HC Deb 18 May 1809 vol 14 cc607-12
Mr. R. Ward

, in rising to address the house on this subject, moved, that the entry on the Journals respecting a motion to the same effect as the present be read. (Here the Clerk read from the Journals an account of the debate which ensued upon the motion for erecting a monument to capt. Faulkner, of the Blanche, frigate, who fell in action in the year 1795. Upon the ground of a claim from general services the motion was rejected; but upon being amended by stating his services as performed towards the islands of Martinique and Guadaloupe, it was agreed to). The hon. gent, said, that on this occasion he rose to move a great national honour to a great national hero. He trusted no one would impute to him any affectation of doing himself honour by coming forward as he did. With reluctance he undertook the task, and was only led to do so from the adventitious circumstances of situation. He felt it here necessary to call the attention of the house to the gallant services of capt. Hardinge. Though he was but a stripling in years, yet he was a veteran in achievements. His short career was marked by the most brilliant exploits, and in every service and upon every occasion he met with merited approbation from his commanders, He had served under that distinguished officer sir S. Smith, at the siege of Acre. He next served with capt. Miller, and was reserved by fate for more important services to his country at the time that brave officer was blown up in his vessel. The next situation in which capt. Hardinge would be found was the command of a gun-boat on the coast of Egypt, and here his peculiar merits acquired for him the reward of a gold medal. After this he was raised to the command of the Terror bomb, at the bombardment of Granville, on the coast of France. To his zeal and ability on this occasion sir J. Saumarez bore the most ample testimony in the report which he made of it. The vessel in which he served having been rendered unfit by the damages she received, capt. Hardinge was next promoted to the Scorpion sloop of war. In this vessel he acquired considerable fame by cutting out from a port on the coast of Holland the Atalanta gun-brig, a vessel of far superior force. This service was the more brilliant as it was performed by his boats only. And here it would be an act of injustice to pass over the merits of capt. Perry, who assisted in the enterprize, having put himself under the command of capt. Hardinge. The modesty of capt. Hardinge, in his account of this transaction, did not form the least worthy trait in it. But his commanding officer (lord Keith) did not however overlook the service performed, because it was modestly represented, and accordingly it would be found that in his dispatch on that occasion he gave full scope to the dictates of his feeling, in the representation which he made of the service performed by captains Hardinge and Perry. There was another circumstance in this transaction which the hon. gent, could not help mentioning. It seems that the Dutch captain having defended with conduct and valour his vessel to the last extremity, refused every proffer of safety which was made to him, and died like a hero in the discharge of his duty. Such was the assimilation of feeling, that the gallant capt. Hardinge could never mention this occurrence without bursting into tears. The subsequent, and unfortunately for his country, the last service performed by this brave officer, was when in command of the San Fiorenzo frigate, he was placed under the orders of sir Edward Pellew in the Indian seas, for the protection of our commerce in that quarter. The enemy had employed in those seas for a long time, a class of frigates whose object was not so much directed to special hostile encounters with the same description of force, as to a general system of commercial depredation. Of these frigates there was one (La Piedmoutaise) mounting fifty guns, and furnished with a complement of French sailors and Lascars, not less than 566. She was in fact the terror of those seas. In the month of March, 1808, the good fortune of capt. Hardinge brought him near this vessel, in his ship of a far inferior force, mounting no more than 38 guns, and manned with no more than 150 men. The action which ensued was not one in which either victory or death was the consequence of a moment, for it lasted three days. On the first day, in consequence of her damages, the ship under capt. Hardinge's command was obliged to fall back in order to repair. The Frenchman did the same, and took that occasion to sheer off". On other minds this circumstance may have operated far differently than it did on the mind of capt. Hardinge. After having refitted, he proceeded not out of the enemy's course, but again came up with and engaged him. The result of this action deprived the service of a most gallant and distinguished officer. The hon. gent. could not here, he said, neglect to pay the deserved tribute to the exertions of lieut. Dawson, who seconded with vigour and effect the operations of his lamented officer. The hon. gent, felt that the address he was now making was directed to an assembly composed of those who were acquainted with the acts by which a gratitude for and admiration of such acts were to be created in posterity. They were men who knew how to appreciate the incentives to casting off a life of luxurious ease, and embracing the rugged duties of a life devoted to the service. It was well known also what feelings were entertained on this head at periods of the remotest antiquity.—After having read the account of this last gallant exploit performed by capt. Hardinge, as transmitted officially by sir Edward Pellew, the hon. gent, called the attention of the house to the request mad* by sir J. Mackenzie, a man, who well knew how to estimate true glory and great achievements; that the inhabitants of Bombay would erect a monument to the gallant capt. Hardinge. He also noticed the letter of gen. Maitland, governor of Ceylon, which spoke in the strongest commendatory terms of the services performed by the fallen hero. Those testimonials must be highly pleasing to the friends of capt. Hardinge. Admiral Tyler stated his ardent wish that a monument should be erected to the memory of this distinguished officer. A great and illustrious commander (earl St. Vincent), in his letter on this occasion, broke out into most rapturous expressions on the bravery and conduct of so young a man. The hon. gent. felt it necessary to state what he did, as some dissent to his proposition might arise. He trusted, however, that if any dissent did take place, it would be only created by an adherence to the cold forms of office. It would be seen that capt. Faulkner was rewarded for a single action. It was not his wish by extending the grant of honours by any means to cheapen them.—The hon. gent, concluded by moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, praying that he would be graciously pleased to direct that a monument be erected in the cathedral church of St. Paul, London, to the memory of capt. George Nicholas Hardinge, of the San Fiorenzo frigate, as a reward for ihe services performed by him in the course of a short but gallant life, and particularly for the protection he afforded to the Indian trade, in successive Actions with a vessel of superior force, in the month, of March 1808; and his majesty's faithful Commons will make good the expellees attendant on the same."

