§ House in a Committee of Supply.
§ MR. WARD
after referring with much approbation to the proceedings of the Select Committee on the Navy Estimates, said, as the best mode of dealing with the subject more immediately under discussion, he should propose to take the report of the Committee in hand, and to state to the House what were the recommendations in that document which the Admiralty agreed with, what were those it dissented from, and what were those which it wished to modify. Before, however, entering on that branch of the subject, the House would allow him to remind them of the situation in which the Navy Estimates now were. Discussions which had already taken place on the subject, had, he thought, cleared away much debateable matter, particularly as to the amount of force for the present year. When it was recollected that that question had been discussed and decided by one of the greatest majorities ever heard of in Parliament, he hoped that there would be no cause seen for going over the ground again, or for questioning the propriety of the House providing victuals and wages for the number of men so decided upon. His right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer bad already informed the House that the amount of the reduction made from the original estimates was about 200,000l; that reduction would be effected under Vote 8, for dockyard wages; Vote 10, for Navy contracts; Vote 11, for new works; and under Votes 13, 14, 15, 16, and 19, the latter being for the support of the Bombay navy—the total reductions which they proposed to make amounted to 208,000l. This arrangement left the estimates in this position—that instead of an increase in the amount required for this year, and that granted last year, of 216,000l., as appeared in the original estimates to be demanded, there would be an actual decrease of 43,000l. in the net amount to be voted for 1848–49, as compared to the net amount voted for 1847–48. So much for the general amount of the estimates. Now as to economy in the administration of the Navy—the Committee admitted that economy did not depend on the number of men fixed on for the service of the year. The first recommendation come to by the Committee was a revision of the forces on the home and foreign stations. There were seven foreign and five home stations. The amount of force employed in the Navy for the present year, had, for 1272 instance, been decided by a vote of the House; and the hon. Member for Montrose would admit that it was of no utility now to go over the same ground again. Under the Votes 1, 2, 8, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, and 18 of the estimates, there was a saving of 200,000l. The reduction on Vote 1, was in the wages of seamen and marines; that in No. 2, was in provisions for the Navy; that in No. 3, was in the Admiralty Office; that under No. 8, was in the wages of men and artificers employed in dockyards; that in No. 10, was on Navy contracts for stores; that in No. 11, was in new works, improvements, and repairs; that in No. 13, was on the miscellaneous items; and that on Nos, 14, 15, 16, was on the half-pay and retired allowance of officers' pensions and allowances; that on No. 18, was freight on account of the Home Department. The total amount of reduction proposed to be made for the year was 208,000l., which left the estimates in this position. The increase of the present year over the last was 214,644l, on the gross votes. The sum proposed to be reduced, namely, 208,000l., deducted from this, brought down the increase of the estimates this year over the last to 6,644l. If the net votes were taken, however, it would be found that there was a reduction of 43,000l, on the estimates of 1848–49, as compared with those of 1847–48. The Committee stated—The expenditure for the effective services of the Army, Navy, and Ordnance, must, in a great measure, depend upon the amount of force which the advisers of the Crown may consider necessary. A satisfactory decision upon this subject could only be formed after a careful and deliberate survey of the position of the country in regard to its internal resources, its external interests, the state of its foreign relations, its political obligations, and the maintenance and fulfilment of all the various rights and duties which belong to the extensive and long-established dominion of the British empire.The Admiralty concurred in that opinion. They admitted, upon the whole, the statement of the Committee in page 13, though they did not admit all the facts on which it was founded, when the report alleged—That, whatever cause might have led to the increase of force upon any particular station, when once the force had been augmented, there was too frequently some unfortunate hindrance to its subsequent reduction;"—and that—When the enemy was defeated, and hostilities were at an end, other duties were found for the ships employed, and the force which was required for the contingency of a war remained as the permanent establishment in time of peace.1273 There was no doubt that duties for ships of war grew with the means for performing them. Every diplomatic agent asked for a ship of war, in case of any disturbance when ships were in his neighbourhood, and it was exceedingly difficult to break through the custom that had obtained of granting assistance in such cases. The principal foreign naval stations were the Pacific, the Indian Seas, and the Cape of Good Hope. On all these stations, however, the amount of the naval force of the country had been considerably diminished this year. For instance, in the East Indies and China, where there were, in 1843, no less than thirty-six ships of war, there were now only twenty-five. The number of ships on this station was, in—
§ Of those now afloat in these waters, none were ordered home. In the Pacific, there wore, in—
§ There were at this moment only seven, and two surveying vessels, in that quarter. At the Cape of Good Hope, the numbers were—
§ The Rosamond and Devastation were ordered home. He had been instructed by the Board of Admiralty to say that they had no objection to the recommendations of the Committee that there should be a general revision of the naval stations before fixing the votes for next year; and they were willing to inquire, in the spirit indicated by the Committee, and with a due regard to all those great interests upon which these votes ought to depend, how far it was possible to effect a reduction either in the number or the size of the ships employed. He came then to Votes No. 1 and 2, on which the Committee dwelt at considerable length. The first recommendation upon No. 1 was, that the two bases of that vote ought to be restored. The Admiralty agreed with the Committee that it was desirable to restore the two bases of that vote, and to adopt Sir James Graham's plan of ascertaining the number of ships actually in commission on the 1st of January in each year, and the actual number of men employed on board of them, and upon that to apply for the vote of the coming year, as the only means of arriving at a sound conclusion as to the 1274 probable expenditure. If that basis had been adopted this year, there would have been a difference of nearly 60,000l. in the estimates. The Committee pointed out that much of the excess of the Navy estimates, No. 1, had arisen from the custom of having more men on board than were actually voted by Parliament. That proposition was undeniable. After giving some details of the number of men employed in excess, at different periods, and subsequently paid off, the hon. Gentleman said, as the Committee stated, there was, on the 1st of March, 1848, the old excess of 4,146 men more than had been voted. In June, that excess was reduced to 3,900; in July, to 2,812; and on the 7th of August it amounted to 2,477. As the best precaution for keeping the number of men on board strictly within the Parliamentary vote, the Committee made a perfectly legitimate recommendation, namely, that the monthly excess should be reported to Parliament, with the estimates for the ensuing year. The Committee observed that not only was Vote No. 1 affected by this irregularity, but that Vote No. 2 was also equally affected in the same degree; and, therefore, the report proposed the same remedy. On the supplementary grant of 30,000l. in Vote No. 1, for the purpose of ameliorating the condition of petty officers and able seamen, the report expressed no opinion. The Admiralty had endeavoured to give effect to the wish of the House and the country that our gallant seamen should be better provided for; and their plan was to assimilate the system of rewards in the Navy to the good-service warrant in the Army. He, therefore, implored the House, for the sake of the public service, not to withhold its consent to this grant. He agreed with the Committee that no extra clerks should be permitted without the sanction of the Treasury, and that the principle of extra pay, which was even of a more demoralising tendency, should be regulated in the same way. Another item of increase was the salary of the second secretary, Captain Hamilton. After a full investigation of this subject, and a clear understanding that the salary three years ago was fixed under a misapprehension, the Admiralty had stated the circumstances of the case in a letter to the Treasury, and the Treasury at once sanctioned an addition of 500l. a year to the salary. He came next to the Vote No. 5, which referred to the scientific branch of the public 1275 lie service. The increase in this vote was divided into two parts, the one permanent, the other temporary. The temporary part had reference to the Arctic expedition. That had not been heard of since its departure. He felt certain that the House would unanimously he of opinion that they would only consult the interests of humanity and justice by doing everything that could be done for the relief of the missing expedition. Every precaution had been taken, so that at whatever point of the coast Sir John Franklin might touch, he would there find immediate relief. That was the temporary addition to the vote. The permanent addition was for the surveying department. The Committee had observed that a railway and harbour department was now attached to the Board of Admiralty. The Board of Admiralty were aware of the inconvenience of the inquiries connected with these subjects being carried on by three separate departments, and they had been in communication with his right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, inquiring how they could consolidate the inquiries in one department. He then came to the two most important votes, namely, 7 and 8, which comprised the amounts paid in salaries in the dockyards. The importance of properly investigating this subject could not be overrated, and the Committee had bestowed a very large portion of their attention upon it. The Committee, at page 49, made some remarks on the duty of the superintendents in dockyards, in every syllable of which he entirely concurred. It pointed out that the required work in the establishments being performed with diligence and economy, depended in a great measure on the vigilance, assiduity, and zeal of the superintendents; for, unless they exerted themselves, enormous waste of labour and materials must take place. The Committee, therefore, recommended that such appointments should not be considered as honorary rewards, but given to men perfectly competent to discharge the duty. In that he entirely concurred. It was the determination of the Board of Admiralty never to bestow those appointments on men who were not fully competent to undertake such situations, because no care or watchfulness on the part of the Admiralty could supply any want of activity or energy on the spot. Allusion was made in the report to the subject of work being done by contract; and the Committee did him the honour to refer to his opinion on the subject. No reduc- 1276 tion could ever be obtained by transferring shipbuilding from the public to private yards. A great stimulus had been given to the men, by the improved system of promotion which had been applied in all the dockyards; and he believed that if the plan were properly administered and persevered in, and honestly carried out, they would live to see a vast improvement, and as much talent and industry in the naval dockyards as in any private establishment in the kingdom. The Committee recommended that building should be regulated according to the exigencies of the country; and made' a comparison between the Navy of past times and the Navy of the present, which he thought had hardly been carried to its proper extent. The decrease which had taken place in some of the first-class ships was most extraordinary. In 1814, there were 199 line-of-battle ships. In 1825, there were 117; in 1835, 97; and in 1848, only 47; three of which had been launched during the present year. Many line-of-battle ships had been converted into hulks and lazarettos, and various other purposes; and at present there were not fifty available line-of-battle ships for service. On the other side they had a large fleet of steamers. He thought the House would he of opinion that the very least amount of building for future years was that which was recommended by Lord Auckland. He recommended that three line-of-battle ships should be launched each year; that in addition, from twelve to fifteen ships should be on the stocks ready for launching, and that the timber for twelve to fifteen new ships should be placed under cover. In the year 1830, the