HC Deb 22 March 1852 vol 119 cc1432-63

(17.) 134,633l., Admiralty Office.


said, that in all his experience, during seventeen or eighteen years of the votes on the Navy Estimates, he had never known such large Estimates voted by that House without any explanation being offered by the Government, respecting the administrative affairs of the Admiralty. He must, however, congratulate the officers and the Navy generally on the appointment of an officer in their own service to the head of the Admiralty Board; and he had no doubt the appointment of the noble Duke (the Duke of Northumberland) would be highly satisfactory to the country. He also rejoiced at the selection of another officer as a member of the Board, whose conduct and gallantry during the late war had been greatly distinguished—he alluded to Admiral Sir Hyde Parker. He wished, however, at the same time, to put a few questions as to the intentions of the Government. First, what did the Board intend to do with regard to the iron steamers and the patronage of the dockyards? Next, as to the African squadron—he knew that the Admiralty Board were not responsible for the policy of maintaining that squadron on the African coast; but what he wanted to know was, whether the Board meant to keep the vessels of that squadron in its present efficient state? Next, with regard to the system of retirement which had been so strongly denounced last May and last August by the Earl of Hardwicke, the Duke of Northumberland, Lord Talbot, and Lord Colchester, in another place, who complained of the grievous hardship of placing on the retired list those gallant officers who had commanded sloops of war for many years, and also for some time rated ships, and who were told at last that they were not eligible for a flag. because they had not commanded the latter class of ships for a certain period. Now, that these noble Lords had attained office, he wished to know whether these grievances were to be redressed by them? He also wished to know whether the new Government intended to imitate the policy of their predecessors in restricting the entry of cadets, and in resisting the applications of duchesses and marchionesses who so eagerly importuned the Admiralty to obtain appointments in the service for their protegees? Another point in which he sought for information was with respect to the disgraceful system of smuggling specie from the coast of Mexico. This system was at once a scandal to the character of British officers, and a source of the grossest favouritism and partiality. On the Pacific station, from 1847 to 1849, upwards of 17.000l. out of 30,000l. was paid to the Captains of the Frolic, Carysfort, Cormorant, and three other vessels—their shares being nearly equal to what was received during the time for the benefit of Greenwich Hospital. He had obtained the Official Returns on the subject, from which he found that since the year 1819 the sum of 1,454,504l. had been paid by the public and the merchants of this country for the conveyance of specie from foreige ports; and out of that sum, as much as 729,500l. had been received by the captains of the vessels for conveying the treasure, and a further sum of 363,525l. had been paid as the share of the admirals and the commodore on the several foreign stations where the treasure was embarked. Greenwich Hospital was entitled to receive one-fourth of the whole freight-money, which would amount to 365,626l. Now lie suggested that they should have left to Greenwich Hospital all the advantage it at present derived from the system, and that the whole of the remainder, 1,090,878l., should have been applied to the formation of a fund for the benefit of the officers on the retired list, and to increase the pay and pensions of those officers who had been distinguished as first lieutenants. With regard to an invasion, neither he nor his constituents had much fear of it. He thought the Navy of this country was able to defend it if properly managed, and he objected to increasing the expenditure of our defensive establishments until we had made a proper use of the ships we already had. Hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side, a few years ago, used to tell the House that we ought to have a fleet in the Downs, at Portsmouth, and other parts of the coast, because the towns on the southern coast might be bombarded, and the Cossacks might land and commit the greatest havoc. He wished now to ask them whether they meant to leave our fleet scattered about distant parts of the globe, or to concentrate it in our own waters? Some statement of this nature he thought was due from them to the House.


said, he was far from complaining of the questions put by the hon, and gallant Member, and hoped that any imperfections in his replies would not he attributed to unwillingness to answer, but to inexperience. Before commencing his attempt to reply, he would assure the Committee that it was from no feeling of disrespect that he did not on a former occasion enter at length into a statement respecting the naval affairs of the country, but from a desire to meet the views of the Committee, that the sooner the Estimates were voted the better. Even the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Hume) had concurred in that view, in order to approximate the dissolution of Parliament. He was glad to hear the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir G. Pechell) express his confidence in the noble Lord at the head of the Board, and in the gallant Admiral the first sea Lord, and he (Mr. Stafford) should take great pleasure in communicating the fact to them, as the commendation came from one whom they must consider a good judge. The hon. and gallant Gentleman certainly showed a considerable belief in their powers, when he assumed that they had been able in the ten days during which they had held office, they and their secretary, and that secretary a landsman, to acquire sufficient knowledge to answer some of the most difficult questions connected with the naval service. Respecting iron steamers, to which the first question referred, he must tell the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the Board had considerable reluctance to continue building them, With regard to dockyard promotions, he must confess that of all the questions which had come under his notice, that was one which had impressed itself upon his mind as of the very greatest importance. Since he had been in office, he had adopted the principle of filling up no appointments in the dockyards, except upon the express opinion in favour of the party of the officer in command, or of the superintendent or master under whom the candidate had worked. Another evil in the dockyard system he was prepared to remedy as far as he could, and that was the system of a set of men rising, without reference to other considerations, from step to step. The consequence was that, as a general rule, our dockyards were behind other dockyards with regard to the latest inventions. He hoped, however, that means would soon be taken to remedy this. As to the African squadron, he admitted that, if it was to be maintained at all—about which he would not at that moment give any opinion—it ought to be efficiently maintained. With regard to the system of nominating cadets, he had to state that it was the intention of the Government to make it strictly limited, and that in this respect they would follow the course which was pursued by the late Administration. The promotion of mates would of course depend on the efficiency of the cadets. The freight of specie, the evil to which the hon. and gallant Member had referred to, was one which bade fair to remedy itself, as there was less and less coming in this way, and therefore he did not see the urgent necessity of an Administration, which had hardly been ten days in office, coming to any determination about it. He believed he had now answered all the questions of the hon. and gallant Baronet.


