§ Mr. Buckingham
rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice:—"That the forcible Impressment of seamen for his Majesty's Navy is unjust, cruel, inefficient, and unnecessary: and that it is the duty of this House to avail itself of the present period of profound peace, to provide some means of manning the ships of his Majesty in time of war, without a violation of the liberties of any class of his Majesty's subjects." He asked the indulgence of the House while he stated to them, as briefly as the nature of so important a subject would admit, the reasons which induced him to entertain the views embodied in the Resolution be had just read, and which he should submit to the sense of the House. He conceived that, among all the various subjects that had been brought before the Legislature during the first Session of the first Reformed Parliament of Great Britain, there was not one that had a juster claim upon their early and serious attention, than the Impressment of British seamen—this blot upon the escutcheon of our country's glory, which every true patriot must be anxious to see speedily wiped away. Wherever the name of England was known, it was invariably associated with maritime greatness and naval superiority to every other nation on the globe. It was, therefore, of the utmost national importance that, 637 whatever might tend to tarnish her fame by mingling with these proud associations the recollection of the mode by which our seamen were procured for the fleets in which they served—and by which our victories were won—should be effectively removed: and although no time could be inopportune for the accomplishment of ends, noble and just in themselves, yet the present period of profound peace might, he thought, be regarded as the very fittest for the consideration of a subject which could not be so safely entered upon during either an actual or a prospective war, as now, when a universal calm prevailed, and when it was, therefore, more easy to investigate the whole of this great question, than when the breeze of battle should again lead hostile fleets to meet in combat, or the storm of actual conflict should set the elements of war in active and destructive motion. In the course of this inquiry, he believed that he should be able to prove, that the practice of forcibly impressing seamen for the naval service of his Majesty was unjust, illegal, cruel, inefficient, and wholly unnecessary; and though either of these grounds taken separately and by itself, would be insufficient to justify the call for its cessation; yet if it could be proved to deserve any one of the many epithets by which he ventured to characterize it, he could not hesitate to believe, that the demand for its abolition would be irresistible, and such as no Government ought to be either disposed or able to withstand. The origin of Impressment went back to those early times in which the despotic Sovereign, having absolute command over the lives and properties of all his subjects, was entitled, by the common law of allegiance, to command the services of his Barons and their vassals, whenever he chose to summon them to the field. Impressment, however, was then general, and not peculiar to any one class—soldiers and seamen—artizans and labourers—leaders and followers—officers and men—arms and ammunition—horses and waggons—provisions and clothing; all were at the King's command, as they still continued to be in countries steeped in barbarism where the monarch is the master, and every subject is his slave. But, as civilization and freedom had advanced in all countries, this demand of the monarch had been gradually confined within narrower limits; and in England, 638 it had long ceased to be applicable to any other class than seamen—who alone were now subject to its despotic grasp. The injustice of Impressment, therefore, being continued to be applied to any one class of his Majesty's subjects only, long after it had ceased to be exercised towards any other class whatever, must be admitted, upon the mere enunciation of the fact, even were all classes of equal value in the State, and all entitled to the same exact amount of indulgence. But a moment's reflection must convince every one, that if the perilous nature of their occupation were to be considered, and if the amount of the sacrifices of home and comfort which they make were to be regarded as fair claims to indulgence, then were seamen, taken as a class, entitled to a preference over many others, in the amount of favour to be shown them; and on these grounds it was, that they found such favour in the general esteem; for let them be seen in any quarter of the world, whether on their own native element or on the shore—whether in the seaport or the inland town—they were admitted by universal feeling and consent to a larger share of the sympathy and kindness of their fellow-subjects than any other class that could be named. At the hands of the people they received their just due: it was only at the hands of their monarch, in whose name and by whose command they were dragged off to the fleet, that they received more injustice and less protection than their countrymen at largo. That this opinion was neither new nor singular, he would show, from the following testimony of a very celebrated writer of our own country, which he would now read to the House. Sir Matthew Decker, who appears to have been one of the first advocates for the Freedom of Commerce, in his "Essay on the causes and decline of the Foreign Trade," Edinburgh, 1756, speaks in the following terms of the tyranny of Impressment, when pointing it out as highly detrimental to our maritime interests:—"The British sailor being forced by Customs and Excise to live dear, must have dear wages, which excludes him from employment whenever foreigners can be legally had, to the great detriment of our sailors, and prevents their increase. All this is not only destructible to our riches, but also lo our security; it being difficult in time of war to man our navy, (not improperly called 639 our floating castles,) and occasions that hard custom of pressing, which puts a free-born British sailor on the footing of a Turkish slave. The Grand Seignor cannot do a more absolute act than to order a man to be dragged away from his family, and against his will run his head before the mouth of a cannon; and, if such acts should be frequent, in Turkey, upon any one set of useful men, would it not drive them away to other countries, and thin their numbers yearly? And would not the remaining few, double or treble their wages? which is the case of our sailors in time of war, to the great detriment of our trade and manufactures." There was no Englishman having a heart that could feel for another, who would not cordially agree with Sir Matthew Decker, that it was most unjust, thus to put the freeborn British seaman upon a level with the Turkish slave. But there was another authority, which might be quoted with equal advantage to show, that if there were any one class of his Majesty's subjects more positively entitled to the national regard than another, it was this very class which was thus so unjustly singled out for persecution. Sir F. Brewster, in his Preface to "The Essays on Trade," observes—"I have often thought there is no part of the nation deserves so much encouragement as those employed at sea. and yet there is none have less; if they were thoroughly considered, perhaps it would form the first care of Parliament, for that our seamen are our defence and treasure; and in this we have the advantage of kingdoms in a continent. There, land armies are charge and burthen to the country they defend, but our sea armies may be useful to enrich the nation, as they are to secure it." The care of Parliament, here so wisely recommended, had not been altogether withheld from the subject:—but it was indeed a long time since. Nor had the royal consideration been wholly denied to this important subject: though it seemed to have evaporated in mere professions only. But it might be interesting to the House to know, that on the opening of Parliament by George 2nd, on the 27th of January, 1728, now more than a century ago, the attention of the Legislature was called to this subject in the following terms:—"I think myself obliged to recommend to you a consideration of the greatest importance, and should look upon it as a great happiness, if at the beginning 640 of my reign, I could see the foundation laid of so great and necessary a work, as the increase and encouragement of our seamen in general, that they may be invited rather than compelled by force and violence to enter the service of their country, as often as occasion will require it,—"a consideration worthy of the representatives of a people great and flourishing in trade and navigation." Surely, then, in the reign of William 4th, the first naval monarch who had swayed the sceptre of Britain for a long period past, whose early life had been spent among his brother seamen in active service on the seas—who knew their feelings, for he had lived and mingled among them who must appreciate their worth, for he had witnessed it in war and in peace—in the display of heroic intrepidity during the battle and the storm—in the exercise of the most unbounded generosity to conquered enemies upon the ocean, and to cherished friends upon the shore—and in that crowning virtue of patience and fortitude in times of trouble and distress, which proved, that the highest degree of manly courage is compatible with the gentlest exercise of the domestic virtues, and that the boldest braving of danger is consistent with the meekest reverence and resignation. But he contended that impressment was also as illegal as it was unjust. Would that the two terms were synonymous; sand that whatever could be proved to be unjust, should be admitted to be on that ground illegal also! But we were yet far removed from that equitable state of things. In the present case, however, the illegality could be clearly shown. There was no statute on our books, which authorized Impressment of any class or in any degree. Its sole apology was to be found in what is called the exercise of the king's prerogative; or, in other words, the remains of the usage of despotic, barbarous, and feudal times, in which, as he had before observed the monarch was the only master, and his subjects were his vassals and his slaves. By the 16th of Charles the 1st, chapter 28, it was declared to be unlawful to impress men for the land services, which was formerly the practice, and which this statute was passed expressly to abolish; so that, as far as statute law was concerned, there was analogy and precedent for a guide; and it surely never could be borne, that a despotic and a profligate monarch like Charles 1st should be cited as passing 641 an Act for the exemption of his soldiers from impressment for the war, and that the Ministers of the first reforming sovereign—the first sailor king—william 4th—should withhold from their honoured master the gratification of giving his royal assent to an Act for abolishing at once, and forever, the forcible impressment of, seamen for the fleet? Some of the greatest lawyers of England had, from the judicial bench, declared against the practice. Lord Camden challenged the whole of the profession, of which he was so great an ornament, to prove impressment to be legal. Lord Mansfield admitted that it had only usage to be urged in its defence, and juries had frequently given their sanction, by verdicts of justifiable homicide, to resistance to the death, of so gross an outrage on the personal liberty of the subject as that of tearing him away by force, to be exposed to those dangers which none should be called upon to brave but by their own free-will and consent. The cruelty of impressment was unhappily as easy of proof as its injustice and its illegality. And the sense of this was as strong, nearly two centuries ago, as it was now. The proofs of the first, however, should be given first: and those of a more recent date might appropriately follow: It was well known, that persons found abroad after dark, although by no means subject to the operation of impress, were taken and shipped off before they could make their cases known, and it had always been the case as he was prepared to prove by several extracts from the Diary of Mr. Samuel Pepys, Secretary to the Admiralty, in Charles the Second's time. The hon. Member accordingly read several extracts from that work, to show, that in his time, men were so pressed. The horrors of impressment, continued the hon. Member, were thus felt even by a Secretary of the Admiralty, in a comparatively remote and, undoubtedly, a heartless and profligate period of our history. It was likely always to have been thought as ill of ever since. But not to go through the tedious stages of the intermediate period, let the following testimony from a British naval officer, now exerting his professional knowledge and powerful talents in the columns of the "Naval and Military Gazette," to wipe away this stain from his profession, and from whose valuable assistance many of the most important facts connected with the elucidation of this subject 642 had been obtained—let his testimony, which he would here cite, as that of an eye-witness of the practice in his own career, show that it had not lessened in its horrors, though nearly two centuries of time had rolled by. He said, "Dragged by a gang of armed ruffians from his hiding place, and probably maimed in his attempts at resistance to this daring outrage on his liberty, he is manacled, and thrown on board a Tender, to herd with the lowest and most abandoned of mankind. Although perhaps torn from the arms of an afflicted or even dying wife or relative, his misery is made the sport of unfeeling men. Compelled to serve for an indefinite time (for his life if the war should last so long) at a third or fourth part of the wages which his labour was worth at the market price, he is harshly treated, and severely punished for trifling faults; particularly if, under the impression of bitter feelings, he shows, or is supposed to show, an obstinate or sulky disposition. Watched with a jealous eye, he is kept a close prisoner on board, never allowed the relaxation of liberty on shore, much less a sight of distant friends; and should a sense of his wrongs induce him to take an opportunity to desert a service, into which he was dragged by force, and detained against his will, he actually incurs the penalty of the punishment of death." There could be no necessity to add to this picture of the cruelty of impressment,—though, if there were, nothing would be more easy than to show it in all its horrors in the conduct of the press-gangs which, on various occasions, during the last war, exercised their power, in emptying the streets of Portsmouth, for the equipment of ships fitting out at Spithead and Ha moaze—in dragging on board the Tender, stationed off the Tower, whoever might have the misfortune to be laid hold of, after sun-set, by the ruffians that scoured every street from Cornhill to the Minories; and left no lane or alley unvisited in Ro therhithe, Shadwell, Limehouse, or Blackwall—carrying off men of respectability, who had never seen the sea, or been on ship-board in their lives, hurrying them to the tender in the dead of night, and conveying them, on the following morning, to the guard-ship at the Nor; perchance they were transferred to fleets or squadrons waiting in the Downs for men, and thence transported to the East Indies and the West—to the African and American coasts 643 —there to perish, by war or by disease, unless their previous sufferings till mortification of mind or body happily shortened their career; but, in either case, leaving behind them widows, orphans, kindred, and friends, who never knew their fate, and who could only indulge some vague hope that they had not been robbed, and murdered for concealment, but that they had been impressed, and might again return—though thousands pined for that return in vain; and all that was ever known was this: that the press-gangs were abroad—that at that period the husband or the father—the brother or the son—the hopes of many infants and the prop of some declining age—had suddenly disappeared, and never had been heard of more." These were the daily and the nightly scenes at home; but abroad they were even more terrific still. In the insolence of power possessed upon the seas, nothing was more common, than, as a punishment for the slightest inattention shown by any particular vessel in a convoy or a fleet, to have the press-gang sent on board to inflict a penalty on the commander, by forcibly seizing some of his most valuable men, and impressing them into the ship of war, compelling the commander of the merchant vessel, though thus distressed by the loss of his ablest hands, to pay up the last farthing of wages due to the seamen thus taken from him, and to see his best men trepanned and kidnapped into slavery, himself injured, mortified, and perhaps abused, and at the same time obliged to bear it all in silence, or even to affect, if possible, a degree of resignation or respect, from the fear of exciting still further vengeance, and being left in the wide ocean without the means of safety or defence. In the harbours abroad, also, nothing was more common than a sudden and unexpectedvisit by night of the press-gang from some ship of war at anchor in the port, whose officers had watched during the day the various crews at work in the merchant ships lying near, so as to see where the youngest, or the healthiest, or the best men could be had, and then taking advantage of the period when