HC Deb 19 June 1823 vol 9 cc1079-102
Mr. Hume

said, that the motion, of which he had given notice, was a very important one, and he hoped that the motives which had induced him to bring it forward would not be misunderstood. It was not with British seamen that he would find fault: these he had always held in the highest estimation, and he hoped that nothing would occur to alter that good opinion of them. But he had no hesitation in saying, that since the commencement of the peace, the admiralty bad not used those powers with which they were vested, in the way that appeared to be most useful, either in promoting the interests of the country or the honour of the navy. He denied the most distant intention of casting any reflection upon the navy itself. That navy had been, and it always ought to be, the honour and glory of the country; and he hoped that the country would never forget, or fail to acknowledge, their gallant deeds. He looked upon the navy as the most important branch of our national defence: to it the country owed air its honour and glory; for the trophies of the army had been always the consequence of the triumphs of the navy. He held the characters of naval officers in the highest respect. He coupled with their names all that was gallant and manly; and he trusted that they would not look upon the present motion as in any way directed against them. He could have no feeling of hostility for such men. Nay, on the other hand, he wished to be considered their best friend. He wished that those who had really fought the battles of their country should get the honour and the reward due for such services, The conduct of the admiralty since the war had given great dissatisfaction; not only to the country, but to the officers of the navy themselves. Old and brave men, who had seen a great deal of service, and whose service and hardships in war entitled them to honour, had not met with that attention and reward which their merits deserved; for many officers who had entered the service long after the war, had been promoted over their heads. Now, he would contend, that if any thing was more degrading than another, or more hurtful to the feelings of a veteran officer, whether of the navy or the army, it was to see a junior, with perhaps he claim but family connection, put over his head—to see a youth removed and put over a man who had been his instructor and his commandant; nay, to see this very young man put in command over him, and raised two or three steps above him, sometimes in the very ship where he had served. If he (Mr. H.) were correct, in the instances he should state, they were an abuse of power on the part of the admiralty. If he was not correct in these, he should be very ready, on sufficient explanation and proof, to admit his error. The first fault he had to find with the admiralty was, that they had not, in time of peace, employed those officers, who, from the extent and importance of their services in war, had a fair claim for employment, but had employed young men in their stead; and not only in this, but they had failed also to give them their due share of the promotion which had taken place. From this it appeared, at least the people would be very apt to say, that they kept up the large establishment, and continued the promotions in the navy, not for the good of the country, but for the advantage of young men belonging to certain families. This ought not to be the case; the rewards of the navy, paid as they were out of the public money, ought not to be given to young and inexperienced men; but to those whose services had been of use to their country. He wished to see the British navy in the high commanding attitude it had assumed until of late years; and he had no hesitation in stating; that many old and able officers entertained great doubts, whether the course now pursued would furnish officers in time of need, capable of maintaining the power and honour of the country. On these accounts he did not hesitate to say, that the admiralty were not taking the proper course, that they had not employed the proper means for continuing to the navy that character, and consequent power, which it ought always to hold. If these charges were not supported by facts, they would of course fall to the ground, and he should be ready to withdraw his motion. But, entertaining these opinions, he would not do his duty, if he had not brought forward that motion.

If the expense of the navy had been necessarily great during the war, the public had a right to expect, that, with the termination of the war, the expense of the war would have, ceased. He was ready, very ready to admit that, the half-pay of. the navy must, after so long and extensive a war, be large, and he was convinced that there was not a man in the country, however much he might blame the want of economy in the government in other respects, but was of the same opinion. There was no disposition in the people to withhold a due reward for services; but it was only to those, however, who had really served their country, that the reward should be given. The finance committee had, in their report of 1816–17, calculated that the half-pay would decrease rapidly in time of peace: and it was the duty of the House to attend to the suggestions of that committee. At the close of the war, there was a large list of between 5,000 or 6,000 naval officers; and it was reasonably calculated, that, from the long and hard services to which many of them had been exposed, the expense of that department would be rapidly decreased. If the expectations which were then held out were not realized, the House had a right to inquire into the causes. In order to show that this had not been the case, he would point out what had been our situation in 1793; at the end of the war in 1816; and now, as to the number of officers—the number, at the close of the war, was necessarily large, on account of the great number of ships that had been in commission. In 1793, the number of officers stood as follows:—

