§ Lord Cochrane
rose, and addressed the House to the following effect:—Sir; Painful to me as it is, to present myself to the 220 attention of this House, on the present occasion, yet a duty which I owe to my country, demands the sacrifice of my feelings. It is incumbent on me that I should submit to this House the reasons on which I found the motion of which I have given notice, for the Minutes of the Court Martial, held on lord Gambier. It is a document which his Majesty's ministers on a former night, did not seem inclined to grant, although absolutely necessary, in order that every member may be enabled, fairly and impartially, to decide, whether the thanks, now in the contemplation of his Majesty's ministers, are due to lord Gambier, for the part he took, in what has been denominated, by them, a victory in Basque roads. But, as if it were unnecessary that we should judge for ourselves, it has been asserted, by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the merits of this case have been already decided on: that the Court Martial held on the noble lord, has already proclaimed his honourable acquittal; and displayed the zeal, ability, and anxiety he manifested for the welfare of his Majesty's service. But even were all this true, Sir, and were it possible that all those facts could be ascertained, by the mere inspection of the copy of a sentence, still I contend, that the combination would not entitle an officer to the thanks of this House—the proudest honour that is in our power to bestow. We have, Sir, a right, and ought to judge for ourselves; and this we can only do, by carefully examining the Minutes of the Court Martial, before which the noble lord was tried on a very serious charge: a charge not brought against him by an individual, but by the lords commissioners of the admiralty, and grounded on official documents. Upon such documents, Sir, their lordships founded the charge "of neglect, or delay in "taking effectual means to destroy the "enemy;" and we cannot suppose that their lordships brought it without due consideration. However this may be, I submit to the House, that zeal, ability, and anxiety for the welfare of his Majesty's service, and having done nothing wrong, do not entitle any officer to our thanks, which, if bestowed on trifling, or indeed any occasion, except when marked by brilliant achievement, will dwindle into utter contempt, even with those on whom they should be conferred. They are already held lightly in the estimation of the navy, and such I freely confess is my feel- 221 ing respecting them. I therefore intreat this House to weigh the matter well before they come to a decision, and to consider what they are about, and the consequences of voting indiscriminately and blindfolded, that which was formerly bestowed exclusively on those, who were publicly known to have rendered the highest services to the state. The House ought to be on their guard against giving way to motions, that have such objects; as by these means, ministers might screen themselves from reprobation; and gain for a man, whose parliamentary influence they required, the highest honours they could render, however unworthy the object.—I contend that to give the thanks of the House to an officer who has been tried on heavy charges, who, instead of going into action, continued at a distance not less than seven miles during the whole time, would be doing that for which no precedent could be found. I am clearly of opinion, that the Minutes of the Court Martial, which I am about to move for, are indispensably requisite; not with a view to re-consider the decision of the court; but to give foundation to our opinion respecting a matter on which we are not only entitled, but bound to decide justly; and on which the court martial could not decide for us. Indeed, sir, even in lord Gambier's written defence, we might find his lordship's pretension to our thanks, which would be some satisfaction; for in the sentence pronounced by the court, and offered as a ground, on which to rest our judgment, I protest I can find no claim. I shall go farther, Sir, and, though it is not the object to criminate, by the production of their Minutes, yet, Sir, I shall boldly assert, that the charge of delay will be found, not only to have been proved by the witnesses produced, but admitted also by his lordship's written defence; a delay of four hours elapsed, by the noble lord's own account, even before he took up the position, which he has stated to be the best, for observing the motions of the enemy, and for sending ships to the attack, and five hours afterwards elapsed before any attack was made, which is in direct opposition to the sentence delivered by the court;—if a court it can be called, when it appeared so extraordinary that the president could not give it a name, as he always spoke of it ambiguously; thus, "what may be termed," or, "what may be called the prosecution." Not only do I assert, Sir, that the charge has been admitted by his 222 lordship, and proved by witnesses; but his lordship's written defence, also, will be found to contradict itself in points on which the charge hinged, and in others of material import: that his lordship's official letters contradict that defence, and each other; and that many of the witnesses falsify their own evidence in substantive facts, and contradict themselves when deposing only to the best of their knowledge. In other instances they swear positively to things, of the truth of which they had no knowledge, which I believe is an offence against the law. The fabricated chart, Sir, will then also come under review; that chart produced by the master of the Caledonia to the court, in order to explain the various positions of the British and French fleets, "on and previous to the 12th of April," for the purpose of inducing the members, assembled on "what may be called" the trial of lord Gambier, to believe, that no more of the French ships could have been destroyed than were destroyed, had the British force been sent in at an earlier period; although the fabricator of that chart, after having, on his first examination, sworn that it was a chart of the 12th, swears afterwards that it was meant for the 13th, inasmuch as that "the only vessels marked on the chart for the 12th, were those that had been destroyed;"—those,Sir, that did not exist.