§ House in Committee of Supply on the Navy Estimates.
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall moved a vote of 602,610l. for seamen and marines during the current year.
§ Mr. Hume
remarked that there was a great increase during the past year or two in the victualling charges. He found from the returns of the price of flour, for instance, that the quantity which formerly cost 1l. 18s. had, during the year 1839, cost 2l. 4s. 2d., and that a great increase had taken place in the price of provisions generally. He wished, therefore, as this was a most important question, as showing how the Corn-laws pressed upon the finances of the country, that the hon. Secretary would state to the House what was the amount by which the Estimates had been increased in consequence of the rise in the price of provisions. This information would be of great importance in the discussion of the Corn-laws on some future occasion.
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall
said, he understood from the hon. Gentleman that it was not his intention to raise a discussion on the question of the Corn-laws on the present occasion, but that when he was furnished with the information he desired, he would suffer the discussion of the Estimates to proceed. He would, therefore, furnish the hon. Gentleman with the information he desired, which, as he understood, was merely for the rise in the price of corn and flour, and not on other provisions. He would, therefore, state the rise per cent, in the price of some articles during the present year, above the average of three years preceding the year 1839, distinguishing the rate per cent, of the rise at home,—of the rise at home and abroad; and as many of the ships in the Mediterranean fleet were victualled at Malta; he would likewise state the rise per cent, which had taken place in the price of articles of provision in that island. The increase in the price of wheat was 28 per cent, at home, and 22 per cent. at 822 home and abroad in 1840, as compared with the three years preceding 1839. In biscuit, the increase was, at home 20 per cent.; in malt, it was, at home, 36 per cent. At Malta, the rise in flour was 11 per cent.; in wheat, in the island of Malta, 16 per cent. In spirits, the rise in 1840 over 1839, had been three per cent.; and in fresh meat, the rise in the present year over the last had been eight per cent.
§ Capt. Pechell
wished to make some observations in allusion to the discussions on the condition of our Navy, which had taken place on a former occasion. He believed that our ships should be always sent to sea with their full complement, whether we were at war or in peace, so that the ships might always be ready for any emergency which might arise, It had been said that the efficiency of the officers would be impaired by their want of confidence in the Government. But he could assert that no feeling on the subject of patronage, nor party or political feeling, would influence the officers of the British navy in the discharge of their duty. His anxious wish was, that active and educated seamen should not be suffered to quit the service, but that, on the contrary, they should be encouraged to remain in it, reserving their valuable functions to their own country, without being compelled to transfer them to the service of foreign nations. It was a duty incumbent upon the Admiralty to increase the number of boys over and under seventeen years of age, by disposing of them among the captains of ships on the home stations. After three years' service these boys returned useful persons. The existing number of 2,000 might be very properly increased to four or even to 5,000. However anxious he was for the increase of the naval force of England, yet he did not wish to increase that force for the purpose of amusing the people of England, nor was he in favour of experimental squadrons; but he believed that ships of war so near as Lisbon or Oporto, would be equally efficient—nay, in fact, more efficient, by being stationed at those places, or at places equally contiguous—than if they were stationed in the Downs, the Nore, Plymouth, or any of the British ports.
§ Mr. Plumptre
said, that instead of decreasing the vote of last year, he was in favour of a larger vote than that already 823 named, and if a larger sum had been demanded, he would have supported the grant. It could not be satisfactory to the country that the navy of England should be inferior to the naval forces of other countries, and, although it had been stated that there did not exist any apprehension for war, yet neither did there exist any guarantee that a state of peace would continue. If no such guarantee did exist, was the navy of England in a fit state for war? The condition of the navy of England, as stated in a pamphlet written by a flag officer, was inferior to that of France and of other countries. The French had seventeen efficient ships of the line in the Mediterranean, whereas the ships of this country were not above fifteen; two of them also were coming home to be paid off, and our frigates were of an inferior size. Russia had a larger navy than that of England, and the men of war of France, equal in number to those of England, were more effective, and better appointed. The large war steamers of France amounted to twenty-five, while those of England amounted to sixteen. France, too, had a number of ships of the line upon the stocks, amounting to twenty-six, while England had but seventeen. France had thirteen steamers building, while England had but seven. That was an unsatisfactory state of things. With reference to the shores of England, they were absolutely defenceless. It might be objected to him that he was afraid of the coasts of that county which he had the honour to represent. He could remember thirty-two years ago, when the invasion of this country was projected by Napoleon, the anxiety and suspense which pervaded the minds of the people inhabiting the coasts opposite to the French shores, although trained militia bands were on the alert throughout the county. What was the present condition of the coasts? Where was their protection? Where were the wooden walls which were said to guard their coasts when there were the fleets of other nations larger in number and better manned within a few days' sail? The navy was the offspring of trade and commerce, and the neglect of that navy would be the downfal both of trade and commerce.