establishment in the dockyards was fixed by an Order in Council at 6,000 men. That was before the introduction of steam, and, in his humble judgment, was much too low, and the consequence was, that it did not last a single year. Before the year was over, the system of extra men was introduced, more labourers were employed, and the system had been growing with the growing wants of the country from that time to the present. The Committee recommended that the establishment should be thoroughly revised, and that no extra men should be employed without a report to Parliament, and the sanction of the Treasury; and in that he entirely acquiesced. Another portion of the Committee's remarks had reference to the steam factories, and whether it would not be judicious to reduce them. He could 1277 not agree with the Committee that the manufacture of steam-boilers ought to be discontinued in the dockyards. The rivets and plates of which the boilers were made, were not made in the dockyards. The only work that was done in the dockyards was to put the boilers together. If boilers were built by contract, as suggested, it would not be following out the principle of economy to build them at Birmingham, and then have to remove such heavy bodies by railway to the dockyards. The hon. Member referred to several more recommendations of the Committee on matters of detail, and then continued. The Committee stated, that a large expense of timber would be necessary for the creation of our steam navy; but they hoped a largo reduction would be made on this head. He should not be dealing fairly with the House if he did not say that he did not think any large reduction could be looked for. It must be recollected that Lord Auckland said we ought to build three line-of-battle ships every year. Now, these three line-of-battle ships yearly would require 18,000 loads of timber. That was not a vote, however, in which he could hope to effect any very great saving. The Committee also expressed a hope that a largo reduction would be made in the item of steam machinery in the course of the ensuing year. The Government stated that they would effect a reduction of 180,000l., and he did not think that they could go further. Vote No. 11 was the last vote of any importance connected with the Navy, upon which he should have to make any remarks. It was the vote relating to new works, and it had given rise to long inquiries in the Committee, and occasioned great difference of opinion. The Committee said, this was a vote to be judged, not by a comparison with the estimates of former years, but with reference to the expediency of the works proposed, and it then went on to inquire whether those new works were indispensably necessary; and whether precautions were taken for due economy in their execution. He had no hesitation in saying that all the works conducted by the Admiralty department were indispensable. It was impossible to keep the country in an efficient and proper state, with regard to her coast defences, without such works as were then being carried on at Portsmouth, Chatham, Woolwich, &c. Certainly, if more time for reflection and preparation had been taken—if they had been planned ton years since—there would have 1278 been more system in their operation, and greater economy in their execution. The hon. Gentleman defended the proceedings in regard to the steam factory establishment at Woolwich, and the sawing establishment. The next item in the report of the Committee referred to the basin at Devenport. That was begun ten years ago; but since that time great alterations had taken place in the plan. There was great difference of opinion—in fact, a sort of local feud had been created about it—so that it had been found that it was impossible to arrive at the best plan amidst the conflicting allegations which were made. With regard to the works at Keyham, the report had it in contemplation that the factory and establishment should be on the same scale as that of Woolwich, and the machinery of which would be on the same scale as to the cost, 50,000l. The great object would be to build these factories on a scale which would permit of a sudden extension of their operation in case of any sudden demand or war. If there were not accommodation for constructing on immedidiate pressure, they would be nearly useless. The Committee said, if these works were now proposed for the first time, they would have no hesitation in recommending Parliament to withhold its sanction from this outlay of the public money; but considering the works executed at Portsmouth and Woolwich, they proceeded to observe that the question was very different, now that 400,000l. had been already sunk there, and that it would be the height of folly and extravagance to suspend these works, and refuse to complete them. On a division only two Members of the Committee were found to recommend that the 400,000l. should be disregarded and thrown away. The Board were willing to act on the report of the Committee, so far as to suspend proceeding with the Keyham buildings during the present year. The I subject was full of difficulties, for the Board was bound by engagement with the contractor, Mr. Baker, to an expenditure of 250,000l. during the present year, and it was only by his consent that they had succeeded in reducing it to 130,000l. The Committee recommended that the sum of 20,000l., proposed in the estimates 'for the barracks at Forton should not be granted during the present year; but in that he could not at all concur. The old marine barracks at Portsmouth were in a state that would have rendered a very large expenditure for repairs necessary in a few 1279 years; whilst, by a small additional expense, the new marine barracks would form one of the finest establishments in the country. The works were actually now in progress, and the greatest inconvenience to the public service would arise from their stoppage. There was another recommendation, with respect to the establishment at Bermuda, with which they could not comply. They could not limit themselves to the employment there of no labour but convict labour, for it would be impossible to complete with convict labour alone the storehouses that were now on the point of completion. Another general recommendation by the Committee, that they should begin no new works, unless with the sanction of the Treasury to the undertaking, the Board were perfectly ready to adopt. On the subject of the coast-guard, the expense of training which was to be reduced from 16,000l. to 5,000l., he might observe that experience had shown of how great importance were the arrangements that had been made for organising it as a naval reserve, and that they would be of the highest utility to the public service. An instance had occurred last week which showed the fine spirit animating that class of men. It was found necessary to send reinforcements to Ireland, and 350 men of the coast-guard volunteered last week to proceed to that country. It was found that instead of any indisposition to resume the active duties of their profession, there was only one man in the whole coast-guard who stood on what he called his rights, and said he did not like to be employed at sea. He came now to the question on which he was afraid the Committee and the Admiralty were most decidedly and irreparably at issue—that relating to promotion. The Committee had proposed that the Admiral's list, which was fixed a few years ago at 150, should be reduced permanently to 100, by promoting only one captain for every three death vacancies, and stopping promotion to a corresponding degree in every other rank. This decision was come to in the Committee by a bare majority, and he believed did not ultimately receive the sanction of the Member who first proposed it. The Committee stated that it entertained a deep interest and regard for the feelings of those gallant officers engaged in the Navy; in fact it was impossible to show more delicacy of feeling than that shown by the Committee in consulting on a matter affecting the interests of those gallant officers, but which they thought might be al- 1280 tered with greater advantage to the public. The Government did not contend for the necessity of having an admirals' list of 150; they would be glad of a list of 100 instead. And it was quite true that the whole number was not required, as they never had that number employed in their greatest naval wars. It was equally true, however, that the condition on which a man went into the Navy was that he should rise to a flag in due course of promotion, and not be cheated out of it; and he had a double right at present to form those expectations, as the whole question of retirement in the Navy had been twice under the consideration of the House during the last four years; and it was twice settled, by the assent of two Governments, without a division in the House of Commons. The present system had been proposed and carried for the express purpose of offering an honourable retirement to those captains whose age was too great to enable them to remain in effective service, and to whom their country offered the rank of retired rear-admiral, instead of retaining them on the active list. The House of Commons voted 30,000l. yearly for that purpose; and what would be the effect of the recommendation of the Committee? It would throw back every man three years, and its operation was such that they would cheat themselves of the very consideration they expected with regard to the 30,000l., for they were bound to pay it for the lives of the men already promoted. By the present system they would in the course of a year have admirals of fifty-five and fifty-four years of age, instead of men of the age of seventy and upwards; and he entreated the House to continue the grant, and to pause before it committed an act injurious to the service, and unjust to the officers. The only part of the recommendation in which the Admiralty did concur was the limitation of first entries. They agreed that the limitation of first entries was the keystone to all substantial economy. He must also remind the House that the half-pay lists of the Army and Navy were differently arranged. The Navy had not that resource which was possessed by the Army of disposing of their commissions by purchase. If they looked at the payments now made to general officers and senior captains, they would find in the Army that the pay of the general officers and colonels of regiments amounted in the whole to 154,000l. The half-pay of general officers unattached was 76,000l., making together 230,000l. The 1281 half-pay to lieutenant colonels and colonels being 83,600l., made a payment to generals and colonels in the Army of 313,600l. The total amount of full and half-pay of admirals and flag officers in the Navy was 232,504l.; so that this was not an overpaid profession. It was indeed one in which those few great prizes were looked to by those gallant officers who entered the service. Then another recommendation of the Committee was the freight of ships for the conveyance of convicts, or the services performed in the packet service that should not appear in the Navy Estimates, but be made matter of account elsewhere. At present the public saw 1,000,000l. charged in the Navy Estimates, and it was now considered that that had nothing to do with the naval service. The Government admitted that it would be desirable to adopt this suggestion. He had now gone through the recommendations of the Committee, which, taking them large and small, amounted to thirty-three. Of these the Admiralty were willing to adopt twenty-nine, and he thought he had given good reasons when they thought it their duty to dissent from the suggestions of the Committee. He had now only to state to the House that he believed the Navy was in a most efficient state; that all our foreign stations were adequately provided for; and at home we had a large force, which, however, was not larger than was required. Last week there was reason to believe that an additional naval force might be required in Ireland. On the 27th of July orders were given at the Admiralty at one o'clock for the immediate equipment of four vessels of the steam reserve. On the 28th of July at ten o'clock in the morning, two of these vessels were on their way to Spithead, manned, armed, provisioned, and furnished with everything except their gunpowder; they took in their powder at three in the afternoon; they sailed an hour afterwards to Devonport, where they took in the 35th Regiment, and they landed that regiment on the 30th in Dublin. That was an instance of the manner in which our steam reserve would enable us to bring the whole power of the empire to bear on any particular point. He thought, after stating that the Admiralty were ready to adopt twenty-nine out of the thirty-three recommendations of the Committee, he need not give another pledge of the earnest desire of the Admiralty to carry out every legitimate economy; but in stating the desire to pursue economy, he 1282 did not propose, nor did he wish the Committee to imgine, that the Government would do anything to cripple or impair our most legitimate sources of power in case of foreign aggression. The Admiralty wished to be prepared with ample means, not with a view to purposes of hostility to any party, but to resist aggression from whatever quarter it might come. The hon. Gentleman concluded by moving that a sum of 293,560l. be granted to Her Majesty to complete what may be necessary for the cost of wages to seamen and marines, now in course of payment.
