§ On the Question that the Speaker do leave the Chair,
§ Sir C. Napier
said, he thought it necessary to call the attention of the House to the first Vote on the Estimates, on the Motion for going into a Committee. It 806 was important the public should be made acquainted with the matter to which he was about referring here. The first Vote was a sum of 1,199,141l. for "naval stores." Now he had no wish to object to the amount of that Vote; but he hoped it would be expended in a proper manner, and not in the foolish and wasteful manner in which money voted for a similar purpose had been formerly expended. On looking over the Estimates of former years, he found that a sum of 1,350,562l. 14s. 1d. had been laid out for a similar purpose in the year 1841. In the year 1843 the amount of the same Vote had been 1,312,816l. 11s. 3d.; in 1844, 1,190,043l. 15s. 8d.; and to the present time, since the Ministers had been in office, the total amount expended reached the enormous sum of 5,403,409l. for stores alone for the construction of ships, without including one penny for the pay of the men in the dockyards. The public required that such a large sum of money should be properly expended; but he thought he could show the House that it had not been so expended hitherto. In the year 1841 there were built two ships of large dimensions, called the Queen and the Albion. The former had been sent to the Mediterranean, and the latter to some other station, without any trial having been made of their respective merits. The late Government had fallen into the error of laying down two ships on the same lines without ascertaining the qualities of the Queen. The Royal Sovereign and the Victoria, of 110 guns each, were laid upon the same model. They had also laid down the Princess Royal, of 70 guns, and another vessel of 90 guns, on the plans of Sir William Symonds, the Surveyor to the Navy, before those plans had been proved. Now, he did not think the Admiralty should take upon themselves to spend so large a sum of money without pausing and ascertaining the merits of the vessels already constructed on that plan. The Queen had been last year found so defective that she had been obliged to be paid off, and another vessel at a great expense put in commission, and prepared to take her station. The Queen had been obliged to have her sternpost lengthened, and her bows enlarged; and, after a great deal of expense, she was now about, to sail again to be tried, and to ascertain whether the additions made to her would be successful or not. He hoped she would be found to answer 807 all purposes well; but if she did not, we had two more large ships in which great alterations likewise would have to be made. If they were to believe the reports which they heard, the case was the same with the Albion as it was with the Queen. But at the present moment he did not believe the Admiralty had the opportunity of judging whether the last-named ship was a bad one or not. He would not then go into the question of the Majestic or the Madras. But with respect to the Vanguard, he believed she had been tried at two stations, and the reports of her qualities had been unfavourable. He had shown them what the late Board of Admiralty had done, and then be thought it only his duty to show them what the present Board had done also. When the present Board of Admiralty came into office they found a number of ships on the stocks; but instead of waiting cautiously to see the result of the trials of those vessels already built, they pursued the same course of policy as their predecessors. They ordered to be completed the Royal Albert, of 120 guns; the Prince of Wales, of 110 guns, one-tenth finished; another of 110 guns, one-sixteenth finished: they also gave orders for the Windsor Castle, of 110 guns; another of 110 guns; and the St. Jean d'Acre, of 90 guns, all to be built by Sir W. Symonds. He thought the Board were lucky in obtaining reports of the Queen before these ships were further advanced, and that they had done wisely in now stopping their progress till they had ascertained more fully the qualities of the Queen. He was quite sure the Admiralty did not like hon. Members of that House to be interfering with what they conceived to be more immediately their own special duty; but for his part he thought the right hon. Baronet the First Lord of the Treasury, the House of Commons, and the country, ought to feel obliged to those hon. and gallant officers who had the candour and firmness to come forward and state their opinions of anything which they conceived defective in a service of so much importance. An experimental squadron was soon about to sail under the command of a highly distinguished and meritorious officer; and he hoped the Admiralty would take care that all the ships in that squadron would be fairly tested, and that the merits of the plans of the different constructors would be fairly 808 reported upon. He suggested, in order that each vessel in that squadron should have a fair trial made, that particular attention should be paid to the stowage; to the quantity of provisions each vessel was to carry, both on her sailing out and her return; to her draft of water; and, in fact, that every circumstance should be taken into consideration which would enable the officers to form a correct decision on the respective merits of the different vessels. He might be asked why he repeated these things so often in the House; but his answer was, he felt the subject to be one of great public importance, and he would repeat them over and over again, until there was some change made, and the defects of the present system were removed. The next subject he came to was steam. When the present Board came into office in 1841, they wisely turned their attention to the steam vessels of this country, and it was naturally expected they would do some things better than their predecessors. The late Board tried their hand at steam corvettes, and built vessels having one gun at the head, one at the stern, and two on the main deck. They were intended to carry main-deck guns at first, but after they were put into the water, or at least as soon as they got their provisions and stores on board, they were found incapable of carrying main-deck guns. It was then distinctly asserted they were never intended for steam frigates; but if