HC Deb 17 April 1874 vol 218 cc724-59

, in rising to call attention to the organization of the Royal Naval Reserve and the importance of establishing a close connection between the Royal Navy and the Mercantile Marine, said, the House need not approach the subject with any misgiving as to the great extent of the naval resources of the country. The number of seamen and seafaring persons employed on board ships entering and leaving the ports of the United Kingdom was not less than 407,000, and in that estimate he did not include the vast number of ships flying the British flag in colonial and foreign waters. He believed he was correct in saying that if we had a maritime conscription such as existed in France we should be able to muster a force of not less than 700,000 men to man our fleet. He did not think, therefore, it was necessary to submit a formal Resolution on the subject. Our available naval reserve was of enormous extent as compared with that of other nations, and it would be unreasonable to expect that the First Lord of the Admiralty, who had so recently taken office, would be prepared to declare his adhesion to any definite policy on the subject. As a means of comparison, he would quote a few figures from an interesting speech delivered last year by Commander Goodenough at the United Service Institution. It appeared that the maritime conscription in France comprised a force of 172,000 men; but the whole of those men were not fit for active service at sea. For some years before the Franco-German War, the number serving on board the French Fleet was about 15,000, while 7,000 men were in reserve in barracks. The men of the Reserve were double the number of those in active service, and would constitute a force of 65,000 men, from 20 to 36 years of age. Commander Goodenough also stated the strength of the Naval Reserves of the North German Empire to be 80,000 men, but only a small proportion of that total was composed of men who had actually served in the North German Navy. At the present time there were about 5,000 seamen employed, and the Reserves might be taken at 15,000 men. The United States had no Naval Reserve whatever, and the absence of such Reserve had been frequently deplored by the Secretary of the United States Navy in his Report to Congress, while, in regard to Russia, the number of ships of the Russian Navy engaged in active cruising was too limited to afford the means of highly training a large number number of men as sailors, and the Mercantile Marine was comparatively insignificant. It would therefore appear, in comparing our position with that of other nations, that we required nothing but a good organization combined with that completeness which marks the preparations of other Powers, to establish effectually the security of this country from naval attacks. With regard to this subject, Sir Frederick Grey had expressed an opinion that for our war Navy we should require 84,000 officers and men. Admiral Sherard Osborn, in his recent pamphlet, had recommended approximately the same numbers; and those estimates would not seem exaggerated when we took into view the extent of our commerce and the necessity of our being able to protect our colonial possessions. There seemed, therefore, no reason from the recent changes in naval warfare for going back from the recommendations of the Royal Commission, of which Lord Cardwell was the Chairman, that we should enrol 20,000 seamen in our Naval Reserve, and establish a force of 12,000 fishermen for coast defence. It, however, had been said, that the Naval Reserve was a Force on which they could not rely, and that our seamen were deteriorating; but that opinion was one which was not shared by those who were most competent to form an independent opinion on the subject. This was shown by the report of Sir Cooper Key who took the Naval Reserve to sea a few years since. His report of the 1,700 men of the Reserve embarked in the fleet for a month's cruise at Whitsuntide, 1869, was decidedly favourable, and it was much to be regretted such cruises were not more frequently repeated. The complaints we heard in the present day were not made now for the first time. Before the repeal of the Navigation Laws in 1849, the incompetency of the officers and the want of discipline among seamen were the theme of constant complaints among shipowners, and when assertions of that kind were made, it was desirable to know how far they were supported by facts, and accordingly the Board of Trade in 1872 sent Mr. Grey and Mr. Hamilton to the principal seaports, to inquire if the character of the Mercantile Marine had undergone any such depreciation, as was reported to have taken place; and their Report was to the effect that they had not ascertained any fact to establish such an allegation, but that on the contrary a great improvement had taken place in the condition of our seamen. Although, undoubtedly, there was a proportion of black sheep among them, the fact was that since the introduction of steamers, the best men had been attracted to the steam service, leaving an inferior class to man the sailing vessels. The inferior scale of wages in sailing vessels as compared with steamers was the cause of the difficulty in manning sailing ships. There was no general complaint among the owners of steamships. The Inman Company, as stated by Mr. Inman at a conference lately held in Liverpool, made it a rule to give no advance note, and to take only married men, if they could get them. That had proved to be an excellent rule. They never wanted men, and they had many men in the service who had been with them 15 years. Steamers in fact not only offered higher wages, but also the great boon of shorter absences from home, and the employment was, in many cases, a continuous service. In the Royal Navy, with the like object of securing a superior class of seamen, it had been found necessary to introduce the continuous-service system. It might be said the profits of the trade were too small to allow of additional charges being placed upon the employers of seamen, but in that case the public must bear the charge by paying higher freights; and the improvement in the seamen would have the happy effect of diminishing the loss of life and property at sea. He believed that if all were done which might fairly be claimed on the part of the seamen, it would have a sensible effect in promoting their efficiency and elevating their moral character. The reduction in the premiums of insurance would compensate for the expenditure upon wages. Shipowners would derive no benefit from the intervention of the State in encouraging apprenticeships to the sea and subsidizing training ships so long as the wages of skilled workmen on shore remained so much higher than the wages of seamen. It was a well-known fact that at the present time a large number of seamen who had been carefully trained were serving, not as seamen, but as firemen, being induced to take that disagreeable task by the somewhat superior wages which they received in that capacity, while many left the sea altogether, because their experience as sailors had given them an aptitude for many employments on shore in which they earned better wages than they could command either in steamers or sailing vessels. Higher wages, however, were paid in our own merchant service than in another, except, perhaps, that of the United States. Thus far, the nations which had been the builders of ships had furnished seamen to man them; and, as the United Kingdom enjoyed an undisputed pre-eminence as a shipbuilding country, we might be confident that our sailors could hold their own, if they chose, with the sailors of other nations. He desired that the question should be looked upon as a national question. It was quite clear that if there was anything in the spirit of the law prejudicial to the interests of the sailor, that state of the law should be at once considered with a view to its amendment. There was one point of considerable public importance to which he would invite the attention of the House. He referred to the practice of issuing to seamen advance notes upon their being shipped for service on board vessels of the Mercantile Marine. That point had been repeatedly brought under the consideration of the Commission on Unseaworthy Ships, and it had been argued that the practice was a serious cause of deterioration among our seamen, and also gave rise to the loss of property in shipping. The seaman could not cash his advance note, except at a heavy discount; the money raised by the transaction was too often squandered in debauchery; in many cases not a farthing was laid out in providing an outfit of clothes for the intended voyage; and seamen were the only class of labourers who received an advance of wages before any work was done. The allotment note, on the other hand, was most advantageous to seamen and their families, and should receive all possible encouragement from shipowners. The Commission also reported that it was exceedingly desirable that sailors' boarding-houses should be licensed and under inspection, and that no such boarding-houses should be allowed in connection with beer-houses and public-houses. He hoped that the Government might feel justified in adopting the suggestion. It was further urged that we should come to some understanding with foreign Powers as to the restraint of crimping in seaports abroad, and that it might be feasible to make crimping by a British subject on a British vessel in a foreign port, penal. Might it not be possible, by Consular Convention, to insure to shipowners that agreements made by the seamen in this country should continue binding upon them in a foreign country? Shipmasters scarcely did their duty to each other in the mutual endeavour to obtain good crews. In the discharge note it was a practice to endorse the seaman in the conventional words as "very good," when he deserved a totally different character. Even in the Reserve, he believed, might be found some very bad bargains for the country, and if any such existed there should be no hesitation on the part of the responsible officers in weeding them out. The retainers were so liberal that none but efficient and well-conducted men should be allowed to remain in the Service. The expense of £12 per man was far too large to admit of inefficient men being retained, and he suggested that a different arrangement should be made in regard to seamen entering the Reserve for the first time. The uniform retainer was £6 for every man, irrespective of attendance at drill or proficiency in chill. By a recent regulation an addition of 1d. per day was given, but as the men served for only 28 days, it did not involve a large extra expenditure, or offer any great stimulus to improvement. If, however, they fixed the minimum sum at £5, with an additional scale of pay up to £6 for efficiency in drill and good conduct, a greater stimulus would be given to the men to acquire a knowledge of their duties. The expense would not be much greater than at present, but even if it were he did not think it would be grudged by the country. No doubt, recruiting for the Reserve had been checked by the increase in steamers, which, especially those in the coasting trade, were so short a time in port that the crews could not attend drill without losing their regular employment. The steamers, however, were a bad school of seamanship, but there was still an ample fleet of sailing vessels to form a nursery for the Naval Reserve. It was very much to be regretted that we had failed to keep up the Reserve to the standard recommended by the Royal Commission, or even to the number it reached only a few years ago; and even if we had to incur a certain expenditure for such a purpose, the money would be well expended. If such an expenditure led to any tangible result, the country would gladly bear it, for it was the insurance fund of the nation. The Royal Commission recommended that the Force should be composed of trained seamen, and it was to be recruited in the first instance from adults. As a temporary measure 20,000 men were to be enrolled from the merchant service; but, as regarded future supply, school ships were to be established, capable of accommodating from 100 to 200 boarders in each ship, of whom 100 were to be supported by the State. Two thousand four hundred boys would thus be supplied annually to the Mercantile Marine and the Reserve, and it was recommended that £40,000 should be voted annually for the maintenance of the ships. No Vote had ever been taken to carry into effect this recommendation, nor had any Vote been taken to supply the place of the Naval Coast Volunteers. There were at present, it was true, eleven training ships at different ports; but, in so far as they were to be regarded as training vessels for the Reserve, all except the Warspite were upon a wrong principle. Seven of the training ships were intended to receive street Arabs, and, under the Industrial Schools Act, they had received a total subsidy of £11,870. These ships could accommodate 1,900 boys, and the actual number on board was 1,250. There were also three reformatory ships: they could take 750 boys, the actual number being 647. They had received £8,906. The Government, however, having only subsidized industrial schools or reformatories afloat, had done nothing to help poor but respectable parents to train their sons for the sea; and he would therefore suggest that, as an experiment, they should take over one of the ships stationed in the Thames and one in the Mersey; that the boys should be of the same class as those admitted into the training ships of the Navy; and that the expense of the ships taken over should be met by a contribution in equal thirds from a special Vote to be taken, as for educational purposes, by a contribution from the Mercantile Marine Fund, and by another from the Admiralty, out of the Vote taken for their general training-establishment. The contribution from the Admiralty should be payable only on the completion of the training and upon the boy's qualifications being tested by examination. It should be a further condition of the Admiralty grant that the boy should consent to serve in the Navy for one year. The cost of maintaining boys in the existing training ships was on an average £20; but assuming that the instruction was made more perfect than at present, it would probably be safe to take the expenditure at £30 a-head. In each of the ships in the Thames and the Mersey there should be accommodation for 250 boys. He ventured to insist strongly on the importance of passing through the Navy, boys intended for the Reserve, because it was quite certain that mere drill without discipline would not prepare a young seaman for naval duties. It might be urged that the crews of our men-of-war were already composed in such largo proportion of boys and ordinary seamen that it would be impossible to pass any additional number of boys through the Navy; but the problem might be solved by commissioning such a ship as the Ariadne specially for the purpose of training the ordinary seamen passing through the Navy into the Reserve. He had omitted to mention that he would make the age of admission 16, and the period of service in the training ships two years. The duties of the officers appointed to the Ariadne would he arduous; but the number of lieutenants might be doubled, and devotion to the duty should be duly recognized by the Admiralty. It had been proposed by several local Marine Boards that the Government should encourage apprenticeship to the sea, by offering a premium of £10 to every boy on completing an apprenticeship of four years, on production of a certificate of character, and passing an examination in seamanship. He did not see why the suggestion should not be adopted, provided it was stipulated that all apprentices receiving premiums should serve a year in the Navy as ordinaries, receiving a further gratuity of £10 on leaving the Navy and passing into the Reserve. If they remained in the Reserve until 50 years of age, they should be entitled to the same pensions as seamen in the Navy. If a full Reserve could be formed from the boys thus trained, the necessity for the Reserve paid by annual retainers would, as Mr. W. S. Lindsay had pointed out, no longer exist. He need not again enlarge on the importance of forming a Reserve for coast defence among our 150,000 fishermen. It would be worth while to commission a few more gunboats, to be employed in visiting the fishing stations in the slack season of the fisheries, thus affording the fishermen the opportunity of learning their gun-drill without travelling to an impossible distance from their homes, and avoiding the necessity of keeping up several permanent drill batteries on shore, where there was often a most scanty attendance. The employment of a few gunboats on that service would be useful, if only to increase the opportunities—so rare at present in the experience of naval officers—of becoming acquainted with our coasts. Further, no more honorary commissions in the Naval Reserve should be given, except to owners of yachts who succeeded in persuading all their men to join the Reserve. The white ensign might be used by any owner who could bring 50 men, bonâ fide yachtsmen, into the Reserve, and the privilege should cease unless substitutes were found for any men in the original batch of 50 who withdrew from the Reserve. Cadetships in the Naval Reserve had been given to young gentlemen from the Conway and Worcester, and that should be followed up by giving them a short course on board the Excellent. Officers of the Volunteers were invited to go to Aldershot, and for the same reason, no more commissions should be given in the Naval Reserve except to officers of the Mercantile Marine who had duly qualified. The value of the Naval University at Greenwich would be immensely increased as a national institution, when the officers of the merchant service were allowed to participate in all the advantages it afforded. Lastly, he urged the appointment to the Reserve, at an early date, of a competent Staff of officers with an Admiral at their head. Until a recent date the Controller of the Coast Guard devoted a portion of his time to the Reserves; but there was work for a considerable staff of officers, if the duty of increasing the numbers and efficiency of the force was to be properly done. Without an officer of high rank and considerable influence at the head of the Reserve, its requirements would never be duly represented to the Admiralty. But they wanted not only an Admiral at the head, but at all the great ports a local representative of the Navy, who, by constant residence, would acquire influence over the seafaring population, who would induce them to join the Reserve and personally superintend their drills. In conclusion, the hon. Member said he had only to thank the House for the patience with which it had listened to him.