excessive toil during the daytime was likely to bury in the profoundest sleep all who were aboard, including even, perhaps, the solitary individual to whom the harbour-watch of the deck might be confided, and then, stealing with muffled oars and stifled breath alongside the devoted 644 ship, leaping sword in hand on deck, guarding the gang-ways to prevent escape, and then ransacking every cabin and every hammock, and dragging away, perhaps, the flower of the crew, who were allowed a few minutes only to gather up their clothes, and jump, half-naked, into the pinnace that would convey them to their floating dungeon, where fever and death, if not the accidents of war, were the only hopes they had of ending an existence, made wretched by tyranny and the dread and terror which it never failed to inspire and prolong. In such cases, many bold and dauntless spirits, who would have faced death in any form, and have gloried in dying for their country, had they been only treated as free men, had leaped into the sea a thousand miles from land and perished in the ocean, and others had sunk silently beneath the bow, or glided along on the cable while at anchor, and in escaping the horrors of the press-gang had fallen a prey to the sharks before they could reach the shore. Who could wonder, after this, that the very name of "a man of war" should strike terror to the seaman's ear? Who could be astonished that there was a reluctance to enter a service characterized by such atrocities as these? But let it be seen how this operated, as cause and effect, to keep the service infamous by the very means to which it had been thought necessary to have recourse to supply the deficiency occasioned by the general reluctance to enter it as volunteers. To show in what a degree of terror a King's ship is held even in London, and by a lad who had been a voyage in a packet, the following case might be given as reported in Bell's Weekly Messenger, for June 2nd, 1822. "A young thief was brought by his father as incorrigible, before the Lord Mayor, who recommended the father to take him (with a note from him) to the captain of the Tender. The idea of the Tender, and service on board a man-of-war, appeared to strike terror into the mind of the boy, who seemed to associate it with the idea of a cat-o'ninetails; but the father was inexorable, and took his son to the Tender, and consigned him as a volunteer to that dread refuge of the disobedient and profligate. If the naval service is held up in this view by the newspapers, after a long period of peace, how can we expect that parents will allow their children to enter it, as the 645 associate of thieves?" Nor was this prejudice of very recent date; for as long ago as the time of Pepys, the "Bridewell birds" were counted on as a resource for the navy; and, in the time of Mr. Pitt, the same policy was pursued. Mr. Pitt, in his motion in 1795, after recapitulating the number of men to be procured by the measures he had proposed, adds:—"To the above would be added those numbers of disorderly persons, whom the Magistrates would be ordered to apprehend for that purpose." Such was the system; robberies were compounded before the Magistrates daily, if the thief would consent to be handed over to the Tender, and thousands were annually added to the service by these means—indeed it arrived to such a pitch at last, that these men, the scourings of gaols, actually came on board in draughts of forty and fifty, with a mark against their names, as sent by the civil power; and were enough to corrupt any ship's company, to say nothing of the disgrace and sorrow of the pressed seaman's relatives, to be told that such were his messmates and associates. The prisonships were also ransacked towards the close of the war, and many foreigners were sent on board, who introduced disgusting customs; in fact, anything that could be procured in the shape of a man, was thought good enough to form part of the complement of our ships. As if this were not degradation sufficient, however, to destroy the reputation and utterly annihilate the attraction of any branch of the public service, smugglers were subsequently added; so that a ship of war, instead of being the home, as she ought to be, of a superior class of men, anxious to serve their country with honour rather than remain in inactivity at home, was converted into a receptacle of the violators of the law, where criminals of every shade and hue were to mingle in one common mass, till each contaminated the other down to the lowest degree of turpitude. So late as the 17th of August, 1832, this system had been continued, as the following extract from the newspapers of that date would show:—"A sailor, named Samuel Smith, belonging to the American ship 'Hannibal,' in the London Docks, was on Monday convicted, at the Thames Police Office, of smuggling 8lbs. of tobacco, which was found concealed in his hat and stockings, by Walden, a Custom House officer; being a subject of 646 his Majesty, he was adjudged to serve him five years in the navy. The Magistrate, however, believing "that he was not a regular smuggler, but had brought the tobacco for his own use, delayed the issuing of the warrant till next day, in hopes that the Board of Customs would not press for his servitude; but it having been discovered that the law was imperative, the Magistrates on Tuesday signed the warrant; Mr. Broderip remarking that the punishment was a monstrous heavy one; sand yesterday the sailor was conveyed in one of the police galleys to a man-of-war, to serve the King five years, as a smuggler." That statement was repeated in The Times, the Herald, and the Globe, and doubtless it went the round of the other town and country paper; thus it was generally published throughout the kingdom, that a man-of-war was still a pi ace of expiation for crime, and that the Magistrate considered it a "monstrous heavy punishment" for a man, by trade a sailor, to serve on board of one for five years. Who could wonder that, under such a system as this, severity of discipline was necessary to maintain anything like order or decorum? Had the men who formed the crews of ships of war been brought together by honourable means, they might have been kept together by honourable treatment. But their only bond of union being crime, the only security for obedience was punishment; and terror, which had been so justly characterized as the sole controlling power over the minds of slaves, was here the only agent that could ever be employed to ensure submission. On this subject let the following testimony of a naval officer be heard. He said:—"A great deal has been urged against the practice of flogging in the King's service, and it would be well if any other mode of punishment could be substitute; but the experience of nearly thirty years obliges me to say, that, with a crew composed of pressed men and convicts, the discipline of a man-of-war cannot be maintained without it. Philanthropists, who are labouring, no doubt with good intentions, would, therefore, do well, instead of agitating a subject which they cannot understand, and the necessity for which they would speedily acknowledge if they witnessed the circumstances which called for its infliction, to lend their powerful aid for the adoption of some better system for raising men for the fleet, as the only means of 647 accomplishing the humane purpose they have in view, without the risk of palpable injury to the service." The most striking comment on the injudiciousness of this system, to use no harsher term, was to be found in the fact, that while it had been a matter of extreme difficulty to man the regular ships of war, there never had been the slightest difficulty in manning privateers, where all the risk of wounds and death existed in an equal degree, Where many other disadvantages were endured, from which the regular naval service was free; but where exemption from the horrors of impressment, and the terrors of the lash, made all the difference, and far more than balanced the account. The evidence on this subject was most complete. "It is notorious that privateers (on board of most of which men are subject to very harsh usage from brutal officers) have never been in want of hand; because, besides the excitement of that service, and the hope of prize-money, the wages were assimilated to those obtained in merchant ships, and the men engaged voluntarily for a limited time. It is the same with the Royal Marine Corps, whose pay, clothing, and maintenance, are about the rate of labourers' wages, and they have always been able to increase their numbers to any extent by enlistment. Now these latter being, when embarked, subject to the same discipline and privations as sailors, partaking the same food, and encountering the same dangers, changes of climates, &c., it is difficult to know what possible reason can be shown, why the like method of procuring men for the naval service should not be adopted instead of impressment." At the same time that privateers were thus easily manned, it was impossible to provide a proper supply of men for the navy, and, accordingly, the jails of our own country, and the prisons of foreign nations, were each had recourse to, to furnish the necessary supplies; and instances were on record, as stated by Admiral Ekins, where drafts of fifty or sixty men at a time had been made from the prisons of Lisbon, and other foreign ports, to recruit, with the criminals of other countries, the fleets of our own. In addition, however, to the deterring influence of the confinement and severity, which were alone sufficient to prevent men from entering the navy, the pay was never sufficient to stimulate men in search of the ordinary reward of their labours; and this 648 was thus stated by an able observer:—"But the fact is, that assimilation of wages, or anything approaching thereto, has never been tendered them; and it should be generally known that during the last war, the best seamen, in King's ships, were not receiving more than the fourth-part of the monthly wages given to foreigners and cripples on board our merchantmen: and we must also recollect that for many years there was little chance of prize money to compensate for this, the sea being cleared of our enemies, and all trade carried on in neutrals, or under licenced flags. This would, of itself, be deemed sufficient to account for the backwardness of men to enter the naval service. But he would add to this, the testimony of the gallant admiral he had just named, and the reasons for that backwardness would then be complete. He said, "that the soldier's period of service was optional—the sailor's perpetual. That he has known instances of men being discharged from ship to ship, who never received a farthing of wages for fifteen years, and eight or ten years was by no means uncommon." The next step to which he wished to draw the attention of the House, in this inquiry, after having proved that impressment was unjust, illegal, and cruel, would be to show that it was inefficient also; that it did not accomplish the object it was established to effect, and that, on this ground alone, it was unworthy of being continued. In doing this, he would refer to authorities of early as well as of recent date; for the more extensive the period throughout which the great truths connected with this subject had been acknowledged by competent judges, the more convincing would their united testimonies be likely to prove. In a debate which took place in Parliament, on the subject of a Registry Bill for seamen, the following passage might be found in a speech of Sir Robert Walpole:—"The hardships of an impress have been long dwelt upon, and displayed with all the power of eloquence. Nor can it be affirmed, that this method of raising seamen is either eligible or legal. I am not about to answer the objections against it, but I shall strengthen them by one more forcible, in my opinion, than all the rest; this method has been found ineffectual and insufficient for its end." He then goes on to say, that although impress had been continued as long as a man could be found, the moment 649 protections were granted, the seamen came in thousands out of their hiding-places. There was also a remarkable letter from the celebrated Jonas Han-way, addressed to Charles Grey, Esq. in 1759, in which this was forcibly dwelt upon. But he thought it would be scarcely necessary to cite evidence upon such a subject. It was a matter plain and tangible to the most ordinary apprehension. For what was the object desired, when a fleet was to be manned? Was it not to collect together as many of the actually existing seamen as might be found in the nation for the purposes of war? Impressment could not create seamen, not previously in existence, nor could it give to landsmen the requisite qualities of seamen, and so fit them at once for their duty. All that it could possibly do, would be to gather together the seamen actually in the country, and transfer them from the shore to the sea. The effect produced by impressment was, however, exactly the reverse of what it aimed at. For, when a war broke out, and a press-gang appeared, the seamen then residing in the sea-ports, and who might easily be prevailed upon to enter for any merchant-ships or even for privateers, took instantly to flight, and scattered themselves through all the surrounding towns and villages; sometimes disguising themselves as farmers, cartmen, and ploughmen; at others, tying up their arms and legs as if wounded; some pretending to be blind, and Others actually mutilating their limbs and wounding their bodies for the express and exclusive purpose of being rejected by the press-gangs if caught. If any remained behind, unable to escape with sufficient speed to avoid the alacrity of their pursuers, they were taken under shelter by humane housekeepers, who gladly afforded them a refuge, and concealed them till the storm was over, under the beds of sick persons, in the innermost recesses of chambers, in chimneys, closets, coal-cellars, and any or every where that might seem to afford them a sacred retreat from the furies by which they were hunted down. In this manner it frequently happened, that when twenty thousand available seamen existed in the sea-port towns at the breaking out of a hot press, a few hundreds were caught on the first day, and on the following morning, nineteen thousand out of the twenty would be scattered and dispersed towards every point of the compass inland, 650 and were thus as completely lost to the service for which they were required as if an earthquake had ingulfed them all. What followed? Why this; in default of seamen, landsmen were seized; and if men could not be had, boys would be taken instead. The beggars would next be carried off, the prisons emptied: and as there were always sure to be a large number found unserviceable after such an indiscriminate sweeping of the houses, streets, and jails as this, twice the number actually required would be conveyed on board, to admit of such discharge; and after all that could be effected in this way was accomplished, it would be found to be inefficient; so that, after completing this career of desolation, by pressing all the men that could be taken from the merchant ships in the harbour, foreigners often included, his Majesty's ill-manned vessel put to sea, encountered a storm in the channel and was lost or escaping this, sailed across the Atlantic, and before her crew was trained into anything like seamanship or discipline, met with an American frigate and was carried in triumph as an easy prize to a ship, manned, perhaps, by some of the best of those very English seamen which the terror of her own press-gangs had induced to fly to another country, in search of that freedom and justice which had been denied them in their own. This terror of the press-gang even operated to such an extent as to produce the most serious injuries to the British fisheries, one of the great sources of the supply of human food:—"At certain seasons (it was said) the ocean teems with fish; and if our sea-coast was more thickly peopled, and more means for taking them at hand when they pay their periodical visits to our shores, one thousand, nay, ten thousand times the present quantity would be secured; but, in prevention of such a desirable object, this baneful system steps in; for a lad convicted of having been seen working a fishing-boat would be a fit subject for impress, and the fear of it deters thousands from blending this with their other occupations. Here is, therefore, a source of cheap food cut off from our, industrious population, which bountiful nature actually throws to their very doors. If, in the mackarel, herring, pilchard, and sprat seasons, exertions were made to take a large quantity of these fish—and there are cheap means of curing them without the use of salt, for those to whose taste 651 that article is unpalatable, which would greatly increase the consumption—the effect of an abundant supply would be to lower the price of other articles of human food, to the same level as it maintains where these fish are on the coast; sand plentifully caught; and the blessings which Providence offers, but which man, owing to the terror of impressment, can but partially accept, would be felt by a numerous class of poor people. Constantly improving as our communications now are, with roads intersecting the country in all parts, there could be no difficulty in carrying large quantities of fish, either fresh or cured, to country markets, where such a thing is now scarcely seen. And from the nursery of youngsters thus profitably employed, would spring up a numerous race of hardy seamen, anxious and willing to better their conditions, by tendering themselves to the King's or merchant's service, where a call was made for them, or bounties offered to them, as in the event of war." The amount of the loss thus sustained by the whole nation would be very difficult to calculate; but there were positive data for determining the amount of loss occasioned to the navy itself, both in men and money, by this system, as absurd as it was wicked, as inefficient as it was unjust:—"The pecuniary loss from this cause (said a writer) is much more considerable than most people imagine. Admirable Patten asserts, that he was enabled, from his official situation as one of the Lords of the Admiralty, to ascertain the fact, that the total number of men, who deserted from the service, at the beginning of the last war, namely, in the twenty-five months from May, 1803, to June, 1805, notwithstanding the great care taken to prevent it, was—Able seamen, 5,662; Ordinary seamen, 3,903 Landsmen, 2,787; Invalided, as not fit for the service, 3,017: making a total loss to the navy in this short time of 15,369 men." The instances of collective wretchedness to be found among crews thus gathered together were innumerable; but one or two would tell their tale as forcibly as a thousand. Admiral Ekins, in his "Naval Battles," relates a number of instances of the inferiority of the draughts of men, in appearance and muscular strength, as well as character, who were sent on board our ships during the last war. He asserts, "that Sir Home Popham, while fitting out his 652 Majesty's ship 'Stirling-Castle' for the East Indies, actually weighed his crew of 600 men, and the average was only jockey weight. On stating the circumstances to the Admiralty, be had 200 of them changed for heavier men."