that were so, he should like to ask why they were built 300 or 400 tons larger than steam sloops? But when the present Board came in, they disapproved of what had been done by their predecessors, and got a large grant to build proper war steamers. And how did they succeed? The Firebrand was laid down by them; a relation of the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Corry) went to sea in her; and as the hon. Gentleman must know his relation's opinion of her, he hoped he would tell it to the House frankly and fairly. He thought they had a right to know it. He wished to know whether her boilers and steam boxes were above water or not; whether a shot could strike them without blowing her up; whether Captain Corry could sit in his own cabin, and whether he was not forced to go to another to get fresh air? [Sir G. Cockburn: The Firebrand was laid down by the late Board.] More shame for them. But he now came to a greater ship laid down by the gallant Officer, the Retribution. If they had noticed the defects 809 in the Firebrand, they should have seen that the Retribution was not put in the same class, and should have taken care that she was constructed in a manner honourable to the service. But what was the Retribution? He had not seen her since her guns and stores were aboard, but even then she was so immersed in water as to be useless as a vessel of war. Instead of having four guns pointed out of the main deck, the cabin windows were constructed like a packet's; there was no possibility of making her fire a gun from the main deck, and her steam boxes were exposed in the same manner as the other. No shot could be fired into her without the certainly of blowing her up. The Gladiator was exactly in the same category. The Samson was the only one they had constructed that was in any way useful. The Terrible carried no less than 1840 tons, yet the Admiralty, or the Surveyor, or the builder, he did not know which, absolutely forgot to give her any stern ports, or at least any such as a man standing could look through. All he could recommend the Admiralty to do was, to get the long gun in the Park, and have another made like it and put on board her. They might then say they had got two guns aboard the Terrible. There were three others on the stocks, the Avenger, the Dragon, and the Centaur. These, he was informed by the builder, were not yet too far advanced to be altered. He, therefore, earnestly hoped the Government would not be deterred by the expense from making them serviceable. He knew not how it was, whether from the obstinacy of the Surveyor, or otherwise, but they were still building on principles admitted to be wrong, even by the present Admiralty. Since the Admiralty had given him permission to construct a steam vessel himself, he had directed much of his attention to this subject. Then, as to the Queen's Yacht, of which he had not spoken before. This Yacht would not at first steer at all until she had been taken into dock. Now, he intended to call for a return of the enormous expense incurred on account of this Yacht in various repairs. Did any one ever in their lives hear of a steamer carrying 100 tons of ballast besides her machinery, in order to make her trim properly? She was so badly built that she was obliged to carry 100 tons of ballast besides her machinery. She had been sent into dock again, and he wished 810 to know why she had been sent into dock a second time? He understood that the expense of sending the boilers and machinery of the Queen's Yacht round to Portsmouth instead of bringing her round to Woolwich, cost at least between 500l. and 600l. The hon. Secretary for the Admiralty might laugh, but he knew that it was so, and he would move for a return of those expenses. He would now turn to the experimental squadron at Plymouth. He understood that all those vessels were being brought round to Portsmouth to be put into dock. [Sir G. Cockburn: That is not the case]. The Vanguard was in dock, and the Albion was going into dock. [Sir G. Cockburn: You said all]. These vessels were going into dock, and all their provisions and stores would have to be removed. He did not mean to say that, under any circumstances, ships should not be sent into dock; but he mentioned the fact to show the shameful expense with which this system was carried on. He had already explained to the House the expense of the steam Navy. It was altogether impossible to distinguish those ships by the name of steam men of war. The only name they could be called by was armed steam packets. Now, there was the Terrible. Let them take her to Portsmouth, and anchor her a mile distant from the Excellent. He would agree to go on board her, would go below and allow a shot to be fired under water through her boiler, provided her steam was not up—but if her steam was up, he would not remain below in her for any reward they could offer, because he knew that if a shot passed into her boiler, he would be certain to come out cooked, and he had no fancy to be cooked. They would find it difficult to get men to remain below under those circumstances, and when an Admiral wanted to get his ships towed near the enemy, the captain of the steam boat would come to him, and report that the engineers would not remain below. He did not blame the engineers for this. Like the gallant Admiral himself, they entered the service to be cut and hacked, and maimed, and wounded, but not to be boiled. A man's mind was not made up for that. It had happened to himself to want steam boats to take him in tow to action, and the engineers had refused to remain below. [Sir G. Cockburn; What steam boats?] Why, they were manned by Englishmen, English captains, and English engineers, and 811 they would not attempt it. [Sir G. Cockburn: What did the man of war steamers do when you were off Acre?] They did their duty well—no doubt of it. But the gallant Officer must recollect that their guns were so long they were able to keep out of shot themselves. They did their duty because they knew no shot could get into them. [Mr. Corry: No.] The hon. Gentleman might contradict him, but the hon. Gentleman was not there, and he was. He should like to know what officer would place his war steamers near a battery if he could avoid it? It was the duty of the Government, if they did not understand these subjects themselves, to