HC Deb 15 July 1856 vol 143 cc842-59

Order for Second reading read.


At a late hour last night, Sir, I stated that I was anxious at the earliest opportunity to explain to the House the general tenor of the measure which Her Majesty's Government thought it necessary to propose for the purpose of providing a more adequate reserve force for the naval service and protection of the coasts of the country. The Bill, the second reading of which I now beg to move, contains a small portion only of that plan which Her Majesty's Government proposes ultimately to adopt. But I shall take the opportunity on this occasion to state the full plan which the Government contemplates, in order that the House and the country may be aware of the whole state of the case, and of the extent of the plan which may at some future time entail a heavy expense on the country. I am anxious, therefore, that the House should know the full extent of our views, in the hope that it will concur with the Government, and support a measure which I believe to be essentially necessary for the safety of the country. I think it of the utmost importance to the country that it should possess an efficient coast-guard service, as that might be, by being immediately available on the breaking out of hostilities of the utmost utility to the nation at some future period. We have learnt much by the late war. I hope in regard to the navy that we had less to learn than in respect to the army, because the navy, even in time of peace, has always been kept in an efficient state. It has always been found necessary to keep up a naval force for the protection of our commerce and of our colonies in all parts of the world, so that even in time of peace the navy was not left in that state of repose in which the army was necessarily placed. But although we have not had quite so much to learn in regard to the navy as to the army, still there has been much to be learnt by those who have taken an active part in the administration of our naval force. Although we have known for long the necessity of further measures in regard to the manning of the navy, yet there is no inconsiderable portion of the country quite unaware of the absolute necessity of taking measures for providing a large reserve of seamen to supply our naval force. I believe for the last thirty years hardly any person has taken a part in the management of the naval force of the country without feeling the great difficulty of providing, with sufficient rapidity on any emergency, any considerable addition to the number of men employed in our fleets. There is no difficulty in supplying ample materials for the navy. Ships of any size or number, guns of any calibre or number, adapted to the requirements of modern times, are readily to be obtained. But, since we have ceased manning our navy by means of impressment, difficulties have occasionally arisen in supplying the requisite number of men. In former times, this was speedily and effectually done by means of impressment; but of late years, the great object, and a most desirable object it is, has been to avoid the necessity of having recourse to so harsh a measure. The subject from time to time occupied the attention of different Governments, and the question has been raised how and by what means it is possible to provide a substitute for that forcible mode of raising seamen. Although it may be necessary to have recourse to that compulsory method in the case of an emergency, yet the House would never consent to call it into practice so long as there remained other means of supplying a sufficiency of men to the naval service. Nor do I think that the House of Commons would be willing to withhold any grant of money that was necessary to prevent the Government having recourse to a practice so harsh arid so opposed to the feelings of English- men. There is not much difficulty in gradually increasing the number of men in the navy. During eight months in the years 1853 and 1854 the number of seamen were increased by 12,000 without resorting to means of compulsion. The service has, no doubt, during a succession of years been improved in almost every circumstance that could contribute to the well-being of the sailor. The pay has been higher, the food has been better, the discipline has been more efficient, and the navy may truly congratulate itself on being the most deserving and the most popular part of Her Majesty's service. The increase of numbers before the war was continuous and steady, since the war it has been more rapid. In December, 1853, the number of seamen borne on the books was only 28,000; in January, 1854, it was 29,000; in February, 33,000; in March, 34,800; in April, 36,000; in May, 37,000; in June, 39,000; in July, 39,700; and in August, 40,600, making an increase in eight months of 12,600. In November, 1855, the number was 44,700, being an increase in two years of 16,700 men. Speaking generally, the men are of the most excellent description. Of course they are not all able seamen, but many of those who have not previously served in the navy are seafaring men and possess the habits of sailors. Many, of course, were inexperienced, as must be expected; but they, nevertheless, when mixed with a certain portion of old sailors, formed a very efficient part of the crew, and I believe that after the young men had been a few weeks at sea they were found better seamen than on any former occasion at the commencement of a war. At the same time we must not shut our eyes to the fact that during the late war we never had a naval engagement. No engagement took place with the Russian ships; the enemy never came out of harbour. I hope and trust that a long series of years may elapse before we shall again be engaged in hostilities; but we should be very shortsighted indeed if we shut our eyes against the possibility that such an event might occur; and we should be equally shortsighted if, on the occurrence of such an event, we were not amply provided for and prepared to meet it. I the other day read an exceedingly interesting paper in reference to the naval force of France. It was the opinion of that distinguished officer Admiral La Susse. In point of the number of seamen, France is not deficient, and in point of gallantry nothing can surpass them. Happily a strict alliance and the best feeling prevail between the two countries. That alliance has been cemented by both countries being engaged in a common cause, and by the blood of both nations having boon freely shed in the same battle. The material interests of both countries are promoted and the cause of humanity advanced by that alliance, and I trust never to see the day when that alliance shall be severed. But because that is the state