Admirals 10
Vice-Admirals 19
Rear-Admirals 19
Captains 444
Commanders 160
Lieutenants 1409
Making a total of 2061 Officers.
In the year 1816, the numbers were,
Admirals 67
Vice-Admirals 68
Rear-Admirals 75
Captains 850
Commanders 803
Lieutenants 3994
Marking a total of 5857 Officers.
Now the estimate held out was, that these would be annually reduced about 3 or 4 per cent, and that thus, in the 7 years which had elapsed since 1816, there would have been a reduction of nearly one-third. He would take it, how* ever, at a fourth or a fifth. But instead of that proportion of reduction, there had not been a diminution of 1 per cent. The numbers on the list now were:—
Admirals 59
Vice-Admirals 64
Rear-Admirals 70
Captains 829
Commanders 814
Lieutenants 3720
Making a total of 5556 Officers
which was a reduction only of about 310, instead of being between 900 and 1,000. From 1816 to 1823, there had been 965 steps of promotion, including 513 first commissions. He would not object to the 44 post-captains who had been raised to admirals, or the admirals who had been promoted, for he felt convinced, that they had all served for 23 or 24 years, and of these there had been only a few promoted. There had been no fewer than 513 promotions of midshipmen to be lieutenants, although at the close of the war, there were 3,994 lieutenants in the service; and the object of thus promoting so many midshipmen was stated to be, to bring into the Service all those who were deserving,—to bring in all those who had claims for Service. This was so far well if it could be proved to have been the case; but it would require some better reasons than he knew to justify the large addition that had been made, of men who had no claims from service. Within the last 7 years, the higher promotions were as follows:—222 lieutenants had been raised to the rank of masters, and 125 masters and commanders posted. Such an increase in a period of peace, after the hopes that had been held out of reduction in the numbers, was not consistent. The country has been disappointed; but if promotions were to be made, they should have comprehended old and valuable officers, whose services entitled them to the preference. It was necessary here to anticipate an objection that had been made on a former occasion, and would most probably be re-introduced in the present discussion. It would be said, that these promotions were made on foreign service—that the admiralty had no direct interference with them—that they were essential to the well-being of the service, and were altogether free from that official influence and interest to which he (Mr. H.) was so decidedly averse. To meet this argument, he would state the extent to which promotions, exclusive of the admiralty authority, had really taken place; for he had moved, with a view to such exposition, for a return in detail of the officers who had been promoted by officers in command abroad within the last seven years. A reference to these documents would best explain the facts, and give the best refutation to their statement. He found that the number of promotions necessarily made by deaths and dismissals for the last seven years abroad, was, commanders 5, post-captains 6, lieutenants 45. That was the whole of the casualties on foreign service, and the extent of the patronage of admirals abroad; but there was another class of officers promoted, namely, those by flag-officers on striking their flag. As each command continued for three years, the opportunity, according to the custom of the service, was afforded of making, on the 13 flag stations, 13 commanders and 13 lieutenants. Making, then, the due allowance for the casualties by death and dismissal, and the flag promotions, the number of lieutenants promoted by the admiralty amounted to 432; of commanders, 180; and of post-captains, 120. It might be said, that such as were promoted on foreign service were out of the influence of the admiralty. The fact was not so; for with the exception of the cases mentioned, the promotions abroad were just as much under admiralty influence as those which took place in London: a list was forwarded by the admiralty to the commanding officer of each station, containing the names of officers who were sent out for promotion, and on a vacancy taking place by invaliding the first of that list, for the time being, the commanding officer must of necessity promote, subject to the approbation at home.

He thought the admiralty was bound to show why such an increase in promotion had, under the circumstances of the country, taken place in these 7 years, oft, profound peace. The misfortune was, that our number of naval officers was not necessarily proportioned to our number of vessels. In every other branch of service—in the army, for example—the power of promotion was limited to the number of regiments, and the vacancies that occurred. If there were ten regiments, it was impossible to promote a greater number of officers than the complement prescribed to these ten regiments required. A very contrary course existed in the administration of the naval service. Though there were only 300 ships; of, every rate (the 6 rates), it was at the discretion of the admiralty, at least in modern practice, to appoint as many commanders and captains, as they chose. The House was called upon, in his judg- ment, to affix some limits to a discretion which he had shown to have been so grossly abused, and hereafter likely to be improperly and expensively exercised. He would take the list of ships employed and in ordinary in 1823. He would allow the proper number of officers to every ship in the navy, in ordinary and afloat—he would officer the vessels upon the most liberal scale; he would allow 8 lieutenants to a first rate, 7 to a second, 6 to a third, 5 to a fourth, and so on. Over and above this, he would allow 50 lieutenants for guard and receiving ships—he would officer every vessel that could swim; and to do all this he would require only 244 captains, 147 commanders, and 1,538 lieutenants; whilst, at present, we had near 850 captains, more than 800 commanders, and 3,720 lieutenants; being a surplus, as regarded the lieutenants, of near 2,200.

He was bound to say that he had received from the admiralty every facility for his present motion; he still, however, con tended, that they held a dangerous discretion, and he thought the calculation he had just made, proved that that discretion should be limited. Passing by the effect on the officers superceded, let the House look at the expense—the mere cost—which these useless promotions had en tailed upon the country. In the year 1816, the whole amount of the navy half-pay, including superannuations and pensions, had been 1,137,308l., and the estimate of the present year was 1,079,536l.; being a decrease of 57,772l. in the seven years of peace to meet all those hopes of rapid reduction held out by the committee of finance in 1816–7. In fact, the expense of the promotions of the last seven years, allowing for the differences of pay, had amounted to more than 78,000l. a year. If we compared the number of ships in the six rates in the service in 1793, it would be found, that they were nearly as many as in 1816, although there were only 2,061 officers in the former year, and 5,868 in the latter. Was any promotion, he would ask, requisite with such a number of officers in the service? Let us see what had been the conduct of the admiralty after the American war. In the six years from 1784 to 1789, there had only been 160 promotions in the navy, whilst, in the six years from 1816 to 1821, there had been 797 promotions. With so many more officers in the service in 1816, than in 1784, how could this be defended?