—I have one word more to say, respecting the falsity of this vile fabrication, which the master of the Caledonia professes to have copied from the Neptune François. The distance between the shoals are contracted to little more than one-third of the size of the Neptune, from which, as I have already remarked, it is declared to have been taken, in order to shew (for there can be no other reason) that the space for anchorage, as deposed by the masters, without knowledge of the fact, was confined; the water round it shoal, and the passage narrow; and that the British ships must have been within point blank range, "not only of the destructive broadsides of the two ships afloat, but of the upright ones on shore, and of the tremendous batteries of Aix, which, separately or united," according to the testimony given, in support of the assertions of lord Gambier, must have demolished every vessel "locked up in so confined an anchorage." Though at the same time, and for the safety, I suppose, of his Majesty's ships, that might have been sent in, in defiance of "such unwarrantable peril," the vessels aground 223 are removed, by the contriver of the chart, from "the NW part of the Palles shoal, the NW part nearest the deep water flanking the passage," where, he had sworn, they were situated, and which was the fact, to the SE side of the shoal, farthest from the deep water, and beyond the Tonnére, which was not within range; and "where they never could have been approached by our ships for the shot to reach them." This, Sir, is not all: by Stokes's deposition, the Cassard, one of the ships that would have raked us with such terrible effect, is stated, and in truth it was so, to have been about one-third of a mile from Aix, and the Foudroyant, another of them, about three cables' length from her; but, Mr. Stokes, in his chart, has cunningly put them in a corner, between two shoals, and close to both, where, he has sworn, they could not be got at, though he had positively sworn, first, that they could have annoyed us, and next, that he did not know the distance between the shoals. I have already asserted, Sir, that contradictions of facts, on which the charge was founded, are frequent in the defence of lord Gambier; but I have yet to tell this House, that these contradictions, in substantive facts, are, in several, nay, many instances, confirmed, sometimes one way, and sometimes in another, by the same individual witnesses, examined in behalf of "what may be termed" the defence.—For instance: by some of those witnesses it is said, that the Cassard, Foudroyant, and some of the grounded ships, would have fired with complete effect on the British ships, had they been sent earlier to attack them; and; again, that we never could have got near them for the shot to reach.—Assertions that are, in the nature of things, incompatible; as in positive contradiction to each other, and given in support of lord Gambier's statements, that three out of the seven ships aground on the Pallés were never within reach of any of the fleet that might have been sent in to attack them; and, that the other four of the eleven were never in a situation to be assailed, after the fire-ships failed in their main object; although at another time the noble lord declared, that some of those very ships would have raked our ships had they been sent in earlier than they were. I therefore call on the House to insist on the production of the Minutes of the Trial, and I pledge myself to prove, to the conviction of this House, and to my country, all that I have as- 224 serted. I will also prove partiality on the part of the court, and illegal and unjust conduct on the part of the judge advocate, who admitted, and even courted, evidence on one side, which he rejected on the other; and urged inquiry into the conduct of officers, whose conduct the court were not empowered to investigate, in order that he might, by insinuations, (for there could be no other motive,) create an unmerited prejudice against me by shewing that their conduct had been arraigned by me, and so induce them to unite against me, and make common cause with the Commander in Chief, who had stepped forward, as he insinuated, to vindicate their injured characters, and examined his secretary on the subject. One instance may, of the many which I could adduce, well suffice, in relation to the conduct of the learned Judge Advocate: Asked, on a certain occasion, by the President, "Is that evidence?" he answered, I should think it is. And, why, Sir, did he think so? "because it was to affect the evidence of Lord Cochrane; in that point of view he thought it was legal evidence," although I had not even touched on the subject then under consideration. As to the Court, their conduct is too glaring to admit of a doubt, as to the motives by which they were actuated. Conversations between officers, and questions framed upon matter arising out of such conversations: were admitted, notwithstanding, Sir, my testimony had been refused, in an instance, wherein I merely stated, that the opinion I had at the moment delivered to the Court, had formerly been given in the presence of certain officers, and, Sir, I submit to you, and to the learned gentlemen in this House, that such reference was admissible, as it was to establish that, by having said at a former time what I then stated, I was consistent with myself. The Judge Advocate pursued the same course, he received documents as evidence, which could not be authenticated, and on the other side, rejected those that could. Amongst the latter, was captain Woolf's order to supersede me in the inner anchorage; though the secretary who wrote it, arid captain Woolf who received it, were witnesses before the Court; but, had that paper been established, I will tell you, Sir, what it would have proved; it would have proved, that it had been written together with lord Gambier's two letters of recall, on the 13th, although the signal, to the same 225 effect, had been attempted to be denied, and witnesses examined to support assertion against his acts. I shall not detain the House longer, than to pledge myself by every thing that is valuable to man, if these Minutes are granted, to prove, though that is not immediately the intention of calling for them, not only that injustice and partiality on the part of the court has been exercised towards me, not only that the judge advocate, the expounder of the law, pointed his decisions from the course of justice; but, Sir, that the defence is contradicted by itself, contradicted by his lordship's official letters, and by his own witnesses, many of whom, as to substantive facts, are at variance with themselves and each other; and lastly, that the chart of the positions of the enemy's ships on the 12th of April, a most material point, is false, and in every respect a foul fabricacation. This, and all that I have said, I pledge myself to prove to the conviction of the world, if the Minutes of the court are laid before this House. Or, if I fail, then, Sir, let contempt and merited infamy follow me; then Sir, unworthy of the honour, which his Majesty was graciously pleased to confer upon me, I shall resign it back into his hands, and vacate my seat in this House. I do not desire to get off with nominal responsibility, and I wish his Majesty's ministers could give such a pledge for their actions and for their statements.—I now move, Sir, "That there be laid before this House, a copy of the Minutes of the Trial of admiral lord Gambier, held on board his Majesty's ship the Gladiator, in Portsmouth harbour, on the 23rd of July 1809. Also the original Minutes taken day by day by the deputy judge advocate."