§ MR. HUME
thought the sum of 208,000l., the retrenchment of which they had recommended, might have been saved before the appointment of the Committee. The object which the Committee had in view, throughout their long and arduous investigation, was to find out what mischief had taken place through mismanagement or want of system, and to show what course ought to be adopted in order to remedy the evils which had thus arisen. The Committee had discovered mismanagement in many quarters; and had ascertained, beyond all question, that during the last fifty years there had been a most lavish and extravagant expenditure of the public money in the construction of ships for the Navy. The Admiralty had admitted the necessity of a change; and had even promised that there should be henceforward an additional check on the expenditure of money, which was in itself a great point to be relied on for the future. But in other respects how was the country to benefit by the exertions of the Committee? Would the Government curtail the expenses of the Naval Establishment generally? The hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty had assured the House that the Navy was at present in a highly efficient state. He had never known any Secretary for the Admiralty to rise in that House and make a different statement. He entirely concurred with the hon. Gentleman in thinking that the Navy ought not to be crippled or impaired; but the grand questions to be considered were—first, what was the aggregate amount necessary in order to sustain the service in efficiency? and, secondly, was that aggregate amount fairly and properly apportioned? At an early period of the present Session, when it was proposed that the number of men in the British Navy should be 43,000, he moved as an Amendment that it should be 36,000, which would have been 11,000 1283 more than in former years, when the Navy was declared to be quite as efficient as they were led to suppose it was at the present day; but he regretted to say that out of a House of 380 Members, he could only find 38 to support it. Every other country in Europe had its hands as full of business as they could possibly be. Every other country was so busily engaged with its own affairs that it was not in the nature of things that for many years to come they could meddle with the affairs of England; and such being the state of Europe, was this, he asked, a fitting time to ask for more money, in order to increase the Naval Establishment? There was no necessity for such a measure, and as it would only tend to aggravate the pressure of taxation on the people, he, for one, should not hesitate to protest against it. The number of men now in employment was 43,000, and the cost of their maintenance was 7,961,000l., being an increase in the years 1847–48, and 1849, of no less a sum than 3,517,000l. Such an enormous naval force was wholly uncalled for. All the Committee could do was to state in general terms the general principles on which the various departments ought to be conducted. It rested with the Government, and with the Government alone, to carry out those principles, and to adopt such improvements as the circumstances of each case might appear to demand. In the year 1838 Sir George Cockburn was asked what force would be sufficient to guard our commercial interests in the Navy? He replied, four ships—one large frigate and three small—"but," he added, "I do not give that evidence in allusion to the political considerations. I merely speak of what would be necessary to protect our commercial interests." A return now upon the table of the House showed that in 1841, at the time of the unfortunate Syrian war, there were 51 pennants in the Mediterranean, and that they were manned by 17,500 men. Would it be believed that in the year 1793, under the Premiership of Mr. Pitt, the total naval force of Great Britain—sailors and marines—did not exceed 16,000? They kept 28 ships on the western coast of Africa, and Government had exhibited no willingness to withdraw them, although it had been repeatedly demonstrated that so far from any good being effected by their presence there, evil and mischief were the result. In the year 1847, no less than 43 ships were engaged in that Quixotic enterprise, 1284 11 at the Cape, and 32 along the coast. Unless the House resolved to interfere, and stop the supplies, he very much feared that the evil would continue for an indefinite period. He now came to the item of half-pay. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary for the Admiralty had declared that he would never consent to any reduction in the number of admirals. He trusted that the hon. Gentleman would afford him (Mr. Hume) an opportunity of taking the sense of the House on the point. He was resolved to put it to the House, in the name of common sense, whether it would give its assent to the maintenance of a permanent staff of more than one hundred admirals at a period when they could not find employment for more than thirteen? The reasons given by the hon. Gentleman for the continuance of such an anomaly were most unsatisfactory and inconclusive. He said that a number of young men were coming up in the service, and that they, one and all, looked to the flag as an object of professional ambition. But what a state would society be in if every barrister could claim to be made a Lord Chancellor, and every clergyman demand to be made a bishop? And yet the principle was just the same. The hon. Gentleman bad instituted a comparison between the two services—the naval and the military. He should have borne in mind, however, that the Army was, numerically speaking, four times as strong as the Navy. However, he was very far from saying that abuses did not exist in the military service, as well as in the naval, though not, perhaps, to quite the same extent. On the contrary, he admitted that the people had just as much right to complain of the superfluous number of generals and staff-officers in the Army, as of admirals in the Navy. It was his opinion that the Committee had erred on the wrong side. He did not hesitate to avow that his proposition in Committee was, that the number of admirals should be fixed at 75 instead of 100; but he was overruled. What had been the services of the naval officers now on half-pay? The average service of eighty-three captains was seventeen years and four months, and the period of their half-pay was twenty-two years; the average service of 683 captains was nine years and ten months, and the, period of their half-pay twenty-two years and ten months; there were 318 captains who had never served a day as captains, having been shelved the day after their 1285 promotion; and there were sixty-eight whose service as captains did not exceed one year. With respect to commanders, the facts had been elicited: that of 807, the average service was eight years and four months, and the period of their half-pay twenty years; forty-nine had never served as commanders at all, and 102 had served in that capacity for less than a year. It was also proved with respect to lieutenants, that there were no less than 2,879, whose average service did not exceed four years and one month, while the period of their half-pay averaged sixteen years and eight months. This was a most objectionable system. He contended that the public should be only compelled to pay for service. He should never cease to protest against that system whereby naval officers on obtaining their promotion were compelled to leave the service in their full prime, in order to make room for younger men. The officers thus promoted were generally perfectly fit for service at the time they were shelved; and it was not only unjust to the country, which was saddled with their half-pay, but cruel to them (all their tastes and sympathies being in favour of a sea life) to compel them to retire. With respect to the Army he entirely disapproved of that system whereby a man after serving for three or four years was entitled to receive half-pay, and to become a pensioner for life. He did not see why the practice which prevailed in France should not be adopted here, which was, that precisely the same rule of half-pay should apply to officers as to privates. The Government was not economising as had been recommended by previous statesmen; but he hoped the country would, after it had recovered from its delirium, for it was now frightened at some groundless chimerical idea of the people revolting, insist upon the reduction of our war establishments. It was by relieving the people from the crushing weight of their present taxation, that their contentment and tranquillity could be permanently secured. The fleet upon the coast of Africa was not only useless, but seriously aggravated the evil it was intended to check. Why, too, should there be a waste of public money in the childish usage of saluting great personages? Fifty pounds a day was actually blazed away in gunpowder upon this absurd practice. After a few words on the difficulty of procuring medical officers for the fleet, and recommending the work of the dockyards to be put out by contract, 1286 the hon. Member concluded. By these and other means the public burdens might be considerably lightened; and he hoped that before they met again for the next Session the Government would have effected a careful revision of all its establishments, and be prepared to grant the people a large and substantial relief by the remission of their enormous taxation.
regretted that the Navy Estimates had been referred to a Committee; for he believed that it would hereafter be found to be a precedent attended with serious injury to the public service. At the same time he believed the Committee had collected a great deal of valuable information that would be serviceable in framing future estimates, and in conducting the general business of the different departments.
thought many of the hon. Member for Montrose's figures erroneous. He thought it better that it should be left to the Executive and the Board of Admiralty to say what ships should be kept up, and how they should do duty, than leave such a body as the House of Commons to decide upon such matters. He denied that there was the difficulty of getting medical officers and seamen which the hon. Member had supposed. The hon. Member for Montrose ought to remember that the half-pay, of which he so loudly complained, was the result of the long war. Seven hundred and twenty-eight ships were commanded by captains in the course of that war, who had been placed upon half-pay when their services were no longer required; and it would be extremely hard if no account was to be taken of their having spent the prime of their lives in the subordinate ranks of the profession, prior to their promotion to be commanders. It was, therefore, most unfair to say that they were receiving half-pay after only a few years' service, and to cry out that the country was robbed by their being paid extravagantly for doing comparatively nothing.
§ MR. COBDEN
wished to make a few observations on the question now before the House. The hon. Member for Montrose had explained to the House what the Committee had themselves stated in their report, that they were precluded from entering on the question what should be the amount of our naval force. The Committee were told that this question must be left to the responsible advisers of the Crown, who, taking a general survey of 1287 the state of the world, and of our relations with foreign Powers, proposed such a force as should he agreed upon and determined by the Queen in Council, while the House afterwards finally decided upon the amount of force which should he maintained. They all knew that the vote with reference to the amount of the forces was proposed and considered as one of confidence or no confidence, and that it became a Government and a Cabinet question. Now, before the House met next February, this question would be again considered by the Queen in Council, and the amount again prepared and submitted before the House would have an opportunity of expressing their opinion on this subject. Whatever the amount of naval force might be, he might assume that it would pass that House; but before the Government took the matter into consideration, he begged to offer a few general observations, the result of his experience in the Committee, and to express his views upon the amount of naval force which the Government had maintained and were now maintaining in the service of this country. In doing this he did not pass reflections upon the present Government, or upon any Government that had preceded it. It had been said, that the Government had been for ten years successively increasing the Navy—that there had been no one division against that increase—and that all Governments and parties had concurred in it. They who sat there had, therefore, no right to blame the Government for having so augmented the naval forces. The point to which he wished to advert was the opinion expressed by Lord Auckland and other official men who were examined before the Committee, that the increase of our naval armaments from time to time must be governed by and must keep pace with the armaments maintained by other Governments, who, it appeared, had been also increasing their naval forces. The question appeared, then, to be only one of relative, force between different Governments; and that if other Governments and our own would unite and agree upon this point, and if, instead of running a race as to which should have the largest armament, they would bring themselves to an understanding that no comparative increase should take place—then it seemed agreed they would gain all the objects which they at present gained by their overgrown armaments, and each country would stand in the same relative position as at present. It appeared that the great increase in our 1288 naval force had been in our steam navy. The Committee did not appear to him fully to appreciate the vast amount of expenditure which had taken place for the steam navy. He believed he should not exaggerate when he stated that at this moment there were either built, building, or ordered, a steam navy equal to 100 vessels, averaging upwards of 1,000 tons each. In addition to those there were sixty or seventy smaller steamers under the denomination of yachts, tenders, gunboats, and the like. He had obtained the opinions of men practically conversant with steamship building, as to the cost of this vast armament. There was the steam fleet of 100,000 tons, and 32,000 horse-power, the expense of which, taking the evidence given before the Committee as to the cost of building per ton, he put down at 5,000,000l. sterling. The smaller vessels he put down at only 10,000 horse-power, and the cost at l,000,000l., making a gross total of 6,000,000l. for steam vessels. Would the Committee believe that there had actually been expended, or was being expended, in steam war ships, a larger amount of money than was invested in the merchant steam vessels engaged in the whole of the foreign and coasting trade? ["No!"]The hon. and gallant Admiral Admiral Bowles, we believe might well receive that statement as incredible; but he had compared all the returns upon the subject, and if that hon. and gallant Gentleman would go through the calculations with him, he would undertake, notwithstanding his incredulity, to satisfy him of the fact that there was now invested or about to be invested in the steam navy a greater amount than was invested in the merchant steamers altogether. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could not believe this fact, nor probably had the country ever conceived it. But when the matter was better understood, it would be seen what a race of folly and extravagance this country had been running with others. Why, at this rate it would have been positively a gain and a blessing to the country if steam navigation had never been invented, for if a fleet of war steamers was to be kept up greater in value than the merchant steamers themselves, he would ask, speaking nationally, what possible benefit could arise? And it was the same in other countries. He would undertake to prove that the war steamers of France cost more than all her merchant steamers. He could show that such was the case in Sardinia, and in Denmark, 1289 Russia, and Austria. Then if all the countries of Europe had been running so absurd a race of competition, in the increase of their war steamers—England taking the lead—would not the House agree with him that it was high time public attention should be drawn to the subject, not only in this country, but in all the countries of the world, and that, if possible, we should invite them to follow the example we ourselves should set of reducing this most enormous expense? He would now mention another fact which would probably appear to some hon. Members equally incredible with the last. They had invested, or had already agreed to and committed themselves to invest, in steam basins and docks, for the repairing of Government steam vessels, a larger amount of money than was embarked in all the yards and factories in the kingdom engaged in building merchant steamers. He would give the items. At Woolwich the amount was 150,000l., at Portsmouth 2,70,000l., at Keyham, near Plymouth, 1,225,000l., so that there was a total of 1,625,000l. either now invested or estimated for operations which would have to be completed, as the cost of works for the repair of steam vessels, being a larger amount of capital than was invested in the yards and factories upon the Clyde or the Thames and other places in which were manufactured all the merchant steamers in the country. And it should be borne in mind that the construction of a single steam engine was not contemplated in these docks or basins; they were appropriated to the making of boilers, and the repairing of steamers only, while in the private yards and factories to which he had referred all the steam engines were made that were used both in the merchant steamers and in the Royal Navy. Now the question was, how had this enormous increase taken place? Much of it, he believed, had arisen from a state of panic. This country had been frightened by some anticipated invasion by the force of other countries; and upon this point he begged to draw the attention of the Committee to the evidence that had been given before the Select Committee by certain gallant Gentlemen. He did not wish to say a word that could excite anger or unpleasant feelings in the minds of professional men; but this much he would say, that there had been an unanimous opinion in the Select Committee that the evidence of those gallant Gentlemen was characterised by a strong professional bias towards great un- 1290 dertakings in the way of armament. Sir T. Hastings, the President of the Commission appointed in 1844 to prepare our national defences against some imaginary peril from abroad, was examined as to his views upon the danger of the country and the necessity for preparation, and this was one of his observations:—Take the Isle of Wight, for example; a large steam squadron comes over; you have two of those ships and four frigates lying in Portsmouth harbour. We will assume the object to be to attack Gosport, from which point Portsmouth might be easily destroyed; about that there is no doubt. Suppose that twenty steamers came laden with troops into Stokes bay for the purpose of landing; they would be there just at the back of Gosport.And what did Sir T. Hastings found upon this supposition of a manœuvre that an enemy might accomplish in case of war? He proposed that eight line of battle ships and frigates should be converted into screw-steamers in order to guard against an imaginary act to be done in this imaginary invasion. But, mark the effects which your proceeding had upon other countries. The next thing heard of was, that the French Government was alarmed at these preparations on our side, and recommended the preparation of a similar force. And what had been the result of all this? That only one of these screw-propelled vessels had been made; so that alarm had been excited, and corresponding preparations had been induced in France, by the accounts of our increased armament, while, after all, little was effected. And, in truth, if we looked at the armament of France upon paper, and afterwards compared it with what was realised, it would often be found that we had been needlessly frightened about preparations which had never been actually carried out. He would now give the Committee another specimen of the kind of professional argument by which the Government were induced to incur the expense of these steam dockyards. Sir T. Hastings said—Supposing you had an equal force with France, and the object to be attained were the defence of the Channel Islands. The squadrons assemble near the Channel Islands. The object, of course, of the British squadron would be, which, with steam, they would easily have the power of doing, to place themselves between the Islands and the enemy. In that position it is probable a great battle would be fought. I will admit that the battle is to the advantage of England; but, as probably would be the case in the opening of a war, it is not one of those great decisive actions with which a war is closed, and that the French are enabled to retire into Cherbourg, Brest, Nantes, I'Orient, and Rochefort.1291 Further on the same gallant Officer said—We supposed just now a battle to be fought near the Channel Islands; but if we look to the Mediterranean, we shall find that the first naval actions would be probably somewhere to the west of a line drawn from Toulon to Algiers. There is no factory at Gibraltar; and, if you wished to have one, you have no ground on which to build an extensive one.And, further on, they had another assumed or imaginary sea fight. The gallant Officer said—The factory at Portsmouth is so confined, that admitting you were to throw twenty-five steam-ships in there after a battle, to repair, you could not effect it. Take it that there were forty vessels engaged; supposing you were to send fifteen to the river, and twenty-five to Portsmouth—twenty-five would be more than you could calculate on the power of Portsmouth to repair, and consequently I think it would be wise to provide another basin and factory where such repairs, in the event of such a contingency, depending upon a war, may arise.Upon these assumptions of invasions and imaginary battles followed the gallant Captain's idea of what preparations ought to be made for repairing steam vessels and engines. He was asked (question 9,844)—It has been stated that if Woolwich were worked to its maximum, and nothing was done but the repair of steam machinery, it would be equal to the repair of 20,000 horse-power; what power do you think necessary in addition to that?To this the reply of the gallant Officer was as follows:—Portsmouth is designed for 25,000 horsepower, that would leave me 25,000 for Keyham; also, according to the estimate I have given, I would venture to say, that if you are forming an establishment, admitting my data to be right, of 70,000 horse-power, the materiel of the establishment has not been framed on too extensive a scale.The House would remark that Sir T. Hastings had assumed the country to be at war, and that battles were to be fought in particular localities; and upon such assumptions he had gone to work and persuaded the Government—and the Government had acted upon his suggestions—that it was necessary to have l,225,000l. expended at; Devonport for the repair of these steam vessels, and upon such recommendations the House stood committed to a vote for the repair of steam vessels amounting to 70,000 horse-power. The gallant Officer was asked whether he regarded such preparations to be necessary in time of peace? and his distinct answer was, "I view all these questions with reference to a state of war." Great, however, as were these preparations for the coming war, they were 1292 not sufficient to satisfy all the gallant officers who had given their opinions upon the subject. The hon. and gallant Member for Launceston was examined before the Select Committee—[An Hon. MEMBER deprecated reference to the evidence before the Committee, when it had only just been printed.] It was not his fault if the Navy Estimates had been brought forward before hon. Members were in possession of the evidence before the Committee. He could, however, hear his testimony to the great ability with which the report had been drawn up by the noble Lord who was Chairman of that Committee. Admiral Bowles was asked what ought to be the amount of our naval force; and his answer was—I believe that no officer in the Navy, whoso opinion is worth anything, would say that the force of the Navy ought to be so low as at the present moment.He further said—My opinion is, that we should take care to be one-half superior to the French navy, whatever their navy is.And the gallant Admiral further gave as his opinion—Our Navy must be kept up with reference to the Navy of the Power with which we may be at war; so that if the other Power have sixty or seventy steamers of the line, we ought to have eighty or ninety.[Admiral BOWLES: The hon. Member is not quoting fairly—my evidence referred to ships of the line, and not steamers.] He willingly conceded to the hon. and gallant Admiral, that England was entitled to have a larger naval force than other countries of the world if she liked to incur the expense. Nay, more, no country would object to England having a larger naval force than others. If ships of war were necessary at all, no one would deny that England, with a more extended commerce than any other country, was entitled to keep a larger force afloat, without exciting jealousy. He was not attacking the Government or any party in the country, but he called in question the wisdom of this policy throughout the world of constantly increasing armaments. At the same time he adhered to the opinion he had expressed before, that, when gallant admirals and captains were called upon to advise as to the amount of armament to be kept up, they were likely to be influenced by professional feelings and prepossessions in urging increased arming without reference to the expenditure. The House would find in the evidence, that when these gallant officers recommended this increase of force, 1293 and when they were asked about the expense, they said, "Oh, we never thought about that at all; all we thought of was, how the country was to be defended." It appeared to him that the great error on the part both of the Government and of these officers was, that they assumed as a physical possibility what nobody could deny, that there might be an attack upon some point of our shores, and then called upon the country to act upon their assumption as if it were a moral probability. If they were to carry out that principle, he did not know where they could stop in their preparations against an invasion, short of erecting a martello tower at every hundred yards upon the coast, and even then there might be some timid old ladies who felt themselves insecure. At the same time, it appeared to him that we had shown a little want of what was called English pluck. he had seen a remark in an American paper to the effect that England had been incurring expenses all over the world to play the bully, and now she was incurring expenses to play the coward; and really there appeared some force in the observation, when we had been wasting our money to defend ourselves from those imaginary dangers, and from invasions and attacks which nobody ever contemplated making upon us. He would now appeal to the Government whether it was utterly impossible for something to be done to stop this enormous expenditure? Would it not be practicable and rational to make a proposal—a proposal such as was probably never made before—to the Continental States, that they should discontinue this absurd principle of arming? He might be called Utopian for entertaining the idea of such a project, were he not sanctioned by high authority in that House—by a statesman whose opinions commanded respect both in the Legislature and in the country. In 1841, prior to accepting office, the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth said, in speaking on the Amendment to the Address—Is not the time come when the powerful countries of Europe should reduce those military armaments which they have so sedulously raised? Is not the time come when they should be prepared to declare that there is no use in such overgrown establishments? What is the advantage of one Power greatly increasing its Army and Navy? Does it not see that if it possesses such increase for self-protection and defence, the other Powers will follow its example? The consequence of this state must be, that no increase of relative strength will accrue to any one Power; but there must be a universal consumption of the resources of every 1294 country in military preparations. They are, in fact, depriving peace of half its advantages, and anticipating the energies of war whenever they may be required. I do not mean to advocate any romantic notion of each nation trusting with security the professions of its neighbours; but if each country were to commune with itself, and ask, 'What is at present the danger of foreign invasion compared to the danger of producing dissatisfaction and discontent, and curtailing the comforts of the people by undue taxation? 'the answer must be this, that the danger of aggression is infinitely less than the danger of those sufferings to which the present exorbitant expenditure must give rise. The interest of Europe is not that any one country should exercise a peculiar influence; but the true interest of Europe is to come to some one common accord, so as to enable every country to reduce those military armaments which belong to a state of war rather than of peace. I do wish that the councils of every country (or that the public voice and mind, if the councils did not) would willingly propagate such a doctrine.Many embassies had been sent abroad to negotiate for various objects whether relating to peace or war. Why should not a messenger go forth from the Foreign Office to the Governments of France and Europe generally, to propose that there should be a partial disarmament? We were, in fact, departing from the practice of former days. Formerly, when hostilities ceased, Governments disbanded their forces, and the people were left to enjoy the fruits of peace. We were now keeping up a force equal to that which was maintained in the middle of the last century, when we were engaged in war. And had hon. Gentlemen calculated the expense of this? Let him not be called a romantic dreamer possessed with the notion of universal and perpetual peace. What he wanted was reduction. He asked again—had hon. Members calculated the expense of the armament? They were voting this year for Army, Navy, and Ordnance, 18,000,000l. It was equal to 8,000,000 quarters of wheat, and to the rental of 1,800,000 10l. houses. He did not mean to say that circumstances might not require a large expenditure of the public money; but every shilling that was expended without necessity was just as much wasted as if it were flung into the sea; it produced nothing to the country; and he had observed in the inquiry before the Committee, that the purpose of our armaments was not always properly defined. Lord Auckland had been examined before the Committee, and he seemed not to know what considerations governed the disposal of our naval force; there seemed never to be any rule. He appeared to consider that there was a necessity for some of our ships to be in every quarter of the world where 1295 there were ships belonging to any other Power. There was the miserable affair of the River Plate; what a waste of money at Montevideo! And, after we had abandoned the affair, and given it up in despair, we must have ships kept there to watch the French. Then there was our trade with China; there were twenty-five ships of war on the East India and China station to guard our trade; whereas, in 1835, we had only fifteen. Was it expected that our trade with China could support such an expenditure? Was a trade of 2,000,000l. with China to be burdened with 700,000l. or 800,000l. for this object? If we had much of this sort of trade, it would be the ruin of the country. Our merchant vessels were now exempt from the danger of pirates; that was a modern advantage which our forefathers never possessed. He knew there were Malay prahus in the Indian Archipelago; but they did not attack our vessels; they robbed each other. We had now no Algerines to contend with, like the Venetians of old, who were obliged to send armaments to protect their ships against pirates. We laboured under no such disadvantages; we were fitting out armaments simply and solely for the purpose of running a race with other Powers of folly and extravagance. He saw nothing in the state of the countries abroad to prevent an overture from this country for a partial disarmament; on the contrary, he saw much which afforded a prospect of the continuance of peace. The hon. Member for Oxfordshire (Mr. Henley) last night said, he (Mr. Cobden) had not been a true prophet with respect to the state of France. He was charged with not having foreseen the French revolution, which neither Monsieur Guizot nor Louis Philippe foresaw at twelve o'clock of the day on which it exploded; and he thought he ought not to be excused, for if there was any person who more than another had cast discredit upon those who presumed to indulge in prediction, it was he. But he saw nothing in the present state of France or Europe to prevent a reduction of armaments. There was no symptom of war between the great nations of Europe; all countries seemed to be settling down according to their several races and nationalities. Germany said, "We want to be Germans; we don't want any but natives of the German race to league with us; we want no Sclavonians and no French." Austria, indeed, was trying to prevent the fulfilment of this national desire in Italy; but if one great na- 1296 tion desired to conquer other nations of different race, and language, and religion, he saw no advantage in its so doing; on the contrary, he was sure success would be a source of perpetual weakness, and no one who knew the universal feeling of the Lombards would deny that if Austria subjected them, it would be a source of weakness to her, and not of strength. Sovereigns no longer disposed of the destiny of nations. It would never again be found that princes and sovereigns, sitting in Congress at Vienna, could dispose of countries, and races, and people in a mass. The democracy was now heard; there was a popular voice, and he saw in the influence of that popular voice an obstacle against war, a principle that would control dynastic intrigues, and save us in future from such misunderstandings as have lately arisen out of secret arrangements for the marriage of princes. Was it not the great interest of this country, or of any other country, to reduce its expenditure? The remark he had quoted from the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth showed that the consequence of increased armaments must be increased taxation. Look at our condition now. Could we find any parish or municipality in such a state we should be ashamed of it. We had an acknowledged deficiency of 1,700,000l. a year, and yet we were neither ashamed of it nor alarmed at it. We were running the same course which all nations ran when they entered upon a career of ruin; our expenditure exceeded our income; and we could not reduce our expenditure unless we reduced our armaments; and every step we took to reduce our expenditure would not only reduce taxation, but increase the commerce of the country. A reduction of 1,000,000l. in the Naval Estimates would enable them to take off one-half the tea duty, which would augment our trade with China; and the reduction of another million devoted to the abolition of excise duties would relieve and encourage various branches of trade. Then he said to the House and to the country, without reference to party—he was not treating this as a party question—this was the moment to invite the Government to exert their utmost efforts with foreign countries to induce them to agree with us to reduce our expenditure by reducing our armaments, that they might reduce theirs. He should like to see this country set the example, and others to follow it; but France had already set the example. He had seen it 1297 announced that the French Minister had, reduced the expenditure of the Navy 30,000,000l. francs. He wrote to a friend at Paris, and asked him if it was true. His answer was, that the French Minister no more than our Chancellor of the Exchequer abounded in wealth, and that he had been issuing circulars specifying the reductions to be made in all the departments for 1849, to enable him to make the income equal to the expenditure; and that the circular of the Minister of Marine required reductions to be made in that department to the extent of 30,000,000 francs. He should have: wished that the glory would have belonged to our Government of setting such an example to the whole civilised world. He called upon the House and the country to urge the Government to try to induce other Governments to do that which he hoped; we should do ourselves, by commencing a course of retrenchment in the cost of our overgrown and oppressive armaments.
§ ADMIRAL BOWLES
Sir, the hon. Member for the West Riding has addressed the first part of his speech so particularly to me, that although he was sufficiently discursive towards the conclusion, and wandered into various foreign topics, it would be disrespectful towards the House, and not courteous to the hon. Gentleman himself, if I did not say a few words in reply. The great error into which he, and all the school to which he belongs, always fall in discussing these questions, is, that from an, apparent incapacity to comprehend the immense national interests and objects at stake, they argue as if the matter was merely pecuniary—an affair of pounds, shillings, and pence—and totally lose sight of the higher objects involved in it. The hon. Gentleman brings forward his ad captandum illustrations, to show how many quarters of wheat may be bought, or how-many ten-pound houses built, with the money which our Navy costs us; but he forgets that even the blessings of food and dwellings will go but a small way towards human happiness, if they are unaccompanied by a sense of protection for life, and security for property. For the sake of a passing smile in the course of his speech, he has quoted garbled extracts from evidence not yet published, to represent an officer of high rank and character, as entertaining exaggerated and groundless apprehensions, and suggesting unnecessary precautions; but I assert, from my own knowledge, that the dangers in question were not imaginary but real—that if war 1298 had suddenly broken out in 1844, we were by no means prepared for it, and this not from the fault of the then existing Government, but from the injudicious and overstrained economy of their predecessors in office, who had not been sufficiently alive to the extraordinary efforts making at that time by France, for the increase of their navy—a steam navy, more especially, which might outnumber ours on any sudden emergency. Any one would suppose, while listening to the hon. Member, that all the great exertions made during the Administration of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Tamworth to increase our own force, were extravagant and unnecessary fancies; but he forgets that we were driven to them by the conduct to which I have alluded; and when he quotes Sir R. Peel's wise and statesmanlike intreaties to foreign Powers to abstain from warlike preparations, he must surely be aware that all these observations were especially addressed to France. And how was his appeal answered? Why, it appeared as if the Government, the Chambers, and the Nation were rivalling each other in hostile feelings and demonstrations, and pressing forward more eagerly those great naval preparations so evidently directed against us, and which rendered indispensable corresponding efforts on our part. I trust that circumstances have I now changed, and better feelings may, have arisen; but I am anxious to show how completely the hon. Member has misrepresented all the facts, for the purpose of suiting them to his own argument. Sir, after the very satisfactory statement of the Secretary of the Admiralty, by which we are informed that none of the more important suggestions of the Select Committee are to be adopted by Her Majesty's Government, I shall abstain from those lengthened remarks upon them which would have otherwise been necessary, ob-; serving only that the report has been drawn up with great care and labour by the noble Chairman, and that it will be found very useful as a general summary of the practice of the department, if the Government should continue to divest itself of its responsibility, and again to commit the revision of the Navy Estimates to a Committee of this House. The recommendations to which I propose to advert are only the most important ones, and I will take that with respect to Keyham first, because it far exceeds the remainder in magnitude; and, if I have the good 1299 fortune to convince the House that I am right on this point, I shall give them very little more trouble with respect to the remainder. Sir, I did not imagine until I attended this Committee, that a doubt could arise in the mind of any reflecting individual as to the obvious necessity of preparing in due time for the repairs and equipment of that steam navy which circumstances beyond our own control, and to which I need not now more particularly allude, had obliged us to create. Our naval arsenals, complete as they generally are, for the purposes of former times, were, with the exception of one in the Thames (Woolwich), unprovided with the means for repairing the defects or injuries of a single steamer; and it was clear that all our efforts would have been thrown away except our two great western arsenals—Portsmouth and Devonport—were made available for this purpose. The former is happily nearly complete, and beyond the reach of the Committee, but no efforts were left unturned to overthrow or retard the completion of the latter; and although the evidence of almost every witness bore the strongest testimony to its extreme importance, and the impossibility during war of conducting naval operations on the coast of Prance, Ireland, and the Bay of Biscay without a sufficient establishment at Plymouth for the immediate refitment and repair of our steam navy, it was obviously impossible to convince those whose minds were apparently previously thoroughly made up on the subject of this self-evident truth. It was in vain urged that France had already made these preparations: that at Cherbourg, Brest, Indret, and Rochefort, all was complete. Nothing could convince a certain number of the Committee, and it will be seen by the proceedings that two hon. Members actually voted for the immediate stoppage of these great and most important works! Sir, I have already said that I impugn no man's motives. I trust they are upright and honourable; but this I will fearlessly assert that the worst enemy of his country could not have devised a scheme more calculated to injure our naval power and to cripple our means both offensive and defensive. Sir, with respect to the recommendation for confining the number of men actually employed strictly within the limits of that annually voted by Parliament, it sounds, I acknowledge, plausible. I know it was an old hobby of the right hon. Member for Ripon; but it has one great objection—it 1300 is impracticable. In the vast and complicated affairs, foreign and domestic, of this mighty empire, something will every year occur at home or abroad to create alarm and uneasiness—to impede the regularity of reliefs, and, in short, to derange that perfect accuracy of management on which this suggestion depends. With respect to the recommendation of the Committee to annul the whole of those regulations on the faith of which a large measure of retirement and gradual promotion was granted to flag officers only a year and a half ago, its injustice is, I trust, so evident to Her Majesty's Government that I will not trouble the House with any further remarks upon it, and I will only in conclusion detain the House a very few minutes with some observations on the line of conduct which might, without impairing the efficiency, secure real and solid economy in our naval administration. It has been more than insinuated, in the course of this debate, that naval officers are reckless of expense—that they are regardless of economy, and only desirous of maintaining large and unnecessary establishments. Sir, I deny all these accusations. I assert that we are most anxious to combine efficiency with economy in its true and legitimate sense; but real economy. Sir, is that which produces equal results at a smaller cost, while parsimony and injudicious saving only render inevitable a much larger outlay hereafter.
My gallant Friends opposite will allow me to remind them how much money may be saved by a constant and careful control over the large sums annually expended in our dockyards, in building, repairing, and altering ships; and how much consideration is necessary to guard against any injudicious expenses under these heads. I would venture to suggest to them a much more detailed and serious examination of all these questions before the whole Board of Admiralty than has ever hitherto prevailed, and to recommend that, as it is now finally determined that the Surveyor of the Navy shall in future be an officer of rank and distinction in the service, he should no longer be considered as a mere subordinate, but be raised to a seat at the Board, and thus enabled to state and support his own opinions and ideas with more freedom and effect. I am convinced that nothing would conduce more towards real economy than the adoption of this plan.
defended the increase in the salary of the Second Secretary of the 1301 Admiralty, Captain Hamilton. He supposed that the hon. Member for Montrose, when he stated that the number of ships of the line was at present reduced to fifty, could only have alluded to such ships of the line as were ready for sea. With respect to the recommendation of the Committee to reduce the number of flag officers from 150 to 100, he was glad to hear that it was not the intention of the Government to give effect to it. During the course of this discussion it had been assumed by some hon. Gentlemen that all the recent measures of the late Board of Admiralty, and those that were continued by the present Board, had been adopted in consequence of some imaginary alarm. A more absurd notion it was impossible to conceive. It was quite true that there had existed some alarm in consequence of the state of the relations between this country and France; but, without reference to any such alarm, he would call the attention of the House to the fact that in 1844, when these steam preparations were taken in hand, the war steam navy of France was actually larger than that of England. Had this country ever been content to remain inferior to France in naval preparations? He therefore hoped, notwithstanding the pacific doctrines of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, that the Government would not oven allow France to equal this country in steam preparations. That hon. Member had said, that all this expenditure had been imposed on the country because France and other Powers had been running a race of most absurd competition in useless extravagance, of which England set the example. That, however, was not the case. The example was not set by England, but by France. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, referring to Sir T. Hastings' evidence, said that all this expense had been incurred for the purpose of providing against an imaginary danger. But that was not the purport of Sir T. Hastings' evidence, which went to show that the country ought to provide in peace the means of repairing, in case war should arise, the horsepower which it at present possessed in steam vessels; and, as the mercantile and Royal steam Navy of this country equalled 70,000 horse-power, the country ought to have the means of repairing that horsepower. This was a calculation founded on the amount of steam power employed in time of peace, and not upon a reference to any increase for a time of war, and he 1302 thought that it would not be denied that the country ought to have the means of repairing the steam power now available for the defence of the country. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire said it was absurd to enter upon preparations on the assumption that somebody was going to attack this country; but upon what other possible assumption could they regulate their proceedings? He hoped that they should not hear in that House the doctrine that this country should not trust to her own resources, but to the mercy of others. England ought to be at the head of all other nations in naval preparations, in consequence of her extensive mercantile relations. When the evidence was delivered he should be perfectly ready to enter upon the general discussion, and to have the naval policy of the late Government inquired into. He thought that he should then be able to satisfy the House that the measures adopted by the late Government were necessary for the maintenance of the naval supremacy of this country, which, he trusted, notwithstanding the opinion of the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, no Minister or Government would be prepared to abandon.
