§ On the motion that the Speaker do leave the Chair,
§ Mr. Hume
said, it was his intention to have submitted some resolutions respecting the deficient state of the revenue, as compared with the expenditure; but he thought it would be better to hear what the Government had to say to warrant so large an increase as was now proposed in 1159 the expenditure of the navy under the circumstances in which they were placed. It was perfectly well known, that for the last four years, the revenue had been deficient as regarded the expenditure, in round numbers, four millions sterling. The returns made on the motion of the hon. Member for Harwich, showed the irregular manner in which this deficiency had been provided for, and that the payments had been effected without the question ever coming under discussion in this House as to the way in which the money had been furnished. But the point to which he wished the attention of the House should be directed was, that the present estimates for the army and navy exceeded by three and a quarter millions those of 1836. They had gone on gradually increasing them since that time, notwithstanding the distressed state of the country. The revenue, up to April 8th, was exactly 283,000l. less this year than it was last year, notwithstanding the increased taxation. One of these things must consequently follow, either the new taxation had failed, or some mistake had taken place with regard to the accounts brought up. It was not possible to believe, that in the whole customs department and the whole excise department with an addition of 5 per cent., and with an addition of 10 per cent, on the assessed taxes, there should be a deficiency this year of 283,000l. He thought the Government ought to provide some way of supplying the deficiency, and not go on adding loan after loan, in order to provide for this great expenditure. It appeared to him the House ought to consider if there was any necessity for continuing this large expenditure at the present moment. They had secured what the noble Lord and his colleagues had gone so madly about in Syria (for a great part of this expense had been incurred there), and they had been told by the Queen's Speech that their object was attained. If so, clearly there ought to be a decrease in our expenditure, instead of which there was a considerable increase to be voted for our naval and military force, amounting in numbers of men to 6,000, making altogether 41,000 seamen and marines. He had, as he had said, brought down some resolutions to submit to the House, but it had been suggested to him it would be better to hear the Government statement, and then to print his resolutions, and take the sense of the House upon them. He was determined to submit his propositions to the House, unless 1160 he heard to-night some very satisfactory reasons to the contrary.
§ House in Committee.
§ Mr. More O'Ferrall
rose to bring forward the navy estimates. Before stating those of this year he had to request the attention of the committee to the balance sheet of naval expenditure for the financial year which terminated on the 31st March, 1840, which showed an excess of expenditure beyond the sum voted amounting to 29,694l., and he should first have to propose to the committee to make it up by a vote for that amount. As that was the first occasion on which it became necessary to make such a motion since the passing of the act for the reform and alteration of the civil departments of the navy, it was right to state to the committee the regulations which rendered it necessary. Previous to the enactment of the 1 and 2. William 4th, cap. 40, the unexpended balances at the end of each financial year, remained in the Exchequer to the credit of the naval service, and were expended by the Admiralty, either to meet an excess on any particular year, or for any other purpose deemed beneficial to the public service; out of these accumulated balances the extensive victualling premises at Weevil and Cremill were erected, without the knowledge or sanction of Parliament. This was deemed to be a great abuse, and was strongly commented on by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke, who, when he became first Lord of the Admiralty, announced his intention of introducing an act to put an end to this and other abuses in the civil administration of the navy. By the 30th section of that act the Board of Admiralty were required to lay a statement of their expenditure, with vouchers, before the board of audit in the month of November of each year, and the auditors were required to make such observations as they might deem fit, so as to call the attention of Parliament to any unauthorised expenditure. The act did not provide for the appropriation of unexpended balances; that was made a subject of arrangement between the Treasury and Admiralty; and on the first declaration of unexpended balance in 1833, it was decided that it should be carried to ways and means for the following year, and such has been the practice ever since. The unexpended balances have varied each year, from 400,000l. in 1833, to 5,000l. in the year terminating the 31st of March, 1839. When the accounts were made up in November following, that sum was avail- 1161 able to ways and means, but as the accounts of expenditure at the Cape of Good Hope and Trincomalee had not been received and brought to account, an application was made to the Treasury for its sanction to retain that sum in die Exchequer to the credit of the navy, to defray those demands, and that sum was brought to account in the balance sheet of 1840. Under the circumstances he had stated, as no balance remained applicable to defray an excess when it occurred, it was necessary to make application to Parliament to vote the amount; but, as it was foreseen in 1833, on presenting the first balance sheet, that an excess must sometimes occur to a small amount, which could not be ascertained until the accounts were closed, it was then decided that, under such circumstances, the vote should be taken with the estimates for the following year, which he now proposed to do. The next vote that he should have to propose to the committee was to make good an estimated excess of expenditure on the current year to the amount of 161,500l. The committee would recollect that, in the month of July last, he proposed a supplemental vote for 2,000 men. It might be said, that a larger vote should then have been proposed, instead of incurring the excess without the sanction of Parliament. He could assure the committee that, when he proposed that vote, 2,000 additional men were amply sufficient, with the full knowledge of all the obligations imposed by the treaty of July; if he had then asked for more, it would have excited the jealousy of other powers, and have afforded some pretext for that which afterwards occurred. In the months of September and October a state of excitement grew up in France, which, having arisen without cause, could not have been foreseen. Great activity prevailed in all their dock-yards; their coast were swept of sailors and artificers, and no one could foresee what might be the result. Under these circumstances it became necessary to strengthen the force in the Mediterranean, and to provide a force at home in case of emergency. Some ships were commissioned, and several were got into a forward state to receive men; transports were taken up, and reinforcements sent out to our garrisons abroad; and he was sure the committee would not object to an expenditure of 161,000l. for such a purpose, under the circumstances stated, nor would they find fault for not proposing this vote with the supplemental estimates in July. He now came to the statement 1162 of the estimates for the present year, and he owned he should have felt great difficulty in proposing so large an increase of estimates if he did not recollect the strong opinion so frequently expressed by Members on both sides of the House in favour of maintaining an efficient navy. As they had frequently found fault with the small force proposed, he trusted they would now be consistent, and support an increase which was only in proportion to that maintained by other states. He would then proceed to state the force of last year and that proposed for the present, confining himself strictly to a statement of the estimates, and avoiding altogether any topics which could lead the committee from the consideration of a subject too important to the interests of the country to be made the ground of party dissension. On the 1st of January 1840, the number of ships in commission, of all classes, was 239. On the 1st of January, 1841, 242; making an increase of three in number, but the vessels are of a much superior force. The number of men voted in 1840 was 37,165, including the supplemental vote of 2,000 men. The number proposed for this year is 43,000, making an increase of 5,835 men, of which 1,500 are to be marines. The excess on the gross estimates of this year above the gross estimate of last year is 729,653l. The credits in aid last year were 195,800l., this year they are only 158,812l., therefore the net excess to be voted this year above the sum voted last year will be 766,641l. He would now proceed to state the amount of increase under each head of expenditure, as numbered in the printed estimate, explaining the cause of increase: No. 1. Wages to seamen and marines; the increase is 199,761l. for 5,835 additional men. No. 2. Victuals; the increase is 131,127l., of which 28,000l. is applicable to the increased price of provisions. In No. 3, the Admiralty-office, and No. 4, the Registry-office of merchant seamen, there is a small decrease of 252l. In No. 5, the scientific branch, there is an increase of 4,414l.: 2,146l. will be expended on the re-measurement of La Caille's are of the meridian at the Cape of Good Hope; additional masters of mathematics will be appointed to the Naval College, for which a steam-engine will be purchased for the instruction of the students; a small sum will be expended in the purchase of instruments, and on the repairs of the observatory. No, 6 and No. 7 include her Majesty's 1163 establishments at home and abroad, on which there is a small increase of 3,281l., for salaries to the superintendants of the new rope machinery at Deptford, and the steam factory at Woolwich, and establishment of schools and libraries for the children of marines. The Cape hospital is re-established, and there is a new establishment at Valparaiso, to discharge the duties formerly performed by the Consul, who had charge of the stores. No. 8. Wages to artificers at home the increase is considerable: it amounts to 46,784l.; 11,000l. will be applicable to the full establishment of shipwrights, which was completed in the course of the year; 10,000l. will be applied to complete the number of artificers in the steam factory at Woolwich; and 10,000l. will be available for piece-work, if any extraordinary exertion should be required in fitting out a fleet on a sudden emergency. 2,000l. will be applicable to the extra pay given to artificers of the fleet when employed out of their own ships; this service had not formerly been estimated, but, as it gradually increased from year to year both at home and abroad, it is necessary to provide for it. 8,000l. will be applied to wages of artificers employed on repairs of buildings under the civil architect; a small sum is applicable to an increase of the dock-yard police, and to the increase of teams necessary for stowing the increased supplies of timber. No. 9. Wages for establishments abroad, there is an increase of 6,170l. 3,000l. will be applied as extra pay to artificers of the fleet, and the remainder to the foreign victualling yards and the hospitals of the Cape and Bermuda. No. 10. The vote for stores for the service of the navy; the increase is considerable, amounting to 242,527l.; but when it is recollected that this head of expenditure covers everything used in the building and furnishing of ships, from the smallest nail to the most expensive article; that our building has increased, and more repairs rendered necessary by the number of ships at sea, and the service on which they have been employed, the committee will not consider the sum too large. It embraces all the materials for the new steam factory, which will now be in full work; it comprises the purchase of steam machinery for vessels at home and in the colonies, and the supplies of materials for all the repairs in the dockyards. No. 11. New works. The expenditure on this head will be considerable this year, though the increase on the vote of last year does not exceed 8,503l. It 1164 may be interesting to the committee to hear the new works that are in progress, and for which the vote is taken. At Deptford a small sum will be applied to complete the baking machinery, and to make some small addition to the rope machinery. At Woolwich, 10,000l. will be applied to complete the east dock, which will contain the Trafalgar, a first-rate, when launched in April. 