§ Order for Second Reading road.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
moved, as an Amendment—That there be laid before this House a Return showing the original and every subsequent Estimate for each work recommended by the Defences Commissioners; the amount of any Contract for each work; what proportion of each work is completed; and what inconvenience or injury, if any, to the Public Service would result from the postponement of any of the projected works.Several Returns, bearing on this subject, had already been laid before the House; and he begged to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War for the Return which had just been presented, and which contained much of the information that he had desired to obtain, and had moved for. Some of the works proposed to be constructed were far advanced, but some were not yet commenced; surely, then; they ought, at any rate, to inquire into the progress of those in hand. One was a work, or rather a series of works, of very great cost, for the defence of Plymouth, with respect to which no contract had been entered into, and no money expended; the question as regards this proposition was therefore fairly open to discussion. The work was, in his mind, of a very questionable character, and might be very well dispensed with. This bore upon the subject of invasion. Now, this country could only be invaded in the event of the British fleet being defeated at sea, or the British commanders at sea being eluded by the enemy; but since, in the last war, when they were opposed by the French, Spanish, Russian, Swedish, Danish, and Dutch fleets, forming an array well-nigh overwhelming, this country was not invaded, why were they to expect an invasion now? No doubt, a few years ago the relations of this country with France were critical, the English army was then, numerically, in a low state, and the navy was still lower; the artillery was only an artillery in name— so much had it been reduced in the long peace. Such was not the case at present. The artillery was now the pride of 1223 the nation—nothing could be finer or better appointed; the ships of the navy were admirable, and the army was of the best description, though not numerous enough to provide garrisons for the extensive defensive works now projected. He protested most strongly against the policy of locking up a number of men in fortifications where they would be almost useless, instead of being enabled to act in the open field. If the best troops were to be locked up in fortresses, it was quite clear, that in the event of an enemy obtaining command of the Channel for three weeks or longer, and making a descent on the coast, the capital of the country would be in danger, and it would be also perilous to leave the defence of forts to inexperienced troops. He might also observe that the other day he was present in another place, when a high authority upon this subject informed his hearers that the effect of enormous guns upon iron-plated ships would be so to shake the plates that they would come off bodily from the ship; and in such a case an iron-plated ship would be inferior to a wooden one. This was an alarming statement, and one which called for close investigation before they proceeded to lay out more money on iron-cased ships on the present system. What, he would ask, was the Government about to leave such a vital point in doubt? He had been accused in another place of being opposed to fortifications; but no one had a higher appreciation of the science of engineering properly applied. If they had the money to complete these works, and skilful troops to defend them when completed, he should be the last man to hold up his hand against them; but, independent of the want of funds, he denied that they had troops enough to man the proposed forts; and to construct fortifications without the means of manning them was to create a source of weakness rather than of strength, and an absolute folly. We were not in a position, he believed, to man all those works, if constructed. It was said, indeed, that we should be able to garrison Portsmouth, Plymouth, Chatham, and other large fortresses in a very great degree, if not entirely, with raw troops and Volunteers, and there was no doubt that untrained troops, generally speaking, fought better behind fortifications than in the open field; but, knowing the valour of Englishmen, nine out of ten of the Volunteers would, he thought, prefer meeting the enemy in fair fight in 1224 the field. It had been said by a high military authority, that in the event of an enemy landing on the coast of Kent, and marching on to the attack of the metropolis, we should have the garrisons of Dover and Portsmouth, which, be it remembered, are proposed to consist chiefly of raw troops, marching on the rear of the enemy, and harassing his rear and flank. But good results could, in his opinion, hardly be expected to follow from their attack under those circumstances, upon valiant and, at the same time, highly disciplined soldiers. Again, it was alleged that Dover was to be an intrenched camp, and that in the event of an enemy landing an army on the coast of Kent, troops might issue from Dover to attack it; but if an enemy were so to land, it would march forward at once, and knowing that there were 6,000 men in Dover, it would leave a corresponding force to hold them in check. But, be that as it might, there were some works with respect to which the most complete Returns had been furnished, and which, with the fullest consideration he could give the subject, might, he thought, be suspended without any injury to the public service. There were, in the first place, the gigantic works on Portsdown Hill, which were stated to have cost, or which would cost by the end of July, about £10,000 each. Now, the number and extent of those works were, in his opinion, too great to admit of our ever being able to man them, and he would therefore strongly urge on the Government the expediency of not being in a hurry to construct the whole of them. It was said that Portsdown was the key to Portsmouth; but he knew that the opinion of the late Duke of Wellington was, that the true defence of Portsmouth was the line of forts in front of Gosport; and certainly he never contemplated such fortifications as were now being erected round Portsmouth. They might depend upon it that a very limited number of works upon Portsdown Hill would be sufficient; and an enemy landing at Christchurch, or on the south-eastern coast, would not stop to attack Portsmouth, but would march en at once to the capital. Those persons who talked of an invading force, calculated to besiege Portsmouth, effecting a landing in Chichester harbour, let it be said with due respect for their high authority in other matters, knew little of this subject, for the thing was simply impossible. Those 1225 works at Portsdown were not called for, and ought not to be carried on. He hoped that they would be able to stop some of these works. Then there was the Fareham work, on which as yet only £8,000 had been expended, but on which there was to be a further outlay of £105,000—a very large sum in the construction of a work of questionable necessity. To that work, also, his argument in favour of delay might, he thought, be very fairly applied. Again, the Plymouth defences on the Eastern side were to cost £360,000, of which a sum of £50,000 was to be expended in the coming year. That line of defence would prove far too much for our military forces, and, moreover, he did not believe that an enemy would ever sit down before Plymouth. It was too perilous an operation; for, in that position, he would be exposed both in flank and in rear, and we should be able to pour upon him almost the whole of our disposable force. It appeared to him that it would be much wiser to construct but one fort on that side, which would be sufficient for all useful purposes, and might be made the nucleus for other works, should they be subsequently found requisite. He was persuaded that the Plymouth eastern line of defence, as now proposed, would eventually be given up; for it is too extensive for the garrisons that could be spared, and yet not sufficiently distant from the dockyard to secure it from bombardment—in fact, it is an ill-chosen line. He wished to ask the Secretary for War, what he proposed to do if an enemy were to land in Essex? how we could operate upon either his flank or his rear? Such, a contingency, in the event of an invasion, was by no means improbable. It had been projected before, and might be projected again. In the reign of Louis Philippe, one of the French Marshals actually drew up a plan of invasion, in which he proposed that while one division of the army was to land at Weymouth, another was to make an attempt somewhere in Essex. The Secretary for War appeared altogether to overlook the importance of defending that part of the coast. But he (Sir F. Smith) agreed with Admiral Robinson, who gave admirable evidence before the Defence Commissioners, that all defensive war should resolve itself into violent aggression upon the enemy. No war worthy of the name could be carried on by England unless the main object were to deal with the 1226 enemy hand to hand, attacking him in his ports instead of defending our own. Our regular army had an admirable auxiliary in the Militia. He trusted that next year steps would be taken for having more of the militia embodied, or the period of training greatly increased. It was a mistake to suppose, however, that we could shut up the whole of our untrained force alone in our fortresses. We must always appropriate a large proportion of our regular troops to our forts. To depend upon fortifications for the defence of the metropolis would be, he thought, very unwise. It would be very hard if we could not dispose of an enemy before he reached London, if we did not shut up too great a number of regular troops in fortresses. Great peril would result from defending the capital by forts. The Duke of Wellington used to say, referring to the march of the Allies to Paris, that it was lucky for France that Paris was not fortified; because, if the Allies had been obliged to assault it, they would not have left one stone standing upon another. He was afraid, that if we were to attempt to defend the metropolis, some such terrible calamity would befall us in the event of a successful attack. He was sorry to find, from what had been said in another place, that the Spithead forts were not altogether given up. Already we had a formidable series of works along our coast, and he thought we should content ourselves with doing that which, the Government, strangely enough, had not yet done—namely, covering the existing works with iron plating, and rendering them in other respects more formidable. The stones of some parts of Southsea Castle, for example, were crumbling to pieces, and he was at a loss to understand why that work should not be strengthened with iron-casing. The same remark applied to other works. He was far from wishing to weaken the hands of the Government, but he implored them to consider whether some reduction could not be made. There was no reason why the works at Plymouth should not be delayed for a year or two, or why the works at Fareham should not be suspended, or why the works on Portsdown Hill should not be diminished from five to three. He agreed with Sir John Burgoyne that there should be no works but field works on Portsdown Hill, and, certainly, the Government would exercise a wise discretion in restricting the number 1227 of works to three. He was impelled by a sense of duty to submit this statement to the House. He was as anxious as any man to see the country well defended, and to see fortifications where they ought to be; but he was extremely reluctant to see them placed where they ought not to be. One portion of his Motion had been in a great measure met by the Return presented by the right hon. Gentleman; but, entertaining the views he had expressed, he felt it his duty to move his Amendment.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "there be laid before this House, a Return showing the original and every subsequent Estimate for each work recommended by the Defences Commissioners; the amount of any Contract for each work; what proportion of each work is completed; and what works can be postponed without injury to the Public Service,
§ —instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GREGORY
seconded the Amendment. He must confess, however, that he could not see how the Government could satisfy the latter part of the Motion or make a Return as to "what inconvenience or injury, if any, would result from the postponement of any of the projected works." He wished very much that a different course had been taken with regard to this question of fortifications. He wished to see the question tested by some principle. He should have liked an issue to be raised which would have given himself and others who were opposed to those defences, as far as the evidence already given on the subject warranted an opposition to such works, an opportunity of recording their opinions. He thought his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Osborne) had taken the right course the other evening to effect that object. His own impression was that the works of every fort should be suspended until it had been proved that they were worth any expenditure at all upon them, and he should have been glad to see the votes of hon. Members recorded on the question of suspending the execution of all the works at the forts until further experiments should have been made. As far as the evidence on the subject went, it showed that those forts would not be worth the expenditure. The whole question of the 1228 efficiency of these forts rested on an hypothetical gun; and until that gun were constructed, he was of opinion that the forts should also be hypothetical If Spithead forts were to be suspended, he thought there were much stronger reasons for abandoning Plymouth fort. He was informed that no hostile vessel need approach nearer than 1,500 yards, and as yet we had no gun which could destroy an iron-plated vessel at 200 yards. He would remind the House, that considering the distress that existed in Ireland and in Lancashire, they were not warranted in expending the large sums of money on works which might turn out to be worthless. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his speech at Manchester, when referring to the expenditure of the country, said that expenditure was caused partly by "works of real necessity." If that was correct, there must be some part of the national expenditure caused—if he might use the term—by works of "unreal" necessity. He looked upon the construction of ships and floating batteries as works of real necessity; but these forts for the alleged protection of our dockyards, and inland defences to protect the country against invasion, he looked on as works of the most unreal necessity that the wit of man could devise. As to the Report of the Commissioners upon the Defences of the country, he did not think it was warranted by the evidence which they had heard. When military and naval men were called upon to report as to the most perfect system of defences they could devise, it was natural, notwithstanding the weight of evidence the other way, that they should produce a Report of this description. The Secretary for War said the other night that that was a question of insurance. He (Mr. Gregory) would say that the question was whether they were prepared to insure at a hazardous rate of interest at a time when there was nothing to justify the payment of a high premium —when there was nothing in the position of the country involving any extraordinary risk. They had to deal with an expenditure which the House could reach, which it could moderate and diminish. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had often delighted the House with his eloquence, the other day created quite a sensation by the speech he delivered in Manchester. He showed, that if the House of Commons would only exert itself, great reductions might be made, and that finan- 1229 cial limit might at last be reached where the income tax should cease to trouble us; and every one was anxious to smoothe the way to such reductions. If they could convince the House that it was not expedient to spend money on. these forts, they would have done one of the best nights' work since the commencement of the Session. He could not quit this part of the subject without referring to the evidence given before the Committee on Colonial Expenditure last year. A committee of engineers had been making a circuit of the colonies to see where defences should be built. Some expenditure had been incurred at the Mauritius. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was examined. He was asked whether he approved that expenditure. He said—"No; the proper mode of defending the Mauritius was by a fleet; but these defences had been recommended by professional authorities. The blame rested not with the professional authorities so much as with those who set them about the work; for, if they are desired to say what works are necessary for the defence of an island, they give a purely professional opinion." For himself, he must say, although he was not a professional man, there were certain circumstances that must strike any man of common sense. The object was to raise up a second line of naval defence. The first line was our fleet, and the second should be floating batteries. Floating batteries were far more reliable, far more available, and of far greater primary importance than forts. By primary importance he meant to say—Construct first your floating batteries; and if they should not be found sufficient, these forts might be constructed; but no expenditure could be more wanton or monstrous than to spend money in forts until they had proved by actual experiment that they could destroy a flotilla at the furthest point at which that flotilla could attempt to pass them. He would read an extract from an amusing letter written by Major Macrae, R.E., to Captain Coles, in which it was stated that—Iron-cased ships, or forts in motion, can alone contend with reasonable chance of success against forts in motion. If Tom Sayers were strapped to a post very tightly, and you and I were allowed to dodge round him, we might think we should be able to crush the champion; but if the cord happened to break, I know what I should do; and when you write, please say what you would do. It is not unlikely our opinions might coincide upon this point, and that both should live to fight another day.1230 Then with respect to the large guns that had been projected: the experiment of the 12-ton gun had failed to go right through the side of the Warrior at 200 yards, and they would therefore be useless against a passing vessel; and before constructing enormous forts something ought to be known about the 300-pounders. The only testimony in favour of those guns was that of Sir William Armstrong himself. Now, he would pair off Sir William Armstrong against Colonel Taylor of Shoe-buryness, the only artillery officer who was examined before the Committee, and who was of opinion that a point might be reached where the difficulty of handling the guns would almost counterbalance their increased power, and that it would be difficult to bring a 300-pounder to bear against a moving object. It was very remarkable that this was not the first time that the question of defending our dockyards by forts has been introduced. On the 27th of February, 1786, Mr. Pitt proposed a Resolution to the effect—That it appears to this House that to provide effectually for the security of His Majesty's dockyards at Portsmouth and Plymouth by permanent fortifications, is an essential object to the safety of the State, intimately connected with the general defences of the kingdom, and necessary to enable the fleet to act for the protection of commerce and the defence of our distant possessions.The expenditure proposed at that time amounted only to £396,000. What was the position Mr. Pitt occupied at the time? He was quite as popular and powerful as the noble Lord at the head of the Government, and he proposed a Resolution, couched in words such as the noble Lord or the Secretary of State for War might now employ—namely, that to provide effectually for securing Her Majesty's dockyards of Portsmouth and Plymouth, by a permanent system of fortifications, founded on the most economical principles, and requiring the smallest number of troops, was an object essential to the safety of the State, &c. But the House of Commons, who were perfectly willing to be led by Mr. Pitt upon any financial question, refused to be led by him on that occasion; they looked upon the works as not of real necessity; and upon a division the number were 169 to 169, and the Speaker gave his casting vote against the Resolution. Now, there were certain points of similarity and dissimilarity between the state of affairs in 1786 and 1862 which were worthy of observation. As to points of similarity, the 1231 year 1876 witnessed the ratification of a treaty of commerce with France, and the proposition to erect forts of defence against France. The coincidence was singular. Mr. Pitt said he did not hesitate to contend against the frequently-expressed opinion that France was and must be the unalterable enemy of England, and that his mind revolted from a proposition so monstrous and impossible. Mr. Fox, on the contrary, asserted that France was the natural enemy of England, and he voted against the treaty of commerce; and he also voted against the scheme for the defence of the country—such was the spirit of faction in those days. The points of dissimilarity were these:—Mr. Pitt advocated the erection of forts—first, because every experiment tried at that time proved the efficacy of cannon against wooden ships; but the question of guns against iron-cased ships was by no means decided at present; secondly, because the construction of forts would enable him to let loose the navy for operations in every quarter of the globe; and, thirdly, Mr. Pitt said, that in case of invasion of the dockyards, the fleet, owing to winds and tides, could not go to their protection. But the present proposition was based on the supposition that steam had so bridged over the Channel between the two countries, that we were now defenceless against a sudden attack. In 1786 it was considered necessary to fortify the dockyards because of the winds and tides. In 1862 it was alleged to be necessary to fortify the dockyards, because we had overcome the winds and tides. And, lastly, Mr. Pitt argued that forts were necessary, because the country hadnotmorethan21,000 troops, including the militia, available for the defence of the dockyards. But, in 1862, had we only 21,000 men available for that purpose? If they looked to what was done at Brighton the other day, where 20,000 men were sent down in a few hours, they might judge how easily the force that could be concentrated at any point might be made superior to any force that could be landed upon our shores. There was no greater bugbear than this bugbear of invasion; and he was fully persuaded that every farthing spent in preparing against invasion was money thrown away. It was assumed in the debate in another place, a few nights ago, that in case of invasion the invading force would be brought over in wooden ships. Now, he believed that would be perfectly impos- 1232 sible, owing to the destructive character of our new arms of precision. But suppose iron-cased transports were used, the length of time necessary for their construction would give us most ample time to prepare for their reception. Under any circumstances whatever, the embarkment of an invading force, with guns, horses (which could only be embarked in wooden ships, because iron vessels could not approach the shore), and all the material of war, was no easy matter; and could it be supposed, then, that a landing in this country could possibly be effected? In the Crimea, where there was no opposition, it took two days to effect a landing; and it was perfectly notorious, for they had it upon, the highest professional authority, that if the landing had been re-resisted, it could not have been effected without great difficulty and great loss. An argument in favour of forts was used the other night, based upon the successful defence of New Orleans by General Jackson. But this incident told completely the other way, for the resistance offered by General Jackson was perfectly impromptu, and was effected by moans of cotton bags thrown up at a moment's notice. He had said that he thought these forts and internal defences against invasion useless, but he would go further, and designate them as absolutely mischievous, for they would cause the people of this country to rely on what was utterly unreliable. When the futility of these defences should be proved, the common sense of the country would revolt against the unnecessary expenditure, and any proposition to lay out money on real and substantial defences would then be probably met by a stern denial of the necessary means. He had never scrupled to support the Government when they brought forward the proposition for defences based on experiment and experience. When the fortifications at Cronstadt and Sebastopol had proved powerful against the English fleets, he supported the proposition for fortifications. But now there was evidence that these forts could be passed by ships not penetrable at the present moment, and therefore the Secretary of War was not justified in accusing hon. Members of vacillation, lightness, and inconsistency, because they now opposed this system of fortifications. If they should ever be engaged in a struggle with their neighbours on the other side of the Channel, it would be well for this country to enter upon the 1233 contest with unstrained and elastic resources. War taxes in time of peace were a bad preparation for contest. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty said, "If you wish to bring your ships victorious out of action, for God's sake keep out the shells." So he (Mr. Gregory), too, said, if the Government wished to bring the country victorious out of the next great struggle, he advised them, for God's sake, in times of peace, to keep out the income tax.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
thought that in the present discussion some points which deserved consideration had been lost sight of, in consequence, probably, of the speeches delivered the other evening being directed very much to the question of erecting defences at Spithead. It appeared to him that the question now before the House was simply whether they should proceed with the land defences for the dockyards and arsenals. [Cries of Plymouth Breakwater.] There was the proposition of the fort at Plymouth Breakwater, but the main provisions of the Bill referred to the land defences of Her Majesty's dockyards. It seemed to him, in the discussion of this question a great many fallacies had been uttered. They had been told that the system of fortifications entailed larger expenditure, increased military forces, and permanent and extensive armaments; that it amounted to a confession of weakness, and involved disregard of the natural and main defence of England—its naval supremacy. He, on the contrary, maintained, that if a vast army could be kept up in this country, no such expense on fortifications as now proposed would be necessary, and they might contemplate without alarm the possibility of the landing of the largest force that could be brought by a fleet to the shores of England. Any sound system of fortifications should entail reduced expenditure and the maintenance of a small; army, constituting a cheap insurance of I the valuable property of the kingdom. But whether advocating or opposing these forts, all admitted that the maintenance of the naval supremacy of England must be the first element of consideration. To their naval supremacy must be committed the preservation of those imports on which the industry of the country so greatly; depended; the protection of the foreign dependencies of England must depend on this country keeping the command of the sea, so as to be able to proceed to their 1234 succour whenever they might be in danger. But the question arose, was the naval supremacy of the country a sufficient protection, and, without fortifications, could that naval supremacy be preserved? Naval supremacy implied that they should have a force able not only to defend the shores of this country from the possibility of invasion, but also able at all times to protect England's important dependencies and military positions; and therefore it involved the necessity of having a fleet able to cope with the largest navy maintained by any other European Power, or with two European navies combined. It was also necessary that that fleet should be at the place where it was required. Since this country was last called on to defend itself by means of the fleet the character of naval warfare had undergone important changes. Naval hostilities in the present day partook more of the character of land warfare than they had ever done before, because fleets propelled by steam could be brought to bear upon a given point with almost as much certainty as armies on land. The effects of a great naval engagement, fought with modern artillery, would be such that one of the fleets at least would not be soon available for service at a great distance from the scene of action. If, therefore, a British fleet were, he would not say defeated, but checked, in any great action, a national misfortune might be impending over us. According to the statements of Her Majesty's Government, this country was at the present moment in a state of inferiority to the greatest military Power of the Continent in regard to the possession of an iron-plated fleet. If the British Government were compelled to send a fleet to relieve Gibraltar or Malta from a naval siege, where would they find sufficient ships to blockade Cherbourg and Brest, and at the same time preserve the Channel from the invasion of the fleets of a hostile coalition? He was surprised to hear it stated the other night that steam gave increased facilities for blockading a hostile port. A blockading squadron must keep its fires constantly lighted, and how long would the coal of a line-of-battle ship last under such circumstances? If they were attacked at a moment when they were short of coal, would they not engage the enemy at the greatest disadvantage? The enemy's ships in a blockaded port, on the contrary, would be fully coaled, and would be ready to run out at a moment's notice. 1235 The House had been frequently told, in the course of these discussions, that this country need never fear invasion. But had we never been apprehensive of invasion? Did not the House of Commons in the last war joyfully vote money for fortifications when the country was trembling under the apprehension of a threatened invasion from France? Were not the fortifications of Portsmouth and Chatham largely strengthened at a moment when there was great risk of invasion? Supposing the British fleet to be either crippled or occupied elsewhere, might not the French —assuming we were at war with France-despatch such an expedition as would threaten us with some great disaster? France possessed large means of transporting troops. He believed that there were not less than 72 steam transports in the French navy, which were able to carry from 1,000 to 1,500 men each, apart from the facilities afforded in this respect by her steam frigates. In the expedition to Rome, France despatched 12,000 men by her steam frigates. If she were able to put 150,000 on board these transports and start them for several distant ports, which might be reached in about four hours, how should we be able to cope with these regular and highly-trained troops? It would be the height of cruelty to send our Volunteers and Militia to meet such forces in the field. The hon. and gallant Member (Sir F. Smith) had said that our regular troops would not like to be shut up in forts, and that they would like to show their drill and discipline in the open field. The French would, however, send their best and most veteran troops on such an expedition, and to expose our Militia and Volunteers, without a great deal more drill and experience than they would soon obtain, before such an army, would be to sacrifice our men in a most extravagant manner. The way to utilize our military strength was to erect such works as would assist our Militia and Volunteers in meeting regular troops. If our fortifications did not effect this object, they were valueless; if they did, we might rest secure, even with a small army, against sudden disaster. About three years back Sir James Kennedy wrote two pamphlets, showing the danger of trusting only to our fleet and the means by which a small army might be made available. He recommended among other measures detatched forts a mile apart around London. Now, what was the proposition 1236 of the Government? It was, if he understood, to establish a chain of forts round our dockyards and arsenals—works which would prevent an irregular force hurriedly brought together from being overpowered, and would enable us to have sufficient time at our disposal to assemble our fleet in the event of it being temporarily absent. That being so, he would just ask the House to consider for a moment the case of Sebastopol, to which the hon. Member for Galway (Mr. Gregory) had referred, not as affording an illustration unfavourable to fortifications, but rather in support of the expediency of their construction. Were not our vessels beaten off at Sebastopol, and had not a great authority, General Neil, said that if Sebastopol had been defended by permanent works, it would never have been taken? As it was, the works which had been run up before it during the siege kept at bay two of the greatest Powers of Europe for a year. Sebastopol, it was admitted by all military authorities, had initiated a new principle of defence. It was the great arsenal in which were concentrated the supplies of Southern Russia. It was defended by a chain of earthworks, which earthworks wore constructed and enlarged during the defence. He said, therefore, that the case of Sebastopol was a precedent in favour of fortifications. What was the case in America? The works that kept the enemy at bay at New Orleans for a short time were earthworks, and they impeded an advance quite long enough to have enabled an army to have been concentrated. Had New Orleans been surrounded by earthworks which could only have been reduced by means of a siege, and had an opportunity thus been given for the assemblage of troops, could anybody doubt that it would have stood out to this moment? Then, again, it must be remembered that the Southern States of America had no navy, and works had been abandoned in consequence of the navy of the United States being enabled to run up the rivers and cut off the supplies of the garrisons. What we wanted was adequate protection for our dockyards and arsenals, in order that our fleets might come to the rescue when required; but hon. Gentlemen who were maintaining that our fleet should be our only means of defence were demanding for the fleet that which under every circumstance it could not do. These were the grounds on which he supported the proposal of the Government; and he ven- 1237 tured to think, that if we were so protected, there would be a complete end put to the recurrence of disgraceful panics which were unworthy of the country, while our commerce would be secured, our diplomacy strengthened; and if unwelcome war did come, we should found be fully prepared.
