HC Deb 25 July 1862 vol 168 cc834-43

said, he rose to call attention to the recent reduction of "batta" payable to the Admiral on the East India and China station, by the withdrawal of that allowance from the Flag. Up to a recent period the officers of the navy stationed in India used to receive in addition to their pay an allowance entitled "batta," which in the case of the Admiral amounted to £3,000; in that of the commodore to £1,500; of the captain succeeding the commodore, to £1,000; of the captain commanding, £500; the commander, £250; and of a lieutenant, £85 per annum. Now, that allowance had been most arbitrarily withdrawn, and he certainly could not congratulate the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the change at a moment when, as he predicted three years ago, a war had sprung up with China constituting one of the most embarrassing imbroglios in which this country had ever been involved. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had allowed a war to spring up, of which but few Members of the House would see the end, and about the expense of which they would receive information when the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer favoured them with his next budget. The Government having withdrawn these allowances, the officers of Her Majesty's navy in India and China were positively unable to pay their way. The plea under which the reduction was made was, that to meet the exigencies of the case, the Admiral's flag had been removed from India to China. But he had yet to learn that the increased trade in cotton, opium, and other articles—trade carried on in specie—did not require all the protection they could afford in that quarter. The present state of affairs in the Chinese seas was, he might add, far from satisfactory. Hon. Members must have read an account of an action which had occurred in those seas the other day, in which the Bishop of Borneo, after being hit by a bullet, was obliged to defend his life with a revolver, which appeared to have done him right good service. Among the captives recovered from the pirates on that occasion were men from every part of the Eastern Archipelago, and there were also found in the boats flags of almost every nation. In the action eleven boats were captured or destroyed, but their original number were no less than twenty-one. Such was the disastrous position of affairs on a sea covered by the British flag under the present Administration. To show how the reduction operated, he might state that he held in his hand a letter from a post captain—a most gallant officer—on the China station, stating that in his command he was obliged, although he never kept a table beyond the requirements of his position, to incur debts to the extent of £1,000, adding that all the necessaries of life on the station were cent per cent dearer than the home prices. The writer went on to state that an under clerk in a mercantile house in the East was better paid than a post captain. On every account it was to be regretted that the Secretary for India, chosen probably for his skill in the patois of office, should have cut down the "batta," and left the naval officers without the means of paying their way. The present Admiralty was the first which had reduced the pay and allowances of every officer who had the misfortune to serve under the British flag, and that, too, at a time when the value of money was falling and the price of the necessaries of life rising all over the world. The terms of his Motion were framed for a different state of circumstances; he had intended to move it on going into Committee of Supply. That Motion was— That this House will on Monday next resolve itself into a Committee to consider of an humble Address to Her Majesty that the pay of the Admiral on that station be restored to a sum that will place the emoluments of the Commander in Chief on a footing that will enable him to maintain the dignity of his position, and more in accordance with the allowances of Military Commanders in Chief in the various Presidencies. In the present position of the House, the Votes in Supply having been all granted, he was precluded from such a Motion; but he wished to give notice that next year he would move for the re-appointment of the Admiralty Committee, believing as he did that the maladministration in that department was by no means abated. Meanwhile, he hoped that during the recess, the Government would look the facts which he had stated fairly in the face, and would do everything they could to alter a state of things which was neither more nor less than disgraceful to the country.


said, he thought it was most unfortunate that at a period when they were proposing to construct new fortifications, and were making large additions to the navy, any circumstance should occur to lead to a bad spirit in the naval service. Frequently during the Session the attention of the House had been called to hardships suffered by the navy. One night it was the case of the captains, in which it was clearly demonstrated that officers of high standing and great merit had been treated with gross injustice. Another evening it was the question of prize money—a question upon which a majority of the House had, decided that the Government had ill-treated the navy. Now, they were discussing another case of hardship. Hitherto it had been considered right that a large extra sum of money should be paid to the Admiral on the China station, because he was obliged from his position to incur great expense. For several years the China command was worth not much less than £10,000 per annum. Now, all of a sudden, on account of the amalgamation of the Indian and home services, the pay of the Admiral in command was reduced to £2,300 a year. The captains, first lieutenants, and other officers serving under him were also obliged to submit to a great reduction. If £2,300 a year was sufficient for the Admiral then, how came it that he had received so much more in former years? Either he had been overpaid before, or he was miserably underpaid then. With the exception of the naval officers, all the persons employed in the public service in the East were very highly paid, and properly so. The Admiral occupied a higher position than the Governor of Hong-Kong, and yet the latter received £5,500 a year, while the former had only £2,300. He wished to know whether or not Captain Sherard Osborn had been appointed to a post under the Chinese Government—a most extraordinary proceeding altogether—at a salary guaranteed by our Government of £3,500 a year. Here, on one hand, was the Admiral in command on the India station, the representative of the nation, who had £2,300 a year; and there, on the other, was Captain Sherard Osborn appointed to a post under the Chinese Government at a guaranteed salary of £3,500. It was to be doubted whether the House was fully aware how much the advantages connected with service in the navy had been diminished of late years. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty would admit that there was no longer any freight, except on the West India station; it was all carried in private vessels. In case of war the officers would, no doubt, do their duty; but their energy would be somewhat lessened by the fact that there could be no prize money, in consequence of the abandonment of our maritime rights in the Declaration of Paris. Again, fifteen or twenty years ago, about one-third of the Colonial Governments were filled by naval men; but, with the exception of the Falkland Islands and Ascension, all those posts were then occupied either by civilians or by military men. The navy, in fact, was being deprived of all the privileges which it had hitherto enjoyed, and the Government had even resolved not to leave it the solitary advantage of the command in the Chinese seas.