said, that, although he did not regret that there was no discussion on the Naval Estimates the other night, he felt that it would be becoming in him, as the Board to which he had belonged prepared these Estimates, to say something in favour of the late Board, after the enormous quantity of abuse which had been heaped upon them, both by certain Gentlemen on the other side of the House, and by the public press in general. And here he begged to say, that after all the abuse that had been heaped upon the late Board, he was astonished that the present Board of Admiralty had taken upon themselves to adopt the Estimates of their predecessors. He would begin with the case of the Megœra. That he thought had been satisfactorily settled by the right hon. Baronet the late First Lord of the Admiralty, and he did not think that many more words, if any, were necessary on that subject. He conceived that the answer of his right hon. Friend had sufficiently disposed of all the infamous stories which had been invented about that vessel. He would next come to the subject on which there was a Committee then sitting—he meant the subject of the stinking meats. The hon. Baronet who brought forward that Motion stated that the Government ought, particularly at this time, to look to the comfort of the seamen; and, although he did not say so directly, he intimated that the late Board of Admiralty had grossly neglected their duty in consequence of what had taken place with regard to the preserved meats. Now, without anticipating the answer which would be given by the Committee then sitting on the subject, he thought the beat answer he could give to the accusations was, that the officer, a late colleague of his, who presided over the transport de- partment, who made the contracts which were complained of, and who conducted the whole of the business of that department with as much benefit to the country as credit to himself, had been chosen out of the ranks of the late Board to fill the same office by the present Government. If that was not a practical answer to the accusation to which he had referred, he did not know where one could be found. Again, it was stated that the late Board of Admiralty had misconducted the transport of troops from Ireland to the Cape; and the expression used was, that "a noble regiment was sacrificed through the neglect of the Admiralty." This had occurred, as was alleged, from the condition of the ship in which the regiment was embarked, and which was described as "an old, rotten, worn-out ship, where there was malaria, effluvia, stinking meat, and everything that was bad;" and well did he recollect the cheers that were given whenever "the Hungarian Jew" was mentioned. Now, what were the facts? The regiment referred to (the 59th) was at the time of the famine recruited in Ireland, and consisted chiefly of raw recruits. They had been placed in a barrack where the cholera had been, and, unfortunately, that disease broke out in the ship, the Apollo, in the course of the voyage. The result, he admitted, was disastrous; but the couduct of Commander Rawstorne, the officer in command of the Apollo, was such that he received the thanks of the Duke of Wellington for his zealous exertions in contributing, in so far as lay in his power, to alleviate the distress caused by the disease which prevailed among the troops on that occasion. He felt it also due to Commander Rawstorne to read the following extract from a letter addressed to him by the colonel of the regiment:— During the whole period of my service (and my first trip with troops was in 1816, with my own county militia to Ireland), I have never seen anything to equal the cleanliness, comfort, and regularity I have observed in the Apollo, except in Her Majesty's ship Belleisle, 7A; and I do not think it was surpassed even in that large ship. Indeed, I consider the accommodation for married officers preferable in this vessel. It had been said that the Admiralty were so ignorant as to what they were about that they could not convey troops from England to the Cape; and, by way of contrast to their incapacity, it had been stated that the French Government had conveyed a large body of troops from France to Civita Vecchia. Why, they might as well compare the ascent of Primrose-hill to that of Mont Blanc as to compare the conveyance of troops from France to Civita Vecchia, with those from England to the Cape. The fact was, that the late Board had had occasion to send troops to the Cape on six different occasions in the middle of winter, and not one accident had happened to any one of them. But it was said they managed matters so badly that their steamers were always breaking down. Now, he held in his hand a return which showed that out of their large steam fleet only three vessels broke down in the course of the year 1850–51—the year particularly referred to in the complaints which were made against them; while from another return he found that in the six steampacket companies, which had not one-third the number of vessels at sea that the Government had, the number which broke down in the same period was twenty, He could hardly have believed that the stories which had been circulated about the Navy could have obtained the credit they had done. He was indeed surprised at the gullibility of the public. Yet these things were alleged, and these things were believed; and therefore he hoped the Committee would forgive him for trespassing on their time to rebut them by facts. They were told by the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) that they did not know how to manage the men committed to their charge, nor where to place them. But was it to be supposed that a set of professional men, with the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) at their head, would have left the country in the defenceless condition in which it was supposed to be? The fact was, that during all the time of the outcry about the danger of a surprise and the inefficiency of the Navy, although the Admiralty did not make any fuss about their proceedings, yet he would stake his existence that if the necessity had arisen, they could, in twenty-four hours, have covered the Channel from the North Foreland to the Channel Islands with a fleet of steamers within signal distance of each other. So much for the danger of a surprise. He admitted, however, that we ought to have a greater force in the Channel than we had, for if we were to have a war, the Channel ought to be in such a state as to be a place of refuge for a friendly flag, and a hornets' nest to our enemies. He now came to a point which was not for the Admiralty, but for that House and the country to decide. He thought we ought to have—and that we were not safe without it—a reserve of seamen at all times, at least to the tune of 5,000, that we could lay our hands upon when wanted.


thought that no one who looked over the immense expenditure which had taken place last year, and had noticed the manner in which it had been applied, could coincide with the eulogium which the gallant Admiral who had just sat down had passed upon the late Board of Admiralty. He could not conceive how the Channel could be covered with ships of war within twenty-four hours, when he saw by the last Navy List, published on the 1st of January, that there were only twenty-two vessels in commission in all the ports in or near the United Kingdom; that of these only six were line-of-battle ships—four of the line-of-battle ships which carried the flags of the Port Admirals being only partially manned; and that there were beside three screw steamers of large dimensions. The people of England had been accustomed to look to the Navy as their bulwark against foreign invasion from the time of Alfred; but they had now ceased to take it into consideration, and were seeking for a military force equal to meet the largest force that France could bring against us. That was not a state in which we should be after the sums of money which we had expended on this force. Since the termination of the war no less a sum than 220,000,000l. had been voted for the Navy, independent of the armaments which were supplied by the Ordnance. Out of this 9,800,000l. had been expended on the dockyards, which at the close of the war were capable of containing our then fleet of 666 vessels. Then there were such jobs as Keyham Harbour, on which 1,250,000l. was to be, and 800,000 had already been, spent. 58,000,000l. had been expended on materials for shipbuilding and wages of workmen in the dockyards. And what had we to show for the last item? Why, only 620 vessels of all sorts and sizes, either built or in progress; and he believed that a private shipbuilder could have provided them for half the money which they had cost the nation. He thought that the Admiralty Board was very badly constituted. He thought a naval officer should always be at its head, who would have a strong feeling for the interest and character of the service, and would not confine himself to jobbing away the patronage, and to defending mismanagement. But the fact was that the civil Lords did not understand the management of such immense concerns, and the time of the distinguished naval officers who had a seat at the Board was wasted in attendance at that House, and they were thus prevented from giving their exclusive attention to the different departments of the service, and from introducing those improvements which he believed they would otherwise do. We had expended last year 5,700,000l., and all we had to show was 142 vessels in commission, some of which were only tenders, and the majority were under twenty guns, only seventeen being sail of the line, and four or five of these being but partially manned, as he had stated previously, as Port Admiral's ships. He could not imagine how all this money was expended with so little to show for it. The Estimates for the present year were 5,600,000l., of which only 2,000,000l. was devoted to the effective service; the rest was to be wasted on the dockyards, and on the half-pay and pension lists. In 1822, when a great promotion took place, after the termination of the war, the half-pay and pension list was actually less than at present, being then 1,340,900l. and now, 1,354,000l. The cause of this was evident, when he saw that to command these 142 vessels in commission, we had no fewer than 245 admirals, so that there were two Admirals to each ship; and they had 584 Captains, and 911 Commanders, giving about ten of these officers to each vessel. The half-pay and pension list had been enormously added to by the arrangements with respect to the retirement of Admirals in 1846 and 1851. Out of the 1,354,000l. devoted to this list, only 202,000l. was for warrant officers and seamen, leaving 1,152,000l. for the superior officers, an amount totally uncalled for by the justice of the case. With regard to the proposed reserve of 5,000 men, it had been stated that they would be thrown into the merchant navy, in order to represent to the seamen in the mercantile marine the great advantages of the Royal service. He did not think that would be the result of the measure. He should like to know how it was that the British Admiralty could not man a line-of-battle ship in less than three or four months, while the American navy could obtain as many of our best seamen as they desired. He attributed this fact to the tyranny exercised by some of the British commanders, though he was perfectly satisfied that many of our officers were good and excellent men. He a short time since brought before the House the case of a sailor who was shot by command of the captain of a British man-of-war. He had put a question on the subject to the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, who fished up a long account with which he came down to the House, Now, he (Mr. W. Williams) was prepared to say, from information he had received, that the facts were as he had stated them, namely, that a Marine was ordered to shoot a seaman who was swimming ashore to desert; that he missed the man; that he was peremptorily ordered to fire again, and that the man was shot dead. [An Hon MEMBER: No, no!] Well, so persons said who were on board the Inconstant, at any rate; and he begged to ask the Hon. Secretary to the Admiralty where he obtained the information he had given to the House, and whether he had searched the log of the Inconstant, and if so what was the description given of that event?


