§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, in moving the second reading of this Bill I need say but little. The House is, I believe, quite aware of the condition of the matter. There are fortification works to the extent, including the purchase of land, of about £7,000,000, which have been sanctioned in principle by the House, with the exception of the Spithead forts, which were reserved last year for further consideration. The House will see, by the schedule attached to the Bill, that the greater part of the works already sanctioned have made considerable progress. Some of them have been completed rather under and some rather over the original Estimates. On the whole there is a small saving on the aggregate amount. When we come into Committee, at the proper time for considering the question of the Spithead forts, I shall, I hope, be able to show that the experience of the American war, and the great progress and improvement made in our guns, have justified the opinion of the Government that these forts would be a very material and important addition to the defences of Portsmouth. To say nothing of the iron-clads which have been crippled or sunk in America, we have by experiments in this country ascertained that we have guns which, at 800 yards, can send both shot and shell through a target representing the side of the Warrior, and there is reason to believe that equal results can be obtained even at a distance of 1,000 yards. This is not, perhaps, the proper time for going into details on these points; but when we are in Committee, I 442 shall be quite ready to discuss the matter. Sir, I beg to move that the Bill be read a second time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
rose to move the Amendment of which he had given notice—That no further expenditure be incurred for the present upon that part of the project for fortifications which is based on the assumption that an enemy might land in force and attempt to besiege Portsmouth and Plymouth, except on such works as are in a very advanced state of progress.The hon. and gallant Member said, he proposed this Amendment because we were at the present moment in a position to stop the further progress of works which he believed to be unnecessary. He was as anxious as the noble Lord, or any other Member of that House, that the country should be put in a state of complete security; but it was to the fleet that this country must mainly look for its defence. Our fleet was now fully equal to that of France; and if it were ever allowed to fall below that strength, a great responsibility would rest on the Government that permitted it. England never could be successfully invaded if the strength, of the navy were maintained. Some of the works sanctioned by Parliament were so far advanced that it might be unwise not to proceed with them. There were others, however, in which less progress had been made, and some even not commenced; these being unnecessary, ought either to be given up at once, or, at any rate, executed on a reduced scale. He was satisfied, that if the fortifications were constructed on the system and to the extent recommended by the Commissioners, and approved by the Government, so many troops would be required to man them that we should be left without a sufficient army to meet the enemy in the field. So long as we maintained our naval supremacy—and it would be our own fault if we did not—there need be no fear of invasion. But in the event of a war with France, what would most probably be the first aim of that Power? Her first object must be to drive us from the sea. That she could never do if we had an efficient fleet. But suppose that by any neglect of ours she could succeed in doing so, or in obtaining a temporary superiority at what would be her next object 443 —to make a descent on our coasts, for the purpose of destroying a dockyard or two, or of marching straight upon the capital, and striking a decisive blow there? In his opinion, the latter policy would be adopted. It would be the easier, because one or two general actions would decide the fortune of the war, while the other plan would involve a long siege, attended, in all probability, with very doubtful results, because no military man could question that the forces of the country, regulars, Militia, and Volunteers, would succeed in raising the siege. In order to destroy a dockyard a bombardment was not sufficient. Under the most favourable circumstances a bombardment would destroy only a certain number of vessels on slips, a certain number of store-houses, and a certain quantity of combustible matter; but it could not destroy docks nor wharves, nor iron, nor even timber, as in the event of attack that could be put into the water. For a comparatively small object the enemy would incur enormous risks—the risk of losing their army and endangering their fleet. In point of fact, the operations contemplated by the advisers of the Government could not be successful. What he wanted was that such works as were not far advanced should not be proceeded with. Let the works in which any considerable progress had been made be carried out, but let the others—some of them as already stated not having been commenced—be stopped for the present. Nothing could be more extravagant or absurd than to expend millions on fortifications which he firmly believed would never be required. If we had 70,000 or 80,000 regular soldiers, 150,000 Volunteers, and an army of Militia and Yeomanry, he should like to know how 100,000 Frenchmen, or a much larger force, could land on our shores? Where were they to come from, and how? We knew from the experience of the Crimea bow difficult it was to land troops on the coast of an enemy. The landing at Old Fort, owing to the difficulty of disembarking horses, occupied five days in calm weather and with a smooth sea, and yet our force consisted only of 26,000 infantry, artillery, and 1,000 cavalry. He apprehended that it would be impossible to land in this country under ten days or a fortnight an army of such magnitude as would give the least chance of success either in the field or in sieges; and he thought the English Commander-in-Chief would easily manage to prevent the landing on our 444 shores of such a force, with a siege train and cavalry—especially since we had got railways converging to every part of the coast, and giving the power of concentrating all the troops in the country on any point in less than twenty-four hours. But supposing an enemy were to land without encountering any serious obstacle—supposing they landed near Portsmouth or Plymouth, in one case their right and in the other their left flank would be most seriously exposed. But the noble Lord at the head of the Government had remarked on a former occasion that they might land in Chichester Harbour. That would be utterly impossible, for it was a tidal harbour, dry, or nearly so, for sixteen hours in every twenty-four. His own opinion was that they would select Christchurch. There, if any where on the south coast, there were facilities for a landing; but no military man would believe that an army could march from Christchurch to Portsdown Hill without being exposed to attack and almost the certainty of defeat. Of course, their object would be (if not to march on London) to destroy Portsmouth docks—not by bombardment, but by capturing the place. Such an invading army would have no base of operations, and in the attempt their rear would be exposed to the whole of our army; or if, on the other hand, they attempted to keep up communication with the place of landing, that would absorb one-half of their force. But he was not prepared to admit that a descent would be made at all. An army for the invasion of England could not be congregated anywhere without our knowledge, and what would our cruisers be about? We blockaded the ports of France when all the navies of the world were against us, and why could we not do so again? How could such an army get out of their own ports? And with our fleet in an efficient state what would become of their transports? Even if the enemy were to succeed for a brief period in obtaining possession of the sea, and were to destroy or seriously damage one or even two of our great Royal arsenals, the Government might apply with confidence to the private yards of the country to supply the deficiencies caused by the loss of Portsmouth or Plymouth. But in the event of the enemy marching upon London, and not being defeated on the march, the consequences would be far more disastrous to us. Supposing that a landing were ever attempted, he thought it far more 445 likely that the French would land on the coast of Kent or the eastern part of Sussex. If they landed in Kent, they might march to London without having anything in the shape of a fortification to obstruct them, by keeping the Maidstone route. They might take possession of Woolwich and Deptford, for neither of those places were defended. The Commissioners had strongly urged the necessity of defending Woolwich; and yet, though there were enormous stores in that arsenal, the Government had not put up a single redoubt for their protection. They were told that there was a chance of the bombardment of Portsmouth by vessels entering by Spit-head. Now, he was not prepared to allow that Charleston was at all a case in point, as the Government pretended; and he should like to hear the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty say that it was. There was a tide setting out of Charleston against the invader; whereas in going into Portsmouth there was a strong tide setting into the Solent at the rate of several knots an hour. Again, it appeared that the guns on Fort Sumter were Dahlgren guns of about thirteen inches in diameter. Moreover, at Charleston there were torpedoes and other obstructions; but the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty would hardly think of putting up such obstructions at Portsmouth, where they would shut out his own ships as well as the ships of the enemy. Under these circumstances, he thought they must not depend upon their forts alone, if they had them, at Portsmouth; and if they had those forts constructed, and had guns upon them which should really deter an enemy from making an attempt to force the passage, nobody would be more rejoiced than he would be. If these works were carried out, he trusted that the noble Viscount would not experience disappointment from them. If he could see the matter in the same light as the noble Lord, he would be the last man to advocate a different course from that the Government desired to pursue; but he did not think the greater part of the proposed outlay was necessary, and therefore he was very desirous that some of these works should be stopped. He would not oppose the completion of the works that were already far advanced; but he would undertake no new and, as he believed, unnecessary works. However, we had not yet got the guns that could bar the entrance of the Solent placed on forts two thousand 446 yards apart, and until we had he should consider it a waste of the public money to expend it on the construction of such forts. The noble Viscount seemed to suppose that all the works were far advanced; but, judging from the Returns presented a few days ago, up to the 31st of March last there had not been one halfpenny laid out upon the north eastern works of Plymouth, which were, he believed, to cost £135,000. Surely these could be stopped. Let the ground be occupied with field works instead of with permanent works. That would secure all that was required, and effect a considerable reduction of expense. A great proportion of the work expected to have been done in the course of the year just passed had not been executed. The eastern division at Chatham had not been touched. £500,000 was the estimate for it. Temporary rather than permanent works would be quite sufficient there, and therefore a considerable portion of the expenditure might be saved. He wished to know whether any land had been purchased at Chatham for these works? [The Marquess of HARTINGTON believed that the land had been purchased] He saw no sum put down in the Votes to meet the charge—he supposed, that although the right to the land had been acquired, it had not yet been paid for. He hoped that in the Portsdown range all that would be done would be to complete the ditch with some flanking field works. It should be remembered that we had already a line of fortifications for the defence of Portsmouth Dockyard, besides the Hilsea Lines, and the works were already so formidable that a successful attack was almost out of the question, unless by a regular siege. The idea of the Duke of Wellington was, that it was very desirable to protect Portsmouth on the Gosport side, because he thought it possible that a French squadron might get into the Solent, and shell the dockyard from the neighbourhood of Gosport. The Duke was quite right in that idea, and a French officer in the Mediterranean stated to a distinguished officer in our own navy that that was one of the objects at which, in case of a war with this country, the French would aim, and that they would consider it a great advantage if they could at almost any cost destroy the wooden ships in that harbour. But it should be borne in mind that our fleet was henceforward to consist mainly, if not exclusively, of iron vessels, and that the 447 same danger would no longer exist in that quarter. He believed there was no necessity whatever, for many of the costly works which it was proposed to construct in the neighbourhood of Portsmouth, It was a maxim in warfare that a besieging force should be three times as strong as the force within the inclosure it was attacking, while it should at the same time possess a covering army; and as we could easily throw in a force for the defence of Portsmouth, how, he would ask, could the French land an adequate force for its attack, and for a covering army? Did any one believe that the forces necessary for such operations could elude our navy and cross the Channel in safety? He could account for the fact that a number of engineers, when asked to point out the works necessary for the defence of our shores, should have taken care not to omit from their report any one point at which we could by any possibility, however remote, be considered assailable. But the Government themselves had not thought it desirable to give effect to all the recommendations of the Commissioners, and he was persuaded that many further savings might be made from that costly project. The Commissioners had recommended the construction of a powerful redoubt for the defence of Woolwich; and had given