HC Deb 04 March 1839 vol 45 cc1212-53
Mr. Charles Wood.

*—In former Sessions, Sir, when I have had the honour of moving in Committees of Supply, the estimates for the naval service of the country, I have always abstained from saying more than seemed to me to be necessary for explaining any differences which might have been made since the estimates of the preceding year. I have done so, not from any unwillingness to afford the fullest information on every subject connected with the department to which I belong, but because I have been unwilling to trespass unnecessarily upon the attention of hon. Gentlemen, and because I have always believed that, in saving the time, I was best consulting the wishes of the House. On the present occasion, however, I feel it to be necessary for me to pursue a different course. I need not remind hon. Gentlemen, that for the last six months, unceasing attacks have been made upon the naval administration, and statements in every shape which could teem from the press, have been put forth describing our navy as in a state of the utmost decrepitude. It is not to be supposed that we, whose characters were so *From a corrected report, published by Ridgeway. much affected by them, could be indifferent to these proceedings, or that we did not suffer from the circulation of these statements which we had no opportunity of contradicting; because I have always been of opinion, that in this House, and in this House alone, is it right for those who are connected with public departments to defend their conduct. We knew that the opportunity of doing so, must sooner or later be afforded us; and deeply as I feel at this moment, my incompetency to the duty which I have to perform, I have looked forward with no small impatience and anxiety to this moment, when I might endeavour to vindicate our character, and to remove from the mind of the public, those apprehensions to which the Member for East Kent referred the other day, and which have been not unnaturally entertained by a people jealous, and rightly jealous, of any thing that can affect their maritime power.

I am afraid, Sir, that I must draw somewhat largely upon your patience and upon that of hon. Gentlemen around me, but in the situation in which we have been placed, I must throw myself upon the justice of the Committee: and this consolation at least I have, that the statements and arguments which form our vindication, are the self same which will tend to the far more important object, of dissipating any alarm as to the efficiency our navy.

The charges under which we, for the last six months, have suffered, are certainly not those which have been brought forward by the hon. Member for Kilkenny this evening: we have been charged with gross neglect of the navy, with having been afraid to come to this House for the sums necessary for its efficient maintenance; with what some of the Tory papers designated as "the shameful reductions made in our navy by the present Government." My answer to this charge is simple, and short. We have made no reductions. On the contrary, in every head of expenditure, tending to the efficiency of the navy, we have made a large increase. We have been accused of reducing the strength of our navy. In the estimates for 1835, the last before we came into office, there were voted 17,500 men and boys; in 1836, in the first estimates which I had the honour of moving, there were voted 22,500 men and boys, exclusive of the ordinary. On the 1st of January, 1835, there were eleven ships of the line in commission; on the 1st of January, 1837, there were twenty. We have been accused of reducing the work in our dockyards: the vote for wages in 1835 was 300,000l. in 1838 it was 384,000l.

We have been charged with creating discontent in the dockyards by our reductions. The yearly earnings of a shipwright in 1335 were 52l. in 1838 they were 62l. 8s. Lastly, we have been accused of having reduced the provision for stores. The sum taken for this purpose in 1835, was 383,000l.; in 1838, it was 593,000l. And these are the measures which have been called reductions!

It is true that reductions have been made: but they were made by others. The number of men was reduced, but it was by the Government of the right hon. Member for Tamworth in 1835. We have been blamed for the reduction of the Marine Artillery; that corps was reduced in 1832. It is true, that the amount of work in our dockyards has been reduced; but it was reduced first by the government of the Duke of Wellington, and next by the right hon. Member for Pembroke. It is true, that the votes for stores have been reduced; but it was first by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, and still further by the government of the right hon. Member for Tamworth.

I will not stop now to give an opinion upon these reductions. All that I have at present to say, is, that they were not made by us. For many of those made by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, he received great credit at the time, and most justly. The violence of party has now involved them all in one undiscriminating censure, and with signal injustice, has laid that censure upon us. We have increased and not reduced the navy. We have increased the number of men, nearly thirty per cent. We have nearly doubled the number of ships of the line in commission. We have increased the work in the dockyards about thirty per cent.; and the provisions for stores between fifty and sixty per cent. Blame us, then, if you will; say, if you please, with the hon. Member for Kilkenny, that the increase we have made, is too great, or say that it is too small; but do not commit what is in you an absurdity, and towards us an injustice, of designating as a reduction, what is in fact, so considerable an in- crease. For what we have done ourselves, I am ready to answer—ready to submit to that censure, which from some quarter or another, is sure to be inflicted, whatever we may do; but, as it would be unworthy in us to seek credit, so it is unjust that we should incur censure, for the acts of others. The documents, Sir, to which I have referred, in proof of my assertions, are public documents. I have had recourse to no source of information not open to the public, and which has not been in the hands of everybody who hears me. I have referred only to the several Parliamentary estimates, which were, or ought to have been, in the hands of those who made the charges against us, at the time when they made them. I complain of no censure or blame for what we have done, but I do complain, not only on our own part, but still more on the part of the country, which has been misled and deceived; that those who profess to instruct and guide the public mind, have, in their eagerness to injure those to whom they are politically opposed, laid out of sight altogether, both dates and facts; and that the statements which have been made, are as wide as is possible from the truth.

So far, then, Sir, as the general charge against the present Government goes, of having reduced the navy, I have given a short, and I trust, a satisfactory answer, resting on documents beyond the possibility of contradiction. In no one respect have we reduced anything that contributes to the efficiency of the navy.

I am, however, fully aware, that not only for our vindication, but still more for the purpose of putting the Committee and the country in full possession of the state of our navy and naval establishments, it is necessary for me to go into the subject in much greater detail; and I think, it will be for the convenience of hon. Gentlemen, that I should do so under the different heads of expenditure, as they stand in the estimates.

First, then, with regard to the strength of the navy.

It will be in the recollection of hon. Gentlemen, that late in the last Session of Parliament, the Duke of Wellington called the attention of the House of Lords to the reduced state of the navy. He said, that he considered our naval establishments "to be in too weak a condition to answer the purpose for which they were intended." "The circumstance of which I complain," said the noble Duke,* "I do not at all attribute to neglect upon the part of the Admiralty, neither do I include, in my censure, the noble Earl who is at the head of the Admiralty; but those whom I do blame, are the individuals who have thought proper to reduce the establishments of the country to such a degree that protection cannot possibly be given in all places where it is required."

The noble Duke, with that fairness which always distinguishes him, did justice to the present Board of Admiralty. He did not impute blame to us. Not so those partisans of hon. Gentlemen opposite, who, in after-dinner speeches, pamphlets, letters, and newspaper articles, throughout the autumn, imputed to us, that we had reduced the navy; and, on the supposition that we had done so, held up our conduct to the censure of the country, as contrasted with that of the Tories. Let us see, Sir, how the facts stand. The strength of the navy mainly depends on the number of men voted. From the year 1818 to 1824, the number of men voted averaged about 15,000. In 1824 they were increased, and to 1831, averaged, including the coast blockade, from 20,000 to 21,000 men. The right hon. Member for Pembroke put down the coast blockade. But the highest vote for seamen, since the peace, except our own, was not under a Tory, but under the Whig Government of Lord Grey, namely, that taken in 1831, by the right hon. Member for Pembroke. He subsequently reduced the number to about what they had stood at, since 1834, exclusive of the coast blockade, namely, 18,000, and so they stood till the year 1834.

In 1834, for a most useful purpose, that of introducing a greater number of boys into the navy, he reduced 500 men, and added 1,000 boys, which, upon the usual calculation of two boys to one man, left the force where it was. Then came the government of the right hon. Member for Tamworth; and they, as I have said, reduced the number of men. I confess, I was at a loss to understand what the right hon. Baronet meant just now, when he denied this;† they not only reduced the men, but they boasted of it. What said my noble Friend, the Member *Debate, Aug. 14, 1838. Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. xliv. p. 1200. † Sir Robert Peel had done so across the table. for Dorsetshire, (Lord Ashley) who moved the naval estimates in 1835, and whom I regret not to see in his place, he said, that the House had been accustomed to economy under the preceding Governments, and they would find that they had not lost in that respect by the return of the Conservatives to power; for "with respect to the first great head, namely, the effective service, he had to inform the House that there was a reduction of 2,000 men, on full wages—in 1835 as compared with 1834—but, in consequence of the success which had attended similar experiments in former years, 1,000 boys were to be added; as, however, 1,000 boys were equal only to 500 men, there would be a net reduction of 1,500 men."*

The numbers voted make it still clearer.

The numbers voted were:—

Men. Boys.
In 1834 17,500 1,000
1835 15,500 2,000

The next year we added 5,000 men and boys.