of things between the two nations, and because there can exist no jealousy or ill-will between them, it is that we can speak freely upon the subject of our national defences, and contrast it with the naval moans possessed by our friend and ally, taking his position as a lesson from which we may derive much instruction. Under their present state of organisation the French can, at any time, produce a much larger number of seamen than this country is able to do. The French, besides what they have afloat, have on shore a considerable number of seamen, which would always enable them, at any given moment, to put a larger force on shipboard than this country could. It is notorious that the other great maritime Power, Russia, also maintains a much larger number of seamen than this country does. During the late war a large proportion of those seamen were withdrawn to defend their forts on shore, and it was well known that the greater part of the artillerymen at Sebastopol were taken from the Baltic fleet. I think I need hardly say that that is not the condition in which this great country should stand. The increase made to our fleet has been most satisfactory as to numbers, but I must confess that the period of time in which this was accomplished, and could be accomplished on any future occasion, is not quite so satisfactory. When any sudden demand arises for an additional number of sailors the men must necessarily be drawn from the mercantile service. To supply the vacancy thus created, the merchants must take other men and apprentices—persons who have not been previously employed in the discharge of naval duties. To a certain limited extent this demand may be met, but if it goes beyond a certain amount, what is the further result? The moment the demand for the mercantile service becomes heavy by reason of their men being withdrawn for the Queen's service, the merchants immediately offer a larger bounty than the Government, and the consequence is, that the efficient hands enter the merchant service in preference to the Queen's service. Suppose the Admiralty offered a bounty of £10, or even a higher sum, to all men entering the navy, the merchant with whom they were competing would know that if he could not get his crew completed, he might have to pay £300 or £400 for demurrage; and he could easily, therefore, afford to give a much larger bounty to secure the five or six hands he might want than any amount of bounty which could be held out generally by the country to men for the navy. Besides, in the end the merchant would lose nothing by it, because he would charge the additional cost of freight upon the articles he imported, and the bounty he offered would thus be paid by the community at large. Entry, therefore, from the merchant service cannot be made at once of any great number of men. The other mode is that Government should itself train men for the navy. They have been trying for many years, and with great success, the experiment of entering a large number of boys; but I need not say that that is a very slow process, and which could not be of the slightest use in the case which I am supposing, namely, a sudden emergency in which it was necessary to send a great many ships to sea without delay. The position of this country, then, is a much more difficult one than that of any other nation—I am not, of course, referring to America, where the difficulty is as great or greater than our own—but I am speaking of the European Powers, by whom, in some shape or another, the system of compulsory service is still retained. In former times we could raise 25,000 men in a single year with the help of impressment, but that is an expedient to which the Government can never again have recourse, except in extreme necessity. The only permanent reserve which we have at present for manning our ships, are the marines. The force of marines at the commencement of the late war numbered 12,000; it was raised during the war, and it is now 16,000 strong. With regard to the importance of maintaining them at that strength, I entirely concur with the right hon. Baronet the Member for Carlisle (Sir J. Graham). They are a most useful force. They are equal to the best soldiers on shore, and are only inferior to able seamen afloat; and I quite agree with the right hon. Baronet, that they will form a very solid foundation for any sudden increase of the naval forces of the country. I propose, therefore, not to reduce the number of marines; but they do not properly come within the scope of my present observations, which have reference solely to seamen. With regard to the seamen of France, and their means of manning their navy, I wish to read two or three extracts from Reports in which the opinions expressed by very distinguished men are given. Three or four years ago a Commission of inquiry was instituted on the subject, when some most distinguished French officers were examined. I call attention to the opinions expressed by those officers, because I wish the House to see that other people are aware of those evils to which we shut our eyes. Admiral La Susse says— It is generally thought in France that because we have fewer sailors and ships than England, France could not with advantage make war with her. I affirm this to be a great error. The number of men registered between twenty and forty years of age is at the present day as high as 50,000, adding the men that the recrutement and marines could furnish, France, in the event of a naval war, could count on 90,000 men, a number sufficient to man all the ships in the fleet. Some very false ideas are current in France on the subject of a naval war. The number of ships on either side is counted, and then without consideration the conclusion is arrived at that success will be on the side possessing the greatest number of ships. This is a false conclusion.