excellent reasons why such a work should be undertaken, and yet their advice in that matter had been totally disregarded. He wished to know whether the proposed works at Chatham had been given up altogether, as nothing had of late been done for their completion. He certainly would not recommend that the works at Chatham should assume anything like the extensive dimensions proposed by the Commissioners. He believed that the dread of an invasion was a complete bugbear. [Mr. COBDEN: Hear, hear!] There was such stuff in Great Britain, that if any French army ever attempted to put a hostile foot on our soil, it would be made their last resting-place. Their fleet, he should hope, would never be able to take them back again. His hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Cobden) had stated that he would be the last man to recommend a reduction of the fleet. He did not know whether his hon. Friend was opposed to fortifications; but, at all events, he felt satisfied he would never begrudge what was required to maintain our superiority at sea. [Mr. COBDEN: Hear, hear!] Was the Volunteer force a mere myth and a 448 sham? If it were not, from what he had seen of them he should not be afraid tomorrow to see our shores defended by Volunteers alone, with artillery and cavalry, against any force that could be brought against them. The history of the Crimean War showed that to land a hostile army was a difficult thing even when not opposed; but when opposed in sufficient force, the operation was one of great peril, and might be regarded as certain of failure. It could not be performed by night; it must be done in broad daylight. But even supposing that our fleet had been destroyed, and that the enemy had effected a landing, how was he to accomplish his object of marching on the metropolis, or against Portsmouth or Plymouth? Before he could have returned with a second freight of troops he would find his first made prisoners. They could not stand their ground in face of the force we could bring against them, unless we locked that force up in our forts. Under all the circumstances, he had looked at this subject with great calmness, but with a sense of responsibility, and he had therefore felt it his duty to pat on the paper the Amendment of which he had given notice. He hoped the noble Lord would admit that some of these works might be stopped, and he had so drawn his Amendment as to suspend only those as to which he doubted if they would ever be useful. It was clear that the Government had cut down some of the works which had been recommended by the Commission; and that being so, they had not entirely relied on the Commission. On what were they relying now, and on whose opinion? He hoped the noble Marquess would explain why nothing was doing at Woolwich. The Commission had given excellent reasons why works should be constructed there, but these had been totally disregarded. Then as to Chatham—although it might be said that he was advocating the cause of his constituents—was Chatham to be given up altogether? He recommended his Amendment to the consideration of the House, and he hoped it would be seen that he did not wish to stop works which had made considerable progress, but he did wish to suspend others as to which there was no great haste, and which he thought would never be required.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "no
further expenditure should be incurred for the present upon that part of the project for Fortifications which is based on the assumption that an enemy might land in force and attempt to besiege Portsmouth and Plymouth, except on such works as are in a very advanced state of progress,"—(Sir Frederic Smith,)
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, he was sorry that the hon. and gallant Gentleman (Sir F. Smith) had attached so much value to his humble opinions. He concurred in much that he had said in regard to Ports-down Hill. Last Session there was a discussion on the proposal of the Government to build five forts there. The hon. and gallant Gentleman then alleged—and he agreed with him—that two forts would be ample for the purpose of defence. When, however, the hon. and gallant Gentleman told the House, as he had now done, that invasion was a bugbear and that we ought to rely entirely upon our wooden walls, he could not go with him at all. [Sir FREDERIC SMITH: I would not rely on our wooden walls alone.] Well, nearly so. But if the hon. and gallant Gentleman thought that invasion was a bugbear, he ought to object altogether to this expenditure. He could not concur in this opinion, for he was one of the first Members of the House who appealed to the noble Lord at the head of the Government to place our arsenals in a permanent state of security: it would therefore be absurd in him now to turn round and say that this expenditure was extravagant and unnecessary. The proposal of the hon. and gallant General would, however, put an end to nearly the whole of what had hitherto been done. It had been decided by the House that a sum of £7,000,000 should be raised on loan. [Mr. BERNAL, OSBORNE: By terminable annuities for thirty years.] The credit of this proposal was due to the right hon. Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman). The course taken was very judicious, because it was clear that the House and the country would rather spread the burden over a certain number of years. He would admit that there was great danger of extravagance in works of this kind, but he had great confidence in the Prime Minister, who took a lively interest in this subject of fortifications, and who, above all men, was competent to grapple with it. His hon. and gallant Friend Said, that the money would be thrown away—that we were not exposed to the casualties of war, and that we might always rely upon a powerful Channel fleet. He (Sir De 450 L. Evans) believed we might always do so, while the noble Duke (the Duke of Somerset) was at the head of the Admiralty. He wished his noble Friend might long enjoy that position, but he did not think it was so certain that we should always have the means of collecting a large Channel fleet. It was to be remembered that we had great Colonies, and that our foreign trade was of greater extent than that of any other country. If a war should break out—and the polities of the world were rather precarious—was it not possible that a large portion of our maritime power might be dispersed over various and distant parts of the world, protecting those Colonies and the vast commerce of the country? If that were so, the Government were bound to take some precautions, and among them one of the first was the establishment of fixed defences. He trusted that the noble Lord at the head of the Government, without yielding to the proposition to arrest the progress of the works, would place some restriction upon the professional men who were acting under his sanction. With all respect for the Engineers, who were a very able and admirable body of officers, if they were called upon for plans there would be no limit to their propositions, and they would fortify all round the island. The Commissioners who considered this subject made recommendations for the defence of the country which were more important and more urgent than even the erection of those forts. They pointed out that Woolwich was our great military and artillery depot, and yet that it was almost without defence. They therefore recommended the construction of some strong redoubts and works for its protection. They also advised that an arsenal should be selected in the centre and interior of the country. Those were very judicious proposals, but nothing had been done to carry them out. The Commissioners made other suggestions for defending the approaches to the metropolis and protecting the great shipping establishments, but no attention had been paid to them. He had felt bound to say that he could not go the length of his hon. and gallant Friend, because if it was true that invasion was a bugbear, this expenditure was altogether useless.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
wished to take the earliest opportunity of answering the discursive inquiries with regard to details that had been addressed to him by his hon. and gallant Friend the 451 Member for Chatham (Sir F. Smith), although it would perhaps have been a more convenient course if these inquiries had been deferred until the Bill got into Committee. His hon. and gallant Friend appeared to be under some misapprehension with regard to the purchase of the land required for these works. If he had looted at the schedule, he would have found that the total estimated cost of land required for the whole of the works was £1,030,000. Up to March 31st, 1863, there had been expended of that sum £739,770. That left a balance of about £300,000; but although that sum had not been actually paid away on the 31st of March, yet all the arrangements had been made for the purchase of land, and liability to the full amount had been incurred under contract; so that the money either had been paid, or would be wanted for this purpose shortly—that was to say, the whole of the land required for the works mentioned in the schedule was either actually in the possession of the Government, or would shortly be. The first of the works criticised by his hon. and gallant Friend was the Portsdown Hill forts. They, however, hardly came within the scope of his Amendment; because so much progress had been made with them that even his hon. and gallant Friend would not object to their being completed. Of the five forts proposed, and which were determined upon last year, four had progressed considerably, and were in such a state, that if required for any emergency, they could soon be completed. There was only one fort on which little had been done. The hon. and gallant Gentleman recommended that the Hilsea forts should not be proceeded with any further; but it was not the intention of the Government to make any change with respect to them. Owing to the failure of the contractor, those works had not been pushed on as they would have been otherwise, but a sum of £26,000 only had been spent, the balance of the £45,000 voted for these works remained still in hand, which would be quite as much as would be wanted before the Bill could be brought in next year, and he believed a contract had been completed for continuing the works to the extent of that sum. The Amendment of the hon. and gallant Gentleman was, he believed, chiefly directed against the northeast defences of Plymouth, which had not yet been commenced; but though apparently directed only against a portion of 452 the Bill, the Amendment, coming as it did as an Amendment on the second reading, if accepted, would be fatal to the whole Bill, and would stop all further progress of the works this year. The question put to him with regard to the Plymouth forts involved a very large question, which was debated when the measure was first introduced last year, and to which—so far as any decision could be said to be binding on them—the House was pledged. With regard to the Spithead forts, experiments had taken place, and were constantly going on, which might make some difference in the view with which these works might be regarded. But nothing had happened since the scheme was presented to the House to induce them to change their opinion with regard to the land defences recommended for the protection of the dockyards. It was argued by the hon. and gallant Gentleman that the difficulty of landing a force, and of supporting that force when landed, would be so great that no serious invasion of an army large enough to do damage to our dockyards was really to be apprehended. But if that were a valid argument, it would go to prove that the Volunteer force, the growth of which the country had taken so much pride in watching, was totally unnecessary. If the difficulties of an invading force landing on the coast and keeping up their communications were so great, it followed that no invasion was to be apprehended, and that the Volunteers were raised for a purpose totally useless.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, that the Volunteers were a force that would prevent a landing, if such a thing should be attempted.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that our 160,000 Volunteers were not always under arms; and if they were, they could not all be concentrated on one spot. In these days of steam it was necessary to be prepared for the most rapid movements. The hon. and gallant Gentleman had not supported his opinions by any military authorities which would induce the House to agree with him. On the contrary, the principal military authorities took a very different view. At all events, the Commission, which had considered the question very carefully, came to the conclusion that it would be useless to fortify the coast to a distance of some three hundred miles in order to prevent invasion, when it was perfectly possible, in the temporary absence of the fleet, that an attack might be made upon certain points for the purpose of de- 453 stroying our dockyards. The object of the forts was to enable the Volunteers and militia to act with effect against any invasion which might take place. If there were no fortifications, the enemy might land infantry and field artillery only; they would be thus able to meet upon equal terms any force which might be brought against them; and having no works to penetrate, they might enter our dockyards with little or no opposition; but if there were works to protect our dockyards and arsenals on the land side, the enemy would be compelled to bring with them a heavy siege train, and their movements would be proportionately impeded. And although some of our Militia and Volunteer regiments might be safely trusted to meet an enemy in the field, still a great number of them were not on anything like an equality with the regular troops that might be brought against them. The object of the fortifications, therefore, was to enable those Militia and Volunteer regiments to fight upon equal terms with perhaps a superior force of the best troops in the world. He thought the details of this measure would be much better discussed in Committee. He only wished to remind the House again, that if they assented to the Amendment, the Bill would be entirely defeated. The House had come to a resolution in favour of fortifications; they had shown that they considered the protection of the dockyards a vital point; and that being so, it would be derogatory to their character if they were to adopt the Amendment, the effect of which would be to postpone the measure to another year.
