HC Deb 20 June 1876 vol 230 cc147-78

I rise, Sir, to ask the House to affirm that our great naval service, our Navy, England's traditional pride, shall no longer be the only service which, under the guise of the maintenance of discipline, maintains the punishment of the cat,—that cruel and brutalizing punishment. There are, I am aware, many Members of the House—for they have said so to me during the last few days—and I am sure there must be a great many persons out of the House who are surprised at the Motion of which I have given Notice, because they were under the impression that flogging in our military and naval Services was altogether done away with. I confess I was almost entirely of that opinion myself. I was aware that in regard to the Army a certain nominal reserve had been made, that flogging might still be resorted to in time of war; but I was quite sure that that punishment was obsolete as regards the Army, for I was sure that no general would flog a soldier in presence of the enemy. I thought in regard to the Navy—

Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,


said: I was observing, Sir, that there was a widespread impression in the country and among Members of this House also that practically the punishment of flogging had been abolished both in the Army and the Navy, although in the Army the reservation was still maintained, but still that was only in time of war, and it was perfectly understood that it could never be had recourse to in the Army. In regard to the Navy we were told, if I recollect aright, that practically flogging was abolished also, and that the system which had obtained in the Army for some time before was now established in the Navy—that the whole force was divided into two classes, the upper and the lower, and that the upper could not be subjected to flogging at all; that in case of any serious crime being committed by a man he would first be punished by being degraded to the lower, and if he offended after that he would probably be dismissed the Service, but that he certainly could not be flogged while in the first class. That has turned out to be a delusion. I, of course, charge no one with an attempt to deliberately deceive the House; but I must say that the House and the country were deceived when it was discovered that this division into the upper and lower classes does really make no difference whatever in respect to flogging, or in regard to the summary power of punishment by the commanding officer in respect to flogging, and that in great measure the flogging went on as before, and was equally applicable to both classes. I shall be probably asked how this is. Members will say we succeeded in a long series of years in abolishing it in the Army, and we thought we had succeeded in stopping it in the Navy. I should say that this was the main cause, that the friends of this degrading and cruel mode of discipline could not stand the annual discussion in the House of Commons of the Mutiny Bill, which, of course, is the Bill under which this discipline is maintained, and which has to be passed every year. The Naval Discipline Act under which the affairs of the Navy are managed, as the House knows, may go on for a series of years until the Bill needs alteration. I cannot help thinking that the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty is really with me in the Motion I am making now, and if he does not feel at liberty to grant it, as I hope he may, but thinks I can assist him in that humane wish by making this an annual Motion in the House of Commons, I can promise him that I shall be happy to comply with his desire. It has been said that there is a decided difference in regard to the necessity of this measure in the Navy as compared with the Army. I venture to differ from that altogether, and to think that if there is any distinction to be drawn flogging should be less prominent in the Navy than in the Army. The sense of responsibility in a commander of a ship at sea is incomparably less than that of a general commanding an Army. Many things may be done at sea, where there is no public opinion to fear, and where there are no reports in the public newspapers. If, therefore, there should be a difference made between the two, flogging should certainly be abolished in the Navy before it was abolished in the Army. The history of flogging in the Navy may be thus briefly stated. Up to about the year 1820 the sentences were of the most frightfully cruel character; I find sentences from 300 to 400, and even 500 lashes, repeatedly ordered. From 1820 for about 20 or 25 years there was some moderation in this excessive brutality, and the lashes diminished to about 100. About the year 1844, when that distinguished commander, Sir George Cockburn, was the First Lord, the first great blow was struck at this infinity of brutality. He first limited the number of lashes to be given to 48, and then decided that they could only be enforced by court martial, or be given upon summary order only by warrant of the captain, and it required that 12 hours should elapse after the signing of the warrant before the punishment should be inflicted. Sir George Cockburn was known to be a great disciplinarian; but I need not say that the upholders of that discipline looked upon his conduct as destructive of the Service, and as altogether ruinous. In the year 1860, I think it was, the change of which I have already spoken—the dividing the Service into two classes—was passed. I have already shown that this was a mere farce, that it had not affected the decision of court martials at all, and whether it was the result, I do not know, but I observe that the number of court martials ever since that time has been very much greater. The number of convictions by court martial in 1862 was 141; in 1863, 140; in 1864 it was 97, and in 1875 there were 235 convictions by court martial. But the real evil is not in this question, not in the amount of lashes inflicted, or the number of persons who are subjected to it. While flogging is permitted at all at sea there must always be irregularity, always causes of discontentment going on, which are beyond the limits of the law. I need not give the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord chapter and verse for these statements—he does not need it from me, because he knows the facts himself. A man was illegally flogged on the Pacific Station for assaulting a Consul in a row on shore, another man was illegally flogged by the lieutenant of a training brig for disobedience, and I can even tell him of cases in the West Indies where two boys were flogged with the cat. These two lads were too young to enjoy the advantage of being flogged, the cat was too dignified a weapon, they should only have been birched, and so the commander raised them to the rank of seamen, in order to entitle them to be flogged with the cat. Now, I know the right hon. Gentleman is not inexorable in his decisions when reason is brought to bear upon him. When I asked him last year to resume the Returns which used to be made some years ago of crimes and punishments in the Navy, he was inexorable at the time. He said they were useless and expensive; but I am glad to see this year that to some extent he has granted these Returns, which used to be issued under the presidency of the Duke of Somerset and Lord Clarence Paget. If the right hon. Gentleman will not be persuaded to get more full Returns issued, we shall have to trouble him with a Motion asking him to do so. If flogging is to be maintained, it is doubly and trebly essential that there should be responsible Returns from those who have power to inflict such punishment. Now, in the Returns he has given us there is no sub-division at all; it is divided into the squadrons at home and the squadrons abroad, and without mentioning the name of any in- dividual ship. There is in fact, therefore, no means of testing the value of these Returns, and of ascertaining if mistakes take place—and they do take place sometimes, for it has been known that punishments have been given and not been returned. Under these Returns there is no test, no means of ascertaining if they are correct. If they were given in full there would be plenty of witnesses from every vessel to say there are no Returns from such a vessel, or there are no particulars of a punishment which we remember was given at such a place. I entreat the right hon. Gentleman not to think the noblest symbol of our civilization is the cat. We have all heard the story of the man who was wrecked on a desolate and