said, he thought it very unadvisable that he should travel out of the immediate view of the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Portsmouth, but it might be as well that he should give an answer to the statement of the hon. Member for Honiton (Mr. Cochrane) with regard to Captain Sherard Osborn. There seemed to be some great misunderstanding on the part of the hon. Gentleman that Captain Osborn was going to serve under the Chinese Government, being guaranteed by Her Majesty's Government £3,500 per annum. All he could say was, that Her Majesty's Government knew nothing about it. Captain Sherard Osborn had applied to the Admiralty to be allowed to serve under the Chinese Government mainly "with a view to the suppression of piracy in the China seas." He had leave given him to serve in China under that Government, but the Admiralty did not recognise any guarantee of terms whatever on the part of the Chinese Government. They had done what they did in former instances; Sir Baldwin Walker in the same way received permission to serve the Turkish Government; Sir Adolphus Slade had a similar permission; the gallant and distinguished officer the Member for Westminster in the same way served the Government of Spain. It was the occasional practice of the Admiralty to permit officers to serve under foreign Governments. Such service involved no claim on the public of this country, either as regards pay for the officer himself, or any serving under him. With regard to the question brought forward by his hon. and gallant Friend, of course the Admiralty were most glad that their officers should receive all proper allowances which might be granted to them by colonial Governments. The East India Government, it was well known, chose to make a very handsome allowance to the naval officers employed on that station, but that Government had been superseded by bringing India under the immediate government of the Queen, and it had been thought right that such allowances should cease. His hon. Friend, however, must recollect that these allowances had not been taken away from officers already in the enjoyment of them; but officers, whether admirals or inferior officers, went out on the distinct understanding that these allowances had ceased and determined. There was no fair comparison between the pay and allowances of officers in the army and navy. He did not for a moment mean to detract from the services of his brother officers, but he maintained that their services did not entail anything like the discomfort and danger to which officers on shore in those climates were liable. His hon. and gallant Friend had read a letter from a gallant officer giving an account of an attack on the pirates. [Sir J. ELPHINSTONE: He is not an officer.] Well, perhaps he was a bishop. There was, he believed, a bishop who had very gallantly distinguished himself in those seas; but his hon. and gallant Friend appeared to have forgotten that the Government did make allowances, in the form of head-money, for the capture of pirates, and every year a considerable sum was proposed in the Estimates as prize-money on that account; but that had nothing whatever to do with the allowances of the Admiral or officers on the China station. He did not think it was the intention of the Government to propose allowances; indeed, he thought it would be gross injustice to the admirals on oilier stations to propose an allowance on the China station without making a proposal of the same nature for the other stations, many of which were quite as expensive and inconvenient as that to the claims of which his hon. and gallant Friend had directed the attention of the House.


said, he thought it of great importance that the House should understand on what grounds leave had been given to Captain Sherard Osborn to serve under the Chinese Government. He would not go into the question whether it was right or not that Sir Baldwin Walker and Sir Adolphus Slade should have been allowed to serve the Turkish Government for the purpose of bolstering it up; but he would ask if it was the intention of the Government to undertake the same labour for China, and to allow their officers to serve a Government, whether that of the Emperor or of the rebels, in order to support and build up an effete dynasty and a decayed Power. If they had undertaken to help the Chinese Government to put down the Chinese rebels, they had entered upon a labour in which, on account of the distance from this country, it would be excessively difficult to persevere. It could not possibly be maintained, that if Captain Sherard Osborn was permitted to serve the Chinese Government, he should be still recognised as a British subject. If he then was not a British subject, in what espacity was he to be recognised? No doubt, officers serving under the British flag might perform duty in the Chinese waters, not for the Chinese Government but for the protection of our trade and interests in that part of the world. But it could not surely be the intention of this country to give to an individual who was in receipt of half-pay from the English Admiralty permission to serve under a foreign Government, and if he were successful in that service, to give him credit for his success; but if he were unsuccessful, to allow him to fall back upon the English Government and seek support from the English naval commander under whom he was not placed. Such a course would involve us in war. He presumed that the services of Captain Sherard Osborn were to be performed afloat. In what description of vessel was he to hoist his flag? In a lorcha, or in a junk, or in a vessel built in this country? If it was true, as stated by the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty, that the position of Captain Sherard Osborn as to the services he was about to perform for the Chinese Government would be similar to that occupied by Sir Baldwin Walker whilst performing services for the Turkish Government, then the House ought to understand the liability they were undertaking in sanctioning the permission given to Captain Sherard Osborn to serve the Chinese Government.


