HC Deb 22 May 1865 vol 179 cc641-63

said, he rose to ask the Under Secretary of State for War, Whether there is any objection to lay the proceedings and the opinion of the Court of Inquiry lately held on the case of Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins, Coldstream Guards, upon the table of the House; and whether, under the extraordinary circumstances of one of his accusing superior; officers having himself committed a gross violation of the 18th and 78th Articles of I War in having placed and detained Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins under arrest for a period the duration of which, without trial, was illegal, although the occurrence being at Aldershot every facility was afforded for a Court Martial to be conveniently assembled, for which violation of the 78th Article of War such superior officer is himself "liable to be cashiered," his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief will suspend his proposed immediate recommendation of the exercise of the Royal prerogative to place Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins on compulsory half-pay until those documents are printed and distributed to Members of this House. He agreed with those hon. Members who thought that subjects of this kind ought not to be brought before the House unless there was the gravest necessity for adopting such a course; but in this case there was every reason for avoiding delay, and he had privately sent notice of his Questions to the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington). The first he heard of this case was on Saturday morning, when he received a note, accompanied by copies of some official documents, from Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins. That gallant gentleman asked him to take up the case. He was not disposed to do so, as there were so many gallant Gentlemen in that House who knew more about army matters than he did, and he, therefore, recommended Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins to communicate with some of those hon. and gallant Gentlemen. Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins subsequently informed him that there was some professional delicacy in respect of such matters, and earnestly requested him to act in the matter. He consented to do so, as Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins had received a notice that if he did not give an answer by one o'clock to-day, whether or not he would sell his commission, he would be placed on half-pay in the Gazette to-morrow. He felt as if he was in the presence of a man ordered to be executed. [A laugh.] Yes, for if the decision of the military authorities was carried out in this case it would be the professional extinc- tion to a gallant officer who had seen considerable service and had deserved well of his country. It appeared that after for many years holding the appointment of Lieutenant Colonel in the Guards, on one occasion, in 1859, when returning from the Continent, he was late for parade. For that he was rebuked by the Colonel commanding the battalion in presence of juniors. Colonel Newton said— Others should not suffer because Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins ran riot, and that he would make Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins parade so many times a-day. Lord Frederick Paulet had written him a letter on this occasion proving a gentlemanlike treatment of the case in these terms—

"D2, Albany, May 21, 1859."

Dear Dawkins,—If you will come to the Horse Guards, I will see you at three o'clock. The orderly room shall be cleared of all junior to yourself, but I shall request Colonel Newton to be present.—Yours truly,


But that promise had not been carried out, for a junior was present when the rebuke was administered. Then came the affair of the Queen's ball. The House were aware that when Her Majesty was dispensing her hospitalities three or four officers of the Household troops at a time were selected for invitation. On one occasion in 1860, an invitation to a ball given by Her Majesty was sent to Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins at some time between eleven in the morning and three in the afternoon. He was out when it came, but on his return sent to say he would avail himself of it. He was, however, informed that as he could not be found it had been sent to another officer. Surely, no hon. Member would send a family invitation to a leg of mutton in the uncourteous way in which the invitation to Her Majesty's ball had been first sent and then withdrawn before an answer could be received in this case? These letters on the subject passed between Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins and Captain Monck, the Adjutant—

"May 15, 1860.

Dear Monck,—Thanks for your letter of explanation about the invitation. You knew I was in town very lately. I may be mistaken, but it seem unlikely and unusual that you did not know what number of officers of each rank could be invited before the day their names must go in; and if so, then you make my receiving the invitation depend on my being accidentally at home between eleven and three o'clock, or thereabouts, or one day; and, instead of making any acknowledgment of having perhaps accidentally or negligently sent me a notice of which it was not probable any one could avail themselves, you actually tell me it is my own fault altogether. I send your first envelope that you may see that you did not put' Guards' Club' on it, or 'To be forwarded,' &c.

Yours truly,


This is a letter that any one would have been likely to have written under the circumstance—

"Guards' Club, May 17, 1860.

Dear Sir,—I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your private letter of the 15th inst. The contents being of such a nature as, in my opinion, an officer in my position ought not to receive from another, I shall feel it my duty, unless you withdraw the whole of it (which I now wish to give you the opportunity of doing), to lay the correspondence before the commanding officer.

Yours faithfully,


Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins,

Coldstream Guards."

