HC Deb 29 April 1853 vol 126 cc876-83

said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the case of Lieutenant Engledue, R.N. This gentleman, who had attained great proficiency in the art of gunnery, some years ago left the service, and went into the merchant navy. In 1840, he being then a lieutenant in the Royal Navy, the Admiralty required him to hold himself in readiness to join a ship, and he having declined to take an appointment as lieutenant, and stated that he would only take that of captain, to which he thought himself entitled, he was formally appointed lieutenant of Her Majesty's ship Calcutta, but he left the country in command of a merchant vessel. In October, 1840, therefore, his name was removed from the list of lieutenants of the Royal Navy. Two years afterwards he applied to be restored, but the Government of that day considered that he had been properly removed in consequence of direct disobedience to the order to join the Calcutta, and they declined to reinstate him. He would now call the attention of the House to what subsequently took place. On the 1st of December, 1851, Lieutenant Engledue memorialised the Board of Admiralty to have his case taken into consideration, and that their Lordships would restore him to his honourable position of lieutenant in Her Majesty's Navy. On the 11th of December, 1851, an answer was sent to Mr. Engledue informing him that the Admiralty Board, after taking into consideration all the circumstances of the case, was unable to comply with his request. This was signed by Captain W. A. B. Hamilton. On the 18th of December, 1851, he asked that his case might be reconsidered. On the 26th he was informed that their Lordships could see no reason to alter their decision in his case. On the 1st of January, 1852, he again wrote to be restored to his rank; and on the 21st of January, 1852, Captain Hamilton acquainted him that their Lordships could only refer him to their former answer of the 11th of December last. On the 9th of June, 1852, Lieutenant Engledue again memorialised the Board; and the answer given to him on the 16th of June, informing him that their Lordships must abide by the former decision come to in his case, was signed by Mr. A. Stafford. On the 21st of June, 1852, Mr. Engledue again urged his claim, and Lord J. H. Hay, Pro-Secretary of the Admiralty, in a letter, dated the 24th of June, referred him to the answer of the 16th. On the 30th of November, 1852, Mr. Engledue wrote again to the Board, and, in his memorial on this occasion, he stated:— Your memorialist, therefore, respectfully begs your kind consideration of his case, and that you will be pleased to restore him to his honourable position of lieutenant in Her Majesty's Navy. He further hopes that your Lordships will, assured of his devotion, be of opinion that he can be instrumental in serving the Government at the port of Southampton; in which case he would humbly suggest that your Lordships would be pleased to appoint him, in conjunction with his present occupation, to watch or superintend the equipment of contract vessels suited to carry guns, to keep a register of men qualified to manage guns, to superintend the practical training of the various crews (which would entail no additional expense beyond that of having two seamen gunners from Her Majesty's ship Excellent,) and also the entering of men for Her Majesty's service, with hundreds of whom your memorialist is annually brought in contact. Your memorialist humbly conceives that an attention to these details would facilitate the business of the Government, and he humbly prays their Lordships will take his case, into their favourable consideration. And now let the House mark how successful he was in his application. On the 22nd of December, 1852, an answer came to him from Captain Hamilton, in these words:— My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty having had under their consideration your memorial, praying to be restored to your rank as a lieutenant in the Navy, I am commanded to acquaint you that you are at liberty to memorialise Her Majesty in Council for that boon. On the 23rd of December, 1852, Mr. Engledue sent a memorial to Her Majesty in Council. On the 28th of December the memorial was read at the Board, and it was ordered by Her Majesty in Council that the memorial be referred to the Board of Admiralty to report their opinion thereon. On the 3rd of January, 1853, the Board of Admiralty reported— That, in obedience to Your Majesty's commands, we have taken into our consideration the circumstances attending this officer's removal from the list of lieutenants, and his previous services in the Royal Navy, and beg leave most humbly to recommend to Your Majesty a compliance with the prayer of the memorialist, This document was signed—by whom? By "Northumberland," and "T. Herbert." One would naturally ask why this matter should have been left to the two political officers of the Board. The House ought to know what were the opinions of the other members of the Board of a transaction so wholly unprecedented as this. Well, this Report went to the Queen in