§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I have to make an appeal to my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham). I understand that he has given notice of his intention to call attention to the circumstances connected with the transaction which was the subject of a discussion the 863 other evening, in which Colonel Crawley was concerned. My noble Friend the Under Secretary for War, in the course of his statement the other night, said there were circumstances still under consideration connected with Colonel Crawley's conduct which might lead to subsequent measures. His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief has determined that there are circumstances connected with the case which will render it justifiable and require that the conduct of Colonel Crawley shall be submitted to a court martial. That being the case, and judicial proceedings being determined upon, I would submit to my hon. Friend whether it would not be better that no discussion should take place upon the subject, which, by eliciting opinions favourable or adverse to the person implicated, might in some degree tend to interfere with the course of justice in regard to the case.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he should have great pleasure in acceding to the request of the noble Lord, but that he thought the case of Sergeant Major Lilley was merely part of a larger question which involved the court-martial held on Paymaster Smales at Mhow. It was only that very day that he had received many of the documents connected with that proceeding, and he must observe, that while the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War had the other evening expressed his regret that he could not deliver up to the House a victim, he was unwilling, having made himself acquainted with the details given in these papers, to rest satisfied with simply being presented with a scapegoat. In his opinion, it was not Colonel Crawley only who was compromised in the matter. Two general officers in India, the Commander-in-Chief in India, as well as the Commander-in-Chief of the British army and other officials at the Horse Guards, were also deeply and gravely implicated. Was it not monstrous, he would ask, that Paymaster Smales of the 6th Dragoons, for writing what was characterized as an insubordinate letter—the insubordination of which was, he must confess, to him by no means so patent as had been stated—should have been sent before a court-martial in the manner in which he had been, without any previous investigation, and the witnesses actually impounded who were in readiness to support his case? Why, the whole proceeding was perfectly disgraceful.
said, he rose to order. 864 The hon. Gentleman had simply given notice of his intention to bring under the consideration of the House the case of Sergeant Major Lilley, and under those circumstances it was not open to him to discuss the case of the court martial held on Paymaster Smales, with reference to which he had no given no notice, and of the proceedings of which the House had no record.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, in his opinion, his hon. Friend was not out of order in adopting the course which he had taken. The real question at issue was whether Sir Hugh Rose was to be supported by the Horse Guards or not.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, he could not support the call to order which had just been made. He thought there was nothing in the language of the hon. Member for Brighton contrary to the rules of the House.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, that the interruption of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Huntingdon was entirely in accordance with the whole conduct of the military authorities in the cause to which he was drawing attention. They were all for suppression; but so long as he had the honour of a seat in that House he would not allow so monstrous an outrage to be perpetrated without protesting against it. In the name of the officers, non-commissioned officers, and private soldiers of the British army, he demanded that justice should be done, even though the persons to whom blame attached in the transaction were general officers, and included among the number his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief of the army. ["Oh! oh!"] It had been said that the House of Commons was a house of colonels, and one would think from the groans of those who sat opposite that their sympathies were enlisted on the side of men who had, deliberately and in cold blood, acted in the manner to which he was about more particularly to advert. The question was one in which he thought the House was bound to interfere. He might be told it was merely a question of discipline, and that the poor paymaster, who had been tried by court martial, might be crushed with impunity; but he ventured to maintain, that when the details of the court martial were brought to light, its decision would not be confirmed by public opinion in this country. By a brief reference to those details, he hoped to satisfy the House that the justice of the case called for a rigid and searching investigation of the conduct 865 of the distinguished officers to whom he alluded. He would summon his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief himself to the bar of a tribunal, where he would be judged not, perhaps, by his equals, but by those who would not stand by and see injustice done, though screened by great names. The Commander-in-Chief, with the strangest weakness, had altered his first decison, and had determined that Colonel Crawley should be brought before a court martial. He had by that act condemned himself. What was the nature of the charge based upon the letter addressed by Paymaster Smales to Colonel Crawley? He would read an extract from that letter—Mhow, February 26, 1862.Sir,—Your recent proceedings towards me will, I trust, be an apology for my troubling you with a respectful remonstrance, while at the same time I submit to you that my position has now become one of so painful a character, owing to the line of conduct you pursue towards me, that I feel bound to appeal to the higher authorities.
—I must rise to order. I would ask whether it is fair that the hon. Member should produce the proceedings of a court martial about which the House knows nothing? No one has learnt with more horror than I did the painful circumstances connected with these transactions. [Cries of "Order!"]
I wish to know, Sir, whether it is competent for the hon. Member for Brighton to read the record of proceedings about which we know nothing, and of which no one can have the means of answering him?
§ MR. SPEAKER
I have already said that the mere fact of the hon. Member not having included this subject on his notice does not place him out of order, it is perfectly competent for him to bring a matter of this kind before the House without notice, on the Motion for going into Supply.
