said, that in rising pursuant to the notice which he had given to move for certain returns respecting the force of the navy, he must claim from their Lordships more than an usual share of indulgence. The subject was one of vital importance, inasmuch as it referred to the state of our naval defence. His noble Friend (the Earl of Hardwicke), who had originally given notice on this subject, had discharged his notice, and as nobody else had taken it up, he felt it his duty to bring the subject before the House. It would probably be in the recollection of their Lordships, that before the close of the last Session, on the 14th of August, in a discussion that arose as to the commercial relations of this country, a noble Duke (the Duke of Wellington), whom he did not then see in his place, made some remarks, in speaking of the blockade of Mexico, as to the state of the navy, and said, that, in his opinion, it had been reduced too low, and was not sufficient for the protection of her Majesty's subjects. To this the noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty was then reported to have said as follows:—If it, the navy, were not sufficient for the public service, he must take some blame to himself, because he certainly did not feel that there would have been any difficulty in obtaining from the country an increased force if it were necessary. But he had not received information from any one of our naval stations that the force placed there was not perfectly adequate to all the exigencies of the public service; and he could say with entire confidence that no call upon us could be so sudden, that it could not be met with ease, in the equipment of a large and powerful fleet."*That was the reply of the noble Earl, but such contradictory opinions from such distinguished authorities made a great impression on the public, and particularly on persons connected with the navy. On this subject, accordingly, speeches had been made, letters had appeared in the newspapers, and pamphlets had been published. It had been said, that those who opposed the present system were influenced by party spirit. There had, however, lately appeared two publications from distinguished officers, signed by both, and who were both supporters of her Majesty's Government, in fact, one was a Member of the Government. The first was a letter addressed to a noble Lord, the Secretary for Foreign*Hansard, third series, vol. xliv, p. 1203.767 Affairs, by a most distinguished officer, long known in his profession, both for his skill as a seaman and his resolution and daring as an officer—known, too, as entertaining the most liberal opinions, as they were now denominated, and who had shown his devotion to those principles by his entering into the service of the Queen of Portugal, where he had gained a signal victory over the fleet of Don Miguel. He need not more distinctly specify Captain Charles Napier. That officer addressed a letter to the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, in which he pointed out what he considered to be the very inadequate state of the defences of the country as compared with the naval force which other powers maintained. It showed, that our ships were few, that they were ill manned, and that he considered, that the fleet of Russia was in such a state of preparation, that it might come down to our coasts and destroy our arsenals, and sweep our commerce from the face of the seas. These were not his opinions, but the opinions of the officer from whose letter he quoted. Captain Napier concluded by saying:—Whether you take this in good part or not I cannot tell. I can assure you that I am friendly to the present Ministry, and that I wish to remain so, but being a naval officer, and seeing the danger, I think it my duty to point it out.Captain Napier also stated, that he addressed his letter to the noble Lord, because he was the Foreign Minister, because he had the honour of his acquaintance, and because he was the best judge on the subject. These opinions from a most distinguished officer, and one friendly to her Majesty's Government, were not published till after they had been addressed privately to the noble Lord, the Secretary of State for the Foreign Department. With regard to the other question, whether our ships were sufficiently armed and manned, he would refer to the opinions of an officer, who was, at the time he wrote, a Member of the Board of Admiralty. He, however, did not know whether he continued to be so. This gallant officer had thought proper to write an answer to the letter of Sir John Barrow. Sir John Barrow had lately published a work which was probably known to their Lordships, but which, though it was not an official defence of the Government, was compiled from official documents, and dated from the Admiralty. In answer to Sir John Barrow's appendix, in which he vindicated the 768 Admiralty, this gallant officer, the hon. Captain Berkeley, said—I avow myself the leader of this clamour. I say leader merely from the situation I hold as one of the Board of Admiralty; and thoroughly am I convinced that my opinions have the support of a very large majority of the very best practical men of every grade in the service.He then proceeded to say—That there is a scarcity of seamen, and a difficulty to procure men for our peace-established ships, no one who has been employed afloat since the war, or who has really inquired into the subject will deny.He next said—Men will not enter for ships having masts and yards, anchors and cables, nearly the size of a ship of the line, to be worked by the reduced complement of a small frigate. Men will not go where 275, a large proportion boys, are required to do the work of 350.The men call the frigates line-of-battle ships in disguise; nor will the knowing ones enter for them whilst there is another ship to be had.Having stated the evil that existed, the gallant officer then went on to say how it might be remedied:—How are these evils to be remedied? Complete your ships to what is called their war or proper complements; see that you have sufficient men in every ship of every class to fight her and work her under every possible emergency; make the work properly light; and you will remove the dislike of the service by removing the cause.Captain Berkeley next proceeded to state the reasons why a great class of seamen, who were most valuable and important men to the service, refused to serve in Her Majesty's ships. It was this,There is an absurd regulation now existing by which from 300 to 400 of the very best men are annually lost to the service. You will not allow men who receive a pension for twenty-one years' good service, to serve in the navy. You force them out of it, by refusing the enjoyment of the pensions whilst they continue to serve.What was the consequence of this? These men would serve anywhere else—in merchant ships—even in foreign merchant ships—rather than in the Queen's ships. This was no real economy, for the places of these men must be filled by persons of an inferior description. This false economy, therefore deprived us of the services of 300 or 400 good men, and rendered them dissatisfied, for no earthly purpose whatever, 769 He trusted that the noble Earl would consider this subject, for he could not fail to see that the cause of this dissatisfaction ought to be removed. He would only trouble their Lordships with one more extract from Captain Berkeley's pamphlet. It was as follows:—If we are to have a navy, which the world may respect, now is the time to make it perfect. Now is the time to give that conscious superiority to officers and men which will carry them through the hour of trial. Other nations are doing their utmost to improve—have improved—are improving. We cannot improve as long as we continue the system of half-manning and half-arming our shipsTheir Lordships had heard the opinions of two distinguished officers, who had commanded ships in her Majesty's service, and also were friends of the present Government. The one had spoken as to the insufficiency of the number of vessels, and the other as to the manner in which they were armed, and their complements, and surely these two officers were witnesses whose testimony could not be impeached. He might, perhaps, have rested his motion for the returns he intended to move for on this subject, but he must beg the indulgence of their Lordships whilst he made a few further observations. He would, however, at once state what were the returns which he wished to be laid on the table of the House. They were a return of the number of seamen and marines voted by Parliament for the years 1818, 1823, 1828, 1833, and subsequently up to the present time; also the number of ships that were in commission in the same years; also the number of ships stationed on the coasts of Great Britain and Ireland in the same years, and of the seamen and marines employed in that service; of the marines employed on shore; and lastly of the number of seamen engaged in the service of the coast blockade. When those returns were laid before their Lordships, they would be able to judge of the comparative force of our navy in different years: they would then see the difference between the present state of our navy and what it had been, and what it ought to be with reference to the naval establishments of foreign powers. He would then refer back to the state of the navy in former years; and first he would refer to the year 1792, because that period was so far removed from the present time that his remarks would not involve anything personal as to the Members of the present Government. The number of 770 men voted for the service of the navy for that year, was 16,000, and was the smallest number that had been voted since the year of the declaration of the independence of America; and although that was a year of profound peace, yet it was the year antecedent to the most terrible war that this country was ever engaged in; so that the argument of this being a time of peace also was not of any great consideration for neglecting our navy. In the year 1792 the vessels in the home service consisted of eleven guard-ships of the line, four fifth-rate vessels, three sixth-rate vessels, fourteen sloops, and fifteen cutters; and by the same return it appeared that the eleven guard-ships were manned with 3,679 men; and according to the same calculation, the complements of the smaller vessels would be about the same number; so that the whole number employed was about 7,000. Now, by the official navy list for last year, it appeared, that for the same service at present, there were only four guard-ships, one of which only was an efficient ship, two brigs with ten guns, and two cutters, all manned with less than 2,000 men; and, if he added another ship, which was now employed on a foreign station, the number of men might be considered to amount to about 2,500, which was the full extent of the force disposable at present for the home service; but in 1792, when the whole naval force of the country only amounted to 16,000 men, it was thought necessary to have for our home defence 7,000 men; whereas last year, our whole naval force being 35,000, the force on the home station was only 2,500. In 1818, when the war establishment was reduced, and the country had returned to a state of peace, the number of seamen and marines amounted to 23,000 but that was soon after the close of a war in which we had gained many colonies requiring protection, on account of which it was thought necessary to increase the number from what it had been in 1792. We had then about nine vessels of the line as guard-ships, besides many vessels of smaller classes. In 1823, the number was about the same, and so in 1828, although in that year there were one or two attached to particular services. He should have stated, however, that in the year 1818, three vessels of the line were considered sufficient for the foreign service. One was stationed in the Mediterranean, another in the East Indies, and a third at St. Helena. In the year 1828, the establishment was consider- 771 ably increased; a great revolution had broken out, and the battle of Navarino had taken place; and we had then six sail of the line in the