HC Deb 04 March 1859 vol 152 cc1294-310

Motion made and Question proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."


said, he rose to move that as the First Lord of the Admiralty has stated that the Coast-Guard Ships are comparatively useless, the time has arrived when they ought to be replaced by efficient ships; and also to inquire when it is the intention of the Government to put in force the recommendations of the Commission for manning the navy? He complained that the Government, at the time they paid off seven sail of the line, did not embrace that opportunity to send proper ships to replace the nine block-ships which the First Lord of the Admiralty had himself described as useless. In the Baltic these block-ships were useless except for the purpose of battering; a stronghold when laid alongside. They were now lying in the outports, employed for two purposes, namely, to prevent smuggling, and to recruit and exercise the men; but they were looked upon as a disgrace to the British navy. He asked whether it was prudent or proper in these days, when the French were arming, and might send out their Channel fleet at any moment, to leave us dependent on such vessels? There were seven ships in what was called the first reserve, which were ready for sea, and two were actually in commission. He was glad of that. Nine more of the second reserve were prepared to go to sea. These nine ships he proposed should be brought round, fitted out, and then sent to replace the nine useless block-ships in the outports. Why the right hon. Gentleman did not do so was something which appeared to him as extraordinary. Could it be said, as it had been said, that it was from a fear of wearing out the decks of these good ships by the exercise of the men? If that were the reason we had better give up maintaining a fleet at all. It could not be urged that the Coast-Guard were only to be disturbed in case of an emergency, for they had already been called out once, so that that objection was overcome. It was a time when a European war was expected, and might break out at any moment. Arming was going on in France, in Austria, and in all directions, and although no one could be certain where hostilities might commence, or to what point they would extend it was high time to bestir ourselves and to adopt the most vigorous measures for the national defence. Why it was not done he could not for the life of him make out. It could not be put upon the House of Commons, for he was certain the money would not be refused, and that if the right hon. Gentleman would send twenty-five or thirty sail of the line into the Channel he would be applauded from one end of the House to the other. Nor would he blame the Government. The Government had asked money and had asked men. But the Admiralty would not make use of the materials in their hands. With regard to the Report of the Commission on Manning the Navy, he expressed a hope it would not be locked up as the report of the Commissioner on the same subject was till the ether day. It was universally admitted that those recommendations were of considerable value and importance, and no one would deny that, if they were to be adopted at all, the sooner they were adopted the better. The right hon. Baronet did not appear to him to be getting on sufficiently fast, and he should implore of him to go more ahead.

Amendment proposed— To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'as the First Lord of the Admiralty has stated that the Coast-Guard Ships are comparatively useless, the time is arrived when they ought to be replaced by efficient ships,'—instead thereof.


said, he had himself been in Australia, and wished on that account to corroborate what had fallen from the noble Lord (Lord A. Churchill). Owing to the course of legislation with regard to our Australian colonies, and the prosperity they enjoyed, they were as loyal and contented as any part of the world, and had not one grievance except this, of the want of naval protection for their extensive coast. They had a seaboard of 1,200 or 1,300 miles, with four or five harbours, all accessible to ships of war. They were naturally anxious in these times of rumours of war. and the more so on account of the gold which was brought down to the ports. During the Russian war they were in a state of consternation on that subject, and resolutions were taken as to the removal of the gold which it would not be politic to reveal. The whole, however, was known to the Secretary for the Colonies. He could assure the House, from personal inspection, that the harbour of Sydney was perfectly open to ships of war. He could confirm the statement of the noble Lord as to the approach of the ships of war to that harbour. He himself awoke and found them immediately under his house. If they had been hostile they might have destroyed the town.