This was the conduct of the Tories. What said the right hon. Member for Pembroke, at the time, who, if I may use the expression, then represented Whig opinions upon naval matters. He expressed his disapprobation of the reduction. He said, that "he must express his regret, that at this juncture any reduction whatever had taken place." He said, referring to the force of other nations, "that he put it to the good sense of Gentlemen present whether it was proper, if foreign powers were in that state to incur the risk of reducing the amount of the naval force of the country to the amount proposed."* The reduction then was made by the Tories, and it was disapproved at the time by the Whigs.

I confess I should have been glad to hear on what ground that reduction was made. When we made the increase in the subsequent year, no insignificant Member of the right hon. Baronet's Government, the Duke of Wellington, took the earliest opportunity of expressing his approbation of the increase. I should be glad to know what change had taken place in the affairs of Europe, that could make this difference. My memory may deceive me, but as far as I can recollect, no change had taken place in the aspect *Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. xxvi. 996. † Hansard, vol. xxvi., p. 990. of political affairs, which could have made a reduction right in 1835, when, in the opinion of the Duke of Wellington, an increase was so necessary in 1836. But, Sir, there is no longer any doubt upon this point. We have had within these few days the advantage of hearing the statement of the noble Earl, who was First Lord of the Admiralty, in the Government of the right hon. Baronet, and what was his account of it? "Great," said he, "was the pressure for economy upon the Government; small was the chance, that the House of Commons would listen to a large vote for the navy; and, therefore, he would be perfectly frank, and at once say, that the number of men was a great deal too small, and short as had been his professional connexion with the service he felt it deeply before he quitted office."*

Now, Sir, after this account of the grounds of the reduced vote taken iu 1835 by Sir Robert Peel's Government. I beg of hon. Gentlemen to call to mind the expressions, that have been so lavishly applied to us: "Base truckling to the hon. Member for Kilkenny; disgraceful parsimony; and a sacrifice of the best interests of the navy, to a shameful courting of low popularity," were the mild terms in which our conduct was spoken of by the Tory press. I appeal to every candid man on this side of the House, or even on your own, whether these terms are more applicable to us who increased, or to you who reduced, the navy, and for such reasons as are stated by yourselves, with a frankness, which, I confess, almost disarms me.

I should have been glad, Sir, if the various publications to which I have alluded had confined themselves to even such violent and unjust attacks as these; but I grieve to see, that many of them are written in a tone and temper which make me blush to think, that they were written by Englishmen.

It used to be almost a reproach to an Englishmen, that he unduly despised everything that was foreign, unduly esteemed everything that was English. This was a pardonable, because it was a patriotic, pride. No such feeling appears in these publications; there, everything abroad is exalted, everything at home depreciated; I might not have complained if they had stopped here; but even beyond *Times Newspaper, Feb. 23. this, the writers have made the grossest misstatements, and, in some cases, when evidently from the references in their own publications they had the means of correct information before them, they have yet stated what was untrue. I cannot characterise such a course, however unwilling I am to use a harsh word, but as little less than wilful misrepresentation.

Neither can I be surprised, that when these statements have been made public, apprehensions should have been very generally entertained in this country; or as I am told, that opinions derogatory to the honour and power of Great Britain, should have been expressed by individuals abroad. In one, however, of these fears I have never participated. I mean the fear that any foreign power should have been encouraged by such statements to assume a more hostile attitude, or to use more hostile language towards this country: and for this simple reason, because I am perfectly assured, that with those means of information which, in this free country, are open to everybody, there is no foreign power which has the least curiosity on the subject, which is not in possession of more accurate information than what is contained in these pamphlets—information unknown and neglected only by those who seek to depreciate their own country.

The pamphlets refer to the state of foreign navies and to our own. I will now advert to those of foreign powers, and first to that of the French. The statements as to the French navy are contained in a letter addressed to the Duke of Wellington, and signed (I do not know whether it was written) by "A Flag Officer," and which excited very great attention at the time of its first publication.

The French navy is a powerful and formidable navy, but the exaggerations in the flag officer's letter on the subject are perfectly absurd. He says they have "fifty-seven sail in commission, or ready for it. The name of each ship is given—the number of guns she carries, and the whole statement has an appearance of accuracy which might well deceive those who had no means of better information. Now, of the ships so described; as "in commission, or ready for it," nine have been broken up, condemned, burnt, or lost; three are hulks, one is a school ship, and twenty-two are building, so that out of the fifty-seven, he is wrong by no less than thirty-five.

The next point to which I will allude, illustrates the different manner in which he deals with things abroad and at home. He attacks me as Secretary to the Admiralty for saying, that we had at a particular time twenty sail of the line "at sea." He is candid enough, however, to confute himself in this point; for though he gives some reasons why he does not consider them as effective ships, a few pages afterwards, he gives the list of the twenty sail of the line at sea. But how does he deal with the French navy? They have, he says, twenty-two sail of the line "actually at sea." It will hardly be believed, that to make up the twenty-two he includes all the ships the French have afloat including those in ordinary. The number actually at sea is ten. There is no excuse for these inaccuracies. He professes to quote an able and elaborate report of Baron Tupinier, which contains the real state of the French navy, and the French annual estimates contain the fullest information. The French carry publicity to a fault. They carry it, as Sir John Barrow has mentioned in his late life of Lord Anson, to their own detriment. There is no disguise about the state of their navy. They have twenty-two ships afloat, and twenty-seven building, making forty-nine, I mean ships of the line; and I beg the Committee to understand, that unless I particularly specify it, I always mean ships of the line, for the task would be endless if I went into the details of smaller vessels. Their active force for 1838 was eight sail of the line, but, including reliefs, they had ten at sea.

The next subject I shall refer to, is the American navy, the ships of which are, as naval officers know, of a very formidable description; but it is an error to suppose that their navy has been much increased of late years. On the contrary, there have been great complaints in America that there was nothing doing in their dockyards. The American naval force is precisely what it was last year and a year or two back. They have seven ships of the line, and four building; eight frigates, and six building. [Sir James Graham intimated across the Table, that Sir John Barrow's letter stated twenty-six ships of the line.] There is a mistake in the statement in the table in Sir John Barrow's book; he has included in the ships build- ing, those for which frames are collected, or are contracted for. There can be no mistake about the matter; for the paper I am quoting is an extract from the report to Congress of the state of the navy. To satisfy the right hon. Baronet, I will give the statement in detail.

The Americans have two ships of the line in commission, three ready for sea, two in want of repair, four on the stocks, four of which the frames are collected, and eleven, the frames for which are contracted for, to be delivered by the year 1841; and it would be absurd to reckon as ships building, those for which the timber may as yet be growing in an American forest.

To show the want of vessels in the American navy, I will read an extract from the Secretary of the Navy's report. The act of congress approved 22nd December, authorized the President of the United States to employ the public vessels in cruising along the Atlantic coast during the winter season, for the purpose of affording relief to merchantmen in distress. Under this law, the sloop of war Erie, the brigs Pioneer and Consort, the schooner Active, and steamship Fulton were occasionally employed with beneficial results: owing to the want of proper vessels at the disposal of this department, after supplying the necessities of foreign stations, the steam-ship Fulton is the only one now available for this service.

And it is not a little curious, that in that country, the mother of steam navigation, this steam-vessel should be the only one belonging to the Government.

I come now to the great bugbear of my hon. Friend, the Member for Birmingham, the Russian navy; and certainly if I had believed the newspapers in the autumn, I should have thought, that the hon. Gentleman had inoculated half the country with his fears and hatred of Russia. Most exaggerated accounts had been put forth on the subject of the Russian navy; and the Admiralty are accused of being the only persons in the country ignorant and careless on the subject. I cannot expect, that anything that falls from me as an individual should excite the attention of this House; but I may call to the recollection of hon. Gentlemen, that in moving the navy estimates in 1836 I stated the force of the Russian navy, and stated it as one of the grounds on which I asked for an increase of our naval force, and what was the reception I met with? Why, I was taunted by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, for ha- ving made statements calculated to excite alarm at home, and apprehension of hostilities abroad. In spite of this circumstance we have been accused of ignorance on the subject; when it is notorious, that I made this statement in the House in 1836, and a statement to the same effect was made by the right hon. Member for Pembroke in the year 1835; by myself one year, and by him two years before the publication of Commander Craufurd's pamphlet. Sir, there is no difficulty in ascertaining the truth, if Gentlemen would only take the trouble of inquiring before they begin to write upon the subject.

The Russians have twenty-eight sail of the line in the Baltic fit for service, of which eighteen are seventy-four gun ships; and ten in the Black Sea, of which two are in bad condition; and Russian ships are remarkably subject to decay, so that a ship reported perfectly good one year, is sometimes condemned as unseaworthy the next.