Mediterranean; still seven sail of the line were retained on the borne station. In 1831, there was some reduction; and in 1833 the force was very materially reduced in every respect; we had then three ships of the line as guard-ships; two engaged in particular service; and the Mediterranean squadron was reduced to three sail of the line. The reduction which had taken place in our home force, was not only in the number of ships, but the complements of each individual ship were likewise reduced. In 1818, the guard-ships of the line were kept in a condition fit to put to sea at the shortest notice; and in the summer of that year, six ships of the line left Portsmouth for a cruise with all their officers and men, so that they might be exercised in naval tactics, and gain such practical readiness, as to be prepared to engage with an enemy at a moment's warning. In the year 1819, it was considered necessary to raise a force, commonly known as the coast blockade, for the purpose of preventing the smuggling which had been carried on to a great extent on the coast of Kent and Sussex; and in order that the country might not be put to expense, it was resolved, and in his opinion most unfortunately so, to reduce the complements of the guard-ships of the line, so that they were no longer kept in a state of readiness for sea; however, they had everything on board, all their officers, and a skeleton crew, which could in a few days be filled up with men from the service that was so raised, in case it was required. But in 1831, that resource was lost by the coast-blockade being abolished. In that year (1831) another squadron had put to sea, under Sir E. Codrington, but it was soon after broken up; and the ships sent to foreign stations, and in the year 1833, we had only three first-rate ships, having on board about 250 to 300 men each, although their complement was, in time of war, 900. He now came to the state of our home force in the present year, and he begged their Lordships to recollect, that the whole naval force voted by Parliament amounted to 35,000 men. The ships at present stationed on the home service, were the Howe, 120 guns—he did not state the number of men officially, but the returns for which he should move would show whether he was accurate or not—the Howe, 120 guns aid 285 men; 772 the Britannia, 120 guns and 285 men; and the Royal Adelaide, 104 guns and 225 men. The total of the force employed on that service, then, consisted of three ships first-rate, with less than 900 men, which was not more than the proper complement for a single ship of that class—one ship of the line of 74 guns and 550 men—one frigate of 36 guns, two brigs of 10 guns, and two cutters—the whole force amounting to something less than 2,000 men, and only one vessel, efficiently manned. He understood that the three-decked ships were not fit to go to sea without being docked; and from their great size, that could only be done at Portsmouth and Plymouth, on two days in each month, because it was necessary that they should take advantage of the highest spring tides; so that it was possible that fourteen days at least might elapse before those two ships could be taken into dock and made ready for sea. With regard to our foreign service, he had already read so many extracts from the evidence of Captain Berkeley, that it was hardly necessary for him to trouble the House further on that subject, except to state, that the particular ships which carried the Admirals' flags at the East Indies, the Cape of Good Hope, and North America, were only 74-gun ships, without anything approaching to their proper complement of men; and yet those three ships had been put forward among the 21 sail of efficient line-of-battle ships with which, as they were told in a publication in defence of the system of the noble Lord opposite, our navy was at present furnished. As to the Cornwallis, that vessel had certainly been put on a better footing; but with respect to the Melville at the Cape of Good Hope, and the Wellesley in the East-Indies, they had put to sea with the complement of fourth-rate vessels, having only about 432 men on board, whilst their due complement was 600 men in the time of war. In that inefficient state they had been sent to sea, and not to any place within reach, but to a distant part of the world. So strictly had that economy been carried out, that the officers who sailed in that vessel had been paid, not according to the rate of the vessel if she had her proper complement, but according to the number of her crew; so that, instead of being paid as officers of a first-rate line-of-battle ship, amongst which number it had been attempted to class her, they were only paid as officers of a fourth-rate ship. Upon whom did this principally fall? Not on 773 the captain only, but upon the petty officers. Their Lordships would not think, that that was holding out any very great encouragement to those persons to enter that service. Now, he wished particularly to see the motives of that economy, because when they found, that the fleet in the Mediterranean was so large and efficient as he believed it to be, it was somewhat surprising, that it was so inefficient elsewhere. He had already shown, that in 1818 and 1819, one ship of the line, two sloops, and one frigate, had been considered sufficient to protect our interests in the Mediterranean; but now we had there nine sail of the line, three frigates, and a large steam-ship But out of the 35,000 men at present voted, there were employed on the north coast of Spain, one vessel of twenty-eight guns, two sloops of war, and a battalion of marines, about 1,000 strong, which did not much look like a time of peace, although that was the reason given for the present condition of the navy. He had compared the present state of our naval force with what it had been in former times of peace. He would now compare it with the force of other powers in the same periods. In the work of Sir J. Barrow, to which he had before alluded, there was a comparative statement of the naval armament of Russia, France, and England. In giving this Sir J. Barrow took occasion to blame the young officer (Captain Craufurd) for being too hasty in his conclusions as to the comparative forces of the three Powers, and blamed him for not having read the work of Captain Jones on the subject. From Sir J. Barrow's account compared with that of Captain Jones, it appeared, that in the year 1823 Russia had forty-two sail of the line and eighteen frigates, and that in 1838 she had fifty sail of the line and twenty-five frigates. There was a positive increase of eight; but the comparative increase was much greater. In 1823 France had fifty-two sail of the line and thirty-two frigates; in 1838, forty-nine sail of the line and sixty frigates. In 1823, England had 138 sail of the line and 146 frigates; and in 1838, ninety sail of the line and ninety-three frigates. In the same interval, therefore, in which Russia had increased eight sail of the line we had decreased forty-eight sail of the line. Besides, the English vessels were much smaller than the French or Russian, all theirs being built for eighty guns, whereas many of ours remained at seventy-four. What he had now stated to their Lordships 774 applied to all the vessels belonging to those countries, and he would next proceed to give a comparative statement of the number of vessels which each of those countries had in commission. England had in commission twenty-one sail of the line, nine frigates, and five steam-ships; and of these twenty-one, three, which were guard-ships, had only about one-third of their proper crew; and three others, permanently stationed abroad, had little more than two thirds of their complement of guns and crew. France had in commission ten sail of the line and sixteen frigates, many of them carrying sixty guns; and these vessels were so distributed near her own coast, that her force might easily in any sudden emergency be concentrated. France had moreover a considerable force, twenty-two, he believed, of armed steam vessels. Russia had in commission forty sail of the line and twenty-four frigates. Moreover, France and Russia, by their mode of manning their navies, could at any hour increase their naval force; because, Russia kept her men constantly embodied, and France, besides the men employed on board the vessels in commission, kept what might be called battalions of men, raised partly from the military conscription, and partly seamen from the "Inscription Maritime," who were ready to man their vessels as soon as they were wanted, having been trained, not only to all the duties of soldiers but of seamen in small vessels kept in the ports for that purpose; we, on the contrary, when a ship was to be put in commission, proceeded at first by voluntary enlistment, and consequently a space of about three months might be lost; and he understood, that recently a case had occurred in which seventy-seven days had elapsed between the time when a shin had been put into commission and she was reported ready for sea. Their Lordships would also see, from what he had stated, that the ships which we had in commission were all scattered over the world, and that only four ships of the line had been left to protect our shores at home—very much less than one quarter of the force kept by Russia on her home station. Russia, having twenty-seven sail of the line and some frigates in the Baltic, and thirteen sail of the line in the Black Sea. Such was the statement of the efficiency of our naval force as compared with that of other countries. He must now call the attention of their Lordships to what was likely to happen if there arose any sudden call upon us to enlarge our fleet. He had no desire 775 to say anything derogatory to the policy of any foreign country; and he was willing to give full credit to the Emperor of Russia for prudence and discretion, and to believe, that he would not needlessly give or seek cause of war with us or any other nation; but he only alluded to Russia because that country had a large fleet ready for service within fourteen days sail of our shores: whilst we had to protect them only four sail of the line and one frigate, they being stationed at three different distant ports, and that, therefore, if any sudden cause of war arose, we were not in a situation to meet any attack even from a force much smaller than that of Russia, a situation in which we were placed, not only from the small number of our ships, but the length of time which we required to increase that number. We had, no doubt, other vessels in commission, but they were so scattered up and down as not to be available for immediate service in an emergency. If, then, a sudden call were made for an increase of our naval force, we must, as our complement of men was short, trust to voluntary enlistment or resort to the plan of raising them by impressment, which he was sure their Lordships would not wish to see again adopted, if it were possible to avoid it. But it might be said, that a war could not come on so suddenly as to give no time for preparation; that war was usually preceded by manifestoes and declarations, and that these would afford time for preparation; but if those who took this 'view of the case would consult history, they would find, that manifestoes and declarations were sometimes accompanied by large fleets, and had been found most effectual when so accompanied, and that war was sometimes commenced without any previous declaration. In the year 1718 the Spanish fleet was destroyed by Sir George Byng in the straits of Messina before a declaration of war. In 1741 Commodore Martin sailed with a fleet into the bay of Naples, and threatened to bombard the city within one hour, if the Neapolitans did not forego their intention of joining their force to that of Spain. The government of Naples remonstrated against so unceremonious a proceeding, but the commodore was resolute and would allow no longer time for deliberation than the hour, and within that time the treaty was signed, by which the Neapolitans agreed to the terms of the British officer. In the year 1801 Sir H. Parker and Nelson passed the sound with a large fleet, before any formal