary, Sir W. R. P.|
|Castlereagh, Vise.||Gisborne, T.|
|Cayley, E. S.||Gladstone, Thomas|
|Chalmers, P.||Gladstone, Wm. E.|
|Chandos, Marq. of||Glynne, Sir S. R.|
|Chaplin, Col.||Goodricke, Sir F.|
|Chapman, Aaron||Gordon, Robert|
|Chichester, A.||Gordon, W.|
|Childers, J. W.||Gore, O.|
|Churchill, Ld. C. S.||Goulburn, rt. hon. H.|
|Clayton, Sir W.||Goulburn, Sergeant|
|Clive, Edw. Bolton||Graham, Sir J.|
|Clive, hon. R. H.||Grant, hon. Colonel|
|Codrington, C. W.||Greisley, Sir R.|
|Colborne, N. W.||Grey, Sir G.|
|Cole, Vise.||Grimston, Viscount|
|Compton, H. C.||Hale, Robert B.|
|Conolly, E. M.||Halford, H.|
|Conyngham, Lord A.||Halse, James|
|Coote, Sir C. C., Bt.||Hamilton, Lord C.|
|Corbett, T.||Hardinge, Sir H.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Harland, W. Charles|
|Crawley, Samuel||Harvey, D. W.|
|Cripps, Joseph||Hastie, A.|
|Curteis, Edward B.||Hawes, Benjamin|
|Dalbiac, Sir C.||Hawkes, Thos.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Hawkins, J. H.|
|Darlington, Earl of||Hay, Sir J., Bart.|
|Dick, Q.||Hay, Sir A. L.|
|Dillwyn, L. W.||Hayes, Sir E.S., Bart.|
|Donkin, Sir R. S.||Heathcote, G. J.|
|Dowdeswell, Wm.||Heneage, Edward|
|Dugdale, W. S.||Henniker, Lord|
|Dunbar, George||Hill, Lord Arthur|
|Duncombe, T. S.||Hill, Sir R. Bart.|
|Duncombe, hon. A.||Hobhouse, Sir J.C.|
|Dundas, hon. T.||Hodges, T. L.|
|Dundas, J. D.||Hogg, James Weir|
|East, James Buller||Hope, hon. James|
|Eastnor, Viscount||Hope, Henry, T.|
|Eaton, Richard J.||Hotham, Lord|
|Egerton, Wm. Tatton||Houldsworth, T.|
|Egerton, Sir P.||Howard, R.|
|Egerton, Lord Fran.||Howard, hon. E.|
|Elley, Sir J.||Howard, P. H.|
|Ellice, E.||Howick, Lord|
|Elwes, J.||Hoy, J. B.|
|Eastcourt, Thos. S. B.||Hurst, R. H.|
|Hutt, W.||Pinney, William|
|Jackson, Sergeant||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Ingham, R.||Plunkett, R.|
|Inglis, Sir R. H., Bt.||Powell, Colonel|
|Johnstone, J. J. H.||Praed, W.M.|
|Jones, Wilson||Price, S.G.|
|Jones, Theobald||Pringle, A.|
|Kearsley, J. H.||Pusey, Philip|
|Kerrison, Sir Edward||Rae, Sir Wm., Bart.|
|Knatchbull, Sir E.||Reid, Sir J. Rae|
|Knight, H. G.||Rice, right hon. T. S.|
|Knightley, Sir C.||Richards, J.|
|Knox, hon. J.||Rickford, W.|
|Labouchere, Henry||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Law, hon. C. E.||Rolfe, Sir R. M.|
|Lawson, Andrew||Rooper, J. Bonfoy|
|Lee, John Lee||Ross, Charles|
|Lefroy, Anthony||Rushbrooke, Col.|
|Lefroy, Thomas||Russell, Lord John|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Russell, Lord Charles|
|Lewis, David||Ryle, John|
|Lincoln, Earl of||Sanderson, R.|
|Loch, James||Scarlett, hon. R.|
|Lopes, Sir Ralph||Scott, Sir E. D.|
|Lowther, Col. H. C.||Scott, James W.|
|Lowther, J.||Scourfield, W. H.|
|Lucas, Edwards||Seymour, Lord|
|Lushington, S. R.||Sharpe, General|
|Lygon, hon. Col. H. B.||Shaw, Frederick|
|Mackinnon, W. A.||Sheldon, E. R. C.|
|Maclean, Donald||Sheppard, T.|
|Macleod, R.||Sibthorp, Col.|
|Mangles, J.||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Manners, Lord C.||Smith, J. A.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Smith, hon. R.|
|Marsland, Thos.||Smith, Robert V.|
|Martin, J.||Smyth, Sir G. H., Bt.|
|Maule, hon. F.||Somerset, Lord E.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Somerset, Lord G.|
|Methuen, P.||Speirs, Alexander|
|Meynell, Capt.||Stanley, E. J.|
|Miles, William||Stanley, Edward|
|Miles, Philip J.||Stanley, Lord|
|Mordaunt, Sir J., Bt.||Steuart, R.|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Stewart, Sir M. S., Bt.|
|Mosley, Sir O., Bart.||Stormont, Lord|
|Neeld, Joseph||Stuart, Lord James|
|Nicholl, Dr.||Stuart, V.|
|Norreys, Lord||Sturt, Henry Chas.|
|O'Conor Don||Surrey, Earl of|
|Oliphant, Lawrence||Talfourd, Sergeant|
|Packe, C. W.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Paget, Frederick||Thomas, Colonel|
|Palmer, General C.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Palmer, Robert||Thompson, Ald.|
|Palmerston, Lord||Townley, R. G.|
|Parker, M.||Trelawney, Sir W. L.|
|Parker, John||Trevor, hon. Arthur|
|Parnell, Sir H.||Trevor, hon. G. R.|
|Parrott, J.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Parry, Sir L. P.||Tulk, C. A.|
|Patten, John Wilson||Twiss, Horace|
|Peel, Sir R., Bart.||Tyrrell, Sir J.|
|Peel, rt. hon. W. Y.||Vere, Sir C. B. Bart.|
|Pemberton, Thomas||Verner, Colonel|
|Perceval, Col.||Vesey, hon. Thomas|
|Pigott, Robert||Vivian, Major|
|Vivian, John Ennis||Williamson, Sir H.|
|Wall, C. B.||Wilson, Henry|
|Walpole, Lord||Wodehouse, E.|
|Walter, John||Wood, C.|
|Wason, R.||Wood, Colonel|
|Welby, G. E.||Wortley, hon. J. S.|
|Wemyss, Capt.||Wynn, rt. hon. C. W.|
|Westenra, H. R.||Young, G. F.|
|Weyland, Major||Young, Sir W.|
|Wigney, Isaac N.|
|Wilbraham, hon. B.||TELLERS.|
|Williams, Thomas P.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Williams, W.||Corry, hon. H. T. L.|