Page images
PDF
EPUB

pared to blow hot and cold with regard to | tion. He had no objection, at the same it. It was also shown that it was not ne- time, to state the circumstances in which the Admiralty order originated. Sir A. Milne, than whom there was not a more zealous or excellent officer, had occasion to remark that several of Her Majesty's ships got aground on the North American station, and that the captains were inclined in those instances to throw the responsibility on the masters of the vessels. Sir Alexander Milne thought it incumbent on him to issue an order to the fleet which he commanded, pointing out that it was a mistake on the part of the captains to suppose that they were not responsible for the grounding of their ships; and the Admiralty, when the order was sent home, taking exactly the same view, issued a general order, in which that point was insisted upon. The hon. and gallant Baronet held at Bermuda, which acquitted the Cap-miralty had punished the captain of the was quite wrong in stating that the Adtain of the Conqueror for the loss of that Conqueror. Under the circumstances, he ship. He also desired to ask the Attorney hoped the Motion would not be pressed. General whether it was his opinion that the Admiralty had acted legally in punish-miralty had gone a great deal further than ing by reprimand an officer who had been would appear from the statement the fully acquitted by the sentence of a courtnoble Lord. They had not merely exmartial; and also, whether it was in ac- pressed a general opinion with regard to cordance with law to visit with censure an officer for the arguments adduced by him as a prisoner in his defence?

LORD NAAS said, he thought the Ad

the duties of commanders under all circumstances, but they entered into the merits of the particular case and declared that they entirely disagreed from the finding of the court-martial which acquitted the Captain of the Conqueror. They had taken the very unusual course of reversing, to a great extent, the finding of the eight able and distinguished officers who investigated the case on the spot, and who had all the facts before them; and they declared they "considered Captain Sotheby to have been. highly culpable in not taking the necessary precautions." After that officer had been tried by his peers with the greatest impartiality, the inquiry lasting eight days, he must say that the Lords of the Admiralty had inflicted extreme hardship upon him by reversing the verdict which acquitted him in the most complete manner, and by holding him up to the country as culpable for the loss of his ship, without giving him any opportunity of being heard in his own defence.

""

cessary that any Englishman should hold land of his own. All that was necessary was that he should locate himself or his agent in some thickly-peopled district where the land had been settled, and make advances to the Native farmer or ryot, and then apply his skill in preparing the cotton for market in a superior manner to that which was usually the case with the cotton exported from India.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Loss of the SHIP “CONQUEROR.”
PAPERS MOVED for.

SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE said, he wished to move for a copy of the correspondence of the Board of Admiralty in reference to the late naval court-martial

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House a Copy of the Correspondence of the Board of Admiralty in reference to the recent Naval Court Martial held at Bermuda which acquitted the Captain of the Conqueror for the loss of that ship,' -instead thereof.

LORD CLARENCE PAGET hoped that his hon. and gallant Friend would not press for the production of the correspondence between the Admiralty and Admiral Milne; but he should have no objection to produce the general order which had been issued in consequence of the court-martial referred to, and the object of which was to correct the erroneous view taken by the officers composing that court as to the responsibility of a captain on occasions when a ship was in danger. The communications between the Admiralty and its officers, although they were conducted as public correspondence, were to all intents and purposes departmental and to a great extent confidential. If that system were altered, the result would be that officers would make their reports with a view to publica

THE ATTORNEY GENERAL said, that the hon. and gallant Baronet had asked two Questions-whether the Admiralty had acted legally in punishing, by reprimand, an officer fully acquitted by court-martial, and in visiting with censure arguments used in defence? It was in

convenient to discuss abstract questions of a clause empowering the Admiralty to anlaw in that House; and he preferred to nul, modify, or suspend the sentence of a address himself to the facts of the case. court-martial; but it was not intended Captain Sotheby was in command of the that the Admiralty should avail themselves Conqueror, which was wrecked on a coral of that clause for the purpose of aggrareef. In his defence before the court-vating a sentence. He thought that clause was brought forward in consequence of the old story of Admiral Byng being a victim to the inability of the Admiralty to relieve him from the sentence of a court martial. The change was made in order that the law might not be so Draconic as it had been. It was quite true the Admiralty had the power of cashiering an officer without trying him by court-martial; but when a court-martial had been held on the captain of the Conqueror, and he had been pronounced innocent, it was contrary to all our notions of English justice that the Admiralty should declare him guilty of culpable negligence. No court in this country, with the exception of the Star Chamber, had ever exercised such a power.