consult persons who did. All these discussions did a great deal of good. [Mr. H. Fitzroy: They do a great deal of harm.] He was sorry that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government was not present, as he generally paid a great deal of attention to those subjects. He would give the Admiralty a rap about it. He would come Mrs. Caudle over them. He recollected the time before the Reform Bill when things were not carried on as they were now. If an officer then presumed to give an opinion to the Admiralty it was looked on as the most impertinent thing he could do. Now, however, things were altered. The Admiralty had the advice of experienced officers; and if they would follow it no doubt they would get better steamers and men of war built in future. This would be the result of agitation, and agitation alone; but things would not be better done in the Admiralty till they changed the whole system. He hoped that his hon. Friend the Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) would insist that some proper person should be placed at the head of each Department, in order to see that the public money was not squandered away in the manner in which it had been for a great many years past. In making these observations, he could assure the House that he was actuated by no private feeling of his own; on the contrary, his sole motive was to promote the safety of the country and the efficiency of the Naval service. At this moment they saw France with an enormous steam fleet at her command. The hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir G. Cockburn) said, the French steam ships were only formidable from their horse power, and that he did not believe their ships were so good a 812 ours. Now, it was not at the horse power that he looked, nor whether any particular vessel went faster than others. But there was no doubt of this, that France had twenty enormously large steam ships, every one of them 260 feet long, capable of containing 2,000 troops each with the greatest facility on a long voyage, and many more than that number on a short voyage. They saw her building steam basins on her coast, and this fact he wished to impress upon the Government and the House of Commons. France had a steam basin at St. Malo, capable of containing 200 steam boats. Then there was Cherbourg just opposite to us, a harbour that we could not attack. There, too, they were constructing new basins and fortifications. At Calais also new basins were building; and all this in the midst of a profound peace. It was only the other day that a report of the Minister of Marine pointed out to the French Government that the large steam boats which had been constructed for trans-Atlantic navigation were unfit for the purpose, and recommended that they should be turned into war steamers, and another set of steam boats built with the same excuse as before. This, he had no doubt, was done in order to blind us, as these new ones, if found unfit for trans-Atlantic navigation, might, like the others, be converted into men of war. He trusted the Government would pay the greatest possible attention to our steam navy, employ the most experienced men they could find, and hold out rewards for the invention of boilers, and fo entirely protecting the machinery from shot. He drew the attention of the House and the country to this subject, as he thought it was the only means of getting those improvements effected which were undoubtedly so desirable.
§ Mr. Somes
said, this was not the first time that he had heard the hon. and gallant Commodore using the very same arguments for the purpose of lowering the Board of Admiralty with regard to the mode of building steam vessels. Now, he thought he had had as much experience as the hon. and gallant Commodore in steam operations. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had been finding fault with many of Her Majesty's steam vessels because they could not fire the guns out of their stern ports on the main deck. He had been on board the Terrible this day, 813 and had ascertained that there was not the slightest difficulty in placing her stern guns on the main deck; and, further, he believed there were many vessels building which were quite capable of carrying their stern guns upon the main deck. [Sir C. Napier: Name them.] The Terrible was one. But when the hon. and gallant Commodore went on to talk of the inefficiency of Her Majesty's steam navy, he had no hesitation in stating that it was very superior to that of any Foreign Power in the world, and that at this moment we were in possession of a fleet of upwards of 104 sail of steam vessels, out of which number there were 24 from 1,000 to 1,800 tons burden. All of those which were of 1,800 tons were capable of carrying their stern guns on the main deck. [Sir C. Napier: Name them.] Ten or a dozen others of the same class which were now building. Perhaps he might say that he had had a little more experience than the hon. and gallant Commodore in steam vessels, for he had availed himself of every opportunity when he was in the dockyard of visiting steam vessels, closely inspecting their capabilities, and of deriving information from practical men; and therefore he was enabled to say, without the least hesitation, that there was very great credit due to the present Board of Admiralty for the improvements which they had effected in the steam arm of the naval service. The hon. and gallant Commodore blamed the Admiralty for not building more steamers; would the hon. and gallant Gentleman have had the Admiralty construct fifty steam vessels ten years years ago, though it was only ten years ago that we began with steam men of war, and improvements in the system were being introduced year after year? They had but recently adopted the Archimedean screw for the propulsion of ships, and he had no doubt that it would eventually supersede other methods. Then, if that were the case, and if these improvements were continually in progress, it would be the height of imprudence to go on building ships to any great extent. He believed that our Navy was in a most efficient state, and fit to go to war with any Foreign Power. There were not only the 104 steam vessels in Her Majesty's Navy, but there was also our vast merchant steam navy—with these, in the event of a war, we might defy the world.
