HL Deb 01 June 1847 vol 92 cc1363-5

House in Committee.


said, that though not an opponent of the Bill, he was only a weak supporter, and he was therefore exceedingly desirous of modifying its principle; for he believed that the punishment against which it was directed was not unpopular in the profession. The men in the Navy, when they committed a fault, expected corporal punishment; they looked for it, as they said, as their due, and did not complain when it was inflicted. But this Bill imposed a punishment which was, of all things, most detested by them; for they would barter their liberty for no advantage whatever. He said he did give the Bill his support, although the measure was of a very doubtful character; for the moment the vessel went out to sea, the lash was resumed; and this Bill served rather to satisfy the public mind under the eye of the press. He meant to propose an Amendment on the first clause to the effect of retaining the entire control in the sole hand of the captain.


said, that no very extensive change was intended by this Bill; but that it was rendered necessary by the diminution of corporal punishment. With regard to the latter, there was a strong feeling at the Admiralty that while corporal punishment was in some cases necessary, it should be as limited as possible. The proportion of corporal punishment now was not half what it had been ten years ago; and only one-tenth as compared with the punishment of half a century ago. With regard to the Amendments of which notice had been given, no objection would be made to the bulk of them; there was but one which he should feel it his duty to oppose.


said, he thought the Bill very deficient in clearness; it gave the officer who preferred imprisonment to corporal punishment the right of postponing that punishment, even if his ship was in the middle of the Atlantic, and no admiral was at hand to refer to, though the delay might occasion the loss of the vessel. Prompt punishment was in such cases most frequently the best possible mode of punishment, and often the only means of maintaining that discipline without which no ship would be safe for four-and-twenty hours. His principal objection was, that the Bill did not contain the whole of the law on the subject of punishment. An order of the Admiralty had the effect of law, and there was such an order regulating punishments in port; and the Bill before them regulated the infliction of punishments out of port. The whole ought to be included in the Act, so that the whole matter might be placed on the same footing.


said, that the operation of the one was very local, and the other very general, and he was afraid the attempt to combine them would be attended with disadvantage.


said, that the Bill placed a discretionary power in the hands of the officers; and he begged to ask the House whether the likelihood of officers abusing that discretionary power, which was the only point in the objections of the noble Earl (the Earl of Ellenborough), was any good reason why they should be relieved from all restrictions in relation to corporal punishment?


replied, that what he said was, that the law should be made distinct and clear, which was not the case at present.

After some further discussion, certain Amendments were reserved until the report should be brought up, and the Bill passed through Committee.

House adjourned.

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