§ LORD J. RUSSELL
I do not rise for the purpose of entering into a detailed explanation of the Navy Estimates, for my hon. Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty, and the hon. Gentleman opposite, who were concerned in the preparation of the estimates of the late Government, have gone into those details very fully, and, as I think, very satisfactorily. But the hon. Gentleman the Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire has laid down certain principles for our consideration, at least with a view to the preparation of estimates for a future year; and this, in fact, does seem to me to be the chief topic of discussion for the present occasion. It is impossible that we can now discuss the report of the Committee; and no one wishes to reduce the actual force of the Navy. But certain principles have been laid down by the hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, to which I think it important that the House should give some consideration with a view to what is to be our basis in preparing the estimates. The hon. Member admitted very fairly and very truly that we could not omit from our consideration the naval force of other countries; and not only that, but that no one in this country and no foreign Power ought to find fault 1303 if our Navy were stronger than that of other foreign Powers. So far I quite agree with the hon. Gentleman. I do not think that we ought to say so much as was laid down in the Committee of 1817, that it was necessary for this country to have a force equal to any two foreign Powers; but I think that what the hon. Member has stated, that we ought to be stronger at sea than any other foreign Power, is a proposition to which the House may very fairly assent. But in discussing further the question as to what that force should be, I own that I think that the hon. Gentleman laid down certain principles to which I cannot possibly assent. He stated very fairly, however, that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the late Government said that it was very desirable that all countries should agree not to run a race of competition as to the amount of force to be kept up, and that the several Powers should not put themselves to a great and extravagant expense, by endeavouring to get before each other; and that it would be far better and far more rational that all should agree to a reduced and moderate amount of force, than to seek each to exceed the other. So far I quite agree with the hon. Member (Mr. Cobden); but he has entirely omitted to notice the fact to which the hon. Gentleman who last spoke has adverted—that the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the late Government found it necessary, when in power, in consequence of the increase of the French steam navy, very much to increase our force, and to lay the foundation of a very extended force of steamers, and, in fact, of a large expenditure, in conformity with principles on which he found it necessary to act, although they were not the principles which he stated it to be most desirable should influence the course both of this country and of France. It is obvious that, if France had been willing to follow the suggestion thrown out by the right hon. Gentleman, and had made a great reduction of force, then the right hon. Gentleman could have acted on the principle he enounced; but as France acted on a contrary principle, and would make a great expenditure for her naval force, and especially for the force of steamers, it was impossible for any Government not to follow the same course, and to maintain a proper force here to defend this country in case of danger. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire having referred to the evidence of Sir T. Hastings, the hon. 1304 Member opposite (Mr. Corry) explained that he had only in contemplation what was necessary in time of peace. But even if Sir T. Hastings had said that this country might be exposed to war, and that if war should break out probably battles would take place, I do not think that he would have been wandering in the realms of imagination, or that he would be liable to the charge of being extremely fanciful, if he said that what had occurred six or seven times in the course of the last century might occur again, and that it was as well to be prepared against it. The hon. Member for the West Riding of Yorkshire, laying down certain principles of calculation, says that our steam navy has cost an enormous sum—a greater sum than the merchant steam marine of this country. Without going into the particulars of that estimate, I should be inclined to doubt the fact; but I do not think that the inference he draws is well founded; for he says, "You have a steam navy which costs more than the merchant steam marine—more than that which is to be protected by it." But the Navy is to protect not only that branch of the merchant shipping, but the whole of the merchant marine, and is also required for other purposes—for war, and for the assistance of our fleets; and he could have no adequate notion of the purposes for which our fleet is required if he fancied that it was merely wanted to protect the merchant steamers belonging to the country. The hon. Gentleman says that you have a large steam and other navy, and you will find in the end that it will cost more than would be spent in building all the towns on the coast. Now, supposing that were the case, would it be wise of this country, in an economical point of view—as a question of how you can spend your money to the best advantage—to say that, rather than expend 5,000,000l., 6,000,000l., or 10,000,000l., you would let all the towns on your coast be destroyed? Suppose, at the beginning of a war, that this country was to find that the French steam navy had gone from Dover to Falmouth, and that every town on the coast had been set on fire and destroyed, would any one say, "After all, we are gainers by this, for those towns were only worth 15,560,000l. 19s. 10½d. and it would cost us at least 500,000l. or 1,000,000l. more to save them from destruction?" It is quite ovious what the effect would be. The whole of the country would then be in a state of real panic. It would 1305 not be such a panic as the hon. Member for the West Riding has said was so causeless; but the real panic which arises when a country finds itself incapable of defence. Regarding this subject in an economical point of view, I would ask the House to consider what it is that causes the whole security of capital in this country—which has led people, with the greatest confidence, to lay out within the last few years upwards of 300,000,000l. upon railways—and which induces them to enter with such confidence into commercial and manufacturing speculations? It is the belief that this country is secure of its independence; that it can maintain order within, and respect without; and that capital can therefore be safely laid out and invested. But if you had every town on the coast burnt and destroyed by a foreign enemy, that feeling of security would immediately cease, and persons who had invested their capital here would at once say, "Let us go and invest our capital at New York or Philadelphia, and fly from a country which has not courage to defend it." That appears to me to be the pounds, shillings, and pence view of the question. Without appealing to national pride, to high feelings of patriotism, or even to the spirit of the "British lion," but merely making a calculation of what is the cheapest way of maintaining the capital and riches of this country, I should say, it is a far cheaper plan to follow the course recommended by the late Prime Minister (Sir R. Peel), of having a good steam navy, and a sufficient force to defend ourselves, than to say, "We will calculate the exact value of what we have to defend, and it does not much signify if we have a few towns burnt." Now, having expressed my difference from the hon. Member for the West Riding in that respect, I have to state that I agree with him in much that he has said; and I think that if the present French Government, being wiser than the late Government of that country, should deem it proper to reduce very much their naval expenses, which appear to me to have been extravagant of late years, it would furnish a good occasion to carry into effect retrenchments which would not otherwise be advisable. I think that the Committee which has lately sat, has pointed out several sources of expense which might be very well the subjects of inquiry, and of careful amendment in the course of another year. I quite disagree from an hon. Gentleman who said it was 1306 not fitting to subject the estimates to the consideration of a Select Committee. I think it would be very unadvisable and unusual—it would be shirking the responsibility of a Government—to take that course every year; but I regret that such a course was not taken in 1818 and 1828. I regret also that we did not take that course in 1838; and I think the hon. Member for Montrose was quite right in suggesting that it should be adopted this year. I believe that inquiries by such Committees from time to time—not too frequently, but every now and then—do enable the Government, and the public departments, to reconsider expenses which they may have incurred, and to take a better course with regard to many of the details of that expenditure. I perfectly agree, also, that there is nothing more foolish than for the Governments of different countries to vie with each other in attempting to have large armaments. I quite agree that, as a general rule, such a course is most unwise. I do not think, however, that we are exactly in the position of the United States of America. We are naturally more involved in all those questions which concern the continent of Europe; but still, I think, the Powers of Europe would all do well if they moderated their expenditure for the maintenance of armaments. I do not wish to follow the hon. Member for the West Riding into his view of the state of foreign politics; but as he has spoken quite fairly of the prophecy he made with respect to the probability of a revolution in France, I must remind him that he made another prophecy, namely, that the present Government would be so influenced by the clubs and coteries of London, that in a very short time it would become involved in war with the French Republic. I thought, at the time, that that prophecy was most unjust to Her Majesty's Government. I can assure the hon. Member that it never was our wish to quarrel with the Government of France; and, even in the short time that has elapsed since the revolution of February, we have shown, I think, that it has been our desire to act rather in concert, or at all events on the best terms of international relation, with the Government of so powerful and enlightened a country. I am glad to find that the present Government of France disclaim, most wisely, those projects of ambition which led France, under the republic and under the empire, at first to brilliant conquests, and afterwards to as signal calamities; that 1307 the present Government of France, and I believe the whole of the French nation, concur in the impolicy of such a course; that, on the contrary, their wish is to preserve the peace of Europe; and that, if there is a desire to break the peace of Europe, it exists—not in France—but in other quarters. I cannot say that I think the state of Europe is at present so assured that any statesman could confidently predict, for any number of years, the continuance of peace: but, with respect to the Government of France, I believe that they are animated by a sincere desire to preserve peace. I believe that the powerful Government of Russia is animated by the same desire; and, England, France, and Russia all concurring in a desire to maintain the peace of Europe, there is not at present the least probability of that peace being disturbed.
§ MR. DISRAELI
The hon. Member for the West Riding has taken this opportunity of promulgating certain deleterious principles, of which he is a persuasive advocate. I wish I could agree with him that what he calls the progress of democratic government is calculated to insure peace for human nature. I must say that the little experience we have of recent changes has not been of a very promising character. We have had the triumph of democracy in Germany followed up by the invasion of Denmark and by the invasion of Holland; and I believe that the hon. Gentleman, though he visits upon kings and cabinets the occurrences of all past wars, will not find in the annals of history cases of more unprovoked and flagrant invasion. Indeed, I must express my opinion that the hon. Gentleman is a professor of philosophy on the subject, which is not founded upon fact. The hon. Gentleman is apt to embrace, I think with precipitation, certain opinions which at the first glance are calculated to enlist the popular conviction; but they do not appear to me to be matured opinions—they do not appear to me to be founded upon any investigation, or to be authorised by anything that has occurred. All the opinions which the hon. Gentleman so frequently takes an oppportunity of communicating to us and to the country on the subject of war, appear to be totally unauthorised by what has happened. The hon. Gentleman has said that his does not pride himself upon the gift of prophecy; and I think he is quite right. There have been occasions when we have been informed how much 1308 mills would be worth, and how the congregations of churches and chapels would be increased; and many glowing pictures of the future of England have been drawn by the hon. Member at different times and in different places. If they have not been fulfilled, after what has fallen from the hon. Gentleman to-night I think the country will not place much reliance in future upon his gift of prophecy. But I totally deny the whole statement of the hon. Gentleman. He has said to-night that the period has passed when kings would be able to engage in wars, and to occasion great suffering to humanity, in order to parcel out a kingdom, or to aggrandise their provinces; but that statement is not authorised by anything that has occurred in the history of human nature. I will not go to what he calls ancient history—but certainly remote history—where I could find many instances that would totally confute the position so frequently and peculiarly advanced by him. I will not even go to ancient history, where these instances are much more rife. I will confine myself to that strictly modern history where those truths are found which are still influencing the destiny of every man, and in which are recorded those events which are influencing our conduct at this moment. Modern history is of very limited extent. Two centuries and a half comprise it, and in that period there have been three wars of signal interest and duration. The first lasted thirty years—the thirty years' war of Germany. Was that occasioned by a monarch desirous to carve out a kingdom, or to aggrandise his provinces? No; it was a war of popular principles and of popular passions. Was the war occasioned by the ambition of the French nation under Louis XIV., when France was opposed by the spirit of independence of all Europe in a war which lasted for an equal period—was that a war of individual feeling? On the contrary, it arose from the indignant spirit of all Europe. And was the war produced by the first revolution in France, and achieved by Napoleon, a war of aristocratic or exclusive prompting? On the contrary, all these great wars, each of thirty years' duration—extending over a term of ninety years, one-third of the period of modern history—were occasioned by popular passions—by popular prejudice, and by the ambition of nations. Even if I were to go into little wars (and I do not wish to do so, unless it is necessary in refuting these oft-repeated 1309 fallacies), I could show that it was not the Sovereign or the Cabinet that occasioned them. No; they were, as a general principle, too well acquainted with the resources of countries to occasion war. How arose the war which occurred during the Administration of Sir R. Walpole, from the case of Captain Jenkins and his ear, when the House rose in tumult, and the most powerful Minister who ever ruled England was obliged to succumb to popular feeling, and to engage in a war with Spain? That war did not arise from the ambition of a sovereign; it was a war created by the prejudice and passion of the people; and I have no doubt that other wars will arise from a similar cause. The hon. Gentleman has said, in a most extraordinary manner, that our security for peace at the present day is the desire of nations to keep at home. There is a great difference between nationality and race. Nationality is the principle of political independence. Race is the principle of physical analogy, and you have at this moment the principle of race—not at all of nationality—adopted by Germany, the very country to which the hon. Member for the West Riding referred. What must be the unavoidable consequence of that principle of race to which the hon. Gentleman looks as the security for the peace of Europe? What must be the consequence of the development of that principle? If it is to be accepted as a great political truth, sanctioned by the hon. Member for the West Riding, why is France to be left in possession of Lorraine and Alsace? Why is Russia to remain in possession of Livonia? If that principle is to be accepted as a truth, you have not a security for peace, but a certainty of general and almost perpetual war; and yet it is upon this principle that the hon. Gentleman—a great authority—has come down to criticise the estimates of the Government, and to deny that there is any necessity for a country defending itself. I am not surprised, indeed, that the hon. Member should be opposed to "protection" in every shape; but still I think, in one shape, the question of the protection of our own shores and our own hearths will always be popular with both sides of this House. Now, Sir, the noble Lord, in the speech, full of sound sense and excellent feeling, which he has just addressed to us, has found great confidence in the future prospects of peace for the world, in the sympathy of feeling for that object between what he described as three powerful Governments 1310 —our own, the Government of France, and the Government of Prussia. [An Hon. MEMBER: Russia.] True; Russia. I must apologise to Prussia for having mentioned it as a government. I am excessively glad to find that there is a Government in France—a Government that has been described to-night as a powerful Government. I think, after this announcement from so great an authority as the First Minister, it would be but condescending to recognise that Government. [Lord J. RUSSELL: We believe that it is recognised.] Really, to describe that as a powerful Government which had not yet been recognised by the Queen, would be somewhat to anticipate the course of destiny. However, these observations have been drawn from me by what fell from the hon. Member for the West Riding. I rose because I wanted to know from some Member of the Government what force they have, for instance, at this moment in the Baltic. I find that one of the strictest blockades ever proclaimed has now been declared in that sea; and certainly with our great expenditure for a naval force, with a Government which we are assured takes care that even our contracted trade and limited commerce with China should be sufficiently guarded, it would be some consolation to the merchants of Great Britain if they knew that their interests were attended to in this quarter. The House will recollect that Denmark in self-defence was obliged to proclaim a blockade some months ago in the Baltic; but from the very best motives it was arranged in a manner as little noxious as possible to neutrals, and especially in reference to the interests of British commerce; of the return which Denmark has received for its conciliatory conduct, I need not remind the House. But the blockade which has now been declared—I am sure no Member in the House can blame Denmark for the course it has take—is one of the most stringent and severe character, and much more comprehensive than the other; it is not now confined to a few ports of the Baltic—it takes in the North Sea, the west as well as the north of Germany. I should like to have an intimation from Her Majesty's Ministers which would at least give some satisfaction to the merchants of this country upon that subject. They have shown, I must say, the greatest temper upon the whole question of the misconception between Germany and Denmark. The original blockade did them a great deal of 1311 harm; but they acknowledged the justice of the cause of Denmark, and they felt that it was a legitimate arm of defence of which that State availed itself. The merchants were satisfied with the declaration of the noble Lord the Secretary of State, and they refrained from petitioning this House or appealing to their representatives. They have waited with the greatest interest for the termination of his interference; and the only return, apparently, which they have received for their good temper and patience, and confidence in their Government, is the declaration to-day of a much more severe and stringent blckade, which must prove necessarily most injurious to their interests. I wish to have some explanation upon this subject from the Government, and some account of the precautions they have taken with this great arm of England, the resources of which we are discussing, for the protection of our commercial interests and the guardianship of British commerce in those waters. The noble Lord the Secretary of State told us once, when I brought the matter forward, that he had accepted a mediation upon the subject; I beg to remind the House, that it is not Denmark that solicited the mediation of the British Government. Denmark required the fulfilment of a guarantee on the part of the British Government. It was Prussia—Prussia, speaking on behalf of the new Germanic Confederation, that required that mediation. The mediation took place; Prussia agreed to an armistice, which has never been completed, and Denmark has been forced to the step that has this day been announced. I want to know what protection has been afforded to British interests endangered by these circumstances. I want to know—I shall not press it now, but it would be gracious on the part of the noble Lord to tell us—whether Prussia still remains an independent State? Because, then, the merchants would be able to form some calculation of the chances of redress they have. The Prince of Leiningen, I perceive, a most able and accomplished man, has become Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Germanic Confederation. I want to know whether there is to be another mediatised prince; I hope he will not become a Minister for Foreign Affairs. But these are circumstances which require some explanation from the noble Lord. There is another blockade of very great importance, to 1312 which I must also call the attention of Her Majesty's Government; and I want to know what steps they have adopted to take care of British interests in that quarter; for what is the use of voting millions for the Navy if we are not attending to these interests in moments of war and in remote regions? I can understand very well the hon. Member for the West Riding, who calls our attention to the fact, that our commerce in a particular quarter does not justify from its amount the expenditure we are incurring in order to guard it; it is a subject which, if pursued, would give rise to many considerations which I do not mean now to follow; at the first blush it is a position that cannot easily be impugned; but I think all will admit that a nation that has a Navy, and a nation that is celebrated for two things—the most extensive commerce and the most powerful Navy—should take care that that extensive commerce is protected where foreign war is raging. Now I want to know what is the state of our force in the troubled waters of La Plata. I have the best reason in the world for asking that question; I have a letter here which I received to-day, but will not now read, from a member of a most eminent Liverpool firm, and I am informed by it that one of the most important houses connected with our trade with the regions of La Plata, has been obliged to suspend its payments in consequence of the state of affairs in La Plata; and my informant says very candidly that he does not see why, unless some settlement of the affairs of those countries takes place, every other house connected with that trade should not be prepared for results equally disastrous. We have had now for five or six years in those waters a force of unprecedented amount for those regions; the result has been very unsatisfactory for some time; the accounts that have reached us have not been such as have encouraged British enterprise, or compensated in any degree for the losses of our fellow-countrymen; but the most remarkable circumstance of this protracted blockade, and this increased expenditure, is that of late we have had no accounts whatever from that quarter. Here is a district of country in which British enterprise has been most active—in which the establishments of our merchants have been on a very great scale—in which, besides the enjoyment of a considerable present commerce, there has been a very great prospect of novel adventure of that kind in countries 1313 never explored—for they were only recently opened to us, and almost as immediately shut; the attention of our Government and the resources of our Navy have been particularly addressed to this rich and this disturbed district; and I want to know what this force, for which we are about to vote these large sums, has done for the vindication of our rights and the protection of our interests in those parts. I asked the noble Lord (Lord Palmerston) at the commencement of the Session whether he would lay on the table the instructions he had addressed to an Envoy-extraordinary whom he had himself sent thither in order to terminate the misconception and the disturbances, and open these new avenues to English commercial enterprise; but who had failed in that special mission; but the noble Lord objected, because though that Envoy (Lord Howden) had failed, there was another special mission just sent out; and he thought the production of the instructions might prevent the happy termination of the new negotiations. That new Envoy has also failed in his attempt; but I suppose it would be useless for me to ask for his or for the former instructions again, because a third special mission since Parliament met has been sent out. Let me remind the House of this circumstance, unprecedented in the diplomacy of any country, that we have employed six Envoys-extraordinary in that part of the world on missions which probably nobody understands, for purposes which we all feel, because British interests are greatly at stake; and there is, I believe, at this moment not the slightest prospect of this country obtaining any satisfaction whatever; as far as we know, we are as distant from a termination of the matter as ever. I am obliged to form my opinion, in the absence of any information from the Government, from that which I read in the foreign journals of the country in question; but is it not specially the duty of the House, in voting these immense sums, to inquire how it is that the experienced Mr. Mandeville, our Minister at Buenos Ayres, received instructions which did not attain the desired result, and was summoned back to England; that Mr. Ouseley was sent out on a special mission and recalled; that the adventurous Mr. Hood was despatched, and the chivalric Lord Howden, and our friend Mr. Gore, and now a new Minister is at this moment on his way not to Montevideo, but to Buenos Ayres; and there is not the slightest information given to the British 1314 nation by the Minister, while mercantile houses of great importance are failing in consequence of these matters not being settled? The expenses of six missions have been voted by this House; surely this is a time to ask what prospect there is of a satisfactory termination of these negotiations—of our rights being vindicated, and our interests protected in that quarter; what amount of force we have there, whether it is of that extraordinary amount that ships that were cruising on the coast of Africa have been sent to carry on warlike operations there? These are questions which I think Her Majesty's Government ought to answer. I trust that before we pass this vote, the merchants of this country will have some satisfactory explanation on the subject of these two blockades, which have occasioned them so much loss. I see, from an official French source, that France has resolved to enforce a most stringent blockade of Buenos Ayres instantly, which cannot fail to have a most injurious effect on the interests of our commerce. Up to a recent period, although these blockades have been established, our merchants have had the means, to a certain extent, of carrying on their commercial operations; but if these blockades in the Baltic and at Buenos Ayres should be strictly enforced, the consequences to our commercial interests will be most grievous; and upon an occasion like this, when we are about to vote money for the naval force of this country, I think we are entitled to ask for an explanation, and I hope we shall receive it.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
