§ Mr. S. Perceval
then rose, to propose the Ordnance Estimates to the Committee, but spoke in so low and indistinct a tone that the greater part of his speech was inaudible in the gallery. We understood him to say, that he should not have occasion to occupy much of the time of the Committee, as the duty which he had to perform was fortunately very simple. The reductions which had been made in the Ordnance Department in the year 1820 had been carried to the utmost point to which they could be well carried, with a due regard to the proper equipment and permanent efficacy of that branch of the public service: and therefore he should not have to detain them long by enumerating the retrenchments which had taken place in this department. Under the present circumstances of the country, it might seem to some hon. Members that the reduction of the Estimates this year was not such as they had reason to expect; but they 1006 were sufficient, he thought, to satisfy the minds of those who were acquainted with our establishments, that though comparatively small, they were no proof whatever of any unwillingness in those who were at the head of the department to make every possible reduction. His right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, when he made his statements of the Estimates, had explained the reason why the reductions of those Estimates were so comparatively small. He had called the attention of the House to the very large reductions which had been previously made in the Ordnance, and the very close scrutiny that department had undergone by his hon. friend, the Secretary of War, and the noble Duke at the head of the Government, and which made further reduction impossible. In 1828 the Finance Committee had examined the whole expenditure of the Ordnance Department in great detail; it had moved for documents and examined witnesses; and after its investigation it had not found any fault with the department. Reduction had then been carried as far nearly as it could go. In considering the present and the former expense of the department, it was proper to consider not only the sum, but the efficient manner in which the whole service was conducted. He had made a few changes in the Estimates from last year, in order to make them more simple, and had placed similar charges together, and had brought similar services under one head. The ordinary of the Ordnance contained all that was included formerly under that head in the Ordnance Estimates for Ireland, and the pay of barrack-masters and Serjeants; and the extraordinaries contained all that was formerly included under that head in the Ordnance Estimates for Ireland. They also contained the charge for the repair of Barracks, and for the remainder of the Barrack Estimates. Now the ordinary for this year was 604,347l., last year it was 608,548l., so that it was this year 4,201l. less than it was last. The extraordinaries amounted to 804,853l. this year; they had amounted to 822,727/. last year, so that there was this year a saving on this head of 17,874l. There was, however, a charge of 4,034l. for unprovided services this year, which had no existence last year; but there was more than a counterpoise for this increase in the diminution which had been made 1007 in the Military Store Branch, which was last year 93,612l., and which was this year only 78,455l. In this manner the total saving in the charge for the effective this year was 33,198l., and in the charge for the non-effective was 3,556l., making a total saving of 36,754l. The first vote which he should have to submit to the Committee would be a sum of 85,625l., for the purpose of defraying the expense of the civil establishments of the Ordnance at the Tower, in Pall-mall, and in Dublin, which was 1,217l. less than the vote of last year. The expense of the departments at Woolwich had been increased this year by 300l., owing to the general increase of salaries there, arising from length of service. The hon. Gentleman then went through the different alterations which had been made in the charges for the stations at home and abroad, for the Master-gunners, and for the corps of Engineers, but his statement of them was very imperfectly heard. The charge for the regiment of Artillery was this year 283,626l. That regiment had been greatly reduced in the year 1822, and the consequence had been, that it had been obliged to be increased in the year 1825, as it was found to be impossible to carry on the service without that increase. There was, however, he repeated, on the total ordinary of the Ordnance, a diminution of 4,000l. odd. The hon. Member then intimated, that, under the direction of the present Master-general, the work of reduction might be considered as always going on: but what the reductions already made or still in contemplation were, it was quite impossible to understand from the hon. Member. He concluded by moving, that a sum not exceeding 85,025l. be granted to his Majesty for the purpose of defraying the Salaries to the Master-general, the Lieutenant-general, and the other persons employed in the civil establishments of the Ordnance at the Tower, Pall-mall, and in Dublin.
Sir J. Graham
congratulated his hon. friend, the Secretary for the Ordnance, upon the very clear and satisfactory manner in which he had staled the estimates of his department to the Committee. It must be gratifying to the House to see his hon. friend dedicating his time industriously and manfully to the public service, instead of eating the bread of idleness and cringing at the doors of that Treasury from which his father, who had achieved the 1008 road to eminence, had been accustomed to dispense the patronage of the nation. So much he felt himself called upon to say for the sake of friendship and his hon. friend. Though he was now addressing the committee from that part of the House where the principal friends of Ministers were now generally stationed [Sir James spoke from what are usually called the Opposition Benches], he did not altogether partake of the feelings of many of the hon. and noble friends whom he then saw around him. He was not one of those persons who professed predilection for the present Administration: he had, therefore, no coyness in consenting to a resolution condemnatory of their conduct, where he conceived that conduct to be erroneous. He was not one of those persons whose votes were wrung from them when he had to vote against Ministers, and he had, therefore, never refused to give his vote in support of resolutions which were proper in themselves, merely because they censured those Ministers. On the present occasion, however, he brought forward his Motion with regret and pain: with regret, because it might be thought to cast a slight shade of disapprobation on the noble and gallant officer who filled the situation to which his Motion related; with pain, because he was afraid, from repeatedly making motions of that description, that he should make himself unpopular on the Benches opposite, where he saw sitting some of his earliest, his kindest, and his best friends. It would obtain for him probably the character of an economical reformer, which he knew was obnoxioas, as every species of parsimony always was obnoxious, and when joined to his other character of a parliamentary reformer, might make him as obnoxious a person as any in that House. But at times like the present, the Motion with which he should conclude was demanded of him as a public duty—and feeling it to be a public duty, he would fearlessly discharge it. He had not the honour of a personal acquaintance with the noble Lord, the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance: but he was not ignorant of his brilliant career in arms, which had commenced from early youth, had carried him to foreign service, and had raised him from the lowest to the highest rank in his profession; which had shone in Portugal, in Spain, and in France, and made him more than a sharer in the glories of Waterloo. 1009Old men forget; yes, all shall be forgot,But we'll remember with advantagesWhat feats he did that day.He thought that noble Lord fairly entitled to the favour and gratitude of the House, and he should think it mean and dastardly to grudge to his merits the rewards he fairly de-served. It must, however, be remembered, that that noble Lord already enjoyed the command of a regiment; it must also be remembered, that the House was called on every year to vote sums for the governors of fortresses, such as those of Plymouth, the Tower, and Edinburgh Castle, which were always defended on the ground that they were the proper rewards for great military services. The services of the noble Lord justly entitled him to such a kind of reward. Then was the situation of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance such a species of reward? Certainly not; on the contrary, his argument was, that that office was of a double character, partly civil and partly military, and that it was not indispensably necessary. The principle on which he should argue the question was laid down in the Report of the Finance Committee, in these terms:— "No Government is justified in taking the smallest sum of money from the people, unless a case can be clearly established to show that it will be productive of some essential advantage to them, and one that cannot be obtained by a smaller sacrifice. The real wants of the people shall not be made to give way to any imaginary wants of the State, which arise from so many sources, that it is frequently very difficult to prevent the operation of an undue influence." Then the question was, is the situation of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance productive of real advantage to the public service, or is it one of the imaginary wants of the State? He (Sir J. Graham) was prepared to argue that the office was not. of essential advantage to the public service, but one of the imaginary wants of the state. In arguing this question, it was impossible for him to enliven a thrice-told-tale. This battle had been fought before: he had brought the subject before the House once already. He trusted, then, that the House would bear with him whilst he went over the evidence. The House would probably be alarmed at that portentous volume [producing the Report of the Finance Committee]; but it was his intention to read only a. short, extract or two. He should 1010 first refer to the evidence of the Duke of Wellington before the Finance Committee. His Grace had given plain answers to simple questions. The noble Duke was asked—"Do you consider the continuance of the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance as essential to the well-being of the service?"—"Yes, I do." His Grace went on to give the reasons for his opinion. "The Lieutenant-general has some very important duties to perform. I do not mean to say that the Master-general cannot perform them, for he sometimes does perform those duties. In my time, the Lieutenant-general was absent sometimes, and at other times I was absent myself. When he was absent, I performed his duties." So far the evidence of the Duke of Wellington established the fact, that each of these offices was vicarious to the other. When the Master-general was absent, the Lieutenant-general performed his duty; and vice versâ, when the Lieutenant-general was absent, his functions were performed by the Master-general: the duties of each were the same. The noble Duke proceeded—"He has some duties to perform which are very important, and it is essential to the well-being of the service that he should perform them: the inspection of the troops, and a great deal of duty at Woolwich, particularly the examination of all the men for discharges." The last clause in his Grace's answer it was material to consider, because circumstances had occurred since 1828, which very much altered the force of his observation. It was this— "It is very material that there should be a military officer constantly at the Board." He (Sir J. Graham) would state how this office was constituted. There was a Lieutenant-general, a Surveyor-general, a Clerk of the Ordnance, a Storekeeper, and a Clerk of Deliveries. At the time when this evidence was given, the Lieutenant-general was in Portugal, the Surveyor-general was a naval officer, the Clerk was his hon. friend opposite, the Storekeeper was Mr. Singleton, and, in fact, the only military officer was the Clerk of the Deliveries: whereas, at present there were four military officers to one civilian. This fact materially varied the evidence of the Duke of Wellington, which was given at a time when there was only one military officer in attendance. When the Board assembled at present, and when the Master-general was in attendance, and the 1011 Secretary, out of eight individuals, there were no less than seven military officers: two of them full Generals, two Lieutenant-generals, and two Colonels. It was more like a Court-martial than a Board to consider the important subject of contracts for timbering guns, the price of pipe-clay, and other matters which came before the Board. The next evidence he should refer to was that of his gallant friend (Sir H. Hardinge); and what was the evidence he gave? The first question was—"Is the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance titular?" The answer was, "No, he has duties to perform, which I conceive to be of a most important character." The next question he was asked was—"Does he attend the Board?" The answer was— "He ought to attend the Board, but he is at present employed in the command of the army in Portugal." "How have the duties of his department been performed in his absence?"