—"Again, upon fifty convicts being sent on board his Majesty's ship 'Bellona' (74), they were called aft, and addressed by the Captain, who told them he would start fair and give them a chance, but that if any one of them was reported for punishment, he should receive double allowance, and this promise appears to have had a good effect."—"The 'Conqueror' (74) had not more than twenty effective seamen on board in 1804; and, in 1803, when the 'Donegal' and' Belleisle' were sent out to the Mediterranean, they had not twenty men each who could take the helm. The 'Conqueror,' after the battle of Trafalgar, had only eight men on board after manning her prize who could knot a shroud."—"The system was, to split one tolerable ship's company into three, and then fill up, with all the men that could be procured from the prison and jail ships. Thus the ship's company of the Prince' which was a tolerably good one was, in 1809, draughted into the Vanguard, 'Goliath,' and 'Jupiter,' and the remainder of the crews of these ships were completed in the manner described." What had become in the meantime of all the healthy, vigorous, smart, and able-bodied seamen, for which England had been famed in all ages? Whither had they bent their course? Under what flags were they sailing? Whose battles were they fighting? And who cheered them on by giving them reward as well as renown? Let the following testimony answer:—"The Americans, during the last war, made no secret of their endeavours to seduce our seamen. They offered such as deserted, land in their territory; carried flags with mottos, 'Sailors' Rights,' 'No Impressment,' &c.; and by constantly asserting that the war was undertaken and maintained for the freedom of mariners, no doubt made a great impression on the minds of those whom they had taken prisoners. On one occasion, the Corporation of New York gave a dinner to the crew of the united States, when she returned to that port, after the capture of the 'Macedonian.' After the toast, 'Sailors' Rights, 'No Impressment,' had been drunk with nine times nine cheers, regulated by the boatswain's call, Alderman Vanderbelt 653 thus addressed them:—'Remember, then, ye valiant tars, that ye have been rocked in freedom's cradle, enlisted voluntarily under your country's banners, not torn by a merciless press-gang from your wives and children, and dear connexions,' &c. By such means as these, numbers of the 'Macedonian's' crew were seduced from the prison into their service; and some of them being afterwards captured by our ships and recognized, were tried and executed for deserting to the enemy, and serving in arms against their country." Admiral Ekins says, "that Commodore Decatur declared, after taking the Macedonian, that he had not a seaman in his ship, who had not served from five to twelve years in the British navy." He added, that two of their guns were named 'Nelson' and 'Victory;' and to the former it was the exclusive privilege of men who had been bargemen of the British Admiral to be quartered!" On such facts as these it would be a waste of the time of the House to comment; let who could look back upon the history of that painful war, and not blame our own country for many of the disasters then brought upon herself? Who, above all, could fail to say, that if such a war were to be entered upon again, he would not advise a very different course to be pursued? It behoved us, then, to be wise in time, and while we yet enjoyed profound peace, to devise, arrange, and consolidate some just and honourable mode by which we could secure the exercise of British skill and British valour for the protection of British interests and the maintenance of British rights. If we were to be checked in our onward career, let it be by the hand of a fair and open enemy, and not by the hands of our own brave seamen, driven by almost justifiable desperation to fight the battles of any country in freedom, rather than be dragged to perish as slaves and criminals for their own. The expensiveness of the system of impressment was also an object worthy of consideration; and he was prepared to prove, that this was as great as its inefficiency, on which ground alone it merited reprobation and demanded correction. It was a fact well ascertained, that during the last war there was kept up an establishment for receiving ships at the different ports, and tenders for the conveyance of pressed men, which required crews to the extent of 1,500 seamen to man the different vessels employed, 654 and that the lowest amount of expense for ships, seamen, wages, provisions, and wear and tear, was 200,000l. per annum. Mr. Draper, one of the North Sea pilots, when on board the Admiral's ship 'Majestic,' in Yarmouth Roads, stated, that comparing the Impress Establishment kept up at that port, with the number of men obtained by it for the navy during the early part of the war with France, it was proved that every one of the few so secured and retained as able seamen on board the fleet, cost the country, at least 600l. sterling! yet their discharge was procurable for 80l. which was thought a very high price. Nothing in the annals of mismanagement, copious as they were in illustration, could exceed the folly and the wastefulness of this. Yet this was not all, for independently of the direct cost to the nation, the indirect charge upon the various interests of the country was enormous. He would give the following as an instance:—"The reduction of wages which would take place under a better system would probably benefit our shipowners to the amount of 1,000,000l. annually in time of peace, and to the extent of several millions during war; and this without real injury to the sailor. The public in general, more particularly the inhabitants of the metropolis, suffer more than they are aware of from the enhanced price of coal; and when impressment is going on, the crews of the collier vessels are afraid to come up the river, and the masters are oftentimes obliged to hire protected men, at the rate of 3l. the job each to work them up; all this must be charged on the article to the consumer. Take one instance. The price of coals in 1770 (September) was 26s. per chaldron; in 1771 (owing to the press) they rose to 52s. per chaldron, which had the effect of levying an unnecessary tax on London and its environs of 650,000l. The consumption of the metropolis being now about 1,500,000 tons, a recurrence to impress would be a certain tax on the inhabitants of a million and a half at least, to pay for this indispensable necessary of life." There were yet other modes by which this system of impressment was made to bring heavy burthens on the commerce of the country. Dr. Trotter, the celebrated Physician of the Fleet, had stated, in one of his valuable works, that he had known an instance where 500l. had been offered by a commander and owner of 655 a merchant vessel, to exempt his own ship's company from the visit of the press-gang; and it must be clear that the injury which such a visit would inflict, probably by disabling him from prosecuting his voyage for a long period, must have been apprehended to be greater than the 500l. offered for escape from it; for, in cases where such injuries took place, and where a ship was left in a foreign port, completely laden, and ready to sail but for the want of a competent crew, the most extravagant wages were paid to obtain men to prosecute the voyage, and the competition they occasioned encouraged desertion from one ship to get higher wages in another, until the scale was raised to the highest pitch in all. The following testimony, on this subject was from a naval officer speaking from his own experience on this subject—and this was his language:—"The merchant seaman's wages were trebled in all cases, and in some quadrupled even when they agreed by the month. And, in 1811, when we brought a convoy from Quebec to Spithead, in his Majesty's ship Seine, thirty guineas was given to seamen for the run (that is the voyage); and I knew a man to receive it; and this run we performed before a westerly gale in twenty-one days." Sometimes, indeed, it was the naval officer who was made to pay heavily for the performance of his duty, though acting under the most pressing urgency of orders from his superiors, and much' more to be pitied than blamed. He was directed, for instance, to be ready for sea by a given day. His energies were all put forth, his stores, provisions, water, and equipments, were all complete. The arsenal furnished him all these, but he was deficient in men, which the dock-yard could not supply. The press-gang was armed—they ranged the streets with their naked cutlasses, and pistols loaded in their belts, with an officer at their head—they were unsuccessful in their search; and, in the mortification of their disappointment, or the insolence of their power, they committed some outrage, of which the law took cognizance; and if the injured parties had money enough to prosecute their suit (which might happen in one case, perhaps, out of a hundred, but not more,) the press-gang was made to pay the penalty of their excess. The following might be given as instances by name:—"In 1807, the hon. Captain Blackwood had a verdict against 656 him of 2,888s. 6d. for pressing four men out of the 'Eliza' privateer, of Liver-pool, having Admiralty protection: and, in 1813, Captain Mc Kenzie, of the 'Venus' frigate, was cast in 1000l. damages for the same." The time was now come, however, when the tardy process of the law would no longer be resorted to for redress. Nay, it was upon the brink of having arrived, at the close of the last war, when the seamen of London, as well as of Liverpool, and all the principal outports, had begun to organize committees, to resist the press-gangs by force; and the public feeling was so strongly in their favour that it was believed the whole of the resident population would assist in chasing the press-gangs from the streets. They had gone so far as to declare that they would sacrifice their lives rather than be dragged on board a man-of-war by force; and were prepared to call upon all their brother seamen, if press-warrants should again be issued, to collect together in a body, seize the first ships they could board, and sail off for America, or any other country, rather than be made captives and slaves in their own. If such was the feeling then, the House might imagine what would be the indignation now, when intelligence was so much more generally diffused, when the true principles of rational freedom were so much better understood, and when the doctrine that every man's house was his castle, was not merely a theoretic dogma, but a practical blessing which thousands would rather die than abandon, for themselves, or see outraged by the violation of the home of another. And could any man wonder at all that when the seamen were taught in popular songs—in dramatic entertainments—in public despatches—in spectacles and fêtes—that they should consider themselves a free-born race—then they were called "the nation's deliverers"—hailed as "our gallant tars"—and when the air was rent with shouting.The nations not so blest as theeShall in their turns to tyrants fall,Whilst thou shall flourish great and free,The dread and envy of them allCould they wonder that the seamen should be indignant at the mockery of such exultation, while they were dragged to those floating dungeons, boasted as our defence, as—Britain's best bulwarks are her wooden walls.And when they hear the cannon pealing 657 forth salutes after some splendid victory—then the standard of England floats in the breeze—then the strains of martial music swell the triumph of the hour—and when every tongue gives utterance to the national anthem—Rule Britannia, rule the subject waves,Thy free-born seamen never shall be slaves.Who would not honour them if they should burst their chains, demand that freedom of which they had been so unjustly deprived, and bind themselves together, in a holy league, to resist impressment to the death, and rather fill at once an honourable grave, than linger out a life of captivity in a forced and ill-requited service, subject to degrading punishments if they remain, or dishonourable death if they attempt to escape. If he had now said enough to convince the House that impressment was unjust, illegal, cruel, inefficient, expensive, and as ill-adapted to the end which it was intended to accomplish, as it was revolting to every honourable mind; all that could be necessary to add to such an array of evidence, would be to show that the most distinguished of our naval officers had been hostile to the system, had wished for its abolition, as degrading to the service, and humiliating, as well as painful to the feelings of those who had to carry it into execution; and that each and all had proposed various modes of supplying the fleet with men, every one of which was superior to the forcible impressment of which it was intended as a substitute. The first mode was the securing boys, to be procured as volunteers, from the humbler classes of life, from the families of seafaring people, and from marine schools. Amongst the most distinguished advocates for this system was the late Lord Collingwood, a thorough north country seaman himself. He writes as follows to Lord Mulgrave:—"I some time since recommended that as ships came out, they should bring over 100 boys of fourteen or sixteen years of age. Such boys soon become seamen, landsmen very rarely do, for they are confirmed in other habits. Some Irish boys came out but two years ago, and they are now the topmen in the fleet." Sir Charles Penrose, another distinguished Admiral, gave a striking anecdote of his own history, which proved the aversion which seamen had to the navy because of the long service afloat; and, at the same time, the ease with which even that aversion might 658 be overome, when they were sought out as volunteers, as which they would freely enter, though they had deserted principally perhaps, from being originally pressed men. He said, "When I was Commodore at Gibraltar, in 1810, and short of hands to man a flotilla which I was ordered to equip, I understood there were many sailors in the regiment in garrison, and, with General Campbell's ready permission, nearly 300 prime seamen volunteered. I found they had left the navy principally from the long service afloat." Dr. Trotter, the physician to the Fleet, already mentioned, and whose experience of naval affairs was as extensive as that of any man that could be named, was strongly against the system of forced service; and, in 1819, he published a work entitled "Practical Plan for Manning the Royal Navy, and Preserving our Maritime Superiority, without Impressment.' It was addressed to Lord Exmouth, and after dwelling on the cruelty, impolicy, and inefficiency of impressment, he gave an account of the mutiny at Spithead, of which he was an eye-witness, and said that the best seamen were indignant at the contrast of the small bounty received by them, while landsmen and working people of various classes, received, under Pitt's Quota Bill, by which 10,000 men were raised, sums of 20l. 30l., and 40l. each. Dr. Trotter gave one instance, especially, of a tailor who had received as much as 64l. for entering; sand was soon after draughted off from the guardship as unserviceable, and was brought before him to be invalided for incapacity. Lord Nelson, a name that was never mentioned by seamen but with a feeling almost approaching to superstitious veneration, was fully sensible of the loss sustained by the present system. And in his correspondence with Earl St. Vincent, he adverted to the evil, and suggested, or rather hinted a remedy. The following were the most remarkable parts of his communication presented, on the 13th of February, 1803, as "Remarks on Manning the Navy," to Earl St. Vincent:—"At a time when the seamen, as I have been repeatedly told, notwithstanding