§ Captain Pechell
should like to see the 814 hon. Member for Dartmouth in the place of some one of the Lords of the Admiralty, especially of any one who said these discussions did a great deal of harm, because he was a practical man and understood the business, and he might have been able to give some reason for such an assertion. But the hon. Gentleman had undertaken to reply for the Board of Admiralty to the gallant Commodore, who had shown that our steam vessels were not fitted in the best manner for warfare, and that no steam vessel ought to be called a man of war unless she was able not only to chase an enemy successfully, but to retreat successfully also; and for that purpose it was necessary that she should have stern guns, which could be easily and efficiently worked. Any gun might be stuffed out of a window; but when a gun was fired from a stern not properly constructed for the purpose, down came all the gingerbread work, and the overhanging stern immediately flew away, to the great danger of all near. In order to obviate this defect, it had been found necessary to use long guns, and to construct carriages not fit for the purposes of warfare. He trusted that the Admiralty would attend to the suggestions and complaints of the gallant Commodore. Before he sat down he wished to refer to what had fallen from the hon. Member for Dartmouth on a former evening, when he declared that he was unable to man his ships through the Sailors' Home, but that he was compelled to have recourse to the crimping system. Now, he had received a letter from an officer, Lieutenant Fenning, of the Royal Navy, who was in command of the ship Alfred, of 1,400 tons, belonging to Messrs. Green, of Blackwall, in which letter that officer stated, that, during the last three or four years Messrs. Green had manned the whole of their splendid fleet without the intervention of crimps; a notice being affixed to a public showboard, stating on what day a ship was to be manned, a sufficient number of seamen came to make up the crew. Three years ago Messrs. Green built a private house or "home," for the residence of their seamen; and the result was most beneficial to the men themselves—while it enabled the owners to man their ships with good men. He hoped the Government would direct its attention to this subject, and take means to establish similar institutions in our seaports or in the dockyards, that the seamen might 815 be enabled to deposit their clothes and property in places of safety, and not become the prey of those merciless agents, who, whether they were called crimps or sharks, or whatever name, were in the habit of robbing and plundering our sailors on their coming ashore.
said, that with respect to the wish of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just addressed the House, that some nautical man should fill the situation which he (Mr. Fitzroy) held at the Board of Admiralty, that was a matter altogether beside the question under consideration; and, therefore, he should not enter upon it. All he could say was, that he had stated that some of the observations of the hon. and gallant Commodore (Sir C. Napier) were calculated to do a great deal of harm. He now repeated that he did think that the system of depreciating our own naval service and of elevating others in comparison, was not exactly the method of inspiring our seamen with that courage which rendered them so pre-eminent during the last war. Falling from a man of the hon. and gallant Commodore's distinguished courage, and, on many subjects, well known ability, he contended that it was the worst system which could be adopted to be continually introducing such discussions as these, and on every possible occasion pointing out to Foreign Powers our inferiority to them. These were the sentiments which he honestly entertained, and he repeated that he considered such discussions to be decidedly indiscreet.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
could assure the hon. and gallant Member for Brighton (Captain Pechell), that it was not from any indisposition to reply to the hon. and gallant Commodore that he did not rise when that hon. and gallant Gentleman resumed his seat. He could assure the hon. and gallant Member, however, that he was in error if he supposed that the hon. Member for Dartmouth (Mr. Somes) had been thrust forward by the Government. He would take this opportunity of saying that he felt excessively obliged to the hon. Member for Dartmouth, and that this House ought to be equally obliged to him for what he had stated to-night. That hon. Gentleman was an independent Member of the House; he had nothing whatever to do with the Government. He possessed great knowledge relative to shipbuilding; and it was highly 816 important, when there were two or three officers of the Navy to be found, who stated that there was nothing going on right in the British Navy, that an independent Member of great experience should give the House the benefit of his opinion on the subject. But as to the gallant Commodore's speech, it had been spoken before and answered before four or five times. He, therefore, had nothing to do but to follow the example of the gallant Commodore, and to repeat what he had already frequently stated to the House. But of what did the gallant Commodore complain? The former Government built steam vessels not intended to go into action as men of war to fight broadside to broadside; but to be used for chasing and attacking ships at a distance, being furnished with guns of long range on the upper deck. A gallant Officer, not then present, had already answered the gallant Commodore's objections on that score by referring to his experience in the Mediterranean. When the present Government came into office, the Admiralty endeavoured to get every information on the subject, and took great pains to try to lower