What I asked was, whether the hon. Gentleman had a right to quote from a document not in possession of the House. ["Order!"]
§ MR. CONINGHAM
continued: He would remind the right hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Minister of the Crown was in possession—or ought to be—of all the correspondence on the subject. But to return to passages from Paymaster Smales's letter, to which he wished to 866 refer. The writer spoke of Colonel Crawley's personal animosity towards him, and submitted to his consideration whether his respectful conduct towards his commanding officer was reciprocated by that officer's conduct towards himself. The letter went on in the same respectful tone, but he would content himself by simply reading the portions mentioned in the charge against Captain Smales. Captain Smales was arraigned for insubordination, in having written an official letter to his commanding officer containing "false and malicious statements" against him—such as, that he had almost systematically absented himself from the monthly muster of the regiment; that notwithstanding his absence on certain occasions, he had signed the adjutant's roll, as if he had been present; and that the sentiments he had expressed more than once to the officers under his command were anything but conciliatory in their tendency. When put upon his trial, Paymaster Smales brought forward a solemn protest against the legality of the proceedings taken against him, and in that protest he submitted that Her Majesty's regulations—clearly laying down that all charges preferred against an officer were to be previously examined by superior authority, to ascertain whether there was sufficient evidence to substantiate them or not—had been violated to his prejudice; for he had been accused of making false and malicious statements, without any reference being made to him as to the evidence he was prepared to adduce in support of them, and without his being allowed an opportunity of proving his accusation against Colonel Crawley, before the counter charge, based upon ex parte evidence and Colonel Crawley's own simple denial, was preferred against himself. The protest also alleged that Colonel Crawley sought to smother the accusation made against himself in the first instance by bringing a counter charge against his accuser; and that he could not be heard while Colonel Crawley appeared as a prosecutor and he as a prisoner. He submitted, on the quotations he had made from the protest of Paymaster Smales, and on the facts which were known to the public, and which were corroborated by the memorandum issued by the Horse Guards, that the mere trial of Colonel Crawley would not meet the justice of the case. A searching investigation should be instituted into the conduct of the distinguished officers in India who were too 867 deeply mixed up in these transactions. It was idle to attempt to burke an inquiry which was required in the interest of the British army, for the House might depend upon it, that if non-commissioned officers were liable to be treated as Sergeant Major Lilley and his comrades had been treated, with the sanction of high military authorities, there would be great dissatisfaction throughout the ranks of the service. The delinquents, no matter how eminent their position or how high their birth, should be made to feel that they could not escape from justice. He appealed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government not to make a scapegoat of Colonel Crawley; but enforcing his authority to the utmost limit, to order an immediate investigation into the conduct of every one concerned in this discreditable and disgraceful affair.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that although Mr. Speaker had decided that the hon. Member for Brighton was in order in the observations he had addressed to the House, there would, he thought, be hardly any difference of opinion as to the good taste displayed by the hon. Gentleman in his remarks upon the trial of Paymaster Smales. The notice given by the hon. Member was to call attention to the memorandum of the Commander-in-Chief on the case of Sergeant Major Lilley. Now, it was perfectly true that the case of Sergeant Major Lilley arose out of the circumstances which occurred on the trial of Paymaster Smales, and it might, therefore, be proper to have a discussion upon that trial, although he doubted whether the House of Commons was a proper place for the discussion of details connected with the discipline of the army; but he was perfectly sure that the hon. Member for Brighton, especially considering the terms of his notice, had no right to enter into statements affecting the character of officers who were not present to defend themselves. For example, His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief was not present, and those whose business it would be to defend him in that, House had not had an opportunity of preparing themselves to repel any charge which might be made against him. He therefore entirely declined to follow the hon. Gentleman in his observations upon the trial of Paymaster Smales and the conduct of the Commander-in-Chief in India or England in sanctioning the proceedings and finding of the court martial. All he would say was 868 that in his judgment—and he was corroborated by the opinion of the Judge Advocate General—the letter of Paymaster Smales was a document highly insubordinate in his character, and that it fully warranted his dismissal from the regiment. He was at a loss to discover the grounds of the violent attack made by the hon. Member on the Commander-in-Chief, for the fact was, that the finding of the court martial in the case of Paymaster Smales never came before His Royal Highness for his sanction at all, it being a matter which rested solely with the Commander-in-Chief in India. In his memorandum His Royal Highness made, as he was entitled to do, such observations as appeared to him proper upon the state of discipline in the regiment as disclosed in the proceedings before the court martial, but he did not interfere with the finding of the court. The House had already been informed of the grounds upon which the Commander-in-Chief and the Secretary for War thought it impossible to bring Colonel Crawley to trial for the illegal arrest of Sergeant Major Lilley, or to proceed against the general officers in any other way than by calling their attention to the illegality of their conduct. There were certain circumstances connected with the arrest of Sergeant Major Lilley, for which Colonel Crawley had not received the sanction of his commanding officers, and which materially affected his conduct. The hon. Member said he did not want either a victim or a scapegoat, and that it would not be satisfactory to him that Colonel Crawley should be brought to a court martial. It might not be satisfactory to him, but he thought that the course which the Commander-in-Chief had resolved to adopt would be satisfactory to every hon. Member of that House whose object was to see the discipline of the army maintained. It was stated, and he believed truly, that Sergeant Major Lilley was confined in a manner which was not only severe, but cruel. Colonel Crawley denied that he was responsible for that cruelty, and threw the blame upon Captain Fitz Symons. Captain Fitz Symons had made a distinctly opposite allegation, and it had therefore appeared to the authorities that discipline and justice, and even fairness to Colonel Crawley, required that he should be summoned before a court martial, which should decide who was responsible for his cruelty. He would not further follow the observations of the hon. Member for Brighton, but he 869 fully concurred in the observations of the noble Lord, that it was most improper and undesirable that when a judicial inquiry was about to take place there should be warm and excited discussions in that House, which could not fail to affect the impartiality of the tribunal which was to try the question.