…. I have the most perfect conviction that France has nothing to fear in a war with England, and comparing our ships under the Empire with those of the present day, I am confident in such a struggle, if well directed, that England would suffer much more than France. Vice-Admiral Dupetit Thouars speaks in the same way. He says— The composition of our 'equipages deslignes' is admirable, our organisation of the personnel very good. This is a real power which we possess; what we want is the materiel. It is quite true also that at the present moment the French are making the most successful efforts to increase their navy. They are building ships as fast as we are. They have far better means, as I have previously stated, of putting men rapidly on board their ships than we have. Their system is as follows:—They have a book of inscription in which the names of all seafaring men are entered. They are called out for service in the navy. From 20,000 to 25,000 men at a time serve for about three years; and they are taught all that a seaman has to learn. The actual time they are kept in the navy differs, but when they are discharged, they are still liable at any time to be called upon to serve, and be put on board ship again. They are therefore men who have gone through all the naval tactics, and who have learnt all that is to be taught in the navy, so that when they come back to the service they are perfectly well trained men. In the same Report from which I have already quoted, it is observed— At the present time, by means of the 'levée permanente,' all the seamen furnished by the 'inscription maritime' have in succession passed through the navy, and have all received a complete education, both in seamanship and gunnery. Another body of men is raised by conscription—7,000 in number, who are trained for the navy, but they seldom make good seamen. It is not natural to them, but they have all the fighting qualities. They understand the management of the great guns, and are thus of the greatest possible use. That is the state of the French navy, and the result is summed up by M. Lanjuinais in these words— On the whole, we believe that, making allowance for all contingencies, we may count on 40,000 seamen eminently fit for war, and on 20,000 borrowed, partly from the 'inscription' and partly from the 'recrutement,' and capable of rendering efficient service if they are properly embodied with the former. It must not be said that we are to count as nothing the 'novices' who have little experience, the master mariners, and the seamen above the proper age, not comprised in the 60,000, who are certainly available; but these must be reserved for service on shore, in transports, and in the defence of the coasts. Now, I ask the House to consider for a moment what is the ordinary state of things in this country. We of course maintain a large number of men afloat, but our seamen are generally scattered over a vast portion of the world. We have extensive colonies and an extensive commerce. Our sailors are employed for the protection of those colonies and of that commerce; but whatever our naval service has been in former years we still want, beyond the ships scattered all over the whole world, a certain force at home, and, above all, we want that which the French and the Russians have, the means of putting at once on board ship a considerable number of seamen. I do not expect the measure which I now propose to accomplish that which, in the opinion of the Government, ought ultimately to be done; but it will considerably aid in providing seamen for our naval service. Measures have from time to time been taken to strengthen the reserve naval force of this country, but I think it better that the measures should be combined together. A certain number of men are entered in the dockyards as riggers, and who are liable to be called into active service in case of war. We drew somewhere about 200 men from this source. The great reserve, however, has been that body of men called the coast-guard. For many years past men who have entered the coast-guard have previously been sailors. The whole number of that body is about 5,000. About 2,000 of those men were draughted last year to serve in the Baltic fleet. There is another body small in number—the pensioners, but who are not very efficient for active service. The whole number of men who were and who might be called into service on an emergency I should state to be about 3,000, and that in all probability not more than about 2,500 were at any one time so employed. Comparing this number with the extent of our maritime power, I must say that such a state of things does not consist with the honour, the interests, or the safety of the country. The circumstance that we were actually able to withdraw 2,000 men from the coast-guard pointed out that branch of the service as the first to which we could look to in forming a reserve. I propose, therefore, to enlarge its numbers, and to render it more perfectly naval in its character. Some years ago there was a force called the Naval Blockade. It consisted of two ships—one in the Downs and the other at Newhaven—on board each of which 1,200 were stationed. Those men were all sailors, either moved from other ships or raised by the officers from the general service; and they were employed in the protection of the revenue. It was supposed that that plan was more expensive than it might have been; although I believe there was some misconception on the subject. It was put an end to in the year 1830. There was a good opportunity of judging of the efficiency of the system as far as manning the navy on an emergency. It being necessary to send ships suddenly to Lisbon, the commanding officer got into his boat, and ran down the coast to give notice to his men. They immediately mustered on board their ship, and they were ready to sail the next day. I propose to render the coast-guard as available as the coast blockade were. The coast-guard originally consisted in great part of civilians, but in recent years a change had been introduced which has rendered it more of a naval body than it had been before. Most of the officers are now naval officers, and about two-thirds of the men were sailors, who have served a certain number of years afloat, and who have been admitted into the coast-guard on account of their good conduct. Those sailors are all liable to be recalled into the service; hut there is this objection to the arrangement, that they remain in the service rather longer than was desirable. It was that circumstance which had furnished a foundation for the facetious account given by the hon. and gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) of the appearance of the coast-guard men in a ship's crew seated on the deck for Divine worship, who, when the chaplain began to read, all pulled off their caps displaying bald heads, and put on their spectacles. Those old gentlemen, however, if not fit to go aloft, were amongst the steadiest portion of the crew; and I have heard from some of the captains expressions of regret at losing their service. The proposal which I intend to make, in fact, is to increase the number of the coast-guard; to discharge all those who have been long in the service at an early period, so as to retain in the body a larger number of young men available for the general service of the country. I propose that their number should ultimately be 10,000, but I do not expect to obtain that number immediately. The increase must be gradual. There are a great number of men in the coast-guard who have not been sailors. With