MAJOR COLIN CAMPBELL
Cashiered for the murder of Captain M'Kaarg, 1764
COLIN CAMPBELL was major-commandant of the hundredth regiment of foot when that corps was quartered in the island of Jersey, from whence it embarked for Marttinique. Among the officers in this regiment was Captain M'Kaarg, who had so far embezzled the money he received to pay his company, that the men were starving in the streets of St. Hillary, in Jersey, and was himself so greatly involved in debt, that he took methods to elude the payment of what he owed so unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, that the secretary at war acquainted Major Campbell, by letter, that, if he did not find means to satisfy his creditors, he should be obliged to lay his case before his majesty.
Upon receipt of this letter the major, with the advice of the commander-in-chief at Jersey, who had before sent to inform him that M'Kaarg's men were begging in the streets, took the payment of his company out of his hands.
This necessary step of his commander M'Kaarg, in his mind, resented, but he apparently lived with him upon amicable terms; and, when the troops were embarking at Jersey, his necessities became so pressing, that he could not proceed on his voyage without pecuniary assistance, which in vain he endeavoured to obtain from the paymaster and several other officers. He then applied to Major Campbell; and through him alone he was enabled to head his company on board the transports, without which he must have staid behind.
Generous actions we every day see ill requited in civil society. Do a good turn, and, unless you follow it up by acceding to extravagant demands, you will too often he treated with ingratitude. Resentment follows, and the donor is often impelled to violence upon the ingrate.
M'Kaarg aspersed the character of his benefactor; and the major resorted to unjustifiable resentment. He, however, first sent the following letter to the man whom he was assured had treated him with dishonour and ingratitude:--
'Sir, 'I am this moment informed that on some occasions you have taken liberties with my character unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. I desire an immediate and explicit answer, per bearer; and am, till then, 'Your humble servant, 'C. CAMPBELL.'
To this letter he received the following answer--
'Sir, 'I have just now received yours, and have taken no liberties with your character but what I am able to answer for. 'Your's, &c. 'J. M'KAARG'
The moment the major received this answer he went, with a bayonet by his side, and a drawn sword in his hand, to Captain M'Kaarg's tent; and his rashness was the cause of his disgrace. Hence let officers learn to moderate their passions, and to seek lawful reparation for injuries.
At the court-martial held on Major Campbell it was proved that, thus armed, he assailed the tent of Captain M'Kaarg, which he entered, and said to him, 'You have aspersed my character -- turn out.' The captain replied that 'he had no small sword.' Then the major ordered him to turn out as he was: a struggling then ensued, and they came out of the tent. Again they struggled, and both fell to the ground; in which M'Kaarg was run through the body. When both were down Major Campbell said, 'Beg your life, or you are a dead man;' to which the captain replied I do beg my life:' and then he exclaimed 'I am a dead man!' -- The major then got up, and ordered a surgeon to be sent for; but the wound proved mortal, and the captain soon expired.
This was the substance of the charge against Major Campbell. In his defence he attempted to prove that Captain M'Kaarg was armed, which the Court gave no credit to, pronouncing the following curious sentence:--
'The Court, on due consideration of the whole matter before them, are of opinion that Major Colin Campbell is guilty of the crime laid to his charge; but there not being a majority of voices sufficient to punish with death as required by the articles of war, the Court doth adjudge the said major-commandant Colin Campbell to be cashiered for the same; and it is the further opinion of the Court he is incapable of serving his majesty in any military employment whatever.'
We have called this a curious sentence, because, if there was not a majority of the Court sufficient to punish with death, how could there be a majority sufficient to find him guilty of a crime by which he became liable to suffer death? The law requires, in capital cases, that three-fourths of the members of a court-martial must agree in opinion to find the party guilty. This Court declares that it did find him guilty, but could not punish him equal to his offence. If three-fourths had found him guilty, they would surely have been sufficient to punish adequately to the guilt found; but, as three-fourths did not find him capitally guilty, the Court could not be competent to inflict any kind of punishment. On the contrary, upon the very face of their opinion and sentence, however guilty, in fact, ha might have been, he was entitled to an acquittal in point of law.
Major Campbell taking offence at the conduct, during this trial, of General Monkton, under whom the island of Martinique had been captured, brought the following charge against that gallant general, before a court-martial at the horse Guards, on the 14th of April, 1764:--
'For many wrongs and deliberate acts of oppression towards the said Cohn Campbell, when under his command, in the island of Martinique, in the year 1762, particularly by several acts of affront and indignity, both in the person of the said Colin Campbell, and the corps then under his command; and also, whilst a trial was pending on a charge exhibited against the said Colin Campbell before a general court martial, by discouraging his friends, intimidating his witnesses, and depriving him of the lawful means of defence, as well as by suppressing the proceedings of the said general court-martial from the Earl of Albemarle, lieutenant- general of his majesty's forces, under a pretence of the said proceedings having been transmitted to Great Britain, when, in truth, they were still in his own custody; and, furthermore, by a cruel confinement of the said Colin Campbell, who was then ill, in a noisome unhealthy prison, even though it was at that time known to the said Major-general Monkton that the sentence against the said Colin Campbell was not capital.'
The opinion of the Court on the trial of this victorious general was pronounced by the president in these words: 'The Court is of opinion that the charge and complaint of Colin Campbell, Esq. against Major-general Robert Monkton is altogether unsupported by evidence, and, in some points, extremely contradicted by the complainant's own witnesses, and doth hereby most honourably acquit the said Major-general Robert Monkton of the same, and every part thereof; and the Court is further of opinion that the said charge and complaint is groundless, malicious, and scandalous, in the highest degree; and tending not only to injure the said major- general's character, but to hurt the service in general, as it must greatly affect every officer, who may have the honour of commanding a body of his majesty's troops, when he reflects that his character and reputation are liable to he thus publicly attacked by a person who has been dismissed his majesty's service with ignominy.'