declaration of 776 war, and in a few days destroyed the Danish fleet at Copenhagen. In 1807 that city was again bombarded by a British force before a declaration, and other similar instances might be cited. These would show, that the time for "preparation" was not always given in case of an invasion. One memorable instance of that kind had occurred in this country and at no great distance from our metropolis. In the year 1667 a Dutch fleet sailed up our river, took Sheerness, and burnt our ships in the Medway. It was true, that we were then at war, but negotiations were going on, and a treaty was pending, and the British Government thought, that things were settled, and the Sovereign had not thought it necessary to prepare a fleet for the defence of our shores. That was thought the less necessary, as in the preceding summer, our fleet had beaten that of the Dutch, and captured or destroyed 120 sail of their merchantmen in their own harbours. The historian of that event remarked, "that Charles the 2nd, by an ill-timed frugality, had exposed the country to one of the greatest affronts that it had ever received." But other and more recent instances might be cited in which hostilities had been commenced without any declaration of war. Within the last seven years, a French fleet entered the Tagus, and took possession of the Portuguese fleet there stationed, in order to resent an insult offered to some of the subjects of France; and lately, on a ground similar in some respects, a French fleet attacked and took the fortress of San Juan D'Ulloa. There had been no declaration of war with the Mexicans, and yet those hostilities had been practised; and so it might happen to us if we did not provide a more efficient naval force for the protection of our coast. Without going the length of supposing, that a Russian fleet might attack and burn Sheerness, it could not be denied, that with the fleet which she possessed in the Baltic, she might blockade our coasts. If she did, it would take at the least a month before, with all our exertions, we could get a fleet ready to meet hers; but let their Lordships consider what would be the effect of even one month's blockade of our shores. One would be, that all our homeward-bound merchantmen to these shores would be at the mercy of the blockading force, and besides the loss of property to our merchants, and the capture of those seamen who would be wanted to man our own 777 ships, the expected imports of that month would be lost. The loss which the country would thus sustain might be easily ascertained. From returns made to Parliament, it appeared that the amount of duties on imports in the last year was 23,000,000l., or nearly 2,000,000l. per month. Here, then, would a blockading force occasion a loss to us of nearly 2,000,000l. of revenue in that time. Our exports in the last year were estimated at 43,000,000l., or about 3,600,000l. per month. Here, then, would be a most serious loss to our manufacturers, who would have goods to that amount thrown on their hands, and when they called out so vehemently against the Corn-laws, as depriving them of a vent for their manufactures, how much more loudly ought they to raise their cry against a state of the navy of the country which might lead to such ruinous losses? But it might be said, that in any sudden emergency we might call home the aid of our Mediterranean fleet. Let it be observed, however, that that course would lead to delay, and that it would be several weeks before a fleet at Malta could be recalled to our shores. But, it had been said, "There will be no occasion for ships of war; you may go into the city, and hire at any moment as many steamers as will be sufficient to defend your coasts." Would this be economical? Would you obtain vessels which were to be immediately brought into collision with the enemy, much under their full value? and if they could be so obtained, has it been ascertained whether they are built with timbers of sufficiently strong scantling to bear such guns as it would be necessary to use in steam-boat warfare. He did not think he exceeded the fact when he said, that there could not be found in the port of London ten steam-boats with timbers strong enough for naval warfare. What course ought the Government under the circumstances to pursue? He would say let them recur at least to the system of 1792 and 1818, let them have a home force of ten or eleven sail-of-the-line, let them be armed and equipped with their full complement of guns and men, so as to be fit for service in any emergency. This would, it was true, require an addition of some 6,000 men to our naval force, at a cost of about 400,000l. a-year; but though he new the country would not relish additional taxation, yet when the loss by a possible blockade was taken into consideration, he was sure the country would think the 400,000l. or 778 500,000l. well bestowed which would guard us against the possibility of such a calamity. Let him suppose, that such a force as eleven sail of the line should not be required for home service, they would give this advantage—that they would always have a ready supply for any deficiency that might be felt on foreign stations. They would also enable the Government to send a fleet on a summer cruise, and thus make officers and men familiar with those evolutions which they could not learn in the cruise of a single ship, and which very many of our captains and lieutenants never saw, and might otherwise have to execute for the first time in the presence of an enemy. Besides this, the appearance of a well-appointed fleet would keep alive the feelings of the country in favour of a naval force. The sailing in a large fleet would also give a great excitement to sailors themselves. He remembered the excitement created by the sailing of a squadron under the command of Admiral Codrington on a summer cruise. Many of their Lordships went down from London to see the fleet, and thousands of the country people came from the adjoining districts to witness the cheering sight of the sailing of a British fleet. It afforded a strong contrast to the now every-day sight of our outports, from which we saw, instead of a ship-of-war, only the departure of some ship laden with convicts for some of our colonies. He had now gone through the chief points which he had intended to press on the attention of their Lordships. He had shown them that our naval force was deficient in the number of vessels and in the complement of men and guns. There were other points—such as those relating to promotion, to retirement, and to particular appointments; but these, though not unworthy of consideration, were unimportant compared with those which he had already noticed. Leaving those to the due consideration of their Lordships, he would conclude by moving for the returns he had before described.
The Earl of Minto
said, he could assure their Lordships, that he felt great satisfaction in finding at last, that they were to have this matter publicly discussed in the presence of their Lordships, when he should' have an opportunity of answering whatever-charges had been alleged against the present administration of the navy. From the whole tenor of the noble Lord's address, one would really have imagined, that he (the Earl of Minto) had stood there guilty 779 of having greatly reduced and impaired the naval resources of this country, that the state of our fleet at this moment, instead of being more powerful and more numerous than it had ever been known to be at any former period of peace, had been reduced so low as really to render us unable to provide for the ordinary service of the country. The noble Lord, on a former evening, disclaimed all party motives in this proceeding. He did entirely give him credit for believing, that such was the case; but he must say, that nothing was so difficult as to ascertain what the true motives for one's own conduct were. It was very difficult to trace the workings of one's own mind; but really he would ask noble Lords whether they were quite sure, that no party motive was, unknown to themselves, lurking at the bottom of their acts, when he found, that at a time when we had, he would not say twenty-one sail of the line, because the noble Lord had very justly stated, that two out of that number only ranked as fourth rates; but when with nineteen sail of the line in commission they were told of the weakness of our force, and the danger to which our coasts were exposed, and of the want of due protection against impending invasion from all quarters. In 1835, when our navy was in an extremely different state in point of numbers, he was not aware, that the noble Lord had made those complaints to their Lordships. They heard nothing at that period, of our weakness—a period during which we had the smallest naval force for many years. Before he went into the general statement of the noble Lord he must beg leave to observe, that the whole of the noble Lord's argument seemed to be founded on the great error, that we were to maintain a war establishment in time of peace, that there was to be no distinction between peace and war. The noble Lord commented all along upon our want of preparation against invasion. It was perfectly true, that we were not prepared against invasion. We did not profess to be prepared against invasion; nor did he know a time when this country had, during a state of the most profound peace, thought it necessary to be so prepared. However, the noble Lord seemed to think, that he was too parsimonious, and, that 780 he might have applied to Parliament, which he seemed to think ought to have been done, as in case of need. He confessed that this was not a complaint fur which he was prepared—he owned that after all he had heard, the complaint preferred against him was of an opposite nature to that which he had expected. Before, however, he proceeded with the noble Lord's statements, it might, he thought, make the subject more intelligible if he were to mention briefly to their Lordships what was the force which they had now, and how disposed of, and then compare it with the force and the disposition of that force at other times. They had in Commission 19 sail of the line—of these nine were now in the Mediterranean, there being one more than he thought necessary for that station at present detained there on special service. Of the remaining ten ships, one, the Cornwallis, bore the flag of the Commander in Chief in the West Indies, and was not therefore to be included in our disposeable force, but they had nine sail of the line disposeable for the home or any other service where their presence might be required. He admitted they were not now all at home, nor did he see the advantage of having ships disposeable if no use was ever to be made of them. That they were in fact so disposeable, was sufficiently proved last year, when no less than seven British ships of the line were seen upon the coasts of America. These ships were employed in transporting troops from this country to our North American possessions to and from the West Indies, and from one part of our colonies to another. During the time that the ships were so occupied, they formed no part of the home service; that is, if any great Power were at the moment disposed to attack this country, it had no ships for defence, there being, however, at the time, no danger of being attacked by a hostile power. But then the ships having completed that duty, the greater number of them returned to England. Some were at present employed in temporary service on the coast of America, or in the West Indies, and at Lisbon. They had, he repeated, nine sail of the line available for home or other service, besides those permanently stationed abroad, as would appear by the following return, 781 Shewing the Ships of the Line in the Home Ports, at Lisbon, &c., employed as experimental squadron, or otherwise on the Home Stations.
§ In the spring of 1838, 4 ships of the Line from England and two from the Mediterranean, sailed to America with troops, making with the Cornwallis 7 on the coast of America, early in the summer. 4 returned to England and were available in August; 1 returned to the Mediterranean; 2 remained in North America.
