HC Deb 30 March 1840 vol 53 cc234-41
Lord J. Russell

moved the order of the day for the House to go into a committee to consider the Queen's message relative to Lord Seaton.

House in Committee.

Her Majesty's message read.

Lord J. Russell

said, that although he could not doubt that the House would comply with her Majesty's message on this occasion, yet he thought it was due to the distinguished person on the part of whom he was about to move a resolution, to state, at least, some of the services which it had been Lord Seaton's fortune to perform for the benefit of his country. Lord Seaton entered the army in the year 1794. He joined the 20th regiment as lieutenant in 1796. In the years 1798 and 1799, he served with the armies under Sir Ralph Abercrombie and his Royal Highness the Duke of York; he was engaged in general actions all through the war. When in Egypt he took part in the operations before Alexandria, after which he was stationed for some time at Malta. He then became military secretary to the general commanding in chief, and obtained a majority. Afterwards, having succeeded as military secretary to Sir John Moore, he was made lieutenant-colonel and military secretary to Sir John Moore; he entered Spain with, him, and he was present there throughout the war. Having expressed a strong desire to revisit the Peninsula, he again proceeded thither with Sir Arthur Wellesley. In this situation he was present at the battle of Busaco, and after having filled various other situations, he rose to the command of the 52nd, the most distinguished regiment in the light division. At the head of this regiment he was in various engagements, and among others in the battle of Albuera. He was afterwards at Ciudad Rodrigo. After some absence he returned to the army in 1813, and was present at Orthes and Toulouse. Lord Seaton was also present at the battle of Waterloo. Thus the noble Lord had been in the principal military events that had occurred from the year 1796 down to 1815,taking part in all the dangers, fatigues, and privations of our gallant army in various quarters, and inferior to none of the officers in gallantry and skill. Since that time Lord Seaton had been employed in various situations in the colonial service. In 1828 he went out as Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, and afterwards took the command as Commander-in-chief of all the troops in Canada. Afterwards, during the troubles in Canada, he became the principle person on whom rested the whole weight and responsibility of preserving the provinces in their allegiance to this country. When the traitors appeared in arms Lord Seaton showed the same courage and firmness which he had displayed against the foreign enemies of England, joined to remarkable humanity and gentleness of disposition. The giving of the chief authority to Sir J. Colborne was a consequence of the retirement of Lord Gosford, when he thought that to conciliate the adverse party was hopeless, and that it would be useless for him to stay longer. It happened, likewise, that when another noble Lord thought he could not remain in that Government with advantage to the interest of the Crown, the management of affairs again devolved on this distinguished officer. Nothing was farther from his intentions than to undertake these duties. It was then ten years that he had been absent in Canada, after a long war; he was anxious, therefore, to return home; but as it was the wish of Lord Durham and of the Home Government that he should be called to the command, he stayed and put down successfully all attempts at insurrection, and remained until the Government thought that conciliatory measures might be adopted, and that an union of the provinces should be tried. He did not wish, after having been Governor-general, to return to the situation of Lieutenant-governor; and he thought that he had a fair right to some recompense. After Lord Seaton had performed these services during a period of forty-five years, the House of Commons, he thought, must be anxious to meet her Majesty's wishes to give Lord Seaton some mark of the royal favour. He need not enter further into a description of his conduct; a simple reference to facts without any description of events was enough to prove to the House that Lord Seaton's claims upon the gratitude of the House were well founded. The noble Lord then moved that an annual sum of 2,000l. be granted to her Majesty out of the consolidated fund of Great Britain and Ireland, the said annual sum to be payable from the 23rd of March last, to be secured in the most beneficial manner for the use of Lieutenant-general Lord Seaton, and the two next surviving heirs male of the body of the said Lord Seaton.