their good pay, and abundance of the very best provisions, manifest a reluctance to enter into the naval service, it becomes, in my humble opinion, a duty for people conversant with the manners and disposition of seamen, to turn our thoughts on the mode of inducing them to be fond 659 and more desirous of serving in the navy, in preference to the merchant service. Their pay and provisions cannot possibly be improved from what they are at present; but I think a plan should be brought forward to register the certificate given to seamen, and a form of certificate to be general, and filled according to regulations issued by the Admiralty, under the authority of an Act of Parliament." Lord Nelson calculated the expense of raising seamen at 20l. per head, and said, that 42,000 deserted during the late war, the loss on which was 840,000l., without taking the expense of raising more men, and these not so good as those who had been used to the King's naval service. He therefore proposed, that every seaman who had served faithfully five years in war, and could produce a certificate of good conduct, should receive two guineas annually, after eight years four guineas, exclusive of pension for wounds. "This," he added, "appeared at first view an enormous sum for the State to pay, but when it was considered, that the average life of a seaman was, from hard service, finished at forty-five years, he could not many years enjoy the annuity, and the sum saved by desertions would go far to pay it. "But," says Lord Nelson, "the great thing to guard against is desertion, for, notwithstanding all I have proposed to induce seamen to serve faithfully, the high wages of the merchant, and the seduction of the crimps, make them desert; and it is certain, that when a large outward bound convoy are assembled, they have at least 1,000 deserters concealed on board." He says, "that the ships are navigated by protected men to Portsmouth, and there receive their crews from the crimps;" and he concludes by saying, "I am very sensible, that no plan for these important purposes can be matured by any one head, much less by min; but as these ideas flow from a pure source, and a sincere desire to benefit our King and country, I submit them, with deference, to much wiser and abler men than myself." Lord Exmouth—another brilliant name in the page of our naval history, was an enemy to impressment, and owed his splendid victories mainly to his own skill and courage, and to being always supported by the zealous spirits and stout hearts of willing volunteers. As Sir Edward Pellew, he commanded, at the commencement of the French revolution, the small frigate 660 'La Nymphe,' in which he fought the first single action after the declaration of war, and brought his prize, 'La Cleopatre,' into port in triumph. After this he had the command of a squadron, as Commodore on the western station at Falmouth, bearing his broad pendant in the large frigate, 'Indefatigable.' His whole crew was at that time composed entirely, officers and men, of the natives of his own county, Cornwall. Not a man was ever pressed; and so much was it an object of ambition among the seamen of the western coasts to belong to the squadron of Sir Edward Pellew, that his ships never wanted the best men in abundance, and on the books of his agent on shore names were constantly waiting for the first vacancies, while it was deemed sufficient punishment to those who were on board to threaten them with their discharge, as unworthy of the honour of serving in such a ship and with such companions. His career of service was, therefore, one continued stream of success and victory, and with such men in his squadron was equal to a fleet of double its nominal force, by the moral power and dauntless energy which every heart and every hand contributed to the contest when the moment of action came. When, therefore, in the latter period of his service. Lord Exmouth repaired to Algiers, to release from their captivity the slaves whom the tyrants of Africa had dragged from their families and their homes, he might proudly remember, that he came with pure hands to the performance of this high and holy duty, and that his triumph could not be sullied by the recollection of his ever having impressed, or torn away from his kindred or his dwelling, one single seaman to augment his force, but while he was fighting the battle of freedom, and giving liberty to the captive and the slave, he had the noble consolation of feeling that it was by the hands of free men that his efforts were sustained, and that free hearts might every where exult in a victory thus obtained. Passing from the heroes who were now no more, but who, though entombed with honour by their country, had left their fame still fresh and green in our recollection—passing from these to the living that were still left among us, who would not hear with pleasure, that the hon. and gallant Member opposite, the conqueror of Navarino, the brave Sir Edward Codrington, whose mission, too, was the liberation of 661 the captive and the giving freedom to the slave, who would not hear with satisfaction, that he also had never impressed a seaman in his life. Eternal honour to the names of the living and the dead who could thus keep themselves free from the contamniation of such a stain! May their fame descend to posterity, not merely as that of heroes and conquerors in the fight, but as of men whose heroism was of that noble and elevated kind which could blend compassion with courage, a respect for freedom with the pride of conquest, and who, in the wreaths with which victory crowned their labours, had themselves entwined the olive branch with the laurel, by respecting the rights of peace while they pursued the glories of war. If there were yet another argument which should move them to abolish the odious system of impressment, it was this—that England stood alone in the guilt of its retention, and that no other state in the world was left to be a participator in her crime. In the navies of America, of France, of Spain, of Portugal, of Holland, and of Russia, the detestable practice of impressment was unknown. Let the following statement be listened to, and let Englishmen blush for the comparison;—"The French navy consists of forty-four sail of the line, fifty frigates, &c. She has 97,000 seamen registered as belonging thereto, 60,000 of whom are available for immediate service. The Russian navy consists of fifty-four sail of the line, thirty-five frigates, ten bombs, twenty-five fire-ships, fifty gallies, forty-five smaller vessels, and 500 gunboats, besides 500 row-boats, making altogether 1,139 vessels, carrying 9,617 guns. They are manned by regiments, who are under the same discipline as the Imperial Guard, and each regiment is supposed to man a ship of the line, a frigate, and a smaller vessel. Of course, under this system, their supply of such men in that vast empire may be said to be inexhaustible. The United States of America have now five sail of the line afloat, and seven on the stocks, which could soon be launched, and sixteen frigates, besides smaller vessels. They employ 6,000 men (officers included), and they boast, that they possess altogether 92,000 seamen. They man their navy by enlistment for short periods, paying them the same rate of wages as they can obtain in merchants' ships. The Dutch, indeed, carry their respect for popular feeling 662 further, perhaps, than any; for, if any captain should be unable, by the ordinary means of entry, to man his ship within a given time, it is taken to be good evidence of his deserved unpopularity, and he is dismissed the service, to give place to some more generally esteemed and honoured man." It was now time, however, for him to advert to the remedy for an evil, which no one who had heard the evidence he had adduced, could, he thought, hesitate for a moment to admit to be one' demanding immediate reformation and relief. In doing this, his chief aim would be so to combine justice, simplicity, economy, and efficiency, as to make, as far as practicable, a perfect whole. It might be more easy to patch up an old system; but it would soon need a second and afterwards a third repair. Like a decayed and condemned hulk, the present system should be utterly and entirely abandoned; and a new and well-constructed system established in its place. He would then briefly consider the principles, and give an outline of the details, of the plan he had in view. The first principle of it should be to encourage the entry, education, and protection of seamen, in the fishing, coasting, and mercantile vessels of the country; so that no raw recruits, or unskilled hands, should ever get their first training in a ship of war, but be previously initiated and well seasoned to the hardships as well as duties of their enterprising profession, in those nurseries already named. The second principle of any such a system should be that of rendering the naval service as attractive as possible, and making it the interest of men to see for employment in his Majesty's ships, rather than in any other class of vessels. The third principle should be that of progressive advancement in honour and emolument in proportion to the length or the importance of the duties performed, so as not merely to draw men originally into the service, by the attraction of adequate wages, kind treatment, and a reasonable enjoyment of liberty, but also to attach them to the service for ever afterwards, by making their interest and their duty to go hand in hand together, and inspiring them with feelings of honourable pride in a rank obtained by length and value of time devoted to the defence of their country's liberty and honour. Any plan for the supply of the navy, based on these three great principles, could scarcely fail 663 of success. He begged, therefore, the attention of the House, while he endeavoured to submit to them the outline of such a plan, which he would now venture to sketch out, and which the Government, or the Admiralty, or a Committee of maritime officers appointed for the purpose, might subsequently fill up in detail. The first object, then, should be to secure the continual and competent manning of all the fishing, coasting, and merchant-vessels of the country, by Englishmen instead of foreigners; sand to have their several classes of boys, young lads, and able men, so apportioned, as to secure a continually growing and increasing body of each, to supply the exigences of the naval service as required; for, in every ship of war, different degrees of skill and strength were required in the crew; and, therefore, some of all ages between ten and fifty were desirable; but landsmen, of whatever age, were always for a certain period a hindrance rather than benefit, as some weeks elapse before they are able to stand the deck while a ship is in motion, or before they become acquainted with the lowest duties to be performed; so that a few months' or a few years' training in a coasting or a merchant vessel, would always make a boy or man more valuable to a ship of war, than if became fresh from the plough, or the anvil, or the loom. Objections had been sometimes urged to any interference with the manning of the merchant service, on the principle, that it is best to leave trading interests to take care of themselves—a principle undoubtedly sound when applicable to trading interests only; but, in the mercantile marine of England, there were interests of safety to valuable lives, as well as profits on property embarked, to be taken care of and secured. The safety of ships, as to their condition of sea-worthiness, was a fit and proper subject of legislative concern; and some of the valuable officers of his Majesty's navy, now on half-pay on shore, could not be more advantageously employed than as maritime surveyors at the out-ports, to see that no merchant vessel left the harbour in an unsound state as to the condition of her hull, or imperfectly equipped as it regarded her masts, sails, rigging, anchors and cables, provisions, water, &c., proportioned to the probable length of her voyage; but above all, to see that she was completely, manned with the proper number of men 664 and boys, according to her tonnage, so that the ship might fairly encounter the perils of the sea, and the nation not be deprived of the valuable portion of its wealth embarked upon the ocean, or the valuable lives risked in its conveyance, from any deficiency in the equipment or scantiness of numbers in the crew. To effect this it would not be necessary to enact any new statute, but merely to enforce existing ones, as he would now undertake to show. By a Parliamentary Return of 1830, it appeared, that in the year ending on the 5th of January, 1830, there had actually entered inwards at the different ports of Great Britain, 19,110 sail of merchant vessels, measuring collectively, 2,184,535 tons. Now, by an Act passed in the fourth year of the reign of George 4th, chap 25, sect. 2, it was enacted, that after the 1st of January, 1824, a certain number of apprentices should be carried by each merchant vessel, according to her tonnage, the proportions being for every vessel from 80 to 200 tons, one apprentice—from 200 to 400 tons, two—from 400 to 500 tons, three—from 500 to 700 tons, four—and from 700 tons upwards, five apprentices, at least, who should be under the age of seventeen, indentured for four years, and their indentures enrolled at the Custom House of the port at which the vessel was registered; or, to use the sea-phrase, from which she "hailed." By a subsequent Act, passed in the sixth year of the reign of George 4th, chap. 109, sect 16, 18, and 20, it was enacted, that every merchant vessel should carry, at least, one properseaman for every twenty tons of her burthen; that no British ship should be allowed to leave any port in the United Kingdom, or in any of the British possessions abroad, whether having a cargo or sailing in ballast, without being duly navigated and completely manned, according to the proportion of men and boys to tonnage, as specified in this and the former Act. Certain proportions of British to foreign seamen were also fixed by the last Act, and a penalty of 10l. fixed on every foreign seaman carried over and above the proper proportion to British that were prescribed to be employed. Now, if a legislative declaration should abolish impressment, there would be no difficulty whatever in obtaining any number of wholly British seamen for the merchant service, and at wages which fair competition 665 and the relations between supply and demand would always easily settle; so that foreign seamen would never be necessary for the equipment of our mercan, tile marine. It was only because British seamen were liable to impressment, that they went abroad, and served on board the ships of America, Holland, Russia, or other nation; and it was only because foreigners were not liable to this impressment that they were ever employed in British ships at all. Let impressment be declared to be unjust and illegal by the Parliament of the country, and in six months after such a declaration, we should see British seamen returning from every foreign nation, in which they are now scattered, to serve in the ships of their own country,—and foreigners, on the other hand, leaving our ports and returning to their homes—an exchange that would be beneficial to all parties, and prejudicial to none. When this should be done, it would be as just as it would be practicable to enforce those portions of the statutes which were enacted to compel British merchant vessels to carry a crew of men and boys proportioned to their tonnage, under a penalty of 5l. for every man or boy deficient, on examination by surveyors, or other legal proof. This penalty would not be more than about the actual amount saved to the ship by such deficiency for a single month, the wages and provisions taken together fairly averaging that amount. In such case, supposing only one man or boy to be deficient in each ship, for one month in the year, during the periods between entering outward and inward, in which their crews should be required to be complete (and deficiencies to this amount would be sure to arise from death, accidents, desertions, discharges, and other contingent causes, all of which would be savings of expense to the ship, however occasioned), the sum raised by such penalties would be 100,000l. per annum—a fund to be reserved for purposes hereafter to be detailed; but the liability to be forced to contribute to which would be a constant stimulus to shipowners and commanders, to keep their crews complete and efficient within the terms prescribed by the law, while the nation would be benefited, by the constant creation of a rising body of useful seamen for her navy, and the additional safety to life and property for the mercantile marine itself. 