said, he could not content himself with giving a silent vote on the present question. The noble lord who made the motion had, in his opinion, cast a severe reflection on the court and on the witnesses. He knew every member of that Court Martial; and he believed they were officers of as high honour and character as the noble lord. He also knew the witnesses; and he believed them in the highest degree worthy of credit. He himself had been a very strong witness against what had been done by lord Cochrane. (A cry of order!) He begged pardon: he found he had unintentionally transgressed a rule of the 226 House in mentioning the name of a member—it was owing to want of experience of parliament, he had much rather be at sea he could assure them, than speaking in that House. (A laugh.) He had said on the Court Martial what he then repeated; that had lord Gambier acted as the noble lord who made the motion wished him to do, he would have disgraced himself, and our ships would have been on shore. The noble lord had forgot how he formed his charts and log-books in favour of the evidence to be adduced before the Court Martial. He hoped the House would do him the justice to believe that he was actuated by no motive but a sense of public duty; in thus declaring his sentiments and in opposing the motion of the noble lord.
§ Sir John Orde
spoke nearly as follows:—Mr. Speaker, I cannot content myself with giving a silent vote on a question that so materially affects the vital interest of the profession to which I have the honour to belong. Sir, I do not comprehend the object of the noble mover in calling for those Minutes to be produced to this House. Is it the intention to try lord Gambier again, or to put the members of the Court Martial on their defence, who had been appointed to try his lordship? If it is, what, in God's name, would be the situation of officers in the navy? If these are not the objects, what then are they? It has been said, that the Minutes might justify the acquittal of lord Gambier on a charge for life or death, yet that they might shew him not to be entitled to the thanks of this House;—surely, Sir, an. investigation of them for this purpose would savour more of persecution than of justice. Lord Gambier's conduct, in the affair of Basque-road, has already been investigated before two competent tribunals;—first, before the board of admiralty; and, secondly, by a court martial, composed, I will venture to say, although not acquainted with all its members, of as honourable men as any country or any service can boast. To try his lordship after this, or here to try the merits of the court martial, I think would be as unjust as injurious to the service, and consequently I shall give my vote against producing the Minutes, unless some reasons shall be offered in support of the motion very different from any yet submitted, or any that I can anticipate.
§ General Loft
called upon the House to consider well what they were about, be- 227 fore they assented to the noble lord's motion; for nothing could more injuriously affect the discipline both of the army and navy than that parliament should take into its hands the revision of the proceedings of Courts Martial.
agreed with the hon. general, that the House ought not to take upon itself the revision of such sentences on light grounds; but still the proceedings Courts Martial were liable to revision in in the House, as the court of dernier resort. This doctrine was laid down in Mr. Adye's book on Courts Martial; and there was an instance of such revision in 1744, when the sentence of a Court Martial on capt. Norris was decided by this House to be partial, arbitrary, and unjust. Besides, there might be in the Minutes of the evidence abundance of matter to justify the House in withholding the high honour of their thanks, though no actual blame may have been incurred by the noble admiral.
observed, that it had been argued by ministers, and he thought justly, on two late occasions, that the House ought not to come to any vote till they had the papers before them, as this would be a kind of censure, and without documents. The very same arguments applied to this case; and it appeared to him equally necessary that the Minutes should be produced, before they could come to a Vote of Thanks. This also he conceived equally necessary to the character of lord Gambier himself, and to his deriving any satisfaction from a Vote of Thanks.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he did not rise to negative, but to amend the motion of the noble lord. As to the question which was to follow, namely, the Vote of Thanks to lord Gambier, it might be necessary to produce the Sentence of the Court Martial, but there was no occasion for the Minutes. In the two instances cited by the hon. gent. who had just sat down, of ministers having asked the House to wait for information, there was a very material difference from the present question; and it did not require the acuteness and distinctness of judgment so peculiar to that hon. gent. to point it out. In the case of last night, a subject was before the House which they could each of them easily determine on his own knowledge; but in this case, an investigation had already taken place, before a tribunal competent to the subject; and certainly the House would not think of calling for the Minutes, in order to question the conduct of 228 the individual who had been acquitted, though they might, if it was thought necessary, do so with respect to the court itself. The noble lord had stated that the House should be cautious how they countenanced such a proceeding as a Vote of Thanks to lord Gambier, because ministers might be able to shelter themselves from blame, for appointing an officer from parliamentary interest. He, for his own part, did not know of any parliamentary interest possessed by lord Gambier. If, however, any thing could shew that ministers were not guided by parliamentary interest, in their appointments of officers, he thought he might fairly instance the appointment of the noble lord himself. The noble lord had complained that there was no prosecutor on this court martial. If the noble lord had thought any prosecutor necessary in it, he should himself have been that person, since it was in consequence of his declaration, that the admiralty had thought it due, in justice to the character of lord Gambier, to institute a court martial, to inquire into the conduct, which the noble lord who made the motion, had so obliquely censured by the letter, which he had written, expressing his intention to oppose the Vote of Thanks, and in that referring to the log books of the fleet. Under all these circumstances, he hoped and trusted, that the House would, when a Vote of Thanks should be moved to an officer who had achieved a great service to his country, distinguish his merits by agreeing to that motion. He concluded, by moving as an amendment, that the word "Minutes" in the original motion be left out, and the word "Sentence" be inserted in its stead.
