§ The House having resolved itself into a Committee of Supply, to which the Army Extraordinaries were ordered to be referred,
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that it would be necessary for him to enter into a few explanations, lest some 473 of the sums included in the amount he was about to move for, might not be sufficiently clear in the accounts before the House; bat he should trespass upon the time of the House as little as possible. From the accounts in question, it would be seen that the amount of the Treasury bills that had been issued for the Army Extraordinaries for 1814 was very considerable; but he trusted that when the arrangements which had been made in that year for the public advantage were considered, that the expenses would be admitted to be indispensable. There was this difference in the accounts for the last and former years, that instead of the bills for the Army Extraordinaries being drawn both by the Paymaster-general, and the Commissary-general, the whole of them had been drawn by the latter, and paid over to the former. Thus, though the amount appeared much larger than when the sums were drawn for by different persons, the total was not more than if the former system had been adopted, while the public service was benefitted by the change. The total amount drawn for on the Treasury for the service of the year 1814, was 20,931,826l. which included 5,000,000l. that had been paid over to other departments and for distinct purposes. The whole amount, therefore, of the Army Extraordinaries was 15,931,000l. and upwards; which exceeded the amount of the, preceding year by about 600,000l. If this excess were thought considerable, he could only intreat the House to recollect the extraordinary circumstances of the time. In the course of the last year, and even after the peace, it was not only necessary to continue our establishments to their full extent, but also to make provision for the payment of arrears which had occurred long before, and of which it had not been possible at that period to get accounts. Of the bills that had been drawn, a considerable part of the amount was for foreign subsidies which our liberality had granted to the Allies, and which had produced such great results. It was also satisfactory to him to be able to state that there was not any sum, except about 200,000l. but what had arisen out of the items already recognised by Parliament. This sum was one which, under more favourable circumstances than the present, was granted to the King of France, to enable him to return to his kingdom, and it was included in the amount drawn for by the Commissary-general. The total amount 474 of the bills drawn in 1813, was 17,780,000l. which was reduced by sums applied to other military and naval services by about 5,400,000l., so that 12,300,000l. remained for the purposes of the Army Extraordinaries. In the year 1814, the total amount of bills drawn was 15,590,000l. from which, when the sums for the subsidies, &c. were subtracted, there remained 12,500,000l. for the Army Extraordinaries. The first head of the accounts on the table contained the whole of the bills paid by the Treasury, which, as he had before observed, amounted to nearly 21 millions. The next general head was for the conveyance of officers to foreign stations. Another head was for the conveyance of specie, for which service it was customary to allow the commanders of ships of war one half per cent. to answer for any slight embezzlement that might occur, and to pay for insurance. For many cases had occurred in which embezzlements had been made, which if had not been in the power of the officers to prevent. There was another head of extra pay to officers on foreign service; and the account was closed with the heads of the excess of the grants for the Commissary in Chief, and the Storekeeper-general; the first of which amounted to 4,685,000l. and the latter to 16,600l. The amount voted for the Commissary in Chief merely for the services in his department towards the close of last year was 3,000,000l., yet the amount of the expenditure was 3,478,000l. So that the actual expense had Somewhat exceeded the vote, and was about 200,000l. short of the estimate; though larger than the sum voted by Parliament, including all the purchases of stores. The House was aware, that with the Commissary-general's department rested air the means of procuring those great supplies which were necessary for our military service abroad. Although, therefore, there was an excess in the branch of the Commissariat, yet if the articles which caused it had not been raised by the Commissary-general, they must have been raised by some other means; and by those which had been adopted last year, of placing the whole accounts to the charge of the Commissary in Chief, he was confident the public service had been benefited. The amount of the sums of money raised by the Commissary-general exceeded 3,000,000l., and the sum of about 10,000,000l. passed through his hands in the course of the last year. But when the House recollected 475 the nature and importance of the war carried on in the Peninsula, and the expenses with which it was necessarily attended from the extreme difficulty of procuring supplies, the badness of the roads, and various obstacles which the Commissariat had to encounter, they would cease to wonder at the expenses of this branch of service. The great Commander, who had conducted the war in that country, had, by his energies and foresight, been able to solve a paradox which nobody before him could understand. It had been said, that if a great army was to enter Spain, it must be starved, and that a small one must be defeated. But he had led a large army to victory, by procuring for it all the supplies that were necessary, in a country which had appeared to be totally incapable of affording them. The House were now called on to make good the winding-up of the sum that had thus arisen, and a part of which remained to be voted. A right hon. gentleman opposite had, on a former occasion, asked him a question respecting the amount of the Extraordinaries incurred since the end of last year. He had wished to know what was the amount of the Army Extraordinaries which had been paid since the close of 1814? The amount was, after deducting from it certain items, 2,200,000l. in the course of the last three months. The deductions were, the sums for the ordinary services, and the bills paid for our Allies. The whole issue amounted to 4,400,000l., of which 2,200,000l. were properly belonging to the Army Extraordinaries. There was a payment still making on account of the army in Spain, at the rate of a million of dollars per month; the whole of which account would be wound up in six months, the amount that remained to be paid being about six millions of dollars. The right hon. gentleman concluded with moving, "That a sum not exceeding 3,983,435l. 9s. 3½d. be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the Extraordinary Expenses of the Army from the 23rd December, 1813, to the 24th December, 1814, both included."
