HC Deb 29 July 1850 vol 113 cc437-8

Sir, I rise to claim the indulgence of the House while refer to a matter which is personal to myself. On Friday last, during my absence from the House, the hon. Member for Bristol alluded to me, and made assertions with regard to my conduct, which are not founded in fact, and which are calculated to disparage my character, and the character of the troop of yeomanry which I have the honour to command. I will not enter into all the personalities in which the hon. Member indulged; but he said that during the incendiary riots known by the name of the "Swing riots," "the lords lieutenant of counties called out the yeomanry, but they could not get the yeomanry to come; that it was a general; complaint throughout the country; that at that time fire-raising was the order of the day, and every yeoman feared he might become a marked man, and the lords lieu I tenant reported to the Government the inefficiency of the whole of the yeomanry corps of the west of England"—that "the opinion of almost all lords lieutenant with whom he had spoken was, that the yeomanry were useless as a constabulary, because they could not be brought to bear upon any given point on a sudden emergency; that they might carry a troop of Life Guards from London to Leicester in less time than it would take to assemble an effective troop of yeomanry in Leicester; that they might carry a couple of guns, with their attendant artillerymen, from Woolwich to Bristol, in less time than it would take to assemble an effective body of yeomanry in Bristol, for an effective body of yeomanry could not be assembled in an average-sized county within forty- eight hours"—"that, in the case of the Bristol riots, about ten of the Somersetshire Yeomanry marched into Bristol, and they were kindly locked up by the authorities to prevent the mob from harming them"—that "he found it narrated that Captain Codrington having been sent for by the magistrates, appeared in Bristol after some time at the head of the Doddington Troop of Yeomanry; but the hon. Gentleman on that occasion certainly performed the feat achieved by the King of France, who, they were told— 'Marched up a hill, and then marched down again;' for he marched into Bristol at the head of his troop, at the request of the magistrates, and he inarched out again by the light of the Bristol fires." I have now to say, Sir, that the first intimation I received of the Bristol riots was at three o'clock on a Sunday afternoon—that I immediately sent round to my troop, consisting of sixty members, and that in less than four hours I had fifty-nine members in the saddle, and in less than four hours more we were in Bristol, having marched upwards of fifteen miles. As soon as they arrived at Bristol I reported myself to Colonel Brereton, the commander of the district, who kept mo in conversation for some time. I told him that we had come a long march, that we had been in the for some hours, and that we were anxious to act. He said, "Sir, you cannot act without a magistrate." said, "We will make every endeavour to find a magistrate." He said there was none. I told him, "If you will come with me, I have no doubt we shall be able to find one." He accompanied me to several houses in the town, hut we could find no magistrate. He then said, "You had better leave the town. I have been obliged to call in the 14th Light Dragoons. The people will be quiet, only do not go into the town. The sooner you leave the better." I ask the House what alternative I had after that but to march away? I should have given evidence at the court-martial on Colonel Brereton, had he not terminated his existence. I have only now to ask the House what reliance can be placed on the assertion of the hon. Member for Bristol?