Sir F. Burdett
observed, that the preceding speakers had saved him the trouble of proving the right of the House to interfere with the sentence of a court martial. The question therefore now related solely to the propriety of such an interference in the present case. If to prove the propriety of such an interference he would wish to cite an extreme case it would be the present. The noble lord had pledged his character in the most explicit manner, that, in the Minutes were produced, he would prove that the court martial had acted partially, and that lord Gambier was not deserving the thanks that were intended to be moved in his favour; and he thought it it was impossible to believe the noble lord would do so, without being able to fulfil what he had promised. The right 229 hon. gent. opposite had said, that the House should be contented with the Sentence; that, however, was what the noble lord complained of, and it seemed, there were things connected with it which could only be properly explained by the Minutes. In looking cursorily over the Minutes this morning, he thought there were some things which appeared to be against lord Gambier. The right hon. gent. had taunted his noble colleague with not having been the prosecutor of lord Gambier; but his noble colleague certainly did not deserve to be so treated. He had no wish to bring him to a court martial. He felt and thought that lord Gambier had not done all he might have done; and when he found that he was to be rewarded by a vote of thanks, he thought it but justice to his own character to oppose such a motion; and with a candour which did him honour, he gave ministers notice of his intention. The noble lord, his colleague, had said, that lord Gambier had delayed sending in ships to support him. Lord Gambier himself allowed, that a lapse of time had taken place. If there was any distinction between the charge and the admission, lord Gambier's was the strongest. A lapse of time, he feared, was a lapse of victory. It was a lapse of a tide. The old proverb said, that "time and tide waited for no man." Lord Gambier thought they would; but he found himself mistaken. The noble lord his colleague, was appointed to conduct the attack; appointed by the admiralty for that purpose, and his orders should have been obeyed as the commander in chief. Lord Gambier's principal concern seemed to have been to preserve the fleet. If lord Nelson, at the battle of the Nile, or in that glorious action in which he lost his life, had acted on this principle, he would never have been crowned with the laurels he so bravely won, nor would the thanks of that House, and the honours of his sovereign, have so eminently and gloriously distinguished him. Lord Gambier's plan seemed to be a desire to preserve his Majesty's fleet; that of his noble colleague was to destroy that of the enemy. He had never heard that the articles of war held out an instruction to preserve the fleet. The general view of gallant officers was to obtain victory.—As to lord Gambier, he never heard he had pretended to have done any important or signal service on this occasion: his only merit seemed to consist in what he had omitted 230 to do. That omission might, indeed, have been wise and prudent; but could never be the object of a vote of thanks. Ministers had, however, convicted themselves; they had advised his Majesty to honour his noble colleague with a red ribbon, and to agree to the amendment of the right hon. gent. and to vote the thanks of that House to lord Gambier, would be in fact to strip him of all its value. How came ministers to appoint the noble lord, and aprove so highly of all he had done. If they gave a vote of thanks to lord Gambier, they would do injustice to his noble colleague. In the Minutes it appeared that his noble colleague made a signal for assistance at five o'clock in the morning, and none was given till two in the afternoon. The shoals and batteries had not been removed; they remained the same as in the morning; and if there was any danger in them, it was not greater in the morning than it was in the afternoon. Our ships were as likely to suffer from them at the one time as the other. Under these circumstances he thought it necessary the Minutes should be produced. It had been done in the case of colonel Cawthorne, which was of infinitely less importance to the public. He should conceive therefore he did not do his duty if he did not support the motion made by his noble colleague.
said, the question was not as to the right of the House to call for the Minutes, but whether it was necessary to do sounder the circumstances of the case. This was not, as the hon. bart. had represented it, a case where the noble lord came forward, and stated reasons, as consisting with his own knowledge, for withholding the vote of thanks from lord Gambier; but, on the contrary, one where, in consequence of insinuations thrown out by the noble lord, a court martial had already been held on lord Gambier, and he had been honourably acquitted; the charge, or rather insinuation, thrown out against him being totally unfounded. He regretted the noble lord should esteem it a part of his duty to adopt the part he had taken after the decision of that court martial, on which all the evidence was wholly at variance with his ideas. He regretted that a gallant officer, who, undoubtedly, had rendered great service to his country, should have esteemed it necessary to set up his own opinion and experience against the opinion and experience of so many others. The hon. bart. was 231 wrong in supposing that the noble lord was charged with the enterprise; whereas, on the second day, Captain Bligh, and the other captains of the line of battle ships, were those who performed the service. He was surprised the worthy baronet should say that the noble lord went to that attack unsupported, and that having the command that day, he made a signal which should have been honoured, but was not. That signal was only a communication to the commander in chief, as to which he was to form his judgment, and most of the officers in the fleet agreed it would have been a most extraordinary thing if he had acted upon it.