Sir R. Peel

had great pleasure in seconding the proposal of the noble Lord. He entirely agreed with the noble Lord that the simple record of the services performed by Lord Seaton— the simple mention of the fact that he had been for forty-five years in the service of his country, taking an honourable and distinguished share in the most glorious events of that important era— was sufficient. It was, moreover, impossible to add anything to the simple eloquence with which the noble Lord had pronounced a well-deserved eulogium upon that distinguished officer. The distinction conferred upon Sir John Colborne was a tribute not only to himself, but to the character of the British army, that it should be able to exhibit brilliant examples of individuals who had passed their lives in military duties, and yet had learned no lesson incompatible with the strict, humane, and wise fulfillment of their civil duties. The noble Lord opposite had alluded to one part of the civil services of Sir John Colborne; but there was another portion of his civil services to which he could refer from personal knowledge, and to which, as the noble Lord had omitted it, he (Sir R. Peel) felt bound to allude. When Sir John Colborne, now Lord Seaton, was Lieutenant-governor of the island of Guernsey he had had, as Secretary of State, some correspondence with Sir John Colborne, and the universal satisfaction which followed the discharge of his duty as Lieutenant-governor, and the general testimony which was borne to the discretion, and temperance, and humanity which he had then displayed, all had led him to believe that if Sir John Colborne should ever again be called upon to act in a more extended sphere, in a similar position, that he would equally distinguish himself. He would not take up the time of the House by dwelling upon the present topic, but following the example of the noble Lord opposite, would conclude by saying, that it should be one of the greatest sources of satisfaction to the House of Lords and the House of Commons of this country that they could pay to distinguished public services the highest rewards that could be paid to them, in the expression of a nation's gratitude.

Mr. Hume

said, the noble Lord had spoken of forty-five years of service rendered by Lord Seaton, and the right hon. baronet had pronounced it impossible to add anything to the just eulogium of the noble lord. He (Mr. Hume), however, would wish particularly to consider the last four or five years of service performed by Lord Seaton. He thought that her Majesty, unless Lord Seaton had a fortune to support his rank, would have done well in not creating him a peer. All such creations were improper; they only tended to raise up a class of persons who in a short time would become burdens upon the state. There were enough of them already. He, therefore, hoped that Lord Seaton had an ample fortune to maintain his dignity; and then the question arose whether that fortune, with a peerage, was not amply sufficient without a grant of the public money. He differed entirely from the noble lord, as to the services rendered by Sir John Colborne. True the noble lord had stated the prior services of that officer, but the noble lord forget to mention that he was removed as unfit lo fulfil the duties of Governor of Upper Canada. Let the noble lord produce the correspondence now in the Foreign-office, proving the complete incompetence of Sir John Colborne to conduct the government of that province. He (Mr. Hume) would ask the noble Lord if he was not aware that that was the case? The noble Lord had not been long connected with the Colonial-office, but he was one of the Ministers who concurred in the recal of Sir John Colborne. Instead of being recalled, however, he returned to Lower Canada, where he was appointed Commander of the Forces. He, therefore, took it for granted, that the pension was not to be granted to Lord Seaton on account of services rendered on an occasion when her Majesty's Ministers thought fit to remove him for incompetency. The question for the House to consider was, what had been the conduct of Lord Seaton during the time he was commander in-chief of Lower Canada. He considered that the rebellion in that province was attributable to the conduct of Lord Seaton, and he would further say, that he differed entirely from the noble Lord, in the eulogy he had pronounced upon Sir J. Colborne, for he thought there had been an entire want of policy, judgment, and forethought on the part of that officer. What would have been the consequence in Ireland, if the lord-lieutenant of the day had issued orders to arrest some forty or fifty of the leading men of that country, without any charge made against them? Why there would have been an instant outbreak. It was the conduct of Sir John Colborne that had produced the outbreak in Canada; he it was who sanctioned the issuing of warrants against fifty or sixty individuals— of which proceeding no explanation had ever been given, although he had moved for a return of the grounds upon which it had been taken. He knew also, that a party of yeomanry, called volunteers, had gone out to arrest two magistrates— men highly beloved and respected in their district— and had placed them in open carts, and carried them round the villages, for the purpose of exposing and disgracing them. That measure led to the outbreak. So far, therefore, from rewarding Sir J. Colborne, he ought to have been removed from his situation as unworthy to fulfil its duties. However, he had the support of her Majesty's Government. They had gone on, and a pretty mess they had got into. They had come down to the House to propose a vote that perhaps might amount to 150,000l. of the public money, and he would ask if, at this time and in the present position of the country, it was proper to vote away that sum under circumstances, to say the least, so extremely doubtful? He conceived that the manner in which that unfortunate rebellion had been put down— the way in which the villages had been assailed, and the inhabitants butchered, were disgraceful, and without parallel in modern warfare. Was a distinction to be conferred upon Sir John Colborne for acts such as these, placing him on a footing with the most distinguished officers— men without stain or reproach? He never would believe that hon. Gentlemen, if they would look at the whole proceedings that had taken place from the outbreak in Canada, as they appeared in the public despatches laid upon the table of the House, could think Sir J. Colborne entitled to the character that had been given to him as a man of humanity, wisdom, and discretion, He should, therefore, feel it his duty, if any I individual of the House would second his motion, to oppose the present grant; and he would be prepared at a future time to place upon record, an account of those proceedings which he thought rendered Lord Seaton unworthy of the honours conferred upon him. He knew nothing of that individual but as a British officer; and on public grounds alone he thought that this grant was ill advised, and ought not to receive the sanction of the House. He should, therefore, oppose it.