§ Mr. Tierney
wished to know, whether the twenty-one million, a part of which had been already provided, and for the residue of which the right hon. gentleman now moved, included all the Extraordinaries? Would no farther addition be wanted? Would not the public be called upon to grant more than this twenty-one million?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
answered, that such extraordinaries as were incurred before the 25th of March, must be made good in the present session. He presumed the amount would be about three million. He intended to move for six million on account of army extraordinaries, in the present year, of which three million would be wanted for the exceedings incurred previously to the 25th of March.
§ Mr. Tierney
observed, that there then appeared to be an intention to propose an additional vote of six million—of which three million might be said to be appropriated to the extraordinaries of the last, and three million to those of the current year. This, however, was only the expense of the Army Extraordinaries. Independent of this, he supposed, there would be Extraordinaries in other departments. He should be glad to know whether the million of dollars, which was to be paid monthly, was included in the three million sterling, which would be deducted from the vote on account?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, he had not yet any account of the winding-up of the war in America. They had always found means of. meeting the demands of the American service by raising the money as the service required. The monthly payment of one million of dollars formed the largest part of the sum of three millions to which he had alluded.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that all discussion on this subject was only a waste of time. The total sum now voted by the House was twenty-one millions, and of seventeen millions of this the Treasury already possessed the money. It was useless to discuss a matter of this kind when Government had obtained all they wanted. The enormous scale of the expenditure in the Peninsula required the investigation of a committee up stairs. Such a committee could alone do justice to this subject, and see that punishment should fall where it was due; for he believed in his conscience that great peculation had been going on in the Commissariat department. It was in vain, however, to enlarge upon these subjects, as he saw no encouragement in the present temper of the House. He had no intention of preventing gentlemen from employing their time in a more agreeable manner. It was useless to be talking of a few hundreds to this or that individual, when seventeen millions were in this way voted without inquiry.
thought the expenditure of 477 the Peninsula ought to be made the subject of inquiry. He did not mean to Cast the slightest suspicion on the Government, but it was impossible for any member to understand the accounts before the House; all they could make out would be, that so many millions were drawn by different individuals. If a committee were appointed, they would see that the manner in which our Commissariat system had been carried on in Spain was the most absurd commissariat system on which any country had ever carried on war. The immense expenditure in the Peninsula called loudly for inquiry. The persons who furnished the Weans of transport to our army were chiefly of the lowest classes of the people in Spain; and they ought to have dealt with such a description of persons in a way which would have been intelligible to them. But instead of this, the mules and services were paid to them by bits of paper, or draughts of the deputy commissary on the commissary-general in Lisbon. When an ignorant man in the mountains got one of these pieces of paper, from being used to the currency of his own government, he attached bat little value to it, and it Was generally purchased by persons in the suite of the Commissariat at an enormous discount. He could bring persons before the committee who had made 50 and 60 per cent, by buying up this paper and who had not even had it at firsthand; and at every intermediate stage a great profit must have been made on the same paper. If the London deafer got 50 per cent, profit, the sum actually received by the Spanish muleteers could not have been one-fourth part of the sum paid by Government, This was not a system of a day, but a system of several years. He should be answered, that there was a difficulty in getting specie; but in the first place he Would observe, that there was no plan of getting specie, which could be Compared with the discount on the bills to these poor people, who only got one-fourth of them. Paper in Europe seldom went beyond 25 or 