Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

plied in lieu; and in August 1795, on account of a scarcity of bread, the quantity of that article was diminished for a lime, but the deficiency was made up by additional pulse or vegetables. Upon any complaint of consequence, a visitation was made by a Commissioner of the Board, to the fpot where the complaint arose, for the sake of inquiring into it, and if well founded it was instantly redressed.

As an additional check upon the agents and contractors, among the rules which were hung up within the prison, in the language of the prisoners, was a scheme of the rations of provisions, which were subject to the inspection of a committee appointed by the prisoners, and selected from themselves. A contractor at Fal. mouth, who had failed in his engagement, was sentenced to be imprisoned six months in the county gaol, and to be fined 300l.

The agents and surgeons at all the different prisons were fur. nished with instructions, from which they were in no instance to deviate, without applying to the Sick and Hurt Board. In addition to the prison surgeons, others were selected by the Board from among the prisoners; and tea, sugar, fruit, and porter, having been added to the diet for sick British seamen in our hospitals, the same articles were added to the diet for fick French prisoners. In the prisons each man was allowed a hammock, paillasse, bolfter, and blanket or coverlet. The straw of the paillalle and bolster was changed as often as occasion required. The bedding in the hospitals was the same as in the hospital for British seamen.

In December 1795, Mr. Charretié, a Frenchman, who had resided some years in this country, was appointed by the French government their agent for the care of French prisoners. He was furnished by the Transport Board with the means of inquiring into the state of the prisons, was suffered to visit them whenever he thought fit, and was provided with lists of the persons confined in them as often as he required it.

On the ist of January 1796, the care of prisoners in health was transferred to the Transport Board, the superintendance of the hospitals ftill remaining under the Sick and Hurt Board. The same regulations were observed, and the same allowance of provisions adopted, as had been formerly. Nothing particular appears to have occurred relative to the prisoners during that year. In January 1797, orders were given to captains superintending prison-fhips at Portsmouth and Plymouth, to visit them often, as well as the prisons, to hear all complaints, and to report once a week to the Admiralty. In March, the Board stated to Mr. Charretié, that the French prisoners were in want of clothing '( which it had been agreed was to be provided by France), but said that the Board, from motives of humanity, had supplied a considerable number with clothes, and requested him to urge his government to repay that expense. No answer seems to Vol. VII.

baye

lame hospitals led to anuary

in Januhips at Portion to hear a'March, the Bo want of cloth ibu

3 U

have been returned to this application, nor does it appear that any clothing was provided by France. In June, Mr. Charrelié visited Portchester, where, on account of the mutiny which then prevailed in the British fleet, and a suspicion that the mutineers meant to put arms into the hands of the prisoners, who betrayed a strong disposition to disturbance and insurrection, it was thought necessary to enforce strider discipline. It was found requisite for this end to prohibit the market which had been allowed to be held, for the purpose of putting it in the power of the prisoners, by disposing of various articles which they manufactured, to sup. ply themselves with vegetables and other little comforts at their own expense. It must be observed, that they had their usual allowance of provisions; but some complaints arose, from impositions in the price of bread and milk, which were clandestinely brought into the prison by the turnkeys, and sold. These complaints proved trivial and of no importance.

He next went to Plymouth, where the only complaint he heard was of the quality of some of the provisions ; but this was redressed by application to Captain Lane, the superintendant of prisoners.

Your Committee beg to observe, that Mr. Charretié states as a general observation, that the provisions furnished were inferior to the price paid by Government, and that at Falmouth; particularly, they were eighty per cent. below the contract price; but he produces no proof or document whatever to confirm so extraordinary an assertion, and differs so entirely from the other evidence before the Committee, as not to be entiiled to any credit.

At Falmouth, he states the treatment of the prisoners to have been negligent, and the bread made with bad corn, mixed with chaff.In consequence of his complaint, Captain Lane was sent to investigate the matter, and reported to the Board, that the contractor had sometimes given bread of inferior quality, but never mixed with chaff:--that whenever a just complaint had been made, the articles were always returned upon the contractor's hands, to his loss.--In a case of greater importance he had been profecuted. As the agent or-his clerk was always present at the delivery of provisions, and the same regulation of a committee of inspectors existed there as well as at other prisons, there is no rea. son to suppose that the abuse often took place. Your Committee beg to observe, that the Falmouth prisons being thought to be too far from the superintendance of the Transport Board, the prifoners were removed from thence about the end of the year 1797.

Mr. Charretić then went to Stapleton prison, near Bristol, where he heard other complaints, which, upon investigation, proved to be but trifling quarrels, and were soon fertled by a Commissioner sent down there,

It is worthy of remark, that in the whole course of the tar, the complaints which have been made have proceeded from the French prisoners alone ; neither the Dutch nor Spanish prisoners, who were subject precisely to the same regulations, having ever Thown the least discontent at the mode of treatment.

About August 1797, the Transport Board again proposed to Mr. Charretié, that each nation should clothe its own countrymen, and afterwards requested that a sum of money, which had been remitted from France, might be appropriated to supplying the French prisoners with clothes, of which they were much in need. The Board even offered to supply them at the contract prices, for his bills upon Hamburgh, or any neutral town.Their offer was declined on account of some objections in the colour and quality of the articles.

On the 4th of September a revolution in France took place, and since that period it feems to have been the object of the French government to irritate the minds of their countrymen against Great Britain, by misrepresentations of the treatment which the prisoners underwent in this country. A paragraph appeared in the Portillon de Calais of Otober 16, giving a false account of the situation of the prisoners in Portchester Castle : this was contradicted by the agent at that place, as well as by a certificate from the English and French surgeons employed there ; and Mr. Charretié himself, being called upon by the Transport Board to refute this calumny, acknowledged the falsehood and impropriety of the paragraph.

