HC Deb 18 May 1858 vol 150 cc886-911

said, that in pursuance of his notice, he had now to bring forward his Motion for a Commission to inquire into the best means of manning the Navy. The time bad come when the House of Commons, the Government, and the country should put their shoulders to the wheel with the view of devising some system of manning the Navy in a manner worthy of the country and of the service itself. He should of course be told by the First Lord of the Admiralty that this was not the proper time to bring such a subject under the notice of the House; but he had waited for upwards of forty years—in the hope that this important question would be taken up by some Government, either Whig or Tory, but he had waited in vain. Since October last he found that the Horse Guards had succeeded in enlisting 50,000 men and 30,000 militia; while the Admiralty had not been able in the same fine to man two line-of-battle ships and two frigates. The Diadem was commissioned cm the 19th of April; she sailed on the 13th of July following. He found that the number of men obtained were, 103 in the first week, 80 in the second, then 28, 37, 57, 32, 20, 17, 17, and 19 in subsequent weeks. That was the way in which they were able to man the British Navy—was that right? How came it that, for thirty years, all the statesmen in this country, Whigs and Tories, peers and commoners, who had sat at the head of the Admiralty, had not been able to fall upon some means of giving us an efficient Navy? Generally speaking, the Admiralty did not originate anything advantageous for the service; it more commonly came from without. If a naval officer made any recommendation or suggestion to the Admiralty, they were sure to give him a rebuff. This was so well known, that few officers attempted to go near the Admiralty. Their suggestions, if they made any, must be by letter, and those letters anonymous, otherwise they were treated with a great deal of indifference, and probably punished in some way or other for their presumption. He had been in the habit of making suggestions to the Admiralty for the last forty years; but he could not say that he had received any very favourable attention. One suggestion which be made in 1816, respecting an increase in the officers' pay, had at last been adopted, after forty years' consideration. He would now come to the system of impressment. In the year 1816 he had recommended to Lord Melville a plan by which impressment might be avoided. That plan remained on his Lordship's table some eighteen or twenty years. In 1827 he (Sir C. Napier) made a similar application to Lord Auckland, but that noble Lord thought it was hopeless to induce the House of Commons to take interest in it. In 1835 Sir James Graham brought in a Bill, which, nevertheless, had many faults. It proposed to call out men by Proclamation when the urgency of the service required it. Had the Government issued such a proclamation they would have had to go to the expense of half a million of money before they succeeded in manning the Navy. Afterwards he (Sir C. Napier) brought in a Bill in conjunction with Mr. Sidney Herbert; but, unfortunately, from various causes, that Bill did not succeed. It was not well worked, and the sailors themselves were averse to it. Again, in 1847, he brought in a Bill to amend the Act of Sir J. Graham. In that Bill he proposed that the men should be called out by classes as wanted. For example, if the Queen wanted 5,000 men the register was to be examined, and those who had just served their apprenticeship were to be called out. If they were not enough, those who had served for one and two years were to come forward. But there was no use in calling out men unless there was some mode of making them obey the call; and this he proposed to do by what he considered a mild compulsion. But the House did not think the measure necessary at the time, and it failed. Our system was inferior to that of the French. During the war in Syria several of our line-of-battle ships had to wait at Portsmouth for months before they could obtain their complement of men. For himself, he believed that in case a sharp war were to occur again, they might be obliged to have recourse to the system of impressment unless something was done now; but he did not think seamen would stand it—they had got a better notion of their rights than they formerly had, and they would resist any attempt to impress a man on board ship, and that if life were lost in so doing no jury would convict a man of murder for defending his personal liberty. Formerly the horrors of the system were very great. If a wife wanted to get quite rid of her husband, a father of his son, or a son of his father, they had only to bribe the pressgang, and the poor victim was forced into the service. Even the Speaker of the House of Commons, if he had once got into the hands of the pressgang, would have found it impossible to get off. They would have paid no attention to his remonstrances, or would not have believed him. He knew something of the subject, for long ago he had been engaged in these transactions himself. Unless Parliament were prepared to resort to some regular mode of manning the Navy it must again have recourse to the system of impressment—a system under which the sailor was subjected to a degree of slavery which, he contended, ought not to prevail in the case of any class of men in a free country like England. But the real question for the consideration of the House was, what were the best means for manning our Navy? If they raised the wages of sailors which were very fair at present, merchants must inevitably raise their wages also. He thought means might be found less objectionable than this. In the first place, he would raise the pay of petty officers; to petty officers of the first class he would give £4 a month, or twice the pay of the ordinary seaman, and to those of the second class, he would give half as much as the ordinary seaman's pay. That would not act injuriously upon the merchant service. Then he would recommend—what would perhaps horrify some hon. Gentlemen—that the petty officers should be allowed to advance to the positions of commanders, captains, and other high ranks. The distance might be a long way off, but many men would aspire to reach it, and it would induce many men to enter the Navy. He did not, however, think that the means which he had just mentioned would be in themselves quite sufficient to effect the object which he had in view. An additional encouragement might be found in the re-establishment upon a better footing of the merchant seamen's fund, with the management of which the sailors had become so disgusted that they had almost altogether given up being subscribers. He believed that fund now received from the Treasury a sum of £65,000 per annum, but if the amount were considerably increased sailors would be induced to become regular contributors to the fund, and the means would thus be furnished of providing pensions for their widows and orphans. That much good would thereby be effected he had no doubt, and his own views as to the expediency of taking some such step were borne out by the opinion of a gentleman who was conversant with the subject, and with whom he had been in communication with respect to it very recently. A Commission had been appointed in 1853 which had recommended that a bounty should be given to sailors, but upon that, as well as upon several other recommendations of the Commission, Parliament had not thought proper to act. He might further observe that the authorities by breaking faith with our seamen had caused a loss of confidence upon their part which was calculated to operate most prejudicially. Not very long ago, for instance, a gratuity used to be given to sailors when paid off for good conduct to the amounts of £6, £7, and £10, but the Admiralty in its wisdom had not hesitated to take away that trifling boon even from those sailors who had entered into the service in the expectation that they would be entitled to the privilege. On the recommendation of the same Commission the system had been instituted of granting to the men stripes on their arms as marks of distinction, each stripe being accompanied with additional pay. This privilege, however, they withdrew, so that when the men became petty officers they did not receive more than before. He believed that lately the Admiralty had reinstated matters, and allowed the petty officers to gain the stripes, so that this ground of complaint had been taken away. In 1857 we had as fine a Navy or at least, what remained of it—as could possibly be, yet numbers of the men who composed our crews entered in 1853 as raw recruits. He was informed that the merchant service only furnished 400 seamen to our Baltic fleet in 1854 and 300 in 1855. When the House of Commons was asked to reduce the Navy in 1857, and eight sail of the line were paid off, the continuous-servicemen, who had enlisted for ten years, were not told that they were turned out, but that they might go if they liked. The consequence was—for Jack was very touchy—that the men availed themselves of the privilege very largely. In 1857 there were 17,432 continuous—service men in the fleet, of whom 2,973 were discharged. However, he did not approve the ten years' continuous service system. He believed that the plan of the right hon. Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham) was wiser—to enter the sailors for five years. If the ships were kept in commission five years—and their stores would last that time—the officers might be relieved every two years or two and a-half years, so that other officers would have an opportunity of seeing service. Otherwise there would be continued the state of things described by his hon. and gallant Friend (Admiral Walcott), who for twenty years went on his knees to the Admiralty to allow him to see active service, but in vain. He would keep the ships constantly moving about. The soldiers were removed from Gibraltar, to Malta, the Ionian Islands, the West Indies, and he would do the same with the sailors. He would let them come home occasionally to see their wives and friends and have a run on shore. When he first knew the Navy the sailors scarcely knew what the shore was. They never saw the face of the fair sex, and this was a horrible state of things. The men in the Lisbon squadron of Sir William Parker were never ashore for three years, and other fleets were the same. When he went out in command of a squadron, the late Lord Auckland asked him whether he ought to let the men go ashore. He said he would let them go ashore, whether they got drunk or not, for the evil would right itself. When they got to Lisbon the scenes were very bad. He recommended the authorities to put all the drunken sailors they could find into the guardhouse, and keep them there for two or three days. The Government complained, but he persisted. The Queen sent a message to him not to let the sailors come ashore. Still he persisted, and the result was, that in a short time the men who were allowed to go on shore behaved as well as the officers. Under the ten years' continuous-service system, the tie between the Royal Navy and the merchant service would be almost severed, because the vacancies would be so few that they would be filled up by the boys. But if the men were taken for five years, they would then probably take their turn in the merchant service, and tell the men that the Royal Navy was not so bad a profession. This would be better for the Navy than the ten years' continuous service, which the men did not like. The late First Lord of the Admiralty said, it was true that the men were discharged with their own consent in 1857, but that they had passed over the quarter-deck and entered themselves again for five years' service. He had ascertained how the case stood, and he found that only sixty-three men had crossed the quarter-deck and entered again. In 1857, the Admiralty paid off eight ships of war, on the ground of economy. It was supposed that a saving of £100,000 or £150,000 would be thereby effected. But was the fact so? Did the House believe that all this money was saved? Would the right hon. Gentleman state how much it would cost to put those eight sail of the line in the position in which they stood when they were paid off. He believed the Admiralty would not be able to put them into commission again, fully manned and fully stored, under £200,000. A ship newly fitted out would last five years; but if it were put out of commission at the end of one or two years, there were sure to be complaints of inefficiency, and the ship was usually newly caulked, coppered, masted, and rigged, at a great expense for very trifling defects. In 1853, an Act was passed which repealed the Act of 1835. It enabled the Queen to call the seamen out in classes, but did away with the double bounty given by the Act of 1835, providing that the men should have such pay as the Government might think fit. That was very equivocal in Jack's eyes. He knew what the double bounty was, but he did not know what pay the Government might think fit to give. The register was also abandoned. He disapproved both those alterations, and thought the Act of 1835 would have been much better amended, if the Act of 1853 had merely provided that bounty should not be given to seamen unless in time of war, and that the men should be called out in classes. He did not say that they should begin the register over again, but some means ought to be found for enforcing the calling out men by Proclamation. The manning of the fleet was as simple a thing as could possibly be. Supposing the Channel fleet was to be composed of ten sail of the line, three of them should be flagships. He would discharge from the ships in time of peace one-half the marines. Those marines should garrison the whole of the seaport towns. In the event of war they would go on board again, and the militia would walk into their places. In a case of emergency they might discharge one watch to another ship. The coastguard men must remain to take care of the revenue; but if they called out the Coast Volunteers, they might, by his plan, muster men enough for twenty sail of the line within a fortnight, and that force would be completed in a very short time. But what was the state the country was now in? He did not say that Louis Napoleon was going to invade this country. God forbid! He hoped he would not; but Louis Napoleon might not be his own master. The French army had lately been increased by 40,000, and now numbered 500,000 men. According to the representations of the late First Lord of the Admiralty, while we had forty-two screw ships, France had forty. France had 70,000 trained seamen for fitting out a fleet. A quarrel might arise. They very nearly had one the other day, and he was not quite sure it was over yet. People armed to the teeth at all points could pick a quarrel whenever they pleased. He would ask the House what position England would be in if they heard to-morrow there were fourteen sail of the line manned at Cherbourg and 40,000 or 50,000 troops sent there by the railroads. What would be the effect on the funds? People would be running about right and left, but there would be no means of defence. He spoke plainly, because it was quite immaterial whether he did so or not. The French knew what we had in our ports, just as well as we knew what they had in theirs. When he (Sir C. Napier) was in Russia there was no attempt to conceal anything from him. He went on board almost every ship they had, and did the House suppose the French would not do the same here? We were in a defenceless state. We would not pay an insurance for our lives and property. He believed that if the Prime Minister stood up in his place and said he would not be responsible for the safety of the kingdom unless there were ten sail of the line, the whole country would cheer him from one end to the other. The country did not understand it, nor did Members of Parliament, nor merchants of the City of London. The time was come when they ought not to defer for a day longer the putting the Navy in a proper state. There must be a fleet independent both of the coast guard and volunteers, who formed only a reserve for cases of emergency. If the French were to make a descent upon our coast what should we do? The Commander in Chief could not take the field with more than 30,000 men, while France had an array of 500,000 men, and we had no fleet to send to meet hers at sea in the event of hostilities. It might be said that they could order out the whole coast guard; but did any man mean to tell him that an Admiral could go to sea with his ships manned with coast guards and volunteers, who were only compelled to go fifty leagues from the coast, and in case of emergency 100 leagues? He did not say that men whose services were limited in that way would object to go further if necessary, but still there would be the danger of a mutiny. Altogether he thought it would be most inconvenient to have the fleet manned in that manner. If they wished to support the honour of the country, they must be prepared to put to sea, in the event of being threatened by the French or any other fleet, so as to be certain of victory. In the battle of the 1st of June the French fleet was not manned or officered as it ought to have been, owing to the Revolution; but, in spite of all this, never was an action better fought, and the enemy never hauled down their flags until half their ships' crews were hors de combat. Now, the French sailors were as well disciplined as ours—indeed, better; both men and officers were constantly employed, and the men, after employment for five years afloat, were liable to serve again if called upon. Surely he had said enough to show that it behoved the Minister, whoever he might be, to come down to this House and say, "I must have at my disposal a proper fleet." He (Sir C. Napier) did not wish any extravagant expenditure. There were many ways in which a great deal of money could be saved. For example, he believed that £20,000 or £30,000 might be saved by putting a stop to the nonsense which now went on through having an Admiralty at Whitehall, and another at Somerset House. He wanted a Commission to inquire into all those things—not only the question of manning, but one which would. investigate everything in the dockyards see how it was that at Haslar forty or fifty gunboats were so drawn up that they could not be launched for two months, and inquire also whether the Admiralty was properly carried on. The Commission should not be composed of Lords of the Admiralty or of any who had served in that capacity, but of men experienced in the service who were not warped by red tape. Such a Commission, he believed, would pay well for the service done; and he therefore begged to move— That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to appoint a Commission to inquire into the best means of manning the Navy and improving its management, with a view to reduce its expenditure without impairing its efficiency.