This, then, being the condition of the Russian fleet in the Baltic, and which is, from the nature of the Russian naval service always kept ready for sea; I will admit to the hon. Member for Birmingham, that if, without provocation, without warning, in the middle of profound peace, regardless of the fearful vengeance which this country might exact, Russia chose to make a sudden attack on this country, she might do us considerable mischief; so I will admit, that if France, in time of profound peace, suddenly landed a large force on our shores, it might take some time to collect a force to oppose them; and so, Sir, your life and that of every one of us, is at the mercy of the first man we meet in the street, if, without provocation and without warning he chooses to attempt it. But are these dangers, which even the most prudent man thinks it necessary to guard against? If so, I ask if this country was ever in time of peace prepared against such dangers? If so, I ask if the three guard-ships, half-manned, in each port, about which we have heard so much, were an adequate defence against twenty-eight Russian ships of the line? If we are really to be protected against such an attack, we should have twenty or twenty-five sail of the line in the North Sea every summer. But surely hon. Gentlemen will perceive that this involves a question, which cannot be decided by a department, or even by a Government, it must be de- cided by Parliament and the country, for it is no less than whether we shall, in time of peace, maintain a war establishment.

Now, Sir, I recommend Gentlemen who advocate such a course, first to sit down and calculate the cost. It is not a question of two or three sail of the line, it is not a question of three or four thousand men, or of four or five hundred thousand pounds; it is a question of millions in every year since the peace up to the present time, and hereafter.

It is possible that all our greatest statesmen may have been wrong, and that a war establishment may be right; but this is a point which it yet remains for those Gentlemen to prove. I hold in my hand a curious paper on this subject, which, with the permission of the committee, I will read to them, as bearing directly upon my argument. The Duke of Choiseul on quitting office presented an elaborate and confidential paper to his sovereign, in which he entreats him most earnestly, to adopt a system subversive of the maritime greatness of Great Britain; such is avowed in the paper to have been the object to which the policy of France had long been directed. The aim and end, according to the writer, were just and reasonable, but the means adopted, namely the equipment of large fleets, and the resort to frequent hostilities were defective and injurious. The secret scheme recommended in the paper, and which it is contended therein, would to demonstration waste and destroy, not merely the navy of Great Britain, but the resources and spirit from which her greatness was derived, was according to this remarkable paper to keep her in a constant state of feverish apprehension, to compel her to exhaust her strength on peace establishments, and yet never afford her an opportunity by actual war, of dispelling the bugbears which excited these alarms. The Duke de Choiseul, no unimportant or uninformed Minister of the power which was then our great rival, may be wrong; Lord Grenville may have been wrong; and almost every person who has taken a part in public affairs since 1815, may have been wrong; and it may be right to maintain a war establishment during peace. I will not now stop to argue this question further; if Parliament and the country decide upon a war establishment, we will do our best to administer the war, as we have to administer the peace establishment of the navy.

If, however, war establishments are not to be maintained, then the amount of the force must depend upon the nearer or more distant prospect of hostilities, and the state of our relations with foreign powers, of which, after all, the Ministers of the day must, on their responsibility, be the judges. On these grounds the present Administration proposed its vote of men in 1836, and the circumstances remaining the same, they will propose to the committee to vote the same number of men for the present year. On these grounds, too, I should have been willing to give full credit to the hon. Member for Tamworth, in his reduction of men, supposing that he believed the prospect of peace to have been increased by his accession to power, if it had not been for the frank confession of the noble Earl elsewhere, to which I have before alluded. The present Government did not think it for the honour or the interest of this country, that the naval force should be so low as it was when they came into office, and they, therefore, proposed, in their first estimates, an increase of 5,000 men.

Sir, it may be some consolation to my hon. Friend, the Member for Birmingham, to know that there is no great increase in the Russian fleet from what it was many years ago. The hon. Gentleman has referred this evening to what it was forty years back. I will state what its numbers have been at several periods. In 1787, the Russians had forty-five sail of the line, and several building; in 1801, sixty-one sail of the line; and in 1807, forty-three—precisely the same number as they have at present: I speak of those afloat, exclusive of ships building. Their ships are increased above what they were three, or four years ago, but they have not yet reached their establishment, which is forty-five sail of the line in the two seas.

It will be a further consolation to my hon. Friend, to be assured, that we have for years lived unarmed through dangers as great as that to which we are now ex. posed. The number of our ships in commission, is higher in proportion to the Russians than it has been for some time.

In 1817 we had fifteen sail of the line in commission, and Russia had thirty,—our ships being just one half of hers; in 1823, we had twelve, and the Russians thirty-seven,—our ships being in the proportion of one-third to hers; In 1832, we had eleven, and Russia thirty-six—being also in the proportion of nearly one-third; and now we have twenty, and Russia forty-three,—having raised our ships to nearly half the number of those of Russia. So far, therefore, we are in a better situation as respects that country, than in any year since 1817. In fact, England has now a larger naval force than she has ever yet maintained during peace. Including the ordinary, which, for this purpose, the men being available for sea service, I have a right to reckon, but excluding those employed in the home packets, the vote for seamen for 1838 was 24,700 men; and the highest vote under a Tory Government, including the coast blockade, namely, in 1828, was 21,000. The increase, therefore, above their highest vote is little short of 4,000 men. I repeat, therefore, that this country has at this moment the largest naval force, the greatest number of seamen, and the greatest number of ships in commission, that she has ever had since the peace.

I am aware, Sir, that several objections have been taken to the composition of our force, to which I will now advert.

It is said, in the first place, that we have only seventy-four gun ships, and that we ought to have more of our larger ships at sea. When Gentlemen are determined to object, there is no saying to what length their objections may not be carried; but if there is any one point on which I thought that we were beyond reproach, not that I take any credit for it to the present board of Admiralty, it was that of wearing out our small two-deckers in time of peace; and reserving our more powerful ships for the exigencies of war. This was the course recommended by the late comptroller of the navy, acted upon by former boards, followed up by us; and, I must say, that I am perfectly convinced that the course is a right one.

Another charge is, that our ships are half armed.

This charge may apply to the flagships at the ports, all of which have not their lower-deck guns in. The Howe at Sheerness has: guns for the others are lying ready at the Ordnance wharf; and I have only to appeal to any naval officer to confirm me in the statement, that no three-decker takes all her guns in at Portsmouth till she gets to Spithead. The Britannia could not he where she is if she had her lower deck guns in.

The next description of ships to which the charge might apply is the ships of the line conveying troops to America. It is perfectly true, that for the convenience of the troops embarked, these ships did take out their lower-deck guns. It was the practice during the war. In 1811, Sir Joseph Yorke, then a lord of the Admiralty, conveyed troops to Lisbon in no less than six ships of the line which had taken out their lower-deck guns.

The third description of ships to which the objection may apply, and to which I believe it was mainly directed, are the flag ships on foreign stations. The public has been led to suppose, that the present board of Admiralty has sent out ships much less powerful than those usually employed on foreign stations. When the present Government came into office the flag-ships on foreign stations were fourth or fifth rates, that is, frigates of the larger class. It was, however, represented to us, that it would be a great convenience and great benefit to the service if ships of the line without their lower deck guns were substituted on these stations, as by this means greater accommodation would be afforded to the admiral's retinue, and to the numerous supernumaries who are constantly borne in flag-ships abroad. For this reason the Admiralty assented to the proposal, and with the further knowledge, that if any occasion should arise for it, these ships might, by taking in their lower-deck guns, and completing their complements, which there is no difficulty in doing abroad, become at once effectual ships of the line. The best proof of this is, that out of three ships of this description on foreign stations, two have actually taken in their lower-deck guns. The moment it was thought necessary to act on the coast of America the lower-deck guns of the Cornwallis were taken in at Halifax, and her complement filled up. The same thing has since been done with the Wellesley in India.

It is a matter of small importance, and curious only as shewing how totally destitute of truth the charges against the Admiralty have been, that one accusation on this subject, contained in a newspaper sent up to me, as they frequently are when there is any attack upon the Admiralty in them, was, that great hardship had been inflicted upon the flag officers by this course; and still greater injustice, for by a special exception in favour of Lord Minto's brother, he had been allowed to have his lower deck guns mounted. Now, true it is, that Admiral Elliott's ship is a solitary exception, but it is an exception the other way: for the Melville is the only ship which has not her lower-deck guns.

The last objection is, that the ships are only half manned. It is perfectly true, that in time of peace the ships have only peace complements on board. An hon. and gallant Friend of mine has to-night expressed an opinion, that there should be no such thing as reduced complements in time of peace. Without meaning to defend ourselves for doing wrong, because others have done wrong before us, I have yet a right to say this, that all those distinguished officers who have at any time, during peace, sat at the board of Admiralty, have invariably been of opinion, that in peace a reduced complement was right. I do not feel myself competent to give a strong opinion on naval matters, especially in the presence of so many who are better able to form a proper judgment on such matters than myself; but I must say, that it seems to me to stand to reason, that if in time of war such a complement of men is put into a ship as are able to fight all her guns in a protracted action—to go through all the hard service that is incident to a time of war—and even to furnish prize-crews, a smaller complement may be sufficient when none of' these contingencies are likely to arise. With regard to what the amount of such complements should be, I feel myself still more unable to express an opinion. The peace complement of 1834, which has been complained of, and which, after all, was not framed by us, was very considerably larger than the peace complement which, from the year 1816 to 1826, was established in the navy, and which officers of long experience in naval affairs supposed, up to the latter of those years, to be sufficient. In 1826, the complements were increased. They have subsequently been changed from time to time,—supernumeraries were given to some ships, and taken away from others; but the changes have been made upon no rule whatever. In 1834, the complements were reviewed, and a small reduction made.