regard to them, I propose to leave all the existing regulations in force. These persons will be subject to the present regulations only; but with regard to those who have come from ships of war, and who, to all intents and purposes, are sailors, they will be subject to the same discipline and to the same liability of service as they were while on board; but they will have an allowance for provisions and lodging, when employed on shore, which will be equal to the present pay enjoyed by the commissioned boatmen and the boatmen of the coast-guard. Thus the persons forming the coast-guard will in future be tried seamen. I calculate that this will create a corps of reserve from which may be drawn, in case of emergency, from 5,000 to 7,000 of the best men, of good character, and who have been discharged from the service and appointed to the coast service as a reward for their good conduct. I must say that, even independently of naval considerations, there are good grounds for increasing the coast-guard for revenue purposes. The present number is not adequate. There are many cases where men are obliged to work night and day. Besides, there are several parts of the coast which have been most unaccountably left unprotected. The coast-guard in Ireland is also, as they are not expected to do duty at night, inefficient. I propose to make the body efficient throughout the United Kingdom. It is therefore indispensably necessary that the body should be considerably increased, and be put on a different footing. There are various parts of the country likewise in an undefended state. I propose to station ships at the principal ports of the country, which will be the head quarters of such a portion of the coast-guard service as is in the neighbourhood of those ports. There are also several revenue cruisers which I propose to attach to those ships as tenders. I have often been asked what I proposed to do with the new gunboats. I believe that they will form a most efficient class of vessels for this purpose. I propose to attach a certain number of them to the large ships, and they will be employed at times as revenue cruisers. The remainder can be used with their heavy guns for the training of the Naval Coast Volunteers; and it is in these vessels that the service of that body will be most efficient in future wars, for the defence of their own homes and shores. The Naval Coast Volunteers was set on foot six years ago, and was to have consisted of 10,000 men; but the whole number was never raised. But the whole attention of the Government having been turned to the raising of men for active service, the project for raising these volunteers has not met with much success, not by any means so much as it might have done, and, as I firmly believe, may still attend it. Further than improving the local organisation, I do not propose to make any alteration with regard to that body. The only complaint I have ever heard is one by the volunteers themselves—namely, that they have not been trained. The fact is, there has hitherto been no means of doing it; but I think it would be most desirable that they should be instructed from time to time in the guard-ship and the gunboats. I hope that by means of practising the batteries of the coast-guard the volunteers may receive a preliminary drill on Saturday even- ings, and other times that will not interfere with their ordinary avocations; and then they may be mustered for a fortnight or three weeks in each year on board the practising vessels. I think also that the ships stationed at the different ports may be made most useful for the training of young men. Captain Harris, at Portsmouth, has had the greatest success in educating young men, and a great many novices and boys have been trained in his vessel. The people of this country have a natural affection and aptitude for the sea; and when the advantages of the Queen's service are known, I have no doubt they will be anxious to enter themselves. I may mention a curious instance of this. When a militia regiment was disbanded a short time since, a number of them volunteered, not for the marines, as might have been supposed, but for the navy. Our great object is to attract the people to the naval service, by making the advantages that it holds out more generally known. At present, all the knowledge that is possessed of that service is confined to persons living near the large naval ports. On a ship being stationed for the first time at a particular port, the people crowd on board, and are particularly struck with the cleanliness and comfort of the ship. Let this familiarity with naval matters be encouraged, and the people of this country will be more ready to engage in the maritime service. There is one other matter I wish to mention. All pensioners are liable to serve during the time they receive their pensions. My right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) introduced a measure to allow men, on their ships being paid off, to choose, after ten or fifteen years' service, to retire from the service, receiving a small pension, but still liable to be called upon to enter the Queen's service again in time of war; but a very inconsiderable number of persons have as yet had the opportunity of availing themselves of that proposal. The number will, however, gradually increase as ships are paid off, and they will form a great addition to the reserve for seamen. I am inclined to think that those persons who are thus paid off, those who belong to the coast-guard and pensioners, should be all brought together, and formed into one body of reserve. This subject of forming a reserve has for many years occupied the anxious attention of every person connected with the naval service, and I was delighted at hearing the other evening my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) express sentiments on this subject which entirely coincide with the opinions I myself entertain. With regard to the present measure, which is only to effect the transfer of the coast-guard from the Customs to the Admiralty, that is an arrangement which, perhaps, might have been effected without coming to Parliament, but I thought it better to submit the whole question to the House, in the hope that, knowing what it is the Government wish to do, Parliament would see the absolute necessity of taking adequate measures for providing a naval reserve. I hope I have succeeded in enabling the House to understand the views of the Government, and in convincing it that the plan I have proposed is the best and readiest mode of providing that which is admitted on all hands to be required for the interest and welfare of the country. I beg to move that the Bill be now read a second time.