had no objection to the number of men proposed to be voted for the Navy, but he contended that that force ought not to cost the country more than 2,000,000l. a year. He formed his opinion from the amount of wages given to able and efficient seamen in the merchant or yachting service, which was about 1l. a week, say 50l. a year: thus 40,000 efficient seamen might be obtained for 2,000,000l. per annum; and as ships should be obtained at 1,000l. a gun, 1,000,000l. per annum should provide them with ten ships of 100 guns each. A line-of-battle ship should last seventy years, that being the age of the Canopus, one of the best ships we had. He had heard, however, at Plymouth, of instances in which ships had been rotten in the bows before they were sent to sea. Many of the numerous alterations in the ships had now no doubt become necessary; and by turning large shins into screw steamers they could now be placed in position whether the wind was favourable or adverse. He thought a great error had been committed in having the works at Keyham, instead of at Millbay, where there was already a dock for mercantile purposes, which was being partially filled up; so that an immense sum of money had been wasted in making one dock, and filling up another. It was proposed to spend 1,220,000l. upon these works; and of this 833,000l. had been already spent, and a further sum of 40,000l. was included in the Estimates for the present year. He could not see the good of taking a miserable sum like this, if Keyham was to be proceeded with at all. It was, he thought, but fair to the late Government to say that the faults of the reserve steam fleet were not chargeable on them. That fleet was created during the invasion panic, and the consequence was that the vessels were badly built, and that engines of too great power were placed in them. He believed that the same remark also applied to the works at Keyham. Notwithstanding all the money that had been lavished on the arsenal at Plymouth, he believed that it was yet undefended on the land side. An enemy would have nothing to do but land in Whitsand Bay, and cross the headlands, and he might then fire the ships, and shell the dockyard and the defences; though he admitted they perfectly protected the harbour from any attack from the sea. He wished to know whether it was the intention of the present Board of Admiralty, when a ship came off a foreign station, to send her to sea as she then was, in her most perfect state, and with the same crew, and without dismantling her? They were going to expend 782,495l. for stores, and 634,574l. for artificers' wages in the naval, and 32,355l. for artificers' wages in the victualling yard; total 1,449,324l. Now, that should give us fourteen line-of-battle ships, according to the estimate he had already given. Had we built at that rate for twenty years, what a fleet we should now have had! We had not, however, got a quarter of that after expending this sum annually during thirty-seven years of peace.


said, that the Canopus had nothing but the name in common with the ship that was taken at the battle of the Nile. There was not a timber of the original ship left; it had, in fact, been rebuilt many times over: so that the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Trelawny) was quite incorrect in supposing that a line-of-battle ship would last seventy years. When a ship was twelve years old, it required a repair equal to one-third or one-fourth of its value. He differed, also, from the hon. Member with regard to the value of Keyham Harbour, the situation of which was much finer than Millbay; in fact, it was not possible to have a finer site for an arsenal than that which would be occupied by these works, the construction of which was rendered necessary by the fact that there was not previously any accommodation for the building or the repairing of steam vessels; nor could the accommoda- tion have been obtained at the old arsenal. It was a magnificent work, which would be applauded by those who succeeded us as a proof of the foresight of the late Sir Robert Peel, who planned it when Prime Minister. He thought that it should be pushed on as fast as possible, and that the factories—which he was sorry to hear from the late First Lord of the Admiralty were to be delayed—should be built at once; so that the works might be at once completed, in case they should be required. He had not the least idea where the gallant Admiral (Admiral Berkeley) would find the means to cover the Channel with steam vessels within signal distance at twenty-four hours' notice: and with all due respect to the late Admiralty, he could not but think that, when they went out of office, there was not in any English port any ship of force ready to go to sea; and had we not recalled the fleet from Lisbon, we should have been in the same state still. He thought that, for the safety and honour of the country, we should have at least 5,000 more seamen than at present. Nothing could be more absurd than that a great nation which had been allowing 5,00O,000l. a year for its Navy, should grudge an additional 200,000l. or 300,000l., which would make the whole thing efficient, and place the country in a state of security. He must add, that he hoped neither the House nor the country would suppose that the proposed naval reserve would add a single man to the effective force. He must confess he did not understand the scheme himself, and he had never seen any body who did; but there could be no doubt that not one of our ships would be manned by the proposed plan.


was sure that his hon. and gallant Friend who had just sat down would not give a contradiction to that to which he (Admiral Berkeley) had pledged his professional character. He pledged himself that, within twenty-four hours after a requisition had been made to the late Board of Admiralty, the steamers would have been found, and armed, in all respects ready for sea, and would, in fact, have been at sea covering the Channel from the North Foreland to the Channel Islands. He repeated that statement. The same means were in the hands of the present Board of Admiralty; and they could do it when they pleased. He took no credit to himself or those who acted with him for this scheme, which was originally formed during the Administration, he believed, of the late Sir Robert Peel.