I hope my noble Friend (Lord A. Churchill) will not think that I was guilty of any discourtesy in not at once replying to his remarks; because the gallant Admiral had given notice of a Motion with reference to the blockships, and if I had not waited for his statement, the forms of the House would have prevented my replying to him. I entirely agree with my noble Friend, that whether it be with respect to naval force or any other matter, the Australian colonies have the fullest right to every friendly consideration at the hands of the Government; but I am not equally disposed to admit the truth of the words used by him in his notice as to the "entirely inadequate naval protection" of those colonies. At all events, I am in a position to say that, be their defence adequate or inadequate, it is much more effective than it was when I succeeded to the Admiralty. At that time the Australian colonies were defended by one vessel, and I believe by one vessel only—I am sure by not more than two. The sappho brig was under orders to proceed from the Cape of Good Hope to strengthen that squadron, but unhappily she was lost, and I am afraid that all hands perished with her. Since that time the Aurelia sloop of war has gone to Australia from the Kooria Mooria Islands; and in the course of the last summer I ordered two other sloops of war to proceed from the China station to strengthen the Australian squadron. The result is, that at this time that squadron consists of four men-of war, two of which are screw steamers; and in a letter which I received very recently from Captain Laurie, the commanding officer of that station, I was assured' that in his opinion that squadron was amply sufficient for any necessity which could arise within the colonies. I hope that so far my statement will be satisfactory to my noble Friend. This question touches another matter—namely, whether we are prepared to erect a naval station in the Australian colonies. Since I have been at the Admiralty I have been in communication with the Government of Sydney with a view to obtaining possession of an island in that harbour called "Garden Island," and we propose to appropriate that island at least to the reception of naval stores for the benefit and assistance of Her Majesty's vessels in those seas. That arrangement is at present in its infancy. I mention it, however, to show my noble Friend that we are not unmindful of the necessity of having some naval establishment in those seas, and I hope that it will soon he so far matured as to meet all the requirements of our fleet. My noble Friend mentioned a fact of which I was not aware—that it was the intention of Lord Auckland to make the Australian station a separate command. It is my intention to carry out a similar arrangement. The Board of Admiralty have come to the determination that the Australian colonies ought not to be nominally attached to the India and China station, and we therefore propose to make it an independent command. I will now turn to what fell from the gallant Admiral opposite (Sir Charles Napier) with respect to the blockships. He complains that I, having stated that these are very useless vessels, still keep them round the coast as coastguard ships. I think the gallant Admiral rather overstates what fell from me with regard to the comparative inutility of these blockships. What I stated was, that as line-of- battle ships, as sea-going men-of-war, they are useless ships; but they are by no means useless as floating batteries. They are very powerfully armed, and in the event, which I hope will not occur, of England's being engaged in any naval war, these ships, defective as they undoubtedly are, would be found extremely valuable as floating batteries for the protection of our harbours. I am, however, quite ready to admit that I do very much wish that, even for their present purpose, I could see these ships succeeded by more effective and more useful ones. I think that would be very desirable, but I must ask the gallant Admiral to make some little allowance for the shortness of the time during which I have had to deal with these matters, and the amount of work that has had to be accomplished in that time. It, is the wish and intention of the present Board of Admiralty that, at all events as the commissions of these ships expire—I will not say that under some circumstances it might not be done sooner, but at all events as their commissions expire—they I should be replaced by stronger and more effective ships. At the same time I cannot, for several reasons, agree with the gallant Admiral that it is expedient simultaneously to exchange all these blockships for larger and more effective men-of-war. In the first place, looking to the duties which they have to discharge as training ships for the coast volunteers, who are there instructed in gunnery, and the consequent wear and tear to which they are exposed. I was unwilling, considering the state to which our effective strength was reduced, to expose one-third of it to such deterioration. By the end of the present year our line-of-battle ships will be nearly 50 per