HC Deb 17 March 1818 vol 37 cc1157-62
Mr. Brogden

brought up the report of the Committee of Supply to which the Navy Estimates were referred. On the question, that the report be received,

Mr. Forbes

said, he wished to call the attention of the House and of his majesty's ministers to the situation of the officers of the navy. When they received pensions for wounds, those pensions were not granted on the same footing as to wounded officers of the army. It was understood by the order in council applicable to this subject, that both services were to be placed on the same footing. He had lately seen many instances of officers of the navy receiving for the same wounds considerably less than officers of correspondent rank in the army. He could sec no ground for this distinction. It was a sufficient compliment to the army to say that it was equal to the navy. A post captain in the navy, who ranked with a colonel in the army received only 250l. while the other received 300l. a year. He wished also to allude to the case of pursers clerks, some of whom after eleven years service, had been turned adrift without a sixpence. The whole of the persons in this situation amounted to 30. He complained also of the alteration which had been adopted in the case of pursers. All the ships had been taken from the pursers, and they had been put on a very inadequate half-pay. He hoped these matters would be taken into consideration in the proper quarter, and that the country would not show itself ungrateful for the services rendered to it by the navy.

Mr. Croker

said, that nothing could be more mischievous to the navy than the views of the hon. gentleman, if carried into effect. This was not the first time the hon. gentleman had introduced this subject to the attention of the House; and it was not now the first or second or third time he had been answered. The hon. gentleman ought to know something of the state of the two services, and the different advantages enjoyed by each, before he recommended any change with regard to them. It was true a lieutenant colonel had 6d. a day more half—pay than a young post-captain of the same rank. But then the post captains went on rising without interruption till they were equal to full colonels, whereas a lieutenant-colonel remained where he was. For instance, in 1814, there were 200 post captains who ranked as lieutenant-colonels. At that time there were also 1,100 lieutenant colonels. There was not one of these post captains who had not risen to a rank equal to that of full colonel, whereas there was not one of the 1,100 lieutenant-colonels, who was not still lieutenant-colonel. The hon. gentleman complained that all the ships had been taken from the pursers. But how many of them could have ships? Not above 400. There were 900 in all; and so to give ships to 400 of them, he would reduce the 500 other to actual starvation. Pursers were brought up generally to the pen and ink line, and, in port, not one of them would live on board their respective vessels; so that the pay, which was only about 70l. a year, if they did not remain on board, would really be less than the present half-pay allowance. Not one of them would make the exchange. The old plan of rewarding pursers, while it profited them but little, was expensive to the country. The lowest rate of a purser's half-pay was 3s. a day, which was more than the most of those who had ships before received; the higher rates were 4 and 5 shillings a day. There were no complaints from any one purser of this arrangement. But with this liberality the Admiralty had made a provision for economy, and had determined that no more pursers should be made till they were reduced to the number of those who would have ships under the old system.—The hon. gentleman had next mentioned midshipmen who had been promoted to be officers called purser's clerks. This statement was a bundle of blunders, and if he had not known the gentleman from whom it came, he should have attributed it to one of his own countrymen. A midshipman could not be promoted to be a clerk, for the situation of clerk was inferior to that of midshipman. Secondly, there was no such office as purser's clerk. There were, indeed, persons denominated captains' clerks, who were not officers, and who had nothing to do with pursers—but who kept the captain's accounts, were appointed and might be dismissed by him, and were the private servants of the captains, except that an allowance was made for them by the public. It was true that, as they were the only persons in civil employ connected with ships, it was usual to select the pursers from the most deserving of them; but they could have no more claim to half-pay than the amanuensis of any member of that House. He complained of the hon. gentleman, that with a zeal meritorious in its origin, but mischievous in its effect, he chose to attack a board of Admiralty, which had laboured with anxiety, diligence, and success, for the good of the service—which, in five or six years, had done more for the benefit of the navy, and thence of the nation, than ever had been done in twenty-five or twenty-six years before. He did not mean by that to blame former administrations; he knew they were all, without excepting even his political opponents, equally zealous to promote the comfort of the navy.

