§ Mr. Jeffery rose,
and addressed the house as follows:—Mr. Speaker, I now rise, pursuant to my notice, to call the attention 159 of the house to the papers laid on the table, relative to the Naval department; and to bring forward and substantiate the Charges which I have made of misconduct and neglect against the earl of St. Vincent, during the time he presided at the board of admiralty, for which I stand pledged to this house and to the public. I flatter myself, sir, that the house will do me the justice to believe, what I at first declared, and now upon my honour repeat, that I did undertake the task of public accusation of his lordship, without previous consultation with any person whatever; but not without having good grounds for the accusation, and, sufficient information to warrant it. Still however, I had not any intention of doing it on the day I at first addressed this house; but was, at that time, solely impelled by the repeated, illtimed, and extravagant praises of the earl of St. Vincent's zealous, but mistaken friends. I then felt, as I now feel, that I was, and am, discharging a duty which every member ought to feel when the interests of the country are at stake; and, at a time when our very existence as a great, free, and independent state is threatened and endangered. The task I have undertaken I by no means repent. I only lament that it has not fallen into more able hands; but, as I pursued my enquiries, I have derived strength and confidence from the strength of my cause, in point of substantial proofs founded on facts authentically recorded. On these I mow proceed, intreating the patient attention and candid hearing of this house.—Before I adduce any charges against earl St. Vincent for unprecedented neglect in building and repairing of ships whilst his lordship presided at the board of admiralty; and with delivering up the navy to his successor in a far less efficient state than that in which he received it; it is important that I should shew what exertions were made during a period of several years preceding his lordship's administration; and what exertions are necessary to preserve the Navy in an effective and powerful state. Having done this, it will only remain for me to shew, whether earl St. Vincent followed the footsteps of his predecessors in making provision equal to theirs; and whether his measures were generally such as the situation of the country demanded. — By an account presented the 28th of May, it appears that no less than 42 sail of the 160 line and 45 frigates were launched between 1783 and 1792, a period of peace previous to the last war. This proves, that building to a great extent, and thereby recruiting our navy, was deemed highly necessary in time of peace; and its beneficial effects have been fully felt in the late war. It is worthy of remark, that out of the number so built, 30 of the 42 sail of the line, and 41 of the 45 frigates, were launched from the merchants' yards. So that, even in peace we were indebted to the merchants' yards for the greater part of our naval strength; although perhaps the necessity for so doing might have been less urgent, than earl St. Vincent expressed it to be in his letter of 29th Dec. 1802, on which I shall have occasion to observe more fully.—But, sir, I shall shew, that notwithstanding the laudable attention paid to building ships, it is notorious that the greatest exertions were also made in all the king's yards in repairing ships during the whole of the peace preceding the last war; and that, in that time (as I have just stated) 42 sail of the line and 45 frigates were built, so that the good state and condition of the navy at the commencement of the last war cannot be doubted; indeed, I am warranted in asserting, that there were at that time not less than 100 sail of the line; together with a suitable proportion of smaller ships, in complete condition, and fit to go to any part of the world; and many more, with trifling repair, might have been so, if they had been wanted. This then was the state of the navy at the commencement of the last war in 1793. The accounts beginning at page 4 of the papers ordered to be printed 28th May, 1805, will shew the means by which the navy has been upheld. On one side, are the numbers added from time to time, either by building, capture or purchase; and on the other, the numbers taken from the navy, either by being sold, taken to pieces, captured by the enemy, or lost. From Jan. 1793, to Feb. 1801, when earl St. Vincent came to the admiralty, a period of 8 years, it appears there were 18 sail of the line and 46 frigates built; 43 sail of the line, and 66 frigates captured; and 5 sail of the line, and 9 frigates purchased; making in all, 66 sail of the line, and 121 frigates; which for the 8 years made an average of 8¼ ships of the line, and 15 frigates annually.—But, it may be said, that as this calculation includes captured and Purchased ships, 161 which cannot be consider equal to new; and it being my wish to ascertain the actual annual increase of new ships, in order to maintain a given force; I shall deduct ⅓rd from the number of ships captured and purchased. And as no less than 24 sail of the line and 36 frigates of these captured ships were in commission in. May last, it must be considered a very liberal allowance. This will reduce fair annual average addition to 6¼ sail of the line and 12 frigates, new ships.—The next point to be considered is whether the increase which the navy received during 8 years preceding earl St. Vincent's vice-administration was, or was actually necessary for maintaining it in an effective state.—It must be allowed, that great even as the exertions of his lordship's predecessors were, they have unquestionably proved insufficient to preserve the navy, in the same good state, in which it was when the war began. Our ships had very severely suffered, although the actual numbers had increased. Their state and condition (by, which alone the real strength of the navy can be estimated) as greatly impaired. This is most alarmingly proved by the account of ships paid off, between Oct. 1801, and May 1804; for out of 114 sail of the line and 120 frigates so paid off, 110 of the former, and 115 of the latter, stood in need of repair; and by far the greater part of great repair.—As a further proof that the annual addition of 6¼ sail of the line and 12 frigates, which I have stated, is not equal to maintain the naval force which has been employed in actual service for years past, I will observe, that a ship is calculated not to above 15 years; affording such ships, one with another, every, repair which it can be advise-able to give. Now, there have been upon an average during the greater part of last war, 110 sail of the line, and 170 frigates in commission; and allowing every ship to run 15 years, it would require an addition of full 7 sail of the line and 12 frigates to maintain such force—any thing short of this supply would diminish the naval strength. I must likewise observe, that, this supposed sufficiency depends upon contingencies; for it will not provide against casual possible disasters to our fleets.— Sir, I shall now enquire whether earl St. Vincent did keep pace with his predecessors; and whether he did add at the rate of 6¼ sail of the line and 12 frigates annually, which it was manifestly 162 his duty to have done; and whether he left to his successors the practicable means of doing it? First, as to ships of the line. I beg to refer to p. 16 of the papers before mentioned, where it will appear that on the 18th Feb. 1801, when earl St. Vincent came into office, there were 15 sail of the line on the stocks building, viz. 6 in the king's yards, and 9 in the merchants' yards, which, with the 4 captured, between Feb. 1801; and May 1804, would, I conceive, have enabled his lordship to have added the required increase without extraordinary exertion, and by the usual and ordinary methods, without the necessity of inventing new projects, by which it has been said that 50 sail of the line might be built in the king's yards in a twelve-month.—But I shall prove that his lordship neglected the certain productive means practised by his predecessors, and every other, mode of maintaining the navy; for only 10 ships were launched in the 3 years and 3 months whilst he was at the admiralty; namely, 7 out of the 9 in the merchants' yards, and 3 only of the 6 in the king's yards, which ships were completed without, his lordship's assistance. For those in the merchants' yards were of course completed according to contract, and 2 of the 3 in the king's yards were in so forward a state in Feb. 1801, as to be launched in June and October following, before any effect was produced from his lordship's remissness. His lordship never used the means for completing the remainder; for he launched but one single ship (the Colossus) between Oct. 1801, and May 1804; and at the same time forbad recourse to the merchants' yards. And though predecessors left him 15 sail of the line building, he left but 9 to his successors; and 5 of those 9 were upon the stocks when he came into office. And so little was done to the ships left, that only 7 out of the 9, as will appear by the printed accounts, notwithstanding every exertion has been made, can be launched within 3 years, from the period of his quitting the admiralty in May 1804. From these incontrovertible facts, it is evident that earl St. Vincent was left by its predecessor with the ample means for provision equal to former years; but instead of availing himself of those means, there were only launched 10 sail of the line in 3 years and 3 months, while he was in office; and he left his successor with only the possibility of launching 7, in 3 163 succeeding years, making 17; which with 4 captured, between 1801 and 1804, are, in the whole 21 sail of the line in 6 years, not one half the number which had been provided by his lordship's predecessors in the same space of time, though he had the peace in his favour. But even the full number would not have equalled what the situation of the country, and the impaired state of our navy, demanded.—I shall now make a similar statement in respect of the frigates. As lord St. Vincent paid so little attention to building line-of-battle ships, it is not surprising that he should be equally negligent in providing a competent supply of frigates. On the 18th Feb. 1801, there were 11 frigates on the stocks building; viz. 4 in the king's yards, and 7 in the merchants' yards. Those in the king's yards were in a state of great forwardness; the 7 in the merchants' yards were on contract, and 5 of them were actually launched long before the expiration of the year 1801.—That the predecessors of earl St. Vincent, by leaving 11 frigates on the stocks (even had they not been in such forward state), left his lordship ample means to make as great a provision within the year, by building alone, as had been made for a series of years, previous to his lordship's administration, will appear by reference to the last mentioned account, which proves that the successors of lord St. Vincent, finding that exertions were necessary, and earnest as they were to remedy the effects of his lordship's inactivity, actually built 4 frigates in the king's yards, within the short space of 6 months; forming a striking contrast to the supineness and negligence of lord St. Vincent.—During the 3 years and 3 months earl St. Vincent directed the affairs of the navy, he launched only 12 frigates, even under the favourable circumstances I have stated. There were also 10 frigates captured during this period, from which I deduct ⅓rd, upon the same principle as I made a similar deduction from the ships captured in the 8 years previous to earl St. Vincent's coming to the admiralty. This will make the total number of frigates added by earl St. Vincent in 3 years and 3 months, 19. Now, sir, I trust I have already convinced the house, that an annual addition of 12 frigates had been made to the navy during the 8 years preceding earl St. Vincent's administration, and that such addition was not sufficient to preserve the navy in the good and effective 164 state in which it was, at the commencement of that period. In what point of view then, will this house and the country see the conduct of lord St. Vincent, when, instead of making greater exertions, and greater provision than his predecessors (which the situation of the country, and the state of the navy certainly demanded), he literally did not make half the provision which they did?—In 3 years and 3 months he added only 19 frigates, whereas he should have added 39. His lordship was not awakened to the necessity of building this class of useful ships, until a short time previous to his quitting the admiralty, and long after the war began, when orders were issued for laying down 8 in the king's yards; none of which were however begun, till after he quitted the admiralty, and which measure is more to be attributed to the dissatisfaction which began to shew itself about that time within this house, and the clamour without it, than to any spontaneous effort of his own.—On the 15th of May 1804, when earl St. Vincent resigned his office, the country being then at war, he left but one single frigate on the stocks, building in the king's yards, see p. 17. of the printed accounts. It is true there were 9 contracted for, to be built in the merchants' yards; but of these 9, only four were just begun, so that earl St. Vincent, instead of leaving to his successor 11 frigates building, being the number he received from his predecessor, left but 5; viz. 1 in the king's yards and 4 in the merchants' yards. I trust the house will do me the justice to acknowledge that there were good grounds for an investigation of the conduct of earl St. Vincent. —Having thus proved that earl St. Vincent did not make those exertions in building, which were made by his predecessors, I naturally enquired into the cause of this neglect; what arguments could be adduced in extenuation of his conduct; whether or not, as great a necessity for building existed at the one period as the other; whether earl St. Vincent was more fortunate in point of captures than his predecessors; whether the political situation of the country, during his lordship's administration, demanded less energy; whether the preparations in foreign, and particularly the enemy's ports, were carried on with less vigour than heretofore; and whether they were building merely cockleshells, as stated by the gallant admiral (Markham), one of his lordship's col- 165 leagues, and which would be too contemptible to require a British navy to subdue?