Mr. C. W. Wynn
did not deny that there might be cases in which the House might feel itself called on to interfere, even in cases of court-martial. Here, however, all the evidence was on one side, and opposed to it the solitary opinion of the noble lord. Had the noble lord stood uncontradicted, he might have called on the House to interfere; but this was not a case of that kind. The blame here seemed to be in the admiralty ever directing the court martial. They ought to have known that there was no charge; for when they applied to the noble lord for his charge, if he had any, he referred them to the Log books which it was their duty already to have perused, and which, therefore, they must by that time have been prepared to say, instead of inferring blame, warranted them in bestowing thanks. He was sorry to see the thanks of that House bestowed with too little consideration, so as greatly to lower the value of that distinguished honour. He should hardly have thought this a case in which they ought to have been granted, were it not that their now withholding them might seem to countenance the present charge.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
thought if the House wanted any additional inducement to vote their thanks to the noble lord, they had them in the words of the sentence of the court martial. The present motion was peculiarly important, as it went to throw a gross stigma on the characters of the whole of the members of the court martial, as if they were totally ignorant of their professsion, and forgetful of their own reputation and of the cause of truth and justice. All the evidence, however, was one way. If the sentence had been conceived in dry or doubtful terms, then the House might have called for the Mi- 232 nutes. That, however, was not the case; and all that remained for the House to suppose was, that the noble lord (Cochrane) thought differently from every person else at the time of the court martial, and that he did so still. Lord Gambier had formerly shewn that he could dare when he ought to dare, having been the first to break the line on the glorious first of June; and now he had shewn that he was no less capable of performing important service without exposing to unnecessary risk the ships or subjects of his Majesty.
saw no just ground for the present motion. It carried with it a serious matter of charge against the members of the court martial, and almost every witness who had been examined, and that, too, on a subject in which the noble lord would not find one man in the profession to agree with him.
§ Sir C. Hamilton
said, if his information was correct, the fault that more damage had not been done to the enemy's fleet, lay with the noble lord (Cochrane) himself; and if the Minutes of the court martial were produced, he should engage to bring evidence to that effect before the House. If the noble lord had followed the advice of a senior officer, in reserving some of his fire ships, he would have been able to destroy all the ships of the enemy. When with the explosion ship the noble lord gave the signal, those who observed his orders did not succeed: and those who did not observe the signal, but were more deliberate in their proceedings, were successful. Those officers who disobeyed the order to fire the ships had been promoted, and those who obeyed the order had not been promoted.
§ Mr. Croker
said, that he had endeavourde to follow the noble lord in his speech, but could not bring him to any one point. The noble lord would have done no more than his duty, if he had been in possession of those circumstances which he had detailed this night, in making them the subject of proceedings against Lord Gambier. What, however, had been the conduct of the noble lord? On the contrary, instead of making a direct charge, he had merely contented himself with referring the admiralty board to the log-book of his own ship for information. The board of admiralty therefore in acceding to the wish of the noble lord, for an enquiry into his conduct with respect to the attack on Basque Roads, had done 233 him no more than an act of justice.—No man was more disposed than he was to respect the noble lord (Cochrane) for his private virtues and public conduct, but he could not think that the House was bound to throw a slur upon the sentence of the court-martial, by calling for their Minutes in compliment to the opinion of the noble lord who had called for them. Was the House aware of the merits and services of many of the members of the court martial? Was not sir R. Curtis an old and meritorious officer, who had served his country before the noble lord was born? Was not sir John Duckworth another gallant officer? Was not admiral Young an officer of high and distinguished character? Were not admiral Campbell (a member of that House) and all the other admirals and captains of the court-martial, men of high and deserved professional repute? The opinions of these officers, with all his partiality to his noble friend, he felt himself bound to prefer to those of his noble friend. Yet the noble lord wished the united opinions of so large a body of the officers of the navy to pass for nothing, and that the House of Commons should receive his as the only just opinion. He was sorry to be obliged to say that the noble lord had constrained him to declare, that, having put his character against the majority of his profession, he was bound to adhere to the majority in preference to the noble lord, however highly he estimated his talents, and to vote against his motion.
