HC Deb 30 June 1852 vol 122 cc1419-23

moved for a copy of the depositions taken at Gosport on the case of Leopold de Rose, who was sentenced to imprisonment with hard labour on a charge of begging. The noble Lord stated the particulars of the case, to the effect that Mr. de Rose obtained a livelihood by selling drawings, and that he had been falsely accused by Captain Hamilton of begging, on which charge he had been committed to fourteen days' imprisonment and hard labour. The noble Lord stated that Captain Hamilton had also insulted him by telling him that, as a Pole, he belonged to the most rascally set of scoundrels that ever were let loose on this country. The noble Lord then proceeded to point out the injustice of the case, remarking that, even if the poor Pole had solicited alms, it would have been harsh treatment to give him into custody. It was only a few days since an Austrian officer, who had been engaged in the war against Hungary, applied to him for relief, and he considered he would have disgraced himself had he given that man into custody. And yet Captain Hamilton had thought it not unbecoming in a British officer to be instrumental in imprisoning a poor Pole, who had committed no offence, for fourteen days, with hard labour. The conduct of the magistrate was, however, equally reprehensible; for there could have been no necessity for visiting so slight an offence—if even an offence had been committed, which he denied—with such great severity. A case of this sort was a disgrace to a country which boasted of affording protection to the exiled and the unfortunate. He (Lord D. Stuart) had known Mr. De Rose many years, and he had always found him an honourable, straightforward man. He believed that he had never applied to any one for pecuniary assistance, and he had never applied to the Society of the Friends of Poland. The noble Lord then read the following letters, the first of which was from Thomas Hoskins, Esq., lately Tithe Commissioner, and now Auditor of the Accounts of the Guardians of the Poor at Gosport, Portsmouth, and the Isle of Wight:— Gosport, 26th June, 1852. My Lord—At the request of my excellent friend the Mayor of Southampton, I have felt great pleasure in accompanying Lieut. Szulczewski and Mr. Leopold de Rose to the several places of abode of Mr. Tilston, Mr. Wyatt, Mr. Biden, Capt. Blake, Mr. Meggs, Mrs. Welch, Miss Slane, and Miss Nott—all of whom I have known for many years as most highly respectable people— and I can assure your Lordship that I have heard with great delight the testimony which each of those ladies and gentlemen gave to the character and deportment of Mr. Leopold de Rose, who, although reduced to the necessity of offering his articles for sale, always did so with the marked conduct of a highly honourable man and a gentleman; he was immediately recognised by each, was most pleasantly received by all, and deeply sympathised with for the manner in which he had been treated, which, as some did not hesitate to state, was a disgrace to the country. So far from begging, one lady stated, that she had offered him two shillings for an article of one shilling value, which he most honourably declined to take. The result is most satisfactory to my mind, that Mr. De Rose has behaved in this neighbourhood in a manner highly creditable to himself and his country, and that he is entitled to the esteem and the sympathy of all who detest tyranny and oppression.—I have the honour to be, your Lordship's most obedient servant, THOMAS HOSKINS. The second, from one of the justices of the peace for the county of Hants, was as follows: — 26th June, 1852. My Lord—I had a visit yesterday from Lieut. Charles Szulczewski and Mr. De Rose; the former came to make inquiries of me respecting Mr. Do Rose's imprisonment for begging, &c. I can only-say I consider he has been shamefully used by Captain Hamilton, who resided at Anglesey, near Gosport, and who is now appointed to a ship at Woolwich. My brother magistrate, Dr. Hillyer, could do no more than imprison Mr. De Rose, as Captain Hamilton swore that he 'wandered abroad to bog and gather alms, contrary to the form of the statute in such case made,' &c. &c. Now it does appear to me to be a very extraordinary thing that Mr. De Rose should beg of Captain Hamilton, when I well know that Mr. De Rose could get 5l. or 10l. whenever he liked to ask for it, by writing to a neighbour of mine, one of the first families in the county, but he has never done so. Moreover, the policeman took Mr. De Rose into custody without a warrant, and without seeing him ask alms. Now he thought that after reading these letters, he was justified in saying that, though Captain Hamilton swore he had begged of him, he did not believe him, though, at the same time, he did not believe that a British officer would state on his oath that which he considered was not true. He believed that Captain Hamilton got into a great fury, and really did not know what he was about, or what was said.

Motion made, and Question proposed — That there he laid before this House, a Copy of the Depositions taken at Gosport on the case of Leopold de Rose, who was sentenced to imprisonment, with hard labour, on the 13th day of November, 1851.


said, he knew Captain de Rose, who was introduced to him by some of the most respectable men in the city of Bristol. He had observed about him great delicacy of mind; he was evidently a man labouring under misfortune, who wished to put on the best appearance he could. Whenever any attempt had been made to give him money, he shrank from it. He trusted that Govern- ment would make an inquiry into this case.


said, he ought, perhaps, to take some blame on himself in not having pressed more strongly than he had done on the noble Lord his wish that he should postpone this Motion in consequence of the absence of his right hon. Friend (Mr. Walpole). He regretted still more that the noble Lord should have thought it his duty to go into a long accusation against persons who were not present, and who had no means whatever of making any answer. It appeared most extraordinary that this matter had been allowed to sleep for months, and that persons in the neighbourhood, who took an interest in the matter, had made no representation to the Home Office. If any such representation had been made either to the present Secretary of State, or to his predecessor, the fullest possible investigation would have been made. He understood that it was unusual to furnish copies of the depositions taken in such cases as the present; but he would take care that such an investigation should be made, and he would inform the noble Lord of the result—but he could not now consent to the Motion.


did not think that gentlemen in the position of Mr. De Rose had any encouragement to look to the Home Office for redress, after the treatment of another Pole, who was not a poor Pole like Mr. De Rose, but who, without any other charge than that he was a Pole, had been taken out of his own House, placed in a cell for twelve hours, and his papers ransacked—had appealed to the Home Office and obtained no redress— and when, after six months had elapsed, he applied to his attorney, he found that it was too late, according to the Act of Parliament, to seek redress in a court of law. If the noble Lord pressed his Motion to a division for the production of the depositions, he would vote with him. The hon. Baronet said it was not usual to produce such depositions; that might be, but it should also be remembered that the case itself was a most unusual one.


I feel bound to say that, in my opinion, this is clearly a case deserving investigation, and I cannot for a moment doubt but that the Government will feel bound to look into it most narrowly and minutely. I think my noble Friend has acted with strict propriety in bringing forward this case; and as to the observation that he made ex- parte charges, and implicated the names of absent individuals, I must say I think that these matters are inseparable from a question like the present. I am sure, my noble Friend, in bringing forward this question, has only displayed that honourable and humane feeling towards the helpless and distressed that has ever characterised his conduct—and for which every one who listens to me must be willing to give him credit. As to the Motion before the House, I have no doubt but that the Government will redeem its pledge, and that full inquiry into the case will be at once instituted; and should they find, after full investigation, that the parties concerned have abused the powers entrusted to them, that the Government will take such steps as will prevent a recurrence of such conduct. I hope my noble Friend will now withdraw the Motion.


said, his object would be attained if Government would make an inquiry, and he therefore withdrew the Motion.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

The House adjourned at Four o'clock.