§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, he rose to move the Resolution of which he had given notice. He had given notice of that Motion fully a month back, and it was only at the instance of the Secretary of State for War that he had so long postponed bringing it forward.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
(who had given notice that he would call the attention of the House to the undefended state of the coast between Weymouth and Southampton) said, he rose to order. He was unaware that the last subject had been disposed of, and as his notice was placed immediately afterwards on the paper he believed that he had precedence of the hon. and gallant General.
§ MR. SPEAKER
said, the Motion before the House was that he should now leave the chair, and the hon. and gallant Officer, having risen to submit another Resolution, was rightly in possession of the House.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, he should not trouble the House with many observa- 400 tions in support of his Motion, as he understood the Government intended to assent to the appointment of this Commission. It was hardly possible to mention at the present moment a subject of greater importance than the state of the national defences. Some persons thought the expenditure on this head was far too great, while others believed our means of defence were still far from sufficient. Great were the differences of opinion which existed, and he thought some attempt ought to be made to inquire into the real facts of the case. For his own part, he was sorry to say that he did not think this most important matter had been gone into by the present or by former Governments as it deserved to have been. The present Government, it was true, were hardly yet seated at their bureaux, and with regard to the late Ministry he quite concurred with the noble Lord the Secretary for Foreign Affairs in thinking that the bright spot in their administration had been their efforts to maintain the maritime forces of the country. He trusted that those exertions would be continued, and he believed this would be the case, for he had every confidence in the judgment and ability of the noble Duke now at the head of the Admiralty. Vast interests were concerned in this inquiry. The value of the commerce which every year went into or passed from our ports was, he believed, about £350,000,000; and if any disagreement arose between this and any foreign country, such as to endanger these vast interests, what terrible ruin must result to all classes of the population of England. To dwell on this momentous consideration would be superfluous. And as the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Sidney Herbert) appeared disposed to assent to the Motion, it would, in fact, only be necessary now to submit it to the House:—
To leave out from the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words' in the opinion of this House, taking into consideration the relations existing between some of the great Military Powers of the Continent, it is advisable that a Commission be appointed consisting of Civilians and Military and Naval Officers, to inquire into and collect information concerning the present condition of our National Defences; to ascertain what improvements may be made therein in order to ensure the utmost efficiency combined with economy, and to report thereon to Her Majesty's Government instead thereof.
MR. DANBY SEYMOUR
said, he then rose, pursuant to notice, to call the atten- 401 tion of the House to the undefended state of the coast between Weymouth and Southampton. While a large expenditure had been incurred by the Government for the construction of 30 line-of-battle ships, that portion of shores to which his Motion related—or rather that which lay between Weymouth and the Needles, which lay opposite to Cherbourg, and which in case of attack would be found the most accessible to an invading force, had been left without any adequate means of protection. It had not, however, been left thus undefended in former times, for he found on reference to a map, which bore the date of 1765, that no less than five or six batteries were then erected along that part of the coast. As an illustration of the danger which might arise from leaving things in their present state, he might mention that while Pool, the borough which he had the honour to represent, was sixty miles from Cherbourg, it was at a distance of thirty miles from Weymouth, and that in case of a hostile attack the fleet which might be situated at the latter place could hardly be brought up in sufficient time to be of much service in keeping off the invading force. He should, therefore, urge the Government to turn their attention to the subject, and to allay, if possible, any feeling of panic which might have arisen in the public mind by placing themselves in a position to proclaim to the country that they were prepared for every emergency. He might add, that it seemed to him desirable that inasmuch as it was difficult to establish rifle corps in maritime towns gunboats should be employed along the coast—a large number might, for instance, be drafted from Portsmouth to the point in question—in working the rifled cannon placed on board, which as well as batteries erected at different points on the shore, volunteers from these towns, who would not be found disposed to join rifle corps, might with advantage be employed. Nor would the gunboats themselves be worse in their condition from being kept in the water than hauled upon slips as at present. He should, above all things, recommend his right hon. Friend the Secretary at War not to rest satisfied with imperfect information on so important a question as the state of our defences. Hon. Members were no doubt aware that some time ago the Government of Belgium stated that the defences of Antwerp were in a perfectly efficient condition, and that they had gone to great expense to attain that object. It had, however, turned out, 402 when the matter had been sifted before a Committee, which had been moved for by a member of the Belgian Chamber, that all the good will which the Government had exhibited had not availed to secure the end which they had in view, and which they imagined they had accomplished. It was, therefore, he maintained, the duty of his right hon. Friend to take nothing on trust, but to examine into the subject for himself, and to see that no part of the country was left without adequate means of defence.