Subsequently the matter was brought before Lord Rokeby, and his Lordship decided that the Adjutant was justified, and that Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins was entirely wrong, and I think that it will not be denied that that decision betrayed the grossest partiality on the part of Lord Rokeby. Then came the affair at Aldershot. A luncheon was given there, and Lord Rokeby attended. It appeared that his Lordship made certain advances to shake hands with Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins. Either from not observing those advances, or from not wishing to avail himself of them, Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins did not take his Lordship's hand, but merely offered a military salute. The consequence of this presumed offence was that he was placed under arrest for eleven days. Now, the officer who had visited Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins with this punishment had himself in doing so committed a grave military offence, for by the 78th Article of War every person must be brought before a court martial within eight days after being placed under arrest; whereas Colonel Dawkins was detained under arrest for eleven days. Now, there were the greatest facilities on the spot for an inquiry by court martial, and, therefore, there was not the slightest excuse for putting him under arbitrary arrest for eleven days. The offence for which he was eventually tried was one unknown to military law and a Court of Inquiry was a tribunal which had never been sanctioned by military law, or by the legislation of that House. On one occasion he (Mr. Darby Griffith) had been present at the proceedings of one of these Courts of Inquiry, and he had never seen a tribunal so one-sided; for the accused person was not permitted to cross-examine witnesses who appeared against him. Simmons on Courts of Inquiry stated that— The evidence, or rather information, before a Court of Inquiry may, as already observed, be entirely ex parte; at all events, the character of an officer is not protected, however invidious the attack, by the solemnity of an oath Surely, then, justice forbids investigation by a Court of Inquiry which may countenance malicious accusations which it cannot try, or give rise to prejudices which it cannot allay; particularly as the Members who compose the court, if such it can be termed, are so limited in number, not subject to challenge, and irresponsible to any superior tribunal for the opinion they may give.

In a proceeding of this sort was it within the prerogative of the Crown to place an officer on half-pay without a court martial being held upon him? He thought not. If an officer could be got rid of in this way the Government of the army was a pure despotism. The opinion of this Court of Inquiry was secret, and he wished to ask whether it was intended to extinguish the military career of an officer of distinction, who bad well served his country, upon secret information? Did the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War know that the Court was not unanimous? If the noble Lord was not aware of that circumstance, he could inform him that that morning Colonel Dawkins had received the following letter:—

"3, Morpeth Terrace, S. W., May 22.

Dear Colonel Dawkins—As you state that my opinion 'is widely known,' there can be no necessity for my refusing to tell you that I signed the proceedings of the court of inquiry under protest, reserving to myself the right to state my having done so before the Members of the court. I do not, however, feel justified in stating anything further without consultation with them."

That communication was signed by "Henry De Bathe," an officer of great standing and distinction. In a case of this peculiar kind the House of Commons would scarcely refuse to support the endeavour he was making, that the final adjudication should be deferred until the House of Commons was in possession of the papers. In the course of the proceedings before the Court of Inquiry, Sir Henry Bentinck, Colonel Percival, and General Upton, the present Lord Templetown, gave testimony highly favourable to Colonel Dawkins. The latter sent him the following letter:—

"Government House, Devonport, Feb. 19,1865.

Dear Dawkins,—In answer to your note received this morning as to whether I consider that during your whole service you were constantly taking offence where none was meant, and habitually disrespectful to your commanding officers, I am quite ready to state that I had never occasion during my period of service in the regiment to find fault with you for such conduct, neither did I consider that you were liable to the imputation. I became Acting Major in the 1st battalion (Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins's battalion) in 1849. I was, I think, such in the middle of that year, and remained in it until I became Lieutenant Colonel of the regiment, in the beginning of 1855.

Yours truly,


That noble Lord was well known to Members of this House, as having held a seat here for several Sessions, and they were able to judge of the value of his evidence in a subject relating to the character of an officer and a gentleman. He would not further trespass on the House—he was deeply grateful for the sympathy they had shown towards this painful and trying case. As a matter of form, he would move the adjournment of the House, and would leave the matter in the hands of the Government and of the House.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Darby Griffith.)


As a Member for the county in which my gallant Friend (Lieutenant-Colonel Dawkins) resides, I was asked to bring forward this case, and to have done so would have given me great satisfaction, had I not felt that the House of Commons was not exactly the place to discuss the discipline of the army. In answer to that application I replied that whenever the interests of officers as a class were concerned I had always found the House of Commons most willing to forward them; but that they would not entertain the question in the case of individuals. Having read the papers placed in my bands by Colonel Dawkins, I am sure every officer acquainted with the facts will feel that that gallant Officer has been most hardly treated. Still I think the House is not the proper tribunal to decide the question. It is the duty of the Commander-in-Chief and other officers to see to the discipline of the army, and they are amenable to the Sovereign. I must, however, say I think the confinement of Colonel Dawkins for eleven days tinder arrest was a great hardship, as well as contrary to the articles of war. The offence—namely, not shaking hands with his superior officer—can come under no known military rule; and it appears to me that Colonel Dawkins did rise and salute his general officer, which is all he was called upon to do. As Colonel Dawkin's father was a great friend of mine, I should have been only too happy to take the subject up, had the House of Commons been the proper place for such a discussion.


