§ Mr. Sidney Herbert,
in rising to bring forward the Estimates for the Navy for the ensuing year, would ask the committee, without any affectation, to bear with him while he stated as concisely as he could, the items he should propose, and grant him their indulgence on the occasion of this, his first official statement. He believed that he should consult the convenience of the House by not going into every detail of that estimate at present, but by merely giving to the House a general view of the differences which appeared upon a comparison of the estimate for the present year with that for the last, and by explaining the cause of increase or decrease under any particular head, reserving the minor alterations for observation, as they came before the House in the committee. As to the first head, the vote for the number of seamen for the year, the House would see that it was not proposed by her Majesty's Government to make any alteration in the number of men, which they thought requisite for this year's service. As to the appropriation of those men, however, there would be some alteration; because, in pursuance of the opinion of many eminent officers, it had been resolved that no ships should leave this country, except with a full complement of men. But, as only the same number of men were to be employed, it necessarily followed that there must' be a smaller number of ships. However, he felt confident that the reduction in the number of the ships, there being no reduction in the number of the men, would not render the navy less efficient. It was 70 generally believed that the result of that alteration would be, that those ships which we sent out in that efficient state to preserve peace in the world would render war more dangerous for our enemies than before, when we had a greater number of ships less efficiently manned. As to the second head, which was "Victuals for Seamen and Marines," there was a small diminution, owing to the decrease in the price of provisions. It was not worth while to enumerate to the House the decrease in the particular items of provisions; the result was, that the estimate for the present year under that head was 34,774l. less than the vote for the last year. On the Admiralty-office there was no further alteration than necessarily arose from the fluctuations in the superannuated allowances, or from promotions and increased salaries. Those alterations produced this year a small decrease of 395l. As to the Registry-office there was no difference at all; but when they came to that head in the committee, he should be enabled to give the House some information which it would receive with satisfaction as to the increase of our mercantile marine, showing that the increase in her Majesty's service, though that must, in a great measure, depend upon our mercantile navy, had, nevertheless, not been made at the expense of the mercantile navy, but that there had been a large collateral increase in both. There was a small increase of 2,347l. in the next head; the scientific department, which was caused by additional surveys required at home and on foreign stations; by the great increase in the expense of chronometers, and by considerable additional expense incurred in printing scientific works, and copies of observations at Greenwich, and the Cape of Good Hope; and from what he had observed of the treatment which that head of the estimates had generally met with in that House, he was inclined to think that the House of Commons would never begrudge a trifling increase of expenditure for the purpose of advancing scientific objects; but instead of quarrelling with such increase of expenditure, would rejoice at such an employment of the public money. In the establishments at home there was a small decrease; but the separate items in which that decrease occurred were so minute and trifling as to be quite unimportant, except when they were going through the estimates in detail. For the establishments abroad there was an increase in the present estimate of about 1,000l. 71 At Malta there had been a considerable increase of expense owing to the formation of a new dock, which had been considered desirable, in order to exempt the fleet from the inconvenience, delay, and expense of sending all ships in the Mediterranean home for repairs. With regard to the next head, that of wages at home, there was a decrease in the present estimate, compared with that of last year, of about 8,000l.; and for wages in her Majesty's establishments abroad there was an increase of 4,030l.; one item of which increase was a sum of 1,900l., occasioned by buildings which had been carried on in the naval yards in Canada. Under the head of naval stores there was a slight decrease, not from any diminution in the quantity of stores, but from the diminution in the price of certain articles coming under that head; and he might safely say, that there never had been a year when the navy was so well supplied with stores at the same expenditure; and, in so saying, he was not arrogating any merit to the present Government; for when the present Government came into power, they had found the naval stores, timber, &c., in a more complete state of supply than had existed for some years previously. On the item under that head for the purchase and repair of steam machinery, there was an apparent diminution; but the cause was, that of the amount taken for repairs last year a large sum had remained unexpended, and not that there had been any diminution in the demand for steam machinery for the navy; on the contrary, tenders had been recently accepted for six pair of first class engines. The next head on which he had any remark to make was that of new works, in which there was very little difference between the estimates of this year and that of last year; but the principal items on which the difference arose were these; for the completion of a new basin at Woolwich, which should allow steam vessels to come alongside the wharf, a very considerable expenditure was necessary, no less than 16,775l.; there was also a large sum requisite for the purpose of providing better means to prevent fire in our dockyards; and the sum contained in that estimate on that account was 15,000l. In aid of the same object there was also on the storekeeper's estimate 10,000l.; and the Government had taken upon themselves, after consultation, on their own responsibility, to employ 10,000l. of the surplus remaining unexpended out of the vote of last year 72 for steam machinery, for the purpose of providing means for the more speedy extinction of fires in our dockyards. That object had occasioned the necessity for laying down pipes, and erecting tanks to hold several tons of water, the expense of which was great, but the Government had thought that such expenditure was good economy. Having had recently the warning of two fires in their dockyards, though one of them; was speedily suppressed; and having also had the experience of great public losses elsewhere occasioned by fire, they felt that they ought not to allow our dockyards, full of combustible materials, to remain any longer in an insecure state. From the great rarity of such an occurrence, a feeling of neglect on that subject had been engendered, and the keepers of the dockyards I had almost forgotten where the cocks and water pipes were. If a fire had occurred under such a state of things, it would probably have destroyed everything before the cocks and the water pipes could have been disencumbered from the stacks of timber which had been piled against them. The whole expense would amount to 15,000l.; but though the expenditure was large at the moment, he was sure that the House would consider the Government not only justified in proposing a large estimate, but in having already, on their own responsibility, applied a surplus unexpended in their hands to that purpose. Further, there was a large sum required for additional anchor-fires, and there was an additional slip to be built at Portsmouth, which involved considerable expense, because the soil had been gradually forcing the sea-wall out of the perpendicular, and it became necessary that that should be repaired. He was sure that the House would gladly accede to such a vote, because it was the decided opinion of those who were best acquainted with the matter, that ships would last much longer if they were left on the slips than if they were allowed to remain in stagnant water; and he proposed, therefore, if the House would allow him, to multiply these slips, in order that the vessels of this country might be kept in a state of efficiency until they were required. There was a small increase under the head of the medical department, amounting to 5,150l., which was explained by the great expenditure occasioned by the treatment of the sick in China. The estimate was vague, because they could not have full information from China on that subject; and it was large, because they had 73 to pay not only for the year they were about to meet, but for a portion of that which had passed; and in China a great quantity of medical stores had been consumed. On the miscellaneous services for this year there was a decrease of about 7,000l., occasioned by the fluctuations necessarily occurring under that head. Under the head of half-pay, there was a decrease of 11,824.; under that of freight on account of the Army and Ordnance Departments an increase of 44,138l. No. 19 was a new head, "The Post Office Department (Contract Packet Service)." It had been thought by the Board of Admiralty, that it was better, when any item of expenditure became large, that it should stand out as a distinct head for the information of the public. Under that head there was an increase of 20,000l. on the Halifax mail contract; that vote had been sanctioned by the last Government, and was highly approved by the present; indeed, it was impossible to observe the manner in which that contract had been carried out by Mr. Cunard without seeing that it must be attended with great benefit. The only other material difference under that head related to the contract for the conveyance of mails by steam-vessels to and from the West Indies, as to which they proposed a vote of 240,000l. instead of 80,000l., the estimate of last year. Nothing could be more satisfactory than the manner in which that contract had been executed; the contract came into force, not on the 1st of December last, but on the 1st of January this year. He did not pretend to say that the present routes were certainly the best, it was at present quite an experiment; and he thought that the Government was justified in giving to persons who carried on the plan in so spirited a manner every indulgence and encouragement. They had not, therefore, restricted those parties to the strict letter of their contract. A few months experience would show what ports were the best to touch at, and the routes of the steam-vessels would be regulated accordingly. From the manner in which that contract had been hitherto conducted, he entertained a sanguine expectation that it would be productive of the most beneficial effects, both to the colonies and the mother country. He was sure that no expense had been, or would be, spared to carry out the scheme. Indeed, he had almost said that the expenditure had been reckless. That concluded the heads of the estimate for the present year, and he would 74 not trouble the House with much further observation; but he thought it right to point out to them how much of what was voted in the navy estimates was voted for other departments of the public service. He thought it right that public attention should be called to the fact, that though they were called upon, in point of form, to vote 6,739,318l. for the service of the navy, yet they were not voting that entirely for the navy, but a portion of it for other branches of the public service. He had had a return of the whole expenditure to which the naval service was subjected on account of the other departments of the Government. The expenditure on account of the Post-office was, last year, nearly 640,000l.; on account of the army and ordnance, 270,000l.; on account of the Home Department, 109,000l. He would now only say, in conclusion, that the estimates had been framed studiously with a view to the greatest economy which the efficiency of the public service would permit; and injustice to their predecessors in office he would most candidly say, that they had found nothing of any moment which could possibly be reduced. At the same time, he trusted that that feeling of economy which sometimes prevailed so strongly in that House would not lead it to object to an estimate which was certainly large at a time when, excepting in India, this country was at peace. He looked with confidence to no objection being made to these estimates, because he had observed that that house had always shown great favour towards any proposition which was calculated to increase that branch of our service, as the great national arm of our strength. The hon. Member then proposed the first resolution:—That 43,000 men be employed in the naval service of her Majesty for the year 1842–43—including 10,500 Royal Marines.