30 per cent. discount; but here was a discount of 75 per cent. This mode of paying, in what might be comparatively termed a savage country, created the very difficulty which was felt; for it forced Government to spend twenty millions where only five millions was wanted; it created the very scarcity; and Government were obliged to pay for it at last. All this originated in a completely false system of commissariat. But the 478 deception to the poor people did not stop there. Bills were given oh the commissary at Lisbon, and the people had no means of knowing good from bad bills. At this day bills at Lisbon could be bought at 20 per cent, discount. What possible benefit could be derived from thus having a mass of floating paper which must at last be paid off at par? The consequence of all this had been the grossest peculation. A person by getting the ear of the Commissariat, knew what bills were likely to be first paid. One gentleman in a house at Lisbon had made an enormous fortune, and many persons had enriched themselves by the same means. Government must pay for all the discredit attached to this paper. He hoped, that now that we were on the point of entering on a new war, this system would be inquired into; and he trusted that the suggestion of his right hon. friend for the appointment of a committee up stairs would be agreed to.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not think that a committee up stairs could be productive of such advantage as a committee on the spot, armed with power to examine on oath. He did not deny the facts stated by the hon. gentleman, but they had not come to his knowledge. Those gentlemen of the committee in the Peninsula having for years been exclusively employed in this work, must necessarily prosecute the investigation with greater advantage than gentlemen who had other avocations could be supposed to do; upon the whole, therefore, he thought that it would be better that the substance of this investigation, when completed, should be laid before Parliament. He wished that any gentleman possessed of information with respect to any peculation would furnish it to those commissioners, who would avail themselves of it.
thought the right hon. gentleman had quite mistaken him in the kind of inquiry he wished to be instituted. He had nothing to stale against those who were attached to the Commissariat, but against the system pursued by the commissaries under the sanction of Government. Any person might remit money to Lisbon tomorrow, and buy up the government paper; and this might be done with service to the country, as the discredit of that paper should not be suffered to exist. The commissaries had issued a paper discredited to the amount of 75 per cent.; and he had heard, that the lower classes of commissaries were followed by persons 479 who bought up their paper as it was issued. The country ought to understand the system under which the Commissariat had been carried on and sanctioned by Government during so many years. A commission on the spot could only see that there was a regular discharge by voucher of the person who was to receive the money; it could not know in what manner the person who received the paper disposed of it. That was a case for parliamentary inquiry; and a committee should be appointed, in order that the House might devise the means of stopping such a waste of money. On the subject of a regular account, the right hon. gentleman could not say that a single account in the Peninsula had been audited; certainly not, up to last year. What he (Mr. B.) complained of was, not any individual peculation, but that system on the part of the Government which had proved so wasteful to the country.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
thanked the hon. gentleman for explaining that it was not by any connivance between the Commissaries that any sum of money had been lost to the public. He was aware of the fact, that much loss had been sustained by the depreciation of the paper, and he did not wish to disguise it. The bills, however, must be paid at the value for which they were given, otherwise it would be a complete robbery. Respecting the concluding remark of the hon. gentleman, he apprehended that the whole of the outstanding debts had been verified, and they only remained to be paid. From the interruption of our commercial intercourse with the Continent, at the time of the Peninsular war, we had not the means of paying for what was required by the Commissariat in money. But he trusted that there was no prospect of our ever being again excluded from all foreign trade, but that in the unfortunate case of any new war, we should be able to exert all our resources to the best possible advantage.
