said, the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. Grenfell) had given notice of his intention to move an Address respecting the Military Knights of Windsor, but his noble Friend the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who was extremely anxious to be present during the discussion, was unavoidably absent from illness, and he therefore appealed to the hon. Member whether, under the circumstances, he would not postpone his Motion till a future day.
§ MR. GRENFELL
said, that he thought the question of so much importance that, having given notice of his intention to bring it forward, he was sorry he could not accede to the request of his hon. Friend. He had to ask for a larger share than usual of that indulgence which was generally granted to a Member addressing the House for the first time, on account of the interests involved in the question, and the hardships which in his opinion arose out of the present state of the case; and he would therefore first state the objects of the Motion; secondly, the reasons which induced him to bring it forward; and thirdly, the grounds on which it was based. His object was to put an end to a complaint made, he thought, with great apparent justice, but which was one of long standing, by the Military Knights of Windsor, that the Dean and Chapter, who were the trustees of certain land set apart for their maintenance and exigencies, paid themselves according to the proportionate value of money in the present day, while the Military Knights received out of that land the pittance of only one shilling a-day. He did not bring this forward as any charge against the Dean and Chapter, for he was quite sure that body were very anxious, if the claims of the Military Knights were founded in justice, to see them ratified; but he thought the present was a peculiarly proper moment at 1072 which to call attention to the subject, when the country was enlisting among her brave defenders many gallant officers who in after years might, through accidental reverses of fortune, be glad to reap the benefits which were intended to be bestowed upon them by this charity. Many of those whose claims he advocated had fought and bled for their country, and had more than one relative now in the service; and therefore he challenged any hon. Member to point out a better opportunity than the present in which to bring their claims under consideration. In detailing to the House the grounds of the present Motion, it would be necessary for him to refer to some ancient authorities; and the first to which he would beg to call their attention was the declaration of the Statutes of the Order, in the reign of Henry VIII., in which it was decreed—first, that the King, his heirs, and successors, should for ever be the Sovereigns of the aforesaid Order. But, referring to the most important part of his subject—the institution of the thirteen knights who laid claim to a larger share of the lands called "the New Dotation"—he would mention, that there were certain entries in the Council-Book of Edward VI. setting forth those lands and containing instructions as to their conveyance; and he also found the record of the proceedings of a Chapter of the Order of that date, in which the Crown grants of Edward VI. were mentioned; he therefore contended that there could be no doubt that those lands were clearly given and bequeathed to the Military Knights of Windsor, and the Dean and Chapter were only trustees of the lands in question. Two hundred years ago, at the time Sir Dudley Rider was Attorney General, he was directed by the Crown to examine the claims of the Military Knights of Windsor, and he gave a decision against them; but at that time the deed of 1547, as well as the evidence respecting the Crown grants of Elizabeth and James I., had not been discovered, and therefore such a decision could not affect their claims. He thought, if it could be shown that the lands in question were really granted to them, the House could not refuse to consider their claims; and it would be a disgrace to the country if this military charity were allowed, even in consequence of misapprehension, to be diverted from its true purposes. He thought the Dean and Chapter of Windsor must be most desirous that this question should be finally settled. He (Mr. Grenfell) had in his possession attested copies of the deeds 1073 to which he had referred, and would be happy to submit them to any hon. Gentleman who might wish to inspect them. Doubts had been entertained as to the existence of the deed of the 4th of August, 1547, and it was not until the year 1845 that that deed was discovered in the Record Office in Carlton Ride. He (Mr. Grenfell) hoped that there was now some prospect that the administration of this charity would be placed upon a proper footing. On the 11th of January, 1839, the opinion of Sir John Campbell, now the Lord Chief Justice of the Queen's Bench, was taken upon this subject, and it was in favour of the claims of the Military Knights. The inquiries which were instituted with reference to those claims by the Home Office, between 1841 and 1844, were previous to the discovery of the deed of the 4th of August, 1547, and he thought it was of importance that the question should, as speedily as possible, be settled. He hoped, therefore, that the House would assent to an immediate inquiry into the circumstances of this charity.
Motion made, and Question proposed—
That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, that She will be graciously pleased forthwith to direct the Lieutenant and Chancellor of the most noble Military Order of St. George and the Garter, to take the necessary steps for the due appropriation of the rents and profits, called 'The New Dotation,' granted by the three existing Crown Grants of the 4th day of August 1547, the 7th day of October 1547, and the 30th day of August 1559, for the maintenance and other exigencies of the Military Knights of Windsor, as established by the two Acts of Parliament 39 and 40 Elizabeth, c. 9, and I James, c. 31, and further established by the Act 3 and 4 Vic. c. 113.
