moved (at a few minutes before five o'clock) the Order of the Day that the House should resolve itself into a Committee of Supply.
§ This Motion was agreed to, and in a Committee of Supply,
proceeded to move the Navy Estimates, during the absence of Sir C. Napier, who had given notice that he should, on Mr. Speaker leaving the Chair, move an Address to Her Majesty, praying for a Commission to Inquire into the State of the Navy. The hon. Gentleman said, 1241 [...] to propose the Navy Estimation that occasion, he felt it necessary Claim the indulgence of the Committee, not only on account of his own inexperience in explaining such details as those into which it would be his duty to enter, but also on account of the disadvantage under which he laboured in succeeding his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War in the discharge of a task which his right hon. Friend had, on former occasions, performed with the ability for which he was so distinguished. [Here Sir C. Napier, and immediately after him Mr. Wakley, entered the House amidst the laughter of hon. Members.]
§ Mr. Wakley
, who had just entered the House and had a Motion on the Paper for the production of warrants issued for the opening of Mr. T. Duncombe's letters, amid cries of "Order!" appealed to the Chair, whether, seeing that he had been there ready with his Motion ever since the Speaker took the Chair, and had only left the House three minutes ago, supposing they would not go into public business till five o'clock, he ought not to be permitted to bring forward his Motion, a Motion of much public interest ["Order"].
The House is now in a Committee of the whole House, and cannot entertain the Motion of the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Wakley
rose amidst loud cries of "Order, order; Chair, chair," from all parts of the House. The hon. Gentleman exclaimed with considerable animation, I hope that it will be understood that this (the Opposition) side of the House approves of my not going on with my Motion ["Order, order"].
He thought that, in making his statement, the best course he could pursue would be to avoid as much as possible all questions of minute detail, and to confine himself to the principal causes of increase and decrease under the several heads of expenditure. With respect to the first of those heads, he deemed it unnecessary to enter at length on any explanation as to the reasons which induced Her Majesty's Government to propose an increase of 4,000 men to the number voted in the last Navy Estimates; because the reasons for that increase had already been explained by the right hon. Baronet at the 1242 head of the Government in the course of his financial statement in the early part of the Session. His right hon. Friend had stated that that increase was proposed, not on account of any apprehension of war, or with any view to aggression, but simply because it was considered politic that, in addition to the vessels required for the protection of her commerce, this country should have at command a disposable squadron of ships of the line which, independently of other considerations, would be most valuable even in times of the most profound peace as affording means for exercise in naval tactics, and for experimental trials of the comparative qualities of ships of war. He could assure the Committee that the Admiralty had never been insensible to the importance of forming such a squadron; but their intentions in this respect had hitherto been frustrated by the constantly increasing demands for ships on distant stations, beyond what had been anticipated when the former Estimates they had proposed were under preparation. To such an extent had these demands grown, that on three stations alone, namely, China, Africa, and the Pacific, it was found necessary to employ 6,000 men more than in 1841—a number equal to the full complements of eight ships of the line of the second rate. The Vote, therefore, for 40,000 men, which they proposed to take, provided 1,000 men less for other stations, exclusive of the three which he had specified, than were provided by the Vote for 35,000 men in the year 1840–41; and he thought this fact was sufficient to show that the Government had no wish to keep up a force which was unnecessary, or which was not absolutely required by the exigencies of the Public Service. With respect to the details of the first Vote, he would at present only refer to the re-establishment of two Companies of Marine Artillery, which was rendered necessary by the increase in the number of steam vessels, and which occasioned an additional expense of only 2,740l., as it was effected not by adding to the numerical strength of the Marine Force generally, but by a redistribution of the corps between the Divisional and Artillery Companies. The whole sum required for Wages was 1,289,543l. being an increase on the Vote of last year of 119,067l. The next Vote was for Victuals for seamen and marines, in which there was an increase over that of last year of 65,585l., consequent on the employment of 4,000 additional men; but in consequence of the reduced price of certain articles of provisions, 1243 a saving was effected of about 16,500l. on the 35,000 men to be employed afloat, as compared with the prices on which the Estimate for last year was founded. In the third Vote, namely, for the Admiralty Office, there was an increase of 2,266l., which had been occasioned chiefly by an increase, amounting altogether to 572l., to the salaries of the draughtsmen in the departments of the Surveyor of the Navy and of the Director of Works (in which it was of the highest importance to secure the services of men of adequate ability and education), and by an additional charge of 1,500l. required for repairs at the Admiralty which could no longer be deferred. There was another item of increase which, though small, required to be explained—he meant an additional allowance to one of the Lords of the Admiralty of 200l. a year. Great inconvenience had long been felt from the want of sufficient accommodation for the accumulation of charts and documents in the Hydrographical and Record Departments of the Admiralty; and in order to provide the necessary space for this purpose, his right hon. Friend (Mr. Herbert) had given up his official residence to the use of the Office, removing into the adjoining house, which had been vacated by his gallant Friend (Sir G. Seymour), on his acceptance of the command in the Pacific. By this arrangement one of the Naval Lords had been deprived of his house at the Admiralty, in lieu of which, the same amount of compensation, namely 200l. a year, was proposed, as had been awarded to the Civil Lord by the late Government, when his house was required for official purposes. He would now advert to a reduction—he alluded to that of the salary of the Second Secretary of the Admiralty, from 1,500l. to 1,000l. a year. It would be in the recollection of the Committee that this reduction, during the first five years of the Second Secretary's tenure of office, had been recommended by a Committee which sat in the year 1831. The Treasury Minute which appeared shortly afterwards, and which adopted the greater part, but not the whole, of the recommendations of the Committee, was silent on the subject of this particular salary; probably because its amount was not immediately in question—Sir John Barrow having been in occupation of the office for a much longer period than five years. But on the appointment of his successor, the Government had thought it right to assign him the reduced amount of salary which had been recommended by the Committee, but 1244 which at the expiration of f[...] the date of his appointment [...] be increased to 1,500l. He could [...] mention of Sir John Barrow's name without expressing the deep sense he felt of the claims which that eminent man had earned to the gratitude of his country, during an official life of upwards of half a century; and he was confident that it would be the universal wish that he might long live to enjoy the honourable retirement which he had sought, and to which he was so well entitled by long and faithful public service. The next Vote which he should have to propose was for the General Register and General Record Office of Seamen, in which there was a large comparative increase, as the vote for the present year was 11,608l., while that of last year was only 2,980l. This large increase had become necessary in order to carry into effect the Act (the 7th and 8th Vict., c. 112) commonly called the Merchant Seamen's Act, which had received the sanction of the Legislature during the last Session of Parliament; and he could assure the Committee that the new establishment had been fixed as low, both as regarded numbers and salaries, as the nature and extent of its duties would allow. It was to be observed that the charge of 5,000l. for postage, which would be considerably reduced in future Estimates was no real charge on the public, being merely a transfer from one Department of the State to another. The actual charge, therefore, amounted only to 6,608l.; and he was confident that the Committee would be of opinion that the great national objects contemplated by the Act of last year were cheaply purchased at such a cost. In the next Vote, for the Scientific branch, there was an increase of 1,469l., chiefly occasioned by printing 500 copies of the Reductions of the Greenwich Lunar Observations from the years 1750 to 1830, and by the purchase of instruments: and as the Committee was always ready to make liberal provision for the service of a department of such importance to the interests of science, and to the safety of navigation, he would only direct attention to the explanatory statements of the surveys now in progress, which had been inserted in these Estimates for the first time, and which would be found to convey some useful and interesting information. No. 6, for "establishments at home" was so connected with No. 8, for "wages to artificers" employed in those establishments, that he thought he should best consult the convenience of the Committee by 1245 considering them together. The increase on the former was 3,120l., and on the latter 41,526l., making together 44,646l. Of this 9,690l., under No. 8, was for riggers and labourers, in lieu of convicts removed to the penal settlements, in conformity with the arrangement which was explained last year by his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War; and nearly the whole of the remainder, amounting to about 35,000l., was to meet the demands consequent on the increased activity in building steam vessels which prevailed in the dockyards at Deptford, Portsmouth, and Pembroke. The completion of additional building-slips had afforded the means of increased exertion in this respect, for which the entry of additional shipwrights and other artificers was necessary. Provision had also been made for expediting the construction of steam vessels in the other dockyards; but at Plymouth and Chatham the increase was chiefly owing to the convict establishments being broken up, and the consequent necessity of employing additional labourers, at the cost, as he had stated, of upwards of 9,000l. Nos. 7 and 9 embraced the corresponding Votes for the naval establishments abroad. On the first there was an increase of 531l., occasioned by several additions to the salaries and allowances of some of the officers employed in those establishments, the reasons for which he would, if required, be ready to explain; but the latter Vote so closely assimilated to the Vote of last year, as to call for no remark on that occasion. The next vote, No. 10, was of the greatest importance to the efficiency of the fleet; and he was happy to say, that the large increase which was proposed was not required to make good any deficiency in the establishment of any article of stores, but almost exclusively for the augmentation of the steam navy, which was the principal cause of increase under almost every head of expenditure in these Estimates, with the exception of those which provided for the wages and victuals of the 4,000 additional seamen proposed to be voted. The whole increase on the gross estimate was 174,057l. Of this, 50,000l. was on the Vote for the purchase of steam machinery for steamers now building; several of them were to be of iron, occasioning an increase of 71,377l. on that item; 47,000l. was for the purchase of timber for Deptford, for which no sufficient store had been provided since its establishment as a yard for building steam vessels. The greater part of the remainder of the increase was for the purchase of additional supplies of hemp and 1246 canvass. The whole sum proposed to be voted under No. 10, was 1,199,141l.; and the net increase was 145,176l. On the next Vote, No. 11, for new works and improvements in the naval establishments at home and abroad, the Government had felt it their duty to propose the large amount of 486,346l., being an increase of 107,480l., which was chiefly required on account of the steam basins under construction at Devonport and Portsmouth. The cost of constructing works of such extent was necessarily great; and he regretted to say, that it would exceed the original estimate—partly on account of engineering difficulties which could not have been foreseen, and partly in consequence of deviation from the original plans, which it had been found advisable to adopt; but he felt confident that the Committee would not consider it to be greater than was justified by the necessity of providing for the equipment and repair of an arm so essential to the national security as the steam navy, for which We did not possess a single establishment along the whole line of the Channel—the part of our coast which in the event of war would be the most exposed to aggression, and where our commerce would be the most in want of protection. In order to supply this deficiency with reasonable despatch 80,000l. was proposed for the steam basin at Portsmouth, and 100,000l. for that at Devonport; 15,000l. was also proposed for the extension of the steam factory at Woolwich. While, however, the Board of Admiralty had felt it to be their duty to propose these large sums for the establishments in connexion with steam navigation, they had not neglected other works essential to the general efficiency of the dockyards. Of these, none were of greater importance than building-slips; and any diminution of their number, which was very inadequate, would materially impair our resources. It was accordingly proposed to vote 45,000l. at Chatham towards the construction of three new slips on the ground now occupied by four old ones of smaller dimensions, which were in so ruinous a condition that no further use could be made of them. The necessity of this work, of which the whole estimate was 102,000l., would, he thought, be admitted when he stated that there were only three other slips in the yard on which ships of the line or large steam vessels could be built. 20,000l. was also proposed for the reconstruction of two slips at Deptford, which had been in a useless and 1247 ruinous state for many years; and 8,000l. for an iron timber-shed in the same yard, which would he of sufficient capacity to contain nearly the whole of the store of timber which was about to be supplied. At Pembroke 6,000l. was required for the enlargement of the smithery, which was at present very insufficient to provide for the demands of the yard; and 16,000l. for roofing two first-class building slips which had just been completed. He also proposed 31,740l. for the purchase of machinery for the dockyards generally,—an expenditure which would be as conducive to ultimate economy as to present efficiency. The other items were in continuation of former Votes, and required no explanation; and he should therefore conclude his observations on this head by drawing the attention of the Committee to the new form in which the estimate was drawn up, in conformity with the recommendation of a Committee appointed by the Treasury; and he trusted that the additional information which it conveyed would be considered satisfactory. In No. 12 there was an increase on the gross estimate of 500l.; but 400l. less was required to be voted in consequence of the larger amount of repayments in aid of the Vote from other departments. In No. 13, for Miscellaneous Services, there was the large increase of 56,827l., in consequence of 67,000l. being required for the purchase of land. The greater part of this was for a site for the workshops in connexion with the two steam basins at Portsmouth, for which there was no sufficient space within the limits of the dockyard, and the cost of which was necessarily large, as it was at present occupied by a brewery and other buildings forming a part of the town of Portsea. On No. 14, for Half-pay, there was a decrease of 12,656l.; but he thought it right to apprise the Committee that it was his intention to move at a future period of the Session a supplemental estimate in aid of this Vote, to enable the Government to carry into effect a scheme of retirement, which in their opinion could no longer be deferred with due regard to the efficiency of the Admirals' and Captains' Lists. The details of the measure had not yet been fully matured; and as he trusted that, under such circumstances, it would not be made the subject of discussion, he would confine himself to the announcement which he had made, and which he was sure would be received with satisfaction by all those who had paid attention to the subject, and who appreciated its importance as it deserved. 1248 The four following Votes—15, 16, 17, and 18—called for no particular observation. In the two former, which concluded the Votes for Naval Services, there was a decrease of 6,077l. and 4,472l. respectively; and in the two latter, which provided for the service of the Army and of the Home Department, there was a decrease of 29,485l. and 4,645l.; the former on account of a less amount being required for the conveyance of troops, and the latter from the larger amount of credit in aid from the sale of returned convict stores. He had now arrived at the last Vote—No. 19, for the Contract Packet Service—in which there was the large increase of 112,223l.; but he was confident that this increase—a great part of which would be repaid by receipts on account of postage—would not be considered greater than was justified by the importance of securing the means of regular and rapid communication with distant regions with which the commercial transactions of this country were daily becoming more extensive. The greater part of this increase was occasioned by the contract for a line of steam packets to run once a month between Suez and Calcutta, with a branch line from Ceylon to Singapore and Hong Kong. The whole amount to be paid for these services was 160,000l. a year; but as 70,000l. of this was to be defrayed by the East India Company, the charge on the Naval Department was 90,000l. The 99,845l. required to be voted in these Estimates was the balance between fifteen months of the service from Suez to Calcutta, which had been in operation since the 1st of January; and of nine months of that from Ceylon to Hong Kong, which would not commence before the beginning of July; 10,000l. was also proposed for an additional mail to Alexandria once a month, to carry out the direct Calcutta mail; but no contract had as yet been concluded for that service, which was for the present carried on by steam vessels of war. There was also a small but not unimportant charge of 1,800l. to provide for return mails from Australia, the contract previously in force having provided only for their conveyance to that country. The whole amount required for the Contract Packet Service was 544,774l.; and if to this were added the annual cost of Her Majesty's vessels employed in the conveyance of mails, the total charge on account of the Post Office Department would be 709,046l. which the Committee would observe was upwards of one-tenth of the whole amount of the Navy Estimates. Before he concluded, he was 1249 anxious to show that nearly the whole of the increase on account of purely naval services, with the exception of the two first Votes for wages and victuals, and the fourth for the registry of seamen, was attributable to the cause to which Her Majesty had directed the attention of Parliament in the Speech from the Throne—he meant the augmentation of the steam navy, and the collateral expenses which it entailed.—The whole of the increase in the Estimates was 686,072l. of which 193,280l. was on account of the three Votes which he had excepted, and 78,098l. on account of the last three Votes in the Estimates for the service of the Army, the Home, and the Post Office Departments. There remained 414,000l. in round numbers, of which no less than 383,000l. was chargeable to steam, namely:—
The whole increase which was proposed—namely, 686,072l. was undoubtedly large; but he could nevertheless assure the Committee that the Estimates had been prepared with that due regard to economy with which, whether the Revenue were flourishing or declining, every question involving the expenditure of public money should always be approached; and that what was voted was no more than was required by the exigencies of the public service; and as he was confident that the expediency of increasing the Vote for seamen in some proportion to the increased demands for the protection of our commerce on distant stations would be disputed by few, and that the necessity of providing for the steam navy in proportion to the preparations of other nations would be admitted by all, he felt it unnecessary to urge the adoption of the Estimates which he had brought forward by further argument, and should conclude by thanking the Committee for the indulgence with which they had heard him, and by moving the first Vote—that there be employed for the year ending March 31, 1846 — 40,000 seamen and marines, including 2000 boys.
£35,000 under Nos. 6 and 8 for the wages of additional artificers. 47,000 for timber for steam vessels building at Deptford. 121,000 for the purchase of machinery and iron vessels—and 180,000 for steam basins, and the purchase of land for workshops, &c. Total £383,000 which left an increase on account of Naval Services generally of only 31,000l.
§ Mr. Wakley
said, that he should now move that the Chairman report progress and ask leave to sit again; and he did so for the purpose of reminding Her Majesty's Government of what had taken place in this House before Easter, in reference to a question he then brought forward. He begged to remind the right hon. Baronet, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department, of what he (Mr. Wakley) had said upon that occasion in reference to the Post Office affair. He then said that his constituents had forwarded him a petition, requesting him to present it to this House, in reference to the opening of the letters of his hon. Colleague; and at the same time expressing the great anxiety they fell for a full explanation upon the subject, not having yet had any thing like a satisfactory explanation. When he presented that petition he stated that it was not his wish to put Her Majesty's Government to any inconvenience; but he felt coerced to adopt the course he had taken, his constituents having declared that they would not be satisfied until they had been assured whether or not any warrant had ever been issued authorising the opening of certain letters already mentioned. However, he did forego his right then to make the Motion of which he had given notice, in order not to inconvenience the Government. He now begged to say that he was compelled to make the Motion, and should take the sense of the House upon it, for he felt it a duty incumbent upon him to do so; and this course he had intimated to the right hon. Baronet his intention to adopt, before Easter. Now, he had come down to the House to-day for that purpose, and remained there three quarters of an hour, and then absented himself for about five or six minutes, and yet, to his surprise, he found on his return, though it was not then five o'clock, that the House had got into Committee; and this certainly appeared to him to be rather sharp practice. The usual practice was to discuss grievances before going into Committee of Supply. He would be sorry that any course should be adopted by this House that would be likely to create any excitement out of doors; but he could not help saying that it was not quite fair to have acted towards him in this way alter what he said in reference to this subject before Easter.
§ Sir Robert Peel
hoped that the hon. 1251 Member would not persevere in his Motion, or take the sense of the Committee on it. At the same time, he begged to assure the hon. Member that there was not the slightest intention at this side of the House to take any unfair advantage of him. [Mr. Wakley; I was absent only five or six minutes.] He begged to assure the hon. Member that no intention whatever existed to take the advantage of him the hon. Member appeared to apprehend; but every hon. Member should be aware that it had been determined on to commence the public business at half-past four o'clock. Her Majesty's Ministers came down under the impression that public business would commence soon after half-past four, and that the hon. Member's Motion would come on; but it was thought that he did not intend to persist in it, as he was absent. He could also assure the hon. Gentleman that after the Notice had been given, his right hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty let five or six minutes elapse before he moved that the House resolve itself into a Committee of Supply. Again he begged to assure the hon. Member that there was not the slightest wish to take any advantage of him, and he hoped he did not think so.
§ Sir Charles Napier
said, if his hon. Friend had reason to complain, he thought he had still more so. He had only left the House to secure a Paper, and although he ran back as fast as he could, he found the Speaker had left the Chair. Nobody regretted more than he could the retirement of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary at War from the office of Secretary to the Admiralty. He believed it was very generally admitted that no man had performed the duties better than he did. The right hon. Gentleman displayed great zeal and ability while he held that office; and he thought he had fully earned his promotion. If anything could remove the regret which he entertained of losing the right hon. Gentleman, it was the pleasure of seeing installed into the office the present new Secretary to the Admiralty, who had just made a most able and excellent statement. He did not believe the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government could have selected a more competent or efficient person to fill that office. He was extremely happy to find from the statement of that right hon. Gentleman that they were going to have an experimental squadron, and he hoped when 1252 that squadron went to sea it would be commanded by an officer who would look out for a good squall or bad weather to try the capabilities of the new ships belonging to this country. Before they proceeded to vote immense sums for the use of the Navy, he must take the opportunity of directing attention to certain statements connected with the force of the country. He did not know whether those statements were correct or not; but at all events if they were not, it would be no fault of his, for it would be recollected that some time ago he made application to the Government for certain returns, which returns were refused, because it was not thought proper by Her Majesty's Government that they should go forth to the public. The first return which he wished to be made was a report by the builders of the Navy of the slate of the Navy, which took place shortly after the present Government came into office; but that report was refused him. Now he had been told by a gentleman who had seen that report, that it was by no means satisfactory. If he had not seen the report himself, and this was an incorrect impression, perhaps then the right hon. Baronet would be able to set him right. It would be remembered also he asked for returns of the ships of the Royal Navy of all classes on the 1st of January, 1845, staling those that are unfit for service, and those that require repair; likewise all ships building; but this also had been refused him. Now he thought that after a peace of thirty years, during which they had spent between forty and fifty millions in the construction of ships, the Government ought not to be ashamed to show to the whole world that the British Navy was now as perfect as it could possibly be—that, after a peace which had lasted for thirty or forty years, that the Board of the Admiralty ought not to be ashamed to show the British Navy to the whole world; but he conceived that this was particularly applicable to the steam navy. It was well known this was a powerful arm of the service, particularly in the present state of science, and that it was likely to come into still more powerful use than had ever before been witnessed. He thought, therefore, that he was fully entitled to ask for returns respecting the steam navy. The hon. Member for Montrose had, in 1843, asked for and obtained returns respecting this branch of the service; and he did not understand why returns 1253 connected with this branch — he might say the very same returns—should not be given to him up to the year 1845. As he could not obtain this official return, he was obliged to refer to the Navy List, which was published by authority. From this work he found that we had 20 three-deckers, 59 two-deckers, 74 frigates, 8 corvettes, 65 sloops, 48 brigs, cutters, and schooners, 14 surveying vessels, 14 stationary ships, and 3 yachts. Now, after this he should wish to know what possible objection there could be to give him a statement of the number of ships in commission last year, including a return of the steam navy of the country. He would venture to say, that with all the exertions they could make, they could not man fifty sail of the line in a twelvemonth, with the frigates, corvettes, and other vessels which would be necessary. He was convinced that they could more readily get fifty new sail of the line built in the same time in merchant yards, than man that number. It appeared to him if any of these ships, the number of which he had stated, were not fit for service, or were not intended to be brought forward again, that they ought to be at once sold, and that the country should not be put to the great expense of caulking and other repairs to which they were annually liable. Before showing the number of ships on the stocks, it was necessary that he should state the system that was pursued in building them. With respect to the Queen, it appeared that she was very nearly half-built, as the Royal Frederick, before she was changed. But they had seen by the experiments made the other day that she had failed. She had been since taken into Chatham dockyard, where a false bow had been stuck on to her. A large gripe, making her four or five feet longer, was added to her, in order to give her a better bow; but that not being sufficient, she had to get a false stern on, as it was found that she could not steer. She had actually got a bustle on. So much for the Queen. He would next come to the Boscawen. She was laid down in 1814 as a 74, but in 1819 she was changed into an 80-gun ship, and in 1834, after eight years' seasoning, she was turned into a 70-gun vessel. The Union, after having had 13,000l. laid out in repairs upon her, was pulled to pieces. The Station, 46; Tigris, 46; Jason, 46; Severn, 46; Porcupine, 20; Pheasant, 18; Redwing, 18; Seascout, 10; and Vindictive, 1254 were also all pulled to pieces. If the same accident happened to the present Government which occurred to their predecessors, and if a new Surveyor of the Navy were got, it was possible that as many more vessels now in the service would be also pulled to pieces. Independent of that enormous number of ships, they had the following three-deckers building:—The Royal Albert, built after the plan of Mr. Laing. When the present Surveyor came into office, he was one of those who complained to him that they had already gone to too great a breadth in their three-deckers; and yet the Royal Albert was built one foot broader and sixteen feet longer than the Queen. He had that fact from the builder, who perhaps might have led him into error. Now, when they considered the enormous mass of the sails, and the great size of the yards, where, he would ask, were they to get men to work them? Really when he saw a man on one of the lower yards of a three-decker, he could not imagine how he was able to do anything whatever. It would almost appear that they intended to go to the planet Saturn for seamen, as it was stated that fellows there had a breadth of some two feet between their eyes. The other ships of the line building were:—Royal Frederick, 110; Victoria, 110; Prince of Wales, 110; Royal Sovereign, 110. Ordered—Marlborough, 110; Windsor Castle, 110. Two-deckers, Princess Royal, 90; Aboukir, 90; Ex-mouth, 90; Hannibal, 90; St. Jean D'Acre, 90; Algiers, 90; all laid down by Sir William Symonds. These made altogether thirteen large ships from 90 up to 110 guns, besides which they had another pretty list of seven 80-gun ships building, all laid down after the plans of Sir W. Symonds. They were all commenced by the late Government, and were as follows:—The Mars, Majestic, Colossus, Lion, Madras, Brunswick, Sanspareil. He was not prepared to attach the same blame to the 80-gun ships as to the Royal Albert and the Queen, as he believed it was beyond doubt that the Vanguard was an uncommonly fine vessel. She had certainly the fault of not having a single gun out at the stern. He did not know whether the blame of that was to be attached to the late Board of Admiralty or not; but if it was extraordinary that the Surveyor should propose twelve years ago to construct a ship that had not 1255 a single gun at her stern, and that could not fire a shot if chased by a French vessel of superior power, it was ten times worse to build such a ship at the present day; and yet the Queen was unable to fire a single gun from her stern ports. He trusted, however, that the gallant Admiral would be able to tell them that he had changed that rule, and that no other vessels would be built with this serious omission. They had also three 80-gun ships ordered:—The Agamemnon laid down by Admiral Hayes; Irresistible, laid down by Sir W. Symonds; and the Cressy, laid down by the School of Naval Architecture. The next class of vessels were the 50-gun frigates, of which two were building. One commenced by the late Government, the Constance, laid down by Sir W. Symonds; and the Raleigh, by Mr. Fincham. In addition to these they had ordered the Severn, 50, Fincham; Leander, 50, Blake; Shannon, 50, Blake; Liffey, 50, Symonds; Arethusa, 50, Symonds; Active, 36, Symonds; Sybille, 36, Symonds; Thetis, 36, by the School of Naval Architecture; Chesapeake, 36, Symonds. They had then of 20-gun frigates building, the Alarm, Creole, Malacca, and the Niobe, all from the plans of Sir W. Symonds. It was not necessary for him to fatigue the House by entering into the question of the smaller vessels. Of these there were the following corvettes and brigs upon the stocks:—The Coquette, 20; Calypso, 20; Challenger, 18. Brigs building:—The Arab, 16; Zebra, 16; Goshawk, 12; Kingfisher, 12; Camilla, 16; Atalanta, 16; Liberty, 16; Mariner, 16; Martin, 16; Squirrel, 16; Britomart, 10. He did not believe there was any complaint to be made of these vessels, and he would therefore proceed at once to the most important part of the subject, namely, the steam navy. The gallant Admiral had refused to tell him how much had been expended on the construction of the war steamers, but he believed he could go very near the amount without the return. Of steam frigates they had the Retribution, 1,641 tons, Symonds; Gladiator, 1,210 tons, Symonds; Sampson, 1,299 tons, Symonds; Firebrand, 6 guns, 430-horse power, 1,190 tons, Symonds; Vulture, 6 guns, 430-horse power, 1,191 tons, Symonds; Cyclops, 6 guns, 320-horse power, 1,195 tons, Symonds; and that beautifully-constructed frigate the Penelope, and the Terrible, of which they had 1256 no returns. He really did trust that before the House voted any more money for the construction of steam boats, they would require an assurance from the Government that they would appoint some scientific man, well versed in the subject of steam vessels, to show how they ought to be built. He had brought the subject before the House in various shapes already. He had moved for an Address to Her Majesty on the matter, but it was refused. He then moved for the appointment of a Committee, but with no better success; and he now applied for a Commission on the subject: but it would appear that the Admiralty fancied the whole naval talent of the country was centered in their own body, and that no person had any right to interfere in any way with them. Gentlemen on the opposite side of the House thought that they should support the Minister, whether he were right or wrong, unless some question about grease and tar, or butter and lard, was brought forward, affecting their immediate interests. They were then found opposing the Ministry; but in matters such as that now before the House, where hundreds of thousands of pounds of the public money was voted away, not one of them was found to stand up and support him in calling for an inquiry into the matter. But these hon. Members were not worse than hon. Gentlemen on his own side of the House. They had a fellow feeling with the Admiralty Board, and they accordingly thought proper to support it, and not to give way to any Member who should bring the subject before the House. But what were the facts? The Retribution was 1,640 tons burden, or of a size larger than a frigate, and yet she did not carry a single gun on her main deck. She might have some guns put upon her main deck, but they could not be placed in an advantageous position. Then they had the Terrible still larger, as she was of 1,830 tons; but yet the man who built her absolutely forgot to give her any stern guns at all. He had heard lately that two stern ports had been cut in her. The Sampson was in exactly the same predicament, and, what was worse, her machinery was in the worst possible position. He could defy them to fire a shot through her engine-house without knocking away some material part of her machinery, so that he considered it absolutely absurd to talk of her as a vessel of 1257 war. Then they had the Firebrand, in which Captain Corry went out, and reported that it was absolutely impossible to fire off a gun from her stern. Of the Vulcan he would say nothing, as he had not seen her himself. The Cyclops was at first intended for a frigate, but was obliged to be altered. The Gorgon was in exactly the same state, and the sooner she was brought down to be a corvette the better. He next came to the steam sloops, of which they had twenty-four. They cost the country altogether a sum of 462,104l., without including the machinery, which he supposed cost as much more; and out of the entire be would not except one, when he declared they were only fit for packets to carry troops. It was impossible that a shot could enter the engine house of any one of them without destroying the machinery. He had a communication with the engineer on this subject, and he told him that there would be no difficulty in bringing almost all the machinery down, and exposing nothing but the piston, the connecting-rod, and the eccentric. The steam-pipes, or cylinders, instead of being short, were all unnecessarily long, and the steam-boxes were thus made to appear high above the water. He could defy the gallant Admiral to fire a shot through one of them without breaking the machinery. The following was a list of these sloops, with their cost and tonnage:—
He next came to the class of steam packets, of which he would read the following particulars:— 1258
STEAM SHIPS. Name. Guns. Horse power. Tonnage. Cost. £ Gorgon 8 320 1,111 28,010 Driver 8 280 1,057 24,682 Styx 8 280 1,057 22,977 Vixen 8 280 1,054 21,474 Geyser 8 280 1,054 22,553 Growler 8 280 1,059 22,251 Devastation 8 400 1,058 21,865 Thunderbolt 8 300 1,055 24,655 Cormorant 8 300 1,057 26,076 Spiteful 6 280 1,054 23,054 Virago 8 300 1,059 23,034 Eclair 8 286 1,059 No return. Rattler 4 200 888 ditto. Hydra 4 220 818 15,357 Vesuvius 8 280 970 20,980 Stromboli 8 280 967 22,372 Dee 3 200 704 16,523 Phœnix 4 220 809 20,205 Medea 4 220 835 19,874 Black Eagle 3 260 495 10,703 Flamer 3 260 496 12,743 Pluto 3 100 495 10,703 Firefly 3 140 550 14,374 Rhadamanthus 4 220 813 17,943 Salamander 0 220 818 19,691
The steam frigates of which they had no returns of the expense were as follow:—
Name. Guns. Horse power. Tonnage. Cost. £ Spitfire 0 140 553 15,769 Blazer 3 120 527 12,967 Tartarus 0 136 523 11,899 Hermes 3 220 716 16,252 Alecto 5 200,39 800 13,471 Prometheus 5 200,39 796 16,137 Lizard 0 100,40 283 7,180 Ardent 5 200,41 801 14,631 Megara 5 160,37 717 16,382 Dasher 0 100,37 260 6,051 Widgeon 0 90,37 164 4,257 Merlin 0 312,38 889 18,024 Medusa 0 312,39 889 18,252 Acheron 0 170,38 722 14,083 Hecla 4 240,39 817 16,219 Hecate 5 240,39 817 15,279 Volcano 4 140 720 16,978 Polyphemus 5 200 801 13,739 Sydenham 3 232 597 26,930 Albert 0 70 457 No return. Wilberforce 0 70 457 No return. Soudan 0 35 249 No return. Bee 0 10 42 1,095
He next came to the steam ships that were building. They were:—
Tons. Firebrand 1,190 Vulture 1,191 Eclair 1,059 Gladiator 1,210 Sampson 1,299 Retribution 1,641 Scourge 1,124 Terrible 1,840 Penelope —
FRIGATES. Name. Guns. Horse power. Tons. Dragon 8 560 1,270 Avenger 10 650 1,444 Centaur 8 540 1,270 Amphion 36 800 1,284 Odin — 550 — Vulcan 8 556 1,400
SLOOPS. Name. Guns. Horse power. Tons. Sphynx 6 500 1,056 Bulldog 6 420 1,124 Fury 6 515 1,124 Inflexible 6 350 1,124 Harpy 3 200 345 Torch 3 150 345 Spitfire 3 140 485 Trident 4 350 850 Myrmidon 3 150 370 Grappler 3 220 559
1259 He had been on board the Centaur two days before, and he found that she also would not be able to fire a single gun from the stern of her main deck; but it was not yet too late to alter her, and he hoped the matter would not be lost sight of. The Dragon and the Avenger were built on precisely the same plan. Mr. Fincham had been ordered to build a vessel of 550 horse power, and 1,450 tons burden, and that was the only steam boat they would have that could be called a man of war. He proposed to Mr. Fincham to make his vessel two feet deeper, because he invariably found that in every steam vessel they had the paddle shafts were nearly gutted when there was a sufficiency of coals on board. If the alteration which he suggested were made, he would take the responsibility entirely on himself should it be found to fail. The Vulcan of 556 horse power, built by Mr. Laird, was, he presumed, the first iron steam vessel built for them. He was himself the first person to build iron vessels, and to cross the Channel in them, but he would advise the gallant Admiral to attend to the effect which shot would have upon them. It was well known that wood closed, to a certain extent, after being pierced by shot, so as to be plugged without difficulty, but that could not be the case with iron boats, and he would therefore recommend that some experiments should be tried by firing shots through plates of iron. A lining of timber would probably facilitate the plugging after an action. He would not detain the House by going through the list of small steamers. A resolution had, he believed, been adopted the other day not to carry guns on the main deck of those vessels, and that he thought a useful decision, because they could not be got to be efficient. With respect to the machinery, he would earnestly recommend Sir William Symonds to pause before he adopted the course he proposed to take, and to endeavour to throw the machinery a great deal lower. He had gone through the subject to the best of his ability, and he trusted that he had made himself sufficiently intelligible. He had intended to apply for a commission, and after the statement which he had made in that House, he did not think it would hurt the dignity of the Gentlemen of the Admiralty or the Members of the late Board, if they would consent to appoint a commission to 1260 inquire into the subject which he had brought before them. The hon. and gallant Gentleman concluded by expressing his thanks for the very attentive manner in which he had been heard by the Committee, and by a hope that the Board of Admiralty would not throw away the hints which he had given them.
STEAM VESSELS ORDERED. Name. Guns. Horse power. Tons. Hound 0 0 358 Niger 0 0 0 Dart 3 0 319 Fury 6 515 1,124 Dauntless 28 520 1,453 Steam Frigate 46 300 1,861 Encounter 8 320 895 Conflict No drawings. Desperate 2 Iron steam frigates. 2 Iron steam sloops.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
could assure the hon. and gallant Commodore that he took every thing he said in good part; but he could have wished that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had not imputed bad motives for everything he disapproved of. [Sir C. Napier: I did not impute such motives.] The hon. and gallant Gentleman had ended his speech by referring to the subject of steam boats, which was by far the most important topic throughout his address. As regarded the steam navy, when it was determined to build steam men of war the subject was in its infancy and not very well understood. On coming into office he found that there was a very considerable steam navy already established, and many more building. The steam ships had been built and armed on this principle. It was considered from their very nature, the paddle-boxes hanging out from the machinery, that they must necessarily prove weak vessels for broadside actions. They were therefore fitted with a large gun forward and aft on their upper decks, inasmuch as they could take up with much ease their own position, and fire upon the enemy with a certain degree of impunity, and they were not, therefore, calculated to carry guns on their main decks: in saying this he did not wish to throw anything like censure upon the former Board—they had had a new material to deal with. The present Board had only built the Terrible, the Retribution, the Janus, and the Porcupine, with some smaller vessels. The Terrible being a vessel of very large dimensions was built as an experiment, and was fitted differently to the former plan, and was to carry guns on her main deck as well on the upper deck; she would carry on the latter two of the heaviest guns, being 8-inch guns of 112 cwt., capable of firing solid shot of 68 pounds, with a range of upwards of three miles, and which guns would fire right a-head in a line with the keel; she would have two more of those guns abaft to fire direct astern also in the line of the keel; and she would have amidships between the guns just mentioned, on the same deck, 1261 four 56-pounders of 96 cwt., and on her main deck she will have two long 56-pounders to fire right a-head in a line with the keel, 11½ feet long, to enable them to be fired clear of the ports, and she will have two of the same guns in her after ports; and between these midships she will have four light 8-inch shell guns of 65 cwt., making together sixteen guns of large calibre. She will prove, no doubt, a most formidable vessel in whatever way we view her. The reason why they did not put the 68-pounder guns of light weight on the upper deck was, that being of the same calibre, they might risk the safety of the gun by putting into it round shot instead of the shell shot. The Retribution, to which the hon. and gallant Commodore had alluded, was not built for carrying guns upon her main deck; but, nevertheless, she would ultimately be able to have them, and they would put guns upon her main deck. As regarded the steam navy in general, the hon. and gallant Gentleman had said that the vessels were useless and good for nothing. They were almost all at sea at the present moment, and they were found to do their duty remarkably well. [Sir C. Napier; I said unfit for war purposes.] They were prepared and ready for war if necessary. Of course, during peace they had no enemy to fire at; but they had gone through a great deal of practice, and as far as carrying guns on their upper decks was considered of importance, they had been found to be very fit for the work. The Admiralty were every day—almost every hour.—listening to proposals for improvements, and examining as to how those improvements could be carried out. They have had already some extraordinary experiments tried in reference to this subject. The hon. and gallant Commodore had thought proper to find great fault with the frigate Penelope. He must, however, say, that from the experiment which had been tried, there had never been anything more complete. When he spoke the other day upon the subject of this Penelope, the hon. and gallant Officer opposite, and the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster, remarked that they did not mind what captains in the service said, for they would say anything to please the Admiralty (not very complimentary to their brother officers). He then felt that the Board stood in this predicament: if anything were said in favour of it by such parties, it was immediately declared by the hon. and gallant Members 1262 to be a false report; but if, on the contrary, anything was uttered which tended to find fault with the Admiralty, then these hon. and gallant Members immediately referred to such a statement as authentic evidence in favour of their views. [Sir C. Napier: "No, no."] He should just read what was said on the subject by the master of the vessel, as it related to the performance of a feat which was very extraordinary. At Ascension, where the Penelope was lying, they became very short of water, and it was considered how the deficiency could be made up. It was found difficult to determine how it could be remedied, and it struck the officer in command of the Penelope that he could calculate exactly how relief could be brought to them—he calculated that by going eight knots an hour they should be able to reach Sierra Leone at a certain time, when he could procure a sufficient quantity of casks and tanks to load with them the Tortoise, a large merchant-built ship placed as guard-ship at Ascension. He accordingly went to Sierra Leone, and returned back exactly in the time he had mentioned. He then placed the said casks and tanks on board the Tortoise, and, taking that vessel in tow, actually towed against the strong south-easterly trade wind from Ascension to St. Helena, there filled her and his own ship with water, and the two ships returned with their supply of water to Ascension within the time calculated—which could not have been performed by any other vessel being a mere sailing vessel, or having less power as a steam ship than Penelope. Then the master of Penelope, goes on to state,—That the Penelope had fairly beaten every man of war steamer she had met with except only the Queen's Yacht; that she had exceeded the Cyclops, the Prometheus, the Vulcan, the Hydra, the Hecate, &c.; that she had made passages while other steamers were obliged to bring up; that for a period of thirteen years, during which time he had been employed in steamers, he could safely assert that not one of them could have surpassed the Penelope in speed, or could have equalled her in qualities as a sea boat. The maximum rate of her steaming was ten knots and three quarters.What was still more important, they had endeavoured to apply the screw to men of war steamers, the advantage of which was, that the whole of the machinery would be under water and safe. There was also an engine invented by Lord Dundonald, which was likely to supersede that at present in use. 1263 Every person who thought he had an improvement brought it to the Admiralty, and their Lordships either endeavoured to induce the individual to try the experiment or they tried it themselves. They were very much obliged to the gallant Commodore, and expected great advantage from the attention he had paid to these matters, he having got the better of his party feelings, and offered to construct a steam ship for us which should be perfect; but he was wrong in supposing Mr. Fincham the builder at Portsmouth, for he declined to allow the vessel he is building to be dealt with according to the gallant Officer's plan. Nevertheless, the Admiralty would allow another vessel to be laid down on the plan of the gallant Officer. He would only say, as regarded the steam navy in general, that we had the most effective steam navy in the world. He had a list of the vessels, the name of every ship, and her strength, which was at the gallant Officer's service. It was not wise to boast of our strength; but he would say, comparing our steam navy with that of our neighbours, that it might be reckoned as three to two. Our horse-power was 30,000, theirs was 20,000. Now, as regarded the ships, the gallant Officer, fishing for something to find fault with, had moved for a return of the number of vessels which, since the year 1815, had been broken up or turned into hulks without being at sea, naturally enough supposing that as some of our men of war had been built and launched after 1815, and thirty years had since elapsed, some of them might have fallen through, and then he would have made his grand flourish. It did so happen, however, that when the Report came, it appeared that, owing to the care of the Naval Department, only one vessel had been so treated which had not been at sea. The gallant Officer, seeing these returns did not meet his object, then moved for a return from 1800, carrying us back nearly half a century, and that gave him one or two ships which had been broken up without going to sea. It was not at all extraordinary that in the course of such a length of time some improvements and alterations had taken place in shipbuilding, owing to the great improvements that had been made in the science of naval architecture; but in spite of the assertions of the gallant Officers of the inefficiency of our ships in former times, he (Sir G. Cockburn) maintained they were then quite equal to the work 1264 they had to perform. He remembered that at the beginning of the war, when the Inconstant of that day came out, she was considered to be the perfection of a frigate as to strength, size, manœuvre, and sailing. So much did the gallant Officer who commanded her admire her, that he did not fear to carry her alongside an 80-gun French ship and stopped her for the Agamemnon, Captain Nelson, to reach her. The Inconstant frigate was exactly the tonnage of what were now called the donkey frigates, which were now described as being unfit for service. A great deal had been said of the total inefficiency of those ships; they were built, it was true, by men who had been brought up apprentices in our dockyards, who had learned their business there, and become Surveyors of the Navy. He would add another fact on this point, which related to another vessel of the same kind—the Penelope of that day—and built by the Surveyors of the Navy. She was cruizing off Malta; and there happened to be in Malta the Guillaume Tell, the very perfection, the ne plus ultra of the efforts of the French genius in shipbuilding. The French scientific engineers had completed in her that which was considered then and afterwards to be the most perfect man of war. She was lying in Malta harbour; and it became necessary for her to escape, as the place was likely to fall into our hands. The French admiral chose his night, and put his ship into the best possible sailing trim; and put to sea with a fine fresh wind favourable for his object. This frigate saw the vessel at a distance, and of course chased her. The Guillaume Tell set every sail; and this donkey frigate, built by the Surveyors of the Navy, now so much abused, came up with her, brought down her topmasts, and enabled our line of battle ships to come up with her and take her. When he (Sir G. Cockburn) was cruising with Lord Keith, off Toulon, five enemy's ships were discovered at a great distance; the Centaur, one of our line of battle ships, was ordered with others of the squadron to chase them; the Centaur (built by the abused Surveyors) came up with them, as did the rest of the chasing ships; and the whole five were taken without difficulty—proving to be French frigates and corvettes, built by the marine engineers. When cruising with a squadron of five sail of the line off Brest, we discovered a French frigate endeavouring to escape; every one of the five ships 1265 of the line, built by our Surveyors, came up with that French frigate, and she was, of course, taken. He, therefore, maintained, not only that our ships sustained their reputation during the war off Brest and Toulon, winter after winter, but they drove every other ship off the seas. It was, therefore, unfair to say that the ships were good for nothing, and the builders good for nothing. Having said thus much in defence of these ships, he must admit, in reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose, that it was an extraordinary fact that up to the end of the war, England was the only maritime nation that had not a scientific Board. The Admiralty of that day saw the necessity of establishing a School of Naval Architecture, as to which the hon. Member for Westminster had observed, when it was mentioned the other day, that the less we had to do with them the better; nevertheless, if it should be found by the investigations now in progress to be advisable, some establishment of similar nature might be again formed. It was, however, a very extraordinary fact, that, with all the efforts we had made to induce persons to give the best form and description of ship, it was difficult to find any exact principle which could be said to be really the best. This was particularly exemplified in the last trial with the brigs. It was impossible for any one to fancy the bottoms of two ships more different than the bottoms of the Espiégle and Flying Fish. You would suppose, when you looked at them, that one must be very bad and the other very good. They go out on trial by the wind and against the wind, and sail as nearly alike as possible. The Espiégle was, to a certain extent, the better ship; inasmuch only as she carried five months' provisions—the other little more than three. The Admiralty hoped soon to be able to come to some conclusion where the best points of the different vessels were. On the subject of a general system he might mention that there was a very extraordinarily successful builder who certainly had built the best frigate now in the Navy—he meant the late Admiral Hayes—he had a plan, but no system; his plan was to take certain distances from the midship section. He might also mention the name of Lord Dundonald, who had stated that a perfect parabolic curve was the curve of least resistance, and consequently would prove the best for passing through the water; the Admiralty had, therefore, built 1266 a steamer upon that plan, to try it. Mr. Fincham had drawn lines upon that principle for a sloop of war; but the Admiralty wished first to try it, to see whether it had the real power supposed by Lord Dundonald. Should it be proved that that was the true way of building, we should at last get an exact principle, and have nothing further to do than determine the size. He would not give any opinion upon it before it was tried; but he mentioned it to show that the Admiralty were listening to everything; saw and heard everybody; when anything appeared practicable they gave it the fairest trial; and if a Commission or Committee were now appointed it would only interfere with and put a stop to these experiments. As regarded the present building of our ships, he had said the other night, and he begged the Committee would remember, that when the Admiralty came into office the Queen was at Spithead ready to sail. The present Surveyor of the Navy had, at that time, the general management of the dockyards and of the building, and every Report which came to the Admiralty stated that the two best ships in the Mediterranean were the Queen and the Vanguard. He asked the hon. and gallant Commodore whether the Admiralty could at once stop the building which was then going on? They could not; but wanting steam vessels, and small vessels more than large vessels, they forwarded a certain number of them, and checked the progress of the large vessels. Afterwards, when the Queen came home, they stopped entirely the larger class of two-deckers, and hurried forward the Albion, being determined not to go on with others till they found how she answered. They manned her and sent her to sea; they ordered her to join the other ships, and the St. Vincent, Caledonia, and Albion had a trial; and certainly it was surprising, after what the Admiralty had heard of the Queen, to find her so bad as she was. She did the worst of all. There was, however, this to be said, that a trial of ships in the Bay of Biscay was somewhat different from a trial of ships in the Mediterranean. The Surveyor being perfectly sure that he could remedy the evils which became apparent on the Queen's cruize, it was but fair and just to an officer who had done so much for the nation, who had built so many valuable ships, and who was a most excellent person, and perhaps, one of the best sailors in Her Majesty's Navy, to give 1267 him an opportunity of doing so. They, therefore, gave him leave to dock the ship and alter her as he thought proper. The gallant Officer was alarmed at what the Surveyor was doing; but if she was made a good ship, the Admiralty would not mind whether or no she had a bustle. She would be sent out with the St. Vincent, which shone so much the other day, and the Trafalgar, three-deckers; also with the Albion and Rodney, 90-guns on two decks, and the Vanguard, Superb, and Canopus — the Superb having had her bow lengthened, according to the new plan—and then it would be seen what advantage was derived from any of the recent alterations; and the Admiralty would adhere to that plan which proved to be the best. He had great hope that they would be able to send out for trial a squadron of steam boats after the trial squadron of these large ships. He hoped he had said enough to induced the House to reject the proposal of the hon. and gallant Officer.
observed that, as to one of the steamers, he understood that the guns had been obliged to be made for the vessel, and not the vessel for the guns. That was a very great mistake in the construction. On account of the stern, guns of a particular construction were obliged to be put into the vessel; therefore she was only calculated to carry certain guns, if she could find them. He might say, however, from his own observation of the management and appearance of steam vessels, that Great Britain was as much superior to any other nation in steam vessels as she was in sailing vessels. Steam as yet was only in its infancy. He had read with some interest the pamphlet which had caused so much sensation, written by the Prince de Joinville, a man holding so high a station in the Navy of France; and having read it, he was extremely glad to hear what had fallen from the gallant Officer and the Secretary to the Admiralty as to the steam navy. He was obliged to his gallant Friends for bringing forward this question, because he thought it a question of vital importance. He did not attribute to the Prince de Joinvilie that enmity towards England which was generally attributed to him for writing that pamphlet. With quite as much reason might it be said that the House wished for war with France, because they were endeavouring to point out the best means for carrying 1268 out steam navigation. It appeared to him that without going to any great expense, the present or any future Admiralty might lie on their oars as to steam boats. The gallant Admiral had given it as his opinion that in steam we were numerically superior to any other nation; but at the same time he might suggest to the hon. and gallant Admiral, that the plan might be carried into effect with little or no expense to the country; and he put this forward, because he was well aware that there were men in the House who objected to an increase of the Navy Estimates, and who would endeavour to persuade the House that it ought not to take place. With these Gentlemen he could not concur. He fully appreciated what was doing by the Admiralty. He was prepared to support them in the increase they had asked for, for the best of all reasons, to preserve the peace of Europe. As to the Prince de Joinville's schemes for putting himself on an equality on the seas with Great Britain, we must be very supine and idle indeed if, when the Royal Author had been kind enough to furnish us with his tactics, we were not prepared to counteract them. The conclusion to which the Prince came was, that having got rid of seamanship by doing away with sailing vessels, he would bring the conflict to one of hand to hand, and carry it by boarding. On this he could only say, that in ninety-nine cases out of 100, where such conflicts had taken place, they had been in favour of this country. He would not further trouble the Committee by observations on this exciting topic; he would only say, that, if such were to be the tactics of any nation, the Executive Government of Great Britain had it in their power at little or no expense to have a fleet of steamers equal not only to France, but to the whole world. Let them look at the ports of London, of Liverpool, of Glasgow, and at all our out-ports, and they would see what a vast number of steam ships might, in a very short time, be made available for the purposes of a steam war. To steamers of a certain tonnage he thought some boon ought to be given—some exemption from port dues, or something of that kind, should be held out to them as a bonus, to induce them to place their masts and their hatchways in a mode to be approved of by an officer appointed by the Government. Those steamers 1269 might be so constructed, under such a system as he had pointed out, as to be able to carry the pivot guns, which could be easily fitted, and then they would be at once available in case of war. The Board of Admiralty would, as a matter of course, have a list of such ships; the price of them ought to be previously fixed between the Government and their owners, and by paying that stipulated price the Government would have them at their command at any moment they might be required. It might be asked, having got the guns on board, how are the ships to be manned? He would suggest that one division, at least, if not the whole, of the marine force should be turned into Marine Artillery. With such a force as that, there was one great advantage: seamen entered the Navy for a limited and an uncertain time; the marines were enlisted for twenty-one years, so that they were always at the command of Her Majesty's Government; and therefore with the crews of those vessels, and some twenty or thirty of the Marine Artillery, they were ready for immediate service. He was ready to go all lengths to increase the naval strength of the country; but at the same time he thought it was due to those from whom the money must come—that the expense should be curtailed as much as possible. He, for one, thought that great credit was due to Sir Wm. Symonds. Although some of his vessels had turned out failures, still he had done more good to the Navy than any other man in it. In all these discussions, he trusted that all party views would be thrown aside, and that all would have only one end in view, viz., the maintaining the Navy of Great Britain in an efficient state—not for the purposes of war, but to put down the clamour for war. Let the world know that England was so prepared that she could not be forced into war with impunity, and that would go far towards preserving peace.
§ Captain Rous
said, the right hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Ripon had accused him of finding fault with everything which emanated from the Admiralty; but he could appeal to his friends if on all occasions it did not give him much more pleasure to approve. The right hon. Admiral had compared the Inconstant to the donkey frigates; but the Inconstant was 940 tons — the donkey frigates 500. He merely mentioned this to prevent the House from being under a 1270 wrong conception. With respect to the large sum of money proposed to be added to the Naval Estimates for building and the improvement of Her Majesty's steam vessels, and for the basins constructing at Portsmouth and Devonport, he did most cordially thank the First Lord of the Treasury for having selected these national works as a proper outlay for public money; but when he saw so large a sum as 1,273,789l. to be applied to the building and repairing of ships, he should wish the House to be put in possession of the actual state and condition of Her Majesty's Navy. To attain this object, he had prepared a Motion for a Return of all ships in active service, in ordinary and building, specifying their rates, tonnage, capacity of carrying guns, when built, by whom, and how many years they had been at sea; and a particular account of those ships then building by the Surveyor of the Navy which had been suspended by the present Board of Admiralty, until they could make up their minds whether they were adapted for Her Majesty's service. But the right hon. and gallant Admiral objected to every item of the Motion, on the plea that it would not be prudent or advisable to give information to all the world of the actual condition of Her Majesty's Navy. This might be a plausible argument; but if their Navy was in the flourishing and efficient state, which they had a right to assume it was in; if in the last seven years they had expended 45,000,000l. in Naval Estimates, and upwards of 200,000,000l. since the peace, there could be no valid reason why the whole world should not be made acquainted with their formidable position; but if by neglect or administration their funds had been expended in building an inferior description of useless ships, let the House of Commons know the worst; for it was an axiom laid down by Mr. Pitt, "that if any national weakness be laid open and examined with true wisdom, it is more than half redressed." Therefore he could not admit the validity of the excuse which the right hon. and gallant Admiral made for concealing the mysteries of the dockyards. If the gallant Admiral flattered himself that their neighbours were ignorant on this subject, he was much deceived. The Minister of the French Marine was not only well acquainted with the condition of every ship we possessed, but he knew the character, 1271 age, and infirmities of every captain and commander-in-chief we sent to sea. But one great Power was kept in extreme ignorance which ought to be enlightened on the subject, namely, the Representatives of the inhabitants of a great maritime Empire—the British House of Commons. This subject had long attracted attention. At an early period, in 1806, Commissioners were appointed to take into consideration the abuses which existed in Her Majesty's dockyards, and to report on the state of shipbuilding. They pronounced a most decided opinion that it was imperative to put an end to the want of foresight and due consideration which might lead to so much danger to the country. If the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend were acceded to, the Commission in 1845 would have the same result as in 1806; and if no objections were made to exposing their national weakness during a war of extermination between France and England, in 1806, he could not understand the nature of such objections during the present period of profound peace. In the absence of official documents, he must take Captain Haultain's Navy List as his guide. On the 1st of February, according to that, there were 189 vessels of war in commission, including 10 sail of the line (since augmented to 15), in ordinary 306, and 82 ships building. They had 88 ships of the line afloat, including 21 three-deckers, and on the stocks building 7 three-deckers, 6 90-gun ships, and 10 80-gun ships, amounting altogether to 111 sail; 30 of these ships carry from 72 to 70 guns, and were considered of not sufficient calibre to form a line of battle, but they might be converted into magnificent 50-gun frigates. He therefore asked the right hon. and gallant Admiral why he was building six 50-gun frigates? He knew the argument which would be used, that the French were building a large Navy, that their system corresponded with ours;Pacem orare manu, præfigere puppibus arma.But he wished to impress upon the House that a moderate number of ships in an efficient state was better than a large force lying rotting in the rivers. Of the twenty-three sail of the line on the stocks, seventeen were on the construction of the Surveyor, and he had been ordered to stop work on them; but six of these were 1272 so far advanced that they could not be altered. Large sums of money had been expended upon them during a period of upwards of three years since the present Admiralty had been in office; though to his knowledge there had been a conviction on their minds that the Surveyor's line of battle ships would not answer. They had certainly given orders to two admirals to try the new three-decker, the Queen, and it was equally certain that their orders had been disobeyed. A natural question arose—whose fault was it? He left that question to be answered by the right hon. and gallant Admiral. Again, he thanked the First Lord of the Treasury for his anxious solicitude to promote the best interests of the Navy, and for his proposal of keeping ten sail of the line always manned on the home station; the object of his right hon. Friend being to maintain an active force ready to act on all cases of emergency. He regretted to say that this apparently wise plan would not be so fully productive of public advantage as the House might anticipate. He must premise by observing that a line of battle ship was notoriously the worst school for making officers and seamen. A young landsman, or ordinary seaman, would learn more in six months in a cruiser than in six years in a ship of the line. And he must say the same of young officers; those brought up in large ships rarely learned their duties as seamen. These ten sail of the line were to be commanded by officers sixty years of age, excepting the flag ships, which were generally commanded by the nearest relations to the commanders-in-chief. These old officers were the men proposed to re-instruct in the evolutions of a fleet which they had lost sight of for thirty years; and the result would be, that this squadron would settle down into idle, lazy habits—just the same as the last fleet they maintained in the Mediterranean. If they wanted an active fleet, they must employ active officers. In the event of sudden war the first object was a fleet of steam-vessels and cruisers, which would swarm like a flight of hornets on the enemy's coast. In the event of war they would not look to admirals and captains between seventy and eighty; they would require young officers, with some knowledge of the evolutions of a fleet; and under their present system they were not to be obtained. He would now mention to the House his proposal; which was to keep 1273 twenty sail of the line as advance ships, ready to be commissioned at three days' notice; and instead of the ten sail of the line in commission, which would keep 5,000 seamen comparatively inactive, that they should employ these seamen in frigates, corvettes, and brigs, and put them under the orders of an active commodore. Let their head quarters be Cork; for he could assure the House by experience that no squadron could be kept in good discipline at Portsmouth or Plymouth, where the seamen's wives were constantly on board. Let the commanding officer of this flying squadron keep his ships cruising at sea, and performing all the evolutions of a fleet. Order every frigate and ship of war to join this squadron, and undergo six weeks' drill before they proceeded to a foreign station; and by these means they would teach their young officers the necessary duties of a fleet; they would instruct them to act together; they would infuse an esprit de corps into what was at present an inanimate service, which they might re-invigorate by promoting and encouraging the most active and intelligent officers. Then, if their political horizon were obscured, they were ready for any emergency. If their foreign relations were disturbed, they could at once double their force, without having recourse to the pressgang; they could turn over their frigates' ship companies into the advance ships of the line, their corvettes into frigates, and, filling up the vacancies with landsmen and ordinary seamen, they could at once possess a giant's strength without trespassing on the rights and interests of the mercantile marine. Their attitude would be commanding; they would be ready to strike the first blow; they would have an active force to protect the homeward-bound shipping; and in the event of a war becoming inevitable, they secured, not only these valuable merchant ships, but the still more valuable services of good seamen, who might otherwise be captured and consigned to the miseries of a foreign prison. This was his plan; and it would not entail one sixpence additional expense to the country. He was glad to hear from the right hon. Secretary of the Admiralty that a retired list of captains was about to be proposed. While that report was current, he must inform the House that in the French Navy, by an Ordinance of June, 1841, lieutenants were placed on 1274 the retired list at 55 years; captains of corvettes at 58 years; captains at 60 years; rear-admirals at 65 years; and vice-admirals at 68 years; the full admirals only having the same compliment paid to them which was here conceded to worn-out officers of every grade—they were retained on the active list. He felt it his duty to inform the House, that at the present time, on the most important of their naval stations, the commander-in-chief had been sixty-eight years in Her Majesty's Navy. [Sir G. Cockburn: No, no.] If Captain Haultain's Navy List could be relied on, the commander-in-chief entered Her Majesty's service in 1777. He had now done his duty to the best of his ability; condemning where he thought it necessary, and praising where he believed praise deserved; he hoped, although this proposal emanated from him, that the Admiralty would take it into its serious consideration; he was convinced if it was adopted, they should be ready for any emergency.
§ Admiral Bowles
said, in the trial of the qualities of the Albion and the Queen, the superiority of the latter vessel was so decided, that it was not considered necessary to keep her at sea any longer. The remarks, therefore, that had been made as to this trial might have been spared, as they were not merited.
§ Captain Pechell
was quite sure that the gallant Member for Westminster had no intention to reflect upon the zeal and ability of the gallant Admiral. He knew that the gallant Officer acted under the orders of the Admiralty, and that he acted as he thought was most discreet. No one had found fault with the tests which had been applied to the ships; they complained that the trials had not been sufficient, and that the Admiralty had gone on building vessel after vessel without being satisfied that they had obtained a proper model. When the gallant Admiral was appointed to command the squadron, he was satisfied that, at all events, they would have an honest and a fair Report; and he was perfectly certain that no officer could have done more, in the time, than the gallant Admiral, to bring out either the good or the bad qualities of the ships. He was not one of those who had ever disparaged the Navy; but when he sat on the other (the Ministerial) side of the House, he had heard attacks upon the service from many Officers who now sat opposite and in the 1275 other House the attacks made were preposterous. It was said that Admiral de Rigby must be far more efficient than our officers; and why? Because he always appeared in his uniform. He, for one, was not afraid of the enemy coming over and burning our ships in the Medway; or any of the other absurd statements which were made, but which could only be attributed to the most prejudiced party and political motives. Those hon. Gentlemen who were so furiously jealous of the national honour a few years ago, because we had not a navy at Portsmouth, and Plymouth, and Sheerness, were now as silent as mice. He knew not whether there were any of them now in the House; but if there were he hoped they would give the gallant Admiral opposite credit for his endeavours to put the steam navy on an efficient footing. He must, however, say, that he did not think that sawing a vessel in two, adding to her length, and putting a steam engine in the middle of her was an example that ought to be followed. He hoped too that whenever the gallant Admiral would be constructing steam vessels, he would place the propelling screw in vessels adapted for the purpose. It was more than two years since he drew the attention of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. S. Herbert), who then acted in that department with the greatest efficiency, but had since left it to the great regret of all those connected with that branch of the service, to this subject; and he was then told that the Admiralty were sincerely desirous of bringing out the screw propeller invented by Mr. Smith; that they would try it in the Rattler, and would test it in every possible way. He had pressed the gallant Admiral to place the screw in the Royal Yacht; that was not done; but he now saw that it was to be fitted up in a smaller vessel, to be attached to the Royal Yacht. By means of the screw they got rid of the paddle-wheels and machinery, that occupied half the sides of a steam frigate, and made it quite absurd to talk of her broadside. He trusted that in the construction of these vessels fair play would be given to all parties, and that they would admit Mr. Smith to be entitled to the thanks of the country, and to some substantial reward suitable to his merits. He would say that in the construction of those large ships to which allusion had been made, he thought Sir W. Symonds did deserve the thanks of this country. No doubt Sir William 1276 acted in a manner by no means pleasing and flattering to those who did not approve of his models; and though he was not a shipwright by trade, yet he was a seaman by trade, and therefore had the advantage over Sir Robert Seppings, and those other Surveyors who never left their seats at Somerset-house, and knew nothing of the capabilities of vessels except upon paper. The present Surveyor was able, not only to build but to sail a ship as well as any man in the Navy, and had overcome great difficulties, and given fine models to the service. But if he did rebel against those attempting to correct any part of his system which might be improved, they need not be prevented by false delicacy from adopting means to correct his mistakes. He was glad that the Admiralty had given encouragement to that eminent shipbuilder, Mr. White, of the Isle of Wight, who had done great service to the country. It was only right that they should have competition. The late Board of Admiralty gave no encouragement to Mr. White. This was the source of his principal battles with them. Whenever he introduced the name of Mr. White, or any other person, who built on a different system from the Surveyor, they looked upon him as if he were disposed to be factious. The present Board of Admiralty had done eminent service to the country by encouraging naval science; and the late Board had also done great service by getting rid of the old Navy Board, who were as unfit for their office as old women. Our Navy had now arrived at a state in which we could bid defiance to all the Navies of the world. We had had for some years a large squadron on the coast of Africa for the prevention of the Slave Trade. But there was at this moment, to the surprise of all Europe, a Commission sitting in London, to find out in what manner the Treaties of 1831 and 1833 could be abrogated; and, therefore, the squadron for which they were now called upon to vote a sum of money might be in a few weeks declared useless and be withdrawn. The Government had done great service to the Navy and the cause of humanity by sending out to the African coast vessels fit to cope with the fast-sailing vessels built in the United States expressly for the Slave Trade. A great proof of the efficiency of our cruisers on that coast was to be found in the fact that out of sixty-three vessels captured there within the last two years, nine only 1277 had slaves on board. He hoped that the Government would resist all attempts to abrogate the "Right of Search" Treaties, and that the House would at once mark its sense of the utter inutility of any proceeding for the suppression of the Slave Trade which did not go to the blockade of the coast of Africa as the most effectual. He would, in conclusion, say, that he hoped when the officers on the African station returned home with probably broken frames and shattered constitutions, they would meet from the Admiralty with those rewards which they prized more than money.
§ Captain Carnegie
said, that as the commander of one of the much maligned vessels that had been alluded to in course of the debate, he could not refrain from saying that she was the pride of our own service, and the envy of foreigners. As compliments seemed to be the order of the day, he could not refrain from adding, that the conduct of the Admiralty Board in sending one of their own body to witness the experiments and judge for himself, had given great confidence and satisfaction to the commanders of the vessels.
§ Mr. Hume
said, although the observations made in the course of this discussion would no doubt be productive of good, as such suggestions very often were, yet the discussion itself appeared to him to be irregular. The real question before the House was what should be the number of men employed in our Naval Service, and what the expense of that service? When the right hon. Baronet brought forward his Budget, he stated, that he would reserve any further observations which it might be necessary to make on this subject until the Estimates came under discussion. Under these circumstances, he had expected that the right hon. Baronet would then be prepared to state why there should be such an augmentation of the naval force at the present time, especially after the House had been informed in the Speech of Her Majesty that friendly relations existed with France and other countries. When it was proposed to increase the Navy, the Army, or the Ordnance, in former years, they were told that the object was to enable the Government to carry on this or that enterprise, or to prepare for the forces of France, Russia, or some other Power. For what purpose, he would be glad to know, was the present addition to be made? What was 1278 the situation of this country now as compared to that situation ten years ago? Surely the peace of Europe was better consolidated at present than it was at that period. There was as much harm done by keeping up too large a force as by maintaining too small a one. By keeping up an overwhelming force they raised the suspicions of other Powers, and induced them to increase their establishments, in order that they might be prepared for any event that should arise. He would be the last man to object to the Navy being made stronger if it were necessary for the public security; and if any branch of the Public Service was to be reduced, he would rather it were the Army than the Navy. But when the whole country was complaining of excessive taxation, he thought the House of Commons were bound to ascertain why an increase was proposed. Two or three simple facts would show the necessity for explanation. The year 1835 might be taken as a fair criterion of expenditure under the late Government. There were, at that time, in the Army, the Navy, and the Ordnance, 115,000 men; they were now called upon to maintain 149,000. There were in the Navy, in the years 1835 and 1836, 26,500 men, including marines and boys; they were now asked to vote 40,000 men. At the former period, there were 81,271 men in the Army: they were now asked for 100,000 men. In the years 1835 and 1836 there were 7,200 men in the Ordnance Department; and their number was now to be raised to upwards of 9,000. The aggregate number of men at the former of these periods was 115,000, whereas the aggregate now proposed was 149,100. Why there should be a difference of 34,000 men between the two periods he could not conceive; and he would be glad to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or from some other Member of the Government, a distinct explanation of the matter. In the year 1792, the whole force of the British Navy did not exceed 16,000 men; yet they were now asked to make an increase of 24,000. Was it on account of the United States of America that the addition was to be made? He admitted that if the language of the Members of Congress was to be taken as any indication of the feelings of the Government, there might be some cause for apprehension. A more unprincipled 1279 set did not exist on the face of the earth. But he hoped that a better spirit actuated those who had the direction of the Executive power, and that there was no real cause to fear any interruption of harmony. A greater calamity could not happen than a war between that country and our own. The inhabitants of both were of the same race, and what the one nation wanted it was in the power of the other to supply. In 1835 and 1836, the whole expense of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, was 11,000,000l. It was now proposed to vote 15,000,000l.; and the expense of shipbuilding, of provisions, and of other items having much diminished since that period, the difference would be found to exceed 4,000,000l. In 1835, 1836, and 1837, the Army, Navy, Ordnance, and Miscellaneous Estimates amounted to 4,000,000l.; the sum at present was 19,000,000l. If the expense were not greater now than it was ten years ago, the Government might take off taxes to the amount of 5,000,000l. One reason alleged for increasing the Estimates was the necessity for improving the naval steam force; but that argument could hardly be used after the statement of the gallant Admiral (Sir G. Cockburn) that our steam force might be taken at 30,000 horse power, in comparison with 20,000, as the amount possessed by any other country. He might be too sanguine, but he did not expect that a war could arise during his lifetime. He agreed with the gallant Commodore, that whatever ships they maintained, should be kept fit for immediate service. As he thought that the proposal of the Government required explanation, he should, for the purpose of enabling them to afford it, propose to reduce the Estimate to what it was in the last year. The hon. Member concluded by moving that the sum voted should be 36,000, instead of 40,000 men.
§ Mr. Sydney Herbert
wished to say a few words in reference to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Montrose. The hon. Member complained that no explanation had been given as to the reason why an increase was proposed in the Estimate for the Navy. Why, on proposing the continuance of the Income Tax, the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury distinctly explained the grounds of the proposals made by the Government. He spoke of the impossibility of reducing the Army, of the necessity of increasing 1280 the Navy, and of the desirableness of enabling the Government to make great financial experiments; and upon the several grounds brought forward on that occasion, the hon. Member for Montrose himself voted for the renewal of the tax. Now, he would not touch upon the question of naval efficiency, as that had been very fully dealt with by the gallant Admiral (Sir G. Cockburn). It had, been admitted that the system of employing experimental squadrons to test the merits of different kinds of vessels not only was necessary, for the discipline and efficiency of the officers and men, but must ultimately be of great benefit to the country, by enabling the Government to build good ships by means of experience, instead of bad ones by guesswork. If it were necessary to test the relative merits of line of battle ships, he need not say that the same necessity existed in the case of steamers, and all other vessels employed in the service. So much for the experimental squadron; but now for the commercial part of the question. The hon. Member must not forget, that since 1841 a demand had arisen for an addition of 6,000 men for commercial and political purposes. An increase was required in the vicinity of China for the protection of commerce; on the coast of Borneo for the suppression of piracy; in the Pacific on account of the extremely unsettled state of the countries in South America; on the coast of Africa, nearly 200 men have been added to the force employed in the suppression of the Slave Trade. An increase of not less than between 6,000 and 7,000 men was thus demanded, chiefly to secure commercial objects. The hon. Member said the country was in a state of peace, and that he did not expect to see that peace interrupted; but a mere expectation on his part would not satisfy those whose property would be rendered insecure by the inadequacy of the naval force. It must be recollected that our commerce was daily extending itself every where, and that that extension necessarily entailed upon the country some degree of expense. The next question the hon. Gentleman asked was, why in the time of profound peace the Government were incurring the expense of building line of battle ships and steamers? and the hon. Gentleman stated that our horse power was greater than that of any other Government. That, however, did not appear to be a very sound mode of argument. We were obliged to spread our Navy over the whole face of the globe, 1281 in consequence of the immense extent of our Colonies and commercial transactions; while other nations, who were not under this necessity, were able to concentrate all their force in their own ports. That ought not to be left out of view in instituting the comparison which the hon. Gentleman had put forward. The hon. Gentleman said, "Wait till there is a war before you go into these expenses, and in the first year of it you may build all the ships you require;" and then he said that fifty ships of the line were all we could man. But it was not safe to trust to the possibility of raising the Navy to an efficient state at the last moment: an enemy will not wait for you to build your ships, and a line of battle ship takes five years in building; and however extraordinary it may appear, there is not to be had in this country timber to build four line of battle ships more than we are now building. As to the latter assertion of the hon. Gentleman, in the last war we had 120 ships fully manned; but this experiment of building in war time has been already tried. An instance in point was the building of the ships called "the Forty Thieves," which were built in a hurry, so that there was no time to take precautions that they should be built of proper materials; and the result was, that they had cost much more in repairs than they could possibly have cost, had they been properly constructed at first. Then the increase of expenditure was not merely for shipbuilding; many of the ships were very old, and wanted considerable repairs. It must be remembered also, that much of the expense arose from the new establishments for repairing steam vessels at Plymouth and Portsmouth; and no one has disputed that those establishments were indispensably necessary. Large works and expensive works they are; but he had opportunities of comparison, and he could assert that those establishments cost not one tithe of the money that was laid out for the same purposes in other countries. A full explanation of the necessity for these increased expenses had been given by his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, which he (Mr. Sidney Herbert) thought would be better remembered by the country than it had been by the hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Hume
denied that the right hon. Baronet had given any explanation of the necessity for further expenditure in this department. It was absurd to send ships of war to all quarters where our 1282 commerce reached. With respect to the Slave Trade, he conscientiously believed that all the Acts of Parliament by which our seamen were sent out to blockade the coast of Africa had signally failed in their object. Sir T. F. Buxton and all the supporters of those measures bad stated that things were now worse, rather than better, than they were. He, for one, regretted that so large a portion of our seamen should be sent to die on that deleterious coast.
§ Lord Ingestre
regretted that the explanation of the right hon. the Secretary at War had not been satisfactory to the hon. Gentleman. His hon. and gallant Friend had alluded to the retiring allowance for old Naval Officers. He knew that that allowance was looked upon as a great boon by the service, and that it would tend materially to promote its efficiency. He considered the thanks of the country were due to the present Board of Admiralty for the way in which they had administered the affairs of the Navy, which were in a much more efficient condition now than it was when hon. Gentlemen opposite quitted the seats of Government. The trial cruises now encouraged were doing very great good, and he was glad to see the fair and equitable basis on which they were arranged. The country would soon begin to reap great advantages from this system. With respect to the question of shipbuilding, it was a matter of regret to him that the School of Naval Architecture had ever been given up — for there men got an elaborate and adequate education in that most necessary science, and at an expense too which the country never grudged. It was a painful fact that the build of the vessels of other nations was so far superior to our own. None of our vessels were equal in construction to the Tonnerre and Canopus, and others he could name—all of them old French-built vessels. It was a disgrace to a great maritime Power like England that the very best ships in her Navy were those which had been taken from the enemy. Then, again, with regard to the cost of the hulls alone of vessels built by the present Surveyor of the Navy since he came into office, we have, what with vessels afloat and those in hand, an expenditure on line of battle ships of more than 780,000l.; on frigates 230,818l.; on corvettes about 46,267l.; and on brigs and smaller craft above 1283 190,000l. — making a total of about 1,356,236l. Now this, he considered, was indeed a large experiment to make with ships built on a paltry principle. Even among those ships thus built there were hardly two alike, though stated to be built on the same model. And on these same vessels, provided the Admiralty would give a return, there would be found to have existed a very great wear and tear. He, therefore, considered it very wrong that so important a question should be left in the hands of one man. There had also existed a habit of getting rid, on small pretences, of the older vessels, to make way for this new class of ships, and, were it not for fatiguing the House, he was able to read to them many instances in point. He could not, however, close the subject on which he was addressing the House without referring to the manifest failure in the steam vessels built on this plan. They had proved themselves bad as packet and passage boats, and, therefore, he might fairly infer they were useless as fighting vessels. The Government steamers, for example, on the station between Liverpool and Dublin were so noisy and disagreeable, that no person who went one voyage in them would venture on a second. The Government steamers on the Mediterranean station were equally defective; some would not carry the armament for which they were intended, in consequence of their draught of water being greater than was calculated upon; others would not steer, and the expense of altering to cure their defects was enormous, and, what was worse, it was generally incurred without any beneficial result, as the evils were too often found to be irremediable. There was the Gorgon, which was to have been one of the wonders of the world, both as to the armament she was to carry, and her engines—she was found to float so much deeper in the water than was expected, that she could not carry her guns on the main deck; and though intended to carry 1,000 troops, it was found that she was unfit for conveying troops at all. There was also the porpoise of the Navy, the Penelope. In fact, none of the present Surveyor's vessels would float within one foot of the proposed water line. This necessarily altered the expected position of the vessel in the water, and materially affected her sailing qualities. The Yacht built for Her Majesty by this gentleman 1284 was one among those failures, even in the simple point of steering; and it could not be denied that unnecessary expense had been incurred to make this failure at all seaworthy. He took the liberty then of calling the attention of the House to this subject, because it was one which had never been fairly gone into. He trusted, too, that some Board for scientific instruction in this branch would be appointed. There was a College of Engineers for the Army, why should there not be one for the Navy? For we would have soon to depend on science alone. He would give his consent to have as many fleet evolutions as possible; but it was not to be considered necessary to go to the expense of building large ships for that purpose, as when the smaller ones were employed the same good resulted, with this difference, that in the latter instance the younger officers would be more benefited. But as he believed the hon. Member for Montrose did not mean to divide the House on the question, he would not detain the House, and only hoped it would bear in mind some of the few matters which had been alluded to by him.
§ Mr. W. Williams
thought sufficient had been stated that evening, and that too by men of the highest practical experience, to warrant an inquiry into the present state of the Navy. He had heard complaints made publicly of the unfair mode of advertising the contracts of the Navy. He had been informed of that. [Cries of "Name, name."] Those who had given him that information were placed in a delicate position; but he believed it was a matter of perfect notoriety. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick had stated that it was absolutely impossible to comply with the terms of the contracts, and that the Admiralty were always obliged to relax. [Sir G. Cockburn: Does the hon. Member allude to timber?] He did; and he believed that the same objection applied to all the contracts made in the dockyards. He considered that the Navy ought to be maintained in a state of such efficiency that we should be prepared to meet any emergency; but in the Estimates for the present year large votes were proposed for different departments with, regard to which he thought some explanation should be afforded to the House. He found that the Navy Estimates for 1835 amounted 1285 to 4,200,000l.; this year they were 6,900,000l., showing an increase of 2,700,000l. The right hon. the late Secretary to the Admiralty had given some reasons for this increase, which to his mind were not satisfactory. The right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) said, when he expounded his financial scheme, that the object of the increased vote was to keep ten sail of the line in a state of efficiency; but how did it happen that the Estimates for the present year exceeded by 200,000l. those of 1841, when we had twenty-six sail of the line at sea? The hon. Secretary to the Admiralty had stated that a considerable force was necessary for the suppression of piracy in the Straits of Borneo, and for the protection of our trade in the River Plate, and on the coast of South America; but it must be remembered that the same necessity had existed for years past. The increase in the Navy Estimates was attended by a large increase in the Army and Ordnance Estimates. In 1835, the Estimates for the Navy, Army, and Ordnance were less by 3,900,000l. than the Votes proposed for the same services in the present year. In defending the increased Estimates reference had been made to the state of affairs on the other side of the Atlantic, and perhaps we had more to fear from that quarter than from any other; but he begged the House to observe that the increase of our Naval and Military Estimates exhibited by the present Votes over those of 1835, exceeded the whole annual expenditure of the United States for the three corresponding departments. The present Estimates exceeded those of any year since the peace; and he should like to hear what circumstances rendered such an increase justifiable. The Votes for the present year considerably exceeded those for 1841 and 1842, when a war with China, and the state of affairs in the Mediterranean, rendered the maintenance of a large fleet indispensable. He found there was an increase in 12 out of 16 Votes for the Navy; and the reductions effected in the remaining 4 Votes amounted only to 11,000l. In 1818, just after the conclusion of a long and expensive war, the Vote for half-pay and pensions was 1,230,000l.; in 1822, it was 1,354,000l.; and now, after twenty-nine years of peace, the Estimates under this head amounted to 1,377,000l. He was convinced the public 1286 would not be satisfied unless a full explanation was afforded on this subject. The total expenditure for public improvements in the Naval Departments during the last six years was 1,600,000l.; and yet it was proposed to vote 486,000l. this year for improvements in the dockyards, and in the construction of basins for war steamers. There was a considerable increase also in the Estimates under the same head in other Departments. In the Ordnance Estimates a Vote of 517,000l. was proposed for the construction of barracks and for other similar purposes; the total Estimates in both Departments under the head of "public improvements" being 1,003,000l. He hoped that some Member of the Government would condescend to give an explanation of their reasons for such an increase.
§ Sir Charles Napier
observed that the right hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir G. Cockburn) had stated that he (Sir C. Napier) had imputed bad motives to the Board of Admiralty. He utterly denied having done so. He had imputed no bad motives either to the present or to any former Board. Neither had he, as the right hon. and gallant Officer had insinuated, taken credit to himself as being the only person present who knew anything of the subject. He utterly disclaimed having entertained for a moment any such idea. But the right hon. and gallant Officer had not replied to the points which he had put to him. He had taken no notice of the list of ships pulled to pieces which he (Sir C. Napier) had read to the House. The right hon. and gallant Officer might certainly have stated that these ships were not pulled to pieces by the gallant Officer's orders. That would have been quite true; but what he wished was to prevent such an occurrence taking place again. It was most unfortunate for the Navy to be ruled by a political body. The Lords of the Admiralty were selected, not on account of capability to fill their important situations, but on the score of family influence and political partisanship. Was it to be said that in the list of 700 captains of the Navy none were to be found capable of acting as Lords of the Admiralty but those who had seats in this House? He was quite opposed to the whole structure of the Board. He had animadverted, too, upon the 90-gun ships, the 98-gun ships, and generally upon the small three-deckers. 1287 He had found fault also with the 44-gun and the 50-gun frigates, as he considered them to be good for nothing. Neither were the sloops of war much better; and this the right hon. and gallant Officer knew very well. But he had not found fault with the old frigates—a class of vessels of which they were getting rid far too quickly. Their services might yet be required, particularly in entering rivers and skirting coasts. Large ships of war would not do all the work which would probably be required. He could not, however, allow the right hon. and gallant Admiral to attempt to persuade the House that the Penelope—that porpoise of a ship—was a good man of war. They had heard of what she had done on the Coast of Africa. But when was a gale of wind experienced there? The Penelope might do very well steaming in calm weather; but whenever it came on rough she would be unable to carry her guns high enough out of the water. In fact, she was a splendid steam man of war when she had no coals in. There was not a midshipman in the Navy who did not understand the vessel's true character. And then there was the Queen; they had heard much of the favourable reports made of her powers and capabilities; but it turned out unfortunately that, in spite of all this, she had never been tried either in the Mediterranean or since she had come home. He thought that the ships at present building should be constructed upon the model of the Vanguard, indisputably a good ship. He trusted, however, that there would be a searching scrutiny into the subject of shipbuilding for the Navy. He thought, that the impression in the House was, that if the Admiralty would not give them a Commission upon the point, they should in-least institute particular inquiries into the subject.
§ Mr. Hume
, though the matter under consideration was of considerable importance, would not, considering the circumstances, give the House the trouble of dividing. Amongst the causes of regret which existed with reference to the Naval service, he could not help saying that one of the most prominent of these causes was the absence of any regulation with respect to promotions; and he earnestly hoped that some rules on that subject would be laid down. It was well known in the service and throughout the country that 1288 the First Lord of the Admiralty could give whatever pensions he thought proper—that he could grant increases of pay ad libitum,—in fact, he could do as he pleased—he could set aside old men and promote young ones. Now that often worked grievous wrong. There were men in the service whose hearts and souls were in their profession; but unfortunately in the Navy political influence determined every thing—it had long been a political department. Instead of being a political department it was exactly the service which, above all others, ought to be kept free from political influence of any kind. He knew it had often been said that the existing system of the Navy was necessary for the purpose of introducing into that service the younger branches of the aristocracy; but he must say that that practice appeared to him to be fraught with much mischief.
§ Viscount Palmerston
I could wish, Sir, before this Vote is disposed of, to make one or two observations on a very important matter to which my hon. and gallant Friend near me has already adverted. It is a subject at all times most interesting, and of vital importance to the country; but it is of special interest and importance at the present moment. With, out adverting in any detail, either to the events which have happened in the course of the year, or to those which may happen at no distant period, I think that enough has taken place with regard to our relations with Foreign Powers, to show that it is expedient that this country should turn its attention to its naval means of defence, and should place those means in a state of perfect efficiency—meaning by that, efficiency with reference to a state of peace. When this Government came into power, they flattered themselves that by a system of what they called conciliation, but what I thought excessive and undue acquiescence in the wishes and demands of Foreign Powers, they would be able to maintain such a state of friendly relations with all Foreign Governments as would enable them greatly to reduce the naval and military establishments of the country. That was one of the anticipations in which the Government indulged. They went much too far, consistently, in my opinion, with the interests and the honour of the country; and what has been the result? Why, in the course of the last few months, according to the declaration of the Minister of the Crown, in the 1289 Speech from the Throne, and according to the declaration made in a similar manner in the Speech of the King of the French, we have been on the verge of a serious rupture with France. Again, notwithstanding the great sacrifice of interests and rights made by the present Government as to territory in North America, with the view of establishing, as they contended, for ever the most friendly relations with the United States — the recent official declarations which have come from that quarter have been such as cannot tend to diminish in any degree the motives which this House ought to be actuated by in providing by the vote now under our consideration for the increased efficiency of our Naval Force. Now, Sir, to say that our Naval Force is the main and sole defence of this country would be going a great deal too far; because, even if we had no Navy, a people of 26,000,000, endowed with all the courage and the moral qualities, as well as possessed of the wealth and resources which fortunately this nation can boast of, must be able to bid defiance to any attempt at conquest by any Foreign Power whatever. But such attempts, however successfully they may be met, and however triumphantly repelled, must lead to contests on our own shores. And every man knows that even victories over a foreign invader must be attended by great loss and wide spreading calamities on the part of the country which is the scene of conflict. Therefore, in that point of view, it would be difficult to rate too highly the importance of our Naval Force. If we consider, besides, that we are a commercial country, having valuable interests floating on every sea, and that besides we hold extensive and valuable Colonial possessions, it is clear that the maintenance of an efficient Navy ought to be one of the most urgent duties of the Parliament of this country. Now the first thing we ought to look to in this respect must naturally be the possession of an adequate number of efficient ships My hon. and gallant Friend thinks the number the Government proposes to keep up is greater than the wants of the service require. I will not pretend to set my judgment in opposition to so high an authority; but I do not partake, according to my information, in his view; and I am not disposed to think the Government are carrying the number of ships beyond what the true interests of the country require. But I do think that the discussion 1290 of this evening has shown (if any man doubted it before) that we are come to that pass at which it is expedient for the Government to call in science to the aid of mere practical knowledge, with regard to the construction of ships; because it is all very well for the hon. and gallant Admiral to say, as he has said to-night, that, "in the last war our ships were indeed of a clumsy and unscientific construction; but nevertheless, they out-sailed and overtook their enemies, and defeated them, even when manned by a superior force." That does not prove that our ships were good, but that our sailors were so expert, skilful, and enterprising, that they contrived to make our bad ships sail better than the good ships of the enemy could do when manned by their own less skilful sailors; and that thus the energy of our men triumphed over this, among many other difficulties with which they had to contend. And this is proved by the fact that when the French ships so captured were taken into our service, they were admitted by everybody to be in their sailing qualities far superior to the ships by which they had been overtaken and captured. Therefore, I must say, that though the allusion to such events is a fair reminiscence of former glories, it should be appealed to to show the spirit and ability of our sailors rather than the good qualities of the ships of that day. Now it is well known by anybody who has at all turned his mind to the matter, that there is, perhaps, no problem in science—no problem in mathematics—more difficult than to determine what is the best, construction of a ship destined for the purposes of war. First of all, it is not very easy, on strict mathematical principles, to say beforehand what form of a solid body is best adapted to go rapidly through a fluid. It is not very easy to say how the best floating line of a ship when fully rigged, manned and equipped for sea is to be secured, and what construction of the hull will give the greatest steadiness. But all those are qualities which a man of war should have. It is not very easy to say beforehand where the centre of gravity will be, nor where will be the verrick centre, or centre of impulse which lies somewhere in the rigging; and yet these are points just as important in their bearing upon the sailing qualities of a ship as the adaptation of the hull to making its progress rapidly through the water. Your practical man 1291 cannot tell this. He may give you the results of his experience of this ship or that. He may say the ship you submit to him resembles some good sailer he is acquainted with, and seems therefore to possess what, in his view, are the requisites of good sailing; but he cannot tell you beforehand on what principle its sailing qualities depend. Again, the man of science, though he may tell you on scientific principles how he can obtain the qualities which you require; yet if not assisted by the practical sailor as to the amount and manner of stowage, and its effect on the sailing qualities of the ship, he will not be able to give you a safe model on which to ground your building system. I am told however, that the Admiralty is engaged in making a series of experiments, by giving one man two ships to build, another three, and a third four, and so on; and that the Board is always ready to hear and examine every suggestion that may be offered for their consideration. That is very praiseworthy. So far as it goes, it undoubtedly shows a desire to improve and perfect our ships of war. But with all deference to the Lords of the Admiralty, I do not hold them to be possessed of that scientific knowledge which is one of the elements on which a successful result of such experiments and investigations must depend; and instead of making costly experiments by building large ships under the superintendence of persons scientific to a certain degree, but not having the whole knowledge requisite for such an undertaking, I think the better course would be to invite the most scientific men the country possesses (and they are equal to those of any other country) to give their views on these matters, aided by the experience of practical men. I believe in this way, for a trifling expense, you would procure that knowledge which would enable you to make some considerable progress towards a certainty in these matters—and there are many reasons why absolute certainty can never be attained; but you could thus advance to a strong degree of presumption, that your ships would be likely to answer the purposes for which they were intended. Now, Sir, the class of ships intended to be used as steam vessels is one which peculiarly requires the attention of Government to their construction. It is quite evident that the application of steam power to men of war is, as yet, in its infancy, and that great improvements will in all probability be made in the manner 1292 of propelling and constructing such vessels. The right hon. Baronet says, that we are in that respect on a satisfactory footing as compared with other countries; that the aggregate amount of horse-power of our vessels is to that of the horse power of the steam vessels of France in the ratio of three to two. I do not think that a satisfactory statement. The right hon. Baronet omitted to state what was the proportional number of those vessels; and I am sure he will see that the mere superiority of aggregate horse-power on so narrow a sea as that which separates the two countries will not outweigh equality or superiority in the number of vessels. Such vessels would be used in time of war, not in fleets to meet each other in pitched battle, but singly or in small detachments to harass trade or to annoy coasts, and to check and repel such incursions. Superior numbers of vessels are quite as necessary as superior force. There is another branch of this subject which my hon. and gallant Friend intends to bring under the notice of the House, but which he has properly abstained from touching upon to-night, as it is much too large to be treated in an incidental manner. I hope he will keep his word, and bring it forward on an early day. I allude to the steps which should be taken for the protection of our docks, our arsenals, and our coasts. That is a most important subject. I will not anticipate my hon. and gallant Friend's Motion; but I believe there is no subject which more urgently requires the serious attention of Government, and the assistance and co-operation of this House. There is one other point, however, connected with this subject on which I cannot refrain from saying a few words. I do not at all agree with my hon. Friends who find fault with the amount of the force proposed. I do not require any further explanation from the Government to justify the increase they have made this year in the Navy. But the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government, in stating on a former night the grounds of that increase, mentioned particularly one head of service, and it has also been dwelt upon this evening—namely, the augmentation of the force stationed on the coast of Africa for the suppression of the Slave Trade. I should most cheerfully—no man more so—concur in any reasonable augmentation of a force intended to be employed for a purpose so honourable to this country, and so entirely in unison 1293 with the sentiments and feelings of the British nation for a long course of years; but I must own there does appear to me a great and manifest inconsistency between the proposal the Government now makes, and the course of action which it has pursued on that question. The present Government, I may say, without exaggeration, turned out its predecessors and came into power on the pretence of a desire to extinguish the Slave Trade. "Do not admit Brazilian sugar," said they, "for such an importation must give encouragement to the Slave Trade." Well, Sir, what happened? The very first thing they did after they came into power was to acquiesce in the refusal of France to ratify the Treaty concluded in 1841 between England, Austria, Russia, Prussia, and France, for the suppression of the Slave Trade. The next thing was, that by the accepting the insufficient stipulation contained in the 8th Article of the Treaty of Washington in 1842, they let the United States out of the engagement under which by the 10th Article of the Treaty of Ghent of 1814, they bound themselves to use their best endeavours in co-operation with England to accomplish the entire abolition of the Slave Trade. And now they are about (indeed, they have done it) to give up the mutual Right of Search under the Treaties of 1831 and 1833 with France. Here is certainly an inconsistency; when asked to encourage commerce and give a scope to native industry by a greater importation of Foreign sugar, then they told you that they were apprehensive you would thereby indirectly encourage the Slave Trade. But when the question is as to maintaining the powers absolutely necessary for the suppression of that Trade, then, either from some motive of their home policy, or from a desire to consult the ease and convenience of other Governments, they throw to the winds everything which their predecessors considered essential to accomplish that object. Am I the only person who thinks this mutual Right of Search essential to the suppression of the Slave Trade? Am I the only person who attaches great importance to the co-operation of France in the steps necessary for the suppression of that trade? Why, there are authorities on that subject which the right hon. Baronet and some other Members of the Cabinet, must admit to be deserving of some weight. One of the first things done on the termination of the war 1294 in 1814, was a despatch by Lord Castle-reagh to the Duke of Wellington, in which is this paragraph:—A second regulation, highly important to prevail on France to accede to, is a reciprocal permission to our respective cruisers, within certain latitudes, to visit the merchant ships of the other power, and if found with slaves on board, in contravention of the law of their particular State, to carry or send them in for adjudication. Some power of this kind, within the track of the Slave Trade, is of the first importance.That was the opinion of Lord Castlereagh; and so strongly did he feel that some extraordinary step should be taken to secure this object, that the Prince Regent, by the advice of his Ministers, wrote an autograph letter to the French King, in which he said—Anxious in all matters to concert any measures with your Majesty for the common peace and happiness of mankind, I own it would afford me the highest of all possible gratifications were we enabled together to efface this painful and disgusting stain, not only from the practice of our own, but of all the other States with whom we are in friendly relations. Entreating your Majesty's favourable reception of the representations which the Duke of Wellington is instructed to lay before you on this to me, and to the nation, most interesting subject—I am, &c.And accordingly the Duke of Wellington's official note, 26th August, 1814, proposes mutual Right of Search within the northern tropic, and as far westward as long. 25 from Greenwich. At that time we were confined within such limits as to exercising the Right of Search with regard to Spain and Portugal, and we did not therefore propose a wider range to France. On the 4th February, 1815, Lord Castlereagh submitted a Memorandum to the Conference of Plenipotentiaries of Austria, France, Prussia, and Russia, which stated,—That it was proved, beyond the possibility of doubt, that unless the right to visit vessels engaged in this illicit traffic should be established by the same being mutually conceded between the maritime States, the illicit Slave Trade must in time of peace continue not only to subsist, but to increase.That even were the trade abolished by all States, whilst the flag of one State shall preclude the visit of all other States, the illicit slave trader will always have the means of concealing himself under the disguise of the nation whose cruisers there is the least chance of meeting on the coast.As the best means of giving effect to the declarations of the Congress of Vienna of 1814 1295 against Slave Trade, it is proposed that the Five Powers assembled in Conference under the Third Article of the Treaty of Paris should conclude a Treaty with each other upon such enlarged, and at the same time simple, principles as might become a conventional regulation to which all other maritime States should be invited to give their accession. This Convention might embrace the following general provisions:—
- "1. To prohibit and punish by law Slave Trade.
- "2. To establish a mutual Right of Search.
- "3. Minor regulations, such as are in Spanish and Portuguese Treaties.But the rights of all nations must be brought to co-operate to the end in view, by at least ceasing to be the cover under which the object which all aim at accomplishing is to be defeated.This memorandum describes just such a Treaty as was settled before we left office, which France signed but refused to ratify, and points out as absolutely necessary that very stipulation for a mutual Right of Search which is now to be cancelled with the consent of the Government. That Memorandum was transmitted to the respective Courts, and no answer was received till the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, in September, 1818. I must here observe that many persons are of opinion that the efforts of this country to put down the Slave Trade have only tended to render the traffic more cruel. But any one who looks at the facts recorded in the official correspondence of the period I am referring to, will find the loss of life at that time quite as great as now. In November, 1818, Lord Castlereagh gave notice to the Conference that he should propose a mutual Right of Search. The Duke of Richelieu objected, but he did afterwards make the proposal, though without any result. Lord Castlereagh again pressed the matter in Paris, but in vain. He states, however, in his despatch, giving an account of his proceedings,—That if the subject be pursued with the same persevering and conciliatory temper on the part of Great Britain, which has already achieved so much for the cause of abolition, the French Government may be brought, at no distant period, to unite their naval exertions with those of the other Allied Powers for the suppression of the illicit Slave Trade, under the modified regulations submitted for this purpose to the Plenipotentiaries assembled at Aix-la-Chapelle.Again, the Duke of Wellington, in his memorandum on the Slave Trade to the Conference at Verona, November 24, 1822, says:— 1296But the Slave Trade is not carried on with the usual secrecy of a contrabaand trade. This contraband trade is carried on generally under the protection of the flag of France. The reason is obvious. France is the only one of the great maritime Powers of Europe whose Government has not entered into the Treaties which have been concluded with his Britannic Majesty, for giving to certain of the ships of war of each of the contracting parties a limited power of search and capture of ships engaged in this horrible traffic; and those employed in this service have too much respect for the flag of France, to venture, excepting in cases of extraordinary suspicion, to search vessels which sail under its protection. An endeavour has recently been made to improve these Treaties with Spain, the Netherlands, and Portugal; but no improvement of the measures to be carried into execution under those Treaties, however well calculated under other circumstances to effect the object in view, can be effectual, so long as contraband traders in men can carry on their trade by assuming any foreign flags, especially one in every view so respectable as that of France.He then proposes a declaration on the part of the Powers whose Ministers are there assembled, that they should withdraw the protection of their flags from those persons not natives of their dominions respectively, who shall be found making use of such flag to cover a trade in slaves.
The Congress of Verona came to an end, and all that could be got from the Members of it was a general declaration of their wish to suppress the Slave Trade, statingThat, in order to give effect to this renewed declaration, their respective Cabinets will enter into the examination of any measure compatible with their rights and the interests of their subjects, to produce a result that may prove to the world the sincerity of their wishes, and of their efforts in favour of a cause worthy of their common solicitude.Now I have established that which I think no man of common sense could possibly doubt, even if no authority whatever had been adduced to prove it, that it is perfectly impracticable, unless you have a mutual Right of Search, to put down the Slave Trade carried on between the two continents of Africa and America; and, consequently, the Government having virtually given up the mutual Right of Search with France, are acting in a manner totally inconsistent with their own declarations of a wish to put down the Slave Trade, and are now founding an augmentation of the Navy on grounds utterly and entirely fallacious. For I entirely 1297 agree with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Brighton, that the moment you cancel the mutual Right of Search with France, you reduce your squadron on the coast of Africa to a state of complete inefficiency. For a slaver starting from the mouth of an African river will meet a French cruiser, and will hoist an English flag, and thereby evade all search; she will then meet an English cruiser, and hoist a French flag, and thus she will escape with impunity from the pursuit of either, and laugh at their impotent attempts to obstruct her course. Sir, I think it would be better for Members of the Government not to boast again of their anxiety to put down the Slave Trade; because, though I dislike using any strong expressions, I may at least say that those declarations, made by them under present circumstances, are calculated to excite a very painful feeling in the minds of those who hear them, coming as they do from the Government of this great country. But I shall, perhaps, be told that my alarms are unfounded, because those despatches which have been laid on the Table mean nothing decisive, and that every thing depends on the result of the labours of the Commission, which is composed of two most distinguished men, enjoying deservedly the highest reputation. I place no confidence in any man living when I see him put in a situation in which it is impossible for him to come to any other than one conclusion. If this Commission had been appointed to inquire what means could be adopted for the suppression of the Slave Trade, in addition to the mutual Right of Search, then I should have said that the respectability and high character of the two Commissioners inspired me with perfect confidence that they would either say that nothing more could be done, or, if they did suggest anything, that it would be some desirable addition to the Right of Search. But it is stated here in a despatch of Lord Aberdeen, that, pending the experiment of that measure, whatever it may be, the Right of Search is to be suspended; and any child may see that if that Right of Search is suspended by the mutual consent of the two parties, it cannot be revived without their mutual consent also, and that thus for all practical purposes it is entirely done away. The Commissioners have no discretion to determine whether this or that measure shall or shall not be substituted for the Right of Search; they are required to find some measure equivalent 1298 or nearly so, to that Right, and the Governments decide for them, that pending that experiment—and for all time to come, though it is not so said—the Right of Search shall be placed in abeyance. And, to make the matter more humiliating to this country, the proposal to suspend the Right of Search, though obviously dictated by the French Government, is made in the correspondence to appear to be a condition arising from England, and proposed by the Government of England to that of France! Why, then, I say, it is painful for me to see any two men of such high distinction as those who have been appointed by the French and English Governments, placed in a situation in which they are compelled to do work so little worthy of the character they have hitherto maintained; and I think it adds to the blame to be attached to the Government to have placed two such men in such a position. When you mean to do a thing which cannot redound to the honour of the parties concerned, you ought not to choose men of such high and respected characters as those who have now been selected. Sir, I have only to say that if the Government pursue in this matter the course they seem to have determined upon, it is quite manifest that the result will be an enormous increase of the Slave Trade. I asked last July for Returns, to show whether the number of slaves landed on the coasts of the continent and islands of America had not increased since we left office; but those Returns have not yet been given. My belief is that it has increased. The measures we adopted had reduced the traffic to a very small amount. Government say that this diminution was owing to the exertions of General Valdez at Cuba, and to some sudden light which burst on the Brazilian Government, who became aware that the increase of slaves was tending to endanger the tranquility of the country. I believe that this may have operated in some small degree; but the real cause of the diminution in the amount of slaves carried from Africa to America was first of all the Bill of 1839, by which this House empowered the Government to exercise, with respect to Portuguese vessels, both north and south of the line, those powers of examination and detention which had previously been confined to the region north of the line, and which Bill also extended those powers to vessels equipped for the Slave Trade, as well as to vessels having slaves on board. That was one great cause of the 1299 decrease of the Slave Trade. Another was the measure so much sneered at of late in official despatches, of attacking and destroying the barracoons on the coast of Africa. Those two measures dispirited the Portuguese, Brazilian, and Spanish slave traders, induced many to withdraw their capital from the pursuit, and diminished suddenly and to a great amount the number of slaves brought over. If those measures had been persevered in, if that system had been continued, we might have hoped that the number of slaves carried annually across the Atlantic would have been now reduced within very narrow limits. The Papers for which I moved have not yet appeared. I blame nobody for the delay, which has been, no doubt, occasioned by other more pressing matters preventing them from being printed; but I shall be curious to see what information they afford. Whatever has been done, if the Government proceed in their design of relinquishing the mutual Right of Search with France, there must be an enormous increase in that great and abominable crime of slave-trading. When I look at what has passed, it is curious to see how the weakness of the Government in all their dealings with Foreign Powers, leads them from one false step towards another. What has passed in reference to this particular subject? First, the Treaty of December, 1841, between the Five Powers was signed by a special authority from M. Guizot, who himself negotiated the Treaty when Ambassador in this country, ardently supporting it in the conference of the Plenipotentiaries of the Great Powers. In six weeks afterwards, he turned round and refused the ratification. Government allowed that breach of international usage and good faith, for so I must call it, to pass altogether without remonstrance. The French Chambers, encouraged by this weakness, immediately urged M. Guizot to demand the cancelling of the Treaties of 1831 and 1833. What was his reply? He said,If you ask me to negotiate for the cancelling of existing Treaties, I shall be met by a distinct and positive refusal; they will not even entertain the proposal; it will be an affront to France to have such a proposal rejected contumeliously; do not call on me to expose the country to such an insult.That answer would have been accepted as conclusive by the French Chambers, and they would have prosecuted the matter no further; but they soon found they had mistaken the materials of which the 1300 men with whom they had to deal were composed. There was the Ashburton capitulation; there were concessions to France on the affairs of Spain; abandonments here, surrenders there; and M. Guizot—finding he had to do with men who, to use the expression employed by my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury, were made of squeezable materials—said next Session: "I have been taunted with backwardness, but I will negotiate. The case is not quite so hopeless as it was last year. I shall perhaps not expose myself to such a decided and peremptory refusal as I then supposed." He did negotiate; he judged rightly of the men with whom he had to deal; the negotiation, though protracted somewhat longer than he expected, has been successful; and this Government, out of complaisance to a Foreign Power, and to maintain a Foreign Minister in his post some six months longer than he might otherwise remain, to catch in fact a few stray votes for him in the Chamber of Deputies, are going to sacrifice all those principles which the British Parliament and nation have for years held most sacred, and to condemn the innocent and unoffending inhabitants of Africa to an increase of those atrocities which necessarily accompany the Slave Trade. Sir, I shall only say, if they pursue that course, it will only remain for them to choose whether they are more justly chargeable with the most miserable weakness, or with the most hateful and detestable wickedness.
§ Sir R. Peel
I shall first address myself to the observations of the hon. and gallant Commodore, the Member for Marylebone. I certainly regret that he should have been prevented by absence from the House from making his Motion in the manner he wished. He has had, however, an opportunity of making his speech; and I cannot think that the result would have been very different if he had had an opportunity of making his Motion in the House, instead of only a speech in the Committee. The noble Lord says he concurs with the gallant Officer in the opinion that science ought to be called in aid of practical experience, with respect to naval improvements. I entirely agree in that sentiment; but the question here is, what shall be the presiding authority to call in the aid of science for the assistance of practical experience? The gallant Officer proposes a Committee; but I must say I think the Board of Admiralty is the 1301 proper authority to conduct experiments of that nature; to decide on the propriety of entering into the expenditure they involve; and to decide ultimately on the results of such experiments. I conceive there would be no public advantage in superseding the Board of Admiralty, and appointing some subordinate authority in the shape of a Commission to conduct those experiments. I apprehend the Board of Admiralty already takes that course which the gallant Officer advises that a Commission of Naval Officers should be appointed to take. I apprehend it does avail itself of the suggestions of men of science; that there are men distinguished for their scientific acquirements in the dockyards of this country; that they have the fullest opportunity of submitting their suggestions to the Board of Admiralty; that they are combined with officers who are practical seamen; and that the Board of Admiralty, in the last resort, decides on the combined experiments made by men of science and men of practical experience in navigation. If you choose to appoint a commission for the purpose of conducting those experiments, you imply a distrust of the Board of Admiralty; and it appears to me that there would be a much greater likelihood of producing confusion than of coming to any satisfactory result, with two conflicting authorities. Supersede the Board of Admiralty! That is what the hon. and gallant Officer proposes; at least it would be the practical result of his proposal. Appoint a Commission! But when you do that, supersede the Board of Admiralty; do not let us have two expensive authorities, contravening each other's decisions, while the Board of Admiralty is degraded in the estimation of the profession by having a Commission called on to exercise those duties which properly belong to itself. I am not objecting to the course proposed by the hon. and gallant Member, so far as regards calling in the aid of men of science. It is most desirable that such aid should be had, seeing the immense expense incurred in building ships for the Navy, and in fitting them with the inventions and improvements of which so many have been brought forward in recent times. I entirely concur that we ought to make experiments of every kind in reference to the sailing powers and qualities of our ships, and with respect to all the inventions made, as well in Steam vessels as in others; 1302 but all I contend for is, that the Board of Admiralty, as entrusted with the expenditure of the Navy, which is placed at their disposal by Parliament, ought to be entrusted also with the conduct of those experiments; and that they are worse than useless, if you appoint some other authority for this duty, the appointment of which, in fact, ought to be decisive of the fate of the Board of Admiralty; but I am not objecting to calling in scientific knowledge, and combining it with professional experience. One of the grounds on which we propose an increase in the number of seamen is, that there may be the opportunity of making these experiments. It is very well to say—"Reduce your Navy to the lowest point consistent with national security;" but if you do, you will not have the opportunity of making those experiments with respect to steam navigation and the qualities of your sailing vessels, which you will have if you maintain a force on which those experiments can be made—for they can only be made by squadrons acting in conjunction with each other. And therefore, on this principle, I must differ very materially—at least, as regards the body which is to superintend the experiments—from the hon. and gallant Officer. My right hon. Friend stated distinctly that the Board of Admiralty were most desirous of receiving the suggestions of practical men; and he gave a decided proof of that desire when he stated that he had invited the gallant Officer himself to offer any suggestions, and intimated his readiness to place a steam vessel at his disposal, for the purpose of entering on experiments, which the high character and great experience of the gallant Officer so well qualify him to superintend. My right hon. and gallant Friend also stated, that if the gallant Officer objected to the experiments being carried on in a particular ship, he should not be disappointed, for he should have an opportunity of carrying out his suggestions in another vessel to which no objection could be made. [Sir C. Napier; I have been trying for twenty years.] Well, the hon. and gallant Officer has told us he has been trying it for twenty years, with all the various Boards of Admiralty which have existed during that time—but he has got it now. The hon. Gentleman comes to a Board of Admiralty to which he is in politics decidedly opposed; but so little reluctance does he find in them to adopt his views, 1303 that he is told he shall have an opportunity of carrying out his experiments. Can there be a greater proof that the Admiralty is a tribunal which may be usefully entrusted with the power of judging in matters of this nature, instead of delegating it to a Commission? That Department is presided over by the most distinguished members of the Naval profession of whom this country can boast. The hon. and gallant Officer says every Board of Admiralty is appointed with a view to political and party considerations. That motive, I can assure him, has not decided the appointments made in the present Board of Admiralty. Was my right hon. and gallant Friend (Sir G. Cockburn) appointed from any political or party considerations? No, but because he is one of the most distinguished members of his profession. Was Admiral Gage so appointed? Was the gallant Officer who sits there (Admiral Bowles) so appointed? With respect to the dockyards, it is very well for the noble Lord to say they are neglected; but by whom? The defence of the dockyards is a consideration of the utmost importance; but what Government has so regarded it? Not certainly that in which the noble Lord was concerned. The present is the Government which first seriously considered the defence of the dockyards. The noble Lord says, "Let us have a Commission on the subject." We have appointed a Commission. The subject has undergone the fullest consideration from the highest authorities. I am quite sure the noble Lord will not ask us to lay their Report on the Table of the House; but I can assure the noble Lord and the House that the subject has not escaped consideration. It has undergone the fullest inquiry, and the result of that inquiry may be seen in the propositions which we shall make in the course of the present Session. Therefore, no Commission is necessary. Without any impulsion from Parliament, we have taken that course which the noble Lord says has up to the present time been neglected by all preceding Governments. So much for the proposition which the noble Lord has thrown out. The noble Lord has taken the present opportunity of making observations—of which I admit he had no opportunity of giving notice—with respect to the foreign policy of the country, and particularly the conduct of the Government in relation to the Right of 1304 Search. I only wish the noble Lord would bring this matter to the test of a public declaration of the opinion of the House of Commons. But the noble Lord will not place on record even his own opinion. He recollects perfectly well the issue of the Motion made with reference to what he calls the Ashburton Capitulation. The noble Lord then escaped from the consequences of his own Motion, by making its terms only for Papers; but his opinions met with so little sympathy that his own side of the House would not permit that fruitless attempt to pass without notice. But a Motion was made by an hon. Member sitting there—a Motion without a precedent—distinctly affirming on the part of the House of Commons, that they approved of the conduct of Lord Ashburton, and that they thought the arrangement which he had made with the United States was one perfectly consistent with the honour and interests of this country. The noble Lord never has forgotten the unfortunate result of that effort to depreciate the public services of Lord Ashburton. Now he does not even trust himself to a Motion for Papers; but on the Navy Estimates being proposed, and when there is no possibility of meeting a Motion with a direct negative, he contents himself with making some observations with respect to the foreign policy of this country and the Right of Search. In reference to the general subject of foreign policy, he talks of the concessions we have made, of the conciliating language we have used. No doubt we did not think it at all discreditable to a British Ministry to have a desire to maintain that character as long as it could be maintained consistently with the honour and interests of the country. No doubt we held that language, and holding it does not incapacitate us from vindicating the honour and interests of this country. Speaking with regard to other Powers, I do not hesitate to say that I should have much more confidence in the temperate and effectual vindication of the honour and interests of a country when a Government maintains a moderate tone, than when it indulges in bluster and menace. If the noble Lord thinks that the conduct of France with respect to Morocco, and our conduct in the contest between those Powers, was blameable, why does he not make it the subject of a Motion, and specifically refer to it? He speaks generally of concessions 1305 and sacrifices of interests made; but he does not even specify them in the course of his speech. Take the case of Tahiti; he does not refer to it. Does the noble Lord think the Government acted in that affair contrary to the public honour and interest? He may have good reasons for not making a Motion, inasmuch as he may apprehend that he would fail to carry the House with him, and that even from his own side of the House he would not receive support sufficient to obtain assent to a Motion for Papers. But why does he not manfully and directly specify his opinions? The noble Lord dealt only in general allegations, giving us no opportunity of meeting and contradicting him on assertions of a more particular character. No doubt it might be very easy in the state of relations between this country and France to find an opportunity for making war if you wished it; but the Ministers, both of England and France, thought that it would be most unfortunate for the interests of civilization and of humanity, as well as for the interests of the two countries, if a quarrel, arising in a small island in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles away from both, should involve them in a war. The noble Lord can get no assent to his views; no one will follow him in his policy of involving those two countries in war on account of Tahiti, if that be the policy of the noble Lord. With respect to the Right of Search, though I certainly cannot say that the noble Lord is altogether out of order in bringing this forward on the Navy Estimates, more especially when amongst them a vote for the squadron employed on the Coast of Africa is to be seen; yet I do think that, having spent the whole of the recess in making the long extracts which he has read to the Committee, one would hardly have thought that the noble Lord would at present have entered so much into the subject as he has done. The noble Lord appears to be particularly disturbed because two eminent men, each of them specially known for his uniform hostility to the Slave Trade—the Duke de Broglie and Dr. Lushiogton—should have united together for the purpose of ascertaining whether or no it be possible to substitute some other means on the part of England and France for the suppression of the Slave Trade more efficacious than the Right of Search. No doubt it is to be