I readily admit, that in some classes of ships, especially in those technically called Razées, and in the new classes of ships, the complements fixed in 1834 were too small. The Admiralty were some time ago disposed to increase them; but those who have been connected with the ma- nagement of public affairs will know what strong objections there are to dealing with particular cases; and, as the Admiralty had, under their consideration, a scheme for the new armament of the navy, which necessarily entailed a revision of the complements, they thought it better to postpone doing anything till the whole could be done on a system.

Experiments have been carried on for some time on board the Gunnery ship, in Portsmouth Harbour, which were brought to a conclusion in the course of last year. A scheme of armament for all classes of ships was then framed, and was taken into consideration by the board as soon as they met after the recess. It is too technical a subject for me to enter upon in this House; but I may state, upon the opinion of most able and competent officers, that the new armament is of a most powerful and formidable description. As soon as the armament was fixed, the complements were revised. The arrangement of the war complements is nearly made; but, as it is not pressing, and requires an Order in Council, it is not yet quite completed. The peace complement, however, has been completed, giving a considerable increase, especially in those ships where the deficiency was most complained of.

A paper was put into my hands, showing the ratio of reduction of former peace complements as compared with the war complement of 1814; and, as it afforded a fair test of comparison, I had that of the new peace complement added to it. The peace complement of 1816 was twenty-four per cent. below the war complement of 1814; that of 1826, seven per cent.; that of 1834, eight per cent.; and the peace establishment, as just fixed, will only be four and a half per cent. below it. And I do believe, that what the hon. Member for Bristol said ought to be done,—what my gallant Friend, Captain Berkeley, was so anxious to see,—a proper and adequate peace complement, has been established, and one which will give satisfaction to the best officers in the service.

Since Parliament has met, I must admit, that we have heard little or nothing of these charges of a general reduction of our navy. It is not the first time, that accusations against the Government, which have been rife enough during the autumn recess, have vanished, as at the touch of Ithuriel's spear, on the meeting of Par- liament. Since then the charges have dwindled down into an imputation of having neglected the defence of our own shores; and having so far departed from the course pursued by former Governments, that now an American privateer might run unopposed up the Channel, and burn the town of Brighton.* It is somewhat strange, that hon. Gentlemen opposite had not found this out in the year 1835, when the shores of this country were in a much more defenceless position. This, too, I stated in the year 1836, as another of the grounds upon which I then asked the House for an increase of force. It is true, that hon. Gentlemen opposite were not in office in the summer of 1835, but it is notorious, that the estimates by which the amount of force is determined, are settled soon after Parliament meets in each year; and, indeed, the arrangements for the year are made early in the spring, especially when there is a probability, that a Government is going out. A Government coming in afterwards can only deal with the force which it finds. [Cheers from Sir Robert Peel.] If the right hon. Gentleman supposes, that I mean to imply any censure on the appointment of the officers then made, I assure him he is quite mistaken. I only mean, that after completing the frigates which had just been commissioned, we had no disposable force left. [Sir R. Peel: You might have moved a supplementary estimate.] We might have moved a supplementary estimate, says the right hon. Gentleman. I admit, that such a course was possible, but I never heard of its having been adopted; and if the right hon. Gentleman means to reproach me for not having done se, I ask him, how it happened, that they did not come down to amend their own estimate, and ask for an increase to the number of men which they admit to have been too small, and that they were fully aware of it, even in the short time which elapsed after their vote before they quitted office?

The old system, and which we have now again heard so much commended, was to keep three half-manned guard-ships in each port. I believe a worse system for the discipline and habits both of officers and men never was invented. This system was discontinued by the right hon. Member for Pembroke in 1832. He *See the Flag Officer's Letter. substituted three inefficient flag-ships; I mean ships which could not go to sea. He established what were called demonstration ships; and the whole of his active force consisted of sea-going ships. So it was when hon. Gentlemen opposite came into power, and if they disapproved of this plan so much, and thought the old system of guard-ships so advantageous, they might have commissioned guard-ships in the spring of 1835. They did no such thing; they did commission frigates; and though for the first of the periods no blame can attach to them, it is singular enough, that the year 1835 is the only year for a long time in which neither on the 1st of January, nor on the 1st of July, was there any sea-going ship of the line in any of our harbours. This was so much felt by the present board, that one of their first acts was to restore efficient flag-ships in our ports. The orders for this purpose were given in June, 1835; and from the time that these ships were completed, there has been an efficient three-decker in each of our ports.

One great argument used in favour of the guard-ships has been the celerity with which troops were conveyed to Lisbon in 1826; and hearing this point so urged, any body ignorant on the subject might suppose, that troops had not been sent out to Canada last year in the same manner, in greater numbers, and in circumstances of greater difficulty, both from this country and the Mediterranean.

The system upon which we have acted, has been to have within reach every summer what we consider to be a sufficient number of efficient ships of the line. We consider, as in this situation, any ships at Lisbon, on the north coast of Spain, or cruising as an experimental squadron. With the more rapid and certain means of communication now afforded by steam vessels, I see no difficulty in collecting ships from this distance in a very short time. It was always considered advisable to send even the guard-ships occasionally to sea for the practice both of officers and men. Even they were not always at home.

Taking, then, the ships so employed in addition to those in our ports, there was within reach, in the month of July, 1835, when I do not consider ourselves responsible for the arrangement, one single ship of the line; in July, 1836, the first year of our arrangements, there were fourteen; in July, 1837, there were eleven; in the month of April, last year, there were nine. Four were dispatched to America with troops; they returned as soon as they had performed that duty; and in the month of August there were again nine ships of the line within reach. So far, then, from our coasts having been left defenceless, I maintain, that we were in a better condition with nine efficient ships within reach, than with nine guard-ships in our ports. My noble Friend (Lord Ingestrie) has moved for returns, shewing the number of the complements of the ships stationed on the coasts of this country on the 1st of December for several years. I find, that the number in December, 1835, was 2539; and in December, 1836, the number was 5467, more than double that of the preceding year.

I come now to the demonstration ships. They were established by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, and we have persevered in the same system. I admit that they are not now in the same state of readiness as that which he recommended; and I will state the reason for this to the Committee. It was found on examining some of them in 1836, that the tanks, and other things which they had on board, tended very much to produce decay; and not only the rigging, but the masts of others had become so rotten that it was necessary to take them out and to put new ones in. For this reason the system was changed, and the stores, masts, &c., are now kept in store-houses, preserved from the risk of decay, but perfectly ready to be at once put into the ships. Certainly some, but a very trifling delay might be caused by this; but it is evident, that the ships from which it was necessary to take out the old masts and rigging could not be so soon ready as under the present system.

Much has been said about the time which has been required to get these demonstration ships ready for sea. It is quite impossible in time of peace to get work so rapidly done, as when every body feels, that there is a real necessity for exertion. Besides, in fitting a ship for a long station many alterations and improvements are made, which would not be necessary in order to send the ship to sea in case of need. The Ganges took a long time in fitting at Portsmouth, but the master shipwright of that yard told my hon. Friend near me (Sir C. Adam) on the deck of the Ganges, that there was not more of really necessary shipwright's work required for her than could be done in forty-eight hours if she was wanted for an emergency. As to their requiring caulking, or being taken into dock to have their copper examined, it is equally necessary for guard-ships, or indeed for any ships lying in harbour. It is always done at intervals. If a ship happens to be commissioned just after one of these periods, she needs nothing; if just before, there is of course this additional work to be done.

The next and most important point is the manning of the navy.

I do not apprehend that there is more difficulty now in manning the navy than usually has been the case during peace. I do not refer, of course, to the years immediately subsequent to the last war, when so many seamen were suddenly thrown out of employment. In the year 1812 we had a vote for near 150,000 men; in the year 1818 for 14,000. With every allowance for a number of foreigners employed during the war, and for the seamen who might be absorbed in the commercial service, there must have been for some time nearly 100,000 men who could not find employment. The manning is now exceedingly slow, from the selection which officers think it necessary to make. Much depends upon accident; still more upon the character of the officer commanding the ship. There is no place where it has generally been so difficult to man ships as Sheerness; and yet not very long ago, a 74-gun ship was manned there in little more than a fortnight, and with one of the best crews which any ship has lately carried to sea. If, as I believe it does, the selection tends to promote order and discipline on board ship, and to diminish the necessity for corporal punishment, I do not see why, in time of peace, such haste should be made as to risk those advantages. It appears from a statement which was published in the Times newspaper, from a forthcoming work by Captain Marryatt, that exactly the same complaint is made in America; and that their ships of war lie for months in port before they can get manned.