said, he was glad that his hon. Friend, than whom no man was more fit for the task, had directed the attention of the House to that subject the question of the Naval Reserve had been neglected or deliberately set aside by the late Government, as was shown by the Tote for it diminishing for several years past. He was also fortified in that assertion from the circumstance that the right hon. Gentleman the late First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking publicly somewhere last winter, said that— the defence of our shores is only a remote and unlikely duty for the Fleet to be tailed upon to perform." We should expect them to he on the coast of any enemy who might attack us, and for this reason our Admiralty authorities have always been less anxious to spend money on defensive armaments than on the construction of ships, which might on every ocean and in every quarter of the globe assert our moral supremacy. That was a very important and also a very candid and straightforward statement, but he ventured to dissent from it. He thought that 40,000 able trained seamen were, as a weapon of defence for this country, infinitely more valuable than six, eight, or ten unseaworthy iron-clads. In the face of the right hon. Gentleman's statement, he said that that great question had been "shunted" to let a very heavy train come up. Therefore it was very desirable to press upon a new Ministry and a new Parliament, the present state of our Naval Reserves. During the discussions on the Navy Estimates last year the late First Lord told them that the seamen and marines for whom they were then providing were sufficient at any moment to man the sea-going fleet. He was glad to hear that. He believed they had a noble body of trained seamen at the disposal of the Admiralty. And why were they efficient? Because they had been trained from early youth to their profession, and the system of training boys for the Navy was admirable. The number of ships in commission last year was 226, one-half of which they might put down as, strictly speaking, ships of war, from iron-clads to unarmoured cruisers, gunboats, &c., and the rest were transports, store-ships, troop-ships, and other vessels engaged in miscellaneous services. On Monday next they would be asked to vote 47,000 men, blue-jackets, marines, and others. Consequently, according to the statement of the late First Lord, that number was sufficient for the purposes of the seagoing fleet.


