HL Deb 03 February 1817 vol 35 cc174-6

The order of the day being read,

Lord Melville

rose to move the thanks of the House to lord Exmouth, and the officers and crews of the ships employed in the attack on Algiers. He said, he did not intend to make any statement, as to the motives by which the executive government was actuated in resolving upon this enterprise. Their lordships would recollect, that in the month of June, lord Exmouth, returned from the Mediterranean with the fleet under his command, and, as usual at the close of a war, that fleet was dismantled, and the crews paid off and disbanded. When the' expedition against Algiers was determined upon, it became necessary to collect men from different guardships, and to call for the services of volunteers for this particular enterprise. He mentioned that circumstance, because those who knew the value which naval officers attached to a crew long accustomed to act together, would be the better enabled to appreciate the exertions and skill of lord Exmouth, and the difficulties he had to contend with, in rendering crews collected as he had stated efficient for his purpose. To that object lord Exmouth devoted his daily, his hourly attention, and accomplished it in a manner which reflected the highest credit on his judgment and ability. His lordship then proceeded with his squadron on the appointed service. He proposed certain terms to the dey of Algiers, according to his instructions; and no satisfactory reply being given, the ships took their positions for commencing the attack on the city. It was due to lord Exmouth here to state a circumstance not generally known. An opinion had prevailed in many quarters, that accident and the elements had been very favourable to lord Exmouth in the execution of the enterprise; but the fact was, that when government had determined on the undertaking, many persons, and among them several naval officers, were of opinion, that the defences were so strong that the attack could not succeed. Not so lord Exmouth, though he was perfectly aware of the difficulties with which he had to contend. He had himself formed the plan of his operations, and gave it as his opinion that the object might be accomplished; not from any idle confidence, but founded on the reasons which he stated, and the plan which he had formed. He had in this plan settled the position which every ship was to take, and when the dispatches came, he (lord Melville) had noticed, that the positions actually taken were exactly those which had been before settled. The whole scheme of attack was before prepared by him, and exactly followed; and the whole transaction reflected the highest credit on the skill and judgment of lord Exmouth as a naval officer, as well as upon his perseverance and gallantry. Their lordships knew the result. The attack began at two o'clock in the afternoon, and lasted for several hours before the enterprise was concluded. The circumstances were such as demanded the utmost exertions of both officers and men. The contest was not less arduous than in the greatest naval actions that had taken place since the commencement of the war, and the loss was proportionally more severe than in any of those actions. The attack was maintained with the most determined perseverance. Every officer and man was actuated, not merely by the high gallantry characteristic of British seamen, but by the greatest enthusiasm in the service; and, after a long and violent cannonade, the enemy was driven from his batteries, his naval force, with the exception of two boats, totally destroyed, his defences ruined, and the dey was compelled to yield to the proposed terms. Another circumstance which ought not to be passed over was, the cooperation and effectual assistance afforded in this enterprise by the ships of the king of the Netherlands, under the command of admiral Capellen. A long period had elapsed, during which the flag of the Netherlands had been almost excluded from the European seas; and it must have afforded the highest gratification to the officers and crews of both squadrons, to see the flags of Great-Britain and the Netherlands acting together. The flag of the Netherlands had long been distinguished in Europe, and their officers and seamen had acquired a high name for skill and valour. In this enterprise that flag again appeared, and a noble emulation prevailed between the two squadrons, as to which of them should most strenuously exert itself to accomplish the common object. He therefore had no doubt but their lordships would also concur in a vote of thanks to the admiral, officers, and crews of the Netherlands squadron. His lordship then moved the thanks of the House to lord Exmouth, for his able and gallant conduct, in the successful and decisive attack on Algiers.

Lord Torrington

, as a naval officer, could not suffer this opportunity to pass without bearing his testimony to the skill and gallantry of lord Exmouth. A more zealous, judicious, and gallant naval officer, the country did not possess. He himself had been for some time under the noble and gallant lord's command, and on every occasion that called for their exertion, lord Exmouth had never failed to display the highest qualities of a naval officer. In the East Indies he had observed, that lord Exmouth's attention had extended to the preservation of the naval stores from improper waste, so that an improper expenditure of the public money was prevented, the ships were always well supplied, and kept in a state always ready for action. He never gave a vote in that House with more satisfaction than he did in favour of the present motion.

The motion was agreed to, nam. dis., as was also a vote of thanks to the officers, seamen, and marines employed in the expedition; and also to admiral Capellen, and the officers and crews under his command.