§ This was a force which had not been exceeded at any former period of time. The noble Lord had said, that when he was at Portsmouth he saw nothing lying at Spit-head. That was very possible. Now, he avowed, that he was not very anxious to
|Return shewing the number of Ships of the Line on the Coast of England on the 1st January and 1st July of each Year, from 1821 to 1839.|
|YEAR.||On 1st JANUARY.||TOTAL.||On 1st JULY.||TOTAL.|
|Guard Ships.||Others than Guard Ships.||Guard Ships.||Other than Guard Ships.|
|1. The rest taking troops to Lisbon. 2. Complements completed (summer squadron). 3. Guard ships put on present footing, 19th August, 1835.|
§ have ships lying there; but he would tell where they were at present. They had a naval force at Lisbon, and a force upon the northern coasts of Spain, for the last four years. Then there were the three flag ships. In 1836 there were in port two sail of the line; in 1837, four sail of the line; in 1838, seven sail of the line; and at Lisbon, which was considered the home station, two sail of the line—making, in all, nine. In 1836 there was an experimental squadron of five sail of the line. [Lord Colchester—Perhaps the noble Lord would say where the experimental force was.] The noble Lord had complained, that they had but eight or nine guard-ships for protection. He asked their Lordships whether it was better to have eight or nine well-equipped, well-manned, well-disciplined ships, or the same number of half-manned, ill-equipped ships lying in port? The noble Lord seemed to think, that nine guard-ships would be a more effectual protection to their coasts—much more ready for any calls, than nine sail of the line ready to go to sea at one day's notice, and all of them within a week or ten days' call. He could tell the noble Lord how matters on this subject stood on the let of January and the 1st of July in each year from 1828 to 1839.783
§ In 1828 there were nine guard-ships half-manned ships, and no others whatever. To the presence of these ships in fact, he attached no value whatever, except in so far as the noble Lord seemed to lay peculiar stress upon that point. He considered, that ships were much better at sea than in port; and the result of the comparison, that he had made was this, that during the years from 1821 to 1823, there never were more than ten or twelve ships in commission at all. From 1824 to 1826, there were sixteen ships of the line in commission; in 1827 there were seventeen sail of the line in commission; in 1828, fifteen sail of the line in commission; in 1830, eighteen sail of the line in commission; in 1831, fourteen sail of the line in commission; of all the above a large proportion were guard ships; in 1832, eleven sail of the line in commission; in 1833, eleven sail of the line in commission; in 1834, ten sail of the line in commission; in 1835, eleven sail of the line in commission; and they then came to what was called the decline of the naval force; on the 1st of January, 1836, we had twelve sail of the line in commission; seven more were commissioned in the spring, making nineteen sail of the line in commission for that year; in 1837, there were seventeen ships of the line in commission; and now in addition to the flag ships in India, and at the Cape, they had nineteen sail of the line in commission. At this moment they had the largest fleet they ever had in commission in a time of peace; they had nine ships of the line disposable for any service that might be required. It was not, he assured their Lordships, without very great difficulty that he had been able so much to increase the naval force. For many years past the demand for economy had been so great and so urgent, that he believed it to be next to impossible for any government quite fairly, or freely, to exercise its discretion. When he compared this state of things with the great expenses which they were unable to incur, he wished to throw no blame upon those who had gone before him. The comparison that he made was not intended to cast any odium upon them, but was only instituted for the purposes of his own vindication. They had been upon all hands urged to make reductions; and they too, before now, had heard of a great deal of credit being taken for the savings effected. He found no fault with them for this; but he conceived, that it would be impossible for them to continue longer in 784 that course. In turning, then, in an opposite direction he did not feel it prudent to brag, nor that an unnecessary display should be made of the expenditure incurred, which might not be in accordance with the feelings of the country. What he had sought, and what he had endeavoured to do, was to restore the impoverished forces of the country in this respect. There was an extreme desire to lower the estimates, not only as respected the ships, but also in the dock yards. In 1830, a very short time before his noble Friend opposite quitted the Admiralty, it was resolved, prudentially resolved, to effect a considerable reduction in the establishment of the dockyards; the men at that time were employed five days in the week, and it was intended, in effecting the reduction, that six days' work should be given to those employed. The men were also employed by the task or job work, which was, undoubtedly (for he would give no opinion between the two methods,) the one the most likely to have the most work done. It was the much more productive system of the two, if there were no loss in the materials, or if that loss was counterbalanced by what was gained in labour. An order had been issued for the reduction. It was proceeded with, but not in the mode that had been intended by his noble Friend; for the numbers were reduced to 6,000, and the men were kept at work for five days in the week, and paid by day wages. The effect of the reduction was seriously felt, and it became impossible to answer the demands of the navy. He remembered upon one occasion a difficulty being experienced with respect to cordage, and finding that the strength of the establishment was not sufficient to manufacture more than one half year's consumption of rope, he felt that it had then become absolutely necessary to put their dockyards on a snore efficient fooling. Measures were taken to relieve the shipwrights from works that were not proper for them. By thus appropriating works to them most proper for executing them, a great quantity of work was obtained and of stores produced; but the demand also increased; because their Lordships must be perfectly aware that the equipment and maintenance of seven sail of the line must cause a very heavy draught upon their establishment. All this had been done; all this had been supplied, and the stores were in an eminently satisfactory state. In addition to the twenty-one sail of the line, he 785 believed there were thirteen demonstration ships, and twenty-five or twenty-six ships in good condition. For all these there were now complete equipments. He heard a doubt implied upon this point by a noble Lord opposite, and he should, therefore, read for the noble Lord the return he had received. There was then at this moment, in addition to the fleet at sea, in store, masts, topmasts, bowsprits, courses and topsails, for upwards of thirty sail of the line, including the demonstration ships. In addition to which there was a very considerable store of spare masts, topmasts, courses and topsails in imperfect sets for ships of the line. With regard to the coast blockading service, he should trouble their Lordships with a very few words, as it was a subject very likely to be alluded to. In 1838 the guard-ships were suppressed, and there was an introduction of a new system for the protection of the revenue. He believed, that the value of the blockade coast service had been overrated. It had been said, that four or seven and twenty hundred of these were available for the navy. A great portion of them had been rated as able-bodied seamen; but he had heard from Sir James Graham, that when it was proposed to take them into the service of the navy there was not more than 800 of them fit for that service. He did not say that they were an unimportant branch for self-defence, but that their importance had been over-rated. With regard to the coast guard, they did not afford (as we understood the noble Lord) the same materials for supplying the navy in a case of emergency. As regarded the interests of the navy the change was certainly not of advantage; but there was a matter very important to be looked to, which was the revenue. It was obvious that a matter of so much importance as that must be taken into consideration. It was contemplated by the Government to make some change in this respect; they had it under consideration whether it would not be possible to find a neutral ground, so as to form a force which might be a portion of the coast blockade, and also available for the naval service. He did not know whether such a plan would be practicable; but although they had no longer a coast guard from which they would have any resource, yet they had a very effectual and useful resource in another way; he meant by placing the ordinaries in commission. A ship in ordinary was formerly taken care 786 of by officers upon half-pay, and the greater portion of the men were so feeble that they were hardly able to take care of themselves, and others were hired without being bound to the service. It occurred to the present Board of Admiralty that this was a very unfit mode of managing the public service. The old men were superannuated, and their places were supplied by active and vigorous men, who were fully fit for general service, and who could be sent to any place that it was most desirable. At this moment there was a body of 1,400 men who could be so employed. This was a resource—he was not saying that it was all that was desirable—but they had in their ports enough of men to complete each of their first rates. They had already sent drafts of men from their ships in ordinary. He wished to draw their Lordships' attention to the votes for seamen at different periods.
|1818–1823||13,000 to 15,000|
|1824–1829||20,000 to 21,000|
|VOTES TAKEN FOR NAVAL STORES.|
§ It thus appeared that the reduction was constant till 1835, when the vote had fallen to 383,000l., whilst the vote taken for 1838 was for 593,000l. He did not know that he could give a better answer to the noble Lord's charge of undue parsimony, than the contrast presented in these two years. Reductions had certainly taken place at different periods, but for which he was not responsible, and there was one especially which he had not ceased to regret. He alluded to the great reduction which had been made of our marine artillery. He was not aware of the reasons for this reduction, that what appeared to be good and sufficient reason must have existed, he could not hesitate to believe, because he felt bound to say, that he knew of no case in which any important measure had been adopted by Sir James Graham without full and deliberate consideration. He repeated, however, that he could find no good ground for this reduction which he must regret, affecting as it did perhaps the most valuable branch of our naval service.