Council on the 4th (being the next day), and Her Majesty, with the advice of Her Council, approved thereof, and the Board of Admiralty was to give the necessary directions accordingly. Accordingly, therefore, on the 7th of January, Mr. Ralph Osborne wrote to Mr. Engledue in these words:— Her Majesty having been graciously pleased, by Her Order in Council of the 4th inst., to give directions for your restoration to your rank in the Royal Navy, I am commanded by my Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to acquaint you that you have been replaced accordingly in your former position, and to direct that you will hold yourself in readiness for an appointment. Your half-pay will commence on the 4th inst. Thus was Mr. Engledue at length restored to his rank of lieutenant in the Navy without an additional qualification being assigned, and after the same Board of Admiralty in December last refused to restore him to his former position. He wished the House to bear in mind the dates. It was after the general election, and just before another election—namely, that of the new Attorney General (Sir A. Cock-burn), when he was about to vaeate his seat with a view to his re-election at Southampton, that this transaction took place. It would be remembered that on the 16th of December, 1852, the Budget of the late Government was rejected, and the House adjourned from that Thursday to the following Monday, which was the 20th. On the 20th, the right hon. Member for Buckinghamshire (Mr. Disraeli) came down to the House and stated that the then Government only held office until their successors were appointed. On the 22nd of December, two days after that announcement by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the late Board of Admiralty gave notice to Mr. Engledue that if he would memorialise Her Majesty in Council they would consent to restore him to the list. On the 23rd the memorial was sent; on the 28th it was considered in Council, and referred back to the Admiralty. On the 29th, during all these transactions, the writs for Gloucester and Southampton were moved for. Mr. Engledue was all ready, primed and loaded, with his commission in his pocket, to be the better provided for the contest against the new Attorney General. On the 3rd of January the recommendation of the Board to Her Majesty was given. It was then the Southampton election. On the 4th Her Majesty approved of the appointment. On the 6th, before this transaction was quite completed, a new patent was made out for appointing new Lords of the Admiralty, whereupon the previous Board, which had been managing all this work, were very properly all bundled out of office. The House would immediately see that this transaction was one which required great consideration. This officer memorialised three different Boards of Admiralty, and his claim was refused by all of them; he memorialised a fourth Board, and was refused by that Board till certain transactions had taken place, in the course of which he (Sir G. Pechell) believed it could be proved Mr. Engledue greatly overstepped his duty. He alluded to that gentleman's interference at the Southampton election, which was highly improper and indecorous, as an officer holding Her Majesty's commission; and, if the case had been fully gone into before the Committee, he believed Mr. Engledue would not now be holding his present situation. From his own knowledge, a very different practice prevailed at the Board of Admiralty to that which had been pursued in this case. When the right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) was about to retire from office, the command of the fleet in the Mediterranean was about to be vacated. The right hon. Baronet might have appointed Admiral Dundas to that station, but he would not fill up such an important appointment when the Government was only holding office until their successors were appointed. He left the appointment of the officer to those to whom he would be responsible. The right hon. Baronet had always acted upon that plan. He (Sir G. Pechell) believed no such appointment ever had been made by a Government who were only holding office until their successors were appointed. The whole of this transaction had greatly grieved the officers of the naval service. They saw that these rewards were given for political services, for services upon the hustings, and not on the quarter deck. When the Duke of Northumberland took command at the Admiralty, he (Sir G. Pechell) gave him his support as a naval officer, considering that he would have maintained an independent position. He might have been as firm as a rock, and have held himself in an honourable and independent position. The naval service felt indignant at the manner in which this case had been handled, and wore confident that no satisfactory issue would be arrived at unless these papers should be referred to the Dockyard Committee. He thought he had made out a case for inquiry, and he therefore begged to move, that the papers relating to the restoration of Mr. J. R. Engledue to the rank of lieutenant in the Navy be referred to the Dockyard Committee.