the position of the machinery in steam vessels. They were now building with the view of finding out the best construction, and, as he said before, with the view of placing the machinery below water mark. They were also going to try the rotatory engine; and though the vessels were at present liable to have their machinery struck by shot, he would venture to say that they were as good as any that France possessed. He was in hopes before long to have all the vessels fitted with the screw, instead of paddles; and, as an instance of the efficiency of the screw, he might mention that in a trial of speed the Rattler beat the Vesuvius, went round the Bass Rock, and turned back twenty miles before it met again the latter vessel. The other day the Rattler was sent to take both the Arctic expedition ships in tow, and towed them four knots an hour against the wind. It was not to be supposed that former Boards of Admiralty should at once have learned by inspiration to make perfect steamers; but, unless they had built the boats they had built, the present Board would not have known how to improve the building, as they would not have had the opportunity of finding out the defects of previous constructions. With respect to Sir W. Symonds, it was only fair to allow 817 him the opportunity, when the Queen was brought home, of altering her. He wrote to the Admiralty, stating that be was convinced that he could improve the ship by certain alterations. There was no doubt that a ship could not be put into dock and altered without expense; but it was the duty of the Admiralty to accede to that officer's representations. With respect to the Royal Yacht, it had pleased Her Majesty very much, and had induced her to go to sea more than she might otherwise have been induced to do. When the Yacht first went to sea he was on board. It was fine weather, and she appeared to steer very well, as she did likewise last year when she went to Cowes. He was on board of her then, and paid particular attention to her capabilities; and in passing to Cowes and from Cowes to Needles she steered as well as any vessel could. But, on coming from Scotland, the wind blowing hard, she steered badly. Sir W. Symonds thought that if she were taken into dock and her sternpost altered she would steer better. She was, therefore, taken into dock, and he had no doubt that the gallent Commodore would find that the money was not wasted in making the little alterations which were required.
§ Mr. Hume
was sorry to hear any language used in that House which would convey an opinion to parties out of the House that there were great defects in our Navy. At the same time, if there were defects, the Government ought to be obliged to those who pointed them out. He regretted very much that the School of Naval Architecture had been put down; but if they had at the present moment as many ships as they required, why build more until they had ascertained the best construction? He thought that a case had been made out why no more money should be spent, on the scale proposed by the right hon. Baronet opposite, for completing the steam navy, until better means were adopted for discovering the most advantageous mode of building the vessels.
said, the gallant Officer opposite had complained that several Naval Officers on his (the Opposition) side of the House, seemed to make it their sole business to find fault with the proceedings of the Board of Admiralty. That he emphatically denied; for he and the gallant Officers near him, were always ready to give the present Board of Admiralty any credit they deserved. He must say, that 818 he thought the hon. and gallant Commodore (Sir C. Napier) had somewhat overstated his case, when he said that no engineer could be found to work our war steamers if they were called upon to go under the guns of the enemy. He hoped that his gallant Friend would withdraw that sweeping observation. Surely he must be aware that at the attack on St. Jean d'Acre, the steamers—in consequence of there being no wind—were lashed alongside the ships of war, and not the slightest hesitation was manifested by their engineers or officers, who would have been as much exposed to the enemy's fire as the crews of the line of battle ships had the wind not become favourable. The hon. and gallant Commodore had also charged the Board of Admiralty with which he (Captain Berkeley) was associated, with having rushed into the building system without any regard to the consequences. In 1815, other European Powers launched a large number of superior line of battle ships; and the predecessors of the gallant Officer opposite would have been greatly to blame if they had not also provided a sufficient number of line of battle ships after such a demonstration. Though the small 74's and other small ships might be an imposing force upon paper, they were comparatively useless when large ships were brought into line against them; and he thought, therefore, that former Boards of Admiralty had been fully justified in building large ships. He thought that the gallant Admiral used some expressions which were too strong, with respect to Sir W. Symonds. He felt that whatever might be said of Sir W. Symonds, that the Navy owed him a debt of gratitude for the numerous improvements which he had made in the construction of ships. As to the steam ships, he believed that the Gorgon and the Cyclops might have been much better ships if they had been built with the recent improvements which had been introduced in the construction of steamers, but still they were excellent vessels. Knowing, as they did, what foreign countries were doing, he felt that the Board of Admiralty would be liable to much blame if they were deterred, by any considerations of expense, from instituting such experiments as might enable them to bring our steam navy to the highest pitch of perfection.