§ Lord J. Russell
could not agree with the lamentations which had been uttered by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down with respect to the weak and 824 inefficient state of the navy. As a peace establishment, and it was only in that light he was now to speak of it, the navy was in a very efficient condition. A considerable sum was asked from Parliament; the hon. Member for Kilkenny thought it too large a sum; his belief was, it was not too large, and it would be applied with great judgment and skill, to make the navy what it ought to be. He did not think it fair in time of peace to compare our present establishment with what it might be necessary to keep up in case of war. Then with respect to foreign powers, there could be no test of comparison, except in time of war. If, in time of war, we found our navy defeated, it would be a proof of its inefficiency; but in peace, which he hoped would long continue, there was no means of contrasting the efficiency of navies. If, however, the calamity of war should come upon us, he felt confident our navy would not be found inferior to what it was at any former period. The hon. Member for Kent had talked of the unprotected state of our coasts and harbours: acting upon that hon. Gentleman's suggestion, what would the committee arrive at? France had a considerable fleet in the Mediterranean; it was not thought advisable, that our fleet there should be unequal to protect British interests in that sea. Russia had eighteen or twenty, sometimes even so many as twenty-seven sail of the line in the Baltic, during summer; were we then to have in our harbours, or on our coasts, a fleet equal to what Russia might send out in summer? Such a war establishment, and in time of peace, would be ruinous to the country. It would be a war establishment kept up, not as if we were at war with Russia or France, or any other foreign power alone, but as if we were contending with them all at once, when in fact we were at peace with those powers, and when our negociations were on such a footing that any matters which might be in discussion there was every probability would be brought to an amicable conclusion. He wished to maintain the efficiency of the navy, but without entering into those expences which would be so exceedingly enormous, that very soon the country would say, "Better have war at once, than keep up such armaments and suspicion." With respect to the complement of men in the ships, it was entirely a naval question, on which 825 he would not pretend to give any opinion further than he had collected from those best able to form a correct judgment upon it. The question was not whether they should keep up the same number of ships, and equip them all with the larger number of men, which would enormously increase the estimate, but whether it were better to have twenty ships of the line without the full complement, or seventeen with the full force. In war they might require a full complement; but he thought the present complement sufficient for a time of peace. A full complement, no doubt, was necessary in cases of expected action with the enemy; but even comparing the present complement with what it was at the beginning of the war in 1793, it was very little larger than what was now kept on the peace establishment. A question had been asked the other night with respect to the apparent discrepancy on the face of the estimates as to the number of men which would be required; that was to be explained by stating, that a number of ships would shortly be here, and replaced by smaller vessels. Their respective force would account for the difference.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, he was happy to have received an explanation so satisfactory; the more so as the noble Lord (Palmerston) had stated, that the state of our negociations in the east was such as would not lead any person to suppose, that any speedy reduction in the amount of our naval force would take place in that quarter. Now, he was glad to be informed, that many ships were about to be brought home and paid off, and were not to be replaced; and he had further understood from the noble Lord, that if those ships Were still found necessary to be kept up, the noble Lord would then feel himself authorised to come down to the House of Commons under such circumstances and require its sanction for an increased vote of the number of men. He could not agree to the eulogy which had been passed by the noble Lord opposite as to the distribution of our naval force. He did not consider—looking at the extent of our interests in North America and the West Indies—that there was a sufficient force kept up in those seas to protect our commerce, and to prevent the recurrence of events similar to those of last year. He thought also that it was essential to maintain a reserve force at home which should be available in any sudden emer- 826 gency which might arise. They had very recently experienced considerable inconvenience from the want of such a reserve, in the case of the differences with China. Although the Government had been made aware of those differences as early as the month of July last, it was only in January the Admiralty were enabled to send out a force to the Chinese seas, whereas had there been a reserve of ships at home immediate assistance might have been sent out. He (Sir G. Clerk) thought it might be very advisable to keep up A number of guard ships, cruising in the channel and around our coasts, the crews of which would be thus kept in constant exercise, and the Government would thus have the means at their disposal of sending immediate assistance wherever it might be required. The noble Lord (Lord John Russell) had given a most satisfactory answer to his (Sir G. Clerk's) question, with respect to the difference of the number of men, as compared with the number of ships in commission. He should be glad to hear some Member of the Government give an equally satisfactory answer to the question that had been put by the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton, with regard to the number of boys employed in the service. The committee would be aware, that it was usual to allow a certain number of boys to every hundred men employed. A proposal had been made some years ago by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, which, by introducing boys, would in a short time bring into the service a number of excellent and most efficient seamen. The proposal was, that 1,000 boys should be constantly kept employed as supernumeraries, that number had since been increased to 2,000, which were provided for in a separate vote. What he (Sir G. Clerk) desired to know was, what number of supernumerary boys was to be kept up, besides those which were necessary as forming a part of the complement of the ships. He was glad to hear from the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton, that there would be no difficulty in obtaining any number of stout active boys that the service might require. He hoped, therefore, that the Admiralty would not lose sight of this most effectual means of providing efficient seamen for our fleet.