Mr. Money

said, the object of his hon. friend seemed to have been misapprehended. It was not his intention, he believed, to throw any imputation upon the conduct of the Admiralty, but simply to submit the fact to the notice of the House, that a great difference did exist in the rate of providing for the officers of the army and navy. The services of the navy, and the glorious deeds achieved by its means, were in a special manner entitled to the gratitude of this country; for without our navy, the triumphs of our army had not been so signal and complete. Without the co-operation of our navy, the exertions of Wellington and his victorious troops would not have been attended with such brilliant and decisive success. When he considered the many and signal triumphs they had obtained, the long and arduous blockades they had sustained for years together, it was impossible for him to admit that the rate of compensation to which they were in justice entitled should be inferior to that of the army. The bravery of British seamen was proverbial, and he need only instance the conduct of his hon. friend the member for Glamorgan, who with a handful of men on board his ship, performed actions last war which were sufficient to immortalize him. The bombardment of Algiers was also a striking proof of the bravery of British seamen, and ought to induce the House to keep a strict and watchful eye to their interests. He hoped, therefore, that the situation of naval officers, of all classes, would be attended to, and that they would meet with that protection from their country which their conduct so richly merited.

Mr. Huskisson

said, that the hon. gentleman had spoken of our navy as if that House had heard then, for the first time, of their gallant deeds—as if their services had been altogether forgotten. Had he been, however, at the pains to inform himself, he might have been soon satisfied, that the country had neither been insensible to the services of our gallant seamen, nor unmindful of making due provision for their comforts. He would likewise have found, that no such distinction existed in the rate of compensation to the army and navy as he had been led to think; or, if it did, that it was easily to be accounted for, from the nature and circumstances of the different services. In the army, the opportunities which an officer had of improving his fortune by prize-money did not often occur; and when they did occur, it was for the most part but to an inconsiderable amount. In the navy such opportunities were frequent, and often to a very great amount. The officers of the navy were sensible of these advantages, and never looked to any farther compensation. On the late triumph at Algiers, to which the hon. gentleman had alluded, the sum of 100,000l. had been distributed among those who had been engaged in that service, besides the honours and distinctions conferred upon those who had signalized themselves by their conduct and valour. He contended, that nothing could be more false in argument, nor more mischievous in its consequences, than the practice of forming comparisons between the different services, and maintaining unfounded distinctions. It had been said, that the late war had been barren in prizes; but he believed he was warranted in saying, that no war in the annals of this country had been snore productive. The capture of Banda alone had afforded to many the opportunity of acquiring the means of independence, comfort, and wealth. The system of remunerating for wounds or loss of limbs was said to be different in the navy from what it was in the army. This was true; but the difference was entirely in favour of the navy. For in the latter, pensions were given for wounds which were not equivalent to loss of limb, while in the army, unless the wounds received were fully equal to loss of limb, it generally happened that no pensions whatever were given. It often happened in the navy, that a man received 250l. for wounds, for which in the army nothing would have been given.

Mr. Forbes

observed, that the hon. secretary to the Admiralty might have spared the patience of the House and his own lungs in the greater part of what he had said, for it was already before the House and the public. He had read the most part of it in a pamphlet intituled "Observations on the Navy,"' purporting to come from "A Friend to the Navy." He did not know who the writer was, but perhaps the hon. secretary was well acquainted with him. He would not attempt to follow the hon. secretary in the speech he had made to the House. The hon. secretary must of course be better ac- quainted with those things than he was, as he was paid for knowing them. His object in making the observations he had made, was not for the purpose of obstructing the proposed grant, but of pointing out deserving men who were neglected; and as long as he had the honour of a seat in the House, he should not cease to reiterate the claims of those whose wounds and services entitled them to so much consideration. He would still maintain that the same attention was not paid to those who had claims from wounds received in the naval service, as was given to those who had been wounded in the army. This was a feeling which existed throughout every branch of the naval service, from the highest to the lowest rank.

Mr. Croker

admitted, that it was the hon. gentleman's right to make any observations he pleased upon the subject at any stage of the proceedings; but what he had complained of was, that the hon. gentleman had not made those remarks in a committee. He did not think it quite fair that the hon. gentleman should come with his second budget of grievances at a time when the details could not be so well entered into as they might have been in a former stage. Whenever the hon. member thought proper to bring forward these matters, he would be ready to give an account of them most satisfactory, if not to the hon. gentleman, at least to the House and the country.

The several Resolutions were then agreed to.

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