apparently uninhabited island, casting his eyes up to a height and seeing a gallows there, exclaimed—"Thank God, I am in a civilized land!" I venture to think that the cat is not the noblest emblem of civilization the great British people should cherish. There is a chaplet of laurel yet to be given to the man who will do away with this wretched punishment: will the right hon. Gentleman permit me to place it on his brow? If he will assure the House that he will bring in the long-promised amendment of the Naval Discipline Act, and say that it will exclude this cruel and brutalizing punishment, I need not say how gladly I will withdraw this Motion to-night. Of course I shall be told that the lash is very infrequently inflicted, that the number who suffer from it is less than it was; but I maintain that this is altogether an argument on my side of the question. I find the floggings last year under court martial were 7; they were all from 36 to 48 lashes; and they were all accompanied with severe sentences besides—18 months or two years' hard labour. Now, Sir, if I were not convinced that no modification of this system were of any use, and the only thing to look to were its entire abolition, I would stop to point out the needless cruelty of this amount of lash. It is well recognized that the punishment by flogging in the Navy is very much more severe than that practised in the Army. It has been held that 50 lashes on ship-board are equivalent to 200 in the barrack-yard, and it is, I believe, a well-recognized fact that the sufferer himself ceases almost entirely to feel after the first two dozen lashes—that at that time his back is so smashed and his nerves so destroyed, that he feels nothing more then. Every lash after that deducts something from the vitality and constitutional vigour of that man. I will say nothing about the boys who are flogged; they are numbered by the hundred. I venture to say that there is no excuse whatever for the retention of this punishment in the Navy. In the year 1860, when naval discipline was re-modelled and re-formed, Lord Clarence Paget, than whom it will be admitted on both sides of the House I could not name a higher authority, said in this House— If any should think how Draconic they still appear, I pray them to bear in mind that we have to deal with a great body of men of all classes, often drawn from the very dregs of society, who too frequently enter the Navy without religious or moral principles, and with tainted morals, and who are rarely improved by being-boxed up together, as it were, in a ship."—[3 Hansard, clx. 1651.] But the noble Lord distinctly looked forward to the time, and not a distant one, when flogging in the Navy should be altogether abolished, and said—" I cannot resist the pleasure of reading to the House certain statistics with regard to corporal punishment which I have been at some trouble to procure, as they show that year by year this degrading punishment is decreasing in a steady ratio, and is gradually dying out of the Service. I am positive that the necessity for its continuance will even more rapidly diminish if the House will continue, as it has hitherto done, to support the Government in its efforts for the maintenance of discipline, and for the improvement of the Service by the training of a large number of boys, who, having entered at an early age, become attached to the Service, and in the great majority of instances turn out skilful and valuable seamen."—[Ibid. 1655.] And now what have we done in that respect? I will venture to quote a few lines from a naval article in Fraser's Magazine, on "Training Schools and Training Ships," describing the present system— We will take a boy at the earliest age that he can join, 15. He can only be accepted by certain officers, in certain places named in the regulations; he must bring with him a certificate of birth, and a declaration made by his parents, or nearest relation if an orphan, giving consent to his joining Her Majesty's Navy and serving for 10 years, from the age of 18. No apprentices are accepted, or boys from prisons or reformatories…..The boy must be able to read and write, and is then subject to a very exact medical examination. One fancies that no boy could ever be so sound as seems ne- ceasary. Joints, skin, chest, teeth, eyes, &c., have to be examined minutely, and the examination invariably detects and rejects those poor lads who have wanted care or nourishment in childhood. The waifs and strays of society are seldom able to pass the medical tests of the Royal Navy; and the Service is recruited chiefly from the sons of small farmers, shopkeepers, and artizans, who have been fed fairly, and have therefore some constitution on which to work. That is the raw material of which our Navy is now composed, the sons of small farmers, shopkeepers, and artizans, and does the right ton. Gentleman think that these are the classes which will long submit to be kept under the discipline of the lash. Since that time I am informed—and so far as my own small information goes it confirms it—that the character of our seamen has changed and undergone a perfect revolution. The old characteristic Jack Tar, rollicking, reckless, and as soon as liberated on shore rough and dissipated, has passed away. Our men now in the Navy were boys brought up in these training schools as I have described. They are a well-regulated, orderly, and I believe as a class of men superior on the whole to the class from which they are taken on shore. At the time when Lord Clarence Paget was looking forward to flogging being abolished, not one man in 100 could read and write. Now it is a very small proportion that cannot do both, and are these the men do you think that will now submit to the rough discipline thought necessary in the old times? These men have improved in information, in intelligence, and in thought, and consider that they are no longer to be governed as mere brutes or machines. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman, if he does not know it, that these men and their petty officers in various parts now meet, combine, discuss their grievances, and communicate with Members of Parliament with regard to them. This system of flogging, I will venture to assert, is as really absolutely doomed as if the right hon. Gentleman decreed its dissolution to-day. The only question is this, shall it be done by the Government and the House of their own free will and graciously, or shall it be wrested from them by the power of public opinion, a thing neither the House nor the Government can withstand. We have seen the trades unions of this country combine altogether to assist my hon. Friend the Member for Derby (Mr. Plimsoll) in his patriotic attempts to ameliorate and render more safe the lives of merchant seamen. Does the right hon. Gentleman, want to see the trades unions joining the seamen of the Navy, and declaring, in tones that cannot be misunderstood, that the lash shall be no longer employed as a punishment? I do not speak entirely without book, for I have various communications from different parts of the country on this matter. One especially I will read from the town which is honoured by the representation of the right hon. Gentleman whom I now see sitting on the front bench (Mr. John Bright). The Birmingham Trades' Council, representing some 10,000 unionists, has asked its borough Members to support my Motion, and has based that request upon the very soundest and broadest grounds, for they moved— That this council desires the borough Members to support Mr. P. A. Taylor's Motion for the abolition of flogging in the Navy, believing that its continuance is degrading to the nation, and calculated to lower the service in the estimation of the people. Of course, I shall be told that discipline cannot be maintained without this punishment. That has been the cry every time any alleviation of this punishment has been attempted. When the lashes were 500, "discipline required it;" when they were 100, "discipline required it;" and "discipline" requires it now, when the experience of every Navy in the world negatives it, for England is the only country which still maintains the cat. The experience of our great Merchant Service negatives the necessity for it. The great vessels of the Peninsular and Oriental Company, with their vast wealth and the large numbers of passengers they carry, are they nothing? They have no prestige of naval discipline to fall back upon, but not a lash is ever given upon one of those vessels. Sir, I maintain that not one, but all the best