I hope the House will allow me to make a short explanation on the subject—not in reply to the speech of the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Darby Griffith), but merely to explain the circumstances relating to the Question he has put. It is quite true that I received this morning a communication from the hon. Member, stating that he proposed to put a question to me to-night, asking whether I would lay upon the table the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry, and at the same time enclosing a very long statement containing matters of fact, and asking to know whether under the circumstances the Commander-in-Chief would suspend his decision on the case of Colonel Dawkins until the papers were in the hands of Members. I privately informed the hon. Member that I should be prepared to answer the first part of his question this evening. That answer is, that the matters which had to be investigated by the Court of Inquiry were matters relating solely and entirely to questions of discipline, and as to Colonel Dawkins's fitness for command; and that under these circumstances Lord De Grey did not think fit to lay upon the table of the House the proceedings of the court. I beg further to inform the hon. Gentleman that the remainder of his question is so unusual in point of form that he must give due notice of it upon the Votes of the House if he requires an answer. The hon. Member has read the question which he proposed to put to me, and I think the House will see that it contained not only what is extremely unusual in a question asked in this House—an allegation of certain facts—but also a very grave charge against an officer of high standing in the army. It seemed to me that you, Sir, might think it irregular that such a statement should be made in the form of a question, and also that it was desirable that other officers who might be acquainted with the circumstances should have an opportunity of seeing by the notice-paper of the House what was the charge that was made against Lord Frederick Paulet, and of making any statement that they might wish in reply to that of the hon. Member for Devizes. I therefore thought myself perfectly justi- fied in declining to answer this question until ample notice had been given of it to the House. The House will further see that, as it is not our intention to lay the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry upon the table of the House, it would be useless to request the Commander-in-Chief to delay his decision until those proceedings are in the hands of Members. What has taken place, as far as I am aware, is this—the Commander-in-Chief, having read the report of the Court, came to the conclusion that it would be for the interest of the service that Colonel Dawkins should be placed on half-pay, and he gave Colonel Dawkins the opportunity of retiring. Colonel Dawkins—and this is the only part of the transaction of which I have any knowledge whatever—appealed to the Secretary of State against the decision of the Commander-in-Chief, and requested that he might be tried by court martial. Lord De Grey, I believe, after reading the report of the Court, and after consideration of all the circumstances of the case, came to the conclusion that it was not desirable to ask the Commander-in-Chief to order a court martial. That is all with reference to this case of which I have any knowledge whatever. The hon. Gentleman has made a statement in defence of Colonel Dawkins. I shall on this occasion neither deny nor admit any one of his assertions. I have not read the proceedings of the Court of Inquiry. I know nothing whatever of the case; and it is quite impossible for me, without having had any notice whatever of the statement which the hon. Member was going to make, either to reply to or to admit anything which he has said. If the hon. Gentleman and the House think that it is desirable that this subject should be debated upon a future occassion I shall be quite ready to enter into the discussion; but it does seem to me that it would be not only irregular but also extremely unfair to the officers concerned that any discussion of this case should take place when neither I, whose duty it would be to defend the course taken by the Commander-in-Chief, nor any officers who might have a knowledge of the circumstances and might desire to say something on behalf of the officers concerned in it, could have an opportunity of being prepared to speak upon the subject. I shall, therefore, not enter further into the case, but will simply state that the Secretary of State does not consider that it would be desirable to publish the proceedings or to reverse the decision which has been come to by the Commander-in-Chief after full consideration.