cent stronger than I found them, and I shall then be more, at liberty to deal with matters of this kind. There are also other reasons to which I must request the attention of the gallant Admiral. One of these is the great expense which would attend the paying off and throwing out of commission nine ships of this class, and commissioning other ships in their places. That is a consideration which we must not altogether forget. But there is another, to which I attach greater importance—namely, that we cannot effect such an exchange without making a very considerable demand upon the strength and labour of our dockyards. From the causes which I explained the other evening, our strength in the dockyards has been, and is at present, so taxed to supply the defects to which I then alluded, that unless it was imperatively necessary I should be unwilling to throw upon them the additional labour of preparing an additional number of ships merely to substitute—for that is all that I should have it in my power to do—screw 80's for these blockships. I hope this explanation will be satisfactory to the gallant Admiral. In the course of his observations he travelled a good deal beyond the terms of his notice, and referred to the reserves which we have it in our power to call out. I do not think that this is quite a fitting moment to discuss that subject, and I will therefore limit myself to saying that in this respect Her Majesty's Government are more willing to go a-head—as the gallant Admiral calls it—than he gives them credit for. At all events, I can assure him that their attention is at present directed to the state of our naval defences, and I earnestly hope that at no future day will the gallant Admiral have cause to reproach us with having neglected them. It now only remains for rue to answer his question as to when it is the intention of the Government to put in force the recommendations of the Commission upon the manning of the navy. I will answer that question as frankly as I can. In doing so it is not necessary for me to become the apologist or champion of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Sir James Graham), who is so well able to defend himself; but I must say, that I think the observations of the gallant Admiral were eminently unjust to my right hon. Friend. In fact, his remarks with regard to the Report of the Committee of 1852 were quite incorrect. He said that the Report of the Duke of Northumberland's Committee of that year had been locked up, and no notice taken of it. Now, upon every occasion on which I have addressed the House upon this subject since I held my present office I have acknowledged the services which my right hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle rendered to the country, when First Lord of the Admiralty, by taking most decided action upon the Report of that Committee. It is owing to the action then taken by Her Majesty's Government, by the adoption of the continuous service and coast volunteer systems in accordance with the recommendations of that Report, that our means of manning the navy at this moment are what they are. The gallant Admiral seems to have forgotten these facts, and has consequently dealt rather hard justice, not to the Government of which I am a Member, but to a former one, the Members of which certainly did their duty nobly in this respect. When the hon. and gallant Admiral asks me when the Government intend to put in force the recommendations of the Commission for manning the navy, I beg to remind him that the Report of the Commissioners consists of two distinct parts. The latter portion refers to the important question, how we are hereafter to connect our naval service with the mercantile marine in the event of any emergency arising. The hon. and gallant Admiral will admit that that portion of the Report is of a very comprehensive and complicated character. It involves a great outlay of public money; it involves considerable changes, which must be maturely weighed; and the measures which it recommends are of a nature which no Government, however anxious to "go a -head," could carry out upon the instant. Under these circumstances, I cannot say more than that we are sensible of the importance of the Report, and shall give it full and prompt consideration. The other part of the Report stands upon different grounds; it consists of suggestions of different modes in which the Commissioners think we may make the present continuance service system more effective for the public interests. I admit the great value of those suggestions, and with regard to most, if not all of them, I believe it to be competent to the Admiralty, without the assistance of Parliament, and without embarking into any considerable expense, at once to carry them into effect. We are prepared to consider them as expeditiously as we can, and, if they meet our approval, to put them in execution as promptly as possible. Some of them, in fact, have been already under our consideration; a very important one engaged our attention to-day, and I hope to-morrow we shall be in a condition to act upon it.


explained that he had never read the Report of 1852, nor had he ever seen anybody who bad done so.


Sir, I am glad to find that the right hon. Baronet and my hon. and gallant Friend are perfectly agreed as to the expediency of replacing the floating batteries which are stationed at our different ports by effective ships, and that the only material difference which exists between them relates to the question of time. I think the right hon. Baronet has overstated the difficulty of exchanging the one class of ships for the other, because he admitted what was stated by my hon. and gallant Friend, that the effective ships which are proposed to be sent to our ports in lieu of the floating batteries are now ready for sea.


The noble Viscount is mistaken; they are not ready fur sea.


Some of them are.


I presume they are nearly so; at all events, as appeared from the statement of the right hon. Baronet the other night, there is nothing which the Government desires so much as to be able at short notice to send to sea an efficient Channel squadron. Now, though it may be true that the block-ships would be effective as floating batteries for the defence of our ports, they are evidently not fit to take their posts in a line of battle. I hope we are not anticipating at an early period the necessity of defending our ports by block-ships against the attack of an enemy; the only thing likely to happen is that a superior squadron should appear in the Channel, and that we should not have a fleet of equal force capable of taking the sea immediately and acting its part in the usual manner of naval engagements. For such a purpose the block-ships are useless, and therefore I would impress upon the right hon. Baronet the expediency of accelerating the substitution of the one class of ships for the other. No doubt there are other works which are pressing, and I do not know whether an additional number of workmen might be obtained for our dockyards, but as the right hon. Baronet has admitted in principle that which my hon. and gallant Friend has recommended, I hope that as little time as possible will be allowed to elapse before the floating batteries are replaced by ships fit for sea, so that, if occasion should arise, we may have a fleet in the Channel adequate to the national defence.


remarked that, the only ships which could be substituted for the steam guard-ships were the 80-gun ships, for nobody would think of putting our three-deckers to do outpost duty along the coast. Now, the 80-gun ships were all, with one exception, in the second-class steam reserve, and it would be necessary to mast and rig them before sending them to sea. The expense of fitting them out would amount to £144,000. [Sir C. NAPIER: Why, all the stores are already in the dockyards.] It was true that the stores were in the dockyards, but they were not on board ship, and moreover as they were removed they must be replaced by others. He could assure the hon. and gallant Admiral that the 80-gun ships could not be equipped without great labour and expense.


Sir, the First Lord of the Admiralty has not answered the question of the noble Lord the Member for Woodstock (Lord A. Churchill) with respect to the expense of the squadron which it is proposed to station in the neighbourhood of the Australian colonies. The hon. Member for Yarmouth (Mr. Young) who spent several years in those colonies, has given us a pleasing picture of their condition. He says, they have everything they want, with a single exception—that with which it is now proposed to furnish them. We know that they have all the land of Australia, and a constitution so free that the people of England are not permitted to hope for anything like it. We also know they have an increasing trade, and enjoy a prosperity such as is not equalled in this country. The rate of wages—everything in those colonies—forces us to the conclusion that the great body of the people there, those whom we should call the working and industrious classes, are in a condition of comfort equal to that of the middle ranks of society in this kingdom. Being so happy and prosperous, if there be one thing more wanted, and it consists of ships of war to defend their coasts and harbours, I think it is but fair they should pay the expenses. It is one of the most monstrous things ever heard of, and probably has never been dreamt of in any country Let tiffs, that we should have an extended empire, abounding in colonies, such as Canada and Australia, where the people are infinitely better off than we are, and yet that these great dependencies should contribute not a single farthing in any shape either to the sums necessary for paying the interest of the national debt incurred in past wars, or for the naval and military service of the home country. If they are to be parts of the empire, and allowed to demand military succour, I do not say even in time of war, but in time of peace—regiments upon their shores and fleets upon their waters—I say every farthing of the cost they ought to defray themselves. I protest against this constant loading of the over-taxed industry' of the people of England for the purpose, whether of protecting our rich and prosperous colonies, or of merely gratifying the taste and sentiment of persons living at the other side of the world. If we persist in the course which we have been pursuing for the last few years, and if the expense of our naval and military establishments is to increase as it has done during the last twenty years, by a sum equal to £10,000,000 or £12,000,000 per annum, notwithstanding the tranquillity which now exists, the time will come when somebody will see that "ugly rush" to which the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) referred the other night, and when there will be a ferment among the millions of our people which all the excited and exaggerated fears of the hon. and gallant Member for Southwark will be little able to compose. You have been telling the House for years past that the only Power in the world which has a fleet of any pretensions whatever is your cordial Ally. You have flattered him, you have fawned upon him, you have expressed your faith in him in every form of words of which the English language is capable; but at the same time you are constantly increasing your military and naval expenses, for which there would be no sort of pretence whatever if a single sentence of what you say were true, or if you believed your own statements. I say your conduct is monstrous. You are playing false both to your Ally and to your country, and the time will conic when Government and Parliament will regret not having kept down with a strong hand a species of expense which in every age of the world has brought disaster upon thrones and States.