said, that he was far from wishing to doubt one word of what his hon. and gallant Friend had said. He quite believed that this might be done, if he said so.


wished to know where these steamers were to be found? There was not a sufficient number in commission, according to the last Navy List.


said, this only showed that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. W. Williams) was speaking upon a subject of which he knew nothing. The hon. Member merely looked at the last edition of the Navy List, and not finding the steamers in commission conceived it impossible that they should be ready at an hour's notice. But the statement of his hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Berkeley) was not that they were in commission, but that in twenty-four hours the vessels could be manned, armed, and made ready for sea. In short, they were "advanced" vessels. [Mr. W. WILLIAMS: That's quite an explanation.] Well, is that not what the hon. Member wanted? [Mr. W. WILLIAMS: Yes, yes; but the hon. and gallant Admiral did not give it.] These vessels were in a state of advance, capable of being ready when wanted. The men were ready, and the ships were ready. With regard to the works at Keyham, it must be remembered that the slow progress made with them arose from the recommendation of a Committee which sat in 1848. Now, there were some hon. Gentlemen who thought that by placing our fleets in the Channel greater security would be given to this country, but he must say that was not entirely his impression; and as this was a subject upon which the late Government had been very much assailed, it might be worth hon. Gentlemen's while to listen a little to the other side of the question. It was supposed that if we recalled our fleet from the Mediterranean, and had constantly a large force in the Channel, we should secure ourselves entirely from any hostile attack. Much had been said upon the subject lately; but it did not seem to him that the result of calling our ships home would have been that which was desired. It must be remembered that there was no appearance of activity in the opposite ports; there was nothing in the northern parts of France which ought to have occasioned us the slightest uneasiness, and we had in our own ports sufficient to meet any emergency. If we were to call our large ships home, we must not be surprised if France followed our example, called her steamers from the Mediterranean, and collected her force in the northern ports. He (Sir F. Baring) did not think we should have added one jot to our security by having a large force in the Channel, He had thought it right to say this; but, as for the attacks out of doors upon the Board of Admiralty, it was not worth while to enter upon the defence now: the time was gone by when it would have been of the slightest value. He had no doubt those who had succeeded to that department had the utmost zeal for the service. He (Sir F. Baring) had been able to reduce the Estimates by 1,500,000l.; there were those who thought still more reduction could be made, and he hoped it could, but he was not so sanguine as to believe that the new Board would be able to make the same statement.


said, it appeared to him that some of the observations which had been made as to the late Board of Admiralty were not very true, though he believed there had been some abuses in the management of the dockyards, and considerable want of judgment in building ships. It was not his intention, however, to enter into those matters then. His object was to make a few practical observations to the Committee. The Estimates before the Committee were made up by the late Board of Admiralty, and accepted by the present Board of Admiralty. There could be no dispute about that. The question, then, to be considered was, how they were to spend their money in future. They had been congratulated upon having a naval officer at the head of the Admiralty. While giving every credit for good intentions to the present head of the Admiralty, he must say that he would agree much more in those congratulations if the head of the Admiralty were not a Parliamentary or political man, and if the appointments and promotions in the Navy were not dispensed—not by the fault of the head of the Admiralty, but by the fault of the system—among those who have interest in preference, in many cases at least, to those who possess merit. The next subject he wished to call the attention of the Committee to was, how the list of officers stands as to efficiency; and for that purpose he would first call the attention of the Committee as to how the Navy List stood in 1795. We had then 91 admirals, 420 captains, 197 commanders, and 1,395 lieutenants, making 2,103 offi- cers; we had at that time 101 line-of-battle ships in commission, and those officers were found amply sufficient to carry on all the operations in the Navy. If they looked at the present list—though he knew that alterations had been made in the right direction by the late Board of Admiralty—they found there was still an active list of 100 admirals. But were they sure that those admirals were all active men? He believed that a great many of them, though able and gallant officers, were, through age and infirmity, unfit to go afloat. Without dwelling upon the number of officers they now had, he would rather take the number it is intended they should have, and that number he found to be, as he had stated, 100 admirals; but he was satisfied that fifty would be quite enough. There were only twelve employed now, so that even if they retained only fifty, it would take twelve years to give each admiral three years' employment. The post captains were to be 350. It would take sixteen years to give each of these officers three years at sea, and thirteen years on shore on the average. The commanders' list was to be reduced to 450, and dividing those 450 by the number employed, it would just take the same number of years for them, that is, three years at sea, and thirteen years on; and by the lieutenants' list, he found those officers would get afloat three years out of the nine. Then he came to the bottom of the list, and he found there were in the Navy between 800 and 900 mates, midshipmen, and cadets. A great fault at the Admiralty was, that there were so many all seeking for promotion, and that three-fourths of the officers in Her Majesty's Navy lived and died in the rank of lieutenants, and more than half the number of commanders never attained a higher rank. Now, if the First Lord of the Admiralty wanted to choose seventy post-captains, he had 350 to choose from, and he can keep back the promotion of any man he pleases from the rank of an active admiral. These things, he believed, would never be perfectly cured till the Navy was emancipated from political shackles, and placed, as the Army is, under a chief who will not be compelled to resign office at every change of Ministry. Looking to what may be practically done to sustain the efficiency of the Navy, he was of opinion that our ships are paid off too frequently. He believed the custom was to pay the ships of the Navy off every three years, or perhaps they might serve four years, if required for some special service. It was only last January that they paid off the Ganges of 80 guns, the Portland of 44 guns, the Champion of 26 guns, and the Gorgon, a 10 gun steamer—in all 160 guns, and a complement of 1,200 men—in the course of one month, and the men were sent adrift. He also wished to know what was to prevent their enlisting seamen for a longer period than at present—for five, or seven, or fourteen years, as they enlist soldiers? They would then have men who would not be constantly leaving the Navy. Look at the Rodney. She was at that moment in Portsmouth harbour, and though she was commissioned last August, she had not been to sea yet. What was to prevent their taking men for a longer period of service? He would let the period extend to fourteen years, and he would take no man for less than five years, and he would pay them some bounty for seven or ten or fourteen years' service, as the marines are paid. The first year was taken up in teaching the men. The second year they begin to shake themselves into their places, and the third year they were fit to fight any ship that ever floated; and then it was that the sailor was brought home—the admiral reviewed the crew, said the ship was in beautiful order, and the crew in fine condition, and then the ship was dismantled, and the men paid off. He thought the proposed reserve ought to consist of at least 10,000 men, that was to say 8,000 seamen and 2,000 petty officers, and out of that number they could easily get 6,000 or 7,000 men when they were actually wanted. A great deal had been said about the vulnerability of this kingdom to invasion. He had lately stated to the House his general opinion upon that subject. His opinion was, that though it would be wise to make some provision at home, yet they need not he frightened as long as they could keep a good Navy afloat. They should not only have the ships ready, but they should have the men on board, and the ships out cruising, not lying in port, but practising so as to be ready to meet the enemy, if an enemy should come. From a calculation he had made, he found that 8,000 officers, seamen, and marines would be sufficient to man three line-of-battle ships fitted with screws; five screw frigates, from 50 to 24 guns each; six large class steam frigates, ten steam sloops, together twenty-four steamers of various sizes in all mounting 528 guns, and manned by 8,000 officers, seamen, and marines. If they had that large force, not in their ports, not much at anchor, not smoking the coast with their coal, but exercising the vessels under canvass, they would be sufficiently prepared for any emergency. He might be asked where he would get the 8,000 seamen that would be required to man these ships. In answer to that he would suggest that there was scarcely a foreign station that might not spare one or more ships of the squadron—he did not mean the Mediterranean only, but North and South America and the coast of Africa, and all other stations The other clay he saw in the newspapers that there were five English men-of-war at Rio Janeiro at anchor at one time; and they might depend upon it that an admiral will always keep as many ships out on a foreign station as he can. A distinguished Member of that House had recently observed—he meant the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston)—that this country had the smallest Army of any principal nation in Europe. There was a very good reason for that. It was because England is an island; they all knew if she was joined to the Continent she would have to keep up a large Army to protect herself from the encroachments of her neighbours; but, situated as we are, he thought it morally impossible an enemy could land on our coast. In the first place, it would take a long time for a force to embark. It was true that the army of Sir John Moore, where he was present, embarked in a single night. But how was that accomplished? Why, as the boats from the ships approached the shore the men leaped into them anyhow, so that there were not in any boat three men belonging to the same regiment, and they had neither horses nor stores to embark—for the horses were shot, and the stores abandoned. But no invading force could be embarked in that manner. He remembered when he was employed in blockading Boulogne, where the invading army of Napoleon was to have been embarked, and his opinion was that the country was more vulnerable then than it was now—the agency of steam had done so much to strengthen it; for calms and fogs would have assisted the enemy then much more than they could do now. If they were now to be brought over in large steamers or line-of-battle ships, they must be landed in boats at a distance from the shore; and then it was to be remembered that every man of them would be as sick as a dog. They might depend upon it that an invading force, either in coming across or in landing, would be cut to pieces in detail, if there were but an efficient, force at hand. Another recommendation he would make would be that at least half the men employed in the Navy should be ablebodied seamen. The difference in expense would be only 3d. per day, and the provisions and allowances the same, while in case of a war these able seamen could be drafted into the new ships, and their places taken by ordinary seamen and landsmen. With regard to assembling more men-of-war at home, he conceived that with the advantage of steam and the electric telegraph, England should be more the head quarters of the Navy, because, if necessary, additional aid could be immediately despatched to any foreign station. If he added a remark, not very complimentary to the other branch of the service, it should be jocularly; but the alarm about invasion was chiefly expressed by soldiers, from the illustrious Duke downwards. Sir Francis Head was a soldier, and so was the "Swiss Colonel," and many of them had by their writings, helped to raise and keep up the alarm. And the reason was plain—they could not comprehend the capabilities of resistance that might be made on the ocean, and especially the resources that had been put into their hands by the power of steam. For example, he had never known a marine officer, however long he might have been at sea, who had learned to steer or manage a boat. If this was the case in small matters, it might be supposed how ill-informed they were as to matters that were more important. His opinion upon the whole was, that our ships should be collected more at home, for the Colonies were well defended with forts and batteries, but that was not the case with Great Britain.