§ Mr. Whitbread
thought the noble lord did wrong in returning any answer to the application of the Admiralty. He ought to have told them that, as a member of the House of Commons, he had no answer whatever to make: and if they had thought the logs inconclusive, why did they not manfully come down and try the question in that House. The hon. gentleman talked of the injustice of trying an officer in that House. Must not the merits of every officer be inquired into when it is proposed to confer on him a Vote of Thanks? Was he not then on his trial? Was not this a species of trial to which every officer, before he could receive the high honour of the thanks of parliament necessarily must by exposed? But, after a court-martial, which ought never to have taken place, had declared lord Gambier to be honourably acquitted, did it follow, as a matter of necessity that they must grant him the thanks of 234 that House? He presumed that by no means followed. Then what was the situation to which the House was reduced? The noble lord had committed himself more than he had ever heard man do in that House to prove his statements respecting the conduct of lord Gambier. And now another member had come forward, and said that the noble lord himself (Cochrane) had not properly executed the duty entrusted to him, and that if he had done so, he might have done far more injury to the enemy's ships.ߞThe hon. bart. (Hamilton) had said, that, at the time when he (lord Cochrane) was in the command, and made signals to the vessels employed under him, some of them obeyed and others disobeyed the instructions they received, and that those who disobeyed were ultimately successful, while those who obeyed at the moment failed. The worthy baronet also added, that those who disobeyed the signal given them were promoted, while those who obeyed it were not. What must become of the subordination necessary for the support of our navy, if our officers were to be informed that it could be possible, in any one instance, that those who obeyed the instructions of their superior officer were to be passed by, while those who disobeyed his signals might expect to be promoted? From the disagreeable situation in which the House was now placed, on both sides, he thought they must unavoidably have the Minutes.
could not agree to vote for the motion of the noble lord, and for this reason, because the adoption of it would be a violation of one of the most sacred and fundamental principles of the jurisprudence of England. My lord Gambier had been tried by a competent jurisdiction, and acquitted. He could therefore scarcely imagine any thing more dangerous to the lives, property, and liberties of Englishmen, than that a man should be tried a second time for the same imputed offence. Could a man who, for any offence, had been put on his trial in another place, and acquitted, be again tried for the same offence? Certainly not. If a man was accused of the highest crime the law takes cognizance of, viz. conspiring with others to murder the King, and should be acquitted; if it should turn out afterwards that other circumstances than had been adduced on the trial could be proved, was it to be endured that he should be again tried? He could not be 235 tried again; the principles of the constitution forbad it. If that were the only reason which he had to induce him to object to the production of the Minutes, he should give his vote against the motion, but in his opinion the motion was highly objectionable as it went further as went wholly to subvert the discipline of the navy. What was the object of the noble lord's motion? Why this, that lord Gambier having been tried and acquitted by a competent jurisdiction, the noble lord came to parliament, and required that his opinion should be taken as sufficient authority for reversing the verdict which the court had given in favour of the noble lord. If this mode of proceeding was to be tolerated, how could any naval officer be safe who might have been tried and acquitted? The noble lord had said, that this House had the power of punishing judges who did not act properly. It was true the House had that power, as had been shewn in some cases, in the case of the Ship Money, and others, wherein it had been proved that they had acted in direct violation of the law. In the present case there was not any allegation of the kind—there was no charge against the judges; the House was desired upon the single opinion of one of the witnesses examined before them, to reverse their decree. It was scarcely to be conceived, that twelve members of a Court Martial would set their hands to a sentence of acquittal such as the one alluded to, who were ignorant of the evidence. They had not merely pronounced him not guilty, but described him as a meritorious officer in the Sentence. He trusted the House would not be disposed to think that any grounds were laid for agreeing to the motion.
§ Lord Cochrane
then addressed the House in reply, as follows;—Mr. Speaker; Some remarks that have fallen from gentlemen on both sides of the House, call upon me for explanation.—And first the hon. gent. below me, has asserted, that it was my bounden duty to have brought forward, myself, charges against lord Gambier, if I thought his conduct censurable.—I must tell that hon. gent., that I adopted the mode that, under such circumstances it was my duty to adopt. I did not presume to frame charges founded on my own opinion, of the transactions that had passed in Basque roads.—I did not deliver charges: but when I found that a vote of thanks was to be pressed on this House, 236 I felt myself called upon to refer their lordships to the log books and minutes of signals, where they would find reasons, why a vote of thanks should not be granted to the commander in chief, and their lordships found them, in these official documents, which are received, as evidence, in all courts of law. These, Sir, I had no power to falsify, and to these I referred, not with a wish maliciously to criminate, but to save this House, and my country, from what I felt would be a disgrace. As this book has been used (Guerney's Minutes) I shall, if permitted, read the opinion of the lords commissioners of the Admiralty, founded, I suppose, on mature deliberation. "And whereas by the log books and minutes of signals of the Caledonia, Imperieuse, and other ships employed on that service, it appears to us, that the said admiral lord Gambier, on the 12th day of the said month of April, the enemy's ships being then on shore, and the signal having been made that they could be destroyed, did, for a considerable time, neglect or delay taking effectual measures for destroying them: We therefore in compliance with his lordship's request, and in consequence of what appears in the said log books and minutes of signals, think fit that a Court Martial shall be assembled for the purpose of examining into his lordship's conduct, and trying him for the same." Such was the charge brought against his lordship by the board of admiralty, after investigating the log books of the Caledonia and of the fleet. No individual had the power to mislead their lordships; and this I submit to the House was the fair and honourable mode to proceed. It was regular, and not liable to be affected by prejudice or my opinions.