Mr. Charretié, however, appears to have wished to second these views of the French government; for in November he wrote to the Commission of Exchange at Paris, stating, that at Norman Cross prison, out of nine thousand prisoners confined there, three thousand were fick for want of clothes, and other necessaries. This representation produced a strong effect in the public mind in France against this country ; but upon the British agent inquiring. into the truth of the statement, Mr. Charretié was induced to contradict his own assertion.-From the evidence of Captain George, First Coininissioner of the Transport Board, and the certificates of the surgeons at Norman Cross, it appears that the prison at that place was not capable of containing even fix thousand prisoners; that there were at that time about five thousand two hundred; and that the sick then amounted to one hundred and ninety-four, including twenty-four nurses, and never had amounted to above two hundred and fixty. It must be observed, that Mr. Charretié had the means of knowing all this, and that, previous to sending this account to France, he did not apply to the Board on the subject, though he was actually in London at the time. He acknowledged that he was furnished with a list of

3 U 2

persons

dnety-four id that the fire, at that if con

pessons confined at each prison, whenever he required it, so that he might easily have ascertained the falsehood of his affertion.

Your Committee see, with much concern, the newspapers of this country lending themselves to the views of the enemy. They must recall the attention of the House to the paragraph which appeared in the Courier of January 20, relative to the treatment of the prisoners at Liverpool, which produced an inveiligation by the mayor and magistrates of that town, and a report, in the highest degree satisfactory to the feelings of the persons concerned. It was with the same object of irritating the French against this na. tion, that the papers were stuck up in different towns of France, as appears in evidence before your Committee, asserting that the prisoners in England were fed with dead cats and dogs, and that when a person at Nantes, who was lately returned from imprisonment in England, contradicted this account, he was ordered to hold his tongue, and not dispute the assertion of his government.

The Britih government, being aware of the misrepresentations and groundless caluunnies concerning the treatment of French prisoners in England, which were industriously propagated in France; and having received the most afflicting accounts of the accumulated hardships and sufferings of its own countrymen in the French prisons ; taking also into consideration the circumstances of Mr. Charretié being allowed without restraint to visit the prin. cipal depôts of prisoners in England, while Mr. Swinburne, fo far from having access to his own countrymen in France, was adually, confined to one small town; seeing no end also to the evasive conduct of the French government in respect to the exchange of Sir Sidney Smith, was induced, in October 1797, to make to the French government a proposal, well calculated, in the opinion of your Committee, for remedying all the above evils; viz. That in future each nation should take upon itself the care of clothing, vi&tualling, and providing medical attendance for the prisoners of its own country: this, it was added, would prevent the possibility of any fufpicion of ill treatment on either fide, It was further signified, that if the French returned no answer to this proposal, and persisted in their mode of treatment of Sir Sidney Smith (as will be explained in the third head of this Report), his Majesty would feel himself under the disagreeable necessity of reducing the allowance hitherto granted to all French prisoners (which was equal to that of British soldiers) to the limits Itrictly necessary for their subsistence; even that, it was ftated, would be preferable to what too many of his subje&ts had in the prisons of France..

No answer was given to this humane proposal: a second application was therefore made to the French government ; but that being also attended with no effect, on the ist of December the sations of provisions of the French prisoners were reduced. The

daily allowance wound of peale, of peafe, half a poun

quarter of 2 pe jllued in lied for each mand effect;

daily allowance was one pound of bread, half a pound of beef, one quarter of a pound of pease, one third of an ounce of falt. When greens were illued in lieu of pease, half a pound of cabbage, fit for boiling, was allowed for each man.

This severity seems to have producer a good effect; for the French government were at last induced to accept the proposal ; and Mr. Gallois, who came to England soon afterwards as succeffor to Mr. Charretié, was accompanied by Mr. Nettement, to whose special care the superintendance of the prisoners was entrusted, the expense being defrayed by France. It appears from evidence, that the same sub-agents are employed (except in one instance), and in general the same contractors who had been employed under the management of the British government. The daily allowance of provisions at present is one quart of beer, twenty-fix ounces of bread, eight ounces of beef, two ounces of cheese, or one ounce and one third of good salt butter, one third of an ounce of salt, half a pint of peare, or half a pound of vegetables: each prisoner is allowed monthly half a pound of white soap, and three quarters of a pound of tobacco in the leaf.

It is but justice to the Commissioners of the Transport Board to say, that they have shown every disposition to co-operate in alleviating the condition of the prisoners, and that since this new arrangement has taken place, they have allowed Mr. Nettement the use of the bedding and clothes at the several prisons, and they have rendered him every allistance in the execution of his office.

In entering upon the second head of their inquiry, namely, the treatment of British prisoners of war in France, your Commit. tee feel themselves under difficulties which may render this part of their Report less satisfactory than what they have before stated.

These difficulties arise, filt, from the obstacles which the French government has always interposed to prevent the British agent from visiting the prisons, and which of course have prevented lion from obtaining information on the subject of the treatment of the prisoners so accurately as might be wilhed: secondly, from the reluctance which, from personal motives, some of the evidence examined by your Committee have shown to have their names brough for ward: and, thirdly, from the very delicate Gruation of those actually in captivity, from whom alone the most perfect testimony could have been derived, and who, if they remained unexchanged, must expect to have their fufferings increased in consequence of any complaints which they might prefer, or to have them relieved upon terms incompatible with their feelings as British subjects.

But even with these imperfect means of information, your Committee are convinced, that sufficient will appear to prove the sigous with which their countrymen have been treated, and the

uniform

« AnteriorContinuar »