§ Mr. C. Wood
remarked, that as to the want of a reserved force, that was not felt in the recent disagreement with China; 827 for it was not owing to any delay in the Admiralty that ships had not gone to China before now. He would say, too, that up to the time he had left the Admiralty the coasts of England had not been better protected for years back than during the last summer; for during the whole of that time they had eight line-of-battle ships within the call of this country. There were two at Lisbon, three at different places in England, and the three flag ships at the ports, on the 1st of July, 1839. The hon. Member for Stamford had questioned the possibility of filling up the crews of the latter from the ordinary. He had inquired into this, and he found that the number of men required to make up their complement was 1,500, and there were 1,700 disposable from the ships in ordinary; leaving upwards of 500 warrant officers and others for the temporary charge of the ordinary. He did not hesitate, therefore, to say, that the flag ships might put to sea in a very short time after receiving orders to that effect. With respect to the pamphlet by "A Flag-officer," which the hon. Member for Kent had quoted, he must say, that any one who relied upon the statements contained in it would find himself grossly deceived. He would only take two of the statements; one of them was, that "over-expenditure elsewhere was made up by unwise reductions in the navy." So far was that from being the case, that he was almost afraid to say in the presence of the hon. Member for Kilkenny how much the expenses in the naval department had been increased. The whole vote for effective naval services this year was 1,500,000l. higher than in 1835, including the addition for the packet service, and, making a liberal allowance for that, it had at any rate been increased 1,250,000l. since the present Government came into office. The "Flag Officer," in giving a list of English steam vessels afloat, omitted no less than seven, which were of 200 horse power and upwards, some of which had been in commission for years; and this might have been ascertained by referring to the quarterly navy list, so that tie error was quite inexcusable. The statements, too, that were made by the same writer with regard to the French force were quite inaccurate. The French navy, he could say, was three line-of-battle ships worse this than it was last year. 828 There were last year afloat and building forty-nine French ships of the line, this year there were but forty-six, as appeared by the list published in the annual French estimates on the 1st of January. With respect to the steam vessels which were afloat of the two countries, there were belonging to England thirty of 100 horse power and upwards, and, to France twenty-six; while as to those above 200 horse power the English had fourteen, and the French three, excluding in England the home packets. Nothing, he considered, was more to be regretted than the habit in that House of constantly contrasting the naval force of our navy with that of foreign powers, and remarks too were often made which were calculated alike to excite jealousy and animosity. He particularly regretted the reference by the noble and gallant Member for Staf-fordshire to an expression which had often been quoted, derogatory to the character of the Russian navy, and this, for the sake of an unmeaning taunt to the Admiralty, but they were now better informed. The expression had not been used by himself, or by any of his late colleagues at the Admiralty. It had never been their opinion; they knew that the Russian fleet was in an efficient state, and that knowledge was only confirmed by what they had heard last summer. Hon. Gentlemen might be assured that the Admiralty was in possession of full information upon these matters, and that the interests of the country and the honour of the navy would be fully attended to by them. A great deal had been said of the difficulty of manning our navy, and the time which was required to fit our ships for sea. The gallant officer (Sir J. Cochrane) had stated, that on the report of Napoleon's landing from Elba a ship of the line had been got ready at Plymouth in ten days. It was not however to be expected that things would ever be done so quickly in time of peace. No orders could supply the place of that energy, which a feeling of the necessity of exertion gave to every person engaged in the service. Times of peace must be compared with other times of peace. A distinguished officer, who fitted out a frigate during the peace of Amiens, told him, that even during that short intermission of war, he had some difficulty in obtaining men. The facilities of obtaining men, comparing it with what it was ten 829 years ago, was most favourable. He could make this statement upon returns which, though not from the Admiralty, were such he assured the House as they might rely upon. They applied both to the obtaining men, and the fitting by the dock-yard; the time referred to was, between the ships being commissioned, and their going out of harbour. In the course of the years 1828, 1829, and 1830, there were five small frigates commissioned at Portsmouth, and the shortest time taken was 104 days, the longest time 133 days. In 1836, there were three line of battleships sent out in thirty days shorter time than the frigates were, though the former were commissioned altogether, and at the same place. The ships commissioned at Plymouth, and at Sheerness the same spring, went out of the harbour sooner than those at Portsmouth. The crews of the whole must have amounted to near 5,000 men; and he did think that this one fact, proved conclusively that there was no such difficulty in obtaining men, as had been represented. He was prepared to show the same result from a comparison of other vessels both large and small, but would not trouble the committee with further details. With respect to the power of manning ships on a sudden, he had already referred to the reserve of men kept in the ordinaries. The hon. Member for Stamford had mentioned the reserve formerly afforded by the system of the coast blockade. He had stated, last year, that a committee was sitting to inquire into the present coastguard; and he could not sufficiently impress on the minds of his hon. Friends at the Admiralty the importance of so organising that force, as to render it more useful to the naval service. A third source of reserve seamen existed in those men who were discharged