§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he rose to claim the attention of the noble Viscount to the request that had been addressed to him by the hon. and learned Member for the King's County (Mr. Hennessy). The noble Viscount had stated on a former evening that he could not give the hon. Member an earlier day than the following Monday for his Motion concerning Poland, as the important discussion upon the American question would occupy the attention of the House on that Monday. That discussion having gone off, he would ask the noble Lord whether he could not allow the Polish debate to come on on Thursday? At that period 676 of the Session every day saw a diminution in the attendance of hon. Members, and therefore a better attendance might be looked for on Thursday than on the following Monday. Having been, up to a recent period, impressed with a belief that further discussions upon the affairs of Poland were undesirable, he wished to state that recent events had altered that opinion. After the remarkable statement made by the noble Lord as to the ultimatum or the proposals sent to the Russian Government the position of affairs was quite changed, and he now believed that a discussion upon the subject was indispensable, and also that the sooner it took place the better. It appeared to him that they were much in the same position as in 1855, and that they were drifting into another war with Russia. Unless the House had some clear and satisfactory explanation from Her Majesty's Government as to the course intended to be taken upon that question, and also as to the position in which this country stood with France and the other great Powers in regard to the Polish question, it would be impossible for any man to tell what consequences might ensue. He believed, that some decided expression of opinion was required from that House to prevent a war, and he hoped the noble Viscount would facilitate that object by enabling the debate to be taken on Thursday. He should, as a matter of form, to put himself in order, move the adjournment of the House.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn."—(Mr. Bentinck.)
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, he had every desire to accommodate the hon. Member for the King's County, but it was most important to get on with that portion of the business which regulated to some extent the duration of the Session. The Government were anxious to go on with Supply on Thursday, and hoped to finish that business on that day, or at all events on Friday. Every one was aware that upon the terminating point depended the closing of the Session. He had stated, and he repeated, that Monday next should be placed at the disposal of the hon. Member, and he could hardly conceive that the difference between Monday and Thursday would have any material effect upon the attendance in that House.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, he begged to remind the noble Lord, that if Supply was put down for Thursday, it would be in his power, or that of any hon. Member, to bring on a discussion of the Polish question upon the Motion for going into Committee of Supply. When the noble Lord on the former evening said that that evening would be occupied by a discussion upon the American question, it appeared to be understood that there would be but one night that week for the disposal of Government business. But the noble Earl the Secretary of State, on the same evening in another place, declared that in his judgment the time had come when a discussion upon the affairs of Poland should take place. If the Foreign Secretary invited discussion upon the subject in the House of Peers, it was not possible for that House to forego discussing it. He had yielded to the Government night after night, and had allowed the discussion to be delayed for the convenience of the Government, and he had therefore no other course to pursue than to place his notice respecting Poland upon the Motion for going into Committee of Supply, and he should bring it on upon that occasion.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he wanted to understand if the giving-up of Thursday by the Government would really make any difference in the conclusion of the Session. He understood that two nights, Thursday and Friday, would finish Supply. And under those circumstances he should have thought that Friday and the following Monday would have been equally convenient? If so, then he thought the hon. Member for the King's County would be justified in pressing his Motion; but if the noble Lord would say that such a course must lengthen the Session, then upon that ground the arrangement should stand.
§ MR. CARDWELL
said, he believed there was but one Estimate left, but the hon. Member must he aware that the Government could not command Friday. Unless they went into Committee of Supply on Thursday, there would be the risk of its being thrown over until the following week.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he thought the answer was satisfactory, but he would ask whether the noble Lord would give an assurance that the Government would take the same pains to keep a House on Monday as if it were needed for its own pur- 678 pose. [Viscount PALMERSTON assented.] Upon that understanding, he would recommend his hon. Friend not to press his Motion on Thursday.
§ MR. PEACOCKE
observed, that as long as Supply was on the paper, independent Members having Motions to submit were masters of the Government. He wished to know whether the Government intended to place Supply on the paper for Thursday, and then the hon. Member for the King's County might state whether he would proceed with his Motion respecting Poland on that day.
§ MR. HENNESSY
said, after the appeal which had been made to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stroud, he was quite ready to fix the Motion, on the subject of Poland, for Monday.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ Clause 1 agreed to.
§ Clause 2 (Appropriation of the Money so issued to the Expenses of constructing Fortifications, and providing a Central Arsenal).
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, he wished to inquire why the clause was different from the corresponding clause in the Bill of the previous year.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, that the clause in the previous Act prevented the Government from entering upon arrangements for more than that portion of the work for which a certain sum was voted, and had been found very inconvenient. An alteration therefore had been made in the Bill before the Committee. Every one must know that to contract for one portion of a work one year, and another portion another year, must always be done upon disadvantageous terms; because, if the contractors were uncertain as to the amount of plant and labour that would be required, they would raise their estimates accordingly. He had explained the matter before to the hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford and to the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham, and he thought he had satisfied them there was no good reason for including the restriction in the present Bill.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, there was undoubtedly great force in the observation that it was not desirable to make contracts piecemeal; but the Committee ought to be made acquainted with 679 the extent to which the contracts were likely to be made, or otherwise the House would probably find itself very seriously compromised.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Clauses 3 to 17 agreed to.
§ Clause 18 postponed:—Clause 19 agreed to.
§ Clause 20 (Accounts to be laid before Parliament).
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he had to complain that the Returns before the House were not sufficiently explicit as to the works which had been undertaken by virtue of preceding Acts, and he thought the House ought to be informed what money had been expended upon them. It was stated that a considerable tract of land had been purchased at Redhill in the neighbourhood of Reigate for the purpose of erecting a fortress, which was to serve also as a military prison. He wished to know if that was the case; and, if so, from what district the money was to be taken. He also wished to know whether it was intended that under the powers of the Act before the Committee fortresses might be erected all over the country without information being given to Parliament on the subject? He understood, that although the land to which he referred had been acquired and the money paid, no Vote had been taken, and certainly no mention was made in the Returns of such a work.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, be would take care, when the next Returns were laid upon the table, that the fullest information should be given to the House as to the way the money was expended and as to the progress of the works. The land purchased near Reigate had not been bought by any money to be raised under the Bill before the Committee, but by money granted under a former Act. None of the money to be raised under the Bill now before the Committee would be expended otherwise than was specified in the schedule. In reply to the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham, he begged to say he did not think the House could possibly be pledged to any expense it was not aware of, because there was a distinct proviso in the Bill that no money should be expended upon any works not contained in the schedule, nor beyond the total estimated cost of the works.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, what he objected to was this:—The Committee were asked to vote £650,000 for certain works; but if the Government were 680 to enter into contracts to the amount of £1,300,000, in what position would the House be? He did not wish to cripple the Government, but contracts ought not to be entered into, the money to carry out which the House would have to vote on compulsion. He thought it a great error to introduce into the preamble or clauses of the Bill anything about a central arsenal, when it was not intended to apply any of the money that might be voted to such an arsenal. The House was bound to tell the truth as well as anybody else, and why should they pretend to provide for a central arsenal when they did no such thing?
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, he apprehended, that in consequence of the arsenal being mentioned in the schedule, any money not required for some of the works might be expended on the arsenal.