§ MR. BUXTON
was sorry to observe that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had spoken somewhat disparagingly of the Volunteer force ["No, no !"]; but no less an authority than the Duke of Cambridge, who had seen something of that force, had, when speaking on the question under discussion a few evenings before, stated that if an enemy were to land on our shores and march on London, the Volunteers, by whom our forts would be manned, might issue from them and fall on the flank of the advancing army; thus showing that in the opinion of so eminent an authority, they were not unfitted to meet French soldiers even in the open field. He might further remark, that he thought it was somewhat inconsistent on the part of the Government to ask the House to spend so large an amount on fortifications, and at the same time to hesitate about spending a few thousands for the purpose of supplying the Volunteer force with clothing every third year. In his own opinion, and in that of every Volunteer officer with whom he had conversed, with perhaps one or two exceptions, that force, if it were obliged for the future to incur the heavy expenses to which it was now exposed, would very rapidly melt away. The prevention of such a result, therefore, was subject which ought to occupy the serious attention of the Government. He might, before he sat down, be allowed to refer to another point which had been mentioned in the course of the discussion —he alluded to the means of transport which might be supposed to be at the disposal of an invading army. Such an army, he believed, everybody concurred in thinking must, to have any chance of success, muster 80,000 or 100,000 men. How, he would ask, was so large a force to be brought over from France? If in wooden vessels, it was quite clear that those ships would be as mere eggshells in comparison with an iron fleet; while, if iron vessels were to be employed for the purpose, it was equally clear that abundant time would be afforded us to prepare ourselves against attack while such vessels were being constructed in sufficient numbers. That was an argument which had great 1238 force on the minds of many persons, and was one to which he hoped the Secretary for War would give some answer.
LORD ADOLPHUS VANE TEMPEST
said, he wished to correct a misapprehension that this matter referred to land defences only. The fact was, that this was an ever-changing scheme; at first both sea and land defences were combined in the measure, but in the abandonment of the Spithead forts the Government had given up what, in the views of the promoters of the scheme, might be called the main part of the scheme. He really thought they ought to have more information as to what the precise intentions of the Government were. They were talking of fortifications as if the events of the last few years had brought them no instruction. Was it the defences on the north side of Sebastopol that kept off the allies? It was true that, assisted by the sunken ships and boom across the harbour, Fort Constantine succeeded in keeping the allied fleet out, but would it have done so had the vessels been iron-plated? Were not the defences the Alma earthworks? and unless the flanks of the Russians had been turned, the allied army might have been detained longer in front of those works. The works, again, at Sebastopol, which would always have an historic name, were not fortifications, but earthworks—namely, the Malakoff and the Redan. Then, again, the works at New Orleans were earthworks, hastily thrown up for the occasion; and if they had been defended by an efficient army, the Northeners would never have taken them. The works at Manassas were of the same description, and he could speak from personal observation of their efficiency. He certainly entertained the view that the time had gone by for these expensive fortifications; he thought the Government had done right in not coming to any full determination in respect of the Spithead forts; he believed I their postponement would be preparatory to their abandonment; but, whatever was the decision upon them, he protested against these costly land fortifications when the weight of evidence went to prove that the money could be far better spent, and was much more required in bringing our navy up to a proper state of efficiency, and in iron-plating ships for batteries to defend our shores. He implored the House to pause before they expended enormous sums of money upon these fortifications, which, as he contended, 1239 would be found practically useless in case of actual war.
SIR EDWARD COLEBKOOKE
thought that as the hon. and gallant Member (Sir F. Smith) was opposed, not to fortifications altogether, but only to certain parts of the scheme of the Government, he should have raised his objections in Committee rather than on the present occasion. He therefore hoped that the House would at once proceed to consider the measure, especially as there seemed no room to doubt that a large majority of the House were in favour of fortifications in the abstract. He hoped, however, that the Government would furnish farther information as to the present position of the works, and as to the propriety of abandoning a certain portion of them. He was not prepared to stop at once a large series of works which had been recommended by two Commissions, and assented to by a large majority of the House, and some of which were very far advanced; but, at the same time, he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member in condemning the works at Portsdown Hill. Even if they were considerably advanced, he believed it would be better to spend money in doing away with them than in completing them, for they would only be a source of weakness. There were a number of important questions just now in suspense which materially affected the principle of our defences. There was, for instance, the question whether the arsenals should be converted into fortifications of great strength, and whether iron ships ought to be built in private yards on the Mersey, Clyde, and Thames, or in the Royal Dockyards. Numerous experiments were also in progress, especially in reference to artillery and iron ship building, since these works were recommended, which materially altered the aspect of affairs. But the naval question must always have precedence over the question of fortifications; because even if we had to rely upon our military means, we must always have vessels to transport them. But the works at Portsdown Hill, and indeed generally at Portsmouth, were projected on the most extravagant scale. They would extend over an immense area, and would require an armament of 1,000 guns and a garrison of 20,000 men. Moreover, the position was cut in two by an arm of the sea, so that after all its defence would, in a great measure, depend on our naval resources. Against the sea-works he had nothing to say. It was absurd to 1240 suppose that an invader would land on the coast of Sussex, and attempt by a flank march to acquire a position commanding Portsdown Hill. In such a case the enemy would expose his whole flank to the force appointed to defend the metropolis. There was no reason to suppose that that force would be beaten; but even if it were, time would have been gained to throw up works at Portsmouth. Even when a position of attack was gained, some time must elapse before it could be used. In the Crimea nearly three weeks elapsed before the allies could bring up their guns to the position which bore a similar relation to Sebastopol that Portsdown Hill did to Portsmouth. His objection to the scheme was that it rested on extreme assumptions. When Lord Overstone was asked what would happen if the Bank of England were taken by an enemy, the noble Lord, rising to the magnitude of the occasion, said it was impossible to trace the result of such an event. So he said it was impossible to trace the result of the army and navy being wholly destroyed; but it was a state of things which they need not contemplate. He thought the House should reconsider its position on this question; and he further trusted the Government would be prepared to give a candid consideration to the details in Committee, and in Committee he should be ready to support the proposal of his hon. and gallant Friend, but at present he hoped he would withdraw his Amendment.
said, he wished to correct a rather important historical error in the statement which the noble Lord opposite (Lord A. Vane Tempest) had made to the House. It was important because it touched that which was very dear to us—the renown of the British army. The noble Lord represented that the allied armies at the Alma had been successfully resisted by earthworks, and that but for the turning movement our invasion of the Crimea must have failed. In point of fact, the only flank movement which took place at the Alma was a flank movement effected by the French, and in a part of the field where there were no earthworks whatever. There were, however, two earthworks at other points defending the Alma of some importance, and both were successfully stormed by the British infantry. He had no intention of taking any part in the discussion as far as the technical question was concerned. On the contrary, his object was 1241 to submit that this was not a question upon which the House could undertake to come to a decision upon its own authority. He fully acknowledged the value of discussion, and the right of his hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Osborne) and the hon. Gentleman the Member for the County of Galway (Mr. Gregory), entertaining the views which they did, to raise a discussion; but when it came to a vote, the House must rely on some authority. One hon. Gentleman referred to Captain Coles, and another hon. Gentleman referred to some one else. It was evident they were asked to rely on some kind of authority, and it was quite plain that this technical and scientific question could not he decided by the House of Commons. He therefore submitted, that inasmuch as they must be governed by the authority of some one, it was as well—not speaking as a party man—to be governed by the authority to which men used to look in olden times— that was to say, by the Ministers of the Crown. They held the Ministers responsible, and they must look to them for guidance. They were the responsible Ministers of the Crown, and upon technical and scientific matters he looked upon them as the advisers of the House of Commons. If it were true that in the counsel of many there was wisdom, it was equally true that when discision and resolute action were wanted they must look not to many but to few. And, generally, it was found best to look only to one man. What they wanted to guide their decision upon this difficult and intricate question was some responsible statesman upon whose sagacity, sound judgment, and long experience they could rely. It was desirable that it should be a statesman well versed in foreign affairs and capable of penetrating the designs of foreign Powers. It was desirable that it should be a statesman impelled by all imaginary motives to desire economy, as far as economy was consistent with due regard for the public service. He thought that it was of some moment that the statesman to whom they should look for counsel should be one who was not fettered by professional prejudices —one who was not a soldier, a sailor, an artilleryman, or an engineer. He also thought it would be of some advantage if, on looking for guidance, they could find a statesman who was not at the head of the Department with respect to which the expenditure was to be incurred. If these 1242 were the proper requirements, it seemed to him that they had before them the very man whose counsel they could best follow. He could not but think, that if the noble Lord the First Minister were now living in privacy, they would be inclined in the embarrassment brought upon them to do all which they could to withdraw him from his retirement, and to seek him of all men as the fittest to decide for them this difficult question. The noble Lord was the First Minister of the Crown, and he, for one, without undertaking to determine it for himself, was perfectly willing to be guided by the counsels which the noble Lord was disposed to give to the House.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, he did not know whether the hon. Gentleman who had just spoken had considered to what lengths his arguments might lead the House—he thought it might be extended to very dangerous lengths. Now, he always understood that it was the peculiar duty of the House of Commons, when a Bill was submitted which involved considerable expenditure, to endeavour to find out the purpose for which the money was to be expended, and he was now anxious to obtain from the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, some information as to the financial effect of the measure now under discussion. Since his hon. and gallant Friend gave notice of his Amendment two very important papers had been laid before Parliament—one an Estimate of the works, and the other a Return of the liabilities contracted. In 1859 the House was called upon to vote £2,000,000 for a specific purpose connected with the defences of the country. That purpose was rather roughly described in a schedule, but he was confident that every Member who voted for the second reading of that Bill understood that he was not pledging himself and his constituents beyond £2,000,000. Now, here in 1862 they were called upon to advance £1,200,000 more, and it was declared in the preamble to the Bill that Parliament "cheerfully grants" the money. Now, the House should remember that the money they were about to grant was, to a considerable extent, the money of posterity. That might be a ground for cheerfulness; but nevertheless the House of Commons of the present day had a duty to discharge in seeing that the money was really required and properly applied. But by the Return to which he had referred, it appeared that 1243 £3,139,400 had already been contracted for, or nearly as much as both the £2,000,000 and the £1,200,000; so that, in point of fact, the engagement was made, and they had merely to discuss what they could not refuse. He wished to ask the Secretary of State whether that was so; and, if it were, what was the use of discussion? There was another question, whether it was fair or just for the Government to come to the House for this £1,200,000, without informing the House that these contracts had already been made? The House was now asked to vote money on account, and what he wanted was that a detailed list of the different works should be given in a schedule, so that the House might be able to decide which should be proceeded with and which should be delayed or altogether set aside. As it was, the House was being gradually led into the adoption of the whole plans of the Commissioners. We had been fortifying this country for centuries, and he wished to know what had become of the money voted for fortifications? The noble Lord at the head of the Government had had considerable experience in this matter, for he must have seen an expenditure of at least a hundred millions on our defences. It was remarkable that after all this vast expenditure there was not a single point which was said to be invulnerable. All our coast, we were told, was open to an enemy. Within the last twelve years we had done what neither Russia, nor France, nor any other military nation in the world had done—we had spent £293,000,000 upon the army and navy, and in the last six years £169,000,000 on our naval and military defences; and yet hon. Gentlemen talked as if the House of Commons had failed to supply means for fortifying the country. He believed, on the contrary, that the House had been most lavish in its votes, but it had been neglectful in not seeing how the money was expended. There were now sixty-nine places upon which money was being spent on account; there was nothing finished. The House ought to select on which of the points the expenditure should be incurred, and should do so on the responsibility of the Minister. There could be no doubt, that if the House voted the sum now asked for, we should speedily get to the £12,000,000 which the original Commissioners declared to be necessary. Here was their bill of fare:—3,761 guns, 64,500 men— £11,809,000; and as sure as fate it would 1244 be reached if not exceeded. "Erect these fortifications," said the Royal Commissioners, "because they will render unnecessary so large a standing army." While the breath was hardly out of the body of the Royal Commission, out came a Report from another set of Commissioners called the Defence Commissioners, who said they would be shrinking from their duty if they did not declare, that if we had the proposed forts, we should want more soldiers. Nothing, indeed, could be more dangerous than to construct an immense mass of fortifications, and then be unable to man them. Supposing 100,000 Frenchmen were to come on our shores— which, of course, they would never do— they would infallibly pop themselves into some of our unoccupied forts, and we might get them out when and how we could. Our first and most urgent want was an iron squadron; and if we had any money to spare, that was the direction in which it should be applied. In the present year the House of Commons had voted supplies for the army and navy larger than those furnished by any other nation in the world—France not excepted—and he believed that what it had done was adequate to meet any emergency. To throw away millions upon enormous ranges of fortifications which would require a vast standing army to man them would be grossly absurd. Let the money already voted be spent in finishing something, and then let all the rest of the works be reserved for further consideration.