with pensions after twenty-one years, and who entered the merchant service. He disagreed with those who would allow them to serve in the Queen's navy, during peace with their pensions. It was already provided by law, that they might do so during war; and he thought that, now, they were more usefully employed, as examples to the merchant seamen of the advantages of the Queen's service, and a reserve in case of need. It was a great object to train up as many men as possible in the navy: and for every one of these retained, one new entry must be prevented. He thought this subject of reserves of seamen of 830 the greatest importance, for he had not much faith in any system of registration. As to the French system of inscription which had been recommended, he could say that it had failed, and it was one in which greater hardships were endured, as great, at least, as any which he had heard complained of in the system of impressment in England. The hon. and gallant Member for Surrey called out for a large promotion: and complaints were made elsewhere of the want of employment for officers in the navy. It must be remembered, that promotion had been carried on for some years after the peace at such a rate, that there were in January, 1830, 500 more officers than in January, 1815. The country and the House, not unnaturally complained of this; and a rule was adopted for reducing the numbers, which had been rigidly adhered to of promoting only one in three. The Committee must see, that every addition by promotion added to the other ground of complaint of want of employment. He felt for the gallant officers who were anxious for employment and promotion; and he knew how painful the administration of the department was, when three-fourths of the applications must be refused. The fault however was not of the present or any former Admiralty: it arose from the long state of peace in Europe. The wishes and the interests of this country, and of all humanity, were for the continuance of this peace; and he did not believe, that even those most discontented would wish for the military toast of "a bloody war and quick promotion." Short of that, there was only one means of meeting their wishes, and that was what so many persons for various reasons seem anxious for, "a war establishment." It was not for him to point out what the House and the country might say to the taxes which they must vote and pay for such a course, but he would recommend Gentlemen well to consider that point before they persisted in urging so uncalled for, and so expensive a measure.
§ Sir T. Cochrane
said, that the three guard-ships now in England were not fit to go to sea as the ships in ordinary. It had been said, that it was absurd to keep up the British navy in such a state as to compete with those of Russia or France; but there was a wide difference between doing this, and maintaining our fleet on such a 831 system, that it was not efficient for times of peace.
§ Mr. A. Chapman
was bound, as a candid man, and as a practical man, to declarthat he never knew a time when the executive department of the Admiralty was better or more ably conducted than under the auspices of the hon. and gallant Officers opposite. With the exception of the better manning of the ships (and this must be done by a call upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer), the country was never better situated in respect to her naval force.
§ Sir C. Adam
could only say, that it was most gratifying to himself and his hon. colleagues to hear so favourable a testimony to their management of the naval department from such a man as the hon. Gentleman opposite, more especially as he was one who well knew what the maritime service of this country was, and who was go able to judge of the state of the navy. Last summer the activity which prevailed in the mercantile marine prevented the quick manning of our ships; but many fine fellows might be found for the service from the steamboats, crews of landsmen, and others, in the event of a war coming suddenly upon us. It had been boasted on former occasions, that in the year 1829, the squadron which was sent out to bring home our troops from Lisbon had been very rapidly manned; but those ships, be it recollected, were only half manned, and they could not carry their lower deck guns, because had they done so, there would have been no room for the troops. Our guard ships, on the contrary, were much better manned, and they had got their men in ordinary near at hand, who could be received in twenty-four hours after an order being made. It had been made a subject of complaint, that we had not a sufficient force on the Mexican coast; but since then his hon. Friends had taken care to remedy that evil; and it was only from the casualty of their having had a very long passage, that the intelligence of the arrival of the ships had not been received. With respect to the complaint as to ships not being sent out to China, that was not well founded, because, had there been a sufficient force, the ships could not have been of service on account of the obstruction which the monsoons would have offered. As to the charge brought by the noble Lord of profligate promotion in the navy, 832 there was nothing which could support the noble Lord's declaration. He was not speaking of the appointment of Admiral Fleming, which did not belong to the Admiralty; the noble Lord at the head of the Government in another House had taken the responsibility of that appointment. But he said, that no man in the service, from his boyhood upwards, had done more, as opportunity offered, for the service of his country than Admiral Fleming; he had only wanted the opportunity of distinguishing himself against the enemies of his country. He defied the noble Lord to show him any instance of profligate promotion. They might look back to some which had been formerly made, probably not very necessary for the good of the service; but if the noble Lord would bring forward any case of an appointment, which he said was profligate, he would meet it with pleasure; for he would tell the noble Lord, in the strongest language that he was capable of uttering, that there was no profligate promotion in the navy. Young as they might be, or old as they might be, no man had been promoted who had not deserved it, and he did not blame any man for promoting his friend if he deserved it. He thought also, after the promotions which had been made in 1837 and 1838, that it was not very reasonable to talk of want of promotions.