—But I submit to the judgment of the house, whether in every one of those respects, the state and situation of the country were not such as to call forth and demand every possible exertion, even far beyond those of his predecessors. I find from the accounts commencing at p. 4, of the last mentioned printed papers, that from the 1st Jan. 1793, to 18th Feb. 1801, 66 sail of the line were added to the navy, by building, capture, or purchase; and that there were taken from the navy, by various casualties, no more than 21; leaving an addition of 45 sail of the line in the period of 8 years: and that there were in the same time 121 frigates added, and only 53 taken away; leaving an addition of 68 frigates: whereas during the administration of earl St. Vincent, from Feb. 1801, to 15th May 1804, only 14 sail of the line were added, and 11 were taken from the navy; leaving an addition of 3 sail of the line in a period of 3 years and 3 months. But as to frigates, 22 only were added, and there were 30 taken away; an actual decrease of 8 frigates.—I appeal to the house, whether under the general circumstances of the country, earl St. Vincent had any grounds to suppose that exertions were unnecessary; whether his neglect was not? But earl St. Vincent's criminality was great indeed: he cannot plead ignorance in extenuation of his guilt: he knew that there was necessity for building: he declared that opinion in this emphatic language, in which I am sure the house will concur; "that there was an urgent necessity for building in every part of the kingdom." So fully was he convinced of that necessity, so much did it prey upon his mind, that he owned "he could seldom converse with the comptroller of the navy on any subject without introducing this topic." And when he erroneously conceived that the comptroller had delayed, even for a few days, his orders for entering into contracts, he addressed him in terms of reproach; repeated his orders to build; and accompanied those orders with a sharp rebuke. I beg permission to read the correspondence on this subject. [Here the hon.gent.read the said correspondence to the house; having done which, he continued as follows:] Will not the house be astonished after hearing these letters, and knowing the urgent necessity for build- 166 ing ships; and convinced as the noble lord himself was of that necessity, to find, that although his lordship remained in office a year a half after this extraordinary correspondence, and that the war took place within 3 months, his lordship did not even condescend to give any reasons for rejecting the builders' terms; nor direct any measures to be taken by the navy board to-build, or procure a single ship in any other way, during his lordship's stay in office? This must be deemed a very, unaccountable termination of the correspondence, and I leave to his lordship's friends to make the best excuse they can for such extraordinary conduct, and to explain the reasons and circumstances which occurred in the short space of 15 days, and at a moment when war was inevitable, to render the building line-of-battle ships altogether unnecessary. It has been asserted in another place, that the reason ships were not contracted for, were the objections to such as were built in merchants' yards; were not those objections as evident on the 29th Dec. 1802, as they were on the 13th of Jan. a period of only 15 days after? But if his lordship changed his mind in this respect in a short time, did that remove the necessity of building ships? Could there be any possible reason for declining to build altogether? Why were not ships built in the king's yards; particularly when he affected to be convinced by every thing but practice, that the king's yards were equal to build the whole navy? It was certainly evident to the noble lord himself, that the country required every possible exertion to maintain an efficient navy. I see by papers called for by an hon. admiral (Markham), that speculative schemes and new-fangled projects were about that time in contemplation, by which 50 sail of the line might be built in the king's yards annually. When those papers are brought into discussion, and arguments adduced in support of this misrepresentation, I shall have no difficulty in proving the fallacy and absurdity of the statement, and that it is founded on an imposition and deception; somewhat similar to the extraordinary and ingenious but very irregular calculations of the same author, wherein pounds sterling were stated instead of Rupees of half a crown each; for the purpose of criminating a gallant and meritorious sea-officer. (Vide the papers printed by the house of commons relating to sir Home Popham). This cannot 167 be misunderstood.—But during the time these whims and fancies employed the attention of the noble lord, instead of building 50 sail of the line, he was taking no one step by which a single line-of-battle ship could be added to the navy. It was not for want of slips to lay down as many as they wished; for it appears by p. 19 of the papers printed 28th May, that 13 out of 20 were unoccupied on 15th May 1804, when earl St. Vincent quitted the admiralty. No; his lordship had wantonly discharged the workmen from the dock-yards and they had obtained employment elsewhere; many, in the dock-yards of our enemies. His haughty and illiberal conduct had disgusted every man in the service, and this at a time when our navy was fast running to ruin, as I have already stated, and will more fully prove; and no provision was making to remedy so alarming an evil, either by building new ships, or by repairing those which required it.—Our dock-yards had neither Ship Wrights, nor materials, nor sufficient stores of any kind to supply the wants of the service. The deficiency of Ship Wrights is proved by an account called for by an hon. admiral and now on the table, which spews the number borne in all the yards on 31st Dec. in each year from 1793. To prove (if proofs are wanting) the miserable state of the yards in respect to timber, I need only read the letters from the officers of the yards, which will be found in p. 39 of the papers presented the 28th of May, and then enquire, if this is the way in which the works of the British navy can be maintained?—Sir, I flatter myself that I have fully proved to the house the shameful neglect of lord St. Vincent in regard to building ships. I shall now proceed to shew some of the effects which have resulted from this neglect. Why the tenders which were sent from the navy board to the admiralty were refused, we are yet to learn. But, I beg leave to state that in consequence of his lordship's unfortunate capricious determination, the country has sustained an increased expence of more than 200,000l.; for his successor (from the urgent necessity of the case) was compelled to give 36l. per ton, i.e. an advance of 10l. per ton, or 40 per cent. for building ten 74-gun ships. This however was not the only circumstance to be regretted. Had his lordship continued in one mind from the 5th Jan. to the 13th, those 10 ships would ere this have been ready for the sea.—As the circumstances 168 contained in the letter from the navy board to the admiralty, informing them of their having been obliged to give 36l. per ton for the ships which they had, by direction of the board of admiralty, agreed for, are rather of an extraordinary complexion; I must beg the patience of the house while I read it, as well as that which introduces it. [Here the hon. gent. read the said letter, which will be found in p.27 of the papers presented the 28th of May.] As these letters speak for themselves, I shall only observe, that a similar instance of breach of faith between government and individuals is not, I hope, to be found, for it has done much mischief. And I cannot but lament that one of the noble lord's colleagues should have had the interest of his country so little at heart, as to have acted in a manner so unbecoming, and so detrimental to the concerns of the nation.—But, whatever might have been the expence of those ships, if there were no means by which they could otherwise have been procured, there was an urgent necessity, and that necessity, in lord St. Vincent's own emphatic words, went to the length of "as many as could be procured in every part of the kingdom." And yet the noble lord thought proper to risk the safety of the country, by a false, ill-judged, and ill-timed economy, of which the inevitable result, as his lordship ought to have foreseen, led to very great additional expence in the course of the requisite preparations for maintaining the navy. Possibly his lordship's successor might have the censure of earl St. Vincent and his friends, for giving the additional price of 10l. per ton; but instead of censure, I highly commend the conduct of that noble lord, I mean lord Melville; and his active, zealous successor lord Barham; who till lately presided at the board of admiralty; whose exertions and judicious measures have preserved the navy and perhaps the country from ruin.—Suppose the contracted system of lord St. Vincent had been persisted in; must it not have been ruinous to the great interests of the kingdom? We should not then, as we happily now have, an opportunity to exult in, and commemorate the signal and glorious victory of Trafalgar, achieved by that great, renowned, and ever-to-be-lamented hero, lord Nelson; nor the subsequent success of the gallant sir R. Strachan; by which the victory was made complete. Neither should we have had to congratulate the country on the more recent, signal and glo- 169 rious defeat and capture of the enemy's fleet off St. Domingo, by that meritorious officer admiral sir J. T. Duckworth; nor that of the Maringo and Belle Poule by sir J. 13. Warren: instead of the almost complete demolition of the combined fleets of France and Spain, our inferior blockading squadron (for such, if any, it must have been) would have been compelled to have quitted their station, when the enemy had chose to put to sea, on which they would have rode the triumphant and unmolested masters; and uncontrolled, would have directed their hostile attempts against our unprotected shores, colonies, and commerce.—As an Englishman, I shudder at the thought, but I have every reason to believe, that this supposition and probability (dreadful as they are) would have been fatally realized. And had this actually been the case, in what a dishonourable, degraded s state must this country have been in at this moment; humbled to the dust at the feet of France; and obliged, perhaps, abjectly to sue for, and accept, any terms of peace, which that proud, ambitious, all-grasping power would deign to grant or arrogantly impose!—Sir, I mean not to reprobate lord St. Vincent's plan of reforming the abuses and economizing the management of the dock-yards, but I do consider him as highly culpable, for neglecting the not less important branches of his duty, that of building and repairing ships, in order to keep pace with the alarming augmentation of those of the enemy. The state of the navy had claims, above any other consideration whatever, to his lordship's serious attention and most active exertions.—If lord St. Vincent was of opinion, that the long-accustomed mode and practice in the dockyards respecting Ship Wrights and labourers required change and reform, why did he not give directions for the adoption of a system deemed by him so necessary and beneficial to the public service, and have seen that such directions were carried into execution? The time that should have been thus employed, was spent in ineffectually projecting schemes ,which were suggested by the new master Ship Wrights of Plymouth yard, and approved of only by his brother, the friend and adviser of lord St. Vincent.—And here I beg to call the attention of the house to the following very important observations. It appears from the documents before the house, that the proposed alteration of system was not approved of by any of the officers of the 170 other dock-yards, nor by the navy board. But the commissioners of the navy, in letters hearing date 31st March, and 21st April, 1804, say, that "they are willing to adopt whatever plan lord St. Vincent should please to direct;" and that "no exertion shall be wanting on their part, to give it the fullest effect." But, no; his lordship did not think proper to commit himself by positive orders, so as to bring responsibility on himself.—What is the result of the papers called for, in proof of lord St. Vincent's vigilance and activity as to the increase of our naval power? Did he, whilst he presided at the admiralty, build, as was suggested might have been done, 50 sail of the line? No. I am sure the house will be astonished at hearing me declare, that he did no more towards building line-of-battle ships than what is equal to 2¼ sail of the line, for the 3 years and 3 months he was first lord of the admiralty. What, then, becomes of the boast of what was intended to be done? Where are we to find the promised augmentation of our great bulwark, the navy? There surely can be nothing to boast of, where "nothing has been done. I cannot leave this part of the subject without expressing my full conviction, that the present state of the navy requires the most serious consideration of this house, and of the country; and however fortunate we have been in our unprecedented success and our many signal victories, the state of the navy calls for all the vigilance, energy, and industry of the noble lord who now fills the important office of first lord of the admiralty, and I conjure him to give it his most serious attention; for even at this moment there is "an urgent necessity for building as many ships as can be procured in every part of the kingdom;" as well as for the utmost exertion to repair our present navy.—Having thus entered into a long and I fear tedious detail of the measures and conduct of earl St. Vincent with respect to building ships; having shewn the baneful effects of such measures; and I trust, already justified the expression I used on a former day, that lord St. Vincent was, by a culpable neglect of the duties of the great and most important office, (eventually, for it cannot be supposed that I meant intentionally and with design,) as great an enemy as this country ever had; I must now beg the indulgence of the house for a short time longer, while I make a few observations on such parts of the papers as clearly demonstrate the disgraceful man- 171 ner in which his lordship neglected to perform another equally important part of his duty, the Repairs of the Fleet; and which, I think, cannot fail to convince every member of this house and the country, that the navy of Great Britain, under the management of earl St. Vincent, was fast approaching to destruction.—With a view of obtaining clear and precise information on this head, I called for a list of the Ships of the Line and Frigates paid off between 1st Oct. 1801, (when the preliminaries of peace were signed,) and 8th March 1803, the commencement of the present war; shewing the nature of the repair each required, to be put into condition for permanent service. Also, a list of the Ships in Ordinary on the 1st Oct. 1801; stating in like manner the nature of the repair each required, to be put into condition for permanent service.