said, Captain Sherard Osborn would not fall back upon the English naval commander for protection. Whilst he performed the work of putting down pirates in the Chinese seas, he would be recognised simply as an officer of the Chinese Government. The English Government had acted wisely in permitting Captain Sherard Osborn to strengthen the hands of the Chinese Government in the very desirable work of putting down piracy, which was rampant in the Chinese seas. By the Admiralty regulations, the officer of a British ship serving in the Chinese waters was not permitted to resent an attack upon any other than an English vessel.


said, he wished to know if Captain Sherard Osborn would be in a position to found a claim for pay and promotion against the British Government for services under the Chinese Government?


said, it was notorious that piracy was rampant in the China seas; but the blue-books presented to the House with reference to transactions in China did not tell the public that, in a military operation, our naval authorities could act in conjunction with a pirate chief. He held in his hand an account of the recent capture of the city of Ningpo by Captain Dew, of the ship Encounter, a commander in Her Majesty's service. That officer stated that he "found it necessary to capture the city and drive the rebels out;" but he did not state under what authority he did this, but spoke of an insult having been offered to our flag. His act seemed to be characterized by the wilfulness and lawlessness of the buccaneers of old. Captain Dew stated that the British flag had been fired upon, meaning, of course, intentionally. The public journals gave a somewhat different version of the affair. They stated that one of the rebel chiefs had arrived in Ningpo, and the Taepings had received him with a feu-de-joie. They had fired in the direction of the river over the French and English ships, and the whistling of musket-balls had been heard, but no one was hurt. That was the insult for which atonement was required. Captain Dew, not satisfied with an apology, required that a battery towards the river should be disarmed, and of course his demand was refused, for he had no more right to make it than he had to demand that the rebel troops should be disarmed. A notorious Chinese pirate, who had so large and powerful a fleet that the Imperial Government were never able to put it down, arrived in the river at Ningpo while these demands were being made, and came up in the midst of the English and other foreign ships. The journals state that an arrangement was immediately made by Captain Dew with the pirate, who had the ex-Governor of Ningpo on board, that the city should be attacked the next morning. The rebels returned the fire; and as the pirate fleet lay between the foreign vessels and the city, of course our vessels came in for their share of it. This was sufficient for Captain Dew —he bombarded, and stormed, and took the city. And whom did we put in possession of the city? This pirate chief, with all his followers. The result was that the people flew in all directions, seeking for Europeans to go into the city to protect their houses from being plundered by the pirates, our allies. On their return many found their houses only a heap of smouldering ruins, and their property, which had been in the hands of the rebels for five months without being molested, was now entirely destroyed or wholly at the mercy of the pirates, who were allowed three days for plunder. These statements, if true, were quite sufficient to show that in our conduct towards the Taepings we were enacting the fable of the wolf and the lamb. The lamb might be drinking at the upper or lower part of the stream, it was all the same, he was to be devoured. He also wished to ask a question respecting the property taken at the capture of Kah-ding. We had taken their plunder from the rebels, valued at some 130,000 dols., including the value of horses or ponies; but did we hand it back to the poor people to whom it belonged? Having robbed the robbers, we appropriated the spoil as if it were our own, and pronounced it prize of war. Turning next to the occurrences at Shanghai, he could not but describe the attack made upon the Taepings there by our force as uncalled for and unprovoked. The Taepings had repeatedly asked for our friendship; and if they had been allowed to enter and take possession of Shanghai as they had done at Ningpo, where there was not a single case of their having done any injury to Europeans, although there were some cases of Europeans having done injury to them, he believed that Shanghai would at that moment have been a free port, and the river there as safe and secure as the Thames. He would conclude by asking the questions of which he had given notice—namely, whether despatches had been received respecting the recent naval and military operations in China, and whether they would be laid immediately before the House; and whether the property taken at the capture of Kah-ding had been declared prize of war?


said, that in reply to the question of the noble Lord (Lord Lovaine) and gallant Member, be had to state that no claim upon this country was likely to arise on account of services performed on behalf of the Government of China. The notice to officers serving under the Chinese Government was as follows:— Service performed under the Imperial Government of China will not be considered as service in the nary, as regards pay, time, promotion, &c. In the event of the senior officer in command having the power, under the Imperial Chinese Government, of awarding promotion in that service to officers serving under his command, the same will not be considered as a claim to promotion in the Royal navy. In the event of an officer being wounded in this service he will not be entitled to a pension for wounds; nor, if killed in his action, will his widow be entitled to any more than the ordinary pension awarded to the widow of an officer dying while on half-pay.