The Marquess of Chandos
said, that in consequence of the publication in yesterday's papers of a correspondence which had taken place between a gallant friend of his and the First Lord of the Admiralty, in which that right hon. Gentleman had thought fit to refuse the command at Portsmouth to the gallant officer in question, assigning as his reason for so doing, that he considered a seat in Parliament inconsistent with the holding of such a situation, he wished to put a question to the first Lord of the Admiralty on the subject. He wished to know from the right hon. Gentleman, whether there existed any order of the Admiralty that precluded any naval officer holding a command from having at the same time a seat in Parliament; and, if so, whether such an order was not equally applicable to a gallant officer, a Member of that House, who had at present his flag in the river, and also to another gallant Member of that House, whose frigate was at present abroad, with an acting officer on board, as well as to his gallant friend, the member for Lymington? If there was not such an order of the Admiralty Board, he thought it rather hard that because a respectable body of constituents had elected his gallant friend as their representative, his gallant friend should, on that account, be refused the command at Portsmouth.
§ Sir James Graham,
in reply to the question of the noble Marquess, had no hesitation in saying, that there was no order of the Admiralty Board, disqualifying naval officers who happened to be Members of that House from holding naval commands; but, at the same time, he did not suppose that it would be disputed that a discretion was vested in the Commissioners of the Admiralty as to the individuals whom they should select for the approbation of his Majesty to be appointed to situations with which great public duties were connected. 623 He, conceiving that the discharge of the hon. Baronet's duties as a Member of Parliament would be inconsistent with the discharge of his duties as the officer holding the command at Portsmouth, certainly refused to lay his name before his Majesty for that situation; and if the noble Marquess had any fault to find with him for so doing, he could bring the matter in the shape of a substantive motion before the House. It was for the noble Marquess to consider whether such a course would be consistent with his duty as a Member of Parliament, and whether there had been anything in this instance, in the exercise of that discretion which was vested in the Commissioners of the Admiralty, to call for the interference of that House. With regard to the two cases of other officers mentioned by the noble Marquess, he had to state that in the instance of the first of them—namely, that of the gallant officer, a Member of that House, whose flag was at present in the river—the noble Marquess was perfectly right. In the second case he believed that the noble Marquess referred to the frigate Stag. He begged to state that in that instance the noble Marquess was in error, for the officer commanding that frigate at the present moment was not a Member of that House. Now, as to the gallant Admiral whose flag was in the river, he (Sir J. Graham) was sure that the House would at once perceive the difference that there was between removing an officer from a command because he happened to have been chosen by a body of constituents as their Representative in that House, and the selecting an officer who was a Member of that House to fill a high naval situation, where a constant residence on the spot was absolutely indispensable for the proper discharge of the duties connected with it.