§ SIR STAFFORD NORTHCOTE
said, he agreed that it was undesirable to make contracts piecemeal; therefore, he had not insisted on the clause which he proposed last year when it was pointed out that it would be inconvenient to the Government. But there was a great deal of piecemeal proceeding in the way in which the Government asked for the money required for the fortifications. The original scheme was this:—Instead of voting year by year half a million, or three quarters of a million, or a million, it was suggested that the Government should propose some different plan, and state how much it would cost to put the country into a good state of defence, and also that the whole amount should be raised by way of loan. Now, what had happened? A plan had been laid before the House, but instead of asking for power to borrow all the money necessary, the Government had asked for a portion, and had gone on year after year obtaining small sums. They were then asked to vote only such sums as in former years it was usual to vote in the Estimates under the head of fortifications. The House was going on voting money piecemeal, although the Government did not make their contracts piecemeal. There was no knowing how long the House might be asked to go on voting these small sums, and he must enter his protest against the system.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that after the positive assurance of the noble Lord at the head of the Government that it was not intended to proceed with the central arsenal, he naturally imagined that the terms of the Bill would be adapted to that declaration; 681 and so perfect was his confidence in that declaration of the noble Lord, that he had never thought of looking at the clause. It must certainly have been an oversight on the part of the Government, after they had assured the House that a certain work should not he completed, to have placed such a provision in the Bill, and he trusted that at a future stage the mistake would be corrected, and all reference to that work would be struck out of the Bill. He had a distinct objection to the proposal respecting a central arsenal, which, according to the Reports of the Commissioners, was to be adapted for a fortress.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, he thought that the hon. Member for North Warwickshire was the only person who conceived that the Commission recommended, or that the Government intended, the formation of a central fortress in this kingdom. It was suggested that there should be a central arsenal, and all he could say was, that if there was to be a fortress, his humble vote should be against such a proposition.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that if the hon. and gallant Officer would look to the Reports, he would see that the country around Cannock Chase had been surveyed with the view of selecting a spot with a large open space such as was necessary to surround a fortress.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he believed that the reason why Cannock Chase had been selected for a central arsenal was that it would not require fortifications. It was not proposed to vote any money for Cannock Chase that year, and it was wasting the time of the House to discuss a matter which was not before it. With respect to contracts, his opinion was, that if the Government did not contract for works as a whole, they would be badly constructed; for if two or three parties were employed, nobody would be really responsible. The amount to be spent in each year was shown in the schedule, and the sum now asked for was an instalment for the works for the next twelve months.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, the question of a central arsenal was left in considerable doubt, and the Committee had no means of knowing whether it was the intention of the Government to proceed with the formation of such arsenal or even to purchase the land for it. It was therefore only proper that some precise information should be given as to the intentions of the Government on the matter. Woolwich certainly was not adapted for the purpose 682 of a central arsenal. If one Member of that House had been worse treated than another in respect to the central arsenal, it was the hon. Member for North Warwickshire. The hon. Member had protested against the raising of a fortress, and he was quite right. When he (Mr. B. Osborne) contradicted the hon. Member the other night, he had not looked into the papers so accurately as he ought to have done; but on turning to the correspondence relative to the intended site of the central arsenal or depôt, he found that the hon. Gentleman was warranted in what he stated; and he hoped the hon. and gallant Officer the Member for Westminster, who, followed in his wake, and had likewise contradicted the hon. Gentleman, would make the same apology as he did then. What was the opinion of the President of the Commission relative to the site for an arsenal or central depôt? He said—A new arsenal, involving, as it must, considerable outlay on fortifications, as well as the maintenance of a large garrison, should be so situated as to form a rallying point for the defence of the country in the event of London falling into the hands of an enemy.He hoped the hon. Member for Warwickshire would put himself at the head of an opposition to the central arsenal. It appeared that they were to have, not only a central arsenal, but also a central fortification, to which the Government, the Speaker, and the leading authorities might retire should London be taken. All along the House had taken too much for granted on the bare statement of the Ministry. Hon. Members had taken no pains to master the question, and, with one exception, they appeared to have passed over the appendix to the Report of the Commissioners. Some explanation ought to be given as to whether the central arsenal was to be proceeded with; and, if so, whether it was intended to act on the advice of the Commissioners? He referred particularly to a letter in the appendix to the Report from Sir Harry Jones, addressed to the Secretary of State for War. He hoped the House would press the noble Lord to give some answer to this question.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
When, in 1860, I proposed this arrangement to the House—that certain points should be defended, and that the expense should be borne by terminable annuities, instead of charging it to the annual Estimates—I stated, among other things, that we considered it necessary to have a central 683 arsenal. That opinion has been very much confirmed by military authorities, and among others by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Westminster, by whom it has been represented that Woolwich in its present condition is a very unsafe place for our stores. The Commissioners reported that to fortify Woolwich would require such an extent of works and of garrison as would render the proposal altogether unadvisable. We are asked whether by a central arsenal we mean a central fortress? And I answer that question by asking, what is the name now given to Woolwich? It is now called Woolwich Arsenal; and the reason why we want another is that Woolwich is not a fortress, and cannot be made a fortress. That shows that the word arsenal does not mean a fortress. We have no intention of proposing to Parliament to erect a great central fortification for the shelter of the Government in the case of an invasion. We do think, however, that among the arrangements necessary for the purpose for which this Bill provides, it would be desirable to have, in some central position, an arsenal—a depôt for stores, where some of the things which are more easily made can be manufactured. Therefore, as it was a part of the original proposal made to Parliament, and sanctioned by its Vote, the project of a central arsenal still appears in the schedule to the Bill. The Committee will see no sum is proposed to be voted this year for that. We do not intend to take any step at present for the purchase of land. Before the land can be purchased, it will be necessary to come to the House again, and the House will have an opportunity of determining whether they will buy land for a central arsenal; and then, if they do, every step for its construction will require the sanction of the House from year to year. Therefore, there can he no well-grounded alarm that we are stealing a march on the House by taking authority to erect a fortress in the centre of the country without sanction of Parliament.
With regard to contracts, it has already been explained that it is impossible, without great inconvenience to the public service and damage to the works, to make contracts piecemeal for particular portions of the works. What we have done in the present case is to propose to add to the £800,000 still unexpended of the sum voted last year, a Vote of £650,000, and that will give us money to meet all the demands that will come on the Government between 684 this time and the end of July next year, when we shall have to propose another Bill, and Parliament will see, by a Return, what has been expended and what remains to be expended on each particular work. I cannot imagine that Parliament will sanction the beginning with a certain work, and then stop short when it is half completed.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that on the Report he should move as an Amendment to the Bill to strike out of it the sum proposed for, and indeed all mention of, a central arsenal, because he did not understand the sense of the House voting that there should be an arsenal, when they did not intend to provide the means for it. He was exceedingly glad that he had succeeded in calling the attention of the hon. Member for Liskeard to the terms in which the proposal for the arsenal stood in the Bill, because they were confirmed by the statement just made to the House by the noble Lord. He said that Woolwich was not adapted for fortification, and therefore it was proposed to remove the arsenal to Cannock Chase, which was adapted for fortification, and Sir Harry Jones, in the appendix to the Report on the Defences, said of Cannock Chase, that on that site a considerable expense must be incurred for fortification, and that a considerable expense for the garrisoning of the fortress would be required. It was plain to demonstration, therefore, that the intention was to construct a central fortress. He had before mentioned that he thought the construction of a fortress in the centre of England would excite distrust among the people. They had ceased to be jealous of standing armies; they had ceased in any way to oppose the construction of fortifications for the defence of our coasts; but if a central fortress were constructed, they would begin to think it was intended, not only for so remote a contingency as the capture of London and the sudden retreat of the authorities to a place of security, but they would suspect it was intended as a standing menace to the people. At all events, they would regard it as an expression of distrust of their power and will to defend the heart of England as the Confederates had defended the centre of their States. He was a strong advocate for the defence of the coasts, but he believed that in the time that must elapse between an enemy's landing and reaching the centre of England, there would be time enough to throw such earthworks 685 as would be necessary. He had not yet learned so far to distrust the courage of his countrymen as to suppose that a foreign force landing on our shores would be likely to march from end to end of England in so short a period that they could not throw up earthworks, anywhere towards the centre of England, in defence of their homes.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
The hon. Member has entirely misunderstood what I stated. He says my statement was, that whereas Woolwich could not be converted into a fortress, therefore we are taking a central point in order to make it a fortress. I said no such thing; nor did any of those who argued in favour of a central arsenal say that. What we stated was, that Woolwich, from its position, is exceedingly exposed; and that if a hostile force were to make its way up the Thames, Woolwich is at their mercy. Therefore, we wish to have a depôt somewhere, removed from that point of attack, and where, from its central position, it may be secure from that danger of a coup de main to which Woolwich is exposed. It is not at all necessary to make a fortress; there will be plenty of men and bayonets for its defence between the coast and the central arsenal.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, he had so often opposed the fortification of some portions of the coast that he was glad to say a word in favour of a central depôt. The use of the word arsenal appeared to have conveyed the idea of a central fortification, which was not contemplated by the Government. As it was impossible by external works to defend the dockyards and the arsenal at Woolwich from a raid made by an enemy, it was doubly necessary to remove the depôt to a place at some reasonable distance from the coast, where the stores for the defence of the country would be safe from aggression of that kind. Therefore, whether at Weedon or Cannock Chase, he thought it desirable that there should be a central depôt for stores not immediately in use.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, that the Report of the Commissioners had been quoted against themselves in a manner not warranted by the text. Any one would suppose, from the statements of the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Osborne), and the deductions of the hon. Member for North Warwickshire (Mr. Newdegate), that the Commissioners had recommended the formation of a central arsenal involving considerable fortifications; but the reverse was the fact. Sir Harry Jones's letter was 686 in answer to an inquiry from the War Secretary as to the eligibility of Weedon for the site of an arsenal. That was negatived. The Commissioners were then instructed to select a site for a central arsenal that should fulfil several conditions, one of which was that it should be capable of cheap and ready defence, and the Commissioners chose Cannock Chase, because it was capable of permanent or temporary defence at a small expense. There was not a word in the recommendation of Cannock Chase indicative of its being a place that would require a large expenditure; and it was evident that it was not intended to fortify it at all, except so far as might be necessary for the protection of the valuable articles to be stored there.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, the hon. Member for North Warwickshire had been misled by the letter referred to, as in the actual Report there was not one word recommending that the central arsenal should be fortified. He hoped the noble Lord would not abandon his intention to provide a central depôt.
§ VISCOUNT GALWAY
said, he wished to know if any arrangement had been made with the proprietors of the land at Cannock Chase, what number of acres the £150,000 which had been already voted was intended to purchase, and whether a further sum was to be asked for. The land would rise in value when it became known that Government wished to purchase it.
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
said, that the Commissioners recommended Cannock Chase as the best site for the proposed arsenal, because it was in an open moor-land district and contained about 3,000 acres of land, and offered great capabilities of defence. There could be no doubt that they meant defensive works to be built there, and that that would involve an enormous outlay.
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, there was all the difference in the world between a recommendation to fortify the central arsenal and the fact that its site was capable of being defended. The Commissioners selected Cannock Chase as a place which, in case of necessity, could be easily and cheaply put in a state of defence.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
If my memory does not deceive me, the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne), when this question was under discussion the other evening, expressed a decided 687 opinion in favour of a central arsenal. Why he has changed his mind I know not. He Bays a central arsenal means a central fortress. I stated a few minutes ago that it did not, and I proved it did not by showing that Woolwich is an arsenal, and could not be made a fortress, and that the central arsenal, while in a stronger and less exposed position will be no more a fortress than Woolwich is. In reply to the noble Viscount (Viscount Galway) I have to state that no arrangement has yet been made for the purchase of the land. Until we come to make a bargain for it, we cannot tell what sum will be required for the purchase.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he understood that there was no intention to have a fortification at Cannock Chase. The place must be enclosed by a wall, and engineers would know how to make it defensible by the form and line which they gave to that wall.
said, he could not comprehend how it was that a central arsenal had not been selected and provided before then, because at Woolwich there were millions' worth of property that could be easily destroyed by a hundred men in half an hour. The hon. Member for Liskeard would have been one of the first to have found fault with the Commissioners if they had recommended a site for a central arsenal that could not be easily defended. Canals and railways could not be called defensive works. Before voting money for works at Spithead they ought to know something about a depôt in lieu of Woolwich, and he hoped the House would insist upon something being done to provide a central arsenal.
§ Clause agreed to.
§ Remaining Clauses agreed to.