conceived that the present discussion was irregular, as there were particular items in the Estimates which 819 involved the whole of the various topics introduced. He denied that the interests of the Navy had been neglected in that House, as was alleged by Naval Officers. With respect to the observations of his meritorious Friend the Member for Montrose, as to their ceasing to build more steamers until they had more positive information as to the best mode of constructing them, his hon. Friend said that if they could not lay down mathematical lines on which they could frame steamers, they should not go on building them; but how were they to acquire knowledge to obtain this mathematical accuracy if they did not go on with these experiments; and whether they investigated the matter by a Commission under the Board of Admiralty, or by the Board of Admiralty directing certain officers to look into the subject, still there must be an expenditure of money in experiments, or they never could expect to arrive at correct conclusions. It was notorious that ships might be built on the same lines, and even by the same builders, and the materials be as nearly as possible the same, and the result should be that they would have very different qualities, and that one would sail much better than the other. So it was in two watches made of the same materials and by the same maker, one would be much more accurate than the other. These differences arose from accidental circumstances, which it was extremely difficult to account for. With respect to the engineers on board the steamers, it must be remembered that the seamen went into action under a feeling of professional excitement, which could not be expected to be felt by a stoker's crew, who had no professional feeling on the subject, and who had to labour in all the heat and turmoil of the machinery. He thought, therefore, that the Admiralty should give every encouragement, not only to chief engineers on board the steamers in the Navy, but also to all the subordinate ranks of that character, so that these persons should rise in rank and pay, and which, no doubt, would operate as a stimulus to them. For his own part, he believed that the science of steam was still in its childhood, and there was much to learn. It was only within the last ten or twelve years that the commanders in the Navy were expected to have any knowledge as to how to direct steamers; but much certainly had been done in this respect by 820 the training which they could get at Woolwich, and at Mr. Napier's yard at Glasgow.
§ Sir C. Napier
observed that the hon. and gallant Member for Gloucester had misunderstood him as to what he had said with respect to steamers going into action.
§ House in Committee.
§ On the Question that 1,199,141l. be granted for Naval Stores, for the building, repair, and outfit of the Fleet, and for the purchase and repair of Steam Machinery.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, he had been astonished at the speech of the hon. Member for Dartmouth. The hon. Member said the Terrible was capable of firing stern guns. He certainly believed the hon. Member thought so, but he must tell him honestly that he knew nothing about the matter. He was also wrong in saying that the steamers now building would carry stern guns: there were none now building that had stern guns, nor were capable of having them. The hon. Member for Lewes had astonished him also. He had told him that he was not to speak the truth in that House. ["No, no!"] Why, he said that what he (Sir Charles Napier) had stated did harm. What was that but to tell him that he was not to state the real facts? But he would tell the hon. Member that it was perfect humbug to suppose that they would blind foreign nations as to the state of the British Navy. They knew perfectly the condition of all the British ships; the only part really in ignorance was the British House of Commons. He denied that any material improvements had been made in the building of steam vessels in the Navy since the Gorgon and Cyclops were built ten years ago. These vessels, however, were called steam frigates, but they were not so, for neither of them would carry guns on her main deck. One of them had been turned into a corvette, and the sooner this was done with the other the better. There was not a single steamer in the Navy which might not have its boilers destroyed, or its machinery damaged, if a shot was fired into her, as no adequate steps had been taken for their protection.
§ Captain Pechell
referred to the importance of paying more attention in Her Majesty's dockyards than was at present shown to the articles of African oak, hemp, and marine glue. The latter material he considered to be possessed of most valuable qualities, and ought to be universally adopted for caulking the timbers of ships instead of pitch; the experiments which had been lately tried with it had been eminently successful.
§ Mr. Somes
said, he could not recommend the adoption of the marine glue for general use in vessels so confidently as the hon. and gallant Member had done, because he had had no sufficient opportunity as yet of testing its properties. He had used it in a ship of his lately launched, and from his observation of its efficacy so far as that enabled him to judge, he had formed a good opinion of its value. Still he had not sufficient experience to enable him confidently to recommend the adoption of it in Her Majesty's Navy, without further trial.