—I likewise moved for a List of Ships of the Line and Frigates actually repaired, between the 1st Oct. 1801, and 15th May 1804, when earl St. Vincent quitted the admiralty; shewing the time when each was completed;. the nature of the repair each required when taken in hand, to be put into condition for permanent service; and the nature of the repair actually given. Had his lordship been aware of the state and condition of the navy at the conclusion of the last war; and to suppose him ignorant, would be to suppose him highly culpable; his lordship must have known that in consequence of a long and harassing war, the situation of our navy, so far from justifying supineness and inactivity, called loudly upon the first lord of the admiralty for extraordinary, for unprecedented exertions and activity.—It appears, sir, by these accounts, that there were only 15 sail of the line in ordinary in Oct. 1801, (exclusive of such ships as were unfit to be repaired for sea-service,) and that 10 of those 15 stood in need of repair, and the other 5 required either fitting for sea, or making good their defects; and that between Oct. 1801, and March 1803, 114 sail of the line were paid off, two only of which were in good condition; one other is expressed as fitting; and another whose state and condition is uncertain. So that there were no less (including the ships in ordinary on 1st Oct. 1801,) than 120 sail of the line which stood in need of repair.—And here I beg to enumerate the numbers, under each head, or class of repair required, and under the various official denominations: 172 14 required very large repair, 38 large repair, 14 between middling and large, 22 middling, 12 between middling and small, 16 small, 4 very small; total 120.—I shall now, sir, enumerate the number of ships of the line actually repaired by earl St. Vincent, between Oct. 1801, and May 1804, as taken from the account ordered to be printed July 3, 1805, and which account the house will understand is not confined to those paid off by his lordship, but relates to the whole of the navy repaired.—Of the 14 under the head of very large repair, not one was repaired; of the 38 under the head of large repair, 5 were repaired; of the 14 between middling and large, none were repaired; of the 22 middling, 4 were repaired; of the 12 between small and middling, 3 were repaired; of the 16 small, 10 were repaired; and the 4 which required very small, were all 4 repaired; total 26.—So that it appears that earl St. Vincent during a period of 2 years and 8 months immediately succeeding. the war, repaired no more than 26 sail of the line, the greater part of which were those that required the least repair; although his lordship must have known that there were full 120 sail of the line which stood in need of repair, and that the ordinary did not afford any resource.—But, sir, the proportion of work performed by earl St. Vincent in the 2 years and 8 mouths, to the whole quantity of work necessary to be performed, before the 120 sail of the line could be put into a complete state, falls far short of the proportion of 26 to 120; for the greater part of the ships repaired, were, as I have already stated, such as required the least to be done to them; and I have, for the information of the house, ascertained, what proportion the actual work performed by earl St. Vincent bears to the whole.—The expence of workmanship for each denomination of repairs will accurately determine the proportion one bears to another; and which expence, I believe, will be found upon an average as nearly as possible, on the following calculation for a 74-gun ship. I conceive it necessary to be thus minute, as, in bringing forward charges of so serious a nature, it is but reasonable that those who may be disposed to take upon themselves the defence of his lordship, should see the precise grounds on which the charges rest. The expence of workmanship may be reasonably estimated at, 14,000l.; Large Repair, 10,500l.; Between Middling and Large, 8,000l.; Middling, 5,500l.; Between Middling and 173 Small, 3,500l.; Small, 2,500l.; Very Small, 2,000l.—Now, sir, the whole expence of workmanship for the repairs actually performed by earl St. Vincent agreeably to this calculation, would amount to 118,000l. The expence in like manner on the ships in ordinary in Oct. 1801, and the 120 ships paid off between Oct. 1801, and March 1803, amounts to 918,000l, Therefore the proportion of repair, performed by earl St. Vincent to the whole amount required, was as 118,000l. is to 918,000l., or nearly 1 to 8, and this in 2 years and 8 months. His lordship at this rate (which cannot be denied to be a fair statement) would have been 20 years completing the whole.—I have only to remark, that a ship, after being completely repaired for permanent service, cannot be expected to run above 5 years without requiring fresh actual repairs, exclusive of casual defects made good: how far, then, his lordship's measures were calculated to maintain a navy of above 100 sail of the line in actual service at sea, I shall leave the house and the country to determine.—Lord St. Vincent was not, it seems, awake to a sense of danger, and to the necessity of beginning to put the navy into an efficient state, even fill within a month before Press Warrants were issued; I beg to refer to letters from the officers of the dock-yards, which prove this to its full extent. They will be found in p. 39 of the papers presented to the house on the 28th of May.—Is it impossible that the officers of our principal dock-yards, should have had occasion to express themselves in those terms, only one month before the commencement of hostilities? Can any one who has seen the correspondence which passed between the ministers of this country and those of France, from the time the definitive treaty was signed, to the commencement of the present war, the whole of which bespeaks the almost certainty of war; I say, sir, can any one, having seen such correspondence, believe that during the time it was carrying on, those who directed our naval affairs were incurring to the country a useless and great expence in fitting its Navy for a state of Ordinary? and that, so far from taking such precautionary measures as might facilitate our means of defence and offence, in the event of hostilities, they were throwing every impediment in the way by putting the navy to sleep; discharging the Ship Wrights and artificers from the dock- 174 yards.; and turning adrift the brave and gallant seamen; many of whom immediately resorted to foreign countries, and are at this moment in the dock-yards and fleets of our enemies? and this, even before they had repaired a single ship?—But so much were they infatuated with false ideas of economy, that they were actually selling ships, instead of repairing them, till hostilities stared them in the face; for it is a fact, that at the moment when press warrants were issued, there was an advertisement in the public newspapers, dated March 5, 1803, for the sale of several vessels; but which advertisement was afterwards withdrawn.—The earl of St. Vincent also authorised the sale of hemp; conceiving, I presume, that the stock in hand was greater than was necessary; acceptable article found its way to the enemy's fleets. His lordship next visited the dock-yards, in order to introduce his system of affected reform and false economy; which visitation, as it was called, was attended with unprecedented acts of cruelty and oppression. He found them, as he thought, over-stocked with artificers, and instantly a large reduction took place. And, sir, so little importance did he attach to it, that this reduction took place, even before that solitary ship the Russel was completed; the only ship repaired, out of 60 sail of the line; part of those which were even, paid off by himself, all requiring the 3 first denominations of heaviest repairs. It was at a moment when every man in the country anticipated the renewal of the war; which expectation was so soon realised. It was unpardonable, that ample provision was not made for it. Our preparations should at least have kept pace with those of foreign powers, but more particularly with those of France.—The consequences resulting from such measures are in a great degree shewn by the accounts on the table; by which it appears, that during the latter years of the last war, this country never had less than 100 sail of the line actually in commission, not including harbour duty ships; the average is, I believe, 104. On the 18th of Feb. 1801, when earl St. Vincent came to the admiralty, a few months previous to the termination of the war, there were 102. It was, sir, my intention to have drawn a comparison between the number in commission at this latter period (not knowing it had been soon afterwards increased), 175 and the number in commission at the time his lordship quitted the admiralty, 14 months after the war began. But the hon. admiral who has moved for such voluminous papers, has enabled me to lay before the house a much stronger case than I expected.—By his calling for an account of the ships commission, on 1st Oct. 1801, it appears there were 122 sail of the line, being an increase of 20 ships, since 18th Feb. 1801.—If the hon. admiral called for this account, with a view of giving credit to earl St. Vincent for his great exertions in adding those 20 sail to the fleet; which I can hardly believe he intends, because the hon. admiral cannot be ignorant to whom that credit is due, and to whose exertions the country is indebted; I reply that the fact is, earl St. Vincent came into office, just at the time the coalition of the northern powers was at its height, and when every possible means were necessary, to beat down that formidable confederacy. These ships, for this purpose, were provided, and many of them on the point of being commissioned at the time earl St. Vincent came into office in Feb. 1801. The greatest part were, it is true, commissioned by the noble lord, but 8 were actually ready by the end of March; 7 by the end of April; and the remaining 5 by the last of May; in short, the country was indebted to earl Spencer for those exertions which proved so successful. An extraordinary survey was made about 2 months previous to earl St. Vincent's, administration, at the different dock-yards, for the express purpose of putting this measure into immediate effect. And therefore this proves that when earl St. Vincent came to the admiralty, the permanent force was at least 100 sail of the line in commission, with the means of equipping, upon an emergency, 20 sail more. But when earl St. Vincent quitted the admiralty, above 12 months after the war commenced, though he had had the peace, during which he might recruit and refit at his pleasure, there were only 88 sail of the line in commission, although it cannot be said that he was very nice as to their state and condition; not another ship could be sent to sea; and I fear there is too much reason to suspect that representations from officers, of the defective state of their ships, Were not attended to; of which there was one instance in particular; though I would now avoid entering into the melancholy 176 subject.—At this time the navy of our enemy was much superior to what it, was in the latter part of the last war. They employed the interval of peace, in building and repairing ships; and which (by knowing it, as we must have known it) urged the necessity, on our part, of similar exertions.—But, sir, it is notorious that we had not the means. I appeal to the hon. admiral himself, who at that time was at the board, whether another ship could have been sent to sea? And to add to the calamity, the successors of earl St. Vincent had the mortification to find after all their exertions, which were of no ordinary nature, that though in the course of about 8 or 9 months they had fitted 12 fresh ships, they only served to replace an equal number which were found totally unfit for further service at sea. Such even was the state of those which earl St. Vincent had commissioned. This fact has been confirmed in another place, from authentic documents.—Let us look at the exertions of his lordship's successors; immediately after he quitted the office. Between that period and 15th Oct. 1805. there were put out of commission 16 sail of the line and 21 frigates, and commissioned 35 sail of the line and 38 frigates. The improved state of the navy since that period, speaks for itself; and I shall only say that it will be fortunate for the country, if the brilliant success of the navy; provided by that truly great and meritorious servant of the country, lord Barham, shall be followed up with equal good fortune, and by similar wisdom and energy, on the part of his successor, who now presides at that board.—I must again, sir, beg the further indulgence of the house, while I make some observations on such part of the papers, as respect the supply of timber for the navy; and I conceive that this interesting and important subject will be found equally deserving serious attention, as those matters which I have already had occasion to submit to the house.—It is unnecessary, sir, that I should enter into a tedious detail of the measures which were pursued by the predecessors of earl St. Vincent, in order to obtain supplies of timber for the navy; it is sufficient to know that they were effectual. Timber was procured; and although the stock of timber in the country might have been gradually decreasing for many years, still there was no want; the dock yards were abundantly supplied; no se- 177 rious difficulties presented themselves, until earl St. Vincent came to the admiralty. That the supplies of timber failed during the administration of earl St. Vincent, is most clearly proved, by the accounts on the table; by which it appears preceding that period, the annual average receipt of timber was upwards of 32,000 loads; whereas in the years 1802 and 1803, it was reduced to less than 20,000e. His lordship quitted the admiralty in May 1804. Offers are usually made at that season, of the timber intended to be felled the ensuing year. The navy board state, in their letter to the admiralty, of 24th March 1804, that the merchants could not be induced to come forward, and that the offers then made amounted to more than 2,300 to 2,400 loads. This, sir, was the situation of the country, at a moment when the greatest possible exertions in our naval arsenals were absolutely required.—The-stock in hand, more particularly of useful timber, greatly decreased; the works in the dock yards actually stopped for want of timber; and the melancholy prospect of only obtaining from 3 to 4 thousand loads, when the annual expenditure is above 30,000.