I do not intend to depart from the principle of the noble Lord's request that a discussion should not be taken on the merits of this case, upon this or perhaps upon any other occasion, for I agree with him in thinking that the House of Commons is not the place to discuss questions of military discipline. But I trust that the House will allow me to say a few words, because this may be the only opportunity which I or any other of Colonel Dawkins's friends may have of saying that which may mitigate to him or his family the grievous consequences which may result to them from the step which has been taken by the Commander-in-Chief. I do not desire to enter into the circumstances of this case—with which I believe I am fully acquainted—but I believe that I speak the sentiments of the greater part of those who are so acquainted with the matter when I say that there is deep sympathy with Colonel Dawkins. He is a man who has passed through a long period of service with unblemished honour and has many warm and sincere friends. I myself had the honour of serving with him in the Crimea, and knew him for many years before, I was on detatchment duty although in another regiment under his immediate command, and I can only say that not only did I never suffer from any infirmity of this officer's temper, but that it was the close intimacy which I then formed with him that has led me to continue and to be proud of the friendship which I always felt for him. I shall not be contradicted by any one—even by the authorities—when I say that, even if Colonel Dawkins should be removed from the full pay list, neither His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, his superior officers, or any one who has known him, will be able to allege any single fact against him which will at all detract from his reputation, or cause him to be looked down upon in after life in consequence of that event. Allow me to say that while I believe that this is a hard case and that deep sympathy is felt for Colonel Dawkins, I do not mean to allege against his Royal Highness that he has strained the law or refused that gallant officer a fair trial. Indeed, I believe that His Royal Highness took the only course it was possible to adopt in appointing a Court of Inquiry of superior officers, not belonging to Colonel Dawkins's own regiment, to examine into the charges and to give him a fair opportunity of answering them. The decision of that Court was against Colonel Dawkins, and it is upon that that His Royal Highness has acted; and therefore, while I am sure that those who know the case will hear out what I have said as to it being a hard case, I am sure that there is no allegation which can be made against the authorities at the head of the army, without reference to the regiment concerned, of harshness in this matter. But I joined with my hon. Friend the Member for Oxfordshire (Colonel North) in advising my gallant friend Colonel Dawkins not to bring this matter before the House, for although it would be a satisfaction to him to have his case fairly stated, I feel that it would be a disadvantage to the service at large that the House of Commons should attempt to constitute itself a court of appeal in military cases.


I agree that this is not the proper tribunal for the decision of this case; and, therefore, although I cannot help thinking that Colonel Dawkins has been harshly treated by some parties, I should not rise to take part in this discussion but for a letter which was placed in my hands this morning, in which it is stated that— The exercise of the Royal prerogative to place Colonel Dawkins on half pay, threatened him by the Adjutant General, is, as he is informed, considered by Mr. Headlam to be illegal in his ease without a court martial. If the Judge Advocate has given that opinion, or thinks that, I think he is bound as a man to say so in the House of Commons. If it is not legal to take away Colonel Dawkins's commission I do not think that any Member of the Government should sit there knowing that to be the case and allow it to be done.


I have given no opinion whatever upon the subject, and there is not the slightest authority or shadow of foundation for the statement that the hon. Member has read.


Is it or is it not legal to put a man upon half-pay compulsorily except upon a medical certificate of incapacity, without trying him by court martial?


I decline to answer the legal question.


The Judge Advocate has just declined to answer a question in which every Member of the House has great interest, because it is a question which he might fairly he expected to answer; and, although it would be highly improper for us to sit as a Court of Appeal upon military matters, it would be still more improper for us to pass over anything that effects the liberty of the subject. The question that is before the House seems to me to be simply, is the act that has been done by the Commander-in-Chief a legal act or not? And that is a question which the Judge Advocate seems to me to be bound to answer. It is upon that that the whole question rests. If it is a prerogative of the Crown, as I have always understood, to place any officer upon half-pay without giving any reason, then unquestionably this is a matter with which the House of Commons cannot deal; but if on the other hand, the Commander-in-Chief, or any Officer or Judge in this land acts illegally, then I say that it is the bounden duty of the House of Commons to inquire into the matter, and we are entitled to have the opinion of the Judge Advocate upon it. Why, Sir, as I understand the matter, by to-morrow's Gazette, rightly or wrongly, this officer, who has had high testimony borne to his character, will be placed upon half-pay. Surely, at such a moment, when he appeals to the House of Commons, it is not improper or indecorous to ask the Judge Advocate General whether that will or will not be a legal act.