§ SIR MICHAEL SEYMOUR
said, he was surprised that such sweeping changes should be proposed in a scheme which was deliberately adopted by the House no further back than 1860. Every nation in the world had expended large sums in land and sea defences. In France all the arsenals were protected by the strongest fortifications they could devise, and the United States, immediately after the war with England, took measures to fortify the coasts. The grave question for the consideration of the British Parliament was, how far they should carry out the system of forts and fortifications. The gallant General the Member for Chatham (Sir F. Smith) argued that a large standing army would be required to man such an extensive system of fortifications; but in the great war with France we had nearly a million of men, including militia, volunteers, sea fencibles, and other similar forces—and in case of need there was no 1245 reason why such works should not be manned by some of those gallant forces which did not come under the denomination of regular forces. As to the forts at Spithead, he did not see any great advantage in them, nor any great disadvantage either, so long as they did not tend to create any obstruction in the Channel. A flotilla defending Spithead would certainly be very glad of the aid of them, and an attacking force would be undoubtedly much better pleased if they were not I there. They would compel an enemy entering to pass in a particular direction, so as to avoid them, and thus give a certain advantage to the defending flotilla. However, he did not think that we were at all likely in these days to be attacked in our own waters by an enemy's flotilla. Considering the vast increase of our population, as well as of our matériel for offence and defence, it was impossible for any reasonable mind to dream that we should ever be disturbed by an inimical army coming either from France or any other country. At the same time it was of the highest importance that, as far as the state of our finances would allow, we should give the; closest attention to the maintenance of our iron navy. So long as we possessed an efficient naval force, we could maintain our position as mistress of the seas, and render an invasion impossible; and with regard to blockades, he believed that the introduction of steam would render them unnecessary. In former wars it was not our practice to congregate a large amount of force for our defence in our own waters, we carried on our operations all round the enemy's coasts, and with a sufficient number of ships of the new type, which it would be necessary to have in future, we should be able to carry on our naval warfare in the same aggressive fashion as in former years. The question of defence Was very much complicated by the question of ordnance; but, with regard to naval guns, the great desideratum was to get a gun so simple, and inspiring such confidence in those who used it, that there could be no question as to its security and excellence in the moment of action. At present we had nearly twenty different descriptions of naval guns, and the time was come when it ought to be decided whether it was better to lumber up a ship's deck in action with quantities of ammunition of different sorts, or to fix on one particular gun which, though some qualities might be sacrificed in it, would have 1246 the advantage of being the best for general use, and would inspire general confidence. He trusted, however, that the experiments now carried on would result in giving us an arm which would satisfy the requirements of the naval service, and render us as supreme on the seas as we had ever been. The old saying of Sir Walter Raleigh, "Whoever commands the sea commands trade, and whoever commands trade commands the riches of the world," was as true now as at the day it was spoken, and the wealth arising from the commerce of the country ought to make us ever deeply anxious to preserve our maritime preponderance. He should support the second reading of the Bill.
disagreed with the hon. Member for Bridgwater (Mr. King-lake.) The general principle as to whether there should or should not be fortifications could be discussed as well inside as outside of that House. Two years ago the House evinced its willingness to vote whatever sum the Government thought necessary for the defences of the country. A Commission was then appointed to inquire into the whole question—and he did not know what the Government could have done better. It was composed of eminent and experienced men in the army and navy; they went fully into the subject, and they reported in favour of the construction of a series of works involving an outlay of £10,350,000. The Government, having given great consideration to these recommendations, adopted them. But since had arisen the question as to whether Spithead could not be as effectually defended by iron ships, and the Government had for the present abandoned the construction of the Spithead forts, and many of the inland forts. Comparing the sums proposed by the Commissioners and those now asked for by the Government, there was a decrease of £800,000 for the purchase of land, and of £2,525,000 for the various works. The estimates of the Commissioners had been reduced by the Government as follows:— The Chatham western defences were reduced by £700,000; the works at Woolwich by £700,000; at Portsdown Hill by £250,000; at Plymouth, Saltash by £500,000, and the north-eastern defences from £1,200,000 to £350,000; the Pembroke works by £450,000. The Government might therefore be supposed to have given up most of the inland forts. He 1247 did not think there was much difference of opinion between himself and the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham as to the value of those forts. The question had been asked, how should we able to man such defences as were now considered necessary when constructed? Sir John Burgoyne said, if such works were to be erected in Prance, he should not have the smallest doubt of their efficacy and of the power to man them properly. Now, he (Captain Jervis) admitted that we could not man all these if we regarded the question from a peace aspect, but he had no doubt that in a time of war we should find plenty of men to man them. In. connection with the Spithead forts, a question arose as to the importance of floating batteries. He believed it would be necessary to connect these floating batteries with every seawork of importance—with Malta, Gibraltar, &c., as well as our forts at home. At any time two or three ironclad gun-boats approaching within a few hundred yards of the shore could shell our works, and we could do nothing in the way of proper defence and resistance unless we had those floating batteries. He quite agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Devonport (Sir M. Seymour) that our ships ought to be armed with the very best gun that could be produced; but what more could be done than to keep pace with the science of the day? He believed that we were at the head of all the world in this respect. In connection with this subject arose also the question of the enormous increase of expenditure, an increase which went on in proportion with the improvment of our armaments. The Report of the Ordnance Committee of 1848 stated that between 1828 and 1848 the total expenditure for shot and shell was £204,000, and this expense, considered to be a large one, was explained by the fact that between 1839 and 1848 the whole of our armaments had been altered, owing to the introduction of the Paixhain gun. But since 1856 to the present time £17,000,000 had been expended upon our ordnance stores. And that amount was only sufficient to renew our armaments. It appeared to him impossible to disconnect these fortifications from the other sources of defence of this country. Unless they took the strength of our regular army with that of our Volunteers and militia force as the basis for the construction of the forts, they would be only erecting great works which would be totally useless, 1248 and would cost the country a great deal of money without any return.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
wished to say a few words on this subject, in consequence of an hon. Member having rather insinuated that he had a fanatical attachment to the scheme of defence now under the consideration of the House. He (Mr. Newdegate) did not believe he had any fanatical feeling in the matter. But this he deprecated to the fullest extent — that the House of Commons, having solemnly decided on a system of national defence, there should appear a disposition on the part of the House, or rather on the part of what he believed to be a small majority of that House, to recede from that decision True it was that the House had to lament the pressure of distress in the manufacturing districts, and looked on the expenditure, which it was now called on to provide for, but which was decided upon some years ago, with more consideration than when the House came to that decision. But was it to be said that the House of Commons had so little consistency—that the Legislature of England was so light and frivolous on this great question, that a mere temporary emergency in the manufacturing districts should at once alter the decision to which it had come after much inquiry and deliberation, as to the national defences? He believed that the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne), when he found that the forts at Spithead were abandoned, found that he had obtained rather more than he desired. The hon. Member appeared to be perfectly disappointed that the Government had conceded that point. And he (Mr. Newdegate) confessed to an equal feeling of disappointment, though for a totally different reason. He did not think that the evidence condemned the system of defence which the Government had begun. But one thing was perfectly obvious. The House were now in a position of having fortified Portsmouth inland, and were to remain something like a year without defence from the sea. He had recently been reading the Life of the Duke of Marlborough, and he could not avoid being struck by the analogy which existed between the action of the hon. Member for Liskeard, and the interference of which Marlborough had such reason to complain on the part of the Dutch Commissioners. They interrupted every operation, and it was only by the greatest possible exertion, and not always successfully, that he struggled 1249 against interference on their part, which, yielded to, would have been positively fatal to his designs; it was only when those gentlemen were virtually superseded that he was able to operate with any effect. It appeared to him (Mr. Newdegate) that the present position of that House was not satisfactory to the country; for its interference had, as it appeared to him, rendered the fortifications round Portsmouth rather a source of danger than of defence, owing to the uncertainty which prevailed as to the mode in which the entrance from the Channel to the port was to be guarded. His objection to this hesitation and proposed change of plan rested entirely upon naval grounds. One thing was certain— that at present we had no adequate supply of mail-clad ships. Another thing, also, was certain—one Power on the Continent was more advanced than ourselves in that supply. But beyond this, suppose it were decided to defend Portsmouth with these vessels, and we were in danger of an invasion, let the House consider for one moment the state of terror that would prevail in every commercial port in England; let them consider the pressure upon the Government, the pressure upon the naval authorities, to send iron-clad vessels to the protection of every commercial port. Probably there would be great uncertainty as to the point of attack. If we relied on iron-clad vessels for such protection, such would be the pressure of the demand that in all probability many of these vessels would be withdrawn from that arsenal at the very period when their protection would be most needed. Now, there was this in favour of forts, that they could not be removed. Though we had maintained our superiority with wooden ships, the balance was rather against us, as compared with France, so far as iron vessels were concerned; and as he conceived it improbable that that balance would be for some time redressed, he, for one, had heard with the greatest possible regret, that Government had thought fit to postpone the construction of the forts at Spithead, which, even if insufficient by themselves, would, at all events, have diminished the demand of Portsmouth on our scanty fleet of iron-clad vessels. He did not think there was anything in present circumstances to render invasion more improbable than two years ago. Were we to consider that for the future wooden vessels were useless? In that case our effective navy was reduced to our iron-clad vessels. It was notorious, that 1250 if this were the fact, we had no preponderance on the ocean. Take the other case-of wooden vessels. So long as neither England nor any of the great Powers of the Continent were furnished adequately with iron-clad vessels, why, then, the position remained the same as before. But we had a preponderance of wooden vessels, endangered by the introduction of these mail-clad steamers. What was there in those circumstances which should render invasion one whit more improbable than it was two years ago? He admitted the force of the argument of the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby). The House ought to insist upon full accounts being furnished, and that works such as those at Portsmouth should not be left incomplete—because there was an old saying that "fools build houses and wise men live in them;" and it appeared to him that we had rendered the present position of Portsmouth most dangerous—more dangerous to ourselves, if possessed by an enemy, than when unfortified, and that we were bound to adopt any means, whether by fortifications towards the sea, or by some other means, to close the port against an enemy. Believing invasion possible, it was his firm conviction that Government were fully justified in undertaking these fortifications. The progress of modern agriculture had rendered the whole face of the country much easier for the operations of an invading army than it was before. The country was far easier to traverse than of old; the roads were multiplied, and they were better; and it would be far more difficult to intercept an enemy. Besides this, the experience of the American campaign had shown that it was not so easy for 50,000 or 100,000 men to break up a railway, so as to render it totally useless to a pursuing force, as had been conceived; that injury to a railway might be repaired by the exertions of a like body of men much more rapidly than was formerly conceived; for the labour of years expended on the construction of a railway could not be annihilated by the sudden action even of a powerful force. Thus, although one army might partially break up railway communication, another army could restore it, not, it was true, to be so safe or so convenient a mode of transit as before, but still so as to render it available for the purpose of conveyance in a period deemed impossible before the experience of the American campaign had been 1251 acquired. Therefore, we still had before us this fact—that, internally, this country was relatively much weaker than it was; that if a force were landed on our shores, the means of communication which were boasted on one hand as affording the opportunity for the concentration of our forces might, on the other, be turned against us, and that, too, just as it might be our object to gain time. All these facts, then, combined to prove that the internal defensibility of this country was much less than it was; and he rejoiced to hear the highest military authority state the other day, in another place, a justification of the expenditure which had been incurred on the fortifications of Portsmouth and at Dover — a justification which he (Mr. Newdegate) fully expected, but of which he was not certain—namely, that the fortifications of those two points d'appui formed part of the scheme which the late Duke of Wellington left as a legacy to his country for the defence of the Capitol. After that statement he hoped we should no longer be told that those fortifications would be worthless. We had the highest possible authority for believing that those places formed part of the system of defence recommended by the great hero, the details of which the Government would forgive him for saying he thought they would do well to develop more clearly to the understanding of the House of Commons. If the noble Lord at the head of the Government intended the House to proceed calmly and deliberately to support him in establishing an adequate system of defence, he would do well again to convince the country that they were not wasting their money upon scattered fortifications, half complete in one direction, and unfinished in another; but that, taking the fortifications one by one, the House and the Government were, in a business-like manner, step by step, completing the task which the country, so far as this great question of national defence was concerned, had sent their Members to the House to perform.