And now he would consider the propriety of the promotions; that was, the discretion with which officers had been selected for promotion—a point of far more interest to the nation than the expense of their half pay. In such an inquiry it was not fair to dwell upon particular instances; and he believed that his list of cases, as it was pretty extensive, would also be found tolerably impartial. First, he had a list of 40 post-captains, who had been lieutenants at the close of the war, and had, consequently, gained two steps in time of peace—one step, he (Mr. H.) submitted, would have been quite sufficient for all their services performed. The gentleman at the head of the list, captain Fanshawe, was a lieutenant in 1813, and had been promoted as commander in 1815, passing over the heads of 2,610 lieutenants, and made post in 1816, over the heads of 770 commanders. The next was Houstoun Stewart, who was placed over the heads of 630 commanders, and who was posted on the 10th June, 1817. The third he should mention was the hon. G. Perceval, who had passed over the heads of 2,700 lieutenants, of 685 commanders, and been posted on the 7th Dec. 1818. The next was the hon. G. Gambier, who passed over the heads of 3,280 lieutenants, of 745 commanders, and posted the 4th of June, 1821. He begged the attention of the House more particularly to the two next cases; namely, that of lord H. F. Thynne, and the hon. F. Spencer. Lord H. F. Thynne was made a lieutenant the 27th Nov. 1817; a commander, in June, 1821, having passed over the heads of 3,588 lieutenants, and been posted in July, 1822, having passed over the heads of 755 commanders. And it should be remark, ed, that lord H. F. Thynne had never served one day as a commander. The hon. F. Spencer was appointed a lieutenant the 14th July, 1818; made a commander, in March, 1821, having passed over the heads of 3,642 licutenants; he was posted in August, 1822, having passed over the heads of 749 commanders. Captain Spencer was, he believed, prompted abroad; that was, according to the system of accommodation often so improperly practised of creating a vacancy when required, by getting the senior officers invalided. Against such a system, where a certificate of ill health was often given, where it was well known there was no ill health, the House was bound to set its face. The hon. member went on with a large list of instances, in which officers had been needlessly promoted to the rank of captain since the peace, and unfairly promoted, as regarded the claims of their fellows. He gave particular examples of supersession, in the case of captain Gambier of the Dauntless, who had been a midshipman at the close of the war, and whose first lieutenant, Mr. S. Jervois, was an elder lieutenant by five years than himself; the case of captain Maclean, of the Blossom, whose first lieutenant, W. G. Agar, had been 17 years a lieutenant; and the case of captain, the hon. F. Spencer, now commanding the Creole, and having two lieutenants under him, Mr. T. Phipps and Mr. W. Robertson, both of them lieutenants for years before their captain had gone to sea. Let the lords of the admiralty consider the mischief which these unfair promotions did to the service. Let them look at the four officers—lord Thynne, and Messrs. Spencer, Gambier, and Maclean, who had received three promotions—lieutenants, commanders, and post-captains, since the peace—and judge of the feelings of the old and meritorious officers over whose heads those gentlemen had passed. The others of the 40 cases which he had selected were of the same description, in all of them great super, session, though in different degrees.

There were, also, 51 commanders, who had obtained two commissions since April 1814, and who were promoted over the heads of hundreds of their seniors. Some of them superseded 3,600 lieutenants, and all of them upwards of 2,200!!! [hear]. He stated these facts from documents with which, in conformity with the order of that House, the admiralty had laid upon the table. He had no reason to complain of any reluctance on their part to furnish the returns for his motion. It was one in which the public interest was much excited, and they had acted wisely in affording the information asked for. He had no party feelings on the subject—he had no personal objects through disappointment to gratify; as he had not a relation connected with the Navy. (An hon. friend near him suggested, that if he had such a connexion, he would not probably take his present course [a laugh].) He felt that it would make no difference with him, and it was known to his friends, that he had done so in another branch of the service where he had a relation.

He next came to the employment of officers, a point of considerable importance when coupled with that of promotion. If the rule for promotion upon any extraordinary occasion—the rule, for instance, observed at his Majesty's Coronation, had been to select officers according to their seniority in the service, he should have been content. But the seniority which had led to promotion in that instance, turned out to be seniority as to employment in the time of peace, and not as to employment in the time of war. When it was stated by the admiralty, in answer to officers applications, that attention would be paid in all the coronation promotions, to seniority and service, lieutenants of 10 or 17 years standing, and the greater part of that time a service in war, had naturally expected to be made commanders. But the admiralty afterwards said,—"You shall be selected with reference to the length of your service during the peace, and not according to your service during the war." Whether that rule was just or not he did not now inquire, but supposing the admiralty to have previously made up their minds, that they would promote at the Coronation those officers whose length of employment during the peace was greatest, how easy was it for them, by previous arrangement of that peace employment, to place the claim for promotion in whomsoever they pleased. He was aware that family and parliamentary interest might be expected to have a certain weight; but, looking back to the list which he held in his hand of 51 lieutenants made commanders, he could not but think that the effect of that influence was much too great. As a specimen of the promotion at the Coronation, he referred to the list of commanders then made post captains. They were—