Mr. Windham

felt himself under the necessity, however reluctantly, of opposing the motion; because, if once the principle were to grow into practice of voting a monument to every officer whose valour might lead to a loss of his life in actions with single ships or frigates, not only Would the claims upon the country become innumerable (such was the prominent valour of our naval officers), but the thing from its frequency would cease to be, what it now was, an honourable distinction, the very rarity of which constituted its chief value. This was not the kind of case in which the country had been accustomed to vote monuments; it was not that great and signal victory of vast national importance, by which the gratitude and the enthusiasm of the country were wound up to such a pitch, as in fact to run before the house in the wish of distinguishing the memory of the deceased.

Lord Castlereagh

said, that on occasions such as the present, it had been the invariable practice of parliament to vote its thanks to those who distinguished themselves in the service. There was a class of actions which he said was not at all inferior in importance to those of a general nature, he meant actions between individual vessels. There was no species of merit greater than that of individuals, on such occasions. In the present instance, death ensued to the individual, but it was death connected with victory, and met by the opposition of an inferior to a superior force. The principle of the present motion he should consider not only as fair, but extremely advantageous to the interests of the navy. Had it not been brought forward by his hon. friend, he would himself most eagerly have undertaken it.

Mr. Wilberforce

concurred in the original motion, and thought the country had no ground for disagreeable sensations, in the apprehension of such a consequence as that predicted by the right hon. gent.; namely, that if we were to vote too frequently distinctions of this sort, we were in danger of being overwhelmed with monuments to the brave, whose valour would call for such honourable distinction in death. On the contrary, he feared we were rather too niggardly of our honourable distinctions to the army and navy, and he only regretted that the plan for stablishing distinct orders of honour in the navy, which was arranged, digested, and every thing but adopted by his late right hon. friend (Mr. Pitt) previous to his death, was not now in operation.

Mr. W. Adam

followed upon the same side, and said, that it had been admitted that since the year 1760, there had been but four instances of the same service. Had captain Hardinge survived that glorious victory, his majesty no doubt would have made him an object of the royal favour: as he had fallen, that house ought not to refuse him the only mark of public gratitude, that they now could confer upon his memory.

Mr. Marryat

thought, that if they were to erect monuments to every heroic officer that fell in the service, they would have to raise buildings, in the first instance, to contain their monuments.

Mr. C. Wynn

professed as high a sense of the merits of captain Hardinge, as any gentlemen who heard him; but he thought it necessary to draw some line of distinction. Captain Cook had got no monument; captain Farmer, who was blown up in his ship, the Quebec, disdaining to quit his post, though inevitable death was the result, had got no monument. He could not agree to this motion, though at the same time he did not wish to give it a direct negative. He should therefore move the previous question.

Mr. Long

supported the original motion.

Mr. Curwen

thought it would be cruel to stop the practice in this particular case. The respect of the country to their memories was the only reward which the brave men who fell in its defence could receive.

Mr. W. Smith

did not conceive by the present vote, that the value of the honour would be at all diminished. He thought the monument ought to be voted, and that unanimously and honourably.

Admiral Markham

bore his testimony to the particular merits of captain Hardinge. After a few words from sir C. Pole, and Mr. Whitbread, the previous question was negatived without a division, and the vote for the monument was carried nem. con.