The Earl of Minto
replied in 1832. The noble Earl went on to observe, that the noble Lord opposite had also complained of under-manning the navy. Now, if he (the Earl of Minto) was not very much mistaken with respect to the manning of the navy, the complements of the ships were very much what they had been during the greater part of the professional service of the noble Lord. [Lord Colchester made some observation to the effect that ships were not the same; the reply to which was inau- 789 dible.] The noble Earl observed, that he was not going into that question, but of late years the complement had been considerably increased: and such as they were, they were established by officers of great skill and experience. But another most important change had taken place, and a change for which he (the Earl of Minto) was responsible, and that was an entire revision of the armament of the ships, and this, he believed, was the most important improvement in the naval force for many years past. An entirely new arrangement of the armament had been devised, not rashly, but with due consideration, and under the direction of an officer with whose merits the noble Lord was probably acquainted. That armament was now complete, and the effect of that armament must necessarily be, to require a considerable addition to the complement of the ships; and along with it a new scheme of complements was devised that would be ready as soon as it was possible to procure the order in council necessary to carry it into effect. On this subject he must observe, that it was not just to say of the greater proportion of ships in commission that their complements were smaller, or rather, that they were not larger than they had been at any preceding period, with the exception of the three years from 1831 to 1834. It had also been made a matter of reproach—he was not sure that the noble Lord opposite had alluded to it—but it had been made a matter of reproach, that there were no new ships built, and he wished to trouble their Lordships with a few words upon the subject [Lord Colchester observed, that he had not referred to it.] Well, it had been frequently alluded to, and he (the Earl of Minto) was anxious to state to their Lordships, that it had been the system, not only of himself but of his predecessors, to avoid as much as possible launching ships, whilst it could be done without. They were much better preserved on the stocks than in the water, and they were in the former condition quite as available. In consequence of the ruinous state of some of the slips, the launch of certain vessels had now become necessary, which he regretted. He had been disposed to adopt the system of the French, and to keep as large a proportion as possible on the stocks. The French system was this, that while they had a nominal establishment of forty sail of the line, one-half were on the stocks and one-half in the water. It would be as well if this country could 790 adopt something of a similar system, but it would no doubt be a work of time and patience. He begged pardon for having trespassed on their Lordships so long. He hoped he had not omitted any of the topics alluded to by the noble Lord. He wished again to repeat to their Lordships, that he should be anxious at all times to meet the utmost scrutiny into every part of the administration of the department over which he had the honour to preside. He would be most happy to give any information to the noble Lord opposite, or to any other noble Lord, which might enable them to detect, and so enable him (the Earl of Minto) to rectify anything wrong in that department. He must again remind their Lordships, that he had been charged for many months with having brought down the fleet to a state of unparalleled weakness and decay, while there never had been seen in this country the same number of ships in commission at a time of profound peace; while, too, the ordinary were in the best condition—while there were thirteen demonstration ships ready for commission on the shortest notice, and where a larger vote of seamen and stores had been taken than for many years preceding. There was one point with respect to the flag-ships to which the noble Lord had alluded. The practice was to send out admirals in frigates, and it would certainly be much more convenient to the Admiralty if that practice were continued. The admirals, however, with one single exception had desired, and always obtained, ships of the line. They requested to have a third-rate allotted to them instead of a frigate, to be rated, however, as a fourth-rate, and the Admiralty had acquiesced in the wish. There were two instances in which flag-ships had been sent to a distance without their lower deck guns or a full complement of mess; but there was no difficulty in supplying either deficiency. The Cornwallis had now her lower-deck guns, and had completed her crew. If the Melville had not done so, there was no reason why she should not. He did not recollect any other topic touched upon by the noble Lord. There would be no objection to the returns which the noble Lord required. There was one point, indeed, with respect to which he felt some reluctance, not for his own sake, but lest it might establish an inconvenient precedent. He trusted, that in giving a return of the disposition of the force at a certain time, as the noble Lord desired, it would be distinctly un- 791 derstood that it should not be drawn into a precedent.
§ Lord Colchester
explained, that in asking for a return of the distribution of her Majesty's ships, he did not anticipate any objection to giving it for the years 1818, 1823, 1825, 1828, and 1838.
§ Lord Colchester
said, he had not anticipated there would be any particular objection to that portion of his return. His reason for asking it was, that the noble Earl had consented to the production of a similar return for the year 1792.
Earl De Grey
trusted he would be excused, on account of the relation in which he had formerly stood to the naval service, if he now addressed a few words to their Lordships. The noble Earl opposite had remarked, that the amount of men voted for this branch of the military force in 1835 had been the smallest of any year since the peace. He would shortly state the circumstances which had given rise to that proceeding on the part of the Government which then held office. The vote of the preceding year had been one of 26,000 seamen and marines. The noble Earl had remarked, that there had been a great cry in the country for economy in the military establishments, and a reduction of the naval force was then pressed upon Government in every possible way. The noble Earl would admit, that under these circumstances, it was not very likely that a call for an increase of force made by a Government which had just come into office, would have been favourably listened to by the country or granted by Parliament. Whatever course might be most expedient abstractedly considered, it could, not be denied that this was the most practical view of the subject, and that which any Administration would be obliged to take. The reduction of the naval force was not so much real as apparent. When he came to the Admiralty, he found the number of men borne on the books to be about 1,300 less than the number voted. The number fixed upon in preparing the estimate of 1835 was that of men, boys, and marines, actually serving at the time, 25,000. This was the ground on which they had determined to diminish the vote. He would be perfectly frank with the House, and at once say, that that number was a great deal too small, and, short as had been his professional connexion with 792 the service, he felt it deeply and sincerely before he quitted office. He would merely add another word relative to a statement made by the noble Lord who had just sat down, that on the 1st of January, 1835, there were no guard-ships in the ports. Now, the Government with which he (Earl De Grey) was connected came in at the end of 1834, and he himself took his seat at the Board of Admiralty on the 31st of December. Whatever fault there might be on this score, none could be attributed to that Administration.
said, that knowing the importance of the subject, the sensation it had created throughout the country, and the observations made respecting it both within and without the walls of Parliament, he should not be justified in his own mind, if he abstained from stating what occurred to him respecting it. He would commence by saying, that he thought it unjust to blame his noble Friend opposite personally for any deficiency in the present amount of the naval force. In matters of expense, speaking from his own knowledge during the time when he himself had held office, it used to be the Government, rather than the department, that had the power of regulation. With these, the First Lord of the Treasury, rather than the First Lord of the Admiralty, was concerned. If the First Lord of the Admiralty had had it in his power to fix on the amount to be voted in the navy estimates, it would generally have been very different from that which Parliament actually granted. Therefore, it was unfair to blame his noble Friend for undue parsimony, except as a Member of the Administration. There were some points, however, on which he did not think his noble Friend, at the head of the Admiralty, had given a satisfactory explanation. The noble Earl had understood his noble Friend near him as making a charge against him on account of the deficiency of force. His noble Friend made no charge, but he complained that our coasts were not sufficiently protected. In that opinion, he (Viscount Melville) certainly did concur, and he thought, that in deviating from the well-advised course which Government had for a century past pursued, of keeping the sea-coasts of the empire in a secure state of defence, the present Administration had incurred a serious amount of blame. He must say, that at no period for a century past had 793 the navy been in so reduced a state as regarded the force maintained on the home station. The noble Earl opposite said, that the amount of the navy was larger at present than it had ever before been in time of peace. That was his proposition, and in that he was fully borne out, but that was not the important question. The question related to the distribution of the forces, and the charge against Government was, that too large a proportion was stationed abroad, while our own shores were wholly unguarded. Now, even if there were no more cogent reason for adhering to the former system, he thought that Government, from a wish to consult the feelings of the people, who had always been accustomed to see the coasts properly guarded, should be very cautious in departing from that policy. He had not exactly followed his noble Friend's account of the distribution of the naval force, nor did he know how it was made out, but, if he rightly understood his noble Friend, there was at present but one disposable and efficient ship in the ports of the kingdom. Now, he would only say, that having been himself called on at the end of the year 1826, at an hour's notice, to provide a sufficient number of ships to convey a considerable body of troops to Portugal, a squadron of line-of-battle ships was instantly in readiness, which transported the infantry to Lisbon in a few days. The cavalry and artillery were conveyed in transports adapted to that particular purpose, and were a few days later. He asked his noble Friend, if he could send out such a force now, in a few days or a few weeks?
doubted his noble Friend's ability to do that, except he regarded the Mediterranean squadron as disposable.
The Earl of Minto.
No, but I consider that the ships stationed at Lisbon might be available for such a purpose.