authorities on the Navy, are against the continuance of this punishment. I will quote one or two illustrations. Before venturing to bring on this Motion, I wrote to a naval officer of long standing and high authority on all matters connected with the discipline of the Navy, and I believe his name is at the service of the First Lord. I will venture to read two or three pas- sages from his very interesting letter. He says— It raises a barrier between officers and men destructive of all good feeling and sympathy, and far from assisting to maintain, it is really destructive of all good discipline, converting the criminal into a martyr. I tell you that you cannot rely on your reserves so long as the men are subject to the torture prescribed in this Act. Try it. Embark your naval reserves in London and Liverpool this summer, take them for a month's cruise, and flog one of them from each port; call them out again in 1877 and see how many will respond to your call. There are two papers which I am told represent between the two the best characteristics of both Services. They are certainly not Radical in their politics, hut they have felt compelled within the last year or two to consider Motions which I have made, and they have generally thought it necessary to commence by saying "unusual as it is for us to agree with the hon. Member for Leicester." Listen to what The Army and Navy Gazette says, on June 3, 1876— If we did not believe that the flogging of men is a doomed thing in the Navy, to take its place with the long defunct barbarous practices of keel-hauling, running the gauntlet, tarring and feathering and so forth, we should urge its reduction to 24 lashes in any case, and that Commanders-in-Chief abroad should, like the Admiralty at home, have full powers (which they have not now) of remitting it when awarded by courts martial. But, in truth, we recognize the fact that our seamen have altogether grown beyond the lash. It is a punishment inconsistent with their superior education, habits and training, entirely opposed to the spirit of the age, and not even practised in foreign navies, where its retention was more excusable, if possible, than in ours. We cannot see what good can arise from subjecting the sailor to a degrading punishment from which we shelter the soldiers; it is enabling the soldier to point the finger of scorn and derision at his comrade the sailor. We will not pursue the subject further. We leave it with confidence in the hands of the authorities, feeling assured that a right conclusion will be arrived at. The United Service Gazette, for last Saturday, thus writes— It has been said that the good men in the Navy do not object to flogging, and that they would rather it should not be abolished. We have had the strongest and most conclusive proof offered us to the contrary. Surely, then, there can be no two opinions that the time, however long it has been deferred, has now fully come when such a demoralizing, degrading, and infamous punishment as flogging shall be abolished in the Royal Navy. I was much struck the other day by reading the life of Lord Collingwood, a man whom I believe professional historians reckon one of the very greatest commanders this country ever saw, as he was certainly one of her truest-hearted men, and noblest gentlemen. He was a man of whom Thackeray said—"Since heaven made gentlemen there is, I think, no record of a better one than that." Lord Collingwood, when flogging by the hundred lashes at a time was the fashion, loathed it, and never had recourse to it when he could avoid it. In the record of his punishments for the year 1793, from May to September, he had 12 men flogged from 6 to12 lashes each, and that was at the time when from 400 to 500 was a common thing. He would say to midshipmen, who came to him with complaints—"You don't want to see an older man than yourself flogged, I am sure. Come and ask me to let him off, and I will do so." I would recommend this to the consideration of the House and especially to the hon. Member for the Montgomery districts (Mr. Hanbury Tracy). Lord Collingwood was told that there was a mutiny on board his ship, whereupon he said—"Mutiny, sir, mutiny on my ship; if it can have arrived at that it must be my fault and the fault of every one of my officers." And this character of his, this ability to subdue by mingled firmness and gentleness the rough spirits he had to deal with was recognized by very different men. Lord St. Vincent, himself a most severe disciplinarian, used to say if he had any refractory men—"Oh, send them to Collingwood; he will bring them to order." But we have an entirely different system now to the one which obtained in those days. We flog only seven or eight men in the year, and what does that mean? It means that we flourish the cat in terrorem over the whole Navy for the sake of a few insubordinates, or for the sake rather of a very few bad or inefficient officers. Upon that point let me read two or three words to show how much is due to the conduct of an officer as regards the discipline of a ship, from a speech by Lord Hardwicke in the same debate of 1860. He said— He was of opinion that the discipline of the Navy was equally, if not more, dependent on the character and conduct of the officers in command than upon the code of laws under which they acted."—[3 Hansard, clix. 1614.] The same view was taken by the Commodore commanding the African squadron, who said— I have remarked to the commander on the increase of minor punishments, and suggested a greater amount of supervision amongst officers and others appointed to superintend and control the men. I am quite certain that one-half of the minor punishments need never have been inflicted if a proper vigilance had been exercised by the officers. We are often recommended a rough-and-ready discipline and punishment for the Navy; but I really think it would be not a less proper system than we practise now if whenever there are offences on board a vessel which seemed to demand the punishment of the cat, if the officers were cashiered rather than the men flogged. One of the most marked and disgraceful characteristics of our law at present on this matter, and marking how disgraceful the mere threat of the possibility of the cat is regarded, is that officers are especially exempt from the possibility of being flogged. In other cases it is the crime which determines the punishment, not the individual. In this case it is the rank of the man. Of what avail is it to say that an officer will never commit mutiny. If that is so they need never fear being flogged. There is no other punishment in the Naval Discipline Act from death to reprimand except this one of flogging to which officers are not liable in case they should commit the same crime. It is a remarkable thing, Sir, that there has been no trial for mutiny since the year 1835, and then it was two officers who were put upon their trial. It is a remarkable instance of the miserable red tapeism which is eating into our two Services, that these two officers to save the ship mutinied against a drunken commander, and by gentle pressure kept him in his cabin. Yet for saving the ship they were sentenced to some degree of punishment. But it is not merely as a sentimentalist, if I must submit to that charge which is so constantly brought against me, it is not merely because of my sympathy with the men, but as a question of economy that I bring forward this question. We cannot afford to make our Navy as unpopular as it is now, and to continue to hang the cat in terrorem over the men. We cannot stand as a pecuniary question the frightful amount of desertions that are going on now at this time, and our inability to fill up the vacancies with the youths coming from our training ships. Do not let the House suppose that I am inventing the fact that flogging has something to do with the dislike men have to enter our Navy. The Duke of Somerset, speaking on August 7, 1860, as to the clause requiring inquiry before flogging, said— An additional inducement would be held out to the seamen of the Merchant to enter the Naval Service; from entering into which they were at present deterred by the existence of corporal punishment."