§ Order for Committee read.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."
§ MR. COBDEN
Mr. Speaker—Had the majority in the division on the second reading of this Bill fairly represented either the population or the wealth of this country, I should not have ventured to offer one word more, either to resist or delay the progress of the measure. But I have the sanction of the First Minister of the Crown for the course I have taken on this question. I have taken the division lists and analysed them; and, amongst that large majority of two to one who voted in favour of the Militia Bill, I find not the representatives of any of the large centres of intelligence, industry, and wealth, of any of our large city populations. In the minority I find the representatives of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, Westminster, Southwark, Marylebone, Lambeth, Tower Hamlets, Finsbury, Greenwich— the largest of our borough constituencies; also, Newcastle, Hull, Southampton, Oxford, York, Stockport, Worcester, Sheffield, Northampton, Huddersfield, Aberdeen, Canterbury, Montrose, Bath, Dundee, Coventry, Leicester, Preston. The City of London and Liverpool were divided on this question. Leeds and Bristol 139 were also divided; but the two Members who voted for the Militia Bill have declined again to canvass for their seats. Middlesex and West Yorkshire are divided. I can say for myself, knowing what is the state of public opinion in West Yorkshire, that, next to free trade, there is no one question on which I would more fearlessly go to that constituency for re-election, than as an opposer of the Militia Bill. In addition to this test, 800 petitions have been presented against the Bill; and all the large towns in the Kingdom are in opposition to it; and, what is a fact deserving of special remark, there has not been one petition nor one meeting held in its favour. I do not pretend to say that the Government is not competent to propose such a Bill; but these facts afford fair ground, at all events, why I should move a reconsideration of the measure. I wish these facts to be known, not only in this country, but in a neighbouring country. I wish them to know that the great centres of intelligence and population in this country do not join with those Gentlemen in this House who call themselves statesmen, in the views which they take in regard to the foreign relations of this country, forsooth, and who rise in their places—possessing great authority on other questions which is evidently lost on this—and tell us that we are in danger from our neighbours, and must be prepared for an invasion by a horde of savages. It is evident the great mass of the intelligent people of this country totally disbelieve it. Nor is this to be taken as an expression of opinion that the population are indifferent to the security of the Realm. How have the population acted on other occasions? Sir Walter Scott tells us:—On a sudden the land seemed converted to an immense camp, the whole nation into soldiers, and the good old King himself into a general-in-chief. All peaceful considerations appeared for a time to he thrown aside, and the voice calling the nation to defend their dearest rights sounded, not Only in Parliament, and in meetings convoked to second the measures of defence, but was heard in the places of public amusement, and mingled even with the voice of devotion.This was a description of the state of things in 1804, when there was really an apprehension of invasion. How is it that the people out of doors do not do on this question as on all others where it is necessary—take precedence of this House? How is it that they have not given us the lead? Simply and solely because they do not believe that there is 140 any ground for the slightest alarm, and because they believe they have already made abundant sacrifices out of their resources, sufficient to meet all the dangers that may impend over the country. They think, after voting 15.000.000l. of their money annually — a sum which would build a Manchester or a Glasgow every year—for our military armaments, that in the present state of the affairs of the world there is no necessity why they should leave their profitable occupations and turn soldiers in their own defence at a shilling a day. I am going to deal on the present occasion, not with your Army, but with your Navy, which we have been taught to consider the safeguard of England. The "wooden walls of Old England" cost a great deal to this country; and it is the opinion of the country that they ought to be able to protect us. We vote 6,500,000l. for our Navy and naval establishments, including the packets for the Post Office service; and I include those, because in the case of hostilities the very brunt of the war would be borne by those packets, which are larger than the Government steamers, and would be able to catch anything, or run away from anything; therefore I say they are one of the most essential parts of the Navy. Going back to 1835, I find we spent only 4,500,000l. on our Navy. We have since increased that expenditure 2,000,000l. Why? To meet the very difficulties and contingencies which you now say you are making provision for. In 1836, it was said we were going to have war with Russia, and you added 5,000 men to your Navy. There was no war with Russia, but the additional force was kept up. In 1841 and 1842 you had difficulties in China and Syria, and a threatened rupture with France; and in 1842 occurred the difficulty with America about the Maine boundary. We added to our Navy then on account of the war in China and Syria, and the chance of a rupture with the United States. Those difficulties passed away, but the Navy was never reduced. In 1845, there was a very grave and serious alarm of a rupture with the United States about the Oregon territory. There was a strong probability of war, and an increase of 1,000,000l. or 1,200,000l. was agreed to in the warlike expenditure. We then formed what was called a squadron of evolution; it manoeuvred near our own shores; the Queen paid a visit to it; and it was said at the time that there was as large a force in 141 that squadron as had gained the battles of the Nile or Trafalgar. The Oregon dispute was settled; but the squadron was not at all reduced. Then came the dispute with France about the Spanish marriages. The dynasty of France had passed away like a dream; and, instead of coming here as invaders, had been glad to receive our hospitality. Still these preparations had continued, and that on a scale large enough to meet hostilities from a Power far more formidable than France; for there is no doubt the United States is far more powerful; and you have all the force you prepared to meet that Power, and also the force you prepared to meet France. This year we have voted 39,000 seamen and boys, and 5,000 for a reserved force— in all 44,000. You have, therefore, all that you ever had during the time I am speaking of. There is no authentic source from which I can ascertain the exact state of our naval forces. No annual report is made of the number of vessels—where they are stationed—how many are in course of construction or in ordinary. We have to hunt through the military or naval periodicals to find this out, and then we do not find the number of men. The only source from which I can obtain the latest correct account of our naval forces is from the speech of the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir F. Baring), who, in moving the Navy Estimates in 1850, stated that the—Ships of the line in commission were 13: advanced and ordinary, 58; building 15, of which 3 were ready to be launched. There were frigates in commission, 9; advanced and ordinary, 58; building 8, of which three were ready to be launched. Vessels of a lower grade than frigates in commission, 92; advanced and ordinary, 79; building 4, of which there were ready to be launched I. Of steam vessels there were in commission, 88; advanced and in ordinary, 68; building 11; and of which there was I ready to be launched. So that there were 202 ships in commission; 263 advanced and in ordinary, and 38 building, and 6 of these ships were ready to be launched."— [3 Hansard, cix. 707.]In round numbers, ships built and building, 500. I have no doubt our present naval force amounts to very much the same. How is that naval force disposed of? Here again I am just in the same difficulty. I know-not where to apply to know where the vessels are stationed, and what is the amount of force on each station. But the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary, in introducing this Militia Bill, on the 29th of March, told us the number of vessels at home ready to sail. He said— 142Your ships in commission on the home station at this moment are, 9 line-of-battle ships, 5 frigates, 1 sloop, 9 steamers propelled by screw, and 8 propelled by paddle."—[3 Hansard, cxx. 271.]And he grounded his Militia Bill on the statement that that was all the force we had to protect our shores. But when the hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Navy spoke on another occasion, he said he had to add to these the following list:—There were at Woolwich 9 vessels with 530 men; Sheerness, 7, with 1,544 men; Portsmouth, 16, with 6,642 men; Devonport, 11, with 2,822 men; Cork, 5, with 368 men; in all, 48 vessels and 11,906 men. To these add the Hecate (cruising),"160 men; Pluto, 25; Antelope, 55; Vulcan, 152; making in all 52 vessels and 12,328 men, exclusive of 4,500 marines on shore, and coastguard and dockyard battalions; being altogether 29,648 men. In addition he had to mention the Simoom and Vulcan, large screw-steamers, each capable of moving a regiment, and several small steamers besides."—[3 Hansard, cxx. 382.]Now the House would see that this was a very different statement from what had been said by the right hon. Secretary for Home Affairs. What I wish to have is an exact statement, such as I have moved for, of the number of ships advanced, in commission, and in ordinary. Then comes the important question, how are our ships disposed of on foreign stations? I served twelve mouths on the Naval Committee of 1848, and I came to the conclusion that there is a great waste of the public money in keeping large ships on distant stations under the plea of protecting our commerce, for which purpose they are never available, The hon. Secretary for the Admiralty also gave us, in that same speech, the amount of our naval forces on the different foreign stations, which consist of seven—the East Indies and China, the Pacific or west coast of America, the south-east coast of America, the west coast of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope, North America and the West Indies, and the Mediterranean. He says that—The whole of Her Majesty's ships in commission were, East Indies and China, 19; Cape of Good Hope, 9; coast of Africa, 22; on the southeast coast of America the number of ships was 8; west coast of America, 9; North America and West Indies, 13; Mediterranean, 19."—[3 Hansard, cxx. 382.]On referring to the Report of the Naval Committee, I find that in 1837 there were only ten ships on the East India and China station, and that we had been keeping three or four vessels for some years on the coast of New Zealand, in consequence of the troubles there. Now, that we propose 143 to give a Constitution to New Zealand, and to hand over all the waste lands to the local Legislature, we may partly dispense with two or three of these; one ship will he sufficient to be left there. I dare say the war in Burmah will he urged against our bringing home more ships from China and the East Indies. But while we have nineteen ships stationed in those seas, the East India Company have also a large fleet for the protection of commerce, and they profess entirely to protect their own shores; therefore whatever force we have there must be entirely for the protection of our trade to China, and not to the East Indies. Looking at the amount of our exports to China and the Eastern Archipelago, the expense of that immense fleet is altogether disproportioned to it and to the wants of the case. To place large ships of war to serve as a police, where the only enemies of commerce are pirates who keep the shallow waters, and run up narrow creeks where large ships could not follow, is like employing a field battery to look after pickpockets in the courts and alleys of the metropolis. But the fact is, these vessels are never really employed for any such purpose. There have been many of these collisions with pirates; thousands of them have been destroyed, for whom this country have paid head money, and the ships employed have been all small vessels. I will remind you also, that while we have paid 100,000l. of head money in two years, there has not been such an amount of resistance as to cause the loss of a single one of our sailors. To keep line-of-battle ships on that station might be for the dignity of our admirals, but we might in this safely imitate the example of the United States, which has not a single line-of-battle ship in any of those seas. I think, therefore, that a very considerable number of our vessels in the East Indies may safely be withdrawn. The Pacific, or West Coast of America station, was formerly united with the East Coast of South America; but in 1833 it was formed into a separate station. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty has told us that we have 17 ships there—9 on the Pacific and 8 on the Atlantic station. A large increase took place on this station in consequence of the threatened rupture with America on the boundary question, and the dispute going on between Buenos Ayres and Monte Video. During six years we have had an average of 2,000 men and 10 ships of war lying in the River Plate, in- 144 terfering in that dispute; and yet we effected no good whatever. I believe the merchants themselves at last agreed that our interference had done more harm than good, and had retarded the progress of negotiation. Now, however, General Rosas, like many potentates on this side the Atlantic, has become expatriated, and is in this country; so there is an end to all necessity for British interference in the affairs of the River Plate. You may safely take away six ships from that station, leaving 11, and then you will have a larger force to protect your commerce than the United States has, though their trade is much greater since the discovery of the gold of California. On the west coast of Africa the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty tells us there are 22 ships. The number there is nearly doubled since 1836. I say, bring home every one of those ships, which you are not compelled to keep there by treaty with other Powers—France or America. I do not know whether any of them have been transferred to Brazil to carry on the same operations there, and to keep down slavery; but if they have, they will be far more likely to do harm than good. I now come to the Cape of Good Hope, and where the hon. Gentleman said we had 9 vessels. Now as the Kafir war may be urged as a reason for not removing any of our vessels from that station, I will not say one word in favour of removing a single vessel from that station pending the Kafir war. I come next to the West Indian and North American station, where we have 13 ships, and in proportion to our trade with those places there is no portion of our commerce which requires so little protection as that with North America. It would be an insult to the United States to say that we required vessels to protect our commerce there. They do not send ships to this country to protect their commerce here; and if you attend to your own affairs, and do not meddle with those of others, you have very little occasion for ships in North America. As to the West Indies, you are trading with your own colonies, and, of course, you don't require any great force of ships on that coast. And here, again, I must observe, that nothing is so useless as a line-of-battle ship on the West Indian coast. I am told that at Kingston the officers give balls and entertainments on board these ships, but as to the use of a line-of-battle ship to protect our commerce in the West Indies, it has none whatever. I would withdraw 4 out of these 13 vessels 145 from the North American and West Indian station, and I would have them of the larger size. I now come to the seventh and last station—that of the Mediterranean. We have 19 vessels on this station. Now it is stated in the evidence of Admiral Sir George Cockburn, that in his opinion 6 frigates and I line-of-battle ship was as large a force as would be required on this station in the time of peace. But at this moment we have 6 or 7 line-of-battle ships with 12 or 13 smaller vessels, being the largest collection of vessels on any station sailing under the orders of Admiral Dundas from Malta to Cephalonia and Smyrna. Now I want to know if you are really serious when you say that there is danger of an invasion, because, if you are, your conduct is that either of children or of madmen, to leave your own shores unprotected whilst you have the largest concentration of vessels you possess 1,200 miles distant doing nothing. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had told the House that—At the first outbreak all depended on our naval supremacy in the narrow seas. Naval defence was requisite for our arsenals. The Channel Islands were, now without any vessel of war."—[3 Hansard, cxx. 383.]My proposition is that you should bring home 10 of these 19 vessels, and leave 9, which is 3 more than Sir George Cook-burn said would be necessary. Bear in mind that I do not propose to bring these vessels home in order to dismantle them, or to lay them up in ordinary; but as you say that there is danger of an invasion, and that it is therefore necessary to enrol a militia, I say bring home these vessels— have them at Spithead, or Cork, or Plymouth, instead of the Mediterranean. But I hear this objection from the right hon. Baronet, formerly First Lord of the Admiralty—if you bring back the fleet in the Mediterranean, then France, which has made a great diminution of vessels in her northern ports, will bring back her ships into the Channel, and then we would be no better off than we were before. Well, but if this be so, what becomes of all the reasons which were given for increasing our Navy? I heard it said by the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that France had no reason to be afraid of our large Navy; that this was an island, that we had a large commerce to protect, and that we wanted a large fleet; that we were not a great military Power, and that our having a large fleet ought not to raise the susceptibility of 146 any other country. But now, when I say, bring your fleet home, I am told, "Oh, it will raise the susceptibility of France, and they will bring their fleet to the northern ports, and so we must become a military nation." If this be true, you have obtained the increase of your Navy under false pretences; you have obtained 6,500,000l. by telling us that it was to defend our shores, and then the best part of our fleet is sent to amuse themselves in the Mediterranean. I say if you apprehend an invasion, bring homo your fleet from the Mediterranean; and I agree with the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) in saying that France would have no right to feel jealous so long as she kept up a standing army of 350,000 men, whilst we had only a small army, and which I hope the good sense of the people of this country will not permit to be increased. We have this fleet 1,200 miles of, and then the right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary tells us, as he did the other night, that Hull and Dundee, and some other places, were left wholly unprotected. Surely this was either a joke or an insult to our understandings. Why, five of the places which were said to he undefended, sent petitions against the Militia Bill. I have been arguing on the assumption of the advocates of a militia that we want more defences. But I confess I do not see any present danger in any direction—and I have not heard one fact urged that should excite any apprehension. We have had every assurance that could be given that no further measures were necessary. But it has been said we are liable to a war at any time. I don't believe that, and the reason that people have petitioned against a militia is, that they do not believe it likely or practicable that we may have a war at any moment. If hon. Gentlemen would read history, and more especially the details of what took place previous to the ruptures between this country and our nearest neighbour during the last hundred years, they would see that war was not likely to be rushed upon on a sudden. Did the declaration of war in 1793 take place on a sudden? In 1792 we withdrew our ambassador from France when the king was put to death, and we gave notice that the public functions of the French ambassador ceased in this country. But the French ambassador, M. Chauvelin, remained here in his private capacity from August till February, and during that time he made every effort to avert hostili- 147 ties. Many representatives from France had come here, and had private interviews with Mr. Pitt, and the ambassador was almost forced to leave this country. It was not till six months after our ambassador had left, that the two countries came into actual hostilities. Again, after the Treaty of Amiens, in 1802—a treaty which everybody knew would not last— although there was what was almost tantamount to a declaration of war on the 8th of March, 1803; and although Napoleon went so far as to offer a personal insult to our ambassador, Lord Whitworth, yet Lord Whitworth found it extremely difficult to obtain a passport, and his attache had to hunt Talleyrand throughout the provinces of France before he could get one; and it was not till the following fay that the two countries came into collision. Well, then, was it to be supposed that England would be assailed on the instant, and without any previous preparation? France could view it as no light matter to be brought into collision with a people so brave, so energetic, and possessed of such great resourced as the people of England. But then it is said that the present ruler of France is not to be trusted—that he is a man who would disregard all international considerations of policy and justice. Now, whatever may be said of the present ruler of France, if success is to be taken as a test of merit —and I am afraid we are all too much disposed to regard it in that light—Louis Napoleon has shown no want of talent. Whatever may be thought of his moral sentiments, he has shown that he is no blockhead. He has reached the highest post in the State, the people seem to acquiesce in his rule, and he has obtained a larger civil list than the Queen of England. It is all couleur de rose with him; and yet we are told that this man is going to depart from all recognised principles of international action, and that he is going to invade our shores. I have a friend in France, whose name, if I quoted it, would be received with respect not only in this House, but throughout Europe. I wrote to him on this subject, to ascertain if he could give any information to confront the most silly panic that ever was known in this country. Here is his answer, comprised in two lines:—"Louis Napoleon, if he made war, must do it through one of his generals. If that general was successful, he would eclipse him; if he was not, he would ruin him." 148 But understand that I am not here asking you to trust the good faith or forbearance of anybody; but I say that Louis Napoleon is not so foolish as to contemplate anything so suicidal as a buccaneering-attack on our shores would be. When we hear that he is despatching astute diplomatists to the north and to the south, and that he is everywhere carrying on negotiations to attach persons to his interest and cause, is it to be supposed that at this very time he is going to run his head into a war with England, and that he is going to invade us with some 15,000 or 20,000 men? I have heard it said by the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), that it was possible for the present ruler of France to invade this country by sending 50,000 or 60,000 men from Cherbourg in the night. When I hear such statements as that, it accounts sufficiently for all the old statesmen sitting on this side of the House out of office; and I do not wonder that the Earl of Derby should have to seek new "diggings" for fresh veins, and that he should discard the old "placers." Surely it is little less than an insult to the good sense of the country to make such a prediction as that. Will any man say that 60,000 men could be brought to Cherbourg and landed in this country without our having a month's notice of it? I wish we had a Committee sitting on the national defences, and the first thing I would ask the Adjutant General would be what equipment was required to send 60,000 men into a country, and more especially into a country that had a hostile fleet which ruled the seas, and was ready to intercept and cut off all retreat. I should like to ask what cavalry would be required, for I presume that when this army lands here they do not mean to run about and catch horses. I should like to know what amount of artillery and commissariat stores would be requisite. Such a statement as the one to which I have referred is a mockery of the good sense of the people of England; and the people of England, by the public meetings which they held on this subject, and the petitions which they presented to this House, showed that they did not believe in the possibility of such a sudden invasion. But an argument has been used which surprises me greatly; it is to the effect that the application of steam to the purpose of navigation exposes us to invasion. I believe I am to be followed by a Gentleman who has more experience and technical in- 149 formation in these matters than I have, and he will tell you how absurd it is to suppose that the application of steam to navigation has given advantages to the other nations of Europe over us. Why, coal and iron, the chief elements in steam navigation, we possess in greater abundance, and of finer quality, than all the nations of Europe put together. In cotton spinning or manufactures did steam give greater advantages to other countries than to England? If not, why should steam give them greater advantages in its application to navigation. But it is said steamboats would enable an enemy to leave their ports at any time to invade England. But did not steam enable us also to send out our steamboats to the ports of France? Formerly the same wind that blew the French vessels towards our ports, prevented us from meeting those vessels. It was then impossible to sail a line-of-battle ship in the wind's eye; but now, however the wind blows, we can send our vessels to Boulogne or to Cherbourg; and, what is more, they can remain before these ports like a rock, thus hermetically sealing up these ports. When Lord Nelson was blockading Boulogne he was frequently driven away for three weeks together; but that could not occur now with steam vessels. The authorities at the Post Office can tell you how seldom their steam vessels have failed of reaching that port. Now, this gave us a greater advantage than any other country, because we had a far greater steam force, and I have no doubt it increased our defensive power ten times. A Return has just been laid on the table of the House, from which it appears that we are possessed of 1,300 steam vessels. This is a larger number of steam vessels than is possessed by all the nations of Europe put together. And we are now building others, which would give us double as many as all the nations of the Continent of Europe possessed. I could not say the same of sailing vessels, because there are a large number of sailing vessels building in the Baltic ports; but there are no means of constructing steamers in these ports. I will quote to you the evidence of naval men on this subject. Admiral Berkeley, on the 31st of March, 1845, before this absurd discussion arose, says—The Executive Government of England had it in their power, at little or no expense, to have a fleet of steamers equal not only to France, but to the whole world. Let them look at the ports of London, Liverpool, Glasgow, and all our out-ports, and they would see what a vast number of 150 steamships might in a very short time be made available for the purposes of a steam war.Admiral Dundas, on the 26th of July, 1844, said—That we possessed 1,000 merchant steamers, 280 of which were large enough to carry 32-pounders, a force which is sufficient to overcome the combined fleet of the rest of the world.The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Navy under Sir Robert Peel's Administration (Mr. Corry) said—In case of war we were able to command ten times the force of any country on the Continent, and that three months after a declaration of war-not one of the merchant vessels could be found at sea.Do yon suppose that the French Government—do you suppose that Louis Napoleon, who resided so long in this country—were ignorant of these facts? Why, France does not possess a single ocean steamer; and my hon. Friend the Member for Orkney (Mr. Anderson) says that we have in our mercantile marine twenty horse power in steam for every one horse power possessed by France; and I believe he has not exaggerated in the least. We are told that this steam navigation has made a bridge over the Channel, and this parrot cry has been taken up, and repeated from one mouth to the other. But I hope that in future we have done for ever with this foolish notion. Well, then, if steam has been of such use to our enemies by sea— an advantage which we share equally with them—how much had railways added to our sense of security in affording us increased facilities for the transmission of troops from one part of the country to another? I have here a few lines from the evidence of Sir Willoughby Gordon, the Quartermaster General, given before the Railway Committee in 1844. The gallant officer on that occasion stated that in the two years from December 31,1841, to December 31, 1843, there were 130,174 persons—officers—men, women, and children—moved by railroad under his directions in England. Speaking of railways generally, he said—I should say that this mode of railway conveyance has enabled the Army—comparatively to the demands made upon it a very small one—to do the work of a very large one. You send a battalion of 1,000 men from London to Manchester in nine hours—that same battalion, marching, would take seventeen days; and they arrive at the end of nine hours just as fresh, or nearly so, as when they started.Well, here we have the fact that we are enabled now, by means of railways, to ac- 151 complish within the space of nine hours what it took us seventeen days to effect in the time of turnpike roads. Further, we are told that we can transport as large a body of troops as we could assemble in Scotland from Edinburgh to Dover in a few hours; whereas this was formerly not to be done under twenty-four days. Is not this an enormous advantage? And does it not give us an immense control over the army we possess? I am really ashamed to pursue this subject further, and I cannot believe that there is any man—at least no man of common sense and intelligence— who places any confidence in all this talk we have had lately about our defenceless condition. I have proved to you that there is no reason for all this alarm; but I suppose in the minds of some persons, who still believe in protection and such other superstitions, there may be found to exist some fears of a French invasion; but in the circles in which I move—among people of free-trade opinions, I cannot find any one who really imagines that the French are coming to invade us. I really have to beg pardon of the French nation, and of the common sense of this country, for even alluding to such dangers, though I even do so but hypothetically. I myself have not the smallest idea that any such exist more now than they did two years ago, and you are as strong now as you were then. All I will say is, that if you insist on forcing forward this Militia Bill, at all events, first bring home your fleets, and let the people of the country ascertain that the money which has been already laid out has been properly expended, and let the French nation see that it is not the people of England, but the Executive Government of the country that is bent on resisting imaginary dangers. I would beg hon. Gentlemen to consider for one moment the great progress that is being made in these days in wealth, manufactures, and in all the works of ingenuity and art. I do not believe that all we have been hearing in this House about the tendency towards peace is to be put down as claptrap and deception. When I have heard hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House express their belief in the wonderful advance that has been made in most important investigations—when they talk of the great discoveries of the age, of the electric telegraph, the extraordinary means of intercommunication that we possess— why, I say I believe them to be sincere when they avow their full conviction 152 that the tendency of all these great improvements is towards peace, and not towards war. Sir, because I believe no danger to exist to this country, and because no proofs have been given that we require further defence, I resist the progress of this Bill; and I hope, at all events, that though the Government may not be willing to withdraw their Bill, they will not refuse the returns I am moving for, which will enable the people of this country to judge how far these additional defences are called for.