The condition of the British seamen has recently been improved; and it is now superior in every respect to that of the merchant seamen, except in that of pay. Even the pay in the Queen's service is very little lower than that of seamen in merchant ships for long voyages. Hon. Gentlemen do not seem to take into account the number of petty officers in Queen's ships, who are raised exactly as seamen for the Queen's or merchant service, but who receive higher rates of pay. Our attention, too, has been particularly directed to improving the condition of this most meritorious class of officers; and I had great pleasure in stating the other night, in answer to a question from the hon. Member for Boston, that by a recent order they have been put into classes, and their pay increased. The pay of those in all ships of the line has been made equal to that in first-rates. The second class comprises all those in other rated ships; and the third, those in sloops and small vessels. The increase in the amount of pay varies from two and three to six and seven shillings per month.

The question of the pay of seamen is one not very easy to deal with, for it involves that of the amount of pay in the merchant service. It appears, however, from Captain Marryatt's statement, to which I have already referred, that the amount of Queen's pay in this country approaches much more nearly to that of the merchant service, than the State pay does to the merchants pay in America. Captain Marryatt states that the seamen in the American merchant service receive 3l. 10s. per month; in the service of the Government, 2l. per month; and that in England the merchant seamen's wages vary from 2l. 2s. to 2l. 10s. per month, whilst our seamen receive 1l. 14s. Taking then the amount for the year, the American merchant seaman receives 42l. per annum; the seaman in an American ship of war receives 24l. per annum, or 26l., if it is reckoned as in this country, by the lunar month; the difference in one case being 18l. in the other 16l. per annum. The English merchant seaman receives 25l. 4s. or 30l. per annum, according as we take the lower or the higher rate of pay; the seaman in the Queen's service receives 22l. 2s. per annum; the difference in one case being 3l. 2s., in the other 7l. 18s. per annum, and the greatest difference does not amount to half the lowest difference in the American pay.

Speaking then, generally, I do not conceive that, in ordinary circumstances, and maintaining about the same permanent number of men in the Queen's service, there will be any difficulty in manning our fleet. The question is, however, altered, when we come to make an increase to the number of men. In discussing this question, Gentlemen seem to me to treat it as if the supply and demand of seamen were regulated by different principles from that of other description of persons. It must be evident to hon. Gentlemen that there never can be for any length of time either in this or in any other country, a greater number of seamen, than those for whom, either in the service of the State, or of individuals, there is permanent employment. If, then, there is a demand for men, beyond the usual number, for the Queen's service, they must be drawn from the merchant service; and the immediate effect is to raise the pay in the merchant service. All the distress and stagnation of commerce in the last two years, produced no effect in reducing the wages of merchant seamen; but so small a draft upon them as 5,000 men in 1836, (and, indeed, in that year we did not actually draw more than 3,000), raised the merchant wages considerably, and complaints were made to the Admiralty that several vessels were lying in the Thames unable to go to sea for want of men.

It is therefore very desirable that any increase of the number of men in the Navy should be made slowly and gradually; and I believe that the best mode of doing this is by entering boys and training them up in the service; as by this means they acquire an attachment to the service in which they have been bred up from their youth, and make the very best seamen in the navy.

I will now advert to the resources which we should have at command in this country, in case of need, as compared with foreign countries. With regard to Russia, it is obvious that it is the necessary condition of the maintenance of her navy, that they should keep up in peace whatever they consider requisite for their war establishment. They have no mercantile marine to draw upon, and if they did not maintain their numbers even in peace, they would be without resource for war. The Americans, if Captain Marryatt's statement is to be depended upon, rely entirely on this country for their supply of seamen, and not only much of their State navy, but a large portion of their merchant vessels, are manned by men from this country. The French, like other nations, depend upon their mercantile re- sources; and their mode of raising men is, as is well known, by the means of what is termed "The Inscription." The book to which I have before referred, Baron Tupinier's Report on the French Navy, contains an account of the Inscription. According to him, there appeared, on the inspection of 1835, to be 90,000 registered seamen in France. Of these, 37,000 were either masters, landsmen or apprentices; of the remainder, 18,000 were either below or above age,—leaving actually available 35,000 men; of these, however, 18,000 were already in the King's service, so that the whole number they could rely upon for an increase of their naval force, was only 17,000. Baron Tupinier certainly questions the accuracy of this, which is however the official account of the inspection of the Inscription in 1835, as given by himself. It is clear, however, that the whole number registered in France is 90,000; and deducting the 18,000 already in their navy, there remains 72,000, of all classes and ages, available as a resource for an increase of their navy.

By the last returns under the Act for the registry of merchant seamen, there were in this country 200,000 registered seamen of all classes, including apprentices. The actual number registered is 202,000; but allowing for deaths or double entries, which, however, cannot go to any great extent, I take it at 200,000.

This number, moreover, does not include all the fishermen, or many other branches of our maritime population. There is no official account of their numbers; but upon the best calculation that can be made, and upon very good data, I cannot calculate the number of seafaring men beyond the 200,000 registered seamen, at less than 150,000. It has been said that there has been a reduction of seamen of late years in England, and especially since the general introduction of steam navigation; so far from this being the case, there has beeen a considerable increase. The returns which I am now about to quote, are not accurate accounts of the actual number of seamen, and I beg the Committee to understand that I use them for the purpose of comparison only. They are prepared in the Custom-house, upon the same data in different years; and I am assured by the very intelligent officer at the head of the office for the registry of merchant seamen, that as comparative statements in different years, and as such only I use them, they may safely be relied upon. By these returns it appears that the number of registered seamen was—

In 1833 164,000
1834 168,000
1835 171,000
1836 171,600
1837 173,500

Giving an increase in the five years of no less than 9,500. I cannot give any account to a later period, for the returns are only made up in March. It is to be observed, however, that in the year 1836, in consequence of returns made in pursuance of one of the provisions of the Merchant Seamen's Act, several vessels which had been lost were struck off the list; the crews of which amounted, according to the scale of the returns, to 1,800 men. If it were not for this circumstance, the increase would have been greater both in that and the subsequent year. In order, therefore, to take the comparison fairly, 1,800 ought to be deducted from the numbers of the preceding years; which would give an increase in the five years of upwards of 11,000 men. With regard to the effect of steam, it appears from the same returns that it has not operated sensibly in diminishing the increase of our sailing vessels, which are the real nurseries of our seamen. In 1833,there were 24,385 sailing vessels, and in 1837, 26,037; the increase in the five years being no less than 1,652. I cannot state the increase of steam-vessels in the same time from any official documents, but from a statement which appeared a short time ago in a Liverpool paper, it appears that in 1833 there were 415, and in 1836 there were 600, the increase being 185.

The Committee may be interested in knowing the number of merchant steam-vessels at present belonging to this country, and I must say that I do not look upon this as one of the least formidable resources which we possess in the event of a war. By a return which I have before me, it appears that the number of steam-vessels in this country

of 200-horse power and upwards is 65
of 100-horse power to 200 is 136

making together 201 of 100-horse power and upwards.

Of from 50 to 100-horse power 160
Under 50 to 318

making altogether 679 steam-vessels; and I have reason to believe, that even this statement is under the mark, especially as relates to the larger class of steam-boats, which are increasing daily.

With these enormous resources, then, of our mercantile marine, upon which we have always hitherto securely relied, which have always been considered the real maritime strength of this country, in which not all the nations of the world put together can compete with us, I see no reason for supposing that in any circumstances, or in any emergency that may arise, we are not in a much better condition for manning our fleet, and better prepared, if need be, even for war, than at any former period of our history.

I will state shortly to the Committee what has been done on former occasions when it was necessary to increase the naval force, and when we had not such means at command as now.

In the armament of 1787, there were 14,000 men borne in August; in October, there were 24,000.

In 1790, there were borne in April 17,000 men; they were doubled by the month of June, when the numbers borne were 34,000. In September, the same year, the number was 52,000.

In the armament of 1792 and 1793, the number borne in November, 1792, was 12,000; it was nearly doubled by January 1793, when the number was 23,000; in two months more, in March, the number was 39,000; in May, 50,000; in July, 60,000; and, before the end of the year, the number had been raised to nearly six times its amount, in the month of November, 1792, viz, to 70,000 men.