—[3 Hansard, clx. 821.] And what wonder is there that it should? What a sight it is, described by one who has seen it, to see a man hung up by his arms and knees, and surrounded by a corps of Marines with fixed bayonets, and there lashed—I will not say like a brute, because with our present condition of humanity we do not lash even our brutes. I have been told that when a man is to be flogged at Portsmouth harbour they dare not flog him alongside the dockyard, because the workmen there would not stand it, and so the vessel has to be taken out to sea. There is a certain refinement and delicacy in the fact also that when flogging is going on a look-out is kept to see that some French or Italian officer is not coming to visit the commander, and if one should appear he is warned off. We are very proud of our flogging, but there is a little touch of shame about it when a foreigner comes to see it. On this question I quote again from The United Service Gazette, which says— The question as to the causes that lead to the desertion of seamen from the Navy has become imminent. We cannot possibly go on losing 1,000 men a year on that account alone, without asking the reason why. To fill the vacancies caused by the desertion of these 1,000 seamen we require to be constantly training 3,000 boys, and these at the lowest computation cost us £135,000 a-year. To this must be added what has been spent on the training of the 1,000 deserters, say another £135,000, and we have a total of £270,000 a-year absolutely thrown away. These estimates we know are below the mark. The right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty is reported as saying in his speech on the Estimates that— looking over the whole stations it would be found that there was no increase in the numbers. I am quite unable to make out the correctness of the right hon. Gentleman's statement. Not to go further, I have gone to the year 1863, when we had those admirable Returns set on foot by his Predecessors, and I find that although according to his statement on April 10, 1875, the desertions at the Home Station were 3½ per cent, in 1863 the Returns were only 2.88 per cent. The percentage on the Channel Station was 7 per cent, in 1863 it was only 5 per cent, while on foreign stations, as compared with 1863, it would appear from the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the percentage was nearly double, and we have a like difficulty on the other side in persuading—and what wonder that it is so—in persuading boys to enter our training ships. From April 1875 to January 1876, inclusive, the number of boys less borne than voted averaged 625. In January, 1876, it had increased to nearly 800. I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Burnley (Mr. Rylands) would inquire what become of the sum voted for this larger number of boys, when the boys are not forthcoming. I now come to the Amendment which the hon. Gentleman the Member for Montgomery district (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) has put down upon the Paper. I must say I feel a certain amount of regret that opposition to my Motion should come from this side of the House. Not that this is in any sense a Party question; but still we are apt to think, and perhaps to arrogate to ourselves the right on this side of the House, to do away with bad, obsolete, and useless legislation. But I confess I regard the Amendment of the hon. Gentleman with entire satisfaction, because if there could be to my mind anything wanting to affirm the wisdom of my Motion, I should find it in his Amendment. He divides it into two portions, and he says, in the first place, that since 1871 all corporal punishment in the Navy has been abolished for all offences which do not require prompt and immediate punishment, and is now only retained for the case of mutiny, and for offences which may imperil the safety of the ship upon the high seas. Now, I am quite sure the hon. Gentleman had no desire whatever to mislead the House in any respect; but I must say that the terms he has used are, in my opinion, well calculated to do so. It is somewhat re- mark able, too, that the duty should fall to a civilian to set him right. In his Motion the hon. Gentleman informs the House that since 1871 corporal punishment has not, and cannot, be inflicted for any crime except those two which he specifies. Will not the House be surprised to learn that there is no foundation whatever for the statement, and that the reservation in this Minute applies simply and only to the summary jurisdiction of the commanding officer, and does not touch in the slightest degree the powers of punishment by court martial. At this very moment there is not a single punishment in the Naval Discipline Act which is punishable by imprisonment to which a court martial has not power to add flogging. Why, the hon. Gentleman would have seen, had he read a little more carefully, that in the debate, or rather the conversation which took place in 1871, and upon which his Motion is founded, that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was then my right hon. Friend (Mr. Goschen), expressly admitted that as regarded courts martial this had no effect. This might be a very good reason for amending the Act; but it was no justification for putting down such an Amendment as this. But then the hon. Gentleman goes on to say that this punishment is only retained for the cases of mutiny and of offences which may imperil the safety of the ship on the high seas. But what is this mutiny of which we hear so much, and of which the hon. Gentleman now speaks? It is simply a bugbear set up in order to persuade timid Members of Parliament of the necessity of retaining brutal punishments. Mutiny in the sense of endangering the possession of Her Majesty's ships is an absolutely unknown thing. Mutiny is a sort of parallel to high treason, an attempt to take a ship away from the natural control and power of Her Majesty's Government. It does not mean being rude to a midshipman, or striking the policeman of the vessel. But, supposing there were such a thing, what does this mean? That we only flog when the safety of the vessel at the moment is imperilled? The hon. Gentleman might remember the axiom of Mrs. Glasse—"First catch your hare." You cannot flog a man when he is in. open mutiny, and actually threatening to take away from the officers the command of the ship; when you have mutiny it is not the cat, but the revolver or grape shot that will be needed. The whole thing is an absurd delusion. There has been no such thing as a mutiny in this century. In the case of the Bounty, in 1789, it was not quelled by the cat; while in the case of the Hermione, in 1797, the cat was the direct and obvious cause of it. What a picture does this suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman give of the officers quelling a mutiny and ensuring their possession of a ship by flogging the men, the men fighting the officers with marlingspikes, and the officers pursuing them round the deck with cats. The hon. Gentleman says we cannot flog men except for mutiny. Why, there were seven men flogged last year, by order of a court martial, and not one of them was charged with mutiny. Now, I have no doubt in regard to this matter, especially of desertions, the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Hunt) will say he has done all in his power to prevent them. I remember a story of a certain patient who was afflicted with a multitude of diseases, and his physician had some reason to think they originated from a result which springs from insufficient lavation. He told his doctor that he had tried every means in his power to effect a cure. "Why don't you try soap and water," said his doctor. I venture to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will not apply a moral detergent to the misfortune which at present afflicts our Navy? If he will condescend to take the advice of a civilian and an outsider on the matter, I will venture to recommend to him such a course as that he should abolish flogging, and do away at the same time with the whole system of which flogging is a type. Let him amend all the red-tape regulations of the present Naval Discipline Act, by which the natural enjoyment, liberty, freedom, and improvement of the sailor are diminished. They are now become reasonable beings, let him give them reasonable means of relaxation and improvement; let him, in fact, make the Service as popular as it deserves to be, and as at present it is unpopular; let him do this, and he will gratify, I believe, the natural kindness of his own heart, satisfy the highest opinion of the best authorities in the Navy, and make himself the most popular First Lord with the sailors that there has been in our time. I beg to move, Sir,— That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the punishment of Flogging in the Navy should be abolished.