said, he agreed with the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) that our Navy was never in a better condition than at the present moment, whether it regarded our ships or stores; but he must remind the Committee that it was through the effort of Sir Robert Peel's Government to build a steam fleet that they now possessed a reserve of steamers in a state of efficiency for sea at a moment's warning. The right hon. Baronet had taken credit for having reduced the Estimates by 1,500,000l. But the reason why the Es- timates of Sir Robert Peel's Government were so large was, that between 1841, when they entered office, and 1846, when they retired, no fewer than seventy-two steamers of 28,000 horse-power and 74,000 tons burden, had been built, equal to thirty sail of the line. He knew the Government had been accused of building steamers in a panic, and therefore of building them badly. Now, if time had permitted, perhaps they might have made experiments, and thus saved some faults; but then they would have been neglecting a still higher duty, the safety of our own shores. But though they had now a larger naval force than France possessed, both in steamers and sailing vessels, yet there were circumstances which made the smaller naval force of France more available for invasion than our large naval force was for defence—the main circumstance being, that we had a vast colonial empire to defend, and an enormous commercial interest to guard in every sea, so that the greater portion of our navy was necessarily out of our reach; while France, which had no such interests to protect, had its navy chiefly at home. It was therefore important that we should always have the means of maiming our reserve ships, and sending them to sea at the shortest notice, in the event of a war. The French had a great advantage in manning their fleet, for all French seamen were liable to be called upon to serve four years in their navy, and as they hardly ever volunteered to serve again, he was informed that there were at the present moment in the maritime districts of France 23,000 seamen liable to be called up to servo on board of the navy, who had already had four years' experience in the service, and were perfectly conversant with naval discipline. Now there were on the last registry of the English seamen 210,000 names; but few of these men had any knowledge of naval gunnery, or were acquainted with the restraints of discipline on board a man-of-war. As one means of remedying that defect, He would suggest that the reserve marines who were now trained to naval gunnery should be increased. The number of marines serving ashore was 5,300, which was the number at the time he was in office; but he had ascertained then, and he had no reason to suppose it was different now, that no more than 3,000 of these were available for embarkation. As it would require 6,000 marines to man the reserve Navy if it were required, he would suggest that the marine force should be increased by 3,000 men. The expense of this increase would not be more than 100,000l. a year. He was not sanguine about the success of the particular plan proposed for the reserve of seamen, though he thought the late Board deserved every credit for having proposed it. He doubted if the men would do found willing to enter upon the plan proposed, and therefore he would recommend the Members of the present Board to consider a very able scheme for the formation of a coast militia, which was addressed by Sir Thomas Hastings to the Board of Admiralty in 1846. The plan was to assemble 15,000 men once a year, and train them in gunnery and other naval exercises. If that plan were adopted, he thought they would have a most efficient naval reserve.