It is with the utmost diffidence and with a painful feeling of responsibility that I rise to make a few remarks upon this case; and I should not have risen if it had not been for the unsatisfactory answers which we have received from the Judge Advocate General, and the short time which is left before the case of this unfortunate officer will be disposed of. I have always thought, and am firmly of opinion, that this House is the last place which ought to be made a tribunal of appeal upon any point of military discipline. At the same time we have heard the testimony which has been borne to the character of this officer. He himself asked me to bring his case before the House, and I directly refused to do so, for the reason which I have just stated; but I did satisfy myself of the facts of the case by reading through the whole of the correspondence relating thereto. I do not mean to trouble the House with the evidence either for or against this officer; but I appeal to the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War and the Government to assure us that no irrevocable step shall be taken with regard to this officer's position until an opportunity has been given for further inquiry. I will only allude to the letter relating to the invitation to the Queen's Ball to say that it appears to mo that Lord Rokeby seems to have come to a most extraordinary decision as to this officer's letter to his Adjutant. The only charge against Colonel Dawkins is incompatibility of temper, and constantly disagreeing with his brother officers. Now you have heard the testimony of one brother officer; I can repeat what I have heard from many officers of the Guards with reference to Colonel Dawkins, and I believe that there never was a more unfounded accusation than that of incompatibility of temper which was brought against him before the Court of Inquiry. All his disagreements with officers have been with Lord Frederick Paulet, Lord Rokeby, Colonel Monck, Captain Fortes-cue, the Adjutant of the regiment, and Colonel Newton, commanding the brigade. I have only heard one side of the question, but I have heard enough to convince me that it is desirable that we should hear both sides before this officer's high character is allowed to be damaged beyond redemption; and I have no hesitation in saying, both from his own statements and from his acts, that the conduct of these officers, with whom he is supposed to have disagreed—Lord Frederick Paulet, Lord Rokeby, Colonel Monck, Captain Fortes-cue, and Colonel Newton above all others—has been most unjustifiable and most tyrannical, and if this case is allowed to pass without interference this officer will be the victim of one of the worst systems of oppression that was ever carried on in the army. Colonel Dawkins was placed under arrest for eleven days for refusing to shake hands with an officer, who, although his superior officer, had, he believed, acted harshly towards him; and what was the verdict pronounced by the Court of Inquiry upon his case, the charge on which he was tried being that he had said the officer in question had made false statements against him? The verdict of the Court was—and here I may observe that Colonel Dawkins had never been furnished with the written opinion of the Court—as far as I am able to gather, that he— Had not proved the falsification of the statements he adduced, and that as he had placed himself at variance with so many officers, senior and junior, his command of a battalion of Guards was not beneficial to the service, That is the opinion of the Court of Inquiry, and now let us see what is the opinion of his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief. It is that— He considered that there was nothing against Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins's character or honour as a gentleman; that Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins's statements as to falsification were partly true; that it was not a case suited for a court martial; but that after the opinion of the Court he gave Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins the option of selling his commission, otherwise he would recommend Her Majesty to exercise her prerogative of placing him on half-pay. Now, as I said before, I utterly object to this House being made a Court of Military Appeal, but believing this to be a case of gross persecution on the part of certain officers against Colonel Dawkins, and fearing that his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief may, perhaps, have been worked on by those officers, who are men of high rank and influence, and rather biassed in his opinion in consequence, I do hope that the House will insist on causing the Government to pause until this case has been fairly sifted, and will not permit a highly distinguished and honourable officer to be damaged in this way.


If this were a purely military question, I should not have addressed a single observation upon it to the House. Nor should I rise even now but for the accidental circumstance that I happened to have been acquainted many years ago with the father of Colonel Dawkins, who was a distinguished officer who served at Waterloo, and who died in honour and respect in the early part of the present year. I know well the high position which Colonel Dawkins's family hold in the county of Oxford; and I understand the situation of the member of it whose case is now under consideration to be this, that being to-day a major of a battalion of Guards, the alternative open to him atone o'clock to-morrow will be either to sell out of his regiment, or consent to be placed upon half-pay. Now the necessity of accepting either alternative will, as I understand it, be regarded by Colonel Dawkins, his family, and his brother officers, as casting a stigma upon his character as a soldier for the rest of his life. The matter, therefore, is one which is clearly deserving of the most mature consideration; and no step ought, in my opinion, to be taken in it by the Government, without the perfect certainty that the country, on whose behalf they act, will feel that they have done what is just. I was always under the impression that there was one right inherent in an officer, of which he could not be deprived, and that is that when charged with any misconduct, he is entitled to have the charge investigated by a court martial. I am not now going to give any opinion as to whether Colonel Dawkins was right or wrong, beyond saying, that we have had the highest testimony in his favour, from officers who served with him, and that I myself, though not personally acquainted with him, have heard from many quarters that he is an officer of great ability, and that he greatly distinguished himself in the Crimea. Indeed, no one. I believe, will venture to say that he is not an officer of the first class; and the only charge, as far as I can see, against him is that he has failed to make himself so agreeable as he ought to do. That may or may not be the case; but I would remind the House that the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr (Sir James Fergusson) has told us that he served under Colonel Dawkins, and that lie never heard any complaint made of him in this respect. It appears, I may add, beyond all question that an act of illegality has been committed against Colonel Dawkins, from the fact that he was placed under arrest for eleven days, not because he refused to shake hands with a superior officer, but because he is supposed to have refused to do so—for we have no positive evidence on the point. Now, not only is the honour of the army dear to the country, but the country has a right to demand that members of that profession should he treated with justice and equity. If, therefore, there be a shadow of doubt as to whether the full measure of justice has been meted out to Colonel Dawkins or not, it is but right that his case should form the subject of further investigation, and my sole object in rising was to impress upon the Government that there should be in such a matter no undue haste. If there should be undue haste, it is quite clear that much dissatisfaction will be created, and I strongly urge upon the Government the expediency of extending the time for pronouncing a decision. Delay can do no harm, while it may have the effect of preventing an injustice from being done to a distinguished officer. If he demands a court martial, it involves a question of the utmost importance whether he has or has not a right to be tried by the proper tribunal to deal with military offences, and by its means to remove from himself a stigma which he feels as a soldier must rest upon him for life, should the case be allowed to remain where it now stands.