—"I should say with very great inconvenience to the public service." He would request the House to consider, in conjunction with this answer, the statement of his gallant friend given in the opposite page—"I can state when I was at. the Board, and Lord Beresford was absent, the Surveyor-general and myself being both military men, and assisted by the Duke of Wellington, did perform the duties of the Lieutenant-general, and I do not know that positive inconvenience resulted to the public from his absence." But he goes on—"But I must say it was greatly inconvenient to myself and Lord Downes, and those who performed those duties;" thus negativing the fact that the absence was productive of public inconvenience, and resolving it into a source of private inconvenience. The next question was—"Did not the Commission of Military Inquiry recommend the abolition of that office?" This question seemed to have staggered his right hon. and gallant friend He answered—"They did recommend the abolition of that office, but, I believe, with certain qualifications, and I also believe that they did not take the very best view of that subject." The gallant Officer then went on to detail the duties of the Lieutenant-general, as stated by the Duke of Wellington, respecting superintending the discharge of pensioners, the discipline of the corps at Woolwich, and he states, "the Lieutenant-general ought also to attend to the inspection of the men at Woolwich himself, to see that every soldier 1012 who is discharged with a pension is fit to be discharged; his military experience is of importance in superintending the discipline of the military corps at Woolwich." On the point he deposed to, as to the necessity of the Lieutenant-general's superintending the discharge of the pensioners and the details of the corps at Woolwich, he would refer the House to page 38 of the Evidence, where his right hon. friend gave the following reply. He was asked—"Why might not the pensioners be examined by the Chelsea Board?" —"I see no objection to it further than that the charge for the pensioners being in the Ordnance department, there would be no saving by the transfer; there would be a feeling on the part of the soldiers that their interests were not so well attended to by strangers as by their own officers." So far with respect to the pensioners. Then with regard to the discipline at Woolwich. The Committee ask — "Might not the office of the Lieutenant-general be dispensed with, if that duty were transferred?" His right hon. friend's answer was—"He has, besides, very important duties to attend to, in taking care of the discipline of the 7,000 artillery, and 700 or 800 officers, in attending reviews, and looking after the interior affairs and details of the regiment: in fact, he is a general Officer commanding a division of troops." Now he would beg to refer the House on this point to another part of his right hon. friend's evidence, in pages 110 and 111. "There is a sum of 1,642l. charged for a Deputy Adjutant-general and Assistant of Staff, the two Aides-de-camp, and so on: was not that appointment first made in 1795, after the war had begun?"—"I cannot state accurately what was the precise date, but the artillery requires the staff of a Deputy Adjutant-General for seven thousand men in as great a degree as any corps in the army would require a similar staff officer; and the artillery staff is, as compared with the force in men, smaller than that of the line." "Who fills that situation now?"—"Sir Alexander Dick-son." "You consider that that is necessary now, though in former peaces it did not exist?"—"It is absolutely necessary: the routine of the roster of duty to be taken, the military police and discipline of the corps at Woolwich," his gallant friend added, with his usual force and adroitness, "in a great degree depend upon him, though under the orders of the 1013 Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance." He (Sir J. Graham) would only trouble the House with one further passage from this evidence: it was in page 38. His right hon. Friend was asked—"If the Lieutenant-general has the discipline, what has the Master-general to do?"—"He has the general superintendence of the whole department, military and civil, in all its branches, and a complete control over it, so much so, that he can order and direct the Board to do as he pleases, except in matters of money and account." "Could not he give directions respecting the discipline of the corps, that which you consider now to be the special duty of the Lieutenant-general?" Here he would beg to remark to the House the statement of the Duke of Wellington, that he actually performed the functions of the Lieutenant-general when Lord Beresford was in Portugal. The answer of his gallant friend was,— "I conceive that he might, if it is supposed that the Master-general is to be always present." So that it was clear that the Master-general was competent to the performance of the duties of the Lieutenant-general, and might perform them without inconvenience to the public service. The gallant Officer went on—"But the Lieutenant-general has at the Board other very important duties; all the military questions come before him, such as the estimates for military works and fortifications: he has the whole of the military correspondence; for instance, if it is necessary to erect a barrack or a military work, and we are in communication with the commander-in-chief, it would come before him; he would assist the Board with his military opinion: we have become a much more military department than we were before, since the transfer of other departments, and at present there is a much greater necessity for a Lieutenant-general than formerly." If the department has become much more military, let the House observe how much more military the Board had become, consisting, as it now did, of six military men and two civilians. The last question he should quote was this—"If the Master-general were an efficient officer, applying his time and attention solely or principally to the business of the Ordnance, might not he fulfil all those duties with respect to the discipline at Woolwich, and the general superintendence of that department, which you have described as now falling on the 1014 Lieutenant-general?" He (Sir J. Graham) requested the attention of the House to the answer given by his right hon. Friend to this question—"The Master-general of the Ordnance has generally been an officer of State, and a Cabinet Minister, giving, on questions which may arise, his military opinion: the Master-general is, as I have before stated in the case of the Duke of Wellington, liable to be sent away on the public service." This had been the case in former instances. Lord Chatham, when Master-general, went with the expedition to Walcheren; Lord Cornwallis held the same office conjointly with that of Lord-lieutenant of Ireland. But at the present moment, when the Master-general was not a Cabinet Minister, and when there was no chance of his being called upon foreign service, all the reasons here alleged were futile. But he could not help thinking that his right hon. Friend contemplated a special case, when he added, "I conceive, if Lord Beresford, experienced as he is in the affairs of Portugal—'experienced! (exclaimed the hon. Member) as the groans of the victims of Don Miguel can testify, pining in the dungeons of Portugal; experienced! as those can testify who were forced to fly their native land'—were to be called away from his duties at the head of the Ordnance, and sent to Portugal, it would be extremely hard that he should be obliged to relinquish that situation, merely because he was found useful and efficient for the service of the State: but having a Lieutenant, who in his absence can do his duty, justice can be done to the department and to the individual." If ever there was a case established by the very evidence brought forward to defend it, but which militated, in fact, against it, he thought that this was the case, and that the direct converse was shown by the evidence of the Duke of Wellington and his right hon. Friend. He (Sir J. Graham) then came to the Report of the Commissioners of Military Inquiry; and he would first refer to the evidence of Lord Chatham before that Committee, a nobleman of whom, both on account of his name and talent, he could not speak with disrespect. Lord Chatham said, he considered the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance a link of the civil and military service, and on that account essential to the due performance of the duty of the Board, 1015 as well as to support the Master-general in the duties of his extensive office. This might be well said in 1810, when Lord Mulgrave was Master-general; Sir Thos. Trigge, Lieutenant-general; Rob. Moorsom, Esq. (a naval officer) Surveyor-general: the Hon. Ashley Cooper, Clerk of the Ordnance; and Mr. Singleton, Clerk of the Deliveries. At that moment, out of nine persons, there were three military and six civilians. Now, however, out of eight persons, six were military, and two civilians. Before he adverted to the Reports of the Committee of Military Inquiry, and of the Finance Committee of 1828, he thought it better to anticipate an objection, that the Finance Committee had passed too hastily over the evidence of the Duke of Wellington and his right hon. Friend opposite (Sir H. Hardinge). But the fact was, that the Committee actually stated that they had given to the evidence of the Duke of Wellington and Sir H. Hardinge all the weight which was justly due to it. "Your Committee," the Report says, "have given to the evidence of the Duke of Wellington and Sir Henry Hardinge the consideration that is due to it, in consequence of the high authority from which it proceeds: they have considered the circumstances on which it is founded." They did not leave the House, therefore, to infer their sense of its value, for they stated it, and they stated also the reason why they came to an opposite conclusion, and why they viewed the testimony of those officers with jealousy. The reason the committee assigned was this,—"It is particularly necessary carefully to examine the reasonings and statements of those individuals, who, being qualified from their official stations to give full information, are liable to be led by professional feelings to recommend a higher standard of preparation for war than a less biassed view of circumstances might suggest. The inquiries of the Committee are necessarily attended with the difficulties already adverted to, of having to rely upon the evidence of those persons who, however qualified to give full information, are liable to be influenced by professional feelings." So that the committee had not only attended to the evidence of the Duke of Wellington and Sir H. Hardinge, but they told the House that the reason why they did not give full weight to it was, because it might be influenced by professional feelings, 1016 which might ensnare their judgment and bias their opinion. That was in fact the reason why the committee came to an opinion different from that of those officers. He could not help calling the attention of the House to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Peel) on proposing this very committee. The right hon. Gentleman said, "On the subject of the estimates, I will say, that I am satisfied there exists in the new Members of the present Government, as well as in those who belonged to the last Administration, a sincere desire to see economy in the public expenditure carried to its utmost length, and if, through the recommendation of the Finance Committee, it should appear practicable to make some reduction in the expenditure of the next half year, that, I am confident, will be cheerfully effected."