§ MR. J. STUART MILL
said, wishing to spare the House the monotonously painful details contained in the Questions of which he had given notice, he would simply ask the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether any steps had been or would be taken by Her Majesty's Government for bringing to justice those who had been concerned in the commission of various illegal acts in Jamaica?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
I should prefer, Sir, that the hon. Gentleman should ask the Questions in detail. I think the Questions which the hon. Gentleman has thought proper in his discretion to address to the Executive should be well known to the House, as many bon. Members have not really had an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with them. Under these circumstances, it is due to the House and to the subject that the hon. Gentleman should address himself now to the House, and let them hear what the Questions are.
§ MR. J. STUART MILL
I beg to ask Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer, Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Lieutenant Adcock, for unlawfully putting to death two men named Mitchell and Hill without trial, and six persons, after alleged trial by Court Martial, on charges not cognizable by a Military Court; for flogging, without trial, John Anderson and others, and authorizing one Henry Ford to flog many men and women without trial, one of whom, named John Mullins, died in consequence: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Captain Hole for hanging one Donaldson without trial; for shooting, and permitting to be shot, various persons without trial; for putting to death by hanging, or shooting, thirty-three persons, after trial by a so-called Military 1065 Court, for acts not cognizable by a Military Court, and without observance of the rules prescribed by the Articles of War; for flogging various men and women without trial; and for being accessory, after the fact, to the unlawful putting to death of numerous persons by soldiers under his command: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Lieutenant Oxley, for putting John Burdy to death after a similar unlawful trial, and for permitting the men under his command to fire at unarmed peasants and cause the death of several persons: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Ensign Cullen and Dr. Morris, for putting three men to death without trial, and Dr. Morris for shooting one William Gray: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Stipendiary Magistrate Fyfe, for burning houses of peasantry, putting to death one person without trial, and being accessory to the unlawful putting to death of various others: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Attorney General Hislop, Lieutenant Brand, Captain Lake, and Captain Field, for sitting as presidents or members of alleged Courts Martial, by whom numerous persons were unlawfully put to death: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial General O'Connor, for having been accessory before and after the fact to numerous unlawful executions, some of them without trial, and others after the illegal trials already specified: Whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Colonel Nelson, Brigadier General in Jamaica, for unlawfully causing to be tried, in time of peace, by Military Courts irregularly composed, for acts alleged to have been done before the proclamation or beyond the jurisdiction of Martial Law, and after such trial to be unlawfully put to death, the following persons:—George William Gordon, Edward Fleming, Samuel Clarke, William Grant, George Macintosh, Henry Lawrence, Letitia Geoghan, and six other women, one of them in a state of pregnancy; Scipio Cowell, Alexander Taylor, Toby Butler, Jasper Hall Livingston, and various other persons who had been previously flogged, and about 180 other alleged rebels; and for authorizing the flogging without trial of Alexander Phillips, Richard Clark, and numerous others: Whether any legal proceedings have been or will be ordered to be taken against Mr. Edward John Eyre, lately Governor of Jamaica, for complicity 1066 in all or any of the above acts, and particularly for the illegal trial and execution of Mr. George William Gordon: And, if not, whether Her Majesty's Government are advised that these acts are not offences under the Criminal Law?
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
Mr. Speaker, the House has heard the ten Questions which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Westminster has thought fit to address to the Government, in a form which I think somewhat beyond the boundaries of Parliamentary precedent, because in putting questions in which opinions are also expressed, we are trespassing in some degree upon the liberty and freedom of discussion. It is impossible under such circumstances to discuss a subject, and at the same time we may obtain an answer from the Government, which may lead the public mind to the presumption that those who reply to them agree in the assumed state of facts on which the questions are founded. Now nine of these questions, which are ten in number, inquire of the Government whether any steps have been or will be taken with respect to those lamentable proceedings in Jamaica, which the hon. Gentleman throughout treats as unlawful. But after these nine inquiries, throughout which the conduct of certain individuals is assumed to be illegal, there is a tenth inquiry which comes to this—whether Her Majesty's Government, after inquiry, are of opinion that such conduct and proceedings were illegal? Now, I think that we are all agreed that the Law Advisers of the Crown, from whatever party the Government of this country may be formed, generally speaking, are men most eminent in their profession, and if the hon. Gentleman is of opinion that it is possible that the Law Advisers of the Crown may be of opinion that these acts are not illegal, I think the hon. Gentleman is hardly justified in assuming throughout his inquiries that they are illegal, and he might have made these inquiries without proceeding on that assumption. But it is not merely that the questions are put in a form which, if not noticed, might, perhaps, lead to great inconvenience, that I think the course pursued by the hon. Gentleman objectionable, but so far as I can judge, though brought forward with great apparent precision, they do not appear in their allegations to be as accurate as could be desired. In the first place, throughout these questions the hon. Gentleman seems entirely oblivious of 1067 the fact that the proceedings complained of took place during the existence of martial law. That is the first feature which strikes one amid these numerous interrogatories, and there seems throughout a very great confusion in the mind of