said, the gallant Admiral had accused him of making use of the term "profligate promotions." He had not made use of that word. What he had said was, that the promotions which had been made were by no means creditable to the Admiralty. [Sir C. Adam.—You made use of the term twice over.] He was not aware of having made use of the word. The gallant Admiral had been fortunate, that the force for China had not been required immediately; but it might have so happened, that the ships were wanted at a moment's notice; therefore he contended, that having ships in the neighbourhood of the ports ready for any emergency, and because also of the good effect it had on seamen generally to see fine men-of-war off the coasts, was most desirable. The statement he had made on a former occasion, and which had been called in question by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. C. Wood), relative to the number and strength of French and English steamers was perfectly correct, and was taken from the navy lists. A great 833 deal had been said with respect to the manning of the ships, but he thought the whole face of the matter was changed since the alterations of last year; and he was very glad that the instructions of that House had produced such an effect. There was one point about which he wished to have some information with respect to the, seamen educated on board the Excellent. He should like to know if any steps were taken to retain those men in the service; because, otherwise, it would be very prejudicial to our national interests if we were to educate men, afterwards to bear arms against us in a foreign service. Though this was scarcely the proper vote on which to open the question, he still could not resist the opportunity now afforded him of complaining of the state of the naval architecture of the country. He wanted to know whether the Gorgon had been laid down with the intention of her carrying guns between decks. He never knew an instance where a ship after once laid down with a particular intention was altered, but that such alteration made her a failure. If the principle on which the Gorgon had been built was good, why had it been deviated from in the case of the Cyclops, the very next ship that had been laid down? He had procured last year returns of the experiments made with the Pique and the Inconstant; those returns were now on the table, and showed that the Inconstant had proved herself, not only to be a superior ship, but a very efficient man of war; and yet why was it, that now the country were to have all Piques, and no Inconstants? What he wished to see established in this country was a board of naval instruction, similar to that established in the year 1752 in France, by the then Minister of Marine, and which should be composed of men of science, who could give their opinions on matters to which it was impossible for the Board of Admiralty to give attention. It was not necessary that such a board should be a paid board, for he was sure that the men of science of this country would undertake the duties imposed in that respect in the same way as did the Royal Society. He had to apologize to the committee for thus trespassing on its attention, but no threats of violence of manner on the part of the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir C. Adam), should, deter him from doing his duty as a Mem- 834 ber of Parliament, in calling its attention to circumstances which came to his knowledge.
§ Sir C. Adam
regretted if his warmth of manner had at all been offensive to the noble and gallant Lord. He meant no disrespect to the noble and gallant Lord, but when charges were brought which were unfounded, the noble and gallant Lord would always find him in the same disposition. In answer to the question as to the Gorgon, he begged to say that she was not intended to carry guns in the way stated when employed as a steamer; but as she had port-holes for ventilation, and as it might be necessary to employ her as a sailing vessel, bolts had been fixed at her port-holes in order that she might, if required, carry guns between decks, and she was now a fine ship of war.
§ Sir T. Troubridge
said, he had great pleasure in answering the question which had been put (and not yet answered), by the noble and gallant Lord, with respect to the seamen gunners of the Excellent. That most valuable class now entered for five years, with increased pay; and with a view to keep them in the service, additional pay was given them again to enter for five years more.
§ Sir J. Duke
was surprised that hon. and gallant Members opposite should complain of the size of the present ships of war, when it could not be denied that they were now much better than they were during the late war.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ A vote of 122,236l. was proposed for defraying the salaries of officers and the expenses of her Majesty's naval establishment for the year 1840.
§ Mr. Barnard
complained of the grievance under which the inhabitants of Greenwich were labouring, from the circumstance of the Crown lands in that district being exempted from the payment of rates, and begged to know if the Government intended to take any steps for remedying it?
§ Mr. O'Ferrall
said, he could only repeat the answer given by the hon. Member for Halifax last year to the same question. He admitted the grievance, but it was not in the power of the Government to remove it. It was of course open to the hon. Member for Greenwich to bring forward a measure in reference to it, if he thought proper.
Mr. W. Attwood
thought it a very proper question for the Government 835 themselves to take up. They admitted the existence of the grievance, and jet they refused to do anything for its removal. It was not merely a local question, bat one of general importance, deserving of the attention of the House, and one upon which he pledged himself, before long, to submit a proposition to the House. He was clearly of opinion that no one district of the country should be taxed for the advantage of the public generally, and to net on a different principle was a course which could not be justified. He wished also to say a few words with respect to the dockyard at Deptford, for the maintenance of which he found a sum specified in the estimates. Why, he would ask, was this dockyard to be kept open when no ships were built there, and when it was not employed for any useful purpose. The inhabitants of Deptford justly complained of the Government for keeping possession of all the most valuable land, when the dockyard was not employed for the service of the country. He was of opinion that the work which was now done at the outports ought to be transferred to Deptford, where its execution would be more under the superintendence of the officers of the Admiralty. If it was contended that Deptford dockyard, though not used at present, would be required in time of war, then he must say, that it would only be fair for the Admiralty to give a portion of its employment to that place at present. They ought either to abolish the dockyard altogether, if it was useless, or, if it was necessary to keep it up, then they ought to give a fair portion of the labour to that establishment. He should not then trouble the House farther, but, on some more convenient opportunity, he should feel it to be his duty to lay the whole facts of the case before the House.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ A vote of 528,723l. for wages to artificers, labourers, and others, employed in her Majesty's establishments at home, having been put,
§ Mr. Barnard
was understood to complain of the inadequate wages paid to shipwrights in the dockyards.