—I had another reason for this line of conduct; I did not chase to oppress my mind with responsibility: I believe admiral Byng was called to an account not by an individual but by his country. I trust, Sir, this explanation will be satisfactory to the House, and to the hon. gent. who chose to reprobate my conduct. I have now a word or two to say to the naval member opposite, who has spoken of forming logs for the purpose of evidence. When he throws out insinuations, or rather accusations such as these, it would be but honourable in him, and justice demands that he should state the difference, which was detected in these logs. Lord Gambier, who was pretty much alive to detect errors, did point out 237 "that in one, the signal made, was that half the fleet could destroy" the enemy, and in the other, that it stood, "part of the fleet can destroy the enemy." What Sir, is the mighty difference between part and the half, a part may be either more or less, or exactly the half of the fleet. Is this the error which the hon. gent. has spoken of, or is it the circumstance of my hailing the Indefatigable which is not noticed in one, but inserted in the other. That, Sir, was a personal act of my own; the words spoken had nothing to do with the transactions usually inserted in the log books of ships. Those who were on board can vouch for the correctness of the fact. As to the chart, I must address a few words more to the same gentleman, and state to this House, and pledge myself to prove if the Minutes are granted, that my chart is correct and is corroborated as to every point for which it was produced by the testimony of the master of the Caledonia, who after falsifying his own chart swears that the French ships lay, exactly, as I placed them. And here, Sir, I shall give a specimen of the evidence of those ingenious gentlemen the inventors of the fabricated chart, which was introduced for three reasons, to shew the confined state of the anchorage, the point blank shot of the batteries of Aix, and that no more of the enemy's ships could have been got at, than those that were destroyed. In all these points, I pledge myself to prove the chart produced by the master of the Caledonia false, by the mouths of its fabricators themselves, and here is their evidence. First as to the space in the anchorage. Mr. Fairfax, on being asked, "Is it much confined and the waters round it shoal?"—A. "The space is much confined."—2." "Is the navigation of Aix roads difficult for large ships as far as you know?"—A. "Very much so."—2 "Did you know previous to the 12th of April, of any anchorage above the Boyart-shoal and near the Palles shoal, for line of battle ships out of range of the enemy's shells?"—"A. I knew of no anchorage."—2."Have you acquired a knowledge of any such since?"—A. "I have not."—2. "Were you in the road of Aix, after the British ships were placed for the purpose of attacking the enemy?"—A. "No." So much for this gentleman's knowledge of that to which he positively swears.—Now, Sir; let us see Mr. Stokes's evidence on this head. "He does not know the distance between the sands 238 from his own soundings," yet he positively swears that "the space for anchorage is much confined, and the water round it shoal, that it is difficult for large ships, and that the channel is very narrow."—Why, Sir, even by his fabricated chart, which he says he copied from the Neptune François, the channel is a mile wide, and neither bank or shoal between where our fleet lay and the Cassard and Foudroyant, which he has very injurously contrived to put in a corner, a mile distant from Aix, though in his evidence he swears they were only one third of the distance, and here is his deposition.—"The Cassard and Foudroyant both lay afloat, the Cassard one third of a mile from Aix, the Foudroyant three cables length astern of her."—The reason, Sir, for making a corner between two shoals, and putting them in it, was to prevent the possibility of getting under their sterns and between them and the ships on shore, which, Mr. Stokes has sworn, "lay on the Western part of the Palles shoal, the three decker on the north west edge of the Palles shoal, with her broadside flanking the passage, the N. W. part nearest to the deep water," although in his fabricated chart he has transported them from the N. W. part nearest to the deep water, to the S. E. side farthest from the deep water beyond the Tonnere, where he says they "never could have been got at for the shot to reach." This chart, it is affirmed by Mr. Stokes, is taken from the Neptune, but the space is contracted to about one third of its size. For what reason, Sir, could this be done, but to induce a belief of the "unwarrantable peril," to which his Majesty's ships would have been exposed. Mr. Stokes confessed on his examination his ignorance of the distance between the sounds, and yet presumed to deliver to the court a chart, not, of the scale of the Neptune Francois, of which, it professed to be a copy. And to crown all, Sir, after having sworn that it was a chart, of the positions of the enemy's ships, on, and previous to the 12th April, he, on a subsequent day, when asked by the president, who observed that "the Ocean was not marked on the 12th, she was marked on the 13th," afterwards positively swears that the only ships marked on this foul fabrication, "are the ships that were destroyed." Yet inadvertently several officers have spoken to this chart as correct, and some have even deposed, that 239 it was impossible to pass under the stern of the Foudroyant, between her and the bank, although, she was seven miles from them, and the bank, from nine, to thirteen feet, under water. I trust, Sir, this is sufficient, all this I can prove to the world by the testimony given by the witnesses themselves. Another naval member opposite has offered to prove a fact which, he must, do me the justice to own, is not within his own knowledge—That I was to blame for the failure of the fire ships; and he states, first, that the explosion vessel was a signal to the fire ships, and next, that she was improperly exploded. Now, Sir, this gives me an opportunity to remark again on the conduct of the court. How rigorous, as to the law on one side, and how lax on the other. Lord Gambier, too, has asserted that, which the hon. gent. has undertaken to prove, but his lordship did not prove it, and I will tell the House why he did not prove it, because the explosion vessel was no signal to the fire ships. Orders written out by me, were delivered by lord Gambier in the cabin of the Caledonia, directing quite the contrary—Ordering them to use their discretion as to the time when they were to be kindled, and had the state of the weather rendered it practicable to couple them together, the senior officer of each division of four, was to shew a lanthorn, or a false fire, to direct, whether the long or short fusees were to be kindled.