Date of Commission at Commander. Officers passed over. Sea Service in peace.
J. Gore May, 1808 125 3 ys. 3 mths.
J. C. Carpenter April, 1809 137 1 ys. 4 mths.
R. Hockings April, 1809 137 1 ys. 10 mths.
G. B. Allen July, 1809 144 2 ys. 3 mths.
J. Cod May, 1810 158 4 ys. 0 mths.
R. L. Colson June, 1810 166 4 ys. 3 mths.
Edw. Lloyd May, 1811 194 2 ys. 11 mths.
J. Gedge Sept. 1811 211 4 ys. 8 mths.
B. M. Kelly Nov. 1811 213 2 ys. 10 mths.
H. F. Jauncey Feb. 1812 216 4 ys. 3 mths.
These were the promotions of the Coronation, made over the heads of highly deserving officers who had been wounded in the service. He should mention some of the names of these neglected men:—
Date of Commission.
George Luke June 23, 1794
George Robinson Nov. 5, 1794
J. Johnson April 27, 1801
J. Douglas April 29, 1802
James Grant Jan. 12, 1805
W. J. Hughes Sept. 25, 1806
Wm. Coote May 6, 1807
B. Warburton Dec. 16, 1807
H. C. Thompson Aug. 29, 1808
C. Beacroft Oct. 3, 1809
H. N. Rowe May 2, 1810
T. L. R. Laugharne Feb. 12, 1811
J. H. Garrety May 3, 1811
He would ask again, if such a system was not calculated to discourage every man who served his country, much more those who had bled in her service; and who naturally looked forward to some of the distinctions of their professions?

Again, with respect to the employment, he had made out a list of the 57 commanders, the total number now employed in the navy. Five were employed upon survey; but of the remaining 52, how many would the House suppose were old officers who had served in time of war; and how many of them officers made since the peace? Half and half, as regarded the numbers, would perhaps be the general idea. No such thing. Of the 52 commanders now employed, of whom he spoke, 6 only had been made before the year 1813—that was during the active period of the war; all the rest had been promoted subsequent to the year 1814 in time of peace.—Was not such proceedings calculated to discourage and to disgust officers even the most attached to the naval service, and eventually to impair and destroy its efficiency? It might be said, as it had already been said, that the old officers did not wish to be employed. He would meet that argument, if it was used, by saying that he knew to the contrary. He had made out a list of 98 lieutenants (now serving under new-made captains), older sailors and better entitled to promotion by their services than the men who commanded them. Every one of that number had been upwards of 10 years lieutenants, and some upwards of 20 years—From that number of old officers the promotions might have been made! In looking to the advancement and employment of officers who had seen long service, it occurred to him that many of the midshipmen who had served during the war were placed in a very hard situation. After the promotion of 1,000 midshipmen, in 1814, which was to meet all claim for services in time of war of that classy it had been said, indeed, that no further promotions were to take place; but still there had been an understanding, that such midshipmen as should still continue in the service, would have the chance of advancement in preference to new claimants. This promise, however, as far as it could be called a promise, had not been fulfilled in good faith. On the 1st of January, 1816, there were 1,509 passed midshipmen, and of that number only 188 had been up to this date, promoted to be lieutenants, and 163 of those who were in the service in 1816, still remained in the service as midshipmen! He had found on board the flag ship at Portsmouth in the month of March, of the present year, 10 midshipmen whose united periods of service amounted to no less than 142 years [Hear, hear.] Every one of these were young men of exemplary character; and the cases of some of them were well known to many members of the House. One had been fifteen years in the service, and he was happy to learn this day, that he was about to be employed in the Isis. He trusted he was at length in the way of promotion. The next on the list, Mr. H. S. Burmston had been also 15 years a midshipman. His claims were numerous. He had been in several actions; had distinguished himself at Algiers; had been thanked for meritorious services by the king of Holland; and had received a medal from the Humane Society, for having saved a seaman from drowning. He had no acquaintance or connexion with any of them; but having accidentally learned the singular fact of such a number of midshipmen of such long standing, having been on board one ship, he felt extremely solicitous to be informed of the particular history of each, which he then had in his hand, but would not take up the time of the House in stating more of them. If such was the illustration which one ship gave, as to the hardship of the old midshipmen, what must be the state of the case when the whole service was taken into account. He hoped, however, that in charity such an example was not very common. Turning from the meritorious, but the neglected, to the fortunate young men, he found the names of 10 midshipmen promoted to be lieutenants immediately after they had served their time; and whose united service as midshipmen did not amount to 60 years, including the time at the Naval College, and those, all years of service, during the peace. Amongst these 10 midshipmen so promoted, was the name of one Mr. Purvis, whose name was not yet published in the Navy List. That practice, he believed, was a recent but not uncommon one. With the view of keeping secret such promotions, an interval of 3 months took place between the promotion and the period of making it known to the public. It came within his knowledge, that an officer had received the communication of his promotion in December, while no insertion of it was made in the official list until the April following. There were three of these midshipmen promoted, on the ground of having attended the king to Scotland. One of these, however, (Mr. Seymour) did not accompany the king, though that was the reason assigned for his promotion. He should not trouble the House with giving the names of all the other numerous fortunate midshipmen, who, in time of peace had been promoted nearly ns soon as they had passed their time; but there were some names which he felt it his duty to mention, viz:—Hope Johnstone, hon. G. Ryder, Henry Dundas, Chas. J. Hope Johnstone, W. F, Martin, A. Fitzclarence, hon. R. S. Dundas, G. J. Hope Johnstone (three promotions in one family rather a little too much), H. M. Blackwood, Chas. Talbot, Wm. Pitt Canning, E. Wodehouse, H. B. Martin, &c. &c. Did not the whole of these arrangements shew overwhelming influence? Did they not prove that a man's interest had more share than his length of service, or his merits, in his advancement f Let this be admitted to him—and to deny it would hardly be possible—and, as to argument, he should be satisfied; he had done sufficient, if he had proved to the House, that the public was put to great expense, by the promotion of young and inexperienced men of family, whilst young men of highly meritorious and long public services were neglected [[Hear]. Promotion—and he would maintain the fact to be so—was as unfairly, as it was extravagantly distributed. If it were yielded to him that these promotions took place chiefly by interest and not by merit; he asked no more, that was all he wished at present to substantiate. He left the conclusion to every hon. member, whether the satisfaction of the officers, and the good of the service were likely to be promoted by such a system, particularly when the House was informed that there were at this moment employed afloat 98 lieutenants of from 10 to 23 years service, swerving under captains, the majority of whom never served in time of war.