, in seconding the Motion, said, he was desirous of asking that the Navy of England should be taken out of the category of garrotters. They had decided to reserve the most disgraceful punishment for the most in famous scoundrels. But the clients for whom he spoke now were not the infamous men of the British Navy, but the true men enrolled in its ranks, who at the bidding of a wrong-headed, rash, presumptuous, perhaps cruel or vindictive man, might be put on their trial before three or four young officers and subjected to physical punishment. The garrotter, on the other hand, was secured a calm trial in a Court of Justice before a Judge and 12 of his countrymen, and the evidence against him was sifted by men of the greatest skill and experience in such matters. The sailor who was tried by court martial had no such means afforded him of proving his innocence. He thought they could not better consider the system of flogging than by asking each Member of the House to imagine his own feelings under it. It would be well that the regulation cat should be placed alongside the mace; but perhaps the First Lord would state how many knots it had, and what was the effect of a blow. He believed there was no country in the world in which flogging was cherished as an unnatural plant as it was in England. In this respect he believed she was sole, at all events among the nations of Europe. Professional men who had been brought up in the old system. naturally thought flogging necessary to the government of the country and the existence of the Service; but it had been abolished in the Army with very beneficial results, and he called upon them to assist in placing that chaplet which his hon. Friend had humorously spoken of on the brow of the right hon. Gentleman for abolishing the "cat" in the Navy. Even in the profession to which he was proud to belong, that of the Law, there had been men who thought that society could not be held together without cruel, barbarous, and Draconic punishments. The Judges thought so, and so did the Bishops; but, happily, there had sprung up men of warmer hearts, men who were more disposed to trust their fellow-men, and who advocated the abolition of such punishments. Professional men were not to be trusted, they were brought up under a system and did not see the mischief of it. If anything had made him a warm supporter of liberty, it was the brutal punishment of flogging. He could remember in his early days reading, or hearing, not unfrequently of 900 lashes being given in the Army and of more than one inquest upon some unfortunate man who had died under his punishment, and he was proud to say that eventually the public opinion of the country had obtained the abolition of such punishments; and he thought he was justified in adding one more appeal to those which had often been heard in that House—contending that the "lash" was useless to maintain discipline; that it was flourished in the face of a superior class of men; that it could not be measured in its baleful effects simply by the terror which it inspired in those who might commit breaches of discipline, but by the wider feeling of disgust and terror created in those who were not likely to need punishment to correct them, and who therefore would scorn a Service which alone among the Services of the world was disgraced by the maintenance of this infamous punishment.

Motion made, and Question proposed," That, in the opinion of this House, the time has arrived when the punishment of Flogging in the Navy should be abolished."—(Mr. P. A. Taylor.)


, in rising to move, as an Amendment, to leave out all the words after the word "House," and insert— corporal punishment in the Navy having been abolished in 1871 for all offences which do not require prompt and immediate punishment, and being only now retained for the case of mutiny and for offences which may imperil the safety of the ship on the high seas, it is inexpedient to take further steps for the total abolition of the punishment, said, he extremely regretted, in the interests of humanity, that the hon. Member for Leicester had brought forward his Motion. The hon. Member had criticized his Amendment and endeavoured to make out that he was endeavouring to mislead the House; but he wished to say that in drawing up the Amendment he had followed the terms of the speech made in that House in 1871 by the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen), when the hon. Member for Chatham (Mr. Otway) then moved for the abolition of flogging in the Navy. The right hon. Gentleman went into the subject very fully, and came to the conclusion that, in the interests of humanity, it was advisable that in certain cases they should have a deterrent punishment. Corporal punishment was to be abolished for all offences with the exception of mutiny, using or offering violence to a superior officer, and desertion under aggravated circumstances. The hon. Member for Leicester said that by the Naval Discipline Act a court martial was still able to award flogging for other cases; but if he had referred to the Memorandum which had been issued to the Navy he would have seen that for all practical purposes he was mistaken. The hon. Member for Leicester talked of mutiny as a thing unheard of. He (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) ventured to say that mutiny, or conspiracy of a mutinous character, was by no means so very rare. What would the hon. Member for Leicester do if a spirit of mutiny prevailed in a ship that was on the high sea, far from prison and from any country? Unless some strong punishment could be at once inflicted in such a case, the lives of all the officers would be endangered, and the ship would be irretrievably lost. If this power were not retained they must resort to the punishment of death. If they were prepared to do that he would withdraw his Amendment; but did they care so little for life in this 19th century that they thought that in every case of insubordination officers ought to be allowed to take out revolvers and shoot the mutinous men? It was true that flogging was abolished in the American Navy, and that legally only irons, cells, imprisonment, and the usual minor punishments could be enforced. But he believed it was undisputed that occasionally their officers were obliged to have resort to illegal punishments of a most brutal and degrading nature. Had the hon. Member for Leicester never heard of sweating boxes, that diabolical invention for packing a man in a sort of coffin near the boiler, forming a hot closet, until the perspiration ran off him, and he was reduced by a process of stewing to a state of submission? Had he never heard of knuckle-dusters being used for knocking men down? Had he never heard of that vile and brutal punishment of tying men up by their thumbs to the rigging, with their toes dangling on the ground for hours at a time? He did not wish the House to imagine that these horrible cruelties were often inflicted; but he feared that there was little doubt that in extreme cases it had often been a case of using one of these deterrent punishments, or of shooting men down with a revolver. It was only a few years ago the captain of an American man-of-war on the Brazilian station was tried for perpetrating some of these cruelties. He had spoken to American officers on the subject, and their reply was always to the effect—"Oh, these punishments are sometimes inflicted, but they are illegal, and the men have their remedy." That might be the case; but to a sailor on a foreign station there was an almost insuperable difficulty of obtaining redress, owing to the length of time which generally elapsed before the ship returned home. Certain he was that whether often carried out or not, the stigma of inflicting illegal punishments did rest on that Navy, and he should be very glad to hear it was unjustly placed. It was an admitted fact that in extreme cases life was frequently taken. Two curious cases occurred not very long ago, as illustrating the system pursued in the two navies. A ship's company of 170 men of the American Navy were sent in a passenger ship in charge of a captain and midshipman down to Aspinwall, in order that they might cross over to Panama and relieve the crew of a vessel on the Pacific station. A spirit of insubordination sprang up amongst the men, and an attempt was made to get to the spirit room. The captain fortunately heard of the intention; but having no power to apply a strong deterring punishment waited until the men actually came aft to get to the spirits, he then took his revolver and shot three of the men, and thus quelled the attempt to broach the spirit room, which would probably have ended, as all similar cases generally ended, in the loss of the ship and the whole crew. In the same month, and not far from the scene of this tragedy, an English man-of-war was wrecked— Her Majesty's ship Conqueror, with a crew of 800 men. In an evil hour some of the crew thought they would obtain possession of the spirits. Fortunately the conspiracy was discovered, and three of the ringleaders were flogged. All signs of insubordination were at once checked, and the whole crew of 800 men were saved. There were, unfortunately, at sea cases constantly occurring where men, crowded together in a small space, suddenly became maddened for drink, or from excitement and privation—were guilty of acts they would afterwards bitterly repent. These were instances where an iron hand was indispensable, and it was simply a question of inflicting instantly some summary deterrent, or of shooting. The punishment of flogging was infinitely more merciful than that of shooting a man. In the French Navy good discipline prevailed, but capital punishment was resorted to, and a captain had absolute discretion to do what he liked in case of