§ MR. C. BERKELEY
said, he wished to call attention to the schedule of the Bill of the last Session, in which the sum of £50,000 was stated to be the estimated expenditure for incidental expenses, and which sum had been voted, and to ask the Under Secretary of State for War why it was stated in the schedule of the present Bill that £120,000 had already been voted for these incidental expenses. When he made a few remarks on the same subject last year, he received in reply nothing but a volley of personal abuse from the noble Lord at the head of the Government. It appeared, however, 688 by a Return made on the 27th June last year, the estimated cost of the whole works was put down at £5,680,000, including the expenses of the extra staff for designing and executing the works. Last year there was an evident error in the accounts which he felt convinced was owing to a sum of £70,000, described as a balance available for the works, being applied to incidental expenditure. In consequence, the unusual expedient of "cooking the accounts" had been resorted to, and he called on the Government for an explanation.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that the schedule of last year in the 4th column, purporting to give the estimated cost of works and land, showed on the face of it that the whole expenditure was not there included, because the item of incidental expenses was only taken up to the 31st of July 1862. There was at the same time a sum of £70,000, out of the £670,000 voted, not required for the purchase of land, and therefore available for incidental expenses. That sum, added to the item of £50,000, made up £120,000 for incidental expenses—an amount which he did not think was excessive in proportion to the entire outlay, but which he believed would yet be amply sufficient. The hon. Member had the acuteness to discover a mistake in the schedule of last year, but it should be remembered that it was the first time that the items of expenditure had been scheduled. In the present year there was, he thought, no ground for complaint of any want of clearness or definite information in the schedule.
§ SIR HENRY WILLOUGHBY
said, the Government had £800,000 in hand, and the sum they were now called upon to vote was £650,000. That made the total amount which the Government could expend in the year, £1,450,000. He wished to know whether they conceived that they had power to make any contracts beyoud that amount.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
replied, that no doubt the Government would be able to enter into contracts for sums not exceeding the total estimated cost of the works, the general scheme of which the House had sanctioned. At present, they asked only for the money intended to be expended in the year.
§ MR. C. BERKELEY
said, that as to the £70,000 the explanation of the Government was so far satisfactory. But he would call the attention of the Committee 689 to the fact, that, according to the Act of last year, it was not lawful for the Government to expend money otherwise than mentioned in the schedule, and they ought not to have applied money voted for works to incidental expenses.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he wished to remind the hon. Member that the money was voted for "land purchased" and "incidental expenses."
thought, that if the the explanation of the noble Marquess as to the making of new contracts was correct, it was idle for the Committee to discuss these questions, for it had no effective control over the Government.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
Of course, if the House does not vote the money, we cannot spend it; but I suppose that when the House has voted money for the foundations, they do not intend to forbid the Government from building upon them; I therefore say that the Government must be justified in entering into contracts for the whole works. Of course, if the House will not vote the money, the contractors cannot be paid.
said, the noble Lord the Under Secretary of State for War, and the noble Viscount at the head of the Government, had reiterated the argument, that if they begun the work, they must complete it. That really amounted to saying, that on finding out in the progress of the works that they had committed an error, they must nevertheless go on with it. In short, every word which had fallen from the Treasury Bench had rendered the subject more difficult, and made it imperative to look into the Estimates with more particularity. He wished to ask why they should bind themselves to the item of £150,000 for a central arsenal at Cannock Chase? An enormous price was proposed to be given for what was said to be waste land at Cannock Chase. This would be a perfect waste of public money. Instead of one large central arsenal at Cannock Chase, he would have two or three central arsenals.
§ SIR MORTON PETO
said, he rose to move the omission from the schedule of the following items, relative to the works at Spithead—namely, Horse Sand Fort, £25,000; No Man's Land, £25,000; and Stourbridge, £25,000. He was aware that he made the proposal under a great disadvantage. It must be remembered, however, that the Government had invited discussion. If he had depended upon his 690 own knowledge, he should have despaired of carrying the Committee with him. The Government, however, had published the Report of the Commission, and given the whole of the evidence upon which that Report was founded, and he relied upon these documents, as showing two things:—First, that the Commission practically condemned the works for which the Votes in question were asked; and second, that the evidence upon which the Report was founded did the same thing. He hoped also to show that nothing had occurred to alter the position of the question since the House had decided, on the Motion of the hon. Member for Liskeard last year, which he had the honour to second, to delay the construction of the works until the value of iron-clad vessels for purposes of defence had been more fully considered. The noble Lord the other evening had, indeed, stated, that they had guns which would penetrate the Warrior target at a distance of 800 yards, and that, no doubt, that distance would soon be increased to 1,000; but unless they had guns that would penetrate at a distance of 1,000 yards, these forts would be practically useless; because, while guns would only penetrate at 800 yards from forts on either side, a channel of 400 yards would be left in the centre through which a vessel could pass in safety. The noble Lord had also referred to the experience derived from America, during the last year. He was prepared to submit that there had been nothing which had, in the slightest degree, affected this question. Iron-clads had passed the forts on the Mississippi comparatively unhurt; and, with regard to Charleston, the harbour was so shallow that the Confederate forces were enabled to drive rows of piles, which not only prevented further progress, but kept the iron-clads for thirty minutes under the fire of the fixed forts. At Spithead, however, it was utterly impossible to form any such obstruction. He wished to call the attention of the Committee to one point on which the whole question turned. It was almost impossible to hit a vessel running fourteen knots an hour from a fixed fort. Why, even at twelve knots an hour the vessel ran nearly 400 yards a minute. And that presented an almost insuperable difficulty in the way of fixed forts, so far as the protection of harbours was concerned. He begged to call attention to the evidence of Captain Sullivan, Admiral Dundas, and Captain Hewlett, who did not think that forts would prevent the passsage of iron-clad 691 vessels. Captain Sherard Osborne's opinion was equally strong and even stronger. He stated, that with wooden gunboats running eight knots an hour he would undertake to pass between the forts, and not one shot in two hundred would have the slightest chance of taking effect. The Commissioners themselves stated their conviction that no practical amount of fire from batteries could be depended upon to stop the passage of steamships if the channel were clear. The case remained, therefore, just where it was last year, and the Government were bound again to suspend these works until some fresh evidence or some new light could be thrown on the subject. He entirely admitted the importance of sea defences; he would be the last in the slightest degree to weaken them; but he did not think the forts, if constructed, would practically add to the permanent defences of the country. No additional defence would be incurred by the delay of another year with regard to them, and in the mean time they might proceed with those works which were not objected to. The hon. Baronet concluded by moving the omission from the schedule of Horse Sand, No Man's Land, and Stourbridge Forts.
§ Amendment proposed, to leave out the words "Spithead.—Horse Sand Port, £25,000."—(Sir Morton Peto.)
§ SIR JAMES FERGUSSON
said, he was afraid that the prejudices of the hon. Baronet who had just addressed the Committee against the construction of marine defences were so deeply rooted that nothing could ever remove them, if nothing which had occurred within the last twelve months had been able to remove them. The very witnesses whom the hon. Baronet had cited to establish his case gave as their chief reason for objecting to such defences as were proposed at Spithead the great uncertainty that existed at that time as to any improvement that might be made in guns, and they said it would be folly that large sums of money should be expended upon forts, until it was ascertained whether those forts could be armed with guns that would be effective against armour-plated ships. The hon. Baronet was indifferent as to any improvement, but he thought he could show that the objections which the hon. Member had made were unfounded, and that the authorities upon which he relied were really against him. The hon. Baronet had referred to an isolated case, in which iron-cased vessels had passed the 692 forts on the Mississippi with impunity. But it was well known that in the case referred to the exploit was only performed with extreme difficulty and after many failures. The vessels which did pass the batteries on the Mississippi only succeeded in slipping by them in the darkness of night, and at a place where no obstructions could be placed such as formed a necessary part of those defences. But the great bulk of arguments founded upon the experience of America were against the position which the hon. Baronet endeavoured to maintain, who had again asserted what had been repeatedly denied, that the Federal ships were prevented from entering the harbour of Charleston by fixed obstructions. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for War had told them that he did not believe there were any such obstructions, and it was certain that the Federal ships never got as far as the place where the obstructions were supposed to be laid down. The hon. Baronet said no obstructions could be placed at Spithead, and quoted the Defence Commissioners to that effect. That was an instance of the garbling of quotations, and of reading evidence the wrong way which had been indulged in upon this subject. In the audacious pamphlet published by the hon. Baronet last year he quoted a passage from the Report of the Royal Commisioners, to the effect that the utility of a boom across so broad a channel was doubtful. But the opinion of the Commissioners was given only with reference to the proposition of one witness, and applied only to the case of a boom unsupported by forts at either end. But at Spithead it was proposed to build there new forts which would prevent a boom from being burned by a hostile fleet. The hon. Baronet quoted the hon. Member for Wakefield (Sir J. Hay) whenever it suited his purpose; but they did not agree in their views. The hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury despised wooden ships, and thought nothing would do but iron ships, while the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield recommended that the fifty or sixty wooden line-of-battle ships now lying in our harbours should be coated with iron plates, and thus be converted into blockships. The hon. Baronet said that forts would do nothing for the permanent defence of the country, but none of the witnesses agreed with him, although some of them thought that an increased number of ships would be better. When it was jointed out that an increased number of ships would be more costly than forts, they 693 said that they did not consider the question of expense; but the House must consider expense; and believing that the Spithead forts would afford an effective means of defence at the least cost, he proposed that those means should be adopted. He did not wish to say anything harsh of the hon. Baronet's pamphlet, although in it very strong language was applied to other parties; but the contents were so extraordinary, that he could not believe the hon. Baronet had written it himself. He rather thought that the hon. Gentleman kept a poet who had undertaken to garble the evidence which he professed to quote. There was an extraordinary mis-statement of one portion of the Commissioners' Report. Sir William Armstrong was represented as saying, preference to the difficulty of hitting moving objects, that vessels would offer so small a mark at a distance that even the increased accuracy of our most improved rifled ordnance would offer little risk to vessels in motion. But Sir William Armstrong said "such vessels," referring to small vessels armed with a single gun each. The great point in regard to these forts was that heavy ships must keep in a certain channel, and therefore must pass within a certain distance from batteries which, by their converging fire, might sink them. But in the Report of 1860 it was assumed that the forts would bean assistance to the ships in case a fleet inferior to that of the enemy were lying in Spithead roads. The evidence of the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield had been quoted by the hon. Baronet to the effect that the forts would not be a very cheap defence, and he recommended a boom; but that would not do for the hon. Member, who was all for iron ships. The hon. Baronet quoted Captain Sullivan as having said that he always considered the outer forts as secondary to the inner line; but he omitted to say that Captain Sullivan added that with a new range of guns the forts would be so open to attack by a flotilla that we should have to depend upon our naval forces to keep it off, and therefore he looked upon the forts as likely to afford great assistance to any naval force defending the entrance. The hon. Baronet also quoted Captain Hewlett as having said that no forts could prevent iron-built ships entering and taking possession of the dockyards; but he omitted an answer in which he stated that forts would be a valuable assistance to ships taking refuge, to an inferior fleet, or in case of sorties. The hon. Baronet also 694 quoted the hon. and gallant Member for Chatham. But that hon. and gallant Gentleman had stated, that for twenty years he had been considering the question of defence, and he never doubted that forts should be constructed for the defence of Spithead and Portsmouth harbour. It was only since the battle between the Merrimac and the Monitor that the hon. and gallant Gentleman changed his opinion, and said that the defence of Portsmouth might in a great measure be left to such vessels and to shore batteries, which might be heavily armed. But when the hon. and gallant Gentleman was asked whether his preference for Chatham had influenced his mind in wishing to see the Spithead works stopped, he candidly admitted that it had. It had been pointed out by the Commissioners that the great advantage of having such a harbour as Portsmouth defended would he, that if our fleet at sea were greatly damaged, it might take refuge there, and refit in perfect safety. The hon. Baronet the Member for Wakefield being asked whether the forts would be useless, said he did not think so at all, but he would like to see enough of them built closely together. If they studded the anchorage at Spithead with forts a thousand yards apart, so that an attacking ship would be only five hundred yards from a fort, the hon. and gallant Gentleman said it would be a good defence. But at that time they did not believe they could pierce the Warrior target at two hundred yards' distance, whereas now it had been burst at the distance of eight hundred yards, and its back set on fire by the Whitworth gun. Sir William Armstrong stated that he was perfectly convinced that he should make his largo gun equally effective at 1,300 yards, and that the same gun rifled would accomplish the same results at 3,000 yards. He consequently maintained that those conditions which the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield and other officers required had now been attained, to such an extent that not only a much greater force of artillery might be expected, but that even with the present force the forts would prove most powerful. He had stated, on a former occasion, that it would be absurd for this country to stand alone in a disregard of what was being effected by all other nations in respect to fortifications; and he wished to direct the attention of the Committee to a valuable report which was sub- 695 mitted last year to the American House of Representatives, and which showed how efficiently forts and floating defences supported each other. This country desired to keep peace with all mankind, but it had to protect the most valuable commerce in the world, offering the greatest possible temptation to an enemy; and it would be a fatal thing if by any mischance the British navy should meet with a check, and nothing then should be left between an invader and the peaceful homes of the people of this country.