§ Sir George Cockburn
said the marine glue was found to answer very well in the caulking of the Black Eagle, but he did not feel warranted in speaking as favourably of it as the hon. and gallant Member had done.
§ Lord Ingestre
said the important science of Naval Architecture had been hitherto much neglected in this country; but he was very glad to perceive that of late much more attention was paid to it than in past times. It was really wonderful that in this great maritime country such a subject should have been so long left in the back ground. There were many matters connected with the state of the Navy that he thought wanted revision. For instance, the office of Surveyor of the Navy had many more duties connected with it than ought to be entrusted to a single individual. It was quite unreasonable to require one man to attend to the condition of the great number of ships that were kept both in ordinary and on active service. He considered that the present Board of Admiralty had displayed a laudable desire that as far as possible the different systems of shipbuilding should have a fair trial; and he believed that through the exertions which were thus made, the best forms and plans would ultimately be arrived at. He wished that all the systems should be given a fair trial, but he had at the same time to complain that there was scarcely one of the ships recently built that it was not subsequently 822 found necessary to alter. He must also complain that for many years past a feeling appeared to exist in the dockyards of getting rid of particular vessels by preventing their completion. This he thought was most unjust, and ought to be put an end to.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the Question that 129,640l. be granted to complete the sum necessary for Half-pay of Officers of the Navy and Royal Marines,
§ Sir C. Napier
called the attention of the House to the condition of the masters in the Navy. They were entitled to higher rewards. The rank of second lieutenant should be opened to them, and the position of masters should be done away with. He would be glad to know from the gallant Officer whether there was any intention to ameliorate their condition? There had been several improvements in the Navy lately, and he believed more were intended. Amongst them he hoped that a benefit to the masters would be included.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
agreed with the gallant Commodore that they were most valuable officers, but thought if they were turned into lieutenants, the service would ultimately lose by the change. The masters, it should be recollected, entered the Navy from the merchant service; they were required to have commanded a merchant vessel; but no previous service in the Navy was required of them. They, therefore, entered in quite a different character from other officers. If the master was made a lieutenant, he would expect to be advanced like others of the same grade, and his services might be lost when he became most experienced. He agreed that they could not give them too much encouragement; and at present the master in a line of battle ship received higher pay than a first lieutenant, while in other rates the master's pay was exactly the same as that officer's.
thought the hon. and gallant Officer was speaking rather of the state of things many years ago than at the present time. Masters were now required to enter as masters' assistants, and to go through an apprenticeship in the service. If the gallant Admiral looked at the present regulations of the service, he would find he was mistaken.
§ Captain Rous
said, a midshipman of six years' service ought to be able to pass 823 as strict an examination as any master. But most of them having been brought up on board line of battle ships, were totally incapable of doing a master's duty. Very few of them could pass an ordinary examination in seamanship. A case had occurred to himself, in which a young gentleman could not answer any three questions in seamanship. This deficiency arose from their being continually on board line of battle ships, which were always in harbour; they had not the opportunity of gaining experience. The Admiralty was placed too high to hear the real merits of naval officers; and, as to going to it to ascertain the qualification of this or that person as a seaman, he would as soon apply to the Archbishop of Canterbury. The best plan would be to do away with masters altogether, to let the midshipmen have a good practical training, and require them to pass a proper examination; they would then have excellent officers, which was not the case at present.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
differed from the hon. and gallant Officer. The necessary qualifications of an able master could not be acquired in six years. He denied that their naval officers were so inefficient as had been represented. They had as good officers now as they had during the war. Nor was the ignorance of the Admiralty as to the qualifications of officers so complete; he had always found that officers gave their opinions of those who had served with them with sincerity and fairness. He hoped they would not take the character either of the Admiralty or the officers from the speeches made in that House.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, that whenever he or any other Officer in that House pointed out the inefficiency of the officers in the Navy, they were told that they were detracting the service. He did not wish to do this; but he would say that the Navy was not properly officered, and that had been the opinion of Lord Collingwood, no mean authority on such a subject. As to the masters, he still thought that they were ill treated.
complained of the pensions for officers of the Navy, and especially of the number of half-pay officers. There were more men receiving half-pay at the present day than immediately after the war—thirty years ago. There were 4,200 widows of various persons connected 824 with the Navy receiving pensions. He did not see what claim the widows of pursers, of whom there were 300 and upwards, had upon the Navy funds; they were essentially civil persons. There were also several individuals on the pension list who had been paid twenty-five years' pension for doing nothing.