insubordination tending to mutiny. In the Italian Navy a similar state of things prevailed. The hon. Member for Leicester said the Return issued that morning of the number of corporal punishments inflicted during the last few years only strengthened his case. He (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) maintained the contrary. It was admitted on all sides in 1871 that the settlement then arrived at on this subject was a right one, and Mr. Otway thought the flogging in the Navy would gradually die out and be only retained for extreme cases. In 1871 the number of cases of flogging was 51; but the number under the new state of things was as follows:—In 1872 there were only 16 cases; in 1873, 19; in 1874, 8; and he believed last year there were only six. He believed that number would be still further reduced. The hon. Member for Leicester said that they had now such magnificent men in the Navy that they need be under no fear through abolishing this punishment; but he could inform the hon. Member that sailors themselves were by no means anxious that flogging should be altogether done away with, because they knew that it was only the exceptionally bad men who were liable to the punishment. The hon. Member for Leicester had contended that desertion would be reduced by the abolition of flogging; but he thought that it would be far more considerably reduced by a slight increase being made in the pay. The chief cause of desertion among the ordinary seamen was their being kept for months at a time in harbour, where they got into debt, and frequently into prison. Some people thought that the right hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) had already gone a step too far in abolishing flogging in the Navy except in the two cases of mutiny and of offences imperilling the safety of the ship; but without wishing to take a backward step as matters now stood it would be highly imprudent to go any further in that direction. The hon. Member for Leicester had instanced the Merchant Navy as a proof that ships might be safely navigated without recourse being had to flogging; but it was only a few weeks ago that they had had lamentable cases of mutiny in that service. When it was recollected what an unnatural life men led at sea, when it was remembered what countless dangers were continually being run, which naturally made seamen somewhat reckless, and when it was also remembered how easy it was for the best men to be led astray when physically demoralized from over work or excitement, he apprehended they ought not to be surprised that an exceptional punishment was required for these purely exceptional state of things. He desired to defend the penalty of flogging for these extreme cases on the very ground taken by the hon. Member in wishing to abolish it. He believed it was out of all comparison the least cruel mode of dealing with these peculiar offences. If in their attempt to give up this remedy for that one crime of insubordination tending to mutiny, endangering the lives of all on board, they set to work to devise other punishments which should act as a deterrent on the human mind, he was certain they would be led into the infliction of tortures far more cruel, far less efficacious, or be forced into taking human life. Surely it would be contrary to the principles of humanity to take men's lives for every act of mutiny on board ship, and he trusted that such a horrible stigma would not be laid upon the British Navy. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving his Amendment.


, in seconding the Amendment, said, he believed the hon. Member for Leicester had brought forward this Motion in the belief that he was promoting the cause of humanity, but his speech was mischievous and dangerous. If delivered on board a man-of-war, the person who delivered it would have been subjected to a pretty good share of the punishment it condemned. Speaking from an experience afloat of more than 50 years, he could say that the infliction of corporal punishment was the most painful part of an officer's duty, and that it was never resorted to except from absolute necessity. It was a punishment, however, which officers in command of ships ought to have the power of administering in cases of emergency. He did not like to make sensational speeches, but he might mention an incident which had occurred to himself—not yesterday, it was true, but years ago when he was in command of a brig in the Mediterranean. There happened to be an unruly spirit amongst his crew, and word was brought him by his officers that the men had refused to wash the deck when ordered to do so. He gave them a second opportunity of obeying the command, and placing a loaded pistol upon the capstan, he ordered the few men who remained obedient to seize one of the ringleaders and flog him. This being done, he ordered three others to receive the same punishment, and that quelled the mutiny effectually; and had he not possessed the power of administering this punishment the ship would not have remained in his hands. If they gave up flogging, they must resort to the punishment of death. In other navies where flogging was not administered most barbarous punishments were resorted to, which he hoped would never disgrace the British Navy. During all the years he had been afloat he never knew of an instance in which a sailor who had been flogged bore a grudge against his commanding officer for having so punished him. He believed the better class of seamen would regret to see the abolition of this punishment; and he was sorry that this Motion had been brought forward, regarding it as implying a calumny on the officers of the Navy.

Amendment proposed, To leave out from the word "House" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "corporal punishment in the Navy having been abolished in 1871 for all offences which, do not require prompt and immediate punishment, and being only now retained for the case of mutiny and for offences which may imperil the safety of the ship on the high seas, it is inexpedient to take further steps for the total abolition of the punishment,"—(Mr. Hanbury-Tracy) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, that as a rule questions of discipline in the Navy ought to be left entirely in the hands of the Executive; but this was an exceptional case. He had received no communications from his constituents upon the subject, or from any persons in the Navy except some officers. The Amendment would have the practical effect of leaving the subject where it now was, and with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester he sympathized with it, but he could not go to the extent the hon. Member did. He would therefore suggest as a compromise that the Army and Navy should be placed on an equal footing—namely, that in both Services the punishment of flogging should be abolished in time of peace, but that it should not be abolished altogether, and that in time of war the Executive should have unlimited power. The punishment was without doubt a barbarous one, and every one would like to see it abolished, if possible; but he feared the time had not yet arrived at which such abolition was practicable. The object of the punishment was twofold. In the first place, it was intended to act as a deterring influence upon the man flogged, and to make a better sailor and a better subject of the Queen; but he, for one, could not conceive that the best way to a man's heart was an attempt to effect a forcible entry through his back. And, in the second place, punishment should be such as to deter others from taking a similar course; and, from his experience, he did not think that flogging achieved the object for which it was intended. Flogging, so far from deterring other men from committing crimes, rather engendered a spirit of callousness in the men very much like that dare-devil life of crime that was found to exist on shore from reading The New gate Calendar and The Illustrated Police News. He should certainly like to know the exact nature of the offences for which the punish- ment of flogging had been inflicted of late years, as conflicting and inaccurate statements had been made on the subject. It was said that in the Navy men were only flogged for offences requiring prompt punishment; but this was not the fact, for men were often flogged after the holding of courts martial, which did not sit until long after the offences had been committed. Flogging in the Navy was sometimes defended on the ground that on shipboard there were not the same means of punishing offenders that existed in the case of soldiers quartered in camps or barracks on land. This, again, was not strictly accurate. In large ships there were cells, and in all vessels there were irons, into which offending sailors could be put. Dr. Johnson described life on shipboard as resembling life in a prison, with the additional chance of drowning. He could not go quite this length; but he certainly thought that if punishment on land was unpleasant, it must be much more unpleasant on board ship. It this punishment was barbarous in times of peace, it must be equally so in times of war; but there was no doubt that in times of war exceptional means must be used, and the powers of the Executive must be unlimited. The Government would do well to put the Navy on the same footing as the Army with regard to the infliction of corporal punishment. He thought the Government would act wisely if they adopted his suggestion, for the total abolition of flogging must take place eventually. He had only to add that he could not vote for the keeping up of the present state of things, and that he would not promise that he should not vote for the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester if the answer of the Government was not satisfactory.


