THE MILITARY INQUIRY.
SOMERVILLE will receive his discharge in return for the flogging to which he was subjected by Major WYNDHAM. His case is a proper example to all men set under authority, aud especially military authority, of the danger and folly of giving expression to sentiments which tend to cast a doubt on the infallibility of their superiors. That any chance of justification, much less of com- pensation, was ever entertained by him as the result of the Court of Inquiry, we cannot easily believe. It was enough to know the persons composing it, and its object, to enable men of much in- ferior talent to SOMERVILLE to anticipate with certainty the con- clusion to which it must come. For who ale the inquirers ?—A Lieutenant-General. two Major-Generals, a Colonel, and a Lieu- tenant-Colonel. And who is the offender P—A brother officer of high rank, service, and connexions. And who are the prosecu- tors ?—A private soldier, labouring under the double charge of disobedience to orders and Radicalism ; and the editor of a Lon- don weekly newspaper. Look at this picture and at that ! The finding of the Court, which we give elsewhere, and the way in which they get at it, are equally curious as specimens of mili- tary law and military logic. The propositions which the finding contains are these-
1. Major Wyndham acted injudiciously in conversing with Somerville at all; 2. He acted with especial inconsideration in conversing with him under the circumstances in which both were placed ; 3. He acted injudiciously in trying, him at all; 4. He acted with undue precipitation, and in a manner not justified by the general usages of the service, in trying him as he did;
5. He acted justifiably in trying hun' • 6. He did not act inconsistently with inilitary law or usage in flogging him;
7. In the circumstances in which he was placed, it was incumbent on him to have him flogged ; • 8. The Major's conduct was deficient in care, discretion, and judgment ; but
• 9. His views and motives, throughout, were such as became his station and character ; 10. And lastly, his honour as an officer is unimpeached.
- From these propositions, it appears, that Major WYNDHAM'S conduct, before the trial of SOMERVILLE, was injudicious and in- considerate; that no trial ought to have taken place; that the trial was hastily and precipitately and irregularly gone about ;— yet that, though every step of Major WYNDHAM'S procedure was marked by j want of prudence and consideration, he was, notwith- standing, justified in proceeding; and that his views and motives were such as became his station and character, although his acts exhibited neither care, discretion, nor judgment ! The method by which the Court get at these rather contradic- tory conclusions, is that which is termed the exhaustive. They lay before them the petition of the Newspaper Editor, and the letter of SomEriviLtr,—the former cut into nineteen, and the latter into fifteen slips, thirty-four in all ; to each of these the Court tack a commentary ; and, the thirty-four slips commented on and docketed, their task is over. The inquisitorial notanda are made with all imaginable minuteness.
"The exercise was difficult," quoth the Editor; "not more diffi- cult than usual," answereth the Court. "He failed to perform it," saith the one ; " it was not difficult," rejoineth the other, "ergo he could not fail." "He was ordered to try again," the gentleman of the press proceecleth; "lie was ordered to mount, and not to try again," the Court asserteth. " Shortly after, he was sent for," the Petition; " twenty-four hours after," the Inquiry. " He was privately examined," the Public Instructor; " there was an Ad- jutant and a Sergeant-Major present," the Commissioners. " Major Wyndham broke out into a strain of gross abuse," the Dispatch; "it does not appear that he broke out into a strain of gross abuse," the General Officers.
The remaining comments are in the same style and spirit. The Petition says, in one case, that five minutes, and in another, that two hours elapsed; and the Court, which admits that undue pre- cipitation was used, carefully corrects these statements, by sub- stitutino.e " an hour and a half," and " four hours." The Petition calls the punishment "a most cruel one,"—as every feeling and thinking being, who has not been in the habit of ordering such punishments, will call a hundred lashes. On this, the Court, with becoming gravity, remark, that the punishment (of two hundred lashes) was not carried into effect with cruelty, and that only one half of it was executed !
One of the remarks on an assertion in SOMERVILLE'S letter, we Must own, has entirely puzzled us. SOMERVILLE says— "I was then dismissed, with these words, 'But, my lad, you are now where you will repent of it !' " • On which the Court remark-- . " Somerville alone states that the five last words were used, and even in Ttkese his evidence is unsupported by any other testimony; of the other words 'no proof was offered."
The first expression," Somerville alone states," &c., would seem !to insinuate that somebody else gave a statement respecting the 'first seven words ; yet we are told, no proof was offered of them, and Itbia at the moment also that the letter in proof of them is quoted. The Court, in its eagerness to justify Major W YNDHAM, is not ,content with repelling the accusations made against him ; it must suppose accusations, for the purpose of refuting them. In SOMER- AripAc's letter, this expression wears-- •
"After being taken down and remanded to the hospital."
Saith the Court- " If this was meant as an insinuation that he was taken down from ex- haustion, it is opposed to the proofs adduced of the remission having resulted from the consideration of his being a recruit."
One of the arguments against Major WYNDHAM, used by SOMER- VILLE, was drawn from the fact of that officer's having harangued the troops, not on the disobedience of orders, but on the correspond- ence with the newspaper. He asks very naturally and per- tinently-- " Why did Major Wyndham, if I was punished for disobedience of orders, comment on the political affair, and never at all advert to that for which I was tried and punished ? "
On this question—which is an important one, and for that rea- son, we suppose, passed over in the finding of the Court—the fol- lowing remark is made : "It is by no means unusual, nor does it appear to the Court improper, for a commanding officer to address his men when assembled on such an occasion, more particularly as it was reported in Birmingham, at that very time, that several of Major Wyndham's men had joined the Political Unions, and would not act against the mob ; under these circumstances, and while the troops were liable to be called out every hour, Major Wyndham might properly take the op- portunity of the first parade to recommend strongly to them to keep themselves unconnected with politics, and to encourage them to do their duty."
We cannot say what is usual on such an occasion ; and we rather incline to the opinion that the Court, notwithstanding its confidence of assertion, does not know much more on the subject than our- selves, inasmuch as the occasion was one of which our military history, for the last hundred and fifty years at least, has offered too few examples to enable any one to pronounce upon the usual. prac- tice. We koow what inference would be drawn were a Judge, in trying a man for an assault, to waive all allusion to breaking of heads, and to dwell exclusively on the damnable sin of snaring pheasants. On the whole, we do not think the public will be either disap- pointed or surprised at the result of this inquiry. As far as their satisfaction is concerned, the matter has ended precisely where it began. They expected nothing else.