was not aware that it would be possible for his noble Friend now to provide a sufficient force in such a short time as had been allowed to himself. His noble Friend seemed to consider that ships on a foreign station rendered more effectual service to her Majesty than if they were lying idle in harbour at home, and he entirely agreed with him; but if, in the present aspect of affairs, Government felt called on to keep a larger force 794 than was usual in the Mediterranean, or on any other foreign station, they ought not on that account to diminish the amount retained at home. If they could not distribute their existing force so as to keep an adequate amount at home, while they had squadrons of sufficient magnitude on every foreign station, they ought to apply to Parliament for an augmentation of the vote. He thought, his noble Friend behind him had overrated the number of men, that would be required to man an additional number of guard ships, and the expense of maintaining them. In his opinion, 2,000 more would suffice to man these ships on the scale allowed for guard ships, and 100,000l. would probably be the outside of the expense. An hon. and gallant Officer, who was, a few days ago, a Member of the Board of Admiralty, had stated in a pamphlet published by him his views as to the system that should be adopted in manning the ships of the navy, and, with one or two exceptions, he entirely concurred in them. He thought, his hon. Friend had made out a case, well deserving the attention of the noble Earl, and the Government, though he might just observe, that he hoped the practice of writing pamphlets in this way would not become universal. On this subject, although one of his most esteemed and respected friends had been a party, he considered, that the observations which had been made would have been better addressed to friends and superiors within the Board, than to persons who were not among its members. Much had been said regarding the Russian fleet. He would not enter into the considerations that might induce Government to keep a large force in the Mediterranean. It might be on account of the fleet maintained by Russia in the Black Sea. That power, as had been remarked by his noble Friend, had kept a large force in the Black Sea for many years, which had disturbed nobody. He was not aware of any political reason now existing why a larger force should be kept up in the Mediterranean than they had been accustomed to maintain there. At the same time, that was a subject for the consideration of Government, on which he would not detain their Lordships. He would dwell on the alarms that had been raised of an attack by a Russian fleet on our seaports. The state of our relations with that empire, and of its navy mast be fully known to Govern- 795 ment, and it was impossible, that in the event of there being any such danger as that alluded to they should not take the necessary steps to augment the navy of this country. His noble Friend behind him had adverted to certain statements in the pamphlets he had mentioned as to the decrease of able seamen. They might depend upon it, that it was absolutely incumbent on Government to keep up a much larger force in time of peace than they had formerly been used to do. The hon. and gallant Officer he had alluded to stated, that there was a falling off in the quality of the seamen, that the number of thorough bred seamen in the service was far less than formerly. One cause of this was to be found in the decline of the coasting trade, which was almost entirely gone, considered as a source of the supply of seamen. That was now chiefly carried on by steam-vessels; the only important branch of it from which a supply of seamen could be obtained was the coal trade. This circumstance, therefore, made it still more necessary to keep up a large peace establishment, and both the Parliament which voted, and the people who paid, the money, must recollect, that unless that was done, they could not have a really efficient navy. He did not say, that a navy equal to a war establishment should be maintained during peace, but that a greater number of seamen was required, for, let them be assured, recruiting on any sudden emergency would not be found so easy as it had been. An account of the trade and navigation of the country lately laid before Parliament, which he had looked at to-day, confirmed the views he had taken the liberty of expressing. The first branch of the account stated the number of vessels employed in the foreign trade of the United Kingdom; the next, that of vessels engaged in the coasting trade. In the year ending the 5th of January, 1838, it appeared, that there were entered inwards in the foreign trade of the United Kingdom 18,113 ships giving a total of 3,215,819 tons; in the year ending the 5th of January, 1839, 19,639 ships of 3,501,254 tons. There were cleared outwards last year 15,526 ships of 2,578,918 tons; this year 17,204 ships of 2,916,302 tons. In the coasting trade of the United Kingdom there were entered inwards last year 128,011 ships, of 10,409,370 tons; this year, 128,171 ships, of 10,491,752 tons. There were cleared outwards last year 138,790 ships, 796 of 10,901,187 tons; this year, 137,803 ships of 10,825,523 tons. Thus it appeared, that the coasting trade was looking downwards, while on the other hand the foreign trade was increasing. He mentioned this to show, that steam navigation though very much cried up, and a very great convenience in many respects, was productive of most unfortunate effects, as regarded the maintenance of a nursery of seamen in the coasting trade. How far these effects might be counterbalanced by employing a greater number of men in the navy, during peace, he would not pretend to say, but it was clear, that the country must lay its account in keeping up a larger peace establishment. The same pamphlet to which he had alluded stated, that our ships were at present undermanned. It was true, that a difference had hitherto been made between the war complement and peace complement of a ship; but there could be no doubt, that the ships now built required larger complements. The present system, it was said, had caused great discontent among the crews, and diminished their activity and efficiency. He rejoiced to hear from his noble Friend, that this subject was now under revision, and he hoped the complements would be increased on such a scale as would be satisfactory to the navy and their Lordships. There was another point adverted to by the noble Earl and his noble Friend behind him, on which he wished to say a word. He alluded to the regulation passed by the Board of Admiralty, soon after the peace, for preventing seamen from serving, while they received a pension. Soon after the close of the war, a great many men were discharged on pension. The object which the Admiralty proposed by this step was to have as many men as possible, not only on hoard, but available for service at any time when they might be required, It was very obvious that no more expense would be incurred by paying a pensioner than another man; but when the regulation was made, at the close of the war, circumstances were very different from those which now presented themselves. They wished then to secure a large force of able seamen; but it was said that these had now much declined in number, and it might, therefore, be expedient to repeal the regulation. We had thus two good men instead of one, and at no additional expense. It was very probable that the 797 number of able seamen whom you would now be able to obtain would be too small. If that were the case, it would be a good reason for rescinding the regulation; but if the same thing were to do over again under the same circumstances, he should have no hesitation whatever in doing it. His noble friend had also alluded to the subject of the coast blockade, and had expressed his regret that it had not been retained on its old footing. He hoped that after that expression of regret, his noble friend would take measures to restore that force once more to the navy. The history of that force was shortly this:—At the close of the war a guard ship had been stationed in the Downs. One reason for its being stationed there was the protection of the revenue in the narrow seas in that quarter. A very able officer, who was in command of it, Captain M'Culloch, thought that, instead of keeping his men night and day in his boats watching for smugglers, it would be better to land them in detachments on the coast. He accordingly did so land them, and stationed them in different parties all along the coast, from Walmer castle up to Sandwich. Severe conflicts took place in consequence between the seamen and the smugglers on the latter attempting to land their cargoes, but the seamen invariably got the better. The system answered so well that it was extended to all the coast of Kent and Sussex, from Sheerness round by the North and South Forelands to Newhaven, in Sussex. Two guard ships were stationed on the coast, one in the Downs and the other at Newhaven. His noble Friend had said, and had said truly, that although all the men in the coast blockade were not able seamen, still there was also an available naval force. You could take 400 or 500 men from it at any time of emergency; and he had himself draughted 500 men from it at the time it was deemed necessary to send an expedition with all despatch to Lisbon. He hoped from what had fallen that evening from his noble Friend, that measures would be taken to restore that branch of the public service, and to give the navy the benefit of it in cases of emergency. The only other topic to which his noble Friend had alluded, and that too incidentally, was one of paramount importance in his opinion. His noble Friend had talked of the system now adopted in our dockyards, and of 798 the mode of carrying on the work there. He (Lord Melville) was not standing there either to censure or to praise any person or any government, merely because they had not employed those who were his (Lord Melville's) political Friends or opponents. But he should be wanting in the duty which he owed to himself and to the country, if he refrained from stating his honest conviction on this subject, let the blame fall where it might. The practice years ago had been to employ the men in the dockyards by piece-work. Whilst he (Lord Melville) was at the Admiralty, it was the constant endeavour of both the Admiralty and the Navy Board to keep up that system, and to apply it to every branch of the dockyards. Indeed, the object of the surveyor of the dockyards had been to establish prices for every piece of work which it might become necessary to have performed. There was not a single ship-builder in the country who employed men at a day's wages; all the work of private yards was done by the piece and task work. For some reason or other, which he did not comprehend, that system had been put an end to in the public dockyards about seven or eight years ago. He believed that it had already been found to have been an unprofitable change, and that his noble Friend, unless he restored the system of task and job work, would discover that he would not be able to fit out a fleet immediately in case of emergency. Besides, the men themselves in the dockyards were not at all satisfied with the present system. A most useful and meritorious servant, the present surveyor of the navy, had been appointed to the situation without having been brought up in the dock-yards. He was, therefore, not aware of the system which had long been established there. He could not, therefore properly superintend the financial department of the dockyards, which was, indeed, a most important department. He believed, that he had sufficient authority for saying, that the men would not perform at day's wages the same work in a given time as they did perform when they were paid differently, Besides, the whole system at present established he could not for his life understand. The practice had been to employ so many men for so many days in the week; and he would tell their Lordships why he had established that practice. At the close of the war we had more ship- 799 wrights in the dockyards than we could well employ. He was anxious not to dismiss them, because he knew that shipwrights were not, like common joiners or carpenters, to be procured every day. He, therefore, determined to keep them all in employment, and to look for a reduction of them to their dying off, or to their voluntary retirement. He had, therefore, fallen on several devices to keep them all in employment. One of these devices was to employ them only five days a-week, and another was to employ them as common labourers in other departments of the dockyards, and the men readily submitted to these privations rather than relinquish their situations altogether in the yards. He thought that the system of keeping up even more shipwrights than we absolutely wanted, in time of peace, was better than the system of keeping up only such as were wanted at day's wages. He had not kept up any mere joiner or carpenter, for those he knew that he could get from the country at any time that he wanted them. But it was not so with respect to shipwrights, for that was a distinct business. His system, however had been abandoned; the men were put upon day's wages, and the quantity of work now done in a given time was less than it was formerly. He thought that, if the Admiralty were to return to the former practice, they would not only get more work done for the same money, but would also give encouragement, which was much wanted, to the labourers themselves. He begged to apologise to their Lordships for intruding upon their attention at such length, but he hoped that they would excuse him, on account of the interest which he took in every department of the naval service.
The Earl of Minto
rose for the purpose of setting his noble Friend right upon a subject on which he had misunderstood him. In speaking of the change of armament, his noble Friend had understood him to say that it was under the consideration of the Admiralty at present. Now, the change had been made already; and it would make an addition to the war complement, and therefore a corresponding addition to the peace complement, necessary. He had also said, that he had a large disposable force at home, and his noble Friend seemed to question that point. He admitted, that whilst vessels were employed on foreign service, they could not be considered as a disposable force at home, any 800 more than they could on the occasion when his noble Friend had sent off his disposable force at home to Lisbon. At present, there were, besides the ships at home, two sail of the line at Lisbon, and two others on temporary service, which could be recalled at a very short notice.
