HC Deb 11 March 1893 vol 9 cc1726-44

said, he rose in pursuance of the following notice on the Paper:— On Army Estimates, to call attention to the case of Dr. Briggs, and to move for a Select Committee to inquire into the refusal to reinstate him. He said that although, as it would be observed, the case to which he wished to call the attention of his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War involved the position of an individual, yet he ventured to think that the course of treatment to which that individual had been subjected had made the question more than one affecting an individual— had made it, in fact, a national question. For the person whose name was connected with the notice he had given was a person who had served with very great distinction in our National Army. He took it to be a matter of national interest that persons who served the country should, at any rate, be justly treated, in connection with their service. He wished, first of all, before he proceeded, to tell the House how Dr. Briggs had been treated, to inform the House shortly what had been the nature of the services that gallant officer had rendered to the country. He entered the Army in 1875, being attached to the Medical Department. In 1877–78 he served in an expedition, not merely rendering those services which were immediately connected with his profession, but rendering services in the presence of the enemy, and he was rewarded with a medal and a clasp for that campaign. Then in 1878 and 1880 he served in the Afghan War; in 1884–85 he served with eminent distinction in the Soudan expedition, being present at more than one engagement. His services found recognition in the Despatches, and, again, he was entitled to more decorations in connection with that campaign. After the Soudanese campaign Dr. Briggs was promoted to the rank of surgeon major, and at the time he received that promotion he was the youngest officer in that branch of Her Majesty's Service who had attained this rank. After those services, he had the misfortune—the very grave misfortune, which no one recognised more fully than he did himself— to be promoted to the Staff of the then Governor of Madras, Lord Connemara. He was promoted to be medical officer on that staff in November, 1886. Now, far be it from his (Mr. Lockwood's) wish or intention to trouble the House with the painful personal matters which arose between the Governor of Madras and Lady Connemara. Base charges were made against Surgeon Major Briggs—charges which reflected not only upon the lady whose name he had mentioned,but which reflected seriously on Dr. Briggs. Those charges were met by Dr. Briggs, and the Governor of Madras wrote and handed to this gentleman a written apology for having made them. But owing to this disagreement—to those charges—of course, it became impossible for any gentleman to remain longer connected with that establishment. Dr. Briggs returned to this country. He (Mr. Lock-wood) troubled the House with these details, because it was necessary that the House should know all the facts. A suit was commenced in the Divorce Division of the High Court of Justice by Lady Connemara, in which she claimed to have the marriage tie between herself and the Governor of Madras dissolved. That petition, the House would understand, was met by counter-charges—by those very charges which had been made against Dr. Briggs in India, and for which he had in his possession a written apology. Those charges, however, were repeated in a counter petition, and Dr. Briggs found himself made a co-respondent in this cross-suit. Well, being placed in that position, of course it was necessary for him, as any Member of the House would at once recognise, to take every step, not only on his own behalf, but, of course, on behalf of the lady whose name was so disgracefully coupled with his, to meet these charges at the earliest opportunity, and he (Mr. Lockwood) must for himself say this: He knew nothing whatever of Army discipline, he belonged to another profession; but he must say this: that he should have thought that it would have been not in the ranks of the Army, but in the higher officialdom of his own profession, that Dr. Briggs would have found the readiest support and sympathy. He should have thought that the mere telling of his tale would have insured for him every facility for meeting the charges. If the charges were true let him suffer for them, but if they were false let him rebut them and destroy them. He regretted to say that, so far from that sympathy being extended to that gallant gentleman—and he said this with deliberation as knowing something of the case—so far from facilities being offered, Dr. Briggs was sorely hampered in the matter. When he returned to this country he made application, because his health had suffered considerably in consequence of the mental anxiety through which he had passed, to be relieved for a time from the performance of his duty. After some time he was accorded sick leave; but he found to his dismay that, while it had become necessary for him to be in immediate communication with the persons who were to defend him against the charges, he was ordered to a remote station in Ireland. He interviewed the Director General of the Army Medical Department, and, much against his will, went into these delicate private matters: he stated to the head of the Department fully and frankly and fairly what his position was. After those representations he was sent to Woolwich. During the time he was there he had, of course, every opportunity—the opportunity he desired—of