lamented that it appeared from the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the nation was so near the end of its resources. It behoved the House, therefore, to examine the more minutely into the accounts that were laid before it. The charges for the Army Ex-traordinaries were enormous, and the public money seemed to have been squandered without any consideration of the pockets of those from whom it was drained. He wished for explanation upon many of 480 the items, particularly upon that which regarded lord Aberdeen, against whose name was placed the large sum of 25,0001. "for a particular service." For the? service of Spain still larger amounts were charged, a part of which had no doubt been appropriated to that expedition which she had sent out to her devoted colonies, but which the hon. member hoped would never reach its destination. The troops at home, on the contrary, remained unpaid, with the exception of the corps of General Whittingham, which had placed the usurper Ferdinand upon the throne at Madrid. He recommended that ministers should narrowly watch the communications between the inhabitants of New Spain and Buonaparté. The hon. member required explanation from ministers regarding the sum of 10,650l. Paid to lord William Bentinck, who had been employed against the King of Naples, whom the noble lord termed Marshal Murat. The expenses of lord Cathcart had been enormous, both in his military and diplomatic capacity. From the Army Extraordinaries in the course of 1814, he received 11,405l.; and from the Civil List, as Ambassador, 19,844l. In the last three quarters, the charge on his lordship's account was 12,40l; so that in the space of a year and three quarters he had received nearly 44,000l. of the public money. Lord Stewart had received from the Army Extraordinaries in the year 1814, 15,347l., and from the Civil List, 10,726l., and within the last three quarters a sum that made the whole charge no less than 37,700l. The hon. member professed the highest respect for his lordship, and regretted that his name appeared to these unsatisfactory details. He thought these were charges which, from their extraordinary magnitude, demanded the fullest explanation; and he hoped the noble lord (Castlereagh) would be enabled to make them appear satisfactory to the House. The next sum which attracted his attention, was one of 7,550l. to the Elector of Hesse; and this he could not but view with some astonishment, for it was stated to be for expenses incurred by loss of field equipage, &c. in 1793, 94 and 95. It was impossible for the House not to recollect, that since that period a peace had intervened, and that all such accounts ought long since to have been settled; their introduction now, therefore, was the more extraordinary. He remembered a story of a will made by George the First, 481 which was destroyed by George the Second, and of which copies were in the possession of the two Electors of Hesse. Horace Walpole stated, that he had seen a letter in which these Electors had agreed to deliver up these copies, upon the payment of certain subsidies. Now he knew not whether these copies had been eventually given up, or whether there were any such grounds for the payment to which he had just now alluded, but he certainly thought the subject required a distinct explanation. In conclusion, the hon. gentleman entreated the House to look with the utmost jealousy into the payments connected with a war which the noble lord seemed to contemplate with so much pleasure.
said, he was happy that the hon. gentleman had given him an opportunity of explaining those items in the accounts before the House, which he seemed to regard as so objectionable. The first to which the hon. gentleman alluded, was the sum standing in the name of lord Aberdeen. He begged to state, that, although this sum stood as if issued for the use of lord Aberdeen alone, yet that noble lord only received it as a public accountant, and was answerable for its disbursement in that light. In fact, the law of the land had provided the best check upon the expenditure of such sums; inasmuch as an officer was established who was sworn, and who had full power to trace the application of every sum in detail. This 25,000l. had been issued for political purposes, while lord Aberdeen was resident at the Court of Austria, and was at first given to Mr. Johnstone, with the view of being applied in aid of a spirit which had manifested itself in the Low Countries, and in Holland, towards throwing off the French yoke. Not more than 3 or 4,000l. however had been devoted in this way, and the remainder was paid into the hands of the Commissaries towards defraying the expenses of lord Lynedock's army. With respect to the 10,000l. issued to lord William Bentinck, it was only necessary to state that it was for the purpose of being applied to the Italian levy. The next material point which occurred was the sum paid to the Elector of Hesse; and here he begged to assure the hon. gentleman, that he had raised a ghost without the slightest foundation. The old story of the Elector of Hesse, had nothing to do with the sum in question, which was neither more nor less than the amount of 482 some old arrears, which had been regularly established before the Auditors of Army Accounts, and was not at all a matter of discretion with his Majesty's ministers. Respecting the payment of the duke of Wellington, the reason why the hon. member did not find it in the accounts before him was, that it had nothing to do with them. Hereafter it would be found in the Civil List Accounts. The essential part of the accounts to which he should allude, was that which related to the expenditures of military officers who were envoys abroad. The hon. member should take into his consideration that these officers had a double sum, in their civil and military capacities. Out of the sums which these public officers did receive, they were taxed to the amount of one-fourth, by the difference in the course of exchange, being from 25 to 30 per cent., and when the armies were at a greater distance from