§ Sir J. Graham
observed, that the night was very far spent, and it was not desirable to prolong this discussion. It was impossible for him, however, not to take a very lively interest in the character of the naval profession. It had been intimated that those who presided at the Admiralty, never heard the truth with respect to the performances of officers. Now, there was an officer recently returned from a foreign command as competent as any man living to form an opinion of the merits of those who served under him; he alluded to Sir W. Parker, for whom he entertained the greatest respect, and an esteem amounting to affection. On his return from China—admiring his brilliant naval exploits, he had naturally asked him what was his opinion of the merits of the officers of all ranks who served under him. His reply was, that the real trial was in creeping in shore on an unknown coast; not in deep sea, but in difficult operations near the shore; and the gallant officer had assured him, that under no circumstances had he ever known British officers more trustworthy or more talented than those employed in the late most difficult operations in the East.
remarked, with reference to what had been said as to an officer's political opinions influencing the chance of his promotion, that the hon. and gallant Commodore near him (Sir C. Napier) had stated in the House, that the hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir G. Cockburn) had told him, that he (Sir C. Napier) was to have the command of the experimental squadron. They all thought, in consequence of this, that it was a settled matter; but, when the hon. and gallant Gentleman went to the Admiralty upon the business, he was told that he was too much of a party man to have the command of the fleet in question. This had been stated in the House, and had not been contradicted.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
was glad that the hon. and gallant Officer had given him an opportunity of alluding to the subject. The hon. and gallant Officer had unfairly and 825 improperly stated the circumstances of the case. He had told the gallant Officer that he was amongst the number whose names had to be submitted for consideration. When they came afterwards to consider the names—and that of Sir Hyde Parker was mentioned, he was thought to be the better person, and that, too, without the slightest disrespect to the gallant Commodore. The reason why the gallant Commodore was not appointed was, because he had taken so decided a part against the ships of Sir William Symonds. It was thought on this account that it would be more satisfactory to have Sir Hyde Parker, as he had committed himself by no opinion, whilst the gallant Commodore had taken a most active part in condemning some of the ships that were going to be tried—the Albion and the Queen. He himself had no doubt that the gallant Commodore would have given a fair opinion. On this subject, however, the gallant Commodore had proved himself to be a decided partisan; and it was not to be expected—though he himself had no doubt that he would be quite impartial—still he said it was not to be expected that he would have been quite as impartial as Sir H. Parker, who had given no opinion one way or another on the subject. There was no allusion to any "party," except that as to shipbuilding.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, that as the gallant Admiral had told his story, it was right that he should tell his own. He had chanced to see Lord Haddington; the conversation turned on the subject of the experimental squadron. He then said, "I wish you would give me the experimental squadron, and I will give you a fair report." Afterwards, talking about the experimental squadron with the gallant Admiral, he had said, "I wish you would give me the command, and you shall know all about it." The answer of the gallant Admiral was, "You are just the very fellow we want; you are a straightforward sort of person; we shall get the truth from you." The reply was, "If you send me in command of the experimental squadron, I will tell you the truth, whether you like it or do not like it." The gallant Admiral then said, "What ship would you like? Would you like the Canopus?" He replied, "No; if I choose a ship, it shall be the St. Vincent; if I have the command, I must have such powers as will enable me thoroughly 826 to exercise the squadron; I must be allowed such powder and shot by the Admiralty as will enable me to do it effectually." So secure was he of the appointment that he went to Captain Hamilton, and said, "Sir G. Cockburn tells me that I am to have the command of the experimental squadron;" the gallant Gentleman replied, "that he did not know whether the gallant Admiral had power to say so much," and he (Sir C. Napier) confessed he thought he had gone too far. When he went back on other matters, he asked whether it was settled who was to have the command; the reply was, "Nothing has been settled yet." He went again, subsequently, he believed about the steam boats; and then he was told, in reply to the question whether he was to have the command, "No, they would not hear of your name; you are too violent a party man; you will not have it." There was not a word said about the part he had taken as to the ships. His rejoinder was, "I am not a party man at all, and I would have done all I could for you in this instance." He then wished the gallant Admiral "Good morning," and that was all that passed.
§ Captain Rous
, in reference to the complaints of the examinations for lieutenant, and in reference to Admiral Hyde Parker himself, recollected what had taken place with a midshipman passed by Admiral Hyde Parker. He stuttered so much he was wholly unfit for his duty; but the only way in which he could be got rid of was to invalid him. He was, therefore, brought before three invaliding captains, of whom this very Admiral Hyde Parker was one; and the admiral exclaimed, "Who the devil passed you?" and the midshipman stuttered out, "You did." In his opinion the mates ought to be examined by the Trinity Board.
§ Vote agreed to. Other votes having been passed, the House resumed. Committee to sit again.
§ House adjourned at a quarter to two.