* No words could be stronger than these, and he believed that they led the House to think that the recommendations of the committee would be adopted. But if there were any doubts upon the subject, he might refer to the observations which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman within the last ten days—and not once, but often—and not of a negative, but of an affirmative character. He thought he recollected the argument of the right hon. Gentleman in respect to the motion brought forward by him regarding the Treasurer of the Navy. His case then rested on a vote of the House in 1826, in which the House decided that that office should be held conjointly with another office. And what was the argument of the right hon. Gentleman? In that discussion the right hon. Gentleman contended that the Report of the Finance Committee of the year 1817 rode over the decision of the House in the year 1826, observing, that if the Reports of the Committees of that House were not attended to, they would, in future, instead of being beacons for the guidance of the House, prove nothing better than false lights luring to error and to ruin. Stringent and convincing as were his arguments when put affirmatively, they were not less so when put in a negative form. On the question brought forward on Thursday last, by his hon. Friend, the Member for Dover, the argument of the right hon. Gentleman was so convincing, that though he (Sir John Gra-*See Parl. Deb, Vol. xviii, p.434.1017 ham) had come down to the House with the intention of voting for the motion, the right hon. Gentleman's speech altered his intention, and he left the House without voting. The right hon. Gentleman then said, that the House ought on no account to refer the matter to a committee, because it would not only suspend the functions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but it would be a mockery to refer the subject to a committee unless the House were prepared to abide by its decision. Here, then, was negative and affirmative testimony, shewing that the report of a committee of that House ought to be abided by. And after all these professions and statements, let the House consider what was the tenor of the Report of the Finance Committee in respect to the office under consideration. He particularly begged to call the attention of the House to the first words of that Report, which were these: "The Committee might be disposed to question the amount of the salary of the Master-General, were it not for the recommendation they are about to propose, that the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance shall be discontinued in time of peace." From that it appeared that the Committee would have recommended a diminution of the salary of the Master-general, had it not recommended the abolition of the office of Lieutenant-general. The Committee then proceeded to say, with reference to the office of Lieutenant-general, "The Commissioners of Military Inquiry entered into considerable details relative to the duties of this office, and made the following observations upon it: 'From the information given to us respecting the actual performance of any distinct duties by the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, we incline to the belief that this appointment was not essential to the constitution of the department, especially if it were to be understood that the attention of the Master-general should not be withdrawn from the duties of his office by other appointments.' The Committee concur in this opinion, and adverting to the fact that the Lieutenant-general has been absent from England at different times, they are of opinion that during peace the office of Lieutenant-general may be dispensed with, and the salary of it saved to the public." He called upon the Government to redeem their pledge with the public in good faith and honour. 1018 They had promised to reduce the establishments of the country, and yet in a time of peace they were called upon to maintain the profusion of a war expenditure. This was his opinion in the year 1818; how much more so ought it not to be now, with all the accumulated suffering which had since fallen on the country? Was there in fact any comparison between the degree of distress that prevailed in 1828 and that at present? Were there not at this moment large classes of the poor in a state of complete destitution, stretching out their hands for any portion of relief, and appealing to their humanity and compassion for sympathy and assistance? But he would plainly ask, were the Ministers free agents on the present occasion? Were they not pledged by their own resolution of the 12th of February? Had they not on that day resolved, that in all the establishments of the country, civil and military, every saving ought to be made which could be effected without the violation of existing engagements, and without detriment to the public service? This was what was promised on the 12th of February: why then was not this saving yielded to the public voice? If the Government fell back upon its own resolution, and when the opportunity arose refrained: from evincing a desire to enforce it, it would be in vain for it to expect the confidence of the public: the people would retort upon them that they had abandoned their pledges, and shown no sympathy for the real sufferings of the community. Why was this departure from duty manifested? He verily believed, not because the Government were averse from succouring those who were distressed—not because they thought the public service required the prolongation of these offices—but because the Government was in such a position that it was compelled to have a certain mode of upholding influence within the walls of Parliament. Look at the list of Ordnance officers who were in Parliament? There was, first, the Master-general, who was himself a peer (Lord Beresford); then came the next in command, the Lieutenant-general, (Lord R. E. H. Somerset), who represented an important county (Gloucester) in the House of Commons: then followed the Surveyor-general, who was Member for Sandwich (Sir H. Fane); the Clerk of the Ordnance, the Member for Newport (Mr. Spencer Perceval); the 1019 Principal Storekeeper, the Member for Cambridge (Colonel Trench); the Clerk of the Deliveries, the Member for Scarborough (General Phipps): there was then the Secretary to the Master-General, the Member for Queenborough (Lord Downes); and lastly, the Treasurer, the Member for Bishop's Castle (Mr. W. Holmes), whose duties, whether civil or military, were not very accurately defined: they were, however, widely various, for whatever were his musters in the Ordnance, he was at least well known as Muster-Master-General of the troops in that House on all trying occasions. He really did not know how to designate the hon. Member's office better than by saying that he was the Ajax flagellifer of their divisions [a laugh]. So that out of eight principal officers of the Ordnance, one was a Peer of Parliament, and the other seven were Members of that House. In the year 1811, there were only four Members sent amongst them from that Board; but the number was doubled at this moment; it was quite evident how all these gentlemen must vote, for there was sufficient experience of an error of that kind, to know what would be the fate of a refractory member on such occasions; official persons so placed had merely to turn the ear of the deaf adder to any suggestions but those which were sent down to them from head quarters, and blindly follow the great captain of the Administration wherever he might choose to lead them. Lot them hear no more then of East Retford when Sandwich and Queenborough were overawed by the Admiralty, Newport by the Treasury, and other boroughs by the Ordnance. Let them hear no more then of the great borough-holders—let them not be told of the Duke of Newcastle and of other noblemen in the same circumstances, when such doings as those of the Ordnance, and the Treasury, and the Admiralty, wore before their eyes. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had on a former night adverted to the corruption which was known to have been exercised in the time of Sir Robert Walpole, and contrasted it with the decline of Government patronage which which was now obvious, in all the public offices. But did the right hon. gentleman see no difference between Walpole's time and the present? Could the same unblushing tricks, and openly-avowed corrupt artifices be now played with safety by any minister? The overwhelming cor- 1020 ruption of past times had been, as Mr. Burke well said, "the perennial source of all prodigality:" but it could not be practised to the same extent at present—no minister would venture upon such a mode of sustaining his government; the merit therefore was not great of abandoning views which were no longer practicable. Could it be possible indeed that that right hon. Gentleman shut his eyes to the fact, that times had changed since the days of Sir Robert Walpole? Could it be that his Majesty's Government were incapable of understanding the signs of the present times? If they possessed but the most limited capacity for reading those signs, they would perceive that the time was fast approaching when the people would no longer endure the prodigious establishments with which the country was loaded, and their inevitable consequence —a weight of debt and of taxation of which the history of mankind afforded no parallel. They might rest assured that the weight of that taxation would speedily make the people cry aloud in a voice that would be heard—cry aloud, and that immediately, for a still further reduction of all public establishments, with a view to the removal of public burthens. It was in vain to hope for the maintenance of these large establishments, or to get rid of most importuning: and reiterated demands for retrenchment, until much greater reductions were made than had at present been effected by the Government. That House had already voted estimates in a time of profound peace for eighty-two thousand men: and had refused, though earnestly pressed, to bind up that bleeding artery, through which the circulation intended to give life to the country was so prodigally and profusely running away. Let the House of Commons do its duty, as it did on Friday night, and then the country would look up with confidence to its decisions. Let it but repeat the vote of that night, and though the Minister might dissolve them, yet they would stand erect in the face of their constituents, with the ennobling consciousness of having deserved well at their hands—for the time had arrived, when, if the Parliament did not practically admit that the people were something, the people would show them, in a manner the least agreeable, that they, in fact, were every thing. The sum at present in question was not much: it was a trifle compared with other sums; but 1021 the principle involved in the decision, the animus of the conduct of Ministers, was of great magnitude, for it would establish or reflect ridicule upon past pledges of economy: these—tiifles, light as air,Are, to the jealous confirmations strongAs proofs of holy writThe people would judge for themselves by the decisions of that kind what dependence they could place upon the professions of retrenchment of which they had heard so much of late—they would see that parliamentary patronage must be preserved at all hazards; and would compare the votes of the Government with its pledges of economy —they would see the Government voting for putting money into the pockets of the sons of its Members, and they would see it refusing to obey the Finance Committee in the abolition of this office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance. If the people found chicane and miserable desire for place in those departments immediately under the eye of the Government, they would no longer submit to this degree of delusion, but would compel their representatives to do them justice. No Cabinet could possess, or at least for any time preserve, the support of the country, which, in times and circumstances like the present, maintained the offices of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, and Treasurer of the Navy. Such a tone and temper in the conduct of the Government could never be kept up with any regard to the strength and popularity of the Cabinet: but he had no doubt that the time was fast approaching, when the force of public opinion would teach Ministers to think less of their own patronage and private ends, and somewhat more of the wishes and the necessities of the people. For his part, he would endeavour to sustain their sinking spirits, in the hope that proper attention would still be paid to their wants and sufferings. He concluded by moving, that the proposed vote of 85,025l. be reduced to 83,82.5l., to strike off the salary of the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance [hear, hear].
