§ On the question that the naval force for the present year be 34,165 seamen, and 9,000 marines, including 200 boys,
§ Sir R. Peel
said, that it was not his intention to give any opposition to the vote which was proposed. Her Majesty's Government, on their own responsibility, had proposed for the consideration of the House, that a certain number of seamen should be the general naval establishment of this country, and it was nearly impossible for any Member of that House to enter so fully into the subject of the navy or army establishment as to be able to question the propriety of the grant, but the Government must be presumed to have a much more accurate knowledge of all the circumstances of the case, than those who had not access to official information, and who could judge therefore only by the general aspect of affairs; and therefore, unless there was something unusual in the vote which would lead to a strong belief that it was much too small, or that it was extravagantly great, it was extremely difficult for any hon. Member to propose an alteration in it. The main consideration which Parliament should have upon this subject was, as to the amount of the vote; and, in reference to this, they must look, first to the relative strength of the naval establishment in this country with that of the other powers; and secondly, to the present aspect of affairs, and the proba- 244 bility of this country being called upon to bring its resources into operation. Now, considering either one or other of these matters, he came to this conclusion—that the amount of men proposed for the navy establishment of this country could not be objected to on the ground of its exceeding that which was necessary. He could not say that it was an extravagant amount, but on the contrary, it was more likely that he should say that the demands on it would be sufficiently answered by the provision made. It was impossible not to see that the exertions made by other powers—it might be without any hostile design—by the United States—France and Russia, were becoming great naval powers, and were preparing to cope with Great Britain in the superiority which it had hitherto maintained over the seas, and it was impossible, therefore, to exclude the importance of those maritime powers from the consideration of the House. There was one material point also—that the House must not only take the actual strength with which it was possible to appear when it might be called upon to come in collision with other nations, into consideration, but also the degree of assistance which we might expect from our allies. Let the House look at the strength of the Russian fleet in the Baltic at this time. They must not, however, determine the amount of possible danger by its mere extent, but they must look at the other fleets there, and if they found that Russia had a complete preponderating power there, it was most material to consider, whether this arose as well from its own strength, as from the assistance which it might gain. In 1790 there was a most formidable conflict there. Russia and Sweden were then opposed to each other, and Sweden had no more than eighteen sail-of-the-line there, with which she contended against twenty-three Russian vessels, and it would, therefore, be found that the Russian preponderance proceeded not merely on account of her own superior strength, but on account also of the diminution of the other powers on the shores of the Baltic, on whose co-operation this country might have reckoned. Then, again, let them compare the exertions of France with those made in former times, and also those of the United States, and they would see the mode in which they were preparing themselves. When he said this, however, he was willing to admit, that 245 nothing could be worse policy than to show too feverish, too active a jealousy, with respect to the progress of those states. If the country had peace, let it have the full advantages of peace; and if they made any active demonstrations, they must do it in such a way as to bring no evil consequences upon themselves; but he looked to the strength of the country, and to the tremendous exertions she would have to make in case of any war breaking out, and while he was one of the last to advise that they should increase their resources during peace by an unnecessary demonstration, and by that means inducing other persons to magnify their own strength by reason of the suspicions which they should entertain, he was at the same time bound to say, that when the exertions made by other naval powers were witnessed, the time was arrived when this country should sedulously apply itself, not to a sudden demonstration of strength, but to a gradual and prudent collection of its materials of warfare, with which in the event of war breaking out, they would find reason to congratulate themselves they were not unprovided. On that ground he hoped, that her Majesty's Government would seriously consider the condition of the British navy, so as to make such additions as would enable them to compete with other naval powers. He should have been contented to discuss this matter upon the general principle; but that the hon. Gentleman, the Secretary to the Admiralty, finding himself pressed by a pretty unanimous, or at least a general expression of dissatisfaction at the conduct of the Admiralty, thought it expedient to rest his defence mainly upon the reductions made in the navy during the time he (Sir R. Peel) had been in office, and he said that Conservative attacks were very rife upon the Government. In reply to that, he begged to say, that he was no party to any of those attacks, and so far from considering, that they ought to be called Conservative attacks, he should say, that the assaults upon them came from a different quarter, while their best defence proceeded from a Conservative. The greater part of the attacks made upon the present management of the navy, came from persons whose politics corresponded with those of her Majesty's Government—at least, that was true of a great many amongst the writers upon the subject. It did appear to him surprising, that Government should be so sore upon 246 the subject, seeing, that so large a proportion of those from whom the attacks proceeded, so far from incurring their displeasure, had actually been rewarded. The individual who signed himself "A Flag Officer" was of course not known—appearing under that assumed title they could not tell what might have been his reward; but Lieutenant Cranford, now a commander, who wrote upon the state of the Russian navy, had been promoted—so likewise had been Captain Napier. That gallant officer did not conceal the expression of his opinions, but he was rewarded, and the defender of the Government was Sir John Barrow, a Conservative. Then on the assumed ground, that the assailants of the Government on this subject were all Conservatives, the Secretary to the Admiralty, thought proper to attack him and his Government; he should now, therefore, proceed to consider whether the attacks made upon him were well-founded, whether the course which the present Government pursued could be justified and defended by an attack upon the Government with which he was connected, and having repelled the accusations brought against him, he should proceed to inquire whether the conduct of the present Administration was altogether free from reproach on the ground of neglect or misconduct. At this moment the cry had set in against economy; and he, when in office had been charged with neglecting economy. Now, he should show, that he had not been guilty of that; he should show also why he had listened to the doctrines of the economists, and proposed what was said to have been too small an amount of naval force. An hon. Member had said to him, "You are the cause of all the attacks which are now made upon us; your Government in the years 1834–5 proposed more inadequate estimates than were ever proposed before;" and therefore the hon. Member inferred, that he (Sir R. Peel), who had neither suggested nor incited any attacks on the Board of Admiralty, ought to bear the blame of any improper attacks which might have been made upon it at a former period Now, he would just remind the House, that though they might vote 35,000 seamen and marines as a fit establishment for the year 1839, that was no proof in itself, that his estimates for the years 1834–5 were inadequate. He requested the House to consider the situa- 247 tion in which he stood at that time. At the close of the year 1834 he came into office. Be had to consider what should be the amount of the estimates for the ensuing year. He found, that in the year 1818, when he had also been in administration, we had been content with a force of 20,000 seamen and marines for the navy, and that in the year 1823, we had only a force of 25,000 seamen and marines for the same service. In the commencement, then, of 1835, he had proposed that the naval force for the year should be 20,000 seamen and marines. Now it was no proof, that though in 1818 he had thought a force of 20,000 men sufficient, the vote which he proposed in 1835 was inadequate; and even if the hon. Gentlemen opposite could prove that their vote of 35,000 men for the present year was right, it was no proof, that his estimates for 1835 were justly liable to condemnation. What were the circumstances, he would ask, under which he had proposed the estimates of 1835? He landed in England on the 9th of December, 1834. At that time he had not accepted office. He accepted office the next day—on the 10th of December, 1834. The Board of Admiralty was formed about the 1st of January, 1835. The House of Commons had required, that the estimates for the year should be laid on its Table within a fortnight after the meeting of Parliament. What, then, was the course which he had to pursue? In the month of August, 1834, his Majesty had declared in a speech from the Throne, that profound peace prevailed throughout the whole of Europe, and that all anxiety for the fate of Turkey was at an end, and his Ministers had taken credit for the successful exertions which they had made upon that score; and had informed the country that it was in no danger from any renewal of hostilities. The Board of Admiralty, he must again repeat, was not formed till 1st of January, 1835. He therefore determined to take this course—namely, to adhere to the estimates, which his predecessors in the government, who were in office up to November, 1834, had prepared, with the full knowledge of all the exigencies of the public service. It had been stated in the course of the debate, and that statement had not yet been contradicted, that three-fourths of the foundations of the estimates for the year 1835 248 had been prepared by the Administration which quitted office in November, 1834. In those estimates he found nothing to warrant even a suspicion on his part that they anticipated any interruption of peace; on the contrary, it appeared as if they entertained no fears about the prospect of peace being obscured, and that they were of opinion, that it would not be wise to incur the jealousy of foreign Powers by increasing either our naval or our military establishments. He looked, then, to the provisions which had been made for them by his predecessors in office, and he found that the impressions which had been created by his Majesty's Speech from the Throne in August, 1834, were completely confirmed by the draught of the estimates for 1835, which they had left behind them in their respective offices. He found, likewise, that if any inference as to their belief of the profound security of the world could be deduced from their inadequate preparations, that inference was greatly confirmed by the force ready for service in the different ports and harbours of the country. What vessels had they at the close of the year 1834, in the three principal ports of Portsmouth, Plymouth, and Sheerness? You had not at that time in any one of those three ports a single first-rate, nor a single second-rate, nor a single third-rate, nor even a single fourth rate—nay, you had not even a single sloop or any steam vessels. You had there, it was true, stationary vessels, but not a single vessel ready for sea was there in any one of the ports and harbours of Great Britain. He had a right, then, to infer, that his predecessors in office had no fear of any danger, and that they had no notion of any likelihood of the prospects of peace being obscured. He had therefore taken their estimates for the preceding year; and the first question which he had asked himself upon them was, as to the number of seamen and marines which had been actually employed. He found that it fell short of the number voted by 1,200 men. Three large vessels, the Caledonia, the Trafalgar, and a third ship of the line, of which he had forgotten the name, had subsequently returned home. The reliefs had all been sent out, and the actual number of men employed fell about 1,200 short of the number which had been voted. He had therefore taken as the foundation of his estimate, not the number contained in the estimates of the 249 preceding year, but the number of men actually employed by virtue of it. But that was not the only foundation he went upon. As our appointment to office was not calculated to endanger the peace of Europe, as the country had amicable relations with all the foreign Powers, Ministers in 1835 determined to follow in the steps of their predecessors in office up to November, 1834, and not to propose any increase in the establishments. But it would have been open to them, if you would have granted to us, which you would not, the experience of four or five months in the administration of public affairs—on finding, as he had little doubt but that they should have found, that their estimates were inadequate—it would have been open to the Ministers to come down to the House at a subsequent period, and to state, that such was the case; and under such circumstances he thought, that the House would have more readily given him increased powers, if he had said, "We did not like to act upon mere apprehensions of danger—we did not like to spread consternation and alarm throughout the country. The experience of a few months has shown us, that we were wrong in the view which we took of foreign affairs, and now we have acquired the knowledge, that a greater force is wanted than that which we originally required." He was sure, that that was the course which men of sense would have pursued, and he was also sure, that it was a course to which the House of Commons would have assented. "We were not, however, admitted," continued Sir R. Peel, "to that experience; and I am not warranted from the experience of what has occurred, in saying, that if we had proposed larger estimates than those which we then laid upon the table of the House, we should have found a very ready acceptance of them at your hands. All I know upon that subject is, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny proposed, that our estimates should be referred to a Select Committee, and that in that proposition he was supported by some fifty or sixty of his Friends. Our estimates, which are now considered so open to the fatal objection of economy, were then kept so long in a state of suspense in that House, that we were obliged to come down to the House and inform the hon. Member, that if we did not gain one vote upon them, we should not be able to discharge the half-pay and pen- 250 sions of the seamen and marines. I was myself obliged to ask the hon. Member for Kilkenny to wave his objections to that item in the estimates, and to allow me to take a vote upon it without discussion. But if, instead of taking that course, I had come down to the House and said, "These Gentlemen are cutting down the estimates too narrowly, they are not aware of the exigencies of the public service; let us increase the force of the navy; let us add to the number of seamen and marines; there is nothing like preparing for war," what chance should I have had of carrying such increased estimates, supposing that I had been induced to propose them? I proposed, then, under these circumstances, the estimates of 1835; and my charge against you now is, why, if you thought those estimates so inadequate as you now state them to be—why, if you thought that I was at that time undermining the sources of British power and of British ascendancy, you did not yourselves come forward to propose such larger estimates as you yourselves thought commensurate with the demands of the public service? You at any rate were not inexperienced in public affairs; you knew well what was the state of Europe in 1834. If you thought my estimates for that year too much reduced, why was not a single whisper heard from your ranks against the measures of retrenchment and economy which I then proposed? The hon. Member opposite (Mr. Hume, we believe) behaved on that occasion fairly enough. When we put in our claim, as advocates for economy, he said, "Oh, no! such a claim does not belong to you." Our claims to economy at that time were disputed, and when we showed that our estimate was less than the estimate for the preceding year by 1,200 men, it was replied, that no credit was due to us for that reduction; we were told that our economy was reluctant—that it was forced upon us, and that we were only treading in the steps of our predecessors. But not a single whisper was then heard that our retrenchment was ill-judged and extravagant. Why was it not? In 1835 not one of you was manly enough to call upon the House for an increased vote to the navy; but now, in 1839, when the tide has set in against economy, and when the cry is for increased naval establishments, you are content, one and all of you, to sail with the stream, because it is in favour of that in- 251 crease, and you say, with smirking self-sufficiency, that all the evils arising from the present reduced state of our naval establishments ought to be visited upon the head of my administration of 1835. But what was the amount of the enormous reductions which we made in that year? On the 1st of December, 1834, the naval establishment left to us by our predecessors in office amounted to eleven sail-of-the-line, classed under the head of fourth-rates, and altogether to 160 pennants. Our inadequate estimates enabled you, however, to have, on the 1st of December, 1835, 167 ships employed in the naval service of the country—so that the result of our enormous reductions was, that you had at the close of the year a positive increase in the force of the year 1835 over that of the year 1834. It is true that you supported a much greater increase in the naval estimates for the next year. You have said that I taunted you with doing so from an undue fear of the power of Russia. I am bound to say that I have no recollection of having used any such taunt. I said it would have been better had you assigned the real cause of the increase which you then made; but I do not recollect having ever taunted the noble Lord opposite on the score of his alarm upon the exertions of Russia. A large increase, however, was made, no matter as to the cause, in 1836 to the navy estimates; and