Sir Henry Hardinge

had heard with great regret the very characteristic speech of the hon. Member for Kilkenny; but, at the same time, he was glad to hear that there was some doubt on the mind of the hon. Gentleman as to whether he could induce any one individual in the House to second his amendment. He could very well understand that the hon. Member felt considerable objection towards any reward, either of honour or by a vote of this House towards his (Sir H. Hardinge's) noble and gallant Friend, because, although he was not very intimately acquainted with the affairs of Upper Canada, he had some recollection of a correspondence of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, in which he boasted to the traitor Mackenzie of his hope that the colony would throw off the yoke of the mother country. When he remembered this, and remembered also that Sir John Colborne put down that traitor, he could understand that the hon. Member for Kilkenny had no great sympathy with the conqueror of his Friend. He could say, from his personal knowledge of Lord Seaton, that the British army did not possess an officer who had gone through all the gradations of his profession with greater honour and greater success. Whether he considered Lord Seaton as the commander of the 52d regiment, or as the friend and companion-in-arms of Sir John Moore, or as the commander of the forces in British North America, his career had been distinguished by every military honour and accomplishment. By sheer dint of personal merit he had forced his way to the highest rank and highest honours of the army, and had not only distinguished himself as a military man, but by his kindness and humanity during all the Peninsular war, which made him universally beloved by both officers and men. From personal regard and professional admiration of the merits of Lord Seaton, he (Sir Henry Hardinge) had been induced to express his sense of the services rendered by that distinguished individual to his country; but after the manner in which the noble Lord and right hon. Baronet had spoken, it would be useless for him to add more. He would, however, say that he particularly admired one trait in the character of Lord Seaton, namely that when he was suspended from his civil command, he cheer fully resumed his military duties, thus separating himself far from all suspicion of selfish consideration, and holding out to the officers of the army the brightest example. He thought the recommendation of Ministers a wise and just one, and until he heard the speech of the hon. Member for Kilkenny he was in hopes that the House, by an unanimous vote, would have evinced their appreciation of the important services of Lord Seaton.

Mr. W. Williams

rose to second the motion of his hon. Friend, the Member for Kilkenny. He did not think the conduct of Lord Seaton marked either by wisdom or humanity. It was easy to vote away the public money, but not so easy to pay these large sums when voted. At the present time the mass of the population was in the greatest distress and destitution; the expenditure of the country was exceeding the revenue; and the House had not heard from the Chancellor of the Exchequer how he intended to make up the deficiency. Under such circumstances the public money ought not to be voted away without good and sufficient cause, which in this instance he conceived had not been shown.

Sir H. Vivian

must bear his testimony, in common with his gallant Friend opposite, to the qualities of Lord Seaton. No man was more beloved in the army, nor was there any man on whose humanity he had heard greater encomiums. He was quite certain, that his brother soldiers would receive with gratitude this mark of favour and honour bestowed upon him.

Mr. Hume

had read the correspondence alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member, and now saw nothing in it to blame. The evils of Canada had arisen from the baneful domination of Downing-street, for it was well-known that the mismanagement of the Colonial-office had led to all the mischiefs which had arisen.

