HC Deb 18 March 1819 vol 39 cc1044-67
Sir M. W. Ridley

rose, in consequence of the notice which he had already given, to move an Address to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, praying that he would be graciously pleased to give directions for a reduction in the number of Junior Lords of the Admiralty. He was sensible of the peculiar difficulty of the task he had undertaken. It was with great diffidence that he at any time ventured to address the House; but on the present occasion more particularly he felt diffident of his ability to arrest their attention, because he was aware, that it was scarcely in his power to throw any additional light on a subject which had already been so thoroughly discussed. He was cheered however by the consciousness that he was performing a public duty, and he trusted, that in the importance of the question itself the House would forget the inadequacy of the individual by whom it was brought under their consideration. He confessed that he had almost flattered himself he should be prevented from finding any necessity for the performance of this task. Recollecting the opinions delivered in the House of Commons at the time when he had formerly taken the liberty to introduce this subject, recollecting that he was oh that occasion supported by as numerous a minority as ever divided on a question of that nature, he really had hoped that the sentiments expressed in the House, and echoed by the public from one end of the kingdom to the other, would have induced his majesty's ministers to embrace the opportunity which lately presented itself to them, of advising their royal master to do an act of grace and liberality by withholding any appointment to fill up the vacancy which had recently occurred. As far as he was personally concerned in the question, he should have had no wish to press it, had he not considered it a duty imperative on him to do so in consequence of the neglect of his majesty's government to comply with the general feeling on the subject. And here he must say, that he thought there had been something of precipitation, not to say of indelicacy, in hurrying the appointment to which he had alluded pending the discussion of the subject. He gave notice of his motion the moment the new writ was moved, and with whatever confidence his majesty's ministers might reckon on the result of the decision of the House on that evening, he conceived that it would have shown but a proper deference to the House to wait until that result was ascertained. When the subject was last under consideration the noble lord opposite had endeavoured, and too successfully endeavoured, to persuade the House to reject his (sir M. W. Ridley's) motion, principally on this ground, namely, that the question was likely soon to be submitted to the investigation of the committee of finance, and, therefore, that if the House were to come to any decision upon it, they would prejudge a question on which it was the business of the committee of finance to pronounce. For his part, he (sir M. W. Ridley) owned he was one of those who regretted the departure in the House of Commons from the good old system of taking upon themselves the responsibility of considering subjects of importance; and who lamented to see that responsibility almost invariably cast on the shoulders of a committee. When, however, the House had confided the investigation of such a subject to a committee, he was as little inclined as any man to differ from or find fault with the opinion entertained by it. But on the present occasion he felt it to be indispensable to request the attention of the House to that part of the report of the committee of finance which related to the subject under discussion. It was very curious to observe the variation of opinion expressed by the noble lord at one time in the House and at another in the committee above stairs. The noble lord (he repeated) said, that it would be expedient for the House to defer the consideration of the motion which he had made, because it related to a subject on which the committee of finance would be called to report.—That was said by the noble lord in the month of February. In the month of June the committee made its report. The first paragraph in that report which related to the subject of the motion was to the following effect, viz—"That the consideration of the number and salaries of the lords commissioners of the admiralty seemed to the committee to be withdrawn from the scope of its investigation, by the late vote of the House of Commons." Thus it appeared that the noble lord, when in the House, argued that the number of the lords of the Admiralty ought not to be reduced, because the subject was about to undergo the examination of the committee of finance, and that in the committee of finance the noble lord argued, as appeared by the report (in the formation of which the noble lord had, no doubt, sufficient influence), that the committee had not the power to investigate the subject, because by a late vote the House of Commons had determined not to entertain it. This was a sample of the value of the report made by the committee of finance in l8l7, and of the little weight which it ought to have with the House, if brought forward to-night to assist in the opposition to his present motion. But, even supposing the report of the committee of 1817 had been hostile to the continuance of the existing number of junior lords of the Admiralty, there was reason to conclude, from analogy, that the recommendation of that committee would not have been attended to by his majesty's ministers. He begged to call the recollection of the House to what had taken place with respect to the commissioners of the navy board. In the report made by the committee of finance on the subject of the commissioners of the navy board, it was specifically stated, that the committee was far from being satisfied that so many commissioners of the navy board were necessary in time of peace,—that the difficulties which appeared to exist in the way of a reduction in their number seemed to the committee to be merely technical (these difficulties, it might be necessary to state to the House, were started by the commissioners themselves, and other officers of the Admiralty, on their examination) and that the committee recommended a careful examination of the subject and great caution and hesitation before any future vacancies should be filled up. It was scarcely to be expected that his majesty's ministers should have availed themselves of the only opportunity that offered for proceeding in the direct teeth of the recommendation of the committee. As to the individual who had been in consequence appointed a commissioner of the navy board, if the most respectable character and good qualities of every description were a bar to any objection to the proceeding, he was free to confess that that individual was as likely as any man to form an exception to a general rule of remark. But it was not the character or respectability of any man which could justify his appointment to the office. Nothing but the expediency to the public service of any appointment could be its justification. So much for the effect which the report of the committee of finance of 1817 had on the proceedings of his majesty's ministers. He now wished to direct the attention of the House to the report of a committee deserving of still greater attention; he meant the report of the committee of 1797. That committee was composed of individuals, of whom the country could boast of no persons possessing greater knowledge of business, or more inclined to do every thing that was calculated to benefit the public service. In looking over the names of the members of the committee of 1797, there would be found very few individuals who would be disposed to recommend any reduction of public establishments, the tendency of which might impede or embarrass the discharge of great public duties. Among them were Mr. Abbot (now lord Colchester), Mr. Dudley Ryder (now earl of Harrowby), the late Mr. H. Thornton (a name associated with recollections of the most honourable description), Mr. Yorke, and a number of other persons of a character to inspire perfect confidence in the recommendation which they might offer to parliament. He would read to the House a passage from the report of that committee, as he founded upon it his main argument for the adoption of the motion which he was about to submit to them. It was to the following effect:—"That the committee thought it their duty to observe, that the number of commissioners of the board of Admiralty, being six, exclusively of the first lord, was not likely to be susceptible of reduction during the war (the committee here alluded to a correspondence with the Admiralty board, in which the latter represented, that in time of war it would not be possible to carry on the business of that department of the public service with a smaller number), but that they thought it worthy of consideration, whether in the event of the restoration of peace such a reduction of business might not ensue, as would render practicable a reduction of the number of commissioners, and other persons employed in the Admiralty department, consistently with the advantage of the public service." Such was the report of the committee of 1797. Undoubtedly, his majesty's ministers had recently acted in conformity to a part of it.