consulting with his legal advisers. But what was his astonishment, and what was his dismay to find that, when the case was actually pending and about to come on for trial, he was ordered to India? Now, it was to be hoped that, whoever dealt with the case from an official point of view in the House, would be able to give some explanation as to how it came about that this gentleman, who had fully informed the Department as to the painful nature of his position—who had told his sad story to the Director General of the Medical Department — should, at this time, when, above all things, it was necessary that he should remain in England to meet the charges, have been ordered out to India. Dr. Briggs, when he received this order, went again to the heads of his expostulating, and he said, as every man of Department honour would do, "It is not only a question of my own honour—the honour of this woman is at stake." He was coolly reminded that his evidence could be taken on commission—that was to say, that this officer and gentleman was to let his evidence be' taken in a back room, and then go to India, leaving the honour of this woman to be smirched with his in the Courts. That was a course which no man of honour in the House would say could possibly be taken by this gentleman. What was the alternative? Now, he (Mr. Lockwood) was trying to tell the story of the treatment of Dr. Briggs by the officials as calmly as he could, but he was bound to say he grew indignant when he said that this gallant officer was told that if he did not embark for India—and an embarcation certificate was handed to him for the purpose—he would be dismissed from the Service. Here was Dr. Briggs' position. This man's honour was affected. He (Mr. Lockwood) had always understood that, in this gallant Service, whenever the honour of an officer was at stake, he was called upon by those to whom he was responsible to take the readiest means of clearing himself from the imputations. But here they found that this officer had only this alternative offered to him, "Either you go to India and retain the emoluments of your profession and the high rank which you have won by your services to the country, or, if you do not do that you will be dismissed instantly; or," they said, "we will give you this further alternative, you may resign." The House would understand, without his (Mr. Lockwood's) stating it,, the alternative was chosen by this gallant gentleman. He did resign, and remained in this country. The trial came on on the 27th of November, 1890. An offer was made before the trial came on to withdraw the charges against Dr. Briggs; but those who were responsible for Dr. Briggs in that trial refused to allow such charges to be withdrawn, and insisted that this gentleman should have the opportunity of going into the box to deny on oath that there was a tittle of truth in the charges. What was the position of Dr. Briggs now? On November 27 he swore that the charges were false. No one had the courage to suggest the contrary; the finding of the jury or the tribunal before which the case came was that the charges were untrue. Again, what happened? One would have expected that the earliest opportunity would have been taken by the Department, or by these officials, to reinstate this gentleman. So far from it being necessary for Dr. Briggs to move, he would have thought that the initiative would have been taken by those who had forced the resignation on him. The trial took place on November 27, 1890; it was not until August 1, 1891, that the late Secretary of State for War (Mr. E. Stanhope) announced that he proposed to reinstate Dr. Briggs. He (Mr. Lockwood) would pause here for a moment to say that from the right hon. Gentleman and from the hon. Member for the Guildford Division of Surrey (Mr. Brodrick) he received throughout the negotiations he carried on with them the greatest consideration. It was not the persons responsible for the Department in that House, either on one side or the other, who were to blame in this matter. He hoped that, although he should not be able to take a Division on the matter that he was now bringing to the notice of the House, there would be a strong intimation of opinion from Members on both sides. Parliament was not a dummy; and if right hon. Gentlemen on either side of the House were of opinion that this was a case of injustice, and that Dr. Briggs was entitled to be placed back in the Army in the position he had won for himself, no red-tape centurions outside should prevent this being done. Right hon. Gentlemen had the right to be regarded as other than mere figureheads in Parliament representing their Departments. They had he right to be regarded as men of discretion, with courage to exercise that discretion in the face of officials who might not agree with them. On the 1st August, 1891, the Secretary for War made a promise of reinstatement, and on November 17, 1891, Dr. Briggs was gazetted back to the Service; but under what conditions? He (Mr. Lockwood) did not know that Dr. Briggs had won for himself a rank which no one senior to himself in the Service had attained; but when he was reinstated he found that he had lost 35 places in promotion which he had won at the risk of his life in the Service. Dr.Briggs refused to accept any such reinstatement. Communications were re opened between the late Secretary of State for War and himself and—if he would allow him to call him so—his hon. and "learned" Friend (Dr. Farquharson) near him. The negotiations were reopened. The reinstatement was cancelled in December, 1891; on March 