large towns, they were obliged to submit to a loss of 40 per cent.; and therefore to represent these gentlemen as receiving the full value or amount of their salaries was wrong. It would be more fair to say, that they had not one-half of the amount against their respective names. The sums standing against them not only covered their own expenses, but the whole expenses of the missions. In lord Stewart's account of 12,635l. only 2,895l. ought to be considered as his personal expenses. And here he must declare, in justice to the nobleman in question, that the most painful part of his duty was to see the servants of the country abroad exposed to the utmost difficulties to keep within their incomes. In fact, it was absolutely ruinous to a man's private fortune, to be employed in a diplomatic capacity. The military officers who formed the subject of the hon. gentleman's remarks, were in situations peculiarly expensive. They had to keep a table at head-quarters of the most expensive description. As far as he had been able to look into the accounts of lord Stewart, he had no occasion to complain of the result of his accounts, for he had reason to know the great expense he was put to for horses and other incidents. As I to lord Cathcart's accounts, he had not been in possession of them long enough to investigate them; but they had not the same causes to regulate them, as operated upon the others. On the whole, he must declare, that if this country had not instruments enough abroad to understand what 483 was going on, her interests must inevitably suffer. He could speak a little to the expenses necessarily incurred by the ambassadors, from his own experience at Vienna. In that capital, from so many Sovereigns and their Courts being assembled, a complete revolution had taken place in the prices of things, and the expense of living was in consequence inconceivably great. He mentioned this, not from a wish to prevent the items in question from being inquired into, but to prove that it was a delusion to suppose the sums which appeared in the estimates against the names of the persons so employed in the service of the country were really received by them for their own emolument. A plenipotentiary or ambassador at a foreign Court, nominally receiving a salary of 5,200l. per annum, reduced by taxation 5s. in the pound, and further diminished by the loss on the exchange, frequently found his income brought down to a sum on which, where they were, a gentleman could hardly live in the most complete obscurity.
§ Lord Proby
agreed with the hon. gentleman on the floor, as to the great degree of confusion which prevailed in the Commissariat department. As illustrative of this remark, he instanced the fact of a dollar per day being charged by the commissaries for mules, when an ordinary traveller would not pay more than half a dollar for the same animal, out of which the muleteer would provide for himself and his mule, while the commissaries provided both for the one and the other, at an enormous expense. He considered the whole system as abominable and extravagantly profuse. No man could have an idea of the profusion with which the public money was lavished in that department, who had not served in the armies to witness it. Indeed he had heard one commissary declare, in a public manner, that he thought economy was the ruin of the public service in his department. He begged not to be understood as reflecting on the conduct of any particular individual by these remarks; his observations went to the system, and not to the men, and that system he thought called most loudly for correction.
remarked on the extraordinary difference in amount of the charges on the transport of persons of distinction, on the face of the estimates, and wished to know whether there was any established scheme, according to which those charges were paid; 2,000l. had been paid to ad- 484 miral Fremantle, for entertaining persons of distinction in the Adriatic, and the sum of 6001. was mentioned as the charge for conveying marshal Blucher and other officers merely from Dover to Calais. On the other hand, so small a sum, he understood, was offered to captain Usher for the expenses of conveying Buonaparté to Elba, that that officer had thought proper to refuse it. The hon. gentleman also wished for an explanation of the sum of 3,000l. stated to be paid to the captors of Demerara and Essequibo, for slaves delivered over to the use of Government. Also, a sum paid to colonel Bloomfield, for extraordinary services. This last sum, as well as the sum voted to lord Burghersh, for extraordinary services, which were of a political nature, came, he thought, improperly under the head of Army Extraordinaries. As to the expenses of our ambassadors at Vienna, he thought these persons should be enabled to live in a manner suitable to their dignity, without injury to their private fortunes; but it remained to be explained why we had at the Congress four or five ambassadors instead of one. It might be said that they were ambassadors to the several Courts whose sovereigns were at the Congress; but this supposition was contradicted by the fact that they had all signed the Declaration of the Allies of the 13th March, which, but as ministers at the Congress, they could not have signed.
said, the ambassadors being assembled at Vienna, the country had a claim to any services they could perform. Lord Cathcart was the ambassador to Russia, lord Aberdeen to Austria, lord Wellington to the Congress; and lord Clancarty having performed the high mission on which he was sent out with great honour to himself and advantage to the public service, was the only ambassador who was not there in the regular discharge of his duty. He could assure the hon. gentleman, that there had not been one too many there, while he (lord Castlereagh) was at Vienna. Their presence had afforded him much assistance while the negociations of the Congress were going on, and had been found of much importance in the discussions which had taken place on the numerous topics which were there to be taken into consideration.