—They had dismissed a number of "persons employed in the Admiralty department." These they had considered no longer useful or necessary. They had dismissed a great many clerks, reducing the number on the establishment from sixty, he believed, to thirty. Such persons were sent to the right about without hesitation. But the moment a word was said of the uselessness of any of the commissioners, and of the expediency of reducing their number, the feelings of his majesty's ministers were strongly excited. They experienced a reluctance to act which they could not overcome. Patronage, influence, and power, being on one side, and love of economy and retrenchment on the other, the latter soon gave way; and the junior lords of the Admiralty continued to hold their places, and to take their salaries, and to do nothing, in spite of the report of the committee of 1797. He would now endeavour to prove to the House, that such a diminution of the business of the Admiralty department had taken place, as that which was contemplated in the report of the committee of 1797, as forming, whenever it might occur, a just ground for diminishing the number of commissioners of the board of Admiralty. In the first place, there could scarcely be a greater proof of the diminution of business, than the dismissal of so many clerks. Another proof was to be found in the reduction of the number of public board days at the Admiralty. He spoke in the presence of those who would correct him if he was in error; but he understood that formerly five of those boards were held every week, and that now the number was reduced to three. This afforded ample proof of the diminution of business. But there were farther and still less questionable proofs. In 1797, when the report of the committee to which he had so often alluded was made, the number of men voted by the House of Commons for the service of the navy for the year was 120,000. From 1797 to 1814, the numbers annually voted varied from 120,000 to 140,000. In 1797, the number of ships of war of every description in commission exceeded a thousand. What was the present condition of our navy? The number of seamen voted for the service of the present year was 20,000. The number of ships of war of every kind in commission was 137; viz. sail of the line (not half officered and manned) 24; frigates 45; sloops of war and brigs 57; king's yachts, 11; making in the whole 137. Thus it appeared, that for 20,000 men and 137 ships, the same number of junior lords of the Admiralty was deemed requisite, as was necessary when 1,000 ships were in commission and 120,000 seamen annually voted! To one of these conclusions it was impossible not to come—either that in time of war there had been too few commissioners to transact the business of the Admiralty, or that in time of peace there were too many. As, during the war, no complaint had been made of an insufficient number, the inference was, that the number was fully competent to transact the business of the navy in time of war; and the farther inference was, that the same number must be much greater than was necessary to transact the business of the navy in time of peace. He was perfectly aware of the exertions made by the Admiralty to reduce the expenditure of the navy, and he did not wish to detract from the merits of those exertions. In fact, he was even disposed to find fault with the reduction which had taken place as carried beyond what was justified by sound policy and national interest. It was deeply to be regretted that, in a country like Great Britain—essentially maritime—that force was not kept up, at least to a certain extent, on which we ought to rely as our sole defence. It was deeply to be regretted that our navy should be suffered to fall into such a state of dilapidation, while a preference was shown to another description of service, which, highly as he valued it, and carefully as he wished to abstain from speaking of it with the slightest disrespect, or from throwing on it the least reflection, he could not without pain see maintained in its present strength, at a time when the navy was so reduced, that on any sudden emergency, it would be extremely difficult to put it again on that footing which was indispensable to the security and honour of the country.—On the unexpected breaking out of any waif, it would be very difficult to re-assemble the large body of seamen who had been dispersed. But if two of the junior lords of the Admiralty were dismissed, and a necessity should arise for their re-appointment, not five minutes need be lost in seeking for persons qualified (at least in their own opinion) for the situation. The noble lord opposite need but hold up his finger, and he would have plenty of candidates for the offices as fit for them as the individuals by whom they were at present occupied. There might be great danger therefore to the country, in the dispersion of so many of her brave seamen, but there could be no danger to the establishment of the board of Admiralty, in the dismissal of two of the junior lords. The former could not be recovered without difficulty, the latter could be replaced with perfect ease. While he was on the subject of the reductions made by the board of Admiralty, he begged to mention one parties far reduction, which, he confessed, he thought might have been spared, in deference to the general feeling now so happily established, of the incalculable advantages which the community would derive from the diffusion of moral and religious instruction among all classes—he meant the reduction of chaplains in the navy. Again9t that reduction a remonstrance had been presented to the lords of the Admiralty. The answer to that remonstrance he held in his hand. It stated that a chaplain should be appointed to each of the three principal ports to do the harbour duty; and that those three chaplains should be selected from the oldest chaplains on the list. Nothing certainly could be more proper than such an arrangement; and it was fairly to be expected that no attempt would be made, in any instance, to counteract so just a determination. Nevertheless, if he had not been misinformed, and he had reason to believe his authority for the assertion was very good, the appointment had taken place at Portsmouth of a gentleman to the situa- tion of chaplain, who although no doubt a very respectable man, had no claim to that appointment on the ground of public service, and, at the time of the appointment, was not even on the list of chaplains of the navy. On what grounds this transaction had taken place he would not pretend to say, but if the information which he had received was correct, those who looked at the proceedings at Portsmouth during the last general election, might see in those proceedings the reasons of the appointment of the individual in question, and might be induced to imagine that it was the result of the influence which he possessed and exerted on that occasion, and not of any considerations of a public nature. He mentioned this circumstance in aid of his position, that his majesty's government were perfectly disposed to retrench every thing connected with the navy, or admiralty, except when patronage or influence was threatened to be touched. If he found that he had been erroneously informed respecting the circumstance, he would instantly acknowledge it; but at present he believed what he had stated to be the fact. Such as he had described being the reduced state of the navy, he appealed to the House and to the country, what use there could be in maintaining the war establishment of secretaries and lords, merely to receive salaries, and to assist one another in transacting the diminished business of the office.