22,1892, a question was put in that House by his hon. Friend to the late Secretary of State for War, and an answer was returned, to which he wished to call attention. The question was— Whether he had further considered the case of Surgeon Major Briggs with a view to his being reinstated in the position which he would now occupy in the Service if he had not retired? The Secretary for War replied as follows:— I am of opinion Surgeon Major Briggs should not suffer any loss as regards position or promotion in consequence of an act which any gentleman was bound to perform, and which he performed under a pressure which no one could have resisted. Dr. Briggs will therefore be restored to the seniority he held before his retirement. This was a statement made by the right hon. Gentleman on March 22, 1892. This man had been eating his heart out since November, 1890, when the charges against him were blotted out by the finding of the Court; but, from November, 1890, up to March 22, 1892, he had been trying by every means in his power to get reinstatement, and it was not until that statement was made by the Secretary of State that he was able to obtain it. It was charged against Dr. Briggs that he had subsequently written a letter in which he used some strong language. Did not the House think that it was likely that a man who had had such tardy justice done to him would find it difficult, under the circumstances, to use the most calm and discreet language? Let the House remember the delay that had occurred. Dr. Briggs ought never to have been called upon to resign; and when he had cleared his character and that of the lady who had been associated with him from all slur, reinstatement ought not to have been sought by him, but ought to have been brought to him and given without question. Nothing could excuse the delay which had occurred. But that was not all. On March 22, 1892, the highly satisfactory answer was given by the right hon. Gentleman. Gazettes came out one after another; in not one of them appeared the name of Dr. Briggs. This was a matter as to which, no doubt, the right hon. Gentleman would give them some information. Three Gazettes came out without mentioning the name of Dr. Briggs, and nothing was heard as to any further step being taken. On the 24th May Dr. Briggs was ordered to Chester. As he had not been gazetted he sought the advice of friends. He put the matter before them, and it appeared to them an anomalous position that Dr. Briggs should go to Chester and become associated with the Staff there when he had never been gazetted back to the Army. However, the short delay that was occasioned by these representations brought a peremptory telegram to him on the 22nd May from the Director General of the Medical Department (Sir W. Mackinnon) who asked him why he had not proceeded to Chester. On May 22 another Gazette came out, but there was no mention of the name of Dr. Briggs. On the 22nd March the right hon. Gentleman made his complete and most satisfactory statement. Before Dr. Briggs was gazetted he was peremptorily ordered to Chester. Then there was another Gazette with no mention of this gentleman's name. He received a peremptory telegram on the 27th May and on the 28th May he joined at Chester. On that very day—Dr. Briggs not having been gazetted, and, therefore, not being in a position if he committed any breach of discipline to demand to be tried by Court Martial— there appeared in The Army and Navy Gazette a letter signed "Veritas." Dr. Briggs had in one of his letters to the Department charged that that letter came from an official in the Department, and that suggestion had never been denied. Dr. Briggs looked upon the letter as a trap deliberately laid for him, the writer knowing his temperament and knowing that he would be likely to reply to it in terms that might not be regarded as the most discreet and temperate. "Veritas" took quite the official view of the case against Dr. Briggs, and said it was not necessary for him to attend at the trial unless he had a subpœna served on him. He (Mr. Lockwood) supposed he ought to have some respect for an official Department, but he had very little respect for a man who suggested that a person should not attend the trial of a petition for divorce in which he had been made a co-respondent unless he got a subpœna. He should not advise any member of the Department who was ever so unfortunate as to be in that position to take such a course. Dr. Briggs sent to The Army and Navy Gazette a reply to "Veritas," in the course of which he said— I trust, therefore, that although this is a very long letter you will insert every word of it as a mere matter of fair play. The Director General Medical Staff, is well aware of my opinion of his action in the whole affair from first to last. It was his privilege to have stood by and seen justice done; and he had the power to prevent a single step adverse to me in any way being taken before the trial, whatever might have been done afterwards; but, as I have myself told him, he was the agent of others who stood behind him in the background, and who were determined upon forcing me out of the country just before the trial, or my ruin. Who cannot form the answer for himself to that question? Why this desperate anxiety to get me out of the way at that trial? I venture to think, if fearless speaking-out on proper occasions was more common, cases of gross injustice and oppression would be less frequent in the Service than they are now. That letter was written by Dr. Briggs on the 4th June. On the 11th of June he received this letter:—

