HC Deb 18 February 1853 vol 124 cc311-33

House in Committee; Mr. Wilson Patten in the Chair.


Mr. Patten, in calling the attention of the Committee to the Navy Estimates for the year 1853–4, which are now on the table of the House, I am happy to say that I am able to ask the Committee to assent to a Vote which does not propose to increase the naval force either in the number of seamen or of marines. The Vote which I am now about to propose is founded exactly upon the ground on which the supplemental Vote was proposed in November last. The principles then stated by Her Majesty's late advisers, when proposing that Estimate, are the precise grounds upon which I recommend for the ensuing year the maintenance of the exact force then proposed. It is not recommended by me to the Committee upon any ground approaching that of a hostile or distrustful character towards any foreign Power whatever. But I press this vote upon grounds which are not in any degree new to the Parliament of this country. They have been sustained by the Reports of two Committees to which the question of the Estimates at different periods has been referred. If the Committee will allow me, I will refer, first of all, to the report of the Finance Committee appointed in the year 1828; and subsequently to the report of the Committee over which my noble Friend the Member for Totness (Lord Seymour) presided in the year 1848. The Finance Committee of 1828 used these expressions: They declared it as their opinion— That the establishments of this country should be regulated, not with reference to the unusual circumstances of the late war, or to the probability of being again called upon to make a similar exertion, but rather with reference to the policy of depending mainly on our Navy for protection against foreign invasion and for the means of attacking our enemies. The report of the Committee of 1848 adheres to that policy, a policy which has been pursued up to the present time. They state that This policy will be admitted to be most congenial to the habits and feelings of our countrymen, who have for a length of time been accustomed to look upon our naval power as the right arm of our strength and the main support of our national greatness. Now, this is the opinion of the two Committees—whose Reports were made at a great interval of time—an opinion asserted in the strongest terms by the Finance Committee of 1828, and subsequently adopted and confirmed by the Committee which was presided over by my noble Friend. It has been well ascertained with respect to the naval branch, and still more with respect to the other branches of our defensive force, that the number of men rules the amount of money voted on all the other branches of the various estimates. Now, assuming that the circumstances of the present moment are the same as those which induced Her Majesty's late advisers to propose an increase of 5,000 seamen and 1,500 marines; and assuming that the Vote of that increase of force was right early last Session; I think I am also entitled to assume that the Committee I am now addressing will be of opinion that that increase which was right in November is not wrong now; and that they are not now prepared to reverse a decision so recently and unanimonsly adopted. Taking that assumption, until I hear it controverted— and there was no difference of opinion on the subject stated when the proposition was made on a former occasion—I shall now shortly advert to the various items of the Estimate I am about to propose, the amount of which, as I have already stated, is ruled by the number of men voted. The increase of the total Estimate of this year, as compared with the Estimate of last year, including the supplemental Vote of November, is 459,522l. gross increase, from which I shall have to state a decrease, in various items, amounting to 59,617l., so that the total net increase in this year's Estimate is 399,905l., or, in round numbers, 400,000l. The main items upon which an increase has taken place are three: firstly, wages to seamen and marines, in which the increase is 193,211l.; secondly, victuals for seamen and marines, in which the increase, including the votes on the supplementary estimates for additional seamen and marines, is 70,919l.; and, thirdly, naval stores, &c, for the building and repair of ships, &c, in which the increase, including the supplementary estimate for steam machinery and apparatus for ships of the line, is 140,516l. And here I must do justice to my right hon. Friend, not now in his place, the right hon. Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Earing), who preceded me in the office which I have now the honour to hold. I well remember that my right hon. Friend was a Member of the Committee of 1848, and that in the investigations which that Committee made into the subjects brought before it I happily, in the main, concurred in the opinions stated by my right hon. Friend; but I was not at all aware, until I recently acceded to the Admiralty, how much my right hon. Friend had effected in its administration during the period in which he presided over that department, how much he had done in carrying into full operation the recommendations of that Committee. The Committee will observe that it is now called upon to vote the pay and victuals of 45,500 seamen and marines. In the year 1847–8, when my right hon. Friend's administration of the Admiralty commenced, the year immediately preceding the year in which the Committee sat, there was voted for Naval Estimates, including the packet service, 8,060,985l., the number of men voted on the naval force for that year being 41,580. The sum so voted in that year, then, including the packet service, was more by 950,736l. than the Vote I now propose; yet the Vote I now propose is for the pay and support, not of 41,580 men, but of 45,500 men; so that we are enabled to vote nearly 4,000 men more than were voted in 1847–8, and yet effect a saving in the money vote, including the packet service, of a sum approaching 1,000,000l. sterling. My right hon. Friend (Sir F. Baring) stated, and stated truly, the last time he proposed the Navy Estimates, that he had endeavoured to do much, and he had done much in his department, but he had never received credit for it. I will endeavour to do justice to the administration of my right hon. Friend. I am bound to say this of him, and to add, in justice also to my more immediate predecessor in office, that I found that department in admirable order, that I found the stores full, and every preparation made for the defence of the country; and I now with confidence ask this Committee not to increase the number of men voted in November, but to continue the force then voted for one year, and I have the satisfaction of stating again, that we shall be able to maintain a force of nearly 4,000 men more than we had in this service in 1847–48, with an outlay less by nearly 1,000,000l. as compared with that period, than the sum which was voted that year. It is due to my predecessors that I should insist upon these facts, because the satisfactory result is, in the main, due to their exertions, and to the effective manner in which they have applied themselves to carry out the recommendations of the Committee on which they and I served in 1848. A great proportion of the saving that has been effected has been effected in the civil departments of the service. I have thought, and I still think, that it will he quite possible to make still further savings in these departments; hut the Committee will hear in mind that, even were no such further saving effected, the arrangements by which, with a largo reduction in the money vote, of not much less than 1,000,000l., we are enabled to add 4,000 men to the service, and to defray their pay and victualling, must fairly