now, with the utmost simplicity, the hon. Secretary for the Admiralty comes forward and asks us what reasons had we for consenting to increase the estimates of 1836 which did not apply with equal force to increasing the estimates of 1835. Why, I heard, with my own ears, the hon. Gentleman make a speech of more than an hour and a-half's duration, in explanation of the reasons which, he said, existed for increasing the naval estimates of 1836. He did not at that time venture to assert that the estimates of the preceding year had been improperly prepared; and the noble Lord, the leader of the party—what did he say upon them? I put it to the House broadly and distinctly, has the course of either the noble Lord or the hon. Secretary been fair to us upon this occasion? In 1835 neither of them ventured upon any objection to my estimates. In 1836 an increased estimate was proposed under their auspices, on the ground that the public service required that an additional force 252 of 5,000 men should be employed. In the course of the debate which took place upon that proposed increase, I said, "I assent to it with readiness, for I cannot see that the estimates of 1835 should be the rule for the estimates of 1836.' That, however, was not the language which the noble Lord used at that time. What then was it? On the navy estimates for 1836 being proposed, the noble Lord said, that he was ready to admit that when the estimates of the preceding year were prepared, there was no necessity for a larger estimate than that which was then submitted to Parliament, but that he was convinced that if an increase had then been called for, it would have been assented to. But why should I overlay this point with unnecessary argument? Why should I again remind the House, that if my estimates were inadequate, it was the duty of the noble Lord and his friends to have come forward and remedied the deficiency at the time, and that nevertheless they one and all shrunk from the performance of that duty, because economy and retrenchment were the order of the day, and the tide had not, at that time set against them? What could have been easier, if my estimates were so palpably under the mark—what could have been easier than for the noble Lord or for some Member of his Government, to have come down to the House in June, 1835, and to have said—'These estimates were prepared with a view to economy by those who had but an inadequate knowledge of the circumstances of the country. We know better what the country requires, and here is a supplementary estimate containing the items of the increased grant which we demand from you.' If you could have convinced Parliament that such an estimate was necessary, Parliament would have granted it willingly, and then you would have acted more manfully than you are acting now, when, after keeping our condemnation snugly in your pockets for four years and more, you are producing it to answer one of your party purposes." The right hon. Baronet then proceeded to observe, that he did not presume to condemn Government for attempting, in the present state of our finances to reconcile their professions of economy with a due regard to the service of the country. He hoped, however, that Government would well consider the situation in which we were placed at present. He did not wish to diffuse anxiety or 253 consternation throughout the country; but looking to the present condition of our affairs on the north-west frontier of India—looking, too, at the war in which we might be embarked at the other extremity of the globe—looking at the state of Canada—at the unsettled question which we had with the United States, and at the active demonstrations which were making by other states in the other hemisphere, he could not refrain from expressing a hope that the Government would consider carefully whether there was no at present justifiable cause for increasing the naval establishments of the country—an increase which, in point of fact, might ultimately be more economical than any rash dimunition of them. He did not say this in any hostile spirit to Her Majesty's Government, for he was well aware of the necessity under which they laboured of reconciling as far as they could the demands of the public service with those of economy. His charge against the Government—for he had now done with the defence of his own Administration, his charge against the Government, or rather his suspicion of neglect and misconduct on the part of the Government, was founded on this circumstance, that they would be unable with the force which they now demanded from Parliament, and to which Parliament would undoubtedly give its assent, to give that protection to the commercial interests of the country which their importance required. He looked at both the state and the amount of our present naval force. He looked also at the distribution of it; and having done that, he could not reconcile the distribution of it with the demands for protection to British commerce. He recollected well, that in the year 1836, when the hon. Secretary for the Admiralty moved for an increased grant on account of the naval estimates, he made the following statement:—The first ground upon which he asked the House to consent to the resolution for an increase of 5,000 men was, that there was no British naval station in the world from which there were not pressing demands for an increased force. From the station in the Pacific, where the English trade was increasing very much, there were continued demands for an increase of naval force. The demands made upon the Admiralty in this respect had been reiterated through the Foreign-office by the Consuls of this country, as his noble Friend at the head of that department well knew. 254 Again, similar calls had been made upon the Admiralty by the Consuls at Mexico aed Valparaiso, by the merchants resident there, and on the whole western coast of Mexico, claiming this aid in protection of their persons and their property, and declaring such increased naval force to be absolutely necessary for this purpose."*In that paragraph of the hon. Gentleman's speech he had distinct and positive proof that her Majesty's Ministers were aware of the necessity for increasing our naval force to give protection to our commerce on the coasts of South America. Nay more, he had a direct admission from them that daily applications were made to them for the presence of such a naval force. He found, that at present we had a force of twenty-one ships of the line, and of 35,000 seamen and marines; and now he asked them whether we had been able with that force to give that protection to British commerce in South America which our interests required? As he did not wish to enter into the general question at present, he would confine himself to the case of British interests in Mexico. First of all, let the House look to their amount. There were eight or nine large bodies of British capitalists engaged in milling operations in that country. Moreover, there was a very considerable debt due from Mexico to the inhabitants of this country. You would also find at Mexico, Vera Cruz, Oaxaca, indeed at almost every large port and populous internal town in that part of South America, extensive British commercial establishments. The amount of British capital thus invested in Mexico was sufficient to demand of the Government, that it should look carefully to its protection. What, he asked, had recently occurred? So long ago as the 21st of March, 1838, they were aware, that France was about to enforce her claims—perhaps just claims, perhaps claims neglected by Mexico—by demanding reparation, and if that was refused, by exacting it from the Mexican Republic. Very soon after that date they must have been aware that France not only required from Mexico reparation for the injury she had sustained, and the dismissal of the judges and officers who had, as was alleged, improperly and illegally treated French subjects, but also preferred what certainly appeared at first sight to be rather a novel demand for one independent state to* Hansard, 3rd Series, vol. xxxi. 1229.255 make to another as a sina quâ non for avoiding the consequences of a declaration of war—that the French inhabitants settled in Mexico should be entitled to carry on a retail trade on the same footing as Mexican subjects. The notification made by the French Chargéd' Affaires to the Mexican authorities in March 1838, was couched in the following terms:—"Should, which God forbid, this answer," to the three demands, that was, "be in the negative upon only one point, should it even be doubtful, upon only one point, should it finally be delayed beyond the 15th of April, the undersigned must then immediately place the continuation of this affair in the hands of the senior commander of his Majesty's naval forces, of which a division is actually on the coast of Mexico, and this officer will put in execution the orders he has already received." This, then, was a decisive proof that the French naval force was on the coast in March, 1838, and the commander of that force had orders, if satisfaction were not given, to enforce reparation. He said not a word as to whether or not the French government were right in demanding reparation in this fashion, but, assuming that France was perfectly justified, surely, when her navy was to be used for enforcing her rights, the British subjects in Vera Cruz and other places had a right to be protected. How was it possible for a powerful country like France to proceed to exact reparation by violent means without so far endangering the security of the lives and property of British subjects as to make the intervention of the mother country necessary? Necessary for what purpose? To attack the French? No, but to give confidence to British subjects—to form a guarantee, that right and justice would be observed in carrying the projected hostile operations into effect. Early in the summer, in July at the latest, they knew that France was fitting out an expedition against Mexico. The French squadron sailed from Brest on the 13th of September, and arrived at Vera Cruz about the 25th of October. The bombardment of San Juan d'Ulloa was executed on the 27th of November. After all the warnings we had had of the danger to which British interests were about to be exposed, we had no British minister resident in Mexico. He believed, that Mr. Pakenham did not arrive till after the attack. [Viscount Palmerston: there 256 was a British consul on the spot.] He did not mean to say, that the British embassy was absolutely vacant, or that no subordinate officer was present, but he must say, when most important interests were exposed to imminent danger, there ought to have been a British Minister, and not a Consul, to look to them. The minister did not arrive at Vera Cruz till the 22nd of December, while the attack on San Juan d'Ulloa took place on the 27th of November, and that on Vera Cruz on the 4th or 5th of December. What naval force was there on the coast of Mexico to afford protection to British subjects? Was there a single British ship of war at Vera Cruz at the time when the attack was made? He did not ask the question without reason, as would be seen by the account of the transactions which then took place, which he would quote purposely from the papers that were supposed to vindicate the policy of Government. He found this statement of facts in the Globe newspaper of the 8th of February, professing to come from a correspondent at Falmouth:—They say that the French would have been cut off but for the distance of the army from the city, and the unexpectedness of the disembarcation of the French, as the British Vice-Consul is said by Santa Anna to have pledged himself most faithfully for the French, that they were not to disembark until after eight o'clock in the morning. The situation of the British inhabitants may be conceived, when it is related that not a single man-of-war lay there.The Satellite, a sixteen-gun brig, stated to have been at Vera Cruz, was said by this correspondent to have gone on a cruise during the negotiation of the treaty, which would throw the whole of the losses sustained by the British on the Government, as the commander of the Satellite must have been aware of the difficulties that existed, and that the treaty, having been offered during the bombardment, would never have been acceded to by the Mexicans. He (Sir Robert Peel) would say nothing as to the doctrine maintained by the writer—that Government was liable for the losses of British subjects, but he wished to know why the single British ship of war should have left the neighbourhood of Vera Cruz after the capture of San Juan d'Ulloa. Even if it had remained there, would it be contended, that with our twenty-one sail-of-the-line and 34,000 seamen and marines, a single brig 257 of sixteen guns could afford sufficient protection to our interests? He (Sir Robert Peel) was anxious to say nothing that might prevent any pending negotiations from being brought to a satisfactory conclusion; his questions were mainly directed, not to the claims of France, but the conduct of her Majesty's Government. This correspondent stated, that,However, after the first movement of the French, about thirty persons obtained a refuge on board the Express, and the day after she left, the Madagascar arrived.The Express, he (Sir Robert Peel) believed, left on the 15th of December. The Morning Chronicle, in the account received from its correspondent, stated,The greater part of the wealthy inhabitants of Vera Cruz had proceeded to Jalapa, taking with them their valuables. No British ship of War was at Vera Cruz at the time of this occurrence, and the Express packet was therefore detained to receive on board the British subjects.If Government replied to him, where was the use of having the British force in the neighbourhood of Vera Cruz or on the coast of Mexico, when we acknowledge the right of the French to blockade the coast, when we say that France is justified by the law of nations in taking this course to obtain redress for the injuries she has suffered? then, he would ask, why have you a squadron on the coast of Mexico at present? What was your object in withdrawing the whole of your force from the North American station, and despatching it to the Gulf of Mexico? Not, he presumed, to attack the French force. He trusted there was no ground for apprehending that. He presumed it was to prevent, in the excitement consequent upon a conflict, the possibility of outrage being committed by unauthorized parties on the property or the personal safety of British subjects, or to give them the means of escape, and provide them with some better resource in time of danger than the Express packet. Well, but how did it happen, that with such ample notice that war was meditated by France, or at least hostile operations—for war, be it observed, had never been declared—and with such ample appliances for the protection of British commerce, the first duty of Government, that of providing for the safety of its subjects from hostile assaults, had been for a long time entirely neglected? According to the statement he had read, 258 there had been no ship at hand to watch over our interests, but a little gun-brig up to the 1st of December; and after that day even that source of protection was cut off, for the Satellite left the coast. He said Government had ample means of protecting British commerce. Why, we had now eleven sail-of-the-line in the Mediterranean. The statement made by the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. C. Wood) the other night was, that there was no necessity for keeping eleven sail-of-the-line on that station; that no dangers menacing British interests in that quarter required a preponderating force; but that it was better to employ these ships in the Mediterranean than to retain them at home. Now, either it was necessary to keep eleven sail-of-the-line in the Mediterranean, or it was not. If it were necessary to have eleven sail-of-the-line in the Mediterranean, and two at Lisbon, then all he could say was, that the remaining seven sail-of-the-line in commission were very inadequate to the duty of protecting the coasts of this country, and meeting unforeseen dangers that might assail us without warning. If, on the other hand, so many ships were not wanted in the Mediterranean, why were not five or six sail recalled to the home station, to be kept as a reserve, ready to be called into action on unlooked-for contingencies? He wished to have an explanation from Government as to the present distribution of the naval force. He could not account for the disproportion between the force at present maintained at home, and that maintained at former periods. How was it possible for Ministers now to get a force ready speedily in case of any unexpected emergency? Suppose they had had to send out the ships to Mexico at short notice from the home station, how could they have effected it? The hon. Gentleman opposite had told them it was not necessary to keep ships at home, because they could send out a steam-vessel to the Mediterranean station and recall them in a very short space of time. That, however, was but a frail stay on which to place dependence, subject, as such a communication must be, to so many accidents from the weather, and from the risk of capture. What progress had been made lately in fitting out ships wanted to relieve others on foreign stations? The Malabar had lately returned from the American station, and it became 259 necessary to supply her place by the Implacable. Would the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty state to the House how much time had been consumed in fitting out that single ship of the line? If the ordinary at home was in such a state of forwardness that it could be brought speedily forward for active service, he greatly doubted whether they would have withdrawn their ships from the American station, and not rather have sent them out to Mexico from this country. If they kept eleven sail-of-the-line in the Mediterranean without any demand for their services, and two sail at Lisbon, while it appeared that at the same time there was but one ship-of-war, or not even one present during the bombardment of San Juan and the capture or assault of Vera Cruz to give protection to British property, he knew not what vindication of themselves Government could make to the commercial interests of this country. Look at the force of 1792, at a time of profound peace. In that year we had eleven guardships protecting the coast of Great Britain. In 1834, on the 1st of December, preceding his own appointment to office, we bad not, except stationary ships, a single sail-of-the-line on the home station. He could not see the wisdom of this policy, even although there might be no immediate danger of invasion. It was surely imprudent in the Government of a country possessing such a vastly extended commerce, to leave the great naval ports without the means of meeting unforeseen demands upon our navy that might be created by such events as had lately occurred at Buenos Ayres and Vera Cruz. He greatly feared that in such cases the absence of a British naval force—he did not mean a force with hostile intentions, for he trusted the assertion of the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty, who had assured them that we might keep a sufficient force at Mexico without in the slightest degree endangering a collision with France—would always be attended with results disadvantageous to this country. If we appeared to take no interest in such events—if we abandoned the great arm of our supremacy, and permitted other Powers to have a predominance over us in these expeditions—if we allowed great Powers to exact bard conditions from independent states, and say, "If you fail to give us satisfaction on every one of the points we insist on, we will take 260 your capital, and sack your towns;" and if we sent no British force to the scene of operations to watch over the lives and property of the Queen's subjects, the commanding influence of this country would be diminished in those distant quarters of the globe, and we might come to regret that some of the eleven ships on the Mediterranean station had not been more usefully employed in demonstrating that Britain had not quite forgotten the existence of those regions, How likely was it, that in the excitement and heat of the contending parties, acts might be done, perhaps without the intention to offend, which might place us under the disagreeable necessity of demanding reparation? An instance of this had but lately occurred—a British pilot had been taken out of the only ship of war we had on the coast of Mexico, the Express packet. He earnestly and fervently hoped that that act might not create any even temporary misunderstanding between two great countries. He should avoid saying one single word that could by possibility throw any difficulty in the way of an arrangement, perfectly satisfactory and honourable to both countries. "I feel," said the right hon. Baronet, "the most perfect confidence that a great country like France, jealous of its own honour, will be the first to respect the honour of other countries. I have the greatest confidence that the remarkable and distinguished man who fills the throne of France, and rules the destinies of her people, who exercises the influence he possesses over the councils of that country less because he is its monarch and has the regal state, than because, as I firmly believe, he combines in himself greater qualities for empire than any of its kings since the time of Napoleon, because he has known the vicissitudes of adversity and prosperity, and been taught sagacity by exposure to misfortune; because he has had wonderful opportunities of exhibiting both personal and moral courage—opportunities that are rarely given to any other man—because, from the union in him of so great courage, fortitude, experience, and prudence, he will be regarded by posterity in France as inferior only to the great warrior-statesman I have mentioned—I repeat, that I have the greatest confidence that under such auspices an amicable and mutually satisfactory arrangement may be effected. I can readily believe that, in the 261 warmth and hurry of conflict, injuries may be inflicted for which, although unintentionally offered, it may become necessary to demand reparation. But what I want to know—and the time must come when we must know it, for the satisfaction of the people of England—is, what has actually taken place? My advice is, do not call for the information precipitately. Keep the question of the conduct of Government entirely separate from the question of our relations with France. Avoid anything which may wound the sensitive feelings of the French people; do not be too hasty in demanding acknowledgments which may preclude the possibility of a satisfactory arrangement; but this we must know—what steps have Government taken in order to set this question in a light perfectly satisfactory? It appears, that the officer in command of the packet offered no resistance to the proceeding of the French captain. I do not mean to assert, that the officer should have made any such chivalrous and romantic resistance as would have risked the lives of his men for the purpose of protecting the pilot. But, it was clear, that the French had no right to remove the pilot; and the officer ought, at least, to have made a strong remonstrance. He ought to have said, "To superior force I will yield, but to nothing but superior force. I stand upon the deck overpowered; you may take the pilot; I will not offer a resistance that I know must be fruitless; I will not peril the lives of my gallant crew, and run the chance of being sunk if I fire at you; but I surrender to superior force, and I strike my flag." "We must know," pursued the right hon. Baronet, "if we stand upon that footing; we must also know how it happens that the admiral in command failed to give a direct and immediate account of a transaction so important. This occurrence took place on the 4th of December; this is the 11th of March, and yet we are imperfectly informed on the whole transaction. We must know what were the feelings entertained by a British officer in command that could prevent him from immediately communicating with the Admiralty, and giving the fullest explanation He knew," the right hon. Baronet proceeded, "the Admiralty must be aware of all the circumstances of the transaction, but he, for one, would forbear to call for them at the present moment, because he wished to throw no difficulty in the way of 262 a settlement. Of course, the moment that Lieutenant Croke landed on the British shore he was at the command of the Admiralty. The Admiralty could not mean to say, that because that officer wrote a letter to some consul, or other authority, which reached them through a third channel, they should remain inactive on his landing, without directing his immediate appearance before them, and requiring from him a full and sufficient account of the affair. They must see also what was the nature of the apology stated to have been made to the British admiral. He took it for granted that such an apology had been given, and he trusted it had been satisfactory. He hoped that, if for no other purpose, yet for that of preventing the principles of international law from being unsettled by any rash or unwarrantable act, and for the prevention of the enormous evils which must ensue, if the British flag, or any other neutral flag, were not considered a safe protection to those who sailed under it, occupied, for instance, in delivering the ship from peril in their capacity of pilots, all the circumstances of this transaction would remain upon record. He had now brought his observations to a close. He had said before, that he would cordially aid the Government in providing means for placing at our command a more efficient navy than we at present possessed; he would support any increase that Government might propose in the estimates, with the object of widening, if he might so say, the foundations of our naval power, and securing a regular supply of ships to be built from time to time. As he had stated, he should neither withhold his assent to the present estimates, nor should he press for information at present on the topics to which he had referred. But the three topics on which he had risen, principally with a view of insisting, were, first, his complaint of the neglect displayed by Government of the increasing demands for protection made at the present time by British commerce in every part of the world; secondly, he had put forth his defence of his own Government for not bringing forward larger estimates; and, thirdly, he had stated the ground on which he imputed misconduct to the Board of Admiralty, that, with the votes they had taken, and the number of men and of sail of the line they had at their disposal, they should have so far neglected British interests in South America, and 263 especially on the coast of Mexico, as the information before the country, if it were true, warranted him in asserting. But he should wish to ask, at some future period, if it were possible that San Juan d'Ulloa was taken on the 27th of November, and the attack on Vera Cruz was made on the 5th of December, but that the British fleet did not arrive in the offing until the 31st of December, and that even when Vera Cruz was taken, that small fleet neglected to give due assistance to the British commercial interests in the place. He did think that the time would come when the country would require on these points a full explanation, as well as on that other point, of the insult which had been offered to the national flag, when (he could most sincerely say) he hoped to have the satisfaction to learn, that nothing had been omitted, on the part of the Government, to provide for the interests of British commerce, and to exact reparation for the insult which had been offered to the honour of the navy.
§ Mr. Labouchere
understood the right hon. Gentleman to make it a matter of grave reprehension, that any allusions had been made to his Government in the way of censure, for having proposed to reduce, during his administration, the number of men in the navy. Now, what were the facts of the case? His hon. Friend, the Secretary for the Admiralty, said, in answer to long tirades of abuse, that had been cast on the Government, and which had been kept up systematically for the last six months, not only in the public prints and at public dinners, but in that House, that it was most improper to make such attacks on the Government of Lord Melbourne, and charge them with making improper reductions in the naval force of the country, for the lowest estimate that bad been presented to the House of Commons for a series of years, was prepared by the Government of the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Gentleman said, that he had given no encouragement to the attacks that had been made on the Government on this point. He fully admitted this, and would prove that many things were done by Gentlemen opposite to which the right hon. Baronet was no party, and which he would not in any way countenance. He was a member of the Board of Admiralty, when his right hon. Friend opposite (Sir J. Graham) was at the head of that department; he not only 264 entertained a sense of grateful feeling for the conduct his right hon. Friend had pursued towards him at that time, but he was satisfied, that no one could be more zealous for the welfare of the service than the right hon. Baronet. At the same time he could not forget, that his right hon. Friend, at a meeting at Glasgow, said, that there had been a great defalcation in the naval administration of the country under the Government of Lord Melbourne, as contrasted with that of Lord Grey. He was greatly surprised at this, for he believed that this was not the case; and it was similar grave charges to this, that were made against the Admiralty, that his hon. Friend said, that he felt himself called upon to refute. But with respect to the point before the House, he had every reason to believe, that it was never the intention of the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Lord Auckland) to have reduced the estimates of 1835 as to the number of men; but, however, that might be, on this question it should be borne in mind, indeed every one knew, that the quantity of men asked for from the House for the service of the current year, was not the number borne on the books at the time, but the average number of men which the Admiralty thought it likely would be wanted throughout the year. Their object in the estimates was, that it should be as nearly as possible the average number of men which would be employed, that should be stated to the House. He could only state, that he was as positive as he could be of anything at that distance of time, that nothing was further from the thoughts of Lord Auckland and the Admiralty at that time than to reduce the number of men to be voted for the navy, and if that Board of Admiralty had been continued in office, the same number of men as was proposed by the Government of the right hon. Baronet would have been proposed to the House, and in saying this, he believed he should be borne out by all those Gentlemen who were then his colleagues in office at the Admiralty Board. Let it be observed, that in saying thus much he did not complain of the course which had been adopted that evening by the right hon. Baronet; but he thought that in justice to Lord Auckland, he could not allow the statement to go forth to the public without offering his contradiction. It had been said, that some of those in connexion with 265 the Government of Lord Melbourne ought to have got up to blame the course to which Lord Auckland had thought it right to adhere; but he must say, that he thought Ministers of the Crown ought to pause before they got up and said, "I do not agree with the Cabinet on this point. I think, that the estimated number of men is not sufficient." This, he thought, was not a statement which should be made by any Minister, still less by any one who had left the office to the conduct of which his remarks applied. But, as it happened, he had said in the debate on the subject, that he should support the estimates of the right hen. Baronet against the hon. Member for Kilkenny; yet though he did give those estimates his support, he should have done so with more pleasure if no reduction had been made. He would not trouble the House longer than to observe, that there was one part of the speech of the right hon. Baronet which he had heard with great pleasure. He believed it was the true policy of this country to reduce the navy estimates in time of peace as low as could possibly be done consistently with the safety of the country, but at the same time to take care, that the docks and arsenals were kept in such a condition as that they might be able on occasion of any emergency of sudden danger to call into action a powerful force in a short time, and that chiefly by taking advantage of the great commercial resources of the country, on which depended its prosperity. This was the wisest and most judicious course which the Admiralty could pursue.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, if he had recollected that the hon. Gentleman had objected to a reduction of the estimates on the occasion in question, he would have been the first to admit it, but he did not recollect anything of the sort. The report of the hon. Gentleman's speech, too, bore out his recollection of the debate.
§ Captain A'Court
said, there had lately been published a pamphlet, as he understood, by the Secretary of the Admiralty, of which he could not omit the opportunity of declaring his opinion, that it was full of mistakes, and, moreover, that it was written in such a vapouring style, that altogether its publication was a step which, in a Secretary of the Admiralty, could not but be looked upon as most irregular and unusual. He should also take that opportunity of returning his best thanks to Captain Craufurd and the "Flag 266 Officer" for calling the attention of the country so ably to the state of our navy; and, with respect to the latter, he would take upon him to say, that a more intelligent, a more gallant, or a more active officer did not exist in her Majesty's navy. He should not attempt to follow his hon. Friend, the Secretary of the Admiralty, through his long statement of figures, as he considered them to form a portion of the subject which was quite of a secondary nature. What he wished to call the attention of the House and of the country to was, the utterly defenceless state of the ports and harbours, of the truth of which any Gentleman might be satisfied who would take the trouble to go down and inspect them for himself. The few ships which we had afloat, he lamented to say, were not fully manned—a charge which was more particularly applicable as regarded the one line-of-battle ship we had on the Cape station, which was miserably under-manned, so much so, that in case of a war suddenly breaking out, the first intelligence of the event that would reach it would probably be conveyed by the vessel which effected its capture. He thought this was totally indefensible in the present state of European politics. Then, again, they had but a single half-manned line-of-battle ship in the three ports of the kingdom; and if hostilities were to arise on a sudden, the enemy's cruisers would be able to sweep the Channel, sail up the river, and, perhaps, even arouse the Lords of the Admiralty from their dream of security. The three naval ports of the kingdom ought never to be left without at least three line-of-battle ships to guard them, and three ships ought to be kept as much as possible cruising in the Channel, in order to keep the crews in proper exercise. If this method had been resorted to before it was too late, the late disgraceful affair off the coast of Mexico might have been prevented. But the Admiralty said, it was not yet too late to adopt some such system. Good God! not too late, when the British flag had been insulted with impunity? If the home navy was to remain in its present inefficient state, he most fervently hoped, that when the day of action came, no blame would be attributed to the officers and men of the navy in case their personal exertions should prove ineffectual to counterbalance the defects of the system. With respect to the navy of 267 Russia, he found, that great credit and weight was attached to an assertion which had been made on the part of the Government, that the Russian Baltic fleet was a mere parchment fleet. He could by no means assent to this. It was not wise, he thought, thus to underrate the resources of foreign Powers. He knew, that the Russian fleet was very powerful. Then there was the French fleet, another very powerful fleet, and one which was constantly equipped. He was persuaded it was unwise to depreciate the power of foreign countries; he especially feared the moral effect of such a course on the minds of the seamen. Another topic on which he had strong objections to urge against the present system was, the size of the ships. Sir John Barrow asked, why should we not do as well, in case of war, with seventy-fours and sixty-fours as those large monsters of ships. But if other nations built these large ships, how we were to get on with sixty-fours he could not find anybody to explain, and he confessed, that of himself he was unable to understand it. Moreover, he must say, that when he found we could afford to spend large sums annually upon forces engaged on the coast of Spain, without any returns of honour, glory, or profit to the country, he could not understand the naval system we were pursuing. For his part he said, and he had always said, the British navy against the world; and he most fervently hoped, that in the day of action it might not be found to be over-matched.
§ Mr. Somerset Maxwell
bore testimony to the high and noble character of the "Flag Officer," who had been his friend, he said, for a series of years, and whom he knew to be possessed not only of the highest accomplishments, but of the most perfect integrity. The "Flag Officer" had been most unfairly aspersed by the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite in the previous debate.
§ Admiral Adam
said, all he could say was, that in what he had said, he had referred to the speech of his hon. Friend, the Secretary of the Admiralty, who had declared, that he had convicted the "Flag Officer" of wilful misrepresentation. That was his only expression on the subject. It was made out to his satisfaction. If the "Flag Officer" had quoted Sir John Barrow's book correctly, it would not have been possible for him to have framed the 268 misrepresentation which he had put forth. Whether he knew who "The Flag Officer" was, or not, he would say, that he who wrote that pamphlet made gross misrepresentations.
§ Mr. S. Maxwell
I have means of knowing the contrary. The gallant Admiral must know very well who "the Flag Officer" is. I have no occasion to mention his name; it is known to the whole country.
§ Mr. C. Wood
felt himself called upon to make some observations after what had been said by the right hon. Member for Tamworth. He was sorry that any expressions which had fallen from him (Mr. Wood) should have given rise to the feeling on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite, that he had made a party attack upon them. He had no intention of doing so, and the very circumstance stated by the right hon. Baronet—namely, that he had not done so in 1836, was in itself a pretty good proof that he could have had no such intention. The attacks were made upon the present Board of Admiralty, and he had felt himself throughout to be the assailed, and not the assailant party. He thought sufficient allowance had not been made for the position in which the Admiralty had been placed. Incessant attacks had been made upon them. He was aware that the representations which had been made of the inefficient state of the navy bad produced a considerable effect on the public mind; he did not conceal from himself that an impression most unfavourable to the Government had thus been created, and it was of the utmost importance to the character of the Government to put a stop to such unfounded representations. What were the statements? That the navy was in a bad state; that it had been brought to this state by reductions; and that the reductions had been made by the present Government. He denied that the navy was in a bad state; and of course, therefore, he denied that it had been brought to such a state by reductions. He did not expect, however, that the mere statement of the real facts would put a stop to representations made, as he believed, mainly for party purposes; and he had, therefore, thought it necessary to show, that if those persons still persisted in their complaints, that the navy had been reduced to a state of inefficiency, the blame must be attributed to hon. Gentlemen opposite who 269 had reduced, and not to the present Government who had increased, the navy. In defence of the reductions made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, it had been stated from the other side of the House, that it had been the intention of Lord Auckland's board to reduce the number of men, but this was an entire mistake. He (Mr. Wood) had communicated on this point with all the members of that board now in England; that was to say, with all the members of the board, except Lord Auckland himself; and the answer he had received in each instance was, that no reduction of men was ever contemplated by that board for one moment. The inference which the right hon. Baronet opposite had drawn from the number of men borne on the 31st December, 1834, was no sort of criterion of their real number for the service of the year. The numbers borne on the 31st of December were, generally speaking, smaller than at any other period. For instance on the 31st of December, 1838, the numbers were about 1,800 short; on the 1st of March, 1839, they were only 300 short; and if, on the 1st of June, they were 1,800 above the number voted, the Admiralty would still have adhered strictly to the vote of men, which only meant, as everybody conversant with the subject knew, the average number throughout the year. The noble Lord (Ashley) had stated, that Lord de Grey's board found the estimates nearly prepared, and that they had only adopted the estimates of their predecessors. This could not be so as to stores. The foundation of the store estimate was the account of the articles actually in store in the dock-yards on the 31st of December in each year. This account could not be laid before the Admiralty before the latter end of January, and could not, therefore, in 1835, have been submitted to Lord Auckland's board, who went out in December. In fact, the report of the store-keeper general of that year, which was the foundation of the estimates for 1835–6, was dated February 5th, 1835. He would add a few words upon the right hon. Gentleman's observations with respect to the distribution of our naval force. The right hon. Gentleman asked, what had been done for the protection of our trade with the increased force? The answer was, that an increase had been made on all the stations where ships were accustomed to be stationed for the protection of our commerce, If the right 270 hon. gentleman had more closely referred to the returns which he himself had quoted, he would have found that, taking the four principal stations where ships are generally stationed for this purpose, namely, the East Indies, the Cape of Good Hope, South America, and North America and the West Indies, there had been an increase on all these stations, to such an extent that, whereas in December, 1835, the aggregate amount of force was sixty-six ships in December, 1838, the amount was eighty-nine ships. If the right hon. Gentleman took the station where he seemed to think there was the greatest need of protection for our ships, North America and the West Indies, he would find, that while in 1835, there were only twenty-six ships on this station, in 1838 there were forty. Looking at the stations in which our commerce more especially required protection, it would be found that the precautions taken had corresponded with the general increase which had been made. He would refer more particularly to the protection of our trade in Mexico. On the 26th of March, 1838, a sloop of war anchored at Sacrificios, and from that time to December, there had been a sloop of war employed in the Gulf of Mexico, being only occasionally absent from it, as, for instance, when it went to communicate with the Commodore at Jamaica. Orders were given early in the year to our commodore on the West India station to look to the protection of British interests on the coast of Mexico, and a considerable disposable force had been placed at his orders throughout the summer in the West Indies, and he was directed to employ it in case adequate representations were made to him from Mexico. If he had not thought it necessary to send a force there, it must have been simply because no such representations were made to him. When the right hon. Baronet said, that it had been necessary to withdraw the force from North America to form that which went to Mexico with Commodore Douglas, the right hon. Gentleman was very much mistaken. The force which went there consisted of ten ships. Of these, four went from England—the Edinburgh, the Pique, the Modeste, and the Rover; two were in the West Indies already, the Madagascar and the Snake; three were disposable between Bermuda and the West Indies—the Vestal, the Ringdove, and the Racehorse. The only 271 vessel which, in any sense, could be said to have gone from North America was the Admiral's ship, the Cornwallis, which left the St. Lawrence early in August, before the Admiral had received orders to go to Mexico, and for reasons altogether unconnected with that expedition. It was perfectly true, that the squadron arrived in the Gulf of Mexico later than was expected, but this was in consequence of adverse winds and other circumstances over which the Admiralty had no control; and after all, it arrived there in sufficient time for the purpose for which it was intended. The object of sending it was not to prevent the attack on St. Juan d'Ulloa, but to support the representation of Mr. Pakenham, who went out from this country in one of the vessels composing the squadron. With reference to the remaining point to which the right hon. Baronet had alluded, the pilot taken from the Express, he (Mr. Wood) quite approved of the mode in which the right hon. Baronet had referred to it. He could assure the right hon. Gentleman, that the tone and temper in which he had spoken on the subject were concurred in by every member of the Government. He quite agreed, that ultimately all the material parts of the transaction ought to be brought before the House. In the present state of the negotiations, as he might call them, on the subject, it would, however, be premature and unadvisable to call for the papers connected with it. It was doubtless an affair of much moment—more so as to what took place between the French Admiral and our Commodore, even, than as to what occurred between Lieutenant Croke and the commander of the corvette, and still more as a question between the two Governments. It appeared, by a subsequent communication from Lieutenant Croke, that he had protested in the most decided manner against the line of conduct adopted towards him as to the pilot; that he had made every opposition, which under the circumstances it was necessary for him to do, short of actual resistance. It would be satisfactory to the committee to learn that the pilot had been seen safe in Vera Cruz a day or two after he was removed from the Express. A communication with the French government had been entered into on the subject, and the reply of the French, government was a very reasonable one, that until they had received a report from Admiral Baudin, 272 and full information on the case, they could not give a specific answer; but that they should be ready to make any reparation which, under a full knowledge of the circumstances, they might be fairly called upon to make. With regard to building ships, he agreed in the main, with the views expressed by the right hon. Member for Pembroke. About three line-of-battle-ships ought to be completed every year. He did not agree that they ought to be launched, but that they ought to be brought to a state of great forwardness on the slips. This system, which had been recommended by Lord Auckland, had been pursued with much success by the French. The ships lasted a much longer time than when they were in the water; of course more slips and roofs were required, and there was a provision in the estimates for this purpose. When, however, the right hon. Baronet complained that the present Board of Admiralty had not done as much as they ought to have done in building large ships, he must remind him that, for two years, they had been working with the diminished numbers and diminished amount of work, established for the dockyards by the right hon. Baronet himself. They had not had the means of making more progress. In 1837, however, they had made a large addition to the work of the yards. This increase was now beginning to take effect, and three ships of the line would be launched in 1839. He was sorry that they were to be put into the water, but the slips on which they stood were unsafe. It had been intended to propose a larger increase in the amount of labour for this year, but a variety of circumstances had prevented them from doing so. They had, since 1835, increased the wages from 300,000l. to 400,000l., and would not shrink from proposing more next year, if necessary. The right hon. Member for Pembroke had seemed the other evening to doubt the accuracy of his (Mr. Wood's) statement as to the state of the American navy; but he had derived his information from very good authority, namely, the Report of the Secretary of the American navy. He spoke also of the great rapidity with which the Americans built their ships. Now, what was the fact? In 1822, the Americans had building, one ship of the line, just ready for launching; two half built, and two with their frames collected. In the present year (seventeen years after the period 273 just mentioned) what was the progress of these vessels?—That one was launched, the three on the stocks were there still, and one frame remained collected. This was what they had actually done; what they could do on an emergency could equally be done in this country. The right hon. Member for Pembroke had referred to the state of the stores now, as compared with their state at the periods when Lord Melville and he respectively quitted office, in 1830 and 1834. The state of the stores was much the same now as at those periods. He would mention a few of the main articles. The store of timber was rather lower now than at either of these periods—the store of thick-stuff, about which there had frequently been a difficulty, was considerably higher than at either period. So also was the store of plank—that of hemp was higher than in 1830, though not quite so high as in 1834. The store of cables and cordage was not so high as in 1830, but higher than in 1834. As to canvass, there had been some delay in the deliveries; but taking the quantity in store on December 31st, and that due from contractors, the store was not quite so high as in 1830, but a good deal higher than in 1834. Taking the whole stores one with another, they were much the same now as at those periods; and a large increase was provided for in the estimates of this year.
§ Lord Ashley
was understood to say, that the Government with which he had been connected had left the amount of stores rather greater than they had found them, and that, when leaving office, they had left the navy estimates about three-fourths prepared.
after what he had heard, could not believe that in some of the statements put forth by hon. members on the opposite side, they had been actuated so much by considerations for the honour of our great national bulwark, the navy, as by party feelings. Those who had heard the debate, and who were aware of what had been said and written out of doors on the subject, must be convinced that this great national question had been brought forward for party purposes. Had it not been so the Committee would never have heard of such preposterous objections as had been made—objections which had been demolished at one fell swoop by his hon. Friend, the Member for Halifax. But of all the humbugs which had been created in the 274 discussions of this question, none had been greater than that of the alarm sought to be raised by the assumed probable invasion of this country by Russia. He did not include amongst those who joined in that remark the hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. T. Attwood), whose honesty none could suspect; but he owned, that he was startled by the monstrous propositions put forth by the right hon. Baronet (Sir G. Clerk), whom he did not then see in his place. [Some hon. Members said, "He is here."] He was glad to see it. He had great respect for the right hon. Baronet. He was the Lord of the Admiralty who had signed his (Captain Pechell's) commission. That right hon. Baronet had talked of the great Russian fleet in the Baltic, and of swarms of Russian privateers in the channel. Was he prepared, then, to have twenty-seven sail of the line at the mouth of the Thames in contemplation of this talked-of Russian invasion. Or would he have that force kept up for manœuvring or for the instruction of young officers? Much stress had been laid upon the statement of Sir George Cockburn, that he had made twelve sail of the line ready for service in three days. Now, what had been the fact? It was true that six ships had been fitted out in a short time to take the troops sent out under Sir Henry Clinton to the Tagus; but they were armé en flute, and not fit for general service. As to our "demonstration" ships, as they had been termed, he had been bored with hon. Members coming to him to explain what they meant. He should wish that they were called conservation ships, or any other name rather than the mysterious one of "demonstration" ships. The right hon. Baronet had talked of the delay in the equipment of the Powerful, the Ganges, and the Implacable, but he should recollect that they were fitted out for four years' foreign service, and must be fitted up with all the necessary provisions and stores for that period. They were altogether differently fitted out from the ships provided to take the troops out to the Tagus. Hon. Members talked of not having ships ready when required, but what had been the answer made to applications made in 1834, for some vessels to protect our fisheries on the coast of Sussex against French ships? The answer was, that we had not a ship to spare. This was a very different case from send- 275 ing ships out to Mexico; and, by the way, let him add that there had not been any application for or any demand of ships by our merchants to protect their interests in that part of the world. No application of the kind had been made to the Admiralty, or to the Secretary for Foreign Affairs. As to the improvement said to have been made in naval gunnery under the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham), he did not mean to deny the fact, but the right hon. Baronet might have found the plan of that improvement in the drawer of Lord Melville who had preceded him in that office. The credit of that invention had been given to Captain Smith, though it did not belong to him. To that gentleman was owing the invention of the naval target, but not the general improvement of naval gunnery. He approved of the system of taking men from the ordinary of the navy instead of from the coast guard as heretofore, and contended, that it was unwise and impolitic to keep up a large amount of naval stores. In another place, a noble Peer had been complaining of the inefficient state of our navy. That noble Lord must now put his ship about and go upon another tack. He had been peering and prying into our dock-yards and stores (it was a wonder he did not fall into the mast-pond), and had been complaining of every thing he found there, but his opinions on such matters would weigh very little against those of such men as Admirals Bouverie and Warren. With respect to the naval administration of the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham), he must say, that the right hon. Baronet deserved great credit from the country, if it were only for having removed that incubus to improvement, the Navy Board. He had, moreover, placed at the head of the dock-yards a person who proved to be a most efficient officer. In reverting to the subject of our naval force with reference to what had been stated by the hon. Member opposite (Mr. Maxwell), as to our shores being unprotected and defenceless, he would ask whether it were possible for any officer to he really honest in having such fears? In the letter of the Flag Officer, so often referred to, it was said, that the Russians could come down on our shores whenever they pleased, pillage, and burn London, and carry off the inhabitants to the mines of Siberia; but he could hardly believe, that any 276 officer could hold such absurd opinions. He thought, the statements of that letter were overdone, and although some parts of it might be of service to the navy, that it was, on the whole, unworthy of the cause. He must, however, say, that as to the manning of the vessels, unless something satisfactory were done, he should move certain resolutions on that subject; at the same time he did not blame the present Administration more than any former Administration, as to the present state of the navy. With respect also, to the pensions of the men, he thought, it was absolutely necessary that they should be retained by those who returned to the service, so that they might have the power of alloting it to their wives and families on going abroad. There was only one other subject on which he wished to make a few observations, and that was the Express packet. The hon. Member, the Secretary for the Admiralty, had met this question in a manner which he hoped the hon. Member would regret; for he thought, that when such imputations were cast on the service, as in this case, the House ought to know what was the explanation which the lieutenant who commanded the express packet had sent to the Board of Admiralty, as to the manner in which he had proceeded in yielding up at once the pilot to the Creole corvette, or resisting the application. That ought to be known for the sake of clearing up the imputations which had been cast on an officer who had always been considered a gallant officer, and whom he had known when acting on the same service on the coast of America, under most trying circumstances. There ought to be no objection to the log of that vessel being produced. It had been said that proceedings had been taken by the Government on the subject, and that a satisfactory communication from the French Government was daily expected; but as to the proceedings which had been taken by Lieutenant Croke, he thought no delay ought to take place in the House being acquainted with them.
was not going to speak of the accusations against either Whig or Tory Governments, of which the House had already heard so much; but still he must say, that in all former votes for the navy to preceding Governments they had been compelled, by the opposition side of the House, to reduce their estimates to the 277 lowest possible scale. The present Administration had, however, received n such opposition; from his side they had met with every support, and even the hon. Member for Kilkenny, who sometimes favoured the House with such lengthened economical speeches, had not pressed for divisions against them. There was, therefore, some difference between the two parties as to the circumstances under which their estimates were brought forward. The observations made by the hon. Gentleman opposite on the former discussion of this subject, with respect to the estimates of 1835, were, in his opinion, most unfair and un can did; but with some degree of disappointment did he (Captain Gordon) observe that no augmentation was proposed on the present occasion. Year after year had he supported the estimates of the Government of the day, but always regretting the low scale on which they were brought forward. At the same time, he was aware that it must be on the responsibility of the executive government to fix the establishment of the year: the Government knew our relations with foreign countries, and the state of foreign navies, and on that information the amount of men necessary to be voted I must depend. It was, therefore, not fair to throw blame on the naval administration on any such occasion for which they were not responsible. But there were other points in which they were to be held responsible, and one was the the distribution of the men so voted by Parliament. For a long series of years it had been the policy of the Government, and he thought it a wise policy, to keep in our ports, or the neighbourhood of the Thames, a certain number of ships ready for any services that were required in cases of emergency. He was not one of those who entertained apprehensions of any immediate aggressions from the Baltic; for although he did not mean to say that Russia could place any confidence in this country, or have any other feeling than that of distrust at the policy which we had adopted towards her, still it was the interest, the policy, and he thought the anxious wish of Russia, to be friendly with us; and, consequently, there were no well-grounded apprehensions of danger from that quarter. But still it was desirable to have a certain number of ships always ready for any sudden service. In the year 1826, which had been before alluded to, when it was deemed necessary 278 to send a fleet to Lisbon, it was the boast of Mr. Canning that the whole force was ready in a week; but he (Captain Gordon) doubted very much whether at this moment one single ship could be got ready for service in the same time. The gallant Admiral opposite (Admiral Adam), and the hon. Secretary for the Admiralty, said, the other night, that they had disposable ships, as they had called them, in the Mediterranean, off Lisbon, and also off the north coast of Spain; but He did not know how they could call the latter disposable, for since it was considered necessary to keep a line-of-battle ship and a flag officer at Lisbon, those vessels must be there for some purpose, as he supposed, and therefore could not be removed. The gallant Admiral had also said, that, by steam navigation, we could, at a short notice, send for those ships that were stationed in the Mediterranean; but then it must depend on wind and weather as to their returning to this country, and we could not calculate on their services under a month. The gallant Admiral had said, that the troops recently sent out to Canada had been sent with the greatest possible expedition; but then he must recollect the time of year at a which it took place. Parliament was called in November, and at that time the river St. Lawrence was already closed up, and therefore there were three months to collect ships from every part in the world. It had so happened, however, that an experimental squadron had been ordered to put to sea in the year 1836, under the command of Sir C. Paget, and he would just mention the vessels of which it was composed. It consisted of five sail of the line:—the Her Cules, the Minden, the Vanguard, the Bellerophon, and the Pembroke. By Captain Berkeley's letter, however, it appeared that in the Hercules there were only seven men on board who were fit to take the lead, and only double that number who could take the helm; and it was not more than three days before she was found unable to proceed, and was obliged to return to Plymouth. Another of the squadron, the Minden, was found to be in so sickly a condition that in six weeks it was necessary for her to get back to Plymouth. Two others, the Vanguard and Bellerophon, on working out of Plymouth sound, were both obliged to put back on the same day, the one having carried away her main yard, and the other having sprung 279 her fore-mast; and in Plymouth harbour they were detained some time. The Pembroke was the only vessel of the squadron fit for sea. So much for fitting out the fleet. The gallant Admiral had also referred to the squadron recently appearing in the gulf of Mexico; but it had been called there from a distance, and he regretted that it had not been sent earlier; for, as had been said, it was one month too late, not having arrived until a month after the capture of Vera Cruz. He would not, however, say any more on that subject, or as to the insult which had been offered to the British flag, except, that if there had been a proper naval force on the Mexican coast, he seriously thought such insult would not have been offered. He was desirous of knowing whether the ships of the squadron now on that coast were still manned with the reduced complements, which were called the peace establishment, for they were in a position liable to be called on at a moment's notice, to vindicate the honour of their flag and to put to sea, and therefore ought to be in a fit state for duty of that kind. As to manning the ships, that was a subject of great importance. Two different pamphlets on the question had appeared from members of the Admiralty, which differed materially in their contents. Of them he would say nothing more, than that it was to be regretted that such controversies had not been kept and confined within the walls of the Admiralty. But, on some parts of this question, difference of opinion might fairly exist—he meant as to ships on the home station—ships strictly confined to home service; and on this he saw no objection to their complement being reduced so long as they were in that state, provided it were done for the purpose of keeping at sea a larger number of vessels. But his opinion was, that no ships, either during the time of peace, or in war, should leave this station without being complete in the number of her men and her other equipments; for they might meet ships of war of other nations, and it would not be fair that they should labour under any disadvantage in that respect. The House had been told that our ships of war would have a new armament; but, not knowing the particulars of this part of the subject, he could not speak of it, though he trusted it would be of advantage. He hoped there would be also an increase to the existing peace establishment. He had just said, that he 280 had no objection to a reduction of the complement of the vessels on the home station, provided it was for the purpose of keeping a greater number of ships at sea; but when they found that there were 2,000 men of the number voted who were never employed at all, as they had heard from the hon. Gentleman opposite, it was to him altogether inexplicable to hear that it was possible that they should have vessels at sea that are so much under-manned. He could not comprehend it, and to him it appeared that the Government were in this respect extremely culpable. With respect to manning the ships in time of peace, which was a very important subject, the difficulty had increased every year since the war. One cause to which he attributed it was, the change in the coasting trade. Most of the coasting trade was now carried on by steam-vessels. ["No."] He could answer for the correctness of the remark, with reference to the ports of Scotland, except the coal trade. There was no doubt that the men in steam vessels should not be taken into calculation, for they were a class of men not fit to be employed in a man-of-war. There were other causes—the withholding of pensions from men serving on board ship was one—which drove men out of the navy, for they would go where they could get wages and pensions at the same time. We should give a pension at the end of fourteen years. The withholding of that pension was a great discouragement to the navy. Many men, he knew, would enter, if they had the prospect of a pension at the end of fourteen years. The coastguard had been alluded to, but he was not aware of the state of- that service. If it were calculated to furnish men for ships of war, it would be desirable to extend the system further, so as to obtain a sufficient number of men to man ships when called for unexpectedly. On the subject of building, he hoped the Admiralty would adopt the recommendation of the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Pembroke (Sir J. Graham), that a certain number of vessels be laid down and launched periodically. With respect to steam-vessels, we were extremely deficient in comparison to other countries. As to converting merchant steam-vessels into men-of-war, it was out of the question; scarcely one in a hundred would answer, and that only at a great expense of money and time. Probably some of our small frigates might be 281 converted into steam-vessels; they were becoming useless, as other countries were building frigates of a larger size. Small 74's could be converted into powerful frigates, and it would be desirable to build larger two-decked ships, so as to compete with other countries. The hon. and gallant Admiral (Adam) and the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Wood) had commented on the pamphlets which had appeared on this subject, and had called them Tory and political pamphlets. He was not aware that any one had been written by persons who held Tory opinions. He had always abstained from opening his mouth on this subject, because he knew that he should be accused of factious and party opposition, though he could venture to say, for that side of the House (the Opposition), that there never had been any factious opposition on the subject. With respect to the pamphlet of the "Flag Officer," it had been handled by the gallant Admiral and the hon. Gentleman with unnecessary severity, and some of the expressions seemed to him to be unwarranted. It was true, that the author of this publication had been in error in his first pamphlet with respect to the number of French ships; but in his second publication, in a note, he had explained the reason of his former error, so that it was hardly fair in the gallant Admiral to characterize the work in the terms he did. He believed every statement in his second publication was substantially correct, and even the pamphlet of the Secretary to the Admiralty corroborated most of his statements. But it should not be forgotten, that there had also been pamphlets published to which the names of the authors were attached. First, there was the pamphlet of Captain Napier, a distinguished officer, whose opinions were well known, and it could not be doubted for a moment, that they were anything but Tory. That gallant officer had often been opposed to a Tory candidate. Next came the pamphlet of Capt. Marryat, and his politics were also known, he also having opposed a Conservative candidate. He, therefore could not be a Conservative. Then came Captain Berkeley, who had been a member of the present Board of Admiralty. There was also Captain Crauford, a young though deserving officer, and who had taken no part in politics, but the whole of whose connections supported the present Administration. The only other of which 282 he had heard was the statement of Sir John Barrow, holding a responsible situation in the Admiralty. How, then, could it be said for a moment, that this sort of opposition was a Conservative or a factious opposition? The hon. Secretary for the Admiralty had stated, that the vote of the present year was greater than that which had been proposed in a former year on a peace establishment. Now, this might be true; but let the House consider the state of the world at the present moment. Let them look around them on all sides, and they could not fail to see the great necessity that existed for keeping up a large force, both naval and military. Let them look at Mexico—let them look at our relations in the East, and they would see, that the present vote was even too small for the urgency of the occasion. This policy, adopted by the hon. Gentlemen opposite, might suit their own purposes; but in order to keep up such a system of policy, they would speedily find, that they must have the command of a great force; and he could not sit down without expressing his regret, that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty had not come down and asked Parliament for a larger vote, and if he had done so, he for one would have given him his support.
observed, that when these debates commenced, an attack had been made from Members on the opposite side of the House, upon the side at which he sat. It was stated, that the navy had been reduced by the present Ministry. But now it was said, that this was no party question. He had heard with pleasure a speech from the right hon. Baronet the Member for Pembroke, a speech which was totally devoid of party feeling: he was happy to hear it, for he found by it, that "a change had come over the spirit" of the right hon. Baronet. When listening to that speech, however, he could not help remembering a speech which had been delivered by the right hon. Baronet at Glasgow, and which, if truly reported, was diametrically the opposite of that which had been delivered in this House. Comparing the one with the other, they had occasioned him a great deal of surprise, whatever might be their effect upon those who were more experienced in politics than himself. He should take the liberty of reading the speech to the House. He should read a very small portion of it. 283 The hon. Member then proceeded to read the extract, as follows:—You have been pleased to refer to my official services. It was my good fortune to be enabled largely to reduce the civil expenditure of the navy; but it was my constant, paramount, and anxious endeavour to increase its warlike efficiency—it is in vain that we negociate commercial treaties—it is in vain that we stipulate for the free navigation of the Danube—that on paper we re-open the Black Sea to British commerce—it is in vain that we remonstrate against French blockades in South America, or seek to overawe Russia by military demonstrations in the East, if the British navy be not ready at all times, and in all places, to sustain our greatness, to assert our rights, and to vindicate our maritime supremacy, then, indeed, our glory is departed—our foremost place among the nations of the earth is surrendered without a struggle. I never hesitated to apply to Parliament for large grants for the increase of warlike stores; I added to the vote of seamen and marines; I took effectual measures for the increase of our maritime population by enforcing the law of apprenticeship on board our merchant ships; I asked for money for the preparation of steamers of war; at a large expense I established an uniform system of naval gunnery; and in justice to the House of Commons, I must observe, that I never knew a grant for the naval service refused, which a respectable Minister declared to be necessary. If the fear of an increase of the naval estimates, or of the necessity of imposing new taxes, has misled the Administration into a niggardly supply of the real wants of the navy, they are, indeed, inexcusable, and they have grossly miscalculated the interests and the wishes of this maritime community. Mr. Hume is the great bugbear on those occasions. He himself once reminded us the Roman Capitol was saved by the cackling of a goose: what a melancholy reflection it would be, if in our times the converse was realized, and it were no less true, that the greatest and richest nation in the world was ruined, if not by the cackling of a goose, by the parsimony of empirics. I have seen some attempts to shift on me the responsibility of the present condition of our fleet. This is not the time or place for my justification. But remember nearly five years have elapsed since my measures were entrusted to other hands. Some of them may have been marred by ignorance of my ulterior intentions; others may have been neglected, rescinded, or counteracted by design; but, in justice, do not let me be considered responsible for the present state of the British navy, be it what it may. Believe me in this, as in many other respects, the Administration of Lord Melbourne is not the Administration of Earl Grey.That speech had been addressed to a large meeting, and he appealed to the House whether it was not a direct attack 284 upon the Admiralty. If it could he read in any other sense, then he was blind to that sense. But now it was said, why indulge in party spirit? That was the view now taken by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and he was very glad of it, because it marked the victory which had been won by the Secretary of the Admiralty. It showed that victory could not possibly be greater, and he wished, while the Secretary for the Admiralty was delivering his speech, that the whole country could have looked down with one eye on the benches opposite, and could have seen the chop fallen countenances of the patriots who sat there. If he rightly understood the hon. Gentleman opposite (Captain Gordon), he declared that those opposite supported the present Government on the estimate, while the Government, supported by that hon. Gentleman, was compelled, by the opposition of Members on the present Government side of the House, to reduce their estimates. Now, he appealed to that hon. Gentleman, what sort of Government must that be which could be driven by an opposition to do that which they believed was not for the good of the country. Some statements had been made to the House which he felt it would be to the advantage of the country to have contradicted at once. The gallant Admiral near him (Sir Edward Codrington), in his laudable desire to see the seamen's condition bettered, had put forward strong statements to show that men-of-war seamen were an oppressed set of persons, and much worse off than merchant seamen. That question, he thought, ought to be set right. Now, the pay of a merchant seaman must ever be better than that of a man-of-war's man, because whatever the naval service gave in the way of wages, the merchant service would give more. Sailors in merchant ships going long voyages, received 24l. a-year, while in men-of-war they got but 22l. a-year; but then the latter had pensions for wounds, pensions for long service, promotions, and other advantages. They were much better attended to with regard to their health and diet. The course of promotion on board the different classes of vessels in the service, was a strong inducement to men to enter the naval rather than the merchant service, in which promotions could not be looked for. Again, it had been alleged that the extraordinary labour to which seamen in Government 285 ships were subjected in consequence of their being short of hands, operated to deter men from going on board ships of war; but for his own part, he thought this statement was the result of mistake. Was it for a single moment to be supposed that 160 men could not manage "a jackass" frigate, when it was well known that merchant ships of equal magnitude seldom went to sea with more than thirty-five men. It was, no doubt, true that there was a material difference between the two services, but the instance which he had mentioned would, he thought, show the fallacy of the assertion that seamen were anxious to escape from ships of war for merchant vessels on account of the labour. The system of promotions now established was unknown in former times; and while advantages of this kind were held out to men, he felt no fear that any number the service might require would be readily obtained. With respect to punishments, too, a most salutary change had taken place. Formerly men were allowed to be punished while the captain was in a passion, but now no punishment was inflicted without proper inquiry, and until after the lapse of a certain time from the commission of the offence. In this way seamen were protected against injustice, and an end was put to anything like tyranny on the part of officers. It had been said in the course of the discussion, that the men now on board of her Majesty's ships were a very different class of persons from the seamen of former days. This, however, was a fact which he must beg leave to deny, and in proof of his assertion, he would Lead a statement descriptive of the crew of the Caledonia in 1811, when the ships of the navy were said to be in the highest state of perfection. It appeared that they consisted of English, Irish, Scotch, and natives of almost every country in Europe, together with a native of China. It consisted of 957 men. Of that number were returned 288 seamen, two rope-makers, two sail-makers, two weavers, one soap-boiler, one tallow-chandler, one button-maker, one painter, two calico-printers, one printer, two lawyers. [An Hon. Member: Sawyers, you mean.] Yes, sawyers it is. Four wool-combers, one pump-borer, five farmers, and finally, thirteen he did not know what. Such was the crew of the Caledonia in 1811, when the navy was said to be in its prime and palmy state, 286 and what, he begged to ask, would be said if such a list was now produced of a ship's crew sent out, for instance, to the Gulf of Mexico by the present Board of Admiralty. It was not his object to trouble the House with any further observations. His intention in rising was merely to show that the navy was not in that unfavourable condition as had been stated by hon. Members on the opposite side of the House.
§ Sir J. Graham
said, it was not his intention, particularly after having drawn so largely on the indulgence of the House on a former evening, now to trespass long upon its attention; but the speech which had been made by the hon. Member who had just sat down, rendered it impossible for him not to address the Committee. The hon. Member had thought fit to comment upon his having abstained from giving a party character to the important subject. It was true he had done so; he had avoided it, feeling that the matter was much too important to be so dealt with, and it had been reserved to the hon. Member to make the present a ridiculous discussion. The hon. Member had talked of tailors, lawyers, and others, forming a ship's company, in a manner, and with a rapidity, which appeared natural to the mode in which he wished to treat the subject before the Committee. He would rather have been guilty of even imparting a party character to the question, than to have been supposed capable of treating it in the manner the hon. Member had chosen to himself. The hon. Member had referred to a speech made by him at Glasgow, and had read a report, which, in the main, was a correct report of that which he had said. On the face of that speech, it was apparent, that he was answering attacks which had previously been made upon him for some time before he delivered that speech, in the newspapers immediately connected with the Government, and generally supposed to be under their control, and in answer to attacks previously made in newspapers opposed to her Majesty's Ministers, it had been distinctly stated, that the state of the navy, whatever might be its deficiencies, was to be attributed to his administration of the affairs of the Admiralty; a discussion which had taken place on the day previous to the delivery of that speech, among the municipal body of Glasgow, as to whether the freedom of that city should be given to him or not, 287 those personal attacks which had been made in the newspapers, were resumed with great acrimony—they were discussed, and terminated in an expression of opinion favourable to his conduct, and highly flattering to his feelings; and, therefore, on the occasion of that speech, he felt not only justified, but he could not avoid touching upon that very topic; and, in touching upon it at all, he begged to ask, if he could possibly have done so with greater caution. He had asserted nothing as to the state of the navy; he had seen various statements which had been made, attacking the prudence and policy of her Majesty's Government with respect to the maintenance of the naval force; but in the country he had no opportunity of testing the accuracy of the reports on which those attacks were founded, and therefore upon the occasion in question, he had stated what the hon. Gentleman had just read, that he was not responsible for the state of the navy then; that five years had elapsed since his responsibility ceased, and the only assertion he had made was, that the Administration of Lord Melbourne was not the Administration of Earl Grey. Was he wrong in the assertion? How many of the Gentlemen who were of the Cabinet of Earl Grey, were now in that of Lord Melbourne. They had been reduced to a small remnant—"Small by degrees, and beautifully less." They had been lessened even since the commencement of the present Session, and, if he were not mistaken, it was not only possible, but probable, that before the end of the Session, the small remnant would be considerably reduced. So much for assertion then. But did he shrink from assertion? If he had abstained from making the matter the subject of party attack, and he was glad he had done so, he was actuated by the feeling, that this was a question of too high importance (though it had been made ridiculous by the hon. Gentleman) to be chosen for the arena for party attack. But while he abstained from anything like a party tone, he had certainly suggested one or two points in which he thought her Majesty's Government had departed from his policy, and upon both of which he thought them wrong. The first point was with respect to the demonstration ships. He admitted, that Sir T. Hardy—an authority to which he would pay every tribute of respect—had approved of the change which had been made by her Majesty's Ministers; 288 yet he must say, he was capable of forming a judgment himself upon the matter, and he thought he should be able to show irresistibly, that though the change might be good as to economy, still, as to promptitude in preparation for sea, it was inferior to the system which he had laid down. His right hon. Friend had alluded to one point which demonstrated the inefficiency of the present system. What said Captain Napier on the point? Captain Napier, whose letters had been referred to, but never dealt with or commented upon by Sir John Barrow in his pamphlet, but on the contrary, letters which had been avoided, and Captain Napier, their author, rewarded (since he wrote them), by receiving the command of a ship—what, he repeated, said Captain Napier, with reference to the demonstration ships. In answer to a speech delivered by Admiral Fleming in Scotland, Captain Napier said, "You, Admiral Fleming, talk of the Russell, the demonstration ships being in that state of forwardness in which Sir James Graham left them. Why, the Russell went to sea in three weeks after she was put in commission—that was in 1835, under a different arrangement; but under the present arrangement he must ask how long had the Ganges been in fitting for sea? Why, three months." It had been said that was not a fair case; he would, therefore, take the Powerful, a ship commanded by Captain Napier himself—an officer of high character, and likely to get his complement of men with promptitude. Why, she had been in commission three months, and had just been able to sail from Sheerness to Ports mouth with 200 men short of her complement. Again, he would take the instance of the Implacable at Plymouth. The Malabar had lately returned from Canada with a full complement, indeed complete in every respect as to officers, marines, and seamen. Her Majesty's Government, anxious to replace the Malabar with as little delay as possible, turned over the ship's company, officers, marines, and men, to the Implacable, then in a forward state of preparation. That had taken place a month ago; the Russell, he had shown, went to sea in three weeks, and yet the Implacable, with a full crew on board, a month ago had not, he believed, yet reached Plymouth Sound. Here the experiment had been tried both with and without a full complement of men, and, therefore, he again repeated 289 the language he had used at Glasgow—that "the Administration of Lord Melbourne was not the Administration of Earl Grey." After what had fallen from him on a former evening, it was with reluctance that he was dragged into the present discussion; but if he might proceed, he would state that on the subject of launching ships, a dangerous and great mistake had been committed by Her Majesty's Government. He stated on the former occasion that during the three years and a half he had presided over the affairs of the Admiralty, that, availing himself of the preparations of his predecessors, be had launched seven sail of the line, three of the largest class of line-of-battle ships and four others, besides leaving three more ready. These were the ships which Her Majesty's Ministers now intended to launch. But was this all? When he entered upon office he found no steam vessels of war. He had five built, and the number of others laid down was nine. Since he left the Admiralty only one other war steam ship had been laid down. The lapse of time, as he had before stated, produced the same consequence with ships as with men. The ships in ordinary required repair, and of these the greater portion were advanced in age. The confirmed considerations of age and repair formed the criterions of the value of ships, and, having left the Admiralty in 1834, ships which then stood in class A would, from the circumstances of age and repair, after a lapse of five years, fall from class A to class C. Not more than one-half of the ships in ordinary, according to the mode of estimating vessels at Lloyd's, were worth two years' purchase. He had pointed out the national importance of the subject, and so far from delaying the matter for a year, he thought the Government ought not to delay it even a single day. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty had said that a reduction had taken place in the men employed in the dock-yards in 1833, but, as he had retired in 1834, he had no opportunity of testing his own measures as to the remission of one day's labour out of the six. The present Government, it was true, had employed more men, but they had not done more work. They had taken upon them much additional work, but then that was in providing steam-packets for foreign stations. They had, in fact, overwhelmed themselves by the 290 work which they had undertaken, and therefore the additional day which they had gained was not any compensation for the destruction occasioned to those works which were indispensable to the naval service. They were behind with the proper work, and the consequence was, that not only few ships of the line had been thoroughly repaired, that little had been done to them, but that, in short, the line-of-battle ships were now in an alarming condition. The hon. Gentleman had said, that he (Sir James Graham) had not launched as many ships as the present Government; that they had launched double the number of ships. Now, with respect to the Worcester, it was true that he had directed that she should be launched, but kept under cover on a slip at Deptford, which at the time happened not to be wanted. He did this by way of experiment; and even in an economical point of view, he believed the experiment was highly successful. The moment, however, the Government made up their minds that no ships should be launched, that they should be kept under cover on the slips, they were bound to provide additional slips, for if the slips were all full, how was it possible that building could go on? In the present state of the dockyards he should not counsel or sanction such a proceeding, and hence it was that he again asserted that the Government of Lord Grey was not the Government of Lord Melbourne. There were two or three other points which he wished to notice before he sat down. It was most amusing to hear the hon. Gentleman the Secretary of the Admiralty comparing the squadrons in the Western Seas, on the coast of America, with those which existed at the period when his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth was at the head of the Government. The hon. Gentleman seemed, to forget that at that time no open rebellion had taken place in Canada, the Castle of St. Juan d'Ulloa had not been taken by the French, nor had Vera Cruz been sacked. Then no pretensions had been put forward by the French such as had since marked their conduct with respect to Buenos Ayres, and now extended into the Pacific. It was very well to say now that the Government of his right hon. Friend was wrong in not moving for a larger number of men; but having a distinct recollection of what took place on that occasion, his impression was, that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 291 Taunton expressed no regret at the reduction. He now stated, that he did, but no record confirmatory of the fact was to be found; but of course the House was bound to take the statement of the lion Gentleman as the correct one. He certainly had no remembrance of the kind, but he well recollected, that, sitting on the other side of the House, he did not hesitate to express his regret, and he thought he stood alone in the risk of the unpopularity which opposing the reduction as inexpedient was calculated to produce. No attempt had been as yet made to answer the powerful and conclusive speech of his right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth. The question still remained with regard to the distribution of the force. There were eleven sail of the line in the Mediterranean. That was clearly not a peace establishment, but seemed to evince an apprehension of aggression on the part of some other naval Power. But why leave (on that supposition) our own ports unprovided with adequate means of defence? If they were not afraid of aggression from foreign Powers, why had they eleven sail of the line cruising in the Mediterranean, and why should they at the same time be blind to the dangers which threatened our trade upon the coast of Southern America? As they placed so much reliance on Sir John Barrow's book, why had they not thought it necessary to have a proper force in that direction? He could cite the authority of Lord Chatham, founded on the opinion of Lord Anson, and contained in Sir John's book, that there was a necessity on the part of this country at all times to maintain a powerful squadron on the coast of America. Lord Chatham had said, "that it should be the great objects of the Naval Administration of Great Britain to maintain a powerful western squadron; which in time of peace should be at least respectable, and in war should be formidable; and without which our colonies, our commerce, and our relations generally in that quarter of the globe would be at the mercy of the Bourbons." Lord Chatham added, that "while Lord Anson was at the head of the marine this point had never been neglected." Now, he would ask whether this principle had been at all acted upon by Her Majesty's present Ministers? Had they been at all times prepared with a sufficient squadron for the western seas, or rather had they not allowed the commerce of this country to be placed at 292 the mercy of the House of Bourbon. Acting upon this advice, which was given by Lord Anson to Lord Chatham, he (Sir James Graham) concurred in the necessity of maintaining a strong western squadron. Why had the sending of a proper squadron to the coast of Mexico been disregarded? For this purpose dates were material. In 1838 they had warning of the intention of the French government to send a squadron to the coast of Mexico. This expedition sailed from France in September, and reached the coast of Mexico in November. The fort of Saint Juan d'Ulloa was taken on the 28th of November, and Vera Cruz was sacked on the 4th of December. At this time the British squadron was at Jamaica, and the only vessel left was the Satellite, an eighteen gun brig. The voyage to Jamaica would occupy three weeks, and, conscious of his weakness and the unfair position in which he had been placed, the commander of the Satellite availed himself of the permission which he had to communicate with his admiral, and four days before the arrival of the French squadron left Mexico. Oh! but it was said, that the English Minister was not present. This was true, for the English Minister had not arrived until St. Juan d'Ulloa had been taken and Vera Cruz sacked. Both arrived too late, and on this, his (Sir J. Graham's) case rested. He was really anxious to hear what explanation the Government had to give for having so large a squadron in the Mediterranean, where they apprehended nothing hostile, and leaving Vera Cruz without protection. It was impossible to estimate the value of that part of the world to this country in a commercial point of view. A large amount of British capital had been embarked in the mines in that country, and it was from Vera Cruz that our monetary system, the precious metals, might be said to be drawn. It was to be regretted that British interests had not been properly protected when a French squadron arrived in Mexico; and had the British squadron been present, although they might not have been able to prevent the attack on St. Juan d'Ulloa, they would have prevented Vera Cruz from being attacked. At all events, the pilot never would have been taken out of the Express packet if the British squadron had been on the station. He was told that lieutenant Croke was the officer in command of the Express; but if he had 293 struck the British colours before there was a necessity for his doing so, the satisfactory way would have been to have placed Lieutenant Croke on his trial the instant he arrived in this country. It was not to be assumed from vague statements that his conduct had been satisfactory; but, if blame attached to him, he should have been put upon his trial, in order that the public might have an opportunity of judging of the evidence. If that course had been pursued, there could be little doubt that the opinion of the public would have been a just and fair one. Having trespassed on their attention so long formerly, he had no intention of speaking had he not felt himself called on to do so; but he could not help remarking that, although hon. Gentlemen opposite came down prepared, he had only referred to Sir John Barrow's book, because it afforded evidence that he had boldly attacked officers who were either absent or had not given their names, and that those who, like Captain Napier, had identified themselves with their publications, had been placed in command of ships.
§ Viscount Palmerston
said, that it was not his intention to go into a discussion of all the minute points touched upon by the right hon. Baronet who had just sat down, but, rather, to direct his remarks to the larger questions touched upon by the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, and the right hon. Baronet who had last spoken. He thought that the Secretary of the Admiralty had satisfactorily shown that there had been no neglect of British interests in regard to the French operations on the coast of Mexico, as had been imputed to the ministers by the right hon. Baronet. The right hon. Baronet, as it appeared to him, had confounded the date and course of the different events in which France had been engaged in this transaction. The first event in these transactions was the demand through the French consul of certain concessions on the part of the Mexican government, with an intimation, that unless these demands were entirely, and without delay, complied with, the affairs were then to be placed in the hands of the naval officer in command on the station, who would act according to the instructions he had already received. The complaint against the Government was, that we had not a sufficiently commending force on the station; and certainly it was very true that we had no such 294 force at the time of the blockade. But he had given orders for the appointment to the West-Indian station of as many ships as the protection of the British interests required, and as the means afforded. All that could have been required at that time, was to see that no illegal steps were taken with regard to British vessels in consequence of the blockade; and for this purpose the ships on that station were sufficient. In the course of the summer, however, not obtaining satisfaction, the French government sent a larger force, with fresh proposals, and with contingent orders to have recourse to measures of more active hostility. When intimation was made to her Majesty's Government, they took the resolution of sending an adequate force to the station, though not for the purpose of opposing the operations of the French. Therefore, when the right hon. Baronet said, that this force arrived too late, because it arrived after San Juan d'Ulloa was taken, he must proceed on the assumption that the fleet was to be sent in hostility to the French; for as it came in time to support the negotiations which were carried on, it could not otherwise have come too late. When communications passed between the two governments relative to the sending of the French force under the circumstances against San Juan d'Ulloa, other communications were made by the French government in that friendly spirit which had characterized the intercourse and the relations between the two governments, that even if circumstances compelled the French officer to enter into action, and to attack the fort, there was no intention whatever to retain permanent possession of the fort, or any other portion of the Mexican territory; and that whenever just satisfaction should be given to the French demands, the fort should be restored. He therefore said, that after this assurance it would have been an injustice towards that country, unless we intended to go to war with France, to employ a squadron for the purpose of opposing the operations against San Juan d'Ulloa. But, then, the right hon. Baronet said, that because the squadron had not arrived previous to the attack the British interests had been exposed. Now, he had not heard this statement from any of the parties concerned; he believed that it was not the fact, and that no inconvenience had been suffered by the British interests. Hon. Gentlemen seemed to forget that 295 San Juan d'Ulloa was only a fort, and that it was not a commercial town. Vera Cruz was not attacked till after an interval of a week. There was quite sufficient time, therefore, for the British interests at Vera Cruz to receive warning; and so effectual was this warning that the British consul was, at the period of the attack, almost the only British resident left in the place; the British had removed themselves, and they had also removed all the property that they chose, and had left the remainder under the protection of the consul. Not only had there been no loss and no inconvenience to British subjects, but our chargé d'affaires at Mexico, and our consul at Vera Cruz, in addition to assisting the British subjects, were enabled, in accordance with the friendly relations existing between the two countries, to take under their protection many of the French residents in Mexico, and had afforded them most effective and valuable assistance. Any person who had heard the statements of hon. Gentlemen opposite, would have imagined that Vera Cruz had been taken by assault, that it had been sacked, and that it had been pillaged, and that a hostile army had carried the place, and that they intended to keep permanent possession. But the crews of the French ships, after landing, only destroyed the fortifications, and after rendering useless the guns, made a tour of the ramparts, and then, having accomplished this, they returned to their ships. And what, in the first instance, did the commanding officer do? Why he sent a detachment to the house of the British consul as a guard or protection, which he thought might be required during the operations which he was about to perform. Therefore, he said, that no inconvenience and that no loss had been suffered by British interests, but, on the contrary, they had been fully protected. The right hon. Baronet opposite supposed, that during the interval between the attack and Mr. Pakenham's arrival, there was no person there sufficiently authorised to do all that could be done, to use his good offices to bring about a reconciliation between the Mexican and the French Governments; but in this the right hon. Baronet was entirely mistaken; for Mr. Pakenham, after a long absence from this country upon a station which was peculiarly trying to the health of an European, had obtained leave to return home; the 296 period of his leave of absence had not expired, when having heard that the French admiral was going out, and that matters assumed a graver character, he (Lord Palmerston) requested Mr. Pakenham to forego the unexpired period of his leave, and to return at once to his station, to which he immediately assented. Before his arrival, however, Mr. Ashburn-ham, who had carried on the affairs of the mission, had received instructions to endeavour to bring about an arrangement between the Mexicans and the French, and with great ability, with great zeal, and with considerable success, he had exerted himself to fulfil the instructions which he had received; and with respect to Mr. Pakenham's subsequent arrival, he was bound to say, that he thought that Mr. Pakenham's efforts had a greater probability of being crowned with success after the events which had taken place, than before. Mr. Pakenham having, after his arrival, had a communication with the French, and having afterwards had an interview with General Santa Anna, who was, perhaps, the person of the most influence in Mexico, had determined to repair to the city of Mexico, whither he was about to proceed after the communications which had been so satisfactory with the French admiral and with the Mexican general, whose opinions, no doubt, would have great weight with his government. He humbly conceived, therefore, that the Government, so far from being fairly exposed to censure for the neglect of British interests, had resorted to all the means in their power to protect the British interests, not only in the narrow sense of the term, but also in the largest and highest portion of those interests in reconciling nations that might be at war, and in restoring peace where peace was necessary. With respect to the case of the pilot, the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, had treated it in a becoming spirit. When the circumstances were represented by the British Ambassador at Paris to the French minister, the latter expressed great regret at the event; he said that he was without any information from his own admiral, and that the circumstances had only been made known to him by the representation of our Ambassador, and by what he had read in the English papers; but that he was in daily expectation of receiving advices from the French ad- 297 miral. In regard to the distribution of the naval force, about which so much had been said, he conceived, that this branch of the subject was not one for which, under the circumstances of the times, the Government was justly liable to animadversion or censure. As to the quantity of force which in any given year should be employed, it must vary from year to year, according to the circumstances under which the determination of its amount was to be made. And he readily admitted, that there was a greater force employed in former periods than in later years of peace. The gallant Officer on the other side of the House, who had spoken that evening, had said, that if the Government persevered in their present course of foreign policy, the amount of force already raised would not be sufficient to carry out that policy; and that, in fact, if any hon. Member would move an addition, the proposal should meet with his sincere, his hearty approbation. Therefore, the gallant Officer thought, that Government ought to have better means of carrying out the system of policy in which they were at present embarked. The Government, however, thought that the means were sufficient; but when further means were required, they would be most happy to call for the assistance promised by the hon. and gallant Member. The distribution of our naval force was another question which had been much mooted; and the consideration of this subject divided itself into two parts—the one relating to the protection of our own shores, and the other to the promotion of the interests of this country on foreign stations. Now, the right hon. Baronet seemed to think, that the former system of having eight or ten guardships in our ports at home, was preferable to the present method of having the greater portion employed upon foreign stations; but he thought that the ministerial plan was far best, he thought that, having eight or ten sail in the Mediterranean and eight or ten sail in other stations, instead of having eight or ten sail in our ports, was greatly preferable; for it enabled the sailors and the officers to exercise themselves in their profession, and not to become tainted with the indolence at our own ports. Why, if they had called upon the House to vote for these ships on a home station, it would at once have been said, "Why do you 298 call upon us to vote for defences which are entirely useless; are we not at peace with all the world? did not her Majesty tell us, in her speech from the throne, that 'she continued to receive the most friendly assurances from all foreign powers;' where, then, is the foreign power that can attack us? But if we are to have in peace, an establishment which is to be the nucleus for war, why do you not send your ships on a cruise, why don't you let your sailors acquire practice and experience, and instead of allowing them to live in debauchery in the seaports in England, why do you not allow them to exercise their profession?" Such would be the remarks to which the Government would be subject, and he thought that they were now employing the naval force in a useful manner, and in the best way to promote the public interest. It was complained that ten sail of the Line were in the Mediterranean; but any man who looked at the map of Europe, and who had paid any attention to the events of later times, and the great interests at stake in that part of the world, would see the utility of our force in the Mediterranean. Why, they had been told of the great moral effect which a naval force had; and had we no interests in the Mediterranean which would render it of advantage to the country that we should have there a naval force? If there were any merit, as he agreed there was, in these dispositions, was there not merit in having our ships in that quarter? In the year 1834 we had eight sail of the line there; in 1835 we had six there; in 1836 we had nine; in 1837 we had seven; and in 1838 we had nine; therefore, so far from being to blame for this large force, he feared that it was hardly large enough, and that we had scarcely added sufficiently to the American fleet, considering what had been its amount in the preceding year. It was said that this fleet was of no use, and that if we went to war, we must fetch the ships back, and that if we went to war we should not want a fleet in the Mediterranean. But Gentlemen who talked so much of going to war, meant that we should go to war with Russia, and could we go to war with that power without a squadron in the Mediterranean? and if it was not there, first it would be our duty to send it, and if it were thought that the state of our naval armament required increase at any time on the approach of war, did not hon. 299 Gentlemen believe that the country would put forth her energies, and even then it would be right to have a squadron in the Mediterranean, for it was obviously much easier to arm a squadron on our own shores than to fit one out, round the Straits of Gibraltar. We had now a force of ten sail of the line in the Mediterranean, and eight or ten sail at such a distance that they could be easily brought to this country if there were a prospect of their being required for its defence. If it were likely that any necessity should occur for an armament in defence of our shores the ships were more usefully employed, not only for the interests of the country, but for the improvement of the navy, where they now were, than if they were lying in the ports in this country. Suppose the case on which the hon. Gentleman's arguments turned—suppose the specific case, which he did not anticipate, of a war with Russia, eight sail of the line would not be sufficient to meet and encounter the twenty-seven sail possessed by Russia; it would be necessary to arm a much larger force. Therefore, if hon. Gentlemen stated that eight or ten sail-of-the-line in this country was amply sufficient to protect this country, then he understood their argument, that no ship should be sent abroad, and that to secure us from all chance of attack the whole should be kept at home; but such was not the case, and we must make a much larger armament before we should be secure from attack, though we should bring back the force which was distributed in different parts. He did not like to touch this part of the subject, lest the possible supposition should be entertained, that in what he said he was giving any countenance to the opinion that had been anywhere stated that a rupture with Russia was likely to arise. There was nothing in the relations between this country and Russia to justify the entertaining of such an opinion; on the contrary, he thought that on both sides there was the greatest desire for the preservation of peaceful relations and continued friendship; but if any question should at any time be likely to arise to endanger the permanence of peace, it would not occur so suddenly that the English Government would have no intimation of the expectancy, or that the House would not sanction any measure which, under any unfortunate, and at present, entirely unforeseen circumstances, 300 might seem to be necessary. Another topic had been introduced. It had been said that Ministers were putting the country to great expense on account of the ships and the marines on the coast of Spain. He would say, however, in the first place, that the expense of the marines being employed there was little more than if they were employed elsewhere. It was not to be expected that hon. Gentlemen who differed from his view of the contest in Spain, that those whose wishes were one way whilst his own were the other, that those who sighed and prayed for the success of Don Carlos, whilst he was anxious for the success of Isabella and constitutional government, should agree with him in this opinion. He would not go into the question with those Gentlemen who could not be weaned from their attachment after the recent dreadful events in the court and camp of Don Carlos, but he thought that this country was interested in the support of the constitutional cause, and that it was our interest to see Spain independent and free. His belief was, that our commercial interest, and. what was far more than any sordid interest, our political interest in the balance of power in Europe, was connected with the independence of Spain, and he believed also that the force we had sent there, small though it were, yet placed on the spot which it held, and occupying the position which it maintained, had rendered important service to the Queen and to the constitution of Spain. Though he did not think, therefore, that the expense had been great, he believed that the force had been usefully employed, and that if we should want ships at any time at home, or if we should want marines on any sudden case of war for other ships, we could have them back from Spain before even the ships should be ready to receive them. He must console hon. Gentlemen by reminding them that the distance was not so immense, and that if this small force were wanted for national defence, the country was not so geographically distant that the ships might not be brought home before the exigencies of the country required them. Therefore it was, that he said that there was no ground for calling in question the conduct of her Majesty's Government in not having asked the House for a larger amount of naval force; that he thought the distribution of this force both wise and provident; that no 301 British interests had been neglected, and that, on the contrary, the most important British interests had been fully and effectually protected.