"Horse Guards, War Office, June 11, 1892.

Sir,—I have the honour, by desire of the Commander-in-Chief, to forward herewith an article which appeared in The Army and Navy Gazette of the 4th inst., headed 'Medical Staff,' and purporting to have been written by Surgeon Major W. H. Briggs, containing remarks regarding the Director General Army Medical Department that are quite contrary to discipline.

His Royal Highness desires you to inquire of Surgeon Major Briggs whether the article in question is correctly attributed to him, and, in the event of this being found to be the case, to call upon him for an explanation.

I have, &c.,


He (Mr. Lockwood) called the attention of the House to the wording of this letter. The only offer made to Dr. Briggs was that he should explain how it came about that the letter to the newspaper was written. If any suggestion had been made to him that he should prove his statements he would have accepted the challenge without a moment's hesitation. What he had always claimed was an opportunity of substantiating his suggestion. He wrote back at once stating that the letter was his, and that he accepted full responsibility for it. On the 18th June he received a letter from the War Office informing him that the reinstatement would not be proceeded with. It was interesting to note that in September an attempt was made by the Department to give Dr. Briggs his full pay and allowances while he was at Chester. At a subsequent stage of the proceedings it appeared that the Department regarded him as a temporarily-employed officer. Such an officer would not be entitled to full pay and allowances. Dr. Briggs had never been gazetted back into the Service, and yet it was held that his letter was a breach of discipline. He was sufficiently under discipline for dismissal, but not for a full inquiry into his conduct by means of a Court Martial. A correspondence took place between Dr. Briggs and the Department, and in October his solicitors wrote a letter on his behalf to the Department. The following reply was received:—

"Horse Guards, War Office, S.W.

Oct. 29, 1892.

Sir,—I have the honour, by desire of His Royal Highness the Commander-in-Chief, to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 21st inst., which, involving as it does a question of discipline, has been placed in the hands of the Adjutant General by the Military Secretary.

His Royal Highness regrets that you have failed to fully apprehend the facts which governed the decision which has been arrived at in your case, and I have, therefore, to place before you what those facts are:—

  1. 1. A letter from you having appeared in The Army and Navy Gazette of June 4, 1892, in which you made serious allegations against various officers, His Royal Highness ordered that your reinstatement, which was then on the point of appearing in the Gazette, should be suspended until you had explained or proved them.
  2. 2. These allegations you failed, after full time for consideration, to explain, prove or withdraw, and the order for your reinstatement was therefore cancelled.

His Royal Highness desires me to return the accompanying statement of the Connemara case, which does not relate to the question under immediate consideration.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Your obedient servant,