he regarded as a most important change, increasing so effectually as it does the maritime force of the country, at an infinitely less outlay than a smaller force so recently as 1847–48 was found to require. I will now refer to the principal items of increase. The first was the increase in the pay of the seamen and marines, 193,211l., which is, of course, entirely dependent on the increased number of men voted. With regard, however, to the increase in the estimate for the victuals of these men—70,919l., I have to state to the Committee that on almost every article consumed by our sailors and marines, there has been, in the course of the last two years, in the year 1853–4 as compared with the years 1851–2, 1852–3, a rise in the cost price of fully 10 per cent; on many articles, indeed, of much more, hut, taking the average, of 10 per cent. The only other Vote which is now before us, No. 10, is for naval stores, for the building and repair of ships, and for the various articles which are provided for the use of the dockyards. Under this head there is an increase of 140,516l. Here, also, there has been a large increase in the price of all the principal articles consumed, which increased price goes far to account for a material portion of the increase in the estimate. In the price of English oak timber there has been a rise of 3 per cent; in the price of hemp a rise of 9½ per cent; in the price of copper cake, of not less than 24 per cent; in that of iron nails of 12½ per cent; in that of chain cables, of 17 per cent; in that of ironmongery goods, of 15 per cent; in that of iron, British, of 17 per cent; in that of pig-iron, of not less than 60 per cent; in that of copper and brass articles, of 20 per cent; in that of fire-hearths of 17½ per cent. The Committee will, I think, admit, after this statement, that the rise in the price of these articles of essential consumption for our ships and dockyards, accounts for the increase in this estimate, in a large measure, and in a manner beyond our control. There is another item of increase to which I think it necessary shortly to advert. In the supplementary estimates proposed by the late Government there was a vote for 100,000l. for the purchase and repair of steam machinery: without any undue rivalry on our part in relation to foreign Powers, the Committee will, I conceive, admit that it is absolutely necessary if we would maintain, I will not say our supremacy, but our equality at sea, that the great changes which are taking place in connexion with steam navigation should not be neglected by us. The application of steam machinery to line-of-battle ships, which France, which the United States, which Russia is so energetically adopting, cannot, expediently, be left unnoticed by Great Britain; and the machinery to be provided accordingly, and the change in the construction of our ships, cannot obviously take place without considerable expenditure. Provi- sion was partly made in the Supplementary Vote of last year for that conversion, and it will be necessary to add now, towards the completion of the arrangement then decided upon, a further Vote of 50,000l. for the purchase and repair of steam machinery. I have now stated the items on which a material increase is proposed, the total gross increase on the estimates being, as I have said, 459,522l., and the net increase, after deducting 59,617l. decrease, being 399,905l. To this decrease of 59,617l. I will now proceed to advert. There is a decrease in the scientific branch of 15,414l.; in Her Majesty's establishments abroad of 499l.; in new works, improvements, and repairs in the yards, of 8,192l.; in half-pay of 19,945l.; in military pensions and allowances of 7,399l.; in civil pensions and allowances of 8,168l.; in all, 59,617l., or, in round numbers, 60,000l. This, deducted from the gross increase, left a net increase of 399,905l. The total estimate for the year, then, was 6,235,493l. against 5,835,588l. in the year preceding. In order that it may not be supposed that the reduction in the scientific department has been made at the expense of valuable results, I will beg to make a short statement on this head. The cost of surveying, which has been for some years greatly on the increase, I have considered may this year, quite consistently with all nautical objects of primary importance, be materially decreased, and the whole service in the hydrographical department reduced in extent. I may say, without any reflection whatever on the able officer who is at the head of the surveying department, that in consequence of the very natural care and caution on his part, which induces him to permit no survey to be published that has not previously undergone his own investigation, there has accumulated in his office a large arrear of unpublished surveys; and until this state of things is remedied by the publication of the surveys already so accumulated, I have considered that, without any detriment to the public service, but the contrary, the surveying in this department may, during the current year, to a large extent, be discontinued. In the harbour department, again, I consider that a considerable saving may be combined with public advantage in other respects, by bringing that department within the hydrographical department, and thus more directly under the superintending control of the Admiralty. With regard to the compass department, the able officer who was at its head is dead, and, with the advice of my naval Colleagues, I have considered it unnecessary to fill up the appointment. The special school which has been maintained for the instruction of naval apprentices in Portsmouth dock yard not having been found to answer its purpose, we propose to make an arrangement, by which the distinguished gentleman at the head of that school, still remaining at Portsmouth, shall have the general supervision of the dockyard school there, his assistance being also employed, under the surveyor, in giving mathematical suggestions in the construction of ships, and also in the selection from the upper school at Greenwich of masters for the naval service. Again, I must say I think the education of young gentlemen on board Her Majesty's ships of war may be placed on a more effective footing. At present there are quarterly returns made of the progress of these young gentlemen, but I doubt whether they are investigated with sufficient care. I am anxious, therefore, that the gentleman to whom I have just referred, should also extend his supervising care to this important branch of the service. I can confidently assure the Committee that, in my opinion, the reduction in the estimates, in the scientific branch, in the way I propose them, will in no degree impede the progress of naval education in our dockyards, or on shipboard. Another saving I have stated arises from the diminution in military pensions, half-pay, and allowances, caused by the number of deaths among the persons heretofore receiving these payments exceeding that of the salaries of persons newly placed on the list. The same is the case with regard to civil pensions, and we may anticipate from the same cause a progressive diminution under this head. I do not know that any further explanation is necessary on my part. I should say, perhaps, that no new works whatever arc contemplated in the present year, except the erection of a factory which is considered to be urgently required for the repair of steam vessels at Key ham, in order to bring the docks and basins into immediate use, a construction which will cost 50,000l. I thought it my duty to summon a committee, composed of the most experienced officers in the steam factories at Portsmouth and Woolwich, together with the surveyor of the Navy and the superintendent of the dockyard at Plymouth, and I put it to them, 50,000l.