§ Mr. Spencer Perceval
said, he rose on the present occasion with considerable diffidence, for he knew it was out of his power to compete with the hon. Baronet, in securing the attention of that House. If he failed, then, in convincing the Committee that they ought to reject the proposed reduction, he knew that his failure 1022 would be attributable, not to any imperfection in the matter really at issue between them, but to his inadequacy to cope with the eloquent speech of the hon. Baronet. Of this he was quite sure, that if the office of Lieutenant-general were to fall this night from the Ordnance department, it would not be for want of its fitness and propriety, or the just necessity for its maintenance to discharge a full share of the public business. With this natural distrust in himself, he had the consolation of knowing that he should be followed by those who would repair what he might mar in this debate. The simple point to which he should call the attention of the House was, the evidence in favour of the retention of this office; and they had on the one side the testimony of the noble Duke at the head of the Government and of his right hon. friend near him (Sir H. Hardinge)—persons of the most competent judgment upon such matters, and who clearly, fully, and unhesitatingly, declared that it could not be abolished. Here were military men of the highest professional knowledge, who were known to devote themselves unremittingly and arduously to the duties of this department, in which they had served for five years, and who had put on record their evidence of the necessity of maintaining this office. And what was the testimony on the other side? Who were the men who sat in judgment upon the decision of such military authorities upon a purely military question? They were Gentlemen unversed in these affairs, upon which, nevertheless they took upon themselves to pronounce a sweeping and decisive opinion. A body like that Committee—ignorant of the details of the office, had nothing to guide them but the information which practical men were alone capable of affording, and when those of the highest authority afforded them information, could they proceed more wisely than in surrendering their opinions into hands so eminently worthy of being intrusted with them? But it was said, official gentlemen had a bias to keep up establishments,—might not there be a bias elsewhere to display a wish to pull them down, when the public were in a season of distress, and popularity the result of such a disposition to enforce reductions. It did not follow that the office was to be considered unnecessary, because the members of the Board had contrived to get through the business in 1023 the absence of the Lieutenant-general in Portugal. On the contrary, they declared that they had suffered great public inconvenience, (private the hon. Baronet said) but he repeated, great public inconvenience from the absence of their colleague. What said Lord Beresford in his evidence? "We managed" said the noble Lord, "by much additional work, to get on so that the public service suffered no inconvenience." This was the language of the noble Lord at the head of the department, who must be pretty well acquainted with the duties to be performed in it. He should not make any observation on that part of the hon. Baronet's statement which referred to the military duties of the office, because he really was not well acquainted with the nature of those duties; but this much he might say, that there were just the same number of military officers at the time when the noble Duke was at the head of the department as there are now. The hon. Member then referred to the evidence given before the Finance Committee to show the necessity of there being an efficient military person in the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, on account of the urgency and importance of his duties. The Duke of Wellington, he said, was asked "Do you consider the continuance of the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance as essential to the well being of the service?"—"Yes I do" was the answer. "The Lieutenant-General," the Duke added, "has some very important duties to perform." The Duke afterwards explained that great inconvenience had been felt by the duties of this officer having, on occasion of his absence, devolved on another person. Sir Henry Hardinge, too, was asked, "Did not the Commission of Military Inquiry recommend the abolition of the office?" He answered, "They did recommend the abolition of the office, but, I believe, with certain qualifications; and I believe, that they did not take the best view of the subject." In reply to the question "What inconvenience had been felt by the absence of the principal officer," he said "I do not know that positive inconvenience resulted to the public, but I must say, that it was a great inconvenience to Lord Downes and myself, and those who performed those duties." The hon. Baronet had referred to the opinions of the Finance Committee. He would refer the hon. Baronet to the occurrences of the debate of 1828, when 1024 Mr. Canning read letters from the Duke of Wellington, in which that noble Duke offered the situation to two of his friends successively—Lord Hill and Lord Hope-town—and stated to them at the same time, that although he was anxious they should accept the office, yet that the duties were laborious and pressing; that they would be obliged to attend for a considerable portion of their time, and that he was afraid they must remain in town to perform those duties for the greater part of the year, if not the whole of it. This was the candid declaration of the Duke of Wellington in offering the situation to the acceptance of his friends. He remembered very well that at the time Mr. Canning read this letter, the hon. Member for Montrose declared that this was the old way of evading the question, and that the Duke was merely beating up for a person to supply his place, and do all the heavy work which he was not willing to perform himself. He (Mr. Perceval) did not believe that any one who knew the habits of business of the noble Duke, and the zeal and ability with which he discharged all the duties of his office, could suppose that he had any such intention, or that such an interpretation could be fairly put on this testimony, in favour of the importance of the office. He did not feel it necessary to say more. The hon. Baronet had given no reasons for the reduction of the office. He repeated he had heard no reason for it; and he should therefore leave it to the good sense and justice of the House to determine on the support of an efficient and important office.
Lord John Russell
said, that if the House voted with the hon. Gentleman, it would be on grounds very different from any he had stated; for the hon. Gentleman seemed to despise not only the Finance Committee, but every Committee that had ever sat in that House. He could tell the hon. Member that Committees of that House were held in respect by all the Ministers of the Crown; the right hon. the Secretary of State had spoken of them with great respect, and even the Marquis of Londonderry had declared, in opposition to a motion for the appointment of a Committee on Finance, that their situation was so peculiar, and their powers so great, it was desirable not to make them too common. The hon. Member should recollect, that the Finance Committee of which he spoke so lightly had 1025 been proposed by Lord Goderich, and appointed by Mr. Canning in the following year, who said at the time, if it should turn out in inquiry that there were excesses in the expenditure of the public departments, these excesses must not be taken to be a consequence of a disposition to excess on the part of the Government, but they were attributable purely to a desire on the part of the heads of the departments to keep these departments as efficient as possible, without considering the extent of the expense incurred by the country. The Ministers, in moving the appointment, stated that it was absolutely necessary to revise the public expenditure. Well, the Committee was appointed; it decided after diligent-inquiry, that the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance ought to be abolished; and in opposition to this, the hon. Gentleman, after citing the opinion of the Duke of Wellington in favour of the office, declares at once, and without hesitation, that the case was so decided by experience and knowledge against absolute ignorance. He confessed he had never heard such language applied to a Committee of the House of Commons before, although he might have read something approaching to it in the speeches of Radical Reformers, when they advocated Universal Suffrage. He was confident that many of the Gentlemen on the opposite benches must differ from the hon. Gentleman, and none was bound to do so more than the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Peel), who had repeatedly, during the present Session, expressed an opinion that the decisions of Committees were entitled to the highest respect; and even gone so far in the debate on the propriety of retaining the Treasurership of the Navy, as to declare, that if they did not attend to the reports of Committees, they would instead of a beacon to guide the House, become a false light to mislead it. The hon. Gentleman, however, took the opinion of a Finance Committee appointed by Lord Castlereagh; a committee which, from its being composed of too many official persons, his right hon. friend, Mr. Tierney (of whom he would say nothing more, after the eloquent tributes so lately paid to his memory), and, he believed, the present Lord Carlisle, with others, refused to attend. This Committee, whose reports, as it was said at the time, were made up at the office in Downing-street, was put in competition with that of 1828, appoint- 1026 ed in an impartial manner, and composed, of some of the ablest men in the House, and from its decisions the hon. Gentleman appealed to the committee of 1817. This was the nature of the hon. Gentleman's defence. The hon. Gentleman, moreover, dwelt on the inconvenience sustained from the absence of the Lieutenant-general in Portugal. It was a very different thing, however, to speak of inconvenience sustained by the absence of a Member who composed one of a Board, and the inconvenience which might arise from the abolition of the office. In the one case disorder might ensue by his duties being suddenly thrown on others, but the question in the other was, whether, if those duties were distributed among them, they were not able to perform them? This was the question before the House at that moment, and being satisfied that they could be so performed, he should vote for the Amendment of the hon. Baronet.