With regard to the first of the two blockades to which the hon. Member who has just sat down has directed his observations, I am sure that both he and the House will see that it was not a blockade which we imposed, and therefore that we are not entitled to force it. I should say, in the first place, that the original blockade by the Danish fleet of the German ports was afterwards relaxed to a great degree, and that, owing to the hopes which prevailed that an armistice would be signed, that blockade had nearly ceased. Accounts, however, have since been received, that if the armistice is not signed by the 15th inst. the Danish Government will feel obliged to reimpose that blockade. Now, no one will deny the right of Denmark to impose this blockade as a measure of additional retaliation. The only functions, therefore, which British ships of war would 1315 have to perform in the Baltic and the North Sea would be to take care that the blockade was enforced in conformity with the law of nations; and we have the best assurance that the Danish Government will not do more than what the law of nations authorises, and therefore there is no necessity for the presence of any of our ships of war on that coast. The hon. Member wishes to know what prospect there is of that armistice being signed. It is not very safe, when so many parties are concerned, to indulge in any predictions; but I still entertain hopes that the armistice may be concluded. The main difficulty is that which I stated the other day, the difficulty occasioned by the Diet having ceased its functions, and having transferred its authority to the Administrator of the Empire, whose sanction to the armistice it is considered must be obtained. There are other matters of minor detail which probably may be settled between the parties; but, however, I am in great hopes that there is a fair disposition on both sides to come to an armistice, and, if so, I should hope that the material questions at issue will be put in a train for an early and satisfactory adjustment. With regard to the affairs of the Rio de la Plata, nobody regrets more than I do that they have been so long unsettled; and perhaps it would not be prudent to indulge, at present, in hopes of a satisfactory solution of that question. Every one knows that we are not answerable for the original movement which led to the present state of things there. The late Government, in conjunction with the Government of France, entered into an undertaking which we have been obliged to take up, but for which we are not responsible. The hon. Member said that six different Envoys had been sent out to conduct negotiations; but he has somewhat overcalculated the number. Neither Mr. Mandeville nor Mr. Ouseley had been sent out from this country for that purpose. [Mr. DISRAELI: I did not say "sent out," but "employed."] Mr. Hood was undoubtedly sent out by the Earl of Aberdeen, and his mission did not succeed. The reason was, that the two Governments had not given, as it was intended to do, instructions to their respective agents. Lord Howden then went out, and his mission did not succeed either, though without any blame being imputable to Lord Howden, for no man could have shown more discretion or judgment than he displayed. There was unfortunately a dif- 1316 ference of opinion between him and the French representative, on a question which was not provided for by their joint instructions; and that difference ended in Lord Howden raising the British blockade, while the French representative did not feel himself justified in raising the French blockade. Captain Gore then went out, and his mission cannot be said to have been altogether unattended by success. Since his departure, however, the French revolution has broken out, and a question has arisen whether the powers of the French representative have not ceased, and whether they do not require to be confirmed. With regard to the amount of the squadron employed, the Admiralty will be able to state the exact figures; but I know that the number of vessels engaged on that coast has been diminished, in consequence of the hope which was entertained that hostilities would altogether cease. There is no doubt that there has been a great interruption to the trade of this country in consequence of this blockade. There has, indeed, been an arrangement, though not a very regular one, that merchant vessels, notwithstanding the blockade, should be allowed to go to Buenos Ayres, after paying import duty at Montevideo. At the same time there is no doubt that grievous inconvenience has been suffered by the trade of this country in consequence of the blockade; and I can assure the hon. Member and the House that no effort will be spared on the part of Her Majesty's Government to bring this unfortunate transaction to an honourable conclusion. I believe the Government of England and France are both agreed on the subject of terminating the existing state of things as speedily as possible. I should explain, however, that it does not form any part of the arrangement between the two Governments to open up, as the hon. Member expressed it, any fresh communications with Paraguay; and I am afraid that, even if this were done, any expectations that Paraguay would afford a great and fruitful field for British commerce, would be greatly disappointed. The population of Paraguay is exceedingly small, and their productions very small also. They want very little of that which we can produce; and they have nothing to give us in return, except some very bad bark. With regard to the right of navigation, we are prepared to acquiesce, in America, in that principle of public law which we maintain in Europe, namely, that countries through which rivers pass— 1317 if they be really rivers, and not arms of the sea—are entitled to command the navigation of those rivers; and that if a river runs between two countries, it belongs to them to make such regulations for its navigation as they may think fit. It forms, therefore, no part of the arrangement between England and France, to interfere with any regulation made with reference to the Parana and the Paraguay.
§ MR. DISRAELI
observed, that the noble Lord had named five out of the six agents who had been employed to negotiate, but he had not said a word about Mr. Southern, who had just gone out to Buenos Ayres. The House would recollect that we were in a state of quasi war with General Rosas, and that we were in possession of the fleet of the Argentine Republic. The noble Lord had omitted to inform the House what was the change in the prospects of our commercial interests which had induced him to alter the course of diplomatic negotiation. The noble Lord had said that Paraguay had but a small population, and that our trade with that country would be insignificant. The House had also been informed that China, with a population of 350,000,000, was not likely to take much of our manufactures, from which he drew the conclusion that it would be as well not to relinquish idly our homo and colonial markets.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
said, it was true that the fleet of the Argentine Republic had been detained, but the squadron was to be given up the moment matters were settled between the contending parties in the River Plate. Notwithstanding this, the intercourse between General Rosas and Lord Howden had been of the most friendly description, and Mr. Southern merely went out to replace the former negotiator. With regard to the trade with China, he must remind the hon. Member that our trade with Shanghae was of great importance, and of an increasing character.
§ MR. URQUHART
said, the Committee were much indebted to the hon. Member for Buckinghamshire for having asked these questions about Denmark and Buenos Ayres. With respect to the first, it appeared to him that we had not prevented an evil that was raging; and in the other case, we had caused an evil that was intolerable. That Denmark was entitled to our protection there could be no doubt; but it was not given, and, if any danger arose to us from the present conflict, he laid it to the charge of the Government of 1318 this country in abstaining from a just and proper exercise of its power. With respect to Buenos Ayres, we had been guilty of acts of commission and offence. Since 1841 we had, in combination with France, been guilty of criminal acts in the Rio de la Plata. The noble Lord had justly said, he was not responsible for the commencement of those acts; but he (Mr. Urquhart) spoke not of those who held the office, but of the office or the Government itself. He must, however, remind the noble Lord, that if he were not directly responsible for the offences that had been committed, instructions from himself were at the foundation of them. He would ask the Government whether they had submitted the transactions that had taken place in Buenos Ayres to the law officers of the Crown, and whether they had assented to them? The Government had refused to say whether, in the event of a contest in Sicily, they would employ the forces of this country on the one side or the other. If they were going to interfere in the affairs of Italy, as last year they did in Portugal, then they would again expose this nation to the infamy of committing unlawful acts. He asserted, that every officer who drew his sword in a wrong cause, or obeyed an order that was unlawful, was himself a criminal. Such was the law of this country, and such was the view taken by the Duke of York, when he was Commander in Chief No order to shed blood could protect the man who obeyed it unless there had been a proclamation of war. But these ideas were not acted upon, and the result was, that the very idea of war was now associated with crime. He called upon the House not to sanction estimates that would enable the Government to act in regard to other foreign countries as they had done in the case of Buenos Ayres and Montevideo, and to prevent British officers from being reduced to the position to which they had seen them brought, through the illegal conduct of the Government. Without a formal declaration of war they could not send troops against a foreign Power. He had received a letter from General D'Aguilar, the officer who had commanded in China, adverting to a statement which he was reported in the Times, of the 25th ult., to have made, that no just comparison could be drawn between the operations in Caffreland and the operations in Canton, because, in the one they were according to superior orders, but no such orders had been given in the 1319 other. The hon. Gentleman then read the letter of General D'Aguilar, which embodied a communication from Sir J. P. Davis, Her Majesty's Plenipotentiary in China, and Governor of Hong-Kong, stating that, under the circumstances, he had come to the conclnsion that there was no other remedy but to proceed to Canton with a force, and demand redress on the spot, which, from the despatches he had received, seemed to be a course in accordance with the feelings of Her Majesty's Government; and such being the case, General d'Aguilar would leave it to the candour of the hon. Gentleman to acquit him of acting without orders. The hon. Gentleman also read his reply, in which it was stated that the Times report had wholly mistaken the point. He did not mention Canton; nor did he draw any distinction between the service in Caffreland and in China in respect of orders. What he said was, that in the one case the forms of war had been observed, and not in the other. His observations applied to the whole series of transactions in China; and he described them as lawless and piratical from the beginning to the end; and that, therefore, he could not allow any comparison to be drawn between any officer employed in the one country and any officer employed in the other. His doctrine had been confirmed by the decision of a court of law in 1842. A question was raised as to the legality of the war in China, when the Judges unanimously decided that there had been no war, and by that decision, therefore, they declared that the operations in China did not amount to a legal war, but to a piratical enterprise. He should vote against a farthing of public money being granted for the present purpose, unless the noble Lord at the head of the Government should declare that henceforward the naval force of the country should not be employed abroad without warrant.
§ VISCOUNT INGESTRE
observed, that the object of this vote was to grant a sum of 122,000l. to make up a sum of which part had been already voted, and on that question he confessed he did not expect to hear a dissertation on the law of nations. He could not concur in what had fallen from the First Minister of the Crown as to the appointment of the Committee on Navy Estimates. It would have been much better in the first instance to have voted 1320 the supplies on the responsibility of Ministers; and thus the Committee might have sat to consider how they should afterwards be granted. He regretted to see that the Committee had touched so lightly upon the large expenditure which had been incurred during the last fourteen or fifteen years in the building and altering of ships. In his opinion that would have formed a most valuable branch of inquiry to have entered into. He hoped that the plan of retirement would be extended to that valuable class of officers, the masters and lieutenants of Her Majesty's Navy.
§ CAPTAIN PECHELL
begged to say that, as far as he could discover, the Navy was never in a more efficient state than at the present moment; and as regarded the manning of the ships, he must do the hon. and gallant Member for Glocester (Captain Berkeley) the justice to say, that much of that was owing to the ability and perseverance which he had shown on the subject. The class of officers in whose behalf he wished to say a word was, the masters of Her Majesty's fleet. They complained that although an Order in Council gave them the rank of lieutenant, and empowered the Board of Admiralty to give them the rank of commander, the Board had shown an indisposition to act upon that order. He hoped that the gallant Officer below him (Admiral Dundas) would attend to the petition of those old and meritorious officers, to see that justice was done to them.
§ CAPTAIN HARRIS
concurred with the hon. and gallant Member, not only in his views with respect to the claims of the commanders and lieutenants, but also of the masters. He considered that the claims of those officers were as strong as those of the captains; and, as the change would not be for many years, he hoped the Government would not refuse their just claims. There was another point to which he would advert, and which he considered to be within the reach of the Admiralty—he meant the necessity of making timely preparation for manning the Navy in the event of a sudden breaking out of a war. The question required only to be grappled with and looked boldly in the face, and it would become perfectly easy of accomplishment.
§ Vote agreed to.
§ House resumed, and adjourned at One o'clock.