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall
said, the pay of the shipwrights was not fixed on any arbitrary principle, but on a fair comparison of the wages paid in private yards, taking into consideration the advantages enjoyed in 836 the public yards. In the public yards the shipwrights had constant employment, and they had also medical attendance when in ill health. They besides possessed other advantages which were not enjoyed by the shipwrights in the private yards, so that the 4s. which was paid in the public yards, was not inferior to the 7s. paid in the private yards, where the employment was only casual.
§ Sir G. Grey
said, that the system of classification was much complained of in the dockyard at Devonport, and the principal cause of that dissatisfaction was, that the highest class was not sufficiently extensive. He trusted that the subject would be fully considered by the Admiralty, and that some means would be adopted to put an end to the dissatisfaction which prevailed.
§ Sir G. Clerk
said, that the system of task-work was employed in all the public dockyards abroad, as well as in the private yards in this country; and he thought that one of the best steps to remove the dissatisfaction which prevailed would be, for the Admiralty to return to the old system of task-work in the dockyards of this country. By that system more work was done for the amount of wages paid than by any other, and he trusted that the Admiralty would consent to reconsider the whole subject.
Mr. W. Attwood
said, that it was quite clear, that to secure the best labourers for the public dockyards, they must give the highest rate of wages, or at least wages not inferior to those paid in private yards. It was upon that principle and upon that ground, that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had consented and pledged himself to reconsider the whole subject. He hoped hon. Members would consider the rate of wages paid in private yards and in the public yards, and they would then be able to decide when they saw the difference, whether it was possible to have the ablest workmen for the public service.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, the only assurance that had been given was, that the superannuation allowances would have been taken away in 1833, should be restored, and that pledges had been fully redeemed; for an order in council had been issued which did restore that allowance and even more, for it was made ex post facto. The average earnings in the private yards were not more than in the dock-yards, and he would ask why should they pay more than was 837 necessary to engage the best class of workmen to employ themselves in the public yards.
Mr. W. Attwood
said, that the men in the dock-yards did not like the distinction which was made by the classification, and thought that by such a system an injury was inflicted upon them.
was rejoiced to find that the number of artificers employed in the naval yards was at length about to be augmented, and he even thought, when he considered the present condition of die fleet, that a still further augmentation of their number would hereafter be found indispensable. It had been stated by his right hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke, when he was at the head of the Admiralty, that the force of line-of-battle ships was less than at any period since the Revolution, and he referred to the year 1778, at which period the number of ships in commission and in ordinary was 123—forty-five more than, according to Sir John Barrow's tables, we possessed last year, and he was at a loss to understand why, with an increased and increasing mercantile marine, at once requiring additional protection, and furnishing additional means of affording it, while other nations were sparing no expense to render their fleets more and more formidable, so great a reduction should have been made in the number of line-of-battle ships belonging to this country. This diminution was in a great measure to be ascribed to the abandonment of the system of launching year by year three ships-of-the-line in order to keep up the required number of ships. If that system had been adhered to during the six years which had elapsed since his right hon. Friend the Member for Pembroke had relinquished office eighteen ships-of-the-line would have been launched. But, what was the fact? Only four ships had been launched, and in consequence of this the force of line-of-battle ships was fourteen less at this moment than it would have been if the present Government had followed up the former system. But, notwithstanding that the force of line-of-battle ships was thus reduced, it had been stated by the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty, in another place, as a triumphal answer to those who talked of the want of new ships, that he could, if necessary, send to sea forty sail of the line, in addition to the twenty already in commission. With re- 838 spect to this assertion, he wished to observe, that we should form a very erroneous estimate of the strength of our line-of-battle, if we were to consider it with reference to the number alone of the ships of which it was composed. The force of each ship, compared with that of ships in other navies, ought also to be taken into consideration. The total number of ships-of-the-line in commission and in ordinary (exclusive of the old seventy-two's) was only forty. Twenty, therefore, at least of the sixty ships, which the noble Lord said he had at his disposal, must be seventy-two gun-ships, a class as inferior to the line-of-battle ships of the same rating of the present day, as the old sixty-four's at the beginning of the last war were to lire seventy-four's of that period. He would not suppose any limit to what might be accomplished by British sailors, but he did say that one of these ships would have to contend against fearful odds alongside the smallest line-of-battle ship in the French or American navy. To show the opinion entertained by naval officers on this point, he would, with the permission of the committee, read a short extract from a letter from an officer of high reputation at present serving in the Mediterranean fleet. The date of the letter was December 14, 1839, at which period the English and French fleets were at anchor together off Vourla;—There is much talk