Sir, I know nothing of this case, and I did not intend to say a single word to the prejudice of Colonel Dawkins; but I must protest against the unfair, irregular, and inconsistent course which has been pursued by certain hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House upon this occasion. If they had thought that the case of Colonel Dawkins was one with regard to which this House was a competent tribunal to appeal to, and if they intended to make such an appeal, they ought to have given due notice on the point to those whose duty it is to defend the course taken by the military authorities, in order that they might prepare themselves to meet this attack and defend what has been done. Hon. Gentlemen, I may add, while they set out by saying that the House of Commons is not a court of appeal on military questions, yet have one after another made appeals—ex parte appeals—founded on the information which they happened to receive as to what has passed, and have endeavoured to obtain the opinion of this House in favour of the person whose cause they have espoused. Not only have they done this, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman who spoke last but one, not content with defending Colonel Dawkins, made a violent attack on other officers, whom he accused of being tyrannical and unjust.


I never said anything of the kind. What I stated was, that I had heard only one side of the question, but that I had heard sufficient—if the statements were not contradicted by counter-statements on the opposite side—to show that those other officers had been guilty of tyrannical conduct. I therefore urged upon the Government the propriety of not pressing the matter forward too quickly.


But that makes out my assertion. What can be more unfair, I would ask, than having heard only one side of a question, not knowing what may be urged in reply, relying merely on what this officer said and that officer said, to make observations which imply a charge of tyranny against certain officers, as the hon. and gallant Gentleman has done? ["No, no!"] I think it is the duty of every man to abstain from applying such a word as "tyrannical" to any officer before he has ascertained whether the statement on which he has founded the epithet is correct, and that the right course would be to wait to see whether these ex parte statements were borne out by the facts of the case? For my own part, I can only say that I very much regret that so many hon. and gallant Members have been led away, by a laudable and honourable interest on behalf of a brother officer, to adopt a line of conduct which I think is not only not quite fair in itself, but which is inconsistent with the doctrine which they themselves laid down when they said this House was not a court of appeal for military questions. If this House be not a court of appeal on military questions why have they been making it such a court of appeal? The course they have taken cannot be attended with any result, and they would, in my opinion, have done better if they had abstained from a mode of proceeding, which is, I contend, entirely at variance with the principle on which we ought to act in matters of this kind.


I do not exactly know what the precise question is on which hon. Members propose to divide the House; but, if I mistake not, it is whether this House should or should not now adjourn, and that on the plea that if the decision on this matter be not postponed, Colonel Dawkins will not have the opportunity of appealing to have his case further investigated. Now, I know nothing of the case of Colonel Dawkins but what I learnt on Sunday week from a statement of his own in one of the military newspapers; and I would observe that the publication of that statement was, at all events, contrary to military usage. I understand that this gallant officer had at the time made an appeal to the Secretary for War, and that before he received an answer to that appeal he published his case in the press. In my opinion, it would have been much better if he had waited for the answer to his communication addressed to the Secretary of State. It is said, that the House of Commons ought not to interfere with the discipline of the army. In that view I most cordially concur. If you are not satisfied with the conduct of those who administer the affairs of the army, express your want of confidence in them. If you do not approve the mode in which his Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief discharges his duties, take the same course. But what is the case here? I was a Member of the Committee on Military Organizations, and it was there attempted to press on his Royal Highness that in every case he should select an officer to command a regiment. His Royal Highness declined that offer. But surely, when he finds a man who he considers is not fit to command a regiment, it cannot he contended that he is not to say, "When it comes to your turn I will not place you in command." It is but just to the regiment, it is but kind to the officer himself, that he should do so. In this case the duty is not solely thrown on the noble Duke, for in the opinion of competent officers this officer is not fit to command a regiment, and ought to go on half-pay. I cannot imagine that the Judge Advocate should have had any difficulty in answering the legal question put to him whether it was in the power of the Crown, by its own authority, to place an officer on half-pay. I think I could mention a case in point—that of the gallant officer commanding the 15th Hussars, who was placed on half-pay without undergoing a court-martial. In this case I do not see exactly what we are to divide about. Do you propose to appoint a Committee of this House to inquire into this question? I must say, with regard to the manner in which this question has been brought forward without notice, that nothing could be more unfair to the authorities, or to those officers whose names have been incidentally mentioned; and I have every reason to believe that if they were heard, the House would obtain a very different view of the case from what they now have in the statement of Colonel Dawkins, which is the only one before them.