wished to call the attention of his hon. Friend the Secretary for the Admiralty to a Resolution which had been passed by that House, declaring its opinion that better accommodation should be provided for assistant surgeons throughout the Navy. He might assert without fear of contradiction that the Resolution had not been carried out in that spirit of justice in which it was the intention of the House that it should be carried out. He readily admitted that the position of assistant surgeons had been very much improved since the passing of that Resolution. But an order had been promulgated which had acted most injuriously on assistant surgeons, and which was an insult to the whole medical profession. It was declared in that order that no young man entering the Navy as an assistant surgeon should receive cabin accommodation till he had passed through a professional service of three years. At the age which those gentlemen who were of superior and scientific education had attained when they entered the service, they were compelled to associate in the cockpit with boys for for three years before they were thought fit to be placed in the society of lieutenants of the Navy and lieutenants of marines. It was possible a lieutenant of marines seventeen years of age, might be embarked in a line-of-battle ship; and if he were fit to receive a cabin, an assistant surgeon should be so. Another defect in that order was, that it was not sufficiently peremptory in requiring captains to give the accommodation required. He did not say they wilfully evaded it. He had received letters from all parts where our ships were sta- tioned, representing that captains had refused accommodation where it could be given. He would suggest to his hon. Friend (Mr. Stafford) the expediency of submitting the case to the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty. Our Navy was lately engaged in a bloody scene at Lagos. The loss was greater than that which was usually incurred in a naval action; and in his report to the Admiralty the commanding officer, speaking of the surgeons and assistant surgeons, said— Penelope, off Lagos, Jan. 2. Nothing could exceed the devotion of the officers of the medical staff to the exigencies of the day—one surgeon, five assistant surgeons. Whenever a man was struck in the boats a medical man was immediately at his side, setting their own lives at nought when compared with the wants of their brave companions in arms. The assistant surgeons ought to have those comforts to which their position and education entitled them. Allusion had been made to a reduction of 1,500.000l. in the Estimates effected by the right hon. Gentletleman lately at the head of the Board of Admiralty. He did not give the right hon. Gentleman credit for it; he thought it an injury. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that he hoped the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty would effect still further reductions; but if that course were pursued, what dependence in the event of an attempted invasion could be placed on the Navy? The more efficient it was made, the more secure would the country be against attack. It was pleasing to hear that there was a reserve of steam vessels ready to be equipped within twenty-four hours in the event of a declaration of war, and satisfactory to recollect that the mercantile steam marine was much greater than in France; where France could fit out one steamer from its mercantile marine, we could fit out ten. If in the event of a war letters of marque were given to some of our steamers, and the steamers were well armed, there would not be a trading vessel of a nation at war with this country to be seen three months after the declaration of war.


had on former Sessions called attention to the manning of the Navy. He had had interviews with Lord Auckland and other Lords of the Admiralty on the subject, and had put the case to them whether it would be possible to resort to impressment in the event of war. To many old officers with whom he had been in communication, and who differed with him on the subject, he had put the question, whether they thought they would, as magistrates, ever back a press warrant with any chance of success. They admitted they could not. What would be the result of attempting it? The Executive would come into collision with the civil law, and the decision of a court would abrogate impressment. The real question, then, for consideration was, whether they should not take time by the forelock. He might suggest that the boldest step was also the wisest; and he did trust that before the year, or even the Session, expired, a supplementary estimate might be proposed to provide against the contingency of war. A mode of manning the Navy in time of peace ought also to be devised. Great difficulty, he understood, was experienced in manning the Navy; there were ships shorthanded at present, and likely to remain so for two months. The only way in which he thought provision could be made for manning the Navy in time of peace, was by continuous service, such as existed in the Army. Men might be entered for seven, eleven, and fifteen years, the terms of two, three, and four commissions; at the end of the last they should be entitled to a pension, increasing at the rate of 1d. a day for each further year of service. Like our troops in India, they should not be allowed to claim instant discharge, but wait for the draught home. The service was now more attractive than in former times, for a system had been established tending to promote the comfort and happiness of the men; and he might mention, as another improvement, the greater rarity of punishment. In framing a plan for manning the Navy on the breaking out of a war, it would be necessary to bear in mind that the sailor was an erratic animal, wandering from port to port; but the shipping offices and register ticket offered great facilities for carrying out the ballot. Under the existing law the captain and crew must sign their articles before the shipping officer. No merchant vessel should obtain her permit from the Customs until her crew had been balloted. Each register ticket should bear the stamp of the ballot, which would be a protection for a certain period. The same system would be worked on foreign stations. He would introduce a system of ballot, instead of the pressgang, which he would at once erase from the practice and traditions of the country; for, so long as it was retained, they would find their seamen running to America in the event of a war. He was persuaded the country would approve of this abrogation of the right to press, and assuming the principle that every one was bound to serve the State in the event of a war, enable Parliament to pass a legal compulsory statute, so that the service would not be injured by it. Notwithstanding some complaints that had been urged, the system of registration had worked uncommonly well; and he was satisfied it would ultimately prove of great value to the marine of the empire.


said, he wished to say a few words on the important subject of the manning of the Royal Navy, which was one of the most difficult questions they could have to consider in endeavouring to provide for the efficiency of our naval force. They might have ships in abundance; and yet if they wanted men the country would not be safe. The late Board of Admiralty had, after much deliberation, devised a plan which they thought would, to a certain extent, meet the difficulty, and which would at any rate serve as an experiment. He could not himself feel very sanguine as to the efficiency of that plan until it should have been fairly tried. He had heard it stated that it was difficult to understand the scheme; but he should, say that the present Board of Admiralty ought either to take it up fairly or to abandon it altogether. There was no conceivable scheme with respect to which differences of opinion would not prevail among naval officers; and any scheme which was not known to have the support of influential parties at the Admiralty could not succeed. It was most important that the first step in any plan should be taken efficiently if it were to be taken at all; and He repeated that be hoped the new Board of Admiralty would either abandon the scheme of the naval reserve, or would seriously endeavour to carry it into successful operation. There was another point upon which he wished to offer a few words of explanation. Formerly, if at the outbreak of a war a bounty had been given for the entry of any one seaman, a similar bounty had been given to every man in the service; and that had been found to be a very onerous and inconvenient arrangement. It was at present proposed, therefore, that, without affecting the rights of existing seamen, those who might enter the service for the future should not have the power of claiming the bounty in question. With re- spect to the system of impressment, he should state that they ought to make that system the exception, and not the rule; and in that case be believed that the best plan to which they could resort, would be the adoption of the ballot. He thought they would have to come to that. He was aware, however, that that subject was one of great difficulty; and if he had remained in office, he had intended to have given his best consideration to the matter.