said, that he had risen to order because he thought that it was most unfair to Colonel Crawley, with whom he had no acquaintance whatever, that matters which were about to be inquired into by a court martial should be made the subject of discussion in that House, and he was surprised that the hon. Member for Brighton, who was himself an old soldier, should not have taken the same view of the case. No one had heard of these occurrences, in one of the finest regiments of the service, with greater astonishment and regret than he had; and he could only say, that if a commanding officer, who had power to make his regiment the most comfortable and pleasant of homes, made it a hell upon earth, the sooner he was dismissed the better. At present, however, they did not know that Colonel Crawley had done so. They were in perfect ignorance of the facts. The hon. Gentleman had read extracts from the proceedings of the court martial, but he believed that no other hon. Member had had an opportunity of seeing them. The Commander-in-Chief in India was one of his oldest and dearest friends, and he was convinced that in the view which he had taken of the finding of the court martial he had been guided solely by a desire to secure the interest, the discipline, and the honour of the army. The Commander-in-Chief in India was entirely independent of the Commander-in-Chief in this country, and he regretted that the hon. Gentleman should the other night have been so anxious to cast obloquy upon His Royal Highness as to attack him without hearing the noble Lord who had come down to the House to explain the Memorandum which the hon. Gentleman now called in question.
§ SIR PATRICK O'BRIEN
said, he thought, if gross outrages were committed it was the duty of hon. Members, if requested to do so, to make in that House the statements of officers who were aggrieved. The general opinion of his military friends was that the state of this regiment was such as to render it necessary that the Horse Guards should make some change in its administration.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I cannot help expressing my great regret at the course which my hon. Friend (Mr. Coningham) has adopted. He professes to stand up for justice, but he has himself been guilty of the grossest injustice, and has launched out into abuse and condemnation of his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief without the slightest ground or reason. I am quite sure, at least I hope, that when he returns to the calm state of mind in which I hope that he will find himself in the morning, and reads the expressions in which, in the heat and warmth of debate, taking the part of his friend, Paymaster Smales—[Mr. CONINGHAM: He is no friend of mine]—he has indulged, in reference to his Royal Highness, he will feel regret for what he has said. The Duke of Cambridge stands too high in the estimation of the country and of the army for the admirable attention which he has paid to the interests of the service, and the justice with which he has acted in all that concerns the conduct of the army, to have his character or reputation in the least degree affected by the censures of my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton; but I felt that I should not have performed my duty if I had not animadverted upon the course which my hon. Friend has thought fit to take. I can assure him that I regret very much that expressions have fallen from him which will do no discredit to his Royal Highness, against whom they were directed, but will not do much credit to him in the opinion of a discerning and just public.
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, he thought that the course taken and the language used by the hon. Member for Brighton were enough to satisfy the House of the prudence of the advice given to him by the noble Lord. The hon. Member had really attempted to make the House of Commons a court of appeal from the decision of a court martial, selected, no doubt, with a due reference to the characters of the officers composing it, and having the evidence before it. That was a more serious matter than the hon. Gentleman seemed to think. Their empire in India depended upon the efficiency and discipline of the army, which would not long be maintained if every time there was a regimental court martial an appeal was to be made to that House to reverse its decision. The hon. Member had strongly condemned the conduct of Sir Hugh Rose, but had not condescended upon any particulars. He should 871 like to know in what respect that most distinguished and gallant officer had failed in his duty to the public or the army. The proceedings of the court martial were submitted to him, and he himself passed an opinion upon them, as he was bound to do. A more unwise, more imprudent, more unfair, and more harsh course than that taken by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Brighton could not well be adopted. His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief had taken what every one must regard as a very proper course, and in justice to Colonel Crawley, who was an old servant of Her Majesty of thirty or forty years' standing, the public were bound to wait and see if he could clear himself from the imputations which behind his back had been so lavishly cast upon him.