Sir C. Grey

begged to set the hon. Member for Kilkenny right as to some of his facts. The outbreak to which the hon. Member had alluded had occurred during the time of the Earl of Gosford, and Sir J. Colborne assumed the government at the time the country was under martial law. He concurred in the opinion which had been expressed of the magnanimity and generosity displayed by Sir J. Colborne, now Lord Seaton, in returning from New York to assume the military command after his removal from the Governorship, and he was sure no mark of favour could be more worthily bestowed than that now proposed to that noble and gallant officer.

Mr. Hawes

admitted the skill, bravery, and humanity, of Sir John Colborne, but thought, that Parliament was too prone to bestow honours upon mere military service. He objected to this, whilst the services of other men who had exerted themselves far more advantageously to the country were left wholly without reward. He objected, too, to the term to which the pension in this instance was to extend; for if he understood the noble Lord correctly, it was to continue for three lives. He should like, however, to be more distinctly informed upon that point. Looking to the services of Sir John Colborne, and comparing them with the services of other distinguished persons, he must say, that there never appeared to him to be a case in which a pension or a peerage limited to a single life could be more properly bestowed.

Lord John Russell

, in reply to the hon. Member for Lambeth's question, stated, that the pension in this instance was granted upon the precedent of the pensions and peerages bestowed upon Lord Hill, Lord Lynedoch, and other distinguished soldiers in 1814, and would extend to the same term, namely, to two lives beyond that of the present possessor.

The Committee divided:— Ayes 82; Noes 16: Majority 66.

List of the AYES.
A'Court, Captain Blair, J.
Adam, Admiral Brodie, W. B.
Alston, R. Cavendish, hon. C.
Anson, hon. Colonel Clay, W.
Arbuthnot, hon. H. Clerk, Sir G.
Archbold, R. Collier, J. T.
Baines, E. Coote, Sir C. H
Baring, right hn. F.T. Courtenay, P.
Barnard, E. G. Craig, W. G.
Barry, G. S. Dalmeny, Lord
Bellew, R. M, Dalrymple, Sir A.
Bewes, T. Denison, W, J.
Drummond, H. H. Polhill, F.
Follett, Sir W. Price, Sir R.
Fremantle, Sir T. Pringle, A.
French, F. Protheroe, E.
Gordon, hon. Captain Pryme, G.
Goulburn, rt. hon. H. Pusey, P.
Graham, rt. hn. Sir J. Rae, rt. hn. Sir W.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir C. Russell; Lord J.
Grey, rt. hon. Sir G. Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.
Handley, H. Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.
Hardinge, rt. hn. Sir H. Sibthorp, Colonel
Herries, rt. hon. J. C. Slaney, R. A.
Hobhouse, T. B. Spencer, hon. F.
Hodges, T. L. Staunton, Sir G. T.
Hoskins, K. Stock, Dr.
Kemble, H. Talbot, J. H.
Knatchbull, rt. hn. E. Teignmouth, Lord
Labouchere, rt. hn. H. Troubridge, Sir E. T.
Lincoln, Earl of Tufnell, H,
Macaulay, rt hn. T. B. Turner, E.
Mackenzie, T. Vivian, J. E.
Moneypenny, T. G. Vivian, rt. hn. Sir R. H.
Morgan, G. M. R. Wodehouse, E.
Nicholl, J. Wood, Sir M.
O'Brien, W. S. Wood, G. W.
O'Connell, J. Worsley, Lord
O'Ferrall, R. M. Yates, J. A.
Parker, J.
Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H. TELLERS.
Peel, rt. hon. Sir R. Stanley, E. J.
Pendarves, E. W. W. Stuart, R.
List of the NOES.
Aglionby, H. A. Muntz, G. F.
Bridgeman, H. Philips, M.
Callaghan, D. Vigors, N. A.
Collins, W. Wakley, T.
Fielden, J. Wallace, R.
Hall, Sir B. Wood, B.
Hawes, B.
Lister, E. C. TELLERS.
Marsland, H. Hume, J.
Morris, D. Williams, W.

Resolution agreed to.

House resumed.