W. H. Briggs, Esq., late Surgeon Major Medical Staff, c.o. Messrs. Holt and Co., 17, Whitehall Place."

As a matter of fact, Dr. Briggs had never been asked to prove his assertions, and the letter was on a par with a great deal of the treatment which he had received from the Department. His solicitors replied on the 3rd November, stating that he courted an opportunity of proving bis statements and would avail himself of it. The answer received was the usual official one, that "the matter was now closed." No doubt in his published letter Dr. Briggs did speak in terms of disparagement of his superior officer, and no doubt it would not be advantageous to the Service that those in the Service should speak in disparagement of those who were above them. But what was the remedy? It was that those who did so should have the opportunity before a properly-constituted tribunal of proving whether they were justified or not. Dr. Briggs was willing to accept the proposition that he was under discipline at the time he wrote the letter. Would the Department grant that, being under discipline, he was entitled to an inquiry into his conduct? If he was not under discipline he could not, as a man of honour. withdraw his imputations until they had been proved to be true. If he was under discipline he was willing to express his regret for having written the letter, and to withdraw it. Under these circumstances, it was to be hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War would reinstate him, and so remove from the Department the discredit of being connected with an act of gross injustice.

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


I venture to make an appeal to the House, not in my own interest, but in the interest with which the House has been dealing, to allow me to break the Rules of Debate so that I may proceed to answer the observations of my hon. and learned Friend without sacri- ficing my right to discharge the duty which will lie upon me at the end of the whole Debate of answering to the best of my ability the other questions which may be raised in relation to Army matters. I am quite aware that, according to the regular and strict order of Debate, I ought to defer everything I have to say until the end of the discussion, but I feel that the course I propose to take will further the Business of the House, and I accordingly ask its kind indulgence. My hon. and learned Friend has brought forward a question the importance of which I will not under-rate, and one which has attracted a great deal of interest in many quarters. With regard to that question, I myself am in a happy position, because I, personally, as Secretary of State, have no responsibility in dealing with the matter. When I came into Office the matter had been decided, and was closed and concluded, and all that I have had to do has been to decide whether there is any reason for re-opening the case. My hon. and learned Friend has gone at considerable length into the earlier history of the case. He has recited the career of Dr. Briggs and the main facts of what I will speak of as the Connemara case and the subsequent action of the War Department. With the Connemara case I have nothing whatever to do. The War Office has nothing whatever to do with it, and never had anything to do with it. Whether the conduct of the Director General of the Army Medical Department was in all respects judicious and proper and regular is another matter, but, having gone into his conduct in the business with a perfectly impartial mind, I have not discovered the least room for suspicion. I am able to say frankly to the House that I do not believe, so far as my opportunity of judging has gone, that the merits of the Connemara case had anything to do with the action of the Director General of the Army Medical Department. Having come to that conclusion, I feel bound to state it, as I have no responsibility in the matter and no duty laid upon me to take one side or another. The Director General has dealt with Dr. Briggs as he would have done with any other of his officers. He had reason to believe that Dr. Briggs was taking a course by which, in effect, he would escape his proper turn of foreign duty, thereby putting more of that foreign duty upon his colleagues, and he accordingly ordered that officer to proceed to India, and finally placed before him the alternative that my hon. and learned Friend has described. I would point out to the House, in justification of what may appear to be the somewhat strict conduct of the Director General, that it is no unusual thing—and it is only human nature to expect it—on the part of officers, both departmental and others, to urge any pretext they can find to escape a turn of foreign service when it happens to be inconvenient for them to fulfil it. That is only natural; but it is, at all events, the duty of those in charge of the Department to guard against this being done, and there is a Rule, which also applies to the combatant branch, that it is not sufficient for an officer to say, "I am going to be concerned in an action," but he must produce the actual subpoena or actual order, or whatever it may be, of the Court with reference to the action which is brought against him. I understand that to be the ordinary precaution taken to meet the desire in some cases to escape foreign service. That accounts for the apparent rigidity and strictness of the action of the Director General in this case. As I have already said, I am not responsible for that action; but I feel bound, in justice to the Director General, to state that, so far as I have been able to look into the papers and to examine the facts, I do not believe that the Director General acted otherwise than under a strong sense of public duty in the steps he took. My predecessor in the office of Secretary of State stated in the House that Dr. Briggs would be reinstated. That passed a sponge over all that had happened before Dr. Briggs was put back in as good a place as he had previously occupied.


But he was not gazetted until long afterwards.


