§ MR. SEELY
, in rising to move That a Scientific Inquiry be instituted to take into consideration the leading characteristics that should be adopted in the future Construction of the Vessels of the Navy, said he did not ask the House to pronounce an opinion upon this question, but merely that they should inquire into the subject. During the last few years a great controversy had been going on with respect to the principles upon which our vessels should be constructed. It was an indisputable fact that £3,500,000 had been spent during the last five years on broadside iron-clads, and about £500,000 on turret-ships; and more was still to be spent, although the Admiralty by asking private builders to furnish designs for broadside-ships, admitted that it was still a doubtful question on what principle ships of war should be constructed. The right hon. Baronet the Secretary of State for War (Sir John Pakington) in his 1112 speech on the Navy Estimates, in March, 1865, said that the turret principle was a great invention, and that Captain Coles was entitled to the gratitude of his country; and that the experiment ought to be tried in the best possible manner; and the present First Lord (Mr. Corry), whose absence through illness would doubtless be admirably supplied by the noble Lord opposite (Lord Henry Lennox), said in 1866, that in the present state of uncertainty as to the principles on which our ships of war should be built he did not think they ought to embark largely in the construction of ships during that year. The amount asked for by the Government for iron-clads this year was £700,000, of which £135,000 was to be devoted to turret-ships, and £565,000 to broadsides. But why such haste to build ships of doubtful utility, when we had resolved on non-intervention, and were in no fear of attack? Why, then, not take breathing-time? He asked the Admiralty to pause before spending vast sums of money on ships which after all might prove utter failures. The United States were selling their ships of war, and had not commenced building any more. But if they were resolved to build, let them at least build ships respecting which there was no controversy. He referred to the vessels for coast defence. It would be far better to spend in protecting our coasts and harbours than in increasing the number of our cruizing vessels. About seven years ago the Defence Commission advocated vessels for coast defence rather than large cruizing ships of the broadside class. The Admiralty had declared they were bound to build experimental sea-going vessels, but the defects of those they had in hand were well known, and had not been exaggerated by the hon. and gallant Member for Rye (Captain Mackinnon). They were undoubtedly weakly armed against guns of the present day, and it was a question whether fleet vessels should not be preferred, at least while uncertainty prevailed, to armour-plated ships. Sponsons, he contended, would cause rolling, and were unnecessary, because the Chief Constructor had admitted that an end-on fire could be obtained another way. No doubt the sponsons would be soon dispensed with. The hon. and gallant Member had remarked upon the Invincible class of vessels, and had described how a plunging shot would penetrate their boilers. On this point he would read the evidence of the Controller 1113 before the Turret-ship Committee in 1866. The Controller said—In the Bellerophon, and in all our ships we are now constructing, we stop the armour short of the extremities of the ship, and, in order to prevent a raking fire destroying you, we put armour plated bulkheads across the ship. I think, if that is the box principle, it is the best principle which can be acted upon.But it was rather singular that in 1865 the Controller objected to Captain Coles's design in competition with the Pallas, "on account," said the Controller, "of; the unplated ends of the ship being a source of danger, and incapacitating her from being really a man-of-war." More than four years ago an American Admiral, Reporting Secretary, American Navy, said—The efficiency or intrinsic worth of an ironclad intended for the ocean or for coast purposes is to be estimated according to her strength throughout every part of her hull, &c.Now, it was a fact that the firm at present building one vessel of the Invincible class had condemned the principle as strongly as it could be condemned. How, then, was their construction justified? The First Lord of the Admiralty had said that experienced naval officers were opposed to the turret principle for sea-going vessels, Would the noble Lord condescend to say who those experienced naval officers were? The hon. Baronet the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) who sat next to the noble Lord the Secretary for the Admiralty, was, he believed, in favour of the turret principle. Admiral Austin, Admiral Elder, and Captain Burnet were all in favour of that principle, and so might Admirals Yelverton and Warden be said to be, judging from their Report. He remembered also among its supporters the late Mr. Cobden, as well as the hon. Member for Tavistock (Air. Samuda), the Messrs. Napper, and some of the most eminent shipbuilders in the country. And what was it that the Admiralty had to oppose to such a weight of authority. Why, the simple assertion that they would not try the experiment, and the experience of some naval officers with whose names the House was unacquainted. Public opinion, in short, approved the turret principle, and against it was arrayed merely the authority of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty. Under these circumstances, the House had n right to examine into what had been done by that Department, and to pass in review the vessels which they had built. The present Chief 1114 Constructor proposed, in 1862–3, to build shorter and smaller vessels than those which were being constructed when he came into Office. There were three such vessels constructed. The first was the Research, the designs for which, as well as for that of the sister ship, the Enterprise, were submitted to the late Constructor-in-Chief, Mr. Watts, who reported against them; notwithstanding which the Admiralty determined to build them, and in consequence three of the officers resigned their positions. The Research, having been built, was condemned by Admiral Dacres. Surely, then, the House could hardly fail to be of opinion that Mr. Watts was justified in reporting against the design. In 1866 the vessel had been much improved, but even then it was reported that she was not safe to go to sea in. How far, then, he should like to know, did the Research carry out the promise of the present Chief Constructor that he would build short, small ships equal in all the good qualities required in sea-going vessels to those which were being constructed? Then, as to the Pallas, she was designed without an upper deck, and without a plough-bow, and was meant to be of extreme speed; but Admiral Yelverton, in. his Report of 1866, stated that she had only obtained a full speed of 11.9 knots, her speed being placed by Admiral Warden, in 1867 at 11.55 knots. He would next say a few words with regard to the Bellerophon, which the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had a few nights before described as the best ship in the navy. If that were so, it was somewhat singular, he thought, that no other ship like her had been built. She was designed with no upper deck. An upper deck had been added to her, and not only had that been done at considerable expense, but he was informed that she now drew, when fully laden, 13 inches more water than was first designed. The Achilles could take in coals sufficient to propel her at full speed for 1,960 knots; the Bellerophon for only 778 knots. The noble Lord, however, had laid some stress upon the fact that upon her six hours' trial she had attained a speed of fourteen knots, but it should be borne in mind that she had been tried under circumstances very favourable for a vessel of her form. She had the tide with her the whole way. The