seconded the Motion.

Question proposed.


said, he rose to move, as an Amendment to the Motion, that a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the best Means of manning the Navy and of improving its management, with a view to reduce its expenditure without impairing its efficiency. It appeared to him that a Committee of that House would afford a better instrument than a Commission for conducting that inquiry into the state of the Navy, which he and the gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark were equally anxious to see instituted. He believed that the manning of our fleet was at present a subject of paramount importance. We had of late had in commission along our shores four of the finest ships of their respective classes that had ever been built—the Marlborough, the Euryalus, the Renown, and the Racoon, and they had all been for several months unable to proceed to their destinations in consequence of its having been found impossible to provide them with a sufficient number of men. But that was an evil which had been growing for many years. In the year 1856, Sir Maurice Berkeley, the first Naval Lord of the Admiralty, and one of the most able and indefatigable officers who had ever filled that office, bad stated in that House that we could not have manned more ships than we had done during the progress of our recent hostilities with Russia, and that he really did not know what we should have done if we had been engaged in a maritime war. It appeared to him (Admiral Duncombe) that that was a most serious and a most humiliating statement. He thought the time had come when the House and the country should direct their attention to that particular point; and he should add, that he believed if the Estimates voted by that House were properly applied, we should have better means at our disposal of manning the Navy. He had been told for the first time that evening by the hon. and gallant Admiral the Member for Southwark, that the Government had consented to grant his Motion for a Commission; but he (Admiral Duncombe) certainly felt some surprise that the Government, who must have been aware of the Amendment of which he had given notice, had not thought proper to make known to him in any way their intentions upon the subject. But as he still believed that a Committee would be preferable to a Commission in that instance, he begged leave, in conclusion, to submit his Amendment to the House.


seconded the Amendment.