—The hon. secretary of the Admiralty smiled at this. He was glad to see the hon. gentleman's face again, and must say, that he came in most opportunely and fortunately to furnish the House with information on the present question. As to the hon. baronet near him, whose situation was implicated in the proceeding before this House, he presumed that that hon. baronet would not vote on the question; but that having communicated such facts as he might wish to put the House in possession of, he would withdraw before their ultimate decision, Perhaps, however,; the hon. baronet's vote was the only thing he was prepared to give. It was not necessary for him, to trespass much longer on the time of the House, but he wished briefly to notice a. few objections that had been formerly made to his proposition. In the first place it had been said that the present constitution of the board of admiralty was no novelty for that it had always consisted of the same number of members. In the time of Henry 8th a board of admiralty and navy was appointed to assist in conducting the business of the navy. Generally speaking, the cases to which their attention was directed, were similar to those under the management of the present lords. He would state again, with increased confidence, what he had stated when the question was formerly discussed, that from that time to the present there were various instances in which the board of Admiralty did not consist of six members, but of fewer than six. The statements which he was about to make were from authority on which he could perfectly depend. It appeared that in 1702 (the beginning of the reign of queen Anne), four commissioners were appointed as a council to assist in the superintendence of naval affairs. In the course of the next year the number was changed to five. In 1706 they were again four. In 1714 the number of commissioners was five. In 1717 the number of commissioners was five. In 1775, under the Administration of lord Sandwich, the number of commissioners was five. But he could prove, and he would prove, that in later times six junior lords were not considered necessary to the discharge of the duties of the board of admiralty. In 1789,; when the earl of Chatham was at the head of the board of Admiralty, there were six junior lords. But in the course of the year one of them died, who was not replaced for a twelvemonth; during which twelvemonth, therefore, the business, of the board of Admiralty was transacted by five junior lords. The hon. secretary of the Admiralty had asserted, during the former debate on this subject, that al though there might have been occasional vacancies, the same sums had always been voted by parliament for the board of Admiralty. Certainly he (sir M. W. Ridley) had not access to so many documents as the hon. gentleman had. But he had examined what he deemed to be pretty good authority, namely, the Journals of the House, and he found that until a few years ago there was no specific description of them in the navy estimates. They were regularly voted under the head of Contingencies of the Admiralty. There was, therefore, no proof on the subject. Another objection which had been started, to his proposition was, the nature of the commission by which the board of Admiralty was constituted, and, which ordered that all documents should be signed by three or more members. Now, in the first place, that difficulty might be got over by an address to the Prince Regent, stating, that in the opinion of the House the concurrence of two or more lords in signing any documents would be sufficient But the fact was, that notwithstanding the provision in the commission requiring that documents should be signed by three or more lords, general documents and orders were in fact seldom signed by more than one of the naval lords, and the secretary. It had also been said that a board ought to consist of three lords, in order that in the event of a difference of opinion, a decision might take place. But in the event of a difference of opinion in a board composed of two lords, might not a reference be made to the first lord? And, indeed, would any man believe it possible, that even at present the first lord of the Admiralty—an individual holding one of the highest stations in the cabinet, charged with a most weighty responsibility—would, on any matter of importance, depute that responsibility to any of the junior lords of the Admiralty, running the risk of the consequences, the extent of which, in a maritime country, such as Great Britain, no one could foresee? Would the noble lord now at the head of the Admiralty trust to the hon. baronet opposite, however high his character, or to any other junior lord, in any matter of serious moment? Such a supposition could not for an instant be entertained. It was not the practice—it could not be the practice.—The junior lords might transact the general business; but it was well known that on questions of a grave nature they followed the advice, and signed the papers recommended to them by the first lord. Again, it had been contended in favour of maintaining the present number of junior lords, that it was necessary to send boards occasionally to the various ports for purposes of investigation. But really in time of peace, when we were not constructing a navy, such an ambulatory board did not appear to be necessary; and at any rate it was quite absurd to send on such business individuals (and constituted as the Admiralty board now was, such individuals must be sent) so little acquainted with nautical matters, that they scarcely knew a seventy-four from a mail coach. It was not such persons that could carry on any inquiry with advantage to the public; but individuals who were well acquainted with the subject to be examined, and whose reports would be as valuable as those of the ignorant would be useless, if not mischievous. He knew it was a question on which wiser heads than his had differed—whether or not it was proper or desirable that a naval man should be at the head of the board of Admiralty. He would not presume to express any opinion on that point; but this he would venture to say, that in the present reduced amount of the business which the board of Admiralty had to transact, two sea lords, one lay lord, and the first lord, would be sufficient.—One lay lord would unquestionably be useful. The early habits of a sea life were not such as to qualify many of those who followed it from acquitting themselves in that House with satisfaction to themselves; and it was therefore expedient that there should be one lay lord to transact the necessary parliamentary business, to move the navy estimates, &c. &c. Such was the view which he took of the constitution that was desirable of the board of Admiralty. Such were the grounds on which he ventured to press his motion on the House. Insignificant as was the saving which that motion went to effect—insignificant as was the number of offices which it tended to abolish—the question was important in another view. It was important as laying a ground for cutting off, wherever it could be cut off, every situation merely of power and patronage, which was unavailable to the service of the country, and which threw an unnecessary burthen on the people. If it did little else, it would establish the principle of retrenchment and economy; and if ever there was a time when the smallest saving ought not to be neglected, it was the present, when the people were loaded with a weight of taxation which they bore with a degree of patience which entitled them to every effort that could be made for their relief. It would well become the House of Commons, as the guardians of the public purse, to place themselves in the situation of the people—destitute of every advantage that property or influence could bestow, and to devise such measures as might diminish the evils they endured. He implored the House, therefore, to consider well before they went to a vote on the present occasion. They were pledged to carry into effect every retrenchment that was compatible with a due regard to the public service. Hoping that the proposition which he was about to make could not be proved to be in my way de- trimental to the public interest or security, he looked with confidence to the concurrence of a majority of the House in the Resolution which he should have the honour to move, namely:—"Thst an humble Address be presented to His Royal Highness the Prince Regent, to represent to His Royal Highness, That His Majesty's faithful Commons, relying upon the gracious disposition of his Royal Highness to concur in all such measures of economy and retrenchment as may be consistent with the security of the Country, humbly pray, That His Royal Highness would be graciously pleased to give directions, that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty may be reduced to such numbers as the exigencies of the public service may actually require in a time of profound peace."