—As I perceive by the tenor of the correspondence between the admiralty and navy boards, and by many very specious accounts and papers moved for by an hon. admiral, that it is intended to attribute the cause of all the insurmountable difficulties which arose during the administration of earl St. Vincent ,to the navy board, instead of the admiralty, it is necessary that I spew the real cause of such difficulties, and to whom it is to be attributed. And here, sir, I must shortly observe, that the failure in supplies of timber appears to have been confined to earl St. Vincent's administration.—There were abundant supplies the time of his predecessors, and also in the time of his successors. The same navy board existed before during, and after his lordship's administration. Soon after earl St. Vincent came into the admiralty, some material alterations were made by direction of that board, in the Rules and Regulations laid down for the receipt and management of timber in the dock yards; and an officer was appointed in each yard, called a timber-master, to whom the whole of this branch of the service was entrusted. I do not wish to be understood, that the serious mischief which ensued, was owing to the 178 regulations themselves, but to the unfortunate interpretation which they were liable to, by the officers acting under them being influenced by a system of terror. A system which, I am sorry to say, under the administration of earl St. Vincent, was unhappily introduced into every department of the naval service, but more particularly the dock yards.—I will, in as few words as possible, state the timber-master's duty, as I think it material it should be clearly understood. Upon any quantity of timber being offered for the navy, a purveyor, or shipwright is dispatched into the country to view the timber, where it lies; he marks all that he deems fit for the purposes of the dock yards, upon which the merchant, or contractor, sends it to the yard. Upon its arrival there, it is the duty of the timber-master to inspect every piece of timber, and, to determine the specific purpose (in building) to which each piece is applicable; which determination decides the value of the timber; for it is paid for according to such decided qualification; i.e. the uses to which it is applicable in ship building. If the merchant objects to the valuation of the timber-master, the only alternative he has, is to take away the timber from the yards; after incurring great expence for carriage and freight. Now, in order to preserve a check upon this officer, an account is kept of every stick of timber, with the qualification at which it was received, and according to which it was valued and paid for; and this very much depends on the opinion as to its capacity for conversion; and whenever the timber is converted, the use to which it is actually applied or converted, is noted against the original entry of the timber; so that it is seen at once whether the timber ultimately proves of superior inferior quality, of greater or less value, than that at which it was originally received; and according to the timber-master is deemed culpable or meritorious.—I conceive, sir, that these regulations, when exercised with true spirit, are beneficial; but when exercised by persons who do not strictly consult the mutual interest of the individual and the public, and who are in a measure awed by the responsibility of their situation, they become detrimental. Inasmuch as the interest of the timber-master is diametrically 179 opposite to that of the merchant, it is his interest to qualify the timber as low as possible and he has the power of doing it; or if the merchant objects, the timber-master may refuse it altogether. If the quality of timber is doubtful (and a great deal must be so), he will at once reject it, rather than hazard its, ultimately turning out worse than he estimated it; the effect of which must be the refusal of a vast deal of useful timber; it increases the scarcity, enhances the price, creates immense loss to the merchant, and finally puts a stop to the supply of timber for the navy.— That the timber-masters acted under these impressions, when earl St. Vincent presided at the board of admiralty, and that the consequences I have pointed out immediately ensued, I am sure no one who has read the correspondence on the subject can entertain a doubt. What is the language of the timber-merchants? They all assert, that such alterations have taken place in the receipt and qualification of their timber, that it is impossible to supply the dock-yards. They do not conceive that an advance in price can counterbalance the disadvantages which in this respect they labour under: the receipt of timber, both in qualification and measurement being so considerably reduced, and the quantity refused being increased to an amount exceeding all conception. [See papers ordered to be printed, July 3, 1805, p. 66 to 72.]—I observe, in a letter from a Mr. Larking to the navy board, Feb. 13, 1803, he says, "there must in the nature of things be always a great proportion of timber, which will not be quite free from defects, and of course some that may be called unprofitable for conversion; but if all such is to be refused, it will be in vain to look for any thing like an adequate supply from this or any other country." But, sir, I need not occupy more of your time in bringing forward matter, of which the papers moved for afford abundance to prove that the representations of the timber-merchants were well founded—their almost entirely withdrawing themselves from any connexion with government is sufficient proof.—However, before I quit this part of the subject, I must beg to make a few remarks on some of the papers which have been moved for by the hon. admiral, as I cannot help suspecting that he intends to infer from them that no severity towards the timber-merchants 180 in the receipt of their timber has been practised; that no alteration has taken place in the measurement and qualification of timber, injurious to the merchant; but that on the contrary, the alterations in the contracts have been advantageous to the contractor, of 18 per cent. on sided timber, and 12 per cent. on rough timber. [Vide papers ordered to be printed, July 3, 1805, p. 11 to 19.] The other papers I allude to are copies of the letters from the timber-masters to the admiralty, in answer to directions which they had received, to state how far the representations of the timber-merchants to the navy board were true; and if in discharge of their duty in the receipt of timber, they had exercised any unnecessary rigour, or cut up timber, as the merchants represented; or if they considered it to be their duty to do justice equally to the merchants as to the public. [Vide papers ordered to be printed, July 3, 1805, p. 87 to 93.]— The answer that they returned naturally was, that no unnecessary rigour had been exercised, and that timber had not been improperly cut up, and that they had done justice to the merchant as well as to the public. I would simply ask, How could they return any other answer, and retain their places? But there are paragraphs in their letters, which evidently shew that alterations have taken place in the mode of measuring and receiving timber, but which they conceive to be justified, when acting up to the letter of their instructions, and of the contract; and seem to infer, that no injustice is done to the contractor, as long as he has the option of either submitting to their terms, or taking back the timber.—Now, sir, can it be supposed that a merchant, after having been at the expence of preparing the timber for the yard, and of the land and water carriage, does not incur a very heavy loss, by having that timber rejected, when it comes to the dock-yards? And would he not rather submit to a considerable reduction below its real value, than to have it returned upon his hands? In short, sir, I think that the letters of the timber-masters, so far from having a tendency to refute that which is established upon the most satisfactory documents, strongly confirm it.—Another paper, which I have alluded to, as being calculated to mislead the house, will be found in p. 11. of the papers printed July 3, purporting to be an account, shewing the price of timber in the king's yards, on the 18th 181 Feb. 1801, the advances which have been since made thereon, and the advantages which have been given to the timber-merchants by the alteration in the mode of measurement, and qualifications of the timber, as shewn in money. The precise time when those alterations took place is not noted in the account, but I believe they occurred during the time earl St. Vincent was at the admiralty. Now, sir, at first view of this document, we should very naturally be inclined to think, that so far from the merchants having any cause of complaint, they had every reason to be satisfied, every encouragement having been held out;i.e. great advances on the price, and other favourable alterations in the mode of measurement, by which they appear to have gained 18 per cent. But, sir, on examining the case, I find that the merchants had no reason to be so satisfied; for there was at the same time another alteration made, which was that of the conduct of the timber-masters, which subjected the contractors to such a loss, as no reasonable advance in price would compensate. The very same piece of timber, which formerly, without hesitation, would have been received as applicable to a principal use in ship-building, and paid for accordingly, was now deemed only of inferior qualification, and the price of course reduced; but the greatest loss to the merchants was, the immense quantity rejected on the appearance of slight defects. That this was the case, appears by the repeated remonstrances of the merchants.—Stook and Farr, in a letter of 24th Aug. 1801, state, "that in the last cargo of timber delivered by them, the classing was lowered from 100 to 90, and from 90 to 74-gun ships, and so in proportion." Stuckey and Bagshot, of 27th Aug. say, "the receipt of timber, both in qualification and measurement, has been so considerably reduced, and the quantity refused, so greatly increased, as to exceed all conception." In a letter, signed by several merchants, they state, "that the timber is in general classed one rate lower than it used to be; in consequence of which, a great deal of timber has been refused." These statements are repeated by every merchant, and the truth is assented to by the navy board.—I am aware, that if the hon. admiral entertains the same ideas as the board of admiralty, at which earl St. Vincent presided, and of which the hon. 182 admiral was a member, he will tell the house, that the former mode of receipt in the dock-yards was collusive; he may perhaps add, that there was nothing but fraud and corruption practised, and that the yards were loaded with useless and defective timber.—1 .I am ready to admit, that formerly a larger proportion of inferior timber was received into the dock-yards; but I do assert, that it was paid for as inferior timber; that it was advantageous to receive it; and that so far from being useless, it was equally fit for the purposes to which it was applied, as the best of timber. It lessened the consumption of prime timber, and tended to keep down the price. It is impossible that this country can afford a supply of timber for our navy, free of apparent or slight defects; the result has proved the impossibility. And to shew that we do not require prime timber for all the work in the dock-yards, and that it is even policy to receive a quantity of inferior, I beg leave to read part of a letter from the officers of Deptford yard, dated June 8, 1805. "We think it our duty to state, that the timber converted in the 3d month of 1803, was taken from piles of timber known to be inferior, which had arisen, some from conversion, and some from Plymouth, and which was equally applicable for the purpose for which it was used, the fitting of the bomb vessels, as the best of timber, and therefore selected for that very purpose, to save the consumption of better timber." [Vide papers ordered to be printed, June 25, 1805, p. 8.] — Without dwelling longer on the causes of that deficiency of timber, which was so peculiar to earl St. Vincent's administration, I shall proceed to that part of the correspondence between the admiralty and navy board in March and April 1804, when the supplies almost wholly failed.— On the 24th March 1804, the navy board addressed a letter to the admiralty, in which they fully stated the alarming situation to which the service was reduced, in respect to timber; that no supplies could be obtained for the ensuing year from the timber-merchants, the source from which the navy board had hitherto been supplied; and therefore they proposed, as the only means which occurred to them of obtaining supplies, to send agents into different parts of the kingdom to purchase timber on account of government.—This letter was immediately answered, and with- 183 out further communication with the board, the proposal was rejected; and in the place of it, the admiralty, directed a measure, in my opinion, improper ,and mischievous to the public service, and to the interests of the country, and inadequate to the object in view; they directed the junior surveyor of the navy, to proceed into the country to purchase timber.—Before I offer any observations on this measure, I shall beg to say a word as to another point in the letter from the admiralty; they desire to be informed when the navy board first failed in their efforts to obtain the necessary supplies to keep up their 3 years stock of timber, in conformity to their lordships' orders; and if they made any, and what representation thereof to the admiralty, that such steps might have been taken to procure it as should have been judged proper.—Now, sir, the only construction to be put upon this is, that the admiralty were inclined to shake off as much responsibility as possible from their own shoulders to those of the navy board; they were pleading ignorance; the navy board had kept them in the dark. Had they made known when they first failed to obtain supplies, the admiralty would have earlier exercised their judgment as to the measures to be adopted. How far the admiralty can plead ignorance on this head, the house will determine, by reference to the navy board's letter in reply, dated 21st April 1804. [Vide papers ordered to be printed July 3, 1805, p. 59.]—It is pretty evident that the admiralty were fully acquainted from time to time with the situation of the dock-yards, in respect of timber; and we know that no means whatever were taken to increase the supplies from this country; and that with regard to foreign timber, the effort which the navy board made, to procure supplies from abroad, was frustrated by the injudicious interference of the board of admiralty. They add, in another part of their letter, "their lordships will also permit us to say, that had we been allowed to proceed without interference, in procuring the aids which we proposed from the Continent in 1802, we have no doubt that the stock of useful timber in the dockyards would have been much greater than it is at present."—With regard to the measure of sending the surveyor of the navy into the country to purchase timber, I think but little need be said. 184 We find that it was very strongly remonstrated against by the navy board, who clearly point out the mischief which must ensue, and the impracticability of obtaining timber by such a puerile mode of proceeding.—In addition to the observations of the navy board, I have only one remark to make. The immense supply of timber, which is required for the navy, must be obtained from every part of the kingdom. Timber can only be felled at a particular season, which was at hand, when the orders were given; and before that time expired, it was utterly impossible for any individual to travel over the kingdom; much more to make extensive arrangements, for transacting a business of which he was wholly ignorant. These remonstrances however had no weight: it was too much to expect that the admiralty would acknowledge an error. Their order was enforced for the surveyor to proceed, and the effects pointed out by the navy board immediately followed, as will be seen by the correspondence which afterwards took place. The price of timber was greatly advanced wherever he appeared, and little or none could be purchased.—This, sir, was the situation of the country at the moment when earl St. Vincent quitted the admiralty; and I have no hesitation in saying, that by the sole event of his then leaving it, the British navy was saved. It is impossible for me to quit the subject of timber, without pointing out to the house, that it affords the most concise and unanswerable proof of the shameful neglect in the administration of earl St. Vincent to build and repair ships. Vol. IV. p. 28. contains two accounts, one of the stock of timber on 31st Dec. in each year since 1793; the other of the receipt in each year. Now, by a comparison of these two accounts an important fact results; namely, the consumption in each year; and it will be found that the annual average consumption, during the 7 years preceding earl St. Vincent's coming into the admiralty, was full 34,000 loads; whereas in 1802, it was decreased to 23,166, and in 1803, to 17,977.—I need only add, that the consumption of timber must determine the quantity of work executed. Ships cannot be built or repaired without timber.— And now, sir, I trust I have fully proved, from the documents on the table, the charges which I at first made against the earl of St. Vincent. And though, as I proceeded, 185 I have done little more than state facts, and made but few comments, I cannot conclude without offering some short observations. I will venture to assert, that the naval history of Great Britain does not furnish another instance of equal or like criminal misconduct and culpable neglect in any first lord of the admiralty, at any period, or in any situation. And I am fully persuaded, that, had lord St. Vincent continued at the head of the admiralty, the honour, glory, and unrivalled fame of the British navy would have sunk, and lost all their splendour. Let it not be admitted, as has been asserted, that the earl of St. Vincent laid the foundation of all our naval victories. The facts, which I have had the honour to state, give the most positive contradiction to that assertion. And, though charges of so serious a nature have been brought against that noble lord, and which I trust I have fully substantiated, we see the noble lord; pending the enquiry, appointed to the highest and most extensive command ever given to any officer of, the British navy. I do not mean, sir, to question lord St. Vincent's merits as a naval officer. They form no object in the present enquiry; neither can any professional merits serve to set off against proved and mischievous conduct in his civil and political capacity.—I shall now, sir, conclude with reading certain resolutions, which it is my intention to move to be referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole house. On enquiry I am persuaded that this house, and the nation at large, will be convinced that I have not wantonly calumniated the noble lord, or sullied his character, reputation, and fame. If these have been tarnished—if his lordship's laurels have been blasted—they have not been tarnished or blasted by me. I have only recited lord St Vincent's acts, if he fall from his elevated station of honour and fame,—he has rashly precipitated himself, and sinks by his own misconduct.—I do not see, how it is possible that my motions can be negatived, unless the facts comprised in them can be controverted, which I am sure they cannot; or unless they are deemed wholly unimportant and uninteresting; that is, unless it be decided, that the care and preservation of the navy of Great Britain, is a concern unworthy of the attention of the British parliament.—Having now, sir, very conscientiously, though very imperfectly, discharged the duty which I thought 186 due to this house, to the public, and to myself; I most gratefully acknowledge the can did and patient attention with which I have been honoured. I beg leave to read the following resolutions:—
;—1. That it appears to this House that from the 18th Feb. 1801. to the 15th May 1804, the right hon. the earl of St. Vincent presided at the board of admiralty.—2. That it is the duty of the board of admiralty to maintain and support the royal navy in a complete and efficient state.—3. That 42 ships of the line and 45 frigates, had been launched between 1783 and 1792; of which number, 30 of the line-of-battle ships, and 40 of the frigates, had been built in the merchants' yards.—4. That from Jan. 1793, to Feb. 1801, there were 18 ships of the line, and 46 frigates built; 43 ships of the line, and 66 frigates, captured from the enemy; 5 ships of the line, and 9 frigates purchased; making in all, 66 ships of the line, and 121 frigates added to the navy in a period of 8 years; being on an average, an annual addition of 8¼ sail of the line, and of 15 frigates.—5. That from Jan. 1793, to Feb. 1801, 21 ships of the line, and 53 frigates were by various casualties taken from the navy.—6. That there had been maintained at sea, upon the average of 8 years, prior to Feb. 1801, 101 sail of the line, and 146 frigates, exclusive of Harbour duty ships.—7. That on the 18th Feb. 1801, when the earl of St. Vincent came into office, there were building, 15 sail of the line; 6 in the king's, and 9 in the merchants' yards; and 11 frigates; 4 in the king's, and 7 in the merchants' yards.—8. That between the 18th Feb. 1801, and the 15th May 1804, there were launched 7 sail of the line, and 8 frigates from the merchants' yards; and 3 sail of the line, and 4 frigates from the king's yards; and that there were captured in the same period, 4 sail of the line and 10 frigates; and that none were purchased: so that the total addition to the navy in this period of 3 years and 3 months, was only 14 sail of the line and 32 frigates; making an average of not more than 4⅓sail of the line, and 7 frigates per annum. — 9. That of the 3 line-of-battle ships launched in the king's yards within the said period of 3 years and 3 months, one of them was launched in June, and one in Oct. 1801; and that only one line-of-battle ship was launched from the king's yards, between the 22d Oct. 1801, and 15th May 187 1804.—10. That in these 3 years and 3 months, viz. from the 18th Feb. 1801, to the 15th May 1804, there were taken from the navy by various casualties, 11 sail of the line and 30 frigates; leaving the increase of ships of the line, only 3; and an actual decrease of frigates; whereas in the 8 years preceding, there had been (after deducting the ships taken away from the navy) an actual increase of 45 sail of the line, and 68 frigates. — 11. That when the earl of St. Vincent quitted the admiralty on the 15th May 1804, he left building only 9 line of battle ships; 5 of which were actually building, before the commencement of his administration. — 12. That the earl of St. Vincent officially declared on the 29th Dec. 1802, that there was an urgent necessity for entering into contracts for building as many 74-gun ships as would be undertaken by fit persons in every part of the kingdom; and that offers were made for building ships of that rate, at the average price of 26l. per ton.— 13. That on the 13th Jan. 1803, these offers, to build 74-gun ships at 26l. per ton, were rejected, by direction of the board of admiralty; that board declaring at the same time its determination, that no line-of-battle ship should be then built in merchants' yards.—14. That notwithstanding the official declaration made on the 29th Dec. 1802, by the first lord of the admiralty, of the urgent necessity of entering into contracts for building as many 74-gun ships, as could be undertaken by fit persons in every part of the kingdom, not a single ship was ordered to be contracted for, in the merchants' yards; or to be laid down in the king's yards, in the subsequent 18 months during which his lordship remained in office.—15. That in the month of Jan. 1805, contracts were entered into for building in the merchants' yards ten 74-gun ships, at the rate of 36l. per ton; being an advance of 10l. per ton, on the rate, at which they might have been built, under the tenders made in Jan. 1803.—16. That there were on the 15th of May 1804, 20 ships in his majesty's several dockyards, capable of receiving line-of-battle ships; of which, 13 were at that time wholly unoccupied.—17. That on the 1st Oct. 1801, there were only 15 sail of the line, and 7 frigates in a state of ordinary, exclusive of such ships as were unfit to be repaired for sea-service; and that between the 1st Oct. 1801, and 8th March 1803, there were 114 sail of the line, and 122 188 frigates paid off; and that out of the number of ships so paid ,off, and in a state of ordinary on 1st Oct. 1801, 121 sail of the line; and 120 frigates, stood in need of repair; the greater part, of repair of large denomination. — 18. That in a period of 2 years and 8 months from Oct. 1801, to May 1804, there were repaired from the whole navy but 26 ships of the line, and 34 frigates, by far the greater part of which, had only repairs of small denomination.— 19. That the average annual supply and expenditure of English oak timber in his majesty's several dock-yards, for 8 years prior to 1802, was upwards of 34,000 loads; during which period ¾ of the new ships added to the royal navy, were built in the merchants' yards. — 20. That in the years 1802 and 1803, the average supply and expenditure of English oak timber, in his majesty's several dock-yards, was under 20,000 loads per annum; and that during this period, contracts were entered into for building 2 sail of the line only, in the merchants' yards.—21. That prior to the year 1801, supplies of English oak timber, were easily and regularly obtained.—22. That early in the administration of earl St. Vincent, great difficulties were experienced in procuring supplies of oak timber, in consequence of the injudicious regulations adopted by the board of admiralty, and that such difficulties continued to increase till the beginning of 1804,.when the supply almost wholly failed. — 23. That during the time earl St. Vincent presided at the admiralty, the royal navy was not maintained in a complete and efficient state.—24. That the said earl of St. Vincent was guilty of great negligence, misconduct, and dereliction of his duty, in the office of first lord of the admiralty."—I beg leave to move, sir, "that these Resolutions be referred to the consideration of a committee of the whole house."
§ Mr. Dent
rose to second the motion, but without pledging himself to support the object of the hon. member. He merely wished that the question should be put, in order to give the house an option of going into, or declining the discussion. But he was convinced, if the house should think proper to grant the committee, that the conduct of the noble earl would stand fully vindicated, to the conviction of every member of that house.
§ The Speaker
thought it his duty to call the attention of the house to a subject involving the maintenance of its own order 189 of proceeding. The hon. gent., in bringing forward the series of resolutions he had just now read, had thought proper to read nearly the whole of his very long speech. The house had not judged it necessary to interrupt the honourable gentleman, and, therefore, he had not interfered, lest in him it might seem ungracious. He begged, however, to inform the honourable gentleman, that such an indulgence was wholly inconsistent with the order and usage of parliamentary proceeding; and he therefore hoped the circumstance of its having been suffered to pass now, would not be pleaded as a precedent to justify a similar occurrence hereafter.
said that it was not his purpose, at that moment, to go at length into any thing like a detailed discussion; but as the hon. gent. had moved to refer all those papers upon the table to a committee of the whole house, he wished to know if the hon. member proposed to do any more in the committee than merely to propose his resolutions. The noble lord thought it would have been a more candid mode of proceeding if the hon. member had proposed the committee in the first instance.
§ Mr. Jeffery
professed himself but little acquainted with the forms of the house; and having already discharged, as he thought, his duty, was willing to submit to any mode of proceeding the house might think it proper to adopt. Having stated the charges he thought it his duty to make, he was ready to be advised by the house as to the best mode of proceeding for giving them effect.
replied, that it was rather extraordinary the hon. gent., if he was so ignorant of the proper order of parliamentary proceedings, did not consult with somebody who could have directed him. The honourable gentleman, however, had availed himself of the opportunity of making a long speech, in crimination of the character of a noble earl, in the hope that at all events his object would be answered by the publication of this speech, if no one should oppose the motion, so that his speech might go forth in print, unrefuted in the first instance. He would therefore advise his honourable friends, who meant to vindicate the character and conduct of the earl of St. Vincent, to proceed in the debate on the present question.
