§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he wished to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether he will lay upon the table of the House a copy of the second Letter or Memorandum 1615 of the Mhow Court Martial, signed by the Adjutant General, a portion of which letter has been read out to Captain Smales at the Horse Guards, wherein it was said that in the opinion of His Royal Highness the statements contained in the Paymaster's letter of the 26th of February were not considered by him as false, though they were in part malicious? He would also renew the question he had formerly put, whether the opinion of the Judge Advocate General has been given on the legality of the proceedings at the Mhow Court Martial before Captain Smales was gazetted out of the service?
§ MR. E. P. BOUVERIE
said, he also wished to ask the noble Lord whether a subsequent communication or memorandum, signed by the Adjutant General, has been sent to the Commander-in-Chief in India, modifying the opinion on the proceedings of the Court Martial at Mhow contained in the Memorandum of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief of the Army upon the same subject, now upon the table of the House, or in any way relating to the same subject; and whether such first-mentioned communication or memorandum has been read to the assembled Officers of Her Majesty's Enniskillen Dragoons in India as publicly as the Memorandum now upon the table?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
I shall, perhaps, be able most easily to explain the position in which the War Office stands with regard to these papers if I first answer the Question of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Bouverie). I will therefore state that the only document which at all answers the description given to it by my right hon. Friend is a communication or memorandum which was last March forwarded by the Adjutant General to the Commander-in-Chief in India, and which was covered by private letters to Sir William Mansfield and Sir Hugh Rose. The private letters that covered the memorandum were marked "private," and they were addressed "My dear Mansfield," and "My dear Rose." The memorandum enclosed was particularly described as being private, and particular directions were given that it should not be read to the troops in the same way as the former one, or published in any way. I am not aware, and cannot suppose it possible, that it should have been read in India in the public manner stated by my right hon. Friend. I hope I have made it sufficiently clear to the House, that when I stated there was no "public memorandum" on this subject, I 1616 was perfectly correct. And I think the House will see, that that memorandum being covered and guarded so carefully as a private communication, the House has no claim whatever to have the memorandum published. [Mr. CONINGHAM: Was it signed by the Adjutant General?] I am not sure whether it was signed by him or not. The circumstances under which it was sent out were these:—His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief had received several private letters from officers in India on the subject of this court martial. The Commander-in-Chief requested the Adjutant General, who was acquainted with his views, to draw up a private memorandum embodying those views for the information of Sir Hugh Rose and Sir William Mansfield. In that memorandum his Royal Highness stated that he fully appreciated the motives which prompted the officers in India in what they had done, but he distinctly declined to modify any of the opinions to which he had given expression in the memorandum publicly read to the troops in India. Although, therefore, there is, in the opinion of the Government, no necessity or obligation to lay this private memorandum on the table, still, at the special request of his Royal Highness, who wishes that no step which he has taken in this matter should be kept back from the public, and who apprehends that after the questions which have been put, and the public mention which has been made respecting this memorandum, a false impression might go forth to the world if it were not laid on the table—at the special request, I say, of the Commander-in-Chief, this second memorandum, as well as the private letters of his Royal Highness will be laid upon the table.
With respect to the Question of the hon. Member for Brighton (Mr. Coningham), I have to state I cannot lay any such letter or memorandum as that to which he refers on the table of the House, because no such paper is in existence. As, no doubt, the hon. Member had some grounds to go upon in asking the Question, I will state what did occur, and what gave rise to the supposition that such a paper existed. In a conversation at the Horse Guards between the Adjutant General and Mr. Smales, the Adjutant General read to Mr. Smales a portion of a departmental or office Minute which he himself had written to the Military Secretary embodying his own views upon the court martial. That Minute was read by his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, 1617 but he did not concur in it. The Minute was read by the Adjutant General to Mr. Smales by way of explaining to that gentleman what the ideas of the Adjutant General himself were upon the court martial. The passage that was read was to this effect—that in his (Sir James Scarlett's) opinion Mr. Smales's charge against Colonel Crawley was malicious, but perhaps not intentionally false, as Colonel Crawley, though in cantonments and on parade, was not at the time in actual command of the regiment. When the Adjutant General read this Minute to Mr. Smales, he was explaining to the latter, that in his opinion, although he might have expressly proved that Colonel Crawley was not present in command of the regiment on parade, still being present in cantonments and in actual charge of the regiment, the statement was essentially false, though Mr. Smales might not have made an intentionally false charge. But this opinion of the Adjutant General was never confirmed or adopted by the Commander-in-Chief; it never took the form of a memorandum or letter, and therefore cannot be laid upon the table. If, however, the hon. Gentleman should ask me whether I will lay on the table the Minute of the Adjutant General, my reply would be that it is contrary to all precedent that a departmental or office minute should be laid upon the table, and it cannot be produced. With respect to the Question whether the proceedings of the court martial on Mr. Smales in India were submitted to the Judge Advocate General, every Member of the House knows, that as soon as they arrived in England, they were submitted to him, and he gave it as his opinion that the sentence passed by the court martial was a legal sentence.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
What I asked was, were the proceedings submitted for the opinion of the Judge Advocate General?
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
The proceedings were submitted to the Judge Advocate General; and as he gave his opinion that the sentence passed was legal, Paymaster Smales after a time was gazetted out of the regiment. I believe I have now answered all the Questions.