§ Mr. Croker,
in answer to the questions respecting the sums paid to naval officers in the instances which had been referred to, said these matters were regulated by a scale which it had been thought wise to 485 adopt in 1812, which had been printed, and which was in the hands of every naval officer. In this scale, in one column, the regulations were set forth, showing the remuneration to be made to the officer according to the length of the voyage, and in the other the sum to be paid on account of the rank of the party to be conveyed. This scale, if any thing, he was inclined to think, was fixed at too low a rate, but it was understood the officers were to have no profit; all that was to be secured to them was, that they should not be ruined. From looking at this, every commander so employed could tell as well what he was to receive, as the Board of Admiralty could, by whom it was to be paid. The sum paid to rear-admiral Fremantle had not been paid till after the minutest investigation. The 2,000l. he had received was less than he ought to have been paid; and bad he not had that sum advanced to him, he would have lost by the service 2 or 3,000l. of his own private property. In the case of captain Usher, who for conveying Buonaparté to Elba, was said to have been offered so small a sum that he had not thought proper to accept of it, the proceedings of the Admiralty had been regulated by the scale of which he had spoken. That scale did not provide for a case like that which had occurred (he did not expect for this it would be censured for improvidence), but by that it was settled that for the conveyance of a crowned head, where the voyage was performed within a week, 100l. should be paid to the captain. The title of Buonaparté having been recognised in the Treaty of Fontainbleau, captain Usher had been directed to receive him as a crowned head. Captain Usher had, when he came home, been directed to make what charge he thought proper, but had declined making any, and under such circumstances the Admiralty could do no more than give directions for him to be remunerated according to the scale of regulations which had been adopted. With respect to a charge which had been preferred against the Admiralty for not suffering sailors who had returned from a long voyage to have sufficient time on shore to spend their money, he admitted, that in some instances this might have occurred; but the established rule was, when a ship returned from three years service, to pay the men a third of the money due to them, and allow them from a fortnight to a month's leave absence to see their friends. This practice, which 486 it was feared would promote desertion, he was happy to say had produced a contrary-effect. It had greatly tended to prevent that enormous desertion which was formerly common. The men almost always returned when their leave of absence expired, to claim the remainder of their money, and after they came back, they were generally allowed some days to be on shore before they sailed again.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, that in respect to what the hon. secretary had stated regarding admiral0 Fremantle, he had no doubt but that gallant officer was deserving the remuneration he had received; but he thought the case of captain Usher, one of the most distinguished names in the English navy, was a very hard one. He was stationed in the Mediterranean, and his ship lying at anchor near the place where Napoleon Buonaparté was to embark for the island of Elba. He was ordered to take him on board with his whole suite, which he accordingly did, and furnished him with all his necessary stores and provisions to a considerable amount. He was obliged to keep seven tables on board, to give up the wardroom, and to expose both, himself and his officers to many inconveniences for six or seven days. On arriving at Elba, Buonaparté sent an officer to captain Usher, to pay the whole of the expenses of the passage. Captain Usher thought his Government would be offended if he accepted such payment, and, as he (Mr. Whitbread) thought he ought to have clone, civilly declined receiving the proffered remuneration. It was proper to state that when Napoleon landed in Elba he was destitute of wines and stores; captain Usher supplied him with what he had on board his ship; and when he returned, and applied to the Admiralty for the expenses, he received for answer, that it was supposed Napoleon had paid for himself and his whole suite. Indignant at this, as it seemed to accuse him of endeavouring to obtain money under false pretences, capt. Usher inquired whence this information was obtained, which was finally traced to a memorandum written by the hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Croker), and proved to be a mere supposition of his, founded on some hearsay or newspaper report. The captain was then told to make out an account of his expenses. He replied, that he could not, and left the case to the consideration of the Admiralty, who had directed 100l. to be paid to him. The expense of conveying Buonaparté to Elba 487 was thus left to fall on captain Usher,—a man in moderate circumstances, with a family, who had been engaged a hundred and thirty-five times against the enemies of his country, and who was called on unexpectedly to perform a very extraordinary and delicate service, and who had performed it to the satisfaction of all parties. This, he contended, was a case of great hardship; he trusted it would be taken into consideration, and that captain Usher would be completely indemnified.