lamented that a public feeling arose 1306 in France to paralyse the efforts which had been made in respect to the Right of Search. If France and England do cordially unite in the enforcement of the Right of Search Treaty, I am perfectly willing to admit that it is probably the most efficacious that can be entered into for the suppression of the Slave Trade; but the efficacy of that enforcement mainly depends upon the cordiality with which it is exercised by both Powers. The noble Lord must know, that in cases where a country is not very willing to act upon treaties that are not remarkably specific, there are plenty of opportunities for evading them. There is a strong disinclination on the part of France to execute this Treaty effectually. When did that disinclination arise? Immediately after the Syrian campaign in 1840; and the noble Lord was the Minister of Foreign Affairs at the period when that disinclination first manifested itself. We never heard of a disinclination in 1836, 1837, 1838, or 1839 to the Right of Search; but there did occur—I will not now enter into the question of who is to blame—there did occur in 1840 an interruption to our amicable relations with France; and it was that interruption, and no inherent opposition to the Right of Search, which led first to a Vote of the Chambers, then to a non-ratification of the Treaty, and then to a general expression of public feeling in France in favour of some other mode of suppressing the Slave Trade. We are not to blame for that. We found that feeling existing when we succeeded the noble Lord in office. I will not say that the noble Lord is to blame that such a feeling had been roused; but I will say that the policy which was pursued in France and England in 1840 forms the exclusive cause of the opposition which prevailed to the Right of Search. If the noble Lord thinks we were wrong in not resenting the non-ratification of the Treaty, then that was the part of our conduct to which he ought to have called public attention. He says, that it is for suspending the Right of Search that he blames us. But he is wrong in his supposition. The Right of Search is not now suspended. Those two eminent men to whom I have alluded—each being actuated by the sincerest desire to put an end to the Slave Trade, each having had for the chief object of his political life the suppression of the Slave Trade—are at present considering 1307 the question in all its relations. Does the noble Lord believe that the Duke de Broglie or Dr. Lushington would have undertaken those functions if they were not animated by the sincerest desire to find a means for the suppression of the Slave Trade? Dr. Lushington cannot, certainly, be charged with any design tending to promote the interests of the present Government. Dr. Lushington saw that the Right of Search bad become ineffective, and only consented to accept of the duty in which he is now engaged, in the earnest hope, and also in the belief, that it was possible to devise some more effectual mode to put an end to the Slave Trade. Notwithstanding what has been stated by the noble Lord, I believe it will be found that our efforts on the Coast of Africa have been most successful; and also that we are not prepared to consent to any substitute which will not prove at least equally as effective as our present plans. If a substitute can be found, then our stipulation with France is, that during the experiment the Right of Search shall be suspended, not absolutely abandoned; but suspended, until it shall be shown by experience whether the new measure be equally efficacious or not. And if some other mode can be substituted, and if France should consent to keep a very large naval force upon the Coast of Africa, cordially acting in connexion with us, and determined to make an effort for the suppression of the Slave Trade, without any limit to the expense; my belief is that it would be a more efficacious instrument than the Right of Search as it at present exists. It is in the hope of devising some such plan that the Commission has been constituted. To some other matters, touched upon by the noble Lord, and of which I believe another noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) has given notice, I think it much better to abstain from any reference until the noble Lord shall have an opportunity of bringing them forward. But when the noble Lord says, that by the agreement entered into by Lord Ashburton, respecting the North-Eastern Boundary, we made any sacrifice in the slightest degree inconsistent with the honour or the interests of this country, I must to that statement give the most peremptory denial. I believe, on the contrary, that we made no sacrifice of any one interest in consenting to the arrangement made under the auspices of Lord Ashburton. 1308 See in what manner Mr. Webster, the Minister of the United States, was assailed for having acceded to that arrangement. He, too, was charged with having sacrificed the honour and the interests of his country by entering into an arrangement which secured peace, but which was denounced by the war party in America as inconsistent with the honour of the United States. I say that that will always be the case when two great countries, animated by the same sincere desire, attempt to make up differences of minor import, by coming to such an arrangement as that entered into by Lord Ashburton. By such an arrangement immediate danger and just cause of hostility are removed; but it will suit the views of parties in each country to denounce the Ministers who become parties to it; and if those Ministers are not supported in their attempt to maintain peace, there can be no security in any country against the risk of constant hostility. I hope our efforts in that respect are duly appreciated by this House, and also by the people of this country. I am sure the country does not disapprove of the efforts we have made to maintain peace. I do not believe the country is under the impression that our power to resist unjust demands, or to maintain the honour and the interests of the nation where the maintenance of them may be necessary, has been in the slightest degree impaired either by the holding of conciliatory language, by the direct avowal of our desire to maintain peace, or by our having consented to an arrangement in a case where compromise was possible, and where mutual concession would put an end to immediate danger; — I do not believe the people of this country, or that this House will think that by this moderation we are in the least incapacitated from acting with energy, with firmness, and with vigour, when it is necessary so to act, for the maintenance of the honour or the interests of the country.
§ Lord John Russell
said, that the right hon. Gentleman appeared surprised that his noble Friend should have taken the present opportunity of making certain observations upon the question of the Right of Search. But the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty, in proposing those Estimates, had said, very properly and becomingly as regarded the situation he held, that one of the reasons why he asked for an augmented naval force was, 1309 that the force employed on the coast of Africa was greater now than it had been in former years. That was certainly a very fair ground for the hon. Gentleman to ask for an increased naval force; but was it not, also, fair for hon. Gentlemen who sat on this side, to ask the question, to what purpose was that naval force to be applied—whether for the purpose of making the Right of Search more effectual, or if that be impracticable, in what manner the augmented force was about to be employed? Were they to come to the vote, without asking in what manner the money was to be applied? They did not object to the vote if the money were to be applied in support of the Right of Search. Nothing appeared to him more natural than the observations of his noble Friend with regard to the manner in which these ships were to be employed, and upon the Right of Search, which had been considered the great means of suppressing the Slave Trade. His noble Friend had refered to Lord Castlereagh, the Duke of Wellington, and other men high in office, who had formerly asserted it to be of the highest importance to obtain the consent of France to the exercise of the Right of Search, and had asserted it to be a great defect in our Treaties with that Power, that they contained no provisions for obtaining it. A Treaty was at last signed and ratified, by which the Right of Search was granted by France; and now they were told that it was to be given up, and at the same time they were asked for more money for the suppression of the Slave Trade. Was it not excusable in his noble Friend to say, "We will vote what you require; but let us know the purpose for which the money is to be voted?" In reply to his noble Friend, the right hon. Baronet taunted him with the course taken by him in respect of what his noble Friend had called the Ashburton Capitulation. He did not think the right hon. Gentleman had reason to pride himself upon the result of that discussion; for the opinions upon the merits of that Treaty would hereafter be mainly formed in the minds of those who wished to investigate the history of the question, by the able speech in which his noble Friend had explained his reasons for thinking the arrangement unsatisfactory. True, the vote was the other way; but there had been votes of the House of Commons which had not always been viewed with the highest respect. For 1310 example; they had once voted that a one-pound note and a shilling was equal in value to a guinea, that was then worth 27s. What was this Treaty in effect? If the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs had written to the United States to say, "You make certain claims relative to the North Eastern Boundary—we waive all our claims; we give you up the whole of your demands; we yield the whole question to you as you desire, and in return let us consider whether some further concessions cannot be made for the navigation of the river St. John;" he (Lord J. Russell) had no doubt that such a despatch would have been perfectly satisfactory to the Americans, without the noble Lord taking the trouble to cross the Atlantic at all. With the entire grant of the navigation of the St. John, the Americans would not be in a more favourable position than they were by the Ashburton Treaty. He might probably think that a great part of that territory was not worth dispute; but still he must complain of the manner in which the negotiation had been conducted. It was said Her Majesty was willing to yield every thing proper to be yielded; but, with respect to the inhabitants of the Madawaska, they were under the protection and the honour of the Crown, and Her Majesty could not be advised to cede those people who wished to remain subjects of the British Crown. America rejected that proposition, and said, "We must have the whole of the right bank of the St. John. Here is a river that is the national boundary, and which it is impossible to allow the British to cross, and, giving you every credit for your honourable feeling towards those poor people, we must have this territory." Well, that was granted, and it was said, "If the river is the national boundary, why let it be so." But America then came forward again, and said, "No, there are parts where we must cross the river: there are parts of the left bank of the St. John which we must have." So that immediately after concession the demands of America arose, and they obtained a cession of our territory which they said was necessary for their purpose. He must say that both in the concession itself—which was a considerable one—and in the manmer in which it was made, the interests of the country were very little looked to. Such was his opinion at that time, and so, in spite of the potent arguments of his 1311 hon. Friend the Member for Montrose, it still remained. With respect to these opinions being new on his part, he might mention that it did so happen that, shortly before he quitted office, he, with the concurrence of his noble Friend, gave directions to Lord Sydenham to enter into a convention by which both parties should continue to hold what they possessed; and he received a despatch from Lord Sydenham, in which he stated that an agreement had been nearly arrived at, but that Mr. Webster had required a part of the right bank of the St. John, including the Madawaska territory, and Lord Sydenham said that he never could consent to such a negotiation. One of the last acts which he performed prior to quitting office, was to write to Lord Sydenham entirely approving of the view he had taken. So that these were the opinions he held when Secretary of State. In regard to what had been said about stirring up hostile feelings, and the advantages of preserving a conciliatory tone, he would say that he was not insensible to the blessings of peace. But he was not sure that this was the right mode by which finally and ultimately peace would be preserved. He was not sure, if you made concessions of every point upon which a demand was made, and if your language was what was called by some conciliatory, but which might be called by other people pusillanimous and weak, that you would not be sooner driven to some vital point on which you would be obliged to resist, than if upon minor points you had shown a more resolute and determined disposition to resist. The right hon. Gentleman says, it will be seen that the Government will resist when the interests of the Crown or the country were endangered. He gave the Ministers full credit for that statement. He believed the Government would never consent to any thing injurious to the country, or which they might consider trenched upon the honour of the Crown. But he put it to them whether they should not keep at as great a distance as possible those questions which do vitally affect the honour of the country,—whether it is not better to avoid being forced into a discussion of those questions in which you must make resistance when sudden resistance will necessarily excite the surprise of the persons with whom you are negotiating, because they are in the habit of expecting concession; and whether 1312 by this mode of proceeding you do not come nearer to war than if you in the first instance adopted a different tone and a more determined attitude. The right hon. Gentleman asked his noble Friend (Lord Palmerston) to specify the cases in which he thought the tone of this country had not been sufficiently high. His noble Friend mentioned one subject, on which it was quite evident that the influence of our ally was used against British interests and against British views. He meant the case of Spain. That France should intrigue, that there should be a successful intrigue with Spain, he did not ask the British Government to prevent; but what he complained of in that transaction was, that they had the air of being deceived all the time—that they would have it that France acted with a perfect regard to the independence of Spain—that France never interfered—that her money and her intrigues were never active, and the change which took place was entirely an alteration of opinion in Spain. He thought it showed a disposition little creditable to the Ministers of this country not to take an English tone—a tone befitting the Ministers of a great country, but to endeavour, by concessions, to keep up a peace not founded on a solid regard to the interest and honour of the two countries. He would not touch upon that question on which he meant to make some observations on Friday night; but he had one word to say with regard to the Commission appointed on the Right of Search. As far as he understood, the Duke de Broglie, who signed one of the Treaties of 1831 and 1833, and Dr. Lushington, who has always been desirous for the suppression of the Slave Trade in this country, had both of them always declared the Right of Search to be one of the most efficacious means upon which the two countries could agree for the suppression of the Slave Trade. What, then, was the reason why these two persons are sitting now in a Commission to devise some other means for the suppression of that trade? The ground was this:—"It was said that there was such an excitement in France on the subject of this Right of Search, that it was inexpedient that that topic of irritation should be continued to disturb the harmony between the two countries." He must say, that he did not think that that feeling existed to such an extent. Of the 1313 three eminent persons, M. Guizot, Count Molé, and M. Thiers, he found that only M. Guizot laid great stress upon it. Count Molé said that there was no necessity for making the Right of Search a cause of disagreement between the two countries. If he was wrong in this, and if it was true that this question of the Right of Search prevented harmony between the two countries, then he would say that it was a subject which should be treated as between Government and Government; that it was a political question in which the Government should weigh in the balance, on the one hand, the advantage of a suppression of the Slave Trade by means of the Right of Search, with, on the other hand, the great political advantages of a thorough and complete alliance between the two countries. It was not a question on which any two gentlemen should be chosen as a Commission to whom it should be referred. He could not believe that, in giving their own opinions, they would come to any other conclusion than that the Right of Search was a most valuable right to be maintained. If they gave up that right, he believed it would be on those political grounds which he had stated. Why, then, should not the Government come forward and claim the responsibility of giving up the Right of Search, and propose the adoption of those other means of which the right hon. Gentleman had talked? The right hon. Gentleman said, that if there were an increased number of cruisers kept up by the two nations—if France were disposed to go to that expense, it would be found more efficacious than the Right of Search? If that was the right hon. Gentleman's opinion, why should he not, as the Minister of this country, act upon that opinion? For his part, he promised the right hon. Gentleman that he should bring forward no Motion, nay more, he would vote for no Motion, which would condemn his conduct upon that subject. But if this matter were to be referred to a Commission of two gentlemen, with a view to shift the responsibility from the right hon. Gentleman's shoulders, then certainly he should not enter into any such engagement, for he could not help thinking that such a mode of treating this great question was unworthy of the Government of this country. With respect to the question more immediately before the House, and 1314 which was now to be put to the Vote, he was heartily glad to see that Her Majesty's Government had proposed to increase the naval force of the country. He thought that not only on the grounds on which the right hon. Gentleman had placed the Vote, namely, the desirableness of increasing the force required in China and in the Pacific, but likewise on the ground of its being desirable that this country should have an efficient steam navy, the House had fully sufficient reasons before it to agree to the proposal of the Government. Whether a Commission might not be desirable upon some parts of this subject he would not say. The right hon. Gentleman himself said, that with regard to the defences of the coast, the Government had themselves appointed a Commission. There was another subject deserving of consideration—namely, as to the probable effect of steam vessels in the case of a war. He should be very sorry to transfer any of the general functions of the Board of Admiralty to a Commission. He thought it would be better that the Admiralty should have charge over any experiments that might be made. But with regard to a more scientific and speculative investigation as to what might probably be the effect, in future wars, of the use of steam-vessels, he thought it might be extremely useful to have a Commission upon that topic. The gallant Admiral (Sir. G. Cockburn), who was so well informed upon these subjects, had stated, if he understood the gallant Officer correctly, that he did not blame the Admiralty (which commenced the formation of a war steam navy) for the view which they took of the use of steam vessels in war. He remembered having frequent conversations with the late Sir Thomas Hardy upon this subject; and he remembered, too, the view which that gallant Admiral took of the use to be made of steam vessels, and how desirable, in his opinion, it was that there should be steam vessels under the orders of the Admiralty. But the gallant Admiral opposite had said, and all that had occurred since confirmed the impression, that those views of Sir Thomas Hardy had been very much changed and modified in subsequent years. The vessels that were now used, differed very much from those vessels which were used at first, and they had now only one or two guns for carrying shot of any large calibre. Now, if this 1315 was the case, and finding that opinions differed very much as to how far steam vessels would be used in war, and how far they would assist the fleets and supersede the use of line of battle ships and frigates—he thought that a Report from a Commission, composed of scientific men, might be very useful to afford practical information to Government. He stated this as a mere impression on his own mind. But he could assure the hon. and gallant Admiral, that nothing would induce him to give any vote to transfer the proper functions of the Admiralty to a Commission. He thought it was far better to have men of eminence in the naval profession responsible for these matters. He therefore wished the hon. and gallant Admiral to consider what his gallant Friend (Sir C. Napier) had said, and what he (Lord J. Russell) had now suggested. But he certainly could not concur in any vote which would appear to be hostile to the Board of Admiralty, and he cheerfully agreed in the Vote now proposed for an increase in the number of seamen.
§ Mr. Hindley
entered his protest against the plan of increasing our military and naval force, as the best means of preserving peace. He had many petitions upon the subject, and it was becoming a serious question amongst the people of this country.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ The House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at a quarter past twelve o'clock.