Sir G. Cockburn

took the earliest opportunity of repelling the personal attack made upon him by the hon. baronet.

Sir M. W. Ridley

disclaimed any intention of making a personal attack on the gallant admiral.

Sir G. Cockburn

said, that the hon. baronet had spoken of the patronage used by a member of the board of Admiralty for electioneering purposes at Portsmouth. He had the honour to represent that borough, and he, therefore, indignantly repelled that charge, as he would any charge made against his conduct either in or out of that House. He had a plain tale to state on the subject. As soon as the reductions which had taken place in the navy were determined upon by the Admiralty board, it was decided that the three senior chaplains of the navy should be appointed chaplains to the three ports—the senior to Portsmouth, the second to Plymouth, and the third to Chatham. As soon as that decision was taken, orders were issued for a return of the names of the three senior chaplains. In the answer to those orders, the first name was that of Mr. Cuthbert. Now, was it his (sir G. Cock-burn's) duty, because he was a member for Portsmouth, to say that that gentleman should not be appointed the chaplain there? Such was the simple fact on which the hon. baronet had made so many extraordinary remarks. As he was on his legs, he would say a few words on the motion before the House. The hon. baronet founded that motion principally on the great reduction that had taken place in the business of the board of Ad- miralty. With humble submission to the hon. baronet, he must say, that be had much exaggerated, if not entirely misstated, the real case. The business of the board was not diminished so much as from a cursory view might be supposed. During war, the number of ships in commission were divided into ten or twelve stations (he did not recollect which), at each of which stations there was a commander in chief, whose business it was to carry on all the minor details of the service; and to whom the rest of the officers, addressed their communications. It was, therefore, only with those ten or twelve admirals that the board of Admiralty had to correspond. But now that all the ships were paid off there were above 8,000 naval officers distributed over the face of the globe, with all of whom the board of Admiralty was in correspondence. Even if any one of those officers changed his residence, it necessarily became the subject of communication by letter. For, differing in that respect from the officers of the army, the naval officers were liable to be instantly called on to serve in cases of emergency, and it was indispensable therefore that the board of Admiralty should know where they all were; and be in habits of correspondence with them. Some of them frequently applied also for the remedy of grievances which they conceived they suffered. Others solicited promotion. A vast proportion of them also, whose active minds had been in constant excitation during war, could not sink at once into idleness. Many of these, very creditably to themselves, endeavoured to improve every thing connected with their own profession and service. The consequence was, that plans for improving hulls, guns, ropes, rigging, astronomical instruments, &c. poured into the Admiralty. Many of those plans well deserved consideration, and by whom could they be considered but by the lords of the Admiralty? This with the other necessary business of the Admiralty generally gave them enough to do. The business of the navy, and consequently the business of the board of Admiralty, during peace, was greater than many members might suppose. It was necessary to enforce the due observance of treaties with other powers; to afford protection to the commerce of the country, which extended to every part of the world; and it was the business of the Admiralty to see that while due protection was afforded to that commerce, the rights of other nations should not be injured. The hon. baronet had alluded to the visits of the civil commissioners to the outports, and inferred that, from their ignorance of sea affairs, these visits could be attended with little advantage. But supposing professional men only were to be sent to these outports, he would put a question to the House, and ask whether any of the members ever heard of two professional people agreeing in any one point? If they had, they must have been more fortunate than himself. He would appeal to his gallant friend over against him for the truth of this. Now, supposing two of the naval commissioners sent down to one of the outports, and they differed in opinion, as it was most probable they would do, it would be necessary, in that case, to send to the board of Admiralty, and thus the subject of difference would be decided away from the spot. But this inconvenience would not occur if a civil commissioner were added to the two professional men, between whom he could decide. The hon. baronet had remarked, that the board days were altered, and he inferred from this a diminution of business. The contrary of this, however, was the case, for the alteration was owing to the business having accumulated, and with a view to get through the consideration of the plans and other business which had increased on their hands, it was agreed on, that instead of the former plan, one day should be given to correspondence, and another to the consideration of the various plans and proposals submitted to them; and by resorting to this mode they found that they could get on better. With