15,000l. will be applied to the west dock; it is of the same size as the east dock, and will be finished in the course of next year. 15,000l. will be applied to the erection of boiler-sheds, and the purchase of some additional ground, if it can be obtained on reasonable terms. A sum of 2,000l. will be applied to clear away a bank of mud formed in front of the dock-yard, to enable the Trafalgar to be launched. It is necessary to call the attention of the committee to the state of the river in the neighbourhood of the dockyard. A large sum of money was expended some years ago for its improvement—he was sorry to say with little success; for the evil has been increasing every year; from what particular cause it is not possible to say, whether from encroachments on the river, or from natural causes, has not been decided; but the subject has attracted considerable attention, and an application will probably be made in a future Session for a sum of money to prevent the growth of so serious an evil. At Sheerness, the annual sum of 500l. to complete the paving of the yard. At Chatham the sum of 4,000l. will be expended on groins to prevent the accumulation of mud in the river, and 4,000l. on the improvement of the smitheries, and the erection of anchor fires. The same course will be followed in the smitheries of all the principal yards. Since the introduction of chain-cables into the navy, a different kind of anchor is required, which contractors cannot supply in sufficient quantities; it is therefore necessary to construct some anchors in the yards to have a sufficient store, and it is deemed better to do so, than to form a separate anchor-manufactory at Deptford, which was at one time contemplated, as a considerable saving will take place in the superintendence by not forming a separate establishment. At Portsmouth, 6,000l. will be applied to the repairs of Haslar Beach, damaged by a storm; large cranes and anchor fires will be erected in the smithery, and a small apparatus for making into fuel, on the plan of Mr. Grant, the coal-dust of the yard. At Plymouth, 7,000l. will be expended on 1165 the pier and entrance to the basin; 4,000l. will be applied to the sea-wall, this sum was voted last year, but in consequence of the injury to the dock by the fire, it was necessary to apply this sum to its immediate repair. As no sum is proposed in the estimates of this year to make good the damage caused by the fire, the committee may desire to know the extent of the loss, which, including the damage to the ships, does not exceed 38,599l., that is to say, the estimated value of all that was destroyed; but it would require the sum of 91,559l. to replace it with new work. The sum proposed to be voted in a succession of years for the completion of the Breakwater is nearly exhausted; it amounted to 117,000l. Of that sum 15,000l. will be voted this year, leaving 12,000l. to vole next year. But, in addition to this, a sum of 175,000l. will be required to complete it. The original estimate was 1,000,000l., which will have been exceeded by 50 per cent, when the work is completed. At Pembroke 10,000l. will be expended on the new slips, the saw machinery will be completed, with several other minor works. At Malta, it is proposed to expend 10,000l. on a new dock, or Morton's patent slip. This has long been much desired, and will avoid the necessity of sending home ships on receiving slight damage. 10,000l. will be expended in erecting baking machinery at Malta. At present, the grinding of the corn is done by mules; the bakery employs 150 men, and can only supply biscuit for eleven sail of the line; with machinery, only forty men will be required to supply eighteen sail of the line, at a saving of 5,000l. per annum. No. 12. Medicines and medical stores; increase 6,232l. No. 13. Miscellaneous services; the increase is 130,955l. Many of the items under this head, though voted in the naval estimates, belong more to the Post-office service; the great increase is owing to new contracts for steam-vessels. The success of the Halifax line, affords the strongest hope that the great West-India line, which commences in December next, will be equally successful, and must confer the greatest benefits on the colonies. The new contracts of the last year are for sailing packets between Halifax and Bermuda, and between Halifax and Newfoundland. There is a sum of 2,000l. taken this year for the hire of vessels, and two sums of 4,000l for compensation for damage. On Nos. 14, 15, 16, and 17, comprising half-pay, civil and military pensions, and freight, there is 1166 a reduction of 55,000l. On No. 18, there is an increase of 5,000l. for convict service. He had now gone through all the items of expenditure in the estimates on which an increase had occurred. The whole sum to be voted will be 6,614,157l. for the service of the year. He had purposely refrained from any topic which could give rise to party discussion, but he could not conclude without congratulating the committee on the late brilliant achievements of the navy, so gratifying to the country at large, but still more so to that department which had been so long accused of neglect of duty. These events had afforded the best answer to all former assertions; he would not weaken it by any observations of his, and would conclude by moving a vote for the sum of 29,694l. 11s. 2d., to make good an excess of expenditure on the year ending 31st March, 1840.
§ Sir George Clerk
regretted that the House bad not paid more attention to the statements of the right hon. Gentleman—because no more important subject could come under the consideration of the House and the country. The committee was called on, for the first time, to make good the deficiencies of former estimates, not of the year now passing only, but also that of the preceding year; and there were at the same time submitted to the consideration of the committee, estimates considerably exceeding in amount any that had been brought before the House for the last twenty years. The country must be considered, not as in a state of peace, but as if winding up the accounts of a state of war. He proposed to confine his observations before the committee to the vote now before it, and one of a precisely similar nature which followed it, with regard to a deficiency in former estimates. He was precluded from going into any general observations on the estimates for the present year, because that must form the subject of a calculation upon the amount of the naval force which might be required under the circumstances in which the country might be placed. He felt it impossible to enter upon this subject, in the absence of the Minister of the Crown, whose duty it was to furnish them with information. He must confess, that when he was called upon to vote 43,000 men for the naval service of the country, he felt some surprise that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs was not present to offer an 1167 explanation on the subject to the committee. He felt also another difficulty. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had made a motion for the production of a most important document, and without that he felt it impossible to form a correct estimate, whether that amount of force called for by the right hon. Gentleman, was adequate to the service of the country or not. This being the case, he wished to draw attention to the under-estimates of the expenses of former years. He thought that was a question upon which the House ought at all times to exercise the greatest jealousy, because, if any department of the Government brought forward estimates which were lower than the exigencies the public service required, and that, notwithstanding the deficiency of the estimates, they were still to incur an expense in making such estimates, they withdrew from this House the advantage of having a previous control over the expenditure of the country. It was a different thing for the House to refuse their assent to the estimates submitted to them, take into consideration the whole policy of the country, and say, "We do not think you are justified in incurring these expenses," from that of refusing to vote the expenses already incurred. He was ready to admit that, from the difficulty of perceiving every possible contingency in the naval service, it was not surprising that there should be a deficiency in some departments—they had seen that occur on various occasions; some departments were over estimated, while others were under estimated; but, on the balance of the whole, there was generally a sufficient sum voted, in the first instance, to cover the whole expenditure. He must confess, then, that he was not satisfied with the explanation given by the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, with regard to the deficiencies of 1839 and 1840. In the first place, he was disposed to state the deficiency of 1839 considerably higher than the hon. Member had taken it. It was true that, on the balance-sheet of the naval expenses, there was a balance stated of 29,600l., for which the vote was now to be given; but, first, the hon. Member had no right whatever to take credit for the unestimated balances of former years, especially on the ground taken by the Admiralty, that the accounts from the Cape of Good Hope and Trincomalee had not been received, and that, therefore, when they received them at a late period, they 1168 did no more than meet this balance. The expenses on these stations were only for one quarter. If the hon. Gentleman argued in this way, he ought to show the committee what was the expense of these stations since, and add it to these balances. There was another way in which the deficiency was made up, and that was the demand by the Admiralty for part of the vote granted on the insurrection in Canada. He understood on what grounds the naval department made this claim. He saw that the first item on which they claimed, was for wages to seamen and marines. He wanted to know what number of seamen and marines they had a right so to charge against the Canada vote? He presumed the seamen were those who were employed on the lakes of Canada, in the Niagara. He wished to know of the hon. Gentlemen if they were the men? [Mr. M. O'Ferrall—Yes.] That was sufficient. He saw the House was called on to vote these men twice, for they were included in the total number of men voted for in the navy estimates; and if he had a doubt on that, he would refer any hon. Member, who had the estimates in his hand, to the explanatory statement, in which he would see the pay of this very vessel—a vessel employed on the lakes of Canada as storekeeper. Therefore he might say, that this was a repayment for bolstering up the deficiency of the naval votes of 1839—for the Admiralty made an application in October last, and received from them a grant of 3,000l. Under these circumstances, the deficiency of 1839, instead of being 29,000l. as stated in the vote, was really above 70,000l. That appeared to him to be a very important deficiency, and one for which, he conceived, the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty had not yet assigned any sufficient reason. At the same time he was quite ready to allow, that it was impossible for any man, at one view, to have a correct notion of what our naval expenses really were. He would come now to the supplemental estimate, which was to make good the deficiency of the estimates for the present year, and to provide for the excess of expenditure between the 1st of January and the 1st of March. The only justification to be offered by the naval department for having these votes brought forward after the expenditure had been incurred, to make good the deficiency, was that they had arisen from some circum- 1169 stances which could not be perceived at the time, they called on Parliament to vote. Well then, he said that the Admiralty department must have known—at least they ought to have known—in July last, that the supplemental estimate they called on the House to vote, was perfectly inadequate to meet the demands of the service. There was extreme inconvenience in conning forward at various times, and voting certain sums for the navy at one period, and certain sums at another period. To couple the naval to the supplementary estimates was the way to make a great deficiency in the estimates for the present year. The only explanation that could be offered by the naval department for bringing them forward in this way was, that the reason for some of the estimates could not have been foreseen. But he said they must have known it, or, at least, that they ought to have known it. He wished to show that, when the naval department in July last, submitted their supplemental estimates to the House, it was their duty to have brought under the full consideration of the House, the total amount of expenditure likely to be incurred; and they ought not to have called upon the House to vote a sum of money perfectly insufficient for their purpose, setting aside any increased expenditure they were called upon to make in consequence of the state of our relations with France. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward his Budget, on the 15th of May last year, he called his attention to the excess of the navy expenses at that period, and to the fact that, according to his own account, which was laid upon the Table of this House, he believed, on the same day, it appeared that the naval department, between the 1st of April, 1839, and the 1st of April, 1840, had received 300,000l. more than the sum voted by this House for the year. He asked the right hon. Gentleman for an explanation, which he was, perhaps, unable, or, from some causes, unwilling to give. He stated to him, that the consequence of that must be, that the sum of money must be taken from the estimates voted for the current year to provide for that excess of the expenditure of former years—that if the right hon. Gentleman found that at the end of the present year, 1840, the sum for the supplies was not sufficient, it would derange all his calculations, and that there would be a large 1170 deficiency of revenue, compared with the expenses of this year. By the returns which he moved for on the 15th of last month it appeared that in April, 1839, there remained a balance on the votes of the former year to the credit of the navy in the Exchequer of no less than 460,204l. The whole of that sum, no doubt, was required to discharge the expenses which had been previously incurred, and which properly belonged to the year for which the money was voted. With regard to the statement for the present year, the Admiralty had no justification whatever for keeping the Treasury in the dark, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer was clearly wrong in not bringing before the notice of the House, this great increase in the expenditure of the navy. It appeared to him that the various departments of the State, acted as if they were independent of each other, and that no two were aware of another's proceedings. There had been a gross blunder in the preparation of the estimates of last year. The number of men required to complete the complement of the ships was 26,000, while the Admiralty proposed a vote for 24,000 only. The noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, had told them on that occasion, that he did not think any increased number of seamen would be required in consequence of the situation in which the country was placed. He (Sir G. Clerk) was glad at the time to have heard that announcement, but he found the House had been misled by it. The noble Lord must himself have known that France had then refused to be a party to the settlement of the Eastern Question. When the supplementary estimates had been brought forward, the noble Lord, on being asked whether the Government intended to send a reinforcement to the Mediterranean, answered that they did not, and that we were not to have more ships in July than in January. A few weeks after, however, a large vessel, the Calcutta, was commissioned for the Mediterranean. He thought therefore, he was justified in saying that if the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, had been in communication with the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, it would have been impossible for him to make the statement which he had made. With regard to the vote for 161,500l., the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Admiralty, had said, that if they had moved for it last year, they 1171 might have excited the suspicion of foreign powers. He thought, however, that if they accepted such a justification they would be laying down a very dangerous precedent. The Government might, in that case, bring forward low estimates, and, after expenses had been incurred, the House of Commons would have no power to refuse the payment of them. He thought that was a dangerous principle, affecting one of the great privileges of that House, namely, the power of maintaining a control over the public expenditure. It had not been satisfactorily explained why the House was called upon in March to vote 160,000l., within a few weeks of the termination of the year; it was voting a sum of money to make good the deficiency of last year. If it was an estimate, it ought to be a correct estimate of additional expenses. The first item of wages, from the 1st of January to the 31st March, was an affectation of accuracy. It appeared on the estimates, that we had on the ships' books on the 1st of January, 1841, 28,710 men, which was 2,545 above the number voted. When did the men go on board? The great increase was in October, when the Howe, and the Britannia, and other large ships were sent to the Mediterranean. Now, as the Admiralty could not have permitted these ships to have gone short of their complement, or have left the squadron short of its complement, it was clear that on the 31st October we had these men. There was, therefore, no justification whatever in taking this vote of 161,000l. for wages for 2,545 men, from the 1st of January, to the 1st of April. The fact was, the Admiralty and the Government were afraid of the opposition of the hon. Member for Kilkenny, who always objected to every increased expenditure. They ought to have laid the circumstances fully before the House at the time of moving the supplemental estimates of last year, but they had then kept out of sight a great part of the expenditure which had been incurred. He thought the Admiralty must also have kept the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the dark. He did not think the sums now asked would be sufficient to cover the outstanding demands which at present existed. He should like to know from the right hon. Secretary to the Treasury why the accounts moved for by his hon. Friend, the Member for Harwich, had not yet been laid 1172 on the Table, that was a most important element in discussing these estimates.
§ Sir George Clerk
would then ask, why the paper for which the hon. Secretary had himself moved on the 3rd of February, a return of the debt of the Navy, had not yet been laid before the House? He would frankly admit, that in former limes but little interest had been felt in that document, but it was now one of a most important character, and he hoped no time would be lost in laying it upon the Table. He did not know on what ground the House was called upon to make up this deficiency. From the accounts laid on the Table, it appeared, that on the 7th of January there was a sum of 1,537,516l. to the credit of the Admiralty. Now the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty was bound to show why that sum had not been sufficient to cover the navy expenses that were likely to be incurred. That it would probably be insufficient he would admit, more particularly when he considered the large amount of wages due, but they ought to have the amount before them, in order to enable them to form a judgment on the subject, and they ought to have further information before being called on to vote those sums. He did not offer any opposition to the amount for this year, he only asked why they asked for this large sum to make good a deficiency which they ought to have seen. He hoped not to see introduced into the navy estimates votes which were extremely objectionable in the ordnance estimates. For the last two years the House had never been called upon to pay the full amount of wages, and the surplus had been absorbed under some other head. Government having obtained a supplemental vote in July, of 120,000l. having obtained from the Treasury 43,000l. for wages and victuals, and 40,000l. to make good the deficiency, now called for 161,000l. to make up the deficiency of last year, making in all upwards of 300,000l. What confidence could the House place in the accuracy of the estimates? The reasons which induced them to keep back the estimates of last year might be equally operative now, and they might ask the House to vote a sum not adequate to meet the exigencies of the State. They framed such estimates as they thought they had a chance of car- 1173 rying through the House without incurring serious opposition from the hon. Member for Kilkenny, for that hon. Member, although he entered his protest against an increase in the naval expenditure, placed such implicit confidence in her Majesty's advisers, that he departed from the course of proceeding which he pursued during the time he (Sir G. Clerk) moved the navy estimates. He thought he had made out a primâ facie case against the Admiralty calling on the House to make good these deficiencies without further information. There being a primâ facie case, further proceedings should be suspended till further information was granted, or until a select committee should have made a report, explaining the ground on which Government called upon the House to make good the deficiencies. The two questions should be argued separately on their own grounds, and not be mixed up together.
§ Lord J. Russell
said, that the hon. Baronet had so mixed up several questions together as to render it difficult to grapple with his statements. He was not going to answer the hon. Gentleman with regard to those parts of the speech which related to the mode of keeping the accounts of the navy. His hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty, had stated the grounds upon which he asked for the balance of 29,694l., and he could add nothing to what his hon. Friend had stated on that subject. The hon. Gentleman, however, had gone on to speak of the amount of the balance which they proposed to take to make up the expenditure, and he had not been satisfied with taking that amount, but he had thought proper to discover that the reason why her Majesty's Ministers had adopted the course they had done was he-cause they were afraid of the opposition of the hon. Member for Kilkenny. Now with respect to that supposition the hon. Gentleman was completely mistaken; it certainly was something like the course adopted by a former Lord of the Admiralty in 1835, who had asked for estimates less than was necessary for the services of the year, but such were not the motives which actuated her Majesty's present Government. The hon. Gentleman had stated very truly, that at the time the estimates were brought forward last year the Government did not ask the whole amount required for the ships in commission, and the reason of that was, because some of the ships were on their return home, and it 1174 might not be necessary to fit out other ships; that was the real case, and not as the right hon. Gentleman had suspected. At that time it was not supposed there would be a separation among the Great Powers of Europe, but in July the question was very much altered. In that month her Majesty's Government had agreed with certain Great Powers of Europe to enter into a convention for the purpose of settling the affairs of the East; one of the Great Powers, however, was not a party, but at the same time it was at first doubtful whether that Great Power would think it necessary to arm on account of its being separated from the other Great Powers. Unfortunately, and before the prorogation of Parliament, it appeared that the French Government were determined to increase their navy, and it therefore became necessary for her Majesty's Government to consider whether they should immediately augment the forces, or suspend it till further proceedings were taken. His impression was—and that impression was generally shared by the Government—that if at a time when there was great exasperation in France, when there was an undue feeling of resentment because this country had separated from France upon the Eastern question, and the utmost violence was displayed both in the press and generally throughout France in speaking of the conduct of England—if at such a time they had come down to propose to Parliament, without being certain that it would be required, a considerable augmentation of force, they could not have asked for it without stating serious reasons for so doing, and there might have been urged against the conduct of Government the hostile language and the alienated feelings of France. Why, if they had done so, he did not doubt that they should have obtained the consent of the House to the necessary augmentation of force. He did not doubt that the hon. Member for Kilkenny, if he had chosen to divide the House, would have been in a small minority upon that occasion; but what he did doubt was, whether if they had come down with such a case to ask for a considerable augmentation of force, it would not have tended to increase and influence the exasperation then prevailing in France, and whether the increase of armament would not have led to hostilities between the two countries. For these reasons her Majesty's Government had not asked for an increase of force, and it was not until after the prorogation of 1175 Parliament, when they saw the preparations which were making, and that it was not merely a question of ordonnances on paper, but that great efforts were making in the French ports, and an active equipment of ships going on, that anything was done in this country. The hon. Gentleman had stated that there was a mistake in the accounts as to the increase of seamen's wages. But he believed that the real state of the case was, that the amount of men was so far lower that the amount of money voted was sufficient for the payment of the force. As regarded, therefore, the question of money—the question of the men was a different question—it was sufficient for the payment of the men wanted in those three months which elapsed between the date of the vote and the period of which he had spoken; still he did not mean to contend that the Government had pursued the ordinary course. The hon. Gentleman had rightly stated what was the constitutional course. [Sir J. Graham, hear.] The right hon. Gentleman who cheered him, and who had taken so active a part in exposing the conduct of our naval affairs, and the concealments which took place when the hon. Gentleman (Sir G. Clerk) had a share in the administration of the Admiralty, no doubt fully agreed with the hon. Gentleman in that. But at the time he spoke of the real question with the Government was, how they were to maintain the peace of Europe? That was the main and the great question. The question of making themselves responsible for the expenditure of 161,000l. more than the estimates was a secondary question. Their paramount duty they felt was to preserve the peace of Europe, and not have the representatives of France on the one side, and the English House of Commons on the other, discussing these questions in a spirit which might have led to a collision between the two nations. Acting upon these considerations, her Majesty's Government had not avoided the responsibility of asking Parliament for a sum of money which had been expended, but had not been voted. Such had been their policy; but he was happy to say, that it had succeeded. There was no longer any question between Mehemet Ali and England; that was set entirely at rest. Her Majesty's Government had, therefore, the satisfaction to think, that in taking measures to maintain the independence of the Turkish empire they had avoided any serious collision with any other power. However, that question was 1176 quite a different one from that before the House, and might be discussed on other occasions. But the question, as he had stated, with her Majesty's Government had been, what they could do that would be best calculated to preserve the peace of Europe. He had not risen to enter into the details mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, with which no doubt he was fully acquainted, but to state these considerations to the House.