§ MR. AUGUSTUS SMITH
said, that in his opinion the hesitation of Parliament on this subject arose from the original question not having been fairly brought before the House and fully discussed. Important documents had only very lately been put into their hands; and he referred in particular to the Return which had been laid on the table that morning, which showed that in this matter the 1252 House of Commons was called upon to be the mere registrars of the acts of the Government. The course pursued by the Government in entering into contracts had been most unconstitutional. If the Government had the power to make these contracts, the House might as well give up what power they might be supposed to possess. Had the Government power to enter into contracts before the Votes were agreed to? Was Parliament merely to register the decisions of the Government? Having got the £2,000,000 voted two years ago, they at once bought or contracted for all the land comprised in the scheme; and by beginning a variety of the projected works put themselves in a position of saying to the House of Commons, "We have commenced the work; and if we don't proceed, there will be so much money thrown away." The contracts entered into included not only the £2,000,000 voted in 1860, but forestalled all the money for which Parliament was now asked. Nearly all the Gentlemen who had addressed the House seemed to take for granted that it was in the power of the enemy to invade this country; and he was glad to hear a gallant Admiral "pooh-pooh" the idea that an enemy could easily effect a landing on our shores. The conclusion at which he arrived two years ago, and which induced him to vote in the minority of thirty-nine against the Bill of that day—" the Thirty-nine Articles" they were called, and he believed their orthodoxy would one day be established—was based entirely on the Report of the Commissioners. They said the mode of warfare was so altered that the next war must be most destructive; that such must be the nature of a conflict on the seas that even victory would be nearly tantamount to a defeat. There was but one country from which an invasion could come, and in that country there were only two ports where an armament could be collected for the purpose. In the event of war, we should have fleets which would watch those ports. In short, he looked upon the idea of invasion as quite chimerical, and hoped the country would not consent to the building of any more forts.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that the opinion of the House had been formed upon the suggestion of the Government that these fortifications had been recommended by the Defence Commissioners for the defence of the country. But that was not the case. He had been examined as a witness 1253 before the Commissioners, and he had ventured to reply to some questions by asking others. One of those questions directed the attention of the Commissioners to a point which had already been mentioned in that House—namely, that if an enemy were to land upon our shores, would he not march straight upon the capital without wasting time in attacking the outports? He also ventured to say, that if there wore to be a great outlay for the defence of the country, the plan recommended by the hon. Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) appeared to be the plan which ought to be carried out first. But, said the Defence Commissioners, "the defence of the country is not referred to us; we are required to report on the defences of Dover, Portsmouth, Plymouth, Devonport, and Cork." The Defence Commissioners had not received fair play. The whole onus of these recommendations had been thrown upon them; but the question of the defence of the country, which was the question before the House, was not referred to them. They had been desired to report upon the defence of certain points, and they had reported what they considered necessary for the defence of those points. Before proceeding further with this measure, the Government ought to state how it was they called upon the House to vote large sums of money for the defence of the country upon the authority of the Commissioners, whose Report did not at all apply to that subject? He would not go into the question of the defences for the outports. In his evidence he had expressed his objections to the substitution of forts for ships, and he would only now call attention to the fact that our navy was not in a proper state of preparedness; that the vessels we had were not the proper class of vessels required for the defence of the country; and therefore it was the present duty of that House and the Government to apply all their energies to the effectiveness of our first line of defence.
SIR GEORGE LEWIS
The Amendment which the hon. and gallant Member (Sir F. Smith) has moved is substantially for Returns of certain facts which have already been reported to the House, and which are now upon our table. The hon. and gallant Member proposes that there should be laid before the House Returns showing the original and every subsequent estimate for each work recommended by 1254 the Defence Commissioners. There is upon the table a Return of the estimate for each work that has been adopted by the Government which is either in progress or in contemplation. That furnishes the substance, and more appropriately than the words of the Amendment, of the information he desires to have. The hon. Member then asks for "the amount of every contract for each work." That has been already returned. Then he wishes to know "what proportion of each work is completed;" and his Motion concludes with asking "what inconvenience or injury to the public service would result from the postponement of any of the projected works." Now, it is competent for an hon. Member to call upon the Government to produce facts which may be in their possession, but it is not a usual, nor, as I think, a desirable practice to call upon them to express opinions in a Return. The question whether inconvenience or injury would result is not a fact, but a matter of opinion, which may be debated in the House, but which cannot be reduced to a numerical form, or properly stated in a Return. I think the House will see that so far as it is possible to comply with the Returns asked for, the information sought is already upon the table, and therefore it is not in my power to assent to the Amendment. But there are certain other points to which attention has been called in the course of this debate. There have been two objections made to the course of the Government. Upon the one hand, it is said that the attention of the Government has been too much limited to particular localities and to particular works, and that they have not taken a sufficiently comprehensive view of the defences of the country; that the defences of the country was not a question that was referred to the Commissioners; that they only reported upon the best mode of defending particular arsenals and ports, and not upon the general defences of the country. I am unable to distinguish between the country and the most important places in the country which require defences. Because, what is the country? The country is made up of those places which are most easily attacked and in which the most valuable property—those means and instruments which are most efficient for defence are to be found. Those places are our naval arsenals, and it is impossible to distinguish for practical purposes between the defence 1255 of the country and the defence of our naval arsenals. Therefore I cannot admit the force of the objections, that the Government have taken too narrow a view, in limiting it to particular spots. Then, on the other hand, it is said that they have exceeded their powers, inasmuch as they have extended contracts beyond the limit fixed by the House two years ago. The Government have acted upon the usual practice in respect to continuous works for which Votes in Supply are made. They have not paid away money in excess of the grant of £2,000,000; but, as the Returns show, they have not expended the £2,000,000 for which credit was given. But in works of this kind, where a large estimate is made at the beginning, and where a grant is made by the House avowedly in the nature of an instalment or portion only of a larger sum to be hereafter voted, it is the invariable practice of the Executive to make the contracts in the form which would be most advantageous to the public service, although they may somewhat exceed the exact amount actually granted. ["No."] An hon. Gentleman says "We," but I can assure him that that is the constant practice in regard to public works for which annual Votes are taken in Committee of Supply, and that the contracts are not limited to the precise sum for which credit has been already voted. The practice followed in the case of the present works has in no respect been less strict than that followed in the case of works executed under Votes taken in Committee of Supply. Tinder these circumstances, I trust the House will see that the ordinary rule has been adhered to, and that there is no reason for censuring the Government on account of the course they have adopted. "With regard to the form of the Bill itself, it gives the House exactly the same opportunity of discussion and the same information as is afforded in Committee of Supply. The Returns now on the table are precisely in the shape in which Returns are presented as the foundation of Votes in Committee of Supply. But when the Appropriation Act is passed, the different items are collected together into one vote; and the practice in respect to tying up the hands of the Government is exactly similar, and by no means more strict than it is in respect to the schedule of this Bill; because the schedule of this Bill, when it becomes an Act of Parliament, is an ap- 1256 propriation of the sums mentioned in it to the different places set opposite each name. For example, all the works under the head of "Portsmouth" must be executed out of the money set against the name of Portsmouth. And if that money were voted in Committee of Supply, the different items would be collected in one Vote under the head of "Works," and there would be no separate appropriation except the Appropriation Act for the different places to which those sums apply. Therefore, in fact, the practice is more strict under this Bill than if the money were voted in Committee of Supply. An observation was made by an hon. Gentleman as to the probability of invasion in consequence of the introduction of steam connected with iron-plated vessels. Now, it is impossible to lay down any abstract principle with respect to the liability of this country to invasion. It was remarked, I think, by some hon. Gentleman that we had a greater facility for repelling invasion through our power of sending large bodies of men to a given point of our coast by railway; but then it is to be remembered that that power equally applies to the enemy. The enemy has also the means of massing his men in the interior, and of bringing them down to the coast at a short notice, so as to deceive and mislead the Power on whose shores he wishes to land. As to a squadron of wooden transports having to cross the Channel, no doubt, if you suppose that an iron-clad steamer ran in among them, they would be exposed to great danger of being destroyed. But if such a squadron were to cross the Channel, they would probably be convoyed, and they might have vessels as strong and as well-plated as their opponents, and with equal chances of escaping unhurt. It seems to me, therefore, when you consider the facilities afforded by steam, coupled with the narrowness of the Channel, that it is impossible to lay down any general principle as to our liability to invasion. It is a matter the chances of which each hon. Gentleman must calculate for himself; but I think it would be extreme confidence and rashness to deny the possibility of our shores being invaded by a considerable armed force. I believe I have now adverted to the principal topics of a general nature that have been touched upon in the course of this debate. It was stated by my noble Friend (Viscount Palmerston), in the remarks he made on a former even- 1257 ing, that the Resolution to which the House agreed was, in fact, merely the foundation of a Bill, and would not pledge the House to any approval of its principle. We have now reached the stage when the House is asked to assent, not to the details, but to the general principles of the measure. Those hon. Members who think it advisable that the plan solemnly sanctioned by the House two years ago should continue to be acted upon will give their votes in favour of the second reading of this Bill. Those who think that that plan should be at once abandoned will give their votes against it. As to individual works and individual forts, upon which remarks have been made to-night, I believe I should be exceeding the proper limits of debate on the second reading of a Bill if I were now to enter upon those questions. The Committee is the fitting occasion for the discussion of such details. I trust the House will therefore be inclined to agree, without further delay, to the second reading of this measure, and will reserve for the next stage the consideration of those more minute and particular points which will then come more properly under its examination.
§ COLONEL SYKES
could not give his assent to the second reading of this Bill. He did not object to our docks and naval arsenals being fortified against a coup de main, but he did object to the multitude of fortifications proposed, comprising seventy separate works, the estimate for which was £5,680,000! Moreover, it seemed to him, as an old soldier, that as we had hitherto dispensed with extensive defensive works, it was unworthy of the descendants of the men who fought at Crecy, Agincourt, Ramillies, Blenheim, Waterloo, and on a hundred fields in India, that it should now be thought necessary to stand behind stone walls to defend ourselves against any enemy. Moreover, we already had more fortifications than we had soldiers to man them, and it was most impolitic to increase the number of such works. The proposed lines at Portsmouth alone would require 30,000 men to defend them, and the lines at Plymouth would need as many more; and it might well be asked how the other works were to be manned. Again, the proposed fortifications were unnecessarily expensive, and for many of them the Maximilian tower might be substituted. The city of Lintz, on the Danube, was defended by a succession of 1258 these isolated towers, each of which was sunk within a ditch, covered by a glacis, and nothing was visible above it but a small part of the parapet. These towers, armed with a couple of traversing Armstrong guns, would command a distance of three or four miles: each could only be taken by regular approaches and by throwing the counterscarp into the ditch. Hon. Members might form their own judgment of their value by inspecting models both of the towers and of the defences of Lintz, in the Museum of the United Service Institution. Such works would not cost one-twentieth of the expense, and would be ten times more efficacious than the fortifications now under discussion. No enemy would attempt to invade this country with less than one hundred thousand men, and such a force could not be transported, with all its accompaniments, in fewer than one hundred large ships. We knew in this country everything that went on in France. It would be impossible, therefore, for the French to make any great preparations without Her Majesty's Government being informed of them; so that even if we had no fleet in the Channel at all, we should have time to collect one after hostile preparations had been commenced. But why should we be without one? We had always been able to command the Channel, and could do so still. Under these circumstances he should vote against the second reading of the Bill.
said, he would not vote for the second reading if he believed that by so doing he was pledging himself to the plan of the Government in its entirety; but he did not take that view. The House had never pledged themselves to a particular plan. All they had ever gone the length of saying was, that they would grant any money which they believed to be necessary to provide for the defences of the country. The plan now before them might be a good one or it might be a bad one; but he should like to see it supported by a greater weight of authority. A plan supported by the opinion of the most eminent military men in the country would command confidence, and would receive the approval of the country. Isolated defences for particular localities were matters for the consideration of engineers. The House of Commons was not the place to discuss military details; and there was no general plan before them for the defence of the country. 1259 He had put on the paper an Amendment, asking the House to recommend the Government to appoint a Commission, composed of the hest officers in the country, of men of the highest reputation. At that late hour he would not move his Amendment; but he believed the course it proposed was the only one which would give satisfaction to the country; and he therefore hoped the noble Lord at the head of the Government would consider the propriety of getting a general plan of defence prepared under the authority of men like Lord Seaton, Lord Clyde, Sir Hew Ross, Sir John Burgoyne, and other officers of their high reputation. He did not by any means wish to underrate the talents and opinions of the members of the Defence Committee; but he thought better opinions than theirs might be had. A great deal had been said about vertical fire, but to his mind the effect of such firing at one thousand yards was exceedingly problematical, for we had no actual proof that its effects were such as some hon. Gentlemen seemed to suppose. Further inquiry on that subject, by competent authority, was necessary. He thought that the experience during the Russian campaign showed that an immense number of shells might be thrown into a city without doing much damage. One main objection to the fortifications now proposed was, that they did not purport to be designed upon a plan for the general defence of the country; whilst in his opinion every defence of a particular spot should form part of some general system of defence. It would be out of the question to fortify the whole country at a cost proportionate to that now proposed to be incurred for harbours on the south coast. If it should turn out that the effects of vertical fire were such as were expected, we should then have to form our dockyards in deep estuaries, and it would be useless to spend money on a place like Portsmouth. Though he should not trouble them with the Motion of which he had given notice, he did hope that the Government would take an opportunity of consulting eminent military men as to some general plan of defence.
MR. GRANT DUFF
suggested whether the idea of making dockyards bomb-proof might not be worthy of consideration.
§ MR. HUBBARD
said, his objections to the Bill were based on grounds of a different character from those stated by other 1260 hon. Members—he objected on financial grounds. The Bill of 1860 provided that the Government should have power to borrow sufficient money upon terminable annuities, whereas they had never borrowed one farthing upon such annuities, and they never would so long as the income tax existed; for capitalists would not lend their money to be confiscated by such a tax. Not getting the money from the capitalists, the Government had taken it from the savings banks, and it was right that the country should know this. On a former occasion the Chancellor of the Exchequer avoided the point of what he said as to savings banks money, by saying that there had been a mere transfer from the buying account to the selling account; which was one of those convenient operations which were always within the power of a Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had £40,000,000 of money belonging to savings banks; but, in truth, it was a most dangerous power to leave in the hands of a Finance Minister. If there was any real intention of paying off a loan in a term of years, there were only two means of doing so—either to make it repayable by annual instalments, capital and interest, or to do with respect to terminable annuities what they had done in the case of the loan to the landed proprietors in 1853. He wished the House to understand, if they passed this Bill, they would give their sanction to a further application of savings banks money to the fortifications of the country.
said, there was one great point which had been overlooked in the present discussion. It was admitted on all hands that we were in a transition state as regarded our means of carrying on maritime war. For a long time we had had recourse for the manufacture of the steam-engines of our navy to private firms; it occurred to him that the hulls also should be built by private contract; and if that were done, there would no longer be a national necessity for such an accumulation of stores and naval requisites as we had now in our dockyards, and therefore it would cease to be a matter of vital importance that we should incur enormous expenses for fortifying our dockyards and arsenals. There was, however, great repugnance to abolishing the establishments in the dockyards, on account of the vast patronage which they placed in the hands of the Government. Fortifications had never yet preserved any country. On a 1261 former occasion he had been reminded by the noble Lord that many fortifications had been erected on the Continent since the great European wars. He had taken the trouble to go through the statistics of the matter, and he found that there was not a single fortification now in existence which did not exist before those wars, though some of them might have been improved. There was another reason, however, why he should vote against the Bill. The preamble recited that they "cheerfully granted" £1,200,000 for those works; but as that was not a true statement as far as he was concerned, if he stood alone he would take the sense of the House against the Bill.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, it seemed to be assumed by the supporters of the Bill, first, that we had lost the command of the Channel; and, secondly, that the enemy must come to the forts to be attacked. If he looked back to the year 1855, when an adjoining country, taught by actual experience, ceased to expend any more money upon useless ships, while our own country afterwards spent in seven years £30,000,000 in what was acknowledged to be a useless manner, he thought there was some cause of alarm. But, on the other hand, if he looked to what might be done by the Government if their energies were properly directed, there could not be the slightest doubt of our ability to retain the command of the Channel. With respect to invasion, had the House forgotten the difficulties which the allied armies experienced in landing at Eupatoria, in the beginning of the Crimean war; and if the enemy had been on the alert, and had attacked the transports with one or two vessels, how very different the result of the expedition might have been? Looking to France, with only two ports which we could have any reason to dread—Cherbourg and Brest—if the vigilance, the bravery, and the ability of our fleet in past years were to be taken as a criterion, assuredly we should be able to watch those places and prevent a surprise. With regard to the question of the forts themselves, we had the evidence of Sir William Armstrong to the fact that we had no gun at present which would produce any effect upon an iron-plated ship at more than 200 yards; and therefore they were now asked to spend a sum of money which might be absolutely thrown away. He contended that these forts could not be considered the defences of the country, but merely 1262 the defences of small and isolated portions of the country. The Secretary to the Admiralty had said that those who were called upon to vote against the second reading were called upon to vote against the solemn Resolution of the House last year. His complaint was that they had had no solemn Resolution of the House last year, and he therefore felt they were right in now debating whether they were justified in making this addition to the expenses of the country without looking into every individual item. In the debate in another place Dover had been referred to. What was the state of things with regard to Dover? At the present moment whatever fortifications we might have there, an enemy could approach within a sufficient distance of the Admiralty pier to batter it down, while with all our fortifications and all our intrenched camps we could not touch their vessels—a vessel might come even within 300 yards of the pier and we could not touch her. Besides, it was admitted that these forts would not diminish the number of the floating defences, and therefore he could not see how they would conduce to economy. With regard to Portsdown Hill, he would ask the House if they had forgotten Torres Vedras and the Crimea, where large works had been executed in so short a time? He believed, that if ever the country was in peril of invasion, a series of earthworks could be constructed on Portsdown Hill perfectly sufficient to repel the assault of any foreign army. He really did not see, therefore, why the House should now feel itself called upon to expend a large sum on fortifications intended to protect a dockyard of which no one could predict the future; and this, let him say, was a most important matter. Those were the most important points to defend which were the most intimately connected with the resources of the country, and Portsmouth could never be one of them. If, however, they fortified it on the scale proposed, where were they to obtain means to defend the Mersey, the Clyde, the Thames, the safety of which would really be of the most vital consequence to the country? If 80,000 or 90,000 men were placed in the forts and lines of circumvallation proposed, it would be impossible to allot the requisite number of troops to other parts of the country. Again, he would remind the House that nothing was proposed for Scotland, and nothing for Ireland, save at Cork. Let him recall to 1263 their recollection that there were 300 miles of coast on which a hostile landing could be effected, and they must see the folly of lavishing the resources of the country upon one or two isolated points. Then, again, let them consider the present condition of naval gunnery. No one respected Sir William Armstrong more than he, but still he could not forget that the country had spent under Sir William's direction no less than £3,000,000 on new ordnance, although up to 600 yards the old 68-pounder was admitted to be superior to Sir William's 110-pounder. He had no hesitation in saying, that if a war broke out to-morrow, Sir William Armstrong's ordnance would not be that which would be recommended by the noble Lord (Lord C. Paget) for the broadside guns of our fleets. He would admit that the House was bound to defer to the greater authority of military and naval Members, but his opinion had been corroborated by those of the hon. and gallant Members for Chatham and Wakefleld. The House ought, therefore, to hesitate before it voted money for the objects proposed by this Bill.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
said, that nothing was more fallacious than the argument that because the Government was largely availing itself of the skill and enterprise of private shipbuilders, the Royal dockyards were therefore becoming proportionally useless. They were required for fitting, refitting, repairing, and docking ships and repairing their engines, which every one knew easily got out of order and required great care. Government dockyards were, in fact, more necessary than ever; for just in proportion as the navy became a steam navy, the ships required more docking and repair. The hon. Member for Finsbury (Sir M. Peto) was one of the great advocates for iron ships; but they required more docking than any others. His hon. and gallant Friend (Colonel Sykes) had found fault with the forts on Portsdown Hill, and said the Government ought to build Maximilian towers. But Bomarsund had been taken in the last war because it had been defended by isolated towers. As soon as one of these was taken, the whole place fell like a pack of cards. He believed that engineers had altered their opinion with regard to the merits of these isolated towers. Our dockyards had always been fortified. Portsmouth had been fortified from the most ancient times, 1264 and had always been made safe against enemy's ships. He trusted the House would not be led away by any arguments against rendering Portsmouth secure. As the range of artillery was extended, so it would be necessary to extend the system of fortification, if they wished to secure the safety of the Royal dockyards and arsenals, and he was confident Parliament would not refuse whatever was necessary for meeting the altered requirements of the times.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
I cannot allow the House to go to a division on the second reading without making a few observations on some of the objections urged in the course of this debate. In the first place, as has been stated by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for War, the necessity of fortifying our dockyards was deliberately and solemnly affirmed by the House two years ago by a very large majority; the House, therefore, is not taken by surprise, as has been stated by some hon. Gentlemen. But the House will recollect that the principle of this Bill was urged upon the Government two years ago. It was advocated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman) in a very eloquent speech, and the House was only satisfied by a promise on the part of the Government that they would take the matter into their consideration, and that they hoped to make a proposal on the subject in the following Session. The principle, therefore, was deliberately affirmed by the House; and if the House should now go back from it, and declare that it is not necessary to continue these fortifications, they would be reversing that which they deliberately affirmed two years ago. The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Sir John Hay) has complained that that which was referred to the Commissioners was not the general defence of the country, but only the defence of these dockyards. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Finsbury (Sir M. Peto) also complained that we do not ask for money wherewith to defend the country. We do not pretend to fortify the country. No one pretends to surround the island with a wall of defence, or to make fortifications whereby to defend the whole country. A plan for the defence of London has been proposed, but we have not adopted it. The country and the capital must be defended by men—by troops on the field, and by battle; and I do not doubt that that defence would be 1265 very complete if the necessity ever arose. But that which the House appeared resolved on even before we made our proposition, was to defend certain vulnerable points on which the existence of our navy, and therefore of our maritime superiority depends—the dockyards. All these defences are simply to defend the dockyards. They might be defended either by men alone, or by men and fortifications combined; but if you defend them by men alone, then you must have a much larger force to meet the enemy in the field than would be sufficient behind fortifications. An hon. and gallant Gentleman (Colonel Sykes) has stated that the volunteers and troops of this country would never skulk behind walls and fortifications, and that we should meet the enemy in the field. That is all very well if you are equal in number; but when you have a very small peace establishment compared with the establishments of other countries, and when you are liable to meet an attack suddenly and before you have time to augment your establishments, and put them on the footing necessary for war, then it is no disparagement to the bravery of our troops to say that it is fair to give them the advantage by which science and military art make a small force equal to a greater. These works are of two descriptions. Some are for the purpose of meeting attack from the sea; others for the purpose of meeting attack from the land. Now, some Gentlemen say that it is absurd and nonsensical to think of invasion. With all respect and deference to them, that opinion seems to me most nonsensical and absurd. Why, really, can any man who respects his audience gravely tell the people of England that invasion is impossible? Look at the history of this country. Few countries have been oftener threatened with invasion than this island. We were in great danger of invasion in the time of the late war with France, and I believe that nothing saved this country from invasion then but the battle of Trafalgar. It is said that you cannot be invaded, because no enemy could land a large force within the given time. What did the French do, about three years ago, when a large body of men was sent to Italy? Of course hon. Gentlemen recollect the rapidity with which that large force was despatched from Toulon and Marseilles, and was landed with the utmost facility, together with all their guns and ammunition. Then it is said that it 1266 is all very well to land in a port, but that landing on the coast is a very difficult operation; and that when we landed in the Crimea, if there had been a few guns to resist us, the landing could not have been effected. If that is the case, then I say give us the guns to defend the places likely to be attacked, and do not disparage the forts placed in a position to prevent the landing of an enemy. People talk of 100,000 men landing; but it is not necessary to land 100,000 men in one place to destroy the dockyards; for supposing Portsmouth to be open, then, if 20,000 men were landed there, 20,000 at Plymouth, 20,000 in Ireland, and 20,000 made diversions elsewhere, I should like to know whether, considering the small garrisons put into those places unassisted by works, the dockyards would not be destroyed, and with them all our power at sea to defend the commerce and coasts of the country. The greater part of these works are for the purpose of protecting the dockyards from an enemy landing in the neighbourhood and attacking them by land. As to a force landing at Chichester, and performing a long and laborious march to the top of Portsdown Hill, that, it is said, no person could think of. Those who argue so had better leave those questions to be decided by military authorities, and they will not take that view. It has been said that we are safe from any attack, because the attack could only come from two places— Brest and Cherbourg. Is there, then, no such place as Toulon or L'Orient, and are the two former ports the only ports from which a hostile fleet could sail? It has been said that the application of steam power on board of vessels has made the blockading of a foreign port more easy. On the contrary, it has rendered it infinitely more difficult and uncertain, because the ships of the blockading squadron must be perpetually returning to this country to replenish their coal. They carry coal for about ten days; and the force must, of course, be of such an amount as to make allowances for vessels coming here and going back again. On the other hand, the ships watching to break the blockade, being propelled by steam, are independent of the weather and of tides; and, seizing their opportunity, might come out in the evening, cross the Channel in the course of the night, and be upon our shores next morning. Steam therefore, instead of giving facili- 1267 ties for blockades, only gives facilities to the blockaded force to come out and reach the place it intends to arrive at. Then some hon. Gentlemen think the works at Portsdown Hill unnecessary. On the one hand, they say that the works are founded on antiquated notions, and that all the improvements which have been made in artillery and in the instruments of war are overlooked. Now, our works are precisely founded on principles connected with the improvements in the art of war; and Portsdown Hill offers an example of this, because in former times the dockyards could scarcely be damaged from it, but in consequence of the new range of artillery it has become a position whence an enemy might destroy the dockyard. Some hon. Gentlemen maintain that field-works would be sufficient, and mention has been made of Sebastopol and other places in connection with this subject. Field-works are good things, undoubtedly, when there is a large body of men behind them; but field-works, as military men know, can be assaulted and run into, and there requires to be behind them a force nearly equal to that which attacks them. But when you have counterscarps and glacis, and the other arrangements of fortified places, you cannot take them if at all well defended; and therefore, if you want a small number of men, less disciplined than the attacking force, to maintain themselves in any position, you must give them all the advantages which science supplies in the art of defence. With regard to Sebastopl, it should be recollected that there was an immense army behind Sebastopol, as large or larger than the attacking army, and each party took about three weeks to prepare. Now, if an attack were suddenly made on any of our ports—-on Portsmouth or Plymouth—I do not think that the enemy would give us three weeks to prepare our defences. We must have them ready beforehand, and therefore it is vain to say that field-works would stand in lieu of fortifications. You would not, in a case of emergency, have time to make them; and when made, they would not give the same advantage to a force less disciplined than the attacking army as fortifications. My hon. Friend who spoke last (Sir M. Peto) said that we ought to abandon our dockyards; that they are unnecessary, and that we ought to have nothing but iron ships, and that these are best constructed in private yards. I have 1268 heard the example of America often quoted as a model for imitation in this country; and it is but very recently that the Government of America announced their intention of establishing great naval arsenals on the Mississippi and elsewhere for the construction in Government arsenals of iron ships. They distinctly stated that they did not wish to trust to private enterprise for the purpose. We do not follow that example in all respects; but as my noble Friend (Lord C. Paget) has stated, building a ship is one thing and keeping it in repair another; and that though you can build in private yards, you cannot send ships to private yards from time to time for repairs. I will not now enter into the details of these fortifications, as they will form the subject of discussion in Committee; but I hope the House will not be so forgetful of the public interst, and so unmindful of its duty, as to refuse to give a second reading to a Bill, the object of which is, not to defend the country, but to defend these dockyards, which are essential to the maintenance of our navy—-that navy being necessary, as is admitted by everybody, for the existence of the country as an independent nation.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
Having so recently troubled the House on this subject, I should not on the present occasion have spoken a word; but the noble Lord has made a speech so "horribly stuffed with epithets of war," that I feel I should not be doing my duty as a Member of the British Parliament if I did not say a few words. It seems to be always supposed that any hon. Member who differs from the plan brought forward by the Government is insensible to the propriety of adequately defending the country. Now, at the outset, I wish to set myself right with the Government, this House, and the country, and to state that if I thought the country was in peril, and that the plan of the noble Lord (for it is more his plan than the Commissioners') would afford a good defence for the country, I, for one, would not grudge one penny of the money, but would be prepared to vote whatever was required. However, it is because I believe this plan to be bad and ineffective for the purpose that I am mindful of my duty to the country, and take exception to a very great portion of the plan. It has been assumed that we are only discussing the forts on Portsdown Hill; but, if I understand the Bill, it provides also for the 1269 marine defences, not at Spithead, but at Plymouth. Hon. Members have discussed the subject as if there was to be at that place only one fort behind the breakwater, but there are really no less than eight forts, which we are about to adopt by passing the second reading of this Bill. I do not want to go into details, but speeches have been made to-night which require some notice. The hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), who appears to be the only person who comes up to the declaration in the preamble to this Bill in voting the money proposed "cheerfully," has made some most extraordinary statements. He compared me to one of the Dutch Commissioners who thwarted Maryborough in his campaigns. I thought that his allusion was singularly infelicitous, for he might have remembered that there were Members of the British Parliament who not only thwarted Maryborough, but impeached him for peculations in his military capacity, and also that Marlborough himself entertained a very extensive system for the defence of the country. I am no Dutch Commissioner thwarting Her Majesty's Government. I am a humble Member of Parliament endeavouring to do my duty. The hon. Member for Warwickshire went further. He made a speech more full of panic than I should have expected even from him. He not only contemplated a French army invading the country, but he actually discussed the question as to how we could break up our railways to prevent their advance, called our attention to the insufficient manner in which the Americans had destroyed their railroads, and dwelt so forcibly upon the subject that I believe after his speech the female occupants of another place must have been looking after their security. But we had another speech which astonished me still more than this. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Kinglake) said that this was a question for military authority. I am quite content to leave it as a question of military authority; but I think that my hon. Friend can scarcely have read the evidence of Sir J. Burgoyne, who has given the strongest evidence against parts of this scheme. My hon. Friend went further, and said that the question was one of reliance upon a single man. He might have summed up his whole speech in the first words of the Æneid, "Arma virumque cano." He says that we have got the noble Lord at the 1270 head of the Government, and we are to agree to every expensive project of defence that he may recommend. I take exception to that doctrine. I have not so much reliance upon the noble Lord as a peace Minister. I believe, that if the country was at war, such are the pugnacious propensities of the noble Lord, and such is his ability, that it would be necessary to have him in power; but I take exception to him as a peace Minister, and I do not think that after the speech which he has made to-night the House will be any more inclined to vote the enormous sum which he calls upon us to provide. He talks perpetually of invasion. He has again tonight talked of invasion as a possibility. And by the bye, he rather misrepresented my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury (Sir M. Peto), who, he said, is calling upon the country to vote fortifications for the whole kingdom. My hon. Friend never asked for anything of the sort. He objected to this plan, and he said, "Depend upon your navy; give us an iron navy and not a wooden navy," but he never contemplated fortifications for the whole of this kingdom. But, says the noble Lord at the head of the Government, "Those who do not give proper credence to the idea of an immediate invasion are an ignorant set of people." I have the happiness to be one of that ignorant set of people. I consider it a happiness to differ from the noble Lord on that point, and I am supported by very good company. There is a Member of the noble Lord's Government who is likewise in a state of ignorance. What did he say in 1852? He differed from the noble Lord on the subject of granting £12,000,000 for the navy. The noble Lord on that occasion, ten years ago, ran this invasion panic, and what was the answer given by one of his particular friends and supporters?—Away with the delusion;—away with this ignominious panic of foreign invasion ! I maintain, as I have already said, that the relative position of this country as regards other countries never was better than at the present moment.… What, I should like to know, is meant by the term 'sudden invasion,' which is so often used, but with little consideration? The noble Lord the Member for Tiverton has defined it thus: 'We have to provide,' he says, ' not against a danger which may happen in six or eight months, but which may happen in a month or a fortnight from, the time when it is first apprehended." I ask the House, and I ask the country, is it possible to admit this definition of the noble Lord? Let the House for one moment figure to itself the noble Lord sitting in Downing Street with, all 1271 the threads of European diplomacy, concentrated, like so many electric wires, in his Cabinet, and let the House then figure to itself the surprise of the noble Lord on being told that that day fortnight 150,000 men were to be landed on the shores of Britain. Do you think the noble Lord believes this to be possible? Not at all." [3 Hansard, cxx., 1075, 1078.]That is the speech of the present Secretary for Ireland, who says that this is an ignorant assumption of the noble Lord. But the noble Lord has always said, and he repeated it to-night, that it would be possible for a French force to run over and land twenty thousand men here and twenty thousand men there in England. In the year 1852 he made the same statement, that it would be possible for the French to run over in one night. Let us hear a most important answer to that. Here is another ignorant person. This is Lord John Russell, the present Foreign Secretary—what he thinks of an invasion by fifty thousand men in one night—I wish to state what I think is the danger to be encountered, because I do not wish to be mixed up with those who entertain apprehensions—He does not wish to be mixed up with them, you will remark. Well, he did not wish to be mixed up with them.I do not wish to be mixed up with those who entertain apprehensions of the sudden arrival in this country of 50,000 hostile troops in a single night, without notice of any kind being received in this country; or that we shall hear of an army marching up to London without our having had any previous symptoms of hostility. These are notions which are founded upon panic, rather than on reasonable calculation." [3 Hansard, cxx., 1090.]That is the speech of the noble Lord the present Foreign Minister of this country attacking the noble Lord's assumption that we were to be invaded in a single night. The noble Lord talked of this country been weaker in consequence of the introduction of steam. I will leave that matter on the unanswerable speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Devon-port, who told us clearly that steam had increased our facilities for defence. Therefore, if this is to be a matter of authority, as it has been put by the hon. Member for Bridgwater, who I am sorry did not hear that speech, I rely upon the opinion of the gallant Admiral, who tells us that steam has increased the power of defence of this country. The gallant Admiral came to rather an inconsistent conclusion, because, after attacking the whole scheme of fortifications, he said that he should 1272 give his vote for the second reading of the Bill. His speech pointed against the whole plan as we have it before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for War said that this scheme was solemnly sanctioned by the House in the year 1860, and that has been reaffirmed by the noble Lord. Solemnly sanctioned and about to be "cheerfully" voted. With what cheerfulness I leave the House to judge. But has the House, or have the noble Lord and the right hon. Gentleman, considered what has happened since 1860? Are we not in different circumstances? Is not that minority of thirty-nine likely to be increased by the alteration which has taken place in the circumstances? Has not the whole system of the navy undergone a change since 1860? Have we not got a different description of vessel; and more, are we not about to get a different description of gun? And that brings me to the question— while we are fiddling about fortifications, and frightened with stories of fifty thousand Frenchmen coming in one night, what are we doing with regard to our artillery? Are we not so bound up with that contract with Sir William Armstrong, that at this moment we have nothing but 100-pounders, which he is continuing to make, and have not a naval gun to put into our ships fit to contend with any enemy who may come across the Channel? If that be the case—if you neglect your ordnance in this, I do not like to say disgraceful, but unpardonable way—I think that an enemy may come across the Channel. From the beginning of these debates, as in 1860, I have never been averse to the proper defence of this country—I say the proper defence of this country—but I do hold that the proper defence of this country depends upon the navy. The noble Lord is in the habit of making speeches about the navy, and telling us that the French exceed us in the number of iron-plated ships. If that be true, the noble Lord is not justified in allowing that matter to remain where it is. If it be true that the French exceed us in naval force, instead of talking of fortifications on Ports-down Hill, he is bound to call upon us for a vote to put the navy in a proper condition. Do not let the energies of the country be wasted on bricks and mortar when we ought to be looking to the real defence of the country—to its iron navy. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen (Colonel Sykes) recom- 1273 mend to the Government a plan for the defence of the country by Maximilian forts. ["Hear," and "No!"] I think that my hon. and gallant Friend said that the proper mode of defending Portsmouth would be by Maximilian forts.
§ COLONEL SYKES
explained that he had said that independent forts would he better than a continuous fortification, and might he constructed at one-twentieth the expense.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
Never having seen, and knowing nothing of Maximiilian forts, I cannot recommend them. But I hope that the House will seriously turn their attention to this fact. It has been affirmed by the noble Lord, who is in a position to have the best information on this point, that the English navy is below that of France. If that be the ease, I for one will support the noble Lord in putting that navy in such a position that it shall be not only on a par with but double the French navy. That is the position which every one who is mindful of his duty to his country would take; but when you come down to this House with false estimates—merely approximate estimates— calling upon the people to provide money for fortifications which are questionable at the best, and when at the same time you are neglecting your right arm, the navy, I say that the House is not doing its duty, nor is the noble Lord doing his duty to the country if such a state of things is allowed to continue. "With reference to the Amendment before the House, moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir F. Smith), I have only to say that I should have been much better pleased if he had moved the rejection of the Bill at its present stage. If I do not take that course, it is because I was not supported when I moved an Amendment on the introduction of the Bill, and because some of those works are in a state in which it might he desirable to finish them even on the ground of economy. But although I do not mean to move the rejection of the Bill, I beg leave to give notice, that when it goes into Committee, I shall object to the construction of the fortifications at Portsdown Hill so far as they are uninitiated at the present moment. I may say that I am also opposed to the House and the country being led away by a false system of finance—I mean the system of annuities; because, if we were called upon to vote out of the annual taxes the sum required for these forti- 1274 fications at Portsdown Hill, the House would pause; but the expenses are always cheerfully paid when they are thrown on posterity. At any rate, I hope to have the support of, at all events, a respectable minority in resisting this enormous expenditure.