§ MR. ANDERSON,
in rising to second the Amendment, begged to assure the House he did so from no factious feelings or party motives. While the hon. Gentlemen opposite sat on the Treasury benches he was quite willing to support them in any good measures which they might propose, while he was equally prepared to oppose all their obnoxious propositions. For this reason he had opposed the second reading of this Bill, as he should have done that of the late Government, as well as the Amendment of the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston). The House, however, had resolved to consider the Bill, and therefore it was of the utmost importance that they should have the largest possible amount of information before them, to enable them to decide on the requirements of the measure. For that reason, he believed that the returns moved for by his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) were highly necessary for the proper consideration of the Bill in Committee. He could not help confessing his surprise at the whole tone of the last debate on this subject. It really seemed to him that they wished to ignore England's being a maritime nation at all. It appeared to him as if this was a Parliament in Poland, meditating in what way an incursion from Russia was to be resisted, quite forgetting that we had a moat around us called the British Channel. Two eminent Members of the House, the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and the Right Hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wilts, and formerly Secretary of the Admiralty (Mr. Sidney Herbert) had taken part in the discussion on the second reading of the Bill; and, without questioning their superior abilities generally, he felt it to be his (Mr. Anderson's) duty to show that they approached a most important part of the question with a surprisingly small amount of practical knowledge of it. 153 The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton had talked of 60,000 men coming by railway to Cherbourg, and walking from their barracks on board ship, and landing in England, without anything being known about it; but the noble Lord seemed wholly ignorant of one important fact, that there was no railway to Cherbourg, nor did it at all appear likely there would be one. But still, admitting these 60,000 men were at Cherbourg, and could walk on board the ships as the noble Lord had said, but which he (Mr. Anderson) denied, because Cherbourg is a tidal harbour, and it would require several days to embark them, there was yet a want remaining most necessary to facilitate their operations, and that was, ships to walk into. Now, was the noble Lord aware that the whole of the effective steam navy of France (and the House must keep in mind that this is a question exclusively of steam power), would scarcely suffice to embark these 60,000 men, and that three-fourths of that steam navy are usually in the Mediterranean ports, or on distant foreign stations. He (Mr. Anderson) would, however, suppose that France could collect her steam navy from all those distant places at the port of Cherbourg, and there embark the 60,000 men; also that our Admiralty and Government were not in a state of absolute mesmerism all that time —they too would surely be able to collect and station off the port of Cherbourg a tolerably strong squadron of war steamers, putting aside his (Mr. Anderson's) plan of an auxiliary steam navy. Well, having brought the French invasion to this stage of its progress, he would again ask the noble Lord if he was aware that the hundred and odd vessels now supposed to he in Cherbourg roads with these troops on board could not make their exit all at once, but must come out in detachments, and that consequently they could be cut up in detail by a much smaller squadron stationed outside at the entrance of the port, and the whole of it operating simultaneously on the enemy? He (Mr. Anderson) would, however, come to the last naval stage of the operation, and suppose the French expedition arrived off the English coast, and that our steam navy was not totally annihilated. They (the French) would not surely run into Portsmouth harbour, which, he apprehended, they would find rather too hot for a debar-cation. They would surely choose some comparatively unprotected part of our 154 coast, where the debarcation must be made in boats; and what our steam navy would be about not to send every boat to the bottom, was entirely beyond his (Mr. Anderson's) comprehension. He would now try to throw some further light upon this matter. First, then, with regard to those terrible steam bridges on which these men were to cross the Channel; he would beg to read to the House a statement of the comparative strength of the English and French steam navy, that respecting the English fleet being taken from the Report of the Committee on the Navy Estimates of 1848, that of France from their official Navy List. In 1848, it appeared that Great Britain had belonging to the Royal Navy, 174 steam vessels of all classes, being of an aggregate of 44,480 horse-power; or, deducting packets, tenders, and yachts, there were 103 steam vessels available for purposes of war; namely, 4 line-of-battle ships, 23 frigates, 48 sloops, and 28 gun-vessels, of an aggregate of 32,327 horse power. By the Etat Generate de la Marine, which is the official French Navy List, of the year 1849, the steam navy of France consisted of 78 vessels of all classes, of an aggregate of 17,740 horse power. But, deducting 20 small vessels called avisos, in like manner as is done from the British steam navy, it will leave for purposes of war a French steam navy of only 58 vessels, namely, 17 frigates, 15 corvettes or sloops, and 20 avisos of the first class— answering to what we class as gun vessels —being in all 15,740 horse power. So that at these periods, say about three years since, the British war steam navy was nearly double the number of vessels, and something more than double the steam power, of that of France. He would now make a comparison of the commercial steam navies of the two countries. In the year 1849 an estimate, furnished from the Board of Trade, gave the whole commercial steam shipping of France at 3,000 horse power, and about 10,000 tons, and he believed no great addition had been since made to it. He (Mr. Anderson) stated recently, when he brought forward the question of rendering a part of our commercial steam navy available for the national defence in case of need, that the United Kingdom had about 1,300 steam vessels, of all classes, in its commercial navy, of an aggregate of 300,000 tons, and upwards of 100,000 horse power. He stated that as an approximate estimate. 155 Since then, a return which he moved for had been printed. It showed that, on the 1st of January last, the registered steam vessels of the United Kingdom amounted to 1,218 vessels; and as he was aware from private, but accurate, sources of information, that there were at least 100 steam vessels in advanced states of construction, or since completed, at the various ports of the kingdom, he considered his statement was fully borne out. He had made an analysis of the return alluded to, that is, of vessels of 200 tons and upwards, which would stand thus:—
|200 to 500 tons||264 tonnage||86,416 tons|
|500 to 1,000||118 tonnage||78,461 tons|
|1,000 to 2,000 tons||34 tonnage||55,013 tons|
|2,000 to 3,000 tons||9 tonnage||23,155 tons|
|425 vessel;||243,045 tons.|
§ The vessels of four companies, now employed in the Ocean Mail Contract service, and which were under their contracts available for warlike operations, were 70 vessels, amounting, in the aggregate, to 93,421 tons, and 32,500 horse power, being more than double the power of the whole steam navy of France in 1849, and more efficient both for speed and capability of armament. After this statement, he trusted the House would not be at all alarmed at the idea of a bridge of French steamers being built across the Channel. This country possessed such an overwhelming steam power, as would enable us so effectually to blockade every port and creek on the French coast that not a single French soldier would be able to leave port. He would now deal with the statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert), and which he (Mr. Anderson) heard with no little astonishment. The right hon. Gentleman, in illustration of the greater security against invasion which we possessed in the days of sailing vessels, than now that steam navigation prevails, stated, that, "it was obvious that before the agency of steam was employed, so long as the wind blew from the west, which it did for three parts of the year, every man who was charged in any degree with the safety of the country could sleep in peace." Now, if the right hon. Gentleman had given himself the trouble to take even a glance at a chart of the British Channel, he would have saved himself from the exhibition of an ex-Secretary of the Admiralty uttering so egregious a fallacy. And he would also tell the right hon. Gen- 156 tleman, that if he had served in a blockading squadron in the British Channel in the days of sailing vessels, as he (Mr. Anderson) had done, he would have learned by experience, that a westerly wind was of all winds that which was most suitable, and which the French privateers invariably chose, for crossing over to the English coast in search of prizes—and for a good reason. It was to them what is technically called a soldier's wind, and enabled them not only to sail over to the English coast, but also, if they did not like the look of things when they got there, it enabled them to escape by sailing back to their own ports. Now, after this fact, which every naval officer in or out of the House would confirm, he would leave it to the House to decide, whether the nine months' westerly wind of the right hon. ex-Secretary of the Admiralty, in the time of sailing vessels, or the possession, now that the agency of steam is employed, of double the number of war steamers, and twenty times the number of mercantile steamers, to what the French have, formed the best security against invasion, or even privateering. He had also another word before concluding, with the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton. A few evenings since, at the close of the discussion on his (Mr. Anderson's) proposal for forming a reserve steam force out of our commercial steam navy, and after he (Mr. Anderson) had made his reply, and consequently could not answer the noble Lord, he (Viscount Palmerston) rose in his place and expressed a hope that in adopting the plan the Admiralty would exclude ships built of iron, as they were unfit to resist shot. [Admiral STEWART: Hear, hear!] The gallant Admiral near him seemed to concur in the noble Lord's opinion; but he (Mr. Anderson) trusted the present Admiralty would not act on an opinion the accuracy of which had never yet been proved by any sufficient experiment. If they did, he (Mr. Anderson) could tell them they might as well give up at once any expectation of deriving assistance in case of need from our commercial steam navy, because iron has been found to possess so many advantages for the construction of steamers for the mercantile and packet services, that it is now almost universally used for that purpose. A contrary opinion to that of the noble Lord, and one or two members of the late Board of Admiralty, is now so prevalent among naval officers of high standing and great experience, and particularly those 157 who have had actual experience of iron ships in action, that he (Mr. Anderson) should have no fear in resorting to a poll of independent naval officers, to put both the noble Lord and the gallant Admiral in a decided minority on the question of iron ships.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words to enable this House the better to consider the provisions of the Militia Bill, a Return of the Effective Force of the Royal Navy on the 31st day of March last be laid on the table of the House; such Return to contain the following particulars, viz.:
First. The Names, Armaments, number of Crews, and Officers of all Her Majesty's ships then employed on active service, the Stations on which they are employed, and the length of time each vessel has been employed on each Station respectively, distinguishing steam vessels from sailing vessels, and also steam vessels propelled by screws from those propelled by paddle wheels, and stating the nominal horse power of the engines of each vessel:
' Secondly. The same of all reserve or advance Ships, with the ports at which they are now placed, and a Statement of the periods which would be required to send them to sea in a fit state for active service:
' And that the Consideration of the Bill in Committee be postponed until after the production of such Return,' instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. STAFFORD
said, the hon. Gentleman who had seconded the Amendment seemed animated with a far different spirit from that of the hon. Mover of it; for while the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) expressed himself dissatisfied with the amount of knowledge in possession of the House with reference to the Navy, the hon. Member for the Orkneys (Mr. Anderson) having got all he wished for in the Return which he had lately obtained, amplified, commented upon, rejoiced at, and refreshed himself with that Return, but made not the slightest allusion to, or expressed the smallest wish for, any further information. Therefore, resisting, as he must, the Motion of the hon. Gentleman, he might strengthen himself by reminding the House that the present Government, in granting that Return, showed no reluctance in giving all it safely could give of the information it possessed. The House must have observed with astonishment, and the public would read with wonder, the amazing nautical lore displayed by the hon. Member for the West Riding, not only with regard to the mercantile marine, 158 but to ships of war, he himself being a Member of the Peace Society. Without official information (of which he stated himself in want), that he should he able to say six ships ought to be taken from one station, nine from another, one ship only left at New Zealand, and that a certain amount was all that was necessary in the Mediterranean, must astonish those who were not aware of the time the hon. Member had given to such congenial studies. Nor was he (Mr. Stafford) wholly without wonder at the different tactics pursued by the hon. Gentleman on this occasion, for while the hon. Gentleman allowed the 44,000 men, with their pay and provisions, to be voted without one single word, the object being to hurry on the estimates without comment, now he seemed to confess he had voted rashly, and brought forward a Motion the sole principle of which was evidently delay. That difference in tactics was unexplained by the hon. Gentleman through the whole course of his oration; and perhaps hon. Gentlemen on that side would tell the House why, and for what purpose, they had changed their course of conduct. The Motion, if of any use at all, was for the purpose of delay; and what delay did the hon. Gentleman propose to inflict? Did he propose to delay the going into Committee upon the Militia Bill until the nine, the six, the three, and the one ship should have been ordered home; or did he propose to waste time until these Returns that were now asked for were prepared? And even then was there any hope that the hon. Gentleman would alter his opinion with regard to this particular measure, to which he had moved so inopportune an Amendment? Were they to suppose that the towns the hon. Gentleman had named would be influenced by these returns; that their opinions on the Militia Bill would be modified; or that, if the Returns were laid before the House, they would tend to diminish the amount of support the measure had met with from representatives not only of those places where, according to the hon. Gentleman, enlightenment never reached, but of as large and important constituencies as those to which the hon. Gentleman had upon this occasion, as upon almost every occasion, narrowed his ken, and confined his attention? But upon the part of a large majority as he (Mr. Stafford) believed of his fellow-subjects, who thought the national security would be increased by the measure, he protested against the system 159 of the hon. Gentleman of explaining away majorities of that House. And he said that those whom that majority represented had as much right to have their opinions respected as the constituencies of the districts to which the hon. Gentleman referred, however large or respectable they might be; and the hon. Gentleman did not hear from this side of the House the abuse of those constituencies which he was so often inclined to heap upon the constituencies which Gentlemen on this side of the House had the honour to represent. The hon. Gentleman said we had spent 6,500,000l. in naval defences. If the hon. Gentleman included the packet service, why not have included the scientific branch, which was certainly as useful to the commercial marine as to Her Majesty's Navy? He might as well have lumped in the whole of the Miscellaneous Estimates, as charged the packet service on the defences of the country; and the House would take that statement, that 6,500,000l. had been voted for naval defences, which he (Mr. Stafford) entirely denied, as a specimen of the fairness and accuracy which characterised the statements of the hon. Gentleman. The hon. Gentleman had gone through all the foreign stations, and stated correctly the figures he (Mr. Stafford) had used with respect to the number of ships, and where stationed. But no Board of Admiralty would consider themselves tied down to any figure for a station for a single month, without considering the political relations of that station—without considering the communications which every mail brought from the commanders-in-chief at those stations, confidentially relating to subjects which it was best for the national interest should be dealt with by the responsible advisers of the Crown, and which he trusted that House would never require to be divulged. It was upon those considerations, and not upon this or that figure, or upon what Sir George Cockburn said this year, or Nelson did another year, that the tonnage and number of ships at the different stations were to be decided. Take the case of the west coast of Africa. The hon. Gentleman said we ought to keep there as many ships as we were bound to maintain by treaty; but if one or two ships more would effectually prevent the traffic in slaves, Which the number required would not, did he mean to say that the inefficient number was to be kept, violating the spirit of the treaties, or what he apprehended was the determined and earnest wish of the people of this country? The 160 number of ships must be governed by the activity or inactivity of the slave trade, and the number of slavers cap-turned. How was it possible to say such a number was sufficient, when every mail which arrived to some extent determined the number and size of the vessels at every station. The hon. Gentlemen said that among shoal waters large vessels were useless. Certainly since the present Board of Admiralty came into office, smaller vessels had been sent out. But one consideration was climate, because it was found that the health of the crews suffered more in smaller than in larger vessels. Did the hon. Gentleman mean to say, when he referred to the affairs of the River Plate, that in the case of General Rosas the English inhabitants were dissatisfied at finding the ships of their country ready to protect them? Far from receiving communications from the commanders at our foreign stations, advising the diminishing the number of ships, almost every communication was in favour of an increase. [Ironical cheers from the Opposition.] Yes, hon. Gentlemen opposite might cheer; but if our commanders-in-chief were not to be trusted, recall them and appoint others, and not, by that cheer say they were not to be believed when they spoke with reference to their profession and the exigencies of the service, of which, as men of experience on the spot, they were better judges even than the hon. Member for the West Riding. The hon. Member had referred to our fleet at Rangoon. Did he mean to say that the East India Company objected to the presence of our ships because they had a few ships of their own? Did he consider that if we recalled those ships, the war with Burmah would be more speedily terminated? The hon. Member had referred to 1793, and to the attack of Nelson on Boulogne. But was there such preparation in 1793 for our defence as we now enjoy? It would be found, he thought, that the delay in making war at that time arose from want of preparation. The subsequent part of the speech of the hon. Member destroyed whatever weight it might have otherwise had with the House. The hon. Member said all these things were nothing; steam had entirely changed everything; steam ought to give increased confidence; steam had placed us in a new position; and what our forefathers would not have thought of accomplishing, by land and sea, steam enabled us to accomplish; and he (Mr. Stafford) said that was the true state of 161 the case. When the hon. Gentleman spoke of the facility with which, in our comparatively small island, troops could be moved from one part to the other by the aid of steam, he entirely forgot that, in removing troops and landing them on our shores, steam had given to France far greater advantages than we in our insular position could hope to obtain. If then, as he (Mr. Stafford) with confidence asserted, the peace of Europe had been preserved by the increase of our fleets—if commerce had been protected, and the means of intelligence had been enjoyed—it was in vain to contend that warlike tendencies were increased by the presence of a force, which our enemies, if we had any, would feel compelled to respect. The hon. Gentleman did not wish to have the ships recalled in order to be put in ordinary. The question of expense was not raised. The question hero was—ought we not to look to our extended empire abroad, and, with regard to the Mediterranean fleet, decline to forget the necessity of keeping open communication with the East. The Government refused to ignore for one moment the treaties for the suppression of the slave trade. They refused to ignore the vast political relations with the continent of America, and so far they had been able to maintain peace without ordering all the vessels into the Channel, and to protect not only this island but the whole of the British Empire. The returns moved for by the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Cobden) had never yet been granted by any Administration. He (Mr. Stafford) found on searching the precedents of the office with which he was connected, that such a Motion had been brought forward at intervals, probably never so minutely before; but it was always held that to grant such a return would be in the highest degree detrimental to the public service. In refusing it, therefore, he had a right to show, by Returns laid on the table of the House, without question in many cases, that the Board of Admiralty did not wish to conceal any information which they considered right that House should possess; but it was not possible to grant this return unless the House resolved to constitute itself the Board of Admiralty. It was perfectly competent for the House to divide upon any particular number of ships at any particular station, or whether one should be left at a certain station or not; hut the responsible advisers of the Crown, seeing that some of these particulars were acces- 162 sible—some had already been laid on the table, and some nearly official were given in periodical publications—would, as long as the House placed confidence in them, resist the Motion for this Return. Its immediate effect would be to reveal more than any Government had ever thought it prudent to reveal, and to overturn and reverse the whole system of naval management; and that was a course which he was sure that House was not prepared to take. There might be defects in the system. He trusted they would be remedied. There might be improvements desirable. He trusted they would be developed. Under this system they had protected and maintained inviolate the British Empire; and he asked the House not, by consenting to such a vote, moved in such a manner, to show the commanders-in-chief abroad they had no confidence in them, but, by rejecting it, to declare they would support Her Majesty's Ministers, whoever they might be, in refusing information which they might not think it conducive to the public service should be given.