I only heard at five o'clock this evening that this question was to be brought forward. Having once served in the Guards, and having known and served with the father of this young man, although with him personally I am not acquainted, I rise to say n few words. What I wish, and what I believe this House and the country would wish, is that this officer should have a fair trial. I have always been one who deprecated Courts of Inquiry, considering them the most unfair and tyrannical courts that can be constituted; but I will not give the House my own view. Asking the House to remember that many of the circumstances inquired into by this Court happened more than three years ago, I will read the opinion of Mr. Simmons, the author of the work on Courts Martial, who writes thus as to Courts of Inquiry:— It is not to be presumed or imagined that any motive but the honour of the army and the benefit of the service can influence the down to establish a Court of Inquiry under any circumstances, or after any period; but it is too true that other motives may possibly actuate commanding officers, who in their daily intercourse with the world at large are brought in contact and by the usages of society placed on a footing of equality with the same men whom on points of duty and on parade they are called on to command and control. The evidence, or rather information, before a Court of Inquiry may, as already observed, be entirely ex parte; at all events the character of an officer is not protected, however inviduous the attack, by the solemnity of an oath; nor can he under any circumstances, after the time limited for a court martial by the Mutiny Act, obtain a hearing of the case by any tribunal competent to decide on it. Surely, then, justice forbids investigation by a Court of Inquiry, which may countenance malicious accusations of which it cannot pave the way for trial, or give rise to and foment prejudices which it cannot allay, and particularly as the members who compose the Court, if such it can be termed, are so limited in number, not subject to challenge, and irresponsible to any superior tribunal for the opinion they may give. I will not detain the House with any further observations of my own. Reasons could not be more strongly put than those which I have read. I hope the House, and I hope Her Majesty's Government will consider well before they inflict a serious injury upon an officer who served his country well in the Crimea, and will grant him what he ought to have—a fair trial by a court martial.


The noble Lord at the head of Her Majesty's Government has thought proper to read—or rather to speak—a lecture to the hon. and gallant Gentlemen opposite and to charge them with gross inconsistency in bringing this question before the House of Commons, whilst they at the same time admit that the House of Commons is not a good and proper court of appeal to discuss military matters. Perhaps it did not occur to him that that very inconsistency was an argument in favour of the strength of their case; because we may take it for granted that those Gentlemen would not have brought this case before the House holding that opinion—an opinion with which I must say I cannot altogether concur—if they had not thought it one of extreme hardship. I think the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes (Mr. Darby Griffith) who introduced this subject, stated that he was principally induced to mention it in the House to-night because if the subject had not been mentioned here to-night it would afterwards have been too late to do so—and that in part the character, and certainly the status, and in some degree the pecuniary position, though that consideration is not of principal importance in this case—of a respectable and honourable man would consequently be put in jeopady. I think the hon. Gentleman said that in this Court of Inquiry five officers were concerned, and that of those five officers one protested against, and another did not agree with the conclusion arrived at. There were, therefore, three Members to two in a Court of Inquiry of such a nature that no one appears to regard it with much respect, and by their decision—with which, to a considerable extent, the Commander-in-Chief disagrees—an officer of the army is to be displaced, and to some extent—I say it without offence to those Gentlemen—sacrificed. What the hon. Gentleman the Member for Devizes asks is that the noble Lord at the head of the Government would take this matter into his consideration, and prevent anything being done, in haste and without consideration, that might inflict great injustice. And now one word as to the bringing of this case before the House. We all feel that we are not competent to go into the details of the question, or to come to a decision upon them. We are not, however, asked to give a decision upon this case. We are only asked for certain delay and some re-consideration. I should be very sorry to say what the noble Lord at the head of the Government said with regard to bringing these matters before the House of Commons. Although there are hundreds of cases which it would be exceedingly inconvenient to bring before this House, yet I maintain that this Honse of Commons is a court of appeal in every case where injury has been sustained; and the time may come—it probably will come—when the army will be placed more under the control of this House than it is at present—but whether such should be the case or not this is not the time to discuss that question. I undertake to say that, according to the Constitution of this House, and from the position which it occupies in this country, there is no case of grievance in any department of the public service—there can be none in the army itself—which this House is not competent to consider, and, if the case demands, provide a remedy for it. I have, therefore, risen to express my entire dissent from the opinion expressed by the noble Lord with regard to that matter, and to state my opinion that this House ought to be maintained by its Members in all time as a Court to which the highest and the lowest of the people of this country can come for the redress of their grievances.


I beg leave to state that the hon. Member cannot have been attending sufficiently to what I said. I quoted the statements of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and I made no such statement on my own part. If I were to state my own opinions, they might, perhaps, be found to tally much more with those of the hon. Member who has just sat down than with those of hon. Gentlemen opposite.