said, he had requested his hon. Friend (Mr. Grenfell) to postpone this Motion, in consequence of the unavoidable absence, from indisposition, of his noble Friend the Home Secretary, who had devoted his attention to the case, and who would have been prepared, he had no doubt, to give a satisfactory answer to the statements of the hon. Gentleman. As the hon. Member for Windsor had not thought it consistent with his duty to comply with his (Mr. Fitzroy's) suggestion, he was compelled to appeal from the decision of the hon. Gentleman to that of the House. He (Mr. Fitzroy) was satisfied the House would be of opinion that it was important that the Minister representing the department to which this Motion peculiarly referred should be enabled to answer the observations which had been made; and, therefore, without wishing to act with the 1074 least discourtesy towards his hon. Friend the Member for Windsor, he must now move the adjournment of the debate.
said, he thought that if the hon. Member for Windsor had been better acquainted with the practice of that House, he would have assented to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Lewes (Mr. Fitzroy). It was now about eighteen years since this question was brought before the House, and from time to time promises had been given that an inquiry should take place, but he did not think that the subject had ever been properly investigated. He believed there were documents showing that lands and estates, the profits of which ought to have been appropriated to the support of the Military Knights, had come into the possession of the Dean and Chapter of Windsor, and were diverted from the purposes for which they were originally intended. He would, however, under the circumstances, recommend his hon. Friend (Mr. Grenfell) to accede to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Lewes.
§ MR. LABOUCHERE
said, he considered that the hon. Member for Windsor must, of necessity, pursue the course suggested by the hon. Member for Lewes. He (Mr. Labouchere) could not, however, concur with the hon. Member for Montrose in thinking that the hon. Member for Windsor was open to any censure for the course he had taken. [Mr. HUME: No, no.] He considered that the hon. Member for Windsor had very properly discharged his duties to a portion of his constituents. He (Mr. Labouchere) conceived that this was a case which came rather within the province of the law officers of the Crown than of the Home Office, and he thought possibly that some hon. and learned Gentleman connected with the Government might be enabled to afford the House some information on the subject.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, that whether the debate was to be adjourned or not, one thing, at least, was to be taken into consideration, and that was, that on the 23rd instant these funds were to be distributed, and therefore the greatest anxiety prevailed that the question should be speedily examined into, in order that the knights should not be deprived of their just proportion of them for this year. On Friday last the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had brought under the consideration of the House a proposal 1075 for the re-distribution of the revenues of the University of Oxford, with a view to a more equitable division of them; but surely the noble Lord would not, for one moment, maintain that 1s. a day was an adequate pension for gentlemen occupying the position of colonels in the army, and that from estates left solely for their benefit. And it appeared, further, that they were altogether without medical attendance, without coals, without candles, and without bedding of any description. And this was the case, although the estates had largely increased—the proceeds, however, being allocated to other purposes. He did not mean to find fault with the canons, but still the fact remained that a sum of 47,000l. had been handed over for the building of churches and other purposes. At the same time he must say the case of those distinguished officers ought not to have been lost sight of; and if they had a right to that 47,000l., it ought to be adjudged to them. He could not help adding that the day was a most auspicious one for meeting this question, for on that day just fifty-three years ago many of the gallant officers fought and bled at the battle of Alexandria. He hoped, therefore, that it would not be in vain that such men appealed to the House of Commons, for he believed it never was intended by the founders of this charity that they should benefit so slightly by the property left for their uses.
said, although he had himself for a very long time directed his attention to the subject, he could not consider it advisable to enter on a discussion of the question after the speech of the hon. Under Secretary (Mr. Fitzroy). He hoped, however, that the remarks of his hon. and gallant Friend (Col. North) would prevent any distribution of the funds for this year until the claims had been investigated; but he would join in requesting the hon. Member for Windsor to defer all further discussion until the noble Lord the Secretary for the Home Department was in his place; for, as a soldier, he (Col. Dunne) was quite prepared to place every confidence in the noble Lord's decision.
§ SIR GEORGE GREY
said, he thought that if the debate was to be adjourned they ought not to go any further into the merits of the question. He could not help saying, however, that having gone into the subject when he had the honour of holding the office of Secretary of State, and his right 1076 hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty when in the same position having also taken the opinion of the law officers of the Crown with respect to it, he had come to the conclusion that the question was entirely a legal one, and consequently that it will not be in the power of the House of Commons to fulfil the expectations which had been held out otherwise than through the instrumentality of an Act of Parliament. He would, however, recommend the hon. Member for Windsor to consent to the adjournment of the debate, in which case the matter would come on as an Order of the Day, and as in doing so he would be acceding to the request of the Government, it would be but fair if an early opportunity were afforded him of bringing on the question.
§ MR. GRENFELL
said, under the circumstances of the noble Lord's (Viscount Palmerston's) absence, he would agree to the Motion for adjourning the debate, but he hoped the Government would enable him to bring forward the subject again on an early day, when the noble Home Secretary might be present.
§ Debate adjourned till Friday.