§ The Earl of Hardwicke
expressed his satisfaction, that the noble Lord behind him (Lord Colchester) had taken up the subject in consequence of his having withdrawn the motion of which he had formerly given notice; for he felt convinced, that the noble Lord had executed the task better than he could have executed it. He, therefore, felt no jealousy, that the noble Lord had stolen a march upon him, but was glad, that he had brought the matter before the House with so much temper and ability. He was not one of those who thought it necessary, that because Russia had a fleet of forty sail, and because France had a fleet of such and such an extent at sea, that we were also bound to have an equally large armament ready for sea in our ports. Neither was he one of those who thought it necessary, that our ships should be as fully manned in time of peace, as they were in time of war; but he was one of those who thought, that whatever force we might deem it necessary to send into the Baltic, the Mediterranean, or the Black Sea, it was highly important, that we should have a reserve force at home in our ports, and that such force ought not to be abandoned. The subject had been so fully discussed on the part of his noble Friend behind him, that he felt it to be quite unnecessary, for him to offer any reply to the observations which had fallen from the noble Lord, at the head of the Admiralty, respecting the force which we had at this moment at sea. He would, however, venture to trespass for a very few minutes on the indulgence of the House, whilst he made some remarks on a part of our force to which his noble Friend had made several allusions which still remained without a reply from the noble Earl opposite. He wished, in the first place, to call the attention of their Lordships to the state of our naval equipment in the year 1826—a year which he had selected, because our navy estimates were not then framed upon the turn of an administration, or with any view to party or political purposes—because it was a period before we commenced that reduction of our guard ships, which had arisen from a desire on the part of the country to reduce its establishments, and from what 801 he must call a false spirit of economy, rather than from any fault or deliberate design on the part of the Ministry. The subject was now forced upon the attention of their Lordships; and from this time forward it would be necessary for the First Lord of the Admiralty to set seriously and actively to work to restore matters to a condition really efficient. It had been his intention to introduce this subject last year to the notice of their Lordships; but he had been induced to forego his intention, partly by his knowledge of the wretched and unprovided state of our dockyards at that time, and partly by his knowledge of the negotiations which we were then carrying on with Turkey for the formation of a treaty, of which Russia was not unnaturally jealous. He thought, that if the subject were then brought formally under the consideration of their Lordships, it might influence these negotiations injuriously, and enable Russia to carry matters with a higher hand than she would otherwise venture to do. He believed, that from that period down to the present time, the noble Earl opposite had exerted himself most strenuously to bring back the state of our reserves to an efficient condition. He likewise believed, that after all the noble Earl's efforts, the state of our reserves was at present much lower than he wished it permanently to be. How the noble Earl had got the returns which he had that day read to the House, was to him indeed astonishing. Not that he suspected the noble Earl of having stated anything which he knew to be untrue—far from, it: still, he could not conceal his opinion, that either some magic wand must have suddenly increased the stores in our dock-yards, or else that the noble Earl was grossly and enormously deceived. But to return from this digression. He meant to describe the state of our naval equipments in the year 1826. There were then in ordinary, ships in every one of our ports. At Plymouth, there were twenty sail of the line and eighteen frigates in ordinary. All these vessels had an entire equipment in the storehouse of the dock-yards, an appropriation of perfect equipment for twenty sail of the line, and eighteen frigates having been set aside when they were first taken into ordinary. The same system prevailed at each of our other ports. When any ship was repaired, and in good condition. an appropriation of equipments was made for her. That system by degrees was let down, for no one who knew anything of 802 our ports could help seeing, that the ordinary soon became a dismasted ordinary. The noble Earl had asserted, that he now had thirteen demonstration ships all ready for sea. He (the Earl of Hardwicke) knew, that a similar assertion had been made also by Sir John Barrow in his pamphlet. In defending the system now adopted by the Admiralty, Sir John Barrow said, that we had 21 sail of the line perfectly equipped, and 30 more in complete readiness for sea. I am not going to quote the noble Earl, but a very great authority—an officer of the board, who has had great experience, and who, in addition to his experience, has had the means of consulting every document in possession of the Admiralty. The statement which that officer makes, after inspecting all the official documents is as follows:—"Whenever the necessity for it shall actually exist, of which the Government may be presumed the best judge, let Parliament vote 50,000 men and the Admiralty will find no difficulty in adding 30 sail of the line, of as fine ships as any in the world, to the 21 already in commission; for which additional 30, masts, sails, yards, and every necessary article of gear, are in complete readiness in our (neglected) dockyards; and it can hardly be doubted that those persons, so clamorous for war, will be among the first cheerfully to submit to a war-tax in time of peace." The words were "in complete readiness." Now let their Lordships see how stood the facts. At Portsmouth, on January 28, 1839, no very long time ago, there were four demonstration-ships; and he supposed that they were all demonstrative of very great power. There had been at that port five demonstration-ships. Of these the Ganges was one. He would take the case of that ship first. She was ordered to be put in commission. Of course she was in complete readiness for sea. Was she? First of all it was discovered that the Ganges wanted caulking. That was easily done, but then it was discovered, that it would be necessary to take her into dock to clean her bottom. Then it was found out that she wanted new coppering, but that could not be done in a day; and somehow or other it happened that she was not in readiness to go to sea till two months had elapsed from the time of her being commissioned. She had, however, gone to sea, and therefore four only were then left at Portsmouth, for which of course, a complete equipment was ready. One of these was the Revenge. Now, the Revenge had no foremast. It was not 803 hooped, and the iron for the hooping was not ready. The mainmast also was not finished. That knocked off two ships at once. The other ships were stated to be ready for sea, and for aught he knew they might be so, but if he was to take the Ganges as a sample to judge by, he should very much doubt it. At Plymouth they had fire demonstration ships—the Caledonia, the Impregnable, the Belleisle, the Agincourt, and the Implacable. Would their Lordships believe, that there was not, at this moment, at that port a single line-of-battle ship ready for sea? There was not a suit of sails complete for a ship of the line at that port. Why were not these ships in complete readiness for sea? If asked in what they were not complete, he was prepared with the statement. There was no foretop sail, no maintop sail, and only one mizentop sail, yet these were sails without which no ship could put to sea. You had all the small sails right, but as for the topsails and courses, jibs and drivers, they were all of them missing. But then the masts were ready, a year ago there were none ready. He admitted, that the noble Earl had worked hard during the last year. In that time he had made sixteen masts. Yes, sixteen masts, all new. Passing from the demonstration ships to the thirty sail of the line, which it had been declared were in a perfect state of readiness he could only say, that at Portsmouth there were no topsail yards, no top-gallant yards ready, and a great deficiency of stores. As he stated, there were tops in store for a first-rate complete, and for one-third rate complete; there were in store, rigging for two first-rates, two second-rates, one third-rate, and two frigates at Portsmouth; but there was neither a gun, gear, fitting, nor anything to mount a cannon, except the carriage and guns of the ordnance. There was not a suit of sails for a second-rate beyond the demonstration ships; not a single suit of sails for a frigate, not a single suit of sails for a sloop or a brig in Portsmouth dock-yard. There were two suits of sails for a first-rate, one for a third-rate, and another making for the Dublin. It would be as much as he could do, if the noble Earl could fit out seven sail of the line at those two ports. At Plymouth, there was not a complete suit of sails in store for a sloop or a brig, except the Acorn in commission. He was afraid he had confused their Lordships by going into these details, for his returns were not, unfortunately, very clearly made out. He did not wish 804 to go further into the general question at present. He had shown, however, that the state of the case, even with respect to the demonstration ships, was not true. His returns were dated Plymouth, 1st of Feb., and Portsmouth, 28th of Jan.; between those dates and those of the noble Earl's papers it was just possible that alterations might have been made in the state of the dock-yards. Great exertions, no doubt, had been made within the last year, and it was equally certain that what had caused those very great exertions was the notice which the public at last had taken of the matter out of doors. He would not trouble their Lordships with any further observations, because he feared, that a strictly professional subject might be disagreeable to their Lordships. He hoped he had said enough to prove that the noble Lord's force was not so disposed as to be of the least service for the defence of the country in case of any sudden emergency, that his demonstration ships were demonstrative only of weakness, and that the thirty sail of the line, which, it was boasted, were perfectly ready, as to all sorts of equipment, could not be got ready in less than three months.