§ Sir Charles Napier
said, that he had no intention of opposing the estimates they had just heard. He trusted that the grounds on which Government had determined to reduce the number of ships in commission would prove to be good, but he rejoiced that the Admiralty had at last determined that no ship of war should leave a British port without her full complement of men; and then, let there come what service there might, there would be no fear of their being found unprepared or unfit for it. It had been the opinion of many officers that five sail of the line not fully manned were pre- 75 ferable to four sail with a full complement. In this opinion he did not agree. In such cases, if any sudden emergency should arise, it would be impossible to man the ships fully in time to meet it. Last year, on the coast of Syria, they had an example of what might have been the consequences of the system of partially manned vessels. There was then every prospect of a war with France. The ships were ill-manned, and it would have been impossible for Government, in the event of hostilities actually taking place, to send out men to make up efficient complements. Under these circumstances, if a well-manned French fleet had appeared, it was difficult to say what the consequences might have been; but if, in addition to this, a hostile fleet had made its appearance when the partial complements were weakened still more by sickness, it was most probable that defeat would have ensued; he trusted, however, that they had now seen the last days of half-manned ships. It had been stated that the French had twenty sail of the line in commission, eight at sea, eight in harbour, and four in the different roads. He did not know what the system might be with regard to the complements of the vessels in harbour, but the twelve sail of the line kept at sea and in roadsteads were well-manned and most efficiently disciplined. As to the proposed reduction of six sail of the line, it was to be done on Government responsibility. With respect to the Admiralty-office, it was an establishment which he did not much like, but when it came before the House regularly he would explain his views with regard to it. With respect to the officers employed in the navy, it was well known that a great proportion of them had attained such a great age as to render them only fit for superannuation. With respect to admirals, the greater part if sent to sea, would require nurses to take care of them. As to rear-admirals, the case was as bad, they were nearly all upwards of seventy years of age. And although his gallant Friend, who was now proceeding to the Mediterranean, and who was upwards of seventy-two years of age, might be competent to serve in time of peace, yet he thought that it was a physical impossibility that he could do the same good service in the event of a war. Of the captains promoted at the last promotion, only half a dozen were under sixty years of age. Was that a proper system? He took this opportunity of making some observations on the injustice done to the navy at the last promotion. He did not wish to bring down 76 the army to the level of the navy, but to raise the navy to the level of the army. The hon. and gallant Member compared the number of promotions in the two services, and complained that the promotions in the navy were small as compared with those in the army. He was at a loss to understand the reason of this difference. It was generally supposed that the expense of an admiral was greater than that of a general, but he would show that this notion was erroneous. The cost to the country of a colonel becoming a general was 199l. 15s., that being the difference of pay. The difference of cost occasioned by a captain being promoted to admiral was 191l. 12s. 6d. Before the last promotion, the expense occasioned to the country on account of the flag-officers was 95,000l. a year; and after the promotion 105,000l. The expense of generals before the promotion was 85,000l., and 98,000l. a year after. But this was not all the cost of the generals} for each general was supposed to have 1,000l. as colonel of a regiment, and, reckoning 130 regiments, an additional expense was thereby incurred of 130,000l. He would now endeavour to show that the employment of old admirals had never succeeded. On going back to Rodney, he found that he was seventy years old when he fought his action, which was not considered a good one. At that time he was labouring under a fit of the gout, and was consequently incapable of any great activity. When Lord Howe fought the action of the 1st of June, he was sixty-eight or seventy years of age, and had been three days and nights subjected to the greatest bodily fatigue and mental excitement. In that action eight or ten ships escaped under sprit-sails when it was not renewed. Sir R. Calder was an old man when he was engaged in action, and only two sail of the line, instead of fifteen, were taken. With respect to Lord Hotham, he thought his actions had been bungling because they were fought by an old man. With regard to Nelson, he was of opinion that the country was indebted for his gallant deeds more to his youth than his particular ability; and if all our admirals had been as young, they would have given the same account of the enemy. Lord Nelson was an admiral when thirty-six or thirty-seven years old; he fought the battle of the Nile when he was thirty-nine, the action of Copenhagen when forty-two; and he was killed when forty-seven years old. He had the authority of Sir T. Hardy for 77 saying that had Nelson been sixty years old when he fought the battle of the Nile, and sixty-six when he fought the battle of Trafalgar, neither of those actions would have been fought in the manner they were. Lord Duncan, after commanding a mutinous fleet, attacked the enemy, and gained a glorious victory. Lord Duncan was sixty-eight years old, but he proved an exception to the rule, that age unfitted men for active and daring enterprizes. Sir J. Saumarez was sent, when forty-two or forty-three years of age, to Gibraltar, with a small squadron. He attacked the French fleet in a strong position, and was defeated. It was rather a new occurrence for a British naval officer to suffer defeat. In five days his fleet was refitted for service, and he sailed out, leaving one ship in port under repair. He fell in with a Spanish fleet of double his force. He attacked it. Two of the enemy's vessels were blown up, one was taken, and the rest beaten. This activity and success was attributable to his youth. He would state the remedy he proposed for the evils of the British navy; and now he supposed it would be necessary for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to use his smelling bottle. His remedy he believed would do an infinity of good, at little cost to the country. He would tell the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that it would not cost more than 10,000l. a year. He proposed, that when a captain of the navy came within a hundred of the top of the list, and was sixty years old, he should be allowed 100l. a year beside his pay, as an out-pensioner of Greenwich Hospital. He believed it would be satisfactory to the country to have an effective and non-effective list. He also proposed, that first lieutenants, who had been serving for a number of years, and bringing up the suckling babies of the aristocracy, and made commanders, should be gratified by the rank of captain, and offered 6d. a-day. He next proposed, that promotions should be made half by seniority and half by choice; or if the Admiralty were not satisfied with this, the promotions by choice might be two to one by seniority. The list of mates had been somewhat reduced, but still there was a great number, and keeping them so long in that position made them generally indolent, careless, and totally disgusted with the service. But the effect upon young men was extraordinary. He recollected the time when young men who had volunteered into the service were unwilling to 78 quit it, but now he saw nothing but disappointment among them, they looked at the condition of the old mates and became disheartened. Even if the mates were promoted as they ought to be, at the end of six years servitude, as such they would not complain; but having served six years, after passing their examination, it was very hard that they should still wait for promotion. He must next refer to the working petty officers. When they looked to the difficulty there had been for some time in getting men for the navy, as an instance of which he could say, that he had lately seen at Spithead an eighty gun ship which had been waiting for nine months for men, and the Queen had been at that moment six months waiting from the same cause, and had not yet sailed, they must see the absolute necessity, that something more should be done to induce men to enter the navy. He believed, that every gallant Officer, and indeed every hon. Gentleman, in that House, knew that the working petty officers were the most unfortunate class, for the difference of pay between able seamen and that class was not sufficient to induce the former to aspire to it. There were two classes. The second class had 2s. or 3s. a month more than an able seamen, the first class had 2s. or 3s. more than the second; but when the Duke of Clarence was First Lord of the Admiralty, and put a patch upon their arms and made officers of them, he did much good. If, however, he had put a patch upon their pay to buy that patch upon the arm, it would have done them more still. In his opinion the pay of the working petty officers of the second class should be 3l. per month, and the first clase 4l., and they should calculate twelve months to the year instead of thirteen as at present. The present mode of calculating a seamen's pay was made on a bad principle, for taking thirteen months to the year, not one sailor in fifty knew what it meant. When he was abroad, not long ago, a sailor came up and asked him whether there were more than eight months in the year; his answer was, there were thirteen: to which the sailor replied, "I can't understand it" That system, therefore, ought to be changed; and if it were, they would find greater facility in manning the navy with able-bodied men than had ever been the case before. He would then go to the right hon. Baronet's bill for manning the navy—the only thing, indeed, that had been done respecting that point for the last 79 thirty years. He highly approved of it, though it did not go far enough. It ought to go further, because, if he understood it right, in the event of a war, British seamen would be called upon to come forward and serve, three or four days' choice being allowed them to act voluntarily or submit to be pressed. We ought to make men understand that the British navy was a good profession, but at that moment British merchant seamen had the greatest horror of her Majesty's service. It was extremely difficult to propose a measure that would be effectual, but a beginning must be made. Now, there was an old act of Queen Anne, which enabled overseers of the poor to apprentice parish boys to merchant ships. He believed, that that act had never been in actual operation, but he thought it might be acted upon, and if it were, he would wish to extend it further, so that all parish boys, after serving four years in the merchant service, should be obliged to go for three years into the navy, to make a return to the country for their food, raiment, and clothing. And if the Poor-law Bill were discussed again in that House, use might be made of it, not only to assist the poor, but to provide the navy with seamen. Another article which was done by the present Government, and of which he highly approved, was restoring to the seamen their pensions, or rather allowing them to remain in the service retaining their pensions. It was, however, almost too much, and it would better if, instead of giving them pay and pension, they had raised their pay from 18l. to 30l. and called that full pay. He then came to pensioned officers, and he must say, that it was very extraordinary that an officer when he went to sea should lose his pension, for they all knew, that when he went to sea he fitted out his ship at an enormous expense, and if it were a small vessel, he absolutely got less than his half pay. Pensions for wounds were also worthy of the attention of the Government. By the Queen's regulation, when an officer received a wound equally prejudicial to the body as loss of limb, her Majesty was authorised to grant him higher pay, and her Majesty also reserved to herself power to grant any officer an annual pension if his wounds and services were deserving of it. But what had the Admiralty done? About 150 or 160 years ago, he believed in the year 1660, the Board of Admiralty made a regulation, that no officer should receive an annual pension unless his wound 80 was equal to loss of limb. Then came out the Queen's regulation, but he had never heard that the Board of Admiralty had changed their rule. He wished to make one observation to the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Admiralty. That hon. Gentleman stated, that in reducing six sail of the line they had still to man ships which required the same number of men, but he should have thought, that as four sail of the line cost less than five in matériel, there ought to be some reduction in matériel. Then again, the Government had several ships on slips, and that he thought was the best thing they had done. If there were more, it would be better and more economical for the country at large, but it was most extraordinary, that living at peace for twenty-six years they had not discovered before, that such a thing was necessary. One attempt had been made, he believed, at Deptford, and there, for what he knew, the ship remained still. There was another point to which he wished to advert. In 1835, a report got abroad, that all the masts of the British navy were rotten. A survey was made in 1836, and they were reported to be unserviceable. They were all taken out and put in the different departments; but that proved, that there must have been some very bad management somewhere. Then, again, as to the construction of ships. That belonged to the surveyor's department, and if they happened to have good surveyors, then they would generally build good ships; but if they happened to be bad, as had happened before now, then the country would have indifferent ships. The whole power was vested in one man, instead of being extended to the dock-yards and according to the talents and qualifications of that individual would be the ships which he constructed. He had often, too, a fleet of his own. Now, Sir R. Seppings had disfigured the whole of the navy under the sanction of the Board of Admiralty, for he had put to his ships the most ridiculous sterns that were ever made, and he did that in the face of the handsomest sterns that were ever seen. Instead of having eight, ten, or twelve guns able to be pointed right aft, Sir R. Seppings, having seen some Dutch dogger, he supposed, had made the ugliest sterns he ever saw, with galleries and Heaven knew what, all of which must be taken away before they could bring their guns to bear aft, and yet, notwithstanding that, handsome and useful sterns might be seen at the Admiralty 81 rooms they still went on disfiguring the British navy. In a number of ships the sterns were raked; and at that moment if they took a plumb line from the poop to the keel of the Queen they would find she was thirty-six feet longer at the taffrail than she was at the keel. It was impossible if she were chased for her to use her stern guns. He believed, however, that those sterns had been condemned, and great credit was due to the Government for ordering them to be altered. He thanked the House for their indulgence, and concluded by expressing his fear that he had detained them too long.