explained that his statement was that the seamen and marines were sufficient to man not only the ships in commission, but the ships which would be put in commission, there being ships of the Reserve which would be put in commission within a reasonable time.


presumed that if the ships in commission were doubled, the number of the Reserve would be approximately arrived at, and that half of them were ships of war and the other half transports, &c. Now, what was to be voted in the shape of Reserve men, and what were the means of manning at any moment a War fleet? The Coastguard had fallen to 4,300 men, though the Manning Commission recommended a strength of 12,000; about 12,000 merchant seamen were enrolled as a Naval Reserve, but it was a question whether we could at any moment lay our hands upon anything like that number; £1,000 was to be voted for the Pensioners, and it was taking a sanguine view to say there were 1,000 Pensioners available for a Reserve; and finally, there were possibly about 700 men enrolled in the newly-created Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, in which his hon. Friend (Mr. Brassey) had taken so prominent a part. There were thus somewhere under 18,000 Reserve men at our disposal. Were these sufficient even to man the Reserve of the fleet, and convert it at any moment into a War fleet? [Mr. GOSCHEN: Yes.] Then it was the minimum number, but there was a a question beyond the bare requirements of the Fleet. This country was becoming more and more dependent every year not only for the supplies for our manufactures, but also for the food of the people, upon the produce of foreign nations, and he wanted to know what means we had at our disposal for the protection of that trade. He was not going to say anything in favour of the old Navigation Laws; but what were the spirit and object of those laws? They were to encourage the growth of ships and seamen for the defence of the State. Those laws were held to be obstructive to trade, however, and were swept away, and our commerce had grown in an immeasurable degree in consequence; but in precise proportion to the growth of our commerce ought to be our means of defending that commerce. What were those means? He believed they were nil, so far as an effort had hitherto been made on the part of the State to develop them. There was a larger amount of property, floating on any given day upon the sea, belonging to the British nation than to the whole of the Continental States of Europe put together. Our weak point was our property at sea. That would be the quarter which would be attacked in the event of war, and we ought to be prepared at any moment to defend that amount of property in ships and goods. Looking at the Naval Re-serves from that point of view, he repeated that in his opinion the means of protection which they furnished for our trade by sea were practically nil. Let us put our House in order therefore in a time of peace and see—for it was more a matter of organization than of expense—whether we could not improve our position by organizing properly the means at our disposal. The Manning Commission—in which Lord Cardwell took a deep interest, that noble Lord having been an active member of it—recommended a Reserve Force of 60,000 men, involving an addition to the Navy Estimates of something under £600,000, this including 12,000 Coastguard men and 20,000 adult merchant seamen at first. That seemed a large sum; but practically it was only equivalent to the cost of about two second-class iron-clads. Little, however, had been since done in order to give effect to the recommendations of that Commission. In fact, it was the contrary, and although he believed that the 4,300 Coastguard men had been carefully weeded and were reliable seamen, yet there ought to be besides these a body of well-trained able seamen, on whom we might rely at any moment; not men who carried false "A.B." certificates in their pockets, though they were the reverse of A.B.'s, but real sailors and men trained in the use of heavy artillery and competent to handle the cutlass or the carbine. The Commission, therefore, intended the present Naval Reserve for a temporary expedient, wishing to stimulate, by a Vote of £40,000 a-year to school ships in our chief ports the training of boys, for the merchant service, and to render them available for the Royal Navy in emergencies, but nothing had been done to carry out that, their chief, recommendation. Industrial and reformatory ships were certainly aided by the Home Office, but he was sorry not a penny had been given to assist in the training of the children of honest parents. The Warspite and the Chichester had turned out admirably trained boys; but many of those belonging to the latter were disqualified for the Royal Navy by a ridiculous Admiralty Regulation, requiring them to produce cer tificates of birth, which, being children of destitute parents, they could not do. He could not help thinking that a most absurd piece of red-tapeism. The Warspite had trained, since its establishment in the last century, 50,000 or 60,000 boys, but captains hesitated to take them because they had never been to sea. If they had a cruise now and then, they would get their sea legs. For his part, he should like to see a Warspite in all the principal ports of the United Kingdom. His complaint against the Admiralty was, that they had not taken counsel with private shipowners. Had they done so, he could not but think that they would have received their valuable advice. Private owners felt the want of able seamen so much that he was sure they would be glad to meet the Government upon fair terms in regard to this matter of training seamen. Moreover, if the State aided the training ships which the Royal Commission recommended, they could claim in return for the assistance to the early training of the boys the rig-lit of availing themselves of their services as Reserve men in case of emergency. He did not, at this early period after their accession to office, urge the Government for an answer at that moment. It would not be reasonable to do so, for they must have time to give their mind to the solution of the matter; but the question was a thoroughly national one, and he trusted Her Majesty's Government was alive to the importance of having a real and reliable Naval Reserve.


said, he was as glad as the noble Lord who had just sat down that his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) had taken an early opportunity of bringing the subject of the Naval Reserve of this country under the consideration of the new House of Commons, and he trusted that the new House would look with favour on that most important Force, and that when hon. Members brought the subject forward with the industry, accuracy, and talent of the hon. Member for Hastings, the House would always receive thorn with the attention they deserved. The noble Lord who had just sat down had charged him (Mr. Goschen) with intentional neglect of the Reserve Forces of the Navy.


said, he had not spoken in an offensive spirit at all. He had quoted the right hon. Gentleman's own words.


