§ On the question that 2,980l. be granted for the salaries of officers and contingent expenses in the office of Registry of Merchant Seamen,
§ Mr. Curteis
rose to bring under the notice of the House a question of some importance, involving the character of a young man formerly employed in her Majesty's naval service. For the express purpose of performing this duty he (Mr. Curteis)had that day travelled upwards of sixty miles (not upon a railroad), and at great personal inconvenience to himself. Wishing to act in a perfectly open and straightforward manner in the matter he had undertaken, the first thing he did on entering the House was to go to the gallant Captain (Captain Rous) opposite, and to tell him that he (Mr. Curteis) intended to take the very first opportunity of referring to what he (Captain Rous) had stated in the House the other night; and to assert that, according to what had been stated to him (Mr. Curteis), the statement then made by the gallant Captain was most incorrect. 182 He gave the gallant Captain every credit for wishing only to elicit the truth; and entertaining no other wish himself, he placed a certain channel of information — the Morning Chronicle — in the gallant Captain's hand, and said, "Will you do me the favour to look over the report, that I may know whether it is a just and fair account of what fell from you the other evening?" The gallant Captain said he was going to dinner; upon which he (Mr. Curteis) observed, that he would wait till ten o'clock before he endeavoured to say a word upon the subject. It was now past that hour, and he accordingly felt himself at liberty to open the matter to the House. He must, in the first place, say, that he differed very materially from the gallant Captain when he (the gallant Captain) said, that the Admiralty had not properly supported the discipline of the navy by remitting the remaining portion of the sentence passed by the court martial upon Mr. Elton; for, he would boldly say, that he was speaking the sentiments of society generally, and of the world at large, when he said that the Admiralty, in remitting the remainder of the sentence, had acted justly and properly. Society in general, and the world at large, considered that the sentence originally passed on Mr. Elton was an unnecessarily severe one. Though an opponent of the Government, he would say, that he thought the Admiralty had exercised a sound discretion in extending their clemency to Mr. Elton. He was not aware that he was at issue with those hon. Members, captains in the navy, on the point of the want of etiquette, but he begged to remind them that the application was made from a midshipman to a gentleman who had been but recently made a captain, and who had been serving in another ship as lieutenant. The application was not as the hon. Member for Westminster said, for the boat, in order to put a friend of Mr. Elton's ashore, but merely that the boat, after stopping at Captain Williams's ship, might be allowed to go on to the coast of Syria to land Mr. Elton's friend, which might occupy a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes more. No answer was given to the young officer, but as a proof that the request was not unreasonable, one of the lieutenants actually put the same request to Captain Williams. He was not surprised that the midshipmen had expressed such marked 183 sympathy for Mr. Elton, when they found such distinctions made between them and those in command. He need not remind the House that midshipmen had the same feelings as their superior officers, and that they were, generally speaking, their equals in birth and education; and he thought it hard that a midshipman was not allowed in polite terms to prefer a request to his superior officer in the way Mr. Elton had done. The favour was nothing, and though there might be, as the gallant Captain, the Member for Westminster said, a want of etiquette in preferring such a request, he could not understand how it could amount to a breach of discipline, and he would consider it very ungracious in any captain to refuse so humble a request. He thought that Captain Williams erred in this respect. He did not wish to say one word to the prejudice of any of the parties, and although he had seen Mr. Elton on the subject, he could assure the House that he had only taken it up on public grounds. He now came to the point on which he did not hesitate to say, that he considered Mr. Elton to be in the wrong. He did not stand there to defend the letter which Mr. Elton had written, in a moment of irritation and anger, to Captain Williams. He did not hesitate to say, that he thought Mr. Elton almost deserved to be dismissed from the service for that imprudent letter, but did he not afterwards offer an apology? He believed that he was correct in saying, that Mr. Elton had taken the first opportunity to offer an apology? But what did Captain Williams demand? Not only an apology for the second letter, but likewise an apology for the original letter, requesting the favour to be allowed to put a friend ashore. Now, for the second letter, no doubt an apology was required, and ought to have been promptly given. After this, Mr. Elton was brought to a court-martial, and although he did not mean to say, that there had been any culpable irregularity in this proceeding, yet there did appear to him to have been some very unusual circumstances connected with that court-martial. He believed it was an indisputable fact, that one of the officers sitting as a judge on that occasion was called forward to give his testimony as a witness for the prosecution. He believed that the same officer had likewise been, examined on the part of the defendant; but this only made the proceeding the 184 more irregular. He believed that it seemed a strange thing, not only to professional men, but to the world, that a person should be first broke, dismissed the service, and afterwards when he no belonged to the service, committed to prison for an almost indefinite time—indefinite, inasmuch as the sentence was, that his imprisonment was not to commence until after his arrival in England. The consequence was, that Mr. Elton, for three or four months before the period of his imprisonment, was in a state of close arrest, and in the condition of a prisoner. He thought the Admiralty had only done an act of justice in shortening the term of imprisonment. The hon. Member for Westminster (Captain Rous) had asserted that the additional punishment had been inflicted because the young midshipmen, not only of the ship, but of the fleet, intended to give their comrade, Mr. Elton, a triumphant dinner [An hon. Member: "A blow out"]; and for this the young man was sentenced to receive six months' additional imprisonment. The gallant Admiral opposite shook his head; but he appealed to the hon. Member for Westminster himself if he had not asserted this to be the case. On the present occasion he (Mr. Curteis) was rather taking the Admiralty under his shelter and protection, than imputing any blame to them; he not only approved of what they had done, but he thought they had exercised a sound discretion, and that they had shown an independent feeling in not allowing themselves to be shackled by others on this question. This was his own opinion, and he believed it would be reechoed by all without that House. He believed that the Admiralty would have remitted Mr. Elton's sentence altogether on his return to this country, if he had not by some fatality or other, again got himself into a scrape. He accused the hon. Member for Westminster, not for his having asserted that Mr. Elton gave the lie to the commander of the ship in which he was brought home, but for his not having stated the extenuating circumstances. He would read to the House the information which had been given to him, and which he thought would fully show that he had not brought forward any trifling or frivolous accusation. He had visited Mr. Elton at the Marshalsea, and, showing him the document which he was about to read, he asked him if it was correct in every particular. Mr. Elton stated that 185 it was. Although two gentlemen were present on that occasion, Mr. Elton did not feel altogether satisfied with the assurance he had then given, but called on him (Mr. Curteis) at his lodgings, and put the paper into his hands, which he read distinctly, telling Mr. Elton to point out any thing that appeared to be incorrect. The only particular mentioned by Mr. Elton as incorrect was the use of the word bailiff in designating the messenger of the Admiralty who accompanied him to London. He also said that the statement was not at all exaggerated, but rather the contrary. Now he (Mr. Curteis) did not defend the conduct of Mr. Elton towards Captain Lawrence, but he asserted that there were extenuating circumstances, and to suppose that Mr. Elton gave the lie to Captain Lawrence without any provocation, would only be to suppose that the young man was half cracked. He, with the permission of the House, would read the statement of Mr. Elton, which, as he had stated, he was assured by that person was correct in all particulars. It was as follows:—After the very extraordinary and unusually severe sentence had been passed on Mr. Elton, he was conveyed on board the flagship Howe, where he remained for nearly five weeks, confined in a cock-pit cabin with a sentry over him, with permission to take exercise upon the poop or middle deck, but no officer in the ship allowed to speak to him. He was then sent on board the Prometheus steamer to Gibraltar.
He felt bound to say, that the commander of that ship had acted in the most feeling manner towards the prisoner he permitted him every favour he could, and allowed him to associate with the officers of the ship. He did not know the name of the commander, but he felt bound to say that such conduct was much to his credit.
At Gibraltar he was put on board the Hastings, Captain Lawrence, in which ship he was again placed in close confinement in a cock-pit cabin, allowed to walk only on the forecastle, and the starboard side of the main deck among the men—nobody on board the ship being permitted to speak to him, with the exception of the servant who brought his meals. He was not allowed the use of wine or spirits—some of these restrictions were taken off when the Hastings arrived at the Helens. Mr. Elton was on board this ship nearly a month. He was then taken from the Hastings in the custody of two messengers,
and conducted to London seated between those two men in a second class carriage, on the Southampton railroad, like a common felon, exposed to the gaze of everybody—and taken to the Marshalsea prison. This does appear harsh treatment for a young man nineteen years of age, born and educated as a gentleman, a member of an old and a highly respected family, his father the eldest son of Sir Abraham Elton, Bart, of Clevedon Court, Somerset. Before Mr. Elton's arrival in England, his family were given to understand that the 'Imprisonment' would be remitted, but in consequence of a complaint having been forwarded to the Admiralty by Captain Lawrence, it has been decided that the sentence should be carried into effect.
He begged to call the attention of the House to the facts of this part of the case, for he thought it would show that Mr. Elton had received provocation for stating what he had done, and that he conceived himself no longer amenable to martial-law, because he no longer belonged to the service. ["Oh, oh!"] He certainly had been dismissed the service, and no longer wore the uniform. The statement of this part of the case was as follows:—
Mr. Elton was put on board the Hastings, and was waiting on the quarter-deck for orders, and was talking to one of the mates of the ship, when Captain Lawrence rushed out of his cabin, and in a very loud and angry tone upbraided the mate for daring to speak to a man who was disgraced, and was a disgrace to the service; and, turning to Mr. Elton, said,' How dare you, Sir, speak to one of my officers?—a person who is disgraced,' and other language to that effect. This unfortunate young man, being goaded to desperation by the apparently never-ceasing persecution to which he was subjected, under the impression he was no longer in the navy, was induced so far to forget himself as to tell Captain Lawrence that 'If he said he was disgraced, he told a lie, and was a liar.' He afterwards repented having made use of these strong expressions, and made an apology to Captain Lawrence, which he accepted.
§ He thought that this made out a case of considerable provocation. He believed that he was correct in saying, that if Mr. Elton in his anger had struck Captain Lawrence he would have been amenable to the civil and not to the military law. Greatly to the praise of Captain Lawrence, he (Mr. Curteis) believed that he had exerted himself to obtain a remission of the sentence on Mr. Elton. He did not wish to impute to Captain Williams anything beyond a want of courtesy, and he would admit that Mr. Elton was deservedly 187 dismissed; but if the additional term of imprisonment was imposed in consequence of the dinner proposed to be given to Mr. Elton by his brother midshipmen, he thought there could be no justification for such severity. He did think that Captain Lawrence had given Mr. Elton provocation; but though he would not defend the language made use of by the young man to that officer, he wished the House to remember that Mr. Elton conceived that he was not in the navy at the time, nor was he. He accused Captain Lawrence of nothing save a haughtiness in his manner, and of forgetting himself in his passion, which all men occasionally did. Nor did he wish to bring any charge against Captain Williams, who he believed was highly esteemed as a good and efficient officer. He saw that the gallant Captain below him (Captain Berkeley), was about to bring down on him all the terrors of the Thunderer. He could assure that gallant Captain, and the gallant Captain the Member for Westminster, that he would not have mooted the question if they had allowed it to rest. The gallant Captain (Captain Berkeley) had told the House that he could have obtained Mr. Elton's dismissal from the service for his conduct while under his command. He believed the real charge which the gallant Captain bad against the young man was, that he had exceeded his leave of absence by ten or twelve days. This, no doubt, was a great irregularity, and since the gallant Captain had not followed it up, he had no hesitation in saying that the young man was under great obligations to him; but he did not think that the fault was of that fatal magnitude which the gallant Member supposed it to be. He had brought this subject forward as an independent Member, and he conscientiously believed that he had asserted nothing which could not in every tittle be borne out by facts. No one could feel more indignant than he should feel, if it should turnout that he had been deceived in any of the statements he had made; but he believed he stated nothing but the truth, and all that he could say in conclusion was, that he entirely approved of the conduct of the Admiralty, in remitting the sentence passed by the court-martial on Mr. Elton.
would not begin in the same strain as the hon. Member for Rye, although that hon. Member had, in 188 the conclusion of his speech, attempted to qualify his remarks by an admission that he (Captain Berkeley) had acted with mercy towards Mr. Elton. He rejected the praise of the hon. Member, for he felt that if he had properly discharged his duty towards Mr. Elton, neither the House nor the public would ever have heard of his name, for he would have been turned out of the service without one word being said upon the matter. He spoke this with confidence, as neither Mr. Elton nor his Friends were unknown to him, as they were to the hon. Member; nor was Captain Williams unknown to him, as he was to the hon. Member. Mr. Elton's Friends happened to be political supporters of a relative of his, who at the present time had a seat in the House of Commons; therefore, if he had any feelings towards Mr. Elton, they would naturally be favourable and friendly rather than adverse. Mr. Elton joined the Hercules when he had the command of that ship, and when Captain Williams was lieutenant of the ship. It was on his recommendation that Lieutenant Williams was promoted to be a captain on the occasion of the coronation brevet, and that recommendation was grounded on the excellent temper and good feeling which Lieutenant Williams had uniformly displayed. It was true that Mr. Elton had received from him a certificate on leaving the Hercules, but it was well known that such a certificate was merely an official document given to a party to enable him to carry out his time. It was by no means a mark of approval of the conduct of the individual to whom it was given. Mr. Elton was but a very few months the shipmate of Lieutenant (afterwards Captain) Williams. Upon joining the Thunderer, he wrote to Mr. Elton's father, saying that if he wished to have a provision for his son, he thought he could name him to his ship. Mr. Williams had at that time left the Hercules and become a commander, and was appointed to the Thunderer. He could not take upon himself to say whether, at the time of" Mr. Elton's delinquencies, he was in the Thunderer with Captain Williams or not, but at all events Captain Williams was in full possession of a complete knowledge of all the misconduct of which Mr. Elton had been guilty up to the time the ship left Plymouth sound. There were no delinquencies on Mr. Elton's part which were not known to Captain Williams. As 189 far as he was concerned, this question would never have been again mooted. He would have been the last person to have adverted to it; for he was perfectly satisfied with the answer which he had received from the hon. and gallant Admiral opposite (Sir George Cockburn) when he (Captain Berkeley) had expressed a hope that the obloquy which had been thrown upon the officers whom he had left in the Mediterranean, and which had also been thrown upon Captain Williams, who had been promoted through his means, would be removed. The answer given by the gallant Admiral was so satisfactory, that he had entertained the belief that it would have set the question at rest, and that neither the House nor the country would have heard another word about Mr. Elton or the court-martial. This, however, had not been the case. The hon. Member for Rye had said, that he (Captain Berkeley) had mooted the question. He had done no such thing. He was thoroughly satisfied with the answer he had got from the administration at the Board of Admiralty. When he had first joined the ship to which Mr. Elton belonged several complaints were made against him, such as going on shore when he pleased, without authority. Of course, it became necessary to put a stop to this; but immediately he did so Mr. Elton deserted. Now, he would put it to the House whether, if any seaman under his command had taken upon himself to act in that manner he could have maintained the discipline of his ship and the honour and character of a British man-of-war, without giving that man three dozen at the gangway. Then, was he to be told that a mere boy of eighteen or nineteen, who conducted himself in that way, and who was guilty of desertion from his ship, was to be put upon the same footing with any other young man whose character was unimpeached, and who had not misconducted himself. Was it to be said that a young man like Mr. Elton was to desert—not for a week, not for ten days, as had been said—but for such a period, that if he had not returned within a very few days, the mark of a deserter would have been placed against his name upon the ship's books? And how did he return? Not voluntarily, but he was brought back by his brother; and if he had not been so brought back, the mark would have been entered against his name, and it would not have been in his power to have saved him. This was 190 the sort of gentleman on whose behalf the hon. Member for Rye stood up, professing at the same time the greatest interest for the service of the navy ! The elder brother, with feelings which did him great credit, made an appeal to him to look over this young man's faults. Interested as he acknowledged himself to have been in the young man's welfare, and knowing the respectability of his family, still his reply was, that it was impossible for the young man to remain in his ship; such an example to others would be most prejudicial; but he would allow him (Mr. Elton) to join any other ship if he could find a captain who was willing, after being told of his having deserted, and of his general conduct, to take him. Captain Barnard agreed to take Mr. Elton into the Cambridge being acquainted with the reasons for his quitting the Thunderer; but he at the same time said to Captain Barnard, "Although the certificate he was about to give to Mr. Elton was merely an official document to carry him through his time in the Thunderer, yet he would not give the certificate to Mr. Elton, but would give it to Captain Barnard, who should retain it for twelve months; and if, at the end of that time, Captain Barnard should approve of Mr. Elton's conduct, he was then at liberty to give the certificate to him." Under all the circumstances, he (Captain Berkeley) felt, that the clemency he had shown to-wards Mr. Elton had been most incautiously exercised. If he had not shown that clemency, he might have escaped the animadversions that had been passed upon him, and he should not now have had occasion to trouble the House upon the subject. Then, with respect to the conduct of Mr. Elton towards Captain Williams, on board the Cambridge. In the first place, Captain Williams's ship (being a steamer) might have been four or five miles distant from the Cambridge, which was a line-of-battle ship. While on board, Mr. Elton, a subaltern, took upon himself to ask Captain Williams the use of his boat. Now this was of itself one of the greatest pieces of impertinence that a mate could have been guilty of towards a Captain; and when it was considered that Captain Williams knew the whole of Mr. Elton's previous conduct, the offensiveness of the act was considerably aggravated. He would appeal to any hon. Member in the House belonging to the army upon this subject. It was a fact thoroughly well 191 known that a naval captain's boat was of as much importance to him, when waiting by the side of a ship, as the Duke of Wellington's charger was to his Grace when standing at his door. And for a junior officer in the navy to ask a captain to be permitted to use his boat would have been no more justifiable than for a junior officer in the army to ask the Duke of Wellington to lend him his charger to ride five miles. [The hon. Member for Rye cried "Hear, hear."] The hon. Member might not understand the nature of the service, but Mr. Elton did. He knew that no commander, no lieutenant, would have asked Captain Williams for the use of his boat. That was the etiquette. The etiquette might be wrong; but the hon. Member might not be aware that there might have been five or six men employed in that boat, for many hours, by the captain. He might not know that the captain might not choose to have those men employed in rowing the boat four or five miles to the shore, and four or five miles back again, to please a subaltern; he might not choose that his men should go on shore, and into a town, where liquor might be had in plenty. All these things might not be Known to the hon. Gentleman; they might not be know to civilians, but they were well known to officers in the navy; and therefore it was, that they did not blame, in the wholesale manner in which the hon. Member for Rye had done, those who took the part of Captain Williams at the court-martial. He might have gone farther, and said, that if they had taken Captain Williams's boat to the shore— that if the boat was what was called "down in the water," a watch must have remained up in order to hoist up the boat. All these circumstances taken into consideration, he considered the conduct of Captain Williams to have been perfectly proper, who, on receipt of Mr. Elton's note, said, "Tell him there is no answer." And upon his honour and word, if Mr. Elton, knowing as he did that young man's character, as Captain Williams also knew it, had asked him for the use of his boat, he should have sent for him, and had him up on the quarter deck, and have reprimanded him for his impertinence. ["Hear, hear !"] Hon. Gentlemen might say "hear, hear," and might think him to be using harsh language. But, thank God, he had been brought up in a school of strict discipline, and he was proud to say, that he had never yet left a ship with- 192 out the hearty cheers of the crew, and he might say, without blessings being poured upon his head by every man and officer on board. If the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Rye, wished to be convinced of this, let him ask those who were connected with the ship which he (Captain Berkeley) lately commanded, and where he was supposed to exercise such harshness; let him inquire what was the scene which took place at Gibraltar, when he gave up the command of that ship to which the hon. Gentleman had so often and so pointedly alluded—the Thunderer. He believed that he had now said enough on this subject;—he certainly had said enough to prove that Mr. Elton was a dangerous character to be in the navy; he thought he had also said enough to prove that Captain Williams was perfectly right in refusing to answer an application from Mr. Elton, which, if it had been stringently construed, might have been treated as a very serious act of insubordination; and he certainly thought he had said quite enough to show, that the court-martial was right in the sentence they had pronounced. Before he sat down, he begged leave to tell the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Rye, that he did not believe that there was any tribunal where more justice was done, or more leniency shown, than in a naval court-martial, and that the practice invariably was, when a person was sent to be tried before a naval court-martial, to take the previous character of the individual into consideration, and to give it its due and proper weight.
§ Captain Rous
said there was a great difference between the hon. Member for Rye and himself upon the subject, and he had no doubt when the hon. Member had commanded a ship as long as he (the hon. Member) had, he would be a better and probably a wiser man. Captain Williams knew that Elton was a discarded midshipman from the Thunderer, and therefore, for Elton to ask Captain Williams for the use of his boat was a great piece of impertinence, which he never could have been guilty of. What happened? An apology was dictated to Mr. Elton by two superior officers, who would never have recommended him to have signed what they would not have signed themselves; but Elton refused to sign it—he, a young man of eighteen, refused to do so. Some time after, indeed, he sent the apology, 193 but it was then too late. A court-martial took place; it sentenced him to dismissal from the service, and to six months' imprisonment. If the young man had been in the French or American service, he would, in all probability, have been considered in the light of a felon, for it would have been regarded in those services as a very grave offence. Well, this young officer being about to be discharged, was considered by himself and others as an ovation, if not a triumph. If he had been on the court-martial, he would, for that offence alone, have sentenced him to six months' imprisonment in some prison in England. Then as to his conduct towards Captain Lawrence, what happened? Being a prisoner, Elton came on board in plain clothes, and walked on the quarter-deck. Captain Lawrence saw him in familiar conversation with one of his officers. Captain Lawrence reprimanded his own officer for holding intercourse with Elton, and most justly so; saying that he was a disgrace to the service. What was the behaviour of this youth? He a boy of eighteen, said to a man of sixty, "You tell a lie; you are a liar." If he had been in Captain Lawrence's position, he would have put Mr. Elton, with both legs in irons, and have put a gag in his mouth. He knew nothing of Mr. Elton; he did not care about Mr. Elton: it was a case where the discipline of the service was concerned; and he felt that the service would come to ruin, if, when a young man called a captain a liar, and a court-martial sentenced him to six months' imprisonment, the Admiralty remitted five months out of that six. Was that discipline? If any seaman had done what young Elton had done, he would have been hanged. If this was to be the state of the service, then he would at once say that the service was going to the dogs. Either the gallant admiral (Sir G. Cock-burn) had stultified the officers who sat on the court-martial, or he had stultified the Admiralty. If the court-martial was right, why, when the young man had doubled his crime, was his sentence remitted? Because, said the hon. Member for Rye, he was a member of an old and honourable family. He would say, so much the worse. He would have given him ten times as much punishment. Why was Mr. Elton to be the first to disgrace his family. Had this Elton been one of his nearest and dearest relations, he would rather have 194 lost his right hand than have gone to the Admiralty, and have asked the remittance of one day of his sentence. This he said for the sake of the service. He would have said to him, "You have behaved like a madman and like a fool; go to prison for six months, and thank God it is no worse; go to prison; improve your mind, and you will come out a better and a wiser man." He would say, in the words of Horace—Ira furor brevis est. Animum rege, qui nisi paret,Imperat; hunc frænis, hunc tu compesce catenâ.
§ Captain Pechell
wished to have some explanation as to the operation of the act for the registration of merchant seamen. He understood that the registration office was of no use or importance. When apprentices were bound to merchant ships it was the prerogative of the Admiralty, if any frauds were discovered in the indentures, to enlist them in the Navy. Officers were, therefore, appointed at the different rendezvous to enter the apprentices, and if the slightest fraud was found to exist in their indentures, they were taken out of the merchant ship, to the great distress of the owners, before the voyage was completed. It was not a proper policy in any way to distress the merchant marine, and that it so was considered appeared from the fact of pensioners of the navy being excused from serving, because they were allowed to enter the merchant service for the purpose of encouraging it, and contributing to man it. He knew that apprentices had been taken from trading vessels at Shoreham.
§ Sir Sidney Herbert
said, that the strictest orders had been given by the Admiralty not to interfere with the merchant service; and if an apprentice deserted to the Queen's service, and was claimed by his master, he was always discharged from the Queen's service. In one instance it was true an apprentice had left the merchant service for the Queen's; and upon his being claimed by his master, the indentures were produced, and found to be invalid. No advantage was taken of that; but the young man, being of age, positively refused to go back, and his master knowing that the indentures were invalid, declined taking him before a magistrate. No blame, he thought, could attach to the Queen's service under such circum- 195 stances. He would now give to the House some information showing the beneficial operation of the act of his right hon. Friend for the registration of seamen. Since the passing of that act in 1835 there had been an increase in the Queen's service of 15,000 men, and in the merchant service of 30,000 men; making a total of about 45,000 men, that return excluded the last year, in which it was supposed that the numbers had increased in about the same rate as during the year before, when there was an increase of 10,000 men. The wages of seamen had risen 20 per cent. The apprentices who had entered since that act were, in addition to 50,000, the number at that time upwards of 39,000; so that there was under that act a steady supply for the merchant service, and of course for the Queen's service. The whole number of registered seamen at present was 258,000; and there were, besides them, engaged in boat-craft, and using vessels not licensed, about 180,000 men. It had been said that the introduction of steamers would diminish the use of sailing vessels, and, consequently, the demand for a supply of seamen; but since 1814 there had been an increase of 934 steamers, and by the side of that a concurrent increase of 3,610 sailing vessels! the total increase of vessels being thus 4,544. There were, however, unquestionably objections to the register established by that act; for there was no register of what number of men died, or what number deserted. [Mr. C. Wood asked the total number of registered seamen in France at the present moment?] The total number appeared to be 98,700, including men from eighteen years old to fifty, and of the mousses, or boys, 31,000; then they deducted one-twelfth for sickness, and 10,000 as deserters, making the net total of about 70,000; and the gross total of the French navy less by 5,000 than it was in 1795. Now, to show to the House how completely the French merchant service had been drained to supply its navy, he could inform the House that it was stated by parties engaged in the French fisheries, that in consequence of the number of persons taken by impressment a great number of their ships were laid up on the coast, because they were unable to man them; and that so far from a great navy fostering and encouraging the merchant service, it was like killing the goose, 196 which laid the golden egg; it had nearly destroyed the merchant service; and for supplying the navy itself, recourse was obliged to be had to the military conscripts. It appeared from the report of the American minister of the navy, that there the same difficulties existed, and that their plan of getting apprentices from the interior had not had the effect of affording them a good and steady supply, Here, on the contrary, since last September, we had fitted out fifty-four sail of one sort and another, all fully manned, and now either gone to their stations, or at Spithead, ready to sail. An example of the increased rapidity with which vessels were now fitted out, was given in the case of the Agincourt, which had been fitted out in fifteen days.
§ Sir C. Napier
was very glad to hear that no difficulty had been experienced in manning fifty-four ships, which the present Government had put in commission since September last. [Sir S. Herbert: The present Government found the ships in commission.] He wished to be informed how many ships had been put into commission since the hon. Member came into office. He admitted the excellence of the registration system introduced by the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham); it did great credit to its author, and would be of essential service to the navy. In general, merchant seamen had great reluctance to enter the royal navy, but, he believed, the feeling was decreasing, and that in this respect registration was useful. It would, however, be an improvement, if every seaman were furnished with a copy of his register, which he might produce when necessary; at present, if a seaman were registered at Liverpool, he might proceed upon a voyage to the West Indies, return to Bristol, and again be registered there. Thus many might be registered twice over, and as long as this was the case, the number could not be accurately ascertained. He would recommend to the Admiralty, that different places in the dockyards, such as rope-makers, carpenters, smiths, sail-makers, &c., should be filled by men who could be well recommended from different ships. Such was not the case at present, and he believed that there was a good deal of jobbing in the dockyard appointments, to the neglect of the claims of the navy. The navy ought to be a stepping-stone to the dockyard; then men would be glad enough to 197 come into the service. The reason was, that the gentlemen on the Treasury Bench docked all those appointments. Six thousand a-year was spent for messengers; now was there one old soldier, sailor, or marine who got any of that 6,000l. He would mention a case merely by way of illustration. The office of head-porter at the Admiralty became vacant, and he had asked the second porter whether he was likely to obtain the place. "No, Sir, (was the answer), for I have no interest with the first Lord." On inquiring who was likely to be appointed, the reply of the second porter was, that he believed it would be given to Lord Duncannon's butler, who had for some time kept company with Lady Minto's maid. The hon. and gallant Member proceeded to remark upon the fact that of the first 200 captains on the list seventy-six were above seventy years old, forty-nine between sixty-five and seventy, sixty-six between fifty-five and sixty-five, and only nine of less age than fifty-five years. If only 10,000l. were added to the estimates, this evil might be removed; and he was confident that the country and the other branches of the public service would not grudge the money.
§ Resolution agreed to.
§ The next vote proposed was for the grant of 34,982l. for the scientific department of the royal navy.
put a question respecting the admission of government inspectors into the schools of Greenwich Hospital. He wished to know whether they would be allowed to examine the state of the schools as formerly, and whether the regulations hitherto existing in those establishments would be preserved?
§ Sir Sidney Herbert
answered, that the present Board of Admiralty had paid all due attention to the important subject, and added, that the annual inspection would take place as usual. Some modifications in matters of detail had been introduced; but the system of instruction for the boys would be continued as at present. The discipline had been found rather defective, and that increased authority would be given to the masters.
rose to express an earnest wish that a larger sum should be devoted to the scientific department of the navy. He believed that the case was different abroad; but at home the officers of the hydrographical department were exceedingly ill-paid. Captain Beaufort, 198 whose character was so well and so widely known, the House would be surprised to hear, only obtained a salary of 500l. a year. It was true that he was allowed 300l. a year additional for a house, but still the reward was very inadequate to the duty. Junior officers in other departments were paid 800l. per annum, besides being provided with residences. [Captain Pechell, the hydrographer of the navy, has also his half-pay.] The Lords of the Admiralty had also their half-pay. He wished the House to compare the hydrographical department of the navy in this country with that in France, where the building set apart to it was as large as the whole of our Admiralty. The hon. Member for Halifax, on a former night, had made a self-congratulatory speech, in which he had taken credit to himself and his friends, for the present condition of the navy in this kingdom, when, in fact, its improved state of efficiency was in a great degree owing to the suggestions which had been published in the letters of a flag-officer. Before he sat down, he would say a few words with reference to the West-India mail steamers. This line of communication had been referred to by the hon. Member as if it was satisfactorily arranged; but he begged leave to caution the Government against putting any faith in the arrangements made, either with regard to the line chalked out for the vessels to take, or the time in which they were intended to perform their work. He had made inquiries, and he found that; they could not follow the track marked out for them, and that they would be unable to perform their present undertaking unless the Government came forward to give them much larger sums of money than they were now paid. The size of the vessels plying between the islands was quite inconsistent with the object to which they were devoted. Their size was exactly the same as that of the vessels on the line out and home from and to England; he knew that they had been required to be of that size, with a view to their carrying guns in case of need; but they were now found to be unfit for that purpose, and too large for the business in which they were engaged.
§ Mr. C. Wood
said, that with regard to the hydrographer, all he could say was, that he was most happy on this, as on every other occasion, to bear his testimony to the great merit of that officer. He was aware how confined the space was to which 199 that Gentleman was confined in the discharge of his duties, but he was also aware how impossible it was, in the present state of the Admiralty, to afford him increased accommodation. With regard to the other observations of the hon. and gallant Member, he hardly thought, that the discussion of a vote for the payment of the expenses of the hydrographical department of the navy afforded a very favourable opportunity for reference to what he had said on another evening upon other subjects; but he could not help referring to a statement of the hon. and gallant Officer with respect to the supposed influence which the recommendations of a flag-officer had had upon the late navy board. He would take leave to observe on this point, that the suggestions of a flag-officer were made in the year 1838, while the improvements in the navy for which credit was claimed to him, had been made in the previous years, 1836 and 1837. He could hardly see, therefore, how the hon. and gallant Member could reconcile his argument with this fact. With reference to the statements made by the flag-officer, he would now repeat what he had said upon a former occasion, that statements so inaccurate as those advanced by him it had never fallen to his lot to observe; and that the inaccuracies were the less excusable because they might have been avoided by reference to documents open to him and the world. He could not help observing, that the same means of information were open to the hon. and gallant Member, as well as the report of what had fallen from him upon a former occasion, if he had chosen to take the trouble to refer to them. He should not now say anything upon the subject of the packet boats to the West Indies, but should defer the discussion of that subject until the vote was proposed.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the proposal of a vote of 124,449l. for the salaries of officers and the expenses of the naval establishment at home,
§ Mr. C. Wood
begged to call the attention of the officers of the Government to the case of Mr. Elliott, who, by the alteration of the transport service, had been deprived of a situation of 500l. a-year, to which he had been recently appointed, and which he had taken at considerable expense to himself. He ventured to express a hope, that in the event of a fair opportunity presenting itself, the exceedingly meritorious services of this officer, who had not confined his exertions to the particular 200 department of the navy to which he was attached, but had frequently volunteered into services of considerable risk and danger, would not be overlooked.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that the case of the gentleman in question would not be overlooked, but was already under the notice of the Admiralty.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ The question that 567,027l. be granted for the payment of wages of artificers in the naval establishment at home,
§ Mr. C. Wood
begged to inquire what steps had been taken with regard to the abolition or retention of first-class men in the dockyards? It was a subject which had been considerably agitated, and his own opinion was rather in favour of the continuance of the existing plan.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that the subject was one upon which various opinions were entertained; and two Lords of the Admiralty were about to proceed upon an inquiry as to the proper course to be taken.
inquired, whether there was any intention on the part of the Board of Admiralty of raising the pensions of the ropemakers in the dockyard to an equality with those of the shipwrights, as had been lately done in the case of the caulkers? The ropemakers were a most zealous and laborious body of men, and deserved every consideration.
begged to ask the Secretary of the Admiralty whether any steps were in contemplation to establish schools in the dockyards for the apprentices and sons of artificers? The late Board of Admiralty had, he understood, made arrangements to carry this scheme into execution, and the artificers of the yard, than whom a more meritorious class of public servants could not be found, had been led to expect, that a privilege of this nature might be granted to them. He trusted, that this expectation might not be disappointed.
§ Sir Sidney Herbert
replied that the measure alluded to by the hon. Member was likely to be carried into effect.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ On the question that 1,253,735l. for naval stores, machinery, building and repairing store-houses, being proposed,
§ Dr. Bowring
thought that the question of the naval stores of this country was in a very unsatisfactory state, and that the mode in which these votes were proposed, 201 embodying in one line a vote of so large a sum as was in this case demanded by the Government without any more minute explanation than was afforded by the general description of its purpose, was extremely inconvenient. With regard to the naval stores, he believed that if an account were required of them, none could be given; but he thought that it was a subject upon which the House ought to be furnished with some information.
§ Sir James Graham
begged to assure the hon. Gentleman that he laboured under an erroneous impression if he believed that it was not in the power of the naval administration of the country to render a most accurate statement of the exact position of the naval stores of the country. He held in his hand an aggregate statement of the quantities of all the principal articles from the year 1829 to 1841, and he had received that statement in consequence of a statement which had been made upon a former evening. It was true that that account had not been laid before the House by the Government, but he thought that they had exercised a wise discretion in abstaining from doing so. First, it would be observed that great inconvenience might arise from the production of such a statement, the purchase of naval stores being effected by tender and contract; and, secondly, he did not think that the condition of the public stores ought to be disclosed even during the time of peace. For these reasons, he thought that the House could not complain of the absence of information on this point.
§ Captain Pechell
inquired on what grounds a naval officer superintending the dock-yard at Deal, had been removed, and his duties left to be performed by a clerk in charge.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, the duties did not require a naval officer, and were efficiently performed by the clerk.
§ Sir Thomas Troubridge
could not agree with the gallant Admiral that the duties were properly performed by a clerk. It was necessary to carry out anchors and hawsers to vessels in distress, and to attend to the embarkation and debarkation of troops, and he did not think that a clerk was a fit person to perform such duties.
§ Sir C. Napier
said, that this case really 202 required some explanation. Mr. Elliot had been removed from his situation in the Transport Department at Cove, and the ground assigned was, that the Government considered it desirable to place naval officers in such situations. But here, in a case almost exactly similar, they had removed a naval officer, and appointed a civilian, in direct violation of their own principle. This really required explanation.
§ Vote agreed to. The House res med. The committee to sit again.