said, he begged to second the Motion. He had read with great care the Parliamentary paper respecting Lieutenant Engledue, and it did appear to him that after that gentleman had been removed from the list for so many years, and had been refused to be replaced by three Boards of Admiralty, he ought not to have been restored. The honour and prosperity of the Navy were at stake in a question of this nature.


said, that this case naturally resolved itself into two parts; first, with regard to the naval, and, secondly, with regard to the political part of the question. As to the first point, he might observe that Lieutenant Engledue was not struck off the naval list for conduct unbecoming a gentleman, though, unquestionably, for an act of great insubordination and disobedience ten years ago. The difference between the circumstances attending his application in June, when it was refused, and in December, when it was granted, was contained in the last three lines of the last paragraph but one of his memorial of November 30, 1852, in which he stated that his position gave the means of greatly advancing the enlisting of seamen for the Navy, as it caused him to come in contact with hundreds of men. The House might or might not agree with the late Naval Board, but a great addition having been then, in December, ordered to be made to the Navy, and great difficulty being felt in procuring men, the Board did not feel that it would be right to reject the application of a person occupying such a position that he could connect the naval service with the mercantile marine. Although, therefore, they had rejected his application in June, they felt that it would not be compatible with their sense of duty to do so in December. With regard to the political aspect of the question, he would ask what sort of tactics it would have been to refuse Lieutenant Engledue on the point of a general election? It would have been perfectly competent to the Board of Admiralty either to have acceded to his application in June, or to have postponed their answer to it; but they did neither. In the face of a general election they refused it point blank. Then came the general election; and what was the conduct of this gentleman? There were then two Conservative candidates for Southampton, and two on the opposite side; and, if he was not misinformed, Lieutenant Engledue voted for one candidate on each side: therefore, as far as politics went, he seemed to have paired off. If he had given his vote to both the Conservative candidates, the political case might have been made out; but he believed he recorded his vote for the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Willcox) now Member for that borough. Certainly Lieutenant Engledue was so unfortunate as to vote against the Attorney General. No doubt he did make that tremendous mistake. He (Mr. Stafford) was not exactly prepared to defend him, because he was aware that an offence of so great an enormity was not capable of defence. The late Board of Admiralty did not, as he had already said, conceive themselves at liberty to reject Mr. Engledue's application at the time, and under the circumstances, that it was made. They were prepared to stand by and justify the decision to which they had come. The service was satisfied with it; and they believed that they had done their duty to their country in restoring this highly efficient officer. If they had done wrong, it was simply a question for the Executive Government. The present Board of Admiralty had the power to strike Lieutenant Engledue off the list to-morrow. They could appoint him to the smallest brig on the coast of Africa, and if he refused to serve they could dismiss him altogether. Whether the House would refer this memorial to the Committee on Dockyard Officers, he was not aware; but he believed that a great majority of those most competent to judge of the matter would agree that the late Board of Admiralty had only done right to Lieutenant Engledue and right to the service; and so far was there from being anything connected with politics in this case, that it was simply a question whether the Executive had wisely exercised the discretion that must be vested in them in employing this gentleman, whom they believed to be capable of serving the country at a time when it was at once a matter of importance and difficulty to obtain seamen for the Navy.


said, that on the face of the hon. Gentleman's statement it was clear that this appointment must be prejudicial to the honour and discipline of the Navy. As regarded the other part of the question, the hon. Gentleman said that it would have been very bad political tactics to have refused the application of Lieutenant Engledue in the face of a general election; but they all knew that the labourer was not worthy of his hire until he had earned it. And no doubt it was for his services then rendered that the public considered his restoration due. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stafford) said that Lieutenant Engledue had given an impartial vote—that he had voted for both sides. But the fact was that the vote that was not given to the Government candidate was given to the gentleman who had the control of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, in whoso service he was; that was, he gave one vote for his master and another for his political friends. Now, every one knew that the Liberal candidate, against whom the exertions of the Conservative party were mainly directed, was his hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General, and he wished to know whether the hon. Gentleman opposite was not aware that the Directors of the Peninsular and Oriental Company were exceedingly discontented with the exertions of Lieutenant Engledue against the Attorney General. [Mr. STAFFORD: I never heard of it.] In that case the hon. Gentleman was the only person who knew anything about Southampton, or was there shortly before the election, as the hon. Gentleman was, who did not hear of it. The circumstances of this case were certainly so suspicious that it had better at once go to the Committee. It had been stated that the two naval Lords at the Admiralty Board had protested against Lieutenant Engledue's appointment, and the hon. Gentleman opposite had not referred to that point. It appear-to him of vital importance to the service to know whether those who had its honour and interest at heart, and who had felt that it should not be prostituted to political purposes, did not on this occasion dissent from their political colleagues at the Board, and protest against the interest of the Navy being rendered subordinate to those of political party.


said, that he happened to be out of town when this took place, and if the hon. and learned Gentle-would refer to the papers he would find that they were signed by the other Secretary, Captain Hamilton. He did not say this to shrink from the responsibility of the appointment, because he was aware that while they were in office together, either Secretary was responsible for the acts of the other. He was not, however, aware that any Secretary to the Admiralty, or any official person, had the power to state the various opinions and debates which might have occurred at the Board of Admiralty, and, therefore, even if he had been aware of any division at the Board on the subject of Lieutenant Engledue's appointment, which he was not, because he was absent from town at the time, he should not have thought fitting for him in his place in Parliament to give the information asked for, and he should therefore have refused to do so. This act was done by the Board. Those gallant members of the Board had the power to protest against it, but they were bound by it if done, and it would be impossible to carry on the business of Government if inquiries such as this were to be made and answered by those who were the organs of the department in that House.


said, that as a member of the late Board of Admiralty he wished to express his high sense of Lieutenant Engledue's services rendered both before and after his appointment. His conduct in dealing with difficulties, his tact and discretion in equipping vessels, showed how much he was entitled to any reward to which he could be thought entitled.

Motion agreed to.

The House adjourned at half-after One o'clock till Monday next.