here about the small ships lately sent to the Mediterranean, and what chance hare such cribs as the seventy-two's, such as Benbow, Belleisle, Edinburgh, Hastings, &c, against the French ships, the smallest mounting eighty-six guns with 750 men—the Hercule, the Jena, &c, 100 guns with 900 men? Should such an event occur as a collision with the French, to say the least of it, they are most fearful odds. Englishmen will do all that may become men; but I trust the eyes of our Government may be opened before we shall have to encounter such a disparity as 100 guns and 900 men against seventy-two guns and 550 men.He would venture to say this was the universal opinion of naval officers with respect to these inferior ships; and, indeed, it had been admitted even by the Admiralty, that they were not considered effective ships of the line. His hon. Friend the Member for Halifax stated last year, that they were wearing them, out in peace, reserving the more powerful ships for the exigencies of war; and the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty had stated in 839 another place, that if there was the slightest prospect of a rupture with France, the seventy-two's attached to the Mediterranean fleet would instantly be replaced by larger ships from home. But the gallant Admiral the Member for Clackmannan went still further, for he declared that in the event of war the seventy-two's were to supply the want of heavy frigates, a class of ship-of-war in which we were indeed most lamentably deficient. Now, he would say, that if it were the intention of the Admiralty thus to employ these ships, they had no right to consider them as forming a part of the line of battle, and (as twenty of them at least must be deducted) there would then remain no more than forty effective ships of the line at their disposal in the event of any sudden emergency that might arise. But admitting, for argument sake, that they had sixty effective ships of-the-line at their disposal, he asked at what former period of our history, for the last century at least, had sixty ships been considered a sufficient force? It was stated by Sir Byam Martin, in his evidence before the Finance-Committee, thatIn 1793 we had ninety-one sail-of-the-line, and that these were found inadequate to the early and growing wants of the Government in the formation of squadrons for the various and distant objects of protection and enterprise they had in view.And to such an extent was this inadequacy felt, that in the year 1801, just before the short peace, there were, as he found stated in a paper which was laid before Parliament in 1805, 122 ships ships of the line actually in commission, exclusive of ships doing harbour duty. Sir George Cockburn, also in his evidence before the finance committee, pointed out the necessity of our maintaining a large fleet. He said,The great difficulty England has, and her great necessity for having a large navy, is, that that she has colonies in every part of the world, and that we are obliged, in case of war, to send a force to every part of the world where we have commerce, which is every part of the world.And he added, that in consequence of this necessity,The navy of England should be at least double that of any other nation.But they were told, that admitting our present force to be small for the exi- 840 gencies of war, there was no necessity to maintain a larger number of ships at a time of profound peace, as this was called; and his hon. Friend, the Member for Hallifax stated last year, thatThe number of ships had been diminishing since the peace, that they, like everything else, had been coining to what was considered a peace establishment.Now, he must say, that he thought the system of making any considerable reduction of the number of ships in ordinary during peace was very mistaken policy. One of its unavoidable consequences must be, that onr commerce, our colonies, and even our own shores, would be left without sufficient protection for a year at least at the commencement of a war, and he thought it could hardly be argued, that the proper time to think of building ships was when you wanted to send them to sea with the utmsot expedition. He thought this view of the question went far to prove, that the system of reducing the number of ships in ordinary to a peace establishment was not a wise one; and he had the strongest grounds for saying, that it was also at variance with former practice. Sir Byam Martin, whose authority no one could question, had stated, in his evidence before the finance committee,That at all former periods of peace the efforts of England were unremitting in bringing the navy into a formidable state, particularly between 1783 and 1793.He had endeavoured to ascertain to what extent the efforts of England had then been carried, and he was informed by a paper which was laid before Parliament in 1805, that in this interval of peace of ten years' duration, from the conclusion of the American, till the beginning of the last war, forty-two sail of the line and forty-five frigates were launched. He had not been able to ascertain what number of ships of the line had been launched during the twelve years of peace, which preceded the American war, but he thought the fact that the force of line of battle ships, belonging to England at the commencement of that war was 123 (upwards of forty-five more than we had now) was conclusive evidence that the system of reducing the number of ships in ordinary to a peace establishment was not then the practice. The evidence that this system was inconsistent even with economy was equally conclusive. Its inevitable result must be 841 the necessity of having recourse to merchant builders in the event of war—a necessity from which during the last war the finances of this country had suffered most severely. Sir B. Martin, in his evidence before the finance committee, traced to this source the alarming decay of ships during the war, from the use of unseasoned timber, and the consequent waste of millions of money. He traced also to the use of unseasoned timber a great increase of sickness among the crews—a consideration, he presumed, it would be admitted, of some importance. Sir Byam Martin went on to say—I may therefore say, with propriety, that the period of peace is the proper time to provide such an ample stock of line-of-battle ships as may prevent the risk of again falling into the hands of merchant builders.The evidence of Sir John Barrow also, before the same committee, was to the same effect. He said, thatIn the year 1805, when there was no hopes of sending a sufficient fleet to sea, the late Lord Melville ordered a contract to be made with the merchant builders for forty 74 gun ships. These ships were contracted for by the Navy Board, at 34l. a ton, the common price then being about 24l., but in consequence of the necessity of the state, the contractors, as usual, took the advantage, and the Admiralty could not get them for less.This statement was verified by a paper which was laid before Parliament in 1805, being an estimate of the comparative cost of building a 74-gun ship in Deptford yard and in a merchant's yard—the estimate in the King's yard was 43,359l. in the merchant's yard 62,430l.