the hon. Gentleman on the nature of martial law, because we have this remarkable expression—certain persons being spoken of as if their cases were decided without trial or alleged trial by court martial; we have such expressions as "on charges not cognizable by a military court." Then there is another charge that the case was decided "without observance of the rules prescribed by the Articles of War." Then, in a third case, we are told that persons have been "tried in time of peace by military courts irregularly composed," and other allegations of the same kind have been made. But in a state of martial law there can be no irregularity in the constitution of the courts. Martial law supersedes ordinary law, and the hon. Gentleman seems throughout these questions to assume that in a state of martial law courts martial are to be held according to the terms and conditions under which they would be held when the Mutiny Act was in existence. But in a state of martial law the Mutiny Act, like other Acts, would be suspended, so that here, throughout, there is a source of extreme irregularity and inaccuracy in these questions. There are also, so far as I am acquainted with the subject—of course, I am not versed in the complications of it like the hon. Gentleman—inquiries which ought not to have been made in such cases, and which are founded on the assumption of absolutely illegal conduct. In the case of Ensign Cullen and Dr. Morris, for instance, the hon. Gentleman asks "whether any steps have been or will be taken to bring to trial Ensign Cullen and Dr. Morris for putting three men to death without trial; and Dr. Morris for shooting one William Gray?" Now, in the evidence taken before the Commissioners it is particularly stated that this was a charge not proved, and that the evidence for and against was equally conflicting; the Commissioners themselves recommend further inquiry, and I believe that that further inquiry is now taking place. Assuredly, under these circumstances, the hon. Gentleman is not justified in asking whether the Government are going to interfere and to try persons for putting to death men without trial when we have authentic records on the table of the House which seem to 1068 point to a different conclusion. Now, there is a very strong charge here with regard to Colonel Nelson, at the time Brigadier General in Jamaica. We are asked "whether any steps have been taken or will be taken to bring to trial Colonel Nelson for, among other things, unlawfully putting to death certain men and women, one of whom was in a state of pregnancy, who had been previously flogged." Now it is patent that in the evidence taken before the Commissioners it has been shown that no one was flogged without trial by Colonel Nelson, and no woman known to be in a state of pregnancy was tried; and therefore I think the hon. Gentleman was not justified in so decidedly pronouncing that a person serving Her Majesty was guilty of crimes which have not been proved. I feel it my duty, as these are questions of a remarkable character, to make these explanations. In the first place, I cannot countenance the hon. Gentleman assuming throughout that these proceedings were illegal. That is at least a question of controversy, upon which there may be a difference of opinion. But throughout these questions the hon. Gentleman takes for granted that these have been illegal acts, and that these proceedings have taken place without authority. Secondly, I think the hon. Gentleman ought to have taken care, in putting these questions, that they should be simply and severely accurate in their allegations. Having made these observations, which I think I am justified in doing, although I do not myself approve long questions being addressed to Ministers, or long answers being given by Ministers—for, generally speaking, when they are requisite, it is more convenient to have a debate upon the matter—yet I hope the House will not think it intrusive on my part if I tell them now what really has been done in these affairs. When these unhappy events took place in Jamaica the late Government thought it their duty to advise Her Majesty to appoint a Commission to proceed to the island, and there, with all the advantage of local inquiry and observation, to investigate what had occurred. I think the late Government took a prudent and proper course. That Commission was formed of eminent men, who possessed the public confidence; and whatever controversy there may be on other parts of this question, I think it will be generally admitted that by their acuteness and assiduity these eminent persons have quite justified the confidence placed in them by the Sovereign and the 1069 country. Well, Sir, the late Government, acting upon the Report of their own Commission, considered the case of the Governor, and dismissed him from his post. That appears to me to be conclusive as regards the case of Governor Eyre. He was dismissed. Those who ask that further steps should be taken seem to me to confuse errors of conduct and errors of judgment with malice prepense. But I wholly mistake the House of Commons if they would ever sanction such an opinion. Now, with regard to the subordinate officers, either naval or military, the late Government, after deliberating upon the Report of their own Commissioners, gave instructions to the Admiralty and the Horse Guards to investigate and report upon the conduct of the officers connected respectively with those Departments. The Admiralty, after investigating the subject, decided that no fresh inquiry was requisite, and they approved the conduct of the Admiral on the station. The Horse Guards, as I am informed, have not made up their minds upon the instructions with which they were furnished, and no one grudges them sufficient time to arrive at a decision of so momentous a character. Under these circumstances, I am at a loss to understand why the hon. Gentleman is thus pressing us for information, and why he is so impatient to ask us what steps are or have been taken. If, upon consideration, Her Majesty's Government should feel it their duty to address fresh instructions to the Horse Guards or the Admiralty, we shall do our duty. But our fresh instructions would be of course founded upon fresh information, and we should only act after having taken the opinion of the Law Officers of the Crown. The present state of affairs is that the late Government considered the conduct of Governor Eyre and dismissed him. They referred it to the Admiralty and the Horse Guards, under the instructions of the Government, to consider the conduct of the officers employed. The Admiralty did not disapprove the conduct of the Admiral, and the Horse Guards have not yet come to any decision. This being the state of the case, I am not prepared to offer any further information to the bon. Gentleman.