Amendment proposed,— To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words, "a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the best means of manning the Navy," instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he thought that the Motion and the Amendment had very nearly the same object in view. He believed both sides of the House would agree that this was a most important subject, considering that the Navy was our right arm. The subject for inquiry might be divided into two heads: manning the Navy, and as to its general management and efficiency. As to the first and most important point, he thought it had been conclusively shown that inquiry was necessary; their ships were worthless unless they had men to man them, and it would appear that some of our finest ships were sent to sea without the proper complement of men. The two hon. and gallant Gentlemen who had spoken had recommended different courses, a Royal Commission and a Select Committee. He was opposed to a Commission, as he thought the tribunal would be too narrow to consider the question. A Select Committee, on the other hand, was the most competent body that could be desired, as they could summon witnesses, and take all other steps to ascertain the curious anomaly by which the mercantile marine was well supplied, while the Navy was always in want of men. He thought the inquiry ought to be extended to everything connected with the dockyards, for he was one of those who held that there was a great waste of labour in the Government dockyards, as he found that ten men in a private yard would do as much as fifteen in a Government establishment.


Sir, I must, in justice to the gallant Admirals who have preceded me, assure them that I recognize the same praiseworthy intention in either of their suggestions for a better plan of manning the Navy; but, as for this object, according to their several propositions, the alternation lies between the appointment of a Royal Commission and a Committee of this House. I confess I incline to the former, and for this reason; it might be constituted of civilians who had held the post of First Lords of the Admiralty, and hon. Members conversant with naval matters, with officers of high experience of the naval profession, whether Members of this House or not. In concurring, then, as I do with the gallant Admirals in their views, as to the propriety of securing to the navy the highest state of efficiency, I conceive greater weight would be attached to their opinions, when thus expressed in a deliberative and collective capacity, than, as otherwise would be the case, merely tendered in evidence, individually, before a Committee. For the last four or five years when the Navy Estimates have been before the House, I have never failed to enfore upon the attention of First Lords of the Admiralty the importance of having twelve sail of the line fully manned by prime seamen and ably officered in the highest state of efficiency and preparation, constantly at sea, because it would afford the immediate means, on the most sudden emergency, of supplying by drafts of inferior seamen and landsmen, twice that number of ships for the service of the country, and this irrespective of frigates and sloops. In former days we manned our navy principally from the coasting trade, and seamen and apprentices taken from our merchant ships. Those men were the pride of our navy. I may say the collier brigs were the school and nursery of seamen for the Royal Navy; but screw colliers are driving the old collier brig off the face of the waters. Screw colliers have very small crews and do not enter boys, and our merchant ships are now not compelled to carry apprentices, consequently, we have not the same power to call seamen into our employ, and, moreover, our merchant ships enter too many foreigners of all nations, because they are obtained at a lower rate of wages than our own seamen. Let it, however, be understood, that in the case of a sudden emergency, we have in our mercantile service 180,000 seamen, whilst in the event of a war a large proportion of these seamen so employed in the commercial service of the country would not be required, and we could therefore rely on their assistance. As regarded our Coastguard reserve of seamen, it is true that we cannot command their services at sea beyond a distance of one hundred leagues from our shores, but nevertheless, I am confident that there would not be found one man in that service who would not be willing to admit our claims for their assistance, should it be required. My desire in making these remarks is to remove the impression, and fortify the country in the belief, that we are not in the melancholy state which the statement of the gallant Admiral (Sir C. Napier) is calculated to create. With respect to the reduction of the eight sail of the line to which the gallant Admiral has adverted, I scarcely know what to say upon that point, because it was the House of Commons which first reduced the naval Estimates, and compelled the First Lord of the Admiralty to acquiesce. The income tax having been reduced there was no alternative. The gallant Admiral has with great truth commented on the subject of that system of impressment, which, in former days, was resorted to for the purpose of manning the navy, now banished as it were even in idea; and nothing but our very existence as a nation could justify a resort to it, and heartly do I rejoice in the circumstance, for impressment was little better than slavery. It has been truly said by the gallant Admiral, that in the war, at the period to which his remarks applied, our seamen were not allowed to go on shore for three or five, and in some instance seven years; but to say that they were never allowed during those periods to see the face of a woman was going a little too far. [Sir C. NAPIER: I alluded to the Tagus.] Women were allowed to go on board the ships at each of the home ports in the Mediterranean and some other places. As I am given to understand the Commission asked for will in part thereof be granted as affects manning the navy, it would be an unnecessary trespass upon the attention of the House if I offered any suggestions as to the best manner of manning the navy, for I am confident that every Member of it will be able to deal most effectually with the important question proposed to be submitted to them, and that each will endeavour to the utmost of his ability to forward the best interests of the naval service.