He then complained, that the admiralty who considered promotions necessary did not act on the same principle towards the royal marines and pursers. He believed there was no man who knew the royal marines, but would concur in praise of their services, as not inferior to that of naval officers; and yet, what was the treatment the marine officers met with? The royal marine corps in January, 1816, consisted of 6,949 officers and men. It was now 8,494; making an increase of 1,545 men in seven years. The navy had not been increased, and yet the number of promotions of officers in the marines which had been increased, bore no proportion to those in the navy. The promotion of lieutenants, captains, and majors together only amounted to 37 steps in the 7 years of peace.—There had been 5 first commissions; 11 lieutenants made captains; 11 captains majors; 10 majors to lieutenant-colonels; in all 37 steps among nearly 1,000 officers—while there had been 960 steps in the navy, and only 400 or 500 officers employed at one time.—The disproportion and injustice were here manifest. The question was, why this difference existed? It was clear that the promotions in the navy and marine service were not sanctioned by any principle of equal justice. And the true reason was, that the marines had no connections in that House; they had no borough influence; they were not supported by an alliance with great families, and therefore their chances of promotion were so very few [hear!]. It ought not to be forgot that the very distinguished loyalty of the royal marines, induced the government to change their facings to royal blue? The case of the marines supported completely his charge of influence. The number of marine officers brought from half pay in 6 years had been 210, and only five new commissions had been given. In the navy 513 new commissions had been given! The fair principle of promotion which he contended ought to be adopted in the navy, had been recognized by a regulation which had been passed with respect to purser's in 1814; in which it was ordered, "that with the view of preventing the improvident and unnecessary increase of pursers, no person should be warranted for that situation until the number should be reduced to the number of ships on the list of the royal navy, exclusive of the ships building." It was his (Mr. Hume's) opinion, that some such rule should be laid down relative to the officers of the navy, that there might be no more officers than would be sufficient to officer all the ships that we bad either afloat, in ordinary, "or building.—A proof of the advantage of that regulation was, that in 1816, there were 950 pursers, and there had been, in consequence of the regulation alluded to, but sixteen promotions of pursers in seven years, and these had been made chiefly on foreign service; there were now only 747 pursers, so that the number was at present reduced 203 below that of 1816; and if the sixteen promotions abroad were deducted, it would make 219 actual decrease in the 7 years—That circumstance showed that a proper regulation for stopping unnecessary promotion had produced the best effect in two branches, the marine officers and pursers and the same rule ought in justice to the public to be acted with naval officers. On all these grounds he thought the House was bound to institute an inquiry—He concluded by moving the following resolutions:—

  1. 1. "That it appears, by returns to this House, that there were 3,994 lieutenants, 813 commanders, and 851 post-captains, on the list of the royal navy, in January 1816, and that, notwithstanding so great a number of officers on the list, there has been, between 1st January 1816 and the 8th of January 1823, an additional number of 860 promotions (exclusive of post-captains to be admirals), viz. of 513 midshipmen to be lieutenants, of 222 lieutenants to he commanders, and of 125 commanders to be post-captains: and that although peace has existed for seven years, there were on the 8th January 1823, 3,720 lieutenants, 814 commanders, and, 829 post-captains on the list of the royal navy; a number more than sufficient to officer a fleet of twice the number of ships of every description in the british navy, if they were all at sea at the same time.
  2. 2 "That there are 814 commanders on the list of the royal navy, and 57 of them now on full pay, of whom only 7 were promoted during the last ten years active warfare (from 1803 to 1813), and 50 who have been promoted since June 1814, the termination of the war in Europe.
  3. 1094
  4. 3 "That many of the promotions have been made in the royal navy without due regard either to the length of service, to the merit of the midshipmen and officers, or to the efficiency and advantage of the navy, and that the expense of the half-pay of the officers of the navy, necessarily great after a long war, has been thereby greatly and unnecessarily increased to the country.
  5. 4 "That there were 6,949 officers and men in the corps of royal marines in January 1816, and 8,494 in January 1823, being an increase of that corps of 1,545 men and officers in seven years; but there were only 5 first commissions granted, and 32 promotions to higher rank, in that period.
  6. 5 "That there were 950 pursers on the list of the royal navy in January 1816, and 747 in January 1823, showing a decrease of 203 in the seven years, exclusive of 16 pursers added to the list in that time.
  7. 6 "That an humble address be therefore presented to his majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to direct an inquiry to be made into the manner in which the right hon. the lords of the admiralty have exercised their power, both as regards the placing on full pay those officers already on the list, and the promotion of the several officers to higher rank in the navy, since the peace in 1815."

