HC Deb 22 March 1844 vol 73 cc1369-71
Mr. Gill

rose pursuant to notice, With a view to obviate an erroneous impression produced by the statement of the Secretary at War on the 12th instant, to call the attention of the House to the detention of Captain Brewster, of the 76th Regiment, under arrest for eight months, without any charge being made against him; and to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he has any objection to communicate to the House the order from the horse-Guards for that officer's release and admonition. It would be remembered that about ten days ago, in reply to a question in reference to the detention of two officers, Captain Brewster and another, of the seventy-sixth regiment, the right hon. and gallant Officer (Sir Henry Hardinge) stated that the cause of that detention was, that a junior officer had challenged a senior officer, and that the senior officer, having accepted that challenge, had committed an offence, and had been consequently arrested. The right hon. and gallant Officer was also reported to have stated, that as both officers had violated their duty in an unjustifiable manner, the Commander-in-chief had punished them by an arrest at large; but that the Commander-in-chief bearing in mind the long period they had been under arrest, intended to release them after a suitable admonition. Now, what he was anxious to show was, that that statement, so far as it referred to Captain Brewster, was incorrect. He need not say that he was sure the inaccuracy did not attach to the right hon. and gallant Officer whom everybody in that House, and out of it, knew to be incapable of stating anything but what he believed to be fully borne out by facts. The effect of that inaccuracy might, how- ever, be injurious to the character of Captain Brewster, and he (Mr. Gill) therefore, now asked for some further explanation, in order to remove any imputation which might, in consequence of that statement, rest upon that officer, and he was sure that no one would be more anxious to remove such imputation than the right hon. and gallant Officer. The two officers referred to were, it appeared, ordered under arrest by another officer, who was present at some proceeding which had taken place between them, and who had subsequently communicated the fact and the circumstances which had occasioned the arrest, to the commanding officer. Now, he (Mr. Gill) found, by the Articles of War, that no officer was liable to arrest except for an offence committed, and that it was the duty of a person putting an officer under arrest immediately to take steps for instituting au inquiry by court-martial or otherwise. When he stated to the House that Captain Brewster had not been guilty of any offence deserving punishment or scarcely arrest, he thought he was not asking too much when he asked for the removal of an imputation which might militate against his reputation as an officer, or his character as a gentleman. After being five months under arrest, Captain Brewster wrote a letter to his commanding officer, begging it might be forwarded, through the major-general in command of the district, to the Commander-in-Chief, entreating to know under what charge he was detained, and stating that if any offence was charged against him, it might be subjected to whatever tribunal the Commander-in-Chief might think fit to select. To that letter no reply had been given. Subsequently two letters were written by Sir David Brewster—one of them to his Grace the Duke of Wellington, and the other to Lord Fitzroy Somerset. The noble Duke, in his reply to Sir David Brewster, said he was aware his son was under an arrest, but that certain regulations were being prepared to suppress Duelling, and it was intended that the two officers (Captain Brewster and the other) should be made subject to them when completed. Notwithstanding this, these two officers were continued under arrest three months longer. There was one other circumstance he wished to advert to, which was, that during the first six weeks of their arrest these officers had been confined to their room, and were only liberated in consequence of the medical certificate of the surgeon that they were suffering in their health from their close confinement. He thought the House would agree with him that this severe punishment was uncalled for, and that some explanation was due to the character of Captain Brewster. He wished to know whether the right hon. Baronet had any objection to communicate to the House a copy of the order of the Horse Guards for the liberation of these Gentlemen, and the admonition given to them.

Sir H. Hardinge

would at once state that he could not produce the paper asked for; first, as it was contrary to precedent thus to communicate to the House of Commons matter of detail connected with Military Administration; and secondly, because the case had originated in a private quarrel, the nature of which would necessarily be disclosed in the publication of the admonition issued from the Commander-in-Chief, and the revival of which after it had been honourably adjusted could answer no good purpose. He had attached no imputation to the senior of the officers concerned beyond his having violated military law in taking a challenge from a junior who had conducted himself in a highly improper manner, which, however, the senior had generously forgiven and had become reconciled to his adversary. No doubt generally, in ordinary cases, the Commander-in-Chief would cause inquiry into the circumstances; but in the present instance the quarrel had been purely private.

Mr. Gill

said the explanation had been perfectly satisfactory.