HC Deb 09 February 1860 vol 156 cc718-9

said, he would beg to ask Whether Her Majesty's Government has received any information relative to the sickness and mortality on board the ship Accrington, which left Liverpool for India on the 30th of last September, with the wives and families of soldiers; and also as to the reported acts of cruelty and violence committed on board that ship, resulting, as it is alleged, in the murder of the captain and chief officer?


said, that some information had been received upon that subject from Her Majesty's consul at Pernambuco, but not all the particulars that were to be desired. It was evidently a most lamentable case. The facts were simply these. When the vessel conveying the families of soldiers to India had arrived at Pernambuco, it was found that a very large mortality had taken place among the children. It was also ascertained that the captain, who was accused by all parties of having been guilty of great tyranny and oppression towards the emigrants, was dead, as well as his chief officer; and there was reason to suspect that these men had been poisoned by the cook or by some other person on board. With respect to the mortality among the children, a full and rigid inquiry must be instituted, and as regarded the deaths of the captain and mate the consul had already set on foot a full inquiry into that subject, as their case involved a charge of murder. He would add one word with regard to this lamentable occurrence on behalf of the Emigration Commissioners. He had to remind the House that the vessel was not one of the ordinary emigration vessels in charge of the Emigration Commissioners. It was a vessel chartered to carry the families of soldiers to India, that duty having been undertaken by the Emigration Commissioners at the request of the War Department. In all other cases the Commissioners exercised a discretion as to the selection of the emigrants on board, and they strictly limited the number of children to be conveyed in any particular vessel. But in the present instance they were bound to take the emigrants as they found them, and out of sixty-seven deaths which it was found had occurred when the vessel reached Pernambuco, sixty were those of children under four years of age. He mentioned these facts for the purpose of showing that there was no prima facie appearance of neglect in that case on the part of the Commissioners.