, in continuation, said, the noble Lord had not only quoted his words, but had put a gloss upon them which he ventured to say, without desiring to use an offensive expression, and confining himself to Parliamentary language, differed entirely from their real meaning, and was calculated to convey a totally false impression of what he (Mr. Goschen) had said. He thought that the noble Lord could not be perfectly serious when he charged him with neglecting the Reserve Force, or that he had not done him the honour to listen to his remarks on previous occasions, when he (Mr. Goschen) not only expressed the interest he took in the matter, but proposed schemes to the House for increasing that Force he had drawn up regulations with respect to these Reserves, and in the last year the Royal Naval Reserve, so far from falling off, had been increased by 2,000 men. It was scarcely fair, therefore, of the noble Lord to put such a construction on what he had said. The noble Lord had quoted two circumstances in favour of the construction which he put upon his views. The one was the reduction of the annual Vote, and the other certain words he (Mr. Goschen) had used with regard to the defensive measures adopted by this country. With regard to the latter, he would state to the House and the noble Lord what his feeling was. What he had said in effect was that naval authorities had been more anxious with regard to the offensive powers of this country than with regard to defensive measures, and if he was not much mistaken he first gave expression to these views—which he distinctly avowed—when referring to the anxiety which was manifested on the subject of coast defence as compared with that of sea-going ships, for during late years the amount of public attention which had been concentrated upon defending harbours in England was, he thought, somewhat unworthy of a great maritime nation. What he meant to express was this—that for a country claiming to be supreme on every sea, to be always speaking of and confining its attention to defensive measures was a thing which could not be generally approved. Further, what he was speaking of was not with regard to Naval Reserves as com- pared with ships, but with regard to the view the public seemed to take on this question. Then with regard to the Estimates, he deplored as much as any man in the House could, the fact that the numbers of the Naval Reserve had not for several years come up to their expectations. Two years ago he stated to the House the measures which had been taken to increase the numbers of the force. Last year it was found that the Reserve was not yet efficient, and he undertook to revise, and did revise, the then existing Regulations. The result, he was happy to say, was, that the Naval Reserve had been increased by 2,000 men, for when his hon. Friend brought this question before the House last year the numbers were a little under 12,000, and they were now a little under 14,000. That was a gratifying circumstance in itself, and was a proof that neither he nor his naval Colleagues had neglected the important subject under consideration, He also fervently joined in the wish which had been expressed, that the present Government would give the attention it deserved to this important Force, and that they would do as he had done, namely, from month to month watch its numbers with the greatest anxiety with the view to see what further measures were required for increasing its efficiency. The difficulty which had always been felt in obtaining men for the Reserve was less the pay and the pension—because it was generally agreed that these were adequate—than the objections the men felt to tying themselves to 28 days' drill in the year, as they were afraid that doing so would interfere with their other engagements. The limitation to certain places at certain times had been found to work inconveniently: and measures had been adopted for dividing the drill, so that the men would not be called upon for so many days at the same time, and also for making the places of drill as far as possible suitable to them. They had further especially endeavoured to maintain the efficiency of the First-class Reserve, even, as he was ready to admit, at the expense of numbers, by weeding it and keeping the standard as high as possible, so that they should not have a Force which looked well upon paper, but upon which they could not rely. An opportunity, however, was afforded to men of the Second Class who served well to obtain promotion into the First Class. With reference to the penny a-day given to those who had done well it was given and valued as a mark of distinction, and not as a pecuniary reward. "While differing from the views expressed by the noble Lord as to the efficiency of the Reserve, this he said distinctly—that he would cordially welcome any measure which would extend the Reserve, and he quite agreed with the noble Lord that it was more a question of organization than of cost. He had alluded to the disinclination which sailors entertained to tying themselves to certain days and places, and he should add that shipowners were also disinclined to engage men who were liable to be called out in the Naval Reserve. The noble Lord said that counsel had not been taken with shipowners, but in that, too, he was mistaken. They had consulted shipowners. The Board of Trade had examined most carefully into the disposition of the shipowners to accede to some regulations by which the supply of seamen might be at once increased, and additional men at the same time enrolled in the Reserve. There was, however, great difficulty found in making a regulation by which the Mercantile or any other Fund could be spent upon training-ships in connection with the Navy. One of the difficulties experienced was this—that if there were two young sailors, one of whom was free and the other liable to be called out as a Reserve man, the shipowner would naturally select the sailor who was free. These difficulties existed, and it was fair and right that they should be candidly stated. It would certainly be most desirable if shipowners could be induced by some means or other to engage men who were engaged in the Naval Reserve. He could not at first sight concur in the suggestion of his hon. Friend the Member for Hastings as to the expediency of having the men drilled once for all. He thought all naval authorities would agree with him that it was desirable the men should be drilled from time to time. Changes occurred in the navigation of ships and other matters, and though it was not absolutely necessary that the men should be drilled every year, he thought that they should be drilled periodically, whatever the interval might be. As to the numbers of the Reserve, he had no wish to under-rate in the slightest degree the importance of that Force, but he must remark that the number of blue-jackets required for manning our ships was not so great now as it was in 1859. At that time our line-of-battle ships required 1,000 men to man them, whereas the more powerful ships of the present time only required 500 men, and in the case of the Devastation only 300 men. In other words, the power of each individual man had increased in proportion to the power of the ship. Therefore, 5,000 men would go much further towards manning a fleet now than they would have done in 1859. He made that statement, not with the view of discouraging the idea that our Reserves should be large, but to re-assure those who might be frightened by the statements that had been made on the subject. The noble Lord opposite had compared the 47,000 men who manned our sea-going ships with the 18,000 men in reserve, but he forgot that all but 19,000 of the former number were stokers, engineers, artificers, and bandsmen, while the 18,000 men in the Reserve were sailors, so that really there was not much difference between the number of blue-jackets in the Navy and that of the sailors in the Reserve. The men, moreover, who would be required to act as stokers, &c., were not included in the numbers of the Reserve; and he should wish the House to remember the distinction between the mere artificers of the fleet and the pure blue-jackets, who formed its fighting force. The Reserves consisted of men who had been trained at the guns, and were used to the navigation of the ships, and such men were limited in number, while there was an abundance of men who were fitted to discharge the duties of the other class. It must, also be taken into consideration that we had 7,000 Marines on shore, who in time of war would form a most valuable addition to the force of our fleet, as they were all trained to the use of guns. He was aware how important it was that our Naval Reserve Force should be kept up, but at the same time he did not think that the fears that had been expressed with regard to it were in any way justified; and the comparison instituted by the hon. Member for Hastings between our naval force and those of foreign countries should not have too great weight attached to it, because it was impossible for us to ascertain how much of their naval force consisted of real sailors, and how much of the other classes to which he had referred. It was impossible in time of peace to keep up such a force of men as we should require to man our ships in time of war, but in case of necessity, he believed that we should be able to find men as fast as we were able to provide ships for them, and that even at starting we should be able to man a very large number of ships. At the same time, he trusted that the Government would keep their eye upon this question of the Reserves, and would take into their best consideration the many important suggestions which had been made. He was afraid, however, that no course that could be followed would be successful until the shipowners themselves saw the necessity not only of taking an interest, as they had done, in our training ships, but of facing the inconvenience of having Naval Re-servo men on board their ships for the sake of public advantage the late Government had thought over the proposition of taking a certain number of boys and passing them through the Navy, but the question arose, what could be done with them afterwards? The least that could be expected from boys so trained would be that they should give the country a quid pro quo by consenting to servo in the Reserve and to put up with the inconvenience of drilling at certain times and seasons he begged distinctly to state that the late Government never intentionally reduced the force of the Royal Naval Reserve, and that its reduction was owing, not to the lowering of the terms, which indeed had been improved, but to the difficulty of drilling. He, however, trusted that the increase of 2,000 in the Force which had taken place mainly during the past six months marked the beginning of a better time for it. He ought not to sit down without thanking the hon. Member for Hastings, not only for raising so interesting a discussion upon the question, and for the interest he had taken in that House in the Naval Reserves, but for the great service he had done out of the House in initiating in a great measure the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers, which he hoped would become a large Force, which certainly would prove most useful in case of necessity. There were great difficulties to be over come in organizing such a Force, because for men to go to sea was much more difficult than to go to drill in Hyde Park, the personal sacrifice and inconvenience being greater, and more time being required. So great, however, had been the energy displayed by the hon. Member and others in the matter, that these difficulties had been in a large measure overcome, and it was hoped that the movement had now obtained a fair start. He therefore trusted that the right hon. Gentleman opposite would see in the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers an important, although a small Force, and that the movement would continue to receive the assistance and attention of the Admiralty.