§ THE LORD MAYOR (Mr. Alderman ROSE)
said, that as representing the views of his constituents, he wished to observe that if the question before the Committee had been a question of the original selection of Portsmouth as the great naval arsenal and shipbuilding emporium, it might have been open to debate; but when that naval yard had long existed, and had grown to its present dimensions, and when the House had voted large sums of money to correct the natural disadvantages of its situation as regards inland defence; it would be unwise and suicidal to leave that great establishment open to approach from the side of the sea. So long as power of artillery against armour plates was in dispute the policy of erecting forts might also be doubtful; but that question having, in the interval of time which Parliament had taken to consider, been decided in favour of gunnery, there could be no doubt as to the importance of the forts. It had been shown that they had got a gun now that could smash through the Warrior target at 800 yards, and it did not require a professional man to discover that hostile ships approaching Portsmouth would be stopped at the very point where these guns would tell with effect. The only condition to make them absolutely effective was a firm flooring to give certainty to the aim, and that object was to be obtained only by a fixed battery, for the smallest ground swell made the aim from a floating battery uncertain. As to the matter of speed, the whole thing had been demonstrated in America. The American fleet had had to force rivers with all sorts of impediments thrown in their way, and it was notorious that the screw of a line-of-battle ship was the most vulnerable thing in the world. Similar obstructions could be provided at Spithead to bring an attacking vessel up at point-blank range. The only objection raised to these forts, and it was a serious one, was, that a foundation 696 had to be got; but if the hon. Baronet (Sir M. Peto) had the contract for the work there was no doubt he would find a firm foundation. The only question was one of expense, but after all the money that had been spent at Portsmouth he deprecated any abandonment of those works which were necessary for its defence merely because certain persons were enthusiastic in favour of iron-plated ships. He believed that the proposed forts would be placed in such a position as to protect the Solent and the entrance to Southampton as well as Portsmouth, and he should therefore support the plan recommended by Government.
said, that they were dealing with a sum of £750,000, and the real question was whether £27,000 spent in foundations should be relinquished and the works not proceeded with. Last year the House was unanimous upon the point, and he denied that since that time there had been any fresh information which should lead them to change their opinion. Much stress was laid upon the power of the Armstrong gun in 1859, but since then great improvements had been effected in the construction of iron-plated ships. Almost all authoritative witnesses, whether military men or civilians, concurred with remarkable unanimity in the opinion that you must come to close quarters with the enemy in order to give full effect to your artillery. With all their endeavours they had as yet not got a gun which could pierce an iron-plated ship at 1,000 yards, while hostile vessels could keep out of the range of the proposed forts, and yet attack their shores. It was absurd to waste money on immovable masses of masonry, when they might have ships which could follow the enemy. There was no comparison whatever between Charleston and Portsmouth; and he had not observed a single feature in the operations of the American war which furnished an argument in favour of forts. He trusted the Committee would not agree, in a spirit of false economy, to throw away more money on these works, merely because so much had been sunk in them already.
said, he altogether objected to the assumption upon which the debate seemed to proceed, that they had no ships capable of meeting invaders at sea, and had consequently lost their naval supremacy. As to the re- 697 spective powers of ships and forts, he knew that foreign commanders declared that they would have no hesitation in running the gauntlet of forts, each 1,000 yards apart, with an iron-clad ship. A young naval officer who took part on the Confederate side in the operations at Charleston, told him that if the Federals had only had ships as good as ours, and had known how to handle them properly, they could not have been kept out of the inner harbour. As it was, the Federals suffered more from the temporary obstructions thrown in their way, than from the permanent works. He held the fortifications now under consideration to be quite unadvisable as an unnecessary expenditure of the public money.
§ MR. NEWDEGATE
said, that they ought first to see what was required to be done, and then what they could afford to do. The question before the Committee was not one of mere science, for although science might prescribe a sufficient number of iron-plated ships to protect every port in the country, England would not bear the expense of maintaining a sufficient number of ships in commission to guard the whole coast constantly in that way. There could be no doubt, that if any attempts were made against this country in the way of invasion, descents or feints would be made on various parts of the coast at the same time. What they had to do was to provide for the protection of the whole coast, and that they could not do without forts, because these forts would diminish the number of ships necessary for the defence of Portsmouth, Plymouth, and the other centres of our naval strength, and every ship thus spared from the defence of Portsmouth or Plymouth would be available for the defence of other places. They might depend upon it that they could not give the required protection to the country more cheaply than by the construction of the maritime defences recommended by the Committee on the National Defences. It was idle to say that the power of artillery was not to be measured against the power of resistance possessed by forts. All the circumstances of the case must he taken into consideration in deciding upon a question of that nature. If they could, by the construction of forts, and by liberating a large number of iron-clad vessels, satisfy the people that they were providing for the defence of the coasts and outports, their feelings would be enlisted in favour of 698 the plan. The House might vote any practical sum for the construction of ironclad vessels; but the maintenance of ships with their crews, was a far greater and more constant expense than that of forts; the temper of the people might change, and then the value of having provided permanent defences would be manifest. The people would then see that Parliament had done what it could do for the defence of our shores, on the most economical terms, and would be content, if our harbours required additional defence, that more ships must be provided for the purpose.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that although he did not think a great many arguments had been used which required answering, he rose for the purpose of continuing the debate, because by-and-by 'when the dinner-hour had passed, they would probably have a lively and amusing speech from the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne), who was not over-fond of addressing himself to rows of empty benches. It had been said by the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) that nothing had happened since last year which should induce the House to change its opinions on the subject of forts. Now, although he did not rest very much upon the events which had taken place in America, yet he thought that what had occurred at Charleston told quite as much in favour of the views entertained by the Government as the occurrence in Hampton Roads last year between the Merrimac and the Monitor told against them. Charleston was in one or two things analogous to Spithead. The forts were the same distance apart. It was true the iron-clad vessels were not of the same quality as they would probably have to encounter, but he maintained that the artillery mounted on the Charleston forts was not of the same quality as that which would be mounted upon the proposed ports. He might also observe that it was perfectly competent to place obstructions at the entrances of English harbours considerably stronger than those put down at Charleston, and it was an entire misrepresentation of the recommendations of the Commissioners to say they proposed to neglect putting obstructions at the entrance of Portsmouth Harbour. The Committee ought to remember, moreover, that when the question was before the House last year, the Warrior target had not been penetrated at any distance greater than 200 yards. Such was no longer the case. Interesting experi- 699 ments had been made at Shoeburyness, and the following was an account of them from the Report of the Iron-plate Committee, of which the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield (Sir J. Hay) was Chairman:—The most conclusive experiment as yet made was on the 13th of November 1862, when the Whitworth 120-pounder rifled gun, at a range of 800 yards, sent two shells, each weighing 150 lb., and containing a bursting charge of 5 lb. of powder, completely through a box target of the Warrior section, bursting in the backing, and making a hole 7½ inches in diameter in the armour plate, and 10 inches in diameter in the inner skin, and throwing many fragments of iron inside, amounting after the first shell to eighteen bolt-heads, eight rivets, and eleven pieces of plate and angle iron; and after the second shell, to twelve bolt-heads, seven rivets, and five pieces of plate and skin. The first shell broke into twenty-three pieces, the second into nineteen. A shell weighing 130 lbs., with a bursting charge of 3 lb. 8 oz., penetrated the armour plate, and seemed to burst just as it broke the skin, making a large irregular hole 14 inches in diameter on the inside, and the whole of the fragments, nineteen in number, passed through to the inside; twelve bolt-heads, seven rivets, and a great many pieces of plate and skin were found inside in fragments. A solid shot weighing 130 lbs. completely penetrated the target, making a clean hole 8 inches in diameter in the armour plate.It had been said by the hon. Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne) that the gun burst afterwards. Not only that gun, but a great many other guns burst, but that fact only proved that those particular guns were not perfect. The experiment showed what a gun could do, and he might say that to prevent a gun from bursting the only thing was to put a little more metal in it. He understood that the Armstrong gun had not been tried at the same range; but no doubt, if it had, the effect would have been still more striking. The following on that point was a deduction from the Report of the Iron-plate Committee:—There is no doubt that a much greater effect would be produced with the Armstrong 300-pounder at the same range, and with a missile of the same description of metal. The velocity with which the Whitworth 120-pounder shell, fired with a charge of 27 lbs. of powder, struck the target, was 1,180 feet per second. The initial velocity of the Armstrong 300-pounder is about 1,300 feet per second, and allowing for a diminution of 100 feet in its flight through 800 yards, it would at that range have about the same velocity as the Whitworth 120-pounder, with two and a half times the weight of missile. There is, therefore, now no doubt whatever that at 1,000 yards, which is the greatest distance at which a ship can pass between the two outer Spithead forts, her sides could be pierced by projectiles from 300-pounder guns.