being the utmost that can be allowed for this portion of new works in the present year, how could this sum be so employed, in the shortest time, as to produce the greatest public benefit; and the result of this reference was the application of the sum to the purpose which I have just stated. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire (Mr. Cobden) appears to think that we are the only maritime country expending much money in the extension of naval works. I hold in my hand the Report of the Secretary of the Navy of the United States for 1852, containing all his propositions on the subject of that navy. Just mark the character of them. First, as to naval cadets. The number of naval cadets admitted in each year for the service of the whole United Kingdom was recommended by the Committee of 1848 to be limited to 100, the reason being that the admission of a greater number, introducing many more persons into the service every year than there were vacancies, the majority found but little chance of promotion, and it consequently occasioned disappointment and discontent in the service. As a check against this danger, the Committee of 1848 recommended that no more than 100 cadets should be admitted in any one year. My right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) found occasion to limit the number still more, and he applied the check that only 75 should be admitted in any one year. The regulation in the United States navy, it appears from this Report, is, that not more than 62 cadets in any one year shall be admitted, so that, after all, there is only a difference of 13 between their navy and ours in this respect. The next recommendation to which I will very briefly advert in the Report of the Secretary of the Navy of the United States, has reference to corporal punishment, which, the Committee may be aware, was in 1850, by a vote of Congress, abolished in the United States' navy. We find it stated in the Report that the whole discipline of that navy has been seriously relaxed and injured in consequence of that measure; and, more than this, that the comfort of the sailors is so materially lessened in consequence of the relaxed discipline arising from the change, that they are themselves clearly of that opinion, and desire that corporal punishment should be restored. The next point to which the Report refers is the construction of steam factories. On this subject the Secretary writes:— In connexion with this subject I would call the attention of Congress to the necessity of authorising the establishment of one or more factories for the construction of all the machinery necessary to the complete equipment of the largest class of steamers. The great importance of such establishments to the Government is felt by this department, in the daily conviction that only by the command of such a resource may the Navy be promptly and surely supplied with the best machinery for the public vessels. The inspection and control of the work while in its progress, the assurance of the best material, and the punctual compliance with the demands of the service, are advantages that may only be efficiently secured by having the workshops under the command of the Government. The experience of the past will also fully demonstrate that this mode of supplying the machinery of our public vessels must be, in its general result, more economical than any other, and will certainly secure much the most reliable kind of work. The plans would be more uniform, failure of machinery less frequent, and the improvement of the models of construction more certain. Such is the Report of the Secretary of the Navy of the United States to Congress in the Session of this present year. Now, I am hound to state that I have always been of opinion, and I still think the opinion sound, that new works should be as much as possible under contract; but the progress of steam navigation, and, still more, that of the application of the propelling power of the screw to our line-of-battle ships, undoubtedly renders it expedient that, for the purpose of repairs, we should have fully adequate steam factories at our great naval stations. With respect to one most expensive part of the machinery, namely, the boilers, now manufactured entirely in the Queen's dockyards, we propose to open tenders for a contract to supply boilers of every description; and we have given instructions to manufacture each kind of boiler, debiting the article manufactured with a fair share of the salary of officers, rental of premises, and value of plant, so as to make as fair as possible an estimate of the cost of production. A fourth recommendation of the Secretary of the Navy of the United States is, that there should be an increase in the number of seamen. It is not so large, or nearly so large, as has been proposed in this country; but still, with respect to marines, there has been a proposition to increase their number in the United States to about the same number as was proposed by the late Administration. A proposition is also made with respect to the dockyards. Their establishments are large and numerous; and still the proposition made is, that the very considerable cost of the dockyards should be increased. Without any undue jealousy in regard to establishments of this kind, I must state that the area of all the dockyards of this country is comparatively small. Taking Sheerness, Chatham, Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Pembroke, the area is somewhat less than the area of the single dockyard at Cherbourg, after all the expense we have incurred. With respect to Cherbourg, I believe it has a larger superficial area than all the dockyards of this country taken together. We don't ask for any increase whatever in any one of our dockyards; we only desire to give increased efficiency to those establishments. There is another point to which it is my duty to advert. Generally, at the same time the Navy Estimates are produced, the Estimate for the packet service has also been produced. Considering the jealousy entertained with respect to every shilling proposed to be voted for the effective service, it does surprise me that, on a recent occasion, there should have been so great a facility in passing that large Estimate. The Estimate this year would have amounted to nearly 875,000l. The Government, however, did not think it right to present that Estimate till it should have undergone the most careful revision; and a Committee has been appointed, following up the suggestions of the late Government, that an inquiry into the large expenditure with reference to particular boards should be instituted. A Committee has been appointed, over which the Postmaster General presides, and in which he is aided by the hon. Member for Hertford (Mr. W. Cowper), who has given much attention to the subject, and also by Mr. Bromley, on whom the late Chancellor of the Exchequer pronounced a well-merited eulogium. The whole of this Estimate will be subjected to revision by that Committee, and the Estimate will not be proceeded with till the Government are in possession of their Report. There is, however, a most important fact which has been already ascertained on the Report of another Commission, composed of two naval officers and two artillery officers, and which I think it my duty to state to the Committee. This large Packet Estimate has hitherto been voted under a double supposition. The Packet Estimate has been voted that the postal communications of this country, with its remote possessions and colonies, should be expedited by the aid of steam; but there has been a second object, which, I am sorry to gay, on investigation, it is found cannot be realised. It was intended that these packets, in the event of war, should be rendered available for belligerent purposes. We have had a most decided opinion pronounced, both by artillery and naval officers, that any such expectation is delusive; that, speaking generally, a large number of our packets would, in the event of war, not be available for such a purpose, and that of 60 or 70, not above six would be convertible, and that that conversion would be very expensive, and occupy considerable time. Such being the case, it becomes the Government and this House to consider the whole subject. I know not whether it is necessary for me to detain the Committee at any greater length; but I shall be most happy to give the Committee the best explanation which it is in my power to give with reference to the various Votes on which hon. Gentlemen may ask for information; and I now beg, therefore, to put into your hands, Sir, the first Vote, which is— That 45,500 Men be employed for the Sea Service for the year ending the 31st day of March, 1854, including 12,500 Royal Marines and 2,000 Boys.