thought the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) had made a very sensible speech, which the Government might accept as a solution of the question. As regarded flogging in the Army, he declared that men were sometimes on active service flogged for almost nothing. ["No, no!"] Courts martial did not flog for almost nothing, he allowed; but the provost-marshal did, and there was no return of his floggings. Every man and non-commissioned officer was liable to be flogged when on service in the Army, and that should be remembered in their recruiting arrangements. These matters should be attended to now, whilst there was yet time, for if war came upon us it would find us with our house not in order. The Army was in peace time in respect of flogging in a much better condition than the Navy; and what had been the result of making the Army better? It had certainly not been the insubordination of which they had heard so much as likely to be the effect before the improvement was made. If hon. Members consulted a work written by the late Colonel Stewart, called Recollections of a Soldier, they would see what the result of flogging in the Army was 30 or 40 years ago. The author, who was not in favour of the total abolition of flogging, but was of the present system, said that that punishment, as formerly administered in large doses, had the effect of making men reckless and insubordinate. There was no flogging of the men in the Cunard line, and yet no one would say that those men were insubordinate. The hon. Member for the Montgomeryshire Boroughs (Mr. Hanbury Tracy) had spoken of the condition of the Merchant Service; but he should remember that if mutinies occurred they arose from the fact that good men could not be had for low wages, and that the bad men who took their places could not be trusted. The hon. Member also said that flogging was necessary to prevent the men from breaking into the spirit room; but in troop-ships, where the discipline was purely naval, there was no flogging of the men for that purpose. Now spirit rooms were only liable to be broken into in case of fire or apprehended disaster; and although he had known in musters for fire parade in troop ships loaded revolvers furnished to the guard on the spirit room, he did not think that a cat-o'-nine-tails would furnish an additional safeguard. He was quite prepared to admit that if flogging were abolished on board ship it might be necessary, in some extreme case, to inflict the punishment of death. He did not shrink from that conclusion, and should be prepared to show that the mere fact of its existence would not in any way detract from the value of the abolition of flogging, which lowered the tone of any service in which it was retained.


said, the hon. Member for Leicester had made a very interesting and forcible speech on this subject. So far as his own feelings went he could assure the hon. Member that he greatly sympathised with the expressions he had used; but it was necessary not only to regard the question as one of feeling, but to look at the reasons which called for the infliction of corporal punishment. For his own part, he should have been exceedingly glad if he could have expressed his concurrence in the terms of the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester—namely, "that the time has arrived when the punishment of flogging in the Navy should be abolished." He could assure the hon. Member that he had no affection for the "cat," and that he had no objection to be crowned by the chaplet of laurels which he had offered him if he could feel it his duty to accept this Motion. But not having any prejudices to overcome on this subject, and not having been brought up in the groove of corporal punishment, but looking dispassionately at the matter from the post he occupied, he could not agree with the hon. Member that the time had arrived when corporal punishment could be wholly abolished in the Royal Navy. He regretted exceedingly to be obliged to come to that conclusion, because it would be a proud day for the Service and for the country when flogging could be abolished in the Navy. His hon. Friend the Member for the Montgomery Boroughs had pointed out the great diminution in the number of cases of corporal punishment that had taken place of late years, and had attributed that diminution very properly to the Admiralty Regulations issued in 1871, limiting very much the discretion of officers with regard to the infliction of summary punishments on the person. It had been objected to the form of the Amendment that under the authority of a court martial punishments might still be inflicted other than those which had been mentioned by his hon. Friend. According to strict accuracy, that objection must be held good; but, at the same time, he believed that, practically, the words used by his hon. Friend very much represented the actual state of things. A Return had been presented to that House which showed that in 1874 there were only eight cases of corporal punishment among 30,000 men; but he would call attention to another Return presented a few days earlier from which it appeared that seven of those eight cases occurred abroad, and only one at a home station. That showed that corporal punishment was so little required at home stations that it might be said to be practically abolished. The others were cases of flogging at sea and at foreign stations, where no means of imprisonment existed. The hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Captain Price) wished the Navy to be put on the same footing as the Army, in which flogging was abolished except in case of war—and as he was reminded except on board ship, and the reason for that exception was obvious—on shore there was the artificial system of magisterial supervision and imprisonment which enabled us to confine malefactors for the advantage of the community and without risk or immediate danger to the community. But that was not the case on board ship. His hon. and gallant Friend (Sir William Edmonstone) had alluded to a case in which, with a pistol in one hand, he had to order four men to be flogged. Suppose his hon. and gallant Friend had had no such power of flogging those men who, it was assumed, had been guilty of some offence against discipline, what might have been the fate of the ship and of those on board of her? Or put the case of a young seaman refusing to do the work assigned him, and, on being again instructed, striking the superior officer who gave the order. It was said, "Imprison him;" but on a small ship there was no means of imprisonment, and though it was possible to put him in irons, would that commend itself to the hon. Member for Leicester? If it would, it must be remembered that these things were catching and several men might refuse to work if being put in irons was all the result. In this way a mutinous disposition might spread among a crew until the number refusing to work might imperil the safety of the ship. It had been found necessary, in order to secure the safety of ships, to invest captains with a certain amount of despotic power—of course making them responsible to their superiors at home. On board large ships there were, of course, means available for imprisoning offenders, and the risk, as to the safety of the ship, would consequently be less than it would be in the case of small ships where no means of imprisonment existed. But even in large ships there was extreme difficulty in dealing with offenders at stations where there were no gaols. It was, therefore, exceedingly difficult to deal with the case of those who refused to work or who struck at superior officers. He was sorry he was unable to give the particulars of the eight cases that had occurred in 1874, as there had not been time to obtain the information since it was asked for; but, as far as his recollection went, in nearly all the cases the offence committed was that of striking a superior officer; and that offence he thought did resemble that of the garotter. In both cases personal violence was offered, and those who offered it had the least reason to complain if personal punishment was awarded them. The infliction of corporal punishment in places where an offender could be dealt with by means of imprisonment or otherwise might be safely abolished; but where there were no means of