666 The next step would then be, to class all seamen now serving, or having formerly served, in the royal navy, into three classes; the first to include all men who had actually served in ships of war for a period of fifteen years; the second to embrace those who had served for a period of ten year; and the third to include those who had served for a period of five years. The classification being complete, the seamen of each class should be declared entitled to a small extra pay, as a reward for the past or a retaining fee for their future services, or both, at the following rates: namely, for the first class, after fifteen years' service, three-pence per day; for the second, after ten years' service, two-pence; and, for the third class, after five years' service, a penny per day; to be paid to them wherever serving, provided it were in a British ship, and on shore as well as at sea, and to be continued to them also while in his Majesty's ships, as extra emolument beyond the stated pay of the seamen not enrolled in either class, on condition that they should at all times hold themselves in readiness to leave whatever employment they might be engaged in, whenever called upon by the principal naval officer of the nearest station to repair to his Majesty's service; any refusal to comply with which, to be attended with loss of rank and pay for life. This provision, which was not without a precedent, as the Duke of York secured to the soldiers of the army an increased daily pay after a given number of years, would, at once, induce every man who had ever served in the navy for either of the periods named, to repair to the stations appointed for that purpose, to enrol himself in the class to which he might belong, to prove his service and good conduct, and to enter upon the receipt of his extra pay. At the lowest estimate of numbers, this plan alone would secure the constant readiness of 20,000 seamen, of all classes, for immediate service when required. The expense of this might seem, at first, to be an objection; but, supposing 7,000 men of each class to be so retained, at the rates of extra pay mentioned, making in the whole 21,000 men, the cost of their retention would be only 63,030l. per annum, or little more than half the amount which the penalties upon merchant-vessels found deficient of their complement would raise. But, supposing this fund to be objected' 667 to, the paying off of a single line-of battle-ship would save the entire amount—the half-pay of an admiral would retain a whole frigate's crew; and the reduction of one superfluous captain would keep, for the service of the country, a brig-of-war's complement of a hundred and twenty men. There was, however, a much greater expense incurred by the present system, as the following brief statement of facts would show:—"A boy of thirteen years of age enters the navy as volunteer of the first class. The preliminary education cannot be supposed to have cost much. For the first two years he is improved by receiving instruction from the schoolmaster, and his pay for this time is 20s. per month, or 26l. for two-years. Let him be allowed to serve five years longer as midshipman and master's mate (although four only are necessary), for which service, calling four years as midshipman, at 34l. 18s., he receives 139l. 12s.; and one year as passed master's mate, 591. 16s., he receives altogether 225l. 8s. for his seven years' service. These calculations are made on a first rate. He is then made a Lieutenant, and, if placed on half-pay, is entitled to 5s. per day for life (being then twenty years of age), which half-pay, as he advances on the list, increases to 6s., then to 7s., per day—the highest he attains in that rank. Now, for the latter five years of this time (and more particularly the last one, as master's mate) he is eligible to a considerably greater share of prize-money than the able seaman. Two years' further service will render him competent for a commander's commission, with a half-pay of 8s. 6d per day; and one year more a captain's, with 10s. 6d. half-pay; gradually increasing as he rises on the list, until (if he live) he will attain to the rank of Admiral of the Fleet, or the pay of 3l 3s. per day: and all this although he never goes another day to sea, or sees but nine years' service as man and boy. And it is possible to perform the service which will entitle him to these considerations in little more than eight years, and before he is twenty-two years of age." If they added to this, the enormous expense of the impress system, as before detailed, in the guard-ships, tenders, press-gangs, and all its odious machinery, making, in some cases, as shown by the statement of the North Sea pilot, Mr. Draper, the cost of each man pressed into the service 668 nearly 600l. sterling—all objections on the score of expense must vanish; independently of which, this great consideration ought never to be lost sight of—namely, that by the impress system more than half the number of men obtained were found to be so worthless, that, after incurring all the expense of collecting them, they were obliged to be discharged as not worth the expense of their subsistence; whereas, by the system of free entry as volunteers, every man would be efficient from the moment of his stepping on the deck of the ship in which he was to serve. As the provision made by the Duke of York for soldiers receiving extra pay after a given period of service had been adverted to, some notice might also be taken, perhaps, of the difference in the scale of bounties, where men are obtained, not by impressment, but by recruiting or enlisting, at dépôts for both branches of the service. "This was very clearly stated in the following abstract:—"Bounties are given to soldiers enlisting, even in time of peace, although sailors get nothing; and even the keeping the army together, not being tolerated by our Constitution, (see the 1st of William and Mary) depends on the annual passing of the Mutiny Bill, The total expense of recruiting (exclusive of bounties) for 1830, in the United Kingdom, was 36,950l., and for this sum 2,015 men were raised at the expense of about 18l. per man, and, by the employment of thirty-six staff-officers, forty subalterns, and 143 privates, at the nine recruiting districts. To this must be added the bounties; and if the same pains and expense were adopted to procure men for the navy, no doubt it would be successful. The following is the scale of bounties given towards the close of the war. In the Army, for men, 16l. 16s.; for lads, 12l.; for boys, 8l. Marines: for men and lads above five-feet two-inches, being sixteen years of age, 16l. 16s.; boys being five feet, 8l. 8s.—and a Militia man received a bounty of 10l. 10s. for enlisting in the line. In the Navy an able seaman has 5l. 5s., an ordinary seaman 3l. 3s., and a landsman 2l. 2s." But the great principle of granting, even to seaman, a species of pension, or half-pay, after a certain length of service, had been recognized by the 53rd of George 3rd chap 1, as well as by Orders in Council, by which seamen, having served in his 669 Majesty's navy, were divided into two classes—the one, those who had served fourteen, and the other, those who had served twenty-one years. To the first of these was given an extra pay of a halfpenny per day, on condition of their being always ready to serve his Majesty when called upon,—a sum too small to make it worth the while to serve fourteen years to earn it, and much too insignificant to make its forfeiture a matter of any importance while they were employed in the merchant service; so that, as a reward for the past, it was altogether insufficient, when proportioned to the length of service necessary to earn it; and, as a retaining fee for the future, it was too weak to bind any one fairly, therefore, in both respects. To the other class was given a pension of a shilling a-day, which was as much too large as the other was too small; and with this remarkable difference, that this best-paid class did not forfeit their retaining fee, if they refused to serve—as, over and above the pay of a shilling a-day, they were entitled to their free discharge; and, as such, being protected from the impress, they were valuable men for the merchant service, into which they enterd, and continued there as long as their strength would permit, since they enjoyed the merchant's wages and the King's pension besides This explanation was the more necessary, inasmuch as the Sixth Finance Report stated, that, in 1816, there were 35,000 men retained for future service under the existing system—"whereas, the fourteen years' men, who receive a halfpenny per day, can alone be subject to forfeiture of pay if refusing to serve; and this is too small to make its loss important; while the class paid at twelve times that rate, or a shilling a-day, are the very class entitled to their free discharge, and whose services cannot be commanded, or their pay withdrawn, on refusal to re-enter." After the enforcement of the acts for competently manning the mercantile marine, and the classification of the seamen now serving, or having at any time served in his Majesty's navy, for either of the periods already named,—the next step should be, to enact a Registration, at every Custom-house in the kingdom, of all sea-faring persons, earning their living on the water, and within the precincts of a-sea-port town, whether seamen, fishermen, or watermen, from the ages of twenty to forty; with a 670 condition that no unregistered person should be employed in either branch of these occupations, but under penalty for non-registration, and being deprived of the power to sue for wages, or recover damages, unless registered at the Customhouse of the port to which he chose to belong. It might be remarked, that the shipowners of England in 1818 recommended such a registry, but that the seamen, conceiving it to be only a mode of facilitating any future operations of the Impress Service, refused to come forward; and from the same fears, there had been always a reluctance to any system of registration. Let a parliamentary declaration, however, but once be made against the system of impressment, and the faith and honour of the nation be pledged that it shall never again be resorted to, and all former objections to registration would be entirely removed:—and as the classification of men, having served the prescribed term in the navy, would show, at the Navy office, the exact number of men at any time available for the public service from that source, so the registration of all watermen, fishermen, coasting and foreign trade seamen, at every Custom-house in the kingdom, would equally show at any time the whole amount of our available mercantile seamen, for commerce or for defence, as might be required. A third Registration should then be ordered, at the town-hall, or mayor's-office, of every seaport town in the kingdom, of all the male inhabitants, from twenty to forty years of age, not being actually engaged in any occupation afloat, but following trades or professions connected with maritime equipment, and otherwise benefiting by maritime commerce, and, therefore, deeply and personally interested in maritime defence and protection. From these three classes, he believed, that the following numbers of available men might be had, from among whom to choose or select the required supplies for the naval service on any emergency that might arise. From the naval classes having already served the several terms of five, ten, and fifteen years, at least 20,000 men; from the maritime class, including watermen, fishermen, and seamen, in coasters and merchant ships, 500,000 men; and, from the sea-port resident class, including all the male population of London, Liverpool, Bristol, Hull, Portsmouth, Plymouth, and every other sea-port town in the kingdom, 671 between the ages of twenty and forty, at least 1,000,000 more. The operation of supply would then be this: first, the calling upon all the naval class to come forward for the service, or forfeit all future rank and pay: secondly, the free entry from the maritime class of all disposed to enter for the pay and prospects prescribe; thirdly, a ballot from the sea-port resident class; for the deficiency required, when the two former modes had failed to yield the requisite supply. This ballot, conducted upon the principle of that for the militia, would raise, for instance, 10,000 men, at the rate of only one in each hundred of the million assumed—20,000 men at the rate of two in each hundred, and so on; the parties drawn to serve in person, or to furnish, from the maritime class, substitutes to serve in their stead, at such rates of bounty as the men could be procured for, and which would be settled by competition in the usual way; in return for which liability to furnish, by ballot, seamen to his Majesty's navy, the sea-ports should be wholly exempt from the ballot for the militia or land array, which could then more justly and appropriately be drawn from the rural districts and inland towns. The term of service should be in all cases limited to three years, with a power of voluntary re-entry for another period of three years, and a leave of absence for six months if engaging to renew—or a discharge from the service altogether if preferred; but, of course, in the latter case, with loss of all rank for length of service, and all claim to extra pay. If this were done, impressment abolished, and, instead of flogging or shooting for disobedience or desertion, a scale of rewards and punishments established, founded on additions and deductions of time, for rank and pay, enabling every commander after an action or a severe service of any kind, to advance and to reduce men in both by a court of inquiry, and with the approbation of certain officers to be named, empowering him to discharge entirely, with loss of character as well as emoluments, men grossly misbehaving and offending against the discipline established for the government of the crew:—we should see the whole navy in the same enviable condition as the favourite ships of favourite commanders now are, with such a character for equity and good treatment, that aspirants and expectants would have their names entered in antici- 672 pation on their books, to fill the first vacancies occurring; and the service of his Majesty at sea would be, as it ought to be, an object of proud desire and honorable ambition, instead of being, as it now is, a place of punishment for the criminal and of terror for the upright and honorable man. It now only remained to be shown that were these changes made, the naval service would be the most attractive of all occupations for persons of the humbler class of life, and that with the many agreeable features and the many advantages it would possess, a very moderate scale of remuneration would attract an abundant supply of men to its vessels. Living, as we do, in an island of so small an extent, the sea coast is inhabited by nearly the half of our population, and of the other half there are extremely few who, at one period or other of their lives, do not become familiar with its borders. A maritime taste is thus formed, at a very early period of life, in the minds of all our youth. The sea is the scene of our greatest victories—our maritime dominion is our chief glory. The defeat of the Spanish Armada, and the battles of Rodney, Hawke, Howe, Hood, Duncan, St. Vincent, Nelson, Cochrane, Smith, Exmouth, Hoste, Codrington, and Napier, are all as familiar as household words to every boy in the country. Greenwich Hospital and its veteran pensioners are objects of extreme veneration; Dibdin's songs are sung in every rural village; and the sight of our fleets of East-Indiamen and West-India-men, with vessels from the Baltic and the Mediterranean, Canada and Baffin's Bay, the Atlantic and the Pacific, inspire such strong maritime associations in the minds of their beholders, as they enter or leave our ports, that it is difficult to repress the ardour of young and enthusiastic minds from embarkation on some foreign voyage; while the universal homage shown to naval officers and naval seamen, by the women of England, wherever they may be, confirms the admiration of a profession, on which so many pleasures and advantages seem to be bestowed. The variety of scenes and adventures characterizing a sailor's life, and the very dangers by which it is surrounded, possess a charm that few can withstand; and hence it is, that an excursion on the water is one of the most popular enjoyments, that Robinson Crusoe is the most popular of stories, and the Shipwreck of Falconer one of the most popular 673 of poems, among the rising generation. In spite of all this, however, the very name of "a man of war" strikes terror into the minds of those who are threatened with being carried off to it as a punishment; and the alarm of the "press-gang" being abroad, will sweep a street of all its male inhabitants more rapidly than the rumour of fire or the plague. And yet, divested of these most prevalent associations of forced service, long confinement, and flogging, which are now inseparable from the idea of a ship of war, but which might all be abolished without hesitation, the life of a sailor in the navy might be made as much more comfortable than in the merchant service, as language could well describe. Besides the feeling of superior pleasure in sailing in a finer ship, and superior dignity in belonging to the national service, there are other solid and substantial advantages, which are well defined in the following enumeration:—"The advantages of the King's over the merchants' employ, consist in the men being better lodged, having less work to perform, or, as sailors say, 'less wear and tear of clothes and carcase;' of having the best medical and surgical assistance at hand, in case of sickness or accident—for want of the timely aid of which they often perish, or become crippled, in merchant ships;—the prospect of bettering their condition, by promotion to the rank of warrant or petty officers, which good conduct usually insures;—provision for life, in case of being maimed, and a pension for long service, which, although small, is pretty generally appreciated by their brethren in sea-ports, who perceive the help to a comfortable subsistence which, in aid of some occupation, it affords. Being exposed to less risk of wreck in bad weather, their ships better found, conducted by skilful officers in each department, and easier worked and managed than