said, he had come down to the House intending to support the Motion of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark. He (Lord C. Paget) had hoped, from the terms of his Motion, that he was going to strike out a new line, and to suggest a little economy in the management of the Navy, when he proposed to ask the Crown to appoint a Commission, to consider the best means of manning the Royal Navy and improving its management with a view to reduce its expenditure without impairing its efficiency; but he found that the gallant Admiral in his speech asked that there should be an increase in the pay of petty officers, and in other branches of the service, which he (Lord C. Paget) confessed he did not think necessary. The ample funds in the hands of the First Lord of the Admiralty were perfectly sufficient to maintain an admirable fleet, whether as respected manning or shipbuilding. The question was, whether they were to have a Royal Commission or a Committee of Inquiry? He did not hesitate in giving his preference to the Amendment of the hon. and gallant Member for the East Riding of Yorkshire (Admiral Duncombe), because he thought a Committee of that House would be able to get better evidence than a Royal Commission, which would most likely consist of some old naval officers, some belonging to, or who had been connected with, the Admiralty. He had great respect for those distinguished officers; but he felt that there was a kind of "about of sanctity" about them which would pre- vent them from receiving the opinions of younger and more active officers. He had another and important reason for objecting to a Royal Commission. A few weeks ago, when he addressed the House on the subject of a reform of lighthouses, he was informed by the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Board of Trade (Mr. Henley) that a Royal Commission should be issued, but he had heard nothing of it since, and he presumed if one were promised for the Navy, it would prove equally tedious, and be probably put off till long after the House had separated for the year. As they possessed some excellent Members for a Committee, he thought it would be well to nominate one at once, for examining into the management of the Navy. There were plenty of naval Members of that House who were competent to carry out this inquiry. The hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) was a perfect Christopher Columbus, and then there was the right hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. M. Gibson) who was as good a sailor as could be desired. He might be allowed to say that he thought this was the most opportune time for inquiry. He had heard warnings thrown out against inquiry at the present time, when they could not get men for their ships, and when vessels in Portsmouth harbour were entering only three or four men a week, and that it was inexpedient to publish this fact to the whole world, but this country had never, in his recollection, been so well prepared for any contingency which might happen as now. At the close of the Russian war that admirable force, the Coastguard, was augmented, and placed under an excellent officer, Commodore Eden; and under the naval administration of the right hon. Member for Halifax (Sir C. Wood) the Coastguard received a great accession in numbers, who were also first-rate seamen. In fact they had a force amounting to 8,000 men. No man could read the newspapers without being struck with the fact that while they had splendid ships and first-rate officers, they could not procure men. But they were safe with the Coastguard, and the 10,000 Coast Volunteers, who were, he believed, efficient. There was, however, no opportunity for members of the former force occasionally going to sea to keep their hands in, and it was, besides, most important to consider how its ranks should be reinforced; for, able and efficient as it was at present, unless proper means were taken to recruit its ranks, it might come to consist of a set of men like those complained of by the gallant Admi- ral for always reading the Bible with their spectacles on. He meant no offence to the gallant Admiral—it was very proper that sailors should read their Bible; but what he meant was that the members of the force would become elderly men, and would consequently, not be possessed of that energy and activity which was so essential, and, therefore, he thought it would be worthy of the consideration of the Committee, if one should be appointed, to endeavour to improve this part of the system, for many of the men would be glad to return to sea again. He would therefore propose that the Coastguard should take an occasional tour of duty at sea, their places being supplied by the crews of ships arriving from foreign service. The next point for them to consider was the manning of the fleet. It was an easy thing to propose an increase of pay to petty officers, and such a course must be popular among them, but they had no right to expect to be paid differently from others. By improving the system he thought they might increase efficiency without enlarging expenditure. He was perfectly satisfied with the exertions which had been made in general by the right lion. Gentleman late at the head of the Admiralty, but he could not help finding fault with one part of his administration. In 1852–53 there was a Committee of naval officers appointed to inquire into the question of manning the Navy. They reported that it was desirable to employ ships of war for the purpose of transport instead of hired vessels, where that could be done without prejudice to the public service; but their recommendation had never been fully carried into effect, notwithstanding the number of ships of war available for that duty. At Liverpool there was a line of-battle ship, which was fit to go to sea to-morrow, and yet he had seen in a newspaper that the steamer Pacific, of 1,500 tons burden, had been taken up to carry troops to Ireland, and in the same newspaper he had read that the City of Manchester, a steamer of 2,109 tons, had been chartered for the conveyance of troops to Gibraltar. Now, these were services which could well have been performed by ships of war, and in his opinion the statement which was sometimes made, that carrying troops interfered with the discipline of a man-of-war, was entirely without foundation. On the contrary, he thought that if more ships of war were employed in the transport service a larger number of able seamen would be retained in the service of the State, In the Estimates of the present year he found a sum of £495,000 for the hire of transports. When the Estimates of last year were framed we were at peace with all the world, and then our Estimates for the transport of troops in hired merchants ships was £207,000. The Committee he had alluded to recommended that the business of reliefs and all common business should be undertaken by vessels of war. Our Estimates this year for survey, troop, and store ships was £102,700; the survey ships he should imagine took up more than half that sum, so that they had spent only £50,000 in carrying out the recommendation of the Committee, whilst there was a charge of £495,000 for hired merchant ships the crews of which would not be available in war. If we had only applied half that sum in keeping up men-of-war transports, employment would be found for half pay officers who were now wasting their best years on shore, while a saving would probably be effected in the item for transports. He had suggested on a former occasion that the crew of the Royal Albert, three-decker, instead of being turned adrift upon the world, should, as an experiment, be kept together and placed in one of the barracks and made to do the work of the Dockyard at Portsmouth or Plymouth. In the Dockyards we had now 500 men employed in our boys, 400 riggers, and 2,500 labourers, the work performed by all of whom might be done by the sailors of our fleet who would thus have a tour of duty on shore. He was convinced that without adding a shilling to the expenditure of the country we might obtain a large accession to our force of regular seamen; and he trusted that the Commission or Committee would be appointed to take these matters into its consideration.


said, he thought that the importance of this question could not be overrated. Last night, however, when they were engaged in a discussion of a totally different character, the question whether certain Gentlemen should be transferred from one bench to the other, there were present 500 hon. Members anxious to hear the magnificent speeches which were made, the House was crowded up to the galleries till one in the morning, and everybody was in the highest state of excitement; but now, upon a question involving not merely the honour and reputation, but the very existence of this country, they in the early part of the discussion had only about fifteen hon. Members present. That was certainly a very curious spectacle for the Senate of the first maritime country in the world to present. From what they had heard, it appeared that what was called economy in these matters was in nine cases out of ten nothing more than extravagance and sheer waste of money. When they talked of the necessity of extending the naval defences, what they meant—and there was no use in mincing the matter—was this, that we were not in a position to defend ourselves from an attack from our nearest neighbour. Across the water they knew exactly the condition of our naval defences; they knew everything that passed in our dockyards, and therefore it was idle—nay, absurd, to make any mystery about the matter; and the fact was, that when they were discussing this matter they were considering how they could resist a French invasion. He did not anticipate a French invasion, for he belioved that the distinguished man who sat upon the throne of France would do all in his power, in the interest of both countries, to prevent an outbreak; but even that great man was not omnipotent, and it was impossible to say what might, from the consequences of a casualty, happen after what had recently occurred in England. Notwithstanding what had fallen from the gallant Admiral opposite, it was not very clear how we could at all times command a sufficient number of seamen for meeting what was termed an emergency, but which simply meant an invasion, without maintaining the "continuous-service" system. It was perfectly true that for an ordinary war they would have time to man their ships; but how were they to deal with an emergency unless they had a number of men ready to be employed? In France, when once they laid hands on a seaman they never parted with him, in a manner, for they knew where to find him again; whilst we were perfectly aware that we could not at this moment man two or three line-of-battle ships. His hon. and gallant Friend had said, that if they had ten sail-of-the-line, they could easily man ten more; but where were the ten sail of the line? About two months ago they elicited from the First Lord of the Admiralty that for many months past they had not had a single ship commissioned for defence, whilst it was merely in the chapter of accidents when they might want them. They should consider the enormous wealth of this country, and then say whether it was not perfect madness to leave that wealth in a defenceless state. As to the question of Commission or Committee, he preferred a Com- mittee; and for the reason that they would have a Committee directly; and another reason was, that it appeared to him that if the Board of Admiralty had been constituted as it ought to have been, this Committee would not have been necessary; for what had the Board of Admiralty been considering for thirty years, but how to manage the navy?—and if the house were asked to solve the question for them, it showed that they were incompetent to deal with the subject. The hon. Member for Tynemouth (Mr. Lindsay) had told them that there was great difficulty in manning men-of-war, and none in manning merchantmen; and it was a simple question of money; they would not pay the market price, and hence the difficulty. Let any man consider what would be the loss, in position, character, and security, from the occupation by an enemy of any part of our coasts for a few days, and then say whether the necessary sum for manning the fleet was too much to pay to avert such a calamity. He repeated, that this question involved not merely the honour and the dignity of the country—not merely the dominance of the British lion, of which we had heard so much—but the very existence of England. He entirely agreed with the noble Lord opposite (Lord Paget) in his remarks upon the transport service, and he only wished that he would move for a return of the cost of the transport service of the country, from the commencement of the Crimean war to this time, for it would have shown the House that the waste of expenditure on the transport service during the Crimean war was something that nobody would believe, and which sum would have been sufficient to have built a navy. He trusted the present Board of Admiralty would turn their attention to the transport service.


