§ The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Supply,
rose to lay before the committee the Estimates for the service of the Navy during the present year. The principal feature of difference, he observed, would be found in a reduction of about 500,000l. below the estimates of the last year and of the year before the last. He did not feel it incumbent on him to go into much detail on the subject, but should be extremely willing to answer any questions or communicate any information that might be deemed desirable. The grant for which he should then move would fall short of the vote of last year in another sum of 80,000l. appropriated to the expences of the new Breakwater in Plymouth Sound. As this subject was soon to be taken into consideration, he thought it better to defer moving for that sum at present. The right hon. gentleman then gave a short history of the reductions effected in the navy debt during the two last years. From these savings, and partly owing to the liberal provision made last year by parliament, be felt himself justified in concluding from the state of part of the naval expenditure which was called Wear and Tear, the service would require a sum less than that of last year by 514,000l. There was only one additional point to which he wished to call the attention of the House, and that was, the propriety of making some further provision for the chaplains in the navy. From various causes the original fund had become quite inadequate to the due support and maintenance of this class of persons. There were now in the whole service but thirty-nine chaplains, and he was persuaded the House would coincide with him, that religious advice and consolation were not less requisite to our naval forces than to other men. The schoolmasters' fund had become equally inadequate; and it was therefore his intention to propose 30,000l. for the purpose of making a more suitable provision. This plan was to unite the two employments, and to give 265l. per annum to each individual fulfilling the duties of both, which, with the ether incidental advantages, might perhaps be deemed a sufficient remuneration. After serving ten years in what was called a sea-going ship, they should be entitled to a pay of 5s. per day, and to retain it 886 until they should enjoy church preferment equal to 400l. per annum. He should trouble the House no further at present, but move, "That it is the opinion of this committee, that a sum, not exceeding 1,038,514l. 3s. 2d. be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the salaries and contingent expences of the admiralty, navy pay, navy and victualling-offices and dock-yards, also of the officers of the out-ports and foreign yards, the wages and victuals to officers and ship-keepers of vessels in ordinary, the expenses of harbour mooring, and rigging, the ordinary repairs of ships and buildings in the dockyards, and bounty to chaplains, for the year 1812."
§ Mr. Calcraft
said, that he did not rise to give any opposition to the motion, because he considered the estimates quite unexceptionable; he wished merely to allude to some petitions which he had thought it his duty some time since to lay before the House, and which came from the working-people in several of his Majesty's dockyards. They chiefly complained of the hardship of being charged with the Income tax; and although he himself had no opinion one way or the other of the justice of so charging them, yet he hoped that government would take their case into consideration.
assured the hon. gentleman, that he was quite misinformed with respect to the situation of the shipwrights in his Majesty's dock-yards: they complained without reason, and government could not help men who chose to be perverse. He hoped, however, that that good sense which was the characteristic of Englishmen, would teach those people to be contented under the circumstances of their station in life. What reason had they more than any other of his Majesty's subjects to be exempted from the Income-tax?
§ Mr. Calcraft
was obliged to the right hon. gentleman for his explanation, which he would communicate to the petitioners, who were men of sense, not at all inclined to be perverse.
§ Mr. Grenfell
observed, that in the estimates he saw no statement of the expence of the establishment formed some years ago in Portsmouth yard, for melting and re-manufacturing copper sheathing. In any observations he might make upon the subject, he did not mean to impute any blame whatever either to the Admiralty or the Navy board; but having been in the dock-yard at Portsmouth last summer, he had inspected the 887 copper sheathing made there, and did not hesitate to say, that it was of a quality that would have caused its rejection by any private ship builders in the kingdom; he had also reason to believe that this inferior article cost the public much more than good copper could have been obtained from the private manufactories of the kingdom.
said, the copper which the hon. gentleman had seen, was copper taken off the bottoms of ships which had been sheathed with contract copper.
§ Mr. Grenfell
replied, that the right hon. gentleman had misunderstood him, for that the copper which he had seen at Portsmouth was new copper made at the Portsmouth mill.—He did not consider the House of Commons a proper place to investigate the comparative merits, either in point of quality or price of copper, or any other article. But if the right hon. gentleman would order an investigation to be made into the subject at the Admiralty, and would furnish him with such accounts as he would point out as necessary for the subject, he was confident that the right hon. gentleman would be convinced that the copper sheathing furnished by the Portsmouth mill was worse in quality, and higher in price, than the article could be bought at from private manufacturers; and if so convinced, he was confident that no person would be more anxious than the right hon. gentleman himself to correct the abuse complained of.
§ Admiral Markham
conceived that the only objection to the Portsmouth copper was, that it was put into the rollers before it was cleansed. With respect to the proposed arrangement respecting the chaplains, he wished to see the duty of the schoolmaster united to that of the chaplain. The hon. admiral then alluded to the construction of a new ship called the Tremendous, and trusted there were not many more to be built upon the same construction, as he understood the timbers were rotten.
replied, that the report on that ship Would, he believed, convince the House that the Tremendous was not rotten; the only doubt was as to her decks. There was, he could assure the hon. admiral, only one more ship to be built on that principle.
§ Admiral Harvey
approved of the proposed amelioration of the situation of the chaplains, and the combining with it the instruction of the youth of the navy. It 888 was well known that navy officers went to sea at such an early period of life, that they were nearly precluded from the advantage of previous education.
§ Mr. Johnstone
observed, that at the time of the battle of Trafalgar we had only 125,000 seamen; that since that period our naval success had been constant and progressive, and yet we now thought proper to keep up a naval force of 145,000. Sir Francis D'Ivernois was well known to be no friend to the French government; but he had thought proper to praise the distinct mode in which the French public accounts were kept. From these accounts it appeared that the French naval expenditure had been gradually diminishing since 1803. He merely made these observations, because there was a sort of feeling of partiality for the navy throughout the country, which was very apt to make us forget that a great part of that money which was expended on it might, perhaps, be much more profitably employed in carrying on the contest on the continent.
believed the hon. gentleman to be misinformed with respect to the state of The French navy. The hon. gentleman had referred, in proof of this, to the French public accounts. He was himself sufficiently acquainted with the French accounts, to know that it was extremely difficult to obtain from them a satisfactory idea of the amount of any branch of public expenditure. But he could tell the hon. gentleman, that the French had been lately labouring inconceivably to augment their navy; that every month added considerably to it; that at present there were not fewer than twenty-five sail of the line in the Scheldt, and thirty-five ships of the line in the different ports of Holland. At Toulon, Venice, and Genoa they were also building ships to a considerable extent; and he believed their naval force was, upon the whole, little short in the Mediterranean of what it was in the North Sea. If the French were exerting themselves to such an extent, surely we ought to be sufficiently prepared to meet them at all points; if once the naval force was to be lowered, and an exigency arose, it would be difficult to increase it. We ought to be fully pre pared to meet them in all parts of the world. An inferior navy would be a great detriment to this country.
§ Lord Cochrane
hoped, that, as a deviation from mere detail was allowed when 889 the Army Estimates were in a committee, it would not be entirely out of course to offer a few general remarks while the supply of the Navy was before the House, not with a view to oppose the supply for the ordinary establishment of the navy, but as to the proper application of the enormous sums granted for that service generally, to which nothing could in his opinion, contribute more than that the Board of Admiralty should not be considered as a mere appendage to the minister of the day, and be displaced by every agitation of the political system—thus misapplication of means was rendered perpetual; for, just as the members acquired some knowledge of their complicated duties and of the powers they ought to direct against the enemy, then they were displaced to make room for others of no experience. The observations which he had to address to the chairman, related chiefly to the means of annoying the enemy which the government possessed in a right disposal of the naval force of the country, which at present was totally useless except for the purpose of passive blockades. Had 5,000 men with attendant naval transports been kept in readiness in such a central situation as Minorca, for instance, it would have been impossible for the French to have made any progress on the eastern side of the peninsula; for no sooner should the enemy have laid siege to Tarragona, Valencia, Alicant, or any other place, than their affairs might have been reversed at the other extremity. Rosas, for instance, was within twelve hours sail of Minorca and about eighteen from Alicant, whereas on the other hand it was a twenty-five days march at least from Alicant to Rosas. Comparing the respective populations of Britain and France, it was impossible to think of carrying on an equal warfare in the peninsula. A greater number of men than all the British who were at present there, must perish before it could be possible to drive out the French. The desultory nature of naval warfare was, in his opinion, the best calculated for that purpose, and for this we had the highest authorities in ancient and modern times. If the French, with a contemptible flotilla, could keep this country in alarm, what was our gigantic navy not capable of doing? The whole of France lay at the mercy of the British ministry. Had the enemy a naval superiority and only 10,000 disposable troops, 890 on what part of the shores of England could people repose in tranquillity? The war as at present conducted could not possibly have a successful termination. It was a great misfortune that the House of Commons listened to nothing which was beyond the sphere of their own knowledge; and when any professional man, like himself, rose up to give information, party was immediately thrown in his teeth; factious motives were instantly imputed, however pure his wishes for the good of his country. He put it to the committee, whether the whole force of this country was not on the alert, and almost concentrated on the coasts of Kent and Sussex, when an invasion was threatened by a contemptible flotilla of the enemy; and if so, what might not be done, if the gigantic naval power of England was to threaten the enemy's shores? It was his sincere opinion, that the whole coast of France was completely at the mercy of his Majesty's ministers. The noble lord next adverted to the coasting trade carried on by France, and which it was in our power to destroy. That trade existed to an extent almost incredible. It was in our power to dismantle their batteries,—to blow up their towers,—and, above all, to destroy that chain of signal-posts, by which a telegraphic communication was kept up from Flushing to Bayonne, and from the south-east point of Spain to Venice. Each of those signal posts could be successfully attacked by ten men, as except in a few situations they were exposed, and seldom had above two or three maimed soldiers to conduct them. He had no interest whatever in forcing those observations on the attention of the committee, and he hoped the right' hon. gentleman would not think them altogether unworthy of his consideration. He should not, he said, attempt at that