respect to himself, he could say most conscientiously, that from the day of his appointment up to the present time, he had not had any cessation from business, he had sometimes not had an hour's walk for ten days in succession. With respect to his lay colleagues, they also did their duty. He did not mean to say that they all came so early, or remained to so late an hour as himself, but he could not go on without them. He did not feel that he could take on himself the responsibility of his situation without them. He considered three sea-officers, and three civil commissioners, as absolutely necessary to constitute a proper board of Admiralty. If the numbers were different, this would glare rise to the differences of opinion to which he had already alluded. In order to get on well, it was always necessary to have a decided majority one way or other. He hoped there was nothing improper in what he had said; for he trusted they would be able to show the gentlemen on the other side a decided majority on this question. Of this he was sure—that if the House were to weigh dispassionately the arguments for and against the present motion, it must be rejected by a large majority. Speaking from the experience which he had had during the twelve months he had belonged to the board, he would say he was sure that any alteration in its present constitution would be injurious to the interests of the country. The board had now remained 100 years as it was, and having lasted so long, the House ought to weigh the matter well before they attacked what had carried the country so successfully through all its dangers and difficulties. There was one thing which it might be necessary to state to the House. In time of war ships were patched up any way, and sent out to sea. But in time of peace it was the bounden duty of the Admiralty to put the fleet in the best possible condition, to be in complete readiness for any renewal of hostilities. He had lately surveyed our ships of war, and he would venture to say that our ships were in a condition at this moment in which they had never been before. The utmost pains had been taken to preserve them from that pernicious disease the dry rot; and this, he would at least venture to say, in the means of guarding against this mischief, great improvements had been made. These were points which necessarily took up much time. Besides the duty of superintending the navy, the Admiralty had others of a civil nature to perform in which the lay lords were more useful than professional men. They had the superintendence and distribution of large sums of money; and many important claims to adjust, of which he confessed he knew but little. Having said thus much, he had only to show the necessity for having: three sea lords and three civil lords. Including the first lord of the Admiralty, the number of members of the board was certainly seven; but then the first lord was a cabinet minister, and having in that capacity a vast deal of business to attend to, his time was necessarily too much taken up with it to allow him to give much attendance at the Admiralty board. And then he would put it to the House, taking the number at seven, whether they thought seven persons could go on the year through, without any of them being sick, or any of them taking any recreation? One of his colleagues was at present sick.—This was a thing for which they ought to be prepared. And there was the recommendation of the board as at present constituted, that it had remained as it was for 100 years—indeed, if he was to rely on the information he had received, it had remained so a much longer period. He had to beg pardon of the House for having taken up so much of their time. He certainly should not have risen had it not been for the observation made with respect to the Portsmouth election, but he was glad to find he had not been alluded to personally by the hon. baronet.

Sir I. Coffin

, after bearing testimony to the assiduity with which his gallant friend who had just spoken (as well as the other naval members of the Admiralty board) discharged his duty, said, he should like to know whether a lay commissioner, who had lately retired, had ever discharged any one duty connected with his office, or signed one paper, except the receipt for his salary? Of another of the lay lords he could venture to affirm nearly, the same thing. For his part, he begged never to hear of any such lords. In former times the commissioners, who Were not naval men, were at least men of business But now what was the board composed of? Some of the members were men who never knew any thing of business—young gentlemen who were seen, riding in Hyde Park from morning to night. When lord Howick was at the head of the Admiralty, he was never out of it from morning to night; and his gallant friend opposite was also most assiduous in his attendance. But what was done by the lay commissioners? Did they not throw all the fatigue on the three naval lords?

Sir G. Cockburn

had to thank the gallant admiral for his favourable opinion; but in answer to what had fallen from him respecting a noble lord, late one of the commissioners, he could assure him that that noble lord took his turn at the Admiralty, and indeed was there very constantly.

Sir M. W. Ridley

said, that he would not have hazarded the assertion respecting the chaplains of the navy, had not the information which he received on the subject been confirmed by the most respectable authority. He had taken the utmost pains to get at the truth.