§ MR. COBDEN
Sir, If the question before us were one involving technical considerations, I should be the last person to presume to offer any opinion upon it. If it were a question, for instance, as to what forts should be established, what batteries should be erected on the sea-coast to command the navigation, to control any roadstead, or to protect the entrance to any harbour, I should naturally consider it a matter for scientific men, engineers, and artillerymen, to decide upon. But this is a totally different question. It is a new question, the question of inland forts; and to prove this I will, with the permission of the House, read the briefest possible extract from the Commission itself, giving directions to the Commissioners what their duties were to be. The Commissioners say they will have especially to consider 454All such works of defence as are intended For the protection of our Royal arsenals and dockyards in case of any hostile attack being made by foreign enemies both by sea and land.In a subsequent memorandum of Instructions, signed "Sidney Herbert," he says—The Commission will also consider what steps should be taken for defending the approaches to Woolwich, and what defensive works, if any, it may be necessary to construct with a view to its protection against an attack by land; which would at the same time form an important element in the means of the defence for the metropolis.And in the reply of the Commissioners on the subject of a central depôt, which was recommended to their consideration by the Secretary at War, Sir Harry Jones says—A new arsenal, involving as it must considerable outlay in fortification, as well as the maintenance of a large garrison, should, we think, be so situated as to form a rallying point for the defenders of the country in the event of London falling into the hands of an enemy.I want to draw attention to these extracts, because they show that what is contemplated by this scheme of fortifications is not the protection of the roadsteads, not the defence of the harbours; but that the scheme was prepared on the assumption of an enemy having landed in this country, and taken possession of the interior. I wish to bring this fact under the notice of the House for another reason. I am going to show that this scheme is entirely attributable to one person. It may be said that the Commissioners are also responsible for it; but I wish the House to bear in mind that the Commissioners were professional men in the service of the State, and had their instructions to devise a plan for inland fortifications. It does not follow, that if you had taken these gentlemen apart from the Commission in which they served, they would have been in favour of these fortifications, and therefore I do not hold them responsible for the origin of the scheme. They would have given you a plan for the defence of London, Edinburgh, Manchester, or any other place, if they had been ordered to do it, and it would have been their duty to do so. I am of opinion that this scheme is entirely attributable to one person, and I dare say that that person is in the mind of every hon. Member here present. And if that one person were absent from this House from any cause whatever, I venture to say that this scheme would not go on. The other day it was put off because that one personage was absent; and my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who 455 was sitting beside me when the notice of postponement was given because the noble Lord at the head of the Government could not attend, said rather drily to his next neighbour that nothing bad could be done unless the Prime Minister were present. I am not going to make this assertion without proof, and I hope the noble Lord at the head of the Government—for it is to him I allude—will deal with this subject en its merits; and if in reply to my statement he will substitute a few facts and arguments for jokes and pleasantries, I shall be much obliged to him. I have sat for a long time in this House with the noble Lord. When I first took my seat in 1841, the noble Lord was pursuing the same course with reference to fortifications and defences against France as he is now with respect to these fortifications. He was then twitting Sir Robert Peel, and charging him with neglecting the honour of the country in not being sufficiently prepared against aggressions from France. I recollect that the reproaches he now makes to individuals like myself, filling the most humble positions, he then addressed to Sir Robert Peel, when the Duke of Wellington was one of his Government, and Lord Aberdeen the Minister of Foreign Affairs. From 1841 to 1846 the noble Lord was constantly reproaching the Government that they were not fortifying the country nor increasing the army and navy in order to defend us against some imaginary attacks from France. I often took a part with toy Friend Mr. Hume against the noble Lord, and in opposition to these views. But the question now before us—that of fortifications—had its origin in a peculiar fancy—I might almost call it an idiosyncrasy—of the noble Lord—namely, that steam navigation has had the effect of diminishing our power in comparison with the power of France. I am so well acquainted with all that has been said on this subject that I am able to be very exact about it. The first time the noble Lord launched this idea in this House—an idea which he has so pertinaciously adhered to—was on the 13th June 1845, and the following extract from Hansard of that date is interesting:—He remembered, when he had the honour of being at the Foreign Office, that the Prince de Talleyrand, talking to him of some animating debates which had taken place in the French Chambers upon foreign affairs, and contrasting them with the comparative indifference exhibited by that House on the subject, said, 'You have a much easier task to perform in your House 456 than our Minister for Foreign Affairs has in his, and I will tell you the reason. And what did he say? You have no frontiers—that is to say, your naval defences are so secure from foreign attack that you do not feel that interest in foreign affairs which they deserve,' But he (Lord Palmerston) said that the extension of steam navigation, and the facility which railways on the Continent would give to the rapid concentration of troops, did, to a certain degree, give us those frontiers, the absence of which Prince Talleyrand thought was the ground of our indifference to foreign affairs, and did call upon Parliament to pay greater attention to those means which might serve to protect that frontier." [3 Hansard, lxxxi. 523.]That is the noble Lord's idea—the most extraordinary idea that an inhabitant of Britain could entertain—that steam navigation has given an advantage to any foreign country over England—steam, which has given us another arm, I may say, of war, for which we have all the raw materials at home—which has substituted coal and iron for timber and cordage—the timber and cordage coming from Russia and America, and the iron and coal being found at our feet in greater abundance than any where else. The noble Lord has the idea that the substitution of steam for sailing vessels has placed us in a disadvantageous position relative to France; and that idea has pervaded the noble Lord's speeches ever since. He recurred to it very shortly afterwards—and I would read an extract here, because there is a point hanging to it to which I would call the noble Lord's serious attention, if he can be serious. Bear in mind that the noble Lord launched this extraordinary idea about steam being a disadvantage to England on June 13, 1845. On July 30 in the same Session he said—In reference to steam navigation, what he had said was, that the progress which had been made had converted the ordinary means of transport into a steam-bridge." [3 Hansard, lxxxii. 1223.]I could not understand exactly the meaning of "steam-bridge," but that word has pervaded the noble Lord's speeches from that time to this. Sir Robert Peel, who spoke immediately in reply, said—The noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) appeared to retain the impression that our means of defence were rather abated by the discoveries of steam navigation. He was not at all prepared to admit that. He thought that the demonstration which we could make of our steam navy was one which would surprise the world; and as the noble Lord had spoken of steam-bridges, he would remind him that there were two parties who could play at making them." [3 Hansard, lxxxii. 1223.]What authority has the noble Lord ever adduced to justify this opinion upon which 457 we are acting, and spending millions and millions of money. I discard, as I said before, the authority of the Commissioners who were appointed to devise the scheme of fortifications, because their instructions were to frame a scheme upon the assumption that an enemy was attacking us on shore. But we have had great authorities in this House, and out of it, who have pronounced upon this subject. I remember perfectly well that when Admiral Berkeley, then one of the Lords of the Admiralty, was examined before the Committee which sat upon the navy in 1848, he distinctly said he thought that steam, if we made proper use of the advantages which it gave us, would afford the best possible security against invasion from France. In the following year I sat upon the Committee of Inquiry into Ordnance, and before that Committee we had Sir Thomas Hastings examined. We all know that he was at the head of our gunnery department, and had been selected by Sir Robert Peel's Government in 1845, when Sir George Cockburn was in Office, and the Duke of Wellington was at the head of the army. Sir Thomas Hastings, who had presided over the Commission for Inquiry into our Defences in 1845, stated, before the Committee on Ordnance in 1849, the same opinion as had been expressed in the year before by Admiral Berkeley, and he stated it almost in the same terms. Then we have the opinion of Admiral Sir Charles Napier on this subject. Sir Charles Napier and the noble Lord were confederates from 1841 to 1846 in constantly teasing the late Sir Robert Peel for an increase of armaments. But what was Sir Charles Napier's opinion of the invasion panic? He thought it was a species of monomania, and he distinctly disavowed the opinions of the noble Lord about steam navigation. He said that so far from steam giving an advantage to the enemy in landing on our shores, it for the first time made a real blockade practicable—that we should by its means be enabled to blockade foreign ports more effectually than we had ever done in former times, and to prevent Prance sending ships from her coast as she once did to Ireland. But we have had a speech from the hon. and gallant Member for Westminster (Sir De L. Evans)—a speech which I confess I could not understand, for half of it was one way, and half the other way. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, however, did not speak in that way in 1852, when on the question of the Militia, the noble 458 Lord again recurred to the idea that steam had bridged the Channel, and boldly asserted, to the amazement of everybody in the House, that steam would enable Prance to throw 50,000 or 60,000 men on our shores in one night. The hon. and gallant Gentleman then gave us the benefit of his large experience, and showed how impracticable was anything of the kind. [Sir DE LACY EVANS: But who was then at the head of France?] Who was at the head of Prance at that time? Why, the present Emperor. But it was not a question of will at all—it was a question of practicability. If hon. Gentlemen will read in Hansard what was said by the hon. and gallant Gentleman in 1852 on the practical impossibility of such a force as the noble Lord talked of being thrown suddenly on our shores, they will find a very good answer to the rather milk-and-water speech he has made just now. But not only have the authorities I have mentioned separated from the noble Lord on this subject, but Lord Russell, in 1852, on the question of the Militia, in a very blunt manner separated himself from the noble Lord, and declared that he could not agree with him in his fantastical idea of a sudden invasion of this country, and said that that idea had its origin in panic and not in reason or argument. Therefore, I say the noble Lord stands entirely alone in this matter. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: Milner Gibson.] Oh, Mr. Gibson was of course opposed, but I do not consider my right hon. Friend an authority on such matters, Therefore, I say that the noble Lord stands entirely alone on this question. When the noble Lord in 1860 brought forward this scheme of fortifications, which was the culminating folly of all he had been saying and doing in opposition to Sir Robert Peel, one of the wisest and most moderate Statesmen that ever existed in this country—I mean, of course, on this question of armaments—when the noble Lord brought forward this scheme, he thought fit to justify himself by repeating the same words he had used in 1845, and telling us again what steam had done. Did he quote any authority in his favour? No, but he misquoted one. He said he remembered Sir Robert Peel to have observed that steam had bridged the Channel, and that practically, for the purposes of war, we had ceased to be an island. On that occasion I read the extract which I quoted to-night, and informed him where he could find proof that he had misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman in a way that must have 459 been peculiarly offensive to him could he have known it; for I am sure he would have abominated the scheme as heartily as any one in the House. I now tell the noble Lord, in the presence of one who is a more appropriate guardian of the fame of the late Sir Robert Peel than I am, that he is bound to recall the statement, which was only an error last year, but which, reiterated after his attention has been repeatedly called to the misquotation, becomes a falsification, and an injustice to the illustrious dead. To attribute language to a man the very reverse of that which he used, and, when the mistake has been pointed out, to leave it uncorrected, is to act the part of a calumniator. I trust, therefore, that the noble Lord will withdraw the sole authority he cited in his support. Is there anything that commends itself to our common sense in this matter? Is there anything in it on which, not being professional, one can form a judgment? The noble Lord says that steam has given a great advantage to the enemy. How has it done so? Has the enemy more steam than we have? Let us come to facts. In old time, when sailing vessels were the test of strength, our mercantile marine compared with that of France had about five tons to one of Prance. But if we compare our steam mercantile marine with that of Prance, you will find that we have 20-horse power at least for every one of Prance. Is it possible that that can have rendered us more vulnerable, which has so multiplied our comparative strength? I have here an extract from a French writer, M. Xavier Raymond, who has written a very valuable volume on the navies of England and Prance. He does not attribute our naval superiority, which he frankly admits, to our dockyards; he distinctly says he does not. He does not attribute it to anything that the Government has done or is doing. He attributes our great superiority to our advantages in regard to our private establishments. He writes this passage for our consolation—History proves, that although in a contest upon land nations may have sometimes been successful, even when attempting what appeared an impossibility, yet they have invariably sacrificed themselves when they have attempted to carry on a naval war on a scale not justified by their natural resources.Well, now, our natural resources are measured by our resources in our engines, in our mercantile steamers, in all those things which give us a great superiority in the world's market, and in all those materials 460 which make up a steam navy. What is doing upon the banks of the Tyne, the Clyde, the Mersey, and the Thames? There are vast establishments there for building steam ships for the merchant navy—ay, and ships of war too. These establishments build ships for all parts of the world. It is an industry that almost ranks with some of our old staple manufactures, so enormous is the amount of shipbuilding going on in your great rivers for foreign countries, and not merely for foreign merchants but foreign Governments. But is not that your strength in case of a naval war? and do you suppose that any civilized Government is so foolish that it does not estimate your power at its true value as measured by these resources? There is one point upon which I must make a remark. It is a delicate one. Sir Howard Douglas is no more. He was stated in this House by Mr. Herbert to have been the party to whom the Government mainly trusted for guidance in this system of fortifications. Since last year the Memoirs of Sir Howard Douglas have been published, and we know what passed between him and the Government on the subject. In January 1860 Sir Howard Douglas appears to have given his final decision with regard to this fortification scheme. He had just then attained his eighty-fifth year. In, consequence of his feeble state of health he was unable to take part in the Commission over which he was asked to preside. I am no longer young, I must now rank myself with elderly gentlemen—but when we reach eighty-five Nature does not revoke her invariable laws—no, not in favour even of her most favoured sons. I maintain, then, that a person of eighty-five, suffering under infirmity, and too feeble to take part in the Commission, was not competent to fill the post of adviser on a great question like this. But there are other reasons for demurring to his opinions, Sir Howard Douglas, it was well known, did not march with the times. He had written an admirable treatise on gunnery when gunnery was very different from what it now is; and he would not accept shell guns fired horizontally. He would not accept iron-clad ships—indeed, his biographer tells us that his opposition to the iron-sides actually hastened the decline of his life. He died in the belief that the old wooden line-of-battle ships would still play an important part in naval warfare, and he recommended fortifications under the impression that Portsmouth har- 461 bour would be crowded with huge wooden vessels, and that the dockyards would be stocked with the combustible materials required for building them. But change the character of the ships—suppose that you have, as it is now generally admitted you must have, iron-clad vessels, and you change the whole case. Your dockyards will no longer be filled with timber, and you will be obliged more and more to intrust the building of iron ships to private yards. Thus the only authority quoted by the noble