said, he concurred with the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden) in thinking that the question of the military defence of the country was so interwoven with that of the naval, that it was hardly possible to separate the one from the other; hut he did not concur with him in thinking that the House ought to postpone the consideration of the Militia Bill until he had obtained the Returns for which he had moved. There were three reasons why he agreed with his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty in resisting the Motion. The first was, that the detailed information which was required ought not to be given by the Admiralty. The second was, that if it were given, it would throw very little light on the subject, because all power was relative, and it would be of little use to know the amount of our own force, unaccompanied by a return of the amount of the naval force it might be called upon to resist; and the third was, that there were official sources—the Navy List, for example—from which, with a little trouble, the greater and more important part of the information required might be derived. The information, for example, relative to the names and force of our ships, and the number upon the home and foreign stations, might all he obtained from this source. He had taken the trouble of consulting it, and also the French Navy List, and "Budget," which 163 contained full information as to the actual force, and the stations of the French Navy; and, as his official apprenticeship at the Admiralty had made him familiar with the subject, he could vouch for the general accuracy of the information he could give the hon. Member on the subject. The House need not be told that the naval resources of England were he had almost said immeasurably greater than those of France. The hon. Member (Mr. Cobden) had quoted a statement of his, that if we had only time given us we might sweep every French ship of war from the seas. But, while we were far more powerful for a sustained effort, after we had time to organise our vast resources, there were circumstances which gave the French navy greater facilities for being made immediately available for the attack, than ours could he for the defence of our shores; and in the question of national defence, everything hinged on that one word "immediate," for we might depend upon it that if an attempt at invasion were ever determined on, it would be executed as secretly and as expeditiously as possible. The circumstance to which he alluded were threefold—namely, the geographical position of France, the distribution of her fleet, and the organised system of manning the whole of her naval reserve which she possessed; while we should find great difficulty in manning our reserved ships for immediate service. The first advantage was the geographical position of France, which rendered the Mediterranean a home station for her fleet, just as much as the waters which washed Cherbourg and Brest close to our own shores. It would take just as many minutes to send a telegraphic despatch from Paris to Toulon, as it would take days to send a message from London to Malta. If the French Government were to send a telegraphic message to Toulon to that effect to-morrow, there was no reason why the whole of the French steam fleet stationed there should not be at Brest in a fortnight. It was true the French had most important communications to maintain in the Mediterranean; but the steam navy of France in the Mediterranean was four times as great as that of England, so that a considerable portion of it might be spared to contribute to any attack that might be contemplated upon our shores, without risking those communications; and as we could derive no countervailing aid from our naval forces in the Mediterranean in anything like so short a time, 164 it was obvious that the geographical positon of France would give her a great advantage over us in this respect. There was another respect, too, in which the French naval force at Toulon might be made to contribute immediately to an attack upon our shores: there were at Toulon seven ships of the line fully manned, and bearing 6,000 men. All French naval writers had agreed that it would be the height of rashness to risk their ships of the line against ours at the commencement of a war; but the remainder of the crews of these ships, after manning the reserve of steam vessels at Toulon, might be sent overland to complete the complements of the reserve of steam vessels at Brest and the other northern ports, and thus, as less than 5,000 men would be required to man the whole steam vessels which the French had in readiness to be commistioned, the whole of the steam reserve of France might be put into immediate activity by means of the complements of the ships of the line on the Toulon station, without the necessity of raising a single man, or making any preparations to awaken the suspicion of their country. But the main advantage was in the distribution of the French navy as compared with that of England. This country had great colonial and mercantile interests to protect, while those of France were comparatively small. The consequence was, that the greater part of the navy of France was on the shores of France, at the command of her Government; while the greater part of the English Navy was on distant stations, and out of our reach in the event of an attempt at invasion. On the 1st of January, 1852, the distribution of the naval force of the two countries was as follows: England had 138 sea-going ships in commission, exclusive of packets—which, in France, were not under the Admiralty—with 33,000 men afloat. The French had 137 ships in commission, and 25,000 men. The English ships upon foreign stations were 108, with 21,000 men; while the French had, including the Levant, only 57 ships abroad, with 7,000 men. England had at home, including the Lisbon squadron, ordered home, only 30, including the ships "fitting" for foreign service ships, with 12,000 men, supposing their complements to be full, while the French had at home, including the Toulon division, and also the ships fitting for foreign service, 80 ships, with 18,000 men. But the real criterion 165 of actual force, was the number of men, and of these the proportion was 33 English to 25 French; but the proportion on foreign stations was as 21 English to 7 French; while at home it was only as 12 English to 18 French. So that while the total force of England was one quarter more than that of France, we had three times as great a force abroad, but only two-thirds as great a force at home. And the House would observe that, with less than double the number of ships, England sent three times the number of seamen to foreign stations. This arose from our sending the greater part of our large ships, sailing and steam vessels, to foreign stations: while the French retained the whole of their larger sailing ships and steamers on the home station. The French had not a single ship of the line, nor a single steam frigate, nor even a first-class steam corvette abroad. The largest steam vessel which France had upon a foreign station was of the second class of corvettes of 220 horse power, of which she had only 6 abroad. England, on the contrary, had 8 ships of the line, and the greater part of her most powerful steam frigates and steam corvettes on foreign stations. France had in commission 2 steam line-of-battle ships, 11 steam frigates, and 19 steam corvettes, making 32 in commission, of the rank of corvette and upwards, of which only 6 corvettes were abroad. England had 3 steam line-of-battle ships, 12 steam frigates, and 28 steam corvettes or sloops as we called them. in commission, giving a total of 43 of the rank of sloop and upwards, of which only 14 were at home, and 29 abroad. Of the latter there were 1 of 800 horse power, 1 of 650, 4 of from 500 to 600, 7 from 400 to 500, 5 from 300 to 400, 11 from 200 to 300 horse power, while, as he had stated, the French had no steam vessel on any foreign station of more than 220 horse power. Considering the distribution of the navies of the two nations with reference to steam only, which was the only arm really important to the question before the House—for an attempt at invasion conducted by steam vessels, could be resisted only by steam vessels—he found the comparative distribution of the steam navies of France and England on the 1st of January to have been as follows: Excluding packets, England had in commission 64 steamers of 18,900 horse power, while France had in commission 77 steamers of 17,500 horse power. Of steamers ready for commission, England had 31 of 10,500 166 horse power, France had 30 steamers of 8,200 horse power. The total number of steam vessels in commission and ready, was, in England 95, of 29,400 horse power; and in France 107, of 25,700 horse power. But England had abroad 47 steamers of 13,300 horse power, while France had only 21 steamers of 3,000 horse power abroad. England had at home, including the Lisbon squadron, 17 of 5,600 horse power; while France had, including the Toulon division, no less than 56 of 14,400 horse power. France would thus have considerable advantages, according to the present distribution of her steam Navy. But an hon. Gentleman who had spoken in the debate, had dwelt upon the efficiency of the merchant steam navy. No doubt they were exceedingly fine vessels, and many of them might be fitted to carry heavy armaments. But he would ask the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Anderson), if a war broke out, and they took up the North American, the West Indian, the East Indian, and the Mediterranean steam packets for the purposes of warfare, how were they to keep up their communication between England and those parts of the world? These services must be performed in war no less than in peace. He thought, therefore, they could not safely depend on those vessels for the national defence, and that some such additional defence on shore as that which had been proposed by the Government was necessary. The French also, under their maritime system, could man their navy with greater facility than we could man ours, and had a large reserve of sailors, well trained, available to be called upon at any time to serve in the Navy. This was the third of the advantages to which he had referred which France would have over us at the commencement of a war. By the last French registry, after deducting the men serving in the navy and in the merchant service, there were in France 45,000 sailors liable to be required to serve, of whom about one-half had already served a term of four years in the navy; and these last would be required to serve again, and would be sufficient to man the whole of the reserve of ships which France had ready to be put into commission. We, on the contrary, with a registry of 210,000 seamen, would find great difficulty in raising for immediate service the men who would be required to complete the complements of our reserve of ships; which, exclusive of marines, would he about 30,000; and the whole of these men would be untrain- 167 ed to the gunnery exercise, whereas, as he had stated, the French had enough trained men to man the whole of their reserve. Under these circumstances he thought it was obvious that we ought not to trust our national defence exclusively to our Navy, as at present constituted, and therefore he was anxious to support this Bill. If, indeed, the military force in the United Kingdom were as great as had been represented by some hon. Members, he might have concurred with them in thinking the Bill unnecessary; but it appeared to him that his right hon. Friend the Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. Sidney Herbert) had effectually demolished, a few nights ago, the formidable army of 100,000 and of 60,000 men of which they had been told, and had clearly reduced the number to about 20,000 actually available to resist an invading army. The dockyard battalions, the coast guard, and the Royal marines now serving on shore, had been included among our means of military defence; but the whole of the dockyard men would, in the event of war, be imperatively required to bring forward the ships which it would be necessary to commission, and, although valuable for purposes of local defence, could not be spared from the dockyards to take the field. So with the coast guard; they would be required for the protection of the revenue in war no less than in peace, and if they could be spared from that service, they would he appropriated to naval and not to military purposes. In like manner, the marines, which the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster had claimed as an auxiliary to the Army, would be required for the reserve of ships which it would be absolutely necessary to commission in the event of war; and as the fact was that the number of marines now on shore was 3,000 short of the number which would be required to furnish the proportion of marines for these ships, and as it would be necessary to supply this deficiency from the ranks of the Army, instead of the Army borrowing from the marines, the marines would have to borrow from the Army. For these reasons, he thought our military defences ought to be strengthened; and he preferred a militia to an increase of the regular Army, first, because if the latter alternative were to he adopted they would probably be seized with a fit of economy after two or three years, and the Army would be again reduced; and, secondly, because, although in the first instance militiamen might not 168 be fit to be trusted in the field, they could relieve some 30,000 of the regular Army from garrison duty, and thus be the means of setting free for service in the field a larger number of regular troops than any one had proposed as a substitute for a militia. He trusted, however, that no augmentation of our military defences would ever lead the Government to relax in their attention to our naval defences, which should always be considered as the most important to the safety of our shores; and with reference to this, he, in some respects, agreed with the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire. He certainly thought that an addition might be made to the naval force on the home station, without any detriment to British interests elsewhere, and without any addition to the Estimates, by reducing not so much the number as the force of our vessels abroad; and on many stations he believed small steam vessels of about 200 horse power would be found even more useful than the larger vessels at present employed; and it so happened that in almost all the naval operations since the introduction of steam, the work had been done by the small steamers of light draught of water, while the larger vessels were of comparatively little service. This was the case in China, in the Panama, at Lagos, and would probably be so in the operations which were about to be undertaken against Burmah. He thought this was a subject well worthy of the consideration of the Government, and he never could understand why they should provide so largely for the protection of British interests in all other parts of the world, while they left their own shores comparatively unprotected. In the summer of 1846, when Sir Robert Peel retired from office, there was in the Channel a squadron of evolution, consisting of 18 ships of the line, 1 frigate, and 8 powerful steam vessels; and he would urge on the Go-Government the expediency of maintaining at all times a respectable squadron on the home station. Of all the questions on which the House had to decide, none was more important than that of national defence, for there was no interest which would not be imperilled by an invasion; and he trusted the Government would not he deterred by any opposition from adopting such measures as they might consider necessary to secure the inviolability of our shores.
§ MR. S. CARTER
said, that if this were the commencement of a new Parliament 169 he should probably have had the discretion to wait some time to acquire experience of the forms of the House before he ventured to address it; but as the Session might, at the discretion of the hon. Gentleman opposite, be but a short one, he might have very few opportunities of addressing the House. He trusted, therefore, that he should not be deemed presumptuous if he availed himself of the present opportunity to give expression to his sentiments on the subject then under discussion. He came there with no studied argument or prepared oration, and for the simple reason, that until he came down to the House that evening, he was totally unaware what the subject for discussion would he. If he understood the Motion of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden) correctly, it was made with the view of obtaining a return of our naval force, in order that they might bring home as much of that force as would he available for the defence of the country. The Motion was a reply to the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman who had last addressed the House, and who stated that although the naval force of this country was larger than the naval force of France, the distribution was such that while France kept her force at home, England kept her force abroad. If there were too many ships abroad, let them be brought home, and lot there be a fair distribution of the force. The hon. Gentleman (Mr. Stafford) had opposed the Motion on the ground that though the returns asked for could be obtained, there was no power of obtaining similar returns from the country to which we were opposed. He quite agreed in this statement, for though the French were admittedly a courteous and polite nation, Louis Napoleon would, in his opinion, be the last man in the world to give such information; but although they could not ascertain the force available to a foreign country, that was no reason why they should not know what force was available to their own. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Corry) had said that, as regarded the naval forces of England and France, "the comparison" (to use his own words) "was immeasurably in favour of this country." Surely, therefore, to bring home some of this immeasurable force would be good policy. The observations made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Stafford) seemed to contain more of sarcasm than logic: he had expressed his wonder that a member of the Peace party should know so much of 170 naval tactics. It was a kind of argument often adopted by persons pretending to peculiar means of knowledge, arising from professional training or experience. If the question of flogging in the Army and Navy were under discussion, it was not unusual for gallant officers to arrogate to themselves the sole capacity of judging as to the fitness or necessity of such a system, as if no one could form a just estimate of the subject but one who had been bred a soldier. Again, with respect to reforms in the law, this House had not deemed itself unfit to deal with them, because it did not consist merely of lawyers, but had taken up the subject and effected important changes, even to the creation of a new and extensive jurisdiction, as in the case of the recent statutes for the establishment of County Courts; and he (Mr. Carter) thought the House quite justified in so doing, though it might be said with equal propriety by lawyers, You do not understand the subject, and it is dangerous to meddle with what you are not familiar. Now he (Mr. S. Carter) could not see, therefore, why the hon. Member for the West Riding could not exercise his own judgment and strong common sense on this question, and advise that more ships should be brought home, and less kept abroad, simply because he was a Member of the Peace Society. He, for one, rejoiced that, in addressing the House for the first time, he had had an opportunity of lifting up his voice on the side of peace, and against those great and expensive establishments which had been too long maintained in this country.