Mr. Calcraft

said, he rose to make some answer to what he dared to say the gentlemen on the opposite side of the House thought a very important speech. It would not be doing justice to the gallant admiral, if he did not allow that this character applied to a considerable part of it; but he thought at the same time that this speech of the gallant admiral proved too much. That speech went to prove that the number of commissioners was too great in time of war. According to the gallant admiral, in time of war, the fleets were divided into ten or twelve squadrons, and all that the Admiralty board had to do then, was to correspond with the commanding officer of each squadron. But now, in time of peace, the commissioners had to correspond with tight or ten thousand officers scattered over all parts of the globe; and to examine into a great variety of plans; and all this could not possibly be got through without the assistance of the two junior lords. His speech reminded him very much of that which was made by an hon. gentleman (Mr. Groker) a year or two ago, when it was proposed to abolish the office of paymaster of widows' pensions. Then the House, for the first time, heard of the great importance of the office, and of the laborious duties which the person who filled it had to discharge; the necessity of keeping up a correspondence with sixteen hundred widows. Surely the gallant admiral would hardly seriously contend that there was as much business for the board, now that such a diminution had taken place in the number of ship, commanders, and men employed, as there was in time of war. The true defence against this motion, was that which was stated when the subject was last before the House, namely that it was necessary to keep up the offices now proposed to be reduced, as a school of education for young persons who meant to dedicate themselves to politics, who could not be trained to business without these means. This was the true defence, and not that which the gallant admiral had set up; for it was impossible that the business of the Admiralty could bear any proportion now, to what it was during was. The way he was inclined to deal with the proposition was this. He would say the patronage of the Crown was already too great, and whenever they could diminish that influence by diminishing the number of offices which did not aid the carrying on the business of the country, it was their duty to do so. It was the duty of the House to diminish, whenever they could, the number of useless offices, and to restrict that influence which was too great, and which was overbalancing the popular branch of this country. Would hon. gentlemen say, that with all the patronage possessed by the Crown, there was any danger in reducing these two offices, of reducing the influence of the Crown too low? That the crown should have due weight and influence, he was ready to allow; but having already more than its due share of influence, he should not be doing his duty, if he did not vote for the reduction of these two offices. With the places at present in its gift, there was no danger that the influence of the Crown could be reduced too low; while it was grating to the feelings of the people to see their opinions neglected and their interests overlooked by the persevering encouragement of unnecessary expenditure. And he would say further, that parliament and government, by holding out retrenchment to the country, and abstaining from it in a case of this sort, would only show, in the most decided manner, the insincerity of their professions. It was true, that the saving to be gained by this reduction was but insignificant in amount; but it was not the amount, but the principle that he was bound to contend for; and if the House were not determined to overlook all opportunities of retrenchment, and merely wished to talk of it, they must support the proposition of his hon. friend. Ministers were always ready to agree in general terms as to the necessity of economy; but then on all occasions when a proposition came forward, "it was not a fit time to deal with it," and so it was with respect to the proposition of his hon. friend. What had the government done in the way of retrenchment in the navy His hon. friend had thought they had gone too far in their reductions. But what was the nature of their reductions? They had reduced the valuable, the useful, and the effective parts of the establishment; but whenever it was proposed to make any reductions that might nave the effect of diminishing their own power, weight, and influence in that Mouse, there they stopt—they would never go farther. Nothing was an object with them, but the preservation of their interest in that House. He had no doubt that much business was dispatched by the gallant admiral, who had stated that he had hardly time to take half an hour's walk in the course of the day. He had not the good fortune to be acquainted with the colleagues of the gallant admiral, but he had had the good fortune to meet some of the lay lords occasionally in his walks; and he thought he might venture to say from what he had seen of them, that there was no appearance their health was likely to be injured from want of either walking or riding. This he thought he might say without any reflection on the noble marquis, who had lately retired front office. But they were told that the noble marquis in that school of statesmen to which he belonged, had at length become extremely useful—that he had signed a great many papers, besides the receipts for his salary: and yet, after be had become so useful, he was unmoved for another. This was hardly dealing fairly with the noble marquis. After having been properly educated—affer qualifying himself to sign papers—he was turned adrift to make way for an hon. baronet, whom, without any disparagement, he might pronounce his inferior, as he had not yet received the benefit of an Admiralty education. They took a young man into the board, and after fitting him for the discharge of the arduous duties belonging to it, they dismissed him, and took another in his place. Really this was most shameless conduct towards the noble marquis—there was no sort of apology for it. But the grounds on which ministers went were obvious enough. They wanted the support which offices of this description could give them in parliament, and this was the reason why they kept them up.—This was the sort of argument which prevailed with them, and the House would know what was due to it. For to talk of the increased business of the Admiralty was really too much,—Surely, if there were only six lords when we had 1,200 ships and 140,000 seamen, and when the whole world was against us, a smaller number of lords must be sufficient when we had only 127 vessels, and were at peace with all the world. The gallant admiral had anticipated a large majority on the present question; but he trusted he would find that the majority would not be greater than what ministers had obtained on many important occasions in the course of the present session; and till he saw it by the vote, he could not bring himself to believe that the House would give a demonstration to the country that they had nothing more than a mouth economy.