said, he was extremely sorry that the hon. and gallant Member for the East Riding of Yorkshire (Admiral Duncombe) should have thought that the Government had been guilty of any discourtesy towards him in respect of this Motion; but he certainly did anticipate that another debate, of which the House was now in the middle, would have occupied every night this week, and that this question would have been postponed. Had it not been for that expectation he should have informed his hon. and gallant Friend of the course that the Government intended to take on the present Motion. Turning to the speech of the hon. and gallant Officer opposite (Sir C. Napier), he thought that he had borne rather hardly upon successive Boards of Admiralty when he said that it was in vain for any officer to approach the Board, because any representations from officers of the navy were always treated with indifference. He should himself be exceedingly sorry to be guilty of any discourtesy either to the gallant Admiral or any other officer of the navy; and from his experience, which was limited to a very few weeks, he could not believe that the members of the naval profession, who succeeded each other at that Board, would show any disinclination to entertain proposals which might come from such high and justly respected authorities as the gallant Admiral. He honoured the feelings which had led the hon. and gallant officer to press this matter upon the attention of Parliament; he fully admitted the immense importance of this topic, and the difficulty, if not danger, to which this country was exposed by attention not having been paid to this subject earlier, but he thought that the House would do him the justice to admit that great part of the speech of the gallant Admiral was directed to topics which he himself brought under the notice of the House when introducing the Navy Estimates. He then expressed in strong terms the deep sense which he entertained of the importance of this subject, and stated, as far as he could after so short a tenure of office, what were the views of the Government on the matter, and how anxious he felt to find some remedy for the existing state of things. He then referred to the slowness with which our ships were manned; but he was happy to inform his hon. and gallant Friend behind him (Admiral Duncombe) that considerable progress had since been made in completing the crews of the very ships which he had mentioned. He also alluded to what he thought the very unwise dismissal of the continuous-service men and the paying off of ships last year, and to the necessity of recommissioning the same ships this year; and stated the views of the Government upon that practice of commissioning ships for a short time, which he then and still thought a most unwise practice, and which he hoped to amend. He was sure that the gallant Admiral and his hon. and gallant Friend behind him would admit that these were matters which could not be corrected in a few days or weeks. On the same occasion he stated, almost in the words of his hon. and gallant Friend, that the defenceless state of our coasts was humiliating and disgraceful to the country as a naval Power. Since then he had from day to day been endeavouring, in conjunction with the Board of Admiralty, to remedy that state of things, and he hoped not without some success. We had now more ships and men available than we had at that time. He did not seek to attain impossibilities by endeavouring to correct in a few weeks evils which were the result of the impolicy of years; what he aimed at, and what he did not despair of accomplishing, was, to put the manning of our navy on such a permanent footing, that England should not again suffer the same risk and the same inconvenience to which she was now exposed. At the same time he must express the regret with which he bad heard the gallant Admiral say that we had no means of defence and no ships. [Sir C. NAPIER said that he had not used such an expression.] In speaking of a matter of great national importance, it was necessary to be cautious, as the words spoken would go through Europe. He, therefore, could assure the gallant Admiral that he took his words down, and they were, that we had no defence whatever, and no ships. No doubt he meant that we had no ships in full commission or in the Channel. [Sir CHARLES NAPIER: Hear, hear!] In the ports we had some of the noblest ships that ever were built. At Sheerness, at Portsmouth, and at Plymouth, we had some of the noblest men-of-war ever launched, which were in the first condition of steam ordinary, and could be prepared for sea in forty-eight hours. He was sorry to say that at this moment we had not the means of manning them so readily as he could wish; but he hoped that defect might be corrected; and supposing an emergency should arise, lie had that faith in the spirit and energy of the country, that he believed there would be no difficulty in sending a fleet into the Channel at a very short notice. He was very glad to hear from the hon. and gallant Admiral that he did not think that this country would sanction the resort to any compulsory manning of the navy, or any return to the system of impressment. He did not believe the spirit of the country would bear a return to that system. The only result of its adoption would be to drive our sailors to other countries, and he hoped that we should never sanction any plan for manning the navy more stringent than that adopted for recruiting the army. If, then, we could not adopt compulsion we must turn to other means, and must endeavour to put our navy on so permanent a footing that we might at all times, and under all circumstances, rely upon having a force which should amply provide for the defence of the country. The real and practical question was, how that was to be done? and he quite acknowledged that that was a fair subject for inquiry. When notice of the Motion was given, he stated, in private conversation with the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark (Sir C. Napier), that inquiry had already taken place to a sufficient extent; but, upon reconsideration, he had altered that opinion, and he would shortly explain to the House the reason of the change. The noble Lord the Member for Sandwich (Lord C. Paget) had asked him whether he had ever seen the Report of the Committee of 1852 with respect to the manning of the navy. To that Report he had alluded at considerable length upon a former occasion, when he stated what the noble Lord would admit to be the fact, that the Report in question was the origin of all the improvements recently introduced as regarded the manning of the navy. He thought that the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark had hardly done justice to the contents of that valuable Report. The hon. and gallant Admiral had stated that the recommendations of the Committee, with respect to bounties and other matters, had not been carried out; but, with one exception, he had omitted all reference to those parts of the Report which had been carried into effect. A great deal of what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Officer on the subject of the continuous-service system he had heard with regret and surprise, for he had no idea that the gallant Admiral disapproved the system of continuous service for ten years. He believed that the dismissal of 3,000 continuous-service men by the late Government was one of the most unfortunate steps connected with the navy which had ever been taken. The Board of Admiralty had been occupied for the last few weeks in anxious endeavours to give extended effect to the continuous-service system. Their object was to increase the number of continuous-service men. They were also considering measures connected with the system of pensions, and were devoting a good deal of attention to the present state of the petty officers of the navy, being anxious to adopt a system under which no man should be allowed to hold rank and pay as a petty officer unless he had entered for continuous service. It was by such measures that they hoped to effect their object of establishing a good standing navy. The noble Lord the Member for Sandwich had referred to the Royal Albert, and had recommended that the crew should be held together. That, however, could not be done until all the men were entered under the continuous-service system. In addition to that system, the country had derived considerable advantage from the Coastguard and Naval Volunteers. The establishment of the corps of Naval Volunteers was entirely owing to the Committee of 1852. It might be termed a marine militia, and he thought the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark would hardly recommend that more compulsion should be resorted to with respect to it than was now adopted in the case of the land militia, at all events until it had been proved that the present system had failed. At present the volunteer plan was most successful, and, so far as the Naval Volunteers and the Coastguard were concerned, we had a reserve which, though not so numerous as it ought to be, was still very effective. The noble Lord the Member for Sandwich (Lord C. Paget) had expressed a fear that the Coastguard were allowed to become rusty and unsuited to sea service. That was a point to which the Board of Admiralty were directing their attention. They hoped to perfect a system under which the seagoing powers of the men should be kept in constant activity. With respect to the three most important points connected with the navy—the continuous-service system, the Coastguard, and the Naval Volunteers—the Committee of 1852 had conferred great benefits upon the country, and had rendered unnecessary any further inquiry. But there was one branch of the subject to which the attention of that Committee had not been sufficiently directed—he meant the value and capabilities of the mercantile marine as an auxiliary to the Royal Navy; and it was here, be thought, that further inquiry might take place with advantage. Since the Committee drew up their Report, considerable changes had occurred in the constitution of the mercantile marine. The old manning system had been repealed, and the registration system had broken down. In consenting, therefore, to a further inquiry, he by no means wished to throw the slightest blame upon the gallant and very distinguished Officer who conducted the investigation of 1852. It was of the utmost importance, however, that means should be found for making the mercantile marine more useful to the navy in case of emergency, and with that view he thought it desirable that some inquiry should be instituted. Then came the question whether the investigation should be intrusted to a Commission or to a Committee. He preferred a Commission. There was no reason why a Commission, as anticipated by the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich, should consist exclusively of naval officers and Lords of the Admiralty; on the contrary, one of his reasons for preferring a Commission to a Committee was that it would enable the country to obtain the assistance of gentlemen practically acquainted with the mercantile marine, and who were not Members of that House. Besides, it was important that the inquiry should be carried on and concluded as promptly as possible, and the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich was wrong in supposing that delay would be the necessary result of a Commission. If the House approved a Commission he would take care that there should be no unnecessary delay in its appointment; and when once appointed it might sit whenever it liked, without reference to holidays or adjournments, and carry on the inquiry continuously. The result would be that the public would receive the Report with greater promptness than the well-known dilatory proceedings of a Committee of the House of Commons admitted of. Such an inquiry would be better conducted by a Commission than by a Committee of fifteen Members of Parliament, many of whom would not, of course, be cognizant of all the difficulties and intricacies of the subject. To this extent he was willing to meet the proposal of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark, but he could not consent to the second portion of the Motion. He by no means denied the great importance of the subjects to which the hon. and gallant Admiral had referred, but what were they? The gallant Admiral had adverted to the constitution and working of the dockyards, to the whole constitution of the Board of Admiralty, and to the whole management of the Royal Navy. Now, he asked hon. Members how soon did they think there would be a chance of obtaining any Report, either from a Committee or Commission, if the inquiry was not to be confined to the question of manning the navy, but to be extended to all those other subjects? He thought it one of the most unbusiness-like proposals he had ever heard of. The manning of the Royal Navy was a most important, distinct, and practical question, which a body of gentlemen might direct their attention to, and make their Report on; but if the gallant Admiral thought the constitution of the Admiralty or of the dockyards required correction let him make a distinct Motion on that subject; but in the course of a long speech he had alleged no reasons why the Commission should go into that extensive inquiry. He might be permitted to say, however, that the present Board of Admiralty were not negligent with regard to that subject and other subjects. They were now engaged in organizing two Committees. To one of them was to be intrusted an inquiry into our steam machinery and the best mode of applying steam to the Royal Navy. That was one large subject of inquiry of great importance. The other Committee was to investigate the present system of the dockyards. It appeared that in reference to efficiency and economy some inquiry was necessary. He was now preparing a Committee of inquiry on that subject, and he believed that by such a Committee the inquiry would be more effectually carried out than by embarrassing a Committee or Commission with the investigation of the whole of these subjects. He would give the House some little idea of the extent of these inquiries by stating that a very eminent individual connected with the mercantile marine informed some of the gentlemen organizing these Committees that the different heads of inquiry could not be satisfactorily gone through under three years. He mentioned this to show that the gallant Admiral was preparing more work than ally Committee or Commission could satisfactorily perform. These were the reasons why he could not consent to the latter part of the Motion, and therefore he should suggest that the Motion should conclude with the words, "manning the Navy." With that alteration he was willing to consent to the Motion.