§ CAPTAIN BOLDERO
said, it was very essential that they should know the position of the naval force of the country, which formed the front rank of her defences—a rank which he hoped never to see broken through; but the question which the House was now called upon to discuss was, how they were to have a military force sufficient to check any enemy that might attack them. Everybody was aware that, whenever a Militia Bill should be introduced, it would be certain to meet with considerable opposition, particularly from the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and those who acted with him. That party had laid down their political creed, and they acted up to it—they opposed all Estimates, and particularly Estimates for the military defences of the country; but he would do them the justice to say that, if the Bill of the noble Lord 171 the Member for London had ever been permitted to see daylight, they would have opposed it just as strenuously as they did the present measure, and their opposition would have proceeded from honest and sincere convictions. They had been favoured the other night with a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. M. Gibson), which had lasted an hour and a half. [Cries of "No, no!"] He had looked at the clock at the time, and was therefore certain of it; and some time after the speech they went to a division, when—to the surprise of the right hon. Gentleman, as he might suppose— the majority in favour of the Bill was nearly two to one. Still, after that majority a Motion was now brought forward, which pretended one thing and meant another. Certain returns were moved for; but if hon. Gentlemen opposite would look at the Navy List, they would find all the information they required—the station of each ship—the names of her commander— the number of her men, and the guns which she carried—in fact all the information which they wanted could be therein obtained without harassing the Government. What was the object, then, of the Motion? There was no use in disguising it; it was neither more nor less than delay. If the hon. Secretary of the Admiralty had consented to give the returns asked for, would hon. Gentlemen opposite have withdrawn their Motion? Not a bit of it; for their only object was to impede the progress of public business; and he must say it came with a very bad grace from the Manchester school, who had been most clamorous for an early dissolution. The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. M. Gibson), in his speech the other night, made some observations which he (Captain Boldero) was unwilling to pass over. The right hon. Gentleman had been particularly hard on the noble Lord opposite (Lord J. Russell), and had accused him of having taken an inconsistent course in introducing a Militia Bill. In order to substantiate that accusation, the right hon. Gentleman had referred to a speech delivered by the noble Lord in 1848, in reply to some observations by the late lamented Sir Robert Peel. The year 1848 wa3 a very important year. At the commencement, all Europe was tranquil; in a month it was all in a blaze. Prom that speech the right hon. Gentleman drew his own inference, and it was most unjust as regarded the noble Lord. In 1848, Sir Robert Peel said—"He was relieved to 172 find that it was not intended to make any increase in our military or naval force." To that the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) replied—We have already made that preparation which persons wished us to make. We have, year, after year, been increasing our force, and we are, therefore, in a situation of as great strength as we were required to be, and we have nothing to fear from the sudden outbreak of hostilities, however unexpectedly they may come."[3 Hansard, xcvii. 1082.]But what was the inference which the right hon. Gentleman had drawn from those words? That if, in 1848, the noble Lord did not require an addition to the military or naval forces of the country, he could not with consistency propose a Militia Bill in 1852. The right hon. Gentleman, however, overlooked the point—or he did not know it—or he evaded it—that in 1848 there were 15,000 rank and file more than in 1852; so that well might the noble Lord hesitate in 1848 to call for an increase in the Army and Navy, and yet in 1852 propose a Militia Bill. He (Captain Boldero) was not enamoured of a militia force—he would prefer an addition to the regular Army—but the noble Lord, who was in a position to judge between the two, proposed a Militia Bill, and he would repeat that the noble Lord had evinced no inconsistency in proposing a Militia Bill in 1852, when there were 15,000 less of rank and file than there were in 1848. The right hon. Member for Manchester said the other night that the French were reducing their army; but he (Capt. Boldero) did not find that to be the case, though he believed he derived his information from the same source as the right hon. Gentleman—the French press. It was stated, on the contrary, that they were increasing their naval expenditure by 5,000,000f., and their military expenditure by no less than 13,000,000f. [Mr. M. GIBSON: I said the National Guard.] The National Guard had been disbanded for a particular purpose, and was now being reorganised. He observed, also, that the celebrated corps of Chasseurs de Vincennes, now numbering 10,000 men, were to be augmented by 7,000, so as to form a total of 17,000 troops; and in Algeria, in order to supply the losses of men caused by the immense mortality, a local corps of 20,000 men was to be raised, in addition to the force at present there. So that the French forces, instead of being diminished, would be considerably increased. The noble Lord 173 the Member for London, in his speech the other night, had advised the embodiment of 10,000 additional pensioners, and, could this addition to that force be made, it would be a very inexpensive, comparatively, and a very efficient aid. As to the 10,000 militia, whom the noble Lord wished to embody permanently, it appeared to him that it would be far better to add 10,000 men to the regular Army; but, as a collateral force, he quite admitted that a body of, say, 50,000 militiamen, raised by voluntary enlistment, would be very valuable as a nucleus. Let the proposition of the noble Lord be carried out, independently of the Militia Bill. With respect to the present Bill, he agreed in thinking that voluntary enlistment was to be resorted to in preference to the ballot. He would suggest that the period of service should be reduced from five to three years, and the bounty would then be equivalent to 1s. a week, which would pay the rent of the poor men's cottages. It was said that those who took the bounty would only be the worst class of society; but it must be remembered that it was by bounty we got our soldiers. Teach them to handle their arms, and we might rely upon it they would never be used for a bad purpose. It was said that there was no immediate danger of invasion, and in that he quite agreed. The apprehensions that existed were referable to the political state of France, which was one of unmitigated despotism, backed by an army of violence. He did not believe that the French President was the man to risk his position by a war against us, but he might lose the command of his troops. It was not necessary that the militiaman should be clad in the same uniform as the soldier of the line; one resembling that of the enrolled pensioners would be very becoming, and would cost only about twenty-five shillings per man. He trusted that no hostile feeling would interrupt the progress of this Bill, but that they would go into Committee on it with a determination to render it as perfect as possible.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, he could not understand why the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty had taken upon him almost to lecture, or at least to sneer at, his (Mr. Bright's) hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), on account of the remarkable accuracy of the information which his hon. Friend had obtained as to our naval force. Now, seeing that the hon. Secretary had only been in 174 his office for about six weeks, and was never known previously to be very profound on naval affairs, he conceived that if the hon. Gentleman was competent to take the part of the Government, and maintain their view to-night, he thought his hon. Friend the Member for the West Riding, who had sat for three years on Committees of Inquiry into naval and military affairs, might at least be fairly entitled to lay his views before the House. He rose to maintain the views of his hon. Friend. The hon. Member who had just sat down had represented this Motion as a Motion to cause delay. He (Mr. Bright) denied that; it was a Motion to place before the House and the country existing facts with regard to the means of defence, so that the House might be better able than at present to discuss the propriety of any further expenditure in connexion with military establishments. He maintained that the proposition was one of the most important that could be submitted to them; for it involved this striking fact, that it was intended nearly, if not quite, to double the number of persons in the United Kingdom connected with the profession of arms. And notwithstanding the preamble to the 42nd Geo. III., which Act was incorporated with the Bill now before the House, wherein it was stated "whereas a respectable military force under the command of officers possessing landed property within Great Britain is essential to the Constitution," he took the liberty of asserting that military establishments beyond a demonstrated necessity were quite contrary to the Constitution of the country, and were repugnant to the spirit of the representative institutions everywhere. Representative institutions implied a Government based upon the good will of the people; and military establishments to support the Government were unnecessary in a country enjoying such institutions. He would undertake to prove, that a measure like this would be hostile to the industry and freedom of the country; and that, there being no necessity for it, there was not an interest in the country which would not be prejudiced by it. He would view this measure in reference to the principles usually recognised in that House—the principles of expediency and policy; and he would waive for a moment those strong feelings, on this question, which he no doubt entertained, but in which he could not expect many hon. Members would sympathise. He looked back to the past history of the 175 country for facts to guide him in this debate. It appeared to him that we had run such a career of wars and expenditure for warlike preparations, that we had as much experience as any nation on the face of the earth—an experience which should induce caution, and make us hesitate before we took a step which might be unnecessary, mischievous, and difficult to retrace. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer had referred sorrowfully on Friday night to the never-to-be-forgotten 28,000,000l. paid yearly to defray the interest of a debt contracted on account of wars which had been pronounced unnecessary and unjustifiable by the noble Lord the Member for the city of London. We had in addition, since the conclusion of the war spent a sum averaging about 15,000,000l. yearly on defensive establishments, representing the interest on an additional principal sum of 500,000,000l. Thus, after spending 43,000,000l. on past wars and preparations for future wars, as many supposed, we were asked by the Government to spend 350,000l. more. The 15,000,000l. left us in a most insecure and perilous position, but spend 350,000l. more, and every man might rest satisfied that England was safe and beyond the reach of harm. This 350,000l. was the interest of a principal sum of 12,000,000l. more. Now, he trusted the House would bear in mind that every 5l., 10l., 50l., or 100l. of unnecessary taxation imposed, would add to the number of paupers and criminals, and ultimately to the amount of discontent; so that this system, if it were not guarded against, might bring the country into the condition of many States of Continental Europe, In which there was no safety for the rulers but in enormous military armaments, and no safety for the people by any system of government that it was possible to construct. If, then, all this was now existing, or had been existing in the past, he had a right to ask the House of Commons calmly to inquire into this case, and to show that there was a case for this proposition. To do so they must show either that there was some new danger, or that there had been discovered some long-existing insecurity, of which Parliament and the country had not been previously aware. Now, with regard to the first point; who defended a Militia Bill? First, there was the noble Lord the Member for the city of London (Lord J. Russell). But he believed that the noble Lord, on further consideration, seeing the hostility in the 176 country to a Militia Bill, though he had not changed his opinion with respect to the propriety of some increased force, was much less confident that the Militia Bill was the proper force, than he was at the opening of the present Session of Parliament. Next, there was the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston), and the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Home Department, who had distinguished themselves by advocating national fears and the resources of a militia defence. But he would ask these same authorities where this new danger was, when they had all dwelt upon our peaceful relations with foreign nations? The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) had, said the other night—uncontradicted if not applauded, that the fear was of one country and of one man—of France and of Louis Napoleon. He (Mr. Bright) did not believe in the fear. But he would assume that they had this apprehension; and he would contend that it was a groundless apprehension. They were used to these artificial war panics in this country. There were a set of professional men who were always actively on the lookout to be terrified. Some hon. Members would remember the evidence given by a distinguished officer before one of the Committees upstairs. The gallant officer, determined to prove the danger of an invasion from France, quoted all sorts of authorities in support of his argument, and among other persons quoted a Bishop of Madagascar. Sir Robert Peel had had to give way to this cry all through his Ministerial life; and the noble Lord the Member for the City of London had been a victim to the pressure; and every other Prime Minister would be perpetually finding himself in a similar predicament. Let the House observe that he (Mr. Bright) was in earnest about this matter. It was not a matter with him as it might be with others that the noble Lord was on that (the Opposition) side, and that somebody else was on the other. What he was saying now he would have said, no matter where the noble Lord had been placed; and perhaps, after all, hon. Gentlemen opposite might find that they had fallen into the trap left for them by the noble Lord on this question. He asked, however, for the evidences of the eagerness of the French people for a war with England. He would point to the Government of Louis Philippe, to the Provisional Govern- 177 ment under Lamartine, to the Republic, and the National Assembly, and he would ask if anything had occurred under any of those Governments to indicate an essentially anti-English spirit. And since the coup d'etat of December 2, had there been, under the dictatorship, or as some people called it the usurpation, of Louis Napoleon, anything to indicate that the French people were anxious to pick a quarrel with us? Surely if there had been such a feeling, it must have been manifested. But take another indication; for two months our press maintained an incessant daily fire of accusations not only against the ruler of France, but often against the people of France; and yet although during the whole of that period the French press was entirely at the mercy and under the dictation of the President, no inclination was shown to retaliate, or to create in the minds of the French an antagonistic feeling to this country. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield alluded particularly to Louis Napoleon. Now, he (Mr. Bright) was not going to defend the dictator of France. Lot it be assumed for the sake of argument, that he had manifested a greed of power that it was to be hoped every man there would be ashamed to imitate; that he was cool, reserved, calculating, and unscrupulous; but he reigned with the approval of France, attested by the votes of the majority of the people. If there was one reason more than another why he was tolerated, it was because there was a consciousness in the heart of the people of France that, although no defence could be offered for the means he had taken, still in the results he had produced, and in the system he had organised, was to be found the only security for at least the temporary repose of the country. Of course, therefore, this confidence depended upon a peace policy, and the prestige of Louis Napoleon's Government would immediately disappear upon the slightest suspicion that a piratical and marauding expedition to England was contemplated. There were no proofs of increased armaments being in preparation, and he would suggest to those who were raising this cry, that they were omitting one or two absurdities in their list of bugbears. When the panic reigned in this country in reference to the renowned Napoleon, one of the stories set in circulation was, that on the road leading to Boulogne sign-posts were erected with the words, "The road to England," painted on them. 178 Why had they not got that story now? Now our apprehensions from France rested upon one of two assumptions—either that there would be first war and then invasion, or there would be a piratical and marauding expedition undertaken in a night. Now, in the first case, according to the usages of civilised nations, there must be negotiations and delay to such an extent as to allow some of that immeasurable force of which the right hon. Member for Tyrone (Mr. Corry) had spoken, to be brought into the Channel for the defence of our shores. He thought that every one would therefore admit that on the supposition of a declaration of war, the proposition of a militia force was left without any support. But the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton spoke of 60,000 men coming over here in the night. Now what would Louis Napoleon gain by such a course? for men did not act without motives. Now he had not an exalted opinion of military morality. He did not think that there was any crime which the military of various countries had not been ready to commit in all ages; but there could be no glory, and that was what Frenchmen were supposed to fight for, in such a piratical expedition as this. There could be no hope of the permanent conquest or subjugation of this country. And did the House suppose that Louis Napoleon would be safe in the government of France for one single month after he had taken that step? Would not Russia, Prussia, Austria—every Power in Europe, in fact —be of necessity leagued against France the moment she endeavoured to attack any country, and this probably more than any other? Was it not worth more to the settled Governments of Europe that the steady monarchy, the ancient monarchy, the venerable monarchy, and the established Government of this country should be maintained, than that such a firebrand as Louis Napoleon was said to be should be permitted to rule over the French nation? He had no doubt that self-preservation, if no other motive, would deter Louis Napoleon from such an attempt on the people and Government of this country. Our real guarantees were not in this mongrel military force which it was proposed to raise, but in the opinion of the civilised world, and in the absence of any motive actuating the minds of the French people, or that of the ruler of Franco, and in the certain ruin that must attend the hopes, prospects, and power of that ruler if he invaded the rights of na- 179 tions, and broke every clause of international law by any such attempts on this country as were brought forward as the foundation for this Bill. But still there was a vague sense of risk. The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton spoke of 60,000 men—a most incredible statement to be made by a statesman of his experience. But he (Mr. Bright) would assume that such a force escaped our fleet; the regular army might be collected by the electric telegraph, but the militia would be scattered over every parish, and even assuming that they would not run away with the bounty, how long would it take to collect all the weavers, labourers, and mechanics? Why, it would take longer to get them into their clothes than to marshal the regular soldiers at their posts. The fact was, that the advocates of this Bill had no case. There was no special danger of war, and as little of a piratical expedition. In his boyhood, he heard a great deal of the reliance that was to be placed on our "wooden walls;" and we had poets in any number to singBritannia needs no bulwark,No towers along the steep;Her path is on the mountain wave,Her home is on the deep.Our wooden walls and our Navy were now for a moment forgotten, and the blundering, miserable, undisciplined horde that would be got together by this Militia Bill was that upon which the people of England were told to rely in a time of apprehended and imminent danger. Now, let the House bear in mind that our fleet was enormous, and, as the right hon. Member for Tyrone stated, their Navy was immeasurably greater than that of France, and that there was a far greater number of persons now in the military and naval professions than at any time since the peace. The hon. and gallant Member for Chippenham (Captain Boldero) said that there had been a reduction in 1848. Why, that should be a warning to the Government, for that reduction was made because the country, having become alarmed at the gradually increasing amount of our expenditure, compelled the Government of the noble Lord the Member for the City of London to submit to a reduction which the subsequent course of events had shown to be judicious; and if this Militia Bill were passed, unless a much better case could be made out for it than was made out at present, the country would again compel a reduction in the military ex- 180 penditure. He believed that if there was really a threat or an imminent and obvious danger of attack, such was the temper of the people that there was not a soldier or a policeman in the Kingdom that might not be placed at the disposal of the Government for the purpose of defending the country, for the people in every town and village would necessarily act as a police. He thought there was nothing more adverse to patriotism, or to statesmanship, than a panic; and yet they were proposing to act in a manner which they would not have dreamt of proposing to do had it not been for the foolish panic that had now nearly subsided. Sometimes a political party traded on a panic; last year the bench of Bishops traded on a panic; and now the military were about to trade on one. It was as old as the time of Tacitus, that after a long peace military science was likely to fall into neglect, and the object of the present vote was to get more money for military expenditure. He would take it upon himself to say that the noble Lord the Member for Tiverton was the father of this Bill; he was for a Militia Bill in 1848; in fact, it was his hobby; and exercising that great influence which he had so long exercised over the noble Lord the Member for the City of London, he dragged him into his views on this question. But why was the noble Lord afraid that these 60,000 men were coming over from that ruler whose extraordinary conduct in December the noble Lord thought it right to applaud? He was not sure that the noble Lord did not even say that the peace of Europe was made safer by the course which Louis Napoleon then took. The noble Lord, however, was no authority with him (Mr. Bright) on this matter. This Militia Bill was no doubt perfectly consistent with his school of politics, for it would liberate troops for foreign service; and the noble Lord appeared to be in favour of universal diplomacy—of incessant interference with other countries; he wished always to have the power, as he seemed always to have the disposition, to cajole or bully some foreign country. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield, who was his great champion two years ago, called him on one occasion "a lucifer match;" and he supposed this great militia force was requisite as an extinguisher in case some actual act of incendiarism should break out. The country he (Mr. Bright) thought had already paid dearly enough for some of the projects of the noble Lord. 181 We had now not less than forty or fifty-ships stationed between the coast of Africa and Brazil, employed by this country for the destruction of the lives of some thousands of negroes in the transit across the Atlantic; and we had lately heard of a war on the coast of Africa with a savage chief of that country. The noble Lord (Viscount Palmerston) saying, as he did, so little for freedom at home, and doing so much for it abroad, reminded him of a character in Mr. Dickens's new work—he thought the noble Lord might truly be called the Mrs. Jellaby of statesmen. He opposed this Bill because no case of urgent necessity had been made out for it. Their military men differed on everything connected with the Bill except one thing; and that was, they all agreed that the proposed militia would be useless for the purposes of defence. They were discussing this question, not so much as a matter of fact, as a matter of impression and of sentiment; and all the arguments they now urged for this Bill would be quite as plausible next Session (even if they acceded to this proposition) for a still further increase of our forces. He would take the liberty to address an argument to the right hon. Home Secretary that he had no doubt the right hon. Gentleman could appreciate. There was no person who recollected the militia of fifty years ago, but would tell them that almost every person connected with the militia force of that period was ruined in his moral character and in his industry. ["Oh, oh!"] When he was speaking to the Christian representatives of a Christian country on a subject of this nature, relating to a further expenditure on armaments, he should expect at least that these reasons should be fairly considered. The hon. and learned Member for Sheffield took upon him to sneer at what he called "the Peace party"—he received, what he appeared to court, the cheers of the other side of the House. A peace party would last longer than a war party; and if they endeavoured to introduce into statesmanship and legislation some principles of morality, they could afford to be sneered at, Was it not a lamentable thing that although three or four thousand years had passed since those sculptured marbles were first wrought which were to be seen at the British Museum at this very moment, after eighteen hundred years of Christianity in Europe, and most of that period in this country, we were engaged, and not engaged reluctantly, but many of us as 182 though it were our sole hope and occupation—in precisely that state of things portrayed on those ancient monuments— armed men, horses, chariots, processions, armaments, battles, and captives!—aye, and there were priests now who blessed banners, like the Assyrians, and who offered up thanksgivings to God for slaughter. Why, they reminded him of the tyrant Emperor of the East, who was said by the historians to have impoverished his people by taking their cattle and offering them in unavailing sacrifices. They offered them no case, but for an imaginary and most remote danger they proposed for the people a real and substantial evil. It was because he saw no need for an increased force, and no utility in it if it were raised under this Bill—because he considered it was a measure which the Members of the Government themselves did not really believe to be called for, and which was opposed to the feelings of all the great constituencies of the country, and could not, he believed, be worked even if they passed it, although he might be sneered at for belonging to the Peace party, he should resolutely and uncompromisingly give his vote at every stage against it.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