My hon. and learned Friend complains of delays and also of certain arrangements of the roster. Well, I am not responsible, and I cannot say what the reasons for those delays have been. Although they may have been very tantalising at the time, I do not think they can now be regarded as very material. In the Spring of last year Dr. Briggs was ordered to Chester on duty, and was at that time subject to Military Law. While in that position, he wrote a letter to a newspaper —certainly under strong provocation— recounting his view of the events which had occurred, and bringing a very injurious imputation against his superior officer. When that letter appeared, the matter passed out of the hands of the Director General of the Medical Staff, and the Adjutant General claimed to be heard on the subject. The Adjutant General is responsible for the discipline of the whole Army, and the view the Adjutant General took and takes of this case —a view with which I entirely concur—is that it is absolutely impossible to allow any officer in the Service to have an injurious imputation made against him in the public Press by his subordinate officer. I do not care, and it matters not one whit, from the point of view of military discipline, whether the imputation is true or not. But no officer has a right—and this is a well-understood fact—to bring an 'accusation of that sort against his superior officer in the public Press. There are ample means of making any grievance known to those in authority; and every complaint would be fully inquired into. Any Adjutant General, and especially the gallant officer who occupies at present the position of Adjutant General, would take very great care that any complaint properly preferred should be thoroughly examined— should be probed to the bottom, and a proper solution arrived at. But to allow an officer to write to the public Press attacking his superior officer is a course which cannot be defended from any point of view; and if the letter of Dr Briggs was allowed to pass unnoticed, we should have no end to the number of letters which would be published in the newspapers; and it would be impossible to maintain the necessary discipline in the Army. I have pointed out that the truth of the accusation is not in question at all. The accusation may be perfectly true, but that is not the way to make it. It was a breach of discipline to make it in that manner, and it was, therefore, incumbent on the Adjutant General to take notice of what had occurred. But this letter and the action which was taken upon it occurred before I became responsible for the administration of the War Office. Dr. Briggs was invited to say whether he was the author of the letter, and to explain himself. He was called upon to say what he meant, and to withdraw—


Not withdraw.