next class of vessels to which he directed the attention of the House was what was called the corvette or Amazon class, which were said 1115 to have been built for speed, bat did not realize what was anticipated from them. They were partly rams. Nine of them were designed by the Chief Constructor, and one came in collision with another vessel and both went down, though fortunately, no lives were lost. The next ship to which he would call attention was the Achilles, which was built with what were termed recess ports, which were condemned by Brazilian officers as a source of danger. The Achilles was designed before the present Constructor came into office, but she was altered by that officer from three masts to four masts. She was subsequently restored to three masts, and Admiral Warden, in his Report of 1867, stated that the Achilles beat the Minotaur, and that he attributed her superiority to being altered from four masts to three. He wag informed that to alter these ships to their original state would cost £15,000 for each vessel. Three heavy armour gunboats were designed by the Chief Constructor—the Vixen, the Viper, and the Waterwitch. The hon. Member for Rye (Captain Mackinnon) had furnished him with reports with regard to the first. Captain Brett, in reporting of her first voyage, said she worked heavily, and her rolling from stem to stern, was such as to place her in the greatest peril. He had no hesitation in saying the ship was a mistake. She was positively unsafe to handle on the high sea; and at present she was noted as unseaworthy. The sister ship, the Vixen, when ordered to make her first voyage from Portsmouth to Plymouth, proved equally unseaworthy. These three ships, which were complete failures, cost the country upwards of £200,000. When the Admiralty were asked to build turret-ships, all they answered was that they would not try experiments, but must rely on their Constructive Department. That was a sound rule under ordinary circumstances, but there were special cases in which it would be wise to depart from it. As for the statement that the Admiralty would not indulge in experiments, what had nil these vessels been from first to last but a series of experiments, various alterations having been made in them at different times? Upper decks had been added, plough-bows filled up, recessed ports removed, and sponsons added—probably in their turn to follow the recessed ports. The large amount of money expended in shipbuilding had lamentably failed in producing satisfactory results. The Controller 1116 of the Navy had stated that the day of battle must be the proof of the true merits of the ships. Now Admiral Warden's opinion was to the effect that the practice of the broadside-ships had been wild in the extreme; there was not the slightest probability of hitting an enemy's ship except by accident. Would a turret-ship of equal size have acquitted herself better? There were several considerations, in the Admiral's opinion, that led him to answer that question in the affirmative. Admiral Yelverton, in his Report, of the Channel squadron, said on one occasion during a cruize the armour-clad vessels were unable to fire their guns, and that the turret system of arming a ship had been tried on that occasion. A single turret-ship would have done the Channel fleet serious injury. Indeed, she might have taken them in detail and sunk or captured every one of them unless the mode of defence suggested by the noble Lord of cutting and running had been adopted. Admiral Robinson said that two heavy guns of a turret-ship with their all-round fire formed a most powerful weapon of offence; and although he added that that could only be secured in the Monitor class of ships, that remained to be proved. It might be the opinion of the Controller and of the Chief Constructor of the Navy. But they had this fact, that a turret-ship placed broadside with an ordinary armour-plated vessel would sink her in a very short time. Therefore, the only question was whether a turret cruizing ship could be built. In favour of its possibility they had the opinion of Captain Sherard Osborne, of Mr. Samuda, and of the Messrs. Napper the builders, and they had also the express authority of the late Chief Constructor of the Navy, Mr. Watts. There was a mass of authority in favour of the turret principle. He hoped that, in answer to these facts, the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox) would give something more than mere generalities. He might be told hon. Members were not fit to deal with technical questions, which they did not understand practically. The Board of Admiralty said they themselves were not competent to deal with such questions, and must refer them to the Constructive Department. But the Constructive Department had made serious blunders, and the opinions of the Controller and Constructor should not weigh against the mass of evidence to which he had referred. Besides though it might be true that the House was not fit to deal with technical questions 1117 yet there were certain points of this case where even common sense was of some use. The noble Lord would not deny that a ship-of-war ought to be able to fire her guns; and common sense told them that guns carried in the centre could be fired more evenly than guns carried on the broadside. Another principle was that guns ought to hit; and common sense told them that the guns were more likely to hit when the ship that carried them did not roll than when she did. Another principle was that a ship ought to present as small a target as possible; and common sense told them that a turret-ship would present a smaller target than a broadside. Then it was desirable to plate a ship as heavily as possible in order to keep out the shells; and common sense told them that the side of a ship six feet out of the water could be more heavily plated than the side of one that was twelve feet out of the water. It was most desirable that the men fighting the guns should be protected; and it was plain that the men could be better protected in a turret than in a broadside-ship. A broadside-ship was constantly in the face of the enemy, whereas the turret-ship, being always on the move, only presented her porthole to the enemy in time to fire the shot. There was another advantage, which had been mentioned by Admiral Gordon. It was admitted that they could build a turret-ship at far less cost with the same power. It was, therefore, extremely desirable to inquire into this question. The answer to all this was that the Admiralty did nut like the inquiry, and we should have confidence in them. Now, the Board of Admiralty consisted undoubtedly of very clever men. The First Lord was a very clever man; the Second Lord was very clever; individually all the members of the Board were extremely clever; but the question was how the six clever units acted as a Board. Had they displayed such judgment and forethought that strong reliance must be placed in them for the future? He had a right to refer to the past doings of the Admiralty. They had gone on building sailing ships when steamships were required. They began to build steam vessels when it was known we must have our ships armoured. The Admiralty persisted for a long time in spending money in building unarmoured ships, and within the last few years they had been attempting to dispose of them. Some of those obsolete ships which had been built within the last ten or fifteen years, in defiance of the 1118 warnings given, cost from, first to last, perhaps, £150,000, and they were sold for less than £10,000. He did not want a similar folly to be again perpetrated. Turret-ships would be the ships of the future. Therefore he asked the House for inquiry on this subject, which was a most important one. He trusted that the Admiralty would consent to this question being inquired into by some tribunal composed of men who possessed the greatest knowledge upon the subject, and in whom the House and the country would place entire confidence. He begged to move the Amendment of which he had given Notice.
§ MR. SAMUDA
seconded the Motion. He thought that the question ought to be made the subject of a scientific inquiry. He wished to guard against it being supposed that he desired in any way to obstruct the proceedings of the Admiralty, or to find fault with the course they had: adopted; but it appeared to him that this great subject was one of the highest national importance, and ought to be regarded from a point of view far beyond that which was likely to be taken of it within the precincts of a mere Department of the State. When a great policy had been inaugurated, he could well understand that a Department of the State might efficiently carry it out; but it was unlikely that such a policy could be initiated by a Government Department. The State, by appointing a Commission of Inquiry, could obtain the assistance of men of the greatest ability, experience, and knowledge in the kingdom, who would freely give evidence upon the; question about to be inquired into; whereas if the inquiry were placed in the hands of a Department, it would be sure to languish, because if the highest authority upon the question were converted into an official, he would soon become unfitted for taking a broad view of it. It was clear that little or no progress had been made with regard to this question of armour-clad vessels since it had first come before the Admiralty, and therefore it was of great importance that fresh minds and fresh modes of thought should be brought to bear upon the subject. He regretted the absence of the First Lord of the Admiralty on this occasion; but he would remind the noble Lord (Lord Henry Lennox), who would probably reply, that his right hon. Friend (Mr. Corry), when Secretary to the Admiralty in 1846, attempted to develop the screw fleet, he found the greatest difficulty in carrying out his plans in consequence of 1119 the opposition of the officials of his own Department; and it was owing to his right hon. Friend's foresight and perseverance that they obtained that screw fleet several years before they would have obtained it in the ordinary way. He might add, with regard to the turret system, that the highest authority on naval architecture the world had seen during the present century—the late Mr. Oliver Lang—had given it as his strong opinion that that system which the Admiralty had rejected was in every respect better than the broadside system which they had adopted. But the Admiralty were still pursuing the same course, though they showed their dissatisfaction with their system by continually changing their types of vessels, until they had now eight different types of armour-clad vessels, of 2,000 tons and upwards, which had been introduced since the time of the re-organization of that Department—a period of about eight years. Besides this there were several different descriptions of unarmoured vessels. He thought that this fact alone went far to prove the necessity that existed for a full scientific inquiry being instituted into the subject, because if the Admiralty had been satisfied with their work they would have adhered to it. The Controller of the Navy was an officer of very high standing as a naval officer, and he had expressed a deliberate opinion that the head of a vessel should be protected especially from plunging shot, but not a single vessel that had been built possessed that peculiar description of defence. Nothing, in his opinion, could be a more fatal mistake than to put a central armed and protected box into a vessel and to leave the remaining two-thirds of the vessel unprotected. It was evident that the Admiralty did not see their way to securing the two essentials of speed and complete protection at the same time. But he contended that the speed of the vessel could be maintained to a great extent even though it was completely armour-plated at the ends as well as at the sides. He urged this upon the Government, because they were in danger of allowing a foregone conclusion to override the fact. He believed that all they desired could be accomplished without increasing the size of a vessel beyond what was desirable. He believed that if the House would only boldly strike out a policy for itself, we should have vessels which could keep out any shell that had ever yet been fired. The Admiralty appeared to doubt 1120 this, because they had been told by the artillerists that shell would go through any armour that had ever yet been produced. But that was not the fact, because in no case hitherto—and he had carefully watched the experiments that had been made—had any shell gone through 6-inch armour and then acted as shell. It was perfectly true that shells had gone through that thickness of armour, but they had gone through as shot, making a round hole, and they had broken in the passage, and had in no case gone through in their entirety and burst subsequently as a shell ought to burst, from the effects of the powder carried within them, scattering death and destruction all around. The result of such an inquiry as that advocated by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) would, he believed, be perfectly successful, and do much towards putting an end to the vacillating policy by which, in the absence of sound and broad principles, the Admiralty had hitherto been guided.
To leave oat from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "a scientific inquiry be instituted, to take into consideration the leading characteristics that should be adopted in the future construction of the vessels of the Navy,"—(Mr. Seely,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. GOLDNEY
said, he must deprecate the practice of bringing forward desultory Motions—he did not mean to include the present under that title—on going into Supply, when those Motions could be as well and more advantageously discussed in Committee, without delaying the progress of Business and protracting the Session. The present Motion, for instance, would naturally enough have arisen when Vote 10 came to be taken. Since he bad entered that House the Naval Estimates had been doubled, the Army Estimates trebled, and the Civil Service Estimates quadrupled, and the House could get no satisfaction on the subject beyond general statements. When so much yet remained to be done, he thought hon. Members might well restrict themselves to Motions which could not be made in Committee, in order that the House might have an opportunity of getting to the real Business before it. The result of the present 1121 practice was that large sums of money were voted after midnight in very small Houses, and amid pretty general slumber. Hon. Members were continually professing to their constituents a desire to effect a reduction in the public expenditure of this country; but it was impossible for those who, like himself, were not skilled in all the details connected with the Service to move reductions, when the Motions which would show such reductions were advisable were made without any practical connection with particular Votes.
§ MR. GRAVES
said, he thought the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) was to be congratulated on having secured so favourable an opportunity for a Motion of so much importance. No doubt this question might have been considered when the Vote to which it had reference came before them, but he must remark that the result of the course advocated by the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down would probably have been to prevent this discussion coming on before midnight. He regretted that the hon. Member for Lincoln had not stated whether the Inquiry which he advocated was to take the place of the Estimates which were to be voted that night, or whether it was to be instituted after those Estimates had been passed. With regard to the Motion itself, no one admitted more thoroughly than he did the existence of the defects in the navy to which the hon. Gentleman had alluded. But he had always believed that the Admiralty lacked practical rather than scientific knowledge. He feared, therefore, that the Inquiry recommended by the hon. Gentleman would have the effect, if limited to a "Scientific Inquiry," of making confusion worse confounded; because the Admiralty could not but regard the appointment of a Commission for that purpose as evincing a want of confidence in its own Constructive Department. The result, he feared, would be seriously to weaken a responsibility which rather required strengthening. Now, from time to time, Motions were made for the purpose of showing that the expenditure of our public money did not lead to results which were satisfactory. The vessel which had been so prominently alluded to, the Bellerophon, was a vessel of no mean character. She was unusually handy at sea, but here unfortunately ended her superiority. He judged from the Reports that she was more unsteady in heavy weather than many vessels of her class, but in moderate weather she exhibited greater com- 1122 parative steadiness. Since her first trial she had materially declined both in speed and power, though it was but fair to say that she had on a late occasion yielded results equal to those attained on her trial. The Hercules be believed to be an improvement on the Bellerophon. The Monarch, her sister vessel, was a turret, but a spoilt turret, and could not be said fairly to represent the class, because she had a wall side which would catch every shot and shell that the merest tyro might fire at her. She had, in fact, all the disadvantages of a broadside. He had examined the construction of the Invincible class, and had come to the conclusion that it was the duty of the House when in Committee on the Vote for shipbuilding to prevent any more vessels of that class from being constructed. He believed no inquiry was wanted respecting them. As they rolled ten to fifteen degrees, the enemy's shot must strike their decks, which were only defended by iron plates five-eighths of an inch thick. He would much prefer turret-vessels to them. The amount of doubt in the minds of the Admiralty on the subject was shown by the diversity of model and design at present in favour. Eight different classes had been mentioned; he wished he could have described them as eight successes; but the fact was that, while the country was feeling its way respecting turret-vessels, the Admiralty was wildly experimenting and building ships on principles not based on experience but upon hypothesis. Monarchs, Plovers, and Invincibles had all been laid down without experiment. But the Captain, a turret-ship built under the force of opinion in the House, would prove a formidable addition to the navy. There were-fanciful views at the Admiralty which should be ignored, in view of the more practical course taken by other countries. When he examined the Captain he saw three vessels of the turret class beside her being constructed for the Dutch Navy, and the captains of those vessels expressed themselves in very unfavourable terms of the way in which we rejected the turret principle for smaller ships. The Invincible class had a double screw, but it was not known whether a double screw would answer with 20-feet draught. Officers of the Dutch Navy had told him that they had a vessel of 2,000 tons and 18-feet draught, but although they could get 12 knots out of her with steam they could only get 2½ under a stiff breeze. Then, if one screw were injured, the ship would 1123 only turn one way, and this in itself was sufficient to condemn the principle. In regard to the Penclope, he had heard from a distinguished officer that her defects were so great that he had been asked to report upon them immediately to the Admiralty. Surely that was a reason why they should not go on building others of that class. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) had asked why we were building ships at all. The answer, however, to that question, was very simple—we did so because other nations were doing it; and one country in particular, not far distant from our shores, had more iron-clads afloat or in course of construction than we had. Another point which was in danger of being lost sight of was the lamentable deficiency in means of coaling. Our iron-clads could not carry sufficient fuel to steam to Halifax. There was not one which could carry more than would suffice for four days' steaming at full speed. 200 tons of coal on board would be of immense value to a ship under some circumstances—of more value even than armour. It was questionable whether we were not trying to combine too much in one vessel; and he much doubted whether 12-inch armour was compatible with speed. He concluded from Returns which had been supplied him from a source calculated to inspire confidence, that the vessels of the French Navy beat ours in maintaining speed. If then the Committee moved for were appointed he hoped some really practical men would be nominated to serve on it—such men, for instance, as the chief engineers of the Cunard line, the Royal Mail, the Inman, and other lines—that the doubt as to whether the engines of the navy were inferior to those of the ordinary steam-packet might be set at rest. But the whole question of Admiralty organization should be put upon its trial; and he submitted whether it would not be wise to set up some permanent Committee of the ablest men at command to be constantly in consultation, and to stand between the Board and its Constructive Departments. He hoped that next year the question would be taken up in such a manner that some practical good would result.
§ MR. O'BEIRNE
said, inquiry had been attended with the most beneficial results in other Departments, and there was reason to believe that in that of naval construction its results would be equally satisfactory. He thought the hands of the Admiralty would be strengthened rather than 1124 otherwise by an inquiry which would elicit the opinions of scientific and practical men. He differed entirely from his hon. Friend the Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda) on the subject of penetration of iron plates by shell. He believed that on a recent occasion plates of eight inches thick had been penetrated by shells, which burst inside. He wished to know, he might add, why the Letter of Admiral Warden, dated the 3rd of December last, was not presented with the Papers which had been laid on the table of the House on the 5th of March, and had only been delivered to Members last week?
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, that the Admiralty seemed always in the position of the mole underground, blind to what was passing around them. They built one class of ships after another that were immediately found not to be wanted. They ought not, in his opinion, to be intrusted with this irresponsible power. Remarkable circumstances had been brought out by the Committee now sitting, of which he had the honour to be a member. It appeared that ships built at an expense of £150,000 had in a few years been sold for £10,000. A condition of sale was that the copper sheathing and copper bolts and iron should be brought back to the Admiralty, and purchased at a price which was often found to be very much larger than the whole amount produced by the sale of the ship, so that they actually made a present of the ship to the purchaser and gave him a sum of money besides. He (Mr. M'Laren) had asked one of the witnesses before the Committee respecting a ship thus sold at Bermuda, and obtained an answer to the effect that it would have been more profitable, commercially speaking, to have burnt the ship on the beach, for the metals would have remained, and cost nothing; though as there were no tides at Bermuda, this might have been a difficult operation. And though all other establishments in the world could keep their stores from being stolen, it appeared that the Admiralty could not. It was asked if the Admiralty did not pay about £22,000 a year for police watching the dockyards, which was admitted; but still they were afraid of the thieves.
§ MR. LIDDELL
I rise to Order. Is it usual, Sir, to comment in this House on the proceedings of a Select Committee before that Committee has reported?
§ MR. SPEAKER
If a Committee has not reported it is out of Order to comment 1125 in this House upon the evidence taken before it.
§ MR. M'LAREN
said, under those circumstances, he would content himself with saying that all he had heard showed that the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) did a very wise thing to move for this Inquiry. He should cordially support the hon. Member's Motion.
§ MR. LAIRD
said, that the question was whether they were to continue building broadside-ships, or go on with the construction of turret-vessels. He had long since come to the conclusion that it was a mistake to build broadside-ships, and his opinion was more than verified by the Reports of Admiral Warden and Admiral Yelverton in reference to the Channel Fleet. Turret-ships had proved successful as sea-going vessels, and as the Admiralty possessed sufficient means for judging which was the best turret-ship to build, he saw no utility in the appointment of a Royal Commission of Inquiry, which might take a long time to arrive at a decision. He would rather that the House should pronounce a decided opinion that the construction of broadside-ships, which had proved to be of no value whatever in a gale of wind, should be abandoned for the purpose of providing the country with some turret-ships.
§ MR. CANDLISH
said, he hoped the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty would not resist the Motion of his hon. Friend, which was conceived in no spirit of hostility to the Board of Admiralty. The Board could not be supposed to be possessed of all knowledge as to the best principles of construction for our ships-of-war. There might be outside the Admiralty much ability and scientific knowledge, which a country like England ought to avail itself of.
§ MR. LIDDELL
said, he must beg, as a Member of the Select Committee, to express views quite in opposition to those of the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. M'Laren). It would appear from the remarks of the hon. Member that his impression from what occurred before the Committee was, that the Board of Admiralty was a Department absolutely unfitted to be entrusted with responsibility. [Mr. M'LAREN: Not quite so far as that.] The impression made upon his (Mr. Liddell's) mind by the inquiry of the Committee was that they had in the office of the Controller of the Navy a most conscientious man, thoroughly capable of performing the duties of that position, as alive as any naval reformer in that House to the require- 1126 ments of the country, and as anxious as any public servant could be to correct errors of administration, and to provide England with the best possible navy. The Constructor of the Navy was also a man of great ability, with an experience of naval architecture possessed by few men in this country, and entitled thereby to the confidence of the public. With regard to the Motion before the House, he admitted there was a great deal of weight in some of the arguments adduced in favour of bringing to-bear on discussions that might arise from time to time whatever talent existed outside the Admiralty; but there would be this great difficulty in opening their doors to a council of advice, that the Admiralty would be beset by inventors of every description pressing their schemes upon them. The Admiralty was responsible to the House for constructing the best ships, and he would remind the House that although they had not adopted any distinct plan with regard to any particular class of ships, they had been hurried forward in the construction of vessels by external pressure, by that desperate race of competition in defences which had been pressed upon them by the progress made by foreign nations. With regard to shipbuilding, England could not allow herself to be outstripped in that respect, and he suggested that the Foreign Office ought first to be put in motion to see if some attempt could not be made to induce foreign nations to come to an understanding to suspend this tremendously rapid progress of shipbuilding until something like a fixed principle of construction could be arrived at. So long as the present competition went on the Admiralty could not suspend shipbuilding in our yards. A vast amount of misapprehension existed both in the public mind and in that House with reference to turret-ships. Within the last few hours he had been informed by the highest authority that no thoroughly sea-going turret-ship had been constructed either in this or any other country to which reference had been made. Turret-ships were of inestimable value for harbour defence, and two sea-going vessels of this form were actually now in process of completion. Surely then it would be well to suspend our judgment until a fair trial of them had been made; but it was only fair that, as an independent Member of a Committee upstairs, when charges were made against Admiralty administration, he should state the impression which had been made in 1127 his mind in the investigation that was going on, and he hoped the House would not be too hasty in adopting the views of the hon. Member for Lincoln. Shipbuilding and the best models for fighting ships were very difficult questions, but England could not afford, and never ought to allow herself, to be left behind in the general race.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he thought that at this period of the debate it would be well that he should state the views which Government held on the subject of the proposal which had emanated from the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), and also give some answer, as far as he was able, to the various objections which had been raised against the policy of the present and preceding Boards of Admiralty, and also against the classes of ships which they had built. He had to thank the hon. Member for Cashel (Mr. O'Beirne) for giving him an opportunity of explaining a matter connected with the printed Papers. The hon. and gallant Officer (Captain Mackinnon) had used epithets which he believed the sailors of the navy would be the first to discountenance and regret, considering that the charge of wilful suppression rested on the First Lord, on himself, and his hon. and gallant Colleagues. If it had not been for the hon. Member for Cashel he would have passed by in silence the uncourteous attack that had been made upon the Department to which he had the honour of belonging. The original Return of the Report of Admiral Warden was numbered 128, and ordered on the 5th of March. It was supposed to contain and did contain the despatch of the gallant Admiral, the remarks of the Controller of the Navy, Admiral Warden's abstract with diagrams of trials alluded to in the Report of December 3rd. The Return took some time in printing, in consequence of the unusual pressure on the Parliamentary printers. It was not till the 4th of May that it was printed and delivered, and then in an incomplete form. The first document was omitted, but the Report on it and the abstract were printed. There could be nothing wilful in the suppression of the despatch, for the Controller of the Navy in his Report gave nearly the whole sub-stance of it to the House. Four days after, on the 8th of May, Admiral Robinson the Controller of the Navy, finding the Paper had been printed and delivered in an incomplete state, came over to the Ad- 1128 miralty and pointed out to him that the Report had been left out, and thereupon he made a Minute dated the same day, using these words—This Report of Admiral Warden was accidentally omitted from Return No. 128, and should be added to it. H. G. L.As no fresh Motion was necessary for its production it was made to bear the same No. 128 as the Return, of which it originally formed part. On the 20th of May the copy was sent to Messrs. Hansard, and it was the 10th of June before the first proof was received; this delay being owing to the plans. On the 13th of June, three days afterwards, the Report was returned to Messrs. Hansard, and on the 25th of June the revise was received; on the 7th of July it was issued to Members. The great delay that had occurred was owing to the increased demands upon the printer and the great labour involved in the production of Returns which contained the plans and diagrams in question. The gallant officer the Member for Rye (Captain Mackinnon), not content with making this charge against the Admiralty of suppressing a despatch, the greater part of which was given by the Controller in his Report, made a personal charge against him, and he must say he regretted extremely that after thinking it right to indulge in the language he used he did not wait to learn what answer he would make. In the remarks he had made on the Bellerophon that gallant officer said he (Lord Henry Lennox) had been guilty of gross inaccuracy, and that his statement was the correct one. He (Lord Henry Lennox) had to reply that the statements he had made with reference to the Bellerophon were correct in every particular; and those statements were endorsed in the most exact manner. If the gallant officer would only do him the favour to wait a very few days, an interesting document would be laid on the table from those Admirals who had been consulted, which would prove that his statements were quite correct. There was another charge made against him. If he had known that the statement of Admiral Ryder as to the qualities of the Bellerophon was part of a private letter he should not have read it to the House without having first obtained the consent of that gallant Admiral to his doing so. The House would remember that he was not aware until the night before, that in I consequence of his right hon. Friend's (the I First Lord of the Admiralty's) illness, he 1129 should have to move the Naval Estimates. He had in consequence been compelled to go hurriedly through a vast mass of Papers, and he had not time to do move than to cull from them what he thought were the most striking points to lay before the Committee. It was in consequence of this haste that he had been led to read the extract in question, which otherwise he should not have mode public until the gallant Admiral had repeated his statement hi the Report, which was subsequently published. He was the more anxious to state that fact because it appeared that some good persons out-of-doors had taken into their heads the extraordinary notion that by reading that extract he had implied that Admiral Ryder was opposed to all turret-ships, and had faith in the broadside system only. Their minds must be strangely constituted, for it so happened that the speech he had made on that occasion was the only one which had been made of recent times in which the turret system had not been alluded to. What Admiral Ryder intended by his statement was that the Bellerophon was a most powerful and admirable armour-clad ship of war, and to that opinion he still adhered. These were the three charges which the hon. and gallant Gentleman had brought against him. With reference to the charges that he or his Colleagues had wilfully suppressed the despatch, he need only refer 10 his career since he had entered that House to convince hon. Members that it was impossible that he could have been guilty of being a party to such a proceeding. The hon. Member had attributed not only the worst, but the most stupid motives to him with reference to the accident that had occurred with respect to this despatch. He did not think it worth while to reply to such a charge, but he could not help saying that when the hon. and gallant Member used the word "suppressed," he had gone beyond all proper decorum of that House. He turned with the greatest pleasure from the remarks of the hon. and gallant Member to those of the other distinguished authorities who addressed the Committee that evening upon naval matters. There was not a single word which had fallen from the hon. Members for Tavistock, Lincoln, Liverpool, and Birkenhead to which he as the organ of the Admiralty in that House could take the least exception, although he had listened with the greatest attention and interest to their remarks. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda) had made it matter 1130 of complaint against the Admiralty that they had now afloat so many different types of vessels. But surely the hon. Member would not say that in this age of continual advance in science the Admiralty were to adopt one fixed and unchangeable type of vessel, even though some years ago it might have been the most powerful known? A ship that was built to-day upon the most scientific principles would become obsolete in a few years, and it was, therefore, no fault on the part of the Admiralty that they had endeavoured to keep pace with the advance of scientific knowledge by making improvements in the type of the vessels they were building. He would pass by the speeches of the hon. Gentlemen the Members for Liverpool and Birkenhead, because he thought they could be more conveniently answered in his reply to the hon. Member for Lincoln. He took it generally that the hon. Members for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) and Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) were in favour of turret-ships. The former, however, expressed a high opinion of the Bellerophon and of the Hercules, while the hon. Member for Birkenhead anticipated nothing but evil from them. The hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) took very much the same line, and he would now address himself to the observations of that hon. Member. In the first place, the tone of the hon. Member's remarks was most agreeable to him as the representative of the Admiralty. From what the hon. Member had said he deduced the fact that his constant intercourse with Admiral Robinson during the time he presided over the Committee, had produced in his mind the conviction that Admiral Robinson was one of the most conscientious, painstaking, and energetic of our public servants. The hon. Member in the first place objected to the Minotaur class having five masts; but that rigging had been given them by the recommendation of a Committee of naval officers, consisting of Admiral Schomberg, Captain Mends, and Captain Hall, Superintendent of the Sheerness Dockyard. If the hon Member had taken the trouble to inquire he would have found that he (Lord Henry Lennox) had not to defend the present but a former Board of Admiralty with respect to them. With reference to the Achilles, her four masts were not given her by the advice or the wish of the Controller of the Navy. The hon. Member had then proceeded to draw a graphic picture of the horrors of going to sea in Her Majesty's gunboat Vixen, She was certainly not a 1131 popular vessel in the service; but of her sister ship, the Viper, her commander had reported more favourably. It should, however, be recollected that these vessels were built for a particular purpose; they were intended to be very small, of very light draft of water, to be heavily armour-plated, and to carry the most powerful guns. It was impossible that ships built under such conditions could be very comfortable seagoing vessels, although he believed they had been found perfectly efficient for the purposes for which they were intended. The hon. Member next observed that we had not got an iron-clad fit for anything—that not one of them was fit for ocean work. On the contrary, however, it was a fact that we possessed ironclads, of not the most favourable type, which had done and were doing ocean work in an admirable manner. The converted ship Ocean, an iron-clad of an old-fashioned typo, had met with the most terrific weather on her journey, being caught in a cyclone of the greatest violence, and yet had behaved admirably, and had performed important services in distant seas. The hon. Gentleman further objected to what he called the vacillation and the uncertainty of the Constructive Department, and had pointed to three ships—the Research, the Pallas, and the Bcllerophon—as having undergone extensive alterations since they were originally laid down. The Research, was the first of the converted ships, and was the first attempt to build a small iron-clad with a low deck, which rendered her liable to ship great quantities of water. She was built at the time when turret-ships were coming into vogue, one of the main points of which was the low deck, and the Constructor of the Navy built her with a low deck in order that if she did not answer she might be economically converted into a turret-ship. The Pallas was not then finished, but was in the hands of the builders. He was sure it was unnecessary for him to point out that it was by no means an unusual course, after a new ship had been in commission and was brought home, to make alterations; and the alterations made in the Pallas and the Research were not more extensive or more expensive than those usually made. The alterations in the Bellerophon were little more than alterations on paper. In answer to another point referred to by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely), he could assure the; hon. Member that it was through no want of confidence in the Constructive Depart- 1132 ment that his right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty issued the circular inviting private shipbuilding firms to send in designs. The reason of their doing so was that so much had been said of the superiority of the designs of private builders over those of the Admiralty that the Admiralty were desirous of testing the point. They were anxious to see whether there was anything in the private trade which could add to the efficiency of the ships of the Royal Navy. The hon. Gentleman had also alluded to what he alleged was the failure of the Amazon class. But the hon. Gentleman was in error on that point, for the two sloops of that class, which were either leaving or had left for foreign stations, had fully realized the expectations which the Lords of the Admiralty had entertained of them. Again the hon. Gentleman had asked, "If the Secretary to the Admiralty avers the Bellerophon to be perfection, why are not more Bellerophons built?" The speech of the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves) supplied the answer. He must: remind the hon. Gentleman that he had never stated that the Bellerophon was the perfection of a ship-of-war. What he had \ staled was that she was an excellent vessel; but the fact was that in the Hercules we had the same class of ship improved. The Hercules was an improved Bellerophon, and when she went to sea, which would be before long, the hon. Gentleman would, he believed, fully acknowledge that she was a most efficient ship. He now came to the Motion of the hon. Member for Lincoln—That a Committee of scientific men be appointed to take into consideration the lending characteristics that should be adopted in the future construction of the Vessels of the Navy.There were several reasons why he hoped the hon. Member would not press his Motion to a division. Two hon. Members on that side of the House had pointed out that the effect of granting such an inquiry as that for which the hon. Gentleman asked would be to diminish the Parliamentary responsibility of the Board of Admiralty; because if such a Commission were composed of gentlemen out-of-doors who were not Members of that House their Report would be binding on; the Admiralty, who would consequently come there, not to defend their own ships, not to defend their own policy, not to defend the acts of their Constructor or Controller, but simply to say they had 1133 carried out the recommendations contained in the Report of the Commission. But another reason against this Motion was that the present was an exceedingly bad time fur arriving at a decision on this subject. He might also point out to the hon. Gentleman the difficulty attending the appointment of a Commission which would carry out the objects which he desired, because that Commission would be utterly worthless unless it was so composed as to gain for its decisions the universal assent of public opinion. But the hon. Gentleman must recollect that the Commission would have to decide among other things between the respective; merits of the broadside and the turretships; and, were they to commence their labours now, they would have to decide between practical experiments on the one side as against theoretical views on the: other. The Captain, designed by Captain Coles, and the Monarch, the turret-ship built by the Controller of the Navy, would be completed during the ensuing winter, and the trials of the two vessels would be made next spring, but until that trial was made it would be impossible that a decision could be fairly arrived at. He really must beg to correct the impression which the hon. Gentlemen entertained—that the iron-clad ships which had been completed had not yielded the results which had been anticipated. That that was not the case the following statement would show:—The estimated speed of the Royal Oak was 12 knots, and the actual speed 12.52; of the Royal Alfred 12 knots, as against 12.35; of the Caledonia 12.4, as against 13.0; of the Ocean 12.4, as against 12.8; of the Prince Consent 12.4, as against 12.77; of the Zealous 12, as against 12.49; of the Bellerophon 14, as against 14.171; of the Lord Clyde 13, as against 13.43; of the Lord Warden 13, as against 13.49; of the Pallas 13.8, as against 13.05; of the Viper 9.25, as against 9.58; of the Vixen 9.25, as against 9.02; of the Penelope 12.00 as against 12.77.He now approached what really was at the bottom of the whole subject—the question why the Admiralty did not build more turret-ships? The question was asked also by the hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda), who not only implored them not to build more broadside-ships, but wished them to build two more turret-ships during the present year. But the House would not, he trusted, listen to the proposal of the hon. Gentleman. The Admiralty had no plans for turret-ships which they could conscientiously recommend for adoption during the present year. Then there 1134 was the reason stated by the hon. Member for Liverpool (Mr. Graves). It was always an invidious thing to refer in that House to the doings of foreign countries, and he was the last man who would feel any jealousy or suspicion of the motives of the powerful Sovereign who ruled so near our shores. But we could not shut our eyes to the fact that the French were getting an enormous iron-clad fleet together. They were already on an equality with ourselves, and if the House refused to grant the two ships which it was proposed to build, they would be superior. On the other hand, the French fleet was composed exclusively of broadsides, for they had not embarked in turret-ships at all. They had not spent, as we have done, nearly £1,000,000 in making these experiments. If the House would grant these two vessels, as he hoped they would do at his solicitation, we should be building two more broadsides to enable our navy to bear comparison with other navies, none of which had turret-ships. His right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Admiralty had fondly hoped up to the night before last to be able to attend that evening, and be enabled, with that deep knowledge and great attachment which he had always felt for the Department over which he now presided, to give the House the reasons why he wished to build these two broadside-ships instead of turret-ships. He had written to him very clearly on this point, requesting him to say that he was not speaking as the irresponsible Secretary of the Admiralty; he must, therefore, be accepted as the feeble mouthpiece of his right hon. Chief, who would be the last man to reject turret-ships. Indeed, so far from having any prejudice against them, he had over and over again spoken of their advantages for home defence, and of the desirability of getting the pattern of a good sea-going vessel of that description. So lately as 1865 his right hon. Friend had made a speech to that effect, and most of his Colleagues, he believed, were anxious to find such a model. There was, in fact, but one feeling in the Admiralty—namely, that we are not in possession of such information and such a model as would warrant us in building turret-ships instead of broadsides. The opinion of Admiral Yelverton had been referred to. His gallant Friend had stated in his Report that the sea was so rough in the Channel that the broadsides could not open their ports, and that the turret-ships could have 1135 silenced all their impotent opponents. But in the same breath the Admiral stated what ship he would like to see built. He said that the ship that he wanted was one that would ensure the comfort and health of his men, and he would chose a vessel with a freeboard of from 12 feet to 14 feet.
LORD HENRY LENNOX
said, he would read the gallant Admiral's words—There is, no doubt, a thorough sea-going turret-ship, say 12 feet, or 14 feet, out of the water.But with such a freeboard the very first principle of the advocates of turret-ships would be transgressed. A low freeboard was always put forward as the grand charm of a turret-ship, but with 12 feet or 14 feet of freeboard the builder would immediately have to resort to armour. The ship Captain had a freeboard of 8 feet; the hon. Member for Birkenhead (Mr. Laird) proposed a vessel of similar proportions; the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Samuda) proposed a 9 feet 6 inch freeboard; and the turret-ship launched the other day had been built from designs by the Chief Constructor of the Navy, with a freeboard of 14 feet. The designs of Admiral Halsted, which were the admiration of everyone at the French Exhibition, presented a freeboard of 16 feet. It was easy for hon. Members to urge the Admiralty to build sea-going turret-ships, but what sort of turret-ship would they agree to recommend? They did not want a turret-ship of the Miantonomah class; but a vessel such as that described by Lord Clarence Paget, which would go to sea, keep at sea, and be able to remain there for weeks. He therefore asked hon. Members to place themselves in the position of the Admiralty, and realize the difficulties of their position when they were asked to decide what was and what was not a good design for a bonâ fide seagoing ship-of-war. Respecting this, his right hon. Friend had asked him to point out that two turret-ships designed for cruizing would be tried in the spring. One of them was designed by the arch-priest of the turret system, Captain Coles; and in order that the trial might be unquestionably fair, Captain Coles had chosen tonnage, armour, and builders. He had fixed on the yard of the hon. Member for Birkenhead—[Mr. LAIRD: It's my son's yard]—and when that ship 1136 was finished it would be a model ship, realizing the ideal of the projector. The other was being constructed on the plans of the Admiralty, with a higher freeboard. It was for this, among other reasons, that his right hon. Friend had been induced to go on again with broadsides, instead of entering on the construction of turret-ships. If his right hon. Friend had any prejudice on the subject it was in favour of the turret principle, and not against it: he felt that the weight of opinion in the country was in its favour. So strongly had his right hon. Friend been impressed by the public opinion on the subject that he had written to several gallant commanders of the Channel Fleet to ask them whether they thought the Admiralty would do well to pause before embarking in any more turret-cruizers until these two vessels had been tried? The answers were very brief. Two gallant officers were in favour of turret-ships, but they did not appear to have much confidence in their Sea-going properties, for they remarked, that if they fail they can be cut down and converted; but of the other opinions his gallant friend Admiral Warden said—It may, indeed, be quite open to doubt whether it is wise at the present time to commence building two more turret-ships when there are two so near completion, and which will be so soon on their trial.Admiral Yelverton, after regretting that the trial would not occur sooner, said—All things considered, I am clearly of opinion that the two turret-ships. Captain and Monarch, ought to be fairly tested as sea-going ships before we venture on building other vessels of the sort. When the numerous advantages of the turret system are found to be compatible with the many and varied requirements of a seagoing ship in all weathers, it will he time to depart from what I hear you now intend doing.Captain Foley, of the Cambridge, lately flag captain to Admiral Yelverton, said—With regard to what I think of turret-ships, and whether it would be advisable to build two turret in lieu of two broadside-ships during this year, I think it would be extreme folly to do so until such time as the