I have now, on this part of the subject, only to refer to the existing means for immediately sending additional men to our ships; and to the question of putting down the Coast-blockade, which was considered as a great and valuable resource for this object. Great exaggerations have been made use of on this subject on all sides. The right hon. Member for Pembroke put down the Coast-blockade in conformity with the report of several committees of this House; and it must be remembered, also, that this is not exclusively a naval question. The protection of the revenue is intimately concerned in it. He has been much blamed for destroying a great resource for manning our navy. But the resource has been overstated; for the right hon. Gentleman mentioned in this House, that the number of able seamen in the coast-blockade, at the time when it was put down, amounted to only 800. The right hon. Baronet established the system of the coast-guard, with the view of affording an inducement to men to enter the navy, and as a reward for the best seamen. I do not think that it has quite answered the expectations which he entertained of it in this respect. I am inclined to think that perhaps a system may be devised, which, without interfering with the protection of the revenue, may again render it of more advantage towards manning the navy. This, however, will be inquired into before a commission, of which a Lord of the Admiralty will be a member, which is about to sit, and to investigate the whole subject of the coastguard service, and which would have commenced its labours ere now, but for the severe illness of the Assistant-Secretary of the Treasury.

But, Sir, whatever resource has been taken away by putting down the coast-blockade, we have more than supplied by commissioning the ordinary. Formerly, the persons employed in taking care of our ships in ordinary, were not liable, and many of them not capable, of going to sea. They are now all of them men raised for general service, liable to be sent to sea, and in practice occasionally drafted into sea-going ships.

The number available for this purpose in January last, was 1,449, men and boys. When the complements of the guard-ships of the ordinary are completed, there will be about 2,200; and the number actually drawn from the ordinaries, or lent to sea-going ships in the course of last year, was 589; as large a number as ever were drafted from the coast-blockade in the same time. To show what description of boys were employed in the ordinaries, and trained up in the service, the Committee will, I am sure, hear with pleasure part of a letter from one of the officers of the ordinary, which has been received within this day or two. A number of second class boys had been ordered from the ordinaries into the flag-ships to be sent to foreign stations:—

"About 80 of our second class boys have been discharged to-day into the flagship. Nothing can exceed the trouble which has been taken with the boys by the officers of the ordinary, in the exercise of the great guns, in reefing and furling sails; and I assure you some of the second class boys now gone into the flag-ship are as expert at the gun exercise as the seamen are, and our first class boys sometimes beat the men."

Such, Sir, then, is the state of our navy, and of our naval resources; and I do not hesitate to say that, whether as regards the active force employed—the force for the defence of our own shores—the number of seamen in the country, or those available for immediate demands—this country never was, in time of peace, in so powerful a condition as she is at this moment.

I turn now to the next great branch of the estimates—the maintenance of the ships of our fleet. It is perfectly true, that the number of our ships of the line has been diminishing since the peace; they, like everything else, have been coming to what was considered to be the peace establishment; but they have not yet reached what was considered the minimum limit. The present Board of Admiralty, however, thinking that limit somewhat too low, knowing also that some of the ships were very old, and thinking that we were deficient in some particular classes of ships, have already commenced the increase. The maintenance of our ships evidently depends upon the amount of work in our dockyards.

Orders for the reduction of the number of men in our dockyards, were given by the Duke of Wellington's Government, in January 1830, although they were not carried into effect till May 1831, by the right hon. Member for Pembroke; and I, perhaps, can hardly give a better proof of the advantage derived from the abolition of the Navy Board, than the fact that orders issued to them by the Admiralty in January 1830, were only very partially executed in May 1831.

I am, however, sorry that the right hon. Baronet did not carry out the intentions of the Board of Admiralty in 1830, in directing this reduction of men; which were, that when reduced in numbers, they should work six days in the week: 7,000 men, or rather upwards, working for five days in the week (and a more absurd system than that of working five days only, never was practised,) are about equal to 6,000 working for six days—and therefore no reduction in the amount of work would thus have been made.

The right hon. Baronet, however, allowed the 6,000 men to work five days only, and he put them on day pay, which further reduced the amount of labour performed. It is not very easy to estimate the reduction made, but it must have been much more considerable than I should think he could have contemplated. The annual consumption of ship-building timber, on the average of seven years, ending in 1830, was 21,600 loads. The annual consumption on the average of four years, ending in 1836, the year before we made the increase, was only 9,600, the difference being no less than 12,000 loads. With every allowance for waste and error under the old system, such a diminution in the consumption of timber cannot but indicate a great reduction of work performed.

The votes for wages were:

In 1829 £.480,000
1833 390,000
1834 300,000

The present Board of Admiralty in their first visit to the dockyards in the autumn of 1835, began to entertain apprehensions of the inadequacy of the work. An additional half day was given for three months in 1836: subsequent additions were made, and including what was taken for the packets, but exclusive of the yard at Holyhead, the votes for wages in 1838, was 384,000l. The number of persons employed in our dockyards, in April 1835, when we came into office, was 6,265; in October last, the number employed was 7,644; some reduction has been subsequently made, but the number employed in January last was 7,591, being an increase of 1,326 persons.

This increase, together with the employment of all the people for six days in the week, amounts altogether to nearly one-third of the work performed before.

I will now state to the Committee what has been done with these means. The first attention of the Admiralty was directed to the small vessels, for which there was an immediate and pressing demand. There were in commission of sloops and small vessels of all kinds, in 1835, eighty-five; in 1838, 107; the increase being twenty-two. Of steam-vessels, omitting the packets on home stations, there were in all stages in 1835, twenty-four; there are now thirty-six: being an increase of twelve, within three years.

As however the subject of steam-vessels is one of the greatest interest, I will state in detail what we have done as to increasing their number. In the year 1835 one steam-vessel of 140 horse-power was launched. In the year 1836, also one steam-vessel of 140 horse-power was launched. In the year 1837, when our increase to the dockyards began to take effect, one large war steam-ship of 300 horse-power; one of 140 horse-power, and two small ones for the home packet stations were launched. In the year 1838 there have been completed, though two of them are not yet launched, one war steam-vessel of 220 horse-power, two of 240 horse-power, one of 160 horse-power, and two of 300 horse power, large packets for the Liverpool stations. There are nearly completed, and will be launched in the course of the spring, and completed before midsummer, one large war steamship of 300 horse-power and two of 280 horse-power, and arrangements are made for launching six other steam-vessels of inferior power within the year. The numbers completed in each of the five years, will therefore be as follows:—

In 1835 1
1836 1
1837 4
1838 6
1839 9

We found five war steam-vessels, and we shall have added seven, by next midsummer, and generally speaking of larger power; besides very much improving the description of our packets both abroad and at home.

In large ships we have done but little, for want of means. The increase we have made will enable us to launch one three-decker, and two second-rates this year. Three ships of the line will be laid down in the course of the year; and I trust, what has always been intended but not executed, duplicate frames of them provided.

We have also made arrangements for recurring to a system which was very beneficial for the navy, I mean building teak ships in India. We have taken a small increase in the vote for wages this year; but we think it desirable to have another year's experience of the effect of a system of work we have introduced into the yards, before we can decide what measures it may ultimately be necessary to adopt.

The next head of expenditure is for the stores of the navy. Upon this subject hon. Gentlemen will remember how con- stant and how loud the attacks upon us have been. I confess I was not much alarmed, for I remembered how similar attacks had been made upon the right hon. Member for Pembroke, and equally without foundation. If hon. Gentlemen opposite, by whom those attacks were made, thought, that the system of the right hon. Baronet was so wrong, how comes it, I would ask, that they did not alter it when they came into office. They did no such thing, they reduced the lowest amount ever taken by the right hon. Member for Pembroke for providing stores, by no less a sum than 82,000l., and the lowest vote ever taken for stores, was that taken by the Government of the right hon. Member for Tamworth.

Whether we look to the total strength of our navy; to the defence of the coasts of this country, or to the provision for naval stores, the most inadequate means were those provided in the estimates of 1835.

I will deal first with converted stores, because they depend, in great measure, as the ships do, upon the number of workmen in the yards. Nothing, Sir, could be so absurd as the old system of stores: great part of them, invariably rotted in the yards before they could be used. We have heard a great deal said of the advantages of appropriated stores. The system was to appropriate all the stores for a ship, put them away in a separate place, to be ready for the ship when commissioned. In the first inspection of the dock-yards by the right hon. Member for Pembroke, he found such appropriated stores, carefully put away, labelled with the ship's name, not to be touched till she was commissioned, and the only objection to their being used was, that the ship had been broken up for years. No wonder, that under such a system, so faithfully carried out, stores rotted in our yards; and if the right hon. Member for Pembroke had done nothing else, he would have done the greatest service in putting an end to such a system. If I were to find fault with the right hon. Baronet, I should say, that he had not probed the system deep enough, for we found a considerable quantity of stores in this state.

Sir, in the statements I am about to make, I beg most distinctly to say, that I impute blame to nobody: but I do wish to call the attention of the Committee to them, as they shew the great difficulties we have had to contend with, and the exertions we have made to put our stores into a proper state, beyond the increase which we have made to our force at sea.