said, he could undertake to say that the new Board of Admiralty would give to the suggestions of the right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) the attention which they deserved from their importance and from the kind manner in which they had been offered. With respect to the naval reserve, he had to state that the present Board of Admiralty accepted the principles of that plan as a really valuable one, and that they were disposed to carry it fairly' into operation. But they did not regard the scheme as one peculiarly adapted to a sudden crisis, if such a crisis should arise. He believed that the good effects of it would not be perceptible all at once. It was supposed that it would ensure for Her Majesty's service a better character among merchant seamen than that which that service had hitherto enjoyed. At present the greater portion of those who left the Royal Navy for the merchant service were persons of bad character, who represented Her Majesty's service in much worse colours than it deserved; and it was hoped that under the system of the naval reserve, men of good character when they loft the Royal Navy would speak favourably of it to their companions among whom they would afterwards mix. We had at present in the merchant seamen's service about 230,000 men, besides about 50,000 men who disappeared in distant parts of the world, and were not seen again until after the lapse of three or four years. If the plan should succeed, it must still be obvious that so small a body among so large a mass must work but slowly. The question with regard to naval assistant surgeons was at this moment occupying the attention of the Admiralty, who were not unmindful of the necessity which existed for carrying out the order of the House upon the subject. They felt that that order ought to be carried out; but at the same time that some discretion should be left to the officer in command, and allowance made for the amount of accommodation on board ship. It was impossible to apply an abstract rule in this case. All he could say was, therefore, that the animus of the Board was to treat the assistant surgeons of the Navy as gentlemen, and to give them every facility for prosecuting their studies on board that the arrangements of the ship would admit of.


hoped the Admiralty would also take the case of the junior class of surgeons, who acted as clerks to captains, into their consideration, with a view to putting them on a different and an improved footing; and he would recommend that officers in the coast-guard service should be rewarded by promotion, the rewards they at present received at the end of the year not being, in his opinion, adequate to the great and valuable services they performed, in so often saving life and property, and protecting the revenue.

Vote agreed to.

(18.) 50,353l. Scientific Department.


said, he was compelled to complain of the very inefficient way in which the charts were published, and 'begged to call attention to the mode in which the charts were published by the Navy of the United States and by the French Marine. The system adopted by the American Admiralty Board was much superior to that in operation in this country, inasmuch as the Americans adopted a uniform scale and plan by which they accomplished much greater results than was done here, and at much smaller expenditure of money. They had year after year expended nearly 60,000l. upon this service, and still only a very small number of charts was published every year. The want of such publications was exceedingly detrimental to the commercial navy of Great Britain; and if they were sufficiently extensive, so far from the sale producing only 2,000l. or 3,000l. as they saw by the Estimates of that year, it might produce 30,000l. He hoped the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty would direct his attention to this matter.


said, the subject had already attracted the attention of the Board of Admiralty, and would continue to do so. The difficulty was one of expense. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think the Admiralty might be reimbursed the expenditure of carrying out his suggestions, but that appeared to' him (Mr. Stafford) somewhat problematical.


said, the First Lord of the Admiralty's house ought to be given up for the map department. As it was, the business was very much in arrear for want of proper space and accommodation.

Vote agreed to; as were also—

(19.) 132,647l. Naval Establishments at Home.

(20.) 23,263l. Naval Establishments Abroad.

(21.) 666,929l. Wages to Artificers at Home.

(22.) 35,331l. Wages to Artificers Abroad.

(23.) 782,495l. Naval Stores, &c.


said, he was surprised that not one word had been said in the course of the discussion upon the Navy Estimates in reference to the circumstance of a foreign yacht having recently come to this country, and, in the presence of the Queen herself, beat some of our crack sailing vessels. That appeared to him a humiliating event. He remembered a leader in a morning newspaper characterising the American yacht as "the racehorse of the Ocean." Though He (Colonel Peel) was wholly ignorant of nautical matters, and knew as little how to manage a boat as any of the class of officers referred to by the hon. and gallant Member for Bath (Captain Scobell), yet he admitted he was to some extent conversant with the pastime of horse-racing, and flattered himself that he could appreciate such an expression as "the blue ribbon of the turf," with which the right hon. Gentleman opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) had recently made them familiar; but, whatever might be the sailing qualities of the American yacht, this he knew, that if such a defeat had been sustained on the English turf as had happened to our sailing vessels in the instance to which he had referred, there was not a true sportsman in this country who would not have gone to almost any expense to have recovered back our lost laurels. It was part of his creed that "Britannia rules the waves;" but what became of the goddess on the day to which he had alluded he was not prepared to say; if she ruled the waves at all, on that occasion she must surely have done so with a downcast look. He would suggest that some part of the surplus funds from the Exhibition might be appropriated towards large prizes to be given with a view to encourage competition in the building of sailing vessels. It was of little or no use for us to go on constructing sailing squadrons merely to run against one another. If we would really improve the sailing qualities of our ships, we ought to invite competition with those of other nations, instead of testing our ships with each other.


said, the hon. and gallant Member need be under no alarm as to our ships being surpassed by the American merchantmen. There was an American vessel called the Oriental, which had been greatly praised for the celerity of her voyages between this country and China; but he believed that there had been more than one ship of British build which had made the voyage in a considerably shorter time than even the Oriental. There never had been a period in the history of our country when there had been greater zeal and anxiety shown for the improvement of our merchant vessels than at the present time; and he could assure the gallant Member that neither energy nor expense would be spared to maintain the high position which our mercantile marine had so long enjoyed.


said, it was quite true that the American yacht, which had been built expressly for racing purposes, had beaten our swiftest yachts; but with merchant ships and ships of war the case was very different. There were no ships of war in the world that could excel our own in speed and other qualities. The American Government had certainly not succeeded in building ships to beat our men of war. Look at the trials in the Pacific, at Rio Janeiro, and the West Indies. There we had completely surpassed them. Then with respect to French ships, let them only look at Prince de Joinville's squadrons, the three-deckers of which could neither tack nor wear.


wished to say a few words for the honour of his own country. There had been a regular competition between the American and the Aberdeen builders as to ships for China and Newfoundland; and the Aberdeen builders had beaten their opponents altogether.


said, he did not wish to underrate the efforts made by foreign countries in the building of ships; but we must take care, if we had to compete with them, that our shipbuilders and shipowners were not overweighted in the race.


thought the amount of the stores in our dockyards had rather been too much trenched upon of late. He saw, with regard to timber, masts, and deals, the expenditure had been reduced by some thousands. He wanted to know whether that saving had been effected by paying lower prices on the contracts? He also saw a reduction with regard to stores of 84,000l. He wished to know whether that was an actual retrenchment in stores?


said, the Estimates were carefully gone through, and at the close he asked Mr. Dundas, the storekeeper-general, whether it was wise to increase the stores in any particular; when that gentleman replied that, notwithstanding there was a diminution in the Estimates of 84,000l., there never was a time when the naval stores were in a more efficient state than at present.