§ Mr. Jeffery
said, that if that was the wish of the noble lord, he should be well pleased to go immediately into the discussion.—The question being then put,
rose, and, in offering himself to the notice of the house, for the purpose of refuting a series of charges,, which he conceived to be the most unfounded that ever were offered to any house of parliament, he could have wished the task had fallen into abler hands than his own. He must also lament that he was not so well prepared with an arranged series of written documents as the hon. gent., to read in defence of the noble lord whose cause it was now his task to vindicate. But these were not the only difficulties with which he had to contend. Through the whole course of this proceeding, the hon. gent. had most studiously avoided giving the slightest hint as to what direction his charges would take; for if the hon. gent. had given any explanation upon that head, it would not have been necessary for him to have troubled the house with moving such a number of papers, or impressing upon their consideration so voluminous a mass of documents, as the proofs necessary to his purpose would have lain in so much narrower a compass. It was not until 1? o'clock that day that he had read the heads of those charges that night adduced by the hon. member, in a speech of such unusual length; and pressed as he was by the avocations of his official duty, from nine every morning till six in the afternoon, he had not much time to prepare himself for an answer to the hon. gent. Trusting, however, to the indulgence of the house, he would proceed, as well as he could, in reply to the charges which had been urged against his noble friend. The first point adverted to by the hon. member related to ship-building; and he stated that the number of ships of the line added to the navy, from Jan. 1793 to 1801, including captures, was 66 ships; but conceiving it an unfair statement to include captured ships under the head of building, he must beg to dismiss them from the credit of the account, as he could see no possible connection it could have with the number of ships built in the merchants' yards, or any thing to do with a charge against that noble lord in the performance of his official duty. Dismissing these, then, from the account, the number of ships of the line built in the 8 years preceding lord St. Vincent's administration would be 24; and comparing with that the period of that noble lord's administration, from his accession to office in March 1801, to his departure in May 1804, the total number was ten in a period of little better than 3 191 years, which, upon a comparison of averages, so far proved no deficiency. It also appeared that when the noble lord came into office, he found upon the slips building about 16 sail of the line, whereas on his departure from office he left 18 in forwardness upon the stocks. It was said by the hon. gent. that the noble lord had ordered the building of ships; but where were they? But if those ships were not built pursuant to the orders issued, the noble lord surely was not to blame; it was not his province to build the ships, or to lay them down for building; that was for the navy board to have looked to. He did not know how far to look back for the proofs of a similar case; but many gentlemen who heard him must recollect instances of vessels having been 4 years ordered to be built by the board of admiralty, the keels of which were not laid down till 4 years afterwards. Certainly such orders, when given, ought to be carried into immediate effect; but if they were not so carried, the blame could not attach upon the admiralty, whose province it merely was to issue the orders for building, and describe the size and force of the ships, but who had no more to do with the building than they had with finding the timber, or the funds for defraying the charges of building. There were many similar instances, to shew that the noble earl, who had done his part in ordering the building, was not to blame for tardiness in the execution. The Ocean, the Impregnable, and many other ships of the line, had been many years in building. The Caledonia was ordered to be laid down in the year 1795, and for the building of which, 1000l. was voted that year; 1000l. in 1796; 1000l. in 1797; 40,000l. in 1804, and 10,000l. in 1805; yet her frame was not set up till that year, by 30 men and 6 boys; and the calculation was, that it would take 90 men to complete her for launching in 9 months. The Hibernia was ordered to be built in 1792, yet was not launched till 1804. There was nothing new, therefore, in the practice, which could cast any blame on the noble lord, who was entitled to credit as well for those ships he had given orders to build, as for those which had been built; and whatever blame was due, the responsibility lay with the navy board. The hon. gent. had said there was no provision made to supply the losses of the navy in the smaller class of vessels, during the noble lord's administration; but in refutation of this, it appeared from documents on the table 192 that there were built in that period 21 or 22 frigates, of which 14 were now at sea; 32 sloops, 21 gun-boats,10 schooners, and 8 cutters. The hon. gent., in his zeal to criminate the conduct of lord St. Vincent from the first moment he came into administration, had asserted that the noble lord had every thing prepared to his hand, and little exertion to make beyond the ordinary routine of duty. It was very extraordinary that every exertion of that noble lord should be depreciated, and the merit placed to the account of his noble predecessor; but without any wish to diminish the merits of earl Spencer, for whose integrity and honour he had the highest respect, he begged to ask, was there no merit in the exertions made by the earl of St. Vincent on his accession to office, and his arrangements for providing what the country then wanted more than ships, namely, seamen to man the channel fleet? For this purpose he had taken the men out of the first-rates and frigates, and thereby effected a purpose so essential to the safety of the country. The measure was certainly a bold and a strong one, and what few others in his situation would have ventured to adopt; but it succeeded, and he deserved every credit for it; for at the end of an 8 years' war, he was thereby enabled to man 20 additional sail of the line, while he increased the number of frigates from 183 to 195, and the total number of the navy from 285 to 317. With respect to the charge of having neglected the repairs of the navy, he begged leave to observe, that after so long and arduous a war, carried on by our fleets and squadrons in every part of the world, the number of ships requiring repairs must be prodigious: for out of 220 ships, only 15 remained in ordinary, so that the whole naval strength of the country was engaged in service. If there was a considerable reduction, it was on account of the excessive repairs necessary, and the enormous expence. Several large ships were certainly broken up; but it was because the navy-board so recommended; and, surely, the first lord of the admiralty could not be expected to attend to the necessary operations in every department. In the small craft, certainly, great diminution took place, and a vast number of rotten old tubs had been got rid of, that were useless, and not worth repairs; they were turned into money, the expence of ship-keeping saved, and the warrant-officers, who would have been occupied uselessly in that way, turned over to new ships that were 193 building, as a provision for them. The noble earl also gave orders, that the Ship-wrights should be kept at work upon the repairs, with increased allowances, as his object was to keep the fleet, as much as possible, in a condition ready for immediate service; and in consequence of this determination, all the materials of the ships usually brought on shore, such as their guns, &c. were ordered to remain on board; which was an arrangement that the hon. gent. did not think proper to give the noble earl credit for. The number of ships repaired in the king's yards, from Oct. 1, 1804, to May 15, 1805, amounted to 61. This, he was aware, the hon. gent. could not deny; but he supposed he would ask why, during that time, were there not some repaired in the merchants' yards? To him the reason was obvious, and he thought the house would in a short time be of the same opinion. Eighteen frigates were repaired in merchants' yards.—
§ Mr. Jeffery
called the hon. admiral to order, as he digressed from the point before the house, by adverting to circumstances which had happened, perhaps, 20 years before the subject of the present charge arose.
spoke to order. He was surprised, after the speech the hon. gent. had made, and the subsequent motion to refer the papers to a committee, that he should interrupt the hon. admiral, who argued fairly from the papers before the house. One of the charges was, for not repairing ships in the merchants' yards, and his hon. friend was only bringing instances to prove the ill effects of that practice.
proceeded to shew, from a variety of examples, the enormous prices charged at the merchants' yards, upon no less than 18 sail of ships, repaired in ten years from 1782 to 1792, as a fair criterion to judge of the policy of employing them. In one ship the charge for repairs was 12,392l., when the charge for building her new at the same time would have been only 7,943l., For another, the repairs were charged at 10,395l.; the building new would have cost but 6,374l. In two others repaired in 1792, the charge was 39,730l., when the price for building new would have been but 15,481l.; and the total charge for repairs on the whole number was 252,607l., when the building new would have cost 150,280l. This was the report from the navy board; and these were the grounds upon which the noble lord had acted in his unwillingness to repair to 194 the extent so anxiously desired by the hon. gent.; and he was still further justified by the example of the Powerful; of which the building cost 31,230l., and the repairs at Chatham 27,058; by that of the Lion, which was built new for 21,335l.,.and the cost for repairs at Chatham, in 1805, as estimated by the dock-yard officers; was 24,735l., but the repairs actually came to 61,109l.; and hence he trusted that lord St. Vincent would appear to have acted laudably and judiciously; in declining to carry the system of repairs to the full extent. The next allegation of the hon. member was founded upon the discharging workmen from the dock-yards, which was termed a tyrannical proceeding, and one that banished our Ship-wrights to the dock-yards of the enemy. Now the fact, as proved from the documents on the table, was, that not a single man was discharged who was capable of doing any duty; that many of the men who had been long in the habit of receiving the highest wages in the dock-yards were some of them actually blind, and others lame, disabled, and moving on crutches: those, to the amount of 327 men, to whom, in the year, 1800, no less than 28,024l. wages were paid, were superannuated by lord St. Vincent. At Plymouth, 76 were discharged, of a similar description, to whom, in 1800 and 1801, 10,943l. wages were paid. Now, some of these were put upon allowance greater than usual, amounting to 4,529l., and others superannuated, upon allowances to the amount of 2,264l. 11s. The usual allowance of 20l. per ann. had, in those cases, been increased to 24l.; and the allowance of 24l. to 28l.; while to the rope-makers, and others discharged, to whom no such allowance had ever been usual, 20l. a year had been allowed. So much then for tyranny; while, at the same time, in order to provide for the deficiency thus created in the number of artificers, apprentices to the number of 390 were taken, between 1802 and 1804, and distributed among the best workmen in the yard; many, or most of whom, were now able to take men's births. This did not shew any inclination to strip the docks of workmen, as had been pretended, nor a total disregard to their future supply. The hon. gent. had attributed all the late victories we had gained to lord Melville and lord Barham, and allowed nothing to lord St. Vincent. He asked that gent. if it was not to lord St. Vincent's discernment that we had been 195 indebted for a Nelson? It was that noble lord who had brought him forward, and employed him. It was that noble lord also, who had employed sir R. Strachan and sir T. Duckworth, and he had no doubt that those able officers would willingly acknowledge that they had learned a great deal from that noble lord. Was it no credit to the noble lord, that so many of our great officers had, been bred under him? The hon. gent. had talked of the new-fangled schemes that the board of admiralty under lord St. Vincent had been projecting, and a certain gent. had been mentioned (Mr. Tucker) as having suggested and encouraged those schemes. That 55 ships of the line might be built in a year, had been also mentioned as one of those projects. This could not be, as there were only 18 slips for laying them down; but the truth was, it had been only mentioned in conversation, that such a number might be built from the hands employed, and if we were to judge of the quantity of work done in the merchants' yards compared with the number of men, it would be found that his majesty's yards might produce a great deal more than they did. This he illustrated at great length, and stated, that in June 1804, the Circe and Pallas frigates were both laid, and were launched on the 17th of December following, being built in the course of 5 months and few days, of a burthen of 670 tons. The hon. member next proceeded to defend the arrangements of the noble lord with respect to timber, and the employment of timber-masters, which he stated to have the effect of correcting the enormous frauds effected by collusions between the dock-yard clerks and the timber-merchants, to whom they were, in fact, agents, and took in any timber they sent, without examining. The stock of timber in the yards had been, for several years before the accession of lord St. Vincent, in a progressive state of decline, while it had been a principal object of the noble lord to seek in all directions for the means of increasing the stock; for which purpose he had sent to Dort upon the Rhine, to Trinidad, to the East-Indies, by Botany-Bay ships, and ordered a ship of the line to be built at Bombay, as an experiment, to try the timber of that country. He next proceeded to state some instances of the fraud in ship-building committed in the merchants' yards, which left little reliance to be placed upon them; and he instanced the particular cases of the Ajax and Achille; the former of which was launched the 3d of March, 196 1798, commissioned in the same month, and in the month of June, in the same year, proceeded no farther than Portsmouth, when her repairs cost 2788l. and her building cost 20,502l., while the whole of her repairs in 1802 cost 28,977l. The Achille was also launched and commissioned in 1798; her repairs in 1799 cost 1,124l., and in 1803 and 1804, the remainder of 37,900l. A similar complaint was to be made of the Ardent: from all which circumstances, the impolicy of contracting with the merchants was obvious. Upon the whole, therefore, he trusted he had proved to the house the fallacy of the hon. gent.'s arguments, and vindicated the noble earl from his aspersions; and he should now conclude by voting against the motion.