MR. DILLWYN said, he was of opinion that the country viewed with great satisfaction the course adopted by the Admiralty in this case. If they had not interfered, the doctrine would have gone forth that captains were not responsible for the navigation of their ships. The law had been laid down very clearly by the hon. and learned Attorney General.

99

martial he claimed for captains a large ex emption from responsibility, with reference to the navigation of a ship, and sought to cast the main responsibility on the master. The court-martial seemed to adopt that view for they entirely acquitted Captain Sotheby, and reprimanded the master. It was only natural and right, therefore, when Captain Sotheby had put forward doctrines in his defence which they disapproved, and when those doctrines had been ratified and sanctioned by the officers composing the court-martial, that the Admiralty should declare their opinion that those doctrines were exceedingly dangerous, and were, in fact, a misconstruction of the printed orders issued for the conduct of officers. He thought it was quite within their competence to express such an opinion; and he did not see how it could have been more legitimately made known than in a general order, which Admiral Milne was instructed to communicate to the officers under his command. Captain Sotheby himself, having come home, as a matter of fairness received a copy of the letter addressed to Sir Alexander Milne: but this was no formal act of "censure,' as the terms of the Question supposed. The Lords of the Admiralty were Commissioners for executing the Office of Lord High Admiral, and there could be no doubt that such a functionary, if he existed, being charged with the maintenance of the discipline of the navy, would have full power to publish any order calculated to correct a prevalent opinion fraught with consequences dangerous to that discipline. SIR JOHN HAY said, it must be sub-haps hon. Gentlemen were not aware of versive of all discipline in the navy to the effect which the words "highly culpalearn that a solemn expression of opinion ble," as applied to a gallant officer's conby the Lords of the Admiralty that a par- duct, would have on his prospects. He ticular officer's conduct had been "highly could not but think it a most outrageous culpable" was not to be looked on by that thing for the Admiralty to have come officer as a punishment. He believed that forward and stigmatized Captain Sotheby no punishment could be more severe to a in the manner they had done, after he high-minded man than to pronounce that had been fully and honourably acquitted he had been guilty of culpable negligence. by the officers appointed to try him. It was the very first instance in which such a course had been attempted on the part of the Admiralty. The only way in which it could be attempted to justify the measure was by the Navy Discipline Act of 1860. In the Act of 1860 there was The Attorney General

COLONEL DICKSON said, he could not agree with the hon. Member who had just spoken, that the law had been laid down very clearly by the Attorney General. That hon. and learned Gentleman did not think it advisable to treat of abstract questions of law in that House; but the question before them was not an abstract question. It was a question of the honour of an officer, which honour had been most grossly outraged by the Admiralty. Per

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON: Sir, I can quite understand that hon. Members may take an interest in the individual captain the subject of this discussion; but I trust the House will take an interest in the ships of Her Majesty's navy. Now, I think the

Admiralty performed their duty in this come to some sort of understanding with the case. It must have been an unpleasant London and North Western Company and duty, but a duty they had to perform. It the City of Dublin Steam Packet Comappeared to them, on looking into the pany that they would abide by their constatements in the case, that Captain tract. The Treasury were in almost daily Sotheby was culpable in not having taken communication with those companies, and the precautions he ought for the safety of he hoped the matter would be shortly arhis ship; and, however unpleasant it must ranged. have been to them to pronounce their opinion on an officer against whom a courtmartial had not expressed an opinion, I think it was a duty they owed to the service and the country to make a statement with respect to a matter involving the safety of Her Majesty's navy. It is no light matter that one of the finest ships in the navy has been lost by inattention to those physical circumstances an attention to which might have saved her. My hon. and learned Friend the Attorney General says the Admiralty did not exceed their legal powers, and I agree with my hon. Friend (Mr. Dillwyn) that they only did their duty, however painful the course adopted by them may be to the friends of the officer concerned. They did not alter the sentence. The officer has not been dismissed the service. They in no respect altered his position in the service, though

LEAVE. FIRST READING.

they expressed as they ought to have done, AFRICAN SLAVE TRADE TREATY BILL. their opinion that sufficient attention had not been paid in a case where attention might have saved one of the finest ships in Her Majesty's navy.

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

The House divided :-Ayes 67; Noes 42: Majority, 25.