§ Sir G. Clerk
would not pretend to follow the noble Lord who had just sat down through all the topics of his speech. He would enter into no discussion upon his Spanish policy. The noble Lord was mistaken if he thought the cheers on the Opposition side of the House had any reference to the probability of an attack upon our shores. He had cheered the noble Lord because it was unfortunately too true, as that noble Lord bad stated, that our ships might arrive from the Mediterranean before those in our ports could be got ready for service. He would not go into the general question why we should have ten sail-of-the-line in the Mediterranean, while the shores of Great Britain were wholly unprotected; but he would recall the attention of the House to a charge made by the right hon. Member for Tamworth, and which had received no answer either from the hon. Secretary of the Admiralty or from the noble Lord who had just sat down. That charge was as to the delay which had taken place before the British Government had sent out to Vera Cruz any force to protect the interests of British subjects, when they were endangered by the French hostilities. Would not the noble Lord admit, that m the summer the quarrel between France and Mexico assumed a totally different character from that which it had before the attack upon San Juan d'Ulloa? Ministers had, in fact, acted on this view of the subject by sending a squadron into the Gulf of Mexico. But this squadron did not arrive there till the 28th of December, which was a month after the attack upon San Juan d'Ulloa, instead of being there, as it ought to have been, at the time of the attack, so as to afford protection to British interests. Therefore the only question really appeared to him to be, at what time had the British Government notice of the intended attack by France? He had no other sources of information but the newspapers; but he would take one which the noble Secretary for Foreign Affairs might be supposed to have seen. It was stated in the Globe as long ago as August last, that the French were fitting out a squadron at Toulon, in-chiding a considerable number of bomb-vessels, whose destination was Vera Cruz, 302 but it was added that it would be impossible, notwithstanding all the exertions that were making at Toulon, for the force to be at Vera Cruz before the beginning of November. Notwithstanding this intelligence, no instructions were sent out from the Admiralty to Sir Charles Paget till the end of October, although the French squadron sailed on the 13th of September. All the British residents at Vera Cruz were in the greatest consternation, and the officer who was there to protect British interests acted both as French and English Vice-Consul. [Lord Palmerston.—By courtesy.]—The noble Lord said by courtesy; but, whatever the nature of the understanding might be, what became of the noble Lord's argument, which he founded on the attention shown by the French Admiral to this consul? If he was the French Consul also, this care for his safety was very natural on the part of the French Admiral, and formed no justification whatever to the noble Lord for having no force in the Gulf of Mexico. As to the outrage upon the British flag in that part of the world, he would not enter into the details of the transaction, but would only express a hope that no unnecessary delay had taken place in communicating with the French Government upon the subject. Then as regarded Russia, he would only advert to a speech which had proceeded from an hon. Member of that House on a former occasion, in which that hon. Member had stated that nine Russian sail-of-the-line had been seen at Cronstadt, while England had only two frigates and a sloop. He was sure that, to call the attention of the Government to that speech, he need only say that it had proceeded from the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty.
§ Mr. Curry
thought the state of the navy very inefficient and that the ships were not only too few in number but of an inferior description. He was very well aware, that to restore it to a proper state, and render it sufficiently extensive, even for a peace establishment, would require a very large expenditure; but he was one of those who wished for efficiency first and economy after. They were sent there, no doubt, to protect the public purse, but likewise to protect the nation, and he never would consent, no matter how great might be the saving for the time, to put in jeopardy the safety of the British empire, or the honour of the British flag.
§ Viscount Sandon
was not in the House when the noble Lord (Palmerston) had addressed it; but he understood that the noble Lord had stated that the commercial interests of Britain were satisfied with what had been done by the Government regarding the blockade of Mexico. He would appeal to any person acquainted with the commercial interests of the country whether that was the fact. He would appeal likewise to the correspondence with the noble Lord himself, and to the petitions which would be laid on the Table of the House on Wednesday next, from which he thought the contrary would be found to be the fact.
§ Lord John Russell
had no wish to trespass on the Committee by prolonging this already protracted debate, but the explanation, or rather the second speech, of the hon. Baronet, the Member for Stamford, rendered it incumbent on him to say a few words. With respect to the question which the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, had just raised—namely, the protection of our commercial interests in the Gulf of Mexico, the noble Lord had not stated, that there had been remonstrances made against that blockade, that the commercial interests of the country had been very much aggrieved by it, or had made any great complaints upon the subject. The point he spoke to was the special point upon which the right hon. Baronet had made a statement. The right hon. Baronet complained that there was not a sufficient British force in the Gulf of Mexico to protect British interests until after the capture of St. Jean d'Ulloa and the landing at Vera Cruz. The question was, whether it were the duty of this country to have entered into hostilities with France in order to have prevented that capture. If it was, then indeed would it have been the duty of his noble Friend at the head of the Admiralty to have done every thing that was possible, to have had a British force there in time. Then arose the question, whether any commercial interests had been endangered or injured by the absence of that force during the capture of St. Juan d'Ulloa, or the landing of the French at Vera Cruz. He said that there had not; and, moreover, that in neither instance had there been any danger either to person or property. Therefore, if there was no danger, there was no need of a protecting force. The hon. Baronet had taken advantage of the statement that our 304 consul had for some time been the French consul. Mr. Gifford, to whom the hon. Baronet alluded, was a very intelligent and clever person, and the person to whom, in the absence of the French consul, the interests of the French had been intrusted. Such was the usual course, when the consul of one power was obliged to leave town, to ask the consul of some friendly power to undertake the protection of the interests of individuals which might happen to be put in jeopardy during his absence. Mr. Gifford having been placed in that situation, was, of course, obliged to protect the French interests; but that could not make him be considered, properly speaking, as the consul of both nations. The only thing to be done, however, in that affair, was to see that the hostilities carried on between France and Mexico should not be carried to such an extent as to endanger the permanence of British interests in that part of the world, and to give protection to any negotiations which might be conducted under the influence of British commerce. For these purposes he thought our squadron had been exceedingly useful, and he was happy to think that hostilities between the two powers was not likely to continue. The right hon. Baronet, in alluding to the insult put upon the British flag, by the extraction of a pilot from a British vessel, said, that there should be no delay whatever in demanding an explanation. He knew not how they could expect from the French Government any explanation for the present, of a more satisfactory nature than what had already been received. The French Government said, "We are ready to afford you every explanation; nay, an apology, if required, when the facts are before us;" but, said the right hon. Baronet, "Don't wait for facts." The right hon. Baronet would have the French Government explain in total ignorance of the facts. One word upon the much contested point of having a large fleet in the Mediterranean. Now, it had been shown, that it was not extravagantly large; and when they considered the different powers which possessed naval forces, he thought it might be regarded as being, if anything, too small. It seemed to be quite forgotten, in reference to this subject, that there were two Powers in the Mediterranean having naval forces, Turkey and the Pasha of Egypt; that it was most desirable, not only for the sake of great commercial, but great political interests, to 305 prevent a collision between those two forces, and that the influence of British power and authority should be used, not only for the purpose of preventing any such collision, but likewise of preventing any change in the existing relations between the Sultan and the Pasha. That was one, and he thought a very strong, reason why we should not fail to have rather a large naval force in the Mediterranean.
§ Mr. Plumptre
thought it exceedingly wrong that the merchants of this great nation should be left, as it was proved they frequently had been of late years, totally unprotected in different parts of the world. It was scarcely to be wondered at, however, when sufficient protection was withheld even from our own shores.
§ Mr. Hume
never heard more extraordinary speeches than had been delivered in the course of the debate on this subject. It seemed to him quite a race of extravagancies. Some hon. Members said, that the merchants were complaining of the want of protection to commerce. He had certainly heard no complaints of the kind. The right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth, was the person who had spoken most on the subject; for him (Mr. Hume) the question was, not whether the navy ought to be increased, but how it was to be paid for. He certainly thought, that the Government of the right hon. Baronet deserved more credit than those Gentlemen whom he had been supporting all this time. The right hon. Baronet had very properly stated, that the financial committee of 1817 had given it, as their opinion, that 19,000 seamen and marines would be sufficient; and Sir J. Colborne had stated, that no more ought to be required during a peace than 16,000. Were we not now at peace? And if so, were those opinions to go for nothing? And was the country to be called on to keep up such a force as upwards of 34,000 men? There was no reason for keeping up so large a force, if it were not that they were continually intermeddling with everybody's business. There was no plea whatever for keeping up so large a force, contrary to the opinion of Sir George Cockburn, and to the opinion of the right hon. Baronet opposite, and contrary to the evidence upon which the force to be kept up was established in 1834 and 1835. To add to the burthens of the people by 306 increasing the force of the country in a time of peace was an act of great imprudence, and he was really sorry that the Administration with a deficient and declining revenue should lend themselves to the extravagant notions which were put forward on both sides of the House. When, however, the report was brought up, he would take that opportunity of calling the attention of the House to the faults and defects which were the causes of that extravagance. He must plead guilty of having long supported the present Government. He had borne with them with great patience, in the hope that they would improve, but they were getting worse and worse every day, and if the right hon. Baronet persevered in reducing the expenditure of the country, he would not find him such an opponent as he had hitherto been. The present Government, and those who urged them into measures for increasing the force of the country, did not calculate the cost; but he would not then detain the Committee by entering further into the subject, and should content himself with protesting against any increase of expenditure, as there was no necessity for increasing the force of the country beyond what it was ten years ago.
§ Sir J. R. Reid
could, with truth, say, that there was but one feeling amongst the merchants as to the course pursued by the present Administration. The merchants, one and all, complained of want of protection, and he could assure the House, that that there was a material falling off in their trade in consequence of their interests not being attended to as they ought to be by the Government. Many ships had actually returned from Mexico with their cargoes on board, and the complaint was universal, that the mercantile interests of the country were neither properly protected nor attended to. He should, however, follow the example of the noble Lord, the Member for Liverpool, and should avail himself of another opportunity of calling the attention of the House to this most important subject.
Mr. Woverly Attwood
said, that in the course of the debate allusion had been made to the shipwrights, and he thought it highly important, that the complement of men in the dockyards should be increased, and that the dockyards should be maintained in a state of the greatest efficiency. He would avail himself of an- 307 other opportunity to go into details, and would show, that the compensation given to the shipwrights was inferior to what was given in the yards of merchants, and that in consequence it was impossible for the country to obtain the services of the best class of workmen. In reference to the general question, he had but one observation to make, and it was this—the people had freely expressed their opinions of the necessity of an increase in the naval force of the country, and that House had expressed similar sentiments, so that it would be impossible for the Administration to urge here after, that they had been restrained, and that economy had been forced upon them, contrary to their own opinions. The House had shown, that it was willing to increase the expenditure when the necessity for that increase had been demonstrated, and the Government could not say, that they had been restrained either by public opinion or by the opposition of the Members of that House from making such an increase in the naval force as the state of the country required. He was not an advocate for increasing the public expenditure if such a course could be avoided, but he should never withhold his support to such an increase as the interests of the country required.
§ Mr. Warburton
said, it seemed to him that the people were tired of peace, for they now heard of nothing but increasing the force of the country, and nothing was said of the oppression of taxation. But was not the country already taxed enough, and why had no hon. Member risen to defeat the clamour which had been raised about the large fleets of their neighbours? He trusted, that the hon. Member for Kilkenny, and all those who felt as he did, would avail themselves of a future opportunity of expressing their sentiments against the policy of increasing the force of the country in a time of peace.
§ Captain Boldero
had before called the attention of the House to the condition of the marines. He had shown, that two years of service on shore were only counted as one afloat, when their claims to a pension were to be considered. Now, that was certainly most unjust, and such a system ought at once to be put an end to. He did not grudge Ministers their salaries, but he should like to know how they would feel were he to move a resolution, that they should be placed upon half-pay 308 during the recess. Now, that was exactly the condition in which they had placed the marines, and such a system could only be productive of discontent, and if the rule establishing such a system was not rescinded, he should again bring the subject forward, and take the sense of the House upon it. He had a word or two to say on the subject of great coats. He was glad to see the hon. Member for Sandwich in his place, as the hon. and gallant Member had before said, that the marines were entirely under his inspection. The army received great coats once every three years, and if the service required it, once every two years, and for those great coats the soldiers had not one farthing to pay. But it was different with the marines, for the marines were obliged to pay 25s. for their great coats. Now, he wanted a reason for the distinction made between the soldier and the marine. He should not, however, enter further upon the subject at that time, but would again call the attention of the House to the inequalities which existed in the two branches of the service when the report of the Committee was brought up.
§ Sir T. Troubridge
having been so pointedly alluded to by the hon. and gallant Member who had last addressed the House, felt it necessary to say, that he had nothing to do with the great coats of the marines. The rule respecting great coats had existed for fifty or sixty years.
§ Vote agreed to. Also, a vote for 1,800,089l. for defraying the expenses of seamen and marines. And a vote of 546,655l. for victualling the seamen and marines in the ordinary and guard departments.
§ The House resumed. Committee to sit again.