§ Captain Rous
said,٭ Sir, before I commence a discussion on the navy estimates, may I be permitted to express the deep sense of gratitude which all naval officers feel for that uniform kindness and anxiety to serve their interests, which this House has so invariably expressed. My mind has been impressed with that idea from my boyhood to the present hour; and I have remarked, that every exertion on your part to ameliorate our condition has been constantly frustrated by our own Admiralty officers, under every administration. Let me hope for better days. The right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government has selected four officers whom the navy hold in great respect, and he could not have made a happier choice than when he chose the hon. Member for the County Tyrone, and the hon. Secretary; although the noble first Lord must be perfectly ignorant of everything relating to the navy, still he has one qualification, a wish to benefit the profession. Sir, I have paid these unusual compliments because it is my intention to find fault with their measures before I conclude my statement. I have commanded her Majesty's ships for ten years between 1817 to 1837, it is therefore in my power to put the House in possession of facts from which they may draw their own inferences, and I think they will agree with me, that no service could have been more neglected than the navy since 1815. The first topic I shall broach is the state and condition of her Majesty's ships. From 1815 to 1827, they continued to build the ten gun brigs, called coffins; miserable corvettes, twenty-eight gun donkey frigates, and a description of small seventy-four gun ships, happily designated Forty Thieves—luckily for the country, certain*From a corrected Report.82 noblemen belonging to the Yacht Club interested themselves and persuaded the Admiralty to turn their thoughts to improvement, and the Duke of Portland, Lord Yarborough, and others, got leave for Sir William Symonds, Mr. Inman, and Admiral Hayes, to build experimental ships to compete with the surveyor, Sir John Seppings; the result was, Sir W. Symond's brigs were superior to the others, and he superseded Sir J. Seppings (who was a good shipwright, and a wretched architect), as surveyor in 1832, under the naval administration of the present right hon. Secretary for the Home Department, Sir James Graham, who distinguished himself by the abolition of the navy board. Sir W. Symonds is no doubt a good sea-man, an excellent officer, with a great genius for naval architecture, but his models were exactly those of the Greek brigs and schooners, built at Hydra and Spitzia, in the Archipelago, with great breadth of beam, and a triangular midship section; and his theory was, that these models were adapted to vessels of all sizes from a brig to a three-decker, that they should fit one class into another, like a Chinese puzzle, that was the expression (for it made a great impression on my mind). It is very competent for every person to understand, that as you increase the top weight, or the number and weight of your guns, or the size of your ship, so you must proportion ably increase the flatness of the floor below to give ease and buoyancy. The first frigates Sir W. Symonds built were the Vernon and Pique on the models of his brigs, and the principle failed, they had no flat floor to sit upon, with a fine entrance forward, and a short bluff bow, they failed against a head sea. I first commissioned the Pique in December, 1834; by the builder's calculation she was to carry above sixty tons ballast, but with four months water and provisions on board she floated a foot deeper than the builder's calculation, consequently she was uneasy, a bad sea boat, and not a good ship at her anchors; but from her great beam, an extraordinary ship to stand up under canvas; now she carries no ballast at all. In our first cruise in the Bay of Biscay, when she was in the builder's trim carrying sail against a head sea, she shipped the body of a sea which washed away her head rails, and put four feel water into her main deck, but after I lightened the 83 ship and got her two feet by the stern she was dry and easy, but this trim was not approved of by Sir W. Symonds. When the Vanguard was laid down, the eyes of the architect were opened, and he gave her a comparatively longer bow and a flatter floor, which makes her an extremely good ship when she is not overloaded. But, Sir, the greatest misfortune to the navy is the failure of many of the steam vessels. I name the Gorgon for instance, intended to carry fourteen heavy guns, and to convey 1,200 troops—if that vessel, when thus laden, should be caught in a heavy gale in the Bay, she would be swamped, and I fear, there are at least, six more vessels of the same description and class, and altogether the men-of-war steam vessels are very inferior to those built at Bristol and Liverpool. This House will naturally enquire why a large sum of money was invested in vessels not fit for her Majesty's service, without proper enquiries and precautions. I will explain it, there are many naval officers who persuade themselves that the ships they command are very superior to any others, and when a man of this description is appointed to an experimental ship, he invariably overlooks her bad qualities. In the old trials, when the Admiralty had no particular interest in the result, they were impartial, but in 1835 and 1836, it was different, because the Admiralty had sanctioned the building of ships by Sir W. Symonds to an enormous amount. In the summer of 1835, I was officially informed, that the Admiralty wished to try the merits of Castor, Pique, and Inconstant, and it was declared that the best ship of the three would be the future model for frigates of that class, this was good sense; but what happened? Before the Inconstant was launched, six more sister Piques were ordered to be built, but no more Castors or Inconstants; thus, the Admiralty, instead of being independent judges, so identified themselves with Sir W. Symonds, that they decided the race before the horses were saddled, and when the real trial came off, Inconstant won cleverly. This will explain to the House the utter impossibility of their obtaining proper information respecting the merits of ships, when the Admiralty shares the responsibility of the builder. Now, Sir, the state of the officers of her Majesty's navy is as follows:—scarcely any midshipmen; upwards of 400 mates, 84 some of whom have served nearly twenty years, and "hope deferred hath made the heart sick;" with respect to the lieutenants, commanders, captains, and admirals, the list is equally superannuated, all in their respective grades. The Admiralty has always acted upon the system of employing old officers, and the newspapers have eulogised it as a most meritorious plan; but how does it Work? You promote an active young captain, but you will not employ him because he must take his turn on the shelf; you take an old officer in his place, who has been deteriorating on shore for ten or fifteen years; in nineteen cases out of twenty this man has fogotten almost all his naval knowledge; but if you want a captain for an eighty gun ship, and 700 men, you pick out a man who has not been at sea for twenty years, who could not find his way from Portsmouth to Ushant. Now, Sir, I may talk to any sensible Gentleman in this House, of the extreme folly of fancying a man fit for a command who has been a quarter of a century on shore, and you will at once subscribe to the axiom. But there is nothing very extraordinary in old officers desiring to be employed, when you consider they have been starved and impoverished all their lives; when the pay of a captain of a British frigate is only two-thirds that of a French captain of a frigate, and one-half of that of an American captain, throwing in the advantages of outfit and table money. Captains of British frigates must spend double their income, as I can answer for from my own experience. Is it to be wondered at, that they crawl out at an advanced age, to provide for their destitute families? When the great military commission sat, in 1839, it was expected that some benefit would accrue to the navy; the junior officers certainly did receive some benefit; for lieutenants and masters, who were receiving 1s. 6d. per day, for active service, or the difference between 5s. and 6s. 6d., their pay was increased 10s. per day; but was it not a disreputable circumstance, that no Lord of the Admiralty dared to mention the fact, for I have no doubt, from my slight knowledge of the feeling of this House, you would have at once assented to have paid these officers proper and just wages. This military commission did nothing to improve the condition of the superior officers, their excuse was, that the list of officers was 85 in such a superannuated state, that they dared not meddle with it, so they merely transferred sixty yellow admirals to the active list; in order, I presume, to make that list more active; and I charge these highly distinguished officers, who formed the military commission, that they, for the first time in their lives when a serious obstacle was to be removed, turned their backs and were afraid to face the difficulty. Now, Sir, I will explain the effect of employing superannuated officers—look to your Mediterranean fleet, are they in a high state of discipline? No. Are they in the habit of manœuvring their ships together? No. Sir, I am obliged to hear, that the midshipmen of a line-of-battle ship in the Mediterranean, hoisted a flag in their boat, with a negro chained to a post, by way of explaining to the fleet, that they were not allowed to go on shore, owing to some alleged neglect of duty. And with respect to Mr. Elton, I am told that he was dismissed from a ship, commanded by my hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Gloucester, in which Commander Williams was first lieutenant, and this at once accounts for his asking for a boat to take his friend to the packet, being considered an impertinence. After the letter amounting to a challenge was sent, did not Mr. Elton refuse to make the apology which was dictated by his superior officers. It has been stated, that his apology arrived too late to suspend the court-martial; Sir, in my opinion, if his expressions of regret and repentance had been received at the eleventh hour, I would have accepted it; for what else have we to trust to in this world or in the next, but regret and repentance? But Mr. Elton was tried; it was known he must be dismissed the service, the mates and midshipmen prepared a festival to do honour to him;—the court-martial, to prevent so great a scandal, sentenced him to six months' Imprisonment. On his passage home, on board a man-of-war, owing to some expression made use of by the. captain, he followed the aged chief on the quarter-deck—that sacred places the quarter deck—and called him a liar in the most opprobrious terms. On the arrival of this ship in England, when Mr. Elton would have been released, this additional outrage caused him to be sent to the Marshalsea, but he was relieved at the end of five weeks, because the right hon. and gallant Admiral, Sir George Cockburn, 86 said the unfortunate gentleman had suffered enough. If a plain uneducated seaman had made use of that language, or if anything could have been construed into a challenge to a superior officer, he would have been at this moment bound to a penal settlement for life, or swinging at the yard-arm,—so much for even-handed justice. I declare to you, Sir, that with all the respect I entertain for this honourable House, and no man has greater, that if I was placed in the situation of first Lord, and there was a case of this kind in which a House of Commons chose to interfere, that if any doubt existed in my mind as to the severity of the sentence, instead of giving the prisoner the benefit of the doubt, I would throw that doubt into the opposite scale, and prefer to punish an individual with rigour, rather than that the discipline of her Majesty's navy should not remain intact. Do not, Sir, from this language, set me down as a great Martinet, for no man in the navy ever lived on more, intimate terms with his midshipmen; but they always knew the difference of atmosphere between the cabin and the quarter-deck. I never commanded a ship which was not full of supernumerary mid-shipmen, some older men than myself, and for ten years they never gave me any trouble, or did I ever try an officer by a court-martial in my life} but, Sir, I have a right to be proud of my midshipmen, for amongst many officers who have distinguished themselves, I will name the hon. and gallant Member for Durham, who is a better seaman and officer than his old captain. In justification of those mates and midshipmen whom I have attacked, as they may have no defenders in this House, I will extenuate their conduct. They have been ill treated, we are all governed by rewards and punishment, but to them no rewards are held out, and consequently to them punishment has no sting. Now, Sir, I have given the House the dark side of the picture, and I will throw in the rays of light. On the important art of gunnery, the navy, is efficient, to. this we are indebted, to the boa. and gallant Member for Liverpool, and to Sir John Pechell, whose views were supported by his late Majesty, and carried into effect by Sir Thomas Hastings; and you will hardly believe that Sir John Pechell was thwarted in his plans for a period of four years. If an officer had in 1812, stood up in this House and stated 87 that not one ship out of fifteen in her Majesty's service was fit to go into action, he would be denounced as the most gross libeller. Yet it was a positive fact, and when at the commencement of the American war, the wise naval authorities were explaining to this House the impossibility of a frigate mounting 18lb guns, fighting a frigate carrying 24lb guns; they were not aware that on every station, some one or two British frigates would have captured other British frigates of the same calibre in a quarter of an hour; merely because some ship's companies knew how to fight their guns, and the others were perfectly ignorant. Now, Sir, for an example, in November, 1811, I was a midshipman of an eighty gun ship, cruising off Brest, we chased the Chlorinde, a French frigate, outsailed her, fired a whole broadside at her, not a shot struck, and she escaped, owing to our main top mast being carried away, in this ship which had distinguished herself in the battle of Trafalgar with the same ship's company (and a finer crew of seamen never step a deck), not a man knew how to point a gun, because, as the gunner informed us, not a shot had been fired in practice, or in anger, since Trafalgar, or from October, 1805 to November, 1811. The next war will be very different, and I cannot pay a better compliment to British seamen, than by stating when a war was expected to take place last year, between the United States and this country, that our seamen serving on board the American men-of-war, refused to pull a trigger against their own countrymen. Now, Sir, all the evils I have enumerated may be remedied—employ naval architects to build steamers, who have already distinguished themselves, and do not throw away millions on ships until the models have been approved by competent naval architects. But, Sir, any nation can build ships, and very few can turn out good officers and seamen; the vitality of the navy depends upon improving the condition of the officers; on employing men in the vigour of life, not those whose years have been spun out beyond the ordinary age of man. I tread on sacred ground, and nothing but an imperious duty forces me to inform this House, that the Mediterranean fleet requires an active, efficient, vigorous chief. Who are you about to send to restore her Majesty's fleet to their pristine discipline? An aged Admiral, who has been nearly 88 sixty years in the navy; Sir, twenty or thirty years ago, no officer would have commanded a fleet more brilliantly. Is it not a cruel thing to force a man full of years and honour, to fill the most important command? To manœuvre the only fleet we possess? When he has a right to enjoy in private life, a comfortable retirement for his few remaining days. The excuse which the Admiralty will make is, that it is necessary for the British Admiral in the Mediterranean to be of high rank; that in cases of co-operation with a foreign flag he may assume the supreme command. It is an idle childish excuse— for an Order in Council, at any time, can give temporary or permanent rank in the event of such a co-operation being contemplated. But does the Admiralty conceive that the virtue lies in the flag, or in the vigour of the chief whose rank it proclaims. When that flag flutters in the breeze will it quicken the circulation in the veins of the aged officer? No, but in the dead calm when the flag drops, clinging to the mast, it is a sad emblem of our mortality, or when in the blast of the gale it flits aloft, it is still the same emblem that the spirit is about to flee to a better and a purer world. Sir, the responsibility of that appointment rests with the first Lord of the Admiralty. He might have been advised not to place a massive building on a ruined arch, although that arch be entwined with ivy, and crowned with laurel—it is indeed to me a most painful subject, and I mention it to impress upon this House the urgent necessity of placing our officers on a sounder footing. This is the plan I propose:—The Government to apply a sum of money annually, as a fund for purchasing out officers, to which will be added the proceeds from the following sources:Every commander promoted before he has served three years in a sea-going ship as commander,
Above 8 years to pay nothing.