deep-loaded-merchant vessels; for there are many situations, such as lee shores, which would be fatal to the latter, that are hardly dangerous to a well-appointed man of war. The chances of prize-money, and less risk of capture by the enemy, which is one of the most serious misfortunes that can happen to the sailor, who, if taken prisoner, is closely confined, on short allowance, as long as the war lasts. Being less frequently in harbour, consequently having fewer opportunities to squander his money (a folly to which all sailors are addicted), 674 —and, if careful, he may, without any great sacrifice, save enough out of his pay (to say nothing of prize-money) to enable him to establish himself in some comfortable birth, at the end of his first or second term of service, such as the purchase of a small craft, or share in a vessel, a shop, or other small business; and thus, with the aid of his pension, spending the remainder of his days in independence. By Act of Parliament, he is allowed to set up his trade in any corporate town in the kingdom, without having served apprenticeship. His children receive such au education, at the public expense, as fits them to rise to mediocrity, if not to the top of the naval or merchant profession. He has his letters free of postage to and fro, and facilities of apportioning part of his wages to his wife and family, without expense or risk; in addition to all which, he is eligible for, and may be fortunate enough to obtain, one of the many situations, such as signal stations, light-houses, porters, wardens, &c.; generally given by Government to old sailors, in reward for long and faithful service, and encouragement for good conduct in others." It was impossible but that these advantages should soon become apparent; and, when the drawbacks of forced service, long confinement, and severe punishment, should be taken away, they would then shine forth in all their most attractive force; and, as no department of public life would be more popular, so none would be more easily supplied, than that of the navy, under the plan described. Such a change as that proposed would be advantageous to the merchant service, in removing all restraints from men appearing to offer themselves for the ships in need of crews,—thus giving to their commanders the widest range of choice for hands, and at the lowest wages. It would be advantageous to commerce, by increasing the safety of ships against the accidents of wreck or battle, and, by rendering the danger of such vicissitudes less, would reduce the amount of insurance for risk. It would be advantageous to the navy, by making the service so much more honourable and efficient as to increase the pride and pleasure of all who might belong to it—both officers and men. And it would be advantageous to the whole community, by drawing home, from the ships of foreign nations, all our scattered seamen, to serve in those of their native country: thus weakening the force of our 675 enemies, while it increased our own, and promoting two of the greatest ends of public good—increased economy, and increased strength. If the object itself, then, were worthy of our attention, he contended that the time was peculiarly fit for its accomplishment. All around us was now happily in a state of profound peace; but, at the same time, all the elements of naval greatness were on the increase in other countries, if not in our own. In France, in Russia, and in America, ships, seamen, and stores were all augmenting—naval science and naval skill were cultivated more than ever—and a day might come, when it would be necessary for us to put forth all our energies upon the ocean again. Let us, then, while there was yet time, begin a system which should the better pre pare us to meet such an event. We had recently passed an Act to declare, that slavery should be forever abolished throughout every part of his Majesty's dominions. Impressment was slavery in its most hideous form,—tearing men from their homes and families by force of arms—retaining them in subjection by the terror and the infliction of the lash—flogging them round the fleet, or shooting them, if they deserted—and hanging them up at the yard-arm, if they were found in arms in a hostile fleet. We had admitted our East-Indian subjects to the enjoyment of political freedom, and never thought of manning either the army or the navy of the East—though the government was avowedly a despotism—but by free entry and liberal pay. And should we treat our free-born seamen, by whom our commerce was conducted, our island defended, and through whose perilous devotion we obtained the luxuries of all the world, and enjoyed our tranquil homes,—should we treat those, to whom we owed so much, worse even than the kidnapped Negro or the conquered and subjugated Hindoo? It was impossible!—believed that the whole body of British seamen, with one united voice, would demand emancipation from so odious and degrading a yoke;—the whole body of British landsmen would join them in their demand. The King, upon his sailor throne, could not be indifferent to their united prayer. The Lords would, he hoped, be willing parties to such an act of grace. The Commons would have but to originate it, when its accomplishment would be sure; and this one act of justice and generosity to a brave and invaluable class, would heal many 676 wounds—would drowm many complaints—and, like the robe of charity, when thrown around the Session at its close, it would cover a multitude of sins. The hon. Member concluded by moving the Resolution he had stated at the beginning of his speech.
§ Mr. George Young
seconded the Motion. He did not intend by any remarks of his own, to weaken the arguments of the powerful speech he had just heard, further than to say, that the Motion met with his most cordial concurrence. He earnestly hoped, that the subject would engage the attention of his Majesty's Government, now that the country was in a state of the most profound peace. He was of opinion, that the matter ought to be no longer delayed, and that the object of the Motion might be effected without any compromise of the national power.
§ Sir James Graham
did not expect so lengthened a speech from the hon. Gentleman, for if he recollected aright, in the first speech he had ever heard from the hon. Member, he had expressed his aversion to long speeches in that House, and had even gone so far as to assert that no person should attempt to detain the House longer than a quarter of an hour in replying to another hon. Member's arguments, and not longer, certainly, than half an hour in opening the subject of discussion. He was sorry, in this instance, to observe that the hon. Member had been so far debauched by keeping bad company, as no doubt the hon. Member then considered it, as to have, in the speech just delivered, occupied just four times as much of their time as he had laid down for other speakers by his rule. He would, in endeavouring to follow the arguments of the hon. Member, attempt to keep his precept in view, and avoid his practice. He confessed he was not a little surprised at finding the hon. Member, on the evening of the 15th of August, pressing on the attention of the House, already overwhelmed with business of the most indispensable urgency and importance, a Motion like the present, which could not possibly end in any useful or practical results, were all his principles admitted, and the remedies suggested approved. He was the more surprised at it, when it was recollected they were neither in the sixth Session of a septennial Parliament, when it might have been venial in Members to attempt to resuscitate their fading, if not almost extinct, 677 popularity with their constituents; that neither were they yet arrived at those halcyon days of annual Parliaments and universal suffrage, or at a period in our parliamentary history, when it would be more desirable in a candidate's eyes to be carried on the shoulders of the electors to the hustings once more, with the approving testimonials of popular meetings out of doors, than with a certificate of practical utility in his place in Parliament. He could not believe that the hon. Member really intended, by this Motion, to excite discontent in the minds of British sailors; yet the forced analogy he attempted to make between the consequences of impressment and those of slavery, and his contrast of the condition of slaves in the West Indies, and sailors in our navy, was not a little startling to every lover of his country. He confessed he could not, without regret, hear him quoting what had been said by an individual at New York, in the United States (under all the excitement incident to a state of war between the two countries), reprobating the manner in which our ships were manned. But most of all, did he regret to hear him abuse that exercise of power which the highest authorities in the law had recognised as the dormant privilege of the Crown, to be exercised in its discretion at such times as it appeared necessary for the safety of the community; and even going so far as to anticipate that its exercise, though thus sanctioned, would be met by opposition—in opposition which the hon. Member seemed prepared to justify. That such a course should be cautiously avoided, he thought few would entertain a doubt. The perpetual discussion of the abstract question, where the right of resistance begins, and the duty of obedience ends, was highly impolitic in debates of that House, more particularly upon subjects connected with the defence of this great maritime empire. It was a topic, as a great and eloquent statesman had observed, that ought always to be present to the minds of rulers, but scarcely, if ever, to be brought to the recollection of their subjects. The hon. Member had declared the practice illegal; but though he had dwelt at length on most other topics included in his speech, he had not touched the able arguments adduced in favour of the legality of impressment by that distinguished ornament of his time, Justice Foster, to be found in his 678 Treatise on Crown Law, and which, as yet, remained unanswered, and, as he believed, was unanswerable. The Judge had observed, that the argument proceeded on the ground that, in time of danger, or actual war, every subject owed allegiance to his Sovereign. The question resolved itself into this, was there any difference between the power which the Crown had of enforcing that assistance in defending the nation as respected the land and the sea service? The hon. Member had alluded to the statute of Charles 2nd, which pronounced the impressment of men as soldiers illegal, and had thence inferred, that the silence of the law on the subject of impressment of sailors from the merchant service, was a proof that it was also illegal. Now his mode of drawing the inference would be totally different from that of the hon. Member; and he should infer, from the practice of impressment having been so many ages so notorious, and from the law having forbidden the practice of impressing soldiers, that the silence of the law must be proof, almost positive, that the law and the Legislature acknowledged the right in the Executive. But not only was it the practice for ages, and as such acknowledged by the Common-law, but the uniform usage had been supported by the Statute-law. It was acknowledged to be by the Common-law part of the rights of the Crown, and to stand in that respect on just as strong ground as the liberties of the subject. That his Majesty was authorized by his warrant to order the impressment of men to supply and man the navy, on emergency, was the subject of perfect recognition by the Statute-law, and the usage for ages had been uniform and unbroken. Nothing, therefore, in the nature of a right stood on a firmer footing at the Common-law than this right on the part of the Executive. What fortresses and standing armies were to Continental Powers, our fleets and vessels of war were to this insular empire. The advantages we had over other nations consisted not less in this, that our means of defence were cheaper than theirs, than as certainly that our safety depended on those gallant men who had always been, and ever, he felt, would be, the intrepid and faithful defenders of their country. The hon. Member had complained of the practice because it was partial, and fell exclusively on sea-faring men. Now, in his mind, that circum- 679 stance formed a strong feature in the arguments in the defence of impressment, for had it not been thus partial, but general, then, indeed, it would have been cruel and unjust in the extreme. The merchant sailor was still a sailor, acquainted will), and not incommoded by sickness or a nautical life—of impressed, he only changed his master. But if the practice was to impress equally the peasant and the seaman, and such an inexperienced man was to be taken on board, it would be as equally cruel as it would be absurd, because he would be, for a length of time, perfectly useless. As to the law on that part of the subject, the hon. Member ought to be informed, that if ever cases had arisen of landsmen being impressed, the Courts were open to such persons, and the offenders so guilty were indictable at Common-law. In the last war, though there were not less than 150,000 seamen engaged at one time in the sea service of the country, it never was the practice generally, though it might have been the abuse, to impress landsmen; and in all instances where it had been notified to the officers commanding, such persons had been immediately discharged, in strict accordance with the express orders issued by the Admiralty. Indeed, they were, as his hon. and learned friend (the Solicitor General) informed him, entitled to be discharged by the operation of law and by the Judges of the land, on a proper representation of the fact of their detention on board. The most singular part of the hon. Member's argument was the comparison he drew to the disadvantage of England between the mode in which Russia and this country manned their ships of war. In that despotic Government the singular practice had been resorted to of marching one or two regiments in a body from the interior, and putting them, crude and unpractised as they were, on board the Russian vessels of war, having never before seen a ship of any description. As to the French navy, he must observe, that the system of manning it was so nearly that proposed by the hon. Member by means of a registration of all sailors in each district, as to rob the hon. Member of all the merit of originality in his suggestion. Indeed, the system operated nearly in the same manner and subject to all the embarrassing objections applicable to the system of impressment in this country, for the Sovereign had a right to enforce, by 680 his order, the service, on board his ships of war, pending hostilities, of any of the mercantile seamen of the country. Though diffuse enough on other parts of his subject, the hon. Member had not been very communicative as to the modes of remedy upon which he appeared to rely. He unequivocally assented to the three principles with which the hon. Member set out. The first in order was, that it was most essential to our defence that we should have a good mercantile marine. He agreed, that the attention of Government ought to be particularly directed to this object; and he confessed that had it not been for the extreme application he had been obliged to give to other not less important subjects, he certainly should have, as he had intended, applied himself to the establishment of a good code of mercantile law, relating to seamen's wages, and other points, particularly calculated for their protection, when in foreign ports, or on foreign service; and he proposed to himself the task, during the recess, of giving to these objects his particular attention. Indeed, ever since the peace, it had been an object with each successive Government, to do every thing which might ameliorate and improve the condition of both our mercantile and naval marine. He hoped the House would not for a moment imagine, that he was supporting in the abstract the principle of impressment, which could only be regarded with any permissive indulgence as one of the evils consequent upon a state of war; and which it was the duty of every British statesman to attempt to modify, if not altogether avert. Perhaps one of the best modes of avoiding the necessity of being compelled to have recourse to the practice of impressment, for the purpose of manning our navy at the breaking out of a war, would be found in rendering the service acceptable to the merchant sailor in time of peace. With that view, the Admiralty had long since adopted the very plan, as far as registration went, proposed by the hon. Member. The stimulus now chiefly depended upon by the Board, were classification and reward. There were three classes recognised on board our ships of war—the first were landsmen or waisters; the second ordinary; the third or highest the class A B; and a power was granted to the Commanders to raise a man, in case of merit, to a higher rating, or, on the contrary, to disrate him. Nor was this all. 681 Since the war, the sailor who had been above ten years in the service, or who had lost his health, which was considered equivalent, was entitled to a proportionate allowance of pay, and in the same way their pensions were graduated in an equal proportion to their period of service. The next subject of the hon. Gentleman's remark was the delicate one of punishment in the navy. This was a subject which had attracted the anxious notice of previous persons who filled the situation he (Sir James Graham) now filled—and during the period that