said, that, in his opinion, the present discussion centered in one point, namely, whether every thing connected with the navy could have been done the king's yards, or whether it might have been sometimes necessary to have recourse to the merchants' yards. Considering this as the principal point before the house, he felt himself called upon to give his vote against the motion of the hon. gent. Lord St. Vincent had thought that the king's yards were sufficient for supporting the navy. This was, however, merely a matter of opinion; and no blame could attach to the noble lord on that account, who, he was confident, had uniformly acted from the purest motives. He himself had thought, however, that the noble lord had carried his opinion too far; and he was disposed to believe, that in time of war it would be necessary to have recourse, to a certain extent at least, to the merchants' yards. Respecting the repairs which ships had undergone in these yards, it was indeed sometimes found that they exceeded the prime cost. But this was often found to take place in repairing an old house as well as an old ship; and it was generally an object with ship-builders to obtain the repairing of those ships which they built, as they thus got rid of parts of their timber that were not so fit for the purposes of building. They therefore undertook to build ships at a cheaper rate, on stipulating that they should also be employed in repairing them. With respect to several ships which he knew to have come from the merchants' yards, he must confess that they were very improper for his majesty's service. This was particularly the case with the Ajax, which he had commanded; and there were seve- 197 ral others which he knew to be equally unfit. But he contended, that the officers employed for superintending the progress of ships of war in the merchants' yards should do their duty in preventing such abuses, and that they should be made responsible for the defects that might take place. In his opinion, Lord St. Vincent had done much good to the dock-yards, and by his visit to them had introduced a degree of energy, from which the most beneficial consequences might be expected. Abuses had gradually crept in, and had gone on increasing for a long period of time and it was highly necessary that some remedy should he applied. Still, however, the noble lord's energy seemed to him, in some instances, carried too far, and rather to border on severity and rigour. But still, sure he was, that the noble lord was actuated by the best motives, and had the good of the navy at heart in all his regulations. It might also be justly said of lord St. Vincent, that he excelled in the selection of naval officers; though he could not allow that lord Nelson owed his promotion to his discernment alone. He himself had carried out lord St. Vincent in his own ship, to take the command in the Mediterranean, and there they found lord Nelson commanding a squadron, with a distinguished pennant. The glory of that distinguished character originated from himself alone. On the whole, though some of the resolutions which the hon. gent. had read were perhaps well founded, yet looking upon the whole as a matter of opinion only, and also considering those meritorious services performed by the noble lord, and which infinitely outweighed what he might think some errors in judgment, he should find it his duty to oppose the motion of the hon, gent.
said, he could not agree with the noble lord who spoke last, that such a variety of charges and such extensive matters as were brought forward on this occasion, could be centered in one point; and whether they were or not, they could not be made the foundation of a charge that the noble lord, to whom his country was indebted for having raised her naval glory to so high a pitch, would intentionally work her ruin. Surely the hon. gent. who made these charges, could not believe any such thing. Were it not for the obligation he felt himself under to vindicate the character of the noble admial, he should have felt himself bound, 198 from the situation he now held, to be silent on the present occasion. The hon. gent. who brought forward this question, had said, it was a matter of indifference to him how the house disposed of it; and the hon. seconder of the motion said, he knew nothing of the matter. If this subject referred solely to the question, whether or not any shipping should be built in the merchants' yards, as the noble lord who had just sat down had stated, he should not feel it necessary to enter into it. But the hon. mover had adduced a number of statements, so calculated to make a false impression, that he thought it proper to say something, in order that nothing should go forth to the country that had a tendency to mislead the public opinion. The hon. mover's charges, as well as he could recollect, seemed to be supineness, negligence, and culpable inactivity on the part of lord St. Vincent. A charge of any nature against an illustrious person, whose reputation stood as high, and in whom the country felt such an interest, would, he confessed, at any time, excite his regret; but the charges now advanced against him, he could not hear but with surprise. What! to accuse lord St. Vincent of supineness! The noble lord who last addressed the house, had particularly dwelt upon the energy of the noble earl, and observed, that that energy was on some occasions carried to the extreme of rigour. Others had sometimes said, the noble earl was rather too violent. But now, for the first time, he believed in his life, that noble earl was accused of supineness. In order, however, to support this singular accusation, the hon. mover had entered into various details, but contriving to make these details as favourable to his object as possible, he drew all his comparisons from periods which were most unfairly contrasted. The hon. mover dwelt upon the difference of our shipping, in numerical force, at the conclusion of the last war, and the commencement of the present, and this difference he attributed to the mal-administration of earl St. Vincent. Now, what was the fact? Why, that at the close of the war, such was the state of our fleet, that there were only 2 sail of the line actually in good condition; and yet, although at the commencement of this war, there were only 36 sail fit for service, we had in 12 months afterwards no less than 88 sail in commission, and now we had 101, together with 8 fitting out from a state of ordi- 199 nary. Now, if such a force, repaired so soon after a ten years' war, were compared with the force in commission at the beginning of the last war, the house would be enabled to judge how far inactivity was imputable to lord St. Vincent. At the end of the year 1794, our naval force, after a long period of peace to prepare it, exceeded but by one sail of the line that which the administration of lord St. Vincent contrived to put in a state of readiness, only one year after the beginning of the present war, and after an interval of only 17 months. During the 3 years of lord St. Vincent's administration, 5 sail of the line had been launched; and during the 2 years which followed, what addition had been made to our navy? Why, none that was effective. Orders had been given to build ships, but these ships would not, even according to the contract, be ready before 1809. It was true that some purchases had been made; but what were they? 6 East-Indiamen, 10 sloops, 10 gun brigs, and 12 fire-vessels. Of the first, 4 were found unfit for service, and one more, which cost 26,000l., was, after a single voyage, discharged as unfit for any purpose whatever, the India Company refusing to take it back again on almost any terms; and yet these vessels were bought at the rate of 33l. per ton. Of the gun-brigs, 4 were found to be unfit for service; of the sloops, 7; and of the fire-vessels, 11. Now, if those provident bargains, and the species of activity which they betrayed, were compared to the conduct of lord St. Vincent, what inference was likely to be drawn, and to whom should blame attach? Lord St. Vincent had ordered 8 sail of the line, and 103 vessels of men-of-war description to be built. Of these, 84, 14 of which were frigates, were now in actual service. Very soon, indeed, 90 of the smaller-sized vessels, ordered by the noble earl, would be in readiness, and this would form 25 more than had been produced, of the same sort, for the 12 years preceding his administration; and all this was done, the house would bear in mind, in the king's yards, which were also equal to the repair of 61 vessels, 40 of which were of the line. Yet the hon. mover asserted, that it was happy for the country the noble earl had quitted the admiralty, as, if he had remained there, the battle of Trafalgar would never have been won. But the fallacy of this assertion would be obvious to any man who examined the papers on the 200 table; for by none but earl St. Vincent had that addition been made to our navy, to which the hon. mover thought proper to ascribe the result of that glorious engagement. If the ships ordered to be built by earl St. Vincent, were not yet laid down; if his orders were not fully executed, he begged to observe, that the fault was in the navy board, whose duty it was to have such orders fulfilled.—The noble lord animadverted on the periods chosen by the hon. mover, for those comparisons as to the number of our fleet, which he seemed to think a proper criterion, from which to judge of the comparative merit of different naval administrations. But no criterion could be more erroneous. For instance, he had only to observe, that although very little merit comparatively belonged to the capture of so many ships at Toulon and the Helder, in the course of the last war, yet how great an addition to our navy, from those events, compared to the 4 ships which we had from the battle of Trafalgar! We fought not, however, for ships, but to destroy the enemy's fleets; and the success of our object might as little depend on a mere increase in the numerical force of our navy, as that increase might determine the comparative merits of the different naval administrations, under which increase should arise.—With regard to the propriety of building king's ships in merchants' yards, for himself, he should say, that not having yet had sufficient time for an enquiry upon that subject, he should not pledge himself to any system. [...] as to lord St. Vincent, he had no hesi[...]tion in stating, that his conduct was perfectly justifiable; for that noble lord entertained an opinion, upon coming into office, that to build in merchants' yards would be adviseable; but this opinion was changed by the representations of the navy board. For the grounds of that representation, the noble viscount referred to the facts, quoted by his hon. friend, particularly respecting the Ajax, Achilles, a[...] Lion. The noble viscount went into calculation, to shew, that although the number of shipwrights employed in t[...] king's yards amounted to 2581, while those in the merchants' yards amounted to bu[...] 4961, yet the work done by the latter exceeded the former, in the proportion of 3 to 1. Indeed, Mr. Wells, an eminen[...]ship-builder, had stated, in a letter to ear[...] St. Vincent, that, in his own yard only more work by 8000 tons was done in one 201 year than in three of the king's yards. Such an inequality could proceed only from the want of some such efficient regulations as it was the great object and endeavour of lord St. Vincent to introduce, and for attempting to introduce which, the noble person had incurred so much abuse. But such abuse could have no other effect upon that noble lord, than to raise him still higher in the opinion of those whose opinion was of any value; he meant all the honest, thinking part of the country. That the king's yards, under proper arrangements, were capable of doing more for the navy, than had been hitherto effected, he had little doubt; and that any reference to the merchants' yards should be avoided, unless where the necessity was pressing, seemed to be the general sentiment among them who were capable of judging upon the subject. But whatever might be the sentiments as to this point, it was, at all events, a mere matter of opinion; and surely that which was but a matter of opinion could not be alledged against lord St. Vincent as the ground of a criminal charge. —Here the noble viscount entered that part of the subject which related to the building in merchants' yards, and proceeded to discuss the hon. mover's allusion to the stock of timber in the king's yards, the limited amount of which, the hon. mover seemed to attribute altogether to the misconduct of lord St. Vincent. Now [...]t happened that the supply of the article [...]sted entirely with the navy hoard. An [...]der had been made in 1785, that a return should he annually made to the board of admiralty, of the state of the timber in the dock-yards, in order that care should be taken always to keep up a sufficient stock for 3 years' consumption. Since the year 1795, this order had been dispensed with; in consequence of which, when lord St. Vincent came into office, he had no opportunity of knowing the quantity of timber in the dock-yards. That article was, no doubt, rather limited, but not more so than during the latter years of lord Spencer's administration. But the limitation in both cases proceeded from the same cause, namely, an order of lord Spencer's, that the timber taken into the dock-yards should be more carefully examined. In consequence of this examination, the timber of the yards became less in quantity, but so much better in quality, that he understood there was more capable of use than when the stock was much larger. 202 However, as soon as lord St. Vincent was apprised that the stock was not so large as was desirable, he took measures to provide an adequate supply; with that view he sought to obtain timber from New South Wales; ordered ships to be built in the East Indies; and had actually contracted for a large quantity of timber from the coast of Dalmatia. The latter would have appeared to the house, had the late minister assented to the production of a paper moved for by his hon. friend in the course of the last session. But that paper was refused. But the enemy became acquainted with the object. That enemy, however, had now got possession of the province, and with it 40,000 trees, which had been actually cut down ready to be carried to this country. As to the proceedings of lord St. Vincent respecting foreign timber, his justification would be found in the 6th Report of the Commissioners of Naval Enquiry, in the history of the contract with Mr. Larkin, and in the observations of the navy board on the appendix of the 6th report above alluded to; although that board had thought proper on a particular occasion to state that the mode of receiving timber at the dock-yards, previously to the enforcement of lord Spencer's regulation, was, "on the whole, beneficial." What was to be said of such a board, but something must be done? Had lord St. Vincent remained some time longer at the admiralty, the probability was that the evils complained of would have been remedied; that their root would have been cut up. The hon. mover was perfectly right in saying, that he (lord Howick) had undertaken a great responsibility. He felt it, and should execute the duty assigned to him, to the best of his ability. He was aware that the present state of our navy was by no means such as could be desired, but he trusted to the resources of the country for supplying its wants, and for upholding the strength, the rank, and the unparalleled character which it had so long maintained. To do that, however, he felt that the most advisable course to pursue would be that chalked out by earl St. Vincent, namely, to root out abuses, and to infuse that energy into the several officers, of which he was sorry, from his own experience, they were very much in want. This deficiency had been particularly observed upon in a late report from the commission of enquiry, at the head of which was a noble lord (Barham); and that re- 203 port stated the best mode of removing the evil, to be the appointment of vigorous and active officers in the department of the navy board. It were much to be regretted, that that noble lord himself did not act upon this recommendation, as, in two appointments made by his lordship in the department alluded to, he did not appear to have had any such thing in contemplation. The noble viscount disclaimed any inclination to excite the least discord between departments which ought to act cordially together for the public service. He could, indeed, appeal to the late comptroller of the navy board, to prove that his disposition was quite of a contrary nature. The observations he had made respecting individuals, the house would feel to have been forced upon him.—The noble viscount count concluded, by expressing his conviction that no blame could attach to lord St. Vincent upon any of the grounds stated by the hon. mover, nor upon any other that the most active of his enemies could imagine, and of course that there was no reason for going into the proposed committee.