One of the most important articles of store are the lower masts of ships, and which take some time to make. En the autumn of 1835, we had reason to think, that the lower masts in store were not in good condition. A survey was ordered in November 1835, and on the completion of that survey no less than 161 lower masts were found defective. Nearly one half of the lower masts for ships of the line were condemned. We have been somewhat impeded in raising the amount of the masts in store by the reduced state of the establishment; but we have now a store in fact, which we then had, only on paper.

The next article is top-masts.

Top-masts are soon made, perish rapidly when made, are easily preserved in spars; it is not, therefore, the practice to keep a large quantity in a converted state. Taking then together, the top-masts and the spars for top-masts, we have of the largest size fit for ships of the line, and assuming as the basis of calculation the consumption of last year with our increased force, a quantity equal to twenty years consumption.

What I have said of lower masts, is equally applicable to rigging and sails; great quantities of those in store were found defective on commissioning the ships in 1836, one-third of the fitted rigging for ships of the line was condemned as unserviceable.

Cables and cordage are above the establishment. With regard to yarn, an alteration was made in 1833 in the mode of making it, with the view of improving its durability. I do not think, that the improved quality has at all made up for the diminished production. Now what have we done as to rope-making? We gave the rope-makers the sixth day per week in 1836, we have since doubled the number a persons employed in rope-making in our yards, besides adding very powerful machinery at Chatham for this purpose.

The quantity of yarn produced in 1836, was double that produced in 1835. In 1837 we doubled again the production of 1836; and in 1838, we have produced six times as much as was made in 1835.

The result is, that there are now the main articles of store complete, requisite for sending to sea more than thirty sail of the line, besides frigates; those for five or six more are nearly ready. These ships are in addition to those already in commission; so that we have in fact stores for between fifty and sixty sail of the line.

I am perfectly aware, that this statement differs from that made by a noble Earl, who even took the trouble of visiting two of our dock-yards for the purpose of acquiring full information on the subject of our stores. I can only say, that any statements he may have made as to the inadequacy of our stores, are completely contradicted, not only by the ordinary official returns from the yards, but also by more particular communications which we have since had with the super-intendants of the yards. I will take two of the principal statements insisted on by the noble Lord.—He said, that there was no lower mast in store for the Revenge at Portsmouth. I will read an extract from a letter of Rear-Admiral Bouverie, the superintendant of the yard, to whom reference has been made:— There were masts in store fit and ready to put on board the Revenge, on the 31st of January last, if it had been requisite to have masted her before those destined for her were completed. Her own masts would have been completed long ere this, if it had not been considered expedient to season the fishes and cheeks as long as was convenient, before fixing them in their places on the exterior of the masts. The truth therefore was, that though the masts destined for her were not quite completed, there were others ready for her in the yard.

With regard to the statement as affecting another yard, Plymouth, the noble Lord said that there were no topsails in store: of small sails of various sorts there were plenty, but of topsails (the important sails, without which a ship cannot go to sea), there were none. Such, Sir, did not appear to be the case, by the ordinary return of stores; but to prevent the possibility of a mistake, I wrote to the superintendant, Admiral Warren, to ascertain what topsails there were in the yard on the day when the noble Lord was there. I have received his answer; and on the 31st of January last, when the noble Lord said there was not a single topsail in the yard, there were in fact for ships of the line 66; for frigates of the large classes, 70. The noble Earl further stated that there were no complete suits of sails for line-of battle ships at Plymouth. There were in fact complete suits for foreign service; for first-rates, three sets; for second-rates, one; for third-rates, three,—making together seven complete sets for ships of the line, and six for large frigates. Complete suits for foreign service contain more sails than are needed, in order to send ships to sea, or than they carried for Channel service even during the war.

Part of the sails for Plymouth yard are made at Deptford, and a number, to com-plete other sets, arrived at Plymouth from thence on the 2nd of February; but I confine myself to what there was in store, on the day of the noble Earl's visit.

I am indeed aware that the noble Earl says our returns are false—that is a grave and serious charge to make against, the individuals to whom it is applied. I appeal to those who have formerly been connected with the Admiralty, and who are personally acquainted with the individuals, the storekeepers of the different yards, if they are men likely to make false returns. I ask if, with the certainty of detection staring them in the face, they would dare to do so. I ask the Committee, if the hon. and gallant Officers, the superintendents of the yards who transmit the returns, Admiral Bouverie and Admiral Warren, men of as high family and rank as the noble Earl himself, are men likely to make false returns. I ask, if the Storekeeper-general of the Navy, than whom a more honourable man does not exist, is a man likely to make a false return. I am sure that if the noble Earl had considered for a moment, he would have retracted the charge as soon as it was made. I ask then the Committee, whether such information as a hasty visit to the yards could afford, or the returns made by such men as I have described, are most to be relied upon.

I do wish, however, to call the particular attention of the Committee to these statements. A noble Lord, a most honourable man, incapable I am sure of stating what he does not believe to be true, a captain in the navy, and therefore conversant with the subject, goes down to the dockyards for the very purpose of obtaining a knowledge of the state of the stores; communicates with the superintendent; is accompanied at Plymouth round the yard by the master-attendant (an old shipmate of the noble Earl's) with orders to shew him every thing he might wish to see, and yet with these, the best possible means of obtaining the most accurate information—what is the result? The public, I freely admit, has a right to rely on such testimony. Without such means of official information as we possess, it could not have had better evidence, and yet I have shewn you, on evidence which cannot be disputed, that a statement so erroneous could hardly have been made.

With regard to all these stores, I state on the authority of the Storekeeper-general of the Navy, who was himself a member of the Navy Board, and has been for ten or twelve years in a most responsible situation in Somerset House, and has better means of forming an opinion than any other individual, that never in his memory were the stores of the navy in so efficient a state.

With regard to unconverted stores. The establishment for timber was fixed by the Navy Board in 1826 at two years consumption; we have now timber in store for five years. The store of hemp is above the establishment; that of canvass, including what is due from contractors, is higher than for some years past.

We have taken a considerable increase in the vote for stores this year.

As to timber, there were reasons connected with the state of the contract which prevented our doing so last year; the increased consumption requires an increased supply. We have also entered into engagements for the supply of Italian oak; and for a quantity of larch, which, being a lighter wood, is particularly useful in building steam-vessels.

There will be an increased consumption of hemp; and the price has risen from 30l. to 45l. per ton.

The same is true of canvass.

There is an increased sum for steam machinery; and further sums are taken for increasing the supply of anchors and boats.

I will now call the attention of the Committee to the subject of repairs and new works in our yards; and, under this head, I must say that I do not think enough has been done since the peace, especially when we consider the large works and large outlay which the French have made for similar purposes. A plan for improving Woolwich yard was proposed some years ago, and I am sorry to say was then postponed. We have been carrying it on gradually: first, by erecting a new river wall; last year we provided for the entrances of the docks; this year we shall commence the construction of the docks; and we shall have completed, so as to be in operation before the end of the year, a large establishment for the construction and repair of boilers and steam machinery.

Chatham dockyard had been very much neglected, and a great portion of the sheds and houses have been almost rebuilt within these few years.

At Portsmouth attempts have been made to patch up the sea wall, which have failed; and we are now about to undertake repairing the slips, which are unsafe, and the wall along the harbour, in a solid and effectual manner. In the course of doing this, two new slips will be constructed. It will take about two or three years to complete this work.

At Plymouth in the same manner a building slip, which is not safe, is to be made good; and the sea walls repaired in a substantial manner; and this latter work is to be so executed as to form the commencement of works necessary for the construction of a basin; the want of which at Plymouth has been long felt and complained of.

Two roofs will be constructed at Pembroke.

There is another point for which considerable provision is made in these estimates, and that is, for introducing machinery of different kinds into our yards. I think too little has been hitherto done for this purpose. This probably arose from a desire not to discharge the men; but it is impossible to go through any of the great private establishments in this country, and not to feel ashamed of the state of our dockyards in this respect.

There will in many cases be a great saving made by these means. In one instance, which is included in the present estimates, the introduction of so simple a thing as fan-bellows, the cost of which is not more than 1,200l. I believe the saving will be near 1,000l. per annum; by the increased labour of the smiths who are now employed in blowing the bellows.

We have already erected rope machinery at Chatham; we have completed the millwright machinery at Plymouth; and we have purchased the most powerful machinery, (a splendid proof of the genius of Captain Huddart, an officer of the East India Company's service,) for making rope, and a sum is taken in the present estimates for erecting it at Deptford.

Sir, I have now gone through the different main branches of expenditure on which the strength of our navy depends, and I trust I have shewn that we have not neglected our duty. I have shewn in what state we found our establishments, the exertions we have made, and the state to which we have brought them, a state of efficiency, I do not hesitate to say, unparalleled in time of peace.