§ Mr. Hume
was glad that the noble Lord admitted the extraordinary nature of the proceedings. The noble Lord considered that he was warranted by the peculiar circumstances in which the country was placed, in taking upon himself that responsibility. He differed entirely from the noble Lord on that point, and he would state to the House the grounds on which he did so. The noble Lord had stated, that by means of taking upon themselves this responsibility the Government had maintained the peace of Europe. He denied that altogether. He contended that they had disturbed the peace of Europe. Europe was in perfect peace at the time when the noble Lord entered into that convention of the 15th of July; there was not the least sign of a disturbance. The French had been increasing their fleet for many years, but the object of that was to maintain that position which was consistent with their station amongst the Powers of Europe. But what did the noble Lord say? The noble Lord said, referring to the Cabinet, they had maintained the peace of Europe at an expense of 160,000l. Why, good God ! the estimate for the present year was a million, in consequence of the noble Lord's policy, and ten millions would not cover the expenses of that rash affair. The Government had no right to enrol more men than were voted by the House, without its consent, and without such grounds as would appear to the country satisfactory. Was there anything threatening the peace of England or her colonies, or of any part of the British empire? Nothing whatever. It was an intermeddling in the affair of the Turkish empire, under the plea of maintaining its integrity. Instead, however, of doing that they had perpetuated the disturbances and the weakness of that empire. He had warned the noble Lord again and again in the month of July, and when the vote for an additional number of seamen was called for he had objected to it. He knew what the plans of the noble Lord were, and he knew his antipathy to intermeddle in the affairs of 1177 the East, and that if he had got the vote it would enable him to embroil himself. The House, however, differed from him, and the vote was passed. In July it had come to his knowledge that the treaty had been signed, and believing that it would involve the country in war, he had asked the noble Lord to state if that were so. The House would recollect his answer. He could get nothing definite, but it amounted to a denial. He asked if they were sending out troops, and he was informed that he was mistaken in his information — a general answer. Now, it turned out, that he had been correctly informed. Did the noble Lord suppose that his conduct at that time would be otherwise than offensive to France, and risk the loss of the friendship and alliance of that country? He was anxious to have the documents before him, because he thought they would make out a clear case of neglect. The real truth was, that the noble Lord and the Cabinet knew well that they had determined on hostilities, every dock-yard was full, and muskets and seamen were sending out to stir up disaffection and rebellion in the East, and give countenance to the interference of the British Government. On the 24th of July, when they had determined on hostilities, the House should not have been allowed to separate without information on that subject. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of his opposition, but he saw very well it had but little effect. If hon. Members on the other side supported him it might have some effect, but when he received support from neither, what hope what chance was there, but to be laughed at? He believed the Government were afraid of meeting the House of Commons, and letting the public know that the peace of Europe was about to be disturbed through their interference. Bold as they were they were not bold enough to state their case to the country at that time. But when Parliament had separated, what check was there that they might not enrol 50,000 men more than were voted; the principle was the same, and they actually did enroll 2,545 men more than were voted. The noble Lord said they would take the responsibility, but he (Mr. Hume) said, make out the case first. He wished to see all the correspondence between this Government and France, and he was satisfied it would fail to make out their case. The vote now before them was contrary to the usual practice of Parliament, and indeed at the time no one 1178 supposed that such a step would be taken without calling Parliament together. He felt himself justified, therefore, in moving, that the vote be postponed until they had the correspondence on the Table—if the case were made out then let the vote be agreed to, and if not, let it be rejected. Until that, was done he hoped that House would not allow a vote incurred in such a way to pass. They were now called on to support an armed navy of 41,000 men; that was an enormous establishment. A few years ago the establishment for the navy amounted to 24,000 and 25,000 men, and the utmost number at any time at the period to which he alluded was 26,000 men, and those establishments were considered very large; what, then, must hon. Members think of such an armament as 41,000 men? Hon. Members ought not, he insisted, to support a vote for so enormous an establishment without some explanation being given for its existence. Parliament had now sat five weeks, and there had been, he contended, sufficient time during that period to make such arrangements as would enable the noble Lord to give the required explanation. He would, therefore, move that the progress of the vote be postponed until they should have laid on the Table of the House the correspondence which would enable hon. Members to judge how far Government was warranted in the responsibility which they had taken upon themselves.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, that the question he understood to be before the House was a vote of 29,000l. to make up the deficiency in the accounts up to the 31st of April, 1841. The hon. Member for Kilkenny had, he apprehended, mistaken the immediate subject under discussion.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, it was desirable that they should keep the vote of 29,000l perfectly distinct from that of 161,000l. He wished to know why it was that when the supplemental estimate was proposed last Session of Parliament—when the balance of 29,000l. was ascertained—that balance was not brought under the cognizance of the House—why it was postponed?
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall
believed that he could reply satisfactorily both to this question and to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford. The excess of 29,000l., which was matter of account, was erroneously mixed up with the 160,000l., which was matter of 1179 estimate. He would address himself solely to the question of the 29,000l. and the 5,000l. which was carried forward from the ways and means for 1839, and accounted for in the balance sheet laid on the Table. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stamford was the last person from whom he should have expected to hear some of the observations which he had made, since the right hon. Gentleman must perfectly well know that, from the various exigencies of the public service, it was sometimes next to impossible to keep strictly to the amount of each particular head of estimate. The hon. Gentleman will recollect, that he foretold in 1831, when the new system of account was introduced, that a surplus expenditure must sometimes occur. He was equally surprised at the observation which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Pembroke, who, in the fourth of his own regulations, had provided that, when an excess arose upon the estimate, it should be voted at the next time of bringing the estimates forward, and such is our present proceeding, of which he complains. The right hon. Gentleman had asked why this supplementary vote had not been submitted to Parliament in July last. He must know perfectly well that by his own regulations that was perfectly impossible. He must know, that, though the accounts were made up to the 31st of March, they were not closed until the 30th of November, to allow the accounts from distant stations to come in. In the intervening period this year there came in the accounts from the Cape, Trincomalee, and the other distant stations. There was a large balance on the 31st of March, which remained subject to the demands from the distant stations, until the accounts were closed in November. The month of November was fixed with that view. As to the Cape, in consequence of a reduction of clerks effected by the right hon. Baronet himself, the storekeeper had found it totally impossible to make up his accounts by the usual time, and they did not arrive until December, 1840. Those from Trincomalee were received at the end of November, soon after the accounts were closed; but they were not considered so material as to render it necessary to move them in a separate supplementary vote. The excess of 29,000l., therefore, could not be known until the whole of the accounts were made up. In 1831 the right 1180 hon. Gentlemen had stated it to be his intention strictly to adhere to each head as voted in the estimates, and if he should exceed the vote on any particular item, he would apply to the House for its sanction to apply the surplus on other heads to make up the deficiency. Twelve months of office entirely changed the virtuous intentions of the right hon. Baronet, experience softened his reforming zeal, and in 1832, when he introduced his bill, under the provisions of which the balance sheet is produced, he purposely omitted to give effect to the intention he announced in 1831, and gave a practical example in 1832, of the irregularity he condemned the year before. His first balance sheet in 1833 will prove it, by exceeding his estimate on no less than thirteen heads, out of twenty-nine heads, of which the estimates were then composed. We have followed in the steps of the right hon. Baronet the father of Naval reform, and yet he is now the first to question our acts under circumstances far more difficult than he ever had to contend with, although we have complied with the act of Parliament and all the regulations he framed. It should be borne in mind, in connexion with the present vote, that a large force had been employed in Canada and elsewhere; and, where there was a question of so great a sum, could any man say that there might not be an excess of 29,000l.? As to the 5,000l., hon. Gentlemen would find, if they looked at the balance-sheet in their hands for 1839–40, that no blame was to be attached to the Admiralty, there being a certificate at foot attesting that the accounts from the Cape and Trincomalee had not been then received. It was hence brought into the balance-sheet for the present year, showing that there was no object whatever for concealment. As to the 42,000l., the Canada vote, they would find it accounted for under every head of expenditure. 15,000l., to which the Member for Stamford referred, was for the service on the lakes, the official authorities of Canada, alarmed at the state of the frontier, having provided an increase of two or three strong vessels. An increased rate of pay was always given on the lakes; which in addition to the increased number of men, would account for the increased expenditure under the head of wages.
§ Sir J. Graham
was bound to say, that the answer of the hon. Gentleman was 1181 satisfactory. He certainly attached great importance to the principle that Parliament should receive the earliest information on these questions. This was his principle in 1831, and he still adhered to it. He had put the question simply for the purpose of having the departure from the estimate accounted for. He admitted that, with the utmost care, it was impossible to make such an estimate as might not be exceeded. He did not recollect so accurately now as he had heretofore done the routine of office, and had thought that the accounts might have been made up at an earlier period.
§ Mr. C. Wood
observed, that the day to which the accounts should be made up was prescribed by Act of Parliament, in the words "on or before the 30th of November." It was true, that a certain sum had been taken from the million granted in 1839 for the exigencies of the public service in Canada, and applied to the service on the lakes; but in the course of the ensuing spring the Secretary for the Colonies intimated that it would be necessary to increase the estimate for the maintenance of the men on the lakes, whereupon he stated in reply that he must either move a supplementary estimate, or come upon the million for an additional proportion. The Treasury said that they would not advance the sum, but that when the accounts were sent in they would repay to the naval department what it had actually expended. Hence it was, that this particular estimate bore the date of the 11th of May, 1840.
§ Sir G. Clerk
did not object to this vote, but always expected the naval department to make out its estimates clearly, and, if possible, in the first instance.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ The question was then put that 161,500l. for the excess of the naval expenditure beyond the sums granted for the year ending the 31st of March, 1841, be granted to her Majesty.
§ Sir R. Peel
wished to ask a question. In the course of the speech delivered by the noble Lord the Secretary for the Colonies, that noble Lord made a declaration which appeared to him of very great importance. The noble Lord said, that one of the reasons why an additional estimate was not taken to provide for the possible consequences of the misunderstanding with France on account of the Syrian question was, that if such an estimate had 1182 been proposed it might have added to the irritation and jealousy of France, and defeat our desire for peace. The noble Lord then added, that a course which would be objectionable, under ordinary circumstances, was justified by the extraordinary state of Europe in July last. He also understood the noble Lord to say, that the course pursued had been justified by success. There were two ways of understanding that declaration. If it meant that there was now no cause for misunderstanding growing up out of the Eastern question between France and this country, if it were true that all misunderstandings between France and this country were at an end, he hailed the declaration with perfect satisfaction. But he was not certain whether the noble Lord did not mean to say that the possession of Syria was now out of the question, and that there was a practical though perhaps temporary settlement of the questions arising between France and this country out of the affairs of the east, on account of the impossibility of Mehemet All's recovering Syria. That might be another construction, but he hoped it was not the proper one. He hoped that the noble Lord's intimation was, that the eastern question was completely terminated, and that so far as France was concerned all causes of misunderstanding were at an end. Being in doubt as to the construction he put on the noble Lord's words, he wished to ask whether that which he sincerely hoped and wished for was the right one.
§ Viscount Palmerston
If I understood the noble Lord rightly, he alluded to a recent declaration of a person who held a high rank in the French government at the time when those transactions took place. If the right hon. Gentleman asks me what is the present state of the relations of the two countries, I can have no hesitation in saying that I do not see anything connected with these matters, or likely to arise out of them, which, in my opinion, can in any way tend to interrupt the friendly and pacific relations between the two countries.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, the present vote involved the conduct of the Government, and affected g most important principle, from which the House should not suffer a departure without the greatest necessity. When he looked to the two estimates of last year, and the supplementary estimate now before then), he did not see any justification 1183 for the course the Government had pursued. What he was particularly complaining of was, that the noble Lord, in July, 1840, was aware, that a greater sum would be required for the expenditure of the navy than was asked for in the estimates, and that he gave no intimation of it to Parliament.
§ Lord J. Russell
What I stated was that there was a probability that an additional estimate might be required; but that it might happen, that no additional expenditure might be required. It was at that time a matter of doubt.
§ Mr. Goulburn
resumed. All estimates are matters of probability. But, looking at this estimate, he perceived several items of expenditure, that were certain, that might have been foreseen, and the voting of which, in the last Session of Parliament, could not possibly have occasioned alarm or uneasiness in the minds of foreign powers; for instance, there was an item for the packet service of the West-India stations. There being in July, last year, a probability that an additional expenditure would be necessary beyond the vote which Parliament was then called upon to sanction, if not by the full amount of the 160,000l. still by a considerable portion of it, he, for one, could not admit, that the Government were justified in coming to Parliament for a vote so far below what in their opinion the exigencies of the public service might probably require, and for concealing the great probability of a larger vote being required.
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall
replied, that when the supplementary estimate was taken in July, last year, for 2,000 men, that amount of additional force was considered sufficient to enable the Government to carry out all the intentions of the treaty of July. The way the navy estimates were framed was, to take at the beginning of the year the whole number of ships, and calculate the number of men at full complement for each ship, although some of those ships might be fitting out in harbour. The deficiency of men in those ships in the early part of the year, generally makes up for excess at the close of the year, if such should occur. If in July Government had proposed to take a greater number of men, than was actually necessary, they would have given grounds for that excitement that subsequently had prevailed in France. He had stated, that the services on the coast of Syria had been performed by the force, that had been voted in July. But when so 1184 much excitement prevailed in France, in the months of October and November— when men were taken out of their merchant ships and placed in the naval depots of Brest and Toulon— when the most active preparations, naval and military, were being made by France, her Majesty's Government thought it was necessary to show, that we were equally well provided, and, therefore, it was, that additional ships had been put in commission, which required a greater number of men than the estimate provided for; and thus caused the increased expenditure now complained of.
§ Sir R. Peel
The question that here arose was, however this:—Supposing that it were deemed probable that, during the recess an increase of force, naval or military, would be required, according to all ordinary and constitutional principles it would be the duty of the Government to inform Parliament that such an emergency might be expected, and to take a discretionary vote to meet it. That might be done without any estimate by a vote of credit; under ordinary circumstances, that would be the proper course. But Ministers said, that there was danger of increasing the irritable feelings that prevailed in France, by taking a precaution that might have been, or might not have been, necessary. The noble Lord admitted, that when the supplementary vote of last year was taken, it was highly probable that an increased expenditure might be necessary, but he added that there was something peculiar in the circumstances of the present case that justified the Government in taking this responsibility upon themselves, rather than make a communication to Parliament that might possibly have increased the probability of a rupture with France. He would not say, there were no reasons last autumn to justify this departure from the usual and constitutional course, but he thought that the Crown should have taken some notice of the matter at the commencement of the present Session; and then, the subject having been brought before the House, means would have been taken to prevent the proceeding in this case being brought forward as a precedent on future occasions. In a despotic Government no such difficulty would have arisen, because such a Government would have had the power to take whatever precautions might be necessary. It was, no doubt, one of the inconveniencies of a 1185 popular form of Government, that Ministers must come to Parliament and state the grounds on which an increase of expenditure for such a purpose was to be incurred. But what he feared was, that this precedent once established might be used in future cases. At the close of the present Session it might so happen—though he sincerely hoped that it would not—that our amicable relations with America or some other foreign power, might be disturbed, and there might be danger that, in asking Parliament to provide for the emergency, we should increase the irritation that might exist, and so bring about that state of hostilities which it must be our wish to avoid. He could understand the point that Government should abstain from making communications to Parliament on the subject of any temporary alienation between this and another country, on the ground that it might tend to increase irritation, and that if it asked for an increase of force the probability of an amicable arrangement would be greatly diminished, and that, therefore, under such circumstances it would be better to leave the matter to the discretion of the Government, and that they might be allowed, on their own responsibility, to make an increase of force without coming to Parliament; but it should be recollected, that if we got into this practice, we should be departing from the sound constitutional rule which had hitherto been the practice in this country. He admitted that there was some difficulty in (he present case, and he could conceive that such a degree of irritation prevailed in France that it might become a matter of expediency to follow the course that had been adopted in the present instance. But supposing that to be the case, he thought that it would have been better if the Ministers of the Crown had recommended that a paragraph on the subject should be inserted in the speech from the throne, or it might have been made a matter of communication in the shape of a message to Parliament, and that the Government had felt bound to follow the course which they had in consequence of the special circumstances of the case, and that they were only justified by the emergency which had arisen. If this had been done it would have appeared to future administrations that, although the House had sanctioned the proceedings of the Government in increasing the forces, still that the House of 1186 Commons had not let the proceedings pass by unnoticed. He would venture to say that, if the excuse was to be admitted, that a proceeding of this kind was calculated to advance amicable relations with foreign powers, the principle would often be resorted to of increasing the forces without previously applying to Parliament. It was, therefore, to be regretted, that when they thus increased the naval forces in October, they did not make a communication to Parliament, so that the special circumstances of the case might not be drawn into a precedent.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that in the general constitutional doctrine laid down by the right hon. Gentleman on this subject, it was impossible for him not to concur. The question, however, was, whether this was not a case which should be made an exception to the general principle which had been laid down. He thought that it was, for the reasons stated by his noble Friend. He would ask what was the state of things at the time Parliament was prorogued? The treaty was known to have been signed, and great irritation had been excited—certainly on the most unfounded grounds— throughout the French nation. They felt highly irritated, and persuaded themselves that the alliance of the Four Powers had been entered into for a specific and particular purpose against France. They asserted most groundlessly that this was a renewal of the alliance of 1814 against France, and that it furnished an indication, on the part of the allies, of an intention to attack France. At the time of the prorogation of Parliament, a greatly increased armament had been made on the part of France, and as his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty had stated, the additional force proposed for the navy towards the end of the last Session was considered sufficient to carry out the treaty of July. Undoubtedly the Government might have come down to Parliament, as the right hon. Gentleman had suggested, and might have drawn the attention of the House to the circumstances which had arisen, and which had created angry feelings between France and the Four Powers, but the truth was, that Parliament separated some months previous to the irritation, and to the extensive armaments which had been carried on in that country, and when it was not possible to know to what extent this feeling of excitement would prevail. The right hon. Gentleman said, that at the end of the Session, although there might be no immedi- 1187 ate danger of a rupture, the Government might have come down and taken a vote of credit in case any such emergency might arise. This certainly might have been done; but the whole matter was fully considered by the Government, and it was not until after the fullest deliberation it was determined to pursue the course which had been adopted. But what would have been the effect on France of adopting the course alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman? It would have been asserted that the English Government had asked the Parliament for a large additional force, and it would have been alleged that this was a proof of the existence of an alliance against France. It would have been asserted by France that the English Government would not allow Parliament to separate without obtaining a great addition to its naval force, and that this was done solely with the view of attacking us. There would apparently have been great weight of argument founded on the adoption of such a step by the Government, and it certainly would not have been acting in a way calculated to avert the risk of a war. The same course which had been pursued by England had been followed by the governments of the Continent. England, no doubt, would have to undergo sufferings and privations in case of a war, and no doubt every country involved in a war with us would be called upon to make great sacrifices. How-ever great the evils might be to us, undoubtedly they would be much more severely felt by the natives of Germany, for the sufferings of being exposed to a war by land were greater than any we should be likely to be exposed to. What steps, then, did the governments of Germany take? Austria and Prussia scrupulously abstained for several months from taking any steps for the increase of their armies. At a later period of the year, when France was seen to persist in increasing her forces, her Majesty's Government deemed it necessary to make some increase—certainly not a very great one—to the naval forces of this country, and at about the same period the nations of the continent found it necessary to make such addition to their armies as would enable them to resist with effect in case of being attacked. Agreeing, then, in the main principle laid down by the right hon. Baronet, he still thought that the Government were bound to act as they had done. Indeed, they would have exposed themselves to censure if they had by any rashness or indiscretion produced results which would 1188 have carried matters much further than they had gone. These were the grounds for the adoption of the determination which the Government had come to after much reflection. He repeated, nothing appeared at the separation of Parliament likely to justify a larger increase of force; on the contrary, we expected that the irritation on the part of France would have passed away, and that the explanations which were about to be given would have been considered sufficient and satisfactory, and that there would not have been any continuation of angry feelings between France and the other Powers of Europe, If, in the recess, matters had proceeded further, it would have become necessary to have adopted other proceedings. If war, unfortunately, had taken place, it would have been the duly of the Government to call Parliament together; but as circumstances had turned out, it was unnecessary to resort to such a course, and, as only some addition to our armaments was necessary, Government relied on the assent of Parliament to the proceedings which had been adopted under the emergency. He begged the House to recollect, also, that her Majesty's Ministers had not pursued the course which had been followed in former years, when the financial year terminated in December, when money was expended without any authority from Parliament, and the charge was carried into the following year. In the present case the money expended would be carried to the charge of the financial year in which it was applied. Under these circumstances, although he admitted that the constitutional principle had not been strictly applied, yet still he thought that the case justified the course which had been followed.
