HC Deb 05 March 1838 vol 41 cc402-4
Captain Pechell

was sorry to detain the Speaker in the Chair a moment longer than was necessary, but the fact was, that the press had stated much that was, not said in that House on a former evening, and left out much that ought to have been inserted, with regard to the honour and character of naval men. The hon. Member then alluded to what was said the other night relative to officers of the navy taking head-money for captured slaves, &c., and said that, so far from officers in that service refraining from taking slave-ships before they should have got their cargo of slaves on board, he himself had frequently known the contrary to be the case, and had been witness of the contrary during the American war. He might mention among many others the names of the gallant Sir Hyde Parker and Captain Broke of the Shannon, who, in keeping up the blockade of Boston, lost a great amount of money by burning and sinking ships which they might have allowed to have sailed, and attacked when their cargoes were on board. It was not, then, fair that these charges about head-money and blood-money should be allowed to go before the public uncontradicted. He knew that officers appointed to this particular service exerted themselves to the utmost. This country had entered into a treaty with the Spanish Government upon the subject of the slave-trade, but it was not that Government only that was to be blamed; for it was on record in the library of that House that vessels of the United States of America carried out those very shackles with which the slaves were bound, and doing that which we had heard so much of as being done under the flags of Spain, Portugal, and the Brazils. The slave-ships were so fitted up that they could not be boarded, or the case would be very different. He did think that the honour of our naval officers ought to be protected—for they had shown in numerous instances on the African coast that they had nobly performed their duty with respect to the capture of slave-ships, and that, too, in a climate possessing far greater inconveniences than that of other stations. Those officers had not, and they never would, deviate from the course they had pursued up to the present time—and he hoped it would now go forth to the public that in doing what they bad done they had strictly performed their duty.

Sir Thomas Troubridge

said, he thought that it would not by any means become naval officers having seats in that House to allow statements such as had been made against their characters to go forth to the public without contradiction—and he would say, that the charges which had been made against them were most unjustifiable. The speech of a certain noble and learned Lord he then held in his hand, published in the shape of a pamphlet, and, therefore, he should be out of order in alluding to it. The British navy wanted no defenders either in that House or elsewhere. At the same time it might be supposed that if they remained silent when these charges were made they acquiesced in what had been said. He, for one, did not acquiesce in any such thing, as the officers of the navy had done their duty in the most trying circumstances, as the returns which had been moved for would show. He rejoiced that those papers had been called for, as they would show not only that naval officers had done their duty, but that they had suffered very great expenses in doing that duty. The character of naval officers was safe in that House. With respect to his remarks on a former occasion on this subject, he had made them more in sorrow than in anger, and for the purpose of affording the noble and learned Lord who had made those charges the opportunity of making a further disclaimer of them, and which disclaimer he re- gretted that noble and learned Lord had not made. He never had been in the habit of using harsh words, but he did not on that account feel the less strongly; and he must say that he considered the statements which had been made and the charges which had been brought forward against naval officers were a proof that the powers of eloquence might be preserved long after reason itself was lost.

House went into a Committee of Supply.