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Colonial Cases

Purefoy, 1787




Court Martial
14 February 1787
Source: The Times, 9 August, 1787

Kingston, St. Vincent's, Feb. 14th, 1787.
  In consequence of Ensign Purefoy, of the 66th Regiment, having sent a challenge to Major Roper, his commanding officer, a Court Martial was held this day, before William Augustus Cane, Judge-advocate.
  The circumstances of the case are:- That in the month of November last Major Roper went into the country to visit some friends, consequently the command of the regiment devolved on the  senior officer, Captain Hatton. That, on the major's return to the garrison, a few  months after, Captain Hatton intimated to him various complaints which he had received against Ensign Purefoy, particularly so far as related to his improper behaviour to Lieutenant Johnstone and daughter, the latter of whom he proposed to take into keeping: That upon the Major's  sending for the prisoner, and communicating to him these complaints, he refused to make any further reply than barely to mention :- "If any person had said any thing against him, let them be brought "face to face." Conceiving that this was very improper behaviour, he told the prisoner that he would withdraw his order for leave of absence to Europe, till he corrected his mode: That the prisoner indignantly observed - "Sir, do you say that I do not behave like a Gentleman?" -That, after much murmuring on the part of the prisoner, he offered to resign, which the Major refused, unless the prisoner would resign officially by letter, which he would consider. The prisoner then remarked - "What, Sir, will you not accept my resignation? Then I will give up my commission." The prisoner resigned next day accordingly, and demanded gentleman-like satisfaction from the Major. The prosecutor some time after left St. Vincent, and went to Grenada; and, upon his return, the deponent was informed by some officers and friends, that the prisoner had called hi m - "Coward! Scoundrel! And poltroon!"
  The prisoner, Ensign Purefoy, afterwards stated his defence, which was of considerable extent; after a reply by the prosecution, and a rejoinder by the prisoner, the Court was cleared on Friday morning, the 23d current, in order to pass sentence.    No less than three duels have been fought at St. Vincent's, in consequence of expressions used in giving evidence in the course of the above trial.
  Lieut. O-n-l, with Lieut. R-r.
  Lieut. Ll-d, with Ensign H-y.
  Lieut. LL-d, with Lieut. R--.
  Happily without further mischief, than a slight wound in Lieut. R-'s thigh, and a slighter one in Mr. H---'s arm.
  To prevent the further progress of these often fatal acts of resentment, the commanding officer at St. Vincent's has issued, in orders, a severe censure against all challengers, and their seconds, in that garrison.

Published by Centre for Comparative Law, History and Governance at Macquarie Law School