said, he was gratified to see the right hon. Baronet at the head of a department which had received its greatest improvements through his agency, 1,200,000l. having, under the presidency of the right hon. Baronet, been deducted from the expense, and the department having, nevertheless, been rendered more efficient than before. No Member of the Committee on the Army, Navy, and Ordnance Estimates, had shown more attention to the subjects of inquiry than the right hon. Baronet; and it was to be anticipated that the Navy Estimates would be presented in a different manner from that in which they had heretofore been presented. With reference to the scientific branch, he (Mr. Hume) entreated his right hon. Friend not to allow the idea of economy to interfere with its efficiency. That would be in effect to incur a waste of life and of property to a great extent; and the right hon. Baronet's proposition for a reduction in respect of tidal harbours was also to be deprecated. He considered a saving of 1,200l. in this respect a false economy. With respect to the schools, he was not in a condition to say whether they had prospered or not, but he did not like the idea of removing the means of education. As to the general expenses, he trusted the right hon. Baronet would turn his attention to that subject, particularly with respect to contracts, for there were plenty of parties who would build ships of any size, and be answerable for their efficiency and service. He believed that Government establishments for this purpose would never answer, or ever be rendered effective. On the one hand they had such men as Greene, Wig-ram, and Napier, whose hourly attention was directed to the construction of ships, whilst the dockyards were mostly filled by parties for political purposes. He should never forgive the right hon. Baronet for employing his sacrilegious hand in the destruction of the Naval School of Design, and regretted that he had not re-established that institution. The advantages of such a school had been felt in France, Spain, and Sweden; and nothing but an institution of a similar scientific description would enable us to keep pace with the rest of the world. He was delighted to hear that repairs only were to be carried on at the dockyards. He could not help contrasting the expense of our establishments in this respect with those of the United States. The whole expense in the United States was 8,000,000 dollars, whilst the materials in our dockyards cost nearly 1,000,000l., and, including wages, our expenditure was twice as much as that of the whole service of the United States. Whilst our establishments went on increasing, those of the United States were decreasing. At the end of the war the United States had 68 captains, 97 commanders, and 327 lieutenants, and that number had been considerably reduced. When the right hon. Baronet was in office before, the establishment at the dockyards was under 6,000 men. The number at present was 9,000—a sufficient number to build the whole of our Navy in the course of a year. The evidence given before the Committee showed that between 1828 and 1848 no fewer than 308 ships were built and launched. Many of them were afterwards pulled to pieces and destroyed; and he believed it would have been much cheaper to have paid the wages of the men without employing them in such a mischievous manner. We had now 235 ships in commission, and 200 out of commission; and he considered it a monstrous waste of public money to build ships, and then lay them up to rot. When our ships were not wanted abroad, let them be brought home, and be made available in case of need. With respect to the mail service, he was glad to hear that a commission was to be appointed to inquire into the subject, and he would suggest the propriety of establishing through that medium an ocean penny postage, which would only he discharging a duty to our colonies. After the speeches which had been delivered to-night, he trusted no more false alarms would be raised, and that on another occasion the Government would show their confidence in the assurances they bad given of the existence of such a friendly spirit by a largo reduction of our forces.