§ The Earl of Ripon
did not mean to trouble their Lordships with many observations; he should confine his remarks to one single point which had been adverted to; he meant the alteration which, during the last few years, had been made in the system of protecting the revenue by the substitution of the coast guard. The effect of that alteration was certainly to take immediately from the control of the Admiralty a body of seamen whose services were in every respect of the most valuable character: but there were good reasons why his right hon. Friend, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had adopted the measure, and it was but fair to Sir James Graham and his colleagues, who concurred in the change, that he should state the grounds on which it had taken place. In the first place, it certainly was represented by persons exceedingly competent to form an opinion on such a matter, that as an efficient security against the illicit introduction of foreign goods, the former system had by no means worked so satisfactorily as was originally anticipated; and although it was true, that the number of men now under command of the officer at whose disposition the force was placed might have been rendered available in an 805 emergency to many ships which were suddenly to be fitted out, yet it was perfectly clear, that whenever such emergency did arise, the protection of the revenue must be sacrificed, and great mischief must be the result. It was accordingly suggested, that it would be better and more economical to adopt the system of what was called the coast-guard. But there were other circumstances at the time of great importance, which, with a view to the good of the naval service, operated on the minds of the Government in inducing them to make the change. It afforded an opportunity, which he thought was very properly taken an advantage of, for offering very great inducements which the service did not before possess, to volunteers to enlist into the navy. It should be recollected, that the important and delicate subject of impressment was at the time attracting a very great deal of attention, and although the Government did then, as he hoped every Government would, feel it indispensable to maintain the right, and if necessary, to exercise the power, of impressment, because if that were abandoned the downfall of the navy must of necessity soon follow; yet every consideration of prudence and policy combined to point out the advantage without resorting to that extreme measure of furnishing inducements to volunteers to enter the navy. The plan proposed therefore was this, that the whole of the persons to be appointed to the coast-guard, instead of being under the Treasury or Board of Customs, should be handed over to the Board of Admiralty, and that every person employed, whether officers or seamen, should be naval men, taken either from the half-pay list of officers or from the seamen on board ship. It was arranged, that each captain on going to sea should note the conduct of every individual in his ship, in order that out of those who had served three years, and whose conduct was most remarkable for steadiness, sobriety, and trustworthy qualities, the coastguard should be composed. The situation, both as regarded officers and men, was very desirable. They had many comforts and conveniences connected likewise, he would admit, with occasionally very arduous duties, and not always free from the casualty of loss of life, but still there were many inducements to make the situation desirable. It was believed, that offering that inducement to young men after a 806 limited service, would cause them the more readily to enter. It was well known, that the temptations held out in the merchant service were very great. A large portion of the American Commercial Marine was, composed of British seamen—possibly the same thing had taken place to a certain extent in other countries, but still it was notorious that in their merchant service and in that of America, very great inducements were offered to gallant young sailors in the service of the Crown to quit it and enter into the merchant service. The plan had, therefore, been founded on very good principles. How far it might have induced persons to enter he was not prepared to say. The same principle had been urged over and over again as regarded the army, with the view of inducing a superior class of men to enlist, rather than sweeping the streets and highways. These were the grounds which had induced Sir James Graham to bring forward the proposition. He believed there were about 1,000 persons employed in the coast-guard, who of course were just as available upon any emergency as under the former system. It had been said, that the system was calculated to abstract some of the best men from the service, but after all, the total number in any one year had not exceeded 200, and that could by no means be considered a large number. One great benefit, at all events would be derived from this debate. It had been admitted on all hands, that mere economy would ruin the Navy. This spirit of parsimony, indeed, had operated for many years past, and naturally enough, no person could be surprised at it, but the effects had been most pernicious; for it had forced upon Government the necessity of "paring down" to the very quick. His noble Friend had said, indeed, that he had fallen upon happier times, and that larger aids were granted to him than to preceding Governments. He congratulated his noble Friend on the improvement, but the remarkable thing was, that his noble Friend and those with whom he acted, were opposed by those who always considered it to be their duty to support him whenever the interests of the country required it.
The Earl of Minto
wished to explain one or two points, with respect to the Revenge; he said, that ship was among those which had been returned to him as complete—in all respects. It often hap- 807 pened, however, that when a mast was wanted, one was taken from a demonstration ship, which was subsequently supplied from the Dock-yards; and as the Revenge was a demonstration ship, this might have caused the temporary absence of a mast in that vessel. Then, as to sails, he could not find in the returns any signs of the deficiency which had been complained of.
§ The Earl of Hardwicke
there is not in Plymouth Dock-yard, a complete set of sails for a man-of-war.
The Earl of Minto
unless the returns were false (which he could not suppose), that could not be the case. And he must candidly say, that he did not place so much reliance on the statements of noble Lords as on the returns.
§ The Earl of Hardwicke
retained his conviction of the correctness of the statements he had made; he did not know when the returns to which the noble Lord had alluded were dated.
§ Viscount Melbourne.
My Lords, I do not rise to enter into the discussion which has been pursued with so much minuteness. I will, however, say a very few words on the general principles by which the conduct of Government ought to be guided, on questions of this nature—questions of the very highest and deepest importance. My Lords, I think there was perfect truth in what was stated by a noble Lord, who, for so many years, filled the office of First Lord of the Admiralty—that naval affairs were not questions of a mere pecuniary nature—but that they are questions for the Government which upon its responsibility ought to weigh and decide them. And, my Lords, it is on our responsibility that we have proposed the naval estimates, and directed the First Lord of the Admiralty to make that distribution and disposition of the naval force which has been made. My Lords, it is my opinion that during peace it is wise to reduce the establishments of the country as low as is compatible with the safety of the country and the duties which are to be discharged. And I was happy to hear it said by a noble Lord, in the debate, that he did not conceive it wise to look through the ports of Europe, and keep up as strong a force as would be required to 808 meet any sudden attack from a foreign fleet. My Lords, what is that but war? It is depriving the country of the adventages of peace, and incurring the evils of war, especially that greatest of all the evils arising from war, the exhaustion of the national resources. But while reducing the naval establishments of a country in time of peace, it is wise in my opinion to take care that the vessels be all ready to be equipped; that foreign vessels gain no superiority over us in seamanship, in machinery, &c., and that we secure the benefit of all new discoveries in the carrying on of warfare. My Lords, it has been said, that we employ our vessels on distant services, at Mexico, for instance, and leave our own shores unguarded. But, my Lords, if we are to have a reduced establishment in peace, we must employ our naval force where our interests require its aid and protection; some places must be left unprovided, but the question is whether it be not for the public interest that they should be left unguarded, whether it be not consistent with the public safety that they be left so unguarded. The noble Lord who brought forward this question made a great many very judicious and unquestionably very able remarks. He stated the difficulty we should have in manning ships on a sudden outbreak, and the difficulty of meeting any emergency. That is nothing new; I am old enough to have conversed with Statesmen of other times, I might almost say, and I never heard of any other doctrine than that this country was always slow in commencing war; that our wars are marked with tardiness and error, and often want of success. I remember the Duke of Richmond, Master-General of the Ordnance telling me that his great reason for being unwilling to try an experiment of peace with the great republic of France was this "If you make peace the form of your constitution and the feelings of the people force you to disarm more rapidly than any other nation in Europe, and you have more difficulties in arming again. The present then is the old difficulty under which this country has always laboured; it is a difficulty illustrated by the whole history of the last century—and I do distinctly admit, that it is a difficulty which requires to be considered, and which we should attempt by every means to meet and obviate. Because we have got over former dangers, it will not do to trust to good fortune at all times, 809 which though it may formerly have relieved us from circumstances of very great peril, and very great danger, must be deserved by care and vigilance. The noble Lord has spoken very much of that which has engaged a great deal of the attention of this country during the last year, although, as my noble Friend said, the public attention was excited to it many years before, and that is the Russian fleet in the Baltic, Surely this is not a question for the Admiralty—this is a very great question of policy. I have no doubt whatever of the pacific intentions of Russia—I have no expectation whatever of any hostility from that quarter. I have a perfect reliance on the frank and loyal character of that Sovereign; while at the same time I readily admit, that it is not safe to rely entirely upon the moderation of that or any other power; but it is prudent and necessary to have a sufficient force to provide for our own security. But, my Lords, at the same time the security which the noble Lord proposes is not an effective security. Having 8, 9, or 10 sail of the line, some here, some there, is no security against that fleet, supposing it was actuated by hostile intentions and design. If we were apprehensive of enmity and hostility from that quarter, it would be absolutely necessary that we should put a much larger force in commission—incur a much larger expense—and make a much greater exertion than that which has been stated by the noble Lord. The noble Lord says very truly, that we must not always wait for—that we cannot always expect manifestos—nor always rely on declarations of war being given and the noble Lord cited instances in which hostilities had commenced, and violence been committed without any such declaration of war. Certainly it is true, that we are not to rely on manifestos and declarations of war being always issued, but we are not to expect that war will come upon us like a thunder clap. Hostilities, in the present day, do not come on suddenly. There are disputes, negotiations, complaints, and answers, or something of that kind which gives an opportunity of making preparations against any danger whatever that may come upon us—and the question is, whether the navy is not in such a state as would afford the germ or nucleus of any efficient force if any should be required in consequence of an interruption to peace, I for one beg leave to say, that I do not in the slightest 810 degree apprehend any danger of that sort, because I do believe, notwithstanding that some unfortunate differences have taken place which it may be somewhat difficult to explain, that there is no power in Europe more sensible of the great advantages to be derived from friendship with Great Britain, or which is more inclined to friendship than the power which possesses that fleet which has been made the subject of the noble Lord's animadversion. Every noble Lord has admitted, I believe, that the course recently taken by the Admiralty is one entitled to their approbation. My Lords, it is not my intention to enter into the particular parts of this discussion, but I thought it my duty to state the general principles that ought to influence and guide your Lordships in the consideration of this question.
§ Lord Colchester
would only make a few observations in reply. He begged to assure the noble Earl opposite (Earl Minto), that he had no personal feeling towards him in bringing forward this question, and he thanked the noble Earl for the courtesy with which he had (as indeed be always did) answered his observations. He could not help thinking however, that we ought to make some more extensive preparations, and if we could not afford to keep up such a force as Russia, we ought at least to ask Russia to reduce her fleet in proportion to ours. There were precedents for such a course—he believed it was such a demand made upon France in 1803 that led to the war. He would not press for a return of the distribution of the ships if the noble Earl opposed it; but he held in his hand a book published under the authority of the noble Earl—at least under the authority of the Admiralty—in which the whole of the stations were named.
§ Returns ordered.