§ House in Committee.
§ MR. Massey in the Chair.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ (1.) 78,200 Men and Boys, including 18,000 Marines.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
The Navy Estimates for the year 1861–2, which it is now my duty to bring under the consideration of the Committee, amount in all to the sum of £12,029,475, showing a decrease upon the Estimates for the current year of £806,625. The Estimates I have now to propose are distinctly ordinary Estimates—that is to say, they do not embrace any extraordinary items; whereas the Estimates for the year now passing contained a considerable—extraordinary—sum on account of the hostilities in China. That extraordinary sum was included in the Vote for the transport of troops. It amounted in all to £205,000 —namely, £120,000 for transports and 1730 £85,000 for coals for those transports, over and above the ordinary transport Vote. To arrive, therefore, at the real decrease upon our Estimates for the current year we must deduct that sum of £205,000 from the gross or apparent decrease, which stands at £806,625. It will thus be seen that the actual decrease shown in the ordinary Estimates for the current year amounts to £601,625. The principal items of decrease in next year's Estimates are under Votes 1, 2, and 8. Vote 1 is for the number of men; Vote 2 is for provisions, victuals for those men; and Vote 8 is the great labour Vote of the dockyards. But Her Majesty's Government have thought that a large addition should be made to Vote 10 for the next financial year, under the head of "Purchase of Timber and other Stores." The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) called attention last year to the state of our stores in this respect, and I think he very wisely gave us the advice that a decent and respectable stock of timber should be kept up in the dockyards, with a view to emergencies. As I shall allude to that presently when we come to the particular Vote, I will not trouble the House with any further remarks on it now; but I will at once address myself to Vote 1 —that is for the number of men which Her Majesty's Government thought it their duty to ask the House of Commons to agree to for the year 1861–62.
Now, Sir, the number of men we propose to take for the coming year is altogether 78,200. That includes every class of men and boys in the service, and even the civilians who are in the Coast Guard Service. Therefore, we show during the coming financial year a reduction of no less than 7,300 men from the number which the House authorized us to take at the commencement of the present year. That will at first sight appear a very large decrease in the strength of the navy. But I must inform the House that although Her Majesty's Government at the commencement of the present financial year thought it right, in view of the hostilities then going on in China, and the probability of the extension of those hostilities, to ask the House to agree to the large Vote of 85,500 men, I stated at the time I had the honour to bring the Estimates before the House that the Government, supposing that the war should come to an end, and other circumstances should permit, would not 1731 think it incumbent on them to bear the whole number of men the House had agreed to. Sir, events have happily turned out so that the Government were enabled during the past year to maintain a much smaller number of men than were voted, and yet the service, particularly that in China, has been conducted with every success and advantage to the public. The greatest number of men who have been borne at any one time during the past year are 81,100 in all; so that the difference between that number and 78,200 which we ask for on the present occasion is the real decrease in the forces we propose to maintain during the coming year. The actual reduction, then, in the number of men is 2,900. I am bound to state to the House that if the hostilities in China had gone on, not only should we have required large reinforcements, but undoubtedly we should have required to relieve the ships that had been a long time on that station. But I am happy, as I before stated, that hostilities have ceased; the war has been brought to a satisfactory and glorious termination, and we are enabled to bring home about 3,000 men from China. So that the efficiency of Her Majesty's Navy, both for the defence of our shores and for the protection of our commerce in all parts of the globe, will, in point of fact, not be reduced by a single man. Now, with regard to the recent expenditure in China, I think it right to inform the Committee that we have not been able, either as to personnel or matériel, to give the House at this moment any idea of what the cost of that war will amount to. Her Majesty's Government thought it right to send out a very efficient accountant officer to Hong Kong with a view to gather in all the accounts, and in fact wind up the affair, and I trust that ere long the Government will be in a position to state to the House what has been the real cost of the war. Whenever we have the accounts, it will be my duty to lay them before the House, if it should be necessary to have a Vote on the subject.
I have stated that the force at home for the protection of our shores, and also for the protection of our commerce in distant parts, is maintained equally strong, equally powerful, as it has been during the past year; but I may state also to the House what I think will be considered very satisfactory—namely, that we have a large accession to our defensive force at the present time. I believe I am justified in 1732 stating that the Royal Naval Reserve, which the House agreed to last year, is making great progress; that the seamen are becoming very desirous of entering that force; that all those delusions and prejudices that existed in the minds of the merchant seamen of the country are fast vanishing away, and that they are beginning to be aware of the immense boon which is offered to them, we are, in fact, justified in asking the House, as we do on the present occasion, for a sum of money for the support of that force, which will amount, I have every reason to believe, to 7,000 men by the end of next financial year. The House has always expressed very great interest in the matter of the Royal Naval Reserve. I have often heard it remarked in the House, rather lightly, that the scheme never would succeed; that the men would not enter the force; and that, in short, the whole thing would be a complete failure. Now, so far from that, I will take the liberty of reading an extract from a letter which I received within the last day or two from the Registrar General of seamen. After stating that we have now nearly 4,000 men enrolled, he says—They have been coming in since the commencement of the year at the rate of 100 per week on the average. These are not the men originally contemplated by the Act, but are all fine able seamen, selected for character and ability. Vast numbers have been rejected who did not come up to the mark, or had not five years' service at sea. Had not the qualifications been restricted to these, we might have enrolled double or treble the number of men.Now, I say that is a very satisfactory state of things. I believe we may consider that the Royal Naval Reserve is now an established and very valuable force. Well, then, it naturally became the duty of the Government to consider whether, having this reserve, and looking I am bound to say to the fact that it would cost a considerable sum of money to the country, they would be justified in asking the House to keep up the same Vote for seamen as last year. It may be interesting to the House that I should give a sketch of what our reserves are. First of all, our Royal Naval Reserve. Hon. Gentlemen may be disposed to say that these men are on distant service; but there is a very small portion of them on distant service, certainly under one-fourth. And before I leave the subject of this reserve I wish to state that Her Majesty's Government are going to bring in a Bill immediately with a view to enrol tire officers in the mercantile marine 1733 for the Royal Naval Reserve. I believe that will be a very great advantage to the navy, and that in the merchant service it will be extremely popular. Well, then, the Royal Naval Reserve amounts at present to 4,000, of which at least 3,000 are at home; the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers amount to 7,000; then we have got of the Coastguard on shore about 4,000; we have got in disposable supernumeraries an average of 1,500 men; we have 8,000 Marines on shore; or rather we shall have in a few weeks when the Marine Brigade arrives from China; and 2,000 boys in the training ships. The House will be glad to hear that here is a force of something like 25,000 reserves, available at a moment's notice if an emergency should make it necessary to man a large fleet. I think, therefore, it will not be pretended that we have made any reduction in the personnel of our fleet which is unsafe and unwise, looking to the protection of our coasts and commerce. To this I might add a large body of pensioners. The Staff Officer of Pensioners stated to mo a few days ago that there is a considerable number of pensioner marines— about 3,000 or 4,000—who are perfectly fit for service if wanted. Then, again, of seamen pensioners we have about 3,000 embarked on board ship for the purpose of inducting our young ships' companies into their duties. It is well known that, owing to the growth of the fleet of late years, we have had a great want of petty officers and leading seamen—a circumstance, I am convinced, that has been one of the main causes of the disturbances which have taken place in our ships. I am positive that when the crews of the magnificent fleet which we now possess become acquainted, as they are rapidly doing, with the cleanliness and the discipline of men-of-war, we shall hear very little more of those disturbances of which the world has said so much. I am certain—and it is my business to assure the House of the fact— that, notwithstanding what we hear of the discontent among the officers, and of the general dissatisfaction prevalent in the fleet, such a state of things really does not exist. There are a general feeling and desire on the part of the fleet that our navy should maintain its wonted superiority, and be worthy of the great country which it is meant to defend.
I now wish, Sir, to advert to another important point with reference to the manning of our ships, which has excited great 1734 interest and frequent discussion in this House. I allude to the system of entering boys. Of late years it has become the duty of the Government to provide training ships for boys, and greatly to extend the system of introducing lads into the service. That was one of those wise recommendations of the Commission which sat on the Manning of the Navy that has never been lost sight of by the Admiralty from that day to this. We have gone on increasing the facilities for training boys by devoting more ships to that particular object, and we are now arriving at a most satisfactory result as regards the boy system. We have at this moment, according to the last Return, as many as 9,639 boys being educated at the public expense including those embarked as part of the crews of the fleet as well as those in the training ships. I have attempted to ascertain what proportion of seamen for the fleet will be annually furnished from that number of youths. Our statistics are, however, imperfect, not because the Accountant General's Department, from which they are obtained, is not admirably managed, for I am bound to say that in all its branches it is very admirably managed, but because of the constant fluctuations which have boon taking place in the numbers of the navy. I find, first of all, that these boys require an average training of three years. Therefore, if we allow 7 per cent for the yearly loss through deaths, discharges, and other casualties, we may reckon that the total number left will supply to the navy about 2,900 per annum. The next consideration is, what is the number of seamen whose places have to be filled up? After eliminating officers, marines and other parts of the service, I find that our present force afloat is about 38,000 seamen and petty officers, the gaps occurring among whom must be supplied either from these trained boys or from the merchant service. The proportion of casualties among these 38,000 seamen is now 14 per cent, or about 5,300 annually. That is the present average, but I believe it will greatly decrease as soon as the boy system has further developed itself.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
It does. You will, before long, have a navy principally composed of seamen who have been brought up with you from boyhood, and who will be attached to the service 1735 their earliest associations; and I, therefore, hope that the loss by desertions will much diminish. I have said that we have 2,900 boys to fill up the 5,300 vacancies in the fleet, leaving 2,400 to be obtained from the merchant service. Here there arises a very interesting question as to what proportion of the navy is to be supplied by youths who have been educated by the public, and what proportion by the merchant service. Some will say that we ought not to look to the merchant service at all, but should entirely depend upon our own boys. I confess that, as a naval officer, I cannot agree in that opinion. I think it would be extremely unwise to widen the gap between ourselves and the merchant service. On the contrary, I believe it is advisable that a certain proportion of young men should be brought into the navy from that service, and the remainder taken from our own training ships. The matter is one of mere speculation, but I think it doubtful whether any considerable enlargement of the present number of boys in course of training would be attended with as much public advantage as some persons suppose.
Having stated the number of men we propose to ask, I now come to the next important element of our service—the ships. It is quite impossible that we can decide as to what should be our force, cither in men or in ships, without having reference to the forces maintained by other Powers. At present, and for some time past, it is my duty to inform the Committee, that throughout the maritime nations of Europe there is a determination—and a very proper one—to maintain an efficient and powerful navy. We hear it, Sir, from all quarters that the principal countries of Europe are now paying great attention both to the matériel and the personnel of their navies. I will not at this moment read to the Committee, unless they wish it, a detailed list of the maritime force of other nations, as far as we possess it. If I am to understand that the Committee desires it I will read it. First of all then with respect to the French navy, as far as we can gather from the official reports—for we have no information that is not open to the French public—we believe that France has 35 line-of-battle-ships afloat and two building, making a total of 37. We believe that the French have 18 paddle and 21 screw frigates, making a total of 39 frigates afloat and 8 frigates building. All these are wooden 1736 ships. I will deal with the iron-cased ships afterwards. The vessels I have spoken of are all steamships. There is a great variety of small vessels, corvettes, avisos, gunboats, and other classes, making the entire French steam navy consist of 266 vessels afloat, and 61 building. Then we have to consider another great naval Power, Russia. Russia has 9 screw liners afloat, she has, however, none building. She has also 7 screw and 10 paddle frigates, making 17 frigates afloat and she has 6 building. Next, we have for the first time an account this year of the Spanish navy, which is taking its place among the navies of Europe. Spain has of steam liners afloat two, and building one. She has 12 frigates afloat and two building. They are all steamers, but whether they are paddles or screws I cannot say. We have another navy now entering the arena. I speak, Sir, of the Italian navy. I hope and trust that that glorious people will speedily rank among the first maritime nations of the world. Italy has one screw liner afloat; she has six screw and 12 paddle frigates, with a considerable number of smaller vessels. Sir, I must now advert to a novel weapon of war which to my mind is of still more importance in considering the force of nations at sea. With regard to the French navy, we know that they have no less than two very large and powerful iron-cased ships which they rate as line-of-battle ships mounting 52 rifled guns each. We know that they have also four powerful vessels which they call iron-cased frigates mounting 40 to 36 guns each; and that they have likewise four of a very formidable class, called floating batteries mounting 14 guns each. In addition to these they have five gunboats of a novel construction partially cased with armour, and also of a very formidable character; and of the French ships I may say that two are afloat; La Gloire and La Normandie being actually on the water. Of the French floating batteries I am not prepared to say how many are afloat; but I have every reason to believe that every one of these vessels could, if required, be afloat in a very short period of time. The Spaniards are building an iron-cased frigate. We understand that the Russians are building or are about to build an iron-cased fri gate, and the Italians have already one of those iron-cased frigates, which is either afloat or about to be launched. [Mr. ROEBUCK: Where?] I believe at one of the French mercantile yards in the Medi 1737 terranean. I will presently come to the question of the performance of this new class of vessel. All we know on that subject is from what has been done by that famous vessel La Gloire. As our own ships are not yet ready, we have no experience to guide us; and I can only say that that is not the fault of Her Majesty's Government. I can assert for myself that I have written many letters to the contractors, calling on them to do everything in their power to expedite the completion of our iron-cased ships; and I must say that I think they have not alto-together done their duty to the public, or those vessels ought to have been launched a considerable time since. But I will now state our own force in iron-eased ships. We have the Warrior and two sister ships of 40 to 50 guns each. The Warrior is launched, and the Black Prince h also launched. The third sister ship is about to be constructed in Her Majesty's dockyard at Chatham. These are three of the larger class. We have a second class, called the Resistance class, of which there are two to mount 20 guns each; and both will, we trust, be launched within the next month. We have two more vessels, which have been ordered within the last few months, who are each to carry 34 guns. From this it will be seen that we have seven iron-cased ships under construction at the present moment. And now lot me give some information as to what we know already of these iron-cased ships. The Committee may remember that it was imagined by many persons that they would be a failure—that, first of all, speed could not be got from them on account of their being so heavily loaded; and, secondly, that they would not be seaworthy for the like reason. Well, Sir, we have got proofs that La Gloire has great speed, and also that she is seaworthy. We know that she was appointed to accompany the French Emperor to Algeria last autumn. We know also that His Majesty was acconipanicd by one of the finest and fastest squadrons in the French navy. My hon. i Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) was at Algiers when the Emperor arrived. La Gloire arrived in company with His Majesty's yacht, which is a very fast one, and the rest of the squadron were out of sight. It is clear from that fact that the French vessel La Gloire vessel of great speed. Then comes the question —Is she seaworthy? When returning from Algeria the squadron of the Emperor en- 1738 countered a gale in the Gulf of Lyons. I myself have conversed with an intelligent captain of a merchant steamer who was in company with the squadron at the time, and he said that he never saw a heavier sea or a heavier gale. I myself saw La Gloire at Toulon a few days after her voyage and she looked nothing the worse for it. She lived through the gale, and kept company with the Emperor's yacht. Here is a proof that La Gloire is, I will not say a good seaboat, but a boat that could live in very had weather. With regard to the interior accommodation of La Gloire I know nothing. She is kept, like some Eastern beauty, veiled from the public gaze. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury effected an entrance; but if so, I believe he is the only one who can give us any account of her interior appearance. All but one of the French iron-cased ships are built of wood, probably because it is cheaper to build in France of that material than iron, and covered with armour throughout, a necessary precaution against shells loaded with molten iron. There is a peculiarity in their rig. They have nothing but what we call schooner masts. They could not at all trust to sails for anything like speed, or for working or manœuvring of any kind. They are, in fact, entirely steam-vessels— screw-vessels, and have no pretence to anything beyond that. I believe La Gloire was built nearly on the model of the Napoleon, and it stands to reason that her stowage must be confined botli with regard to provisions and coal. [An hon. MEMBER: What are their plates?] I believe they are 4½ inch plates. Another peculiarity is that the French build their vessels of a size only something larger than a line-of-battle ship. They consider them as vessels for narrow seas, and not for long voyages. We have adopted an entirely different principle; and who is right, and who is wrong? No credit is duo to us for the Warrior; and, as she was designed by a former Board of Admiralty, I may state candidly what I consider to be her merits, and what I regard as her defects. The great distinction between us and the French, as I have said, is this:—They are building their iron-cased vessels generally of wood, and of a tonnage not much larger than a line-of-battle ship; while we are building our vessels of iron, and some of them of a tonnage of over 6,000 tons; for that is the tonnage of our largest class, the usual tonnage of a 90-gun line-of-battle 1739 ship being little more than 3,000 tons. Our ships are only partly cased with armour, while the French are wholly cased; and ours are rigged fully as line-of-battle ships, and have immense stowage, as compared with other ships in the navy, while the French ships are limited in stowage, and I believe the large class of these ships, of which the Warrior is one, will have very great speed, probably a knot more than La Gloire. It is a very interesting question to consider which, a3 a whole, is the better class of construction. There is no doubt that the French construction is attended with very considerable advantages on the score of economy; for we know that a ship of 3,000 tons costs less than one of 6,000 tons; but wood is a very perishable article, and it is said that behind the iron plates a considerable degree of decay must necessarily take place. Why, then, should we build vessels of 6,000 tons when another nation is building vessels of only one-half that tonnage with nearly as many guns—with, perhaps, not so heavy, but still a heavy armament? Here arises a consideration which, I think, must have influenced the late Board of Admiralty, and which is, I think, of great importance. All those engineers who are making improvements in projectiles tell us that we are only in the infancy of gun-making. I have heard that a gun is produced which will pierce a 6-inch plate. If that be so what will be the effect upon ships cased with 4½inch plates? This thickness will he insufficient. One great advantage, then, of building these very large vessels is that we can, if necessary, increase the thickness of the plates—we may even double them. I have taken the trouble to ascertain what would be the effect of an increase of thickness upon the flotation of the Warrior; and I find that with a 9-inch plate the immersion would be increased only two feet. She certainly would not he so good a sea-vessel, but if it should be necessary to increase the thickness of the plates to 6 inches she would only be immersed one foot, and would still carry her ports about eight feet out of water. This is in itself a reason why the Government, I think, acted wisely in resolving to build vessels of large tonnage. It is of importance, too, that these vessels should be able to take a large stock of provisions and coals, and accordingly the Warrior is provided with a great power of stowage, so that she might be well supplied in these respects. Another thing which, I 1740 repeat, we consider to be absolutely necessary, and which other nations consider to be unnecessary, is that these vessels should be fully rigged. The iron-cased ships of other nations are merely rigged with schooner masts. We have rigged our vessels independently altogether of their engines, and that I take to be a wise course, because it is impossible to say to what part of the globe these ships may be required to go. They may be called suddenly from one station to another, and it is, therefore, important that we should be able to dispense with their engines. Another point to which I shall again advert is the extent of the iron casing. Other nations think it right that their ships should he entirely cased with iron, but ours are only partially cased. The reasons for this are manifest. There can be no doubt that when you build ships of great speed with very fine ends, and load these ends with heavy armour plates, it is impossible those ships can go well in a heavy sea. This is one of the defects of the foreign iron - cased ships now building. They will do well in smooth water, but in a heavy sea they will be inferior to ours. But it may be said shot will penetrate these exposed places and vessels will be liable to be sunk. But I may state that the greatest care is taken to provide against such a contingency. The ends of the vessels are built in compartments water tight, and any serious damage from shot or otherwise will be prevented. I have gone carefully into a calculation as to what would be the effect upon the Warrior if a shot struck her between wind and water through the bow or the stern; and I find that the effect would be perfectly trifling— indeed, it would amount almost to nothing —as the shot would only affect a particular compartment, to which are fitted pumps connected with the engine. It must not be supposed, however, that because these ships are not cased with iron throughout they are not strong. The iron sides irrespective of armour of the Warrior are 9–16ths of an inch in thickness, and if a shot struck at an acute angle, the effect would be that it would be warded off altogether. Then the Warrior is fitted with transverse bulkheads both fore and aft, in which in an engagement the crew will be completely cased in armour. We are trying in the later class of vessels some little variety in the system, such as putting iron plates round the main deck, that being the fighting deck; and there are other variations to which I need not 1741 allude. Let me say a word or two about building these ships of iron and not of wood. I am not prepared to say there are no defects in the class of ships to which I am referring; more particularly in their forms, but I think we have acted wisely in constructing them of iron, because I believe that these ships, with proper care, may be made imperishable. There is one great defect of iron ships, however, which, to my mind, answers the argument of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay), and those who, like him, desire that we should cease to build wooden ships. I know there is an opinion held by many eminent shipbuilders, that the navy should be composed of iron ships altogether; but I totally differ from that view. I think those large ships to which I have referred should be built of iron, because it is very doubtful whether a wooden vessel of that size could be built of sufficient strength. But for duty on distant stations, where there are no means of getting docks, we must at present maintain our wooden ships. If an iron ship were kept for a couple of months in an equatorial latitude her bottom would become like a lawyer's wig. She would not steer, and would lose her speed and become useless. I think, therefore, on the whole, that the late Board of Admiralty, and the present one have acted wisely in constructing very large armour-clad ships, and that those ships only should be built of iron. I believe we are likely to obtain important information with regard to the exact form of construction that should be followed in future, from the discussions that are going on in so many societies with regard to these vessels. There is, for example, the Society of the Institute of Naval Architects, from which we expect to derive much valuable information. The Admiralty watch with great interest what is taking place in that society, and I hope it will profit by the excellent papers that are read there by the eminent men belonging to it. I have thought it right before going into the Estimates to occupy the time of the House with the matters to which I have just referred.
I shall now direct the attention of the House to Vote No. 1, which includes the pay to seamen. With regard to this Vote, I may state that there are some changes which have taken place since last year. We have endeavoured to put the actual pay distinct from the allowances of every description given to officers and men. It is important to see what we give to sea- 1742 men over and above their pay. Hon. Members are, no doubt, aware that the seamen of the Royal Navy do not receive nominally such high pay as in the merchant service, but if their pay and all the allowances they receive are reckoned, it will be found that they obtain higher pay than in the merchant service. First, we have allowances amounting to £85,673; below that we find good conduct pay to petty officers and seamen of £25,000; further on we have a bounty to seamen on volunteering of £10,000; so that taking these various items altogether the seamen of the fleet receive higher pay than the merchant seamen. It would be very satisfactory, indeed, if the pay of the seaman of the Royal Navy could be simplified, so as to show him readily what he really gets per annum. What I wish particularly to call attention to in this Vote is a sum of £9,304, which the Committee are asked to agree to in order to improve the position of officers in command. The Committee are aware that Her Majesty has been pleased to give command money to all officers in command of ships. It has been stated that this is a deceptive and not a real increase. But if these officers are not to benefit by this regulation, why are the public to pay £9,000 under this head? The Committee will find that this is a great and very considerable improvement in the pay of officers. The captains of line-of-battle ships will receive an average addition of £100 to their pay; the captain of a frigate £70. Commanders and lieutenants in command will receive, the former 2s. 6d. a day, and the latter Is. If my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) had looked to the details he would have seen that if the Admiralty had not adjusted the captain's pay when they awarded the command money, they would be giving him nearly the same pay as a Rear Admiral. Of course, if you were to increase the captain's pay in that ratio you must also increase the Admiral's pay, and so on throughout the service. I think the House ought to know what has been done in regard to increasing the pay of the navy during the last two years. The House of Commons, during the last two years, has agreed to an addition to the pay of the navy involving a permanent burden of £50,000 a year. The increase of pay to the various classes in the navy is a generous and fair increase, and it is a little unreasonable that demands should, notwithstanding, be con- 1743 tinually made for increasing the pay of all classes in the navy. After Vote No. 1, I may pass briefly over No. 2, the charge for victualling, which, of course, depends on the number of men. I will only call attention to one change, which will, it is hoped, be advantageous to the seamen, although it may not be more economical to the public. We have often heard that the beef supplied to seamen is hard, tasteless, and tough— in fact, resembling mahogany. Well, we are trying a plan of curing our own beef at Deptford. We kill the beef, and we cure it in the best fashion, so that this will, we hope, be a change of very great value to the seamen. On Vote No. 3, for the Admiralty, there appears some increase. The increase in this item is caused by the heavy law charges in respect to Coastguard cottages all over the coast. The House has taken great interest in providing cottages for the families of these men. We have taken a considerable sum for that purpose, and the acquisition of these cottages entails a considerable law expenditure. The actual establishment of the Admiralty shows a decrease in the present year. There has been a reduction of clerks and a revision of the establishment. We have been getting rid of temporary clerks and somewhat improving the position of the established clerks. The next Vote, No. 4, is for the Coastguard. The Committee may be interested in knowing the actual cost of our naval reserves. I have seen it stated out of doors that this year the Admiralty intend cutting down the naval reserves, and taking a less sum than last year for this purpose. Last year we had no experience in this matter, and we took a nominal sum of £100,000. We have since ascertained the real wants of the service, and the Vote for the pay of the Royal Naval Reserve is accordingly reduced to £80,000. What the Royal Naval Reserve costs will be seen in page 26. We have taken out the various Votes and put them together. We have calculated for 7,000 men, and the sum they will cost is £107,949. In Vote No. 1 will be found the pay of the training ships; in No. 2 the victuals; in No. 10 the supply of naval stores to ships; in No. 12 the medical charges. These items together make about £27,000, in addition to the item of of £80,000 in No. 4, so that we shall have a Royal Naval Reserve of 7,000 men at a cost of £107,000, which is at a rate of something like £15 a man. The Coast Volunteers cost us £28,280, and there are 1744 about 7,000 men, showing the cost of each Royal Naval Volunteer to be about £4 a year. The expense of the Coastguard may be estimated in the whole at £750,000, and the total cost of all our reserves may be stated at £887,000, including all the expenses of the Coastguard ships. I pass over No. 5, in which there is no change, except in regard to a small additional expenditure upon the new survey in Australia. The Australian Government have proposed that they should pay one moiety of the survey about to be instituted of a part of their coast. In No. 6 there is no material change from last year. The Vote No, 7 refers to Her Majesty's establishments abroad, and on this there is an increase in consequence of the war with China; as, for instance, a larger staff has been required for Hong Kong. Vote No. 8, comprising the wages to artificers, &c, employed in Her Majesty's establishments at home, requires that I should say a few words in explanation. The Committee are aware that we have had at work in our dockyards for the last two years a vast number of hired men above our establishments, the whole numbers employed amounting at one time to nearly 20,000 men, and these men were working, not by the day, but upon the system of task and job, so that there was no limit to the work performed. The result of these great exertions in the dockyards has been prodigious as regards progress in shipbuilding, and already in the autumn of last year it became manifest that a large number of the extra hands might be dispensed with in the dockyards. It then became a question how this should be effected, and the Government thought that it would not be well to discharge all these artificers and labourers who had been gathered together in the dockyards on a sudden, but that it would be best to retain them till the spring, and then discharge them in such a way as not to throw them upon parishes. The Government, therefore, thought it their duty in the month of February to give some notice to the dockyards that the number of workmen would be reduced, but that no man would be discharged without a month's notice, and without being sent home free of expense. The Government also determined to discharge the men in small numbers, and not to throw a great number out of employment at one and-the same time. That was the fairest course to pursue with regard to these valuable men, whom it was impossible to have gone on employing, 1745 for even if their services were necessary we could not find timber for them. We have expended during the present year, or at least shall have expended by the end of the month, no less than 80,000 loads of timber—more than double the ordinary mode of consumption—and hon. Members may readily believe that no possible supply could keep pace with that result. With respect to this Vote, then, there is the considerable decrease of £328,555 as compared with the Vote of last year. The next Vote (No. 9) relates to artificers in Her Majesty's establishments abroad; and, in consequence of the hostilities with China, there is some increase in it. The next Vote (No. 10) is for naval stores for the building, repair, and outfit of the fleet, steam machinery, and ships built by contract. It is one of the most important Votes in these Estimates, and with respect to which the least information is always given. The Government are gradually endeavouring to let daylight into the Vote. We have this year introduced into the Estimate some new details, and I am not prepared to say that the information may not still be very much enlarged. I may be asked why there should be the great addition this year of £285,043 for stores, when we are reducing the dockyard establishments? My answer is that this is not an expenditure, but an increase of capital. The money is wanted for the purchase of stores, to place ourselves in a position hereafter to meet any emergencies that may arise. It is our duty to replace our stock of timber, which at the present moment is in much too low a state. That is the reason for asking for this largo sum. If the Committee agree to the Vote we shall in the course of the present year replenish our stock of timber not only to what is called the establishment, but in accordance with the wise recommendation of the right hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley), we shall have a considerable surplus over what is called the establishment—60,000 loads. Under these circumstances I trust the Committee will not hesitate to vote the money. It is not that we are going to expend this timber, but what we want is to lay in a stock of it. There is an item in this Vote of £100,000 for an iron-cased ship to be built in Chatham Dockyard. I know that there is an opinion that it is unwise in Government to attempt to build iron ships in Her Majesty's dockyards. I am not prepared to say whether hereafter it would be ad- 1746 visable to turn our dockyards into iron ship-building establishments; but the Admiralty have thought it advisable, with the view of ascertaining the comparative cost of building iron-cased vessels in the dockyards and of building them by contract, that one of these vessels should be built in Chatham Dockyard. I may add that the six vessels now in progress of being built by contract will cost eventually an additional sum of from £114,000 to £116,000, over above the sum of £228,882 asked for in these Estimates, being all, I trust, that will be required for their completion. There are items set down for two troopships, but I can assure the Committee we seek to build these vessels simply in lieu of ships that have been lost. We are asking you to assent to no augmentation of our usual transport fleet, We are not desirous of imitating our neighbours over the water in constructing a great many ships of this class. We are anxious to maintain only that comparatively small number which it is positively necessary we should have for the purpose of the continued relief of our troops. Two of our troopships have unfortunately been lost, and these it is expedient that we should replace. The new ships will cost £70,000 each, and for that sum we can provide vessels which will carry a complete battalion of troops from one station to another. There is also, in the Vote of which I am speaking, an item of £10,000 for the construction of a store ship—a class of vessels of which I am aware the hon. Member for Sunderland very much disapproves, but with which I do not think it would be either wise or economical altogether to dispense. I at the same time go with the hon. Member so far as to regard the question as one of degree, I do not think it would be well to get up a great fleet of Government transports and storeships, as the French have done; but I am, nevertheless, of opinion that it would be impolitic to trust entirely to private ships. This, however, is a subject which will be fully discussed before the transport Comitteee, and I shall not, therefore, enter further into it at the present moment. There are in this Vote no other items to which I consider it necessary to call the attention of the Committee, and I shall at once proceed to give them a general idea of the way in which the money they have granted under this Vote for the navy for the year has been spent. We, have, I regret to say, been too 1747 much in the habit of accepting the Estimates without really knowing what it is we get for our money, so that the statement I am about to make may be regarded as wearing somewhat the aspect of novelty. I have endeavoured to set down on paper that which we have to show for the large sums which Parliament has granted, and this is the result:—We have built during this year 9,075 tons of line-of-battle ships, 12,189 tons of frigates, 4,138 tons of corvettes, 6,367 tons of sloops, 1,409 tons of gun and dispatch vessels, and 102 tons of gunboats, making a total of 33,280 tons. I may further observe that so far as large vessels are concerned, we are in a very satisfactory position. I need not read to the Committee a return of the ships afloat and building, inasmuch as one lies on the table of the House. I shall content myself with simply stating that it is not, in consequence, our intention to build during the coming year any more line-of-battle ships. Of frigates and corvettes we do not propose to build a great many, our intention being to devote our energies mainly to the construction of those most useful class of wooden vessels — sloops and gun and dispatch vessels. The improvements which are taking place in this class of ships are such that I feel assured the Committee will concur with me in thinking that the Admiralty would act wisely in directing the labour in our dockyards to the completion of a great number of them. We intend to build 19¾ eighths of frigates, 16 eighths of corvetes, 126 eighths of sloops and small vessels, &c. So far as steam-engines are concerned, we have added 8,760 horsepower to the navy during the present year, and I may state generally that the total horse-power is now exclusive of this, 128,612, to which we propose to add, for the year 1861–2, 9,370. Having said thus much I have no further remark to make on this Vote, and I shall therefore proceed to the next, which is that for new works, This Vote shows a small increase as compared with the corresponding Vote for the current year, and in dealing with it the first important point which presents it3elf is the enlargement of Chatham dockyard. Now I have been very anxious to lay on the table of the House the plan on which it is proposed that this work should be constructed; but it is, I am sorry to say, not quite ready. Inasmuch, however, as there is no chance that this Vote will come on for discussion to-night, the delay is not of 1748 very great importance, and I shall, with the permission of the Committee, defer going into the details of the plan until it is before us, which I hope will be in a few days. I shall simply say now that we propose going on this year with that portion of the work only which is being done by convict labour—the embankment of St. Mary's Island, in which considerable progress has been made. But the announcement which I think the Committee will receive with satisfaction is that it is the intention of the Government to commence the establishment of a system of naval barracks. This is a question with respect to which we feel very strongly. It is, I may add, my candid opinion that if you establish at our principal ports good and commodious and wholesome barracks for your seamen you will so far improve their position, and do away with the discomforts to which they are now subjected, as to render the service more popular than you would make it by almost any other means. With this view we propose, should we obtain the sanction of the Committee for the project, to purchase this year some land at the upper part of Keyham dockyard and contiguous to Devonport. There we propose to erect naval barracks, and the sum of £80,000 is put down under that head. We also propose to build a new salt meat store at Deptford. If is false economy to keep our salt meat under temporary sheds. Both the meat and the casks are damaged. We propose also to go on with the new docks at Portsmouth and at Devonport. Another considerable item is for the enlargement of the marine barracks at Devonport. The Committee is aware that there has been a great increase in the corps of Marines and Marine Artillery. Increased accommodation is wanted. We propose to build barracks at Port Cumberland for the latter. The site is a healthy one, affording great ranges for guns, and the land has already been purchased, partly by the War Office and partly by the Admiralty. In this Vote there is also included a small sum for the erection of a dining-room for the workpeople at Portsmouth Dockyard. That will add much to the comfort of the men and it will also save time, by rendering it unnecessary for the men to go home for their dinners. The only other new item in the Vote is a small sum for a lock-up house in each of the dockyards. The object is to have a place in each of our dockyards where disorderly persons may be confined 1749 and kept under careful guard. In the two succeeding Votes, 12 and 13, there are no great changes. The Vote 14 is for half-pay. When we are told of the great cost of the non-effectives of the navy it is at least satisfactory to know that the Vote is a gradually decreasing one. The old officers of the war are gradually dying off, and consequently a Vote which now appears enormous may be expected to be in a few years considerably less than at present. It only remains for me to call attention to the increase in the Vote for civil pensions. The House has generously made, by means of the recent Superannuation Act, a large increase in the retired allowances granted to workmen and labourers of every description. It must, therefore, expect a large increase in Vote 1G for civil pensions and allowances. There is an increase in the present Estimates. It is as yet scarcely perceptible; but I am anxious to impress the fact upon you that in a few years the increase in the Vote for civil pensions must amount to a large sum. A single word upon No. 17, the Army Department Vote. That Vote this year, as I explained at the outset, will show a large decrease, because we do not ask for any sum on account of the war in China. It is but fair, however, that I should state to the Committee that the Government may have to ask for a Vote of Credit for winding-up our accounts in China. Last year we took a Vote of Credit for £1,777,000 on behalf of the navy for the expenses of the Chinese war. I cannot tell the Committee what the state of the balance is. We have no means of knowing. It is impossible for the Admiralty to control as they could wish an expenditure going on at the antipodes. All we can do is to inspire our authorities out there with a desire to economize in every possible way; and I am bound to say, with respect to the expenditure in China, that that most excellent, gallant, and heroic officer, Admiral Hope, has shown, as far as we are aware, the greatest desire to carry economy as far as possible, consistently with the success of the expedition. Notwithstanding the difficulties with which he has had to contend, notwithstanding his severe wounds, he has been unremitting in his endeavours to check extravagance. I believe I have now gone through all the Votes. There are, no doubt, many details which I have not laid before the Committee, but I am afraid of trespassing further upon your attention. I cannot 1750 conclude, however, without expressing the great satisfaction I feel that the affairs of the navy are daily assuming greater importance in the estimation of Parliament and the country. It must prove of the utmost advantage to the navy itself that those naval matters which for years seemed to awaken no interest either in this House or out of doors should now he made the subject of numerous and animated debates. I may say for my colleagues and myself that we are most earnest in our endeavours to maintain the efficiency of the navy, not only to maintain its material strength, but to increase the comforts and improve the position of its officers and seamen. The noble Lord concluded by moving a Vote of 78,200 men of all classes for the fleet and Coastguard service.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
The attention with which the Committee has listened to the long and able statement of the noble Lord affords a very gratifying proof of the deep and increasing interest which is now taken in all matters affecting the efficiency of the Royal Navy. In taking that interest I am confident this House only reflects what is the strong and unanimous feeling of the public. The noble Lord has made a very able, clear, and, upon the whole, a very satisfactory statement. My object in rising is rather to ask for explanations, or to remark in terms of approbation upon what has fallen from the noble Lord, than to make any comments of a hostile nature. I shall at once proceed to touch upon some of the principal points to which the noble Lord has directed our attention. The first in order is the reduction in the number of men to be voted. The nominal reduction is, I think, 7,300; but the noble Lord proceeded to explain that in fact 4,000 men were voted last year who had never been obtained, and, therefore, that the practical reduction is about 3,000. Well, this practical reduction the noble Lord accounted for by the termination of the China war. So far as the termination of the China war is the real cause of that reduction it is impossible for the Committee to take any exception to it; on the contrary, we must feel thankful that the successful issue of that war has enabled us to make the reduction. The noble Lord proceeded to state, if I rightly followed him, that the amount of force the Committee is now asked to grant is amply sufficient to maintain completely effective the naval force now in commission; but there are two parts of this subject on which I feel it necessary 1751 to ask some further explanations from my noble Friend. He stated, as I understood him, that the amount of force for the present year has been sufficient to enable us to keep, on the average, 1,500 supernumeraries in our ports. Do I understand him rightly to say so? Because this relates to one of the recommendations made by the Commission on Manning the Navy in 1852, and it is one of the points which ought not to he lost sight of; on the contrary, I cannot refrain from expressing my opinion that the number of 1,500 supernumeraries in our ports is not so great as it ought to have been. I think we ought to have a supernumerary available force of not less than 3,000 men. But, taking the lower figure 1,500, I want to know if I rightly understood my noble Friend to say that these 1,500 were in fact available seamen; men who would occupy our barracks if these were in existence, and who are, therefore, actually available to be put on board men-of-war, if their services should be wanted for that purpose? [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Hear, hear!] I understand the noble Lord by his cheer to confirm that statement. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: They are disposable.] I am very glad to hear that there is so large an available force; I only regret it is not larger. In connection with this I must express the great satisfaction with which I heard the concluding part of the noble Lord's statement, in which he informed the Committee that the Admiralty has decided without loss of time to erect barracks for our seamen in port. I think preceding Boards of Admiralty are open to some con-sure for not having at an earlier period undertaken this improvement, and I am happy to hear from the noble Lord that the necessary operations are really to be commenced. I will now turn to what fell from the noble Lord with respect to the reserve force. I am sorry to say I do not think this part of the noble Lord's statement so satisfactory. In speaking of the new reserve force his prospective calculation was 7,000 men.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Precisely. 7,000 is the number my noble Friend hopes to have at the termination of another twelvemonth; but the present number is 4,000, and he calculates the expense of these 4,000 at £107,000.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I am very glad to hear that. There is another part of this important subject—the only part— on which I am bound to say the noble Lord was not perfectly clear. I allude to the number of boy3 in training. In the training ships he said there were 2,000 boys, and subsequently I understood him to state that there were 9,639 boys. Perhaps my noble Friend will explain?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
We have 2,000 hoys in training ships specially devoted to boys; but we have on board receiving-ships, flag-ships, and the fleet generally, a total of 9,639 boys.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
That makes the statement of the noble Lord much less satisfactory. In our training ships there are only 2,000, and the number of 9,639 includes all the boys who form part of the crews on board our ships. While I do not at all undervalue the great importance of the Naval Reserve, recommended by the Royal Commission on Manning the Navy, and think the Admiralty are only doing their duty in carrying out that portion of their recommendation, I must say I myself have attached more interest and importance to the recommendation of the Royal Commission with reference to training boys than to any other. I believe the best and most effective means by which we can insure the manning of the navy is by training boys on a large scale. And, bear in mind the recommendation of the Royal Commission relative to the training of boys for the Royal Navy went to training hoys round the coast with a double object. One object, no doubt, was to assist in the best manner to man our navy; but another object, only secondary —if secondary—in importance to that was to improve our mercantile marine. [Mr. Cardwell: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to hear that cheer from the right hon. Gentleman, as I recollect that he sat upon the Committee that considered this subject. By training boys in such a manner as to insure that improvement, we should insure a national advantage of first-rate importance, an advantage which would react in a most valuable manner on that body of sailors to which in time3 of emergency we must look for recruiting the Royal Navy. With these opinions, I confess I was sorry to hear by the statement of the noble Lord that the Admiralty were doing so little. I am afraid from this statement I must infer they are doing nothing towards carrying out this 1753 portion of the recommendation of the Royal Commission—by far the most important part of the recommendation of their valuable Report. All that most interesting portion of my noble Friend's statement with regard to the great and important question of iron-plated men-of-war I heard with the most unqualified satisfaction and approbation. I do not put my opinion in competition with that of my noble Friend, he being an experienced naval officer, but I hope without presumption, from the attention I have been obliged from my official position to give the subject, I may say the noble Lord has not expressed an opinion hero in which I do not entirely concur. The only portion of his statement to which I have any disposition to take exception is with regard to the delay which occurred in the launch of the Warrior. The noble Lord stated that the contractors were to blame. I cannot allow this opportunity to pass without saying that I think that delay most unfortunate. When the late Board of Admiralty entered into the contract for building the Warrior, the contract was that she should be launched in May last. Then we were told she would be launched in August; but the event did not take place till the end of December. The noble Lord says that was the fault of the contractors; but, unless I have been misinformed, I am inclined to think that one cause of the delay had been the alterations which, from time to time, were adopted by the Admiralty, and enforced on the contractors.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I said that the contractors were to blame for the delay as to the iron ships generally; I did not particularize the Warrior.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I am informed that a sum of £10,000 or £12,000 was expended on an alteration of the plates of the Warrior in consequence of the Admiralty determining that, instead of their being placed in contiguity to each other, they should he tongued and grooved. The expense of these vessels is, we know, enormous, but I believe that their value will be proportioned to their cost. The Admiralty are right in proceeding to build a number of them; but, as the noble Lord himself admits, and as we must all he aware, in this complete change in the reconstruction of our men-of-war, we have in all probability much to learn. The late Board of Admiralty took the greatest pains to ascertain the most promising mode 1754 of constructing these vessels, and I doubt not the present Board have done the same; but still the whole matter is experimental. I deeply regret, therefore, that there should have been any delay not only in launching the Warrior but in fitting her out and sending her to sea, in order that it might as soon as possible be tested, before great sums were expended on other vessels, how far the model adopted for her gives you what I trust you have, but what I believe the French have not—namely, not only an armour-covered ship but a good seagoing man-of-war. I have great hopes that the Warrior and ships built on her model are as fit to be sent across the Atlantic, or to any other part of the world, as any other class of vessel in Her Majesty's Navy. I doubt whether ns much can be said for La Gloire. I believe that all the noble Lord has stated as to the superiority of iron over wood in these ships is fully borne out, and, notwithstanding the criticisms that have been offered, I think we are right in leaving the bow and stern of these vessels unprotected with plates, with a view to insure those other important desiderata, speed and good seagoing qualities. La Gloire is, I believe, simply a wooden ship plated with iron, and very much what our own floating battery, the Trusty, was in point of construction, as regards the application of 4½-inch plates to a wooden vessel. Another important distinction between the ships building in England and those being built by continental nations is this, that while La Gloire is a wooden ship covered with 4½-inch plates, the Warrior is an iron ship, not only covered with 4½-iuch plates, but with eighteen inches of teak intervening between the armour and what is called the skin. That is a distinction much in favour of the resisting power of the English ship, The noble Lord also pointed out with great truth that we do not know yet of what thickness the iron maybe that will give the required resistance; and, therefore, it will be a great advantage to have vessels with such a floating capacity that if thicker armour should be necessary they will be able to carry it. With respect to the building of other iron-covered ships of considerably smaller tonnage, the subject is one on which I think we may fairly ask for further information. The late Board of Admiralty decided on building ships of the gigantic size which they adopted because, after the most anxious consideration and consultation with the 1755 most able scientific men in England and Scotland, they were led to believe it to be impossible to combine in smaller vessels all the requisites essential to such a man-of-war. Last year the noble Lord, in introducing the Estimates, told us the present Board of Admiralty had determined on building ships of what he termed the Resistance class. The two ships of these reduced dimensions are the Resistance and the Defence. I was struck with that intimation, and I inquired what advantage had been sacrificed; for, according to the information we received, something must be given up to enable ships of that reduced size to be built. The answer I obtained was, "Yes, it is true we have made some sacrifice in order to get a reduced size, and consequently a reduced cost, and that sacrifice is the speed of the ship." Now, I believe that to make these armour-covered vessels what they ought to be, effective men-of-war, you must have a good rate of speed; and I therefore think it most unfortunate that the Admiralty should have determined to sacrifice that important desideratum. I hope the noble Lord will be able to give some satisfactory explanation on this point, with reference not only to the Defence and Resistance, but to two other ships about to be laid down, because, if I am rightly informed, two other ships out of six, if not exactly of the same size as the Defence and Resistance, are at all events to be of considerably reduced dimensions compared with the Warrior. In proposing to try the experiment of building one armour-covered ship of the Warrior class in one of their own dockyards I think the Admiralty are acting wisely. The objection to having timber ships built by contract—namely, that it is almost impossible to secure that the materials shall be well seasoned, cannot apply at all to iron ships, or, at least, not in the same ratio; but if the Admiralty find that they can build these iron ships as economically and as well in their own yards as by contract it will he advantageous to do so. The noble Lord's explanation of the very considerable reduction in the number of hired labourers was, I think, quite satisfactory. With regard to Vote 10, I certainly heard with pleasure that the Admiralty intend to ask for a much larger Vote to increase our stock of timber. I agree with my noble Friend that it is a visionary idea that iron will entirely supersede wood in the construction of ships; and, to build your ships properly, you 1756 ought not to allow your stock of timber to get so low as it has been during the last two or three years. The noble Lord took some credit for giving us a frank resumé of the amount of work done in our dockyards during the past financial year. I am afraid, however, that his statement in this respect was not so generally intelligible as was to be desired. He told us, indeed, the number of tons built and the number of "eighths" completed, but the information he gave us would, I believe, be found more valuable when it goes forth to the public if, instead of being so technical as only to be understood by persons who have transacted business with the Admiralty, it showed how many of each class of ships has been launched during the year.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
You have only to divide by eight and you will get the exact number of ships you want.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I beg my noble Friend's pardon, but I hardly think even that will convey to the public a clear idea of what has been done, because within the year some vessels may have been commenced, some may have been continued, and some completed; and I think it would be much more satisfactory to know what has been the actual addition to the navy during the year. In former years it was pointed out that our navy was deficient, especially in frigates, as compared with the force of other countries. The noble Lord's statement will scarcely enlighten the public as to the addition made to that class of vessels.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I was much gratified with that part of the noble Lord's statement in which he announced the intention of the Admiralty on the subject of the increase of the dockyard accommodation at Chatham. During the short time that I had the honour to be at the head of the Board of Admiralty there was no subject which occupied more of our attention; and the more we considered it the more we approached to that decision to which the present Board has arrived with respect to Chatham being the place at which it was desirable the addition should be made.
I would here close the few remarks that I have ventured to address the House, were it not that I feel obliged to allude to another part of the subject, which I confess I cannot approach without great hesitation and doubt; but which, at the same 1757 time, I consider, perhaps, the most important point of all. I mean the present state of discipline in the navy. Again, I say that I approach this point with a sense of its delicacy and difficulty; but I am so strongly impressed with its overwhelming importance and so struck with statements that have reached me, and which it is impossible for me not to believe, that I cannot help calling the anxious attention of the noble Lord and the public to the subject. I hope my noble Friend will believe mo when I say that I do so in no party spirit, but through a sincere sense of duty; because, I believe, that it is absolutely essential to our best interests that everything should be done to make this great arm of our war service as efficient as possible in all respects. On a former occasion, in reply to an observation made by the hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone), the hon. Gentleman opposite, who is one of the Lords of the Admiralty (Mr. Whitbread), gave it as his opinion that as soon as certain bounty men were got rid of the state of discipline would be satisfactory. The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) has adverted to this matter again this evening in terms which I heard with great satisfaction; for, of course, in my noble Friend's position his sources of information are better than those at the command of private Members. That being so I am not to be understood as impeaching the assertions of the hon. Gentleman or the noble Lord; but I am bound to say that the statements which have reached me are of such a character that I cannot disregard, and I cannot help fearing that the officials of the Admiralty may have been in some degree misled. The public are already excited and alarmed, and I only allude to the matter in the hope—the anxious hope—that the Admiralty may be able to make a statement that will allay the uneasiness on the subject. Palpable facts are within the knowledge of all who read the newspapers. Every one has heard of the unhappy mutiny which occurred about a year ago at the paying off of the Princess Royal, and that was followed shortly afterwards by the mutiny on board the Liffey in the harbour of Portland. If these were isolated cases they might not be regarded in so serious a light, but when taken in connection with other circumstances, they cannot fail to excite a feeling of anxiety. We have all read in the newspapers that a squadron of ships of the Royal Navy could not 1758 proceed to North America to accompany the heir to the British Crown to that part of Her Majesty's dominions without losing by desertion a considerable portion of the crews. If report be true those ships were deterred from going to the port of New York lest further desertions might take place. Some time ago I moved for a return of desertions from Her Majesty's ships of war; and from the paper laid on the table it appears that in 1858 the number was 1,811; in 1859, 1873; while for nine months of 1860 it was 2,322, showing a very great increase. I have here letters which have been written by officers in command of our ships in different parts of the world. I think I had better abstain from reading them, but the statements which they make on the subject of desertions— and especially desertions in the Mediterranean—are very distressing. As to the appointment of Admiral Martin to the command of the Mediterranean squadron, I believe it would have been impossible for the noble Duke at the head of the Admiralty to select an officer in the whole range of the navy list more likely to restore good discipline. But the state of discipline in our ships has become a subject of comment not only in this but in other countries. I have in my hand the translation of a pamphlet entitled Reflections on the Navy, and written by a Capitaine de Fiegate—Capitaine L. Foillouy. Referring to the various measures adopted in this country from time to time during a considerable period for alterations in our rules as regards the sailors aboard men-of-war, the writer observes—Experience will show what degree of success may attend these measures, directed be it said, by an imperious necessity; but it is already easy to perceive that granting certain concessions to the habits and tastes of English seamen has sensibly weakened discipline and lowered the bearing of the crews on board their ships.I have conversed lately with several distinguished naval officers who have had an opportunity of watching the discipline on board ships of war, and they have assured me that the statements which I have received are not exaggerated. Some of those officers are now unemployed, but others are in command of ships. The noble Lord and the hon. Gentleman told us that the evil was to be attributed to the inferior sailors whom the high bounty offered by the late Board had induced to enter the service. If that be so, as the bounty has been lowered—and properly lowered—the cause may be removed; but 1759 I find that many attributed the deterioration of the discipline to this fact—that, rightly or wrongly, there does exist on the part of officers in the British naval service a dread that if they resort to those measures that often are necessary to maintain discipline on board a ship they would not be supported by the Board of Admiralty. If this be a true statement it is one that affects not the present Board of Admiralty only, but also those who have preceded it. I bring it forward in the hope that the noble Lord will turn his attention to it, and be able to diminish the public anxiety on the subject. From the information which has reached me from various quarters, I cannot resist the conclusion that some such feeling as I have referred to exists; and I am sure the public will feel with me, if it does exist, that all the questions we have been discussing, important as they are, are not equal in importance to the restoration of the crews of our ships to that high state of discipline that used to distinguish them, and which is so essential to the security of the country. The noble Lord adverted to the statement of my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir James Elphinstone) that dissatisfaction exists among the officers of the navy, and expressed his opinion that no feeling of the kind exists to any such extent as would prevent them doing their duty to the country. In that opinion I cordially agree with the noble Lord; and I am sure that nothing would give my hon. and gallant Friend greater pain than to have it supposed that anything he said implied a doubt as to the officers of the navy doing their duty to their country. It cannot be denied, however, that there are serious doubts as to the condition of the crews, and to that subject I earnestly hope the attention of the Admiralty will be directed.
§ MR. BAXTER
said, that the few remarks he had to offer would be chiefly directed to the subject of which he had placed a notice on the paper, the relative proportions of the navies of France and England. He knew that it must always be an invidious and unpopular task on the part of a private Member to endeavour to effect a reduction in the Navy Estimates. He quite agreed that the nation would never concur in any sweeping reduction of our navy, or in its being permitted for a single year to fall into a position of inferiority to the navy of any other great maritime Power. Entertaining such senti- 1760 ments, he should be the last man in the House to propose any course which would imperil our naval supremacy, deprive our trade of adequate protection, or offer temptation to foreign aggression. Still he was at a loss to discover good and valid reasons for voting a sum of £12,000,000 sterling for the year 1861. Unless the noble Lord could give additional reasons for asking the House to vote that enormous sum of money, he should feel bound to take some course such as that proposed by the hon. Member for Sunderland for placing his vote upon record. Within the last four years the Estimates had risen from £9,000,000 to £12,000,000. The papers laid upon the table the other day displayed some very remarkable returns. From them it appeared that our naval force consisted of 505 steam-vessels of war, and 129 sailing-vessels of war; there were also 57 vessels building—making a total of 688 ships of war. The aggregate tonnage of those vessels was 720,212 tons; the aggregate horse-power, 124,820 horses; and they carried 17,265 guns. A gentleman who had paid great attention to the subject remarked to him the other day that they had ships enough to surround within signal distance the whole coast of Great Britain and Ireland. He maintained, therefore, that they had a navy not only capable of coping with the largest which could possibly be brought to hear against them, but an armament equal to the armaments of any of the other two or three leading nations in the world. It appeared that the French spent only a sum of £5,000,000 on their navy, and Russia £4,000,000. Therefore, we were in this position, that we were spending 30 per cent more in naval preparations than the two leading maritime nations in Europe combined. He believed our Estimates were based upon an exaggerated estimate of the naval preparations of France. It was universally admitted both in that House and the country that we had no danger to fear from any other Power except France. He would, therefore, ask the attention of the Committee to a few facts taken from official documents, showing the numerical proportions of the navies of France and England. The figures relating to the English fleet were taken from the Navy List of the 1st August, 1860, and those relating to the French fleet were dated the 1st of July in the same year. He found in the aggregate including steam-liners, frigates, inferior vessels, and transport ships, the French had 268 vessels and the 1761 English 492 afloat. With regard to vessels carrying more than 20 guns, how stood the case? The English fleet consisted of 73 liners and the French of 37 liners. Of frigates carrying more than 20 guns, the British had 67 and the French 38: making a total in all, in these two classes, of British vessels of 140, and French vessels 75. Many hon. Gentlemen admitted all this, but they fell back on the number of iron-cased vessels the French were said to be building. He understood the noble Lord himself to tell the House the other night that the French might in a very short time complete no fewer than 15 of those ships. He understood the noble Lord now to say that of these 15, 4 were blockships and 5 gunboats. [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: Five gunboats and ten large vessels.] That was 4 blockships and 6 large ships, which tallied with the statement of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay). He had last year made inquiries and derived information from sources quite distinct from those to which the hon. Member for Sunderland had access, but the results were nearly the same. He found that the French had La Gloire afloat, another was to be completed in the present year, and the Magenta and the Solferino were expected to be launched in the course of 1862. In confirmation of what had been said of the little activity that prevailed in the French dockyards he referred to the report of a gentleman who had been sent out by the Scotsman newspaper, the leading paper in Scotland, and the organ of the Government in that country. That gentleman had written home that he visited Cherbourg in the expectation of finding preparations being carried on in the dockyard at that place on a gigantic scale, but he was greatly astonished by the general tranquillity of the place. At Cherbourg there was but one large ship in the harbour, the Arcole; one frigate was building, and La Normandie was receiving her plates. At Brest there were but three ships. At L'Orient there were four frigates; at Roche-fort only four small brigs, a steam transport, and a frigate in course of construction. At Toulon there were only two large vessels building, one the Intrepide, a sister ship to La Gloire, approaching completion. There were also a number of small transports, but there were not fifty men at work in the large forging house. He would turn next for five minutes to another subject— namely, a comparison of the number of men in the fleets of France and England. 1762 On that subject he had made inquiries, and he found that last year there were in the French Imperial navy 30,588 men and boys. Parliament had last year voted for the English Navy 84,000 men and boys, but it now appeared that only 81,000 had been employed. Now, he believed that if any hon. Gentleman would examine the subject he would find that 84,000 men were more than the total number of seamen in the entire merchant service of France. The number of merchant seamen in France has been variously estimated at from 51,000 to 80,000. It, therefore, came to this, that in the whole of the merchant navy of France there was a less number of men than in the Royal Navy of England alone. But, perhaps, he might be asked how that could be, seeing that in 1860 the total number of names on the French maritime conscription was 156,000. Well, that number startled him, but on inquiry he found that it included not only the men and boys in the Imperial navy, and all the sailors serving on board the merchant ships of that country, but all the workmen down to the commonest labourers in the dockyards, all the mechanics in the Imperial establishments, all the fishermen on the coasts, and all the boatmen on the navigable rivers. He believed that if they took the number of seamen in the French merchant navy at 70,000 they would be about right. This no doubt was a small number, but when they came to look at some remarkable statistics it would be seen that there was a diminution and decadence in the merchant navy of France. In 1859 it consisted of 42,000 tons less than in 1857, and there were other proofs that it was gradually and steadily declining. Well, then, taking the number of men in the French merchant navy at 60,000 or 70,000, what comparison did that bear to our merchant navy? Why, we had, according to the last Returns, 288,000. Now, if they took the French plan and added to our merchant seamen those in the navy and dockyards, there would be a total of 484,000 against the French 156,000. In order to prove still more the fact of the decadence of the French mercantile marine, he would refer to the Returns made to that House, which showed that the total value of French goods imported into this country in 1858 was £13,271,890. In 1859 the value of French goods imported into this country exceeded £16,869,960, being an increase on the year of £3,598,000. There was, however, a great decrease in the ton- 1763 nage of French vessels. In 1858 the number of French ships entering our ports was 7,010, while, in 1859. they had fallen off to 5,946. There was, in fact, a steady progress downward in the mercantile power of France. He believed the French had laid down no great wooden ship, whether line-of-battle ship or frigate, since 1856. [Lord PALMERSTON: They launched one the other day.] He had said they had not laid one down since 1856, and he believed he was correct. He did not object to building a few Warriors and Black Princes, but it was impolitic to persist in building so large a number of wooden ships. The difficulty of manning the navy was matter of general complaint, and that was an additional reason for not going on building more ships. He had risen to make these remarks in no unfriendly spirit to the Government; but, believing that their Naval Estimates had been based on an exaggerated notion both of the naval preparation and naval strength of France, he had, he thought, given the Committee reasons for reducing them. He trusted that this extravagant fit of the nation would soon be over, for the House and the Government were not alone to blame. Perhaps sooner than they might expect hon. Members would be called to account and blamed by their constituents for this enormous, unwise, and unnecessary expenditure.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, that before adverting to one or two points which had been touched upon in the able and clear statement of his noble Friend opposite (Lord Clarence Paget), he wished briefly to refer to what had fallen from the right hon. Baronet below him (Sir John Pakington). The first point to which he wished to refer was that which the right hon. Baronet had stated on the subject of the discipline of the navy. It was impossible to overrate that question. He was not going to enter into the subject as to whether it was or was not a discreet proceeding on the part of the right hon. Baronet to broach such a subject before a Committee of the House of Commons, but since the right hon. Baronet had brought it forward it was of no use attempting to blink it, and he (Mr. Bentinck) felt bound to say that, having had access to sources of information similar to those which the right hon. Baronet had quoted, he thought the right hon. Baronet had arrived at a very erroneous conclusion. The right hon. Baronet had told them that he had heard upon good authority that the discipline of the navy 1764 was in a very bad state. Now he (Mr. Bentinck) could only say, in reply to that, if such were the fact no more painful statement could have been made in that House; but he (Mr. Bentinck) had the good fortune to live on terms of intimacy and friendship with those who had been actively employed in the navy of late years, and he had seen a good deal of the Channel squadron in the last few years. He had lived upon terms of friendship with the distinguished officers who had been in command of the Channel squadron, and what he had seen and what he had heard went very much to mitigate the views put forward by the right hon. Baronet. He did not pretend to say that the discipline of the navy was either what it had been or what it ought to be; but he did believe, from the sources of information at his command, that the right hon. Baronet, misled by wrong information, had overstated the case, and that the discipline of the navy, though capable of great improvement, was not so bad as had been described by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet said that the matter was traceable to successive Boards of Admiralty. To a certain extent the right hon. Baronet was right, although he had not gone to the real source of the evil. It was perfectly true that successive Boards of Admiralty had not properly supported the officers in the navy in the maintenance of the strictest discipline, and it was owing to that circumstance, probably, that the discipline of the navy had fallen off; but the real culprits were those whom he then had the honour of addressing. The real culprits were the House of Commons, and it was owing—the expression he was about to use was not a classical one, but he could find no other that could so well convey his meaning—the falling off in the discipline of the navy was owing to the clap-trap speeches that bad been made in the House of Commons. He would appeal to any hon. Gentleman whose experience in that House enabled him to give a confident opinion on the subject whether, when the question of flogging in the navy had been brought forward they had not always had flowing, but somewhat unmeaning speeches on the subject, strongly condemnatory of the practice. He believed that to no persons was the practice more obnoxious than to the officers in command in the navy. The infliction of that punishment was one of the most painful duties that they had to perform. But that punishment, it should be remembered, was 1765 advocated by all the best men in the navy; he meant those very men who were themselves subject to it, for they knew that without the power of inflicting that punishment the discipline of the navy could not be maintained. If hon. Gentlemen wanted a proof of that let them refer to the records of the great mutinies at the Nore and at Spithead. When the fleet was under the command of the men themselves flogging was inflicted to a far greater extent than during any other period in the history of the British Navy. Hon. Gentlemen who made speeches such as those to which he had referred, should bear in mind that of all descriptions of courage the most difficult to find was that moral courage necessary to face responsibility. Could they, then, expect men of various characters placed in the command of ships to maintain discipline with the consciousness that if they resorted to punishment they might be hauled over the coals by the House of Commons, and that if they were they would not be defended by the Board of Admiralty? So long as that was the case it was utterly hopeless to maintain the discipline of the navy. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, he seemed to have fallen into a popular delusion which existed on the subject of invasion, and the subject of the comparative strength of the French and English navies. The hon. Gentleman complained of the increase of our navy in the last four years. Why, to what was that increase owing but to the increase of the French navy, and the consequent necessity of maintaining our relative positions? Well, then, the hon. Gentleman took upon himself to say that the invasion panic was a mere delusion. If it were, why then about nineteen-twentieths of the people of this country were living under that delusion, for it would be very difficult to find a hundred men in any town whatever who were not of opinion that every precaution taken against invasion was a wise and proper precaution. The hon. Member also had quoted the cost of the French navy. If his hon. Friend could depend upon the figures he had quoted, then he (Mr. Bentinck) quite admitted that they told in his hon. Friend's favour; but would his hon. Friend tell him that he was prepared to vouch for the accuracy of those figures? In a country where the expenditure took place without the possibility of its being overhauled, how was it possible to tell what the cost of the navy was? 1766 The parties themselves told them it was £5,000,000, but it might be £15,000,000 for what the hon. Member or anybody else knew to the contrary. His hon. Friend talked of the proportion the number of men enrolled in the French conscription bore to the number of men employed in the British marine. Why, it was precisely the number of men employed in our mercantile marine that showed the necessity of an enormous navy in this country. It was because we had distant colonies and extensive commerce; and, therefore, the argument which the hon. Gentleman had used told directly against himself. The question he (Mr. Bentinck) had always ventured to ask was, what did the French want with a navy except for one purpose? He defied any man to show that the French Government in constructing not only a large navy, but the description of vessels they were constructing, could have any other possible or conceivable purpose but in the expectation that at some time or other they might be called upon to invade this country. Such a navy would enable France to interfere in other countries, and to threaten us if we should in any way thwart her plans upon the Continent. Nobody supposed that we were going to invade France. [An hon. MEMBER: The French people do.] That might be, but the French Government did not. In dealing with the question of invasion the enormous standing army of France must also be taken into account. Owing to the extremely economical views which were entertained in that House we were deprived of a standing army, and, therefore, we were without adequate means of defence. When, therefore, the hon. Gentleman talked of the proportions of the two navies, he should take into consideration the 500,000 French troops. His noble Friend (Lord Clarence Paget) had told them that a reduction in the number of men had taken place consequent upon the termination of the Chinese war. That might have been a valid reason for a reduction if we were quite sure the Chinese Treaty was anything more than a mere truce. His noble Friend had also touched briefly on the subject of the Naval Coast Volunteers. He (Mr. Bentinck) held in his hand the correspondence of Captain Harcourt and his noble Friend opposite (Lord Clarence Paget). In that correspondence Captain Harcourt suggested that a number of small vessels should be employed for the purpose of giving those men a certain number of days' training in the summer.
1767 That seemed to involve an important proposition. It was generally admitted that the Volunteer force was to be a cheap means of defence to this country, and therefore too much encouagement could not be offered to any description of Volunteers. His noble Friend declined on the ground of the expense which would be incurred if these ships were obliged to put to sea from stress of weather. Even if they were blown off for two or three days the cost of victualling the men would hardly be worth mentioning. Again, it would be easy to put them for the time under martial law, if it were objected that discipline could not he kept up. He thought the number of boys in training for the navy should be increased, as supplying one of the best means of filling up the ranks of our navy. With regard to the Warrior, he should like to know on what principle it had been decided, in casing her sides with iron plates, to make her nearly wall-sided, instead of adopting the angle of forty-five degrees, at which, according to Captain Coles, the iron-plates would have been almost impenetrable. He would also ask whether it was not intended to send her out to sea, in as short a time as possible, in order that her performances as a ship might be fairly tested. He believed that a great many opinions were extant as to the form of the Warrior, and that doubts existed as to whether she had been designed on the best lines for the purposes for which she was intended. Men learned in such matters had given it as their opinion that the Warrior had not that amount of displacement, and therefore that she did not possess the utmost amount of carrying power which could he obtained.
§ SIR MICHAEL SEYMOUR
said, he regretted that the Naval Estimates were so large in amount, but he did not believe they exceeded the amount reasonably required for the navy. Expenditure in former years had been allowed to fall so low that a very large outlay was required to prepare our fleet for the possibility of war; and political considerations required that especially at present we should have a formidable force afloat. It was true the commercial marine of France had considerably diminished of late years, but every man had been more or less trained to service on board ships of war and was ready to serve when required; so that at any moment the naval power of France was capable of large development. For that reason he was sorry to see any reduction 1768 in the number of men of the British Navy. He wished to know whether the reserve of 1,500 men, who were called supernumeraries, did not include men who had been, paid off, and were borne during leave, and also various other denominations of officers and such classes of persons as were not available as seamen. The training of boys was most important, as laying a groundwork for the future manning of the navy, and it could not be carried on too largely; the number of boys at present being 9,630, he did not see why it should be reduced. He observed also that out of 38,000 seamen, there were 5,000 casualties, including the deserters. Undoubtedly desertion was very much to be regretted, but it did not belong to the navy only. He believed that every year at least 14,000 or 15,000 men quitted our merchant shipping in the same way in various parts of the globe, and between 4,000 and 5,000 of these deserted on the coasts or in the ports of the United States. As to the future building of our ships, he had understood the noble Lord to say that it was intended to build large ships of iron only. He was glad to hear that intimation, as he believed the substitution of iron for wood would lead ultimately to economy and efficiency for war. He hoped the Warrior would he tested as soon as possible, to set at rest the question of her merits. It should be observed, however, that iron ships, from the corroding of the metal, especially in warm climates, required frequent cleansing, or then-speed would soon be affected. It was impossible to say to what extent gunnery would be improved, but in any case iron ships would be better to cope with such gunnery than wooden ones. Allusion had been in the course of the discussion made to the discipline of the navy, and he, for one, while regretting that there should be any cause of complaint on that score, found it impossible to say to what the incidental irregularities which had been commented on were to be attributed. They might be owing to the fact that a large number of men were on board vessels lying a good deal in harbour, and to the degree of indulgence which was allowed, but at all events he felt assured they were not of such a nature as to prevent our navy from doing its duty with accustomed loyalty and gallantry whenever occasion arose.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he hoped that the statements of the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) would not be allowed to pass without some Minister of the Crown 1769 stating on his own personal knowledge and on his own experience the reasons why it was undesirable that our Navy Estimates should be materially reduced. He hoped that such explanation would be given, in order that the people of this country should not be deluded into the idea that large supplies were granted which were unnecessary. The hon. Member for Montrose had omitted two important facts. He had entirely omitted the fact that our navy had undergone a complete process of reconstruction, and he had also forgotten that as against the 156,000 naval conscripts from which France could draw men the next day, we could not calculate on an organized reserve of more than 4,000 from the population on our coasts. He (Mr. Liddell) confessed he looked upon the Naval Reserve with some degree of pride when he reflected that the northern ports of this country had furnished the largest portion of that reserve. The port of Sunderland had supplied the largest number of picked men, whose services could be obtained at a moment's notice. He was glad that his noble Friend (Lord Clarence Paget) had contradicted the assertion that this force had turned out a failure. He (Mr. Liddell) considered the Naval Reserve to be a great success. He regretted, however, that our want of faith to the continuous-service men, after the Crimean war, and other shortcomings on the part of the Admiralty, had caused great dissatisfaction on the part of naval men. He would strongly urge on the Government the justice and propriety of giving increased remuneration to the shipping masters, who were the chief means of introducing men into the Naval Reserve, and whose duties were of the most onerous description. He confessed he had heard the statement with great satisfaction that officers of the merchant service were to be permitted to enrol themselves among the members of the Naval Reserve, inasmuch as the two services would thus be brought together in a manner which could not fail to be productive of the greatest advantage. But while he had listened with pleasure to the statement to that effect which had been made, he was sorry to find that no notice had been taken of that which constituted the gist of the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the establishment of training ships at some of our chief ports. He supposed that they would be told that 2,000 boys were annually turned out for the navy from the training ships, but upon that subject there was a discrepancy. His 1770 noble Friend talked of turning out 2,900 boys annually for the fleet; but if so, how did it happen that the Admiralty only asked for a Vote for educating 2,000 boys?
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
was understood to say that he had referred to the receiving ships and the fleet generally.
§ MR. LIDDELL
What he wanted the House to look at was this, that they were educating only the minimum number of boys required in time of peace, and if an emergency occurred where were they to look for that supply of seamen which would be indispensable? He was prepared to show that the English mercantile marine was not in a position to supply men as it formerly did. The abolition of the apprenticeship system had most materially crippled the means of the mercantile navy to supply the country with seamen in time of war, though he did not complain of that abolition for it was but an act of justice. Our tonnage had increased 33 per cent in ten years, but English seamen had only increased 10 per cent, and the deficiency was made up mainly of foreign seamen who would not be available in time of war. He wanted to see efforts made to supply the mercantile navy with well-educated boys who would become a resource to the country in time of war; and, therefore, he regretted to see that the Government was not prepared to carry into effect the recommendation of the Royal Commission for educating from 1,200 to 2,400 boys yearly. He repeated that he was glad to hear that the Naval Reserve was progressing. He held in his hand a spontaneous address from seamen belonging to the chief ports on the northern coast, explaining the advantages of the reserve to their comrades, and recommending them to join it, and he believed that that document had done great good in removing the prejudice which had formerly existed against it.
said, he was glad to find that the hon. Member for Montrose (Mr. Baxter) had confirmed every word he had stated respecting the French navy. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had told the Committee that he was obliged to frame the Estimates on the armaments of other Powers. Somehow or other, the public had a vague impression that a neighbouring Power meant mischief to England, and the hon. Member for Norfolk had gone so far as to intimate that France was preparing vast naval armaments to invade England. The public had received that impression from the Treasury 1771 Bench. He was no alarmist, and, therefore, he much wished to know if the noble Lord, the Secretary to the Admiralty, had laid before the Committee the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? What was the fact with regard to the armaments or France? A writer, who entertained the idea that the chief object of France in increasing her navy was to acquire a maritime supremacy over Albion, and who was, therefore, not likely to overestimate the power of England, or to under-rate that of France, had made the following analysis:—The number of steam vessels mounting 20 guns and upwards owned by France was 75. England owned 140 such ships. Taking the navies of the world, he found that France had 75 such vessels; Russia, 30; Denmark, 3; Spain, 5; Sweden, 6; Norway, 2; United States, 7; Holland, 3; Austria, 6; and Prussia, 2; making a total of 139. So that, in fact, at this moment we had more efficient steam vessels mounting 20 guns and upwards than all the navies of the world combined. What more did we want? There ought to be some consideration, under these circumstances, for the heavily taxed people of this country. Now, with regard to the men, it had been stated by the hon. Member for Northumberland (Mr. Liddell) that the number of French seamen was 156,000, while the hon. Member for Montrose had stated the seafaring population, including even the dockyard labourers, was but the same number. It was said, that by the system of conscription the whole of that 156,000 would be available at once at the command of the French Government, and, consequently, they would have a very much greater force than we could possibly have. But 50,000 of that number were 'long-shore men and dockyard labourers, and 2,000 were mechanics, and not more than 74,000 to 80,000 were seamen; so that, in fact, we had in our navy now, in a time of peace, more men than were to be found, not merely in the navy of France, but in the whole mercantile marine of France as well. Many of the French seamen also were away trading in distant parts of the world; and though, no doubt, France could, by her conscription, command a large number of men, when he considered that we had 480,000 seafaring men, he did not think that there would be any difficulty, in a much less space of time, in our getting three times as many efficient seamen as France could command from all sources. He held the opinion 1772 that it was necessary that England should have a powerful and efficient fleet to protect her vast commerce in all parts of the world; but every additional vessel became a threat towards others. Our vessels were of a more efficient class than those of France, or any other country in Europe, A great deal had been said two years ago about frigates, and it was then stated that France owned 17 screw frigates. Now, what were the facts? Five of those vessels were only of 200 horse power, and one of 450 horse power was still on the stocks unfinished, so that the number was reduced at once to 11. Then, again, it had been said that France had 18 paddle-wheel frigates. But out of these one was His Majesty's yacht, and if that was to be included, we might also include the Victoria and Albert. Moreover, 16 out of the 18 French vessels had been built so far back as 1840, for mail service between France and America. If they were to be counted as frigates, we should, with better reason, be justified in putting on our list the vessels of the Cunard Company, the Peninsular and Oriental Company, the West India Mail Company, and all the vessels of the subsidized lines, many of which were far better adapted for carrying guns than those 16 paddle-wheel vessels. In 1850, they had had the bugbear of building line-of-battle ships, then the bugbear of more frigates, and now that of iron-cased ships. The noble Lord had said, in a tone of alarm, that the French had 15 such vessels. Now, 5 of that number were gunboats, mounting 2 guns each, and 4 were block-ships, solely meant to defend the harbours of France. There were really only 6 vessels of the Magenta, Solferino, and La Gloire class. Of those, one was afloat, and another would be in the course of the year, but the others could not be ready under two years, or two and a half years. We were building, and should have ready in two years or eighteen months, 7 iron vessels. The noble Lord, the Secretary to the Admiralty, had admitted that the Warrior was double the size of La Gloire and able to carry double the weight of metal. He believed the Black Prince was not inferior to the Warrior. It followed that the two iron-cased vessels which we had already launched would be a match for four ships like La Gloire. We had, therefore, nothing to fear from the French as far as iron-cased vessels were concerned. He had stated what he believed to be the facts of the 1773 case. It was possible that his information might be erroneous, but, in that case, the Government ought to lay the truth before the Committee.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, he took it for granted that they were all desirous of arriving at the truth. The Government had no wish to overstate the naval resources of France, or to understate those of England. All the apparent discrepancies arose from the different views which hon. Gentlemen took of naval matters. Some supposed that a ship of 6,000 tons should always be able to capture two ships of 3,000 tons; others, with more reason, thought that two ships of 3,000 tons were more formidable, as warlike engines, than one ship of 6,000 tons. He admitted that our iron-cased vessels were much finer than those which had been built abroad; but the difference between the navies of England and France were not so great as some hon. Gentlemen seemed to imagine. He assumed that hon. Gentlemen would accept the statement of the British Navy he had laid before them as correct, and that showed that we had 53 screw line-of-battle ships afloat, and 14 building and converting, making a total of 67. The French had 35 afloat and two building, making a total of 37. We had 31 screw and 9 paddle frigates afloat, and 12 building, making a total of 52. The French had 21 screw and 18 paddle frigates afloat, and eight building, making a total of 47. He did not think that the discussion had extended to the smaller classes of steamships; but including them the French had 266 vessels afloat and 61 building, making a total of 327; while we had 505 afloat, and 57 building, making a total of 562. It thus appeared that we were in a very satisfactory condition, and it was for that reason that the Government had thought it incumbent upon them to reduce the shipbuilding expenditure for the coming year. The dockyards had been reduced to their normal state, and the only reason why the Vote for timber and other stores had not been proportion ably reduced was that the Government wished to replenish the stock of timber and stores, in order to be ready for any emergency. He had already stated the facts with respect to the French iron-cased ships. He believed that the two largest—the Solferino and the Magenta—would be ready to he launched in a very short period, and might be sent to sea within a few months. Of the four frigates one was already at sea, and the others were 1774 progressing in various stages. The four floating batteries—a powerful class of vessels, with a light draught of water—were also in an advanced state, and might be sent to sea in the course of the present summer. These vessels, according to the statement of the French themselves, were intended for the defence of their coasts, and he could only hope that such was indeed the purpose to which they were to be put. He had reason to believe that the French had, in addition, five iron-cased gunboats, which, although mounted with only two guns each, had iron shields to protect their crews from projectiles, and would prove formidable vessels in the event of war. The facts with regard to men might easily be stated. According to the best accounts, there were now about 34,000 men in the French navy. Of that number 10,000 belonged to the conscription, and were able-bodied men from the maritime provinces; the remaining 24,000 belonged to the inscription, and were drawn from the seafaring population of the coast of France, who were all liable to serve in the navy. His honest belief was that the French could—particularly in the winter time, when their seamen were at home from the Newfoundland fisheries—add 25,000 additional men to their navy in the course of a month, or at furthest six weeks. He could not deny that it would be very much damaging their mercantile marine, but he believed the French could add another 25,000 men in the course of three or four months. These were the figures taken from French accounts and from French officers. He believed that, supposing a mandement were placed on every seafaring man, France could produce in no very long period a force not far short of 85,000. Of course, there would have to be deducted from that a certain number of men serving abroad in distant colonies; but he believed it represented something like the actual force of France. He would now turn to the subject to which the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Droitwich, had alluded—namely, the disturbances which had occurred on board several of Her Majesty's ships. The right hon. Gentleman had expressed himself in extremely guarded language; and he was sure that the object was to call the attention of the Government to the disturbances, with the view to correct any errors which might exist. He very much regretted that those proceedings should be brought before the House of 1775 Commons. The bringing these things continually before the public naturally raised a presumption that the navy was deteriorating—that the officers were not so zealous as to discipline as they used to he—and that, in fact, the navy was in an unsatisfactory state. He believed that there was no cause whatever for alarm. What had they done? They had succeeded within the last two years in maintaining a large squadron in the channel which was supposed to be impossible. He was sure that his gallant Friend the Member for Christchurch (Admiral Walcott) would tell them that for many years it was supposed to be impossible to keep a fleet on the coast of England—that the men would all run—that discipline could only be maintained by severe conduct on the part of the officers as in former years. They had, however, succeeded in creating such a force. It was true that there had been disturbances which he greatly regretted, but they were incident to a young fleet—to a great body of men being hastily thrown together without, or rather with a great lack of, petty officers and leading seamen to teach them their duties and how to behave themselves. It was true that there had been very lamentable disturbances but he could assure the House that satisfactory accounts had been received from the gallant Admiral who commanded the Mediterranean fleet. With the permission of the House he would give them an idea of what these disturbances really were. Everyone he believed, misbehaved himself more or less on Christmas day. Last Christmas day there arose disturbances on board two of the ships in the Mediterranean squadron. In one of them a certain number of men made a noise on the lower deck. In short they behaved extremely ill and richly deserved punishment. It was on board the Neptune. What happened to those men? Two of them, the ringleaders, were reported by the petty officers of the ship. The petty officers requested the boatswain to express to the captain the indignation of the ship's company at the bad behaviour of some of their comrades. Those men received corporal punishment by sentence of a court-martial, and there were no further disturbances in the ship. It arose out of the circumstance of the men having somehow or another smuggled into the ship a quantity of liquor. The other case was in the Orion. He believed the right hon. Gentleman alluded to that case. It was a much more serious disturbance. The men 1776 behaved extremely ill. They commenced throwing shot and other things about, and in former days it would have been a very serious matters. In these days it betokened a want of discipline, but nothing amounting to disaffection. The petty officers did not behave as they ought to have done. They did not report the men. The result was that the Admiral thought it right to distribute all the men who had been concerned in the not among the various ships in the squadron. The ship herself was sent to sea to cruise. There had been no complaint since, and the report of the Admiral received to-day stated that the whole of the disturbances had passed away, and nothing could be better than the behaviour of the ship's company since. One man in the Orion was the ringleader. Who was he? He was said to be a teetotaller. He was a teetotaller who got drunk on Christmas-day. Vice Admiral Martin on the 4th of January reported—Having made every endeavour to elicit the true cause of the disturbance, I may state my opinion that it was not caused by disaffection or discontent, but that the men had succeeded in smuggling on board or otherwise obtaining more than the ordinary quantity of spirits, and that the noise and uproar were after a fashion too frequent on shipboard on the afternoon of Christmas day.He thought the House would see that these disturbances were magnified beyond their real importance. Every little occurrence was noticed in the press, whereas he was old enough to remember that when these things occurred, as they did occasionally in past times, there was no court-martial, and, therefore, no publicity. The men who misbehaved themselves were corporally punished then and there upon the spot. Nobody heard of it, and there was an end of it. He did not mean to say that that was a better plan than the present. He wished these things to be made public. He desired no mystery about corporal punishments. But he wished to show that these occurrences did not deserve the epithets bestowed upon them in the House and out of doors. So far from there being any cause for alarm, he believed that the fleet was getting into a very good state of discipline, and that although there might and probably would occasionally occur bad conduct on the part of individuals, the state of the fleet was extremely satisfactory.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, that as the discussion had turned on the relative forces of this country and France, there was one point to which he wished to 1777 direct the attention of the Committee, and it was the extraordinary position in which the French had placed themselves all over the world. There was not a single artery of communication with our great colonics, or a single course where our stream of trade flowed, which the French did not command by some possession. They had Réunion which commanded the Cape. They had the Comoro Islands which commanded the entrance to the Red Sea. They had failed in establishing themselves at Cochin China through the bad climate; but they would have an establishment somewhere in the north of the China Sea. New Caledonia commanded the Java Sea, and stood in the way of the traffic to Australia; and Otaheite commanded Cape Horn. In the last war a miserable ship, the Essex—an American frigate, with thirty-two carronadcs—stationed off Cape Horn, destroyed fifty or sixty South Sea men, and completely cut up our South Sea trade before she was taken. That showed what might be done again. The object of the French in having these positions dotted all round the world was to draw away our fleet from the Channel. The whole of our American, West Indian, East Indian, Chinese, New South Wales, and West Coast of Africa trades must he guarded by separate squadrons, and at every point we must have a squadron superior to the French. This Vote turned upon the number of men. Between 2,000 and 3,000 seamen, in a high state of efficiency, were coming home from China, and he would suggest that they should be retained in the place of an equal number of the worst men in our fleet. He would ask whether the Marlborough had been brought home from the Mediterranean to be paid off? [Lord CLARENCE PAGET: To he repaired.] Well, then, he wanted to know whether any proper arrangement had been made by which that ship's company would be secured, because he believed the men to be in a high state of discipline, obtained under Admiral Martin's flag-ship? He had been accused of suggesting measures which would cost a great deal of money; but he wanted to know, if the Government maintained a large force of ships and men in India and China, why they should not call on the Government of India to pay some portion of the expense of that supplemental squadron? With regard to boys the Naval Commission certainly contemplated a much larger number than 2,000. They did not specify the exact places where school ships 1778 should be placed, but at least twenty were thought desirable, and vessels might easily have been draughted for the purpose, in which 100 to 500 boys might have been trained. This would have given 7,500; and if boarders had been taken they would have helped to pay the expense, as well as gone far to supply good, well brought-up, handy boys, young men of good education, fit to take their place as mates in the merchant service. With regard to iron-cased ships he hoped that they would be constructed upon such a cellular principle as would prevent them sinking rapidly if they happened to strike upon a coral reef. We had lost two ships in China by being driven on coral reefs. He looked upon the victualling of seamen as a most important point. The life of a seaman was very much shortened by the nature of his food. The practice of continually filling up salt beef casks and carrying them from one commission to another as long as the beef was of a good colour and not corrupted tended to abstract the gelatinous and nutritious parts of the beef. Hence, scurvy, debility, sore legs, ulcers, and those other diseases to which seamen were so liable. These were all the effect of a low state of constitution brought on by the consumption of deteriorated food. He would advise his noble Friend to take the advice of some eminent chemists on this subject, for he believed the addition of some saccharine matter to the food of seamen would check the tendency to scorbutic affections and be the means of prolonging the lives of sailors. The most important point in the noble Lord's statement was that which had reference to the erection of barracks for seamen, in accordance with the recommendation of the Naval Commission. He thought, however, the noble Lord would have done much better if he had come down to the House with a comprehensive and systematic plan as to where those barracks were to be placed. He was not prepared to say whether the Vote for the Devonport Barracks was judicious or not. But he was convinced that the proposition to take the convict prison at Portsmouth for the purpose of barracks would be neither popular nor effectual. The idea, too, of hanging up hammocks for the seamen instead of giving them beds in those barracks would not go down with them. The Admiralty ought to build barracks with every accommodation and convenience which had been introduced into military barracks. The great object in drafting these men into 1779 barracks was to humanize them, to improve their habits, to encourage them to give up their idle, roving, and thoughtless habits, which rendered them so difficult at present to manage. He protested against any partial manner of introducing barracks. He recommended the Government to consider the question well—whether it was not absolutely necessary that barracks should be confined to docks with exercising and play-grounds, and that money should be taken to purchase land at once. It would not do to build barracks at Plymouth, and not at Portsmouth, or vice versâ. The barrack system would introduce a very great and radical change in the habits of seamen, and their adoption should not be piecemeal. That would neither be beneficial to the country nor satisfactory to the seamen. He had intended to touch on the discipline of the navy in a former debate, but when he came to look into the accounts he had received he quite shrunk from it. He agreed with his right hon. Friend the Member for Droitwich. He was quite convinced of his own knowledge that the discipline of the navy was below par, and the sooner it was brought up to the proper point the better. He believed the cause of this laxity of discipline was very much that the Admiralty took on themselves other duties besides their own. If they left captains of ships to do their own duty they would very soon bring their ships into good order. He had served on the Naval Commission, and had investigated the subject most carefully. He would confidently say that the seamen in the English service had nothing to complain of. There was nothing to justify those disturbances of which they had heard so much. The leaders of those outrages ought to have received condign punishment; they were let off too easily. The laxity of punishment was by no means agreeable to the really good men of the navy. The feeling that proper discipline was not maintained rendered the well-conducted men discontented, inasmuch as they felt that they had to do the work of the skulker, the blackguard, and lazy fellow. A good seaman would say he did not object to punishment, because he always benefited by being in a ship where a proper system of discipline was maintained. So long as there was a community of 500 men enclosed in a ship flogging must continue, for there were no other means of preventing thieves, skulkers, or blackguards get- 1780 ting amongst them than by the use of the lash. All good men would support such a system, as otherwise they would have to suffer for the bad.
§ MR. P. W. MARTIN
said, all must admit that the reductions in the number of seamen were most moderate, and, he had no doubt, most judicious. He was of opinion that the Votes for the payment of the seamen were not those to which they could look for great reductions in the Navy Estimates. It was, he thought, to be lamented that the Government should have discharged so many men at the end of the Russian war, inasmuch as he believed the country would have to pay about half a million more now to make up the deficiency than it would have cost it to retain them. He considered it very bad economy to reduce the number or pay of the naval force, and a ruinous step in regard to the efficiency of the public service. If reductions were necessary, those reductions ought to be made by the consolidation of the departments connected with the administration of the navy, and by the removal of superfluous clerks and unnecessary officials.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
Widely as hon. Members may differ upon the merits and details of the speech in which the noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty has laid before the House the Naval Estimates for the present year, there cannot be, he should apprehend, a second opinion with respect to the evident candour and honesty of purpose with which they had been proposed by him in the execution of an arduous and difficult duty. For his part he must reiterate his conviction that it is indispensable to the efficient discharge of his very important and responsible position that an honorary seat at the Board of Admiralty should be allotted to the Surveyor of the Navy as the only means which can assure him that he is free to express his opinions and urge with effect his attainments and experience. The change would lay no additional charge upon the country, but would conduce materially to his influence and secure his independence from improper interference, which, under the present system, hampers his best energies and denies them fair play. And he still thought that it would be attended with the most material advantage to the country if a Committee were nominated by the Board of Admiralty to be composed of men the most conversant in naval architecture in all its various cognate branches, and under all its 1781 fluctuating aspects. A Board so constituted would carry authority, and meeting from time to time weigh with respect and dispassionate interest the propositions and plans advanced by men of science and practical experience which the country would be satisfied that in the construction of our ships every precaution was used and every test applied without haste or under momentary external pressure so as to preclude unnecessary expense and mere crude experimentalizing. An Estimate is taken for the expense of rearing of 2,000 boys for the service in training ships. He trusted he might repeat that if his earnest and repeated entreaties that boys from fourteen to eighteen years of age should be trained in this manner in numbers from 3,000 to 4,000 annually had been carried out some years since we should now have felt no Lack of able seamen. We require training ships not only at Portsmouth and Devon-port, but likewise to be stationed at every naval port, and in every large and consequential mercantile harbour. He did not know what course may be proposed with regard to the crews of ships coming home from the China station, but this he would venture to say that the country would not look tamely on if out of that number every able seaman is not retained for its service; dismiss, he prayed, the bad, the worthless, the lazy, the incompetent; we ought to be rid of them, but do not let us again see our good seaman in despair shipping under the colours of another country and lost to us for ever. He was sorry to have to concur in much that had been said of laxity of discipline, and he could not too strongly reprehend the absence of loyalty and impropriety of conduct which was shown by that falling off of discipline. He could not help thinking that if the Channel fleet had been sent more to sea instead of remaining in port till the ships, in sailors' phrase, "grounded on their own beef bones," the discipline would have been more satisfactory. When the men were idle the "sea lawyers," the worst description of men ever created gained an influence over the men's minds and led them into breaches of discipline. Another cause was the little encouragement which was given to the petty officers who were to the navy as essential as good sergeants and corporals were to the Army. With regard to iron ships and other improvements the Admiralty must not be deterred either by expense nor labour from keeping ahead of all maritime Powers. Peace is always a matter of un- 1782 certainty—our commerce extends to every sea, our colonies are scattered over the face of the earth—others apply their whole hearts to adopt every scientific improvement and augment their navy. We cannot stand still. Not to proceed is to recede. And it is little less than treason to our country not to keep pace with the advances of other nations for a false economy or to expose her to the bare possibility of a hostile descent or national panic.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, in reply to the remarks of the hon. Member for Norfolk, with reference to the Naval Volunteers, he had to state that so anxious were the Admiralty to give every possible effect to the great Volunteer movement, that they had sent down to all the various Coastguard stations to ascertain what facilities they could give with a view to assist the Volunteer practice, and it was possible they might be able to make some arrangements that would give satisfaction to the country in this respect. He had been asked whether the lines of the Warrior were such as he approved of. Now, he did not construct the Warrior; and, although she was a very fine ship, he did not entirely approve of her lines, and could not say that she was perfection. In his opinion a very flat midship section was the best form for all vessels which carried heavy weights. With regard to the shipping masters, who were said to be inadequately paid, the Admiralty wore in communication with the Board of Trade on that subject, with a view to increase their pay where it was obviously just to do so. As there would be several opportunities for discussing the iron-clad ships he should not now enter further into the subject.
§ MR. BRIGHT
Mr. Massey, Sir, the discussion has been a very interesting one as far as it has gone. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the details of this question to enable me to enter into it at any length; but I wish to call the noble Lord's attention to one or two omissions in his speech in reply to the observations of my hon. Friend near mo (Mr. Lindsay). The noble Lord told us a great many things, but he did not answer that part of my hon. Friend's speech which referred to the 18 vessels built more than twenty years ago for conveying mails across the Atlantic—a commercial undertaking which did not succeed, and which ended in the absorption of those vessels into the French navy. In the list which he gave us he reckoned those vessels as if they had been first-class frigates, and 1783 made no allowance for my hon. Friend's statement. Then, with regard to these screw frigates, which were stated to be many of them of only 200-horse power, the noble Lord made no reply whatever. These are points of considerable importance, if we are to discuss this question with any regard to the figures offered us on both sides of the Channel. But I have come to the conclusion that the Secretary to the Admiralty, and First Lords, and all the rest of them, are themselves in a great quagmire and puzzle respecting this question. Nothing they lay before the House seems to agree with anything else. I find a classified summary of the Royal Navy in April, 1859, published in a book, which is an authority with many people, and this gives the whole number of vessels as 751. We know that an enormous sum of money has been voted within the last two years, and that shipbuilding has been carried on faster perhaps than it has ever been carried on before; yet we come to a return now laid on the table and find the whole number of vessels set down as 688. Therefore, according to the Admiralty Returns, the more you build and the more you spend, the fewer ships you have. I do not think you are a bit the worse for it, because either of the numbers I have given is far beyond what any rational Minister would ask for or any rational Parliament would permit to exist. Again, in a Report of this very Session it appears that there have been as many ships under repair during the last year, within one, as the number given us as constituting the whole navy; that is, of the whole navy, consisting of 688 ships, 687 are put down as under repair. I have come to the conclusion that the House can place extremely little reliance upon those statistics, and I suspect there are many ships of which the House knows nothing, and probably the Admiralty itself knows very little. There is another point in the noble Lord's speech which I think is worth notice—where he referred to the number of men which the French Government could in a certain time put on board its navy. If I recollect right, he said that there were 25,000, that other 25,000 might be added, and after that about 25,000 or 30,000 more—the second 25,000 in the course of a month, and the last 25,000 or 30,000 in the course of three or four months. What was his object in making that statement? Was it to convey a true or a false impression to the country? I should be the last man to charge the noble Lord with endeavouring to create a false impression, 1784 because I have always regarded him as one of those Members—and there are many such in this House—in whom you see at once, or imagine you see, entire frankness and honour and honesty. But such is the effect of official life that a man getting upon that bench somehow or other takes another colour, as it were, from the very atmosphere he lives in, and the food he exists upon. The Treasury bench seems to be not "the bourne from which no traveller returns," but the bourne from which no honest man returns. In making this statement the noble Lord has done that which, read by persons in the country, must give them an incorrect impression of the facts. It was no use his telling us about 75,000 or 80,000 men unless for the sake of showing that, under certain circumstances, in one, or three or four months, the French Government would have this number of men on board their ships. But the noble Lord was obliged to admit that when this happens every man now in the Imperial navy will be there, and every man engaged upon the coasts of France in maritime affairs or in fishing boats, every man from the French fisheries on the other side of the Atlantic, and every man in French merchant ships all over the globe. What does this suppose? Why, that the 1,000,000 tons of which the French mercantile navy is composed would be all in port. Not a single ship bearing the produce of France would leave her ports, or bearing the produce of other countries to France would be upon the ocean. But this is an absolute impossibility. Everybody knows it to be so. Even the hon. Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) knows it. It would be just as practicable for the First Lord of the Admiralty and his confederates in this vast extravagance to call home from all parts of the world 300,000 or 400,000 English sailors, or whatever is the number which might be obtained if all the English mercantile marine was denuded of its crews. I protest against that kind of argument. When the noble Lord says that in the French navy the number of men does not exceed 34,000, and that it varies from 30,000 to 34,000 (I believe the number voted this year is smaller than either of these figures) the proper course is to compare that number with the number voted by this House. I have heard, not from the noble Lord, but from his predecessors in office, and from every First Lord for the last eighteen years, that the number of men is the proper guage by 1785 which to estimate the naval power of a country and the expenditure which is to be incurred for the navy for the service of the year. Now, we have 78,000 men this year, and last year had 84,000. The utmost that the Government naval officer who is kept in Paris to report upon those matters—the utmost that he can make of the number of men in the French navy is 34,000. If it be true, then, that we have had 84,000 and they but 34,000 sailors, and that in order to bring them up to outnumber every French fisherman and every sailor in every part of the world must be included in the calculation, I want to know why it is that this alarm has been created during the last two years—an alarm which I do not hesitate to say is founded on a falsehood the most monstrous and the mos criminal which any Government ever attempted to impose on a people? I say that the Government themselves are guilty of thus imposing on the people, and levying upon them an amount of taxes for which there is not the smallest necessity. My hon. Friend (Mr. Baxter) blamed the Government and the House for this, but said he blamed the country also, because the country had been alarmed. But he knows perfectly well that what is called the country must necessarily take its opinions at second-hand. Manufacturers, farmers, professional men, shopkeepers, artisans, and labourers do not con over these blue books of ours and read the accounts minutely given in the French votes. They know very little of this. They take their opinions from what is stated in this House I and in the public press. And, of course, when there are men in the high position of the noble Lord at the head of the Government and others associated with him, who have been in the service of the country for twenty, thirty, or forty years, it is only reasonable that the opinions which they express and the statements which are made in their hearing, but which they do not take the trouble to contradict, should sink into the minds of the people and become with them a fixed belief, although founded upon no knowledge whatever. I have never heard the noble Lord at the head of the Government or any of his Colleagues make a distinct statement. They do not condescend to particularize on this matter, but they allow these alarms to exist and these assertions to circulate throughout the country. They make use of them for the purpose of seizing on a time of popular delusion 1786 to add to the navy and to the expenditure of the country. Instead of that, if they were to tell the people the truth, which they know, which I know that they know, which to my certain knowledge their own officers send to them from Paris, they might have saved millions during the last few years. There is not a man in Paris, whether Bonapartist, Orleanist, or Republican, who does not entirely disbelieve and disavow all the statements made in this House and in this country as to the gigantic naval preparations of France, and the disposition of its Government towards England. My hon. Friend the Member for Stirling (Mr. Caird) called attention the other night to the public expenditure in connection with the present condition of the country; but it does not seem to affect the Votes in the least degree. The diminution in the Estimates is altogether trifling. Everybody, for instance, admits that you should not build any more wooden ships; yet a large sum is taken for timber of which you have already great quantities in stock, that in all probability will never be necessary. Surely, after what was done in consequence of the panic, excited when the right hon. Member for Droitwich was at the Admiralty, and considering that this is a time of peculiar pressure, when a general discontent is arising in different parts of the country at this enormous expenditure, the Government might easily have reduced the Military Estimates of the year by four or five millions! And I do not believe there is a man in the kingdom, with the slightest knowledge of politics, who would imagine that we were not quite as safe as we shall be when all this money has been voted and those vast sums expended. The noble Lord at the head of the Government has disappointed the country and those who usually support him in this House in some things; but, seeing how little necessity there has been for our interference by force in Europe during the last few years, when a war of very considerable magnitude has prevailed, surely he might have concluded that there was no likelihood of a necessity for our interference this year or the next, and might with credit to his Government and satisfaction to the country have touched these Estimates with a bolder hand, and given his Chancellor of the Exchequer the means of making some amends to a heavily taxed nation for the other failures and shortcomings of the Administration by pro- 1787 ducing a Budget which might save much of the money they so hardly earn.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The hon. Member who has just sat down says it is remarkable how much hon. Gentlemen who pass to these benches from other parts of this House are apt to change the opinions they may have previously entertained on matters of fact. Now, Sir, that is perfectly true, and it arises from this simple circumstance, that those who speak on such subjects in other parts of the House are frequently uninformed as to the facts on which their opinions are based, and that when they come to this bench and know the real state of things in a greater degree than before, their views change with the change of their information. Why, so natural is that that if the hon. Gentleman himself were to come and sit here among us, and become acquainted with all those details on which alone an opinion can properly be founded, and if he were, moreover, charged with that responsibility from which he is at present free, I should not at all despair, knowing the power of his mind and the accuracy of his observation when the facts of any case are fully before him, of finding him one of the stoutest advocates for good naval and military establishments, quite adequate to defend the country from any attack to which it might be liable. The hon. Member says we are highly culpable for sitting still and not contradicting assertions which we know to be erroneous. Well, I do not wish to be any longer subject to that reproach; and, therefore, I rise to contradict the hon. Gentleman's own erroneous assertions, as well as those of the hon. Members for Montrose and Sunderland. Those hon. Gentlemen came here propounding opinions based on extracts from some newspaper or other. I really think it was a Scotch newspaper that one hon. Member quoted, They recount to us what they were told by friends whom they met at Paris, and they repeat the denials given there by persons excessively interested in misleading public opinion here, and making us all believe that nothing can be more harmless than all the military and naval preparations of France. Why, these gentlemen come here like the Trojan horse in order to deceive us as to the real possibility of danger to which we might be exposed. I say, Equo ne credite, Teucri. How inconsistent is the argument of the hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) to-night with what we heard him not long ago state in the broad- 1788 est possible terms! Why, he gave us an account of his conversation with the Minister of Marine in France, who endeavoured to persuade him that France bad no navy at all—or only a very small one—when my hon. Friend, like an Englishman, stoutly told the French Minister, and if I mistake not also told the French Emperor, that, whatever the French navy might be England ought to have, and England would have, double that amount of force. He said, "It is of no use for you to go on increasing your navy, because, if you think that by that means you can get a superiority, I tell you you are totally mistaken; for, whatever sacrifice may be necessary for the purpose, we are determined to have double what you may have." But my hon. Friend to-night makes it an accusation against Her Majesty's Government that we happen to have, according to his own statement, not quite double the amount of the French force, because he states that the French have seventy-five ships of a particular kind, while we have 140. Therefore, we have hardly yet come up to his own standard of what we ought to have in comparison with the French navy. Really, Sir, it is shutting one's eyes against notorious facts, to go on contending that the policy of France—of which I certainly do not now complain—has not for a great length of time been to get up a navy which shall be equal, if not superior, to our own. Why, everybody knows more or less the result of that elaborate work L'Enquête Parlementaire, published some years ago, and which studiously and laboriously aimed to inculcate that policy on the French Government. An instance of the way in which my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland has been misled by the recent communication he had at Paris is this:—He says there were sixteen innocent mail packets built expressly for the passage between France and America, and these vessels not being wanted for the purpose for which they had been destined, the French Government knew not what else to do with them except to add them to its navy, although they were just as fit for warlike purposes as any of the Cunard Line. Now, I happen to know something about these sixteen steamers, because I was at the Foreign Office at the time they were constructed, and we understood perfectly well that they were built for the purposes of war—that it was a mere sham to say they were Transatlantic packets. Well, it soon turned out, as we 1789 foresaw when we heard of their construction. By a stroke of the pen they were all one fine day added to the warlike navy of France, and the pretence of their being intended for the Transatlantic communication was henceforth entirely at end. Therefore, I say that as regards ships the French navy has been considerably increased; and we have hardly yet that double proportion which my hon. Friend admits that we ought to possess; and we ought to possess it for this plainest of all reasons,—the French have very few colonial establishments. My hon. Friend said their commerce is falling off, and therefore, they have smaller interests to protect at distant stations. The hon. and gallant Member for Portsmouth (Sir James Elphinstone) described how they are acquiring military and naval positions in every part of the world where we have only commercial relations. By those means, in the event of any unfortunate difference between the two countries, the French forces would be on the spot and able to interrupt in the most serious manner all our extensive commercial operations. And at these stations they now have a naval force superior to ours. On the other hand we are obliged to scatter our naval force over every quarter of the globe. If we did not do so, and any interest should unfortunately suffer for want of protection, I ask who would be blamed for the damage and disaster that might be caused by the neglect? I am really sorry to be discussing the possibility of feelings of hostility between two countries that, I hope, will long remain friends; but it is with the object of impressing on the House and on the country that there is no possibility of peace and friendship between two wealthy and powerful nations unless each is on such a footing as to its defences that neither may invite attack by the other. It is, therefore, in the interest of peace that I am addressing the House. France, for her own defensive purposes, has no reason for scattering her naval force widely over the globe; and, whatever navy she has, she can concentrate it almost all, at the commencement of a war, either on her own coast or on any given point, for an attack, either in the Mediterranean or on these islands. Now, as to the number of men. France has 34,000 in her naval service now, and in a few months about 50,000 more can be added, as my noble Friend has stated, to that number. But then, it is said, to do that France must 1790 take into her navy all the fishermen of her coast, all her mercantile seamen, all her sea-faring men of every kind; and why should she not do so? If a war took place she would naturally call on all her mercantile seamen. They would be of no use at sea for commercial purposes; she would take all within her reach, and put them into her war navy, to attack your commerce. It is no argument whatever to say that, to obtain the additional 50,000 men, it would be necessary to take all her mercantile population into the navy, because that is just what France would do, and ought to do. And her power of doing that with facility should never be overlooked. We have not the same means, because our institutions do not give the Government the power of sweeping away into our navy so great a proportion of our civil population. That power the French Government possesses. Our commercial seamen are scattered over every part of the world; when hostilities began, many of them would probably be at sea, and many might go to France as prisoners of war if taken by French frigates cruising in different parts of the seas. I only point out what has been stated, because I am glad the acknowledgment has been made, that, in point of fact, our navy, as far as wooden ships are concerned, is in a satisfactory condition; that it is in the relation to the French navy we ought to occupy. And I think great credit is due to the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir John Pakington) and to the present Government that they have taken the measures required to place it in that condition. But there is one point in which our navy is not in a satisfactory condition; it is with regard to iron ships. With the iron ships the French have already—they will, when those now building are completed, have a superiority in this point. We know the French Government has recently ordered the construction of ten vessels of the same size and force as La Gloire. At present, then, we do not stand in the same position as to iron ships as we do in wooden vessels. But the House must not suppose that iron ships will wholly supersede those of wood; we may depend on it that, in case of war, wooden line-of-battle ships will play their part, and that an important part, especially on distant stations. You cannot send the iron ships to keep the sea for any length of time where they cannot clean their bottoms of the incrustations and the vegetable matter that impede the 1791 steering and management of the vessel. For this reason, in the Mediterranean France has a great advantage. Her ships can go to Toulon and there be put in a proper condition, whereas our iron ships in the same sea would have no port, except, perhaps, Malta, where any repairs could be done. On all distant stations, wooden ships, especially frigates, will still be the kind of vessels required. There seems, then, no ground for saying that, large as I admit the demand is for the naval service of the country, it is larger than the interest and safety of the country require. I am persuaded the country knows that. When I am told that the country knows nothing on this subject except what is told from the Treasury bench, I say it is a mistake. The country knows more of what passes in France than what it hears from those who sit on this bench, or from those who send information from Paris. The French make no secret of their preparations; but when some well-intentioned gentleman asks them if they really mean to invade this country, if they really have any hostile intentions towards us, of course, they say not the least in the world, their feeling is one of perfect sympathy and friendship with us, and that all their preparations are only for their own self-advancement. But in this country it is perfectly well known what exertions have been made by successive Governments of France to establish a powerful and formidable navy; and we also know that France has an army six times as large as that of England. France has an army of 600,000 men; 400,000 are actually under arms; and there are 200,000 men belonging to different regiments, on temporary leave, and liable to be called back to the ranks in the course of a fortnight. And in estimating the number of men each country can bring into action, for a particular purpose, we must not throw the military establishment of France quite out of the question. For operations in the Channel, and crossing from one shore to the other, soldiers would be almost as valuable as sailors for manning the ships required for the purpose. However much, then, we may regret that our Estimates are so large, the House and the country must remember that the magnitude of the expenditure is occasioned by changes and improvements in the construction of ships. That, to a certain extent, is a temporary increase. With regard to iron ships, it was well stated by the hon. Member for 1792 Sunderland on a former occasion, that they do not require the same amount of repairs as wooden vessels, and that, though they cost more at the outset, the expense of maintaining them is less. But whatever the opinions expressed no one has proposed any reduction of the Vote; I, therefore, hope the House will answer the expectations of the country, and give the Government the means of maintaining that amount of naval force it thinks necessary. The hon. Member for Birmingham seems to think there is some peculiar pleasure or advantage to a Government in proposing a great amount of expenditure. But if a Government could consult its own wishes I believe it would reduce everything it possibly could reduce. A Government can have no interest or advantage in proposing a large military and naval expenditure. But on the responsibility of its position, that renders it a duty towards the country, every motive of a personal kind that can influence a Government would lead it to propose as low an Estimate as it believed compatible with the safety and interest of the nation.
§ MR. CONINGHAM
said, he could not but regret that the Estimates always seemed to he framed on the supposition of hostile intentions on the part of the French nation. In his opinion the Emperor had of late given us the most emphatic and positive assurance of his goodwill towards this country, especially by the Commercial Treaty; while the recent changes in the internal administration of France might be regarded as an additional security for peace. The speech of Prince Napoleon was the best answer to the serious alarm by which it appeared to be the intention of Her Majesty's Government to disturb the peace of Her Majesty's subjects.
§ Vote agreed to; as were also
§ (2.) £3,122,580, Wages;
§ (3.) £1,328,259, Victuals.
§ House resumed;
§ Resolutions to be reported To-morrow.
§ Committee to sit again on Wednesday.