If under 4 years' standing on the list, to pay £1200 If under 5 years' standing on the list, to pay 800 If under 6 years' standing on the list, to pay 550 If under 7 years' standing on the list, to pay 350 If under 8 years' standing on the list, to pay 200Every lieutenant promoted before he has served three years in a sea-going ship as a lieutenant,89
Above 8 years to pay nothing.
If under 5 years' standing in that rank, to pay £800 If under 6 years' standing in that rank, to pay 450 If under 7 years' standing in that rank, to pay 250 If under 8 years' standing in that rank, to pay 150Every mate promoted before be has completed one years' service in a sea-going ship as a mate, to pay
Above 4 years to pay nothing.
£ 600 Under 2 years 400 Under 3 Years 150 Under 4 Years 100These regulations not to affect officers promoted for distinguished services.Officers having been promoted by purchase, not to claim any ulterior benefit.Officers who have sold out to retain their rank.Captains, commanders, and lieutenants who have served more than eighteen years in any one rank, or whose total length of service exceeds forty years, to be allowed to retire on a certain allowance to be fixed by Government.Sir, the effect of this plan will be to tax the sons of those men of high rank and influence, who must and will be promoted over the heads of hundreds, and I pledge myself that no objection will be made by officers who have solely their own merit to depend upon, because they cannot be worse off than they are at present; but, in the event of my proposal being brought into operation, their chances of promotion will be doubled, and I hope the Admiralty will not continue to make the same mistakes about old officers, but will calculate their experience by the number of years they have been actually at sea as first lieutenants, and not by the time they have remained on shore. Let me remind the right hon. Baronet, the head of her Majesty's Government, that last September, when he proposed a retiring pension of 3,500l. per annum, to a retired Vice-Chancellor, he dwelt upon the sound policy of drawing an aged judge from the bench, by a comfortable remuneration, in order that the public might be served by a younger mart. I was so struck with the argument that I was induced to vote for the larger sum, although the proposed alteration of 3,000l. per annum appeared to me on the first impression to be sufficiently adequate, but that argument ought to be in stronger force when applied to old captains and admirals, inasmuch as bodily decay generally precedes the decline of mental vigour. In naval chiefs you require a strong con- 90 stitution, vigorous nerves, and a clear head, but you reverse the principle, for we bribe old admirals to go to sea, when you bribe judges to retire into private life; but the Admiralty, always lukewarm in promoting our interests, are afraid of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or of the expense; do not say that this country, you proudly boast of being the Queen of the Seas, cannot afford to pay her naval officers their just claims, for you can afford to do what is right, and you cannot afford to do what is wrong; you pay one-fifth of the rental of the land to the clergy, and magnificent salaries to your ambassadors, crown officers, and great lawyers. But in the event of war who do you rely upon? Is it on the prayers of the priests to charm the bullets? Or on the special pleading of the lawyer? No, Sir, you will again depend upon the strong arm of the soldier, and on the supple limb of the sailor, on those men who have conquered kingdoms in every part of the world, and who have brought this little island to the highest pitch of glory that any empire ever attained; the gallant chiefs who led them to victory, have, in their turns succumbed to old age and death. My object is to replace them with efficient men, who can follow in their glorious track; which object the Admiralty has not the moral courage to attempt. Sir, I am well aware that the task I have undertaken is most invidious, and that the shafts of calumny will fly round my head;—let them fly; they will pass unheeded, they will be forgotten, but the good deed may be remembered. I shall finish in the words of the old song,—Then oh! protect the British tar, Be mindful of his merit;And when again you're plung'd in war, He'll show his daring spirit.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
supposed it might be deemed a bold measure for him as one of the old officers alluded to by the young officer who had last addressed the House, with whose statements and observations though he concurred with some few of them, he far more generally dissented from, to rise for the purpose of replying to them. The hon. and gallant Member had referred particularly to the case of Mr. Elton, he should begin therefore by saying a few words upon that matter. But what he was about to say was forced from him, in consequence of the allusion 91 to the case. When the sentence of the court-martial was read at the Admiralty, there was not an officer at the Board here who did not say that he considered it a severe one. The Admiralty conceived that the court-martial must have had good grounds for the decision to which they had come, but at the same time they considered it a heavy sentence, and they made up their minds that, when the young gentleman should come home, they would not send him to prison. When, however, they heard of his improper conduct on board the Hastings, they determined not to interfere in his behalf, and he was sent to the Marshalsea to undergo his term of imprisonment. Whilst in the Marshalsea, Mr. Elton wrote a letter to the captain of the Hastings, apologising for his conduct. The Captain, in consequence, came to the Admiralty, and begged as a personal favour to himself that the remainder of Mr. Elton's punishment might be remitted. The Admiralty did not comply at once with that request, but informed the Captain that after he had undergone a month's imprisonment, the Admiralty considering that he had been dismissed from the service, also the lengthened confinement he had undergone between his sentence being pronounced and his arrest in England, also the severity of that sentence, and his month's confinement in the Marshalsea, were of opinion enough would have been done to maintain the discipline of the service, and that to have kept him longer in prison would, under the circumstances, have appeared vindictive, rather than tend to the benefit of the service. He could not concur in the observations which the hon. and gallant Officer had made upon the recent appointment to the command of the Mediterranean fleet. The gallant Admiral who had been placed in command of that station, was one of the most distinguished officers in the service. He was possessed of considerable talent, was particularly well informed upon all points bearing upon the duties of managing a fleet. It was not every young man who could manage a fleet, though, no doubt, every young man thought he could do so. Considerable knowledge and experience, and a great deal of talent were requisite for the management of a fleet. Sir E. Owen was known to possess those qualifications, and as long as he felt himself strong and fit for duty, it would ill become the Admiralty to set him aside, and tell him that he was 92 not able to act. He (Sir G. Cockburn) could not take that course, because he knew that the gallant Admiral was quite efficient, and believed that he would manage the fleet as well as any man who being much younger thought himself much more clever. If any insubordination existed in the fleet in the Mediterranean, he was persuaded that the gallant Admiral would set matters to rights there. His hon. and gallant Friend opposite, had earnestly urged the expediency of giving such allowances to old officers as would induce them to quit the service, and make room for others less under the weight of years. Upon that point, he wished to recall to the mind of a noble Lord on the other side of the House, that a suggestion of this nature had been made in the naval and military commission, and that it had been well considered, and carefully argued. It certainly was a subject that deserved consideration, but then he thought it might fairly be doubted whether the course recommended by his hon. and gallant Friend was the best that could be adopted; this was a topic, however, upon which he would not now dilate; but if there was to be any increase of the pay of the seamen, the pay of the officers ought to be advanced in a similar proportion. It had been suggested, that the pay of the seamen ought to be advanced to the extent of 12s. a month; such an advance would compel the merchant service to raise the wages of seamen higher; as much as often stated of the unpopularity of the navy, Gentlemen might depend upon it, that whatever was the pay given in the navy, the merchants service will be obliged to give more to obtain men; the question, therefore, became one of great importance—one which not only concerned the defence of the country, but the whole commerce of the country, and on that ground, if not upon any other, he thought that it well became the responsible advisers of the Crown to look at the matter very seriously, and pause before they took a step which involved consequences of the most important character. In the course of the present discussion, reference had been also made to the number of boys employed in the navy; that, as well as the other topics opened upon this occasion, formed in itself another very large question. He believed there could be no doubt that both in the merchant service and in the navy, there were more boys than were absolutely necessary; and at all times there were more boys ready to 93 go to sea than were required or could be provided for, and it was useless to bring forward more seamen than could find employment in the naval and mercantile marine, this country will always have as many seamen as you will give bread to, but with the exception of a few over for relief you will have no more, for seamen must eat like all other working men. At the close of the last war upwards of 100,000 seamen were turned adrift upon the wide world, and they were of necessity reduced to a most distressing condition; some of them became labourers in the country and some entered into foreign service; and he was sure hon. Members would agree with him when he said, that nothing should be done calculated to produce a repetition of occurrences so painful, and in all respects so disadvantageous to the public service and to the great interests of the country. Subsequently, the naval establishment was reduced to 13,000 men. It had now again, in consequence of the alarm which prevailed last year, been raised to 32,500 men. He need hardly observe that a seaman could not be called into existence at a moment's notice, and therefore it was not all at once that such an addition could be made to a force, which for some time previously had been neglected and allowed to fall into decay, and which of a sudden the nation called upon the Government to augment. [Sir C. Napier, it had been increased gradually.] Not very gradually. There had been certainly of late difficulty in obtaining men from the causes I have stated, but they have now been obtained. That object then having been accomplished, there would, as a matter of course, be a glut in the market, and the usual supply of boys would prove sufficient to keep up the establishment. He quite concurred with those who thought that there was a strong necessity for keeping up at least the number of men now employed, for, of course, in proportion to the number of men maintained during peace in the navy, would be reduced the necessity of reverting to impressment on the breaking out of war, and thereby distressing the merchant service. As to the pay of the officers, it was not fur him to make objections to any increase of their pay which the House of Commons might think advisable; but as some reference had been made to the comparative pay of the army and the navy, he must be permitted to ob- 94 serve, that the pay of a captain of a first rate in the navy amounted to 800l. a-year, while the pay of a colonel in the army did not exceed 310l.; but he did not then propose to argue the question. There was a point, however, to which he wished to direct attention. The point to which he alluded related to the petty officers of the navy, he thought them a class of men who could not be too much encouraged; they were much attached to the service, and they frequently moved about from ship to ship; they formed a very valuable and useful class, and he thought it highly desirable that they should, in all cases where promotion was deserved, be raised to the rank of warrant officers. Much had been said by other hon. Members as to the importance of having our fleets commanded by young officers; on that subject he would only observe that the House would probably recollect, that some of our most decisive naval victories had been achieved under the command of admirals for advanced in life. The next subject that he would advert to was, that of the "good service pensions," which it had been argued ought to be continued, whether the officers holding them were employed or not, but the recommendation of the Committee of the House of Commons, and the Order in Council expressly stated they should only be held whilst the officers were on half-pay, unless when held by officers whose distinguished services placed them out of all rule, such for instance as had lately been rendered by the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebonne, but if it were the opinion of the House, such persons should be held with the full pay generally, there could be no difficulty in procuring an alteration of the Order in Council to that effect. As regarded retirement, it would certainly be a valuable improvement, that all officers after a certain age should be allowed to retire on 20s. a day. One gallant officer had also spoken on the subject of enabling officers to sell their commissions. That was an old proposition of his own, but when he brought forward the proposition, the House did not seem to like the idea, and therefore he dropped it. He brought the question forward again before the military and naval commission, but he met with no disposition to encourage any plan to intro-duce into the navy the principle of buying and selling commissions. As the subject, however, had again been mentioned in the House, he thought he might again be al- 95 lowed to refer to it. In every service, and under every Government, there could be no doubt, a certain degree of interest must prevail. A man with great parliamentary interest came to a public board, and it was not always easy to resist his application. Nor was this evil without some accompanying advantages, for he felt bound to say, that it was of great advantage to the service now and then to bring forward young officers. Now, if sales of commissions were allowed, it had struck him there would be this advantage in it. There were two hundred captains on the list who were scarcely fit for service any longer, yet it would be a great expense to the country to remove them by giving them increased pay; but it would still be much to the good of the service if they could be comfortably removed from it. The management of this ought, of course, to be left entirely to the responsibility of the Admiralty. Suppose, then, a gentleman with great parliamentary interest came to the first Lord of the Admiralty, and applied to have his son or his nephew promoted. the first Lord might tell him in reply that he would put the son or nephew's name on the list for purchase, he knew of a certain number of officers desirous of going out of the service, and a sum, say of 4,000l. would prove a tempting and comfortable provision for the retiring officer to be furnished by the young officer whose parents might be able and willing so to press him forward in the service. Under such a system when an old officer of thirty years' service might be made on the same day with a comparatively young officer, the old officer would have the satisfaction of knowing that he owed his rank only to his services, while the young officer had sacrificed a large sum of money to obtain the same rank. Such a reflection would act as a balm of consolation to the old officer, rather than otherwise. As the subject had been brought forward again, he had been unable to resist the inclination of stating his views on it. As it was certainly desirable, that means should be found of providing for the promotion of younger officers, by the retirement of those who were past the period of service. And it appeared to him, that there were only two ways in which this could be done. The first was, to provide for the retirement of old officers by a grant from the Exchequer, by allowing them to retire on 20s. a day instead of 14s. The second was, 96 to allow some arrangement to be made to renovate the service by permitting the purchase of commissions. With regard to one point more which had been adverted to by the former Secretary of the Admiralty the Member for Halifax, he begged to say that there being a considerable want of petty officers that could be depended upon. Since the sudden augmentation of the navy, and the reasons which operated to prevent seamen having pensions from joining the navy no longer prevailing, the Admiralty deemed it advisable to admit of their again serving in it retaining their pensions, which has quickly supplied the required number of excellent and trustworthy petty officers, and as he had been informed given great and general satisfaction both to officers and men. Pensions to seamen are only granted under the immediate supervision of one of the Lords of the Admiralty, and when a man has earned one, he is almost sure to be a good and trustworthy man, and therefore a most valuable acquisition as a petty officer to guide and lead those who have more recently come into the service, which he trusted would fully justify what had been done on that point, notwithstanding the adverse remarks relating to it, of the hon. Member opposite.
said, he was not going to find fault with the Board of Admiralty for the clemency shown to Mr. Elton. The answer which he had received the other night had perfectly satisfied him, inasmuch as it had cleared the character of Captain Williams, and of the officers who formed the court before which Mr. Elton had been tried, from the imputations so lavishly poured out upon them by the public press. Mr. Elton, it was quite true, had served in a ship under his command, and had plumed himself very much on a certificate from him. But the young man's friends had been too cautious to produce his certificate, slating the reasons why Mr. Elton was removed from the Thunderer. Those reasons were very well known to Captain Williams. The feeling out of doors had been so strong on this matter, that he was glad to have it in his power to clear the character of the officers concerned in it. It was at his suggestion that Captain Williams had been promoted by the late Board of Admiralty, and he was an officer every way deserving of the distinction. The gallant Officer had spoken of the circumstance of a boat with a black 97 flag having been rowed round the harbour by the mates of the Mediterranean fleet. He was convinced no such case had ever occurred. He was anxious to clear Sir R. Stop-ford's character against the supposition that such an occurrence could have taken place in a fleet under his command. He was sorry at all times to draw comparisons between the officers of the navy and those of the army, but as the remark had been made that the pay of a captain in the navy was larger than that of a colonel in the army, it ought to be remembered that a colonel had only his mess to pay, while a captain in command of a ship could not properly carry on the service without keeping an expensive table. A colonel, too, had many allowances in addition to his pay, while the pay had to cover everything with the captain in the navy. The gallant Admiral who had just sat down, had been promoted at a time when the list was not so large as it was now. It was absolutely necessary that the list should be relieved, and that younger officers should be placed upon it. Let them take his case. What was his chance, even if he were to have a very long life, of ever rising to the rank of rear-admiral? He was made in 1814, and there were now 269 officers on the list before him: he knew of no chance that any brevet, during his time, was likely to reach down so low as 1814. Much had been said on the subject of pensions, and the gallant Admiral had said that the Order in Council was a bar to officers receiving those pensions while on active service. Would the gallant Admiral take it upon himself to urge upon the Admiralty the injustice of such a course? Before sitting down he must congratulate the country and the service on the great boon conferred on the navy by manning the ships in the way in which they were now manned. He had quitted the late Board of Admiralty on account of his strong feeling of the great injustice done to the service, by allowing the navy to remain with ships manned as they then were. He was glad the gallant commodore, and the gallant Member for Westminster had addressed the House in the way they had done. The more the circumstances of the navy were discussed, the better it would be. The army always had a man at the head of it, who had the feelings of a brother officer, but the navy was almost invariably under the control of one who could have none of those feelings. It was a 98 delicate subject on which he was now going to touch, and in what he was going to say he wished to advance nothing disrespectful to either of the two noblemen to whom he was about to refer, nor did he wish to imply that either of them was not fully deserving of the promotion he had obtained. He alluded to the two last officers who had been raised to the dignity of the peerage. Now, when he saw two military officers selected for such a distinction, he could not help thinking of the services of such a man as Sir Robert Stop-ford, who had commenced his career in one of the most brilliant actions on record —had been in almost every general action since then, and had wound up his naval career by the reduction of St. Jean d'Acre. The result of Sir Robert Stopford's last achievement had been to secure the peace of Europe, and, without blaming the distinctions conferred on the army, he did think that similar rewards ought not to be withheld from the navy.
§ Lord Ingestre
said, he hoped that naval men would always hang together. He hoped the honour of a peerage would be conferred on Sir R. Stopford. The present Board of Admiralty were entitled to the gratitude of the country for giving full complements to the ships. He wished to press upon the House the necessity of devising some plan for maintaining a constant stream of promotion, to fill up the places of those who became old and unfit for service. His hon. and gallant Friend, the Member for Ripon, (Sir G. Cockburn) was a splendid instance of a man preserving his powers after such a long course of service; but such cases must always be rare. It was to be hoped that some plan of retirement would be found. With respect to the pay, the navy were not generally dissatisfied, as there are several circumstances such as pensions, a power of allotting part of their pay which compensate for a less amount of pay to be obtained in the merchant service. But petty officers ought to have better pay, and their pay ought not to be reduced when serving in small vessels. In small brigs there was often much more work for the petty officers than on board of line-of-battle-ships, and therefore it was much to be desired that they should be paid according to their rank in the service, and not according to the rating of the vessels on board of which they served. He was glad to see that a committee of shipwrights had been appointed at Woolwich to consider of the best mode of construction. Three years 99 ago, he had had the honour of moving for returns of the trials of three ships, the Pique, the Inconstant and the Castor in which the Inconstant, built by his lamented friend, Captain Hayes, had fully proved her superiority in sailing, besides having cost 3,000l. less than the Pique. He (Lord Ingestre) wished to know whether it was the intention of the Admiralty to construct any more ships on the plan of the Inconstant, also to lay down a line of battle-ships on the lines of Captain Hayes, which he was understood to have left to his family, and which he (Lord Ingestre) hoped would prove a great benefit to the country. He thought we had not a sufficient number of large frigates. When he saw how many vessels of that description France had, he did not think England was prepared, in case of an emergency, to maintain her superiority in this respect. Another question which he wished to put, related to the disastrous expedition to the Niger. Shortly before that expedition left this country, he thought it his duty to call the attention of Parliament to the calamitous con sequences likely to result from the ill-judged time at which the expedition sailed for Africa. What he wished to know was, whether there was any intention of renewing that expedition? One thing he wished to press was, the inadequacy of the pay of a captain when in command of a ship. A captain must necessarily incur a great outlay of money if he observed the common hospitality which he was bound to how. It was considered part of the duty of a captain to show that hospitality; it was of material benefit to the service, but many officers were giving that hospitality to the country for nothing, and he would therefore recommend some allowance in the nature of table money.
§ Sir George Cockburn
said, that a commission of all the master shipwrights was now sitting at Woolwich. Their report had not yet been received, but he hoped the result of their deliberations would be to obtain the best possible mode of building ships, and also how to place as many guns as could be fought consistently with strength, not forgetting the more important point of sailing against hear seas and off lee shores. The Inconstant he believed to be the best ship of her class in the navy. On the last occasion on which she was tried, she went over the water like a duck, while her competitor was ploughing the waves with her bowsprit.
said, that it properly devolved upon him to return an answer to the second question, which related to the probability of the renewal of an expedition to the Niger. That expedition was undertaken on the most humane motives. There had been a desire to ascertain whether it was not possible to improve the interior of Africa through the agency of commerce, and whether by that means a stop might not be put to the encouragement of the slave-trade. It was impossible to deny that to a certain lamentable extent the expedition had proved a failure. Yet it had been not altogether a failure. It had shown that it was the wish of the inhabitants of the interior of Africa to avail themselves of every opportunity to enter into commercial relations with the people of this country. A system of regular government existed among those tribes, and if the climate did not prevent it, there was evidently nothing in the way of an active commerce between the people of this country and those of the interior of Africa. The lamentable result of the expedition had been owing to the baneful nature of the climate along the river, and that climate had not improved in proportion as the expedition got to a greater distance from the sea. The effects of the climate had been so deadly on all the Europeans, that her Majesty's Government felt they would not be justified, even by the importance of the object to be attained, if they were again to risk the lives of a number of white men on a similar expedition. So far, therefore, as an expedition of white men was concerned, her Majesty's Government had no intention of renewing the expedition to the Niger. But one result of the expedition had been to form on the river an establishment of negroes, who, by a long commerce with Europeans, had been enabled to carry into the interior of Africa no small part of our civilization and religion. On the part of her Majesty's Government it was his wish to disclaim all intention of occupying territory, or of asserting any rights of sovereignty, or of offering protection which the country could not afterwards efficiently extend. Negroes going into the interior of Africa must not suppose that they settled there under British sovereignty, but must subject themselves to the laws of the country where they went to reside. Still it might be matter of doubt whether the settlement 101 referred to ought to be altogether abandoned. It might be found possible to send a steamer up the Niger, with a crew composed wholly of negroes, for the climate had not been found to affect the negroes of the expedition. It might, therefore, be a fair matter of consideration, whether Government might not give to that settlement the protection which it might derive from the occasional appearance of a steamer under British colours on the river. At all events, it might be as well not to deprive themselves of the power of sending up the river to remove the persons composing that establishment, should such be their wish, and, therefore, it was possible that a small estimate for that purpose might be called for. After the loss of life, however, that had occurred in the late expedition, Government had no intention of repeating it on anything like a similar scale.
§ Mr. Charles Wood
said, he had heard the statement made by the noble Lord with great satisfaction. With regard, however, to the good service pensions, he (Mr. C. Wood) might observe that the answer given by the right hon. Gentleman apposite, was precisely that which had been formerly given by him (Mr. C. Wood) when he had the honour of a seat at the Admiralty, and yet that answer had given greater satisfaction to the right hon. Gentleman's Friends behind him, than he had 06 the former occasion been able to impart. The Secretary to the Admiralty had announced, there had been a reduction of six sail of the line, which was more than he (Mr. C. Wood) had expected, although he thought that some reduction had been effected. He intended to offer no objection with respect to the number of men, that being a question which ought to be settled by the executive Government. He had no fault to find with the estimates; indeed it would be strange if he had, for they were as nearly as possible the same as those of last year—another signal proof that the present Government had not succeeded in acting much better than their predecessors. He did not intend to offer any objections to the course pursued by the Government with regard to manning the ships with full complements. Indeed, in the present state of the country, and of her foreign relations, in the state of the world at large, he admitted that for the last two years it would have been better 102 if larger complements had been maintained. Nevertheless, the Admiralty had gone to work somewhat hastily, and some of their proceedings were not founded upon very intelligible principles. Some time ago a scheme had been proposed by several experienced officers for settling the complements of men by the number of guns and the weight of metal they carried. The calculation had been made with great care, and although not carried out, the scheme had been left in the Admiralty by the late Government. He did not mean to say that the numbers in the estimates were the same as those in the draft proposal he had alluded to. On the contrary, the new full complement for second class first rates was 950 men, whereas, according to the plan agreed upon, it was only 850, the plan adopted being 100 more; and he wished to know the reason of that increase. If it was determined that, at the present time, ships should go to sea under all circumstances, and whatever might be the state of our foreign relations or the nature of the service, with what was considered a full war complement, he should be glad to know what reasons had induced the Admiralty to reverse what had been the uniform practice of all the Boards of Admiralty up to the present time, a practice that had been approved of by Lords Howe and St. Vincent—namely, that in time of peace a reduced complement should be maintained. The right hon. Gentleman opposite had sat at the Admiralty Board in times not less critical than the present, when the battles of Navarino and Algiers had been fought with reduced complements, and he did not understand why the Admiralty had thought it right to depart from that course. Another subject to which he wished to direct the attention of the House, was the practice of allowing certain seamen to receive pensions with their pay. The present Government had made a general order that persons receiving pensions might receive pay also. He knew instances of two men who had served on board the Formidable; one was attacked with gout, and the other laboured under some bodily ailment. Both these men, although only temporarily disabled, received pensions and pay simultaneously. The case was reported to the Admiralty, and instead of stopping the pension the men were discharged. Thus, two able seamen, only suffering from a trifling 103 temporary illness, were placed for life on the pension list. The Government, indeed, had reconsidered their determination, and had confined the system to those only who received the good service pension, but he concurred in what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone, that the system was one that ought not to be continued in its present form. The principle was contrary to that recognised in every other branch of the public service. He thought the proper mode of effecting the object would be to give increased rate of pay to those who had served a certain number of years, say twenty, and were willing to remain, but that such increased pay should not go under the name of pension, and should be calculated in some proportion to the value of past services. Under the present system it might happen that persons enjoying both pay and pension would be in the receipt of a greater amount than the petty officers about them. At present there was no difficulty in keeping up the number of men once obtained, without resorting to the measures usually had recourse to in time of war, but the difficulty always had been, and would be, to make a sudden increase in the number. While ships were kept an eighth or tenth short of full complement, and the measure was resorted to of allowing pensioners to come into the service in time of war, the facility of increasing the force was greatly increased. In the same manner whatever number of pensioners were serving in merchant ships formed a reserve not used in time of peace, but available on the breaking out of war. The change of the system was moreover destroying what was a great advantage in the navy—the keeping up an intercourse with the merchant service. He objected to the alteration proposed by the Board of Admiralty, because it was calculated to make the Queen's marine like the army, an exclusive and peculiar service, and he thought the services ought to be viewed altogether upon broad and comprehensive principles of equality. He would then come to the estimate for the materials requisite for the maintenance of the navy. After the many—the repeated attacks, made upon the late Board of Admiralty for niggardliness, he confessed that he had not expected to see any reduction in the estimates of the present Government under that head. At that time those 104 attacks were made he knew them to be false, and he did not think they were believed in at the time. Nor did he then imagine, that in the reduction the Government had made they had any intention of sacrificing the navy. He did not think the scheme of work left in the office by the late Government would be finished in the present year; indeed, the navy had been neglected, too few ships had been replaced; for, necessarily, after a lapse of fifteen years, many would be little better than unserviceable. It was only within the last two years that enough of building had been done in order to the due supply of line of battle ships, and the first class of steamers. The right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham), when he presided at the Admiralty, carried out the reductions recommended by his predecessor, and certainly he had every right to think him quite capable of forming a just opinion, but he would say that the right hon. Baronet did carry them further than he would have done had he remained a short time longer in the office. Before 1830 an average of seven years gave them a consumption of 21,600 loads of timber, while an average of the four years up to 1836 gave only 9,600 loads, which was a reduction of more than one-half. Subsequently, they raised the consumption to 12,000 loads, but still in his opinion that was not enough. In 1834, when he went into office at the Admiralty, no knowledge of the state of things in the yards could be obtained without much trouble and great loss of time—indeed, it was years before they properly knew the real facts. In 1837, when an accurate survey was made, many of the stores, which certainly looked well upon paper, were found to be rotten; and it was found that there was not a supply available for more than six months. But the Government thought it better not to come down to the House and make an exposure of their affairs, which must inevitably reach the knowledge of foreign nations—they thought it better to take the means within their power to improve their condition silently, and rather suffer all the obloquy that was poured upon them, than make an exposure that might have proved so prejudicial to the interests of the country. The gradual but determined manner in which they had proceeded in that respect would be seen from the increased votes taken from year to year for the wages and stores of the dockyards. In 1835 105 the vote for wages was 300,000l.; for stores, 383,000l. In 1836,wages298,000l., stores 424,000l.; in 1837, wages 350,000l., stores575,000l.;in 1838, wages 384,000l., stores 593,000l.: in 1339, wages 400,000l., stores 951,000l.; in 1840, wages 460,000l., stores 1094,000l.; in 1841 wages 505,000l., stores 1,337,000l. The proposod vote for the present year diminished the amount in both respects—the sum asked being, for wages 495,000l., and for stores 1,310,000l. He hoped that the present Government would be as fully sensible as their predecessors of keeping up (his department of the service, and that the efficiency of the dockyards would be narrowly and carefully looked into. Then with regard to steamers, the reduction proposed was 50,000l.—certainly a large reduction, considering the extreme and rising importance of steam navigation, and the demand for steam-vessels, and their exceeding usefulness in all operations along the coast: still, considering all these things, he trusted the Admiralty would expend sufficient upon steam enginery, and continue to build a sufficient number of steam-vessels. Then with regard to the packet service, he thought that item was important enough to be put into a separate vote. He was happy to find that Cunard's Halifax line had answered its purposes so well. The contract price was certainly a large one; but, although the Government had been so much found fault with, still it had been found necessary to make a further allowance. They had done well; but he was happy to see that the West India line had answered even better up to the present time. They were fine and powerful vessels which were employed, and he hoped they would continue to promote the intercourse and peaceable relations between this country and those to which they plied. They did not get one farthing more than they deserved, and, although the charge was high, he believed every shilling of the expense was now received by the Post-office.
§ Sir George Cockburn
was understood to defend the proposition of the Government, to complete the complement of men in ships under commission. When it was found that France and America were manning their ships to the utmost, it became the duty of England not to be behind hand upon so vital a point of naval efficiency. He did not mean to say that a ship under-manned might not be navi- 106 gated; but he mantained that it would not be in such a state as a British man-of-war ought to be to face an enemy. Seeing what other nations were doing in this respect, it was the bounden duty of the British Government to provide for the proper manning of its navy, The gallant Admiral then proceeded to defend the course which Government proposed to pursue with respect to pensions, upon the ground that pensions granted in the manner proposed would have the effect of preventing desertion, and improving the class of petty officers.
§ Sir R. H. Inglis
said, he wished to make a few observations with reference to the remarks of some Gentlemen on that (the Ministerial) side of the House, who had expressed their disapproval of the recent expedition to the Niger. He felt that in alluding to this subject he was discharging a duty which he owed to men who were exceeded in gallantry by none who were engaged in the service of their country. He was anxious to express his grateful acknowledgements to the Members of the late Administration, as well as to her Majesty's present advisers, for the course they had pursued with regard to the Niger expedition. Hon. Gentlemen were remarkably sensitive with respect to the loss of human life in cases where the object was one of pure unmixed benevolence. God forbid that he should undervalue the sacrifice of human life which had been incurred during the progress of the expedition to which he alluded. He grieved for it as much, he trusted, as any individual in or out of that House. But when he considered the loss of life which had attended expeditions conducted for the single and sordid object of gain—when he reflected on the sacrifice of human life which had been incurred in carrying on the slave-trade, and when he compared it with the loss which had attended this expedition for suppressing that trade, he did not envy the sensitiveness of hon. Gentlemen who could bear to hear of the loss of one-fourth of the crews of all the vessels engaged in the Guinea trade—2,500 out of 10,000 individuals—and who censured her Majesty's Government for sending out an expedition to accomplish an object of the most pure and disinterested benevolence, in which forty-two individuals had perished. The result of the expedition of Oldfield and, Laird had been much more disastrous. He thought the results of the expedition to the Niger did not justify the language 107 which had been used by some hon. Gentlemen as to the policy which dictated the undertaking, and he was satisfied that the general principles of that policy would still be carried out. The question of the expediency of pursuing the objects of the expedition might hereafter come before the House; and it was only necessary for him to say that, in his opinion, nothing had transpired to justify the condemnation of her Majesty's late advisers, or of the present Government, for having countenanced and supported the undertaking.
§ Viscount Ingestre
, in explanation, said that he had made no comment upon the propriety or impropriety of the Niger expedition, but had merely asked whether it were to be renewed.
approved of the policy which dictated our enlargement of the ships' complement of men. On his return from the Mediterranean, he had put the Admiralty in possession of a body of facts showing the necessity for such a course. In the month of August the Mediterranean fleet, very inefficiently manned, was warned that it was likely to come in contact with the French fleet. To meet such a contingency, it was imperatively necessary that the ships' crews should be increased; but it was not till the month of January following that a single additional seaman was supplied to the fleet. Nothing, in his estimation, could justify the impolicy and injustice of leaving a British fleet in a position of so much hazard.
§ Captain Pechell
admitted the able and courteous manner in which the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty (Mr. Sidney Herbert) had submitted the Estimates to the consideration of the House; but was still of opinion that so important a duty should be performed by one of the higher officers connected with that department. He admitted the advantage which the service would derive from some of the alterations proposed by the present Administration, and was only surprised that the estimates, as prepared by them, were not for a much larger amount. To have been consistent with the expression of former fears, as to the unguarded state of our shores, the Members of the present Government should have asked for such a sum as would have enabled them to place a fleet at the Nore, at Portsmouth, and at Plymouth, and he was surprised that they had not 108 increased the estimates to carry their own projects into effect. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Dorchester, (Sir J. Graham), in a speech addressed a few months ago to his constituents, declared that such was the confidence of France in the pacific intentions of the present Government of England that she had disbanded 90,000 men of her army, and reduced her fleet by six sail of the line. M. Guizot, however, had since declared in the French Chamber, that the Government of which he was the head, had no intention of adopting any such course; and the Minister of Marine, in the same debate, announced that no disarmament was contemplated, and that the fleet would be kept up to the same extent as it had been since 1840. It was true, that six sail-of-the line were to leave the Mediterranean; but instead of being put out of commission, they were to be stationed at Brest. He (Captain Pechell) conceived, therefore, that the danger of foreign aggression was infinitely greater now than it was at the time that the hon. Gentlemen opposite were so full of alarm, and that it was more the duty of the present than of the late Government to maintain the British fleet in its full force and efficiency. Looking at the estimates as now proposed, he could not but admit that he was perfectly satisfied with them. He thought that the Government acted wisely in giving increased complements to the ships in commission. They were the first to reduce them, and he was now glad that to find they were sensible of their error.
§ Mr. W. Williams
said, it was not his intention to offer any objection to the vote, but be thought some explanation was necessary in regard to the Post-office department, and particularly in regard to the increased allowance to Mr. Cunard, for the conveyance of the mail between the country and North America.
§ Dr. Bowring
complained of the mode in which the accounts were kept. Some time ago he had called the attention of the House to one cause of the great errors in the public accounts, growing out of the department for expenditure being also the department for receipt. He had suggested an alteration for the transferring the department for receipt to the Treasury, and he believed that the principle of the alteration was that on which every other Government acted. 109 The noble Lord the Member for London stated at (he time that he concurred in the alteration, and his (Dr. Bowring's) object in rising was to express a hope that the present Government would take the point into consideration.
§ Mr. F. T. Baring
rose merely to notice the observation of his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Williams), in regard to the additional allowance to Mr. Cunard. That addition had been made in consequence of its having been found necessary to have two additional boats in the service of the Post-office department between this country and America. The allowance, however, had not been increased until the matter had been referred to two Government agents conversant with the subject, and it was upon their representation that the increase had been made, which in his own opinion Mr. Cunard was justly entitled to.
Vote agreed to, as was also the vote of 747,264l to defray the charges of victuals for seamen and marines,
On the vote of 121,449l. for defraying the salaries of the Lord Commissioners, and the contingent expenses of the Admiralty being proposed —
§ Sir C. Napier
said, he wished to make a few observations regarding the manner in which the Board of Admiralty was constituted. It was at present composed of a first Lord, who was a civilian, and who received a salary of 4,500l., of four Lords, at a salary of 1,000l. a year each, and one with a salary of 1,200l. Now, in the whole course of his service of forty years, he could not find out why it was that the navy in this country should be ruled by a civilian, who, perhaps, had never been on board ship in his life. The First Lord of the Admiralty must make a choice of a naval officer to assist him in his duties, and he should be glad to know whether it were not natural to suppose that that officer might have followers of his own, whom he would be as anxious to serve as those of the First Lord of the Admiralty, who was placed in the position of not being able to judge between right and wrong, and who could not tell whether it was advisable or not to act upon the suggestions of his assistant. Looking to the manner in which our navy was ruled, so far back as the year 872, he found that the sovereigns of those days were Lord High Admirals. From the time of Henry 3rd to Henry 8th, there were "admirals of the seas," admirals, as 110 they were called, of the North Seas, and of the South Seas. Next came "the kings of the seas." Edward 3rd was king of the seas. In the reigns of Edward 6th, Mary, Elizabeth, James 1st, Charles 1st, and down to Charles 2nd, there were Lord High Admirals. In that reign the navy began to have princes Lord High Admirals. The Duke of York was Lord High Admiral, and shortly after, in the reign of Queen Anne, Prince George of Denmark was Lord High Admiral. He was succeeded by the Earl of Pembroke, and since then the navy had been governed by a Board of Admiralty. For what reason, he should like to know? The fact was, that the Minister of the day, in looking round him to form his cabinet, generally selected Gentlemen who had great influence and interest in the State, and as it seldom happened that naval officers were possessed of that kind of influence and interest, they being, in most cases, the youngest sons of noblemen and gentlemen, it also rarely happened that they were marked out for those high offices. That was one reason why the navy was ruled by a civilian. It might be very useful for a Minister, to have the patronage of the navy under his control, particularly when parties were pretty equally balanced. At present the balance was all on one side, which was so much the better for his argument. This was no new view of his. He had urged his idea on Lord Melville so far back as 1816, when he had brought under his notice the state of the navy, and he pointed out the necessity of appointing a naval commander-in-chief. His principal reference in his letter to Lord Melville, however, was not to a a first Lord, but was to something even worse than that, to a cornet of Dragoons. He had pointed out the absurdity of selecting the Marquess of Worcester, who was a military man, to superintend a part of the naval service. Why, they might as well have appointed, a post-captain commander-in-chief to give instructions to the Duke of Wellington. He had followed up his views when the hon. Member for Dorchester (Sir James Graham) was at the Admiralty, in 1832, and had also addressed a letter to the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel), when he came into power in 1835. What he wanted was a naval commander-in-chief of the British fleet, and he owned he could hot see anything more ridiculous in that proposition than in placing a military commander-in-chief at the head of the army. At the Horse Guards they had a 111 military adjutant-general, a military quartermaster-general, and a military secretary, and why, he should like to know, should they not have at the Admiralty a naval commander-in-chief of the fleet, one admiral at the head of the dock-yards, another at the head of the hospital and victualling departments, a captain of the fleet and a civilian at the finance under his orders with two secretaries, one a naval-officer, and the other civilian? It seemed to him that there were many good reasons why it should he so. When a First Lord came into power, he was generally extremly ignorant, hut after he had been there a little time, he began to fancy that he knew a great deal, and had become a thorough sailor. This was very much the case with the late First Lord (the Earl of Minto), who, after he had been at the Admiralty some time, assumed a great deal more power than he ever ought to have assumed. He had always understood that where there was a Board the responsibility was divided between the members of that Board. Now, the late First Lord had, in one instance at least, assumed the power of acting in opposition to the express desire of every other member of the Board. An hon. Friend of his had informed him that when the subject of manning the navy was under the consideration of the naval Lords, a scheme was, after a great deal of trouble, agreed to, which met the views of every naval member of the Board. Among other things it was agreed, after long consideration and much discussion, to reduce the complement of men by one-eighth. One or two Lords were opposed to this reduction, but they yielded their views in order to secure unanimity, and, at last, the scheme was assented to by every naval Lord, and received, in addition, the concurrence of Lord Dalmeny. The result was communicated to Lord Minto, who put the document in his pocket, and nothing more was, for some time, heard of it. At length it was returned to the Board, and it was then discovered that Lord Minto had assumed the power of reducing the complement of men not by one-eighth but by one-fifth. Now, he asked, was that a proper state of things to continue? Was it right that a man who knew little or nothing of the navy should assume such a power as this, contrary to the opinion of the naval Lords of the Board? Similar instances were on record. It was said, that during Lord Chatham's Administration, a paper, ousting Lord Bridport from office, was sent 112 down to the Lords of the Admiralty. Admiral Young and the other naval Lords refused to sign it, when the First Lord of the day pushed it down to the lay Lords at the bottom of the table, and said, "Sign the paper, or this Board shall no longer exist." It was also said, that Lord Spencer, when he was at the Admiralty, sent down to the Civil Lords papers requiring to be signed by several Lords, and that they were in the habit of signing them without looking at them. Only a day or two ago he (Sir C. Napier) had read in the Levant correspondence a private letter addressed by Lord Minto to Sir Robert Stopford, ordering him to proceed off Cyprus, and there to wait orders from the Admiralty. This, be it remembered, was a private order, and he asked, was it to be endured that such a power should be assumed? The remedy he proposed was a very simple one. There were an admiral and a vice-admiral of Great Britain at the present time. Why not make the office (instead of being a sinecure) useful in the administration of the affairs of the navy? Let them place the vice-admiral at the head of the dockyards, and he would answer for it that the moment they got a practical man who was responsible in that department they would not find such mistakes committed as had constantly taken place for a number of years past. It would not have happened that the masts of from 160 to 170 vessels of war were quite unfit for service. If they had a responsible naval chief too, they would not find that the navy was manned as it had been of late, for he would naturally say—"I will not take the responsibility attending an inefficient manning of the ships of war." He would be very naturally thinking of where his head would be if any misadventure occurred, but at present no such fear was entertained, for the Lords could shift about the responsibility from one to another, and, as the House knew, it was impossible to hang the whole Board. [An hon. Member: You can hang the secretary.] [Laughter, which increased as Mr. C. Wood, a late secretary, was observed to nod to Mr. S. Herbert, the present secretary, and pass his finger across his throat.] He understood that when Lord Auckland came into the Admiralty, it was found that the navy was reduced to the lowest possible scale, and that all the ships were on paper, that there were few stores, and that what there were required replenishment in every department. As to the argument about favouritism, why, favour and affection in 113 the way of promotion went through every branch of the service at present. The right hon. Baronet, when he came into office had, greatly to his credit, pledged himself that merit, and merit alone, should be considered a stepping-stone to advancement, and certainly he had commenced his career well, for he had destroyed the Navy Board and the Victualling Board, which might have been destroyed with great advantage even at an earlier period. He only wished that when the right hon. Baronet destroyed those Boards he had gone a little further, and destroyed the Admiralty Board along with them. As far as the personal appointments at the Admiralty went, it was almost needless for him to say he had no objection to them. For Lord Haddington, as far as he knew him, he had every possible respect. He believed him to be a conscientious man, and he also believed that he would job as little as any of his predecessors. He had no objection to him, and if the Government wished to have a civilian for a commander-in-chief, he should not offer any very strong objection, even to his retaining his present position. Having made these remarks he would not trouble the House any further.
§ Captain Carnegie
cordially concurred in the views of the gallant Officer who had just sat down, and felt assured that the appointment of naval Lords would prove in every way a most satisfactory one to the service. If it were said that they must have a statesman for a first Lord, he would reply, that it was not requisite that those who presided over the naval service of the country should know any other state secrets than the secrets of the state of our marine. They did not want a politician for a first Lord: there were no politics under the pennant. The navy had prospered well under naval Lords, and if they wanted an example he would refer them to its condition under the administration of Lord St. Vincent. Had the admirals who signalized themselves by naval exploits shown any lack of judgment or prudence in civil affairs? Was it not Sir G. Cotton, who commanded the fleet on the coast of Portugal, that refused to the last moment to sign the Convention of Cintra? Had not Sir Richard Keats shown the most consummate skill throughout the transactions attending the embarkation of the marquess of Romana's army, on the coast of Sweden. Did not Sir T. Hardy nurse into vigour the infant states of South America? And 114 in still more recent times, did not the address and perseverance of Lord J. Hay mitigate the ferocity of the disgraceful conflict which devastated the Basque provinces of Spain? He did not think the genius of these men would have shone to less advantage had their sphere of action been more enlarged. But, whatever might be determined with respect to the highest office in the navy, he hoped that Government would see the necessity of bestowing some of the offices that fell in their gift connected with the civil department of the navy on naval officers. He might instance those of the second secretary of the navy, now so ably filled by Sir J. Barrow, the Store-keeper General, and the Controller of the Victualling-office, now filled by civilians; and he hoped that Government would hereafter at least take into consideration the propriety of making naval men commissioners of Greenwich Hospital. He should like to see some of those innumerable situations of doorkeepers, porters, messengers and others of that sort, of which the Admiralty had the patronage, bestowed on deserving petty officers. He hoped that for the future some selection of persons to fill such posts might be made from the naval profession. He was most anxious not to be a party to any unseemly agitation on this subject, as he thought such a proceeding would not be consistent with the dignity of the navy; but he felt that he had only done his duty in making those remarks. He must add in justice to the right hon. Baronet, that if they were to have a civilian at the head of the navy, the right hon. Baronet could not have fixed on a person whose appointment could be more gratifying to the profession at large than that of the noble Lord who now presided over the Admiralty.
thought, the topics brought under the consideration of the House by the gallant Officer who had just spoken of great and serious importance to the country. Could he suppose for a moment, that there was an assumption in any quarter that, among naval officers there was not to be found sufficient ability for civil affairs, the appearance which those gallant Officers had made, would of itself be sufficient to overthrow that assumption. Although, however, it might appear more natural to place a naval man at the head of the profession, still he had no hesitation 115 whatever in giving a preference to the existing arrangement, because that, as he understood, it by no means excluded naval men from the situation of first Lord. The form of our Government, the nature of representative institutions, would render it extremely inconvenient that an invariable rule should be laid down that naval persons should be selected to fill the office of first Lord. Every man who had experience in political affairs must see cases in which great difficulty would be experienced from such a regulation. With respect to the objections brought against the authority exercised by the first Lord, which was complained of as excessive, he had himself, in the situation in which he had the honour to fill, witnessed the difficulties, the serious detriment, which arose to the public service from the division of authority between different and independent offices, in the administration of the army. He had seen the impossibility of effecting that co-operation and vigorous action of Government so necessary in the ordering of military affairs. The evils which sprang out of the existing system were so striking, and productive of such injurious consequences to the army, that if the House was in the slightest degree made aware of them, they never would entertain the notion of introducing this system into the management of the navy. On a future opportunity he should be prepared to show, in the administration of the army, under all the Governments of the last thirty-five years—even when so great a man as the Duke of Wellington filled the situations of Master-General of the Ordnance and Commander-in-Chief—and when he himself (Viscount Howick) filled the situations of Secretary at War, such a series of mismanagement and blunders, affecting the lives and welfare of British soldiers, by which in the course of a few years, thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of pounds were lost to the country—he pledged himself, on a fitting opportunity to show such a case of inconvenience and mischief, arising from the existing management of the army, that the same system ought not to be followed in the navy. He firmly believed it was not individuals who were to blame for this, but the system. When the hon. and gallant Officer near him mentioned, with disapprobation, several instances of the first Lord almost acting for himself, without reference to his colleagues, he did not quite agree with the gallant Officer. Parliament and the country looked chiefly to the first Lord, and considered him re- 116 sponsible for the good management of the navy, and he thought it an advantage resulting from the present constitution of the Board that the first Lord could not carry on the service, unless he could prevail on officers of high rank and standing to join him in his measures. If affairs were not managed by him in the manner they considered proper, their duty was plain, and their retirement from the Board was a strong check upon the proceedings of the first Lord, and a security to the public for the proper conduct of the public business. He deprecated the reading of such letters as that which had been read by the gallant Commodore, and thought, that the question whether a civilian or a naval man ought to be at the head of the Admiralty would be better entertained on a future and more fitting occasion.
§ Sir H. Hardinge
agreed with the noble Lord, that the Lord, that the question of whether there should be a civilian or a naval man at the head of the Admiralty had better be reserved for a more appropriate time. A report on that subject, which had received the signature of the noble Lord, contained, however, opinions totally different from the evidence on which it professed to be based. That report had reference to the administration of the army being Conducted by a civilian, and the evidence of the Duke of Wellington, Lord Vivian, and other military officers went directly to assert that the mode proposed of superseding the Commander-in-Chief would be most disastrous to the army. He (Sir H. Hardinge) would never consent to the abrogation of the functions of the Commander-in-Chief.
said, that the letter of his which had been read by his hon. and gallant Friend gave a simple statement of facts, and he considered that in it he was guilty of no breach of confidence whatever. He had not been the first person to publish a statement with reference to the management of the navy; his publication, and that for which he left the board, was in answer to a publication of the second secretary of that board, who was present at all their deliberations, who knew his strong opinions on the subject who knew that there was a difference of opinion between him and the first Lord on that subject; he published a defence of the system; he was rewarded by the first Lord of the Admiralty by the purchase of his book, while he (Captain 117 Berkeley), because he stood up for his profession, found it necessary, without any ill-will to the first Lord or to his Colleagues; and finding no fault with them, except that of not managing the navy as he thought they ought, he had found it necessary to resign. The letter which had been read was simply a statement, he thought it necessary in consequence of various misconstructions which had gone abroad as to his reasons for quitting the board, one of which reasons was said to be that he had changed his politics, and gone over to the other side, and he therefore deemed it essential to his character, to lay before the public, the grounds on which he had resigned his situation. If his hon. and gallant Friend thought proper to move that the salary of the first Lord, when a civilian, should be reduced to the sum that was on the paper, he would vote with him.
§ Mr. C. Wood
regretted that the gallant Commodore should have read the letter. [Sir C. Napier: I was authorised to do it.] He was very sorry that his hon. and gallant Friend had given that authority. His hon. and gallant Friend, in alluding to the circumstance under which he had left the Admiralty, bad scarcely done justice to Sir John Barrow, whose statement had been published without the concurrence of any member of the Admiralty. His hon. and gallant Friend was also mistaken in supposing that Sir John Barrow was present at the deliberations on the subject. The first intimation the members of the Admiralty had of that publication was its receipt from Sir John Barrow in a printed form.
explained, reiterating his former statement, and referring to a letter he bad received while in the country from his hon. Friend himself (Mr. C. Wood) in corroboration of it.
§ Sir Robert Peel
wished to say a few words on the main question, whether the committee should come to a decision that a naval officer should always, and necessarily, be at the head of the Board of Admiralty. He should be extremely sorry to pronounce any opinion against the qualifications of naval officers; but he should exceedingly deprecate on the part of the House of Commons, any resolution which should disturb the constitution under which the naval affairs of this country had for so long a period been conducted. Since 1797, there were only two 118 instances in which naval men had been placed at the head of the Board of Admiralty; and looking to the general satisfaction which civilians presiding over the board had given to the service, and the great naval exploits achieved under their presidency, he could not help thinking it would be most unwise indeed for that House to establish a rule which would exclude civilians from holding such an office. The arguments which had been urged against the propriety of a civilian being first Lord would tell with equal, if not greater force, against a civilian being secretary. He very much doubted whether a naval man, with all his professional biases, prejudices, and predilections, most natural and laudable as they might be, could make the necessary reforms in the service with the same facility as a civilian. The rule did not exclude the appointment of a naval man, while it permitted that of a civilian as first Lord; and his decided opinion was, that the 'present constitution of the board, under a civilian of high standing, with no professional bias, prejudice, or predilection, acting under the advice of some of the most eminent men of the profession, who would necessarily influence him in all naval matters, but enabled to counteract professional prejudice by the influence of his character, his position as a Cabinet Minister, and his large view of other political affair, was greatly superior to the plan proposed by the hon. and gallant Gentleman, and be again said, he should be exceedingly sorry, if the House were to disturb such a state of things.
§ Sir C. Napier
was far from thinking, that the present constitution of the Board of Admiralty bad given satisfaction to the naval service. The changes of the Members of the Board of Admiralty entailed considerable expense on the country, for no sooner was a new body of men installed, than they changed most of the regulations of their predecessors. As an instance of the bad effects of the administration of the navy by a Board of Admiralty presided over by a civilian, he would state, that at the end of the last war, the guns were in such a bad state, that when fired, they would scarcely hit an enemy. He might also mention, that during the latter period of the American war, a secret order was issued, that British ships of war should not engage American frigates, because the former were in such an efficient state. One 119 captain, after the receipt of this order, on coming in contact with an American frigate, turned up his crew, and told them, that he had directions not to fight, for he was determined not to keep the order secret. As for himself, when he got the secret order, he put it in the only place fit to receive it—the quarter-gallery. He would state an instance, to show that under a system like the present, distinguished service was not always sure to be noticed. An officer, whom he knew well, had distinguished himself in the East-Indies, and was recommended for promotion by the Governor-general; but he found that his claims were disregarded by the Admiralty. He advised him to write a letter to the late King, when Lord High Admiral, stating his case, and in ten days afterwards he was made a Captain. Everything connected with the administration of the navy was in disorder, until William 4th was appointed Lord High Admiral. Every commander then felt, an interest in putting his ship in order, for he felt convinced, that merit would not pass unrewarded. Under the present system, it was impossible that the navy could be properly managed. He had seen the British navy in risk of being disgraced, in consequence of inefficient manning, had a hostile fleet made its appearance off the coast of Syria. When the crews got sickly, if the French fleet had come down upon them, they must have been defeated. These were his reasons for thinking, that the navy should be ruled by a naval officer, and he should divide the committee on his motion. He moved for the purpose of carrying his views into effect, that the vote be reduced by 4,500l.
§ Captain Pechell
should be sorry to imply by any vote disapprobation of the present first Lord of the Admiralty. He also considered the right hon. Baronet opposite entitled to praise for the appointment of Earl de Grey in 1835 as first Lord of the Admiralty, but he did certainly think that it would be desirable to select some one connected and conversant with naval affairs for this situation. The conduct of the late Sovereign when Lord High Admiral proved the truth of this observation. He was accessible at all times to officers of every rank, from the highest to the lowest, and it was well known that it was their services, and not parliamentary interest, which recommended them to his notice. It had been observed so late as in the year 1839, that services on the hustings 120 were preferred at the Admiralty to services on the quarter deck. This observation was made by the right hon. Baronet, the present Secretary for the Home Department, who must be acquainted with the fact. In the case of the present first Lord of the Admiralty, Parliamentary influence had not been forgotten; in the appointment to China, too, it had not been forgotten; nor in the appointment of the hon. and gallant Officer opposite. Still the appointment to China, and those to Woolwich, and Deal, and perhaps to Cork, were good ones, and it was difficult for a board to resist Parliamentary influence; but if the charge was applied to the late Government, it was equally applicable to the present Government. He should support the motion to mark the sense of the principle, but not as against Lord Haddington.
The question was then put that a sum not exceeding 117,949l. be granted to her Majesty for defraying the expenses of the Admiralty-office for the ensuing financial year, which having been amended, negatived, [vote as proposed agreed to; as was a vote of 716,799l. for half-pay, with the understanding that any discussion on the subject should be taken on the next vote of "Military Pensions and Allowances."
§ The House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned.