HC Deb 20 March 1865 vol 177 cc1924-45

said, that he rose to call the attention of the House to the possibility of a war with America, and to the absence of guns capable of protecting our coasts from the aggressions of a maritime power. It appeared to him that this country was not in a state to meet the occurrence of a war. It was a most dangerous thing to be without preparation. If they looked back to the last American war they would find that the disasters which happened were entirely caused by want of preparation. We had not ships, we had not guns, we had not crews to cope with those of the Americans. The consequence was that we lost frigate after frigate in the early part of the war, and the desertions of our sailors to the Americans were numerous. Just when the war was ending things were brought to the state of organization in which they ought to have been at the commencement. Look again at the difficulties with which Wellington had to contend at the time of the Peninsular war for want of preparation at home; if it had not been for the gigantic energy of the man the difficulties interposed might have proved almost insuperable. Wellington, at the end of the war, left an army complete in every department, such as England had probably never seen before, and which was admirable for the construction of its commissariat and of its waggon train. But what was done when that war was concluded? We let all the arrangements of Wellington go to the wall. We did not carry out any of the arrangements which he had made. The commissariat disappeared, the waggon train no longer existed. Nothing was talked of but paring down the army in order that the Estimates might cut a good figure in that House. Again, when the Crimean war broke out our Government was found unprepared. If anybody ever deserved to be impeached it was the Government of that day for their want of preparation, The disasters which befell the gallant British army on that occasion were without the least excuse. That fine body of men were left to die in the Crimea from actual starvation and privations, and the horses actually ate their own tails. Therefore, he felt it his duty to call the attention of the House to what the condition of the country would be if we were to drift into a war with America. It seemed to him possible, and even probable, that we might tide into a war with America. He must say he thought the American people were under a deep debt of gratitude to the Government and Houses of Legislature of this country for the perfect neutrality which they had preserved. If we had taken the part of the Confederates we should not only have been able to command the safety of the Canadas, but we should have stopped that spirit of "filibustering" which marked the Americans; we should have put a stop to the atrocious Monro doctrine, which was opposed to all International Law, and to civilization and civil liberty. A Federal American said to him the other day, "You could have thrashed us out of the shape of a nation if you had stood by the Confederates." He hoped the Americans would | feel the deep debt of gratitude they owed to us for having acted thus. He confessed he could not help thinking that we had taken that course which might eventually lead us into war. We were allowing the Federals to enslave the Confederates under pretence of freeing the blacks, and we might disgust both parties, and induce them to join their forces in order to attack the Canadas. If war should occur, in what state were we who had not a gun to our back? Our guns had been properly described by the Americans as mere pea shooters compared with theirs. What was the use of our 8-inch guns against 11-inch guns? Suppose there were war, and that the Kearsage, with her 11-inch pivot guns were off our shores, what would be the state of our ports? We had not a fort armed with a gun fit to beat off this sloop of war. We had nothing of the sort throughout England. What was the use of an 8-inch gun against an 11-inch gun, or Sir William Armstrong's toys? The Volunteer Artillery were men able to take their part in defending their native shores; they were well instructed in gun duty, and they wanted nothing but guns; but where were the guns? They were armed with old 18-pounders; and what was the use of these or the 24-pounders against 11-inched rifled guns carrying enormous shells? Perhaps he would be told that it was not wanted that the Artillery Volunteers should have guns of their own, that they only received playthings for the purpose of drill at present, but that when a war and invasion occurred they would then be put behind those notable fortifications in which the noble Lord at the head of the Government so much rejoiced; but in modern warfare every military man that he had met with said those fortifications would be worth nothing. All the Volunteer Artillery were to be put behind walls, but with regard to a war with America this would not do. It was not the invasion of this country, but the danger to British property and our trade, that was to be apprehended. Our harbours and roadsteads, where merchant ships might seek refuge, ought to be protected with an adequate gun, but we had yet to find that gun. Notwithstanding all the farce of trials between Armstrong and Whitworth, we had not an effective gun, though the trials had lasted five years. Lords of the Admiralty and officers of the Ordnance went down to Shoeburyness, but returned just as wise as they went about the experiments. Had other Governments taken the same course? They had not. Ours was the only Government that seemed to think we ought to rest satisfied without any defence at all till this farce had been played out. The answer constantly was, "You must wait for Armstrong or Whitworth." What excuse could be offered for leaving our shores and harbours unprotected when, at the very small expense of rifling our 32-pounder guns, we might command the protection of our harbours. There had been offers to rifle guns at a very small cost, and he wished to know why that had not been done? Because Sir William Armstrong would not have it so. They must look to Sir William Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth to know what was to be done. If we did glide into a war, we should have the cost of it doubled, besides suffering all that disaster and disgrace which must follow such bad management. In Bristol there was an admirable corps of riflemen, commanded by an excellent officer. There was likewise an admirable corps of artillery, commanded also by an admirable artillery officer, his hon. Friend the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir W. Miles) could testify to that. Nothing could be more effective than both these corps. What had they got to practise upon? They had two or three old 18-pounder ship guns, which would not knock an old duck off her nest. They had also had presented to them four rifled 9-pounders, their range being about double that of the 18-pounders; and those latter pop guns were to do the work of defending the entrance to the port. There was a battery erected at the entrance of the port upon which large sums of money had been expended, but it was not adequately armed or supported for the protection of the trade. In the event of a war with America the same thing would probably occur in regard to Bristol as had taken place during the last American war when the enemy came into the Irish Channel, and were engaged uninterruptedly for two or three days destroying British property before a proper ship of war was sent round by the British Government to protect mercantile interests. He had heard old merchants say that they then expected to see the Americans in King Roads, making havoc among our ships, and that if they had gone there they might have done as they pleased. If that could have been done then before the use of steam it could be done with greater ease now, and it was doubly necessary to guard against it. He only mentioned these facts to show how deeply necessary it was for us to be prepared against such a contingency. He had brought the question of guns and the armaments of our coasts under the consideration of the House, and he trusted that some hon. and gallant Gentlemen more competent to speak upon this subject would rise in their places and say that he had at least made out a case for the consideration of the Government.


said, that he thought the hon. Gentleman was quite right in calling the attention of the House to the probability of a war with America, and to the defenceless state of our coasts. He (Mr. Peacocke) could not think that the probability of a war with America had been at all diminished in consequence of the remarks made in the course of the debate upon Canada. He must say he heard those remarks with infinite regret. He believed it was not the mode of avoiding a war with a powerful and unscrupulous neighbour to tell him that we were unable to defend our colony, which was likely in such an event to be the first attacked. He did not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Calne (Mr. Lowe) was a good authority upon military matters.


said, it was against the Rules of the House to refer to anything said in a previous debate.


observed, that he had not said that those remarks had occurred in the course of a debate in that House. Well, he would simply say he heard that it had been stated, he would not say where or by whom, that Canada could not be defended by this country. It appeared to him that such statements were calculated to depress the courage and ability of the Natives to defend themselves, and he also believed that to tell the United States that we were unable to defend our colonies was not the way of warding off aggression from that country. At all events, he thought that they might consider the possibilities of a war with America, and that they could fairly argue as to the probabilities of such a war only by looking at the language used by the Ministers of America, as well as that of other authorities there. He would not allude to the wordy rhetoric of the multitude, but to the language used by persons in high authority in America. We heard the other day that General Dix, while commanding the Federal troops on the borders of Canada, absolutely ordered a force to violate the soil of Canada and to seize the refugees who had sought an asylum in that country. It was true the United States Government had not quite endorsed the language of General Dix, but it was equally true that General Dix was still retained in the command of the army upon the frontier. Again, on another occasion, in the harbour of Bahia, a pirate of the name of Collins, for he (Mr. Peacocke) could call him by no other name, thought fit to steal into the harbour at the dead of the night, and to sweep with grape shot an undefended and, he might almost say, unarmed vessel; to attach a hawser to her and drag her out of the harbour— an act as contrary to all principles of International Law as if he had dragged her from an anchorage in the Thames. A captain in the service of the United States having so conducted himself, what was the language of the American consul at Brazil (Mr. Webb) when his attention was called to the outrage? That gentleman said that though he regretted that this unjustifiable action had been committed in a harbour of Brazil, he regretted still more that it had not been committed in one of the harbours of England. He (Mr. Peacocke) did not know whether the United States Government had actually prompted this language of their Minister, but they had certainly partly endorsed that language by publishing this despatch, and Mr. Webb still remained the American Minister at Rio. Then, again, no less a personage than the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United States, Mr. Chase, in the classical language sometimes used in that country, observed that he desired to "give old Mother England a shake." He (Mr. Peacocke) did not know whether that language had been disapproved by the American Government, but Mr. Chase had not been dismissed—on the contrary, he had been promoted. Mr. Chase held at that moment the highest judicial position in the United States, and before him would be adjudged any questions of International Law that might arise between this country and the United States. Then, again, it must be recollected that no less a person than Mr. Seward, holding a position almost of greater political power than the President himself—in fact, he was the mayor of the palace—that gentleman had stated that he only waited for a favourable opportunity to arise to enforce the claims of the American Government upon this country for the ravages inflicted by the Alabama. They all knew what was meant by "a favourable opportunity." Now he (Mr. Peacocke) did not wish to raise any question as to the origin or career of the Alabama, but at all events it could not be denied that the Alabama left our shores an unarmed vessel. And when the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright), who was manifestly well primed with a speech that evening, thought proper to attack the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) for his connection with the Alabama —if the hon. Member (Mr. Bright) thought that our shipowners, merchants, and manufacturers were responsible for the ultimate destination of the goods they placed on board their vessels, and that they were bound against all contingencies, the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Bright) ought at least to have directed his philippics against other Members of that House as well as the hon. Member for Birkenhead. There were other Gentlemen mixed up in these transactions who were Members of that House as well as magistrates and deputy lieutenants of counties, and perhaps they would explain to the hon. Gentleman what that meant. There were Englishmen who had made collossal fortunes by the sale of arms and ammunition to the United States Government. Why should not the hon. Member for Birmingham draw up a Bill of indictment against his own constituents, who he knew had carried on, and were still carrying on, a very considerable trade with the United States?


said, the hon. Gentleman was out of order in referring to a former debate.


said, the rules of the House allowed him to ask the hon. Gentleman why he did not draw up a bill of indictment against his own constituents for carrying on this trade of munitions of war with the United States. He did not know that it was a fair and impartial observance of the principle of neutrality to refuse a single unarmed vessel to one belligerent, and to furnish tens of thousands of men and hundreds of thousands of stand of arms to the other for the purpose of enabling them to shoot down men who were struggling for independence and freedom. The hon. Member for Birkenhead ought rather to be held up as the greatest pacificator who had appeared on their stage during this struggle; and he (Mr. Peacocke) would tell them why. He presumed that hon. Members were sincerely anxious for the pacification of America and for a termination of this struggle. Now, it was evident that the American civil war could not be terminated but by one of two ways —by the extermination of the South or by the exhaustion of the North, and the consequent recognition of the independence of the South. Now, it was perfectly clear that in order to exhaust the Northeners, they must be made to feel the losses and privations of war. Up to the time when the Alabama appeared on the stage the New England States, who were the chief promoters and instigators of this war, had enjoyed an absolute immunity from its losses. But the Alabama —to an infinitesimal extent, no doubt—did inflict some injury on those States. When the people of the New England States were called upon to make the smallest sacrifices for the war, their leaders speaking of it as a sacred war undertaken for the liberty of the negro, they refused to shoulder a musket, and even provided substitutes for themselves in the ranks of the army at 800 dollars each paid them in greenbacks. The Alabama inflicted but trifling losses upon the New England States; but what were those compared to the privations and Bufferings inflicted upon the Southerns? Their stores had been ransacked, their cities set on fire, their homesteads burnt, and, worse than that, their families were handed over to a licentious soldiery. The other day General Sherman marched unopposed through the State of Georgia because the whole of the people of that State capable of bearing arms had been enrolled in the ranks of the Confederate army. Now, when we found a nation composed of seven or eight millions of whites so unanimous in carrying on the war for the purpose of achieving their independence, he (Mr. Peacocke) said it was impossible to subdue them, although they might be exterminated. If the latter be the humane policy of the great Peace party, it was possible that it might arrive at that result. He maintained, however, that such a result would be most repulsive to the feelings of the people of this country. He thought the people of England wished to be on good terms with the United States as with every other country; hut not to approach that country in the language of panic or alarm. He further believed that in this struggle our people entertained a generous sympathy for the sufferings and gallantry of those who were engaged in defending the Confederate cause.


said, that he presumed the hon. and learned Member for Maldon did not think that war with America was a desirable thing. They ought in that House to be extremely cautious about the style of language they adopted. If the United States had grievances to allege against this country, which might be very true, the less said about them here the better. On the other hand, if we had a grievance, or the Confederates had a grievance to complain of, those who were really desirous for peace between the two countries must be cautious in the eloquent summoning up of those awkward pieces of history which, in his opinion, could have no effect in producing peace and goodwill between the two Powers. Therefore, he did not intend to pursue the course of argument which had been used that evening, although it would be easy, no doubt, to adduce circumstances tending to produce irritation. At the same time, he should be glad to know from the noble Lord the Under Secretary for War (the Marquess of Hartington), who appeared to be the only military authority of the Government at that moment in the House, whether we had a gun which would suit the purposes described by the hon. Member for Bristol? He agreed with the hon. Gentleman, that whether this was a question of Bristol or Quebec, it was the duty of the Government to take quietly and silently those precautions which would at all events have the effect of at least protecting the subjects of Her Majesty from military insult. He thought that that might be done without producing delicate' and dangerous despatches tending to produce that result which we wished to avoid. He assumed that the hon. Member for Bristol did not wish there should be a repetition of the same mistake as in the case of the 100-pounder Armstrong guns, by which 1,068 guns, after having been constructed, were found of no use whatsoever. Nothing could be more absurd than making costly guns unless the Government were satisfied that the plan of them was good. At the same time, it was desirable to know that we were in possession of an arm for the service of our ships and forts on which we might rely in case of necessity.


said, that he understood that the complaint of the hon. Gentleman opposite was this—that we had erected fortifications around our coast at an enormous cost of some millions of money, and that after all none of them were thoroughly efficient, and that some of them were mounted with old guns upon old rotten carriages. They were told the other evening that a similar state of things occurred at Quebec, where there were many old guns mounted upon rotten carriages, which were certain to break down upon the first discharge. Now, the same thing prevailed not only along our coast but on almost all our military stations. At Malta we had old obsolete guns; and at Gibraltar and the Channel Islands we had obsolete guns. But, worse than all, we had obsolete projectiles. We had not been doing what every other nation had been doing—furnishing our fortifications with steel projectiles. The old cast-iron projectiles were of no more use against armour-plated ships than a number of Butch cheeses. A friend of his informed him last year that he had the curiosity to make inquiries amongst the British manufacturers of steel projectiles as to the work they were doing, and requested returns of the different nations for which they were executing orders. The result of those returns was the discovery of the fact that those manufacturers were working for every nation in Europe—even for Denmark—except their own Government. It appeared that up to that time they had not furnished any of those projectiles to any, either of our ships of war or military stations. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for War asserted, as a reason why we had not obtained powerful guns, that Blakeley's gun was too expensive. That was an extraordinary statement, but it was a statement which appeared to have been cheered by some of the supporters of the Government. The noble Lord also stated that we must wait until war was declared, when we would have means at our hand, with a large Estimate, to procure the guns as rapidly as would be requisite to meet the emergency. Now, in regard to that statement, what was really the fact? One of the best of our establishments could not turn out a 600-pounder rifle gun in a shorter time than twelve months. If, then, we were hurried into a war, we should be twelve months before we could obtain any powerful guns. Besides, it should be recollected that those establishments had generally contracts to execute for foreign Governments; and it could not be expected that they should neglect the work they might be engaged in for those Powers for the sole purpose of serving Her Majesty's Government. But they knew what all that meant. It meant this, that if we were to lay out all the money necessary to put the country in a proper state of defence the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be able to bring forward this fine Budget which we heard so much about. We should, in fact, have no surplus to dispose of, and the Government could not go to the country with the popular cry that they had been able to reduce £3,000,000 of taxation. That was the position in which we were. The people of England must understand that if we were to have these rumoured reductions we could not place the nation in a proper state of defence. We might have the good fortune to avoid war, but if we should have the misfortune to fall into war we could not prevent the anticipation of the greatest disasters if this evil, so loudly complained of, were not immediately remedied.


said, that the hon. Gentleman did not appreciate the difficulty of the Government with regard to guns. He believed the House and the country were quite prepared to go to any expense to provide an efficient weapon; but, as had been proved two years ago before a Committee of which he was Chairman, the Government had rushed into an attempt to produce a large number of guns without sufficient inquiry and investigation, and the result was the expenditure of an enormous sum of money, almost altogether uselessly. He was sure the House would agree with him that course should not be followed. He understood that since the Report of that Committee had been laid on the table experiments had been going on for the purpose of arriving at the best result, both as to rifling and calibre, and especially with reference to the contest between Sir William Armstrong and Mr. Whitworth, to get the best sort of gun that could be produced. The only fault he could find with the Government was that these experiments had not been pressed forward as rapidly as they might have been. He was informed that for a considerable time there had been, for some reason or other, very few experiments at Shoeburyness. He thought, till the Report relative to the comparative merits of the Whitworth and Armstrong ordnance had been laid on the table, they would not be in a condition to form a judgment as to what the Government ought to do for the future. He hoped the noble Marquess would not proceed with the Vote till that had been done. He should like to hear some statement with regard to the experiments which had taken place with the Palliser gun. He understood that by means of the insertion of two tubes in a 68-pounder it would be turned into a 110-pounder rifle gun, and that old guns might be adapted to that model for £100 each, whereas a new gun on that principle would cost £500 or £600, and these guns would then be very efficient for such purposes as were pointed out by the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Henry Berkeley). They were perfectly effective for piercing any iron-clad ships possessed by foreign Powers at a distance of 300 or 400 yards. But what he chiefly rose for was to entreat the Government not to run into the rash and wanton expenditure which occurred with regard to the Armstrong gun, but to bring their experiments to a conclusion as speedily as possible; and when that had been done he was sure every Member would be very willing to grant any sum that might be required for the production of as large a number of the most approved guns as might be wished.


I do not rise for the purpose of following the hon. Members for Bristol (Mr. Berkeley) and Maldon (Mr. Peacocke) into the consideration of the probability of this country entering into a war with America. I listened with great interest to the debate which took place the other night upon the defences of Canada, and it seemed to me that most of the speakers who addressed the House did so with a due sense of responsibility upon them, and admitted, as we must all admit, that, while there is a possibility of our being engaged in a war with America, the probability of such a misfortune is very remote indeed. I do not think it necessary, therefore, to follow the arguments of the hon. Member who first spoke to-night (Mr. Berkeley). There is only one part of the subject to which I think it necessary to make any reference. The hon. Member repeated the complaints which he made last year—namely, that the Artillery Volunteers of this country are only armed and drilled with 18 and 24-pounder guns, and he repeated very correctly the answer which was given to him last year, and which it seems to me is a good answer this year. That answer is, that it is necessary that the Artillery Volunteers practise and learn their drill in the localities where they reside. Where no batteries exist they are erected, and the guns and ammunition are sent to them for the purpose of instruction only. In case of war, the Artillery Volunteers would be moved to any works where their presence might be required, and it by no means follows that they would use the guns now in their possession. In fact, it is certain such would not be the case. The hon. Member also says our coast defences are not in that state in which they ought to be, in order to repel any attack which a cruiser, such as the Kearsage might make. I do not mean to say that either our old or new batteries are as yet thoroughly armed. The new batteries, as far as they are finished, are, I believe, armed. The House is aware that those batteries which will mount the heaviest guns, and which are intended as our sea defences, at Plymouth, Spithead, and other places, are not yet finished, and not in a state to re- ceive their armaments. These armaments will be of a very heavy description; but surely, whatever may be the opinion of the House as regards the state of forwardness of our naval armaments, the House would not wish the Government to incur any large expenditure in preparing armaments for forts not yet ready to receive them, especially when it is agreed on all hands that many important questions are still pending with regard to the principles to be adopted in our heavy ordnance. As to the new works which are finished and the old works, I deny that they are in such a state as to be unfit to protect our coast against the attack of an ordinary wooden vessel. The 110-pounder and 68-pounder guns are perfectly efficient against wooden ships of that class. The hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) asked what had become of a number of 110-pounders. As I have mentioned before, although we fully admit that the 110-pounder is not an efficient gun against iron-clad-ships, yet we are not prepared to admit that it is not a good gun for a great many purposes, and one of those purposes for which it is most efficient is to repel the attack of wooden vessels. If the hon. Member for Bristol wishes to assert that the whole of our seaboard is not covered with batteries, and batteries armed in such a manner as to resist the attack of iron-plated vessels, I entirely agree with him; I think it is not likely that we ever shall have every part of our coast and every harbour where a vessel can take refuge armed so as to resist the attack of iron-plated ships. I have always understood that one of the great purposes of our fleet was to protect our shores; and I do not think it was ever contemplated—indeed I never heard it contended for—that the whole of our coast should be protected by batteries in such a way as to resist the attack of iron-plated vessels. I maintain that our batteries are armed with guns perfectly useful against the attack of ordinary wooden cruisers. Now, Sir, the hon. Baronet the Member for Evesham (Sir Henry Willoughby) asked whether we had a good gun. I can only give him my opinion upon that point, and I do not wish the House to take it for more than it is worth. I have stated in moving the Estimates that we have very good guns, the 12-ton and 20-ton guns, made upon the coil principle, and I believe these guns more powerful than any in the possession of other nations. I do not per- sonally believe that we shall ever get a very much better gun. There are, however, so many questions undecided, and so much difference of opinion among the highest authorities, that I think it is very probable we may know much more upon this subject this time next year than we do now. In reply to the hon. Baronet, I can only Bay we have a good gun. We have only made guns and fitted them as actually required for ships fitting out this year, and we are making a comparatively small number for our land defences, waiting to complete the armament of our sea defences until the questions now under consideration shall have been more fully decided. As to the statement of the hon. Member for Inverness (Mr. H. Bailie) that twelve months are required to make a 600-pounder, I do not think that is correct. I believe there are several establishments in the country that could make a 600-pounder in half that time; besides, I think it extremely improbable that we shall ever require any large number of guns of that size. The 12-ton guns are quite sufficient for the purpose of piercing an iron-clad vessel; and I therefore think it will seldom be found necessary to have a gun heavier than that. I do not believe that I ever said anything that would induce the House or the people of this country to think that we intended to stop where we are at present, or to delay the arming of our navy and forts till war broke out. I said that we were scarcely in a position now to incur a large expense, with our limited knowledge; and, as an argument for not incurring such an expense, I mentioned that there were establishments in the country which would be able to turn out a large number of guns if an emergency appeared imminent. The right hon. Member for Limerick (Mr. Monsell) stated that, in his opinion, there had been unnecessary delay in the experiments which had lately taken place. I admit that there has been a great deal of delay in the experiments between the Armstrong and the Whitworth guns. I explained on several occasions what was the cause of that delay, and I do not think it can in any way be attributed to the Government. The delay was entirely on the part of one or other of the competitors, and I believe principally caused by Mr. Whitworth, in not producing his gun and ammunition at the specified time. The trial, as the House is aware, was placed in the hands of a Special Com- mittee; and all through the proceedings the Government avoided as much as possible interfering with the Committee, and allowed them to carry on the trial in their own way and in their own time. I do not mean to say that remonstrances have not been addressed to them as to the length of their proceedings; and they were frequently urged to make their Report. I trust their Report will be received in a short time, and I wish the hon. Gentleman had not brought forward his Motion till that Report was received. It will require a great deal of consideration, but it would be unnecessary and unwise to postpone the Votes on the Estimates till that Report is received. As to the trial of Captain Palliser's guns, the hon. Member is quite right in saying that it has been exceedingly satisfactory. A few have been made upon his principle, and they have shown an extraordinary power of endurance. It has been thought desirable, before the final adoption of these guns, to have some further experiments, but there is every reason to suppose that the guns lined on Captain Palliser's principle will be most effective. I cannot say how far the guns would be efficient against ironclads, but there is no doubt they will be most efficient for our land defences, where they are not called upon to contend against ironclads. I believe the guns which have been ordered for experiment will be ready in a short time; and if the results should be as satisfactory as those which have already been obtained, the Government intend to proceed to a considerable extent in the conversion of our old cast-iron guns into rifle guns on the Palliser principle.


said, he should give no opinion on the question of the guns, with which he felt himself incompetent to deal; but the hon. Member for Bristol (Mr. Berkeley) and the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Peacocke) had referred in their speeches to a matter which would have been more appropriate to the debate last week—namely, that on the defences of Canada. He supposed the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Peacocke) wished on this occasion to enter a protest against the language and tone which had been adopted by the leaders of his party in that House the other evening. He should not again enter into the question of the claims put forward by Mr. Seward on account of the Alabama, but if the hon. Gentleman had read the despatch of Mr. Seward he could not understand by what means he could persuade himself that those claims were being kept in reserve to be asserted by Mr. Seward in such a manner as to threaten war to this country. The hon. Gentleman said that Ministers and officials of the United States threatened this country with war. It was true that Chief Justice Chase had unwisely threatened us with a shaking, and that an official in Brazil had written a foolish despatch. But surely it was unworthy the dignity of the nation that we should go to an enormous expenditure in defending our colonies because one or two Ministers had used words which ought not to have been spoken. If we were made answerable for all the expressions used by Ministers sitting on that Bench and on the other, we should be at war with almost the whole human race at this time. They had no reason to feel alarm about war on grounds like these. With regard to the order of General Dix, that was undoubtedly a very hasty order, but was issued under the supposition that it was necessary for self-defence; and notwithstanding the very natural excitement which prevailed in America on the subject, as soon as the order came to the knowledge of the Government at Washington it was immediately disowned. Some allowance should be made for excited feelings on such occasions. Some years ago, when the Canadians expected an attack from American territory, the British commander did not wait for the attack, but he acted, seized a ship on American waters, and he justified the step on the ground of self-defence. General Dix did issue an order which was opposed to International Law, but the American Government at once disavowed it; and what more could they have done? He should not have risen at all, but for one remark of the hon. Gentleman, because it was just one of those remarks that were calculated to cause ill-feeling between this country and foreign countries, and especially between us and our kindred in America. The hon. Member said that the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) had been the real peacemaker, because he made the troubles and calamities of war to bear upon the inhabitants of New England, who, by reason of their buying substitutes, would not otherwise have felt these calamities and troubles. No statement could be more untrue. If the hon. Gentleman only put himself to the trouble of personally inquiring he would find that there was scarcely a family in New England, especially those in an upper station, in which one or more of its members had not fought with courage or died in this war. The hon. Member would find that the misery and distress which had been caused by this war in New England were so great that even he, if he were there, would sympathize with it. He (Mr. W. E. Forster) did not deny that the South had shown the same courage. No people bad ever shown more. He had never made any such charge against the South as that which had been brought by the hon. Gentleman against the North. He only always wondered how in such a cause they could have displayed such qualities; and if we were to draw any moral from this war it was this, that no amount of self-devotion and self-sacrifice in a wrong cause could succeed. The hon. Member ought to be ashamed of making so unfounded a charge against the people of New England. As far as the House was concerned, perhaps, this language did not signify much, but it was this kind of charge, which affected character and motives, that caused ill-feeling between this country and other countries. He was afraid, unless some protest was made against the use of such language, it might be supposed on the other side of the Atlantic that it expressed the feeling of that House. He perceived that the hon. Member for Galway left the House when the hon. Member used this language, and that even the hon. and learned Member for Sheffield (Mr. Roebuck) was no longer in his place, so that the language he used must be regarded as expressing his own solitary feelings, and perhaps those of one or two eccentric Members of the House.


said, it was his intention to have moved to-night for the production of the drawings of the intended defences of Canada; but having seen them, he was enabled to say they were so simple and so efficient that an examination of them at the War Office would be quite sufficient to convince any hon. Gentleman of their expediency. He had no hesitation in saying that he believed the plans for the works intended for Canada were most skilfully prepared, and he did not think a better system of defence could be adopted; but to make that defence complete no time must be lost in placing gunboats upon the Lakes and on the St. Lawrence. He could not understand how it would be possible to defend Canada, even if the proposed fortifications were, nearly completed during the ensuing year, without insuring the command of the Lakes, on which we had not at present a single gunboat. The noble Lord the Under Secretary for War had admitted that there was a delay in getting a report of the two rival guns—the Armstrong and the Whit-worth. Now, they were both so good that in his opinion the Government might have ordered a certain number of both. They had been told that the difference between them was not very material, and that if they had either they would be in possession of an efficient weapon. If that were the case they might as well order some of one kind or the other at once. The noble Lord had said that we possessed a good gun — the 12-ton gun. If so he thought we might reasonably multiply the twenty-six or thirty which were being prepared by five or six, so that we might have a sufficient number to enable us, at all events, to be prepared for the worst. He was not one of those who believed we should have war with America, but he thought it was but right to be prepared for every emergency. His hon. Friend had said that at Malta and Gibraltar we had not a single gun on a new pattern; but in this statement his hon. Friend was incorrect. The majority, it was true, were old, but there were some new guns at those places. With regard to the defence of our coast the noble Lord had said that we could not pretend to defend it at all points; nothing so absurd was ever contemplated. We might, however, defend some of our best commercial harbours, and if this were not done the Government had no right to bring forward an Estimate of £300,000 year after year for this purpose. On coming to that Vote he should take the opportunity of asking the noble Lord what amount it was really proposed to expend, and where, because he believed that the commercial classes of this country ought not to be any longer misled and induced to believe that they were contributing towards an object which the Government did not intend to carry out.


said, that the noble Lord (the Marquess of Hartington) had placed himself in an onerous position—he had undertaken to be a prophet in his own country. He hoped his prophecy might come true, because he had undertaken to say that in his opinion the probability of war between the Northern States and this country was exceedingly remote. He should be very much pleased if that were the result, but, nevertheless, he did not think the present aspect of affairs was one which would justify this country in relying upon the prophetic visions of his noble Friend. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Bradford (Mr. Forster) had gone further still, for in referring to the remarks of the hon. Member for Maldon (Mr. Peacocke) that Gentleman had told the House that there was nothing threatening to this country in the attitude of the Northern States. Now, that appeared a somewhat strange assertion, and he must be permitted to say that his hon. Friend was perfectly justified in adverting to what he considered as evidence of a state of feeling in America which might possibly lead to the lamentable result of war. The general feeling of a country was to be judged from what fell from the lips of its leaders; and, though he should not look for highly classical expression in a country endowed with republican institutions, and which had not the advantage of that civilization enjoyed by this country, yet, making allowance for the somewhat peculiar phraseology indulged in by gentlemen on the other side of the Atlantic, quite enough had been said to lead this country to believe that a strong feeling of hostility towards this country existed not only among public men, but among the masses of the population, who in the United States were the great controlling power. Any Government in this country, therefore, which should shut its ears to all that had been said on the other side of the Atlantic, and neglect the precautions necessary to avert a possible, not to say a probable contingency, would fail in the discharge of one of its most obvious and greatest duties. His chief object in rising, however, was to repeat what he had ventured to affirm on a former occasion upon which he had not been able to extract an expression of opinion from any Member of Her Majesty's Government. He had always found that the only chance one had of getting at such an expression of opinion was by pressing the subject on their attention, and with that object he would repeat what he had said on the occasion to which he had alluded. It was this—that it was perfectly hopeless for this country to attempt to defend Canada against invasion from the Northern States by land. It was a waste of time and money for two reasons—for he contended that this was not a military question, but one of common sense, upon which every one was capable of forming an opinion. In the first place, it was impossible for this country to furnish a number of troops sufficient to defend a frontier of such enormous extent, more especially when the vast force which the United States would be able to bring to bear was taken into account. Neither would this House vote the money that would be requisite. He did not see the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his place, but he was quite sure the right hon. Gentleman would not sanction any such proposal. Was the House prepared to find the money for the fortifications which should be erected and for the troops which were to man those fortifications, as well as to take part in the operations in the field? And how were the Government going to work? Why, they proposed to begin with a trifle, a mere drop in the ocean—£50,000 for the construction of fortifications for the defence of the frontiers of Canada. How long did they calculate it would take to complete those fortifications, and, when completed, would any Member of Her Majesty's Government say where the troops were to be found to man them? The noble Lord had said that the probability of war was very remote. But the Government by proposing a Vote of £50,000 had admitted the possibility, if not the probability, of such an event. Well, then, in that event, did the Government anticipate that the Northern States would be kind enough to wait until they received an announcement from Her Majesty's Government that all the requisite fortifications were completed at the rate of an outlay of £50,000 a year, and that we were now prepared to receive them with due honour? or rather was it not more probable that a war, if war was to be, would take place long before the preparations for it on the Canadian frontier were completed? Well, then, what consistency was there in the conduct of Her Majesty's Government when, on the one hand, they proposed a Vote of £50,000 for fortifications, and on the other a reduction in the number of our troops? What had been said by his hon. Friend was quite true—that all our Estimates were trumped up ad captandum to suit the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the purpose of the moment, and all that the interests of the country demanded was kept out of sight. The only way in which Canada could be defended was by sea—that is, by our possessing a complete maritime superiority over the Northern States, by completely blockading their ports and reducing the country by the process of exhaustion. He hoped, therefore, Her Majesty's Government would reconsider the question before they took the Vote of £50,000.


said, that he regretted that the American question had been mixed up with that of gunnery. This Bogie cry was not now set up for the first time; they had heard it before, it used to be an invasion by France, when it was now a war with the United States, on any other Bogie which might be wanted to frighten them into giving a Vote. The real question for them to consider was, was England now in a state of defence which she ought to occupy? They had heard a great deal of the enormous expense of guns. The expense of gunnery was a matter of policy. If the Government looked forward to a prospect of years of peace they should take a small Vote. If they anticipated war they should ask for a large one, and avail themselves of the best gun of the period. The Armstrong gun had its origin in the Crimean war; the 40-pounder gun was the result of the war with Austria; and the 110-pounder was the result of the Trent affair. Sir William Armstrong having been ordered to make that gun, did so, and it was the best gun that was attainable at the time. Since that period numerous experiments had gone on at a great expense, and from these experiments (at Shoebury-ness), and the experience gained from the war at the other side of the Atlantic, they found that armament which in 1859 was excellent was no longer of any use. They were now asked to do nothing until they got a perfect 600-pounder, or some imaginary gun. Now, he recollected many years since having been sent for by the Ordnance Department, and he was asked to make a perfect rifle with perfect machinery. He was somewhat astonished at the order, and took time to consider his answer. He consulted with some of the best men of the day, but they, like himself, were obliged to come to the conclusion that such a thing was perfectly impossible, as gunnery, like every other science, was improving from day to day, and that they might as well try to arrive at perfection in ballooning. A Committee was, nevertheless, appointed to make a perfect rifle with perfect machinery; and after going on for years the same rifle was now used as was then. What would have been said had we waited for this perfect rifle in- stead of arming our troops the best way we could? Gunmaking would go on improving as other sciences improved. The success of gunnery did not depend on an Armstrong or a Whitworth, but upon those who manufactured the steel and iron all over the world. It was said that Mr. Whitworth originated the steel shot, but steel shot was thought of long before Mr. Whitworth was dreamed of, and that the manufacturers in Prussia, by improvements in their manufacture, enabled him to make it. What was the real complaint? The real complaint was, not that they had not made 600-pounders to be placed in their forts, but that if any disturbance should arise they had not a gun to put into the navy to meet the enemy. By that he did not mean that they were unable to arm iron-clad line-of-battle ships of 6,000 tons, but that they could not even send a floating battery to sea with a proper armament in her. It was unfortunate that the question of guns had been strongly mixed up with party considerations. Lord Derby's Government, when General Peel was in Office, having selected the Armstrong gun, it was at once called the "Blue" or Tory gun, and the successors of that Government sought another gun, and selected the Whitworth gun, the "Yellow" or Reform gun. They would never have heard of this latter gun had not its inventor been a member of the Reform Club, and advertised it in the billiard-room and smoking-room there, and his friends pestered Minister after Minister in favour of this gun, and Committee after Committee was appointed till it seemed as though the War Office would never come to a conclusion. He hoped they would now have a final settlement of this question, and come to the conclusion to have the best available gun of the day, and to have a sufficient number, sinking the little petty matters that had arisen between man and man, club and club, but getting that which was most useful to the country.