said, he was as sincere a friend of wise economy as the hon. Gentleman who had preceded him; but he believed that the best measure of wise economy was to be sought for in the efficiency of the service. He should extremely regret if, for so small a sum as 15,000l., any check should be put upon the most valuable labours of a scientific department connected with the Admiralty,—he meant the hydrographical survey department. Considering the station which England occupied, and the influence with which she was intrusted for beneficent purposes over the whole of the oceans of the world, it was a great disgrace to us when any other country was earlier or more effective in its contributions to the naval knowledge of the coasts. He implored his right hon. Friend to consider whether, for so trifling a sum, a check should be imposed upon this important department. He wished also to impress upon his right hon. Friend the importance of completing the works at Key ham. The docks there were absolutely requisite for steam navigation. At this moment he understood they were perfectly useless. In time of war, however, they would be actually indispensable, and he hoped that the requisite sum of 50,000l. would soon be laid out; and if that should prove insufficient, that his right hon. Friend would not hesitate to ask for a Supplementary Vote before the close of the Session.


said, that not now being intrusted with the Navy Estimates, he thought be should be best discharging his duty by assisting the right hon. Gentleman opposite; and he must say that it had been the opinion of the late Board of Admiralty that it would be desirable to make a considerable reduction in the hydrographical department. They had felt that, by the exercise of greater vigour in the survey, a smaller sum might prove as efficient as the larger sum under the present management.


said, he must re- mind the House of the enormous expenditure on stores and materials in the dockyards since the peace, and he would ask whether there was to be no end to this. He could not blame the present Government for the increase in the Naval Estimates, because the country had demanded an increase for the purpose of defence. Since the peace, above 16,000,000l. had been expended in stores for the dockyards, one-half of which sum would have built a navy superior to any in the world. He begged to call the attention of the right hon. Baronet to the non-effective service, in which, during the last thirty years, a diminution of only 21,000l had taken place. Let the Committee notice the immense number of idle admirals we had to pay; the whole number in commission was eleven, and be believed that more than half of them were Port Admirals, employed in a service to which there was no duty attached. It was very desirable that attention should be given to the subject of savings banks, which were so useful in the mercantile navy. He begged to contrast these estimates with those of the present First Lord of the Admiralty, when he held that office before; but be had more faith in the right hon. Baronet than in any one who bad presided over the Admiralty in his time, and he hoped we should next year have evidence of his economy—such economy as he exercised at the Admiralty before. It was to be hoped he would also make the service more efficient. It really seemed as if we were never to be in a state of security. He (Mr. Williams) had no apprehension of aggression from France. The Emperor showed less disposition to augment the navy than Louis Philippe.