—the difference being for each ship 19,071l. The result of this had been, that there occurred in the navy estimates for one year, the year 1807, the following item:—For building ships in merchant's yards, and other extra expenses, 2,134,903l. He thought it impossible to have stronger evidence than this to prove that the system of reducing too low the number of our ships would eventually prove inconsistent even with economy, and if there were any so dead to every nobler feeling, and so regardless of every higher consideration, as to consider this a question of pounds, shillings, and pence, they might depend upon it that we could commit no one act more calculated to involve us in hostilities than that of allowing our naval strength to be reduced so low as to inspire 842 other nations with the belief that we were no longer in a condition to vindicate our naval supremacy, and he need not add, that if such should be the result of our parsimony, a War of even one year's duration would cost us more than the expense of maintaining the fleet in a state of efficiency to the end of the present century. He had stated, that in his humble opinion we had been too remiss in building ships of the line; but he thought we had been still more so in respect of frigates. We had still, indeed, a long list of this description of ships of war; but on examination it would be found to be chiefly composed of comparatively small vessels, and that in building frigates of the larger classes we were by no means keeping pace with the progress of other nations. He found it stated in Sir John Barrow's tables, which were published last year, that of frigates of the 1st and 2nd classes, mounting 50 guns and upwards, actually built, America had fifteen, France twenty-five, England only nineteen; America was building eighteen, France seventeen, England two. In short, France and America had forty frigates, mounting 50 guns and upwards; England had nineteen. They were building thirty-five; England two. And if we continued thus indifferent to what was passing around us till these preparations should be completed, France and America would have seventy-five of these heavy frigates, while England would have but twenty-one to oppose (in the unfortunate event of a war with these countries) to this overwhelming force. The gallant Admiral opposite had, indeed, told them that this service was to be allotted to the 72's; but not to mention other objections to this expedient (of which he thought there were many), the 72's were all old ships nearly worn out, whose services would not therefore much longer be available, and therefore he thought there was an urgent necessity for increasing the number of frigates of the larger classes. No one could be more averse than he was from an inconsiderate and wasteful expenditure of public money, and he did not now ask for naval establishments on a scale of unnecessary or extraordinary magnitude, but he did think that it was nothing short of madness that we, whose strength and security was our fleet, should tamper with its efficiency from motives of misplaced economy, and he earnestly trusted that they who were responsible for 843 the condition of the navy were about to adopt the advice which was given them last year by his right lion. Friend, the Member for Tam worth, and to take such measures as would enable the naval force of this country to advance in a manner corresponding with that of other nations.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the vote of 187,263l. for mil pensions and allowances.
§ Mr. Hume
complained that we had as much to pay now for pensions as in 1822. The amount was perfectly enormous. It was little short of 4,000,000l. per annum. For his part he thought it would be better to do away with pensions altogether. He complained that there was no limit to the naval establishment, and that the Admiralty had the power of creating any amount of pensions which they pleased. He also complained that the marine was treated differently (torn the navy. He would call for a return of all pensions, civil and military, with which the people of England were burdened, and the amount would surprise the country, and thus make it feel the necessity of reduction. He did not blame the Government, who were holding back; but he did blame hon. Gentlemen; on the opposite side, who were calling for new line-of-battle ships. He even found amongst the supporters of an increased naval armament the hon. Member for East Kent. Even he was sounding the trumpet; even he was a man of war.
§ Mr. Plumptre
begged to remark, that there were circumstances in which a country might be unavoidably compelled to make warlike preparations.
of the treatment of mates and midshipmen (not in active service) who, while they got nothing whatever from the Government, were prohibited from making a voyage an board a merchant ship, there being an order from the Admiralty compelling them to appear every year.
§ Captain Pechell
thought that this arrangement was far the advantage of the parties concerned, as it tended to retain them in the service, and prevented them from forfeiting their chance of future promotion. Mates and midshipmen, under these circumstances, had not much difficulty in getting a ship. It was quite true that midshipmen's half-pay was "nothing per day, and find yourself;" but this was 844 one of the long-established inconveniences of the service.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ House resumed.