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, he did not know, nor was it of any importance, seeing that the facts were indisputable. He had no doubt that the hon. and gallant Member for Wakefield would admit that the deduction was a perfectly correct one. Hon. and gallant Gentlemen had accused the Government of being as one-sided and narrow-minded as he would venture to say they were themselves upon the subject. It was, of course, very natural that naval officers should be of opinion that for attack or defence there was nothing like ships. Every officer was inclined to exaggerate the importance of his own particular branch. Neither the Commissioners nor the Government had ever recommended, that floating defences for their harbours and dockyards should be neglected. On the contrary, in their first Report the Commissioners asked leave to appoint, and they afterwards did appoint, a sub-Committee of naval officers to consider what was the best form in which such floating defences should be provided. The Government were not narrow-minded advocates of forts alone. All they recommended was, that a system of Forts should be combined with floating defences. If hon. Gentlemen would look over the evidence taken, they would find that with the single exception, he believed, of Captain Coles, there was not a witness who did not at least acknowledge that forts would be a valuable auxiliary. He said, then, that the opponents of forts were somewhat narrow-minded, because they saw no advantage whatever in anything but their favourite floating defences, and ignored the value of fixed forts when properly used. It might be said that they ought to trust to the navy alone, and that if the navy were made sufficiently strong, they would not want either fixed defences for their harbours or fortifications by land, or even Volunteers or militia force, and might reduce the army to the lowest possible amount. But if they were to trust to the navy alone, they must make it superior not only to the navy of any one other Power, but superior to the naval strength of any combination of Powers which might be brought against them. They must have a navy able to go to the strongholds of the enemy and destroy his fleets there—which would not be found so easy a thing to do, because other nations, wiser than they had 701 been, would have defended their arsenals, dockyards, and roadsteads by fortifications—or they must keep at sea a force equal to encounter any force which might meet it, and also maintain for the protection of their arsenals and dockyards a force equal to any force which might slip past their fleet and come in to attack them. Some hon. Members would, perhaps, be prepared to vote the increased Estimates that would be necessary to support a navy of that kind; but he did not think that the hon. Member for Rochdale, who was so angry at the scheme for fortifications, or any of his friends, would be inclined to do so. But, supposing such a large extension of the navy to take place, how would it he regarded by other States? However strictly defensive they might themselves deem it, it was to be feared that other Powers might view the naval preponderance it would give them as something in the nature of a menace. They might look upon it as some evidence of an intention to commit aggression, and therefore proceed to bring up their own navies to the same standard as that of England. If, then, the House were not ready enormously to increase the naval force, the most prudent and economical course was to adopt the system recommended by the opinions of the best professional advisers the Government had been able to obtain—namely, not to trust for the defence of the dockyards and roadsteads, which all acknowledged to be vital points, exclusively to the ships which they might at any moment be able to get together to resist an attack, nor either to trust to fortifications exclusively. The Government proposed to rely first and mainly on the navy, which must be their foremost line of defence; next they proposed to trust the defence of the arsenals also to the small and less expensive class of iron-clad floating batteries; but they likewise proposed to assist and strengthen these other means of defence by the erection of fixed batteries. His noble Friend did not wish to do anything to impair the efficiency of the navy. Let that arm of the service be kept up at as high a standard as they pleased. Yet that ought to be done out of the revenue of the year. No ships, of whatever materials constructed, could last for ever, or anything like it. Besides the first heavy cost of building them, they would have to meet a considerable annual expense for their repair. On the other hand, forts once erected, would permanently endure, and the outlay upon 702 them might, therefore, to a certain extent, be fairly thrown upon posterity. But to increase the navy in such a way would be to act upon a principle which they had never yet adopted, and which, he thought, the Committee would not be inclined to adopt then.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, that while be would admit that he was practically unacquainted with the details of the construction of forts for sea defence, he could not help arriving at the conclusion, from all the accounts he had seen, that the great garrison of Portsmouth was peculiarly exposed, and that there was practically no means of defence in the event of any sudden war taking place. Under those circumstances, be thought the Government were perfectly right, relying on the counsel of scientific advisers, in providing some means of defence for that most important post, even at the risk of incurring some necessary expense.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he was quite as anxious as his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) to see Portsmouth perfectly secure. At the same time, he wished that hon. Members could seethe works which already existed for the defence of the Solent. If they had seen them, they would not come to the conclusion that there was any want of protection in that quarter, inasmuch as there was a line of fortifications extending for several miles along the shore. There were several most powerful forts, such as Fort Monk ton, Black Horse, Eastney, Lump's, Fort Cumberland, Southsea Castle, &c., and he should be glad to know from any hon. Member what more was wanted for the defence of the Solent than was already provided; and if the works were so strong and so powerfully armed that vessels could not remain there within fair bombarding distance of the dockyard, was it, he would ask, likely that they would come there for the mere purpose of a bombardment? So far as the ranges at which targets had been hitherto pierced was concerned, it should be remembered that at Shoeburyness the targets were at right angles to the shot; but in the case of ships it would strike on a curved line, in which case it would generally fly off, and not penetrate. They had been for the last four years trying experiments, but they had not yet tried them at 1,000 yards, nor had they ascertained what the result would be of shot falling on a curved surface. Much had been said, as if it were supposed that an 703 enemy's ships would come in by daylight to attack Portsmouth; but would they not, he would ask, come in by dark, and if they did come in by dark, would they be likely to be seriously damaged by the fire of the proposed forts? It was proposed to have 360 guns in the Spithead forts, but it should be borne in mind that a great many of them would not bear at the same time on the same point. Then again, let the Committee consider the number of experienced artillerymen which would be required. They could not make good artillerymen in a hurry. It was a process which required time, and to strike vessels passing with any velocity would require most expert artillerymen. It was stated on the authority of Colonel Bingham, the Adjutant General of the Artillery, that they would require ten men to work each gun; and that being so, it was quite clear that there would be great difficulty in manning the forts with first-rate gunners. They were told that Charleston was to be a lesson to them, and that the battle there proved that ships could not force a passage. How was it to be a lesson to them? They were told, forsooth, that the guns at Fort Sumter were of a light character, and that they even had done good service. But they were 10-inch Columbiads and 8-inch Dahlgrens. The 8-inch Dahlgrens, they were told, would throw 68 lbs., and of course the 10-inch would throw shot of heavier weight. In the case of an attack on Portsmouth they would have ships heavily cased with armour, and they would have in the forts perhaps the largest Armstrongs and Whitworths which could be contrived; but it should not be forgotten that beyond a certain distance those guns would not act very injuriously on a vessel. They would wound her, no doubt, if she came in by daylight, but there were instances innumerable of wooden ships being repeatedly struck by an enemy's shot and still fighting on. For his own part, he ventured to say that the forts, however useful—and he did not mean to contend that they were of no use—would not be of a use commensurate with their cost. The noble Viscount had talked the other evening of libelling the Volunteers. So far from wishing to libel that force, he thought its establishment would prevent invasion, and supersede the necessity of constructing the expensive works of fortification now proposed by the Government. When the panic first seized the Government, the navy was in a most unsatisfactory state: they were about to reconstruct it. There 704 was no Militia. There were no Volunteers. Now they had a Volunteer force of 150,000; and those who had seen them under review must admit that they had made great progress, and were very efficient. What was of greater importance, the artillery was in an excellent condition. When Lord Hardinge was at the Ordnance as Master Genera), he reported to the Government that they had no field artillery. They had, in fact, only a very small number of guns fit for the field. Now, their artillery was most efficient. The few field guns they had then were inadequately horsed; now they were well horsed. Nothing in the world could surpass their artillery. They could, without the slightest difficulty, send 120 or 130 guns down to the sea coast in a few hours, and where was the enemy that could bring such an artillery force and land it for immediate action? Then, as to cavalry, the noble Lord knew what force they had in the country. Invasion he therefore held to be utterly out of the question. Bombardment was another thing. The bombardment of Portsmouth dockyard would not involve its destruction, but only that of storehouses in a limited degree. An enemy could not come into the Solent and remain there long. The Channel fleet might be dispersed for a time it is true, but they would speedily concentrate, and would run into the Solent and catch the enemy there. The enemy would also be exposed to the heavy guns along shore. The coast defences were armed with guns of the best description and the heaviest calibre. They had 13-inch mortars which ranged 5,000 to 6,000 yards, and no ships could long remain under their fire with impunity, and the harbour gunboats would assail them in force, and drive them from their anchorage. But the noble Marquess said those who supported the Amendment were narrow-minded; well, but the noble Marquess had himself voted for a similar proposition, he must therefore have met with advocates who had persuaded him to change his opinion. He hoped they would have another year to consider the matter. It did not press. There were other points, enough on which to expend the money the House was prepared to Vote. With regard to Woolwich, the noble Lord could not recently have read the Report of the Commission. There schemes were recommended which would cost £3,000,000, or £1,500,000, and £500,000 respectively. The latter sum was reported to be sufficient to construct a work on Shooter's 705 Hill, which would entirely prevent any hostile force getting into Woolwich, and would also act on the flank of an enemy marching upon London. He hoped it was not contemplated to remove the factories at Woolwich, which it would cost £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 to establish elsewhere. He trusted the plan of the Government was merely that stores as completed at Woolwich should be removed to Cannock Chase, or somewhere else inland, where they should be safe from a coup de main. The approach to Woolwich might be made perfectly secure. Batteries well placed in the narrow parts of the river Thames could stop ships, though they could not when the interval between the batteries on opposite shores exceeded 1,500 yards. He hoped some of the money in the schedule, instead of being applied to the proposed Spithead forts, would be applied to Woolwich, where the property was as valuable as at Portsmouth, and more likely to be destroyed. An enemy must be in possession of Portsmouth for some time to destroy the dockyard. It was extremely difficult, as shown in the case of Sebastopol, to destroy solid masonry wharf and dock walls. It required great art and considerable time. He thought he had stated strong reasons why Government should not press forward these forts. If asked whether Chatham had any influence with him, he would admit that it had a great influence; because Chatham might be made secure without difficulty and at a comparatively very small expense, because it was clear that an inland dockyard must be more secure than a dockyard on the seaboard. He should certainly vote with the hon. Baronet who had proposed the reduction of the Vote. He did not doubt the accuracy of the Estimates, which he knew had been very carefully prepared. His hon. Friend had spoken of difficulty about the foundations, but he did not think that there was any difficulty in that respect which engineering skill could not surmount, and he knew that before the plans were matured very precise soundings were taken. At the same time, he hoped the noble Lord would see that the moment had not arrived for the construction of these forts, for that moment could only arrive when our navy had ceased to be as formidable as that of France. One word more. The question of the probable issue of engagements between ships and shore batteries was often not clearly stated, and sometimes not understood. As a general rule, it might be received, that iron-clad vessels, with the tide 706 in their favour, could run past within range of any battery, however heavily armed; but that if they could be detained for any length of time opposite to a formidable shore battery within eight or nine hundred yards, they would receive serious injury, unless they could be rendered shot and shell proof. Again, in an action between an iron-clad vessel at anchor or under weigh and heavy guns ashore, the advantage would be with the latter, if protected by iron shot proof parapets; and the more especially if the shore guns, instead of being placed in one battery, were separated, and placed in two or three contiguous batteries; and with this arrangement the result would be in favour of the shore armament whatever the range might be.
§ MR. BONHAM-CARTER
said, he thought the speech of the hon. and gallant Member, so far from being against the forts, offered the best apology for them. One argument advanced was, the great improvement in artillery, which would enable the land forts to fire 300-pounders with a range that would make it very dangerous for a fleet to run in. But that was an argument in favour of those forts which could fire 300-pounders at a less distance. Then again, it was said that each gun would require ten skilled artillerymen, who would require at least eighteen months' training; but he thought that only two or three of the men at each gun would require to be so highly trained. But much of the opposition to the forts was based upon the assumption that all conditions would be favourable to an enemy, and that there should be nothing but these forts to resist an attack. It was argued that vessels running twelve knots an hour would incur no great risk, and that moreover the attack would be made in the darkness of night. That, of course, was assuming that all their own vessels were absent, and that an enemy had such entire command of the sea as to choose the day or night at his pleasure without any interference on our part. But in fact the power of the navy would be increased by the construction of these forts. It was said that their ships ought to be watching Cherbourg or any port in which a hostile force might be collected, and they would be so employed. What would be needed at home would be floating batteries to defend the fair way, and of course vessels of that kind would be provided according to the Commissioners' recommendation. The range of guns was continually increasing, and ha found that for every additional 707 100 yards' range an additional area of 120 acres was covered. It had also been argued, that if wooden ships could run by forts, so much more easily could iron ships do so. But the latest experience showed, that while a shot striking a wooden vessel seldom inflicted any injury greater than could be remedied by plugging, a shot striking an iron plate damaged the whole plate and caused it to "buckle." In America an iron-plated vessel had recently been disabled by five shots. In the modern iron ships there were turrets or other contrivances to protect the gunners; but a single shot would be sufficient to damage the machinery of the turret and to render it immovable. Thus, although there might be less loss of life on board iron ships, the fire from forts might do them greater injury. Another fact in favour of forts was that they were a greater evidence of a desire for peace than ships, which might be used for aggressive purposes; and, manned as they probably would be to a great extent by Volunteers, they would be in strict conformity with the Volunteer motto, "Defence, not defiance."
§ MR. BERNAL OSBORNE
I apprehend that the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Finsbury does not call upon the House altogether to refuse the Vote, but to suspend the consideration of it for the present. I must beg to point out that this is a totally new question. It is true, that on the 4th of April 1862 a Motion was made to suspend the consideration of this question until we had further experience of the effects of improved gunnery and iron-plated ships. I have never myself denied that the protection of our dockyards against attack from sea should be the first consideration in providing defences. But the Government have not given us any plan to prove the immediate necessity for the erection of these forts, and my complaint has been, and is, that the Committee is not in possession of any evidence to warrant them in wasting these enormous sums of money, and that no reasons have been given by the noble Marquess the Under Secretary why he should now term narrow-mind ed the arguments which were used last year when he supported me in two divisions. These forts were suspended in April last year in deference to the almost unanimous wish of the House, and in the month of July in the present year, when the edge of the Session has been taken off, the noble Lord comes down to the House and asks us to vote for 708 these forts, without showing any reason for a change of views. The noble Lord appears to have totally forgotten that the Commissioners to whom the question was referred back said, that, under all the circumstances, the doubt which appeared to have taken possession of the public mind as to the expediency of the two forts at Spithead was not unreasonable. If the Commissioners acknowledge that it is not unreasonable for the House to doubt whether these forts should be erected or not, it is not unreasonable to suspend operations until we know more of improved cannon and iron-plated ships. My objection is that the estimate is incorrect and imperfect. When the forts were first projected, the Commissioners recommended the construction of five forts. For some reason, unknown to the House, the number has been reduced to three. The total estimate for the defences of Portsmouth, including five forts, was £1,192,000. But the forts were to be formed of granite alone. What do they propose to do now? They propose to reduce the forts from five to three, and to have the forts of granite faced with 10-inch wrought-iron plates. I say that the addition of the iron plates will double, if not treble, the cost, and that there is no correct plan and no correct estimate of these forts.
I was surprised to hear from a gallant Officer opposite (Sir J. Fergusson), not a criticism on the forts, but a laboured, long, and tedious criticism of the book of my hon. Friend, and I was surprised to hear him use extraordinary terms. He talked of garbling evidence. I think I never heard an instance of garbling evidence more glaring than that with which the hon. and gallant Member favoured the Committee tonight. He quoted Captain Hewlett as an authority in favour of these forts, and he stopped at question 250. He should have read question 252. Captain Hewlett is an officer who was in command of the Excellent, and must necessarily have a better idea of gunnery than any other man. To show what a tremendous garbler the hon. and gallant Member, who talks of garbling evidence, is, I will just read question 252. Captain Hewlett is asked whether, supposing the largest possible sum to be granted, he would not appropriate a part of it to permanent defences, and he says, "I am not sure that forts would be of sufficient service to warrant any large sum being spent upon them."
The additional reasons given for resum- 709 ing the works at Spithead are two. The first is the Charleston attack. The reason of the noble Under Secretary closely resembles the reason of Fluellen—that Mace-don and Monmouth were very much alike. There was a river in both, and salmons in both rivers. What similarity is there between Charleston and Portsmouth? I am advised that the approaches are entirely different. The approaches to Charleston are circuitous. The distance between Port Moultrie and Fort Sumter is 1,700 yards. The distance between the two Spithead forts is 2,200 yards—a most material difference in considering this question. Charleston is not a naval arsenal. At Portsmouth there must necessarily be free ingress for ships. At Charleston, I am told, the entrance was blocked up, only leaving sufficient entrance for a single ship. At Spithead the entrance is quite straight, with a tide-way three miles broad, and ten fathoms' depth of water. The Commissioners say expressly that it is not physically possible to impede the entrance without the risk of destroying the harbour. The hon. and gallant Gentleman, who imputes garbling to my hon. Friend, says, "Why not lay down a boom;" and it seems to be assumed that this House will have no regard to what money is spent. As to the cost of a boom the Commissioners say—The cost of a barrier of this description, without the battery, 2,200 yards long, is shown by the estimate accompanying the plan to be nearly £508,035, including the shore moorings; with the battery, irrespective of the guns and their fittings, the cost would be £761,717. The Committee do not believe that floating barriers, affording great probability of success when attacked, or of withstanding the stress of weather to which they would be subjected, could be constructed at a less cost than the sums estimated for the Channel between the Horse and No-man's-land shoals at Spithead, upon which the Committee understand it is intended to erect powerful forts; and at high water there would still be a broad passage of sufficient depth for the largest vessels between each of the shoals and the land, which, unless blocked up, would render the floating barriers useless.No one is so mad as to propose to block up the channel at Spithead, which must always be a place of anchorage, and the Commissioners prove that it is impossible to block up the channel without you block up the harbour altogether. So much for the likeness between Charleston and Portsmouth.
Let us see what was the powerful Federal fleet which attacked Charleston, and what was the armament and what the speed. This Federal fleet consisted of 710 only ten vessels, and their armament was Dahlgren guns—very inferior to any guns which we have; and the speed, having no masts or sails, was not more than seven knots an hour, and the plating was of the worst possible construction, being of various thicknesses of iron, bolted together, such as we have reported against long ago. Is this the sort of fleet which you would expect to attack Spithead? By an ingenious contrivance the Federal ships were all made stationary within a range of 500 yards, and, of course, the forts punished them at their leisure, and the result of the firing from the ships was that only one man was killed and nine wounded in the forts. So much for the Charleston argument.
Let us come now to the "great gun" argument, which, after all, is the first point for the Committee to consider. I am ready to grant, if the noble Lord has got a gun which will pierce a vessel in motion at 1,000 yards, my argument is gone, and you may build the forts at once. But first catch your hare, and you have not caught it yet. I deny that you have got a gun which will pierce a moving object at 1,000 yards. We have gone to an enormous expense in these guns. I believe I am under the mark in saying that we have spent £3,000,000, and I believe that at this present moment you have not got a gun above a 40-pounder of which you can say that you know what it is worth. I believe all those Armstrong 100-pounders are given up now even by the Government, and acknowledged to be failures. What does the Duke of Somerset say. He says—I used to think that no plates could resist the rifled guns; but I have changed that opinion. We have found that they are not so effective as we supposed, and that we must arm our ships with heavy smooth-bore guns, the velocity of which at 200 yards is much greater." [3 Hansard, clxvi. 442.]I will ask the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty this—Is there a captain who would go to sea with a broadside of these Armstrong guns, except merely as chase guns? We have heard a good deal of the trial of the Whitworth and Armstrong guns, and I have here the account given by the special reporter of The Times of this trial, which is really worth the attention of the Committee. The Whitworth gun was a 70-pounder, and was placed at a distance of 600 yards. The Armstrong gun, a 120-pounder, was placed at 800 yards; it had been wished to place it at 1,000 yards, but this would have re- 711 quired it to be placed in a proximity supposed to be dangerous to a clergyman's house. The experiments began with the 120-pounder, and—Nearly an hour was consumed in trial shots at a wooden target in order to lay the gun properly, which led to curious conjectures as to what the Warrior, steaming at fourteen knots would have been about with her guns while such a battery was trying to hit her.Is not that conclusive? Here they were an hour getting the range for a fixed object, and yet they tell us that at 1,000 yards these forts, armed with these guns, are to hit and destroy vessels in motion. The 70-pounder was fired first, and here is what the reporter says of the effect—As soon as the stifling smoke allowed an examination of the interior of the target, it was seen that the shell had passed completely through the plate, the eighteen inches of teak backing, and inner skin of iron, bursting inside. The bursting, however, seemed to have taken place too soon and while the shell was still in the armour-plate, as the base or heel of the shell was fired out backwards and fell in front of the target, while the fragments that penetrated through appeared to have been deprived of their force, and fell almost harmless in what may be called the between decks. The surrounding timbers inside certainly bore no signs of damage worth speaking of. Of course, the splinters must have flown about with violence, and the concussion of the explosion must have been tremendous; but as evidence of the shattering effect of the shell between decks there was little or nothing to be seen.This is the account of an experiment which was said to be successful, but which I believe was no success at all. I hope the chairman of the Iron-plate Committee (Sir John Hay), whom I see opposite, will give us his opinion of these experiments; and if he can tell us that he is perfectly satisfied of their success, I have no doubt the Committee will consent at once to the building of these forts. Then there is a similar account of the Armstrong gun, which is claimed to be such a wonderful achievement. Does the noble Lord, who now that he has got on that bench seems to have forgotten the vote he formerly gave on this subject, and the reasons for it, know what these guns cost? He treats that part of the subject very lightly. Is he aware that a 600-pounder Armstrong gun costs as much as £4,000? He says we will go on making guns, and at last we shall get one that will do all we want. When you have got an effective gun, I say then you may build your forts, but not before. The noble Lord treats very lightly, too, the fact that one of these guns was disabled, but I believe that in no instance 712 with these charges of 50 lb. of powder can you rely on these guns not being, like the elephants of old, as dangerous to your own men as to the enemy. The House is at present called on to go blindfold into this question. You have spent £3,000,000, but you have not got a weapon which would justify you in building these forts; and you have had experiments, the results of which warn you against going into expense such as that which is now proposed. I entreat the Committee to pause. Nothing will be lost by delaying this Vote a little until you have more successful experiments. We are rushing now into expense of which we cannot see the end, and I hope the Committee will join with me in an endeavour to stop this expenditure before it is too late.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
said, he wished to say a few words in support of the proposition of the Government. He agreed in the opinion that the great naval arsenals should be made as safe as possible. He thought that the result of the great gun question, as the hon. Member for Liskeard had termed it, had shown that the course taken by the Government was that pointed out by prudence, and that it would end in success. The hon. Member had asked how it was that there were to be only three, instead of five forts, and the answer was that since guns had been made more effective for greater distances the three forts would be as useful as the five would have been with inferior guns. His hon. Friend (Sir Frederic Smith) seemed jealous in reference to the attention bestowed upon Portsmouth, as compared with Chatham. The introduction of steam into ships of war had rendered Chatham dockyard a place of much more importance than it used to be, but it must he borne in mind that in the event of a war the first thing would be to get the command of the Channel, and Portsmouth in reference to that object would necessarily be of more importance than Chatham could possibly be. The great object was to make forts do the work of ships at Spithead. He thought that they might go too far in having harbours of refuge minutely defended; such harbours should be commanded by a battery, but more should not be attempted to be done. They might, in his opinion, clearly do too much at Dover and at Portland, but not at Plymouth, Portsmouth, of Chatham. They could not make the great arsenals too secure. He was sorry to observe that Woolwich had, somehow or other, dropped out of those proposed. He 713 believed that in reference to the defence of the country Shooter's Hill was a very important point to fortify. The Duke of Wellington had said, that he never could consider the capital of this country as a certain number of acres covered with houses, but that Woolwich, containing their means of defence, was the real capital of the country. He should have liked to see a proposal for Woolwich; but approving the scheme of the Government as far as it went, he should give his vote in its favour.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Every hon. Member of this House is likely to agree with my hon. Friend who spoke last, that however important Chatham may be, after all our great naval arsenal is Portsmouth; and therefore, as a primary condition, Portsmouth ought to be fortified. I listened very carefully to the arguments of my hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard (Mr. Bernal Osborne). As I understand, he is of opinion that our case is made out if we have guns sufficiently heavy to stop iron-cased ships from coming in between these two forts; and that if my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wakefield (Sir J. Hay) says there is a probability of our having guns that will strike at a thousand yards, that would be a strong argument in favour of those forts. My hon. Friend who brought this Motion forward says it may be necessary hereafter to build these forts; but let us wait. What does he want to wait for? We have had certain experiments with regard to those guns; and I can assure the hon. Gentleman and the Committee that I have it from artillery officers who are residing at Shoe-buryness, and who are engaged in carrying on those experiments, that they confidently believe you will yet have a 300-poun-der gun which will do more than my hon. Friend requires. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: Have you them now?] You must remember that a series of experiments are going on; and here I may observe that not one of these guns have burst. The danger of cast-iron guns is that they burst and kill the men who are serving them. The consequence is that men are afraid of them, and the bursting of one gun may lose you a battle. But these new guns have not burst.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
No; I quite agree with my hon. Friend that guns have been disabled in those experiments; 714 but my hon. Friend has no right to argue from the circumstance that certain flaws have shown themselves after very heavy firing that we will not get over our difficulties. At present the material in the inside of those guns is iron; but it is believed, that if the chambers be made of steel, you will get over the difficulty of those guns cracking—for, mind you, they do not burst, and not a man would have been hurt by them, even if the firing had been continued. I believe you will have those guns brought to a state of great perfection. In the mean time you must take something for granted on the opinion of those artillery officers; and assuming that they will produce, as they expect to do, a 300-pounder, or even a 600-pounder gun which will fulfil all the duties required of it, I ask the Committee to consider what position we are in. Will any one tell me that Spithead is in such a state of defence as it should be, when a frigate coming in there by night could shell the dockyard? Is that a state of things we ought to be satisfied with? I think the Committee has been misled by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Chatham. He says that there are guns at the Isle of Wight and other places which would prevent ships from bombarding Portsmouth harbour, [Sir FREDERIC SMITH: Which would prevent them from lying at anchor in Portsmouth harbour.] I contend that there are no shells and mortars to prevent a ship from lying there and shelling the dockyard. The proposed forts will be 2,200 yards apart, and consequently I admit that a ship may pass in at a distance of 1,100 yards from either side. But a Whitworth gun has already pierced a 7½-inch plate, I think it was, at a distance of 800 yards, with a velocity in round numbers of 1,200 feet per second. We have every reason to believe that a gun will be produced to carry a 300 lb. shot at the same velocity; and, from its additional weight, the projectile fired from such a gun will have a much greater penetrating force. The shot of the Whitworth gun penetrated at the distance which has been stated, and a shell also penetrated. I admit that the latter did not do any great damage within, but it was the first shell tried, and it is intended to make great improvements. Already there is this fact—that you have a gun which at 800 yards has pierced a 7½ inch plate, the thickness of the armour-plates on the iron-plated vessels being about five inches; and those artillery officers have 715 every confidence that a 300-pounder gun will be able to do at 1,500 yards what your present gun does at 800 yards. If you are able to pierce an armour-plated ship at 1,500 yards, it will be impossible for a ship to lie at Spithead and shell the dockyard without being at the mercy of the forts. My hon. Friend the Member for Liskeard puts it that a ship might succeed in making her way in; but before going into a place we all of us are in the habit of seeing how we are to get out; and I think any ship would hare been pretty roughly handled before she succeeded in passing those forts, and when in she would probably meet with one or two floating batteries. What is to happen to the enemy's ship when she tries to go out again? Why did not we go into Sebastopol or Cronstadt? Because we knew it was probable that we should never come out again, those places having been wisely fortified. Sebastopol supplies one of the strongest proofs of the importance of both land and sea defences. If the Russians had fortified the place on the land side, as they ought to have done, how many thousand more lives would have been lost in taking it? But they had the wisdom to erect forts on the sea shore, and the consequence was, we were never able to take them. Let the Committee look at what is going on elsewhere. Every point of the French coast of any importance is defended, or is in process of protection; and are we to neglect this precaution, relying on our naval prestige, and trusting solely to our fleet? Let the Committee remember the difference which exists between the state of things now and that which existed in our last war. We had a powerful fleet, and could blockade a French port—that is to say, if the wind was on shore we knew that the enemy's fleet could not come out, and that we might then keep away; while, if the wind was off the shore, we kept close up and prevented them from coming out. But in these days of steam I defy anything like an efficient blockade to be maintained; for it is impossible that you may not at one time or other find that the enemy has got out before you are aware of it. Is it not wise, then, to leave an important arsenal in such a state, that if your fleet is in search of the enemy, you may have the satisfaction of knowing that that arsenal is safe?