I am quite prepared to take my share of any responsibility this House may have incurred by agreeing to the proposals of the Government in 1860, respecting the national defences. What others are now said to have done in haste, I did deliberately. If it be true that the House, under the influence of a panic —created, it is said, by an exaggerated statement on the part of the noble Lord at the head of the Government, of some immediate and pressing danger—sanctioned an expenditure which they now consider extravagant, I can only say that the House acted very foolishly; because it must have been obvious to everybody that the means of defence then proposed could not be completed, or even begun, in time to avert any impending danger. It has been stated by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham, that on that occasion we all, like sheep, were led astray; but, for my own part, I deny being influenced either by panic or the speech of the noble Lord in giving the vote I did; and the noble Lord must excuse me for saying, that I thought then, and think now, that that portion of his speech which referred to France was very unwise and very likely to create the danger which he called upon us to avert. I think it very unfortunate, that in the discussions which have taken place on the subject of our national defences, reference is always made to France, and suspicion and distrust expressed, without, in my opinion, any just cause for it. I do not think it at all necessary to entertain such suspicions in order to justify placing your arsenals and dockyards in a state of permanent security. From the moment it was ascertained that guns could be manufactured possessing the power of throwing projectiles a distance which had never before been contemplated, it is quite obvious that all preconceived opinions of security must be abandoned, and that you must set yourselves seriously to work to devise new means of defence against an increased power of attack. The first thing I did on the adoption of the Armstrong gun into the service in 1858, was to appoint a Committee to ascertain what the effect of those 1275 guns would be on earthworks and fortifications, in order to put a stop at once, if necessary, to the completion of works then in course of construction, which might prove to be utterly useless; and in bringing in the Army Estimates in the following year, 1859, I expressed my opinion —an opinion of which my noble Friend Lord Herbert did me the honour of quoting and expressing his approval when moving the Vote for these fortifications—that you should make up your mind at once as to what means of defence the new range of guns rendered necessary, and proceed at once to the completion of them. I have always laid down the doctrine, to which I adhere, that the Government of the day are responsible, as far as human means can provide for it, for the security of the country; and I am not willing to relieve them from that responsibility by denying to them the means of carrying into effect the plans they propose; and I cannot conceive a stronger proof of want of confidence in a Government, or that a Government would remain in office a moment, if this House was to refuse them the means they asked for, in order to carry out what they, on their responsibility, and after due consideration, considered necessary for the security of the country. The Government have means at their command of obtaining advice, and the opinion of professional men responsible for the advice they give founded upon information, which they alone have access to; and this is admitted by one of the ablest opponents of the plans of the Commissioners, who, at page 27 of his pamphlet, says—In order to lay down a definite scheme, an amount of information is required which is quite unattainable by any but those who are specially charged with the duty by Government.Now, there are certain points upon which I believe we are all, or very nearly all, agreed—namely, that it is wise and prudent to protect your dockyards and arsenals by means of defences of some kind or other, and that the navy must ever be the first and principal line of defence, and that under any circumstances, and at any cost, you must maintain the command of the sea. So far, there is very little difference of opinion; but when we come to the second line of defence, the case is very different. A second line of defence can only be required upon the assumption that under some circumstances or other your first line has failed, or, at all events, has failed in preventing either an attack by a naval 1276 force upon your dockyards and arsenals, or the landing of troops upon your shores. If you are to assume the impossibility of an invasion, why, of course, no internal means of defence are necessary, and all the preparations we are making are useless, and the devotion of the Volunteers entirely thrown away: but I think there are very few who will come to this conclusion. What, then, is your second line of defence to be? or how are you to set about deciding upon it? My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for the Queen's County says — "Appoint a Commission of the most distinguished officers of all arms in Her Majesty's service, to consider the whole question of the defences of the United Kingdom." Why I thought this had already been done, and that we are now called upon to read a second time a Bill founded upon the He-port of these Commissioners; and when I see the names attached to that Report, I really am at a loss to conceive how these different services could have been better represented. It is perfectly true that other officers have expressed opinions differing from those of the Commissioners; but if we are to wait until a plan is proposed that everybody agrees to, not even the youngest Member of this House will live to see the country defended. It is for the Government to decide whether the opinions of the Commissioners or those of their opponents are entitled to the most weight; and they have the Inspector General of fortifications and the Defence Committee to guide them in forming their decision; and I hold the Government, and not the Commissioners, responsible to this House, not only for the plan they propose, but for the execution of it: and I think this is a very important addition to their responsibility. Do not let us hear, when the works are completed, that in consequence of some error in the course of construction they do not fulfil the purpose for which they were designed, and that nobody knows who is responsible for their errors. This has happened too often. I also consider the Government responsible, not only for the expenditure, but for the provision for it; and that portion of the case I leave in the hands of my hon. Friend the Member for Stamford. I will not refer to the Budget of 1860, further than to remind the House that I predicted when it was brought in exactly what has since occurred. I warned the Government then that they had not provided for 1277 the expenditure which had already taken place, independent of that which was inevitable, and that the necessary result would be a deficit, which would load to a great outcry for reduction in the military and naval expenditure. There can be no stronger advocate for a wise and judicious economy in the military and naval expenditure than I am, because I am sure there is nothing so detrimental to the true interest of the services as a lavish and extravagant outlay. It is always followed by a reaction, and you go from one extreme to the other, and proceed to reductions that are injurious to the efficiency of the services. I do not agree with the Secretary for War that efficiency is always attended with increased expenditure; on the contrary, I think I could point out many of the departments connected with the army—the Clothing Department, the Commissariat, and the Manufacturing Departments, which have been placed in a state of the highest efficiency, and which has been productive of the greatest economy. Of this I am quite sure, that if the departments are in a state of inefficiency, the public service suffers from it. I It is quite true that during the last three or four years there has been an enormous expenditure on the naval and military services—in point of fact, a war expenditure during a time of comparative peace; but I trust with this difference, that whereas at the end of a war you have nothing to show for your expenditure but reduced means and exhausted resources, I believe that the expenditure to which I allude has placed you in a very different position. If we recollect what has been done by this expenditure, I think few people will regret it. In 1858, a portion of the regular army was not supplied with rifled muskets, not a single regiment of militia had them, and there were none in store. You had not a rifled cannon in your service, or an iron-plated ship, and were behind other nations in all these respects. The expense of producing these, and the necessary ammunition, has been the cause of great expenditure; but I do not think anybody will grudge it. The portion of the expenditure during that period which I do regret is the seven or eight millions spent on the China war, which would have paid for all the fortifications now asked for, and left the country in a much better position than it is at present.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, that there was 1278 nobody more competent to deal with the question of fortification than the right hon. and gallant Gentleman who had just spoken; but he had not given a single reason for asking the House to assent to the plan proposed. All that he had done was, in substance, to ask the House to repose a blind confidence in the Government, and to accept their plans, whether right or wrong, leaving the responsibility entirely on their shoulders. The same doctrine was propounded in regard to the scheme of fortifications in the time of Mr. Pitt; and the answer of Mr. Fox was, that the House of Commons could not abdicate its duties on such an occasion, when a large expenditure to be supplied from the taxes of the people was involved. The effect of the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Ayrshire (Sir J. Fergusson) was this—that the navy of this country was inferior to that of France, and so long as it continued to be so it was the duty of the Government to turn their attention to promoting its efficiency. He agreed in that statement; and supposing the fact to be as stated, he would grudge no expense to put the navy in a state of efficiency. He argued the question on the assumption that it was their duty to do that at once; but supposing we had such a navy, was it possible to believe that the fortifications at Portsdown Hill and Plymouth were required? The normal principle of this country was to have the command of the sea; and when he looked at the Return of the forts now building, and compared them with those of France, he found that what the French were doing was building movable fortifications. It was notorious that the harbour of Cherbourg could be bombarded at a distance of 3,500 yards, and Toulon at 4,000 yards; and if war broke out between England and France, Cherbourg and Toulon would be at the mercy of England, were it not for the building of movable forts. He wished to know if it was possible that a sort of armada of wooden vessels could bring over 80,000 or 100,000 men to attack our dockyards, when it was perfectly certain, that unless they took the forts, not a man would go back to France? Still more unlikely was it that an invading force could achieve a flank march through a part of the country upon which railways could pour down Volunteers and regular troops in large numbers to engage them. The resolution taken by Sir John Moore on a threatened invasion was shared by many gallant officers at the 1279 present hour; and that was, to meet the invader on the sea, and to prevent him from setting a foot on our shores. It was a remarkable fact, that although Mr. Pitt held that the safety of the country depended on the construction of fortifications, yet when a war broke out a few years afterwards, which lasted for ten years, none of our dockyards were attacked or even menaced by the enemy during the whole of that period. It was a mistake to suppose that the sea fortifications were not now before them. An expenditure of many hundred thousand pounds was now proposed to them for such works; but he held that they were in the same category as those at Spithead, and that if the one was abandoned, the other ought to be abandoned too. As to our ordnance, the fact was, that after spending some £3,000,000 in improvements, we had not got a gun which could pierce an iron plate at 500 yards. He, and those who agreed with him, regretted to see the ancient policy of the country to depend on its naval supremacy abandoned, and they would take every opportunity of dividing the House to prevent the taxpayers of the country being exposed to enormous expenditure which could produce no real benefit.
§ SIR JAMES DUKE
said, he should not have risen if the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had not stated that Toulon could easily be attacked. If the hon. Gentleman were outside Toulon, as he was some years ago, he would be very glad to turn tail, and not risk the loss of his ship from the guns on the Cape. As an old sailor, he thought they ought to feel deeply indebted to the noble Lord for the efforts he was making to provide efficient defences; and he was sure the country would, for that reason alone, be ready to rally round the noble Lord's Government. He never doubted that the navy would, as in past times, maintain its honour and renown, but these were not days when they could bid defiance to any country by seamanship alone. The introduction of steam had produced a change of circumstances which no one could ignore. The gallant General the late Secretary of State for War had nobly supported the proposals of the Government, and a majority of the House of Commons would support any Administration which evinced the same spirit as the noble Lord in seeking to put the country in a proper state of defence.
§ SIR JAMES ELPHINSTONE
said, he 1280 did not intend to repudiate the Resolution to which the House came in 1860, to support Her Majesty's Government in the proposals which, upon their responsibility, were stated to be necessary for the defence of the country; and he was prepared to support them now, though he was ready to admit that the fortifications proposed to be erected were not likely to be so effectual as at the time they were proposed. They were now in a state of transition, the most serious of the navy transitions within his memory. The system of naval defence was entirely altered, and a different sort of ship was required to defend our shores and to maintain our naval superiority in distant parts of the world. He believed that there were not less than seven classes of iron ships now in course of construction by the Admiralty, but unfortunately none of them had been adequately tested; and he also desired to know what provision was being made for the dock and harbour accommodation of these vessels. He should support the Government in the vote to-night, but he trusted they would give speedy consideration to the momentous questions which recent experience involved.
§ CAPTAIN WILLES JOHNSON
said, he held in his hand the accumulated wisdom of the Defence Commission—that wisdom which had produced a Report quite antagonistic to the evidence before them. When he first entered the service, the word "defence" was not to be found in our naval vocabulary. But now the word "attack" was never mentioned. If it ever escaped any one's lips, it was "with bated breath and whispering humbleness" lest it should give umbrage to gallant men on the other side of the Channel. It never seemed to have entered the heads of the Commissioners that our naval forces could attack as well as defend. He was sure, that if the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty were at the head of a fleet, and were asked which he would rather attack, Cherbourg or Spithead, supposing both to be a possession of an enemy, he would say Cherbourg. Cherbourg had been a bugbear to the old women of the country, and to the old men and young men also. He had conversed with many hon. Members who had gone to visit that harbour and arsenal, and they came away with the idea that it was a second Gibraltar, and that it was not only impregnable but invulnerable. Toulon, Brest, and L'Orient, being cul-de-sac harbours, 1281 were difficult to attack, but Cherbourg was easily assailable. Cherbourg had a broad roadstead, without rocks or shoals, and all the British fleet might be carried through that roadstead with perfect impunity. What was France arming for? She could not fear a descent on her coast, with her army of 700,000 or 800,000 men, and with a population of 40,000,000 in a ring fence. What, on the other hand, had England to fear, with a seafaring population of 350,000 men, the best and hardiest seamen in the universe; with a small but incomparable army, unequalled in gallantry and discipline? with a well-organized militia and a band of Rifle Volunteers, who were not only the glory of this country but the admiration of the world; with a naval reserve of 15,000 men, who could be increased at any moment to three times the number, and who recently showed their patriotic spirit by coming forward as one man to resent an insult offered to the British flag; and with the best engineers and artificers in the world, and an inexhaustible supply of coal and iron? We had really nothing to fear except an inglorious ultra-defensive policy, that gave courage and confidence to our enemies, while degrading and humiliating the British navy. The place to defend our own shores was on the coast of the enemy, as in the olden time. He had supported the noble Lord at the head of the Government on the Alderney Vote, but he was sorry to say he could not follow him into the lobby on the present occasion, believing that whenever fixed fortifications became our chief defence, the sun of our naval glory would have passed its zenith, and nothing would remain for us but to throw up the sponge and declare ourselves beaten. No man in that House, not even the hon. Member for Birmingham, looked upon war with greater detestation and horror than himself; but he was persuaded that until all the potentates of the earth became converts to that beautiful religion which the hon. Gentleman professed, war would never cease, nor would the lion he down with the lamb. If, notwithstanding our endeavours to preserve peace, we were dragged into war, we had but one course to pursue—to prosecute hostilities with all the vigour and energy of which we were capable, carrying fire and destruction into every port of the enemy. These were his sentiments, and he believed, that if these fortifications were erected, they would prove an imperishable 1282 monument of our weakness, of our folly, and of the decline of the greatest naval Power which ever existed in the world.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 158; Noes 56: Majority 102.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Thursday.