differed altogether from the noble Lord and the hon. Baronet on this question. He was a military man, and he felt it necessary to give his vote for the army. The House complained of the increase of military offices, and they should not complain of these offices, which were given them as privates. The office, he believed, was but a poor 1,200l. a year— nothing more, or he believed very little, and he thought it was beneath the talents of the great civilians in that House to enter the arena against the army, and strip for a contest with them about a petty sum of that kind. What was the paltry sum of l,200l. a year compared with the services of the army, which had so many commanding claims on all the sympathies of the House? It was absolutely a mere nothing. It was, he repeated a great professional case, and in that light alone ought they to consider it. If the hon. Baronet wanted 1,200l. a year for the use of the country, why did he not take hold of a Prebendary of Rochester, or some person of that kind, instead of attempting to deprive the army of the little which was left to them? He thought the hon. Baronet had not made out a good ease, and he should vote against him.
The Earl of Uxbridge
, in a tone so low as to be scarcely audible in the gallery, stated his conviction, founded on the opinion of the noble Duke, as well as of his father (the Marquis of Anglesea,) that the office of Lieutenant-general was abso- 1027 lutely necessary. He felt it right to say this, because he had voted against Ministers on Friday, and he wished to guard himself against the inconsistency of being supposed to espouse one party to-day and another to-morrow.
§ Mr. Perceval
, in explanation, expressed a high respect for every member of the Finance Committee, and declared he did not intend to impute ignorance, in the sense ascribed to it, to any member of that Committee. He only wished to suggest to the House that it was probable, as the committee was composed of unprofessional men, that it might have formed its opinion on insufficient grounds.
§ Mr. Liddell
felt it necessary to explain the vote he had given the other evening, and at the same time to guard himself against the inconsistency which the noble Lord seemed to dread. He had voted for the pension to the sons of Cabinet Ministers because he thought that having filled office they deserved the retiring allowance, and because he wished to show that Ministers deserved credit for having reduced these offices when so filled. He had voted with Ministers then, because, although he loved economy as much as any man, he loved justice more. He had read the Finance Report with attention, and came down prepared to vote for the Amendment of the noble Baronet, but after hearing what had fallen from the noble Lord, and after weighing the high testimony that there was in favour of continuing the office, he was compelled to vole against the hon. Baronet.
§ Lord Howick
spoke in favour of the Amendment. He protested against the House being led by the opinions of the Duke of Wellington, and he thought that the power of doing without the service of the Lieutenant-general for some months was the best proof of the unnecessary nature of the office. His opinion was formed on facts, not on the opinions of other men, and therefore he should vote for the Amendment.
§ Sir Henry Hardinge
said, he thought with the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) that the testimony of the noble Lord, or his noble friend, if he would allow him to call him so,—and well he might if great respect and long acquaintance could justify the use of the term,— his noble friend's testimony, derived as it was from his noble father, well deserved the attention of the Committee. The 1028 opinion he had stated to be held by the noble Marquis of Anglesea was no other than he expected from a nobleman for whom he had the highest professional respect. When the noble Marquis concurred in opinion with the late Master-general of the Ordnance in the propriety of keeping up the office of the Lieutenant-general, that was such high professional testimony that none more convincing could be offered. He might rest his case on that, but he felt it necessary to advert to the arguments, though he did not feel himself equal to the task of answering the speech of the hon. Baronet, filled as that was with well rounded periods and classical quotations. He could not compete with him in declamation; but as far as plain facts went he should endeavour to show that the hon. Baronet was mistaken. The hon. Baronet had indulged in a great deal of declamation about distress; but although that distress might form a good reason for doing away with unnecessary expense, it was none for the abolition of an office which the public service rendered indispensable, and which the House, in the year 1818, had, by a large majority, declared to be so. The only reason for abolishing it was, that the Finance Committee, on the evidence of the Military Commission, had declared it should be abolished; but he thought he should be able to show that the commissioners were mistaken in the view they took of the nature of the office, as well as of the constitution of the Board. He begged leave to state what the number of the absences of the Master-general and the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance had been during the last thirty years. Lord Mulgrave, while Master-general, had never been absent. Lord Moira had never been absent. Lord Chatham, in eight years, was absent for four months; and the Duke of Wellington, in nine years, had been absent about six months—making a total absence of ten months in thirty years. He was not able to go further back than twenty-five years with regard to the Lieutenants-general, and the absences amounted to eighteen months in the whole, or to about three weeks in each year. The principal instance of absence was that of Sir W. Clinton, who, on a sudden emergency, was sent to Portugal at the head of an army, and while he was away it was in contemplation with Lord Goderich's administration to appoint Sir Herbert 1029 Taylor in his stead—although that intention was not carried into execution. He also wished to call attention to the number of witnesses in favour of the continuance of the appointment of Lieutenant-general. Lord Chatham had held it most important; and in 1822 Mr. Canning had delivered a celebrated speech in its favour. In that speech he had truly stated that the Military Commission had never contemplated the continuance of the Board of Ordnance with less than five Board officers, and it was equally true that the salaries of the Board officers were at present actually loss than had been recommended by the Military Commissioners. The Finance Committee of 1817 or 1818 had never once called the necessity of this office in question, with all their anxiety for retrenchment, and it was but fair that they should now bear in mind the strong evidence of the Duke of Wellington in its favour in 1822, when he never anticipated that it would so soon be selected for attack. In that year the noble Duke had required that the Lieutenant-general should reside entirely in London, in consequence of the arduous nature of his duties, thus giving his decided and unimpeached testimony in favour of the continuance of the office; at that date, too, no Finance Committee had made a report to call the matter in question. The foundation of the recommendation of the Finance Committee was the absence of the Master and Lieutenant-generals; but he had shown that upon that point the Committee was wholly mistaken. Of his own evidence before that body, he (Sir H. Hardinge) would only say that the hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had not been able to show any discrepancy in it: he had spoken truly and honestly, and he had adhered to every word he had uttered. After all the reductions and improvements in the Ordnance Department—and after it was admitted on all hands that it had been rendered most complete and perfect, it was hardly fair for the hon. Baronet to propose an amendment, declaring that, as a reward for all that had been done, one of the principal offices should be abolished. Mr. Ward, when Clerk of the Ordnance, had candidly allowed that it would be much better to reduce his own office than that of Lieutenant-general. In 1823 the English and Irish Barrack Departments, and some others, had been added to the Ordnance, and a saving of more than 4,000l. 1030 a year thus effected. The Duke of Wellington, before the Finance Committee, had given his evidence strongly in favour of retaining the appointment, and he (Sir H. Hardinge) called upon the House not now to throw a slur upon his Grace by carrying the Amendment. A more unjust proposition was never made, and it was directly opposed to the decision of the House in 1822 and 1828.
§ Lord Althorp
said, he had no doubt that the Duke of Wellington and the right hon. Gentleman had given their evidence in perfect sincerity, and were at the time convinced that they were correct in their opinions; but he contended that the House had a right to be satisfied with respect to the reasons on which their opinions were founded, without meaning to throw reflections on the evidence, or to arraign the motives of those by whom such was given. In the present instance the committee was satisfied that the reasons given for preserving the two offices were insufficient, as they found that the duties of the Lieutenant-general could very well be performed by the Master-general, as they had often been before. What were the duties which the Lieutenant-general had to perform, exclusively of what he performed as a Board officer? None, except it was those of the Master-general, when he was absent. In that case he admitted that the Lieutenant-general was an efficient officer. But if it were the business of Government to provide for the absence of their officers, they ought to have a deputy for every office. The right hon. Gentleman had taken the average times of absence of the Master-general during a certain period of years; but he did not think that that would do away with the plain fact, that the Master-general was absent for fourteen months together. It had been stated that the Finance Committee preferred this Board to any other Government board. The reason of that was, that every officer had distinct duties to perform, with one single exception, and that was the Lieutenant-general. He knew that the duties now assigned to this officer were ably performed by the noble Lord who held the office, but he was decidedly of opinion that the office either of the Master-general or of the Lieutenant-general was unnecessary. The noble Lord concluded by expressing his' intention of voting in favour of the Amendment.