said, he thought that they were all agreed as to the great importance of the subject to which his hon. and gallant Friend had so ably called the attention of the House, and he should not, therefore, trouble the House with any observations in support of the object he had in view. The only question on which there was any difference of opinion was as to the relative advantages of a Committee or Commission. Perhaps either of these means of inquiry would very sufficiently accomplish the object in view, but he thought that there were reasons why a Commission was preferable to a Committee. Some of these reasons had been indicated by the right hon. Baronet opposite. In the first place a Commission was a more "continuous-service" instrument than a Committee. A Commission sat during adjournments and prorogations and could go from place to place. In taking the evidence, there would be more facility of interspersing conversations with examinations, and a greater freedom of communication between the persons conducting the inquiry and the persons examined, in the case of a Commission than the formality of proceedings in a Committee would probably allow of. He should therefore support the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend for a Commission in preference to the Amendment suggesting another mode of inquiry. The right hon. Baronet opposite had suggested the expediency of limiting the inquiry to the subject mentioned in the first part of the Motion, and he would recommend his hon. and gallant Friend to accept the suggestion. That subject would be quite sufficient to occupy the Commission for a considerable time; and his hon. and gallant Friend, if he succeeded by his Motion in providing a good plan for securing the manning of the navy, would accomplish a great national object, for which the country would be deeply indebted to him.


said, he concurred in the statement of the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) that if they wanted a good article they must give the market price for it, and he trusted, as the continuous-service system was about to be restored, that the House, when the proposition came before it, would not object to vote the money for the purpose. As the difficulty of obtaining men for the Navy had been adverted to, lie would observe that there was no difficulty in obtaining lads from 14 to 17 years of age. They were perfectly willing to enter the service, and would soon rise into men; and when once they began the service they were apt to abide by it. If that were so, it would be worth while to make some expenditure for the purpose of receiving a number of those lads, and training and educating them, He preferred a Commission to a Committee, as an instrument of inquiry, and he presumed that the hon. and gallant Admiral would not be indisposed to limit his Motion in the manner suggested by the first Lord of the Admiralty.


said, he must express his regret and surprise that the Government had not supported an inquiry by a Committee of that House rather than by a Royal Commission, which was always liable to some suspicion. He was sure the report of a Committee of that House would have more confidence with the country.


replied, he decidedly objected to the employment of men of war as transport ships. He assured the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty that in what he said he did not mean at all to reflect upon him, but upon the late Board of Admiralty, of whom he had a good right to complain, and he was surprised that, of three Lords of the Admiralty who were in the House not one of them stayed to hear the debate. He gratefully accepted the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, believing, as he did, that be would not have got so much if the late Board had been in power.

Amendment and Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

Resolved,That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, praying that She will be graciously pleased to appoint a Commission to inquire into the best means of manning the Navy.