said, he must dispute the statement which had been made, that steam had made us more vulnerable than before. If war should come, we should find that the defence of England was as much served by science and by steam, as the facility of the approach of an enemy was increased. With the Channel fleet now proposed, we should soon see that. We should find the rapidity with which it could be moved long before an enemy could land troops, and, much more, materials. But as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Disraeli) had talked of a Channel fleet of fifteen or sixteen sail of the line, with frigates and smaller vessels, he (Captain Scobell) would warn the authorities that it would be most unwise to have more ships than they wanted. If we bad fifteen or sixteen sail of the line in the Channel and the French had none, we should make them jealous, and they would endeavour to rival us, and increase their navy, which they were not doing now. It must be remembered, too, that the cost would be 800,000l, a year. The Admiralty had such a frequent change of masters as no service could bear; why was it not conducted like the Horse Guards? The First Lord of the Admiralty had quoted from the Report of J 828, in which the Navy was called the right arm of the country; hut last year the Navy was forgotten, and the militia made the right arm. With a good and sufficient naval force, the country would be safe from sudden surprise. The right hon. Baronet had quoted the examples of France and America as grounds for increasing the naval force of this country—though the right hon. Gentleman did not state to what extent. Now America, he (Captain Scobell) believed, had only two or three line-of-battle ships altogether, and not a single ship of the line. As regarded France, she had only three screw line-of-battle ships afloat and one on the stocks, while we had eight afloat and thirteen on the stocks—though he admitted that France had five other ships of the line building, which she might be induced to convert into screws when she heard what we were about. Much had been said about Cherbourg; but surely it was hardly to be wondered at that France should have at least one port in the British Channel for her line-of-battle ships; and it should always be remembered that Cherbourg would never come to us, and if we only kept a sufficient Navy he felt sure it would never do us any harm. Something had also been said about contracts. He approved of doing everything by contracts that could possibly be done, and he would take the liberty of throwing out the hint to the present Board of Admiralty that he threw out to their predecessors, namely, that if they would select by ballot or otherwise four of the principal builders of steamers, and give each of them a contract for a vessel, telling them merely for what number of guns, and of what tonnage—and leaving them to please themselves—he would answer for it that they would build much better steamers than were built in our own yards. Something had likewise been said about the large number of admirals (278 there were, he believed, of all descriptions), but this was the natural consequence of the other parts of the list. The Government must begin to correct the evil lower down. They must first cure the crowding at the bottom. He would remind the Committee, that in America and France they limited the number of officers; here, out of about 4,000 officers, only an eighth were afloat; and, as to the rest, we must see how their knowledge, which they had acquired as midshipmen, must be wearing away. Some great naval reformer was necessary to take this subject in hand, so as to make the Navy less expensive and the force more efficient for the duty which the country expected from them. There was another point, about which nothing had been said that night, but upon which he hoped the right hon. Baronet would be able to give them some information during the sitting of the Committee—he meant as to what hope there was of an early Report from the Committee appointed by the late Admiralty to consider whether a bettor mode could not be devised of entering seamen. With regard to the dockyards, he begged to say that the right hon. Baronet the present First Lord, who had done so much in introducing economy into that department on a former occasion, without diminishing its efficiency, had a plentiful harvest yet before him, without at all interfering with anything which it was necessary for the dockyards to perform.


said, he was decidedly of opinion that England ought always to be placed in the best position for repelling any act of possible aggression that might be committed against her. He believed that that was the attitude best calculated to insure a durable and honourable peace, as well as to promote the extension of our commerce and the stability of our institutions. On the efficiency of the fleet mainly depended the security of the country; and the system of impressment having been altogether abolished, the country could not look entirely to raw levies for its defence. The present system was eminently vicious, and he hoped they would soon provide some remedy for it. There was at present a Committee of experienced officers sitting on the subject of the best mode of manning the fleet, whoso Report was looked for by the profession with intense anxiety; and until that Report was laid on the table, it would, of course, be premature to enter into any discussion of the matter. He would take the liberty, however, of calling the attention of the First Lord of the Admiralty to the advantage that would accrue from commissioning a ship for five years instead of three, as the expense of one outfitting and paying off would there-by be saved in ten years; and he thought that in ordinary cases a ship was quite fit to continue in commission for five years. He thought the hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had spoken in an ungenerous and very disparaging spirit respecting the admirals. Now, unfortunately, he (Admiral Walcott) was one of that class, and he might be allowed to say that he had always used every effort to obtain employment, but he had always been unsuccessful. That was his calamity and misfortune; but for twenty-two years he had omitted no opportunity of stating that he was ready for any description of service, and to proceed to any station whatever. That was the lot, also, of many other officers, and now, when he thought—God forgive him if he thought wrongly!—that there was still some work in him which might have been of advantage to his country, had he been employed, he found himself, with a broken spirit, on the reserve list. He hoped attention would be given to the promotion of officers of merit, and that mere considerations of private feeling and political interest would not be allowed to prejudice the service. He might say that he believed every admiral on the list had served at least thirteen years during the war, and he thought it was a blot on the escocheon of this country that such men, when their services were no longer needed, should be spoken of in a disparaging manner. They had served their country faithfully in the last war when they were needed. But he knew that the gentlemen of England, to whom he appealed, would always honour them and do them justice.


said, he thought the hon. and gallant Officer had misunderstood his hon. Friend the Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams), who, he was sure, was far from wishing to disparage the services of such men as the gallant Admiral, but who had expressed his objection to the promotion of young officers, who had not the experience which resulted from such services as those of the hon. and gallant Officer.


said, he wished to ask the First Lord of the Admiralty whether it was the intention of the Government to take any means for placing the port of Liverpool in a better state of defence? He need scarcely say that there was at all times a large amount of property in that port, which was almost entirely unprotected, with the exception of the difficulties arising from the navigation of the Mersey, and a small fort, which he believed was of very little use.