In case the Government do not grant the reasonable delay that has been asked for I shall adopt the unusual course of dividing the House upon this question.


I do hope we shall have some answer from the Government—some pledge as to delay. As matters stand it will be too late to take any action after one o'clock to-morrow. As an old soldier I appeal to the Government to do justice in this case.


Notwithstanding what has just been stated by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite, the House seems to be wishing now to interfere with the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief to this extent—that Her Majesty is never to be advised to place an officer on half-pay, so as to prevent his promotion in the regiment, unless he has done something to subject himself to the articles of war, or to expose himself to a court martial. I know nothing of this case except what I have seen in the newspapers, and not so much of their contents as some hon. Members who have spoken; but if I have collected the facts correctly they amount to this—that the Commander-in-Chief has thought it necessary to prevent an officer from assuming command of a Battalion of Guards, not because he has done any act which would subject him to trial by court martial, but because, under the peculiar circumstances—from infirmity of temper—he was not thought fit to be intrusted with that command. Is the House of Commons prepared to say that, under such circumstances, the Government ought to interfere with the discretion of the Commander-in-Chief?


Far be it from me to say anything in deprecation or depreciation of the Duke of Cambridge. He doubtless acted on the report he received as the result of the court of inquiry. When every Member of the Administration pleads ignorance of this case, and the Commander-in-Chief has said that the allegations made by Colonel Dawkins are partially true, it does seem to me a very hard case that this officer will be displaced to-morrow, and that nobody will undertake to do anything in the meantime.


said, that if the Government refused to interpose to procure some delay the responsibility rested on the Government; and as the Government were responsible to the House of Commons, the House had the means of enforcing redress.


I should like to understand what will be the position of hon. Members if we divide upon this question. As the case has been argued it seems pretty plain bow we ought to proceed with reference to the great principle maintained on both sides of the House. Most people will, no doubt, agree that a question of the discipline of the army ought not to be interfered with in any way by this House; and, on the other hand, I think it is true, as has been stated in the debate, that if a case of grievance arises this House has the power to interfere. Then I agree with my right hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdon (General Peel) that, as in that case a question of confidence is raised in the head of the Department, it ought not at any rate to be decided without ample notice being first given. I should be sorry to be misunderstood as to the vote which I am about to give. But the Government will give me leave to say that there is an intermediate course they might adopt by which they might avoid the division and remove the difficulty, namely, by their undertaking to represent to the head of the Horse Guards that the case should be further inquired into.


wished to ask the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) a question of some importance with reference to this subject, which bad come to his notice within the last five minutes. The noble Lord appeared to think that notice ought to have been given of the Question before the meeting of the House. Now, he wished to know if it were true that the gallant Colonel whose case was before the House only had notice given to him on Friday last to make up his mind within three days what to do. And he wanted further to know whether the House of Commons was not a proper place to discuss such a grievance when it was brought before it? He regretted that it had come before the House on the Motion of Adjournment, because they could not by it really express their opinion upon the subject. He asked the Government whether what he had been told was true or false? He knew nothing of Colonel Dawkins, and had never heard of him till that day, but he must say, if what he had heard was true, a grosser piece of injustice had never been committed.


Though I cannot give a positive answer to the question which has just been put to me, yet, as I may be able to throw some light upon it, perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words, though out of order. I think what the hon. Member for Warwick has just stated cannot be true, because the decision of the Commander-in-Chief upon the recommendation of the Court of Inquiry must have been communicated to Colonel Dawkins more than a week or fortnight ago; as after the decision was communicated to him he forwarded an appeal against it to the Secretary of State for War. The result of that appeal I have been able to inform the House; but I cannot say whether Colonel Dawkins received any communication from I the Commander-in-Chief so late as last Thursday or Friday; but the fact of the Commander-in-Chief's decision must have been known to Colonel Dawkins a fortnight ago. I cannot understand by whom it is the wish of the House this matter should be re-considered. Almost every speaker has declined to bring it before the House, and the case can only be re considered by the authorities by whom it had been already considered. [Hon. MEMBERS: By a court martial.] Hon. Members say by a court martial, but the decision as to whether the case shall go to a court martial or not can only be undertaken by the Commander-in-Chief and the authorities of the Horse Guards, by whom the question has already been decided. They will know what has been said in the House; of Commons, and in any course they may take they will act on their own responsibility, but it is quite impossible to give any pledge that the subject shall receive any further consideration.


asked whether Colonel Crawley's case had not been first inquired into by a Court of Inquiry, and then by a court martial.


again rose to address the House, but was met with continued cries for a Division.

Question put, "That this House do now adjourn."

The House divided:—Ayes 112; Noes 172: Majority 60.