thought it a duty to state to the house what he knew concerning a matter in which the character of earl St. Vincent was involved. It was, in his opinion, a consideration for the house, that the noble earl was employing the latter part of a glorious life in the active service of his country, when he could, with so much propriety, enjoy the otium cum dignitate; instead of which, he was submitting himself to the perils of the seas in defence of his country. He then proceeded to justify what had been done at Plymouth under the naval administration of the noble earl. A reform had been carried into effect there, when it was much wanted. He instanced some refractory behaviour in time ship-wrights, and certain misconduct in those on board the Culloden, who had erected what they called the tree of liberty, under the banner of which alone, they said, they would act. He was at the head of a military force, which it became necessary to employ for the purpose of reducing those insurgents to obedience at the point of the bayonet. These were the men who after- 204 wards went into the service of the enemy, as the hon. gent. who brought this motion forward had related, and the house would see what sort of useful ship-wrights and artificers they were. He was happy that the report of the naval commissioners was now about to be efficiently attended to, so that abuses would be reformed. He was ready to say that he saw no blame whatever; on the contrary, much praise was due to earl St. Vincent, for his naval administration, notwithstanding the hon. gent. had read his pamphlet to the house.
§ Mr. Tyrwhitt
said he should detain the house but a very short time, for he should not enter on any detail of official business on this occasion, that having been amply and ably done by his noble friend; nor should he have said a word if the hon. gent. had not said of earl St. Vincent, that under an affected reform he had been guilty of cruelty and oppression. This allusion he knew to be totally unfounded, and that at the dock-yard at Plymouth, very essential reformations had taken place under the auspices of Mr. Tucker; a more useful reform, perhaps, had never been attempted in this country, and under which greater advantage had arisen, As to oppression in carrying it into effect, there was no evidence in that respect. The hon. gent.'s speech in the house had, from its manner of delivery and matter, given him reason to apprehend, that it would go out of the house as delivered within, and the false impression it was calculated to make ought therefore to be counteracted. The hon. gent. had charged earl St. Vincent with introducing with his name system of terror. As to cruelty and oppression, there was not a tittle to justify that charge; but as to the system of terror, he knew no other that his lordship could be charged with, except that system of terror to his majesty's enemies, which he began on the 14th of Feb. 1797, and which example had been nobly followed by many others of our naval commanders. The noble earl had been the means of introducing a system of reformation of abuses, which he hoped to see carried into effect in every department of the state; under a conviction of which, the good subjects of this country would cheerfully contribute to the support of the state. This was what he in his conscience believed.
§ Mr. Osborne Markham
complained, that the hon. mover had read one part of the letter only, respecting the stores at Dept- 205 ford, without reading the remainder, which proved that the lowest size of timber contracted for in the merchants' yards were for 44-gun ships. The hon. gent. was incorrect in stating, that the stock of timber never was so low as in the time of lord St. Vincent's administration. The stock at that time was all good serviceable timber.
§ Mr. Bankes
objected to the motion, because he did not see any practical good that was to arise from it. When such a serious charge was brought against any person, it should either be with a view of founding some criminal prosecution, or at least some useful regulation. If neither of those objects were proposed, the house would be fruitlessly wasting their time in the discussion. The hon. gent. seemed to have brought his charge forward, merely with the view of redeeming some sort of a pledge that he had given to the house, and declared himself quite indifferent about the fate of his resolutions, after he should have finished his speech. The hon. gent. who seconded his motion, seemed also to have taken a curious mode of setting the question at rest, which he had declared was his only object in seconding the motion. One would have supposed that the motion might as well have gone to rest, if no gentleman had been found to second it. It could not be expected that gentlemen were to consume their time in studying such an immense mass of papers as had been produced, unless some practical good was likely to result from that study. The house were not to spend their time merely in the investigation of abstract truths, unless it were to lead to some practical conclusion. Upon this ground he thought the present subject was unworthy of any farther discussion. There was one thing, however, that he thought it necessary for him to state, in consequence of what fell from the hon. admiral. He always had considered that the navy board was subject to the controul of the admiralty, which was consequently responsible for its conduct. Whatever he might think there was to blame in the conduct of the noble earl, he saw a great deal to commend, in that eagerness which he always manifested to put down frauds and abuses of every kind. Whatever faults he had were certainly not in his heart; and he sincerely hoped his successors in office would follow the laudable example he had set them, of enquiring into abuses and waste of the public money.
in explanation, said, that 206 the navy board were in the first instance charged with those controuls. There were two cases in which the admiralty would be to blame; 1st, if they did not keep a general superintendance over the acts of the navy board; and, 2dly, if by too great an interference, they were to hinder them in the execution of their duy.
Mr. Secretary Fox
said, he would trouble the house but for a short time; but there was a subject which had been introduced into this discussion, upon which he felt himself called to state his opinion distinctly. If the navy board should conduct itself ill, whether by improvident contracts, a waste of the public money, or else by negligence of their duty and supineness, it was the duty of the board of admiralty to controul them; and if they were evidently unfit for their situations, they ought to be displaced. A great deal of mischief had resulted from this not being well understood; and the only error he could impute to the earl of St.Vincent was, perhaps, that he misunderstood the nature of that circumstance. If the navy board acted corruptly, or from criminal negligence, that would be a subject for punishment; but if, from ignorance or insufficiency, they were unfit for their situations, they ought to be removed. The earl of St. Vincent was, perhaps, too delicate in that point, and had given way to a false opinion, which, if persevered in, would materially prevent the reform of abuses. The false opinion that many entertained, and to which, perhaps, his lordship had in some degree given way, was that it was a hardship on individuals to remove them from office, unless their misconduct was of such a nature, as could ground a criminal chargeagainst them. It was supposed by many, that the removal from employment was such an impeachment on the characters of the persons removed, that nothing could justify it, but such criminality as might be made the subject of prosecution. This opinion, however, was most erroneous and dangerous. There might be many cases, where the lords of the admiralty, or any persons in high situations, might discover a total incompetency in those they employed, and might even have strong suspicions of their integrity, without being absolutely prepared to bring forward a criminal charge; but it was the duty of the lords of the admiralty not to employ in the public service persons who were unfit to be employed. This was a principle of duty, which deli- 207 cacy to individuals should never allow them to depart from; otherwise they might go on with unfit persons, squander the public money in injudicious contracts, and place even the security of the country in the greatest hazard.—Having risen to express this opinion, he then proceeded to the question before the house. Of all the papers that had been laid on the table, there was not one which went to criminate the noble lord, or even to make the charge against him plausible. As to the question whether the merchants' yards should have been more or less used, that was entirely a matter of judgment. Certainly it could not be imputed to the noble lord as negligence, his not doing what he conceived would be injudicious and improper to do. The business was now fairly before the house. The papers were on the table, and had been referred to by those who spoke on both sides, and, therefore, the house must be supposed competent to form some judgment of the case. Those who had attended to the arguments that had been advanced, and to the extracts from the papers which had been read, could not have a doubt, that on the one side there was the completest exculpation, and that on the other side the case was not made out at all. He thought, then, the proper way of putting the question to rest, would be to express the approbation of the house to the naval administration of lord St. Vincent. He, therefore, gave notice, that he should make such a motion when the original question should be disposed of.
§ Mr. Atkins
said a few words respecting the supply of timber in the dock-yards since the administration of earl St. Vincent, and expressed his approbation of the noble lord's measures.
§ Mr.Jeffery ,
in a reply of great length, adverted to the statement of an hon admiral (Markham), which he insisted was not authorised by the documents upon the table. He next enumerated a number of ships, which were built, and required almost immediate repair, during the administration of the noble earl; some of them were built for mere experiment, and in so insufficient a manner, that they soon fell into ruin and disuse. He particularly alluded to the Ajax, which, soon after she was built, required repairs; her bottom, and all other parts, being completely rotten. He was proceeding to state some calculalations, from, written papers; when chair! chair! was loudly called.
§ The Speaker
wished to be instructed by the house, whether it could be permitted to a member to read written speeches in that house?
§ Mr. Canning
observed, that when an hon. member had to state facts from intricate calculation, it was generally usual to refer to any notes he might have made upon the subject. If this practice was to be disallowed, it would certainly curtail the proceedings of the house to a very narrow compass.
Mr. Secretary Fox
said, that what the hon. gent. was reading was not any thing like what was called notes; it was a written discourse. If this practice should prevail, members might read speeches that were written by other people, and the time of the house be taken up in considering the arguments of persons who were not deserving of their attention.
§ The Speaker
observed, that the paper read by the hon. member, appeared to him to be a written argument; he thought the house was not in the habit of receiving such, and therefore felt it his duty to interfere.
§ Mr. Jeffery
answered, that, although he admitted the paper was not his own handwriting, yet it was copied from his writing, by his directions. After a few observations, the hon. gent. concluded with expressing his confidence, that he had fully made out his charge against the noble earl.—The question for referring the papers to a committee was then put, and negatived without a division.