Sir, hon. Members may, perhaps, remember that on a former occasion I stated that I was fully impressed with the necessity of such a measure as that which has now been proposed by my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and that I endeavoured to point out to the House, when in office, the urgency of that necessity. My right hon. Friend has stated very truly, that the Coast Blockade was once connected with the Admiralty, and that there was found to be a great advantage in that connection. But in the year 1830, economy was the order of the day, and fical considerations, after a peace of long duration, and which at that time there was no prospect of seeing disturbed, prevailed before all other views, and it was thought expedient to transfer the coast-guard to the Board of Customs. But, notwithstanding that transfer, I and my colleagues endeavoured to give to that force a more naval character, by enabling meritorious seamen to be placed in that service as a reward for good conduct, but at the same time to be available in the naval service if war should unhappily return. That measure was found by experience to be perfectly correct. But my subsequent duties at the Admiralty, convinced me that the time had arrived when that decision of making the Coast Blockade merely a civil force, and subject to civil control ought to be reviewed. I agree with my right hon. Friend, that in outward appearance there will be a considerable increase of expense by the plan now proposed in the first instance; but I am decidedly of opinion that it will ultimately, in a fiscal point of view, be repaid to the public. At this moment a large portion of the coast is not watched by the coast-guard, and a large opening is left for smuggling; and there smuggling no doubt is, and will be carried on to a considerable extent. Now, the plan proposed will cover the whole of the coast of the United Kingdom. It will be well watched throughout, and I am quite satisfied that a salutary effect will ensue; and, if so, in the end the revenue will be more productive—the increased expense will be more apparent than real. It is also quite true, that although impressment, as the last melancholy resource of this country in an extreme emergency, must be retained, yet, as an ordinary means of increasing your naval power, no reliance can be placed on it. But what we want is, not to increase the number of men by force, but by attraction. We wish to induce men to enter the service. My right hon. Friend has pointed out the opposite course on the other side of the Channel, which has been in operation for nearly a century. As a system nothing can be more perfect. It had its origin under M. Colbert, in a country where great vicissitudes have occurred, where there have been monarchy, republicanism, and revolution; but, throughout the whole of that period, notwithstanding all the changes and overthrows of Government, that great system of naval conscription has never been cast aside, and amid all changes it still remains perfectly unimpaired. I do not believe that human skill can devise a better system than the French system of naval conscription. The whole naval population of that country, which has a coast on the English Channel, the Atlantic, and the Mediterranean, is under the command of the Government, and in the shortest time and with the utmost certainty may be made available for war. I do not wish to push this topic further, but still when we know what are the means of the first naval Power next to ourselves, it becomes, I maintain, an act of common prudence without the least delay, to do all we can in favour of the voluntary system. That is the object of the measure proposed by Her Majesty's Ministers. This combination of the various bodies available as a reserve, is, in my opinion, the best course that can be proposed. I do not think a more prudent proposition could have been made by the Government under the present circumstances. We are in an opposite position from that which exists in France. The difficulty which France has to contend with is not the want of men, but the want of matériel; our difficulty is the reverse; our matériel is ample, but without a compulsory power we want men. But, still I am satisfied that, on the whole, our plan is best, and that one volunteer is better than two pressed seamen. We have now enlisted and embodied 16,000 marines, who are perfectly trained soldiers, and as well skilled as any men in the army, while on board ship they are second only to able seamen. They are able gunners, and altogether it is a force so powerful and so valuable, that the House will fail in its duty, if it allows that force to be reduced in the least degree and become inefficient. It constitutes the guard of our most important ports—Plymouth, Portsmouth, Chatham, and Woolwich. These shores cannot be easily assailed while you have a force of 10,000 marines ready to go on board your ships. The new combination which is proposed of the pensioners and coast volunteers with the coast-guard, if well conducted, and if the men are treated with kindness, and at the same time with firmness, I am of opinion will render the Queen's service more acceptable than it ever has hitherto been. It will be a plan most advantageous to the country by reconciling an important body of men to its naval service. If this combination should be effected you will have a body of at least 10,000 volunteers established in this country as a permanent naval reserve for the protection and security of the country. With respect to the coast-guard, I would observe that, perhaps, not immediately, but prospectively, it should be made purely a naval force. Some provision should be made for the early pensioning of men who, from age or infirmity, may be worn out. It is of the greatest importance that this force should be available at all times, and that when a juncture arrived there should be no disappointment. The men should be trained constantly at gunnery. The system of gunnery should in all ships and vessels be used by the coast-guard, that they may be accomplished gunners as well as able seamen when their services are required. It is also very desirable that in the principal harbours of this country ships of war should be stationed as quarters both for the coast-guard and the coast vo- lunteers. As to Scotland, I believe, since the French war, there are ports on the north-east and north-west coast where a ship of war has never been seen. So also on some parts of the coast of Ireland, there are harbours whore ships have never made their appearance. The people of this country are undoubtedly a maritime people. They have a taste for the naval profession, and have a sort of desire to see ships; at the same time they entertain a fear of the severity of the discipline supposed to be practised in them. My belief is, that if you were to accustom the people to see ships of war, and enable them to acquire a knowledge of the real service of the navy, and to know how much it has improved, how little of that severity they dread now exists, and what are the comforts and advantages which the navy now enjoys—I say, Sir, my belief is that the presence of those ships, and the knowledge of the mode in which the discipline is now carried on would be of very great advantage to the naval service and the country at large. I have nothing further to add. I have earnestly desired to see a measure of this kind introduced. I congratulate my right hon. Friend and Her Majesty's Government in having had the opportunity of introducing this measure. I think great praise is due to the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in having given his countenance to it. I think it highly honourable on the part of the Admiralty in having overcome the prejudices that have existed in another great department against this measure. Sir, I am anxious to see the navy of this country maintained in all its efficiency, and I am very confident that, although the measure may appear costly in the first instance, yet in the long run the revenue will not suffer, but prosper under the new arrangement.