said, he wished to address the House for a few minutes in reference to the speeches of the hon. Member for the West Riding (Mr. Cobden), and of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright): and he felt he ought to apologise for so doing, as he did not happen to come from that centre of intelligence referred to by the hon. Member for the West Riding. It was, however, some consolation to reflect that the hon. Gentleman and the hon. Member for Manchester would occasionally descend from their high position to illuminate and instruct other Members who moved in a humbler sphere. Since he had had a seat in that House, he had learned much useful information from the hon. Member for the West Riding. To-night that hon. Member had informed the House that every ship in our Navy was in the wrong place; and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) stated that every eminent statesman in the House was wrong, in his opinion. The hon. Member for the West Riding had observed on the impropriety of interfering with other nations, or of commenting on their conduct in the administration of their affairs; but had there been any man more unsparing in his denunciations of other countries 183 than the hon. Gentleman himself, when he thought the Governments of those countries unjust and tyrannical; and had he not to-night alluded to those whom he pronounced to he deliverers of oppressed people? The hon. Gentleman's mode of proceeding appeared to be, first by his own language and conduct to irritate foreign nations, and then to declaim against every Government that attempted to provide for the defence of the country. The hon. Gentleman had told the House, and perhaps truly, that there was no danger to this country except from France, and he said that Prance was satisfied with its ruler. That might be so; the French people had a right to pursue happiness as they thought fit, and, in search after a Government, they had shown a remarkable impartiality, because within the last few years they had tried every form of government to be found in ancient or modern times. But it should be borne in mind that when Mr. Pitt was called on to explain why, when he maintained peace with France, he introduced a Militia Bill, he replied that France was essentially. a military Power, and that the military power of that nation was centred in one man. Such was Mr. Pitt's answer, and, it satisfied those who had opposed him, and without a dissentient voice, and with the eulogium of Mr. Sheridan, the Militia Bill of 1802 was passed. The hon. Member for the West Riding next adverted to public meetings and to public opinion, which he said, condemned the nonsense talked in that House. Was that a constitutional argument to address to that assembly? The hon. Gentleman misunderstood the theory of our Constitution. Matters of legislation and government were not matters of will; and it was not the opinion of his constituents alone, however respectable, but truth and justice, which an hon. Member should use in argument in that House. It was no argument to say that the superstition which was believed in that House was believed nowhere else; for if that were to prevail, the House must yield up its opinion to that of the masses, whom the hon. Member described as the country, and then our mixed Government would be converted into a pure and absolute democracy. The hon. Member said there were no symptoms of war, and he asked what facts warranted the House in passing the present Bill? His argument amounted to this, if to anything—You have, or ought to have, a powerful Navy, skilfully commanded, and 184 manned by brave men, and, with all that, show me the danger. That was a fair question; but, in reply to it, he would refer the hon. Member to what Mr. Pitt said in answer to Mr. Whitbread, who asked how it happened that the French fleet had, eluding our cruisers, sailed from Brest and reached the shores of Ireland, where it was dispersed by a tempest? Mr. Pitt replied that a fog enabled the French fleet to pass from Brest, and that it got to the coast of Ireland before it could be intercepted. If that armament had landed on the coast of Ireland, that country would have been torn from the British empire, only to be reconquered at the expense of millions of treasure and torrents of blood. But was that the only example of the possibility of invasion? How did it happen that Nap-per Tandy and other rebels effected a landing on the coast of Ireland, or that part of a French fleet sailed safely into the Bay of Killala, and landed soldiers who won a battle? These facts were to be found in history; but the hon. Gentleman did not pay much regard to facts or to history, when either the one or the other conflicted with the opinions he entertained. He (Mr. Whiteside) was struck with the injustice of the hon. Gentleman's argument. The opinion of the noble Lord (Lord John Russell) went for nothing; the opinion of the noble Member for Tiverton (Viscount Palmerston) was worse than nothing; the opinions of the statesmen who sat on that (the Ministerial) side of the House were good for nothing; and upon what ground? They had conducted difficult and delicate negotiations; they knew the truth, and he believed they had spoken the truth. When questions of trade and commerce were debated in that House, he heard one name mentioned by hon. Gentlemen opposite which put a quietus upon every argument. It was not the name of Chatham, or of Burke; it was the name of Peel. If, then, that name was the great authority to which hon. Gentlemen opposite appealed, he might remind them that the right hon. Member for South Wiltshire (Mr. S. Herbert) had informed the House that that eminent statesman suggested to him the propriety of preparing a Bill for consolidating the Militia Laws, and making them available for practical use. That ought to silence the hon. Member for the West Riding. The great authority to which the hon. Gentleman looked up had pronounced against him; and, as Sir Robert Peel grasped the know- 185 ledge and business of the age, his opinion was not only valuable on questions of finance, but upon every subject on which he brought his mind to bear. The hon. Member for Manchester (Mr. Bright) had contended that the militia was unconstitutional; that it was unconstitutional and dangerous to have an armed force under a representative form of government. Where did the hon. Gentleman find that a militia was an unconstitutional force? It had existed in this country not merely, as had been said the other night, from the reigns of Charles I. and Charles II., but since the time of Alfred. It was a force known to the Constitution; it was maintained by Chatham in 1756, and had been recognised in every period of English history.
§ MR. BRIGHT
said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had misunderstood him. He did not say that the militia or an armed force was unconstitutional, but that the existence of a military force was contrary to the spirit of representative institutions, and that any military force beyond that which could be demonstrated to be absolutely necessary was antagonistic to the Constitution.
§ MR. WHITESIDE
Well, who was to pronounce upon that subject? Who was to decide upon the necessity of an addition to the armed force of the country? Was it the triumphant majority of that House which had already pronounced an opinion? or was the minority, however respectable, however influential, still at liberty to insist that the measure was unconstitutional, when the question had been settled by the only tribunal known to the Constitution? It was asserted by the hon. Gentleman that the militia was an expensive force. True, it was expensive; but what was so expensive—what so dangerous to industry —as invasion or revolution? What was more necessary to enable the works of industry to prosper, than the preservation of a country in tranquillity and peace? And was not every apprehension of war or invasion almost as injurious—indeed, he might quote Tacitus to prove it—as war itself? The hon. Gentleman had said that the danger was altogether visionary, and that if there were danger, it could not arise from anything that had taken place in France. Now, he (Mr. Whiteside) did not desire to imitate the language he had heard in that House, or to say one disrespectful word of the ruler of France. He respected every form of government that existed, provided it was conducted upon 186 principles of justice; but whenever a Government was not conducted according to principles of justice, though that fact might afford no ground for going to war with such Government, it was still a just ground of apprehension and danger. When he heard the hon. Gentleman speak of the people of France, he might ask what power had the people of France? What just expression of their legitimate opinion could be obtained which might operate on the mind of their ruler? Did not the observation of Mr. Pitt apply, that in France a vast military power was centred in one man? The hon. Gentleman had further said that a militia demoralised, corrupted, and destroyed a community. Did the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the use of arms corrupted men? If the hon. Member had read the history of ancient and modern times, he must be convinced that in every age of the world arms and agriculture had been the strength and glory of nations. Did the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the Swiss artisans, when they threw down their tools and took up their muskets, did not fight? Did he mean to say that the Swiss ploughman, or that the Tyrolese peasant, who was systematically drilled throughout the year, did not fight? And did the hon. Gentleman mean to say that the militia of this country, if they were called out, would not fight? He"(Mr. Whiteside) had then with him a letter from Sir John Moore—a somewhat better authority than the hon. Gentleman—dated in 1803, in which that gallant officer pronounced a high eulogium upon the militia force he had inspected at Dover. But there was no use in quoting authorities to some men. An hon. Gentleman opposite had, he believed, on a former occasion, spoken of a letter of the Duke of Wellington on the subject of our national defences, as a composition more worthy of Mother Shipton. Why, the same mind might dispute and deny the genius of Shakspeare. The hon. Member for Manchester had criticised the conduct of the press in reference to France and its ruler. He (Mr. Whiteside) admitted that the press of England had spoken out freely and boldly, and he believed it would continue to do so. That press was powerful and respected, because it raised a fearless and independent voice, and he had no doubt it would continue to denounce the usurpations of despotic power, and to proclaim the wrongs of suffering virtue, But there might be danger from 187 that fact; indeed, there was danger in the free institutions of this country; and he considered that the very fact of the existence of free institutions in England, and the destruction of free institutions in other countries, justified a Government in establishing a militia. And why a militia? Because it was defensive; because it was only intended for protection, and could not be regarded as an insult to any foreign Power. It was a force solely and simply for self-defence. He agreed with the hon. Member for the West Riding that this country had nothing to gain from war, but they might have everything to lose. If there was glory in war, of that this country had had enough; they could not excel their naval victories, nor surpass the splendour of their military triumphs. He admitted that it was more consistent with the habits and the good sense of the people of this Empire to cultivate the useful arts of peace. But this measure was peaceful; it was intended to maintain peace, to preserve the Constitution under which they lived, and to transmit to their posterity the incalculable blessings which they themselves enjoyed.
§ MR. RICE
said, he was prepared to deny that the authorities quoted by the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down were any authorities at all for the position which he took with regard to the militia. First, the militia erected by Mr. Pitt was a regular militia. Then, as to the authority of the Duke of Wellington, the letter which had been referred to contained a recommendation for a militia raised in war, and which was a regular militia. With respect to the militia reviewed by Sir John Moore, he (Mr. Rice) had witnessed that review, and he maintained that there never was a finer force; but it certainly bore no resemblance to the force that would be raised under the Government measure. His principal object in rising, however, was to appeal to the hon. Member for the West Riding not to divide the House. If he did so, he (Mr. Rice), for one, could not vote for his Motion. He had voted against the second reading of the Bill, but it was because he believed that the militia proposed to be raised would be perfectly inefficient, and because he objected to the compulsory clauses contained in the Bill.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, it appeared to him that this 188 question had been amply debated, and if there should be one or two Gentlemen who wished to express their opinions to the House, he was sure that the House would hear them. He hoped they might divide upon the Amendment of the hon. Member for the West Riding; but if the hon. Member (Mr. Macgregor) should persist in pressing his Motion for an adjournment, he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) should be under the painful necessity of opposing it.
§ MR. MILNER GIBSON
hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would reconsider his determination. When the Government put up the Irish Solicitor General to make a declamatory speech on a subject not relating to Ireland, he (Mr. M. Gibson) did not think that it was intended to press for a division that night.
§ Motion made, and Question put, "That the Debate be now adjourned."
§ The House divided: —Ayes 68; Noes 291: Majority 223.
§ Question again proposed.
§ Whereupon Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, that was a Motion which, under any circumstances, he would feel bound to oppose, because it would not only ensure the adjournment of the debate, but stop the progress of the business altogether. He therefore must take the opinion of the House upon it.
§ MR. MITCHELL
did not think that so grave a question as the Militia Bill had been sufficiently discussed.
§ MR. WAKLEY
thought the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not mean to say, that they should expedite the progress of a Bill from which they conscientiously dissented. The Bill was most unpopular out of doors, and he (Mr. Wakley) should feel it to be his duty to obstruct it in every way in his power at every stage. He wished to see the Bill defeated, because he conceived it was an unconstitutional and prejudicial measure.
The MARQUESS of GRANBY
said, that if hon. Gentlemen opposite would obstruct the progress of business, let them not say in future that they were anxious for an early and immediate dissolution.
§ MR. BRIGHT
was quite sure, if the right hon. Gentleman consented to the adjournment of the debate, the hon. and gallant Member (Captain Scobell) would with- 189 draw his Motion for the adjournment of the House.
said, that the hon. Gentleman who had moved the adjournment of the House, had three or four times endeavoured to catch the Speaker's eye, and no doubt he would withdraw his Motion, if the debate were adjourned. He (Mr. Clay) was not open to the charge of having lost his anxiety for expediting public business, because he was so anxious for a dissolution of Parliament, that he was strongly of opinion that they should not pass the measure before the dissolution, but take the opinion of the country upon it. The people were desirous to express their opinions, as appeared from the multitude of petitions that were pouring in respecting it.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, he was one of those who had voted against the adjournment of the debate; but hearing so many Gentlemen saying they wished to express their opinions, he did not think that anything would be gained by a further division upon it. The Bill was now in the position that it could be taken continuously; and he thought the right hon. Gentleman might agree to the adjournment of the debate to the next day, or some future day.
§ The CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
was ready to consent to the adjournment of the debate to the following day, if the Gentlemen who had notices of Motion on the paper would allow it to take precedence.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn: —Debate adjourned till To-morrow.
§ The House adjourned at One o'clock.