Mr. Graham

wished shortly to state the reasons why he should vote for the motion of his hon. friend. He agreed with his hon. friend, who had just sat down, as to the real grounds on which ministers were determined to keep up offices like those now proposed to be reduced. Anxious as he was to support every measure of practical economy, and convinced that there was no other remedy by which we could recruit our exhausted resources or impart new vigour to the state; yet he would still be cautious how he approached the ancient fabric of the constitution, or diminished the just patronage of the Crown. But it was his firm conviction, that so far from there being any danger of diminishing the just patronage of the Crown, the influence of the Crown was already overgrown. He did not wish to excite a cry out of the House, against the House, or against public men, nor would he allow himself to be guided in any part of his conduct by popular clamour. But when he considered the extended influence of the Crown, and when he considered the numerous army which was placed at the command of that Crown, when he considered the influence arising from the collection of so large a' revenue, he could only come to the conclusion, that the power of the Crown was too great and ought to be diminished; and he thought therefore that every motion which like the present had for its object to reduce within proper limits the influence of the government ought to be adopted. Though the gallant admiral had endeavoured to prove that the offices in question, were indispensably necessary to discharge the business of the Admiralty, yet he must say, that he, for one, could not comprehend why the board should have more to do how in time of peace, than when we were at War with the whole world. The hon. baronet who brought forward the present motion, had proved by figures the truth of many of his positrons. In time of war, the only business which the junior lords had to discharge was, the occasional signature of their names to papers; and he really could not see how their offices could be rendered more laborious by peace. If they were to draw any inference as to the amount of business of this description from the manner in which some of these junior lords had been employed, it would rather seem that the peace had given them a considerable relaxation. He could not conceive how any honourable man, who saw how useless he must be in such an office, could bring himself, from mercenary motives, to benefit himself at the expense of the public. In point of economy, it was true, little would be gained by the proposed reduction; but at a time when the people of this country were over burthened with taxes, there was no saving, however insignificant in amount which was not of importance. But the reason why ministers wished to retain all such offices was obvious enough. By the disposal of a multitude of such offices only could a majority of votes in that House be secured by an administration that had lost the confidence of the country which wished to see these offices diminished. He wished an end to be put to this system—he wished to see a government which trusted rather to public opinion as its strength than to the power of giving away such offices. He wished to see an administration relying honestly on public opinion for its support, and not one placed by the Crown beyond the reach of public opinion and defying it. Believing, as he did, that all patronage which so tended to place an administration beyond the reach of public opinion was mischievous and ought to be diminished, whenever it could be done without its being prejudicial to the public business of the country, and without danger to the fair ascendancy of the Crown, he could not but give his vote in favour of the motion of the hon. baronet which had his full and entire concurrence.

Mr. Cumming

said, that till he heard the speech of the gallant admiral, he was in favour of the motion: now he would vote against it, as he conceived from that speech, that the number of the commissioners was hot greater than the business required.

Lard John Russell

said, be could not help thinking that the hon. member who had just sat down, and who had declared that he would vote against the motion, had quite misunderstood the real grounds on which the present reduction was opposed. He must say, that the grounds on which the hon. gentleman had declared he should vote against the present motion, were not only untenable in themselves, but were also totally inconsistent with those which had been already stated to the House by ministers themselves. The real grounds were what had been stated by them, and re-stated by his hon. friend, namely, that it was necessary to have certain offices of the description of those now proposed to be reduced, for the education of young men who devoted themselves to politics. It was with no little astonishment, therefore, that he heard the gallant admiral opposite urge the increased business of the Admiralty as the ground for retaining these offices. The gallant admiral had stated that applications were now made to the board of Admiralty from officers in all parts of the world—that they had submitted to them not only plans respecting improvements in the structure and management of ships, but communications even respecting the science of astronomy. If so much knowledge was necessary for the office of lay commissioner of the board of Admiralty, he would put it to the gallant admiral, whether the noble lord who lately went out of office, and another hon. gentleman who now filled the office, among their other qualifications, were able to settle these difficult and disputed points in ship-building and astronomy? But the gallant admiral did not stop here—these lay lords must in giving orders for the protection of British commerce, take special care that these orders be not inconsistent with the rights of nations—that is, they must not only possess all the sciences, but in addition be learned in the civil law—must have their Grotius and Puffendorff by heart. There was another reason urged by the gallant admiral, which might bean excellent sea reason perhaps; though perfectly incomprehensible to him. According to the gallant admiral, they could not send two professional men any where without their disagreeing. This was certainly singular, that a knowledge of any subject was sure to produce a difference of opinion among those who possessed that knowledge—but the remedy of the gallant admiral was still more singular. It was, to send to the out-ports along with the professional lords another lord, who was quite ignorant of the subject—to at- tach, as it were, a dead carcass to a living body—to yoke knowledge and ignorance together. It had been said by Mr. Fox, that a certain person never spoke so well on a subject as when he knew nothing about it. In like manner the gallant admiral seemed to think that to be ignorant of a subject was the best qualification for forming a proper judgment respecting it. These were singular arguments, and the grounds of the gallant admiral were, he must say, as new as they were extraordinary. He wished to make another observation. He was sorry to see from the resistance to the motion of his hon. friend that although on other subjects there appeared a disposition to concede, ministers remained wholly unchanged with respect to their opposition to retrenchment. Last session, when an inquiry into the affairs of the Bank was proposed, they resisted it as quite unnecessary—when an inquiry into the state of our criminal law was proposed, they declared that it would disturb the whole of the relations of the country; and yet they were now ready to inquire into the affairs of the Bank—they were now ready to inquire into the criminal law. But this favourable versatility was carried no further. They resisted with all their might a proposition which went to diminish their own immediate patronage. What was this but saying that they were ready to inquire into the affairs of the Bank, though they said such inquiry was unnecessary—that they were ready to inquire into the state of the criminal law, though three or four years ago they resisted every proposal of the kind, as dangerous in the highest degree; but that they would not diminish their patronage by the reduction of one useless office, because an administration which did not rest on public opinion, could not go on without such offices—that they were ready to consent to measures dangerous to the best interests of the country, but that they would consent to nothing, however useful, however necessary to the country, which in the least endangered their own places, and that their sole dependence was upon that patronage, the destruction of which was demanded by so many important national considerations.