said, he wished to know whether the officers in the existing coastguard would remain in the service after the new coast-guard was formed?


said, that a certain number of the present coast-guard would remain if they were competent to discharge their duty.


said, he was perfectly satisfied that the officers who now belonged to the coast-guard would remain in the service, and he therefore trusted that the Government would behave towards them with liberality. With regard to the plan before the House, he desired to express his entire approval of that part of it which transferred the coast-guard from the Treasury to the Admiralty. The main difficulty that we had was the manning of ships on the first breaking out of war. The House had attempted to deal with that difficulty, but unsuccessfully. The coast-guard, without doubt, was the best reserve the Admiralty had, and he thought it infinitely better to increase that service than to endeavour to devise any other mode. They would thereby create a naval reserve of the very best description. He certainly did not think the revenue would suffer by the plan. But as to the expenditure, he was not sure that the country would be repaid in money. But he was prepared to go to a greater expense for that which he believed to be one of the most valuable arrangements for the naval service and for the protection of the country. He was glad that the present moment had been chosen for the proposal of such a scheme. It might have been taken under less favourable circumstances. He remembered that it was agitated when the horizon was not perfectly clear, and one of the great difficulties they had then to contend with was the effect it might have in another quarter. When danger came, and it was proposed to make preparation for that danger, it often happened that the danger itself was increased by the preparation thus made. Any such feeling at present was entirely out of the question. This country was fortunately upon the most friendly terms with the greatest naval Power in Europe after ourselves, and the measure now proposed could not be looked at with that jealousy it might have been at a less favourable moment. He cordially concurred in the proposal of his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty, and in the measure shadowed out he saw nothing but what, in his opinion, the House and the country ought to adopt.