Lord E. Somerset
said, he did not rise to 1031 speak on the general question before the House, but simply to correct an error into which the noble Lord who had just spoken had been betrayed. The noble Lord had stated that the duties of the Master-general and of the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance were the same, and might be performed by one person; but he could assure the noble Lord, that since he had the honour of filling the situation of Lieutenant-general, he had had constant occupation, and the Master-general had always been present. He considered that the duties of the Master-general could only be performed by an officer of high rank.
stated, that notwithstanding the majority which the Government had in the Finance Committee, that Committee had come to the resolution of recommending the abolition of the office of Lieutenant-general. He conceived that the duties of that officer could be better performed by one of the Generals of the Artillery, than by officers of the line; for they were such as required some scientific knowledge. In his opinion it would be economical to appoint an artillery officer to do the duties.
§ Lord Morpeth
informed the House, that notwithstanding the authorities it had heard quoted in favour of the office in question, there were also some which could be adduced of an opposite nature. Lord Moira, in 1810, said that the Lieutenant-general had no duties to perform beyond what he performed as a Board-officer, except in the case of the absence of the Master-general. It appeared that Ministers in that House were inclined to adopt the doctrine broached elsewhere, and to hold committees cheap. The only recommendation for specific reduction given by the Finance Committee was with respect to the office under debate, and that recommendation had been neglected. He considered the diminution in taxation which the House must make ought to make it more earnest than ever in reducing the expenditure.
said, no man was more disposed than he was, to give full credit to the hon. Baronet, who moved the Amendment for the most perfect sincerity, yet he was sure, that the hon. Baronet would not desire to be exempt from that ordinary rule of debate, by which all that was said by one party was not taken for granted by their opponent, but submitted to that close 1032 examination, which was necessary to the investigation of truth. The hon. Baronet had proved himself a most skilful advocate, for with all his professions of sincerity he had contrived to press into his speech every argument, connected or unconnected with the subject, which might produce an impression unfavourable to the Government—the influence of the Crown in that House; and the opinions of Lord Beresford in Portugal; the condition of the Portuguese confined in Terceira; and lastly, Ajax himself! All this might be very well by way of ornament, but did not seem to have much connection with the object which the hon. Baronet professed to have in view,—namely, to prove that the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance was an unnecessary one. The hon. Baronet first attempted to throw on Government the blame of treating with marked disrespect all committees, and particularly the Finance Committee, and called upon the House to support that last-mentioned Committee. Now, what were the facts of the case? The Finance Committee made four very able reports, containing several suggestions as to the most proper mode of carrying on the public service, and, with the single exception of the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, the recommendations of that Finance Committee had been acted upon, or attempted to be carried into effect, by the Government. If the House recollected, the first Report of the Finance Committee referred to the mode in which annuities were granted, and pointed out how a saving might be effected by an alteration of the system. That suggestion was immediately assented to by the Government, and carried into effect by the bill which was brought in by his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The second Report referred to the Ordnance, which for the present he would not notice. The third Report recommended an alteration in the mode of granting superannuation allowances; and, if that recommendation were not carried into effect, it was certainly not owing to any fault of the Government. His right hon. friend proposed a measure to carry into effect that recommendation, but he did not meet with that support from the House which he felt himself entitled to expect. The fourth report of the Finance Committee reviewed the general financial system of the country, and among its recom- 1033 mendations was the abolition of a nominal and delusive sinking fund. That recommendation was carried into effect, and a bill was brought in to appoint a surplus revenue for the purpose of forming a sinking fund. The second Report of the committee referred, as he had said, to the Ordnance Department, and every one of its recommendations relating to the reduction of the salaries of the officers had been attended to. The Government could not, there fore, be charged with treating with disrespect the recommendations of that Committee. They had given practical proofs of their desire to carry into effect the improvements suggested by the Finance Committee. But how was it the duty of public servants to act? If a man in the situation of the Duke of Wellington were conscientiously convinced that it was for the interest of the State that a certain office should be maintained, was it his duty to act contrary to his conviction, and propose to the House to adopt the recommendation of the Committee of Finance, or appeal to the House from the Report of the Committee, and give effect to that, which in his conscience he believed would lend to promote the interests of the public service? If a Minister of the Crown, whom the Constitution made responsible for his conduct, was not to act on the well-considered deliberation of his own mind,—if the Duke of Wellington, responsible as he must be for the efficiency of every branch of the military service, but above all of that particular branch over which he presided for so many years, was not at liberty,—nay, if it was not his sacred duty to appeal to that House (for that was all he claimed a right to do) in support of what he believed to be most advantageous to the public service,—the responsibility and the duty of Ministers became a perfect mockery. The noble Lord had said, that the Committee of Finance had a right to reject the opinion of the Duke of Wellington. He admitted that they had, and he hoped at the same time the noble Lord would concede to Ministers the right of differing from the Committee, and of submitting to Parliament what they conceived to be best for the public service. And who were the individuals who entertained the opinion that the continuance of the office in dispute would tend to promote the public service? They were those who had followed up the example set by their pre- 1034 decessors, and who, having filled the office of Master-general, had been constantly occupied in endeavours to reduce the expenditure of the establishment. None had laboured with more zeal and greater success in this way than the Duke of Wellington, who, during the period when he was Master-general, was so far from manifesting a disposition to encourage superfluous expense, that the Ordnance Estimates had been reduced in amount by 1,000,000l.: and there never was a case in which so much perhaps even necessary establishment had been reduced, and so much patronage lost to the Government. Much had been said with respect to the discontinuance of the Finance Committee, but he was sure that many of those Gentlemen who regretted its non-existence were aware that Government was more able to examine thoroughly into the different departments of the State, and propose reduction. Indeed, a Finance Committee, in consequence of its being unable to examine into details, might become an authority to Government for expenditure rather than reduction. Among the recommendations of the Finance Committee was one, that inquiry should be prosecuted by the Government, as it could do more than any Finance Committee. Had the Government disregarded that recommendation? On the contrary, it had shown every respect to the Committee of Finance, and since it had closed its labours, great reductions had been made in the civil establishment of the Ordnance, as advised by the Committee. By the labour of officers in that department reductions had been effected to the extent of 27,800l. Further reductions to the amount of 4,500l. were in contemplation, and would be carried into effect before the next Estimates were brought forward. Having stated these facts, he was relieved from the necessity of saying any thing further on the charge which had been brought against the Government, of treating the Finance Committee with disrespect. The Committee had not been continued, in order that Government might examine into every department of the State. It was not therefore from any desire on the part of the Government to shrink from inquiry, but from a desire to undertake inquiry, that the Committee was not re-appointed. The hon. Gentleman had said that there was some inconsistency in his, (Mr. Peel's) declining to adopt the recom- 1035 mendation of the Finance Committee with respect to the office of Lieutenant-general, when he showed himself so strict an advocate for the opinion of a committee respecting the Treasurership of the Navy. But this hon. Gentleman must see that his argument partook of a fallacy. The hon. Baronet proposed a vote of condemnation against the Government, for retaining the office of Treasurer of the Navy with a salary of 2,000l. a year. That proposition he had met with the argument that it was not fair to visit the Government with a. vote of condemnation, when it adopted the recommendation of a Finance Committee, which was the best guide by which it could learn what was the opinion of the House. By adopting that recommendation of the Committee, he showed no inconsistency between the course he was now pursuing and that which he pursued on a former occasion. Since the discussion in 1823, the House had not adverted to the saving of expenditure effected in the Ordnance Department and the additional duties imposed. Since that period the Comptroller of the Barracks, with a salary of 1,500l., had been abolished, and by the duties which had been transferred to the Ordnance Department, a saving of 4,6802. had been effected. All these alterations had added to the duties of the Lieutenant-general, which were various. They related to the recruiting department, to the examination of cadets and other subjects. The hon. Baronet had said, that in the present distressed state of the country, the Lieutenant-general, being a useless officer, ought to be dismissed. If he were a useless officer, he ought to be dismissed at any time, whether the country were distressed or not; but if by dismissing him the efficiency of the service would be impaired, the Government would not be justified in abolishing the office in order to court popularity in a time of distress. The question for the House to consider was, whether or not the office was a proper one. But the hon. Baronet inferred, that Government defended the present vote on the ground of preserving the influence of the Crown in that House, and had accused him of casting a longing eye to the times of Sir Robert Walpole and Mr. Pelham, when 270 servants of the Government filled the Benches of that House. The hon. Baronet had accused him of having expressed an opinion in favour of a return 1036 to those good old times, but he had only referred lo them to show what was the state of the influence of the Crown in the House at that time. The hon. Baronet said, this office was maintained for the purpose of increasing the influence of the Crown. In enumerating the illustrious names of those who had filled the calumniated office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance, he appealed to the House to decide, whether those appointments were more likely to have been the result of a desire to court the favour of parliamentary influence, or from a desire to enlist in the military service during times of peace those officers who had rendered themselves most conspicuous by their exertions and character during war. When the office became vacant in 1822, the first offer of it was made to Lord Hopetoun. The situation would be accompanied, as his Lordship was told, with incessant labour, and almost perpetual residence in London. On these grounds Lord Hopetoun refused the situation. The next officer to whom it was offered on the same conditions, and by whom it was on the same grounds refused, was Lord Hill. The third offer was made to Lord Beresford, and accepted. On its resignation by that noble Lord, it was filled for a short time by his right hon. friend, Sir George Murray, whose exertions in war, and whose glorious campaigns had so greatly distinguished him. When the office was resigned by him, it was offered to Sir W. Clinton; on Sir William Clinton's quitting the office [hear hear!] he was surprised at the sneer which had followed his mentioning the retirement of Sir William Clinton—he was surprised at its coming from the part of the House which it came from, and from which he should least of all have expected any condemnation of the determination of Government to be unanimous on the question to which that retirement referred—he had thought the House had heard enough of imputation on Mr. Pitt in former times, with reference to the Slave-trade, and on other Governments engaged in important measures, for allowing themselves to be defeated by the votes of persons connected with them in office. Of this he was sure, that if Government had been defeated in their proposition last year by the votes of persons holding office under them, he should have received from the hon. Baronet a lesson on the subject in terms of no very mild a nature. But to 1037 return to the point from which his attention had been for a moment diverted: it had been said that this office was filled by men of great family and much parliamentary influence; but he thought it was rather a subject of congratulation that the best blood of England should have been shed in those fields of glory where its honour had been so bravely asserted; and if such men had so distinguished themselves, was the fact of their connexion with high and noble families to deprive them of their well-earned reward? Miserable, indeed, would be the fate of those hon. and gallant officers, if, after all their great services, his noble friend at the head of the Government were to say to such men as Lord Hopetoun, Lord Hill, Lord Somerset, and those others of his gallant companions in arms,—"'Pis true you have distinguished yourself by most heroic efforts in the service of your country,—'tis true you have, in times of peril, appeared as the intrepid assertors of her honour,—'tis true you are entitled to reward, and are eminently qualified to be placed in a situation where your country may derive still farther benefit by your military skill,—but it is also true, that you are descended from great families, connected with much parliamentary influence, and I must not recommend you to an office of which you are every way so worthy, lest I should incur a sneer at having made the recommendation with a view to that influence." Such language would be unworthy of his noble friend, and unworthy of the country in whose service he and his gallant companions so honourably distinguished themselves. In conclusion, the right hon. Gentleman expressed a hope that the vote of that night would not have the effect of declaring that this office was kept, not as a reward for military merit, and he had not put it on that ground, but was retained for the purpose of the influence which might be gained by a single vote.
Mr. C. Grant
said, that his right hon. friend (Mr. Peel) had himself fallen into the error of which he had accused his hon friend the Member for Cumberland, who brought forward this Motion. In the speech with which he had just favoured the House, his right hon. friend had drawn their attention to any thing rather than to the particular question on which they were to be called upon to vote. His right hon. friend had mixed up a great variety of 1038 topics, but with no little ingenuity had left out of his consideration altogether the utility of this office. What did his right hon. friend's speech consist of?—an introduction of the four Finance reports— an account of pensions and superannuations,—an eulogium on the noble Duke at the head of the Government, in the justice of which he fully concurred—a panegyric on the gallant feats of those distinguished officers who held this office in the Ordnance, or to whom it was offered, and a dissertation on the advantages of a united cabinet. But if his right hon. friend found a united government so necessary as to feel warranted in dismissing a gallant officer from his situation, for an expression of an opinion opposed to that Government on one great measure, why had certain persons in civil situations been allowed to remain to struggle against that measure? He admitted the great and valuable services of those distinguished officers whose names had been mentioned in connexion with this situation; but he must say, that those illustrious names had not been fairly dealt with in coupling them with a useless place, and in exposing them to some share of the obloquy which must reflect on them from a connexion with such an office. He must protest against the tone which had been assumed in the course of this debate (he did not say by his right hon. friend, Mr. Peel), as if it were a matter of extravagant presumption in any man whose brows were not covered with laurels to dispute the authority of the Duke of Wellington on this question. He (Mr. Grant) had a very high respect for the authority of the noble Duke, and also for that of the hon. and gallant Secretary at War, but the House was called upon, in this case, to act for itself, and should not be influenced by the dictum of any man, however deservedly high his character. The noble Duke at the head of the Government could not do otherwise than submit the matter for the opinion of the House, and he hoped that opinion would be pronounced in resistance to that tone in which the House was addressed on the subject. It was in evidence before them, and no man had pretended to controvert the fact, that the business of the Ordnance might be performed by one assidnous person. No doubt a Lieutenant-general was found useful when the head of the office was absent—when, for instance, the Duke pf Marlborough was at Blenheim—when 1039 Lord Cornwallis was acting as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland—the attention of a Lieutenant-general was required, and found very useful in the absence of the principal; and at the very time when the office was offered to Lord Hopetoun, the noble Duke at the head of the office was engaged on an important diplomatic mission abroad. They had, then, the authority of the Finance Committee, supported by that of the Military Commission of 1822, for saying that one person could discharge the business of the office; but they had, in addition, this important fact, that for fourteen months the gallant officer who held the office of Lieutenant-general, was engaged in the command of the army at Lisbon. What became during this time of that vast detail of important business which the Lieutenant was daily to superintend—of the thousands of pensions to be paid—of the 3,000 or 4,000 persons at Woolwich, and other places, whom he was obliged to know personally, and to be in daily communication with? What became of all these during that long period of absence? Why to vote, after these facts, that the office of Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance was necessary, would be as much in the face of common sense, and against the evidence of facts, as was the resolution which voted that a 1l. note and 1s. were equal in value to a golden guinea, at a moment when every man in the country was convinced of the reverse. His right hon. friend had maintained, that the hon. Baronet's refer-once to the state of the country had nothing to do with the question. He was of a different opinion. He thought the state of the country gave great urgency to the necessity of adopting the hon. Baronet's proposition. The subject derived its importance, not from its nominal amount, but from the present situation of the country. They had heard much of public opinion. Never was there a time when it was more fully brought to bear upon that House. Such was the diffusion of knowledge, and the communication of intelligence, that scarcely was any vote of importance carried in that House, when it was discussed and canvassed in every part of the country,—not merely amongst the higher and thosé who were usually termed the enlightened, but amongst the lower and now not less enlightened classes of the community. But beyond this the House had already made for itself a favour- 1040 able impression in the good opinion of the country. It had forced considerable reductions of taxation on the Government; would it not be strange then, particularly after the memorable vote of Friday evening, that it should now refuse to do its duty where a similar principle was involved? Let him also remind the Members that they were in a short time to have under their consideration the superannuation. If, in the discharge of their duty, they should feel obliged to press hard upon a very valuable set of public servants,— the clerks in public departments,—would it not be inconsistent to allow themselves on this night to be defeated by the influence which the Lieutenant-general of the Ordnance could throw round him. He called upon the House, therefore, not to nullify the vote which it had come to the other evening, but to follow up the career which it had then commenced.
contended, that his right hon. friend who spoke last had not proved that this office was unnecessary. He complained of the right hon. the Secretary of State diverging from the subject before the House, but he had done the same thing himself. His right hon. friend, with many other Members, laid great stress upon the opinion of the Finance Committee, but as the evidence taken before that Committee had been printed, he could not see why the House at large was not as capable of forming a judgment on that evidence as the twenty-one hon. Members of whom the Committee had been composed. Now it should be recollected, that when this question was formerly brought under the consideration of the House, there was a majority of above 200 Members against a minority of about 92, negativing the recommendation of the Committee. Let it also be remarked, that that decision was come to the year before last. It was natural to suppose, therefore, that its justice was acquiesced in, as the hon. Member for Montrose would certainly not have passed it over last year, when the Estimates were under consideration. Indeed, thehon. Baronet, in bringing forward his present proposition, was, in his opinion, rather poaching upon the hon. Member for Montrose's manor. As to the distress on which so much had been said, he believed it was in a great measure going away. At that hour he would not open a new subject, but he would name one place highly interesting to the agricultural com- 1041 munity, in which the distress was certainly lessened—he meant Mark-lane. He must say, that he thought it most unfortunate that such great questions as the poor-laws, tithes, and other topics connected with the morals and happiness of the people were stayed by debates such as that which had just taken place. He hoped that after Easter they would be brought forward, and be hoped that the benches of the House would then be as well filled. Believing that the existence of the office was necessary for the due performance of important public duties, he should vote against the hon. Baronet's Amendment.
§ Mr. Charles Wynn
would shortly state the grounds of his vote. Whether the sum which it was proposed to save was large or small, it was the duty of the House to apply to the consideration of it the principles of economy. But then it ought to be an economy well understood. For his part, he believed that the first and truest economy was to provide for the most efficient discharge of the duties of the Board in question. That those duties could not be discharged so efficiently without the existence of the office which it was now proposed to abolish was the undoubted opinion of all by whom that office had been held. The right hon. Gentleman had relied much on the circumstance of the holder of the office having been fourteen months absent in Portugal; but he ought to recollect, that during those fourteen months the duties had been discharged by increased exertion on the part of the other chief officer of the department. That increased exertion was such as a man of talent might employ upon an emergency, or under peculiar circumstances, but he could not be expected always to continue such exertions. Besides, if that were an argument for the abolition of this office, there was scarcely any office that might not be in like manner abolished. The duties of the office of First Lord of the Treasury had been discharged during the illness of the Earl of Liverpool by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the other chief officers of the Government; but was that a reason why we should have no First Lord of the Treasury? He recollected that when Mr. Fox was indisposed, the business of his office was performed by Lord Spencer and others; but was that any reason why the office which that eminent statesman then held ought to be abolished? Surely no one would 1042 answer in the affirmative. If the House were to act on the principle of sending out inquiries to ascertain the least possible expense at which the duties of various offices could be performed, there was no doubt they would find persons to fill the offices, but the manner in which the public service was performed would be deteriorated. Under these circumstances he should give his vote as he had given it in 1822 and 1828, for the maintenance of the office, from the evidence formerly given, and from the statements now made, both of which satisfied him of the propriety of retaining it.
Sir James Graham
, in rising to address the House in reply, could not but take the advantage of congratulating them on the fact (if it could be realised) of the decrease of public distress. He could not, however, fail to observe the equivocal proof given by the hon. Member for Breconshire, of the decrease of the public distress. The hon. Member, as a proof of his assertion, had told them that the price of corn had risen in Mark-lane. Why, there was no circumstance which so aggravated the public distress as that. It was the high price of corn, contrasted with the low rate of wages, which pressed upon the labouring population with such fatal effect. He should not, however, upon that question, and at that hour, go further into the question of the cause of the present distress; and after the able speech of his right hon. friend (Mr. C. Grant), he should feel it almost superfluous to say anything in reply to the right hon. Secretary of State for the Home Department. One observation, however, he would make. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed his surprise at the cheer which he (Sir J. Graham) had given to the remarks made upon the punishment (so he must call it) inflicted upon General Clinton. But if the right hon. Gentleman thought that cheer a matter of surprise, he (Sir J. Graham) was still more surprised at the cheer which he believed the right hon. Gentleman had given to the remark of the hon. Member for Breconshire, that this Motion had not been brought forward in the course of last year.
Sir James Graham
, in continuation, was glad to hear the denial, for he should indeed have been sorry that the strenuous support that side of the House had last 1043 year given to the Government in a great measure of liberality and pacification—a support given when its usual supporters had left it, and when it became in consequénce weak, nay powerless—he was sorry, he repeated, to imagine that this generous support had been turned against those who bestowed it, or that because the Members on that side of the House had forborne this Motion, that they were, by those whom they had supported, now to be taunted with their forbearance. It was, he confessed, a fact he was sorry to have witnessed, and he was glad to find that he had been in error, and that his allusion to it had afforded the right hon. Gentleman the opportunity of denying it. But to return to the cheer he had given respecting the punishment of General Clinton. It had been said, that they on that side of the House liked an united government. For himself, he did like it, and in that respect he differed from the hon. Member for Westminster, who seemed to like weak governments; and could he find a government that acted upon principles such as he deemed calculated to secure the happiness and prosperity of the people, he should give it his cordial, his generous, and universal support. But while he and those around him liked an united government, they liked also a government that acted with boldness and with justice. He was sorry to say that was not the case with the present Government. They had cashiered General Clinton, because he had not voted on a certain question—they had cashiered the Attorney-General, whose conduct was candid and manly; but they had overlooked the offences of others, because these latter offenders were powerfully connected. He would not disguise his meaning; it was his habit to speak out fairly, and he would at once state that he meant the Chief Commissioner of the Woods and Forests, the Judge Advocate, and the Secretary to the Board of Control. All had been more active than General Clinton, and fully as active as the Attorney-General, in their opposition to the measure then introduced, but they were not dismissed, or, if they were, had been afterwards readmitted to form a part, aye, and an essential part too, of his Majesty's Government. Upon the present question, one of his arguments was quite unanswered. The constitution of the Board pf Ordnance had been changed since 1044 1828, so as fully to justify this reduction, without the least danger to the interests of the public. He would only allude to one more topic. It had been said, that he had cast slurs upon the Duke of Wellington. He disclaimed the imputation, and he only regretted that in every measure, as in that of the measure of Irish pacification, he could not give the Government of which the noble Duke was at the head his cordial support. He repeated, that he liked a strong government; but for the government to be strong it must pay deference to public opinion, and most especially it must reform those abuses that were connected with corrupt parliamentary influence. He warned them that the time was shortly coming when, if they did not do their duty, the people would see abuses, and would see nothing else: those abuses they would correct, and it was notorious that their correction was not always of the sort which prudent men would most desire; for of them it had been said, and he believed not without reason, that "they abated the nuisance, but they pulled down the House".
utterly disclaimed having cheered any observation which tended to reflect on Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House for not having brought forward this Motion last year.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
denied that the constitution of the Board of Ordnance had been altered since 1828. The number of military officers belonging to it was the same now as before that period.
§ The House then divided, when there appeared—Against the Amendment 200; in its favour 124—Majority in favour of Ministers 76. The Resolution was then agreed to.
|List of the Minority.|
|Althorp, Lord||Buxton, J. J.|
|Attwood, M.||Buxton, T. F.|
|Burrell, Sir C.||Bankes, H.|
|Burrell, W.||Cave, O.|
|Baring, Sir T., Bart.||Cavendish, W.|
|Baring, F.||Carter, J.|
|Baring, W. B.||Calthorpe, Hon. A.|
|Beaumont, F. W.||Canning, Rt. Hon. S.|
|Blandford, Marquis||Calvert, N.|
|Buck, L.||Clifton, Lord|
|Benett, J.||Clive, E.|
|Bernal, R.||Colborne, N. R.|
|Brownlow, C.||Davies, Colonel|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Davenport, E. D.|
|Bentinck, Lord G.||Dawson, A.|
|Birch, J.||Denison, W. J.|
|Bright, H.||Denison, J. E.|
|Du Cane, P.||Pendarves, E. W.|
|Dundas, Hon. T.||Philips, Sir G.|
|Dundas, Hon. Sir R.||Philips, G.|
|Duncombe, Hon. W.||Ponsonby, Hon. F.|
|Dick, Q.||Price, Sir R.|
|Dickinson, W.||Protheroe, F.|
|Ebrington, Viscount||Robarts, A. W.|
|Ellis, Hon. G. A.||Ramsden, J.C.|
|Encombe, Viscount||Ramsbottom, J.|
|Euston, Lord||Rice, T. S.|
|Fane, J.||Rickford, W.|
|Fazakerley, J. N.||Ridley, Sir M. W.|
|Fortescue, Hon. G. M.||Robinson, Sir G.|
|Fyler, T. B.||Robinson, G. R.|
|Gordon, R.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Grant, Rt. Hon. C.||Rumbold, C. E.|
|Grant, R.||Sefton, Lord|
|Heneage, G. F.||Scott, Hon. W. H.|
|Hobhouse, J. C.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
|Honywood, P.||Smith, W.|
|Howard, H.||Smith, V.|
|Howick, Viscount||Smith, R.|
|Hume, J.||Smith, J.|
|Jephson, C. D. O.||Stanley, E.|
|Keck, L.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Kemp, T. R.||Thompson, P. B.|
|Killeen, Lord||Townshend, Lord C.|
|Knatchbull, Sir E.||Tomes, J.|
|Labouchere, H.||Vyvyan, Sir R.|
|Lamb, Hon. G.||Waithman, Alderman|
|Lambert, J. S.||Wood, Alderman|
|Lawley, F.||Wood, C.|
|Lester, B.||Wilbraham, G.|
|Littleton, E.||Wrottesley, Sir J.|
|Lennard, T. B.||Warburton, H.|
|Lloyd, Sir E. P.||Whitmore, W. W.|
|Lumley, J. S.||Wells, J.|
|Maberly, J.||Whitbread, S.|
|Maberly, Col.||Wetherell, Sir C.|
|Marshall W.||Wigram, W.|
|Martin, J.||Warrender, Sir G.|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Graham, Sir G.|
|Milton, Lord||PAIRED OFF.|
|Macdonald, Sir J.||Calvert, C.|
|Monck, J. B.||Tennyson, C.|
|Morpeth, Lord||Newport, Sir J.|
|Nugent, Lord||Rowley, Sir W.|
|Ord, W.||Osborne, Lord F.|
|Parnell, Sir H.||Baring, A.|