Mr. Long Wellesley

said, that there were certain great political principles which ought to regulate the opinions of every public man. His hon. friend opposite had appealed to one of those principles in saying that he would vote for the present mo- tion, because the influence of the Crown was increasing. He differed from his hon. friend on this point. He was as fully impressed as any man with the necessity of economy; but he thought that there were offices, among which this was one, that gave influence and power, which were necessary in conducting the government, into whatever hands it fell; whether into the hands of his hon. friends about him, or into those of the hon. gentlemen on the other side. In maintaining such places, he did not think that the influence of the Crown was dangerously high, and he would by no means consent to diminish it. He meant no disrespect, but if he were asked to say what he thought of the conduct of the gentlemen of the opposition on this occasion, he would declare, that, looking at the question fairly and dispassionately, he could only come to this conclusion, that they really were sacrificing their public duty at the shrine of popularity.

The House divided: Ayes, 164. Noes, 245. Majority against the motion, 81.

List of the Minority.
Archdall, M. Crompton, Sam.
Allan, J. H. Churchill, lord C. S.
Althorp, lord Crespigny, sir W. De
Anson, hon. G. Calthorpe, hon. F.
Aubrey, sir J. Carhampton, earl of
Astell, Wm. Denison, W.
Baring, sir T. Dickinson, W.
Barnett, James Douglas, hon. F. S.
Becher, W. W. Duncannon, lord
Bennet, hon. H. G. Dundas, C
Benyon, Benj. Deerhurst, lord
Bernal, Ralph Davenport, Davies
Bernard, lord, Ellice, Edward
Birch, Jos. Euston, earl of
Brand, hon. T. Fazakerley, N.
Browne, D. Fergusson, sir R. C.
Brougham, Henry Fitzgerald, lord W.
Burroughs, sir W. Fleming, D.
Byng, G. Foley, T.
Buxton, T. F. Folkestone, lord.
Burton, R. C. Frankland, R.
Bankes, H. Forbes, C.
Bastard, E. P. Graham, J. R. G.
Burrell, sir C. Grattan, H.
Calvert, C. Grenfell, Pascoe
Calvert, N. Griffiths, J. W.
Carew, R. S. Guise, sir W.
Cavendish H. Gurney, R.H.
Clifford, capt. Gaskell, Benj.
Clifton, lord Harcourt, John
Coffin, sir I. Hamilton, lord A.
Colburne, N. R. Harvey, D. W.
Coke, T. W. Hill, lord A.
Coke. T. W. jun. Honeywood, W. P.
Concannon, Lucius Hornby, E.
Curwen, J.C. Howard, lord H. M.
Howorth, H. Price, Robert
Hughes, W. L. Pryse, Pryse
Hume, Joseph Ricardo, D.
Hurst, Robert Rancliffe, lord
Hutchinson, hon. C. Robarts, W. T.
Holdsworth, T. Robarts, A.
Kennedy, T. F. Rowley, sir W.
Lamb, hon. W. Russell, lord W.
Lamb, hon. G. Russell, lord G. W.
Langton, W. G. Russell, lord John
Latouche, John Russell, R. G.
Lemon, sir W. Rumbold, C. E.
Longman, G. Rickford, W.
Lloyd, J. M. Sefton, earl of
Lyttleton, hon. W. Stuart, lord James
Lubbock, sir John Stanley, lord
Lowndes, W. S. Smyth, J. H.
Leake, W. Symonds, T. P.
Maule, hon. W. Sebright, sir John
Macleod, Rodk. Sinclair, G.
Macdonald, James Smith, Sam.
Mackintosh, sir J. Smith, hon. H.
Martin, J. Smith, William
Milbank, Mark Tavistock, marq.
Merest, J. W. D. Taylor, C. V.
Mills, Geo. Taylor, M. A.
Monck, sir C. Thorp, alderman
Moore, Peter Tierney, right hon. G.
Morpeth, lord Walpole, hon. G.
Neville, hon. R. Waithman, alderman
Newport, sir J. Webb, Ed.
Newman, R. W. Western, C. C.
North, Dudley Whitbread, Wm.
Nugent, lord Wilkins, W.
O'Callaghan, James Williams, W.
Ord, W. Williams, Owen.
Osborne, lord F. Wilson, sir R.
Palmer, col. Wood, alderman
Palmer, C. F. White, Luke
Pares, Thomas Wright, J. A.
Parnell, W. Wilberforce, W.
Pierse, H. Webster, sir G.
Philips, George TELLERS.
Philips, G. R. Calcraft, John
Phillipps, C. March. Ridley, sir M. W.
Piggott, sir A. PAIRED OFF.
Power, Richard Shelly, sir J.
Powlett, hon. W. Maitland, Mr.
Proby, hon. capt.