Captain Benjamin Beilby, a British army officer with the 11th Foot Regiment on Minorca, was court-martialed in September 1766. Beilby’s ‘crime’ was that he had been abused and insulted by another officer, Captain Robinson, but had done nothing about it. As a consequence Beilby was charged with:
“…having received from Captain Robinson language unbecoming of the character of an officer and a gentleman, without taking proper notice of it.”
According to witnesses Robinson had been taunting and abusing Beilby for some time, on one occasion being heard to call out:
“Is that the way you march your guard, you shitten dirty fellow? Is that the way you make your men slope their arms, you dirty dog?”
Beilby’s willingness to tolerate these grievous slurs outraged his fellow officers, perhaps more than the slurs themselves. Honour demanded that the insulted party confront Robinson and challenge him to a duel – but Beilby did nothing other than to write his abuser an angry letter.
Beilby was ostracised by his own colleagues, who refused to dine in the same mess as him. The court-martial found Beilby guilty of neglect and he was suspended from duty for one year. When records of the court-martial reached the Admiralty in London, however, it was immediately overturned. Captain Robinson was not court-martialed or sanctioned for his insults.