§ (Mr. Dodson, Lord Clarence Paget, Mr. Childers.)
§ Order for Committee read. Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clauses 1 to 27, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 28 (Infliction of corporal punishment in certain cases).
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR moved the omission of the clause. He said, he would appeal to the Committee to remove from the number of our punishments that which was the most severe, the most brutal, and he thought he might say, the most barbarous of them all. We thought in this country, and not altogether without justice, that we were in the advance of civilization, and, amongst other evidences of that, we pointed to the mildness of our criminal code; but, nevertheless, we were a long time throwing over some of the slough of the old regimé It was not ninety years since the abolition of the pillory, and not eighty years had passed since the law was abolished which condemned women to be burnt alive for treason. We had gone on amending the severity of our criminal law, and only the other day it was proposed that capital punishment should no longer be inflicted in the presence of a mob. He trusted the time might soon come when capital punishments should be abolished altogether; but 1784 flogging had a prior claim to be removed, for the taking away of human life was as nothing compared with the torture inflicted by the lash. The victims of corporal punishment were as a matter of course removed at once to a hospital to be treated for the injury they had received, and he therefore thought he was justified in saying that such punishment was, in fact, an application of torture. From the last Return it appeared that in the great majority of cases flogging was inflicted for insubordination—an offence the nature of which would greatly depend upon the character and temper of the commanding officer. A Return relating to the infliction of corporal punishment in the navy in 1863 showed that the number of cases in the year was 752, and in 73 cases only was the punishment awarded by a court martial. He presumed, therefore, that in 90 out of every 100 instances it was inflicted at the mere will of the commanding officer. The same Return stated that in 84 of Her Majesty's ships not a single lash had been laid on during the year. Now, if in so large a number of vessels discipline could be maintained without the use of the cat, it was not Quixotic to imagine that such a mode of punishment might be dispensed with altogether. It was said that so brutal were the class from which the army and navy were recruited that flogging was indispensable as the most economical method of maintaining subordination. His answer to that was, if it were necessary, as a means of abolishing this brutal punishment, let them employ a better class of men. He was sure the country would not grudge the expense; and then let it be a sufficient punishment for any breach of discipline to dismiss the culprit from the service. He hoped the Committee would agree to the abolition of a punishment which was barbarous and disgraceful to our navy.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, the hon. Gentleman seemed to be under some misapprehension respecting the Bill before the Committee. It had, in reality, nothing whatever to do either with the navy or with the Marines afloat. A certain number of Marines was voted annually for shore service, and they were under the same discipline as the army. The navy proper and the Marines afloat were under the Naval Discipline Act. The hon. Gentleman had quoted figures to show that the number of cases of flogging was very high. He might, however, inform the hon. Gentleman that, according to the last Returns, out of 8,566 1785 Marines on shore, only eighteen had been corporally punished. The men were now getting to be of a very superior class, owing to the advantages they obtained in regard both to pay and education, and corporal punishment was diminishing annually, and would no doubt continue to do so if left to itself, but he thought the House would agree that it would not be advisable to put it down by Act of Parliament.
§ Question put, "That the clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 71; Noes 22: Majority 49.
§ Clauses 29 to 38, inclusive, agreed to.
§ Clause 39 ("Branding").
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR moved its omission.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, he wished to ask the hon. Member whether he really thought the officers of the army and navy took a pleasure in flogging. They resorted to it only for the purpose of maintaining discipline, but Gentlemen opposite had a monopoly of humanity. If the hon. Gentleman and his Friends would move and carry an increase of the pay of soldiers and sailors, he would render it possible to procure a better class of men.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, he had hoped that the discussion would be continued, not in reference to a question of money, but on the high moral principle in which it commenced. If it were merely a question between flogging and branding soldiers or sailors and increasing their pay, the former would undoubtedly be the more economical alternative. He thought the British army was not organized on a principle that recommended itself for good administration, and was by no means satisfactory. The object of flogging and branding was, perhaps, to supplement the incapacity of officers to perform the duties which devolved on them, and withdrawing the power of the lash would have the effect of securing more capable commanding officers. To listen to the remarks of the gallant Colonel opposite and other officers in that House one would fancy that the country existed for the army, and not the army for 1786 the country. He did not admit that the lash was necessary to the maintenance of discipline in time of peace. As to a time of war he would say nothing, for in a period of that kind there was violence on all sides, and when men took pay to be killed it did not seem necessary to be so particular about flogging.
§ MR. HUNT
said, he had thought that the platform of the Radicals was "peace, retrenchment, and reform," but after the speech of the hon. Member for Oxford (Mr. Neate) it was quite evident that "retrenchment" was excised from his platform; for he now proposed that there should be a greater expenditure, and as this increased expenditure was for the purpose of having a much better military force the hon. Member could not be in favour of "peace." The question of "Reform" was to come before the House on Monday, and it would not be surprising if not the slightest portion of the Radical platform were left after that day.
§ SIR ROBERT CLIFTON
said, that when the question of humanity was raised, hon. Members who sat on the ultra-Liberal Benches would not allow retrenchment to interfere. Flogging was a disgrace to the country. The son of the postmaster of the town he had the honour of representing died under the lash at Hounslow some years ago. But branding was even worse. He had been informed by experienced officers that men after being flogged were never worth anything again as a soldier.
§ MR. REARDEN
said, he opposed the system of branding and flogging, as being repugnant to humanity, and because he thought more effectual remedies might be applied. He considered that soldiers could be much better governed by kindness than severity.
§ COLONEL NORTH
said, that corporal punishment was never inflicted by officers without the effects of kindness having been previously tried. No colonel had the power of inflicting corporal punishment on his own account. It must have been ordered by a court martial. He would ask, had nothing ever been heard about flogging in our gaols? Curious Returns on this point had been presented two or three years ago, from which it appeared that three boys had received forty-eight lashes of the cat-o'-nine tails for having torn the leaves out of their Prayer Book; but in the service, corporal punishment was now exceedingly rare.
said, that the punishment of flogging was now generally regarded as barbarous and out of date. No flogging was allowed in the Indian army. It had been abolished by Lord William Bentinck. As it would be scarcely alleged that the British soldier was inferior to the Sepoy, it would be difficult to maintain that English, Scotch, and Irish soldiers could not be managed without that punishment.
§ COLONEL PERCY HERBERT
said, that in these days when the maximum of corporal punishment which officers had power to inflict had been reduced from 150 lashes to fifty, the Hounslow case was no longer in point.
§ MR. P. A. TAYLOR
said, that the arguments now used to keep up the fifty lashes were exactly similar to those which had been formerly used in support of 500, 800, and 1,000.
§ Question put, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 52; Noes 21: Majority 31.
§ Remaining clauses agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Bill reported, without Amendment; to be read the third time To-morrow.