After having trespassed so long on the attention of the Committee, I will only say, upon the other heads of estimate, that there is a considerable increase in the victualling estimate, over which we have no control, as it arises entirely from the increased price of provisions; but I must advert shortly to a new item which appears in the scientific vote, for the re-establishment, though on a different footing, of the Royal Naval College. The old Naval College was put down a short time ago, because the Admiralty did not think that any useful end was gained by it, beyond what might be attained by education at private establishments, and enforced by an examination previous to the entry of first class volunteers. There had been great complaints of the College, and soon after Lord Minto came to the Admiralty, there were forty vacancies and only one candidate for admission. As a better means of affording education to young gentlemen in the navy, when we suppressed the College, we introduced a schoolmaster of a superior description, with increased pay, who is now termed, "Naval Instructor." We were somewhat disappointed at first in the expectations we had been led to form of the number of candidates who would come forward. There are now, however, twelve in sea-going ships, and three preparing themselves on board the Excellent; in all fifteen, and I have no doubt that we shall soon have instructors in all our ships.

The system of the revived Naval College is, that a certain number of mates shall, after passing through the system of gunnery in the Excellent, be received at the College, and receive there scientific instruction of various kinds; the prize of a lieutenant's commission being held out to the officer who passes the best, at half-yearly examinations. The whole establishment is to be under the direction of Captain Hastings, who has shewn himself fully competent for the duty, by the manner in which he has conducted the system on board the Excellent. We trust, that by this means, and by giving the education at a time of life, when the officers are more able to appreciate its value, we shall extend among the officers of the navy a higher degree of scientific attainment, which the improved system of gunnery, and the introduction of steam navigation has rendered indispensable, and without which an officer now can hardly hope to rise in his profession.

Sir, in the course of the observations which I have addressed to the committee, I have necessarily had to speak of former Administrations, and I hope I have done so, in a manner not calculated to give offence to anybody. Such, at any rate, was my intention. With regard to Administrations previous to 1830, I think their system of stores was bad, and that enough was not done for the improvement of the dock-yards. The Administration of the right hon. Member for Pembroke, was the one of great and beneficial reforms in the naval department. The abolition of the subordinate boards was a great improvement. The credit of that measure is indeed due to Lord Grey, who would have executed it in 1806, if he had remained longer at the Admiralty; but I must do the right hon. Baronet full justice for the manner in which he carried it into execution; and the selection which he made of the officers for the heads of the different departments, than whom abler or better public servants could not have been chosen. He extended the system of the Excellent. He made great improvements in the condition of the seamen and in the system of stores for the navy. In one point I do differ from him, and that is, that the establishments of the dock-yards, or perhaps I should say the amount of work in them, was fixed too low.

With regard to the short-lived Administration of the right hon. Member for Tamworth, I had no disposition to blame even the reduction of men which it made: and I expressed no such opinion in moving for the increase of men in 1836, or at any subsequent period; but when we for six months have been suffering under the charge of having made this reduction, it is too much for human patience to bear: and after all, I have only shown how much more the accusations made by the parti- sans of that Administration apply to them, than to the present Government.

With regard to our own administration of naval affairs, I am not vain enough to suppose, that we have not committed many faults. I am still more sensibly aware how much remains to be done; but of all the accusations to be brought against us, the last which I expected was, that we should be accused of having been deterred by false economy from proposing to this House what we thought necessary for the efficiency of the naval service.

In 1836, in our first estimates, we increased the force of the navy; in 1837 we increased the establishment of our dockyards. In 1838, as in the previous years, we increased the vote for stores; circumstances existed which prevented the increase in that year being as much as it would naturally have been, and the increase under this head has therefore fallen principally on this year, enhanced, I am sorry to say, by an increased price of some of the main articles.

But, Sir, in alluding to the acts of the present Board of Admiralty, I must refer, though only very shortly, to a few other points, for the purpose of shewing, that throughout the service, our administration of naval affairs has been productive of improvement.

Hon. Gentlemen may recollect, that a committee of this House reported against making any general promotion. My noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty felt very soon after his accession to office, how hardly this pressed upon old and meritorious officers; he therefore proposed to the Government a flag promotion. The Government acceded to the proposal, and in January 1837, a large promotion took place. On the coronation of her Majesty a second promotion took place, and the officers of the navy have had the advantage of two general promotions in an unusually short space of time.

With regard to the marines, we carried through a large measure of improvement. Every inefficient officer, on survey, was removed from the corps and placed in retirement, a larger number of retirements were created for the heads of the corps, and the operation of the whole measure was such, that in a twelvemonth a larger proportion of the officers of marines received promotion than, I will venture to say, of any other corps in more than twice the time.

With regard to pursers, and for this measure my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Devonport, deserves the credit of having called our attention to it; the emoluments of pursers in large ships which exceeded those of the captains have been reduced, those of pursers in small vessels increased, and a shilling a-day added to the half-pay of all.

The pay of assistant-surgeons has been increased in small ships; and further measures for the improvement of the situation of some other classes of our officers in the navy were in contemplation, when our course was arrested by a vote of this House, which rendered it necessary to appoint a commission to inquire into the promotion and retirement of naval and military officers.

As that commission has not made any report, I will say no more on that head: I only beg, that it may be understood, that we are preparing to take steps for the benefit of other officers in the navy.

The warrant-officers have been classed, and their situation improved.

The engineers have been classed, and their pay increased.

The petty officers have been classed, and their pay increased.

After what the right hon. Member for Pembroke has done, there remained but little to do for the seamen; they have, nevertheless, been provided by us with a schoolmaster, end a seamen's library in each ship.

We have increased the strength of our fleet, we have increased the number of small vessels, and nearly doubled that of ships of the line in commission. The service of tarrying troops to America was performed with the greatest efficiency; and I can assure the committee, that we have received satisfactory accounts of the effect which was produced there, not only in our own colonies, but in the United States, by the appearance on their coasts, in a very short time, of no less than seven ships of the line.

The flag-ships in the ports have been made effective ships.

The ordinaries have been put into commission.

The armament of the ships in the navy has been revised and very much improved.

The complements have been revised and increased.

The war steamers have been more than doubled in number, and those which have been added are generally of larger size.

The steam vessels employed as packets abroad, and the home-packets also have been improved.

The greatest attention has been paid to the subject of steam-navigation, and the whole superintendence of every thing connected with it, placed under a most able officer, Sir Edward Parry.

We have added about a third to the work in the dockyards.

We have made arrangements for building in India.

We have increased the stores of every description in our yards, and of the most efficient materials. A further supply of materials is amply provided for in this year's estimates.

We have carried on, and are carrying on, large works at Woolwich, which will render it, in about two years, a most complete establishment for the purposes of steam-vessels and steam machinery.

Deptford has been restored as a store-yard, and Huddart's valuable rope machinery will be erected there.

Large works are undertaken at Portsmouth; and also at Plymouth, including the construction of a basin.

The whole of these works are placed under the super intendance of a most intelligent and zealous officer of engineers, Captain Brandreth; and I anticipate the greatest advantage from his exertions in improving the mode of conducting them.

Sir, I am sensible that I have trespassed too long upon the attention and patience of the committee; but in the situation in which the Board of Admiralty has been placed by the attacks upon it for the last six months, I felt, that I could not do otherwise. I could not but show to the country what we have done, as the best answer to the charges against us. I must say, though perhaps I ought not to say so, that looking back upon the enumeration of our measures, which I have just laid before the Committee, I do not think, that we have any reason to be ashamed of what we have done. Our measures of improvement of the navy have neither been few nor unimportant. We have done much—we have laid the foundation of more.

I am not sorry, that the question has been agitated as it has been. We may have incurred some obloquy: but I am not afraid of the judgement of the country, when it is put in possession of the truth. Although we may have suffered, I am sure that the country has gained. It has been seen, that the real opinion of the country is not in favour of that pressure for excessive economy, which may perhaps have been too lightly yielded to, when it touches so vital a point as the efficiency of the British navy: and we have the satisfaction of feeling, that in the improvement and increase of our naval establishment, which we have been carrying on for the last three years, we have only been anticipating the wishes of the country.

Sir, it only remains for me to thank hon. Gentlemen, which I do most sincerely, for the kind attention with which they have listened to me, and to place in your hands the vote for men for the service of the ensuing year.

Sir E. Codrington moved the adjournment of the House, but he could not do so without expressing the greatest admiration of the speech which the bon, Secretary for the Admiralty had just made.

Mr. C. Wood

said, it was of the greatest importance that a vote should be taken. He therefore asked leave to sit again on Wednesday to propose the vote which he bad mentioned.

Sir G. Clerk

had no objection to the postponement. Though he bore his testimony to the able manner in which the bon. Gentleman had gone through so many topics, there was a considerable degree of fallacy in his statement, particularly that part of it in which a contrast was drawn between the present state of the navy, and its condition under former Administrations.

House resumed.