Sir G. Cockburn

said, that the hon. member; while he stated himself to be a friend to the navy, had advocated principles which would be destructive to the service which he affected to uphold. He was sure that any one who had paid attention to the means by which the glory of the British navy had been achieved, would be convinced that the principles laid down by the hon. member would, if I they had been acted upon hitherto, never have allowed it to have attained its present high and splendid pre-eminence. The hon. member had set out with high sounding calculations, but the number of abuses which he had been able to allege was very small. He had laid great stress on the numbers promoted by interest and family connexions; but he (sir G. C.) considered it of great moment that persons of rank and importance in the country should be induced to enter the service. When persons, born to every advantage that society could afford, chose to abandon the comforts of which they were in possession, to fag with others upon the seas, in the service of their country, they were entitled to peculiar consideration. He allowed that a quantum of promotion ought always to be assigned exclusively to merit; but he was convinced the country would not grumble at the elevation of a certain number of men of that class to which the country must look for its safety, and the House for its defence. He believed neither the navy nor the public could be at all angry to see such men get forward. He would allude to the case of lord Henry Frederick Thynne, which was one of those upon which the imputation of the hon. member had been thrown. The fact, however, was that his name stood at the bottom of a list of seven officers who were made because they were oldest commanders on stations abroad, thus, seven were promotions for merit to one for interest. But, even in respect of the promotions for interest there was a law which prescribed what service an officer should have undergone; and, if he were the king's son, it was necessary that he should perform it. That law required, that he should be six years a midshipman before he could be promoted. And surely, when a person of rank gave up the comforts of life, and consented to fag for six years, he had earned his commission, when given him, with fairness. But the young nobleman to whom he alluded had served some time as a lieutenant in the Mediterranean—[Here Mr. Hume asked what ship?]—He did not then recollect, the name of the ship, but he had also been a lieutenant in the Albion, and sir, J. Gordon, had honourably reported his services to the admiralty. He had also volunteered in a ten-gun brig to South America, and it did so happen that a junior officer was put over his head; yet this young nobleman made no complaint, but conducted himself in a manner that clearly entitled him to the promotion which he had received. As to the charge which had been made of that officer having been sent out to take the command of a vessel in the East Indies, which had not been launched, it was true it had not been launched before he set out, but it was expected to be launched before he arrived. With respect to the case of the hon. Frederick Spencer, upon which was grounded another complaint of parliamentary influence it shout be recollected, that his connections acted with the opposition. How, there fore, could that have been a case of parliamentary influence? The hon. member seemed to be of opinion, that with the end of the war, there ought to have been generally an end of promotion. But what did he think that such a war which was eminently a naval war, could have closed without leaving great claims upon the gratitude of the country? Those claims were indeed constantly diminishing on account of vacancies by death, and by those who left the service; and if some young men were not brought in, what would become of the navy in the event of a new war?—The hon. member had found fault with the coronation promotion. But what was the fact? There were no midshipmen promoted then, but such as had passed in 1813, and the oldest commander on every station was promoted; the youngest of whom was made either in 1811 or 1812. The lieutenants who were selected were those who had been employed for the last eight year. There was an immense number, indeed, employed during the war; but many of those had since entered into other service, or gone out in merchant vessels. Therefore, the admiralty had picked out for promotion all who had been employed for the last eight years, as being within their reach. There was no favour. The oldest had been made in 1794, and the youngest, he believed, in 1806. He could inform the hon. member, that there had once been a promotion on his principle. It was a jubilee promotion, in which the oldest officers were taken according to seniority; and he considered it a foolish promotion. The first lieutenants of flag-ships were generally the best officers, picked out by the admirals; and it sometimes happened that admirals had an inclination to keep them out; of their promotion too long. They were consequently fit subjects of promotion. As to the gross numbers to which the hon. member had referred, he had unfairly stated them. When he found fault with the number of promotions since 1814, it should be remembered that there had been fought since that period a certain battle of Algiers, which attached to it extensive claims. Many, claims had also arisen out of the coast blockade, in the counties of Sussex and Kent. Officers employed on that station frequently risked their lives, by dashing into the waves to save shipwrecked mariners. It would not be denied that such men deserved promotion. Then there had been pirates of a most audacious character in the Red Sea; and our officers had signalized themselves in their extirpation.—There was also slavery to be put down on the coast of Africa; and our officers showed their zeal for its extinction, by dashing up rivers, and attacking sometimes five times their own number: and, were not such men deserving of promotion, when covered with glory, and suffering from wounds? Such services had swelled the list of promotion, and swelled it proudly—and the admiralty was glad of it.—The hon. member had alluded to three persons of the name of Johnston Hope. But the fact was, sir W. Johnston Hope had not made one of them. One of them had been made after he had pulled down his flag, and the others had been made in virtue of an old promise given by sir Home Popham.—He then adverted to the case of another officer, who had been promoted when a reduced lord of the admiralty was requested by lord Melville, from a sense of his services, to name an officer for promotion; and he did name the officer in question. As to the invalids, the hon. member had thrown out an unjustifiable imputation, by speaking of an invaliding job, to make promotions. Would he have officers who became sick in the African and West-India stations, be cruelly kept there to die? The admirals were only allowed to fill up vacancies occasioned by death or court-martial; they had therefore no interest in having officers invalided. No officer could, in fact, be invalided, until three captains and a surgeon declared it necessary for his health that he should return home; and any captain who connived was liable to be cashiered. When he returned he was examined at the admiralty, by two of the chief medical officers of the board. Could this be a job? The unhealthy climates of Africa and the West Indies caused a great increase of invalids; and, when the hon. member spoke of the small number of deaths, he did not take into account the number of those who died after having been invalided. As to the promotion of captain Gambier, it happened by his being in the East Indies when his captain died. The hon. member had objected, that the promotion in the marines was not commensurate with that in the navy. The reason was, that the promotion in the marines was according to that favourite practice which he wished to introduce into the navy; namely, the rising by seniority. The marines were not placed in the same situation as naval officers, for it was quite necessary to put a captain into a ship at the moment of a vacancy; but it was not so with the marines. The principle followed in the navy was, that every third vacancy should be filled by a young person; otherwise there would be no persons in the service who were not of 40 or 50 years standing. With respect to pursers, the regulation which the hon. member quoted was found to be so inconvenient, that the admiralty was obliged to apply to the king in council to have it repealed. For the reasons which he had given, he was confident the House would go along with lim in believing, that nothing more than a proper and becoming attention had been paid to the claims of the naval officers of noble and distinguished families, at the same time that the meritorious services of others had not been overlooked [Hear, hear.] He would therefore give the third resolution a direct negative, and meet the rest with the previous question.