Perhaps not in those terms; but his attention was called to the grave breach of discipline he had committed. Dr. Briggs refused to acknowledge that he had committed a breach of discipline, or to make any apology, or any withdrawal of the imputation. Under these circumstances, there was only one course open to the Military Authorities, and that was to cancel the reinstatement of Dr. Briggs. I am justified in saying that before that step was taken, Dr. Briggs was privately informed by the right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State that there would be no impediment to his reinstatement if he would withdraw the letter. But he refused to withdraw the letter, which stated that the Director General of the Medical Staff— Was the agent of others who stood behind him in the background, and who were determined to force me (Dr. Briggs) out of the country just before the trial, to my ruin. Dr. Briggs did not complain merely of the action of the head of the Army Medical Department; but he said there was a conspiracy for the purpose of effecting his ruin. He was invited to withdraw that letter; and if the letter had been withdrawn, there would have been abundant opportunity to put forward in the regular course any complaint against a superior officer; but Dr. Briggs would not withdraw, and the reinstatement was cancelled. Dr. Briggs made an appeal and a protest. Did we shut the door in his face? Not at all. Now my responsibility begins, for at this period the change of Secretary for War took place. At all events, after I took office the Deputy Adjutant General, on behalf of the Adjutant General, wrote again to him saying that if the letter were withdrawn the door would be opened to him; but again Dr. Briggs slammed the door in our face. I can use no other expression. I will use the mildest words I can apply; but how foolish has been the conduct of Dr. Briggs! He had been reinstated under the late Secretary of State for War. [Cries of "No!"] Well, he was not gazetted—I decline to discuss mere technical terms—but he was re-employed with a view to reinstatement. He was therefore not only in a commanding, but in a victorious position, when he put himself out of court by writing this letter. A more foolish act was never committed, though it was done under strong provocation. A letter had appeared in a newspaper attacking him; and Dr. Briggs, not being discreet in dealing with affairs or in language, was goaded into publishing a reply and making this imputation. That is the reason why we have not once, but twice and thrice offered him the opportunity to withdraw the letter; but he declines to withdraw it, and stands by it. That was the position of events when I came into responsibility in the matter. I have never been adverse, and I do not find that the Military Authorities are at all averse, to reinstating Dr. Briggs on condition that the letter and the imputation are withdrawn; but it is perfectly absurd to suppose that an officer, such as Dr. Briggs, can efficiently conduct his duties while he remains as the author of an unwithdrawn letter bringing this injurious imputation against his superior officer. What would be the relations of Dr. Briggs and the Director General of the Medical Staff if this letter remained containing the imprimatur of the signature of Dr. Briggs, and bringing this dreadful accusation—for it is a dreadful accusation—against his superior officer? Like my Predecessor I have stretched every point to soothe the feelings and to smooth the ruffled feathers of Dr. Briggs. I repeat now what, as my hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Lockwood) knows, I have said before. I do not wish to go into the truth of the imputation. I do not wish Dr. Briggs to stand in a white sheet and assert that he had said that which was not true. I merely wish him to express his regret for a breach of discipline. If he will withdraw the letter, and the injurious imputation in the letter, there is still no reason why he should not be reinstated. What more can I do? As far as I can see, Dr. Briggs has formed a conception of the motive of his superior officer which is altogether unjustified; but, in any case, the imputation on his superior officer must be withdrawn before he can be reinstated. That is the attitude taken by the Adjutant General, an attitude which I have adopted and be- come responsible for. It is not only necessary in the interests of the Public Service, but it is a view which will command the approbation and adherence of every impartial man, that a stop must be put to the tendency to write such accusations to the public newspapers, instead of bringing them forward in the regular way, when they can be regularly dealt with. With all the sympathy which everyone must have in many respects for Dr. Briggs, and with all the regret that he has been so foolish as to knock himself down from the commanding position in which he had been set, in the interests of the Army and discipline if this glaring case had been allowed to pass without correction, it would form a precedent for all sorts of letters being published in a similar way, bringing charges against officers. It is my duty to protect officers against such charges; and as there are ample means of making complaints in the regular way, so long as I am Secretary for War I will do so. My hon. and learned Friend will admit that I have been most anxious to arrange this matter, and I believe that there has been and is no other desire on the part of the military authorities—if Dr. Briggs will make such a withdrawal of the letter as will satisfy the conditions I have laid down.

DR. R. FARQUHARSON (Aberdeenshire, W.)

said, he regretted that this painful case should be again re-opened and brought before the House once more. He did not intend to go into what he might call the ancient history of "the case, for it had been fully and ably stated by his hon. and learned Friend the Member for York; but he wished to say that he did not think his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War had been quite right in attributing to Dr. Briggs a desire to evade being sent out of the country on foreign service. Holding as he did a high opinion of the Army medical career of Dr. Briggs, he thought that was an imputation that should not have been made. The record of Dr. Briggs showed that he was a man who had served his country well, and the only desire he had had was to remain at home in order to be able to meet certain charges made against the honour of a lady in the only way, as the late Secretary for War had said, in which an officer could meet them. Having gone into the case fully, he could not relieve Dr. Briggs himself of the responsibility of having foolishly disturbed the Status quo that had existed before. He considered, with his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, that Dr. Briggs would have done much better had he taken the excellent terms offered him by the Secretary for War in the late Government for his reinstatement. He looked upon Dr. Briggs letter as an unfortunate accident only to be excused by the excuse which had been advanced—namely, that he had been overstrained by the long waiting and the rather suspicious delay to his reinstatement; that he had been in a state of great mental anxiety, and that in his cooler moments he would never have written such a letter. But admitting the case of the War Office up to the hilt, the punishment dealt out to Dr. Briggs was far too heavy for the offence. The career of Dr. Briggs had been a very distinguished one, and, as an old Army medical officer himself, he (Dr. Farquharson) could speak with some little authority in the matter, for he had had opportunities of knowing-the value and the distinction of Dr. Briggs' services to the State, and he was sure that if Dr. Briggs were reinstated he would perform services quite as valuable in the future. He was bound to state that the terms of reinstatement suggested by the Secretary of State for War were satisfactory on the whole; but the difficulty was that Dr. Briggs was called on unconditionally and absolutely to withdraw the whole of the letter. The greater part of the letter was made up of a statement of the Connemara case, and if Dr. Briggs withdrew the letter wholly and unreservedly he would imply that his statement of that case was not true as a matter of fact. He would suggest a compromise. Dr. Briggs should be allowed to say that he wrote the letter under a misapprehension, as he did not believe at the time that he was under discipline; that he withdrew the imputations against his superior officer. That being done, the rest of the letter might be allowed to stand. Perhaps the Secretary for War would consider the matter from that point of view; for if Dr. Briggs were punished in the manner proposed, it would mean his ruin, and the services he had rendered to the State entitled him to a more merciful consideration. He hoped some decision would be arrived at by which the services of such an excellent Army medical officer as Dr. Briggs would be secured to the State.