—And an acknowledgment of the delivery of these orders will be found in lord Gambier's official letter, I think of the 10th of May. The court, however, refused to receive this document which I offered to them, because they said it was not relevant to the charge, although the court had not only suffered lord Gambier to make the assertion, but had themselves examined several witnesses to the point. So far, Sir, from the explosion having been a signal for the fire ships to kindle, the fire ships were, by their written orders, to go in, in three divisions, each half a mile apart, and the explosion vessels half a mile a head of them. Thus much for the signal, and for the impartiality of the court. Now, Sir, as to the place in which the vessel exploded; and Mr. Fairfax, one of the fabricators of the chart, is the only person examined to this point; he, Sir, notwithstanding that he has sworn that she blew up within two cables length of the Lyra, has a remark a little unfortunate, on a chart or in a 240 letter, I do not remember which, in the Naval Chronicle (I think of July:) "the French frigate (F.) cut or slipped before the fire ships got to where they were set fire to;" the fact is, Sir, the explosion vessel blew up close to her.— I submit to this House—many of the members are military men, and all are capable to judge of the fact, whether one hundred barrels of powder, covered with shells, and at least a thousand grenades, would not have destroyed the Lyra, if exploded, within two cables length. The court, indeed, asked Mr. Fairfax "where he was when she blew up," and he answered, "In the Lyra."—In the Lyra, Sir, was his answer; the court did not put a question on the Minutes, Was you on deck in the Lyra? If I could make use of notes which I had taken, I might submit also to this House, whether a man who was below, at the explosion of the first part of 100 barrels of powder, could get on deck to see the second part exploded. Lord Gambier's defence was full of accusations against me. Evidences were examined to prove these, though they did not relate in any way to the charge, and I was not suffered to ask one single question to refute them, or to be present when the defence was read. Sir, I was even sent out of Court, and denied the privilege of hearing it, although when an evidence on the late trial of a member of this House, I was sent for.—If, Sir, there were no other reasons for the production of the Minutes which I have called for, but that I am now put upon my defence: that accusations are made, which, in justice to my feelings, and my character, I must refute, I humbly submit to this House, that injustice to me they ought now to be produced, and I trust, Sir that for reasons more important to the country they will not be refused; that this House will not shut their eyes and go blindfold to the vote. If so, the country must—will not follow their example. Sir, I shall not detain the House longer than to re-assert all that I have pledged myself to prove, and stake every thing that is valuable to man on the issue. If the Minutes are granted, I shall expose such a scene, as will, perhaps, make my country tremble for its safety. I intreat the House well to consider, that there is a tribunal to which it is answerable, that of posterity, which will try all our actions, and judge impartially.
§ Mr. Tierney
thought it would be wrong for that House to disturb the past acts of 241 justice. He could not persuade himself to suspect any degree of partiality in the tribunal which tried lord Gambier. But the question was not as to the noble lord's innocence, but as to his claim to a most distinguishing reward. The honours of the House were high things—dear and valuable; but dear only because they implied merit—valuable only because even that merit must be rare. Honours, too frequently bestowed, lost their value, and became signs of nothing but the weakness which lavished them, or the worthlessness on which they were to be thrown away. In this case there was no apparent service to be traced which was worthy of their thanks. He would vote for the Minutes, but in his vote he begged to be understood, as merely calling for matter to enable him to shape his opinion. He could mean no slight to lord Gambier. He respected his lordship's character. He had some opportunities of hearing him spoken of, and it was always in a high strain of praise and estimation. But he had never understood that lord Gambier took any share of the merit of the achievement to himself. He had not approached the French fleet nearer than seven miles. Ministers had praised lord Gambier for his discretion: he hoped they had not intended this as an instance in their enumeration of its proofs. It became the House to be cautious of being prodigal of the honours which were entrusted to their distribution. The noble lord near him (lord Cochrane) ought to be heard; his judgment and character, his signal gallantry and signal honours, deserved the serious attention of the House. Even his feelings, led, as they were perhaps, astray by an excess of strength and sensibility, deserved all the attention which could be paid to them.
felt himself called on to explain his former opinion. He had reminded the House of a precedent for the revision of courts martial; but in stating this fact he merely wished to bring a new authority in support of the privileges of that assembly. He conceived that the sentence of a naval court was not in the full sense of the word, definitive. In the military law, an appeal lay from a court martial to his Majesty's courts at Westminster: he concluded that there must be found a similar check on a court of naval officers. In voting for the motion he pledged himself to nothing; he had not yet found materials for his opinion, and he was satisfied to pause till he had found them.
§ The question was now called for; and, upon a division, there appeared—
|For the Amendment||171|
|Majority against lord Cochrane's Motion||152|