said, he did not feel called upon to reply at length to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen), because it could scarcely be expected that he should be in a position to do so, having held office for so short a period. He might, however, venture to assure the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) and his noble Friend on his right (Lord Eslington) that the subject of our Naval Reserves was of the greatest interest to him, and that he should fool it to be his duty to devote a considerable time to the examination of the various questions which related to them. The right hon. Gentleman opposite was quite right when he said that the Naval Reserve had increased in number since he brought forward the Navy Estimates last year. In April 1873, when the hon. Member for Hastings addressed the House, the Royal Naval Reserve consisted of 11,500 men, whereas it now consisted of 13,900, showing an increase in the number of men in the force of 2,400–2,000 of that number were men who had joined the Second Class of the Reserve, and he be believed about 700 of them were men who had formerly belonged to the Royal Naval Coastguard he could assure his noble Friend that, although it was impossible for him to take up this question at once, still he should make an effort to render our Naval Reserve system as perfect as possible. The right hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had pointed out the difficulties in which men of the Royal Naval Reserve and shipowners also found themselves in consequence of the men being obliged to drill at certain times. The great remedy for those difficulties would, he trusted, be found in dividing the drill into as many periods as possible, but, in order fully to carry out that object, some such system would have to be adopted as that proposed by the hon. Member, under which boys should be induced to go through a certain amount of training, after which a very few drills would keep them in a state of efficiency. The suggestions made by the hon. Member were well worthy of consideration, and he could assure him that they would receive every attention at his hands.


said, he was surprised to hear that it was believed the shipowners of this country were averse from employing men who had engaged in the Royal Naval Reserve. As a shipowner himself, he had many such men in his employ, connected with the port of Leith, and he employed them only too willingly, and he could testify to the preference given by other shipowners to such men. He believed that if the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Admiralty would only put himself in communication with the shipowners at the different ports, and fix various periods of drill, so as to suit the different trading seasons, he would find no difficulty in largely increasing the Reserve.


said, he was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman would take into consideration the very valuable proposal which had been made by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey). Although they would all desire to give credit to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the City of London (Mr. Goschen) for the fact that during the last 10 months the Royal Naval Reserve had increased by more than 2,000 men, they could not lose sight of the fact that the Navy during the last five years had diminished from 69,500 to 60,000, of whom nearly 3,000 were bluejackets. It was to be hoped that the 2,000 men who had joined the Reserve included many of those who had been discharged from the Navy. He should be glad to see the Education Department brought into closer contact with the Admiralty and the Board of Trade. If the Admiralty would establish training ships and employ officers at the different ports, and the Board of Trade encourage shipowners to employ the boys who had been trained, the ships themselves might be used for the purposes of educating those boys, whose education devolved upon the country. The Navy could then have the first pick, and the Mercantile Marine the next, and those boys who did not go to sea at all would by the education they received be converted into respectable members of society. Nothing could be more advantageous to a naval country like this than increasing the number of training ships at our seaports, and using them as schools for education of boys for the Navy. Looking at the great deterioration of the character of our merchant seamen, the Mercantile Marine would be only too glad to employ such boys, and, he believed, sanction their afterwards becoming members of the Reserve.


thanked the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) for the lucid explanation which he had given to the House, and cordially agreed with the object he had in view—the increase of the Naval Reserve. As an officer of some experience he wished to call the attention of the House to one point. He thought the Royal Naval Coast Volunteers, which, as had been said, were composed almost entirely of fishermen, might be advantageously merged into the Royal Naval Reserve. The naval coast defence consisted of ships of the newest type, large turret ships and a new class of gunboats; but both alike carried very heavy guns, which could only be worked by men specially trained. If, therefore, we had to man our ships at a notice of a month or six weeks it would take some months, or even a year, for any respectable number of Naval Reserve men to be made efficient enough to man these ships. In his opinion the men upon whom we should have in time; of difficulty to rely for this purpose were the Coastguard, the Pensioners, and the Royal Marines—more particularly the Royal Marine Artillery. For that reason he would suggest that a greater number of marines should be kept on shore, and that the body generally should be augmented and instructed in gunnery. There was also a large number of young men in our Dockyards who were doing nothing, who might be sent to sea and made efficient in their drill. Every endeavour should be made not to make the drill of the Reserve irksome to the men, and, as they might be supposed to be fairly in- structed in seamanship, they should be trained in gunnery, in which, on account of its novelty, they might be induced to take an interest.


, who had a Notice on the Paper to call attention to the desirability of extending the terms of the Warrant constituting the Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships, so as to include the Inquiry into the character and condition of the Crews of British Merchant Ships, and into the best means for ensuring in the future a supply of efficient officers and seamen, and also the Inquiry into the constitution, procedure, and powers of Courts of Inquiry into Wrecks and Casualties, said that the subject which he wished to bring before the House was so intimately connected with the one under discussion that they might advantageously be considered together, for it was evident that upon the condition of the Mercantile Marine depended the number and quality of the Royal Naval Reserve. He regretted that he did not share the sanguine views which the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) took of the state of the Mercantile Marine, which from careful inquiry, as well as from personal experience, he believed to have greatly deteriorated of late years. The physique, the stature, and the health of the men were by no means so satisfactory as formerly, whilst in seamanlike qualities and in subordination there was a decided falling off. These were serious allegations to make, but he felt sure that the masters and pilots who used the three ports of Liverpool, London, and Cardiff—those ports where a promiscuous body of seamen were to be found—would confirm what he had stated. So little were many of our seamen acquainted with the duties of a seafaring life that shipmasters were frequently heard to declare that out of the crews now engaged scarcely one in three who shipped themselves as A. B.'s was really efficient when out at sea. The practice of breaking articles was also far too common. There was now a certain number of defaulters on the departure of almost every long voyage-ship, and when the master arrived at Gravesend he was obliged to get the assistance of the crimps, who made up the number anyhow, and the master went to sea with a crew anything but efficient. That was a great source of evil, because it tended to disgust the good and honest seaman, who was compelled to do more than his just share of work, owing to the inefficiency of the men thus engaged. In a debate on the manning of the Navy in 1871, the late Mr. Graves expressed a strong conviction that there was a deterioration in the character and condition of the crews of British merchant ships, and quoted the opinion of the Liverpool Shipmasters' Association; and Sir Edward Hornby, who for some time was Judge of the Consular Court at Constantinople, and was now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of China and Japan, in a letter addressed by him last year to Lord Shaftesbury, and communicated by his Lordship to the Board of Trade, said that though no doubt instances could be found of overloaded and badly-found ships, many of the losses which occurred were the result of incompetence, idleness, insubordination, and the habits of drunkenness in the crews. Sir Edward Hornby doubted whether the "British tar," as he was formerly known to us, was not becoming a thing of the past, and, without taking quite so serious a view of the subject, it must be admitted that the matter was well worthy of the consideration of the House. He (Mr. Norwood) had made a careful investigation, and found that we had now about 400,000 seamen, including 150,000 fishermen, who, he thought, were as good, or better, than they ever were. That was the class it was desirable to obtain for the Royal Naval Reserve, and he thought greater facilities ought to be given to the fishermen on our coasts to congregate together for the purpose of drill. There were about 150,000 grownup sailors, about 20,000 boys, 9,500 petty officers, 21,500 engineers and firemen, 11,000 apprentices, and 38,000 certificated masters and mates. There were certainly some good sailors amongst them; but the large majority were not so efficient as they ought to be. It was a remarkable fact also that amongst our seamen there were 20,000 foreigners, implying a necessity for our employing them. The best sailors were to be found in the regular liners and steamers. Many of them were married men, who preferred employment which enabled them at certain intervals to return to port to their wives and families. The physical condition of many of our seamen was unsatisfactory, and a report on the 31st of December, 1872, from Dr. Patteson, of the hospital at Constantinople, stated that, among other complaints, constitutional syphilis in every form was frequently found, and Mr. Henry Leach, in a recent letter to The Times, asserted that, owing to the bad sanitary condition of our sailors, scurvy was re-appearing among them. Another proof of the importance of the subject was that in the Civil Service Estimates of last year there was an item of £32,000 as the cost of sending home distressed English sailors from foreign ports; and in the course of the three years ending 1873 the amount paid for that purpose was upwards of £100,000. Medical men strongly recommended compulsory examination of the men on shipment, and power was given by the Mercantile Marine Act to the owners to enforce it, but that power had become a dead letter owing to the difficulty of getting respectable men on any terms, and if the medical examination were insisted on the difficulty would be increased. The consequence of no such examination being held was, that seamen were shipped who were unfit to encounter the hardships of a voyage. Much of the existing evil had been traced to the abolition of the law of compulsory apprenticeship, and to the great increase in the number of steamers, which consumed, but did not produce, good sailors. Much was said now-a-days about the want of technical knowledge on the part of our artizans and workmen, and the fact that we had to go abroad for many articles in common use because they were better designed and executed in foreign countries; but in his opinion there was no class of persons so utterly neglected and devoid of technical knowledge as the seamen of our Mercantile Marine. He confessed that his views of political economy were entirely upset by the facts connected with the question. He had thought that in this country a demand would create a supply of anything that might be wanted, but that was certainly not the case with good seamen. The fact was that an able-bodied seaman was a valuable article, not to be had every day. The only way in which a supply was to be had was by an early training to the life. Unless a lad took to a seafaring life while quite young he was never likely to become a good sailor; but at present, a large number of those who went on board did so only as a last resource, after having exhausted every means of living on shore. They scrambled through their duties in a lubberly fashion, and then described themselves as "able seamen." He had come to the conclusion arrived at by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), that there ought to be in every large town an endeavour made to obtain youths at an early ago to be trained as sailors. The shipowners would be most happy to support a movement of this kind. He would add that he did not think the Government should be called upon to bear the whole cost of such training, but they might at any rate pay a portion of it, say one-third. To carry out this idea he should wish to see training ships stationed at all our ports to be managed by a committee of shipowners and of Government officials, and lads introduced into those Ships of from 14 to 15 years of ago, who, after serving a couple of years would be readily taken by the owners of vessels, and the lads might be allowed to receive a reasonable amount of remuneration wholly for their own use. There would, he believed, be no difficulty found in obtaining employment for them afterwards on board merchant ships, for owners, seeing the risk to which their property was exposed, owing to the inefficiency of navigators, would be only too glad to engage trained hands. Much had been said of the causes of casualties and the loss of life and property in the Mercantile Marine, of which the shipowner had been freely accused of being the sole cause, by his carelessness, neglect, and even criminality. His (Mr. Norwood's) belief was, that there were ten times more lives lost by the incompetency of the crews and the carelessness of officers than by the laches of owners. In the three years 1870–72–73, there were 376 Board of Trade inquiries into losses of ships, including 423 lives, excluding collisions. The verdicts given showed there were duo to defects in building, equipment, or stowage, the losses of 25 vessels and 10 lives; whilst to neglect or bad navigation on the part of the master, pilot, or crow, there were owing the losses of 231 vessels and 187 lives. Of cases attributed to the weather, ordinary sea risk, and unknown causes, there were 120 ships and 226 lives lost. Thus, the loss of life trace- able to the condition of the ships was 2.36 per cent. whilst that traceable to negligence, or incompetency of the crews, was over 44 per cent. There had, it was true, of late years been a considerable improvement in the class of masters of ships, but there still remained very unsatisfactory men amongst them who ought not to hold certificates, and he attributed this very much to the manner in which Board of Trade inquiries were conducted. The Courts of Inquiry were to his mind unconstitutional, and the punishment awarded often either too severe for mere errors of judgment, or insufficient in cases of gross carelessness. The captain of a ship had his certificate taken from him before the inquiry commenced, he was treated as a criminal, and his mouth was closed during the proceedings; whilst, on the other hand, the seamen were taken charge of by officers of the Board of Trade, and very frequently they gave evidence which was not warranted by the facts. Their interests also were often diametrically opposed to those of the master and the owner. He should urge the expediency, therefore of entirely re-modelling those tribunals. Let the Board of Trade carefully examine into each case, and if it arrived at a deliberate conclusion that any master or officer had seriously neglected his duty, then a prosecution for misdemeanour might be ordered, and the man might be tried in the ordinary way before a Judge and jury. The present system, under which an officer's certificate was suspended for a lengthened period, was frequently productive of great hardship. As to the owner, he ought to be liable to punishment if he knowingly permitted the existence of avoidable risks to life and property. In conclusion, he thought that when the Report of the Commission on Unseaworthy Ships was published, it would probably be found that shipowners had not been so guilty as they had been considered by well-meaning, but ignorant persons, who had been carried away by exaggerated and sensational reports.


said, that the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had introduced a subject of equal importance with that brought forward by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), because there could be no doubt that the deterioration of the character of the men of the Mercantile Ma- rine must affect the manning of the Navy. He was sorry to say he agreed in thinking that there was great deterioration in the quality of the seamen of the Mercantile Marino, and that for some years past there had been an increasing amount of misconduct and want of discipline among them; while with regard to foreign sailors, he thought they were often a better disciplined set of men than our own, and the fact that we were obliged to employ them was a proof of the present deterioration, but not, in his opinion, a cause of it. "What lay at the root of the evil was, not the abolition of the system of apprentices, as stated by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hull 'Mr. Norwood), but the want of discipline in the merchant service. Things that had been said both in this House and out of it had done a great deal to loosen the bonds of discipline. An attempt had been made, no doubt with the best intentions, to persuade the country that a considerable proportion of the owners of English ships were wilfully prepared to send bad vessels to sea, for the sake of making money by their loss, and at the risk of losing the lives of the crew. That such cases had occurred was, no doubt, true; but they were very exceptional. Another cause of the want of discipline was an erroneous notion that prevailed that "Jack," as he was called, was all that was honest and simple-hearted. The fact was, that there was no set of men better able to take care of themselves—better "up" in all the tricks by which they could gain advantage over others—than the seamen of the merchant service, and many of them lived by their frauds on shipowners. A sailor who had got an advance-note would desert with the cash, and if he was caught—which very likely he would not be—his punishment—if it could be called a punishment—would probably be a month's imprisonment without hard labour, which was no punishment to these men. The result was that this practice was not merely a system, it was a trade, and there were thousands of men constantly following this avocation, and no improvement of the character of the seamen could be expected till Government took this matter in hand, and insured that those malefactors received the punishment they deserved. It seemed to him that, with regard to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Hastings, no money could be better spent than in keeping up training ships for boys at the principal seaports. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) in thinking that the Courts of Inquiry required, if not abolition, at least re-modelling, as at present they were composed of men who had not been to sea for 30 or 40 years, who know nothing of modern seamanship, and who were, therefore, not competent to sit as assessors; while with regard to the masters of ships, he thought the whole system of suspending certificates was objectionable and a mistake, because hundreds of them had no certificates at all, and might go on offending as much as they liked. Some other penalty ought to be inflicted, and if an offence was committed that proved a man to be incapable of commanding a vessel, his certificate ought to be wholly taken from him. To suspend it merely was to force him to stay on shore in a distressed condition, and to enable him, when the period of suspension expired, to return to sea, when probably less qualified than before for the duties of a master. A man who undertook the responsibility of managing a merchantship, if he were convicted of an offence before a proper tribunal, ought to be subject to penalties, whether he held or not a certificate of the Board of Trade, and he hoped his right hon. Friend would recognize the great importance of rigidly inflicting penalties on the masters of merchant ships who failed to perform their duties. He believed that an alteration in that respect would do more good than anything else towards improving the condition of the Mercantile Marine. He also hoped that when they came to deal with the Navy Estimates, the remark which had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Goschen) would not be forgotten, and that the House and the country would understand that the defence urged by the late Government for not having a larger Naval Reserve was, that if it had existed there would have been no ships for the increased Reserve to man.


said, it was an undoubted fact that the seamen in our Mercantile Marine had seriously deteriorated of late years, and that great difficulty was experienced in obtaining a sufficient number of seamen for our merchant ships. He hoped that this important question might be referred to the Royal Commission on Unseaworthy Ships, as the evidence and Report of that Commission would certainly be incomplete and unsatisfactory unless it dealt with the causes and remedy for this state of things. There were some who took a more favourable view of the condition of the Service, and it was quite possible to reconcile the different opinions on the subject, for while the seamen in the regular lines of steamers might be as efficient and as well disciplined as formerly, the men in the general Mercantile Marine had undoubtedly deteriorated. He had known ships sent to sea, whose crews, with the exception of the captain and officers, consisted entirely of foreigners, and after sailing the confusion on board was grievous; It had also been stated in evidence that only one-fifth of crews were able to steer, understood the compasses, or were competent to perform the ordinary duties of seamon; and he had been told by one captain that, having encountered bad weather shortly after sailing, the only man he could trust to take the helm was one from a training ship. Nautical science had done much for the construction of ships, and for general improvement in naval architecture, but nothing appeared to have been done towards keeping up a good supply of seamen, and giving them a better nautical education; which was the more desirable, considering the large value which was now put in one ship. The difficulty of obtaining trained seamen would increase in proportion to the displacement of sailing ships by steamers, and all parties agreed that training ships were the only means of obtaining for us trained sailors. In his opinion, there should be three classes of training ships; the first, established under the Industrial Schools Act of 1866, for taking from the streets such boys as were exposed to misery and crime, and likely to be eventually committed to prison. This class commended itself at once to public attention, and ought to be established in every-port in the kingdom. A second class of ships should be instituted for training boys of the artizan and labouring classes for, say, two years after they had been educated in national or other schools. But a still higher education was required for the middle and upper classes; and this could be supplied by establishing colleges similar to the Worcester and the Conway. There was a great opening in the Mercantile Marine for young men belonging to the upper classes, and a large number of such young men might obtain high salaries and honourable employment in the Mercantile Marine. In his opinion, a large proportion of our losses were for the most part caused by ignorance in navigation, and not by the construction or overloading of ships; and the want of this nautical science on the part of the captains and officers, and the deteriorated condition of our seamen was the limit to which the dimensions of our steamers could be extended. The improvement of our seamen, therefore, became a matter of great importance, and he trusted it would be referred to the Royal Commission now sitting.


said, the tenor of the last few speeches rendered it necessary for him, as being connected with the Board of Trade, to say a few words before the debate closed. He thought the hon. Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood), who introduced what he might call the second part of the debate, exercised a wise discretion in bringing his subject forward in the discussion raised by the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey), rather than separately by itself, for it was germane to the subject of that hon. Member's speech, and inadmissible as a distinct proposition. It proposed that the condition of our seamen, and procedure of our wreck Courts, ought to be referred to the Royal Commission which was now investigating the subject of Unseaworthy Ships. The fact, however, was that both the subjects had been referred to them, and were within the terms of the Royal Commissioners' Warrant. Indeed, they had taken extensive evidence on both of them, and had even expressed, to a certain extent, an opinion on both subjects in their preliminary Report which was presented to the House last Session. That circumstance rendered it difficult, and perhaps unwise, for any one to pass a decided opinion on either of those subjects as still being under the judgment of a very competent tribunal. Of course, nothing could be of more importance than the condition of the seamen in our Mercantile Marine, which was the basis of the vigour and prosperity of this great commercial country. It was likewise the basis on which our Naval Reserve rested. Nobody could say with regard to it, that the condition of the British seaman was such as we could wish it to be, and although there existed a great difference of opinion as to the deterioration of the British seaman, yet all must agree that a great deal remained to be done in order to better his condition. If, while he (Sir Charles Adderley) was at the Board of Trade, he could do anything to promote an amelioration of his condition, there was nothing he could do that would give him greater satisfaction. The Royal Commissioners had expressed their opinion very guardedly, and had chiefly confined themselves to giving a summary of the evidence adduced before them. The general opinion of shipowners seemed to be that there was a deterioration in the character of the British sailor. The hon. Member for Hull had supported that statement, and, as he was interested in the steam service, his opinion carried great weight, because that service had carried off the best sailors from the sailing service, and in that way apparently had produced the deterioration. The opinion of the officers of the Board of Trade was, however, rather opposed to that of the shipowners. Those officers assigned good reasons for any appearance of deterioration, and on the whole they denied that their character had deteriorated, and he (Sir Charles Adderley) could not help trusting that the official Report would be found more reliable than the opinion of the shipowners, spreading as it did over the whole extent of the service. In their preliminary Report the Royal Commissioners cited some important suggestions made by the Liverpool Association. The first was, that every seaman should have a certificate of character, but he confessed he did not see how that proposal could possibly be earned out. A certificate of character might be given to a seaman on discharge, but how certificates could be always obtained on first engagement, it would be difficult to understand. Even certificates of character given upon discharge were not always safe, as it was notorious that there was more or less of a traffic in them. The second suggestion of the Liverpool Association was that there should be licensed lodging-houses for crews on their discharge. That was a very important proposition, and every attempt ought to be made to carry it satisfactorily out. Sailors' homes, he believed, had not been very successful, because seamen disliked to be confined on getting ashore after a long voyage, as it were, in barracks; but anything which kept them from the horrible system of crimping, by free and well-regulated lodging houses, would be at the root of improvement of their condition. In connection with this part of the subject, the Commissioners themselves said, that if there was any deterioration in the character of the British seamen, the first-object should be to withdraw them from the hands of crimps. The proposition which seemed to have taken more than any other with those who had spoken that evening was, a larger nursery of seamen trained from boyhood in training ships. That, in his judgment, was the most important proposition of all; but with regard to reformatories and industrial schools, whether ashore or afloat, it was a great misfortune that we allowed a stigma and degradation to be connected with them. If we could get rid of the stigma attaching to reformatories ashore and afloat—if criminal children after punishment were supplied with education as other children—we should find it to be of the greatest advantage, and we should then be able to draw a large supply of seamen from the neglected boys thrown for education on the State. As it was, the employment of such boys was much restricted and lost to the service. Connected with that subject was the question whether it would be possible to revive that great resource which we formerly possessed, but which had now dwindled down to such inconsiderable proportions—he meant the system of apprenticeship in the merchant service. Some means might, he hoped, be adopted which would enable us to apprentice boys taken from our training ships, not compulsorily, but by premiums, and the proposition of the horn Member for Hastings on that subject was a most important one, though, as far as he had heard, nobody had as yet suggested a mode by which the means could be supplied. It would be to the interest not only of the merchant service, but of the State, that the thing should be done, and therefore the State might justly contribute part of the expense; parents and friends might supply a contribution; but how to raise the remainder, which the merchant service should contribute, nobody had pointed out. He apprehended it must be done, not compulsorily, but by bonus, and the question was how the bonus was to be forthcoming. The last suggestion, which was a very important one, was that by Consular Conventions in all parts of the world we might be able to carry out effectual arrangements with a view of putting an end to crimping, and he trusted something might be done in this way. One word as to the other subject which the hon. Member for Hull had introduced—namely, Courts of Inquiry into Wrecks. He quite admitted there was much to be said against the constitution and procedure of these Courts. But it seemed to him, as it did to the Commissioners, that however umconstitutional and theoretically imperfect the procedure of these Courts might be, very little if any, injustice had accrued from them, and as a fact, those witnesses who had given the strongest evidence against the constitution of these Courts, when challenged to adduce a single instance of in justice which had resulted from their decisions, had failed to do so. It was perfectly true these Courts were open to all the theoretical objections stated by the hon. Member for Hull, for in the first instance they were meant to be inquests into the causes of wreck, and by a very natural process they had become criminal Courts; but the mixture of the two processes of inquiry and of criminal prosecution was adverse to their claims as Courts of Justice. He had no doubt, however, that one result of the labours of the Commission would be some suggestion for the separation of those two functions, so that the Court would be confined to their functions of Inquiry, and persons who might in the process of inquiry appear to have been culpable would then be prosecuted in a Court of Law. All these matters, however, were under discussion by a body whom the hon. Member must allow to be very competent both to collect evidence and to give an opinion. Under these circumstances he would abstain from pronouncing a decided opinion upon any of those important subjects; he would content himself with saying that, in his opinion, the debate introduced by the hon. Gentleman, as well as that which the hon. Member for Hastings had initiated, would be of use both to the Navy and the merchant service of the country.


said, he thought it was desirable the Government should nominate a Select Committee to consider the relations of the Mercantile Marine with the Navy The question had previously occupied the attention of the Government and of the country in consequence of the difficulty there was in obtaining good seamen to man our ships at the time of the Crimean War. Inquiry was then made both by a Royal Commission and by a Select Committee, and the Committee recommended the further consideration of the manner in which our Navy ought to be manned in times of emergency. From that time little attention had been paid to the actual necessities of the country in the event of our being engaged in another war of a similar character, and that, notwithstanding the relative positions of the Navy and Mercantile Marine were unsatisfactory to the Admiralty, to shipowners, and to seamen. For instance, in foreign ports, in case of emergency, the commander of a man-of-war could board merchant ships and remove men from them, thus jeopardizing the ships and inflicting injury on their owners. That was a matter on which shipowners would pronounce a very decided opinion in favour of an alteration of the law. If we were to utilize the immense force which existed we must endeavour to blend the two services into one harmonious whole in such a manner as to satisfy both shipowners and seamen. He questioned whether there were 700,000 available men in the Mercantile Marine; but he computed that there might be 500,000—a force quite sufficient to give the country the security it ought to possess. There must, however, be something radically wrong when there were only 13,000 men in a Reserve which ought to number at least 100,000 men. With regard to the drill for the Reserve, he thought there was too much of what might be called drawing-room drill. The Naval Reserve ought to be sent out, year by year, on board ships such as they would be engaged in if on actual service, and the men should be exercised as fighting men. When European States were organizing their land forces, England as the leading maritime Power in the world should be careful to organize and conserve that force which must be her first line of defence, and if our Navy were efficient in ships and properly manned we should be prepared for any emergency. There were many causes for the present condition of our seamen; but he did not go so far as his hon. Friend the Member for Hull (Mr. Norwood) in thinking them so much deteriorated. In the North of England seamen were now as good as they were 50 years ago; but in the South any broken-down butcher, baker, or tailor could engage as an able seaman; but in the first gale of wind, instead of proving themselves sailors, they turned into their bunks and the ship was left in the hands of the officers and two or three seamen. If they would have good seamen they must have boys trained on the apprenticeship system; but the compulsory system of apprenticeship was abolished with the repeal of the Navigation Laws, although some shipowners were still in the habit of earning apprentices, but they refused to do so without a premium. The Board of Trade should abolish this premium system, which was only another form of advance notes, and establish training ships in our different seaports for the Mercantile Marine. In addition to training received on board ship, the boys ought to be voyaged up and down the coast in colliers, the time so spent being counted as service at sea. That would very much improve the quality of our seamen. They must also abolish the crimping system, under which sailors on coming home from a long voyage with £10 or £20 were laid hold of and robbed under pretence of being clothed, lodged, and fed, and compelled to seek another vessel in order to obtain an advance note to free them from their difficulties. He thought also it was desirable that this country should have a Consular Convention with the United States to remedy the evils arising out of the desertions of seamen, inasmuch as we had in Now York alone an annual desertion of 20,000 men. In his opinion, we must, as far as possible, inculcate habits of sobriety, by offering inducements to all seamen to locate themselves in Sailors Homes; and we must also give the men improved accommodation on board our ships.


said, they must all admit that the hon. Member for Hastings (Mr. T. Brassey) had treated the sub- ject of his Motion with great success, yet there were one or two statements made by him in which he could not agree, and which should not go forth to the country uncontradicted. The hon. Gentleman stated that the advance notes which a sailor received previous to the commencement of his voyage were only discountable at a ruinous rate; but he failed to show how he arrived at that conclusion. To make that more clear to those hon. Members who had not in these troublous times the misfortune to be shipowners, he (Mr. Bates) might say that an advance note was a bill of exchange, a promissory note, and was generally drawn by the master or the owner of the ship, and it ran thus—"Ten days after (say) John Williams, A.B., sails in the ship So and So, I promise to pay to his order (say) £3 10s." That note the sailor generally took to his lodging-house keeper and, perhaps, had to pay 2s. in the pound for cashing it. Now, for that sum, the lodging-house keeper had to run the risk of John Williams not joining the ship. If he did not join—and they all knew that Jack often got into difficulties when he had a little money in his pocket—the discounter of the note had for his £3 or £3 5s. of hard cash, a piece of paper in his possession not worth the stamp it was written upon, because, the sailor not having joined the ship, the master or owner was not liable. Now, was there anything very exorbitant in that. He ventured to think there were few hon. Members in that House who would discount such a Bill at any price. Again, the hon. Member stated that advance notes were a source of great evil. He (Mr. Bates) would admit that; but the hon. Member had not shown them how that could be remedied. He (Mr. Bates) had been a shipowner over a quarter of a century, and had as yet been unable to find a remedy. An advance note was a necessary evil, for Jack must have a pea-jacket, warm stockings, &c.; and if he did not get an advance, how was he to acquire them? It was simply impossible. He had doomed it his duty to make these few observations in justice to his constituents, a large number of whom discounted these very documents.

Question, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair," put, and agreed to.