Thursday, February 25, 2010
Thursday, February 25, 2010
Perusing the 1833 Annual Register (yes, I do it for fun), I came upon the following:
The annual motion to abolish flogging in the army was renewed by Mr. Hume … In 1827, Mr. (now Sir John) Hobhouse,* said, “he had attentively listened to what had fallen from the gallant officers in the army on the subject; but the only reason they gave for defending flogging that he could discover was, that it ought to be continued because it had existed. He had heard an officer say, that in his regiment some of the men were brought out so frequently to be flogged, that they were known by the name of the flogging-blocks; and this circumstance demonstrated that, so far from flogging making them better soldiers, or men, no good could be derived from it; and as no benefit resulted from the revolting custom, it ought to be abolished, as being a national disgrace…The punishment of slaves in the colonies was restricted to fifteen lashes, whilst the British soldier was usually subjected to 300, 400, or 500 lashes. He could not believe, that the soldier was so much worse than the slave, as to justify that disproportion of punishment.”
Lord Althorp…thought…that the weight of military authority was so great, that it would not be prudent to take away this punishment entirely from the officer. He admitted, that it was a punishment against which every one’s best feelings must revolt; but he should feel, that it was taking upon himself a responsibility which he should not be justified in taking, if he acted in opposition to the whole body of officers of the army, and gave a vote for taking a away a punishment which they said was necessary…Sir R. Ferguson confessed, that the motion placed him in a very unpleasant situation; he could not vote for it, and he would not vote against it.
What struck me about this was “the annual motion.” According to my copy of the Annual Register, Hume had “submitted a similar proposition on March 25, 1824”—nine years previously. Further investigation turned up a couple of the debates, in 1826 and 1834. (They make fascinating reading.) Undoubtedly there were many more. Flogging was not completely abolished in Britain’s army and navy until 1881.
*John Cam Hobhouse, Byron’s good friend; later Lord Broughton.
The top left illustration is James Gillray's "The caneing in Conduit Street. Dedicated to the flag officers of the British Navy." Courtesy Library of Congress Prints ( LC-USZC2-1323), which offers the following description: 'Caricature showing a stout naval officer attacked by Lord Camelford, who says, "Give me satisfction, rascal! Draw your sword..." Captain Vancouver replies, "Murder! Murder! ..." The print may reflect the growing discontent due to harsh naval discipline.' (Loretta's note: 30 years before Hume first presented his motion).
Bottom right illustration is "Flogging on a Man-of-War." Courtesy Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.