Vote agreed to; as were also the following:—

(24.) 265,140l. New Works.

(25.) 23,000l. Medicines and Medical Works.

(26.) 50,850l. Miscellaneous Services.

(27.) 707,520l. Half Pay.

(28.) 490,533l. for Military Pensions and Allowances.


wished to draw the attention of the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty to the immense number of half-pay officers at present on the list, which was very little reduced from what it was at the end of the war. The late Board of Admiralty did reduce the list somewhat, but it was still so large as to be an injustice to the officers themselves, most of whom had no chance of active employment, and an injustice to the service. Another subject to which he wished to call attention was the gallant action at Lagos. The Committee ought not to pass the Naval Votes without some allusion to one of the most gallant, and, at the same time, the most bloody actions by boats, ships, steamers, and other vessels, which he had ever known. If the despatches were closely scrutinised, it would be seen that nothing could be more energetic, more skilful, more persevering, on the part of those employed; and that the action was a most hotly-contested one would be judged of from the fact, that out of 400 men and officers engaged, 100 were killed and wounded. The late Board of Admiralty, he had no doubt, made their arrangements in a hurry; but he hoped the present Board would look through the list of officers who had got no reward but many a wound, with a view to some further promotions.

Vote agreed to; as were also the following;—

(29.) 156,562l. Civil Pensions and Allowances.

(30.) 127,600l. Army and Ordnance Departments.

(31.) 870,158l. Post Office Packet Service.


begged to call the attention of the Committee to the state of the Irish mails between Kingstown and Holyhead. A return which he had moved for that Session would show that there had been of late years a material decrease in the speed of these vessels, and that the mail packets lost at least half an hour on each trip. It was a curious anomaly that the only service that had not improved was the Irish mail service; but surely hon. Gentlemen who came such a distance to perform their Parliamentary duties ought to be provided with the best and quickest mode of transit.


said, that there was no charge for steam communication with the Canadas and Newfoundland, although there was a charge for the communication with New York, and although the commerce and intercourse between the two first countries and England had of late very much increased. It was a most curious fact, that though there was a grant of 14,700l. for the communication between Halifax, Bermuda, and St. Thomas's, and Halifax and St. John's, and although the vessels passed within sight of Newfoundland, the mails were sent on six hundred miles further to Halifax, whence they got back the best way they could. This was felt to be a very great inconvenience, and he had had communications from Newfoundland, to the effect that if the Government would grant 5,000l., the colonial legislature would defray the rest of the expense; and then there might be a regular steam communication between Liverpool and St. John's.


said, that the answer to both the hon. Gentlemen who had just spoken was the fact, that the Admiralty in this matter was merely subordinate to the Post Office, and both were subordinate to the Treasury. If the hon. Gentleman would apply to the Post Office, then the Post Office might apply to the Treasury, and both would then send their wishes to the Admiralty, which would be sure to attend to them.


thought it was preposterous to suppose that two different steamers should run across the Atlantic—one to Halifax, and another to St. John's.


said, the preposterous part of the proceeding was, that passengers, as he had pointed out, should, when within fifty or sixty miles of their place of destination, be carried 600 miles past the port, and have to travel 600 miles back again.


said, he begged to point out to the Committee the deficiency of postal communication with the Orkney and Shetland isles. His constituents there had great cause to complain as to the inadequacy of the present arrangements. The group of islands with which he would deal more especially now was the Orkneys, which were divided from the mainland by the Pentland Firth. Arrangements had been made by the Post Office which gave them a daily mail; but the provisions for carrying the mail acsoss the strait consisted merely of some small boats, which, whenever there was so much as a cat's paw of wind did not cross over. This state of things was not very easily remediable till within a few years, because there was no harbour on the Caithness coast; but there had now been formed an harbour near Thurso, capable of affording shelter in all weather for vessels of considerable size. A small steam vessel to run across this strait would give the inhabitants something like a regular post; and from an Admiralty survey which He had obtained, the additional expense would not exceed 500l. a year as compared with the present arrangement. About 30,000 of Her Majesty's subjects would thus be placed in regular communication with every part of the Kingdom; and, besides this, it was not merely a local question, because there were sometimes 1,000 sail of vessels from the north of Europe awaiting orders from their consignees, and repairs; and a sure and speedy communication with these vessels was a matter of extreme importance.


thought the postal communication between Holyhead and Kingstown ought to be expedited. The vessels were quite capable of going the distance in three hours and a half, instead of four hours and a half and five hours.


said, he must request the hon. Secretary for the Treasury (Mr. G. A. Hamilton), as representing the Post Office in that House, to give some explanation on this subject.


said, the Admiralty had made a contract with the Dublin Steam Packet Company for 25,000l. per annum for this service, by the con- ditions of which the steamers were limited to a certain time in making the passage. They frequently, however, did not keep to their engagement by an hour. The loss of an hour was of great importance to the postal communication, and it was the duty of the Admiralty to see the contract carried out. If the vessels were so imperfect, and the steam power so insufficient that they could not perform the contract, it was the duty of the Secretary of the Admiralty to enforce it. The loss of time in the passage was, at present, a crying evil.


said, that the matter should be inquired into, and that the Admiralty would compel the performance of the contract to the very letter.


said, he had not made a complaint against the Dublin Steam Packet Company breaking its contract, but what he wanted to show was, that, owing to a miserable skin-flint policy on the part of the late Government a sum was now paid for the service much less than that which it had cost the Government two years ago. The sum now paid per annum (25,000l.) was too small to admit of the satisfactory performance of the vessels. The persons in charge of them admitted that they were able to go at much greater speed, but that the Government did not pay for speed. Now, as an Irish Member, he submitted that he and his colleagues were entitled to the best accommodation of the kind which could he provided. One of the witnesses, examined before the Select Committee which sat upon the subject two years ago, proved that some of the vessels could go more than twelve miles an hour, and which they contracted to do; others were not so fast, but that the company considered they had performed their contract with the Admiralty if one vessel went at fourteen knots an hour, and another at ten.


, being the Chairman of the Chester and Holyhead Railway, begged to say, that the whole system of the postal communication with Ireland required the most careful consideration. The whole of the mails were upon one occasion detained for two hours at Chester, without the least occasion for the delay. The Irish mails were now delivered in London at eleven o'clock in the morning; but if the Government would investigate the question fully, they would find that there was no reason why the Irish letters should not be delivered in London with the others every morning. He hoped it would be sufficient to call the attention of the Government to this subject.

Vote agreed to.

House resumed.