subjecting a man to irksome punishment for offences against the discipline of the Navy it was necessary to retain the power of inflicting corporal punishment. The power of officers to inflict summary corporal punishment was now much limited by the instructions issued by the Admiralty in 1871. No petty or non-commissioned officer, no seaman, Marine, or other person in the first class for conduct belonging to Her Majesty's ships was liable to summary corporal punishment, except for mutiny; and any case in which it was inflicted must be immediately reported to a superior authority. No seaman or Marine of the second class for conduct was liable to summary corporal punishment in time of peace, except for mutiny, or using or offering violence to a superior officer where the offence could not be visited with summary imprisonment. These instructions, issued in 1871, had very materially restricted the power of officers summarily to award corporal punishment, and the result had been the great diminution in the number of cases which had been already pointed out. It was true that courts martial still retained the power of inflicting corporal punishment in other cases; but it was also true that the Admiralty had discouraged the use of excessive corporal punishment; and it was perfectly well known that the Admiralty were anxious that the awarding of this punishment should be as restricted as possible, and, indeed, that it should be given only in exceptional cases. The knowledge of that fact had deterred courts martial from inflicting this punishment in the way they used to do. It would be quite possible to restrict by regulation or by statute the infliction of the punishment at home ports; but that would be merely making law of the present practice. As regarded foreign stations and ships at sea, it seemed that it would hardly be safe to limit the power of flogging more than at present; but he hoped the day might come when they might see their way to act upon the view expressed in the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester. It would be a happy day for the Service if they could see their way to abolish flogging altogether, but he did not think the time had come when that could safely be done. He should prefer to give a negative to the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester rather than to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for the Montgomery Boroughs, because he did not think that its words technically described the present state of the law. If therefore that Amendment was withdrawn and they took the division on the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester, they would have a clearer issue before them.


said, he was unable on that occasion to give any other vote than he would have given if he had still been in any degree responsible for the discipline of the Navy, and he thought it only fair to his successor that he should state that frankly to the House. He was glad that the measures taken in 1871 had practically had the effect, if not of technically abolishing corporal punishment, yet of reducing it to the very smallest possible proportions; and he trusted that what had been said that night would not create the belief out-of-doors that corporal punishment prevailed to any extent in the Navy, or that the officers of the Navy were not as anxious to put the very narrowest limits to that detestable punishment as any Member of that House. While himself at the Admiralty he had to deal with many officers of all ranks, of both sides in politics, and belonging to both the old school and the new; but he was unable to get from any officers, even of the new school, or from any officers who had been in high command or even responsible in any degree for the discipline of their ships, such a body of opinion as would have justified him in assenting to the Motion of the hon. Member for Leicester. At the same time, he had received from those officers every support in limiting that form of punishment in the way it had been limited in the last three or four years, and he well remembered the great care that was taken by the Admiralty whenever it was actually inflicted to ascertain every circumstance connected with the case, and to see whether the regulations had been in any way infringed. He believed that in only one instance within the three years during which he was First Lord was there any doubtful case in regard to the conduct of a naval officer on that point. While corporal punishment had been thus reduced, our sailors were treated in every other respect with more humanity and more gentleness by their officers than those of any other nation. It was notorious that other nations had recourse to punishments for the sake of maintaining discipline, in the absence of corporal punishment, that we had never sanctioned, and which would almost revolt everyone in that House. ["Name."] He did not know whether he was asked to name the country or the punishment; but he thought it would scarcely be fair to name the countries. The hon. and gallant Member for Galway (Captain Nolan) seemed to suggest that it might be better to shoot two or three men than to have to flog eight. But would the officers have the two or three shot? Would they accept the responsibility of doing that? They might, perhaps, be driven to do it, but what would then be said of the Service? The difficulty of maintaining discipline on distant stations was extremely great, and when it was urged that men might be put in irons and in cells, he remembered what had been said to him by naval officers on that subject. They said, for instance, that if they found themselves in the Red Sea, where the heat was tropical, and they imprisoned men for a fortnight, that punishment would be far more cruel and almost more dangerous to life itself than any other punishment that could be inflicted.


believed that for one man flogged in the Navy 100 were deterred from entering the Naval Reserve. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) said that if flogging were abolished it would be necessary to resort to more revolting modes of punishment; but he had omitted to specify the punishments to which he referred, so that the House might have an opportunity of forming its own opinion on the subject.


was of opinion that it was a good thing that captains of ships should have the power of flogging. Seventeen years ago when he joined the Service as a Midshipman flogging was common for all sorts of offences, and small acts of insubordination, but now the reverse was the rule. The hon. Member for Leicester had spoken of the Returns of punishments not being so great as they used to be, but he had not hit upon the real cause, which was that offences were not now nearly so numerous as formerly, and the men were so very much improved. They now tried to teach them instead of driving them. He was glad of this, but he should be sorry to see the power abolished altogether. The fact that only some seven men were flogged last year out of about 28,000 showed that that form of punishment was not abused, and he believed that its existence exercised a wholesome effect on the Service. Indeed, the men would probably regret the abolition of flogging as much as anybody. When men did not go smartly about their duty, he had sometimes heard old blue-jackets regret that they could not get a dozen lashes for it as in the good old days. It was a great mistake to suppose that the abolition of flogging would stop desertion or induce more men to enter the Service. It would do nothing of the sort, for what was wanted was a little more pay.


, in reply, said: In one thing, Sir, I think the outside public will agree on reading the report of this debate—that when the two front benches do agree, their unanimity is wonderful. I think I can anticipate the mode in which people will speak of the debate to-night, and I think I can assure the right hon. Gentleman of one thing that they have made up their minds upon, that they cannot understand the mysteries which attach to officialism. The right hon. Gentleman has declined to do that which he says when done will be a happy day for the Navy, and the right hon. Gentleman on this side of the House enthusiastically defends a punishment he designates as detestable.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 62; Noes 120: Majority 58.