I have listened with great pleasure to the satisfactory statement of my right hon. Friend the Secretary for War, and I may say on behalf of Dr. Briggs that he is willing to express regret for the letter, and begs leave to withdraw it.


I am very glad to hear what my hon. and learned Friend has said. I am quite ready to say that if that is done it will be done on the same terms and conditions on which it could have been done in July or August last—namely, the reinstatement of Dr. Briggs.

MR. JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

said, he wished to direct the attention of the House to the case of a man named Jessett, a Warder of Crown Lands at Aldershot. The man was a very poor man, and he was not backed up in the same way as Dr. Briggs; but his case was all the same, worthy of great consideration and commisseration from the House. Jessett had been in the Army for some time; he originally enlisted in the Staffords, and was in that force for 13½ years. He had been through the Crimea, through the Indian Mutiny and other campaigns, receiving three medals for his services; and on his retirement he was engaged by the War Office as Warder of Crown Lands near Aldershot, which post he filled for 28 years, bearing all the time an unsullied character. The man did not retire from that position voluntarily; he retired on the advice of the officer commanding the Royal Engineers under whom he served. At that time Jessett had arrived at the age of 65. In a letter dated December, 1891, the officers commanding the Royal Engineers wrote to Jessett, stating that he should now take the pension that he had earned, and giving him notice that his active employment must cease three months from that date. Jessett did not inquire as to the pension he was entitled to; but on the strength of this letter from his superior officer he retired, and then applied for his pension. The War Office put him off from day to day in the matter of the pension, and on the 25th November, 1892, he received a letter stating that the Secretary for War would inquire into the matter. In January of this year he was again told that his application for superannuation was still under consideration, and on the 20th February this year he was informed by the War Office that they had no power to make him any award under the superannuation grants. It, therefore, came to this: that the man having retired as he had thought on the express understanding given him by his commanding officer that he would receive a pension, he found himself, at the age of 65, adrift on the world unable to take up any other occupation, and with absolutely nothing to live upon. It was a very hard case. This man had served the country for 13½ years in the Staffords, and for 28 years as a warder in the War Department, making a total of 42 years, and yet he was told he was to receive no pension whatever. He (Mr. Jeffreys) found in the Estimates that other warders were receiving pensions. The Secretary for War had said that Jessett was obliged to retire owing to his old age, but his commanding officer in the letter did not say anything about that; and he found in the Army Estimates that there were several other warders similarly situated who have received pensions. He could assure the House that unless this man got some pension from the War Office, to which he held he was entitled, he was absolutely destitute, having no means of livelihood. No doubt the man resigned of his own accord, but he did so on the strength of the letter he received; and having resigned he was now cut off from his livelihood and debarred from the receipt of a pension to which he (Mr. Jeffreys) believed he was entitled. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would take the matter into his consideration. In fact, in answer to a question the other day, the right hon. Gentleman told him he would; but he took this opportunity of raising the matter in the House for the purpose not of prolonging the Debate, but pointing out that this man, who was one of his constituents, had been badly treated and to express the hope that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to do something for him.