Lord was Sir Robert Peel, who was misquoted, while the only authority quoted by Mr. Sidney Herbert was Sir Howard Douglas. Therefore, I say, if acting under such advice, and surrendering itself entirely to the guidance of the noble Lord, who cannot have much more military experience than myself, as he never rose to a higher grade than captain of the militia, the House accepts this scheme, it must be quite effete and degenerate. We have had a speech from the noble Marquess (the Marquess of Hartington) in favour of this scheme. It was rather surprising to hear the noble Marquess arguing in favour of the fortification scheme after having twice voted against it. I was really sorry to see one so young able to do it so coolly. I should have thought it would have required more hardening to enable a young nobleman to get up and defend so glibly a measure which he opposed a year or two ago. One thing, however, was quite clear, that the noble Marquess knew nothing about the subject. He said, for instance, that the Portsdown Hill fortifications were only a mile or two distant from Portsmouth. All I can say is, that last January I walked along the whole length of these fortifications, and found them at least six or seven miles from Portsmouth. But what are we doing on those Downs? I only wish the House could adjourn for one day to those South Downs, We should find my native scenery and the atmosphere there a great improvement on what we have here to endure. I am sure, if we could hold one Session under Nelson's Monument, which is close to one of those enormities of forts, we should do one of two things. We should either vote that the fortifications should be stopped, or else we should pass a Resolution that Englishmen should never more sing "Rule Britannia" or "Ye Mariners of England." The idea of putting those immense fortresses upon those Downs! What does it imply to our naval service? Why the 462 shade of Nelson must be startled at the very contemplation of it. It is founded upon the assumption that an army has landed in force in England, and upon landing has marched to the South Downs; and that unless we were there with our previous fortifications, they would occupy the South Downs and throw shells into Portsmouth Harbour, a distance of six or seven miles. I will not say a syllable with regard to strategy on my own authority—I know nothing—but I think I heard the gallant Captain the Member for Wake-field (Sir John Hay) say it was much easier to shell Portsmouth Harbour from the sea than from the South Downs. An enemy could range his fleet if he were master of the sea (and if he were not it would be impossible to land an army)—I say he could range his fleet much nearer to Portsmouth than he would be upon the South Downs, and shell Portsmouth much easier than if he had to carry his men and material to the top of the South Downs. But does anybody suppose if an army was landed upon the south coast it would go to the top of the South Downs to besiege the forts? I calculate it would go to London, or Brighton, or somewhere else a great deal more agreeable. What are you doing there? Assuredly, if I had not seen those fortresses, I could not have believed that in my age and generation such an enormity could be perpetrated with the sanction of this House. There you have a succession of vast fortifications—great precipitous ditches dug in the chalk hills, such excavations, such enormous gashes in the sides of those beautiful Downs, that even those quarries where they have been digging chalk for agricultural purposes from the time of the Romans do not present such a deformity to the eye as do those fortifications. Inside those precipitous ditches you have your enormous fortresses, your casemates and barracks, so that the army may be under bomb-proof; and for what? For a body of English soldiers when Frenchmen have landed to take refuge in, whilst they walk on to London undisturbed! My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham has said it will require an army larger than we can command to occupy all those forts. Now, where is the necessity for building these solid structures in that way? where is the necessity for all that brickwork? where is the necessity for ail those highly-finished embrasures for time to gnaw away? Does not 463 Hampshire contain 30,000 agricultural labourers and Sussex the same number, every man with spade and pickaxe in his hand, and every one accustomed to use them? In twenty-four hours you might have 50,000 of them upon those Downs, who would soon throw up mountains of earthworks to give you all the protection you want. It requires no scientific knowledge at all to understand that. But what say the military and naval men? I do not believe you can find in all Portsmouth a member of either service under fifty years of age—I will stipulate for that—but is not only opposed to those fortifications, not only disgusted at them, but absolutely humiliated—because, they say, it is a standing reproach and stigma upon the manhood of the age to assume that we are to take refuge in those fortresses, prepared for us before-hand as the very signal and symbol of our defeat and dishonour, I have heard good citizens of Portsmouth say, that when they go out by railway in the direction of Havant, they sit with their backs to the engines, or cover their faces, so greatly are they ashamed of them. Now there is one piece of strategy I must allude to, because I got it from good authority. I got it from a man who has suffered in battle, and who knows something about it. He says, these things are put up because we are told that guns are now fired at longer ranges than formerly. That is all to our advantage in preventing an enemy landing on the coast; for inasmuch as the rifle has increased its range much more than the cannon, and he Bays, "Give me 10,000 riflemen, and only let me have two hours that they may dig their rifle pits, and I will defy any enemy to land from boats." Your rifle carries from 800 to 1,000 yards. At 800 yards I have seen your riflemen put their bullet into the target eight times out of ten. Your artillery has not increased its range in the same proportion, and there is nothing of that kind you do not derive a benefit from rather than a disadvantage. But my objection to this scheme is that it is a disgrace and dishonour to our age and to Englishmen. It is new to this country; it was never tolerated in former times. I will read what Mr. Pitt said in 1804, when there really was a danger of invasion of this country, and how does he propose to meet that? He says, speaking on March 15th, 1804—Our first defence is by our larger ships; our next in the shallows by our flotilla of gunboats; the third expedient is to prevent the landing of the enemy; and the fourth and least convenient 464 is when they have gained a footing on English ground, to meet them in the field.That was the language held by a Minister in 1804, when there was a danger of invasion from the greatest warrior that ever lived. Are we degenerate, that we now want those casemated fortifications to hide ourselves in? The hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chatham has said he only wishes to stop that portion of the inland forts which have not arrived at any great perfection. Well, I shall vote with him without any qualification; but, for my own part, I think that the nearer they are to completion the more desirable it is they should be stopped, and for this reason—if you have these completed forts, you must have soldiers ready to man them; if they are not completed, they do not involve that necessity. I should say, therefore, in whatever state they are, these inland fortifications ought to be stopped. I again repeat I offer no opinion whatever upon forts dominating the sea; it is a matter entirely of engineering skill and for the judgment of artillerymen, and I defer to the balance of authority on that point; but I say that these inland fortresses, unless there is some sinister motive in view, unless somebody means to apply them to some other end than defending us against foreigners are dishonouring to the age in which we live. We never know, with regard to these grand schemes, how we stand. They are so insidiously advanced that nobody knows where we can stop them after the project is once before us. How stands the scheme of the great central arsenal at Cannock Chase? We know what the central arsenal will be. It will be a vast fortress—a point d'appui to fall back upon and protect the inland parts after the enemy has possession of the metropolis. I should like to know what has been done in this matter—whether, for example, any land has been purchased? ["No!"] Well, there is an estimate put down of £150,000 for land; but I hope the purchase will not be made, because if the land is bought, there will be a railway or a canal made to serve as an argument for going a little further. But I should say, let all these South Down fortresses, and those inland fortresses at Plymouth and elsewhere be stopped, unless it is shown, upon some better authority, that such things ought to be done in this country. Before sitting down I wish to say one word that has reference to hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House. The Amendment before us has been brought 465 forward on the other side by an hon. and gallant Member whose acquaintance I first had the honour to make when he was filling the high and responsible position of an inspector over this very system of engineering and fortifications. I do not know any one in this House who ought to be looked upon as a higher authority than the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham. He has seen long and active service; I take it that his judgment in this matter is entitled to our consideration, and of course he would not oppose the scheme of the noble Lord at the head of the Government unless he had strong convictions on the subject. But the hon. and gallant Gentleman sits on the other side of the House. We sit on this side. Now, I wish to say that this gigantic scheme of fortifications appears to me to be calculated to inflict the most permanent wound—I use the word advisedly—upon the reputation and good fame of the so-called Liberal party of anything that we have done in this Parliament, which I think has been famous for ignoble deeds. Here we are, at the instance of the noble Lord at the head of the Government—everybody admits at his instance alone—without any private Member having a word to say in justification, with every man among us shrugging his shoulders in private, voting this measure; and what is its purport? It is not as if we were building some great breakwater, or throwing a million or two into the sea, there leaving it to its own career of usefulness or uselessness. We are laying down a great scheme of inland fortresses, which will require an enormous armed force to render them safe or useful, because the moment you have these vast forts built you must man them in order to protect them from a coup de main from an enemy. Our conduct now will be remembered in after times, and I put it—it is probably the lowest motive I could appeal to—to all those hon. Gentlemen who wish for a future for the so-called Liberal party whether they are acting wisely in identifying themselves or allowing themselves to be identified, with this monstrous measure proposed by the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I shall probably not open my mouth again on the subject, because I am not qualified to discuss the details; but I thank the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham for giving me an opportunity of entering my humble but most earnest protest against this scheme of inland fortifications.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, the 466 hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) had begun by stating that he was about to deal with a subject which possessed no technical character; but he had not fulfilled his pledge, because he had discussed a question which more than any other in its details required technical and scientific knowledge, in a spirit of rash confidence in his own opinion, such as was never excelled by any North American General who had got his army into trouble. The hon. Gentleman had inveighed in no measured language against the proposals of the Government on account of the policy on which they were founded, and the waste of money involved, as he alleged, in their execution. Now, if the policy of this scheme of national defences had not been approved again and again by the country at large, it never would have arrived at its present stage; nor if the public had not felt persuaded that these works were likely to effect a great saving of public money at all times, and peculiarly in a time of national emergency, it never would have confirmed the course taken by that House in voting large sums for their construction. It would be a waste of time to criticise the crude project which the hon. Member and some of his friends thought better than that of the Government for resisting the progress of an enemy in the event of his landing on our shores. The hon. Gentleman talked of our riflemen repelling an invader, and of the sufficiency of earthworks thrown up in the moment of danger by the agricultural labourers of Sussex. No doubt, if war could be carried on by amateur means, much money might be saved; but it was just because experience showed, that if a country were not well prepared, if its weapons had not been thoroughly sharpened, it must suffer, not only in the crash of actual warfare, but in its diplomacy and in its commercial relations, that it was necessary to provide beforehand all that was essential to its safety. The hon. Member said there was but one person peculiarly responsible for this scheme, which the House had again and again sanctioned. In one respect he (Sir James Fergusson) was ready to give his assent to that statement. There was one person whom the country had particularly to thank for the security in which, as far as this project had gone, it was placed; and no part of the noble Viscount's career had gained him so much public confidence and popularity as his resolution, so well known, that the country should be properly pro- 467 tected. One would fancy from the hon. Member's speech, that fortifications, especially for our dockyards and arsenals, had never been heard of till within the last few years. Why, since the French war, and before it, we had been fortifying. The hon. Gentleman must know that at Portsmouth there had for centuries been established a considerable system of permanent defences, which, according to the lights of our forefathers and the science of gunnery in their days, had been deemed sufficient; and in every age Parliament had, as occasion required, provided for this means of national defence. It was very remarkable that the opponents of this scheme dragged forward authorities to support their own opinions in a manner totally at variance with the real opinions of those authorities. He had been surprised at hearing the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) citing almost every witness who gave evidence before the Commission in favour of the fortifications, and particularly in favour of those at Spithead, as though they had really been adverse to the scheme. The hon. Baronet had picked out of their evidence a bit here and a bit there, misrepresenting words in such a way that those who had need them would not know them again. He was much surprised when he heard this; but he was astounded when he heard the hon. Member for Rochdale quoting Mr. Pitt as an authority against fortifications. Everybody must recollect that one of the precedents for the present scheme of the Government was the very scheme proposed by Mr. Pitt himself. Mr. Pitt himself moved a Resolution to this effect—That it appears to this House that to provide effectually for the security of Her Majesty's dockyards at Portsmouth and Plymouth by a permanent system of fortifications, &c., was essential to the safety of the State, &c.This, he thought, was a complete answer to the extract adduced by the hon. Member for Rochdale. [Mr. COBDEN: The present proposal is for land defences, Mr. Pitt's were sea defences.] He could state with the utmost confidence that Mr. Pitt proposed both land and sea defences. But even if the defences Mr. Pitt proposed had been only sea defences, they furnished a powerful authority against the views of those Gentlemen who so strongly condemned the erection of the new forts at Spithead. The hon. Member for Rochdale opposed the scheme of the Go- 468 vernment on economical grounds, and said the construction of fortifications was unworthy of a brave nation. Why, if there was one ground more than another on which the Commissioners rested their recommendations, it was that these land fortifications would supply the place of a larger army than we were likely to have at command. So, too, marine forts would set free a number of our ships for offensive movements against an enemy. He could not see how it could be a departure from the traditional courage of our fathers to fortify our arsenals. It would not be an act of courage, but of foolhardiness, to leave open those keys of our strength, those treasuries of our armaments, which, once gone, would place us at the mercy of an enemy. The hon. Member was not entitled to say the Royal Commission had no right to be called into court. Their peculiar studies, and their knowledge of the movements of armies, enabled them to point out the quarters where danger might be expected, and how it could be best guarded against. Did other nations neglect fortifications? The experience of the Crimean war had an important hearing on this matter, It was precisely against those dockyards and arsenals of Russia which were protected by outside forts that our ships were powerless, while to those which were unprotected by such forts the fire of our ships was most destructive. The analogy between Charleston and Portsmouth had been decided. He (Sir James Fergusson) thought it very complete—at least, there would be a great similarity between Charleston harbour and the position in which Portsmouth would stand when the proposed fortifications existed. The fortifications raised in America, which were far from being field works, but were of a permanent character, nearly resembling those by which it was proposed to defend our dockyards, had been of immense service in warding off attack and preparing ultimate victory. It was said that there was a strong tide at Charleston harbour, but was there not a strong tide at Portsmouth harbour? In all parts of the world permanent works had been found to make a nation safe from sudden aggression, and had always checked the advance of an enemy. The House and the country had long since made up their minds in favour of these fortifications, and they were not likely to be converted by anything which had been said to-night.
said, it was not often 469 that he agreed with the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), but on this question he fully agreed with his arguments. He had always given the scheme his most steadfast opposition, and he was pleased to find the hon. Member holding the same opinions, and giving utterance almost to the same language which he had used on a former occasion. He thought that the attack made on his speech by the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Ayrshire (Sir James Fergusson) was both unfair and unsuccessful. His hon. and gallant Friend said that the hon. Member for Rochdale had quoted disingenuously the opinion of Mr. Pitt; but it was the hon. Baronet himself who was open to that accusation. The hon. Baronet would find that Mr. Pitt proposed by his Resolution to provide for the security of the dockyards of Portsmouth and Plymouth by a permanent system of fortifications, founded upon the most economical principle, and requiring the smallest possible number of troops. Was there a single individual Member of the House who could conscientiously say that those fortifications were planned with any regard whatever to economy or to the number of men employed? The hon. Baronet adopted the habit of standing forward to praise the noble Lord at the head of the Government, whether he deserved it or not. He said the noble Lord's greatest claim to the popularity he enjoyed with the country was founded upon this scheme of fortifications. He (Colonel Dickson was aware that at the time the scheme was brought forward there was a frantic idea in the country about invasion, and that every one ought to be a Volunteer, and that some fine morning we should wake and find the Emperor of the French landed, and a Frenchman at everybody's bedside. But very notable reasons had been given by the hon. Member for Rochdale for a change of opinion with respect to the measure of the noble Lord. If the scheme were brought forward now for the first time, the great majority of the country would object to this most enormous—and he would almost say most criminal—expenditure of the public money. He agreed with the hon. Member for Rochdale that they should never have commenced those fortifications, and he would now sooner see the whole of them rased to the ground than that they should be continued. He believed that an invasion was utterly impossible. A sufficient number of the enemy's troops could not be brought 470 to their own seaboard for embarkation without full and timely notice being given to this country. With such full and timely notice, did any hon. Gentleman think it would be possible for any foreign Power to invade them? Supposing an invading force were landed, did any one think that they would be allowed to escape alive? The great point from which they dreaded danger was France; but the Emperor of the French having lived in England one-half his life, and associated with military men in this country, was not likely to run the risk of landing an army in England. Why expend this public money to fight against a mere myth, and resist an enemy which had no more idea of invading their shores than we had of invading the shores of France? The House of Commons was there not only to consider the defences of the country, but also in the cause of their constituents with respect to the public purse—and when he considered the condition of his own country, and when he saw that a few thousands of pounds were denied for reproductive public works, which might give employment and bread to his starving countrymen, he could not consent to this criminal waste of the public money.
§ MR. C. BERKELEY
asked the noble Lord at the head of the Government how it was that in the schedule of the first Act the total cost of these works, including site of central arsenal and other incidental expenses, was estimated at £6,860,000; while in the schedule of this Bill it was put at £6,920,000, being an increase on all the items of the schedule of £60,000.
§ LORD FERMOY
said, he had voted against the original proposition to spend eleven millions of the public money on fortifications, and he should vote against the present Motion. The hon. and gallant Baronet had no authority for saying that the people were in favour of this fortification scheme; and he believed that if the people were appealed to, its supporters would find that they had reckoned without their host. No one who had yet spoken had given any real reason for spending this immense amount of money in fortifications. Something had been said as to the practicability of an enemy landing on our shores; but, assuming that France was the enemy referred to, how was it possible that she could invade England, unless England pursued such a system of foreign policy as should isolate her altogether from the other nations of the 471 world, and leave none to support her? The idea of a French invasion was a mere myth; and it was perfect madness to bury in works, which would be not only unproductive and useless for defence, but injurious, the sum of £11,000,000; it might rise to £20,000,000 before they were finished, while they had in Lancashire and Ireland, and even in this metropolis, an amount of poverty and unemployed labour which was a disgrace to them. When the people of England came to reflect on this policy—for it was a policy which had been adopted by the Government—he was sure they would decide by a large majority against it. He was as ready as any Member to acknowledge the ties of party, but from the first he felt the noble Lord at the head of the Government had adopted an erroneous course upon this subject—a course not only injurious but suicidal to the Liberal party—and he should this evening give a cordial vote in favour of the Amendment.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, it was impossible for him to concur in much that had fallen from the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), but he cordially agreed in the opinion expressed at the conclusion of his speech as to the serious objection that existed to the formation of a central fortress in England. He entered his protest against such folly as creating a "Quadrilateral" in the Midland Counties. He believed that he knew the feelings of the population of that neighbourhood; he had long represented them, and it was his firm belief that they would consider the erection of any such fortress as a manifestation of distrust on the part of the Government. He would impress on the House that they had one paramount duty to perform, and that was to secure as far as they were able the safety of this country, and for that purpose they must carry with them the feelings of the people of the country; and he was as convinced as he could be of anything, that if an attempt were made to construct fortifications in the centre of this kingdom, the proposals of the noble Lord would not carry the feelings of the people. The House had been told that there would be great difficulty in effecting a landing on our shores; he trusted that the difficulties of an invader would end with the landing, and he agreed with the hon. Member for Rochdale that men would be found ready to work with the spade, and to arm themselves, if they thus had time for preparation; but the protection of our sea-board 472 was quite another question. He (Mr. Newdegate) agreed so far with what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) that in some places there did appear an undue extension and diffusion of these works, and he agreed with the hon. and gallant Member for Limerick (Colonel Dickson) that there had been much useless expenditure; but he felt that nothing could exceed the folly of this country if, after having declared before the world that the progress of modem science and modern warfare had rendered the protection of the great depots of our maritime strength necessary, we were now to recede from undertaking the necessary works. We should thereby draw upon us the very danger the probability of which had rendered the works expedient. It appeared to him that the hon. Member for Rochdale, in respect to our maritime defences, was an instance of stationary opinion. The hon. Gentleman might have been quoting his famous letter of 1853. The hon. Gentleman had said that Sir Howard Douglas was in his dotage when he gave his opinion upon these works upon our sea-board. The hon. Gentlemen said the same thing of the Duke of Wellington in 1853. He said that the Duke of Wellington was in his dotage because he recommended the preparation of the Militia when he wrote the letter of 1847, declaring that he, for one, unless such preparation were made, could not answer for the defence of this country. It was by acting upon that letter that the noble Lord had laid the foundation for the position he now held; and he (Mr. Newdegate) firmly believed, that although the hon. Member for Rochdale was stationary in his education on this subject, the popular mind of England had been educated upon it in a calm survey of the events that had occurred, not only in the Crimea but in America; for it appeared as though Providence had sent this country a warning not to trust implicitly to a continuance of the peace and tranquillity that had existed for forty years. What was the state of the dockyards when the Duke of Wellington wrote his letter? They were literally empty of timber, and he would appeal to the noble Lord who represented the Admiralty, whether there were not ships in Her Majesty's navy lately returned to England, which had not lasted half the time they ought to have done in consequence of the defective timber with which they were built. It was quite true, 473 that in all countries governed by popular Governments, there were periods of excitement and periods of relapse. He believed that the period of relapse was more dangerous than a period of excitement. The House might reasonably anticipate a period of relapse produced by such arguments as those which were used against the proposals before the House; he therefore rejoiced that they were re-constructing the permanent defences of our dockyards. Danger did not sleep, although the country might be in a state of somnolency and her representatives lazy. It did appear to him, that if, after all that had been done upon our defences, we were to rest from completing the defences of our dockyards, we should be committing an act of folly sufficient to condemn constitutional government before the world. He tendered his thanks to the Government, and gave the fullest credit to the Government, which represented the Liberal party, that they would not be so unwise as to waste money on wholly useless works. They had seen how easy it was to excite party feeling upon economy; but they would secure the gratitude of the country by a wise expenditure upon such an object as that before the House. It was indeed a proud thing to see the Liberal party emancipating themselves from the abject thraldom of economy, and, at the call of experience and reason, taking the lead, not of popular ignorance and prejudice, but of popular intelligence, thus showing that they participated in the education of events. He should certainly vote for the scheme, but on the understanding that the central arsenal would be given up. The House had already provided an arsenal at Enfield, and why could not stores be kept there? He would certainly vote with Her Majesty's Government upon the present occasion, while he would reserve for a more fitting opportunity any observations he might have to make upon the Spithead forts—except so far as saying that it appeared to him that if we were to neglect to complete the works at Portsmouth, that so doing the House would be leaving open the gates of a fortress that might one day be turned against ourselves.
§ SIR EDWARD COLEBROOKE
feared, that in the turn which the discussion had taken as to the general principle and the advantages of fortifications, the particular question raised by the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Sir E. Smith) might possibly be passed over, and might not re- 474 ceive from Her Majesty's Government the answer to which it was entitled. He should regret this, because he thought, that if the Government gave their consideration to the arguments of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, the further progress of the Bill might be materially facilitated. He, for one, was not opposed to fortifications generally, but he did think that, to a great extent, the system proposed by the Government was extravagant and objectionable, not only on the ground of the vast outlay which it would necessitate in the first instance, but also because to supply the enormous garrisons which the proposed forts would require must fritter away our military force to an extent that would prevent us from being able to concentrate such a number of men as would be sufficient to meet an invader. He regarded invasion as a wild scheme, but not as a wholly visionary one; and therefore he did not think it ought to be excluded from the consideration of the Government. The proposition of the Government was not only for a protection against attack from the sea, but a portion of it was intended to protect our dockyards against an attack from the interior of the kingdom. That could never be, unless our fleets were entirely destroyed. Therefore, one great objection taken to it was, that it involved the expenditure of enormous sums in providing against an extreme necessity, which sums ought to be applied for some more pressing purpose. That being the state of the question, he had again to express a hope that the objections of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Chatham would receive a specific reply from Her Majesty's Government.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I am not at all surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden) should have addressed the House in opposition to the scheme which Her Majesty's Government have brought under their consideration—because each year we have to encounter the strongest opposition from my hon. Friend against everything connected with the defences of the country. [Mr. COBDEN: No, no! It is only against waste.] If my hon. Friend can point to any one occasion on which he helped the Government in any scheme for strengthening the navy, I will admit that I am wrong; but referring to the four years during which I have had the honour of proposing the Estimates for the navy, I do not remember any one occasion on which the gist of my hon. Friend's observations was not 475 to the same effect as that of his speech on this proposition. I am certain my hon. Friend is as great a patriot as any one of us; but his patriotism is of a nature different from that of the people of this country generally. I believe my hon. Friend, on this question of the National defences, stands utterly alone in this House, and he certainly does not represent the feeling of the country. We never hear now of an apprehended invasion; there are no panics. And why is this? Because the mass of our population are convinced that the Government within the last few years have taken due precaution, by increasing our fleet and providing for the protection of our dockyards. With respect to the oft-repeated assertion of my hon. Friend, that by the invention of steam and its application to maritime purposes this country, as compared with other countries, has been greatly benefited in regard to defence, nobody for a moment will deny that the power of England has been increased enormously by the invention of steam. That is so; but then there is the fact which my noble Friend at the head of the Government has so often stated—that in these days, and in consequence of these inventions, we are more liable to sudden and unexpected attacks from other countries than we were before. These two facts are perfectly compatible. No one can deny that such is the case. Take the Northern States of America as compared with the Southern. The power of the former at sea is as a thousand to one against the power of the latter; but yet the North cannot prevent a single Southern privateer from going and molesting their commerce over the globe. I say, then, that in these days of steam you are liable, however powerful your fleet may be, to find an attack at a point where you least expected it. It is this state of things which has led, not only the Government, but the people of this country, to think that we must make our vulnerable points secure. Irrespectively of our fleet, and of all that we can do in the way of providing iron-cased ships, we are bound to protect places of such value as Portsmouth, Devonport, and our other great maritime ports against a coup-de-main in the event of our ships being drawn off for the defence of our Colonies or of a distant part of this kingdom. The House has heard the statement of my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir F. Smith). I own I was surprised when I heard my hon, Friend 476 the Member for Rochdale say that he did not attach any value to an opinion given by him ten years ago. [Mr. COBDEN: No; I did not say that.] And I understood my hon. Friend to say that he did not value the opinion on this subject of any one over fifty. [Mr. COBDEN: No.] I have a great respect for that opinion; and I am not in this debate going to say whether this fort or that ought to be built, or whether a fort on Portsdown Hill ought to be larger or smaller—because I do not pretend to a full knowledge of such matters; but I contend, that since the country has made up its mind that you should have an efficient system of fortification at Portsmouth, it is idle to come to this House to chip and pare—to say, you may have one battery less in this place or in that. You have the opinion of most eminent engineers that those forts at Portsdown Ball are necessary for the defence of Portsmouth. My hon. and gallant Friend asked why, if we were going on with those forts, we should continue the works on Hilsea lines. I confess that I, for one, would almost rather give up the Portsdown works than the proposed works at Hilsea. We shall procure that which will be of immense value to the navy—a canal communicating between. Portsmouth harbour and Langston harbour, which will be of great use in keeping up the scour of the former; and we shall, besides, procure a very formidable defence. My hon. Friend forgets that in these days of steam there is nothing to prevent an intelligent and energetic body of men landing from a squadron up in Langston harbour and turning the forts on the hill altogether. [Sir FREDERIC SMITH: They can turn military lines in the same way.] No doubt about it; and I trust, therefore, that there will be works all along the shore of Langston harbour, because that is close to the dockyard. I should be extremely sorry to see the Hilsea lines done away with. I do not think it is a very expensive plan, and I am positive that it will be most useful, not only for the defence and scour of Portsmouth Harbour, but for the purpose of communication between the two harbours. I trust that the House will not listen to this Motion of my hon. and gallant Friend. If his Motion were carried, it would interfere with the whole scheme of fortification at Portsmouth. What are we to consider as "works in a very advanced state of progress"? Why, there are works which, 477 though not in a very advanced state, are so far in progress that it would be very costly, for instance, to cease to proceed with them, because it is evident that leaving them in their present state would afford cover to an enemy. I think the feeling of the country is in favour of putting our dockyards, once for all, into a proper state of defence; and I hope, therefore, the House will not agree to this Motion.
§ MR. MONSELL
said, he was ready to admit that there was considerable difficulty in discussing the Amendment of his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith), inasmuch as it did not state exactly what were the works with which it was desirable that they should proceed, and what were those which they ought to abandon. It would therefore be unnecessary to enter into any detailed consideration of each particular work—that could be done upon the Schedule to the Bill. But he did not think that his noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord Clarence Paget) had given any answer to the objections which his hon. and gallant Friend had urged against large portions of the Government scheme. His noble Friend seemed to take it for granted that those who did not approve of the whole of that scheme were not prepared to adopt any measures for the defence of our dockyards and our coasts. But the only real difference of opinion which could exist upon that subject related solely to the best mode of attaining that object. As to the effect of steam in increasing the probability of invasion, that was not the question. In considering the subject of fortifications, they had to bear in mind the change which the construction of iron-clad vessels must produce in maritime warfare. Was it not true that the country which at the breaking out of a war had the most powerful iron-clad fleet, would have all the coasts of the enemy at its mercy? Thus, if when a war broke out with France, England had the supremacy at sea, Cherbourg and Toulon might be destroyed by iron-clad ships and the powerful artillery we now possessed. For this reason it appeared to him that the real place to defend Portsmouth was at Cherbourg and Toulon, and the proper plan was to maintain such a powerful fleet of iron-clads that it would be perfectly certain that at the breaking out of a war we should be able to destroy those resources which alone could enable an enemy to approach our shores. 478 He thought that his noble Friend had hardly fixed his mind upon the real meaning of an attempt at invasion. The recently-published Correspondence of the first Napoleon during 1803–4 would show that he considered 150,000 men, 30,000 horses and immense supplies of artillery and war material necessary to make any impression upon this country. All of these were to be conveyed in an immense fleet of wooden vessels. This flotilla was preparing a couple of years, and he asked his noble Friend whether, if the English Government had then had iron-clad vessels at their disposal, it would have been possible for the French to go on with these preparations? We should be certain of destroying such a flotilla now if we had the command of the sea and the appliances he had described. But if the flotilla did set out, composed as it must be of wooden ships, one-half the money spent on these fortifications would provide iron-clads which would utterly destroy it. These iron-clads might be in addition to our regular fleet, and designed for home defence, and they would be far more effectual than stone and mortar. This was the true way of resisting invasion, and the Government scheme was a mere individual idiosyncrasy, reverting to old, worn-out means of defence, instead of having recourse to those modern appliances which science had provided, and which we were able to obtain in larger quantity and to greater perfection than any other country in the world.
§ MR. PULLER
said, he was not disposed to set his own opinion in opposition to that of the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) upon the question as to the best mode of defending Portsmouth harbour; but he conceived the true questions for the House to decide were those propounded by the hon. Members for Rochdale and Limerick (Mr. Cobden and Mr. Monsell)—first, whether under existing circumstances, and considering the invention and application of steam, there was reasonable ground for apprehending at any time an invasion of this country by France; and next, if there were such reasonable ground for the apprehension, whether the mode adopted by the Government, of fortifying our great arsenals, was a proper mode of meeting the danger. He did not think the hon. Member for Rochdale had dealt quite fairly with the noble Lord at the head of the Government. The hon. Member had re- 479 ferred to speeches delivered by the noble Lord in past times, and especially to his declaration that "steam had Bridged the Channel," and he had also quoted the reply of Sir Robert Peel, that "two could play at that." The reply was not inconsistent with the observation of the noble Lord, but rather it admitted that the Channel was bridged. He had a great respect for Sir Robert Peel; and looking back at the state of France and of Europe at the time when that statesman made that reply, he could understand why he thought there was no such imminent danger to this country of invasion by France as to justify a large outlay of money. France was then a constitutional monarchy, under a most peaceful monarch; but now France was under an Imperial Government, wielding enormous and centralized military power, which, as they had seen, could be within the space of a month brought to bear upon a neighbouring State. But, again, although it was true two could play at the game of bridging the Channel, the question to consider was, when the bridge was made, who would have the greatest number of soldiers to pass over it? No one could doubt that in that respect the power of France to invade England was fourfold the power of England to invade France. Then, again, an observation of Sir Charles Napier had been quoted, to the effect that steam had increased our facilities for blockading the ports of France. That was true, so long as we had the command of the Channel; and so long as we had that command, we should not require any forts. But he presumed that when the Government proposed to construct fortifications, they did so with a view to the possibility of our—for a time at least—losing the command of the Channel. Another change had occurred within the last two years. At the time when Sir Robert Peel spoke, the Government of the United States was a government of peace, with no army and no navy; but now the United States were a great military Power, engaged at present in a contest with some revolted States. It would not be unreasonable to contemplate the possibility of that quarrel being terminated, and then the Northern States would be found in possession of a large army and a great navy, desirous of employment. Under such circumstances, might it not be possible, that for the sake of making political capital—and wars had before now been commenced for the sake 480 of political capital—might it not be possible that a war with England would be undertaken? Would anybody guarantee, that within five years from this time we should not be at war with the United States? In such an event would it not be certain that our navy would be engaged in blockading the American ports and protecting our commerce; and would any one guarantee us that France—he did not say under her present Emperor—finding the Channel unguarded, might not take the opportunity of landing an army on our shores? No doubt, the true defence of the country was in our navy, and especially in our iron-clad ships. But, since the science of iron-clad shipbuilding and of the guns they carried was in a state of transition, the Government were acting wisely in keeping our navy in that respect only just ahead of that of France, and in abstaining from an expenditure which the progress of invention might, in a year or two, render useless. But, on the other hand, the Government were perfectly safe in investing money on fortifications, which would be capable of carrying any guns that were likely to be made for fifty years to come. He looked at the fortifications of Portsmouth as in one sense a fortification and defence of London. If the French threw an army across the Channel, and if Portsmouth were fortified, the whole of the regular army would be available for the defence of the metropolis. For these reasons he should support the Bill.
§ COLONEL SYKES
said, that when the system of fortification was first broached, he had raised his voice against it as unnecessary, impolitic, injudicious and degrading to us as Englishmen. He had seen no reason to alter that opinion. He maintained that it was an insult to Englishmen to suppose, that if an enemy landed, they were to place themselves behind stone walls. He fully concurred, however, with the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) that our arsenals and dockyards should be secure against a coup-de-main; but the propositions before the House embraced the erection of no less then seventy-two batteries and other defences and the extension of existing fortifications. If those who participated in the panic of an invasion had ever moved with an army in the field, and had seen the difficulty of getting it together, and the quantity of material it required, they would see that no army sufficient for the invasion of England could be collected without months of 481 preparation. It would be impossible to collect the ships necessary for the transport of 100,000 men, with 30,000 horses and ordnance stores, without our knowledge and without giving us full time for preparation. Then what would become of such an army when they landed? Care would surely be taken that no food would be left for cattle; that every hayrick within fifty miles of the Coast should be burnt. What would become in that case of the horses of the invading army? In three days they would all be disabled. The lines of Portsmouth, setting aside the Portsdown chain of forts, would require 30,000 men. Plymouth would require 30,000 more, and Chatham and other parts of the kingdom must also be defended. What would be required would be, that instead of waiting behind fortifications, the whole of our troops should be massed together, march on the invader and crush him at once. An attempt had been made to invade Ireland, and the enemy had been put to flight by a few women in red petticoats. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: No.] Well, he recollected it was in Wales—and the few French who landed and joined the rebels were defeated at Killala in 1798. That was when we had a population of 15,000,000 or 20,000,000. Now we had a population of 30,000,000; and the Government wanted to spend £12,000,000 in fortifications. For eight centuries since the Norman Conquest we had never thought so humbly of our valour and our means as we appeared to be doing now. He protested against the most united people in the world, and a nation of the greatest physicial means, being asked to hide behind stone walls. He should vote now against the general scheme of the Government. When they came to the schedule, each item should be taken separately, and he should vote against every work in the execution of which little or no progress had been made.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I think that the House has exercised a wise discretion to-night in separating the consideration of the Spithead forts from the question of the land defences, which is now before us. I will imitate the discretion shown by the House, and will not allude to the Spithead forts, which will come more properly before us when the Vote is moved in Committee of Supply. But I very much regret to see the apathy of the House to-night as contrasted with what took place the other evening when 482 the Brompton "fortifications" came under discussion. We remember the enormous excitement on that occasion, when it was contemplated to spend only £284,000, on a building which is now in process of being carted away. But here is a Vote of £12,000,000—that is, the Estimate; but when you come to consider these forts and the various changes proposed, nobody who has any knowledge of things can undertake to say that this Vote will not amount to £20,000,000. But the House which strained at the Brompton gnat, seems quite prepared to swallow the Portsmouth camel. The state of the House is very different now from what it was the other night when we heard the surges of cheers which arose; but I attribute the change to the appearance of the noble Lord in his place. [A laugh.] Yes, because I know he rules the House.Celsâ sedet Æolus arceSceptra tenens, mollitque animos et temperat iras.I think, then, we ought to be obliged to the noble Lord for exercising a control of this kind over the House, when any one would have thought it would have lost its senses. But, however we may differ from the noble Lord, I give him credit for sincerity. [A laugh.] Yes, I think he is a true patriot according to his views; and in bringing forward this scheme—"even his failings lean to virtue's side,But that is no reason why civilians are not to give their opinion whether this large sum of money is well laid out, or whether this fortification scheme will be for the ultimate security of the country. We have heard to-night—and I am happy to say from an hon. Gentleman representing an inland district, the hon. Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller), and I can see by his speech he represents a district "far from the busy hum of men"—of new terrors. He talked about taking the country by surprise, and he endeavoured to make a bugbear to the House the prospect of invasion—where from? From America? [Mr. PULLER: No, no!] He actually said, "You have a military nation"—that is, a nation which is now so much exhausted, that it cannot fill up the ranks of the Irish Brigade, and so inert that the people of Pennsylvania will not stir to repel the enemy marching in upon them—but this representative from an inland district says, "Oh, vote by all means £12,000,000, for you have now not only the Emperor of the French to dread, but a 483 military people on the other side of the Atlantic, who some day or other will come over and take Portsdown Hill." Was there ever such an argument addressed to the House of Commons, so well calculated to throw ridicule on the whole scheme? I do hope the noble Lord will not make a proposal to fortify the town of Hertford; but if he does, he will be supported by the hon. Member. But the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty (Lord C. Paget) says, "Be prepared. None of your cheese-paring upon this Tote of £12,000,000." But I ask my noble Friend what is his duty as a representative of the people but to be a clipper and parer? We know how the noble Lord talked once about the £5,000,000 of money which he said he strove in rain to make the Admiralty account for. And now, forsooth, he comes down and says, "Let us have no cheese-paring;" and, pointing to the hon. Member for Rochdale, he says, "the hon. Gentleman is alone in the country in his opposition." But in that he did the hon. Member an injustice. That hon. Gentleman never at any time argued that there should be no defences for the country. He expressly guarded himself by saying he would give no opinion upon the propriety of these sea defences for Portsmouth. But my noble Friend says the hon. Gentleman's patriotism is of a peculiar description. But I beg to say, I think the patriotism of the hon. Member for Rochdale has been exemplified in as strong a manner as that of my noble Friend the Member for Sandwich. If the noble Lord wishes to know what his duty is, I will tell him—it is to clip and pare these Estimates of the Government, which I take it upon myself to say, however well-advised in some parts, are ill-advised in others, and which lead to extravagant expenditure. But the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), the twin brother of the noble Lord the Member for Sandwich, in those solemn tones of his conjured the noble Viscount not to raise a fortress in Cannock Chase. I never heard, though there has been a project for a central arsenal, which, in my mind, I believe to be one of the most sensible things that was proposed, that there was to be a fortress in Cannock Chase to keep down the constituents of the hon. Member, who is so well informed both in the affairs of the Church militant and in what is required for the defence of the country. I am not aware there ever was a design to raise a fortress in Cannock 484 Chase. There was to be a central arsenal it is true; but that has been postponed, as I think, unwisely. My objection to this plan is that it is fragmentary, and that in this way we are being led to an indefinite outlay of money without giving the country any guarantee against invasion where-ever it is to come from—whether from the hon. Member's (Mr. Puller's) friends, the Americans, or from the noble Lord's friends in Prance. The hon. Baronet the Member for Ayr (Sir James Fergusson) was very well answered by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Limerick (Colonel Dickson), in a sensible speech, which did honour to himself and to the party with which he is connected. But the hon. Member for Ayr says, "The hon. Member for Rochdale quotes Mr. Pitt; but he has no business to quote him." I wish the House had remembered the conduct of its predecessor when Mr. Pitt brought forward his scheme. Did the House of Commons then relapse into a state of idiotic apathy, as it does now? Ho, Sir, at that time the House of Commons had no fear of invasion from America, it resisted Mr. Pitt's scheme for defence, it was thrown out, and it remained for the noble Lord to revive it after I do not know how many years. But, says the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr, "fortifications are prevailing all over the world;" and he alluded to Sebastopol, where, I believe, the gallant Gentleman bore a very distinguished part. But he forgot to tell the House what were the fortifications at Sebastopol. Was it not known to the hon. Gentleman and to the world that they were earthworks thrown up in a comparatively short time; not fortifications built at the expense of millions, but the work of the spade which Napoleon told you was the secret of all success? But are those Works confined to Russia alone? Why, I am told that all those fortifications which resisted the gunboats in America are earthworks. I am not speaking now of Port Moultrie or Port Sumter, but of Port M'Allister. Was that of stone? No such thing. In The Times of March 26, 1862, hon. Gentlemen will find this passage—Fort M'Allister, attacked by a fleet of ironclad vessels and gunboat, bad it been of stone, it would have been battered to pieces; but being an earthwork, the damage done to it was easily repaired.Well, then, I maintain yon are throwing away millions in this fatuous attempt to surround Portsmouth with fortifications of 485 masonry covered with iron. Let us see what is the opinion of military men as to these fortifications. But, first of all, here is a critique about the present fortifications which I think has been cut out of a military paper. It says—At Sandown a fort has been constructed at an expense of £30,000, which is actually commanded fry no less than four other positions, on each of which additional works have been raised in order to take care of it. At Redcliff, a battery has been built on the verge of an overhanging cliff of so particularly friable sandy a nature that it is firmly believed, that if the weight of the work itself does not bring down the cliff, with all that is upon it, such a catastrophe is certain to occur the first time the guns of the fort are fired. In the Isle of Wight the very same mistake committed at Sandown was repeated. A fort was built at Freshwater, and then, after it was finished, it was discovered that it could be taken in rear from another position, and upon the latter a second fort had accordingly to be constructed in order to correct the mistake.I Want to know is this the case? because, if so, we are legislating in the dark. It is all very well to talk about authorities, but on this subject I maintain that military authorities themselves are by no means unanimous. This Amendment was not moved by a civilian, but by a gallant Officer, who has served in both the hemispheres, and whose breast is covered with medals. You cannot, then, throw in our teeth that we are alone in the world, when we have on our side an hon. and gallant Member like that. There is another gallant Officer, the Member for Westminster (Sir De Lacy Evans), and what is the effect of his speech to-night? He said that he was in favour of fortifications; but he is one of those who are for "chipping and paring," and bringing down the Estimates to the wants of the country. Do not let us, then, hear any more of that balderdash of our being alone in the country. The country may be apathetic on these points, but the time will come when the country will inquire for itself, and when these fortifications will be pointed to, not as monuments of the wisdom, but as proofs of the folly of the House of Commons. But let us see what is said on the subject by military men. I will quote the opinion of a very distinguished officer, who has served in the Royal Artillery. He says, referring to the forts now throwing up at Sandown, in the Isle of Wight—It appears hard to understand their proposed utility. For without a complete command of the Channel, and the ability to secure his communications, an enemy dare not attempt a landing with a view of dragging across such enormous guns as 486 would bombard the dockyard. This would be a matter of time, during which, even if securely intrenched, how is he to be provisioned? On the other hand, if he commanded the Channel, he would not land there with such trouble; and I am of opinion, that if he were able to make good his seizing of the soil anywhere along the southern coast, and to drag up such weight of guns, ammunition, &c., as would enable him to lay siege to the strongest forts we could build on Portsdown Hill, without our being able to prevent him, the game is up; and their reduction is only a matter of time, of far less importance. Therefore, the fortification of Portsdown Hill, excepting by field-works, such as troops for the sake of instruction could throw up, and which would prevent an unlikely coup de main, is, I humbly conceive, an error in judgment.Those are the words of Major M'Crea, of the Royal Artillery. When we are told to turn to the Report of the Commission, I ask what is the evidence of Sir John Burgoyne? He said, in answer to a question put to him, that he did not recommend that forts should be built on Portsdown Hill at present. In another part of the evidence he gives his reason, for he says the proper thing to defend them is the army. Well, we are going to have the forts; but where is the army? Will the noble Lord assume the responsibility of asking for a Vote of 60,000 or 80,000 men. The Commissioners say that there must be a garrison for the forts of 68,000 men; but I doubt whether that force would be sufficient, if all the works should be completed. What is the opinion of Sir John Burgoyne with respect to certain works at Plymouth? He says that he would leave them as detached works as a peace measure, and connect them in war; and yet we are called on in these "piping times of peace," when America, being engaged in civil strife, cannot possibly send over a force to invade us, and when we are on excellent terms with the French—many thanks to the hon. Member for Rochdale, whose patriotism, we are told, is of a peculiar nature—we are called on, I repeat, to take precautions against America and France, which were never asked for before, even when great danger existed. The hon. Member for Warwickshire said that he was happy to see the House divest itself of the thraldom of economy; but when the hon. Member talks of the thraldom of economy, is he or is the House aware that during the last twenty years this House has voted 500 millions of money on the army and navy without making a single deduction from the Votes? I grudge nothing for the navy, for I do not take the low line of saying that nothing should be voted for the defence of 487 the country; but with regard to the army, I must observe that we have got, in addition, a great force of Volunteers, which will cost us some £250,000 a year. Whatever the sum might be, I regret, that instead of being devoted to the Volunteers, it has not been devoted to the sustentation of the regular army, because my idea of Volunteers is that they should pay for themselves, and not call on the country for money. Whatever may be the fate of the present Amendment, I cannot regret that my hon. and gallant Friend has brought his proposition under consideration. I do not mean to weary the House by offering an untiring opposition to the scheme of the noble Lord at the head of the Government. I give him credit for sincerity; but I must take my stand not only as an independent, but as an inquiring Member of Parliament, endeavouring to master this subject, and I never gave a vote with less hesitation than I shall to-night, believing that by chipping and paring these Estimates, we may get something efficient at a much less cost.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Sir, I must, in the first place, defend my hon. Friend the Member for Hertfordshire (Mr. Puller) from the extreme misconception—for I am sure the mistake was not intentional—of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. B. Osborne), who accused him of anticipating the invasion of this country from America. Now, my hon. Friend said no such thing, and nothing susceptible of such an interpretation. My hon. Friend said that we might, by the course of events in America, find ourselves involved in hostilities with the Northern States of America, and in that case we might have to send our fleet to blockade the coast of America, or to defend our commerce there; and then, our fleet being absent, and the protection of the Channel having ceased, France might attempt to take advantage of our position, and invade us. There was therefore nothing in what my hon. Friend said to justify those remarks of the hon. Member for Liskeard. I shall not follow the hon. Member for Liskeard in the description he gave of the services of the hon. and gallant Member who moved the present Amendment, and whom he represented as having served in "all the hemispheres." How many hemispheres there are he did not explain; but I have no doubt, however many they may be, my hon. and gallant Friend would have done himself credit in them all. With regard to the 488 Amendment, having regard to what is fairly its meaning and effect, I look on it as nothing more or less than a Motion to throw out the Bill and put a stop to all these works—to reverse the decision deliberately come to by this House, and to induce the House to act in opposition, as I maintain, to the general sense and intentions of the country. Such a proposition is a very grave one. My noble Friend the Member for Marylebone (Lord Fermoy) has anticipated an appeal to the country on this question. I can assure him that I should feel perfect confidence in such an appeal, being fully satisfied that the verdict of the country would be, for me, and not for him. With respect to the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), I can only say that I am very much obliged to him for that part of his speech which related to me—he could not do me a greater favour than by printing that portion of his speech and circulating it as far as possible in every part of the country. The hon. Member did me the honour of saying that the whole system for the improved defence of the country made in the last few years was owing to me. That is an honour which, though I do not deserve it in fact, I do feel that I deserve in point of intention. I am very proud of his praise, for such I consider it; but, at the same time, though I do admit that I have laboured assiduously to convince the House and the country that we were in an inadequate state of defence—that much was required, that a militia, an increased army, an increased navy, and fortified works for our dockyards were needed—yet no one man or set of men, however right in his views, could have succeeded in producing the almost universal conviction that now prevails on the subject if his efforts had not been accompanied by the general sense and feeling of the nation. The hon. Member went back to the year 1845, and I may say that the chief credit of awakening the country at that time to a sense of the insufficiency of its defences was due to the late Duke of Wellington. The hon. Member has cited the Duke against fortifications. Has he forgotten the famous letter to Sir John Burgoyne, in which the Duke of Wellington called on the country, by every motive which ought to influence a nation, to improve and increase the defences, which he then pronounced to be extremely deficient. What was the state of the country in 1845? What was the state of the country more particularly at the time of the question 489 with France about that unfortunate affair at Tahiti, which, had it not been delicately handled—had there not been a conciliatory disposition on both sides—might have led to a war between the two countries? Portsmouth was then totally undefended. There were only a few guns on one seaward battery for the purpose of firing salutes; while over at Cherbourg there were eight large steamers capable of carrying from 1,200 to 1,500 men each, which could have run across at any moment, destroyed everything in the harbour, and then made their escape without any danger to themselves. Our army was also insufficient. And what was the condition of the fleet? I remember the old Collingwood, with seventy-two guns, being the only ship at Spithead, and she was lying there only because, instead of carrying Sir George Seymour to the Pacific, she had been specially detained to represent a Channel fleet. There were only two sail of the line in the Mediterranean, notwithstanding the magnitude of our important interests there. We had been led to that state of things by a feeling of security arising from our successes in the great war, from our belief that there was no likelihood of a rupture with any foreign Power, and from a desire on the part of the House of Commons and of the country to economize as much as possible. The hon. Member said I was answerable for having persuaded the House to establish the Militia. I thank him for that admission. Undoubtedly, the Motion I made materially assisted the establishment of that force. I also urged that the dockyards should be protected; and I am satisfied that the House never did a wiser thing, or one more conducive to the public interests, than agreeing to those measures of defence which have now to a great extent been carried into effect. Some hon. Gentlemen talk boldly and broadly about the impossibility of invasion. It is nonsense, they say, to talk of such a thing. Then some of them tell you how they would meet an invasion; and the hon. Member for Rochdale, among others, has given us his plan for meeting such a contingency. He would have a certain number of riflemen who should dig pits in the sand on the sea shore, and who would then be able to withstand the guns of any number of ships that might be brought against them. Amateurs cannot expect to succeed in everything. The hon. Member has been eminently successful as an amateur diplomatist, and the 490 country is much indebted to him—I say it sincerely—for his exertions in that capacity; but do not let him fancy that equal success will attend him as an amateur general. The example of America, I think, shows the danger of intrusting your safety to amateur generals. In the Northern States people have a notion that any man, taken from whatever profession, becomes a general by putting on a uniform, and a sword by his side; and the result is what we see by the latest accounts. If hon. Members could by saying broadly that invasion is impossible render it so, why well and good; but they are like the people of the Northern States, who have been for two years saying positively that the rebellion would be put down in three months, in ninety days, which were always beginning and never ending. And what is the result? Why now, instead of being at Richmond, they are anxiously expecting the possibility of the enemy attacking them at Washington or Baltimore. I cannot imagine anything more amusing to generals and military men on the Continent than to read the speeches which are sometimes made in this House demonstrating the utter impossibility of invasion. I hope nobody abroad who has any control over these matters will be led to act on the supposition that this opinion is at all shared by the country or by those who are responsible for the conduct of affairs. It used to be imagined that the Duke of Wellington had some knowledge of military affairs. Did he deem invasion impossible? Quite the contrary. He was always surveying the coasts of the southeast of England, and pointing out at how many points an invasion could easily and rapidly be made. We are told to recollect what happened in 1804. We were then threatened with an invasion, which never took place; and why, it is asked, should we think that to be practicable now which was impracticable in 1804? As to steam, it is said that it has only increased our means of defence, and has had no effect in increasing the means of offence against us. The hon. Member for Rochdale has referred to something which passed between myself and the late Sir Robert Peel, when I said that steam had bridged the Channel. Sir Robert replied, in a way suitable to a debate in this House, "Ay, it may have bridged the Channel, but that is a game at which two can play." If I had had the opportunity of rejoining, I would have said that "It 491 is true that it is a game that two can play at; but, as in most games, those who have the greatest number of counters are most likely to win; and France has more living counters in the shape of soldiers than we have." In 1804, what was necessary for the purpose of invasion? It was then necessary to collect a large fleet of small transports to be towed by sailing ships, the movements of which necessarily depended on the winds and tides, and the assembling of which would be quickly made known by our cruisers, and must occupy some time. It was necessary also for the enemy to have the command of the Channel for a Week or ten days; and if it had not been for Trafalgar, that might have actually happened—for a very ingenious plan had been devised, and partly carried out, to draw our fleet away. Such were the arrangements necessary in 1804. But what is the state of things now? There are railways on the Continent which, in the shortest possible time, can bring any number of troops, with artillery, cavalry, and stores, to the port of embarkation. There is a large harbour at Cherbourg where a large number of ships may lie alongside of the quays and troops can he poured into them as fast as they can walk. It is a mistake to suppose that I said 60,000 or 100,000 men could be landed on our coast in a night. What I said was that in a night such a force might reach our coast, without the possibility of our preventing it, and might be easily landed soon afterwards. What happened in the Crimea has been referred to as showing how long it takes to land troops; we were three days in landing our force at Old Fort, in the Crimea; but in the Crimea we were not provided with those means of landing which are now in possession of other countries, and especially of France. It is known that France has a great number of large transports, carrying from 1,000 to 1,200 men, and flat-bottomed boats for disembarking troops on a shelving beach. With such appliances a force might be readily and expeditionary landed on our coast. For the sake of argument, however, I will admit that it would be very difficult to land 100,000 or 120,000 men, and would take time, I say that this is just the reason for having these fortifications to protect the dockyards, which are the nursery of our fleets. If our dockyards were undefended, and if they could be run into by a force of 20,000 or 25,000 men, landed close to them, there can be no ques- 492 tion that such would be an operation which the enemy would prefer to undertake. But the works you are setting up will prevent the dockyards from being run into except after a regular siege. Thus, by preventing a coup de main, you leave the enemy no alternative but to land a large army for the purpose of marching on London. If, then, hon. Members think that an attack on London is impossible, and if by fortifying your dockyards you render a coup de main impossible, then they must admit that by leaving the invaders no choice but to attempt an impossible operation, we shall have obtained a great national advantage. I know it was the opinion of the late Duke of Wellington that Portsmouth on the one hand, Dover on the other, and Aldershot, as the apex of the triangle, formed a system of defence which would make it very difficult for an enemy landing on the south coast to make an approach to London; and he considered these works of great importance, not for defending the dockyards only, but as points of support for larger operations. The hon. and gallant Member (Sir F. Smith) Bays that a sufficient force could not be collected at Cherbourg without our knowing it, and that it could not be done in a month. No doubt, if it took place in time of peace, with your Consul at Cherbourg, your Ambassador in Paris, and Englishmen scattered all over France, you would hear of it; but is it meant to say that after war had been declared you would have the same means of information? Evidently not; and the rapidity with which this operation might be carried out is such that it might be executed in the first week after the rupture of friendly relations and the declaration of war. "But," it is said, "suppose 100,000 men landed, have not we 120,000 Militia, 150,000 Volunteers, and a great number of regular troops?" Very true; but these forces are scattered all over the country:—the 100,000 men of the enemy would be concentrated upon the point of landing; and long before you could bring these different scattered fragments together into one body, Organize a staff, and make all the arrangements necessary to the effectiveness of an army, a time would elapse during which, if these dockyards were not defended, the enemy might get into them, destroy the sources of your naval strength, and cripple you for a great length of time. 20,000 or 25,000 men might land and destroy Portsmouth or Plymouth. I think I heard some one say to-night, that if a 493 landing took place, not a man would go back alive. Really, when people talk in that way I must say that they know very little of human nature, or of the course of history. Suppose, that by running into your undefended dockyards, an enemy could destroy the support and cradle of your navy at a sacrifice of 20,000 men here and 20,000 men there, who should surrender as soon as they had done the business, that would be worth the while of a country that meant to be your rival at sea. The right hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) said that the navy is our true defence, and that the country which has the largest iron-clad fleet will have the command of the shores of the other. Have we or are we likely to have a superior iron-clad fleet? What happens when we come down to this House and ask for the means of rapidly increasing our iron-clad fleet, which can only be done by casing wooden vessels similar to those possessed by other countries? We are stopped. We are told, "No; do not go on with your wooden ships. Wait till you ascertain what is the best construction of iron ships." And we are thus prevented from having that superiority which we are now told is necessary in order to make our shores secure. But even if our own iron-clad fleet should be superior, can we keep it always in the Channel? Can we keep it simply for the defence of our shores? Have we no interests in other parts of the world which may be attacked by iron-clad ships? We should be obliged to scatter our iron-clads. We must have some in the Mediterranean and some on other stations; and therefore, however valuable iron-clad ships may be—and after what has passed to-night I hope that when we make a proposal for adding to their number we shall meet with support—we do require the permanent defence which works would afford to those important foundations of our maritime strength, the dockyards and naval arsenals of the country. I ought to explain to an hon. Friend of mine (Mr. C. Berkeley), who noticed some discrepancy between what I stated as to the reduction of expense and the figures in the schedule, that the increase which he remarked is not in new works, but in incidental expenses, a larger sum for which is taken this year than was taken last. I hope that the House will not be led away by the arguments of the hon. and gallant Officer (Sir F. Smith). He quotes, and the hon. Member for Roch- 494 dale quotes, the opinions of naval and military men against us. Why, there is not a question in any branch of science or art in regard to which you cannot quote valuable opinions both one way and the other; but we have taken the opinions of men in whose judgment we confide, and who have deliberately examined the matters which have been committed to their investigation, and, with all deference to the hon. and gallant Gentleman, I must say that I prefer the opinions of these Commissioners to his, however valuable his opinions may be, and upon their opinions we act. Sir John Burgoyne's opinion has been quoted against us; but upon further reflection he gave a different opinion as the result of that increased deliberation. I say again, this is not a question which can be determined by any conflict of individual and irresponsible opinion. You will, no doubt, get officers of great merit who will say one thing, and officers of great merit and skill who will say another; but we have the judgment of a number of eminent military and naval men, who were specially appointed to investigate these matters, and upon their conclusive recommendations, made after repeated deliberation, we have founded our opinion, that the system of defence which they recommend is essential to the security of our dockyards. But it is said by some, "Undertake a portion of the works only." The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), by the bye, said that the only objection which he had to the proposal of the hon. and gallant General was, that it merely proposed to stop those works which are not in a state of progress, and, very consistently with his own opinion, he added, "I am for destroying them all, and the more complete they are, the more I wish to get rid of them." That is all very well for him; but as to the proposal to execute a part only of these works, we are of opinion that competent authorities, specially directed to investigate the matter, having recommended a certain series of works as necessary for the defence of these dockyards, you cannot leave out any portion of that series without weakening the whole. It is an invariable principle that nothing is stronger than its weakest part; and if you take away a portion of a combined system of works, you necessarily impair the defensive power of the remainder. I can only say that I adjure the House not to be led away by the Motion of the hon. and gallant General. This is a very serious matter. The mind and the 495 heart of the country are set and fixed upon the defence of our naval arsenals and dockyards. We, the Government, have done nothing but follow in the wake of public opinion; and when it it is said that this is a disgrace to the Liberal party, that is a libel upon the Liberal party, because, whatever may be the opinion of certain Liberal members of this House, I maintain positively that the Liberal feeling of the country is in favour of these national defences; and if an appeal was made to the country, I am convinced that the decision would be by an immense majority in favour of our proposal. If there is one thing more than another which the nation demands and insists upon, it is that it should be secure against attack. We have seen constant revulsions of opinion from time to time arising from panics; and the hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Cobden), who has written a book upon panics, ought to be the last man in the world to oppose that which is calculated to prevent their recurrence. The country is bent and determined upon being defended. The proof of that, if any were needed, is to be found in the noble conduct of the population, which has given us 150,000 Volunteers. Did these 150,000 Volunteers think that invasion was such a bugbear and so impossible as hon. Members have represented it? No. It was specially to guard against that possibility—specially to prevent invasion taking place—by showing that we were armed and prepared to resist it, that these gallant men have offered their services to their country. Therefore, I say that the Motion of the hon. and gallant General is a libel upon the Volunteers—it is a libel upon the people of this country—to suppose that they are insensible to the necessity of our being defended; that they attach no value to the defence of the dockyards, which are the cradles of our navy; and when hon. Gentlemen say that the navy is the great defence of the country) I say, "Be it so; but if that is the case preserve to us those dockyards, without which you cannot have a navy at all." I hope that the House will reject the Motion of the hon. and gallant Gentleman, because it is nothing more nor less than a proposal to reverse a deliberate decision of Parliament, and put an end to a system of fortifications, on which, in my opinion, the safety of the country depends.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."496
§ The House divide:—Ayes 132; Noes 61: Majority 71.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read 2°, and committed for Monday next.