said, he would first answer the last question that had been put to him by the hon. Member for Leicester (Sir J. Walmsley), who, he was glad to see, was quite alive to the necessity of protection being provided with reference to that great emporium of commerce. The defence of Liverpool had not altogether been overlooked by Her Majesty's Government. At this very moment a steamer of war had been ordered to go there, and measures would be taken, if it should be thought necessary, in the course of the summer, to provide for the further defence of that port. Having now answered the question of the hon. Gentleman, there were several other questions to which he would take that opportunity of replying. But, first of all, he wished to make one general remark on what had transpired in the course of the debate, that notwithstanding all that had been said of reforms and of the love of economy in the abstract, the great pressure upon him that night had been not on account of the expenditure, but with respect to the saving which he had endeavoured to effect. He had now to defend these reductions. In the first place, he had attempted to make a reduction in the expense of the scientific department to the extent of 15,000l. a year. That was a reduction from the scale which had been adopted for three previous surveys on the home station. He had stated that such was the caution of the existing hydrographer, that he would publish no survey until he had revised it; and it must be admitted to be very desirable that our surveys should be as correct as possibly they could be made, but yet until they were published, of course they were useless. He had stated, therefore, that the great care of the hydrographer had accumulated a large number of unpublished surveys in the office. It was impossible to have a more able, diligent, and effective officer than the present; but with all his ability and all his care, the surveys unpublished had accumulated on his hand. And he would show what was the effect of that. The hon. Gentleman (Sir T. Acland) said truly that the surveys of our own coasts were of the highest possible importance. There were surveys made of some of our navigable rivers, where the sands had shifted, ten years ago; all that time these sands were still shifting, and it was possible that the surveys, when published, would be worse than useless. That was a consequence which the Committee could not wish to see multiplied, and all that he had done in the circumstances was to reduce the expenses to what they had been the year before last. He had distinctly stated that the surveys had been proceeded with since the Report of the Committee; but it was found to be a matter of the utmost necessity to arrest their progress until the publication could be made to follow more closely upon the survey. Again, as to the vote for Key ham harbour, he begged the Committee to bear in mind that the sum spent upon the works there was no less than 851,000l. The vote last year was 40,000l. As to the vote this year, although, as he had stated, the vote for the effective service was very much increased, and it was thought desirable not to add any new works, yet he had added 10,000l. to the vote of last year, and, instead of 40,000l., he asked 50,000l. But prior to taking any step in that matter, he had had the advantage of the advice of the most experienced officers in that particular department—the officer at the head of the steam factory at Portsmouth, and the officer at the head of the steam factory at Woolwich. He had said to these gentlemen, first of all produce a plan that will work, make your plan the most perfect, and shape your course definitely. They had followed that advice, and produced a plan of the works. The hon. Member for Lambeth (Mr. W. Williams) had commented upon the half-pay service, and was dissatisfied with the slow reduction that had been made. This very year the sum of 20,000l. had been saved upon the half-pay list. But the hon. Gentleman thought that some reform of that list ought to be effected, and he had received a spirited and manly answer from the gallant Admiral opposite (Admiral Walcott). The whole Committee, with him (Sir J. Graham), would regret, not from any fault of his, but from the inexorable rules of the service, that the gallant Admiral was not now upon active service, the duties of which, he had no doubt, with that vigour which he possessed, he would discharge with honour. The hon. Member for Lambeth ought to know that the one great reformer from whom none of us could escape—that great reformer, Death—was doing the work which the hon. Gentleman complained was left undone. He said, stop your promotions. They had stopped their promotions under the most rigorous rule, for there could be no promotion in any rank up to a captain, unless it were preceded by three deaths among the superior officers; and his right hon. Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir F. Baring) had limited the list of cadets to be admitted annually to seventy-five. But it had been said, why should the inquiries of that Committee not be continued? He must say, that not a step had been taken without inquiry. He must do his right hon. Friend (Sir F. Baring) justice in his absence, and say that he had instituted the most rigid inquiries. Lord Auckland, when First Lord of the Admiralty, indeed, had begun the practice; but the real merits belonged to his right hon. Friend. The effect of these inquiries and exertions had been that there was a saving of 1,500,000l. a year from the dockyards alone; and the real credit of that was due, in the first place, to the Report of the Committee, and next to the fidelity with which his right hon. predecessor had carried their recommendations into effect. It was said there had been no reduction. There was a money reduction to the amount he had stated, and there was a reduction of the men also. There were 15,000 men in the dockyards when the Report was made: there were no more than 9,500 at that moment. Another great evil complained of was the use of political influence with relation to those in the dockyards. When he was at the Admiralty formerly, he had been able to introduce extensive changes, and he had made the utmost exertions to put the dockyards under the immediate superintendence and control of one officer; he had put down three subordinate boards, and centered the whole under the united responsibility of the Board of Admiralty. The effect of that now was, that a person, once admitted into the yard, just as it was on board a ship, promotion was open to him for good conduct, and nothing could prevent his promotion but his own misconduct. The superintendent had the power of raising him, and the power of disrating him was in the same hand. He admitted that considerable laxity had crept in previous to the year 1848; but his noble Friend the Member for London, in 1848, when the use of political influence was challenged as affecting promotions and admission into the dockyards, gave his most solemn assurance that it should he put an end to. Since he (Sir J. Graham) had returned to the Admiralty, he had seen the regulations that had been framed for that purpose by Sir Henry Ward; and he must add that, if he, the author of the remedy, had proposed drawing up regulations to attain his end, he should have framed them in the spirit of these regulations. Again, there might have been some departure from them, he did not say to any great extent; but his attention had been called to the subject, the regulations had been revised, and it was the intention of the Government to embody the regulations in an Order in Council to give them the greatest sanction. However, he agreed in the opinion which had been expressed that if they were to have another Reform Bill, the advantage of the service and the good of the men in the dockyards would require that, as in the Post Office and the revenue departments, the men in the dockyards, while continuing in the service of the Crown, should have their franchise suspended. As far as he was concerned, political influence should not be allowed to intervene in the distribution of patronage. He was aware that nothing was so hard as to give that promise, the pressure on the authorities being extreme; but the duty was sacred, and to the best of his ability he would endeavour to perform it. Having looked around him since his return to the Admiralty, he found so much had been done and followed up mainly by the Government immediately preceding him, that he should deceive the Committee if he held out the hope that, while maintaining the present force, as he hoped they would, there could be any large reduction in the expenditure. The number of men, it was said, ruled the whole of the estimate; all that followed was in proportion. This Tear, however, they had undertaken, without any increase in the estimates, to provide for 6,500 more men, or an addition of one-third the number. It was gratifying to add, that notwithstanding the inducement of high wages held out in other quarters, out of 5,000 men paid off, one-half of that number had volunteered again into Her Majesty's service. That was a proof that naval officers, when their ships were manned, did not abuse their authority. Everything that could possibly have been thought of had been done to cheek the abuse of power; and with respect to corporal punishment, be rejoiced to say that it was greatly decreasing. By a vote of Congress of 1850 it was abolished in the United States, and the following were extracts from the Report of the Secretary to the American Navy on the subject:— The multiplication of courts-martial, and all the consequences of an increase of disorder and crime, are among the least of the apparent and growing evils of the new system. The demoralisation of both men and officers is a yet more observable consequence. The absence or prohibition of the usual punishments known to seamen, has led to the invention of new penalties of the most revolting kind, in the application of which full scope has been given, and the strongest provocations administered to that exhibition of temper and passion which, however natural it may be to men of hasty and cxciteable natures, is seldom indulged without leading to cruelties that must disgrace those who practise them, and, what is more to be feared, raise a sentiment in the public mind hostile to the Navy itself. The difficulties arising out of its abrogation, and the absence of any substitute for it, now constitute the most prominent obstacle to the ready supply of our squadrons with seamen. This department is familiar with complaints from the recruiting stations, of the difficulty of enlisting the better class of seamen. Of that large number of men who have heretofore constituted the pride of our Navy by their good seamanship and highly respectable personal deportment, composing, I rejoice to say, the great body of the mariners who have sustained the honour and the glory of our flag, in its most perilous as well as in its most useful career—of these men, it is a fact which invites the deepest concern of Congress, we are daily deprived by their refusal to enter again into the service, until, as they ask, they shall have some assurance that a better system of discipline may be restored. Locking at the state of things in the Navy, I think the occasion propitious to the adoption of a new system for the organisation and government of the whole material constituting the crews of our ships; and I take advantage of the present time to submit to your consideration the outline of a plan which, I trust, will engage your attention, and receive the approbation of Congress. That was the view taken by the American Government, and it was also the view taken by the British Government. It was adopted in no spirit of rivalry or hostility towards any other Power. He therefore, cordially recommended the Vote to the Committee.