Captain and Monarch, now building, have had a trial at sea, to test their seagoing qualities. Having had, during the last year, some experience in the Prince Albert, I consider the low freeboard turret-ship as useful in the English Navy only to protect the port to which she belongs as a coast defence, and not as a trustworthy seagoing ship, from the fact that in rough weather the sea breaks over the deck and will cause the turret-ship to bar up her ports to keep the water out, which would otherwise pour in; besides other reasons which a captain would find out when placed in such a vessel in a heavy 1137 sea. For protection of harbours they are admirable, and better than forts.Captain Hood, of the Excellent, was of opinion that—All things considered with regard to sea-going iron-clads, ships armed properly on the broadside principle are most decidedly to be preferred to turret-ships." Captain King Hall, Superintendent at Sheerness Dockyard, said—I take the liberty of writing frankly to you, because I deem it a public duty, and seriously trust that no pressure of irresponsible opinion will tempt the Board of Admiralty to order other sea-going turret-ships to be built until the Monarch and Captain have been fairly and honestly tried, their detects discovered, and improvements suggested.Captain Vansittart, of the Achilles, was in favour of turrets, but did not believe any deck above turrets could be made strong enough to stand. He would commence building turrets at once, and if not a success as sea-going ships would convert them into harbour defences. Captain Chamberlain, of the Asia, was of the same opinion. That, as he had already pointed out to the House, was not a policy which the Admiralty felt themselves justified in pursuing at the present moment, when they were anxious to increase the number of their iron clad ships to a reasonable proportion, as compared with those of foreign Powers, Captain Willes, of the Steam Reserve, Devonport, said—I think the Admiralty quite right in not substituting two turret-ships for the broadside ones i in the building programme, until the Captain and the Monarch, have been properly tried at sea. I beg that it may be distinctly understood that in my opinion a turret-vessel proper, the Royal Sovereign, has all the elements necessary for harbour and coast defence.Nearly all those gallant officers were in favour of the construction of turret-ships for the purposes of harbour and coast defence; but his right hon. Friend was determined to go on with the building of broadside-ships until the two turret-ships to which he had referred had been tried. He might add that his hon. and gallant Colleague, the Member for Stamford (Sir. John Hay), had begged of him to state that, while their views as to the turret system remained entirely unchanged, they most cordially supported the line of policy which his right hon. Friend at the head of the Admiralty had deemed it right to adopt. His right hon. Friend, too, wished him to say that he would do everything in his power to hasten the trial of the two turret-ships which were being built. On 1138 several occasions, owing to the admirable workmanship and great zeal displayed by the firm with which his hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead was connected, much more rapid progress had been made with those ships last year than was thought possible, and his right hon. Friend had lately written down to ask whether their completion might not be still further hastened. With respect to another question—the qualities of the Invincible class of ships—it would be, perhaps, more convenient to deal with it when Vote 10 came under discussion. The hon. Member for Tavistock (Mr. Samuda) had a distinct Motion to make on the subject. Before he sat down he was about to take a somewhat unusual course, but he hoped that under the peculiar circumstances of the case the House would give it its sanction. His right hon. Friend had hoped from day to day that he would be able to attend in his place, but being, owing to continued illness, disappointed in that expectation, he had written him a letter, which he should wish to read to the House. In that letter his right hon. Friend said—I have always been most anxious to give a fair trial to turret-ships at sea (and I made a long speech on the subject in 1865), and nothing I could do since I have been in Office have I neglected to expedite the trial which will come off in the case of the Captain and Monarch. That trial will come off two years before any new turret-ship laid down under my authority this year would be ready, and I do think it only common prudence to wait for the trials of the Captain and Monarch, which will come off in the spring, more especially when it is considered how great is the preponderance of naval opinion as to doubts attending the turret system as applied for sea-going and cruizing purposes.In conclusion, he had simply to express a hope that the hon. Member for Lincoln would not press his Amendment to a division. He thought he had said enough to show that in the hands of the present Board of Admiralty the turret system would have a fair trial, and he would merely add that it was most painful to the members of the Board to have to dismiss so many dockyard labourers employed on wooden shipbuilding, in order that they might devote the money to the purpose of laying down two ships to be added to the strength of our iron-clad fleet. He had to apologize for having trespassed so long on the patience of the House.
§ MR. CHILDERS
said, he was sure the House would feel that no apology was needed from the noble Lord for any want of efficiency on his part in supplying the 1139 place of his Chief after the very clear and fair explanation which he had just made. He had in the course of his speech referred to the great difficulties which the Board of of Admiralty had to encounter in dealing with professional questions of the great importance of that under discussion, and nobody, he thought, who had watched the naval debates of the last eight or nine years could have failed to perceive that those who when out of Office spoke somewhat lightly on the subject, and especially on the merits of turret-ships, were disposed very much to alter their tone as soon as they became responsible for the management of affairs. He (Mr. Childers) did not suppose that politics had anything to do in influencing the opinions of hon. Members on this question, for he was not aware that a turret-ship was either a Tory or a Liberal production, but the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Stamford (Sir John Hay) had been very candid in his admissions, and he hoped that the change in his views would moderate the tone of those who were so fond of dogmatizing on this subject. His noble Friend had, he thought, in the present instance, given good reasons why the Inquiry proposed by the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Seely) should not be instituted; but he (Mr. Childers) could at the same time have wished that the noble Lord had been able to lay before the House some plan which, without destroying the liberty of action of the Constructive Department of the Admiralty, or diminishing its responsibility for all that was done under its superintendence, would give it the advantage of a certain amount of scientific investigation and advice. That was a policy which had been more than once advocated by his noble Friend (Lord Clarence Paget)—and he should like to see some such plan adopted. He endorsed most fully what had been said on both sides as to the great labour, pains, assiduity, and public spirit displayed by the Controller of the Navy, and those engaged in all matters connected with the construction of ships in late years. He believed that they had in that gallant officer and in Mr. Heed mid the other members of the Department a most efficient body of public servants. The proposal of the hon. Member for Lincoln, whatever might be the views of those who supported it, would have the effect of divesting the Board of Admiralty of a considerable amount of responsibility, and of casting a reflection upon the ability 1140 of eminent men who at present advised the Board. On that ground he should feel compelled to vote against the proposed Resolution. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty was quite right in saying that until the Captain and the Monarch were afloat, and experience was obtained of their performances, the Commission, if appointed, would find itself for some months with practically nothing to do, and he would advise the Board of Admiralty by all means to expedite the construction of the iron-clads which they had in hand. He trusted that by next spring the Captain and the Monarch, would have had their trial, and as he, for one, was not an opponent of the turret system, and had more than once done all in his power to encourage it, he looked forward to the result with the greatest interest and confidence.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided:—Ayes 47; Noes 37: Majority 10.