§ Mr. Croker
denied that there was any thing disrespectful to captain Usher, in the supposition that Buonaparté had kept his own table on the voyage. This was commonly done, and it was natural to suppose that it would have been done by Buonaparté for his own accommodation. Captain Usher had never been asked to make out his account item by item, but merely to state the expense incurred, 1, 2, or 300l. When he declined to do this, the Admiralty could do no more than direct the payment of the sum permitted to be paid in the case of a crowned bead being conveyed from one place to another, by the order in council of 1812.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, the hon. gentleman seemed to think captain Usher would have been right to suffer Buonaparté to pay for his passage, [Mr. Croker said "No."] He put it to the hon. gentleman if any officer, or gentleman, could have acted better than captain Usher had done. When it was remembered that no man had fought more bravely, or bled more freely for his country, he trusted some way of remunerating his services would be found without wounding his feelings.
§ Mr. Croker
was anxious, though he had already denied that he wished Buonaparté had been allowed to pay for his passage, more formally to state such had not been his wish. That could not be permitted. No offence to captain Usher was meant, in supposing that, for his own convenience, Buonaparté might have kept his own table. He was anxious to state this, lest improper motives should be imputed to captains, who permitted that to be done, which it had been supposed it might be Buonaparté's pleasure to do. The course taken with respect to captain Usher was the same with that pursued, under similar circumstances, with sir R. Codrington, admiral Fremantle, and other officers, without the smallest slight being intended or supposed.
§ Mr. Barham
said, that being a relative 488 of the gallant officer in question, he might be permitted to say a few words, though he had no idea that the topic would have been brought before the House. It was not so much the matter, as the manner of the refusal that had hurt captain Usher. The circumstance that hurt his mind was this,—that when he staled that he had been at expense in conveying Buonaparté to Elba, an opinion was expressed by the hon. gentleman opposite, that Buonaparté might have paid for his own table. Captain Usher naturally felt hurt at this implied doubt, which was rather increased than softened by being desired to make out his bill of expenses.
§ Mr. Croker
observed, in reply, that captain Usher had received no treatment different from other officers who happened to have a similar service to perform, and who stated generally the expense thereby occasioned. It was not understood that every item should be specified, but merely the expense generally. The hon. gentleman said, however, it was not so much the matter, as the manner of the answer to captain Usher's application that had hurt him. Now, it so happened, that he never had the honour of a personal interview with that gentleman in his life. The whole of the transaction took place in the regular correspondence of the Board of Admiralty, and he was quite unconscious of having given any offence to captain Usher.
said, that the only wish could be that captain Usher should have a proper reimbursement of his expenses. He was most desirous that such a reimbursement should be made; but it would be a great assistance to the judgment of the Government if captain Usher would state in the most general way the sum which he supposed himself to have expended.
§ Mr. Whitbread
felt satisfied, since the question had been put in a point of view agreeable to captain Usher's feelings, that no further difficulty would be found.
§ Mr. W. Smith
conceived, that captain Usher had thought his word doubted, and therefore refused to comply with what was a very reasonable request. He wished to know why the captain who conveyed marshal Blucher from Calais to Dover, had been paid 600l. It was said the captain was not to profit by his guests, but here he thought 500l. must have been paid over and above the expense incurred, In these things he thought there might be 489 a great deal of favouritism, as also in the large sums paid to captains of ships carrying out specie. He wished to ask why captains of the navy were paid any thing for the freight of specie on government account? He observed, that captain Farquhar was paid 2,000l. for conveying specie from Portsmouth to Passages.
§ Mr. Croker
in reply, said that the risk was considerable, as the captain was responsible for the delivery of the whole of the specie. He recollected the case of commodore Owen having a freight of specie, and having had some of it stolen, when he was obliged to make good the loss, which not only swallowed up all he received for freight, but also a part of his property. While merchants were glad to pay 2½ per cent, for the freight of specie, government paid only ½ per cent.