HOLYHEAD HARBOUR.-QUESTION. COLONEL DUNNE said, he rose to call the attention of the House to the alleged inconvenient and dangerous state of the landing pier at Holyhead; and to ask the Secretary to the Admiralty, Whether the Government intend to take any and what steps so as to secure the safety of the Irish steam packets and the passengers from and to Ireland during the next winter? The landing pier at Holyhead was at present in an inconvenient and dangerous state.

LORD CLARENCE PAGET said, Her Majesty's Government were anxious to carry out the necessary improvements of the pier at Holyhead; but, however important it was that the work should be carried on during the fine weather of the summer, it was positively necessary to

Main Question put, and agreed to.
Supply considered in Committee.
House resumed.

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

WAYS AND MEANS.

Order for Committee read.
House in Committee.
Resolved,

"That, towards making good the Supply granted to Her Majesty, the sum of Ten Millions be granted out of the Consolidated Fund of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland."

House resumed.

Resolution to be reported this day.
Committee sit again To-morrow.

VISCOUNT PALMERSTON said, he rose to move for leave to introduce a Bill to carry into effect the treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America for the suppression of the African slave trade. The American Government had behaved in the handsomest manner in reference to the treaty. They had long been aware that the American flag had been perverted as a cover for carrying on the slave trade, and sensible of the evil and inconvenience to which that practice had given rise, they had of their own accord proposed the treaty, which was in all respects adapted, as far as their flag was concerned, to put an end to the perpetration of the crime.

Leave given.

Bill to carry into effect the Treaty between Her Majesty and the United States of America, for the suppression of the African Slave Trade, ordered to be brought in by Viscount Palmerston and Sir George Grey.

Bill presented, and read 1°; to be read 2° on Monday next, and to be printed [Bill 160].

House adjourned at half after
One o'clock.

HOUSE OF COMMONS,
Friday, June 20, 1862.

MINUTES. - PUBLIC BILLS.-2° Petroleum: Pier
and Harbour Orders Confirmation; Partner-
ship Law Amendment.

30 Merchant Shipping Acts, &c. Amendment; Salmon Fisheries (Scotland); West India Incumbered Estates Act Amendment; Sale of Spirits.

LORD NAAS said, he did not desire to exclude from exemption buildings it was his wish to limit the exemption to wholly devoted to religious purposes, but certain cases. Year by year the evil of property being exempted from the payment of poor rates was increasing. In the two unions of the city of Dublin property of the value of nearly £67,000 a year was exempted from poor rates altogether. Under the operation of the law there was no definite rule to guide the Valuation Commissioners, and the consequence was that several inferior institutions in Dublin were exempted. Amongst them was the office of the Royal Agricultural Society, the Committee House of Charitable Societies, in Circus Street; sextons' dwellings, the Irish Church Mission House, the residence of the governor of the military prison, the Canteen, Royal Barracks, the School of Medicine. however, a building wholly devoted to Trinity College, In the year 1861-2, a Vote of £60,000 educational grapurposes, was not exempt. was taken by the Government in aid of the local assessment to the poor rate, upon property in their possession, thereby admitting the principle that that class of property ought to contribute. But, perhaps, the worst case was that of Dublin Castle, occupied by persons living in commodious houses and drawing Government salaries, but who contributed nothing to the rate. He was in favour of the clause as amended, not wishing that exemption should be extended beyond the classes of property comprised in the Amendment.

POOR RELIEF (IRELAND) (No. 2) BILL.
[BILL NO. 15.] COMMITTEE.
Order for Committee read.
House in Committee.

Clause 11 (Property hitherto exempt from rating as being used for charitable or public purposes to be rated).

SIR EDWARD GROGAN said, he wished to move the insertion after the word "purpose," of the words " except churches and chapels used exclusively for religious worship and open to the public, graveyards where no charge is made for interments, school-rooms used for the tuitous education of children, court-houses, gaols, and bridewells." He thought, that whilst the intention of the clause was that property of all other kinds should be subject to the payment of poor rates, all descriptions of property which were used for public or religious purposes ought to be excluded from the necessity of contributing to such payment.

MR. VANCE expressed his concurrence in the Amendment. A Select Committee on the subject of trading had recommended that charities and buildings used for scientific purposes should not be taxed.

SIR GEORGE GREY said, he ob. served that several hon. Members had Amendments on the paper to move the omission of the clause altogether. He would suggest, therefore, with a view to save time, that the House should agree to the Amendment, and then discuss the question as to whether the clause should stand part of the Bill.