In reply to Mr. HOME,


said, that, with regard to surveys and the publication of them, he only proposed to take a vote for six months for the Harbour department, in order that the department might be revised. With regard to savings banks in the Navy, he could only say, that the success which had attended the introduction of the system into the Army, had induced the Government to turn their attention to the subject with the view of establishing them in the Navy. He might also mention that he proposed to include in the Navy Estimates the small sum of 100l. each for the Sailors' Home at Portsmouth and Plymouth.

Vote agreed to.

(2.) 1,736,236l., for Wages.


said, he wished to know what regulations were in force respecting the office of paymaster? He wished, also, to know whether it was the intention of the Government to make such a disposition of the forces as to give that protection to the Bristol Channel of which it was at present entirely destitute?


said, that the arrangements made by the late Board of Admiralty with respect to the allowances to paymasters would have full effect given to them. With respect to the second question, he had to state that a steamer of the first class had lately visited the Bristol Channel. She had now gone to the Mersey, and it was intended that the Mersey and the Bristol Channel should in future be visited by ships of war from time to time.


said, he wished to call the attention of the Government to the subject of the measures to be taken for the protection of our trade in the Mediterranean from piracy; and to the discreditable contrast which existed, as compared to the French Government, in our relations with the Morocco pirates. Last year an English ship called the Violet was captured by these pirates, who also about the same time took a French ship. While no compensation had been obtained by the English Government, the French, who had bombarded Sallee, had obtained very ample redress in a grant through the intervention of our consul. This inattention to the interests of our commerce had caused a panic amongst our small Mediterranean traders, and had led to a repetition of these attacks by the Morocco pirates very recently.

Vote agreed to; as was also—

(3.) Vote for 615,426l. for Victuals.

The House resumed.