HC Deb 24 March 1862 vol 165 cc1985-8

Order for Committee read.

House in Committee.

Clauses 1 to 21 agreed to.

Clause 22.


said, he wished to move the omission of Clause 22. which authorized flogging in the army. He thought it worth while to mention that flogging in the army, to which he had much repugnance, had very considerably diminished since he last had the honour of bringing the subject forward. He would not detain the House, but would jump at once into figures. The flogging during the year 1860–1 was—the Infantry, in 40 regiments, 96 men were flogged; the Cavalry, in 28 regiments, 29 men were flogged; the Royal Artillery, 41 men were flogged; the Engineers, I man was flogged; and the Military Train. 12 men were flogged; total, 179. In 1858–9, no flogging in 65 regiments; in 1859–60, no flogging in 34 regiments; in 1860–1, no flogging in 19 regiments. In 1858, the lashes given on an average per man were 42; in 1859, 44; and in 1860, 48. The men flogged in the army and militia, in 1857, were 112, and they received 5,240 lashes; in 1858, 218, and they received 9,338 lashes; in 1859, 512, and they received 22,565 lashes; and in 1860, 179, and they received 8,597 lashes. The Committee would perhaps be struck by the great discrepancy between 1859 and 1858. It was believed out of doors that that was owing to the interpolation of two words into the Mutiny Act. He had referred to Hansard, and taken some pains to inquire into the matter, and he was forced to the conclusion, that if the Mutiny Act of that year was managed in the same manner as that of this year—that was to say, no printed copy laid before the House till about two hours before going into Committee—it was quite possible that at the instigation of the military authorities words might have been interpolated providing for an augmentation of punishment. He was encouraged in that belief by the Returns. He found that in the Returns for 1857, desertion did not appear to be punished by flogging; in 1858, there were floggings for desertion in four cases; in 1859, 257 cases for desertion out of 512 flogged; and in 1860, 43 cases for desertion out of 179 cases of flogging. He would not trespass longer on the time of the House. Sixteen years ago the Duke of Wellington said that he felt confident the time would come when punishment by flogging would be abolished, and he hoped to live to see the day. It was, however, still continued, and was, he (Mr. White) believed, detrimental to the discipline of the army, degrading to the national character, and subversive of Christian feeling. He should move the omission of the clause, and as long as he was honoured with a seat in the House he should do the same.


observed, that while the number flogged in the army was, is the hon. Gentleman correctly stated, 179 in 1860–1, it had amounted to 512 in 1859–60; so that a material change had taken place in that respect within a period of two years. That change, he added, was due to the Order in Council which had been issued in November, 1859, and which was to the effect that all persons entering the army were to be exempted from the punishment of flogging until they happened to have been degraded, by the commission of some serious offence, from the first, in which they were placed on their entrance, into the second class. He might further observe that, although a soldier might be reduced to the second class, he might, after a certain period of good conduct, be restored to the first class, in which case he would again become free from liability to the punishment of which the hon. Member complained. It was quite clear, from the figures he had quoted, that a material diminution in the number of men who were flogged had been the result of the change to which he referred. He might also state that the maximum number of lashes which would be inflicted was reduced to fifty, as set forth in the clause which the hon. Gentleman sought to annul, and, looking at the necessity that existed for maintaining discipline, which could not be done without some such sharp discipline, he thought the Committee would not be justified in abolishing it altogether, however much they might be disposed to take that course on the ground of humanity. He hoped that the General Order which had been recently published would receive a fair trial and that the clause would be retained.


said, he was convinced that flogging was not necessary for the maintenance of discipline. He would support the Amendment,

Question put, "That Clause 22 stand part of the Bill."

The Committee divided:—Ayes 67: Noes 14; Majority 53.

Clause agreed to, as were also Clauses 23 to 25.

Clause 26.


said, he objected to Clause 26, which provided that when an offender was dismissed from the army he should be branded upon the right breast with the letters "B. C." He supposed that meant "barbarous custom." He should move the omission of the clause.


said, the letters "B. C." stood for "bad character," and the object was, when a soldier had once been discharged for bad conduct, to prevent his being re-enlisted. The branding was not a painful operation. It used to be done with a hot iron, but the mark was now made with gunpowder.


said, he understood that the letters were formed with a needle steeped in gunpowder. The custom was a brutal and demoralizing one, and ought not to be tolerated in a civilized age.

Clause agreed to.

Remaining Clauses were also agreed to.

House resumed.

Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read 3o To-morrow.

House adjourned at half after One o'clock