MR. MONSELL said, he had no objec tion to that course, but he should Vote against the clause.

Amendment agreed to.

On Question, "That the clause, as amended, stand part of the Bill.

MR. POLLARD-URQUHART said, he should move the omission of the clause, there being a strong feeling against taxing institutions established for charitable purposes, and he hoped the right hon. Baronet would give way on that point.

SIR ROBERT PEEL said, he concurred with the noble Lord in thinking that a great deal of property was improperly exempt from poor rates. It would be, however, better to deal with these exemptions by a Tenement Valuation Bill, and he therefore thought it would be judicious to expunge the clause.

SIR EDWARD GROGAN said, he was opposed to the omission of the clause. By passing the clause, as amended, they would exempt all property which was enrates, and would leave all other property titled to be exempted from the payment of rateable. The clause would not interfere with tenement valuation. It would exempt places of worship and schools from taxation; but not convents, and buildings of that character.

MR. BLAKE suggested that the landlords should pay the rate on buildings used

LORD NAAS said, the circumstances in Ireland were altogether different from those in England; and assimilation of the machinery of voting was therefore not a desideratum.

LORD FERMOY said, he disliked proxies altogether; but if they were to be retained, it was desirable that they should be frequently renewed. Therefore he should support the proposed restriction.

MR.. BUTT said, the objection to five years was that it opened the door to fraud. Proxies might be held at a time when the person who had given them had lost his properly.

MR. GEORGE vindicated the system of landlords voting by proxy, and contended that the clause as it stood, with the larger number of proxies to be in existence for five years, was preferable to the proposed restriction.

MR. MORE O'FERRALL said, a proxy was given to the landlord for the purpose of protecting his property. Now, it might frequently happen that a proxy might get

It was

for charitable purposes, and that the occu- ! pier should be exempted.

SIR GEORGE GREY said, that the objection to retain the clause was, that it did not properly find its place in a Bill for the relief of the poor, and he thought, therefore, it would be desirable to omit the clause from the Bill. Besides, its object was already provided for by an existing law, which said that buildings used for charitable purposes, science, literature, and the fine arts should be exempted from rating.

MR. SCULLY proposed that the clause should be rejected, and that another wellconsidered clause should be brought for ward on the report.

MR. M.MAHON observed that a reference to the statutes showed that the landlord of a public establishment was liable to poor rate in respect of the rent he received for it.

Question put, "That Clause 11, as
amended, stand part of the Bill."
The Committee divided :-Ayes 46;
Noes 62 Majority 16.

Clauses 12 to 15 were then agreed to. Clause 16 (Limitation of Property and Proxy Claims).

SIR EDWARD GROGAN said, he should support the clause, which rendered it necessary to renew proxies once in five

MR. SCULLY said, he would move the omission of the word "five" in order to insert "two," his object being to limit the time during which a person should be en-years, and preserved power in the landlords titled to hold a proxy for the election of to revoke them at any time. a guardian to two years instead of five. Such was the law of England, and he could see no reason why a different law should be made to apply to Ireland.

MR. MONSELL said, he advocated the stricter limitation. Railway proxies could only be given for a particular occasion.

MR. LONGFIELD said, he thought that the checks against fraud were so effectual that the limitation to two years would be injurious to the rights of property, without in the slightest degree affording any additional protection against fraud.

Amendment proposed, in page 7, line 39, to leave out "five," and insert "two.'

""

MR. VANCE said, he should support

the clause as it stood.

fore, that frequent opportunity should be given to the landlord for revising his proxy, and on that ground he should vote

for the Amendment.

MR. COGAN said, he should support the Amendment. The Chief Commissioner of the Poor Laws in Ireland had stated before a Committee which sat last year to inquire into the Poor Laws, that in many instances proxies were held and votes given in respect of property which no longer belonged to the person who gave the proxy. It was therefore desirable to limit the time during which a proxy should be held.

SIR ROBERT PEEL said, the subject had been well considered in the Select Committee, the members of which thought assimilation undesirable; and he trusted that the clause would be retained unaltered.

VOL. CLXVII. [THIRD SERIES.]

SIR WILLIAM SOMERVILLE said, that as a landlord, he would prefer giving his proxies for the shorter period, since it would be a very disagreeable step to take to recall a proxy.

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »