§ Mr. Sheil
On Saturday, I informed the right hon. Baronet at the head of Her Majesty's Government, that instead of moving for a Committee to inquire how far our commercial interests were involved in the events which are passing in the Barbary States, I shall content myself with moving for papers, of which I have since given him notice. My first impression was, that the extent to which the trade of this country has been affected by the heavy imposts which have been recently laid upon the tonnage of British vessels, and the products of British industry in all the ports upon the coast of the Mediterranean, of which France has made herself the mistress, required a minute investigation; and that the effects of the ordinance, which issued on the 16th of December last, doubling the duties on English shipping, and of the augmentation of duties upon our cottons to 30 per cent., would best be proved by the evidence, oral and documentary, which could be produced before a Committee of this House; but I have heard objections raised to the form of the Motion, of which I had given an intimation, and in order that a debate on the mere form should be avoided, by which the attention of the House would be in all likelihood distracted from the consideration of more momentous matter, I have thought it more advisable to move that the copies of certain documents should be laid on the Table of the House, in which much of the information which I seek to obtain may be disclosed. There is another motive for the adoption of this course. It is that which is least calculated to give offence to a gallant, but exceedingly susceptible people. It is not my intention (and I shall prove that it is not by the tone with which I shall treat this important subject) to say anything by which a debate, at which France could legitimately take offence, will be produced. Nothing shall fall from me, by which a pretence shall be afforded for imputing to me the more 1193 than reprehensible purpose of exciting a sentiment of animosity between two great nations, both of which are deeply concerned in the maintenance of peace, and whose collision would disturb the world. But while I am fully convinced of the importance of preserving our pacific relations with a country, whose institutions are so nobly assimilated to our own, I am also convinced that with a perfect absence from all irritating language, a candid statement of facts can be readily reconciled; and I think that if circumstances have occurred, or are likely to occur, by which the commercial interests of England may be seriously affected, nothing will be gained by concealing the truth, or by turning our eyes away from those objects which must sooner or later be forced upon our contemplation. On the 5th of March, 1830—I pass at once at the hazard of abruptness, which is more excuseable than prolixity, to the facts to which I mean to advert—in 1830, on the 5th of March, Lord Aberdeen wrote a despatch to an ambassador at Paris, Lord Stuart de Rothesay, with regard to the great armament which France had prepared for the invasion of Algiers. That despatch contains views the most just, expressed in a most prudential and conciliatory spirit; indeed, the entire of the official correspondence of Lord Aberdeen in 1830 is remarkable for a most striking contrast between the soundness of his judgment and a certain infirmity of purpose, owing to which he omitted to obtain from France the assurances, of the necessity of which he appears to have been himself most fully convinced. Lord Aberdeen appears to have been perfectly aware that it was of the utmost consequence to get from the French Government a pledge that the occupation of Algiers should not be permanent, and to have felt that our commercial and maritime, and therefore our political interests, were deeply at stake, in the events to which the French expedition would give rise. The whole correspondence is a curious specimen of diplomacy, in which, upon one hand, a plain Englishman asks that a pledge should be given in plain language, and, on the other hand, a French Minister, polished and well lubricated escapes in sinuous diplomacy from his grasp. Those portions of the correspondence which are illustrative of the present position of affairs I shall select, taking care not to read anything which 1194 is not appropriate and interesting. On the 5th of March, 1830, Lord Aberdeen writes—My Lord,—The extensive scale of the preparations for the expedition against Algiers, and the declaration in the speech of his most Christian Majesty upon this subject, have naturally engaged the attention of His Majesty's Government. Your Excellency is already aware of the sincere desire which His Majesty entertains that the injuries and affronts which have been endured by the King of France from the Regency of Algiers may be duly avenged, and that His Most Christian Majesty may exact the most signal reparation from this barbarous state; but the formidable force about to be embarked, and the intimation in the speech to which I have alluded, appear to indicate an intention of effecting the entire destruction of the Regency, rather than the infliction of chastisement. This probable change in the condition of a territory so important, from its geographical position, cannot be regarded by His Majesty's Government without much interest, and it renders some explanation of the intentions of the French Government still more desirable. I have communicated these sentiments to the Duke de Laval, and have received from his Excellency the most positive assurances of the entirely disinterested views of the Cabinet of the Tuileries in the future disposal of the state of Algiers. Notwithstanding his Excellency has promised to write to his Government in order to obtain the means of making an official communication, I have thought it right to instruct you to bring the subject under the notice of M. de Polignac. It is probable that the French Minister may be desirous of affording all the explanation we can desire. The intimate union and concert existing between the two countries give us reason to expect that we shall receive the full confidence of the French Government in a matter touching the interests of both, and which in its results may be productive of the most important effects upon the commercial and relations of the Mediterranean States.Prince Polignac, to whom the contents of this despatch were communicated on the 12th March, 1830, wrote to the Duke de Laval a long despatch, in which he says nothing bordering upon an understanding beyond this statement:—The King, whose views on this grave question are quite disinterested, will consult with his allies, in order to determine what should be the new order of things.Lord Aberdeen saw at once that this communication was most indefinite, and was not in the least binding, and on the 23rd of March, 1830, he wrote,Whatever may be the means which shall 1195 be found necessary to secure the objects of the expedition, the French Government ought, at least to have no difficulty in renouncing all views of territorial possession or aggrandizement.……. Monsieur de Polignac is doubtless aware of the great importance of the Barbary States, and of the degree of influence which, in the hands of a more enlightened Government, they could not fail to exercise over the commerce and maritime interests of the Mediterranean powers.Lord Stuart de Rothesay made several efforts to obtain a positive assurance, but failed. On the 21st of April, 1830, Lord Aberdeen writes as follows:—Is it unreasonable to expect from the French Government something more than a general assurance of disinterestedness, and an engagement to consult their allies, before the future fate of the regency shall be finally decided? A French army, the most numerous, it is believed, that has ever crossed the sea, is to undertake the conquest of a territory which, from its geographical position, has always been considered of the highest importance; no man can look without anxiety at the issue of an enterprise, the ultimate objects of which are so uncertain and so undefined. … If we could so far forget what is due to our Sovereign and to ourselves as to rest satisfied with vague explanations, in a matter so deeply affecting the interests of British commerce, as well as the political relations of the Mediterranean States, it is certain that the people of this country would not hesitate to pronounce the most unequivocal condemnation of our conduct.How applicable are these observations to what is passing at this moment on the coast of Africa, and on the frontier of Morocco, and how justified is a Member of the British Parliament in the expression of a hope that Lord Aberdeen has been more successful, in 1844, in extracting an engagement from M. Guizot, than he was in 1830 in eliciting it from the unfortunate statesman who succeeded in baffling him, and from whom no written engagement could be procured. Two months were passed in correspondence, yet nothing was attained in the form of a distinct stipulation. On the 4th of May, 1830, Lord Aberdeen wrote to Lord Stuart de Rothesay:—Monsieur de Polignac expresses a hope that our expectations may not be so unreasonable, as to urge him to declarations which must prove injurious to the Government of His Most Christian Majesty. If the projects of the French cabinet be as pure and disinterested as is asserted by Monsieur de Polignac, he can have no real difficulty in giving us the most entire satisfaction. A concise and simple de- 1196 claration could not answer the purpose better, but it would appear to be more natural than the course which your Excellency states that the French Minister has been commanded by His Most Christian Majesty to adopt, to envelope in such reasoning, and to mingle considerations of national dignity and punctilio, with the statement of intentions such as I have mentioned, appears less calculated to produce conviction, and to convey the impression of sincerity and frankness.Lord Stuart de Rothesay, of course communicated these well-founded complaints to the French Ministry; but the latter, instead of writing a plain promise, such as Lord Aberdeen asked on the 12th of May, 1830, wrote to the Duke de Laval what I perused with some amusement as a specimen of evasions, which it required some disrespect for Lord Aberdeen to have attempted. He says that the fleet was about to sail, and adds,His Majesty from that moment, namely, the conquest of Algiers, ought to give an assurance to his allies, that he will present himself to those deliberations, ready to furnish all explanations which they might still desire, disposed to take into consideration all rights and all interests,and so on. After this dispatch had been written, a remarkable incident occurred. The Sultan had directed Tahir Pacha to proceed to Algiers, in order to adjust the differences with France. The French squadron would not permit Tahir Pacha to land, and he was forced to go to Toulon, where he was detained. Lord Stuart de Rothesay writes—At Toulon he will be without doubt detained in quarantine, and if he intends coming to Paris he may possibly not reach Algiers till long after it shall be too late to take part in the negotiations which are likely to follow the capture of the place.Algiers was taken on the 5th of July, 1830. The French General told the French that the stars mingled with the lights which they had kindled on the brow of Mount Atlas, and on the 16th of July, Lord Stuart de Rothesay wrote to Lord Aberdeen that he had waited on Prince Polignac to congratulate him, in the conviction that he would keep faith with his court. His Excellency answered, "by declaring his readiness to repeat his former assurances," and in a few days after, he was a prisoner in Ham; Charles the Tenth, who could not learn anything even from the misfortunes of the Comte d'Artois, was driven 1197 from his dominions and from his country, and from the barricades. There arose a throne, which the Duke of Wellington and Lord Aberdeen hastened to recognise as the legitimate result of the national will. But is it not wonderful that the new Government was recognised by England, without any sort of stipulation in reference to Algiers? Lord Aberdeen had not obtained any specific engagement from Prince Polignac. He acknowledged himself, he was fully aware of the vast importance of the results which must follow the permanent occupation of Algiers and her three provinces by France, and yet it does not appear that when Louis Phillipe was recognised by the Tory Government, they made a single observation in reference to Algiers. The Tory Government remained in office for four months after the French had taken possession of Algiers, and after they had pushed their acquisitions into the adjoining territory, and yet Lord Aberdeen had no observation to make. The Whigs, finding the French army in possession of Algiers, and not being able to refer to any engagement, took no steps one way or other, and stood passively by. I pass from 1830 to 1841, avoiding any detail of the means pursued by the French to secure their conquest, and thinking it unnecessary to say anything upon the expedients by which civilization had been extended, and Christianity has been diffused, by those peculiar propagators of the faith. In 1841, Lord Aberdeen had been scarce a few weeks in office, when the Count de St. Aulaire engaged him in a conversation upon Algiers, to which Lord Aberdeen attached no importance, but which the French ambassador turned very promptly to account. The King of the French introduced into his speech, made on the 15th of December, a statement that he had taken means to secure the possessions of France from all external complication, a paragraph which remained unintelligible, until M. Guizot, as a proof of the influence of France over the Tory Government, stated the conversation which had taken place with Lord Aberdeen. I read the speech of M. Guizot in the journal Des Debats, and I inquired from the First Lord of the Treasury whether the conversation of Lord Aberdeen had been correctly reported by the Count de St. Aulaire. The right hon. Gentleman said that the report was substantially correct, except that 1198 Lord Aberdeen denied that he had said that he had no objection to make. Lord Aberdeen himself stated the conversation was accidental, and on the 28th of January, 1842, wrote a despatch to Lord Cowley, in which he denied his having stated that he had no objection to the French retention of Algiers. This despatch was communicated to Monsieur de Guizot. Monsieur Guizot made no observations on the subject, but I cannot help thinking that the course subsequently adopted by the French Government was influenced in no small degree by the imputed declaration of Lord Aberdeen. The French Government issued an ordinance on the 16th of December, 1843, imposing a duty of four francs a ton on our shipping, and 30 per cent. on our cottons. What has been the result? I beg to call attention to the following letter, which appeared in the Times of July 18. It was written by their own correspondent, and is dated at Oran, July 6:—The commercial system lately adopted here by the Government has completely shut out British commerce from this port. Formerly several British vessels came here, but no more now, except with coals, are expected. The port duties on all foreign vessels are four francs per ton. French vessels rarely pay anything. Sardinian vessels are favoured by Treaty, and pay only two francs per ton. English cotton manufactures, which paid last year only 15 per cent., now pay more than 30, which amounts to exclusion.Who is there that hears these facts who will say that the subject which I have submitted to the attention of the House is one of which the consideration ought to be avoided? The fulfilment of all Lord Aberdeen's propositions in 1830 is found in the fiscal exclusion of English manufactures. A blow has been aimed, not at the honour of England, but at her industry; and those who laugh all the idealism of national dignity to scorn, the utilitarians of politics must, in this prohibition, find a cause, not only to regret the past, but to look with solicitude to the future. The proceedings adopted with reference to Morocco cannot, in a commercial view, be regarded with indifference. They have commenced, like the expedition to Algiers. A squadron has proceeded to the coast, which is only divided by the distance which a cannon shot could almost traverse from Gibraltar, with 12,000 men. The French army has invaded Morocco, and 1199 France demands not only the expulsion of the valiant Abd-el-Kader, the hero of the desert, but an indemnity and a guarantee. Morocco may soon fall under the protection of France; and if it does, the results to your commerce are obvious. Mr. Macgregor, in his recent and very admirable work on the commerce of this country, has given the statistics of our trade with Morocco. We almost monopolize the market of a country inhabited by 8,000,000 of people. Are we not entitled, under these circumstances, to ask of Lord Aberdeen what course he has followed, and to call on the Minister to lay on the Table of the House any engagement entered into by France in reference to the State with which we are allied, and which it is so much our interest to save from the domination of a Power of whose acquisitive tendencies some evidence has been afforded? To Morocco the French protective system will be beyond all doubt extended, whenever Morocco is annexed to Algiers. In this state of things it is not unnatural that we should inquire, first, what explanations have been given and demanded, and in the next place what force Her Majesty's Government have had the precaution to assemble in the Mediterranean? With regard to the first, as Lord Aberdeen appears not to have obtained any very satisfactory engagement in reference to Algiers, we ought to have proof afforded us that some stronger security for Morocco has been given; and with respect to the second, the Government are bound to show that for any emergency which may arise, they are not unprepared. What should be the amount of our naval force? It is my good fortune to be able to refer to two very high authorities, the Duke of Wellington, and the right hon. Baronet, with regard to the inexpediency of leaving England destitute of that Force on which not only her strength, but her existence, depends. In August, 1838, the Duke of Wellington declared that "his great object in speaking at all was to impress upon their Lordships and upon the Government, and upon the country the absolute necessity of having a stroug Naval Force in all parts of the world." What was our Naval Force in 1838, which the Duke considered insufficient? Ships of the line, 18; frigates, 29; sloops, 39; brigs, 39; steamers, 22. In 1839, on the 11th of March, the right hon. Gentleman, the First Lord 1200 of the Treasury, made a most remarkable speech on the Navy Estimates, in which he complained that our Government had not sent a squadron to the Coast of Mexico when St. Juan de Ulloa was attacked by the French. He reproached the Government with having omitted to assemble a great Naval Force at the point where events of signal magnitude were likely to arise. He insisted that the Whig Government had permitted the Naval Power of England to decline, and laid it down as a rule that we should have a large fleet ready for immediate employment, and for the protection of our own shores, as well as for the exhibition of our power in remoter seas. Let us see what Naval Force the right hon. Gentleman thinks sufficient, when he is in office, and when events are casting shadows before them by which the Mediterranean is darkened. Here is a tabular statement of our Force in 1841 and 1844:—
Let us now look to the distribution of the Force in reference to the Mediterranean in both those years:—
Ships in Commission on 1st July, 1841, and 1st July, 1844. 1st July, 1841. 1st July, 1844. Ships of line 26 Ships of Line 9 Frigates 36 Frigates 32 Sloops 40 Sloops 31 Brigs 39 Brigs 24 Armed Steamers 22 Armed Steamers 32 Foreign Mail Steamers 14 Foreign Mail Packets 4 Foreign Mail Brigs 22 Foreign Mail Brigs 6
One ship of the line in the Mediterranean! And for this utter neglect of British interest—for this most discreditable helplessness to which we are reduced in that sea, where the fate of Empires has been so often, and will be again, determined, what is the excuse? I read the statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty with astonishment, that our Naval Force was employed on the coast of Ireland, and could not be spared for the Mediterranean. Is not this a most la- 1201 mentable admission? A man who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and who is First Lord of the Admiralty, over whom the Orange flag was unfurled in one country, and to whom the honour of the union-jack is confided in the other, openly in the face of the Parliament, of the country, and of the world, announces that the honour of England is to be perilled, in order that Ireland should be kept down. Do not imagine that I condemn you for having a large Force in Ireland; you have made it indispensable by your misrule, and a further augmentation of that Force will be, whenever you shall be at war, required—that I complain of. What I most profoundly lament is, the policy by which you have exposed the country to the most fearful peril; when you could, by means so obvious and so easy, convert Ireland, now a source of weakness, into a monument of your strength; and in the affections of a loyal and devoted people, by common justice, raise up a bulwark of your empire infinitely better than any which Richmond Penitentiaries can afford. But let me not permit myself to depart from Algiers to Ireland, although the First Lord of the Admiralty has associated them together; let me revert to and resume the topics which will appear to be more immediately connected with the Motion with which I mean to conclude. I have traced the circumstances under which the French possessions in Africa were acquired; I have shown how completely our Government were baffled when the expedition first landed in Algiers; I have shown the effects upon our commerce of the extension to Algiers of the principles of French colonisation; I have adverted to the aggressive proceedings adopted with regard to Morocco, and to the miserable impuissance to which our navy has been reduced; and as I began I conclude. I stated at the outset of what I said, or meant to say, that I should studiously take care not say anything at which Frenchmen the most sensitive could reasonably complain. I hope that I have kept my promise; I was anxious to do so. I look upon the French as a most noble people. I regard the present Prime Minister of France as a man of surpassing abilities, and among men of high intellectual stature, as standing pre-eminent. The King of the French is one of the most remarkable men whom his country, fertile in greatness, has produced. He has proved 1202 that the uses of adversity are sweet, and with a diadem upon his head, has preserved that jewel which adversity is said to bear—a precious one—and finer than the brightest brilliant that glisters in his Crown. But, however we may be disposed to admire the people of France, and the Minister and the King of the French, we must bear in mind, that between France and England there exists, and there has always existed a feeling of competition, which should induce us to look for the proof of cordial friendship to something more substantial than mere professions of amity, however prodigally bestowed. My noble Friend, the late Secretary for Foreign Affairs, was said to have alienated France, at all events, he did not lower England. But in what regard have his successors in office succeeded in obtaining from France anything beyond those phrases of diplomatic endearment, which we should be taught by what is passing to appreciate at their real value. What have you got from France since you have come into office? A commercial treaty has not been signed—no single advantage for the trade of England has been secured. Your predominance in Spain is gone; the Escurial is but an appurtenance to the Tuileries; and upon the coast of Africa, whence Spain is commanded, before the armies and the armaments of France the influence of England has vanished. Talk as you will of the friendly feelings of France, and of the better understanding that prevails between the two countries than existed before you came into office, that you have gained a single point, either political or commercial, I think you will find it difficult to establish. Sir, I beg leave to move
Distribution of Force. Mediterranean, 1841. Mediterranean, 1844. Ships of the Line 17 Ships of the Line 1 Frigates 7 Frigates 4 Sloops 4 Sloops 3 Brigs 3 Brigs 0 Armed Steamers 9 Armed Steamers 6 Mail Packets 4 Mail Packets 4 Total 44 Total 18For Copies of the Ordinance of the 16th of December, imposing increased duties on our shipping and manufactures, and a Return of the amount of our Naval Force in the Mediterranean on the 1st of July, 1844.
§ Sir R. Peel
Sir, I cannot make any observations in reply to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman without in the first instance expressing my regret that he felt himself compelled by a sense of duty to bring forward a Motion calling upon the House of Commons to express an opinion on this subject. Sir, we are occupied in doing what we can to prevent any hostile collision between France and Morocco, that may be either injurious to the in- 1203 tegrity or independence of Morocco, or compromise the commercial or political interests of this country. I must say that our efforts are not aided but impeded by discussions in this assembly, producing necessarily counter discussions in another popular assembly; exciting a hostile feeling between the countries, and obstructing the efforts of the two Governments, desirous of maintaining amicable relations between France and England, by calling into action the passions of popular assemblies. The right hon. Gentleman has asked the House to give him credit for good intentions in making the Motion. And, I must acquit the right hon. Gentleman of any intention to cause animosities between this country and France; but, if that had been his intention, he could hardly have taken any course more calculated to ensure it. The right hon. Gentleman to-day moves for Papers, but as an indication of the spirit in which the Motion has been made, let me refer to the Motion of which the right hon. Gentleman gave notice on Friday night last, and which was printed with the papers and circulated with them on Saturday morning. The right hon. Gentleman then gave notice that he would move that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances under which the French possessions in Africa were acquired, and how far their extension is consistent with the political and commercial interests of this country. A Select Committee! of which the right hon. Gentleman was to be the Chairman, to inquire into the manner in which the French possessions in Africa were acquired, and how far their extension was consistent with the political and commercial interests of this country. I wish the right hon. Gentleman would bear in mind the feelings of this country if the French Government had proposed a Select Committee of the Chambers to inquire into the mode in which we got possession of Hongkong, and how far it was consistent with the interests of France that we should extend our possessions in the Chinese seas. I wonder what the right hon. Gentleman would have thought of such a motion. I presume the right hon. Gentleman does not act without mature deliberation. He is a Privy Councillor; he has been in office; conversant with all the affairs between this country and Algiers, and yet upon Friday last having had his 1204 attention directed to the subject, he absolutely gave notice that he would to-day move for a Select Committee to inquire into the circumstances under which the French held military occupation of Algiers, and how far it was consistent with our interests. That was tantamount to a motion that he should at once be made Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; and I wish he had made such a motion: it would have been infinitely better that he should be made Secretary of State, and take into his hands the government of the Foreign Office, than that we should take upon ourselves the task of governing foreign countries by means of a Select Committee, of which the right hon. Gentleman is to be Chairman; but, the right hon. Gentleman thought better of it; I told him then, that I gave him credit for the most extraordinary notice of Motion that had ever been given by any hon. Member. He did not admit it at the time; but he went afterwards to the Clerk, and begged that his Motion might be altered, and deprecated its being printed. The right hon. Gentleman this evening began his recital of events with the year 1830. He says that the despatches of Lord Aberdeen, then Minister of Foreign Affairs, showed the greatest sagacity, but that his conduct was not in conformity with his precepts. The House will bear in mind perfectly well, from the importance of the events that characterised that year in Paris, what took place in 1830. France having had a quarrel with Algiers, directed a considerable force against that power. Explanations were required by my noble Friend. The right hon. Gentleman says those explanations were entirely unsatisfactory. The explanations which were given at the time by the French Government, the Government of the Restoration, the Government of Charles X. were to this effect:—On the 12th of May, 1830, Prince Polignac assured us,That although the King was resolved not to lay down his arms or recall his troops from Algiers until he had gained satisfaction, yet he announced to his Allies that he was desirous to take measures in concert with them in the event of the dissolution of the Government then existing in Algiers, in the struggle that was about to take place." (He said) "that the object of that concert would be to discuss the new order of things which it might be desirable to establish in that country for the great benefit of Christianity, and he assured his Allies that he would enter into those deliberations 1205 prepared to afford every explanation that might be required, disposed to take into consideration all rights and interests freed from every anterior engagement, at liberty to accept any proposition which might be made to obtain the object in question, and free from every feeling of personal interest.That was the declaration of the Prince de Polignac at that time. Success crowned the efforts of the French in Algiers, and, on receiving the information of that success, Lord Stuart de Rothesay expressed a hope that the French Government would not forget the assurance it had given with respect to the abdication of any intention of territorial aggrandisement, and on the 16th of July Prince de Polignac then repeated his former assurances, and he also assured the British Government that the French Government were not inclined to depart from them. What followed? There was an insurrection against Charles X.; it continued on the 27th, 28th, and 29th of July, and on the 30th the elder branch of the house of Bourbon ceased to reign in France. We left office on the 15th of November of that year, having previously recognised the Government of Louis Phillippe, which we thought was appointed with the general goodwill and assent of the people of France. The country was in a state of great, excitement — the tenure of power was, of course, precarious. The other Continental Powers were hesitating as to the course they should pursue. This country felt it to be its duty without hesitation, seeing that the will of the people of France was unequivocally expressed in favour of a change of Government, of a transfer of power from one dynasty to another, to set the example to other countries, and did recognise that Government which appeared to be in unison with the affections of the people. The right hon Gentleman would have advised, at the moment that recognition was made, a demand for the evacuation of Algiers; but to have insisted on that might have had an unfavourable effect on the new Government. There were communications between the French and British Governments on that subject subsequently to the accession of Louis Phillippe. Lord Aberdeen moved for these communications in the House of Lords in the year 1832, and it was at the instance of Earl Grey who, animated by the same desire by which we are now animated, at 1206 a time of great excitement, and when there was a tendency to great irritation expressed a wish that Lord Aberdeen would not press for those Papers, that he withdrew his Motion, and showed that he had no wish to embarrass the Government of that day. It was in consequence of that expression of Lord Grey's wish that those Papers were not produced. On the 15th of November, 1830, we were succeeded by the Government of Lord Grey, and the two noble Lords whom I see opposite came into office; and what passed as to Algiers from 1830 to 1841? Our opponents were in possession of power for a period of eleven years. The facts were all before them—they acquiesced in the occupation of Algiers by France for the whole of that period. There was no remonstrance whatever against that occupation, and I think I shall not be contradicted when I say that the tenor of the communications made by that Government during the period of eleven years that they held office from the 15th of November, 1830, to the 18th of August, 1841, were to this effect — that the conquests of France in Africa, if limited to the Algerine territory, would not endanger the harmony and good understanding between the British and the French Governments. I am not blaming the late Government for the course they pursued. I am stating to the House what were the motives by which they were actuated; they were desirous of maintaining the Government of Louis Phillippe in France; they found that the subject of the evacuation of Algiers was one which excited the irritable feelings of the French nation; they were convinced that any attempt to press upon that Government the fulfilment of that engagement made by the Government of the Restoration would weaken the authority of that Government in France, and subject it to considerable hazards, and it therefore forbore from pressing on the Government of France the evacuation of Algiers; they maintained silence; they acquiesced for these eleven years in the continued occupation of Algiers by France. But what a difference does that make in the question of occupation—what a practical difference is there between pressing for the evacuation of Algiers in November, 1830, and in November, 1841, after eleven years of tacit acknowledgment! And was it without notice that you acquiesced? Was it not publicly declared in the French Cham- 1207 bers at an early period of your assumption of power that the French Government intended to retain Algiers? Do you recollect that in the year 1832 or 1833 Marshal Clausel, who had held an important command in Algiers, put these three questions to the then existing Government of France:—Do you intend to colonise Algiers? Do you intend to abandon Algiers? Or do you intend to yield Algiers?To which Marshal Soult expressly declared in the Chambers, in the face of Europe,—We do intend; I repeat that it is the intention of the Government to favour as much as possible the colonization of Algiers. Up to the present time it has never entered into our thoughts to evacuate Algiers—our whole conduct in that country, and on the whole coast of Africa, shows that we contemplate permanent occupation, and that we have nothing to fear against any one that meditates any disturbance there.That was the public declaration made in 1832 by Marshal Soult on the part of the French Government, and therefore the Government of England were aware of the fact that the French Government did intend to remain in the occupation of Algiers; but after the public intimation of the intention of the French Government, there was no remonstrance against it; and I will state thus far, that whatever communications took place between the French and British Governments in the interval between July, 1830, and November of the same year, were at least to some extent, addressed to that Government, wherein the noble Lord held the situation of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, subsequently to these occurrences. I am not trying to throw blame on the Government that succeeded us; but, considering the position in which France was placed, the danger to which the throne of Louis Philippe was exposed, considering the lamentable consequences that must have arisen from the displacement of Louis Philippe, from the attempt on the part of the legitimate Government to restablish itself in power, I cannot say that I think that the Governments of Lord Grey or Lord Melbourne were acting unwisely in acquiescing in the retention of Algiers by the French. They did acquiesce — they made no remonstrance against it. Our Consul continued to act, as he does now, under the exequatur of the Dey of Algiers, and I ask whe- 1208 ther it would be consistent with wisdom or prudence, that after eleven years occupation without remonstrance, would it, I say, have been consistent with wisdom or common sense that we should have gone to the French Government and said — notwithstanding this silence and acquiescence on the part of our predecessors — "We now recall to your attention the engagements of Prince de Polignac, and insist on the evacuation of Algiers." These were the circumstances under which we found the occupation by France of Algiers in 1841. The right hon. Gentleman, as a proof of the inconvenience and embarrassment arising to this country from that occupation, referred to the ordinance imposing a duty on the importation of English goods into Algiers on the 16th of December last. Such an ordinance certainly was issued, but no doubt was not directed against English ships and English manufactures, but was establishing a discriminating duty in favour of French manufactures as compared with foreign manufactures. But, says the right hon. Gentleman, "that which I object to is the principle of that ordinance;" but I will shew that that principle was decided long before, as far back as 1835. [Mr. Sheil: But the facts are new.] The right hon. Gentleman says, now that the facts are new; but I was going to show you that the principle was established before. He was imputing to us negligence in permitting France to issue this ordinance without remonstrance in 1843, which exposed British produce to a discriminating duty favourable to France; but he concealed the fact—unintentionally, no doubt—that in 1835 an ordinance was issued, establishing the same principle, though not in the same degree, of a discriminating duty in favour of French produce. That ordinance was issued at the latter end of 1835, when the noble Lord was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. [Mr. Sheil: Yes, but the facts were different.] But the principle was not new as to the establishment of a discriminating duty in favour of French ships and French commerce. Now, the ordinance of 1835, is in these terms:—That considering our ordinance of the 12th July, 1834, concerning the general administration of our French possessions on the north coast of Africa, and being desirous of regulating all that concerns the duties upon navigation, and the customs to be received in the same possessions, with report of our Ministers,—1209 And then it proceeds, "nous avons ordonné, &c. The principle of the ordinance was precisely the same; there was exactly the same amount of acquiescence in 1835 that there was in 1844. The example of acquiescence was set by our predecessors. There was certainly a difference in the amount of duties imposed at those periods, but the principle was precisely the same. In 1835 a discriminating duty of 2f. was imposed; in 1844—the words of the ordinance of 1835 being quoted—the duty was raised to 4f., but it was not directed against British commerce or British navigation. What inference would the right hon. Gentleman opposite have us to draw from this fact? Would he have us go to war on that point? Would he have us insist upon controlling the French in the right of imposing their own commercial duties? I will say that I deeply regret the exercise of this power by the French Government. I deeply regret that these discriminating duties have been imposed; but that is a widely different thing from questioning the right of the French Government to determine the amount of their duties, especially after the precedent established in 1835. The right hon. Gentleman doubts the sincerity of the declaration made by the King of the French with respect to Morocco. The right hon. Gentleman has said, that the King of the French is a great statesman and a virtuous man; but he seemed to apprehend that the same course may be adopted by the French with regard to Morocco that has been pursued with reference to Algiers. The right hon. Gentleman says, he has not the slightest wish to involve us in war, but that he thought it necessary to make his speech to-night in order to draw public attention to this subject. I am, on this occasion, speaking necessarily under great reserve. The right hon. Gentleman opposite possesses a great advantage over me. He knows that I cannot enter fully into details with reference to this question; and as to the amount of our naval force, without compromising the Government. He knows I cannot speak on this subject with the same freedom of discussion with which we speak upon ordinary questions relating to internal politics. The right hon. Gentleman knows, from the experience of the last six weeks, that I could not speak freely without provoking excited feelings in France—without subjecting the French Government to 1210 taunts that they are mere instruments in the hands of the Government of this country—and without exciting against the Government of France such accusations as the right hon. Gentleman has directed against my Colleagues and myself. If the right hon. Gentleman thinks that these public declarations are of no account—if he thinks there is no respect for national honour — there can, I apprehend, be very little additional safety in treaties which, in these cases, are inapplicable. But the declarations of the French Government were made to the British Government; they were made in the face of the world by the Minister of Foreign Affairs—the organ of the French Government. M. Guizot publicly declared in the French Chamber, that the French Government had no desire to provoke hostilities with Morocco, that they had been most anxious to maintain peace, and that they have no natural or national cause of conflict with that state. I see that the right hon. Gentleman distrusts that assertion. I think, if he entertains such an opinion, he might have spared the elaborate compliments he has to-night paid to the King of the French, for the right hon. Gentleman spoils the effect of those compliments by sneering at the declaration to which I am now referring. The right hon. Gentleman must not claim popularity when he visits France, on the ground of his compliments to the French people and to the King of the French, if he shows his regard for them by sneering at the declarations I have mentioned. [Mr. Sheil: I did not sneer.] No; you said nothing. But the right hon. Gentleman is so naturally eloquent, that a look on his expressive countenance has the effect of a speech from an ordinary individual. I repeat that the declarations I have quoted were made by the organ of the French Government, who stated that Abd-el-Kader, having disturbed the tranquillity of the French territories for some years, had taken refuge in the territories of Morocco, and that from that position he had directed fresh assaults upon the possessions of the French in Algiers. M. Guizot then declared, as to the policy of the French Government, that they had no views of conquest with regard to Morocco, that they had formed no project of territorial aggrandizement, that they found that the territory of Algeria was quite sufficient for France. M. Guizot states again— 1211I am convinced that it would be senseless, on our part, to cherish any views of aggrandizement or conquest; we disclaim anything of the sort; all we demand of the Emperor of Morocco is what we have a right to demand—to live in peace, and that our frontier shall have security;M. Guizot then states the demands made by France upon the Emperor of Morocco; he says what they demanded, and what they had a right to demand, was that the assembling of troops by the agents of Morocco or of Abd-el-Kader should be prevented,—that those officers who infringed the law of nations should be recalled or punished,—that if a Mussulman Sovereign felt himself bound to afford Abd-el-Kader an asylum, he should either be directed to repair to the interior or to the coast, that a fixed residence should be assigned to him, and that a guarantee should be given to the French Government that Abd-el-Kader would not be allowed to direct hostile attacks against them from a friendly state. This intimation was given by M. Guizot in the French Chamber without any reserve. I before stated, in answer to a noble Lord opposite, that the general purport of the instructions given to the French naval and military commanders in Algiers had been communicated to the Government of this country. I did not mean that the precise detailed instructions had been sent to us, but only that the purport of those instructions had been communicated. I am borne out in this respect by M. Guizot, who states,—"The instructions the Prince de Joinville has received are in exact conformity with the policy with reference to Algiers I have now stated to you." M. Guizot says, that the instructions given to the naval and military commanders are in general conformity with the policy he had announced. I stated in this House—and the circumstance shows the danger and inconvenience of discussing matters of this kind — that the purport of those instructions had been communicated to us. It was then reported that I had said, the naval and military instructions issued by the French Government with reference to Algiers had been communicated to the Government of this country. A flame was immediately kindled in the Chambers of Peers and Deputies, and it was said, "Communicate to us what you have communicated to the British Government." all this arising from an erroneous construction of my state- 1212 ment. The right hon. Gentleman then referred to the state of our Naval Force. Now, I trust the House will support me in declining to enter into any discussion with the right hon. Gentleman as to the present amount and condition of our Naval Forces. The right hon. Gentleman taunts us on this side of the House with having stated in 1838, that the Naval Estimates ought then to have been increased, and with having, at a subsequent period, neglected to effect that increase. I think, however, I can show that we have not neglected the exigencies of the Naval Service. The right hon. Gentleman says, that in 1838 I complained that the Naval Force of this country was insufficient. In that year the estimate for the effective service of the Navy, discarding from consideration the packet service and the revenue service—was 3,085,000l., while it is now 4,004,000l. The estimates for the last four years have been larger by far than any estimates for the ten years preceding; and what has been the result? It may be quite true we have not the same number of ships in commission; but within a very short period this country would be enabled with the consent of this House to make a naval demonstration worthy of its fame as a maritime country. The right hon. Gentleman has compared the number of ships in commission now with the number in commission at a former period. I beg to remind the right hon. Gentleman that we have taken 36,000 seamen and marines for our Naval Force for the present year. I don't think the hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir C. Napier) ought to have cheered the right hon. Gentleman when he was alluding to the number of ships in commission; for, I think I have heard the hon. and gallant Officer say, at a former period, that though there were several ships in commission in the Mediterranean, they were so ill-manned that they were in a most unserviceable state. I assert, then, that the number of ships in commission is no test of your naval strength. You may have a small number of ships in commission well manned and appointed, and may yet be more strong as a naval power than if you had a large number of vessels in commission without their proper complement of hands. The hon. and gallant Officer (Sir C. Napier) may, perhaps, recollect the complaints he made respecting the condition of the ships employed on the coast 1213 of Syria; and I think, when the hon. and gallant Member is considering such a subject as this, he ought to look to the present condition of the Navy with respect to manning and appointments. The right hon. Gentleman asks for an account of the Naval Force now employed by this country in the Mediterranean; but I think he can hardly desire the production of details of this nature. [Sir C. Napier: A statement on the subject has appeared in the public papers.] But that is very different from a statement in Parliament. I have attempted to show, that if in 1841 we did acquiesce in the continued occupation of Algiers by France, we did so in consequence of the course of events, in consequence of the preceding acquiescence of our predecessors which I do not blame—in consequence of the statement made by them that this country would not disturb France in the occupation of Algiers, but that it did expect from France a disclaimer of any intention to extend its conquests either in the direction of Tunis or of Morocco. Such declarations were frequently repeated; with those declarations the late Government professed themselves satisfied; and since that Government quitted office corresponding declarations have been made. The noble Lord opposite (Lord Palmerston) will, no doubt, remember that this question relating to Algiers was discussed when he was Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. If, then, I appear reserved in the communications I am now making,—if, from a desire to promote an honourable peace between Morocco and France, I am necessarily obliged to confine myself within narrow limits in discussing this question. I must remind the noble Lord that he has asked for the same forbearance, and has exhibited the same reserve when called upon by the Motion of Sir Samuel Whalley to discuss this question under similar circumstances. In 1833 the noble Lord was called upon to speak upon this subject in reply to an hon. Friend of mine, and he then stated, that with reference to the possible designs of France on another portion of the coast of Africa, he could assure the hon. Gentleman that the strongest assurances had been given by the French to the English Government, that notwithstanding the occupation of Algiers they had no designs upon Tunis or Morocco; but, that as the matter then stood, he thought he would best consult 1214 his duty by abstaining from expressing opinions which if might be neither useful nor convenient to utter. On that occasion I abstained from taking any part in the debate, for I felt the difficulty of the position in which the noble Lord was placed. The noble Lord was asked by a noble Member of this House (Lord Mahon) to state what was the date of the declaration to which he had alluded. The noble Lord replied that those assurances had been given within the last few months, that they had been chiefly verbal, but that he must decline to lay before the House the communications that had taken place. I think, then, under the circumstances, it would not be advisable to lay before the House communications between this country and that of France as to the events in Algiers. I do hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not provoke any difference of opinion, but that he will allow the Motion he has made for the production of papers to be negatived. While I have been anxious to vindicate the Government, I should be most unwilling to treat any Motion made by the right hon. Gentleman opposite with anything like disrespect; but, at the same time, I have been most anxious to avoid any expression or any intimation of opinion that could by any chance diminish our authority, exerted as it now is for the maintenance of an honourable peace.
Lord J. Russell
said: So far as my own views are concerned, it was not my intention to have made any Motion on this subject, after the statement of the right hon. Baronet in answer to a question I put to him at an early period of the Session. In the present state of affairs as to France and Morocco, I should have delayed asking for any further explanation as to the course the Governments of this country and of France have pursued. I think, however, that nothing could have been more temperate than the speech of my right hon. Friend who has judged it expedient to bring forward this subject,—that no language could have been more guarded; and I believe that the right hon. Baronet opposite, objecting as he does to that Motion, has misunderstood a great portion of the observations of my right hon. Friend. My right hon. Friend referred to what took place in 1830 with respect to the occupation of Algiers; and the right hon. Baronet says, "Is it to be supposed that we, 1215 who were out of office from 1830 to 1841, should in the autumn of 1841 insist upon an evacuation of Algiers by France?" My right hon. Friend, as far as I heard, never made such an intimation; and nothing can be more gratuitous than the supposition of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet is an able debater when he deals with substantial arguments; but when he fights with shadows he endeavours to deal with them with still greater energy than he bestows upon the substance. I think the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) has correctly slated, generally, the course pursued by the late Government with respect to the occupation of Algiers by the French. We certainly never thought it conformable with the policy of England to make any demand upon France for the relinquishment of the territory of Algiers; and I own, that on reviewing the circumstances, I cannot think that we were mistaken in our views on that subject. We did, upon more than one occasion, ask for explanations with respect to any further aggrandisement of France in Africa, but with respect both to Tunis and Morocco, we obtained assurances which we considered satisfactory. To those declarations the right hon. Baronet has alluded, and he has stated that similar assurances have been given to the present Government. I will not ask the right hon. Baronet for any further explanation than that he chose to give of the assurances he had received from the French Government with respect to this subject; and the right hon. Baronet has said that the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in France, M. Guizot, stated in the French Chambers what were the complaints made by that country against the Emperor of Morocco. All I will say on this subject is, that though the demands of the French Government appear, on the face of them, fair and reasonable, they involve very delicate questions; they involve the question as to how far the power of the Sovereign of Morocco may be exerted to prevent Abd-el-Kader, or chiefs who are friendly with him, from making aggressions upon the French territory; they involve, also, the question—supposing this demand of France is not agreed to—as to the manner in which the war shall be hereafter carried on. These questions I view without any apprehension; and, seeing the great delicacy of these subjects—seeing that from week to 1216 week, or from time to time, the complexion of these affairs may change, I am not disposed to press for any other explanation than that which the right hon. Baronet opposite has already given as to the policy of the Government with respect to this subject. I think also, it may be well that we should consider what is the position of the Sovereign of the French nation, and of the Ministry of that country, with relation to this question. It is impossible not to see that there is, and has been for many years, a party in France which has a blind passion for war — which does not seek hostilities for the reparation of an insult to the national honour, or for any object necessary to the establishment of French interests, but from envy of other European nations, or from a desire of that delusive military glory which they think can be obtained by war alone. This party is continually pressing the Chambers and the people of France to take occasion of any trivial occasion that may present itself for involving that great country in war; and I have rejoiced to observe, that the present Government of France, while—as far as I could see—duly considering the honour and interests of the nation, have manfully opposed themselves to that passionate desire which prevails among certain sections of their own people. While this is the case I should be less disposed to press upon that Government for anything which is not essential to the establishment of English honour and interest, and which might be grating and irritating to the French people. If this is the course adopted by the Government of this country, it ought to be—and I trust it will be—a course followed by Parliament. The Ministry of this country, I conceive, occupies a more fortunate position in this respect than the French Government. There is not, I believe, in this country, any party ready to seize every occasion of quarrel, or disposed to make demands upon another country, with which that country cannot comply consistently with its honour and dignity. I think I may congratulate the right hon. Baronet, that he is not now labouring under this kind of pressure. If he were, I believe he would be determined to resist it, for I am convinced the right hon. Baronet entertains a sincere desire to maintain peace. But while I say this, I do not think the Government justified in the course they have taken with respect to our own naval defence. It is a very dif- 1217 ferent thing to say that the House of Commons should not interfere to direct and control the negotiations carried on by the Executive with a foreign power, and to say that the House of Commons shall not ask those entrusted with maintaining the military and naval forces of the country in what manner the supplies voted cheerfully (and the hon. Member for Montrose might, perhaps, say lavishly) by Parliament are applied. The right hon. Baronet has to-night renewed the protest he has made on former occasions against being interrogated in this House as to the condition of the naval force of the kingdom. Why, nothing could be more constitutional than such inquiries—nothing is more justifiable by precedent. If you look to the conduct of Chatham, Pitt, and Fox, you will see, that when they were out of office, they frequently criticised and condemned the use made by Government of the votes granted at that time for the purposes of the Navy. Certainly the late Government was exposed to continued attacks on this subject. Some time ago, on the question of going into Committee of Supply, I ventured to make two or three observations on this subject. I said, "I see a difficulty arising between France and the state of Morocco, and it appears, according to the public prints, that you have only one sail of the line in the Mediterranean. Now, I am fully prepared to maintain that it is much better to have a force ready for service in times of peace, rather than to have to fit out a force upon a sudden emergency." The only answer I obtained was one in a tone of levity from the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman having no joke of his own at command, borrowed one from a rev. friend of mine, the rev. Sydney Smith, a very good joke in its way, and better perhaps than any that could have been uttered by the right hon. Baronet; but the right hon. Gentleman did not vouchsafe to give an answer to my inquiry. As to the employment of the 4,000,000l., to which the right hon. Baronet has alluded as voted in the supplies as to whether there are ships or men forthcoming to defend the interests and commerce of the country, — those, no doubt, are very impertinent questions to be asked by a Member of the House of Commons. I find, from the statement referred to by the right hon. Baronet, (Sir R. Peel) on this subject, that about September, 1838, when a violent attack was 1218 made upon the late Government for the insufficiency of the Naval Force at their disposal, there were 18 line-of-battle ships in Commission. In July, 1844, there are only nine. The total number of line-of-battle ships, frigates, sloops, and brigs in 1835, was 125; at this time it was only 96. [Sir R. Peel: But we have increased the number of men.] Still I don't think that is a sufficient answer. The late Government may have been in the wrong on this subject, but they adopted the opinions of great naval authorities, beginning, I believe, with Lord Howe, and coming down to Sir Thomas Hardy, who investigated this subject, and gave it as his opinion, that the complement of men maintained in 1836 was amply sufficient for ships in time of peace. The present Government thought, however, that the complement should be larger; but is that a reason why they should have so greatly reduced the number of ships. If it is necessary the ships you maintain should have their present complement of men, is it not also necessary that you should have a sufficient number of ships; In September, 1838, we had seven line-of-battle ships in the Mediterranean; in 1841, 17; and in the beginning of 1844, one. In September, 1838, we had six line-of-battle ships at home, and two at Lisbon—a total of eight, ready for service at any moment. Now, however, there are only two line-of-battle ships in the Mediterranean, and you have only nine altogether, of which two are in the East Indies, and one is about to proceed to the Pacific. There will, therefore, be only two or three line-of-battle ships left at disposal for the defence of the coast. My right hon. Friend the Member for Halifax (Mr. C. Wood), in proposing the Navy Estimates in 1839, went into detail on this subject; and showed that instead of a diminution there had been a great increase of the Navy Estimates since 1835. One of the right hon. Secretaries for the Treasury also made a very elaborate speech on that question, and he quoted the opinions of the hon. and gallant Officer opposite, a Member of the Board of Admiralty (Sir G. Cockburn) who stated that when he was asked by Mr. Canning, in 1826, what Naval Force could be got ready immediately, he replied that he had no Force ready at the moment, but that in three days he would have 12 sail of the line in readiness. Mr. Canning made 1219 the statement in the House of Commons; the order was given, and the 12 sail were in readiness in three days. That circumstance is, I conceive, most creditable to the skill and energy of the hon. and gallant Officer. But I ask him what is the case now? He believes now that larger complements of men are necessary. But I cannot see how the hon. and gallant Officer could at this moment get 12 sail of the line off to the Mediterranean, or anywhere else, should it be necessary to send them in that quarter. It certainly is competent, having voted a large sum of money for the support of the Navy—it is quite competent, I repeat, for any hon. Member of this House, having been asked to sanction that vote, to inquire whether this country have a sufficient Naval Force in the case of any sudden and unforseen emergency. There is another question connected with this subject which I might ask the right hon. Baronet; but I shall defer doing so until the remainder of the Navy Estimates come on in Committee of Supply, when it is my intention to ask the right hon. Baronet some questions with respect to the building of ships. I shall ask the right hon. Gentleman opposite what large ships are ready to be launched, and I shall be glad if the answer which is given shall be perfectly satisfactory. This I am aware, is a totally distinct question from that embraced in the Motion of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Sheil), which, although well founded, there may be some objections to it; although I believe that no inconvenience would result from granting the Papers which my right hon. Friend has asked for, still as his Motion might be drawn into a precedent on a future time for the inquiry of the destination of ships when it possibly would be inconvenient, I trust that my right hon. Friend will not press for the Papers which he has asked for. With regard to the negotiations not being carried on with a due regard to the honour and interests of England, I confess that I am no more influenced by the clamours raised here than I am by those raised in France with respect to their Government being alike neglectful of the honour and interest of France; not, then, being disposed to pay any attention to those clamours, I have seen nothing to induce me to urge the extreme step contemplated by the Motion of my right hon. Friend. With respect to the position of 1220 this country generally, I trust that a sufficient Navy will be always maintained, so that the name and dignity of the country may be properly sustained.
§ Mr. M. Milnes
said, that there was one admission in the able speech of the noble Lord who had just sat down, which he regarded with particular satisfaction, that he could not regard the relation of France and Morocco with any apprehension whatever. The noble Lord said that with respect to the state of affairs between France and Morocco, he had no anxiety, having full trust, which all the country had, in the Government and humanity of France; he did understand from those views that the noble Lord did not regard with apprehension the relations of France and Morocco. As regarded the strength and state of the Navy, it appeared to him that there was no culpability attached to Government in not having any additional force in the Mediterranean, for he had no apprehension of any hostility at present, and if such were to take place he had no doubt that there would be sufficient time to collect a sufficient force to meet any that might be brought against us. He did not suppose either that the noble Lord at the Head of Foreign Affairs was so far behind his noble predecessor in the act of protocolising as not to be able to delay such an event a sufficient time to enable us in some measure to prepare one. He could not suppose, from the known good feeling of the right hon. Gentleman who had brought forward that Motion, that it had been done with any hostile feeling, or that the words of the Motion had been framed with any such intention. Nevertheless, he saw with great pain that notice of Motion, from the confident belief that it would be misinterpreted and misunderstood. Knowing the existence of a war party in France, he thought that it behoved them to do all in their power not to increase those difficulties with which the Government of France had to contend. There was no practical good to be obtained if Government came forward and would not recognize the right of France to Algeria. For his own part he was not in a position to understand why the right of France to Algeria had not heretofore been recognised. At all events, as long as that recognition was withheld, we had no right to expect the concession of any particular favour to our commerce from France. In respect to Algeria, then, he could not see that any circumstances to 1221 which their attention had been called were calculated to cause a suspicion that the French designed further conquests. He could not suppose that the French were anxious for any extension of territory. It was impossible to talk with Frenchmen without hearing regrets of the blood which had been sunk in the sands, and the gold which had been wasted in that fruitless contest. With France there could not be any other intention in their contest with Morocco than the prevention of a hostile force coming to the assistance of the Abd-el-Kader and his followers, and making the empire of Morocco the basis for wrenching the territory from the French. He did feel that the time must come when Christian civilization ought to be carried to that country, but of that he feared there would be but slender hopes, if it were always to remain abandoned to a horde of barbarians These matters, however, might be deemed too speculative for them as politicians; he did trust, however, that taking into consideration the difficulties which the English Government had to arrange, that the right hon. Gentleman would be induced to withdraw his Motion. At the same time, he thought that it would be grateful, both to the House and the country, if the right hon. Gentleman would reiterate his assertion, that he had brought forward that Motion with no hostile feeling to France, and with none other than kindly feelings towards the French nation generally.
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the right hon. Baronet had taken up two questions in his speech; the first of which was, as to how far the House had a right to look to the disposal of the moneys voted by them; and, secondly, as to how far they might interfere with the negotiations carried on between two countries. With respect to the first question, he thought it nothing but right that the House should have full cognizance of the disposal of the Supplies voted; the better the application of the money was known, the better, he thought, it would be for the interests of the country. With regard to Motions of that kind, he must express his disapproval of them. When those who sat on his side of the House held the reins of Government they were constantly being told of the inefficient state of the Navy; those who now sat on the opposite side of the House were constantly attacking the Government by a depreciation of the fleet; he could not but regret that the late Ministry had yielded 1222 to those attacks. He thought that if there was any sincerity in the anxiety expressed by some to see peace maintained, that they should not be so anxious to increase the Navy. The right hon. Baronet, in his opinion, was deserving of thanks for having reduced the Navy. There was a party in France who were continually exciting the minds of the French people, and continually hoping for war. What, be asked, was more likely to remove that jealous feeling than by showing our confidence in them by reducing the Navy? He would never desire the Navy to be reduced very low, for he deemed that we ought always to maintain a sufficient force for the protection of our commerce. But there was an all powerful consideration against increasing the number of our ships, for when England armed, the world armed; when England increased her fleet, the French did the same, the United States the same. For those reasons the Navy ought to be reduced as low as possible, so as not to give the war party in France any cause for jealousy, or any excuse for urging an increase of the French navy. With respect to the second question treated of in the right hon. Baronet's speech, as far as his experience went, it was an evil to interfere in the affairs of other countries. It was true, as had been instanced by the right hon. Baronet, what should we have said supposing that the French had appointed a committee to inquire respecting our conquest of Scinde, or occupation of Hong Kong? He believed that it was to the interest of the French Government to maintain peace, and that they might rest secure with the declaration of the French Government that they had no design of further conquests; at all events let them do nothing which might be misunderstood. He was glad to hear, from the Government, the declaration of its maintaining peace, and reducing the Navy, as far as was consistent with the honour and dignity of the country. He thought the Navy larger than it ought to be—larger than the wants our commerce required. He recollected the time, however, when the hon. and gallant Admiral did not see any reason why a single line of battle ship should be in the Mediterranean. But it was their object to put down the jealousy which had produced the late formidable armament; he believed that the measure of the right hon. Baronet tended to that object. He deprecated very strongly any idea getting abroad 1223 that England would interfere in Algeria. The true policy of England was peace, and they ought to maintain it by interfering as little as possible. On all occasions, however, when Government by interfering had a chance of preventing war, he should say that they were only doing their duty by such interference; he thought at the same time that to lower the Naval Force of England would be the best means of maintaining peace, which he believed that they were all anxious to do.
§ Mr. Mackinnon
said, it cannot but be matter of surprize that the right. hon. Gentleman bringing forward this Motion, has stated that in his opinion the results of the present state of affairs in the Mediterranean may prove injurious to the commerce of this country. Sir, the right hon Gentleman has in his speech been so ably refuted by the First Lord of the Treasury, that there is no necessity for me to say one word in addition to what has fallen from my right hon. Friend (Sir R. Peel). With regard to the speech of the noble Lord the Member for London, there was no substance in it, no argument, nothing to answer, it was in fact only a pillow for the Motion of his right hon. Friend to fall gently to the ground, which it is evident it will do, even without a division. As I take great interest on the subject of Algiers and the French occupation of that portion of Africa called Algeria, I will now say a few words, and a few words only on the subject. Now, as the right hon. Gentleman is a lawyer he cannot be unacquainted with either Vattell, or the other writers who have given us their sentiments, and laid down rules with regard to the Laws of Nations, and I believe he will find that every independant state has a right to make war or peace, or to defend itself when attacked without the intervention of any other State. I am not aware that in our late war with China, or when the immense territory of Scinde was added to our Eastern possessions that any motion was made in the French Chambers for a Committee to inquire into the subject. If any member of the French Chambers had done so, he would, I think, have been ridiculed in this country for his pains, and probably not much supported in the French Chambers in his motion. It does not appear to me that we have any right whatever to interfere in the war between France and Morocco. Now let us look at the position in which England 1224 and France are placed in reference to each other, and with the rest of Europe, and let us ascertain whether it would either be prudent, or for the interest of Great Britain, to interfere in any manner with the business now going on in Africa. England is now increasing every hour in individual wealth and national prosperity; her finances are now placed on a sound and stable footing by the present Government, particularly by the late Bank Charter Bill; her policy is to reduce her taxation by degrees, and to avoid all unnecessary expenditure. France is increasing much in the same manner, and it is equally her interest, as well as the desire of her government, and that of England, to keep on good terms with her neighbours and to avoid an European war, but the laws are not so well obeyed in France, nor is the Government so strong as in England. The French are a warlike, active, and enterprising people, and their occupation of Algiers is perhaps the best security we have for the continuance of peace. A civilized community must be occupied, and have either trade, commerce and manufactures, or wage an external war, or be annoyed by internal dissentions. The French have not got sufficient manufactures, commerce or colonies to occupy the redundant population, and Algeria becomes a sort of safety valve where the turbulent spirit of the people may find occupation, and where they are likely to find it for some time to come. If the Emperor of Morocco, or the people of that country attack the French in Algeria, have the latter not a right to defend themselves? ought they to stand tamely by and allow themselves to be massacred? In every point of view I think it desirable that the French should settle in Algeria. The right hon. Gentleman favours the Catholic cause, would he not be gratified in seeing the Catholic faith spread itself over that part of Africa? What is to be apprehended to the interests of Great Britain from the colonization of that part of Africa styled Algeria by France? They the French are not likely to extend themselves either to Egypt or the east, or to interfere with our gum trade in the west of that continent, and I trust that the settlement of the colony of Algeria may occupy the attention of the French people so much as to deter them from any thoughts of war with their European neighbours, and enable them and 1225 the States adjoining them on the European continent to become by railway and steam communication so dovetailed in interests, and so improved in facility of communication as to render that system of warfare, that has with little intermission been the scourge of Europe and the disgrace of the Christian religion and of civilization, to be much less frequent than it was in former times. It appears, therefore, to me, that both for the interests and peace of England, of France, and of the civilized world, it is desirable for the French to colonize that part of Africa styled Algeria.
§ Sir C. Napier
could not concur in the opinion expressed by the hon. Member who had last addressed the House, that any benefit was likely to arise from the French occupation of Algiers. Did the hon. Member believe that such an occupation would have the effect of allaying the French spirit of enterprise? He did not wish to say anything which might be considered as disparaging to the people of France. When this business first commenced, the Government of France said, that they had no wish to occupy Algiers, but that their only object was to punish the people of that country for certain acts of which they had been guilty. The Government of this country would have acted wisely if they had obtained from France a written declaration to that effect. They ought not to permit France to take possession of Morocco. Why, at that moment Prince de Joinville might be bombarding Tangier. It was their duty to protect British interests. The right hon. Baronet appeared very sensitive when the state of the Navy was brought under the consideration of the House. The Navy was in a worse state than it had been in for tea or fifteen years previously. In 1839 they had twenty-one sail of the line, and 34,165 seamen and marines. The French Government had eight sail of the line at the period when this subject was brought before the House of Lords. The Duke of Wellington said they were engaged in a war in Asia and in other parts of the world, and yet had a Naval force sufficient only for a time of peace. He did not blame the first naval Lord of the Admiralty; he was certain that he had not pointed out to the right hon. Baronet the necessity of reducing the naval strength of this country. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) in the debate on the Navy Estimates, said, 1226 when alluding to the state of the British Navy,It was impossible not to see that the exertions made by other Powers—it might be without any hostile design—by the United States—France and Russia were becoming great naval Powers, and were preparing to cope with Great Britain in the superiority which it had hitherto maintained over the seas; and it was impossible, therefore, to exclude the importance of those maritime Powers from the consideration of the House. There was one material point also—that the House must not only take the actual strength with which it was possible to appear, when it might be called upon to come in collision with other nations, into consideration, but also the degree of assistance which we might expect from our allies. Let the House look at the strength of the Russian fleet in the Baltic at this time. They must not, however, determine the amount of possible danger by its mere extent, but they must look at the other fleets there, and if they found that Russia had a complete preponderating power there, it was most material to consider, whether this arose as well from its own strength, as from the assistance which it might gain.Again, Sir R. Peel said,That he could not refrain from expressing a hope, that they would not, merely for the sake of economy, rashly diminish the strength of the Navy.In another part of the speech the right hon. Baronet said,If it were necessary to have eleven sail of the line in the Mediterranean, and two at Lisbon, then all he could say was, that the remaining seven sail of the line in commission were very inadequate to the duty of protecting the coasts of this country, and meeting unforeseen dangers that might assail us without warning. If, on the other hand, so many ships were not wanted in the Mediterranean, why were not five or six sail recalled to the home station, to be kept as a reserve, ready to be called into action on unlooked-for contingencies?When the right hon. Baronet came into office in 1841, they had in commission twenty-six sail of the line, and 43,000 seamen and marines; in 1842 that was reduced to twelve sail of the line, fully manned. The French had, at this period, sixteen sail of the line; in 1843, they had six or seven sail of the line, and 36,000 men; and in 1844, the Naval Force was reduced by the right hon. Baronet to seven sail of the line. The right hon. Baronet then had not so many men. He might as well say, that they had fortified the country, not having a sufficient num- 1227 ber of men to man these fortifications. Of what use, he asked, were ships, unless they had seamen to man them? The right hon. Baronet said, ships could be got ready quickly: but, when his hon. Friend found it necessary to send a three-decker to the Mediterranean, he was obliged to man her with old pensioners, not having a sufficient number of able seamen at command. But that was not enough, and they were obliged to take 150 marines to fill up with. They were put on board the Caledonia, one of the few ships in our ports; and it was said that they had got a ship manned precisely equal to a man-of-war, because the marines were as good as sailors. This being the mode of manning, there was no very great merit in having her manned on signal by the telegraph by four in the afternoon, after a month's notice had been given. For his part, he would not like to have a ship manned in this way by marines; the only excuse for it was, that the manning in this way could be managed rapidly, because in three or four hours he could have as many marines as seamen. He trusted there would be no more reduction of complements of ships' crews, but he believed the right hon. Baronet was about to reduce them to that amount, which was so much complained of under the late Government. Besides sending out the Caledonia, they had sent one ship of the line also to Gibraltar, to make an appearance. Where, then, were the seven sail of the line that the right hon. Baronet had spoken of, as being necessary for the defence of the coasts of this country? There was only one ship of the line at Plymouth, and that was manned with marines; and another that had been lying for three months to get men to go to South America. All that he wished was to get up the Navy to a proper state of efficiency. It now took two or three months to send a ship to sea, and the gallant Admiral opposite (Sir G. Cockburn) knew that he could not get a ship manned under that time. The flag ship for South America had been three months fitting out. How then could a fleet be fitted out under five or six months? He knew that the stores were all ready, and that the ships were all in as complete order as they could be. He might be told a fleet might be fitted out in six months; but what had been the case in 1840? The Vanguard and the Rodney were sent home from the Medi- 1228 terranean in January or February. They were re-commissioned in March or April, and of course they needed considerable repairs after having been at sea for three or four years; but they were chosen as being the ships that could be got ready the quickest. Well, these ships did not arrive in the Mediterranean again until November, though the French had all along twenty sail of the line in Toulon Harbour. We were obliged to get ships for the Mediterranean from the distant stations. Those did not arrive in the Mediterranean till January. The Calcutta did not arrive till February, and several other ships remained in our ports here, and never arrived in the Mediterranean at all. He would ask, therefore, whether he could confide in the right hon. Baronet when he said that he could do what no other Government ever did—that was to say, fit out twenty sail of the line in six months. The French Government, it appeared, had now in commission in the Mediterranean eight sail of the line; they had also in what they called commission de rade five sail of the line; that is, ships outside in the roads officered and manned with half crews. They also had three more ships of the line repairing, besides twenty-three sail of the line on the stocks. It was the French custom to keep many ships on the stocks and only launch them as they were wanted. They had as many ships in their dockyards as we had in all our arsenals put together. He had always held that our method of commissioning ships only when they were immediately wanted was not politic, wise, or economical. What had it led to, but when occasion demanded getting ready a fleet of perhaps twenty sail of the line, and then paying them off as soon as they were not wanted, to be again got ready when another occasion called for them? The system was peculiarly unjust to the seamen. We got them to leave the merchant service in order to man our ships of war, where they were kept for a short time, and were then turned adrift without any means of support, until they got into the merchant service again. Then how could the officers improve? One ship had been kept for three years in the Mediterranean full of young gentlemen, officers and lieutenants. They had been three years in Malta Harbour, and had not had the slightest chance of becoming sailors. He could say, that in the Mediterranean, when he and his 1229 gallant comrades were there, they had seventeen or eighteen sail of the line; and it was a very difficult thing to see among them all what is called a good lieutenant. Generally, it was understood there, that out of six or seven lieutenants if one good officer could be found, they ought to think themselves perfectly well off. With respect to this question of officers learning their duty, he must say he believed that for a month the Admiralty had had six experimental brigs afloat; he had hoped these would have been sent to sea, that the officers might have learned something of their duties; but the fact was, that we had not men to send them to sea with, although our establishment was increased by 3,000 men. It was true that number was stated before the Queen was paid off; but the number in excess above the estimate was still considerable. He hoped that the right hon. Baronet, who, he was afraid, allowed obstinacy to prevail over reason, would alter his determination and come down to Parliament and ask for more men, and he thought that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) would be one of the first to vote with the right hon. Baronet for the increase when he saw that this country would be placed in an improper position without it.
§ Viscount Ingestre
observed, that the hon. Member for Montrose advocated placing the Navy on the lowest footing, forgetting altogether the experience which was necessary for the officers and men. Allusion had been made to the allegations of Members on that (the Ministerial) side of the House against the state of the Navy some years ago, but there could be no comparison between that time and the present, owing to the different circumstances of Europe. At that time there was a very great apprehension of a war with France, on account of the Turkish business, which gave a very different complexion to the matter. He quite subscribed to the sentiments of the hon. Member for Montrose, that they ought now to allay the apprehensions of the war party in France, by reducing our establishment to a certain point. The only difference between them was where that point was to be. He said, that it was their business to keep a certain amount of men and officers, if it were only for the purpose of exercise. There was also altogether a difference between the state of 1230 the Navy in 1838, and what it was at the present moment. He did not say that he did not approve of having more ships, but the ships were now efficiently manned, and they now carried their lower deck guns. It was most unwise to send ships to sea, at stations so far from home, without lower-deck guns and a full complement, because they would be estimated as line of battle ships, and they would sully the honour of England if such a ship should be encountered by a frigate of smaller dimensions. Another point on which the former opposition had complained, was the absence of a naval force from the shores of this country, and he said now, that, except where ships were called away on a sudden exigency, they ought to have a certain number of ships at home, so that they might exercise the men in the Channel, in preference to foreign parts; for it would greatly improve the discipline by exercising the crews and the officers. He approved of the system which had been adopted by the present Admiralty of keeping ships in an advanced state. He could not, however, agree with the gallant Commodore in complaining that the complement which had been sent to the Caledonia had been made up of marines. They were sent for on a sudden notice, and if seamen could not be procured, he had no objection to them, for they could work the guns and haul the ropes. But another reason why he maintained that the ships should be perfectly manned was, that if it were necessary to have more ships they could take one half out of the old ships, and fill up with new men. The general policy of the Government had been sufficiently handled by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, but he had thought it necessary to make these few observations on the naval part of the question.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that he would begin by noticing a remark which had been made by the noble Lord the Member for London; and he quite agreed with that noble Lord, that they ought to keep up a respectable force of seamen, for this reason, that they could not make seamen in a day. So he was sorry when they were compelled to diminish the number; but no doubt it had been the practice, in time of peace, to lower the amount of the naval armaments. Then it came to a question of degree, and it certainly was for the 1231 Cabinet to decide the question according to the position of foreign States—according to the reliance which the Cabinet could place on foreign nations. The Executive Board of the Admiralty, did the best they could with the funds allowed them, in order to carry out the views of the Cabinet. He would next allude to the remark which had been made to the hon. Member for Montrose with regard to the answers given by him before the Finance Committee. The question which had been put to him was, there being no prospect of war, and no pirates on the sea—what would be a sufficient number of ships in the different stations? He had at first answered that, under these circumstances, no ships would be necessary, but he had afterwards said, that one ship in each station would be sufficient under that state of things. It was quite impossible to say what constituted a sufficient force: that question entirely depended upon the politics of each particular period, but he was prepared to say, that it was at all times advisable to maintain a very considerable naval establishment of efficient ships fully manned. He could not, however, agree with what had been said, that this country ought to regulate her force strictly in obedience to the course pursued by France or any rival power. That doctrine might be carried to an absurd extent if it were said, that whenever France sent seven or eight ships of the line for practice into the Mediterranean, that England should immediately send the same number. With respect to the more perfect manning of the ships of war, after what had been stated by the gallant Commodore, that the English frigates would in 1838 have been thrashed if they had happened to meet with French frigates—though perhaps, he did not exactly think that this would have been the case—yet no one would deny that ships ought not to be sent to sea imperfectly manned. He thought that ships ought to be rendered effective in every respect. One ship that could take its own part and support the dignity of the country, was worth two inferior vessels. He had given that advice when he had first gone to the Admiralty, and he believed that the adoption of it had given general satisfaction. The noble Lord, the Member for London, had talked about sending out only six ships of the line. They were twelve not six; but he would explain to the House that the Government had not as large a force at their disposal as they appeared to have from the vote. It was true 1232 that at that time they had had the coast blockade, and that had placed two or three thousand more men at his disposal, and accordingly, when it had been required, he had been enabled to send ships off in three days, but he had not these powers any longer. But he had not as large a force as the vote would lead the House to suppose, for there was a large war fleet in China, and as the vote had passed in April, the number of men in China were reckoned as part of the force at their disposal. This, in reality, was not the case, for the men only came home by degrees, and they were not yet at the service of the Government. At the present moment, however, despite of all that had been said, they had a very respectable force—certainly not so many as he would have liked, but still a very respectable force. He would repeat, however, that it was for the Cabinet to decide what was the exigency of the country with regard to the probabilities of war, and he doubted not that the amount of the force had been properly and wisely regulated upon this consideration. It had been stated by the gallant Commodore opposite, that the Caledonia had been sent out, manned by marines; and the gallant Commodore had very strongly objected to this. Now it had been a case of very great emergency, and under these circumstances he considered it perfectly justifiable. Besides he could not regard the marines in the same light as the gallant Commodore. The marines had been trained to the use of great guns, and for that work they were quite as fit as seamen, but, as he had before said, he had sent out a hundred and fifty marines in the Caledonia only in a case of pressing emergency. The fact was, that their ships now carried heavier guns, and it was important that they should have men to work them effectively. The Report to the Admiralty had for some time constantly been, that the ships of war were in as satisfactory a state as was required in time of war. Reference also had been made to the number of ships in building, and on this point he could assure the House they had a larger number of effective ships than they ever had—and one very important point was, that they had turned their particular attention to the employment of steamers. Larger engines had been made, and the engines which had been in the largest vessels had been placed in smaller ships, and fresh engines to refit the largest. England had, at the present moment, a larger squadron of steamers than any country in the world, and the 1233 Government intended to take care that, at any rate, in this most important point, she should preserve her superiority. The gallant Commodore opposite, in urging the necessity of a larger force, had insisted upon practice for the officers, and had stated that they were almost all bad lieutenants who came from the Mediterranean. But really the exact opposite of this was the fact, for almost every captain who came home from that sea, pressed upon the Admiralty the claim of his lieutenants for promotion. They were excellent officers, and he believed that the ships were as well sailed as ever they had been. As he had before stated, the ships were in good order, and the force at every station was considerable and respectable. Our force was necessarily more divided than that of any other country. The French might have fifteen sail of the line in the Mediterranean, eight sail of the line at sea, five en rade, and three in ordinary, together with a certain number on the stocks: but we had more ready to go to sea, which only wanted men, than they had altogether. Our ships could go to sea as soon as they were manned. He was free to admit, that there was a difficulty in manning them without impressment, but it must also be recollected that officers were now much more particular than they used to be in the selection of the seamen they would receive. He did not fear, however, that in a short time men could be obtained; and he was satisfied that so long as the Cabinet saw that no war was pending with France or any other power, we had ships and men sufficient for any emergency.
§ Mr. More O'Ferrall
did not think it surprising, that a right hon. Gentleman, who had been connected with the Board of Trade, should ask such a question as had been now put, or that he should make an inquiry, when 15 or 20 per cent. duties were placed on our manufactures. As to the question of Algiers, he thought that by the manner in which his right hon. Friend had treated this subject, the French people would be satisfied that we could discuss our own affairs without acrimony or irritation. So far as that debate went, it would be extraordinary if they should be told that they could not discuss a question of foreign trade without giving offence to any Foreign Power. There was one point in the Motion of his right hon. Friend, asking for a Return of the present Destination of the Ships, to which objection might be made. That informa- 1234 tion was not usually given up to the time at which the Motion was made, but there could be no objection to giving the Return of their stations six months ago. Much had been said of the comparison between the present Naval Force and that of 1838. The right hon. Baronet would forgive a reference to his speech on a former occasion, because he adopted the complaints, although the Force then was double what it was now. The right hon. Baronet had particularly observed upon the absence of our Force, when the French fleet was in the Mexican waters, and had declared that there was only one gun brig and an express packet, though others had been despatched and had not arrived. It was for him a sufficient excuse if the ships were not in those waters, provided they had been detained by adverse winds, and by circumstances over which the Admiralty had no control. Now, however, when they wanted to send out ships to the Mediterranean they could only send two, while the St. Vincent was at Plymouth, waiting for orders. He was curious to hear the speech of the hon. Baronet, the Chief Naval Lord of the Admiralty, because he believed that he might be said to be at the head of the Admiralty; and he had now sitting at the same Board two Gentlemen who had made grave accusations against the Naval management of their predecessors. There were three main points of objection which suggested themselves to his attention. The first had been alluded to by the gallant Officer, although not in so satisfactory a manner as he thought desirable. That point was the complements of the ships, and it was said that there was a great difference in that respect between the present period and that of the late Board. Now, he admitted, that there had been a change, but there was, he maintained, no real difference, and, if anything, the change was the reverse of beneficial. The gallant Officer would admit that the large ships were those in which principally the fuller complements were most desirable. With respect to the small ships, they were now stowed so full that illness was common among the men; but with respect to the large ships the war complement fixed by the present Board was not so large as that fixed by the late Board. The fairest way to bring this matter to the test was to name some of the ships, the number of guns, and the 1235 complements fixed by the present Board and by the last. He would take only two ships as an example: the Collingwood, of 80 guns, and the Rodney, of 92 guns. It was generally admitted that the number of guns was the rule as to the complement, and yet there were precisely the same number of men in the 92 gun ship as in that of 80 guns. There were 750 men in each; and although there was a difference of twelve guns, there was no difference in the number of men. According to the ordinary computation, the Rodney ought to have 91 men more than the Collingwood, and, by the regulation of the last Board, her full complement would have been 829 men instead of 750. Her peace establishment would have been 695, whereas she now had 750, and yet she was now said to be fully manned. He stated this fact, because statements had been made with respect to the late Board which were believed by the House and the country, but which were wholly calumnious. There was no better test of the manning of ships than the result; and he would just see what the complement of men was in three great naval actions of the country—St. Vincent, Camperdown, and Trafalgar—he found the average of men in the line-of-battle ships, on those occasions, to be only 563. A great deal had been said by the gallant Commodore of the wretched state of our fleet in the Mediterranean. He would take the third rates in the Mediterranean, and the third rates in the action of Trafalgar, and compare the difference in the average of men—there were 628 in 1840: the average of Lord Nelson's ships of the same class being 598. He did not want to dress up any facts, but merely stated the plain truth. A charge against the late Board of Admiralty was the inefficient state of their Force at home. The right hon. Gentleman, in 1839, said that seven sail-of-the-line was too small a Force. Why, at this moment, there was no flag ship at Sheerness: and in 1838 and 1839, if hon. Members would turn back to the speeches made in that House, they would find it had been openly stated that Sheerness might be burned—that the Admiralty might be awoke from their slumbers by finding a hostile Force on our shores, and every Other absurdity that it was possible for a party to give utterance to. He trusted they (the Opposition) would never be guilty of any such exaggeration, and he trusted that no Opposition 1236 hereafter would be guilty of such conduct. Not imitating such conduct, he would state now his own conviction, and the conviction he believed of every rational man, that there was no more danger in not having a flag ship there, than there would be for the old Palace of St. James's if the captain's guard were withdrawn. It was pretty nearly the same case. If the Opposition at the time he alluded to found the Navy so reduced, why did they not on their accession to office take immediate measures to restore it? Instead of doing which, upon the first Estimates which they took after they came into office, they reduced the votes of their predecessors in almost every instance. The late Ministry left twenty-six sail-of-the-line at sea, and all the yards in full work. The work in each of the yards was reduced to a system by which the number of shipwrights was regulated according to their work, and they were required to produce work corresponding to their numbers. It had been stated that the present Board of Admiralty had done a great deal for steam. During the three years they had been in office, they could produce fifteen steamers, taking into account what were left by the late Board, and including a frigate which had been converted into a steamer, an experiment which his hon. and gallant Friend condemned. As he had already said, the late Board of Admiralty had been much condemned, but the system was not altered when the present Board came into office; they made alterations only in minor matters, but not in the great leading features of stores, and the number of ships and men. All the great essentials they left unchanged, and merely made alterations in trifling matters which were of no moment, and, if anything, they had done more harm to the Service than good. One thing struck him with but little surprise. It was a rule laid down that inefficient men should not be employed in the Service; but one of the great complaints against the late Government was, that they did not employ their old pensioners, and when the present Government came into office they were consistent enough to employ some of these men—but what was the consequence? There were twenty or thirty men on board the St. Vincent, who were receiving compensation and who were also being paid as able men. He owned he was exceedingly anxious that some subject should be introduced which would 1237 afford him an opportunity of making these observations. He had not made them in any spirit which might cause unnecessary offence to any Foreign Power—nothing he should so much regret; but, in point of fact, it was not necessary that we should make any boast of our Force, which was well known to every country in Europe. There was no boast which we could make so great and powerful as the plain honest truth; and it was, therefore, with great regret, that he noticed in a Government newspaper a few days ago, an absurd article on the subject, not written, he trusted, by an editor of the public press, and he hoped not by any one connected with the public Service, for anything so absurd he had never read, as if it were necessary to display the Force of the country, by giving a list of vessels which included even hospital ships. The real effective Force of this country was about fifty sail-of-the-line, and he conceived with a force like that, perfectly efficient and ready for service in a short time—that being double the force which any other two countries could produce—that truth was quite sufficient, and it was unnecessary to publish in a newspaper that which every Foreign Power knew to be an idle boast. But his hon. and gallant Friend said, what was the use of ships if we had not men? It was well known to every Board of Admiralty, that the great difficulty was to get men; and yet the Perseus, which was moored off the Tower, for raising men, when the late Government were in office, had been got rid of by the present Board of Admiralty. [Sir E. Cockburn said, the old vessel was still in the same place.] Then he had been misinformed, and he was glad to find from the statement of the gallant Admiral that it was so. There had been establishments in the port of London called Sailors' Homes, the objects of which were to provide an asylum for unemployed seamen. Such institutions would be very desirable in all our great ports and if not supported by the Government, encouragement should be given to such institutions by the Government, in order that there might be some such establishments in all our ports. It must be borne in mind that every sailor was, by Act of Parliament, liable to impressment; and under such circumstances he had a claim upon the public beyond every other man. A very small expense would afford to British sailors a home when 1238 they were on shore; and such institutions as he had referred to, would confer a great benefit on the country itself, by providing the most efficient men for the Naval Service of the country.
§ Mr. Sidney Herbert
said, that as an accusation had been made by the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, that the interests of the Navy had been much neglected by the present Administration, he thought he might be excused if he troubled the House with a few words in defence of the Department with which he was connected. As far as regarded the question brought forward practically by the gallant Officer, the Member for Marylebone, as to the inefficient state of our Navy afloat at present, as compared with what it was in 1839, and as the hon. Gentleman who had spoken last had referred to the speech made by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury on that occasion, he thought the House would recollect the circumstances to which he was about to advert. The argument urged by the right hon. Baronet was, that if there was a state of anticipated hostility which justified the then Government in having so large a fleet in the Mediterranean, they ought also to have a strong force at home. Such an argument, however, would not apply now. In 1839 there was a movement on the part of the naval force of a foreign power. Immediately after that there was the commencement of those difficulties which produced ultimately the Syrian war, and soon after that, there were the hostilities with China; there was also a difficult question pending between our Government and that of the United States. At that time our ships were deplorably under manned, they had not even their peace complement and the seamen having one-third more labour to perform than they ought to have had, were discontented and unwilling to enter. It was said that the same state of discontent which the circumstance he had alluded to caused at that time, existed now, and that in consequence of it they had not been able to man the Collingwood. So far from that being true, Captain Eden of the Collingwood, had selected his men, and had got so excellent a crew, that he did not know that he could reject any man to take a better, and it was positively a favour to get nominated to his ship. The gallant Commodore asked what they had been doing in the way of building for the last three years? Why, after they came into office it took two years to render efficient thirty sail of the line, yet the 1239 building new ships had not been neglected and a great addition to our steam navy has been made. The gallant Commodore had also referred to ships being manned by marines and disabled men from the Ordinary. The employment of marines had already been defended under urgent circumstances. He would only add that the men taken from the Ordinary were not disabled men. There were in Ordinary effective and vigorous crews of men, about 150 of whom had been taken, leaving still an effective force. The flag ships had under the late Government, 200 men, but they were now manned as third rates, and could go out to sea for exercise. They found the Navy in an inefficient state—the ships were under-manned, since then the complements throughout the service had been generally increased, which had given perfect satisfaction in the Navy. The steam power had been doubled—they had taken every year larger sums for this purpose; the vote of 120,000l. in 1839 had been now increased to nearly 200,000l. and they were, in fact, adding between 5,000 and 6,000 horse power annually to the steam force of the Navy. As to the reference which had been made to their having 10,000l. over, it was true that at the end of the year, when all the machinery had been paid for, they had that sum over, and having found the dockyards unprovided with protection against fire, they had spent that sum in laying down water pipes, and making other necessary provisions. An observation had been made on the employment of pensioners by the hon. Gentleman, but no pensioner was taken who was unfit for service. The captain had the power of taking them, but not of taking any man unfit for service. Notwithstanding what had been said of the inefficient state of the Navy, it had been truly observed by the hon. Gentleman opposite that there were thirty ships of the line in an efficient state which could be got ready at a moment's notice and every day is adding to the efficiency both of ships and men.
§ Captain Pechell
said, that he agreed with the hon. Member for Kildare, that the present Board of Admiralty did not act on any principle—they filled their vessels without reference to the guns, and in some ships had a parcel of men they could not find room for. And then they took credit for sending out the Caledonia to Tangiers. Would not the Prince de Joinville ask their marines when they arrived, if they were not sea sick? The marines were 1240 able and willing men when a ship contained a sufficient number of seamen, but the gallant Admiral knew that it was quite a different thing to have a ship filled with marines instead of having a proper complement of sailors. He thought the Admiralty had not sufficiently tested the merits of some of those vessels that had been built and altered on experimental principles. He was glad to hear the gallant Admiral state that there was no want of good Lieutenants, and that the Captains of ships who had returned from foreign stations, had recommended their officers for promotion. Would the gallant Admiral say whether he attended to these recommendations or not? He hoped he had.
§ Viscount Palmerston
Whatever opinions hon. Gentlemen may entertain, one way or other, on the state of our Naval Service, I think we are all indebted to my right hon. Friend for bringing this matter under discussion. My noble Friend the Member for London has said, that the right hon. Baronet was exceedingly dexterous in fighting with shadows, but in the remarks made by the right hon. Gentleman to-night, he has proved his capability of grappling, not with a shadow, but a shadow of a shade. The right hon. Gentleman asks, are Motions to be made calling in question the right of France to the conquest of Algiers. There may as well be a motion in the French Chamber demanding our right to the conquest of Hong Kong. Now, as to the first case, the record of the negotiation has been laid before Parliament. And I hold it perfectly competent to any Member to inquire, not what the conduct of France but of England has been on the occasion which led to the conquest of Algiers. No such ground of inquiry exists as to Hong Kong. We went into war with China on grounds of our own, and with respect to which no negotiation took place with any other country. My right hon. Friend has been found fault with by some for starting some delicate questions in connection with this discussion; and it has been said, considering the state of things which exist in France, and that there is a party there, which as the hon. Member for Leamington has alleged, is anxious for war with England, and capable of overpowering the Government of France, it is very inexpedient to discuss our foreign interests in this House, or to inquire into the naval 1241 defence which may be sufficient on any possible emergency. Now, I beg leave to say, that I utterly deny the force of that argument; and if there be any foundation for the facts alleged, they should lead to an exactly opposite conclusion. If any think—which I doubt—that in France there is any party likely to overpower the Government, so far from that being a reason why we should be tongue-tied in this House on the subject of our naval defence, that is the very reason why we should look about us with additional vigilance, and be more than ever careful to meet an emergency which may arise in spite of the most friendly disposition on the part of the two Governments in their diplomatic discussions. But, I say, we should be guided in our deliberations by no such circumstances. I think this House should not be debarred from watching over the local interests of the empire, whether they turn on our commercial regulations, or on our naval and military defence, by any considerations arising from the position of persons or parties in foreign countries. I hope we shall always abstain from unnecessarily wounding the feelings of any country—from unnecessarily raising discussions that will produce irritation anywhere; but the consideration of our own interest must be paramount with an English House of Commons, and I hold we should not be precluded from canvassing the conduct of Government with reference to those interests, and the means of our defence, by considering how far such a course may tally with the views of this or that Government or party in another country. I think, therefore, my right hon. Friend's course was perfectly legitimate. The right hon. Baronet chose to assume that my right hon. Friend argued that the present or the preceding Government should have called on France to evacuate Algiers. He used no such argument. His course of argument was this—that looking ro the record of the negotiation in 1830, previous to the sailing of the expedition to Algiers, and the conquest of that country, it was plain the Government of that day had not properly performed their duty of getting the requisite security and engagements from the Government of France; and seeing that the same persons were in power, and that on their own admission, questions of great interest were pending between the two countries as to the affairs of Morocco, it was fair to 1242 infer, from what passed on a former occasion, that we could not place sufficient confidence in the energy and vigilance of those who were now conducting our negotiations. I think that argument perfectly fair, and if any body will take the trouble of reading those Papers which were laid before Parliament in 1839 as to the negotiations carried on respecting Algiers, it will be seen the British Government failed utterly in extracting from the Government of France these engagements which they thought it important to obtain, and which they endeavoured from first to last to obtain. Government began by stating that they thought they had a right to obtain a formal and official engagement from France, that in the event of the overthrow of the Regency, France should not make any further territorial acquisitions. The explanation and assurances to this effect were given verbally. The Government, well knowing that verbal assurances go for nothing, and that they are binding on no one, but the man who makes them, pressed the Government of France for some written declaration. The Government of France, in a despatch to the Duc de Laval, said, that in the event of success, their views were perfectly disinterested, and that they would concert with their Allies as to the arrangements to be made respecting the Regency. The British Government said that was insufficient, that they should neglect their duty if they accepted an explanation so vague and general; that they had a duty to perform from which they should not shrink, and which, if they failed in performing, the people of this country would express their decided condemnation of their conduct. In reply, the French Government talked of more positive assurances; said they were ready to enter upon a convention; and that they should not previously take possession of the town or Regency of Algiers. But when pressed to give assurances in writing they evaded and declined to do so; and the very last despatch of the French Ambassador at the moment the expedition was sailing was, exactly the same as that which the Government had previously declared, insufficient and vague, observing that in the event of success, their views were perfectly disinterested, and that they would concert with their Allies the final arrangement as to Algiers. But they soon placed the matter beyond the possibility of a doubt, for they announced that the French 1243 Government was unfettered by any engagement; that they were free to accept any advice they pleased with regard to any arrangements they might make as to the ulterior settlement of the country. And what did our Ambassador at Paris when the French obtained possession of Algiers? He congratulated Prince Polignac on the victory which had been obtained, and he expressed a hope that now that the French had succeeded they would not depart from the engagements they had entered into. Was that the language of an Ambassador representing a Government that had obtained distinct engagements from France? Would he not have said, if he had obtained such assurances: "You are bound by such and such engagements, and the interests of England will not allow of your departing from them?" And what was the answer of Prince Polignac? He assured our Ambassador that the Government of France had no inclination to depart from her promises! Such was, surely, not the way in which one party or the other would have talked of a settled engagement which had been entered into by both Governments. I say, then, that the Government of that day, actuated by a desire to keep in office the Ministry of Polignac, permitted an expedition to sail and succeed without obtaining those engagements which it is plain they considered it their duty to enforce. Well, my right hon. Friend says, "You might have seen from the state of things in France that it was such as to have rendered more than usual caution necessary on the part of your then Government." The Revolution in July was foreseen by everybody but those who were its victims. I know very well from my own experience, that not a man you met in the streets of Paris in July, but anticipated some stroke of despotic authority: that it would be resisted: that the Sovereign would have to quit the country, and that the Duke of Orleans would be selected as King. But neither then nor for the four months that followed the change, was any definite arrangement obtained from the French Government. Was it for us in November, 1830, to take up anew a question thus left us? Considering the immediate and practical interests then at stake in Europe, I do not think it would be wise or consistent with the welfare of this country if we required France to evacuate a country which she conquered. Every man must see what a difference there is between ex- 1244 acting conditions previous to the sending of an expedition, and requiring a great and vain people to abandon a conquest made at the expense of much money and blood, which the nation began to be proud of, and to fancy would be attended with great advantage to themselves. But the right hon. Baronet does not impute any blame to us for allowing that question to remain as it was, and it is therefore unnecessary for me to defend myself and Colleagues further on that point. As to Morocco, I quite understand the feeling of the right hon. Baronet, that in his position a casual expression may do some injury to the public interests; and I, therefore, abstain from entering in any way on that discussion. The question is, however, one of great importance; and when my right hon. Friend instanced the increase of Customs Duties that had taken place in Algiers, he did not mean to say it ought to have been prevented by the present Government any more than it was in our power to prevent the small increase that took place in our time; but his argument was, that in consequence of the occupation of the country by another power it was subjected to a different system of commercial regulation, from that which would have existed if an engagement such as we sought had been insisted on. Much has been said with respect to the Navy, which amounts to this, that whereas Gentlemen opposite used perpetually to taunt us with neglecting the public interest, while we had twenty-one sail of the line, and when no great question was pending (for that of Syria arose afterwards), and whereas questions are now pending, on their own showing, of a grave and serious nature, that might by possibility lead to the most unpleasant results, they have but nine sail of the line, of which three are in distant countries, leaving but six available for home service, having declared that there should be kept at least seven sail of the line as a squadron of reserve on the coast of England. I say, then, they have not carried out those principles of national protection so loudly and constantly urged by them in opposition. The senior Lord of the Admiralty has said, that a great part of our force is now in China, and that is a reason why our fleet is not so available as the number of men voted would lead us to anticipate. I admit the explanation of the fact, but I do not think the reason for its existence sufficient. If the Government knew 1245 that a large proportion of their naval force would be occupied in so remote a part of the globe, they ought for this year, or for a certain period, to have proposed an augmentation in proportion to the deficiency. "But," say the Government, "though we have not so many ships as our predecessors, those ships are more full of men." I have been told the ships are so full of men that they cannot find room to stow them. I will admit for the sake of argument, that the late Board of Admiralty had too few men; I do not admit it as an opinion, but I suppose it were so for the sake of argument—a certain number of ships were necessary—hon. Gentlemen opposite had urged over and over again, that we ought to have a permanent peace establishment, with a view to the protection of our own shores; that we ought to have a certain number of ships. Then it is no answer to tell me that "to be sure we have fewer ships, but each ship has a certain number of men." If hon. Gentlemen opposite thought our ships not too many, but too slightly manned, they ought to have voted more men to make up their complement. I therefore think that the Government has entirely failed in making any defence whatever for the low state of the naval force. If the late Government had left a deficient force the present Government might have said, "It is difficult to get up a force allowed to fall too low," and that "time is requisite, and difficulties are in the way." But the late Government left the present Government a force more than they wanted—a force larger than the late Government themselves would have proposed for a permanent peace establishment, because it was connected with the peculiar affairs then existing. The present Government can have no excuse in going below the amount of ships which they themselves maintained to be the proper naval establishment for this country. Whatever may be the feelings of his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose on this subject, I feel myself entitled to say that an efficient naval force in this country is the best economy for England. Let them do as they will, and act as they please indifferent to things going on abroad—let them condemn as they would what they called a "meddling policy," and allow foreign nations to do what they pleased, still things will come upon us from time to time which will render it necessary for the interests of the country to be able to resist a sudden attack. I should like to know, if in any 1246 other country there is a party ready to make war with England, is that party more likely to make war when it finds us provided with the means of attack, or so weak as to invite insult? The true policy therefore, of the British Government ought always to be to maintain a respectable and efficient naval force, even when the Government did not perceive any event likely to happen calculated to bring that force into action. I trust that what has passed this evening, and the observations which has been made on former occasions, will lead the Government to take a somewhat different view of these matters, and that we shall in future have a naval force more consonant with what has been deemed by high authorities the proper peace establishment of the country, enabling the Government to hold that language and to maintain that position which becomes the Government of England. Such an establishment is no defiance to any country in the world; it can be looked on by no party in any country as any indication of any disposition to quarrel with any other country; it is simply a protective system of policy, and equally the duty of the Government to pursue it, and equally conducive of good relations and of peaceful understandings with other countries of Europe. Whether my right hon. Friend will press his Motion to a division or not, his object will be obtained by the discussion which has taken place; but I must protest against the least imputation being cast on my right hon. Friend, that he wishes to hazard the peace of this country with other nations, or interrupt the best understanding between this Government and France.
§ Original Motion agreed to. Order for Committee read.
§ On the question that the Speaker do now leave the Chair,