HC Deb 25 August 1848 vol 101 cc528-9

wished to put to the Government some questions with respect to the treatment of the convict Mitchel. He was induced to do so because it had been communicated to him that Mitchel was not treated as a convict, but, to use the expression of his informant, who was a resident in Bermuda, rather as a State prisoner. He was also informed through other sources that the convict was allowed the use of two rooms, with a servant to wait upon him—that he was not subjected to any kind of labour—that he were no distinctive dress—and that his position was better than that of many officers in Her Majesty's service in that island. Before however, he put the question he would say, he had no wish to press harshly upon that unhappy individual—far from it; but his object was to ascertain, what was so important to the public, whether the law of this country was fairly, justly, and impartially administered. The first question he would put was to the gallant Admiral opposite with reference to the treatment of Mitchel on board the Scourge. It was stated that he messed with the officers on going to Bermuda; but he (Mr. Robinson) was unwilling to believe it. He could not think it possible; but it was publicly stated, and believed at Bermuda, and it was important it should he contradicted for the honour of the naval service and the character of the gallant Admiral. The question he wished to put to the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary was, whether any orders had been given with respect to the treatment of Mitchel at Bermuda, and whether any communication had been made to the Secretary of State by the authorities at Bermuda as to the manner in which that individual had been treated?


believed he could answer both the questions of the hon. Gentleman as far as any information was in the power of the Government. With respect to the first, he could say that no such information had reached the Government; and he was certain, from information he did possess, and from the nature of the instructions addressed to the captain of the ship in which Mitchel was removed, that it was not correct. The hon. Gentleman would remark that Mitchel was not sent to Bermuda in an ordinary convict ship, but in a man-of-war. Special instructions were given to the captain from the Admiralty, directing him to take every precaution for the security of the prisoner, at the same time, while the vessel was at sea, as the prisoner was stated by the surgeon of the gaol to be in delicate health, to select a cabin for his confinement, placing a sentry at the door where his meals were to he taken. He must, therefore, utterly disbelieve the statement to which the hon. Gentleman referred. A letter was also written by the Secretary of State to the Governor of Bermuda, calling his attention to the case of the prisoner, and to the report of the surgeon at Spike Island as to the health of the prisoner, and the kind of labour for which he was unfit. The Government had received no information corroborative of the hon. Gentleman's statement as to the treatment of Mitchel at Bermuda. The only information they did possess was contained in a despatch dated the 4th of July, in which the Governor said, that the medical superintendent stated it as his opinion that Mitchel was suffering from a chronic affection of the lungs, and that he had caused him to he received on board the Tenedos hospital ship. Since that information was received he had been removed from the Tenedos to another convict hulk; but he (Sir G. Grey) presumed that the state of the convict's health had been such as to prevent his being put to any kind of hard labour, as convicts usually were.