§ Sir R. Peel
observed that the noble Lord had avoided the question, not only as to the principle itself, but also as to the application of that principle. He (Sir R. Peel) could easily conceive that, last year, in the then peculiar state of our foreign relations, a vote of credit might have been open to the same objection that might have been urged against a distinct increase in the navy estimates. But what he had said was, that if the Government contemplated the probability of an increase, they ought rather to have proposed the specific increase they contemplated, stating the grounds on which they thought it might be necessary; or, if they did not wish to enter into detail, they might have taken a vote of credit, justified by the ne- 1189 cessity of the case, and applicable to the emergency of the state. He did hot mean to imply that they should have taken a vote of credit, if they thought the effect of it would have been to increase the irritation that existed in France. He had also gone on to admit, that he could conceive it possible that a Government might be justified in taking on it only a discretionary authority in increasing the military and naval force of the country, rather than, by taking a vote for it at a particular time, raise up discussions and engender feelings that might lead to hostilities; but in that case, some communication ought to be made to Parliament, stating the circumstances Under which the strict and constitutional rule had been departed from; and this might properly have been done in the speech from the throne in the following manner: —Circumstances have occurred during the recess which have induced me to direct an increase in my naval force greater than that provided for in the estimates; but this assumption of authority has been justified by the peculiar circumstances of the case, and I am confident will meet with your sanction.That was the course which Parliament would have approved of; and as there was in this case an admitted departure from the ordinary and constitutional rule, some such precaution was necessary for preventing the course which the Government had taken being lightly made use of as a precedent on future occasions.
§ Lord J. Russell
would not say, that the course suggested by the right hon. Baronet might not have been proper, but Ministers had thought it more regular to bring the question before the House in a committee of supply, when the Government were prepared to give every explanation. He, and his noble Friend the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, admitted the principle that the right hon. Baronet had laid down. The right hon. Baronet on the other hand admitted that there might be circumstances which would justify a departure from that principle. That being the feeling on both sides, it did appear to him that the record of the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman and the explanation of the Government of the circumstances under which this departure from the rule had taken place, would be sufficient to prevent such a course being taken on any future occasion unless, as in the present instance, the circumstances should justify it.
§ Mr. Hume
thought, that no one who did not approve of the war in Syria could vote the present sum of money. The noble Lord said, that the irregular proceeding on the present occasion would not be drawn into a precedent, and that there would be a sufficient record of their proceedings to prevent this; but no notice of the matter would be placed on their journals; he should like, therefore, to know where this record of irregularity would be found. Would the noble Lord say, that the carrying on the war in Syria was essential to the preservation of the peace of Europe? He contended that if the noble Lord had not signed the convention of the 15th of July, the peace of Europe would have been where it was, and there would have been no interruption of our friendly relations with France. We had interfered unnecessarily, and when no British interests were involved. What he complained of was, that the war had been carried on without the sanction of Parliament, and if the House did its duty it would nut concur in this vote. If the subject had been fully debated last year, it might have been shown that, in the steps taken, no hostile intentions were entertained against France, and the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs might have entered upon the necessary explanations so as to have satisfied the people of France, and to have shown them that no insult or slight was intended to them. Instead, however, of doing this, he had fitted out every ship he could procure, and had attempted to stir up and excite a rebellion in Syria, in the most unconstitutional manner. He objected to paying any money for this war until they had discussed its policy, and until the documents had been laid on the Table explaining all the circumstances. If this was done and the expediency of the proceedings was shown, there would be no hesitation to vote the supplies, but at present, if he divided alone, he should take the sense of the House against the vote.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
wished to remind the hon. Gentleman that he did not commit himself to any vote of approbation of the policy pursued towards Syria by sanctioning the present vote. With respect to the objection to the proceeding, he did not believe there was any doubt as to the principle, and that this case was an exception owing to peculiar circumstances, and that the rule was, that Parliament should be consulted on all occasions previous to the expenditure of the public money. 1191 If the House adopted the suggestion of the hon. Member, and refused to vote any money for the navy for the present, the result must be that the Admiralty must issue orders for the dismantling the fleet. If the hon. Gentleman thought the policy of the Government was objectionable, he should at once propose a vote of censure in an open and straightforward manner, so that they might be put on their defence, but the adoption of the present proceeding was objectionable; for if the hon. Gentleman succeeded in his opposition, the Government would not know how to deal with the naval force of the country.
§ Mr. Goulburn
said, that all agreed that this was not a matter of trifling importance; he would therefore suggest that the vote should be withdrawn, and be proposed in an amended form. For instance, that there should be added to it some words explanatory of the extraordinary circumstances of the case, and declaring that it was not to be drawn into a precedent. It might also be stated, that the excess on the estimates of last year was occasioned by special circumstances, not known until Parliament had broken up. This he thought would be sufficient to guard against the repetition of the proceeding.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer
quite concurred with the right hon. Gentleman as to the propriety of marking this as an extraordinary case. He should think it would be better to pass a separate act of Parliament for the purpose, a special Appropriation Act, authorising them to apply this supplemental sum for the expenses of the last year; and in the preamble of this act some such words as those suggested might be introduced.
§ Sir R. Peel
looked upon the vote as quite irrespective of the policy of Ministers as to Syria. Whether the policy was right or wrong, the forces employed rausl be paid in the mean time.
§ Lord F. Egerton
did not see how the sanctioning this vote committed hon. Gentlemen to the policy of Ministers.
Lord Claude Hamilton
should support the hon. Member for Kilkenny if he divided the committee. It was all very well to talk of the peace of Europe having been preserved by the expenditure of this sum of 161,000l., but what he wished to know was, how it had happened that the peace of Europe had become endangered? He looked upon the policy of the noble Lord as having involved this and other countries in the feuds of war, and as for the sum applied for, which was spoken of as so trifling a matter, he regarded it but as a small instalment of very large payments in which this country would be involved by the policy of her Majesty's present advisers. Parliament should beware how it lightly passed over the consideration of the perils in which the proceedings of the noble Lord opposite had placed the peace of Europe.
§ Colonel Sibthorp
said, this was another glaring instance of the utter inconsistency between the professions of her Majesty's present particularly economical Government and their practice. It was a mere farce to see hon. Gentlemen opposite, who on the hustings talked so largely about their care of the public purse, so utterly indifferent to the waste of the public money in the House.
§ The committee divided on the Question, "That a sum not exceeding 161.500l., be granted to her Majesty, to defray the excess of the naval expenditure beyond the grants for the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1841." Ayes 89; Noes 8: Majority 81.
|List of the AYES.|
|Abercromby, hn. G.R.||Brocklehurst, J.|
|A'Court, Captain||Brothprton, J.|
|Adam, Admiral||Busfeild, W.|
|Archbold, R.||Canning, it. hn. Sir S.|
|Baring, rt. hn. F. T.||Chapman, A.|
|Barnard, E. G.||Chichesler, Sir B.|
|Berkeley, hon. H.||Clay, W.|
|Bewes, T.||Clerk, Sir G.|
|Blair, J.||Cochrane, Sir T. J.|
|Bodkin, J. J.||Collier, J.|
|Bramston, T. W.||Corry, hon. H.|
|Bridgeman, H.||Dalrymple, Sir A.|
|Briscoe, J. I.||Eastnor, Viscount|
|Egerton, Lord F.||Norreys, Sir D. J.|
|Elliot, hon. J. E.||O'Brien, W. S.|
|Ellice, Captain A.||Palmerston, Viscount|
|Ferguson, Sir R.||Parnell, rt. hn. Sir H.|
|Gordon, R.||Pechell, Captain|
|Goulburn, rt. hn. H.||Pinney, W.|
|Harcourt, G. G.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Heathcoat, J.||Power, J.|
|Hector, C. J.||Price, Sir R.|
|Hepburn, Sir T. B.||Roche, W.|
|Hobhouse, T. B.||Rose rt. hn. Sir G.|
|Hollond, R.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Horsman, E.||Rutherfurd, rt. hn. A.|
|Hoskins, K.||Seale, Sir J. H.|
|Howard, hn. E. G. G.||Sheil, rt. hn. R. L.|
|Howard, P. H.||Smith, R. V.|
|James, W.||Somers, J. P.|
|Jermyn, Earl||Stansfield, W. R. C.|
|Johnstone, H.||Stock, Sergeant|
|Kemble, H.||Style, Sir C.|
|Knatchbull, rt. hon. Sir E.||Tufnell, H.|
|Langdale, hon. C.||Verney, Sir H.|
|Lennox, Lord G.||Vivian, Major C.|
|Macaulay, rt. hn. T. B.||While, A.|
|Mackenzie, W. F.||White, L.|
|Maule, hon. F.||While, S.|
|Maunsell, T. P.||Winnigton, Sir T. E.|
|Melgund, Viscount||Wood, C.|
|Morris, D.||Wood, B.|
|Muskett, G. A.||TELLERS.|
|Nagle, Sir R.||O'Ferrall, More|
|Nicholl, J.||Dalmeny, Lord|
|List of the NOES.|
|Dick, Q.||Turner, W.|
|D'Israeli, B.||Wakley, T.|
|Hamilton, Lord C.||TELLERS.|
|Johnston, General||Hume, J.|
|Marsland, H.||Sibthorp, Colonel|
§ The next vote was 1,443,711l. for wages to seamen and marines.
said, that however willing he might be to give the Board of Admiralty credit for their tardy exertions, he could not agree with the hon. Member who moved the estimates, in thinking either that a justification of the naval policy of the Government, or a refutation of the exceptions which were taken to it, was to be found in the successful results of the recent operations on the coast of Syria. He denied that they had ever doubted that the navy, whenever it might be called into action, would do its duty. What they had doubted was whether the Government in its administration of the navy was doing its duty. They maintained that it was not. It would be in the recollection of the committee, that during the discussions on the state of the 1194 navy in 1839, the part of the naval policy of the Government to which the strongest objection had been raised, was the defenceless condition in which the shores of England had been left, at a time when our foreign relations were not such as to warrant any great confidence in the continuance of peace. They were assured, however, by the noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign Affairs, that there was nothing in the relations between this country and Russia to justify an opinion that we were in a state in which a rupture with Russia was likely to arise. Within three months of the time when they had received this pacific assurance circumstances occurred in the east which caused great uneasiness in the minds of her Majesty's Ministers, lest they should lead to the occupation of Constantinople by the forces of Russia, in fulfilment of the engagement which that power had contracted with the Porte in the treaty of Unkiar 'Skelessi, and they had learned from disclosures lately made in the French Chambers and elsewhere, that on this contingency arising a combined English and French fleet was to have appeared off Constantinople, and to have insisted at the cannon's mouth on the immediate withdrawal of the Russian forces. He asked could any greater provocation have been offered to Russia than this? And were any preparations made against an attack from Russia in case she had resented it? Absolutely none; although it was the opinion of one Member at least of the Cabinet, that war would have resulted from it. He must say, that in the whole of these proceedings her Majesty's Ministers appeared to have shown a most culpable indifference to the consequences which might have resulted from their policy, and he thought that our naval preparations in 1839, with reference at least to the defence of our own shores, were by no means adapted to what they now knew to have been the state of our foreign relations at that period. It was obviously impossible to foresee with any degree of certainty, at the commencement of the year, what amount of force might be required before its conclusion for the protection of British interests, or the furtherance of British policy on given stations. At the commencement of the last Session of Parliament, the unanimity and concord which subsisted among the great powers was announced in the Speech from the 1195 Throne; but before the conclusion of the Session that unanimity and concord were at an end, and France was threatening to oppose by force the execution of the treaty into which the other powers had entered for the settlement of the Eastern question. The English squadron in the Mediterranean, which at the former period had consisted of fourteen sail-of-the line, had at the latter been reduced (for what reason her Majesty's Ministers might perhaps be able to explain) to twelve sail-of-the-line, a force very inferior to that of France on the same station in ships, and still more so in guns and men. Indeed, it could not be denied by her Majesty's Ministers, that they participated in the general apprehensions that were entertained of French intervention in favour of the Pasha of Egypt, for the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies, in moving the thanks of the House to Sir R. Stopford, very properly observed, that in the state of Europe during the time that he was acting on the coast of Syria, the appearances of peace being disturbed were so alarming, that it was not sufficient he should consider he had no enemy to deal with but the Pasha of Egypt, but that it was necessary he should also consider that there was a chance of the contingency arising of a great European power sending its fleet to the assistance of the Pasha. The noble Lord thus admitted, that the interference of France was a contingency against which it was necessary to provide. Under these circumstances, it was obviously of the very last importance, that reinforcements should be sent out to Sir R. Stopford with the least possible delay. But whence were ships to be obtained? The time was, during a period too of profound peace, when Sir G. Cockburn was at the Admiralty, that twelve ships-of-the-line could be sent to sea on three days' notice. But the system under which that proof of vigour and of preparation had been displayed to the world had long been abandoned. There were, indeed in our ports two ships-of-the-line, the Vanguard and the Rodney, fitting to supply the vacancies they had themselves made in the Mediterranean fleet; but, although every exertion was made to expedite their equipment with the least possible delay, and although one of them had been commissioned upwards of three months, and the other upwards of two months, before the signing of the treaty of July, their ser- 1196 vices were not available to Sir R. Stopford until upwards of three months after the signing of the treaty, as they could not be got ready so as to arrive on the coast of Syria till towards the end of October, only a few days before the bombardment of Acre, the concluding act of the naval operations on that coast. The result of this wretched system, to object to which, in the opinion of the noble Lord at the head of the Admiralty, as he had staled elsewhere, was faction and calumny, was, that the English squadron in the Mediterranean was left exposed during the whole of the time it was acting on the coast of Syria to an attack from a superior French force, for which the noble Lord said, it was necessary it should be prepared, neither the Howe nor the Britannia having joined Sir R. Stopford until two months after all the operations and all apprehensions of French intervention were alike at an end, when he was resting in security after his dangers and his triumphs in Marmorice Bay. He believed these were the three principal objections which had been made to the naval policy of the Government; the inadequacy of the complements; the suspension of building ships of the larger class; and the defenceless state of the shores of England; and the hon. Member would show more ingenuity than he was disposed to give him credit for, if he would point out in what respect they had been refuted by the recent events on the coast of Syria. He had no objection whatever to make to the estimates now before the House, certainly not on the ground of their being too large. On, the contrary, when it was considered, that a large section of the naval force of the country, between 3,000 and 4,000 men, was absorbed in the operations on the coast of China, which did not seem likely to be brought to a very speedy conclusion, and that the armaments of neighbouring nations were on a scale of unusual magnitude, he doubted whether the number of men, for which a vote was now asked would prove sufficient to meet all the exigencies of the public service. Her Majesty's Ministers ought, however, to be the best judges on this point, from their better acquaintance with the state of our foreign relations: but he must confess, that the little confidence he had even had in them in this respect had been shaken by the experience of the last two years.
Lord G. Lennox
hoped the Government meant to take some measures for putting the privates and non-commissioned officers of marines on the same footing with the rest of her Majesty's troops. A British soldier who served for ten years in the West-Indies was allowed for it fifteen years in his pension, and when he came back, and spent ten years in England, he received his pension for twenty-five years. But ten years' service of a marine in the West-Indies only counted for ten years, and ten years at home for five years; so that, for the same length of service for which the soldier received twenty-five years' pension, the marine only received fifteen years' pension. A good drill-sergeant, who was kept at home, must serve forty years for a twenty years' pension. He did not think the marine officers had received promotion commensurate with their services in the late brilliant transactions in Syria. Seventy-six naval officers had been promoted, and only three officers of marines out of forty. If something were not done to remove the odious distinctions between the marines and the soldiers, he should take the sense of the House on the subject after Easter.
§ Captain Pechell
said, it had been asserted that Admiral Stopford had been left without sufficient force, and that our coast had been left defenceless. But these assertions had been completely answered both in that House and elsewhere. It had been stated in the other House of Parliament, that after twenty-four years of peace, the naval officers of this country were not equal in efficiency to those of France, and that even if they were, there was not that affection and attachment towards the Government which would induce them, if called upon, to engage in action. He was confident that there was no officer who had any such feeling. The late events had clearly shown, that whenever they were called upon to serve their country, their deeds would be such as had ever distinguished the navy of England. He believed, that at no time was the navy in a more prosperous condition, or under better discipline. The attention which had been bestowed on the naval artillery had greatly increased its efficiency. He had himself differed from the Admiralty on many occasions as to minor details; but their general management he cordially approved. The possibility of an engagement with the French fleet had been spoken of, 1198 but where was the French fleet? They had retired to Toulon, because, according to the statement of M. Thiers, they had not proper armaments. The results of the late proceedings had proved the attention paid by the Admiralty to the state of the navy. In fact the French, on all occasions when they had been in the presence of English ships, had expressed their admiration of the skill and ability of our officers and seamen, and this sentiment was not confined to that nation, but was common all over the world. It had been asserted, that the Britannia and Howe were sent out to take part in the naval engagements on the coast of Syria. He maintained, that the Britannia and Howe had merely been sent out as relief ships; and he trusted, in conclusion, the hon. Gentlemen would be ready to second him when he came down to the House with a motion for a reward to the brave men engaged at the siege of Acre.
bore testimony to the admirable precision in gunnery evinced in the late transaction. He believed the science of gunnery was in a state of perfection, such as it had never reached before. He would not say a word in defence of the skill or valour of our naval forces, because they had never been attacked. But he was not satisfied with the manning of the navy. He did not think the Mediterranean fleet was manned as it ought to be, or that it could be fairly matched against a French fleet with war complements; for he had yet to learn that the fleet in the Mediterranean had war complements. He thought no ship of war ought to leave a British port unless perfectly manned, and competent to meet a ship of war of any other nation.
§ Mr. A. Chapman
was willing to vote any sum which might be necessary to make the navy efficient. In the late affair the fleet had done its duty. It had done all that was required of it. He could not help giving credit to the Admiralty for having been able to do without the terrible expedient of impressment. He believed that at no former time had so large a number of line-of-battle ships been afloat without recourse having been had to impressment, which was so revolting in itself, and so great an interference with the merchant service.
§ Lord Francis Egerton
thought that the subject adverted to by the hon. Member for Bristol (Captain Berkeley) was 1199 worthy of the utmost attention of the Admiralty. He should mention a fact which bore upon the subject. He had seen the French vessel Montebello in the harbour of Smyrna, she carried 130 guns, and was the largest in the French navy. She did not throw a heavier broadside than the Princess Charlotte, but he was told she had on board 1,113 men. He would leave it to the Admiralty to remember how many men the Princess Charlotte had on board. He did not think the proceedings in Syria decisive as to the competency of the fleet to resist a French fleet in the Mediterranean. At Acre the ships had thrown but one broadside. If there had been an engagement with the French fleet he had no doubt Admiral Stopford's ship would have been placed —in a position similar to that of the Victory at Trafalgar—between two of the heaviest enemy's ships he could select. In such a case the trial might have been very severe. He begged it to be understood that he meant no attack upon the Admiralty. He had spoken on a former occasion of the skill in gunnery shown in her Majesty's service, and had mentioned three officers as the persons to whom improvements were owing. Another officer who was concerned in producing the effect had, with some justice, considered himself aggrieved in not being mentioned. He had ascertained that the claim of this gentleman was perfectly well founded. He believed that Sir Howard Douglas had first brought the subject scientifically forward, and Captain George Smith had reduced it to practice under Lord Melville. Captain Smith had been posted by the Government of the day, as a mark of the estimation in which they held his services.
