HC Deb 21 March 1837 vol 37 cc692-4

Mr. Hume moved for "a return of the number of men-of-war that had been run on shore or lost at sea since 1830, with the names of their commanders or captains, the dates when those commanding-officers entered the naval service, the number of years they served as midshipmen, lieutenants, and commanders, their age at the time of promotion as lieutenant, commander, and captain; also, the expense incurred in repairing the vessels run on shore, and the value of those lost at sea."

Admiral Adams

thought the return altogether unnecessary, and extremely objectionable. In all cases of accident to any of his Majesty's ships care was taken, according to the Articles of War, that a strict investigation took place, when those who were guilty of negligence or carelessness were duly punished. The officers were always put on their trial before regular courts-martial, and a proper adjudication had upon the merits of each case. Was it, therefore, reasonable that those officers, after appearing before the regular tribunal, should be dragged before that House in order to undergo a fresh investigation?

Mr. Aaron Chapman

opposed the motion. It would establish a very dangerous precedent, and cast a slur on the character of many gallant officers who had met with misfortune without any blame attaching to them in the slightest degree.

Sir T. Troubridge

appealed to the House and to the nation whether it would not be most unjust, after officers had been tried by regular courts-martial according to the Articles of War, to require them to encounter before an inadequate tribunal, as he maintained that House was, a second trial on the same charges?

Mr. Hume

could see no injustice whatever in his motion. He did not see how it could be refused unless Government wished to screen abuses. If the House rejected it, the country would say that they were anxious to protect every species of mismanagement.

Captain Pechell

did not think anything invidious was intended by this motion to the navy, or he should be the last in that House to support it.

Sir T. Troubridge

denied that there was any intention or disposition on the part of the Admiralty to screen any individual whatever. But the course proposed by the hon. Member for Middlesex was at once improper, incorrect, and unjust, and therefore he should oppose it by every means in his power.

Mr. Hume

said, that if the information for which he asked were granted him, he could show the loss of life and property occasioned to the country to be immense. Unless he were allowed the means of making out a case, it would be impossible for him to bring the subject forward in such a manner as to be worthy the attention of the House.

Lord J. Russell

observed, that the information was asked for in what he must consider a partial form. It was impossible to determine whether blame could be attached to the commander of a ship on account of its loss, unless the House were in possession of the fullest information respecting all the circumstances; and that could only be procured by going into the inquiry again, with the same minuteness as was done by courts-martial. He rather supposed that the hon. Member wished to draw the inference that the officers concerned in such accidents were connected with the nobility, and had been rapidly promoted. If it were attempted to decide on the culpability of any party without a lengthened observation, censure might be passed on officers who had acted though out with the utmost skill and ability. On these grounds he should oppose the motion.

Sir if. Inglis

objected to the return, because the information it would furnish would be much too limited to enable them to arrive at any conclusion with certainly. Besides, the hon. Member for Middlesex should recollect that his Majesty appointed the commanders of his own ships, and that the House of Commons could have no pretensions to interfere with the management of the navy. Neither should it be forgotten, that the law which passed sentence on an officer who had been found wanting in his duty, did not authorise the publication of the sentence and its circulation over the whole empire. The return moved for by the hon. Member would virtually be a list of new convictions, or a new bill of indictment against the parties whom it concerned, without giving them the opportunity of defending themselves.

The House divided:—Ayes 13; Noes 45: Majority 32.

List of the AYES.
Elphinstone, H. Smith, B.
Ewart, W. Thompson, Col.
Hindley, C. Warburton, H.
Leader, J. T. Williams, W.
Lennard, T. B.
Pattison, James TELLERS.
Pechell, Captain R.
Philips, M. Hume, J.
Ruthven, E. Wason, R.
List of the NOES.
Balfour, T. Copeland, W. T.
Baring, F. T. Curteis, H. B.
Bateson, Sir R. Dick, Quintin
Berkeley, hon. F. Estcourt, T.
Blake, M. J. Fazakerley, J. N.
Brodie, W. B. Forster, C. S.
Buller, Sir J. B. Yarde Harcourt, G. S.
Campbell, Sir J. Hinde, J. H.
Chandos, Marq. Hobhouse, Sir J. C.
Chapman, Aaron Howard, Philip Henry
Chetwynd, Capt. Howick, Viscount
Ingham, R. Robinson, G. R.
Inglis, Sir R. H. Rolfe, Sir R. M.
Knatchbull, Sir E. Rushbrooke, Col.
Lawson, Andrew Russell, Lord John
Lennox, Lord G. Shaw, rt. hon. F.
Macleod, R. Stanley, E.
Murray, rt. hon. J. Tancred, H. W.
Ossulston, Lord Troubridge, Sir T.
Palmer, George Vere, Sir C. B.
Parker, John Vyvyan, Sir C. R.
Richards, John TELLERS.
Richards, R. Adam, Sir C.
Rickford, William Dalmeny, Lord