Sir Byam Martin

defended the principle of promotion adopted in the navy. He asserted it to be unconnected with parliamentary influence, and said, that out of seven promotions which had taken place in one batch, two only, were the friends of persons who supported the present administration.

Sir Isaac Coffin

contended, that the system of promotion at present pursued was much superior to the old one, and adverted to the condition of the fleet that sailed under commodore Byron in the American war, when there were officers on board who had not seen the salt sea for 16 or 17 years. He was convinced, that the happy mixture of different orders which composed the naval service, enabled us single-handed to fight the world.

Mr. F. Palmer

thought it right that, in such a case as the present, some attention ought to be paid to public opinion. Whether officers were promoted on parliamentary influence or were not, an inquiry ought to be instituted.

Captain Gordon

vindicated the promotion of midshipmen as being indispensably necessary for the good of the service.

Mr. Grey Bennet

said, that the only grounds of promotion ought to be merit and standing in the service; and on this ground he was at issue with those who advocated the existing system. The gallant admiral near him had compared the present times with the American war, and derived great consolation, as to the conduct of the admiralty, from the comparison. Had the question been agitated during the American war, the reference would then have been to the battle of the Hogue. If at the time of the battle of the Hogue, something worse would have alleged, as to tire fleet which watched the Spanish Armada. He thought we were but too apt to praise our own times at the expense of those long past.

Mr. Secretary Cunning

said, he had always thought, that the reverse of the hon. gentleman's proposition was the one which was most generally accepted; namely, that we were disposed to extol past times at the expense of the present. He was of opinion, that the case of the hon. mover had been most triumphantly met by his hon. and gallant friend near him. So ably had his hon. and gallant friend justified the principle of selection adopted by the admiralty, that what had been charged as abuse, had turned out to be merit. He considered the question to be resolved into this—whether promotion should go by seniority altogether, or whether a portion of it should be left open to discretion? He contended that the statement of the hon. member had not at all borne out the case which he had pledged himself to establish. With regard to the present state of the navy, he believed that very little difference of opinion existed. He thought that the present plan of the service was the best which could be devised to preserve the glory of the navy in time of war, and to maintain it in peace; and that it was in perfect analogy with the mixed principles of the British constitution.

Sir F. Ommanney

arose amidst loud cries of "question!" mixed with symptoms of disapprobation. We understood him to suggest to the lords of the admiralty the propriety of advancing officers in the navy according to seniority. He particularly recommended to their lordships' consideration that valuable class of officers, who acted as masters and masters mates. He wished to know from the gallant admiral near him, how many masters had been promoted since the war? He felt deeply upon this question, as his own father had been greatly ill-used, and exposed to the most galling and heart-breaking neglect. He trusted that the government of the country would afford protection to those brave officers who had served their country to the brink of the grave, and not allow them in their latter years to be trodden down like reptiles. The hon. member concluded by moving, by way of an amendment, an address to his majesty, the substance of which was, that while the House of Commons were fully satisfied that the lords of the admiralty discharged the trust reposed in them with fidelity, integrity, and judgment, they felt it necessary to call upon his majesty to take into consideration the propriety of doing away with the practice of making senior captains rear-admirals, with the view of superannuating them; and further to recommend that senior captains should be allowed to pass on regularly to the rank of flag-officers.