A good deal has been said of the comparison between Charleston and Spithead, and my hon. Friends have declared that unless you can put stakes across the en- 716 trance to the harbour you can offer no obstruction to an enemy's squadron. But there is no greater mistake in the world. I believe that stakes would be useless against these powerful ships; but what would obstruct them is floating coils of rope on the surface of the water, which would foul their screws. And this you could do with effect between the proposed forts. My hon. Friend (Mr. Bernal Osborne) says that you would then have no entrance for your own ships. But is the hon. Gentleman who was so long at the Admiralty so utterly ignorant as not to know that a private passage is always kept up in such cases, and that there are always certain marks by which a single ship can be steered backwards and forwards? That was the case at Sebastopol. A frigate from that harbour came right out in the midst of us. But we did not know the passage in, and the consequence was, that what with the obstructions and the forts, nobody would venture in, and very wisely. The House has already determined, once for all, to make our harbours secure. The people of this country have confidence that the House of Commons is going to make our harbours secure, and the consequence is that we hear no more of panics. I say that by the measures we are now proposing we are going to put a stop to these panics; but the longer you delay, the more expensive the completion of these works will be. If these fortifications have to be constructed, let us construct them at once, and put the country in a state of security. Do not let us wait until the French, or somebody else, come upon us. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: Wait for a gun.] I would almost engage that by the time the forts are finished there will be a gun ready for them. Well, then, my hon. Friend complains that this is not a correct estimate, and says that ten inches thickness of iron would not be sufficient. But in ships we are limited to a certain weight of gun, and therefore you have only got to make a fort of such a strength that it will resist the guns of the ship, not the guns of the fort. Of the guns which a ship can carry, there will probably not be one which will send a shot through a ten-inch plate. The estimate made with regard to these forts is therefore a sufficient one. [Mr. BERNAL OSBORNE: What is the estimate?] My hon. Friend will see it in the shedule. Bear in mind this also—that the Channel is full of merchant ships; and what is to become of them if at Spithead you cannot protect them? Assuming that 717 our fleet was at sea in search of an enemy, you would have hundreds of ships putting into Spithead for shelter, and there is nothing to stop a smart officer from going in with two or three men-of-war, and bringing out your merchant ships by the dozen. All these are things to be looked to while we are at peace. I do hope that the Committee, after having undertaken this great work, will not forfeit the good opinion of the country by now stopping these fortifications, which the House approved two years since by a large majority.
§ SIR JOHN HAY
said, that he was unwilling that the Committee should go to the vote before he had said a few words on the question. The object of the forts at Spithead, as he understood it, was first to defend Portsmouth arsenal and dockyard from bombardment, and secondly to protect their merchantmen or their fleet, if inferior to that of the enemy. The forts were to be placed 2,000 yards apart, there being three of them, and it had been shown that with no gun which then existed would it be possible to impede the entrance of an ironclad ship. The noble Lord said last year that certain persons had promised him that by-and-by a gun would be forthcoming for this purpose. But though a gun might be effective at long ranges, the use of such exceptional charges that nobody would stand near while the gun was being fired, led with perfect certainty to its being eventually disabled. Practically, the 50 lb. charges were totally useless. On a very recent occasion at Shoeburyness a gun which was fired with that charge was disabled, and he had understood the noble Lord, who was with him on that occasion, to agree that a 35 lb. charge was the utmost that would be used for these guns. The fact was that those exceptional charges were not safe to be used with any gun as yet constructed, whether a breech or a muzzle loader, whether constructed by Whitworth or Armstrong. Even the gun named after his hon. Friend (Mr. Horsfall), which did wonders at 800 yards, succumbed to the enormous charges which were requisite. These ranges had never exceeded 800 yards, and yet 1,100 was the range which it would be necessary to gain from the forts in order to secure the penetration of an iron-clad ship. Now, he did not see that there was any possibility of obtaining that range, according to any knowledge which they had of modern artillery. If he saw any possibility of a gun with such a range being constructed, he should retain 718 the opinion he held some years ago, that the Report of the Commissioners was a desirable one. At the same time, it should be remembered, that when that Report was made, the fleet entering Portsmouth was supposed to be a wooden one, and a wooden fleet would be set on fire by such forts. Neither the noble Lord nor any other officer who commanded a ship in the Black Sea thought it advisable to go into Sebastopol harbour, because the converging fire from the forts would have sunk his ship. With an iron-clad ship, however, there was nothing in the position of the proposed forts to prevent an enterprising officer from passing between them and entering the roads of Spithead. Then they had guns which, 1,500 yards outside the forts, would throw shell into the dockyard, while there was not a gun which would penetrate ships at 1,500 yards. Ships, then, could lie and attack the dockyards with impunity, and the forts were therefore not a sufficient protection for the dockyard or for the merchantmen assembled at Spithead. For that reason he should oppose that portion of the schedule which related to the Spithead forts.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
It seems to me that the balance of argument is completely on the side of those who are for the erection of these forts. Even the argument of those who support the Motion couples the forts with floating batteries. But when we had to determine what we should propose to Parliament we thought that the floating defences, being of a perishable nature, ought to be provided for by annual Votes, and therefore we did not include them in the arrangement which we made for permanent works only. But it never was contemplated by anybody to rely entirely upon forts alone. The proposal which we made and make now is for the combined use of forts and floating defences, and I have not heard a single Member supporting the Motion of my hon. Friend who does not say that forts may be very useful, but they think there should be floating defences also. Well, that is just what we say, and therefore in this respect there is no difference between the two parties. But they say, "The thing is useful; don't do it; delay till Heaven knows when." We, on the contrary, say, "This is a thing of considerable importance; do it in time; make hay while the sun shines, and don't wait till the moment arrives when the forts will be wanted for use." Arguing, therefore, on the as- 719 sumption that our proposal consists of having both forts and floating defences, the question arises whether those forts would not be useful as supports to the floating defences. Hon. Gentlemen say, "Trust entirely to your navy." But that argument has been refuted by every person who has spoken on the other side of the question, because we have shown that to maintain a permanent defensive floating force for Portsmouth would require that your navy should be not merely superior to the navy of any other country, but you should be in superior force everywhere—at Portsmouth, at Plymouth, in the Channel, in the Mediterranean, in every place in which your adversary might concentrate a large force for offensive operations. But that is impossible. Your floating force is liable to be called from one place to another, and therefore you cannot depend on having that force superior to the force of the enemy on every possible point. But then it is said, "You have not guns of sufficient range to penetrate iron-cased vessels at a distance of 1,000 yards." But, in the first place, you are assuming that the ships passing between the Horse Sand and No Man's Land would go so accurately in the middle between the two forts that they would be exposed to only an equal fire from the two. But that is not an easy thing to do. It might, perhaps, be done by a few vessels, but not by a considerable force attempting to go through. Suppose a large flotilla attempted to get through, and they tried to place themselves so as not to be much exposed to the fire from the forts, and that a floating force was sent to encounter them, between the fire from the latter, and from the forts they might get into a very embarrassing position. Well, it is said, "You cannot hit a moving body." But that is not the fact. It is a well-known practice of gunnery to fire from a moving body to a fixed object, which is equivalent to firing at a moving object from a fixed body. A ship going at the rate of twelve knots an hour would move at the rate of about a mile in five minutes, and a shot moving with the velocity of 1,200 feet in a second would go a mile in some four seconds. The difference of velocities being so great, what would happen? At the distance of 1,000 yards, if you aimed at the bow of a ship, you would hit the body before she had moved the whole of her own length. There is therefore no difficulty in the matter. The 720 hon. and gallant Member says, "What a number of artillerymen would be wanted. You would require ten men to each gun." But the hon. and gallant Gentleman knows very well, that if you have two trained artillerymen for each gun, you have all you want. The great labour is the handspike work and moving the guns, and those who have to load soon acquire skill sufficient to perform that operation. Well, then, I hold that all the arguments in favour of protecting our dockyards go to show that those forts are, and must be, an essential part of any arrangements made for the defence of Portsmouth. It was said the other day, "Look to your sea defences. Don't trouble yourselves about defending Portsmouth from the land side." An hon. and gallant Officer said that the batteries from Cumberland Fort, Southsea Castle, and other points, with the cross fire from the batteries of the Isle of Wight, would command Spithead. But the distance from those points is rather more than three miles; and if the fire from our guns should crose halfway, the distance of the Spithead forts being only 2,000 yards apart, that surely would be much more effectual. I think really the case is so clear that I cannot have a doubt as to the decision of the Committee, and I trust that decision will be arrived at by such a majority as to show that the House is of the same opinion as the nation, and that both are determined that the chief dockyard and arsenal of the country shall be properly defended.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Schedule."
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes 135; Noes 52: Majority 83.
§ SIR FRANCIS GOLDSMID
said, he wished to ask for an explanation of the increase in the expenditure as compared with the estimate for the works on the Western Heights at Dover.
THE MARQUESS OF HARTINGTON
said, that the expenditure on the works on the eastern side of Dover was considerably less than the estimate; but the works on the western side greatly exceeded the estimated cost, in consequence of large expenses having been incurred, owing to the soil having been found to be of a different nature to what was anticipated.
§ Schedule agreed to.
§ House resumed.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow, at Twelve of the Clock.