time to say more; but he trusted that members who were far more capable to do justice to the subject than he could pretend to be, would turn it in their minds, and bring the subject forward, or that his Majesty's ministers would investigate the truth and act accordingly. In either case he was certain attention to the hints he had thus thrown out could not fail of being attended with the most beneficial results to the country. He did not think ministers, in not having attended to the subject, were so much to blame as the House, for they were, or ought to be, the guardians of the public purse; but he was 891 sorry to say the practice of the House was to vote estimates to a very great amount without at all troubling themselves to enquire how those estimates were applied. Besides the signal posts he had mentioned, there were placed along the whole coast of Spain many small parties of soldiers in churches, convents, and other buildings, for the purpose of keeping the people of the maritime towns in awe, and passing along supplies to the armies, which supplies it was in our power to intercept, as the only practicable military road was within a pistol shot of the margin of the sea. The smallest assistance would encourage the people to rise upon them. But without such assistance they were afraid to do so, knowing that the French would burn their houses, violate their wives, and murder themselves. This he had seen them do. During all the time he was off Catalonia, the French had barely sufficient force to defend themselves against the natives; and in every enterprise which they undertook they were foiled. It was notorious, however, to all the world, that the attention of ministers was always engaged exclusively on one or two objects, and that they never took an extended view of things. If our commander on that coast had had discretionary powers to supply Figueras, which was the key of Catalonia, with provisions, it could not have been taken by force, for it was impregnable. If government would only act in a proper way, it was impossible that Buonaparte could go on a twelvemonth longer. The noble lord referred to the American war: had ministers during that war, instead of marching large armies through the country, only transported 10,000 men from one place to another, they would soon have laid waste the whole sea coast, and the country must have submitted. He wished the House to reflect on what he had already stated, respecting the reform of the Admiralty court laws; for if they would appropriate one million a year which was nearly the double of what was actually derived from the practices he wished to see abolished, there would be a saving of more than four millions a year to the country on the naval establishment, and the duty would be better performed.
deprecated the species of warfare recommended by the noble lord, which he thought would not be productive of the effects he expected. He then adverted to the statement made by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Yorke) 892 relative to the appointment of Chaplains and School-masters; and had no hesitation in saying that no qualified person would offer for the latter situation, on account of the smallness of the present salary. Very few ships were provided with schoolmasters, and in those that had them, they were paid by the captain and the young gentlemen. He thought, therefore, that there was no subject more worthy of attention, and he was happy to see that the right hon. gentleman had considered it in that light. The right hon. gentleman had stated the number of chaplains at 39, but he hoped the right hon. gentleman did not mean that that number was sufficient for the navy; and he also hoped that if they undertook the office of schoolmaster, that they might be found able to instruct in the practical parts of navigation, which was so essentially necessary: but he could not help entertaining apprehensions that some difficulty might occur in finding persons so qualified. The hon. gentleman then adverted to the situation of the marine corps, and expressed his regret, that the right hon. gent. had not made any mention of that highly meritorious corps, when he proposed a measure for the relief of the chaplains of the navy. The hon. gentleman said he had stated, on a former occasion, that the pay of the marines' might be increased, without creating any additional expence, by not filling up certain vacancies, which would create a saving equal to the purposes required. He would only add, as an in stance of the unequal footing on which the marine corps were placed, that the senior commandant was not on a footing with the field officers of the same rank in the army, instead of being entitled to look forward to the rank of a general, which, in justice, he ought to be. The marine corps was also deprived of the proportion of field officers; and he should like to know why the right hon. gentleman was not disposed to advise the ministry, or to recommend to the Prince Regent a more equal management. He was not speaking his own sentiments merely on the subject, but those of the whole body of the marines; and he defied the right hon. gentleman to say, with the Memorial from that corps on the table before him, that he was making any statement on behalf of any individual, or from any private view of his own, distinct from the sense and feeling of the entire of that meritorious body of men, on whose behalf he was 893 speaking. Under those circumstances, he hoped the right hon. gentleman would direct his attention to the situation of this excellent corps.
§ Lord Cochrane
, in explanation, defended the system which he had recommended, as peculiarly calculated to injure the enemy's coasting trade, which was the great nursery of his seamen.
said, that the saving had occurred on the wear and tear, and the state of the navy debt proved the fact, as it was 900,000l. less than it had been last year.
§ Mr. Tierney
inquired, whether the saving was an incidental one, or one which proceeded from an economical arrangement? In the latter case it might be permanent; but if the saving proceeded from any other source, he feared that the estimate of next year would more than counterbalance it.
replied, that it proceeded from the latter, and the amount would be proved by the decrease of the navy debt. It would be remembered that the House, last year, made a very liberal vote for the wear and tear estimates. On experience the whole was found not to be necessary, and it was applied in a different direction.
§ The Resolution was then agreed to, as were also the other usual annual Resolutions relating to the Navy.