The amendment not being seconded, fell of course to the ground.

Mr. Hume

said, he should not delay the House with many observations, as he had, in reality, little to answer. What he contended for had been admitted by the gallant admiral (sir G. Cockburn), and declared by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Canning) to be a most triumphant answer to the charges made; namely, that promotion in the navy was given to branches of noble families and to parliamentary interest; "that it was to that class the country must look for its safety and the House its defence." He refused his assent to that principle, as a new and dangerous one, and contended that merit and length of service were the principles on which promotion in the navy had, in better times, been made, and had raised the navy to its late pre-eminence; and it was on officers so promoted that the country could best rely in the hour of danger. Were not lords St. Vincent, Exmouth, Duncan, Nelson, &c. examples? If every man of family who chose to enter the navy were, agreeably to the gallant officer's declaration, to be intitled to promotion, on his simply passing the number of years required by the service, he trembled for the British navy at no distant period, and he protested against such proceedings—It had been asserted confidently, that a large portion of the promotions had been given to merit, and part only to parliamentary and family interest: in one instance, six to one. But whilst he agreed in the propriety of joining those claims, he contended, that the examination of the navy list would show, that merit and length of service had got but a very small share of the employment or promotion since the peace. It was most unquestionable that advantage would be derived to the navy by mixing men of family and interest with other officers as long as they could meet on an equality: but, if promotion and commands should be given to those of family and parliamentary influence, so as to dishearten and disgust the officers of long and meritorious service, he contended that the ruin of the service must ensue. He believed, from the testimony of many able officers, that it had already by these means commenced, and, if so, it was time to arrest its progress. The long lists of forty, fifty, and ninety officers of different ranks, which he had produced to the House, remained substantially correct. An attempt had been made to explain the case of lord H. F. Thynne, as one of rank for seven of merit on the foreign-station list for promotion, as if that had taken place by chance, omitting altogether, to answer the charge made by him (Mr. Hume), that the admiralty sent out whatever persons they chose for promotion, and make such arrangements by change of stations and by invaliding, that those they sent out were certain to obtain the intended promotion. These promotions appeared to superficial observers, to be by chance; but it was well known to every naval officer how that was invariably arranged by previous admiralty orders. The gallant admiral had given credit to lord H. F. Thynne for volunteering to go out in a 10 gun brig under a junior officer: it was well known he was sent out for promotion; and when it was uncontradicted that he superseded 3,588 lieutenants when he was made a commander, how many lieutenants must the officer who had been his junior as lieutenant, and who commanded the brig, have superseded? He would inform the House, he believed the person alluded to, was the hon. F. Spencer, who had, when made a commander, superced a 3,642 lieutenants [Hear, hear!]. That admission aggravated the charge in his opinion. It might be true, that the families in opposition to the government also received their share of the promotions, but did that admission do away his charge of family influence, or lessen the evil to the service and the country? Certainly not. The government ought to make a stand against such influence, from which ever side of the House it came: and the best interests of the navy required them to do so.—He had proved, by a list of fifty-two, all the commanders now employed (except those on surveys) that only six of that number were old officers; and, as the admiralty would not employ a greater number of of old officers whilst they restricted the claims for promotion at the coronation to those who had served in the last eight years, it was quite evident that the admission completely established the charge he had made—the chances of promotion to the old officers was as six to forty-six.x2014;It had been stated, in rather too highly coloured language, that the Kent and coast blockade were irresistible claims to promotions in the navy; but, for his part, whilst he doubted the advantage of that system to the navy, he did not think that any of the noble families had owed their promotions to that service.—There were fair claims for services at Algiers, in the Red Sea, on the coast of Africa, and in cases of shipwreck, which he would not object to; but he contended that these claims had been mainly neglected, and that far the greater number of promotions had taken place on other grounds; and when he considered the very lame and unsatisfactory answer respecting the royal marine officers and the pursers of the navy, he thought his case was fully substantiated, and he should take the sense of the House on the propriety of an inquiry into the conduct of the Admiralty.

The previous question was then put on the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth resolutions and negatived. On the third resolution, the House divided: Ayes 32; Noes 153.

List of the Minority.
Aubrey, sir J. Nugent, lord
Bernal, R. Palmer, C. F.
Bright, H. Pryse, Pryse
Barrett, S. M. Robarts, col.
Coke, T, W. jun. Ricardo, D.
Creevey, T. Stuart, W.
Denman, T. Sefton, lord
Foley, John Smith, J,
Griffith, J. W. Taylor, M. A.
Hobhouse, J. C. Webb, E.
James, W. Williams, J.
Jervoise, G. P. White, L.
Kennedy, T. F. Wood, M.
Lennard, T. R. Whitbread, S. C.
Lambton, J. G. TELLERS.
Maxwell, J. Hume, J.
Monck, J. B. Bennet, H. G.
Noel, sir G.