Lord Melville was First Lord of the Admiralty, the attempt had been successfully made to diminish its frequency, by requiring from each captain a quarterly return of the instances of punishment which had taken place on board his ship, with a brief statement of the nature of the offence and the proof on which conviction had taken place, signed by other officers of the ship. The order of the Admiralty also was imperative, that except in cases of mutiny no punishment should be inflicted until after twenty-four hours from the time of the offence being committed. He had the greatest gratification in stating, that in consequence of these and other regulations of the Board, the number of punishments had been reduced fully one-third. The last subject alluded to by the hon. Member was that of the pay, and to that he should now address himself. It could not be denied, that during the war the great disparity there was between the pay given by the merchant and that given by the Admiralty, was a ground of complaint and alienation of our sailors from entering into the navy. The alteration in the value of money which had since taken place, together with the liberality now shown to our sailors on board in regard to the quantity of their provisions and allowances, as well as to their superior quality, he thought had more than rendered the condition of the sailor on board of men-of-war equally as desirable as those on board of merchantmen, even allowing that there might in time of war be an inequality in regard to their pay respectively. With respect to one article of expense in regard to our sailors—namely, a profit which had been suffered to be made upon slops served to the sailors, which he had conceived unjust as respected the seamen, he had occasioned its being no longer allowed, and within 682 the last two years not less than 60,000l. had been saved to the public in this way. The House was aware the prevention of smuggling was principally confided and attributable to the force usually known by the name of the Coast-guard. The persons serving in this force were denominated boatmen; their pay was so considerable—namely, 3s. a-day, as to make it an object to our seamen; besides which they were entitled to a fair share of the prizes taken from smugglers, or spirits picked up or sunk, in hopes of being illicitly conveyed on shore. These appointments, which would certainly have formed a means of excitement to a meritorious performance of duty on the part of sailors, had formerly been held by the Treasury as part of its patronage, and those appointments were very frequently given to landsmen. The noble Earl at the head of that department had, however, in compliance with the suggestions of those, who had the interest of the service deeply at heart, and were charged more immediately with the meditated improvements in our military marine, with the most laudable promptitude transferred that patronage to the Admiralty, which afforded the Board opportunities to add fresh incentives to seamen to a zealous performance of their duty on board ships of war, by appointing those who having been three years on active service in the navy, and were furnished with a certificate from their captain of meritorious conduct, to these situations on the Coast-guard. This he had reason to believe already began to have its due weight in promoting alacrity in the performance of duty in our navy. He could not help confessing that he altogether acquiesced in the force of the objection made by the hon. Member to the practice but too frequent last war, of sending smugglers detected in running goods, on board his Majesty's ships as a punishment. He had intended in the Bill produced to Parliament this Session, connected with this subject, to have introduced a clause repealing so much of that part of our Criminal-law as referred to this mode of punishment; but it had been suggested to him that this Act was, by its preamble, an Act for the consolidation only of the existing Statutes on this subject, and that the introduction of other matter into it might be considered irrelevant; the intention was laid aside for the present; but he pledged himself that he would, by 683 the next Session, apply himself especially to this subject, and introduce a separate Bill for the purpose of discontinuing that practice, and abolishing, as a means of punishing such offenders, the right to send them on board our ships of war. It was said that Lord Exmouth and Lord Collingwood were of opinion that impressment might be dispensed with. He did not know what might have been the opinion of Lord Exmouth, but the hon. Gentleman was deceived when he said that Lord Exmouth never had recourse to impressment. There was an hon. Member of that House then present who had seen men pressed under that noble Lord's immediate directions. He (Sir James Graham) had the good fortune to learn the opinion of Lord Nelson, on this subject, from a brother officer, a most kind-hearted man, and one of the bravest of officers, a man who had served long under the immediate orders of Lord Nelson, and who was that great man's most intimate friend, and was no mean authority on this subject himself—need he mention the name of Sir Thos. Hardy? Sir Thomas Hardy delivered it as the authorised opinion of Lord Nelson, that as a measure of precaution, it was absolutely necessary to be able to have recourse to impressment; but that every possible encouragement by kindness, indulgence, increase of pay, and of comforts, should be held out to seamen to induce them to enter the service voluntarily. Sir Thomas Hardy himself was of opinion that if a war were to take place they could not support the honour of the British flag without being at liberty to have recourse to impressment. He was unwilling to trouble the House at any length. The hon. Member who made this Motion had relied on authorities, and had mentioned a speech of Lord Camden, who had challenged any lawyer to show that this practice was constitutional. He (Sir James Graham) would quote an opinion of an authority equally high at least, and one who was as ardent a lover of liberty as he was of his country. The hon. Member had read numerous extracts—He (Sir James Graham) would only read one extract in answer, but that extract would contain the opinion delivered on this subject by the great Lord Chatham. He would give that noble Lord's opinion in his own words, for he was sure the language used by the noble Lord was far more powerful than any thing he could 684 say, and he was sure it would have as great an effect on the House has it had on him. These were the words used by the noble Lord on the subject of impressing seamen, on the 22nd of November 1770: 'the subject on which I am speaking seems to call on me, and I willingly take this occasion to declare my opinion upon the question on which much wicked pains have been employed to disturb the minds of the people, and to distress Government. My opinion may not be very popular, neither am I running the race of popularity. I am myself clearly convinced, and I believe every man who knows anything of the English navy will acknowledge, that without impressing it is impossible to equip a respectable fleet within the time in which such armaments are usually wanted. If this fact be admitted, and if the necessity of arming on a sudden emergency should appear incontrovertible, what shall we think of those men who, in a moment of danger, would stop the great defence of their country? Upon whatever principles they may act, the act itself is more than faction; it is labouring to cut off the right hand of the community. My Lords, I do not rest my opinion merely on necessity; I am satisfied that the power of impressing is founded on uninterrupted usage, it is the consuetudoregni, and part of the Common-law prerogative of the Crown'. That was the opinion of an ardent lover of liberty, but who preferred the honour and safety of his country to popular applause. He would not depart from such a sound opinion, and as he would not seek popularity at the expense of the honour, dignity and safety of the nation, he would not hesitate to give his most decided negative to the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that he had heard with great satisfaction many parts of the right hon. Baronet's speech, but he was at a loss to know how, after admitting the force of many of his hon. friend's objections, he had come to the conclusion of so decidedly opposing the Motion. The right hon. Baronet seemed to found his chief argument in favour of impressment on the circumstance, that it was established by old custom. But was that a reason, that if it was bad it should not be changed? The old custom of electing Members of Parliament was bad, but that was thought no reason why it should not be altered. 685 The right hon. Baronet's argument, founded on the antiquity of the custom, was good for nothing, and fell to the ground. That impressment was sanctioned by Conmon-law, was no argument for its continuance; for were they not every day altering Common-law? Therefore, though the system of impressment might be as old as the time of Richard 2nd, since it was bad, it ought to be altered as speedily as possible. He was at a loss to know what the right hon. Baronet meant by his argument of necessity; for he had not pointed out what constituted that necessity. He thought the House should pronounce themselves in a distinct manner against this system, which was both cruel and illegal. He made use of the word illegal designedly, because the practice was illegal, since it fell upon one class of persons in particular. Whether the right hon. Baronet was fortunate in alluding to Russia and France, it mattered not; what they wanted to know was, whether an illegal and cruel practice was necessary for the good of the service or not? He did not think it was. He had met in the course of his experience with many distinguished naval officers, whom he consulted on the subject; and he had scarcely ever met with one who did not say that the system did not ensure that cordial cooperation on the part of the men which was absolutely necessary for the success of the service. If, as he held, the practice was unconstitutional—if, in its operation, it was cruel and partial, and inefficient for the service of the Government, and that it did not give satisfaction in the humble ranks of life—if all this could be proved, and if the House found that such was the truth—he would ask the House whether the Motion of his hon. friend ought not to be entertained? But the right hon. Baronet said the 15th of August was not the proper time to bring forward such a Motion. Such an argument came rather awkwardly from a member of a Government who were bringing forward almost at the same time, Motions that ought to be made at an earlier period of the Session, if they ought to be made at all. For such a Motion as the present, no day of the Session was too late—no, not even the very last day of the Session—since it was likely to be productive of good. The right hon. Baronet had not dealt with the subject fairly and candidly; he should have shown that it was necessary to 686 continue the practice, and he should have pointed out if it were not necessary how it might be prevented. Upon those points the right hon. Baronet had completely failed. His hon. friend deserved the thanks of the House for having brought forward the Motion, as it would be productive of benefit. He himself, for five years had made Motions on the same subject, but it was not one that could be dealt with by individuals, it was one that must be undertaken by the Government. He believed, however, that since he first brought the question before the House many ameliorations had take place, and that the comforts of the sailors in the royal navy had been increased, so that some good had resulted from the agitation of the subject, though he had not completely succeeded. He was glad to hear that sailors were not to be immediately punished, but that some time was to elapse after the committal of the offence; and he should be glad if there were laid annually on the Table of the House, a return of the number of punishments inflicted on board each ship in his Majesty's service, since he considered that would be a check upon those officers who might be influenced in their decisions by the misfortune of possessing hasty tempers. If the House negatived the present Motion, and refused to entertain it, that would be construed into a desire of their wishing that the system should be continued. He thought, that giving a direct negative to the Motion would be liable to such a construction. For his own part, he would vote for the Motion, otherwise he should belie his own feelings, and the sentiments he had so often expressed on the subject.
Sir Edward Codrinyton
had heard the speech of the hon. member for Sheffield with great pleasure, and he did not think it deserved any reproach on account of its length. He thought, however, that if the hon. Member would consent to alter the latter part of his Motion, he would render it more acceptable to the House. As to the cruelties inflicted on seamen by the system of impressment, he would mention one case which had come under his notice. A sailor was impressed at Douglass, in the Isle of Man, some years ago, and carried on board the fleet. He was sent on foreign service, and kept there for several years, till at last he fell into a consumption, and came home merely to die. This man was the last of a large family, who had all died 687 in his Majesty's service. He could, if necessary, give many other instances of the same kind. His objection to impressment was, that under the pretence of impressing, it gave an opportunity of sending all the rogues and vagabonds in the country that the Magistrates were anxious to get rid of on board the fleet. He remembered, when he was last appointed to a command, seven-and-twenty men were sent on board who had just been taken out of irons. In order to ascertain whether they were fit for anything, they had a way in the navy of trying what their hands were made of; and, on looking to the hands of these men, he found they were as soft as those of young ladies, and fit for no purpose that he knew of but picking pockets. He gave notice that it was impossible they could be useful to him, and they would demoralize his crew; but the answer was, that it was desirable that they should leave London, and that the Lord Mayor wished it. He contrived, however, to get rid of them ultimately. Another class of persons often sent to the fleet was poachers—a class not very agreeable on land, and who certainly did not improve, either as company or in usefulness, at sea. With regard to the impressment of seamen, if it were lawful, the law ought to be ameliorated. As the law at present stood, the men were not asked if they chose to server; they were forced on board the fleet; they were not allowed to communicate with their friends, and they were not allowed to go ashore for fear they should desert. If there was any act in the world to which he could apply the names of cruelty and oppression, it was this. But the worst of these regulations was, that the more valuable the man, the more he suffered. He had known an instance of a most valuable man—a boat swain's-mate, who had served for five years with the fleet. He (Sir Edward Codrington) had never refused him leave to go ashore when he wished to go, for he knew that the confidence would not be abused. At the end of five years that man came to him (Sir Edward Codrington) to ask his discharge, as he wished to go to London to attend on his father and mother, both of whom were old and infirm. The man added, that he had no wish to leave the service, but would return to it as soon as he had seen his parents laid in the grave. His answer was, that he was so valuable a seaman that he was sure it would be 688 useless to ask his discharge, for it would not be granted. The sailor said, that he would willingly give eighty guineas to get his discharge. Upon this, he wrote to the Admiralty stating the circumstances of the case; that this man bad been impressed, and that he was willing to give eighty guineas for his discharge; but the answer was a positive refusal. It was such conduct as this which gave disgust in the navy. He, therefore, said, that if the Motion of the hon. Gentleman had been differently worded, he would support it. The present system was most cruel, and it was high time that House should take it into consideration. His opinion was, that the King ought to have the power to call every man into the service of the country in times of absolute necessity; but he also thought, that every man ought to be recompensed according to his services whenever an opportunity offered. So far, however, was that from being the case at present, that the more valuable the seaman was, so much the more cruelly did he suffer. Justice was not done to the navy even in times of peace. When he presented memorials to the House complaining of a hardship, the right hon. Baronet, the First Lord of the Admiralty, was the first to oppose them. He was surprised to hear the right hon. Baronet speak of justice as he had spoken. He could produce an order issued by the Admiralty which had disgusted the whole naval service. And he could assure the House, that it would not be so easy, in consequence of the disgust, to man the navy, even at present, were it not for the difficulty of obtaining other employment. He hoped the hon. Member would word his Motion so as to meet the opinions stated in the House, and he was sure that he would get the better part, and perhaps a majority, in his favour; and he should have his support at all events.
was rejoiced to hear the statement made by the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite, and he hoped it would meet with attention from the House. He had long felt that it was a gross abuse of power to press seamen into the service against their will. Why should the system of impressment be necessary in the navy more than in the army? Why should not bounties be given to individuals volunteering into the navy? He was aware, that bounties would entail a considerable expense on the country, but that was preferable 689 able to such gross injustice. He could not altogether approve of the Resolution of the hon. member for Sheffield. If the hon. Member, instead of the abstract proposition, had made a Motion, pledging the House to take the question into consideration next Session, or for the appointment of a Select Committee to inquire into the subject, he (Alderman Thompson) was sure that the House would be more ready to assent to it. He did not think there could be a better period for taking the subject of impressment into consideration than the present.
§ Mr. Robinson
would only detain the House for a few minutes. There was hardly any way in which this question could be brought under the consideration of the House to which he would object, such was his abhorrence of the system; but he begged the House to consider the situation in which they would be placed if the Resolution were adopted. The Resolution declared that the system was cruel, inefficient, and so on. If this were affirmed by the House, the system must necessarily be discontinued, and that without any inquiry. He would, therefore, oppose the Motion, but merely on the point of form; but he could not affirm such a Resolution as this was, looking as he did to the pass to which it might bring them.
§ Captain Elliot
said, that the cases brought forward by the gallant Admiral were subjects more appropriate for complaint to the Admiralty than to that House. He admitted, that the system of impressment was one which ought to be done away with as far as it safely could; that it ought not to be had recourse to but in cases of great emergency; and that the enforcement of it should, as long as possible, be avoided. He did not see what the faults which the hon. and gallant Admiral found with the Admiralty had to do with the question of impressment. The hon. member for Sheffield had alluded to the extent to which desertion was carried on at Gibraltar during the war. He (Captain Elliot) admitted, that there was desertion to a considerable extent, but he had found, in the course of his experience, that the desertion was less frequent among the impressed men than among the volunteers. The volunteers had been always found ready to desert, because it gave them an opportunity of getting the bounty over again. But desertion was not confined to 690 the British navy, and could not, therefore, be attributed to the impressment. Desertion was frequent from both the French and American navies. The French system, which the hon. Member had so highly prized, was no other than a system of impressment under a different name. A case had occurred in France, in which, out of 1,500 seamen, 700 had deserted, and not seven of that number ever returned to their duty. This showed, that desertion was even more common in the French than in the British navy. With regard to the opinion of Lord Exmouth, he (Captain Elliot) had had the honour of serving under him, and he knew, that so far from not approving of impressing seamen, as the hon. Member had stated, he had on many occasions pressed men from merchantmen in the Mediterranean, and had blamed him (Captain Elliot) and other officers, whom he thought too remiss in doing the same. If it were necessary, he could produce more than twenty plans which had been laid before the Admiralty, for the abolition of the system; but what they all recommended was forced servitude and registration. The system of registration might, perhaps, answer in France, but, in his (Captain Elliot's) opinion, it would be impracticable in this country. Sailors would leave their homes and never return, and it would be impossible to keep up the registers. He had never seen an instance of a man continuing sulky or discontented because he had been impressed. Latterly service on board of men-of-war was preferable to that on board of merchantmen. The loss on board, of men, had been ascertained to be less, even during the last war, on board of men of war than on board of merchantmen. The health and comfort of the men was better provided for, the pay was better, and they were better clothed; so it was to be hoped that the difficulty of manning the navy would not be so great in future. He (Captain Elliot) had resided in Portsmouth during three years previous to his appointment to the situation which he at present held, and he had never seen any difficulty found in manning men of war, but he had seen several Indiamen come into the harbour which could not get men. He thought, if any changes were made in the system by the House, they ought to be merely such as would prevent abuses, so as to prevent impressment from being employed but in cases of absolute necessity. He 691 should appose the Motion as both dangerous and uncalled for.
moved as an Amendment, "That it is the opinion of this House, that it is just and expedient to regulate and mitigate the system of forcibly impressing seamen into his Majesty's service, in every way not inconsistent with the powers of the Crown in cases of emergency, to man the Royal navy."
§ Mr. Labouchere
said, that the power to impress should certainly not be resorted to except in extreme cases. But he considered it inconvenient that abstract Resolutions of this kind should be brought forward. The abuse of the system in former times was properly objected to; but there was little danger of any such abuse in future. It was neither safe nor right to deprive the King of the power of impressing under the responsibility of his Ministers in cases of emergency, such as an unexpected war. He hoped that the House would not abolish the system, but that they would watch strictly over the uses made of the power. He therefore should oppose the Resolution in its present shape.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, that impressing of seamen from on board American ships by British officers was the cause of the American war, and that war had added 70,000,000l. to the National Debt.
§ Mr. Buckingham
moved an amended Resolution—"That it is the duty of this House to avail itself of the present period of profound peace, to institute an inquiry whether some means may not be devised of manning his Majesty's ships in time of war, without having recourse to the practice of forcible impressment."
§ Lord Althorp
had not the smallest hesitation in declaring, that if it were possible for this country, as a maritime State, to get rid entirely of the system of impressment, he should be as desirous as any one to get rid of it. But it appeared to him to be a necessary evil, which it was not possible entirely to avoid. His right hon. friend near him had stated circumstances, such as the breaking out of a sudden war, and the necessity of an immediate armament, which would render a system of voluntary enrolment of seamen, entirely insufficient for the manning of his Majesty's ships of war, in time to prevent the entire destruction of our commerce. Before we could 692 fit out any squadron of defence, the sea would be swept of British merchantmen. He would venture, therefore, to say, that on the day on which the country deprived the Sovereign of the prerogative of impressment, the naval superiority of Great Britain would be at an end. At the same time he willingly admitted, that every means ought to be resorted to during peace to render the service so acceptable to mariners, that it would be unnecessary in time of war to have recourse to impressment, except in extreme cases, such as those to which he had alluded. Every encouragement ought to be afforded—among others, perhaps, exemption from duty after a certain period of service—to keep the commercial marine so disposed towards the royal marine, as to secure a constant and ample supply to the latter. It was the duty of his Majesty's Government, in time of peace, to adopt such measures as might render the necessity of impressment in time of war as small as possible. But he could never agree to a proposal which went to deprive the Crown of the prerogative of impressment altogether. Such was the object of the original Motion and speech of the hon. member for Sheffield. That hon. Member had been complimented on the moderation of his speech. In the justice of that compliment he could not concur. When he heard an hon. Member say, that the exercise of his Majesty's prerogative of impressment not only would be resisted, but ought to be resisted; he certainly could not compliment that hon. Member on his moderation. The hon. member for Middlesex had said, that no time was improper for the introduction of such a subject. He was not of that opinion; and thought that the present time was peculiarly unfit for its introduction. Of course nothing could be done on the subject in the present Session. Was it expedient, at the end of a Session, when they could not proceed to the adoption of any practical measure, that that House should pass a Resolution, holding out to the great body of mariners belonging to the country, that the system of impressment was to be done away with? Was it expedient to do this—it least until the House was satisfied of that, of which he was by no means satisfied—namely, that the step was one which could be taken with safety to the country? As to the system of enrolment, and of balloting from the enrolled men, that would be impressment 693 to a certain extent. In his opinion, such a plan would be found impracticable. But even if it were practicable, he doubted whether it would put the sailors of this country in a better condition on the subject, than that in which they were at present. On the contrary, he believed it would place them in a much worse condition. No doubt there were many cases of impressment which were cases of extreme hardship. But several of the cases which had been that night quoted, were cases of illegal impressment. If they were to abolish any prerogative of the Crown, because it might be sometimes abused, no prerogative would be safe. As the Motion at present stood, it pledged the House to go into a Committee of Inquiry next Session. Now, let them consider what would be the effect of their agreeing to such a proposition, on every person engaged in the commercial marine of the country. It was not his intention, however, to meet this modified motion with a direct negative, although he should certainly have treated it in that manner as it originally stood. He felt more than doubts, however, whether at any time an adequate substitute could be found for the existing system. When the possibility of a sudden armament, and the necessity in such a case, of sending ships to foreign stations were considered, it seemed to him to be utterly impossible to think of entirely giving up the system. The hon. member for Oldham had said, that asserting the right of impressment had cost this country the expense of the last American war. Now, the assertion of the right of impressment was not the sole cause of that war. But even if it had, and feeling it as he always should feel it, to be a great calamity to be at war with that State, it must be recollected, that if the power of impressment occasioned that mischief, the power of impressment also gave us that naval superiority which we had so gloriously asserted. He allowed, that if a system could be devised which would render the necessity of impressment as small as possible, that system ought to be adopted by his Majesty's Government. On the present occasion, however, he should conclude by moving the previous question.
§ Mr. Cobbett
said, that as he could not give his sanction to any expression which might seem to take away his Majesty's prerogative, if the hon. member for Sheffield, had persevered in his original Motion 694 he should have voted against it. For the modified Motion he should certainly vote.
§ A division took place on the previous question—Ayes 54; Noes 59: Majority 5.
|List of the AYES.|
|Aglionby, H. A.||Tancred, H. W.|
|Baillie, J. E.||Thompson, Ald.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Tollemache, Hon. A.|
|Bewes, T.||Tower, C. T.|
|Bish, T.||Tynte, C. J. K.|
|Briscoe, J.||Warburton, H.|
|Brotherton, J.||Whalley, Sir S.|
|Chapman, A.||Wilks, J.|
|Cobbett, W.||Williams, Colonel|
|Codrington, Sir E.||Wood, Alderman|
|Dashwood, G. H.||Young, G. F.|
|Fielden, J.||Fergusson, C.|
|Fryer, R.||Wallace, R.|
|Hall, B.||Blake, M.|
|Hughes, H.||Evans, G.|
|Hutt, W.||Fitzgerald, T.|
|Kennedy, J.||Lynch, A. H.|
|Lamont, N.||O'Dwyer, A. C.|
|Lester, B. L.||O'Reilly, W.|
|Lushington, Dr.||Perrin, Serjeant|
|Marjoribanks, S.||Ruthven, E. S.|
|Moreton, Hon. A. H.||Ruthven, E.|
|Philips, M.||Vigors, N. A.|
|Pryse, P.||Wallace, T.|
|Robinson, G. M.||Buckingham, J. S.|
|Romilly, J.||Hume, J.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Althorp, Lord||Palmerston, Lord|
|Attwood, T.||Palmer, T.|
|Blamire, W.||Parker, J.|
|Briggs, R.||Penruddock, J. H.|
|Brodie, A.||Price, Sir R.|
|Campbell, Sir.||Pryme, G.|
|Carter, B.||Rice, T.|
|Chetwynd, Capt.||Ryle, J.|
|Childers, T. W.||Skipwith, Sir G.|
|Duncannon, Vise.||Smith, J.|
|Dykes, E. L. B.||Smith, V.|
|Egerton, W. T.||Spankie, Serjeant|
|Ellice, E.||Steuart, P.|
|Forster, C.||Thomson, C. P.|
|Fox, Col.||Trowbridge, Sir T.|
|Gordon, R.||Villiers, Lord|
|Graham, Sir J.||Williams, W. A.|
|Grant, R.||Willoughby, Sir H.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||SCOTLAND.|
|Henniker, Lord||Dalmeny, Lord|
|Hodges, T. L.||Elliot, Hon. G.|
|Home, Sir W.||Grant, C.|
|Howard, P.||Gordon, Capt.|
|Knatchbull, Sir E.||Jeffrey, E.|
|Lennox, Lord W.||Kennedy, T. F.|
|Littleton, E.||Mackenzie, S.|
|Macaulay, T. B.||M'Leod, R.|
|Ormelie, Earl of||Hayes, Sir E.|
|Copeland, Ald.||Labouchere, H.|
|Talbot, J.||Wood, C.|