§ Mr. W. Smith
could not conceive the principle upon which a naval officer should be remunerated at the public expense, for doing that which as a servant of the public he was obliged to do; and as to the idea suggested by the hon. gentleman, he thought it quite a mockery to suppose that naval officers could be rendered responsible for the enormous sums sometimes committed to their care.
observed, that it was a novel practice to allow our naval officers to charge such commission as they thought proper for the conveyance of the money of merchants from foreign ports, no such practice having prevailed during the former American war. The hon. gentleman animadverted upon several items in the accounts on the table, with regard to our colonial expenditure, in which profusion appeared to run riot, especially in the Commissariat. This profusion he illustrated by referring to the case of the Cape of Good Hope, in which the allowance to Mr. Hill, of the commissariat, for the-cur-rent year, was 173,000l., although for the last year it was only 69,000l., and for the preceding year 43,000l.; also to the cases of Ceylon, Goree, Sierra Leone, and the Leeward Islands. The allowance to Mr. Damerum, for Jamaica, for the present year, was 426,000l., although for the last year it was only 160,000l., and for the preceding year 58,000l. These cases he thought sufficient to show the necessity of inquiry by a committee above stairs; and concluded by observing, that if our colonial expenses should be thus enormous, it would be quite impossible for the country to support the system.
§ Sir Charles Monck
noticed the sum of nearly 8,000l. charged for the creation of the late batch of Peers, comprizing so many gallant officers, and among others of 1,500l. for the advancement of lord Wellington to the title of Duke, together with 140l. for the introduction of his grace to the House of Peers. Upon what ground such a sum should be charged to the public, or the foes of such creation should be excessive, he confessed himself quite unable to account.
§ Lord Proby
said, that the members of the Commissariat were, he understood, in the habit of becoming contractors themselves; and such a practice was obviously calculated to give rise to great abuse.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
observed, that if any persons connected with the Commissariat were capable of such a practice, they would be obviously guilty of a gross breach of duty.
§ Mr. Bankes
supported the suggestion of appointing a committee above stairs to examine those accounts, and especially to inquire into the conduct of the Commissariat, for the commission appointed to act upon the Continent was not sufficiently comprehensive in its powers completely to answer the end in view. The practice of frauds in this department was matter of public notoriety, which the return of almost all the commissaries with large fortunes from the Continent seemed to place beyond dispute. It was obvious that such men could not accumulate such for* tunes from their mere pay and allowances; and he trusted that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see the necessity of complying with the public wish by instituting an inquiry upon this subject. If any gentleman should bring forward a distinct motion for the institution of such an inquiry, the motion should certainly have his decided support, and he could not conceive that ministers had any interest in resisting it.
§ Mr. Newman
rose to express his entire approbation of what had fallen from the hon. gentleman; and being unaccustomed to trouble the House, he only begged leave to add, that he had so frequently heard of the very profuse expenditure of the Commissariat, that he hoped a committee would be appointed for the purposes proposed by the hon. gentleman. He should not have trespassed on the time of the House, but from a sense of 491 duty to his country, in which the interest and character of the Government were materially concerned.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
expressed his opinion that any committee appointed for the purposes mentioned by the hon. gentleman, would interfere with the proceedings of those who were appointed to audit the public accounts in the Peninsula. With respect to the large fortunes which had been accumulated by individuals, they were the natural consequence of the very large expenditure which had taken place; but he did not believe they had arisen in any degree from official abuses.
contended, that the examination would not interfere with the auditing of the accounts; and intimated his intention of moving for a committee on some future day.
§ Lord Proby
said, that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would compare the expenses of the French and the English Commissariat, especially in the article of transport for troops, he would see good grounds for a serious inquiry.
The Resolution was then agreed to. The Chancellor of the Exchequer next moved, that six millions he granted on account of Army Extraordinaries for the year 1815.
§ Mr. Tierney
objected to this grant: he thought a delay necessary to examine into the accounts, for the purpose of preventing the confusion of both years. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would not press this Resolution to its full extent now, after a vote of twenty-one million, as if he had caught the House in wind, and presumed that, after such a vote, 6,000,000l. were nothing.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
explained the nature of those accounts, and their connexion with the vote of credit, also the great difficulty of making them completely out, parts being still unreturned from Spain. He however had no objection to take a vote of three millions at present, and to defer the remainder.