§ Captain A'Court
said, the discussions on the navy had been of great benefit to the service. He trusted that now, when war was appearing on every side, the full war complements of the ships would be made up. He did not think the success at Acre a proof of the power of the fleet to meet an engagement, because they were at anchor, and had only one broadside to be attended to.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, that whether in or out of office, he had always protested against questions like this being raised and brought under discussion, which could not produce any effects excepting such as were likely to lead to discontent and in- 1200 subordination, and he did not think that unprofessional Gentlemen in that House were very fit judges what precise number of men were required to man a ship of the line or a frigate. It had been always the practice in times of peace to send ships to sea with less men in them than in time of war, and this the Admiralty had done, in accordance with that principle, and not from any parsimonious spirit. Various charges had before been brought forward against the navy, and it was alleged, that it was in such a state as was most discreditable; but he thought, that notwithstanding all those attacks, it had been found, that the navy was, when put to the proof, in a most efficient and creditable condition. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had indeed, been pleased to say, that all the good that had been done was attributable to themselves—that it was their attacks that urged the Admiralty to place it in its present efficient state; that, in truth, all the good that had been done, was owing to their exertions. He did not understand this. He did not know how the increase of men, in 1836, was to be attributed to the objurgations of 1838, or the building of ships, in 1837, to the attacks that had been made in 1839. The noble Lord, the Member for West Sussex, had made an objection to the effect, that the marines did not get their discharge and pension after the period of twenty-one years, unless they had served the whole of that time at sea, and he compared such a service with that of the soldier. He protested against the practice of drawing an invidious comparison between the two branches of the service. It only led to wrong conclusions, if insulated parts of a case were stated. The noble Lord had omitted the fact, that the marine actually received a higher pension than the soldier, and the noble Lord did not appear to know, that the seaman and marine were both entitled to claim their discharge at a certain period, which was not the case with the soldier. As a matter of favour, and not as a matter of right, the soldier in the army might get his discharge at a particular period, he believed about twenty-four years in the infantry of the line, or twenty-seven years in the cavalry. After twenty-one years, as a matter of right, the marine and seaman could claim their discharge, but as the marine's service was continuous, and the seaman's seldom was, unless some such regulation as that of which the noble Lord complained was made, the ma- 1201 rine would enjoy an advantage over the sailor which never was intended.
Lord G. Lennox
hoped that the House would agree with him, that it was most unfair to put the marine upon the same footing as the sailor, who was not required to perform the same extent of duties. It was an undoubted fact that for the late affair of Syria, there were seventy six officers promoted, and only three marines. He thought this was very unfair dealing towards the latter, who should have been put upon the same footing as the officers. He would, however, give an opportunity to every Member of that House at some future period, to give his opinion upon this subject of the treatment of the marines, when it was his intention to bring the question before the House.
§ Mr. Plumptre
said, in answer to an observation which had fallen from the hon. Member for Halifax, he thought that this was a very proper subject to discuss in that House, and he considered that every country Gentleman in it had a perfect right to express his opinion upon the state of the navy, if he thought it necessary to do so. He was of opinion that the navy was not in as efficient a state as it might be.
§ Mr. C. Wood,
in reply to the last Speaker, said he did not mean to circumscribe any hon. Member's right to address the House upon a naval subject although he might be a civilian. At the same time he could not refrain from saying, that the practice, which but too frequently was followed within those walls, of denouncing the conduct of the Admiralty without hon. Members having the means of forming a practical opinion or having even had any nautical experience, must have a prejudicial effect upon the service generally, and possibly might produce insubordination aboard our vessels of war.
§ Sir C. Adam
said, that it gave him pleasure to find that the habit which had prevailed during the last Session of impugning the conduct of the Admiralty for placing the naval force of the country in an inefficient state of equipment had been disused on the present occasion. It had been a matter of astonishment to all persons cognizant in naval affairs, that so much should have been done by the British fleet on the coasts of Syria, with the means that had been granted to Admiral Sir Robert Stopford. That gallant officer himself had stated the same thing in his 1202 despatches home, but he did not seem to regret that the most of the ships under his command were, as to the complement of men, upon a peace quota, or as it was termed generally a peace establishment. There were in that fleet seventeen sail of the line, and upon examination of the complement of men on board those vessels, it would appear the crews of those vessels were as much as 1,600 short of their war complement. There had been at one time sent out 1,200 or 1,300 disposable marines to make good any deficiency upon emergency. In this way provision was made for all contingencies without impairing the effectiveness of our mercantile marine. The gallant admiral out there had felt the impropriety of drawing upon our mercantile marine for sailors, when the present complement of our men of war had been proved adequate to the discharge of all the required duty. There was always a difficulty in manning a fleet to its full complement from a peace establishment—a sailor was not made in a year. The great object was to procure a competent number of really good men, which though inferior in number rendered the vessel more effective and formidable than a crew more numerous and partly composed of inexperienced men. He held in his hands returns by which, if the House thought necessary, he could prove that many of the crews of the ships of the line engaged in the battles of Trafalgar and the Nile, though in time of a general war, were not greater in amount of men than the crews of vessels under the command of Sir Robert Stopford upon a peace establishment. In reply to the assertion that the scale of promotion had not been proportionate to the professional services and merit of the officers lately engaged in the Mediterranean, he would observe, that there had not been an instance of an officer who had been returned as having distinguished himself in the actions at Acre or other places in Syria failing to obtain a step of brevet rank. When he first came into office he recollected that the men in the dockyards had been reduced in the proportion of 100 out of every 600; that the days of labour in the yards, too, had been reduced from six days to five days per week; that there was a great want of small vessels, and hardly any war-steamers; and that the former Government had been obliged to launch all the large vessels of war. All this had been altered since. 1203 The number of men had been increased to more than their former complement in the several yards—they worked six days and sometimes even more a week. The Admiralty had set itself to procure a competent number of small vessels of war, and steamers of great efficiency, and had got several large men-of-war in a state of preparation on the stocks, where they preferred they should continue, as it was found they deteriorated less than if afloat. To talk of our shores being unprotected, displayed, in his opinion, ignorance of the subject. Was it to be expected that they should have in such a time a fleet in the channel when they had so large and so effective a fleet in those seas where alone there could be expected to be occasion for an imposing force, or were not the ships daily arriving from foreign stations and those in the port of Lisbon not available to protect our ports from insult or danger? He assured the hon. Member opposite, that he had taken an exaggerated estimate of the strength and efficiency of the French navy on those coasts. He believed the French could not compete with our navy in the Mediterranean. There were now twenty-six British line of battle ships in commission and afloat, and fifteen of various classes ready to be put in commission immediately, if occasion required. With such a force he considered the naval defence of the country was perfectly adequate to all possible emergencies.
§ Sir T. Cochrane
said, that the plan formerly adopted of arming vessels en flute —that was with a short number of guns, but an adequate number of hands to work those guns—was a plan quite consistent with the efficiency of the ships for the purposes on which they were employed. But the plan more recently adopted of putting all the guns in, but without the proper number of hands to work them, was not so proper, He thought that the attacks and taunts of late years made against Government on account of their neglect of the navy, though much complained of, had produced beneficial results. He did not think that the Admiralty would have made the exertions which they had, particularly in the department of stores, as shown by the returns since the year 1836, if attention had not been called to the subject by Parliament.
§ Mr. Maunsell
said, the Board of Admiralty were entitled to great credit for the exertions used in fitting out ships to rein- 1204 force Sir A. Stopford, and that having witnessed those exertions at Plymouth, he felt that in common justice, he was bound to say so.
§ Captain Pechell
contended that the dockyards were fitly and properly supplied, but it was not good policy to keep a large quantity of stores on hand.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, that whereas there were eleven ships of the line in 1835, there were twenty in 1837. The increase of stores likewise had been gradual since the year 1835.
§ Mr. Hume
objected to the proposed increase in the number of seamen. If 35,000 men had been sufficient for the purposes required of them last year, what extraordinary occasion was there looked for in the coming year for an additional naval force? He would move, as an amendment, that the proposed vole be reduced from 43,000 men to 35,651, the number last year agreed to; and unless he heard some very satisfactory explanation from some of her Majesty's Ministers on the subject, he should press his amendment to a division.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that although the naval force, of the country, last year, was sufficient for all the operations in Syria which the Government had undertaken, it did not follow that if other naval countries were found to be greatly increasing their naval forces, it would not be incumbent upon this country also at least to put her force upon an equal footing with those of surrounding nations. He was quite aware that there was no better or more necessary security which this country could have for the continuance of peace, than to put its navy on an equal footing with that of any other country which, under other circumstances, might be tempted by a momentary superiority, to take steps which, if unprovided for by this country, might prove highly inconvenient.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ Several other votes were passed.
§ House resumed.
§ Sir J. Graham
replied, that it had greatly exceeded his expectations. The main object he had in view was, to insure constant employment in the merchant service of a large number of apprentices. When the act was introduced, the number so employed was only about 5,000, which by that act was raised to 13,000; but, so far from that number being strictly adhered to, he believed it was, at present, upwards of 22,000. He could not say the exact number; but, perhaps, the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Admiralty, who had access to authentic documents, would.
§ Mr. M. O'Ferrall
said, that from July to December, 1840, the number of apprentices employed in the merchant service was 28,506, and that the number now upon the registry was 25,230. Then, with regard to that part of the act which related to registered seamen, in 1835, when the act passed, the number of the ships of Great Britain was 25,511; the tonnage 2,783,000; and the number of men belonging to the merchant navy, 171,021. In 1839, the number of ships was raised to upwards of 27,000, the tonnage to 3,168,000, and the number of men to 191,283; so that, not only was the tonnage and the number of ships on the increase, but the number of men also, and in a still greater proportion.
§ Vote agreed to.