said, that the hon. Member who had last spoken did not appear fully to understand extent of the contributions which had been made by our principal colonies towards the expenses, naval and military, of their own defence in 1856. Sir William Denison, then Governor of Tasmania, had proposed a plan for the naval and military defence of Australia, according to which that colony should bear all the naval expense required for purely colonial purposes; and when this was carried out in the more important colonies the Imperial Government would only be at the expense necessary for imperial purposes. It had been the object both of his predecessor and himself, to urge the larger colonies to contribute liberally towards that purpose, and there were at that moment proposals before the Government for their doing so.


said, that he very much agreed with his hon. Friend behind him (Mr. Bright) as to the necessity of the colonies of Australia providing for their own defence. A good many years ago, when he was Secretary for the Colonies, he had an application from the authorities of Sydney to construct a battery for the defence of that place; but he had told them that they ought to make it themselves. They expressed great readiness to do so, and since that time he believed that every Colonial Secretary had told the Australian colonies that if they did not wish to be surprised some morning by seeing a number of foreign ships of war before their ports, they ought to take means to defend the approaches to those ports and harbours. To expect that this country should impose on itself fresh taxes to protect the numerous harbours of its colonies in a distant part of the world, was a very extravagant idea. As to the proposal of his hon. and gallant Friend for replacing block-ships by more efficient ships, he thought that the answer of the right hon. Gentleman was perfectly satisfactory. It must be left to the Admiralty to take such steps, from time to time, as they had the means and opportunity of taking. But he was not satisfied with the answer of the First Lord as to the important Report of the Commissioners on manning the navy. The right hon. Baronet could not be expected to go into detail on that occasion; but on another day, on going into Committee of Supply, it was desirable that he should inform the House what was the opinion of the Admiralty with regard to those important recommendations. Either the present mode of maiming the navy was sufficient or insufficient; either the methods proposed were judicious or injudicious. But he could not imagine that the right hon. Baronet was right in saving that such recommendations as the Admiralty thought proper to carry into effect, could he carried into effect without referring to that House and asking for additional means. The Report stated what would be the probable expense of the additions recommended; the improvements in the peace establishment they estimated at £104,671, and the additional reserves in the Queen's service as follows:—2,000 additional Coast-guardsmen, £116,525; 4,000 reliefs in home ports, £132,000; and 5,000 short service pensioners, marines, £45,625. Whether these recommendations were judicious or not, it was to be supposed that the Commissioners had taken pains rightly to calculate the expense of the additions they proposed. He could not, therefore, accept as sufficient the assurance of the First Lord that the Admiralty would consider these recommendations from time to time, and would carry them out without asking for any additional supplies or any additional Votes. On some day, which the right hon. Baronet himself should fix, he ought to state what was the effect of the consideration of the Admiralty, what part of the recommendations they proposed to carry out, and whether those 4,000 reliefs in home ports, to cost £132,000, would be adopted. That seemed a likely mode of facilitating the putting of ships in commission. It might be that it was not needed, that ships in commission were manned so rapidly that it was not required. But the House was entitled to know the opinion of the Executive Government on this Report, and there was no subject that more urgently called for consideration. It must be remembered by the hon. Member for Birmingham that the changes in the mode of naval warfare had entailed on us a very large expense; and there was really no question more important to this maritime nation than how to keep up an efficient navy, and how to man it. He therefore expected that the right hon. Baronet would, on some day, state what were the intentions of the Government with regard to this Report, and how it was possible to carry those recommendations into effect without having recourse to Parliament.


said, the noble Lord had misunderstood him. What he had stated was, that the Report was divided into two parts—one consisting of recommendations which involved very con- siderable expense, and therefore requiring matured consideration not by the Admiralty but by the Government. The noble Lord had forgotten that on Friday last he (Sir John Pakington) proposed a reserve—not of 4,000—but of 3,000 men in our ports, and stated that the Government had determined on that before they heard what the recommendation of the Commissioners was. What he stated Was, that the first part of the Report referred only to particular suggestions and detailed alterations in Order to make the existing continuous-service System more effective. Those were minor recommendations within the compass of the Board of Admiralty; and those recommendations they were now considering.


The question I asked was, how you were to carry out those recommendations without incurring expense.


said, that they were chiefly matters of detail and alteration which would not incur much expense.


said, he thought it could not be a satisfactory state of things when we were told that such were the recent changes in warfare that now, for the first time since England had been a great maritime nation, we were without that superiority which was necessary not only to maintain our supremacy but our existence as a great nation. These were new features, but unfortunately they were now notorious. They were admitted by the First Lord of the Admiralty and without saying whether we were likely to remain on friendly terms with a neighbouring Ally, without saying whether we were likely to have serious cause of apprehension from him, he could not but feel that if any unexpected emergency should arise—and in the present state of Europe no one could say that it would not—if we were plunged into a naval war with our Ally a disaster might ensue from which the nation could not recover in the lifetime of any of those present. Therefore he was glad when his hon. Friend came forward and drew attention to the insufficiency of our naval defences, and he felt that there was a responsibility on any Government and any Board of Admiralty which delayed a single clay to strain every nerve to give us once more that state of maritime efficiency which we were once in, and which from the amount of our commerce we ought to be in always. The distress which would arise from the interruption of our commerce, and the interference with our manufacturing prosperity consequent upon another Power having the command of the Channel for even two or three months, would dwarf into insignificance any expense which might be necessary in order to put our naval forces into an effective condition. He repeated that the house and the country ought to feel indebted to the hon. and gallant Admiral.


said, he had paid some attention to the relative forces of France and England, and was not prepared to agree with the statement that our inferiority was notorious, or that we had not at this moment the command of the sea. All that the First Lord of the Admiralty had said on this point was, that in respect of line-of-battle ships the English force, in comparison with the forces of other countries, was not such as it ought to be. That was the statement of the right hon. Baronet; that was the statement of the right hon. Member for Halifax when he moved the Estimates in 1857, and which he repeated when the Naval Estimates were discussed last year in that House. With regard to the Motion of the gallant Admiral, he confessed that he entirely concurred with him in the expediency of substituting for the block-ships ships of a more effective character; and he hoped that the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty would reconsider the declaration which he had made with regard to that substitution. The steps now being taken with regard to the manning of the navy in an emergency were the most important of any that had been adopted since the great peace of 1815. The House might be surprised to learn it, but at the present moment the Coast-guard and the Naval Volunteers would be able to supply crews for twenty line-of-battle ships, and they would be ready at the shortest possible notice. There were at present no less than 5,600 men in the Coast-guard. There were 7,429 Naval Coast Volunteers, all of whom had been trained, except a very few hundreds, who were now in training. With 250 of the Coast-guard and their petty officers and artificers, 250 Naval Coast Volunteers, 200 Marines, and with officers, boys and idlers, making up 857 in all, there was at once the crew of a line-of-battle ship. Well, the whole number of the Coast-guard and Naval Volunteers was 13,000; 500 of the crew of a line-of-battle ship were composed of Coast-guard and Volunteers; and, therefore, according to the rules of division, there was a sufficient number to provide crews for twenty-six ships, and he had put the number at twenty, in order that he might not overshoot the mark. As to the Manning of the Navy Commission, there was one point at least on which the Board of Admiralty might satisfy the House and the country, and that was, that the recommendation of the Commission with regard to the Coast-guard would be attended to, to increase the force to 10,000 men.


said, he must say a few words in defence of the Australian colonies from the charge made against them by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham. He said, that so long as the Home Government disposed of the resources of the Australian colonies, while they were, in fact, our penal settlements, no steps were taken to provide them with defences of any sort. True, an attempt had been made to fortify Sydney harbour, but it was found that the fort was commanded by another eminence; it was then sought to erect a battery upon an island in the harbour, but the engineer blasted the rock on the island so effectually that nothing could be built upon it. The colonists now were anxious to have defences, and ready to pay for them, but it was not unreasonable to ask for one of the old liners, which were rotting in our ports, to serve as a guardship for the harbour, and a naval school for the youth of the colony. He hoped the lecture of the hon. Member for Birmingham would not deter the Admiralty from making these colonies a station for a commodore. We had stations on the coast of Africa and on the coast of South America, and surely we might afford a squadron to protect the gold ships on their passage to this country. It had always been a matter of astonishment to him that a fillibustering establishment had not been set up somewhere about the Straits of Magellan. No business could be carried on with greater ease, or with more profit. It might be the duty of the colony to pay for its own defences, but it never could be its duty to find fleets to defend the trade of the home country.


said, he was constrained to agree with the hon. Member for Birmingham that a period of disaster would arise in this country if the disbursements went on increasing after their ratio of the last twenty years. This increase could only be met by increased taxation, which tie people of this country would not bear. The expenses of the Colonies were a material portion of the disbursements, and lie was glad to hear that they were making arrangements for their own defence.


I am quite satisfied that the First Lord of the Admiralty is correct when he states that there is no substantial difference between the opinions expressed by himself and the gallant Admiral (Sir Charles Napier); I therefore trust that there will be no division. The Coast guard ships, I think, ought to be retained in their present position, until the fifteen ships of the line, which are necessary to give us a superiority over every Foreign navy according to his promise shall be completed. It will then be the time to supply the present vessels with more sufficient ships when the dockyards will be comparatively free. The ships now returning from foreign stations will have at our disposal 4,000 seamen who would be sufficient to man such a number of first-rate ships as would render our Channel and Mediterranean fleets worthy of our claim to be the first maritime nation in Europe or the world, Let me impress upon the House the paramount importance of ascertaining before it sanctions an expenditure of the public money by the Admiralty, that the Board his paid that attention to the mode of construction which will ensure the efficiency of the vessel and an identity of speed under steam or sail. Let hon. Members dispossess themselves of the injurious and baseless thought that this country is inferior in naval power. The First Lord has assured us that, within a few months we shall have a fleet of forty-eight sail-of-the-line. It is not in the Dumber or the character of our ships that we are deficient—we lack men, without whom the most magnificent ship that ever floated would be simply useless; but I have no fear of good success in securing the services of good officers and an ample supply of men, if you will hold out (as you are bound in justice) due reward to the meritorious officer, and cherish and attach by encouragement the seaman. Win them to enter, make them love and become proud of the service; keep alive such a spirit in the navy, and rest assured, whatever may be the crisis, England will rise superior to it and be found able to defend herself.


said, he thought it right to remind the House, in reference to the observations which had been made as to the tardiness of the Admiralty in taking the question of manning the Navy into consideration, that they had lately received a most valuable Report from the Commission which had sat on the subject, as well as a very able letter by one of the members of the Commission, containing opinions on some points different from those in the Report. When such a difference of opinion existed the Admiralty ought not hastily to come to any conclusion on the question submitted to them. His own opinion was that some parts of the Report would be adopted and some parts of the recommendations of the hon. Member for Tynemouth. The hon. and gallant Member opposite thought that the Admiralty were in no hurry to remove the block-ships, but the First Lord had stated distinctly that he meant to replace them as fast as he could. With this declaration he thought the House ought to be satisfied.


said, he thought that it ought to be left to the Executive to say when these ships ought to be replaced. He was inclined to think that the country was a little disappointed that we had not a somewhat larger Channel fleet. When it came to be a question of only five sail-of-the-line with credit taken for one sail-of-the-line at present absent, there could be no doubt that that was a very small Channel fleet compared to what England could maintain. It was nut merely a show of ships that was wanted, but practice, and the appointment of officers who knew the coasts and harbours. A Channel fleet of any considerable amount in commission would also require a complement of gun-boats.

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

The House divided:—Ayes 74; Noes 37: Majority 37.

Main Question put, and agreed to.

House in Committee. Mr. FITZTROY in the Chair.