said, that, if the transfer proposed by his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty were considered merely as a fiscal question, and if he had regarded the coast-guard merely as a means of protecting the Customs' revenue, the conclusion at which he should have arrived would, probably, have been that it would be better to let the matter remain in its present position. But, considering the state of the country after the great war in which they had been engaged, and when it was necessary for them, in making a transition from war to peace to consider in what manner it would be possible to place the defensive resources of the country on the most efficient footing, it was necessary to decide what provision could be made that would be consistent with the efficiency of the naval force of the country. In arriving at a conclusion upon that subject, the present state of the coast-guard, and the possibility of using it as a means of manning the navy, and also for training seamen, naturally presented itself in a prominent point of view. Therefore, he viewed the question not merely as a fiscal question, but as a question of general policy connected with the defensive service of the country. Not looking at the coast-guard merely as an engine for the protection of revenue, but taking into consideration the other great interests of the country, and making, as it were, a compromise between the protection of the revenue and the defence of the country, through that great branch of the service, the navy, he came to the conclusion, that on the whole the measure before the House would be conducive to the advantage of the country and to its permanent and lasting interest. Arriving at that conclusion he satisfied himself that sufficient securities would be taken for the protection of the Customs' revenue. That revenue yielded at the present time about £23,000,000 sterling; and it was most important that no defalcation should take place in that great branch of the national income, and that its receipt should not be put in jeopardy. But he was satisfied that under the control of the Admiralty the coast-guard service would be perfectly efficient as an engine for the protection of that important branch of revenue. In reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for the City of Dublin (Mr. Grogan) he would state that there was no intention to break up the present force. It would be simply transferred from the Customs to the Admiralty. Whatever changes might be made with regard to particular individuals would rest upon a special examination of their cases, and upon merely individual grounds. No general change would be introduced with respect to the constitution and formation of the coast-guard.


said, he was delighted with the measure; but he should have been better pleased if the Bill had proposed to raise 15,000 men instead of 10,000. He regarded the navy as the most constitutional force, and he hoped that this measure would prove some sort of recompense for the unfortunate cession of her belligerent rights by this country, of which improvident act he was afraid we should still reap the results.


said, he thought the measure was calculated to excite the jealousy of other nations, and to foster the military spirit in this country. He would take that opportunity of calling attention to the necessity of improving our diplomacy, otherwise these preparations would be rendered nugatory. There were at present 4,000,000 soldiers in Europe, and no one could say there was not danger in that fact. He believed that the late war might have been prevented if a skilful diplomacy had been adopted. What was necessary for defence was one thing, but he looked upon these preparations for war with great jealousy. He implored the House to consider our relations with other countries, and that with the wrangling that had occurred with the United States it was important that the mercantile interests should be fully represented in such a dubious condition of things. He felt it his duty to rise and say that he hoped that those absurd quarrels would soon be put an end to.


said, he hoped that ships of war would be sent to the Irish coasts, as he felt satisfied that a vast number of valuable volunteers would be obtained. He would recommend Government to make a naval station in the north of Scotland and the south of Ireland, as that would hold out the prospect of many volunteers, and at a time when all other nations of Europe were arming it was proper we should arm too.


said, he should support the Bill, for he considered now that all nations were arming we ought to put ourselves not in a position to insult other nations, but so that they should not insult us. Nations were given to war, and when we saw continental nations making encroachments wherever they could he would leave it to his hon. Colleague (Mr. Hadfield) to say, if this country took no step to protect itself, what would be the condition of the country, and of his own constituents, in case of aggression? It was all very well to keep at peace with the world; but mankind had from the beginning of their existence been prone to war, and in spite of the warnings of very well-intentioned men they had gone to war, and would continue to do so as long as the world lasted.

Bill read 2°.

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