§ MR. SIDNEY HERBERT
I have got, Sir, a somewhat multifarious number of questions to which to reply. I shall commence by answering those which have been put to me by my right hon. Friend opposite (Mr. Adderley), in the greater portion of whose observations I must say I entirely concur. My attention was some time ago called to the subject of the payments by different colonies towards their own defence, and I confess it is scarcely possible to conceive anything more capricious or, I may say, unreasonable than the varying proportions in which those payments are made. The Government of the mother country sends troops to the Colonies for the purposes either of defence or of internal police. So far as the first object is concerned, they have some sort of claim to ask her to bear a share of their military expenditure, inasmuch as she arrogates to herself the settlement of all questions of peace and war, and their interests may suffer as the result of the policy which she chooses to pursue. That is a doctrine which, however, may be pushed too far, because if the prospects of a colony are injured by war she enjoys all the advantages of being placed under the protection of a powerful State in time of peace. These observations apply not only to colonies which have great wealth, but to those garrisons which belong to us in the Mediterranean and whose strength makes their possession coveted' by other nations. Now, with respect to the question of the maintenance of troops in our Colonies for the purposes of police, I must say I think such a course is one which is indefensible. We at home pay our military and police expenditure: the one out of the proceeds of Imperial taxation, the other out of local rates. That is a distinction which ought, in my opinion, to be as far as possible maintained in our Colonies. The question, however, is beset with difficulties, but, before I proceed to state the views of the Government with respect to it, I shall 403 quote, for the information of the House, from a document which I hold in my hand, the proportion in which the mother country and the Colonies pay for the defence of the latter. In the case of the North American colonies, £441,539 are paid by Great Britain, and only £21,811 by these colonies; the greater portion of that sum being paid by Canada. For Australia the Home Government pays £228,000, the colonies themselves £156,000, to the payment of which amount Victoria is the principal contributor. We have, however, entered into arrangements with them which I think ought to be extended to other colonies, and in accordance with which the colonists pay a certain allowance out of their local funds, and confer several advantages on the troops in the way of procuring provisons for four companies; their agreement being to maintain entirely at their own charge any troops which they may require above that number. The result is that we do not receive from those colonists such pressing solicitations for an increase of military strength as we do from other quarters, while the relations which exist between them and us are placed upon a much sounder footing. For our colonies in the Mediterranean we pay £95S,000, while there is a sum of £30,560 expended by them; but then it must be remembered that, being great military garrisons, it is of the utmost importance for our interests that their defence should be adequately provided for. On the West Indies we lay out £432,000, while the colonists themselves pay not more than £6,000. In our colonies in the East, Mauritius, and Hong Kong, our expenditure for defensive purposes is £280,000, while they expended £91,000. The Cape of Good Hope cost us £635,000, while a sum of £29,000 is all that the colonists contribute. The last mentioned is, I must say, one of the strongest instances of that disproportion to which I have referred. My right hon. Friend, in alluding to the Cape of Good Hope, spoke of the German Legion which was sent out there, and of which he says he has for a long time heard nothing. I am sorry to have to state that I cannot say as much, for the War Department has of late had repeated solicitations addressed to it in connection with that body. I hold in my hand a statement which I have received from the Treasury, and which involves a claim for a large sum of money, inasmuch as Sir G. Grey has kept the troops of the German 404 Legion in pay from the time of their arrival in the Cape of Good Hope until the present day. A considerable portion of those troops, it is true, volunteered to go to India, but a large number of them was left behind, and the expense of the maintenance of such a body is very great. Without, however, going further into this point, I shall state to the right hon. Gentleman the course we have taken. It is quite true that if there were only one party to the bargain, we by an Imperial Act could easily overrule the intentions and feelings of the colonists by laying down some law which would settle once for all the proportions upon which this expenditure for military purposes should be based. But this must be made matter of negotiation and mutual understanding between the mother country and the several colonies. They have the great advantage of distance and the great advantage of passive resistance, and therefore I do not feel very sanguine of an early and effective inroad upon the system which now exists. But it ought, nevertheless, not to be neglected, and at the present moment there is a Committee sitting upon the subject, consisting of Mr. G. A. Hamilton (Treasury), Mr. Godly, who is well known to my hon. Friend, and Mr. T. F. Elliot (Colonial Office). The instructions which have been given to those gentlemen are, to ascertain the gross expenses of military defences for the five years 1853-7 inclusive; the proportions borne by colonial Governments; in what colonies they are necessary for Imperial or colonial purposes or both; to lay down the principle upon which the expenses ought to be apportioned; and to state the best mode of carrying that object into effect. As I have before said, the Government are most anxious to pursue this course. The Duke of Newcastle enters warmly into the matter; but, I repeat, that owing to the distance and the great power of resistance, I am not sanguine as to an early or uniform settle-inent, although I am sure every exertion will be made to place the matter upon a more satisfactory footing than at present. With respect to the questions raised by my hon. and galiant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) and by the hon. Member for Poole (Mr. Danby Seymour), let me say, with regard to the last, that the subject of the defence in case of attack of the coast of England has not escaped the notice of the Government. My predecessor appointed committees of officers to make a minute examination of the whole coast, and those 405 Engineer officers prepared plans with great accuracy and great skill. We thought it most important that those officers should be made thoroughly familiar with the topographical and physical nature of the coast of Great Britain, but I am afraid it is impossible to attempt to fortify as against an enemy every portion of the whole coast. You might by attempting it fritter away an enormous sum of money. To place batteries and guns, with no men to serve the guns, would place the country in a worse position than if you did nothing at all. I only hope that the House and every individual Member will recollect that it is impossible the whole of the sea board can be put in a state of fortification, and that the attention of the Government must, in the first instance at any rate, be turned to the defence of those great ports and arsenals in which we have all our materials of war, in which we have the means of reproducing materials of war, and which, I am sorry to say, are not in that forward state of defence at the present moment which I could wish. The gallant Officer proposes a Resolution: —That, in the opinion of this House, taking into consideration the relations existing between some of the great Military Powers of the Continent, it is advisable that a Commission be appointed, consisting of Civilians and Military and Naval Officers, to inquire into and collect information concerning the present condition of our National Defences; to ascertain what improvements may be made therein in order to insure the utmost efficiency combined with economy; and to report thereon to Her Majesty's Government.I can offer the gallant Officer the substance of his Motion, but not the Motion itself. If you pass this Resolution, in the first place there is an end of Supply, and then, again, I rather object to the words which point to the relations existing between some of the great military Powers of the Continent. From the first moment when I came into office I turned my attention to the subject, which is one of considerable anxiety to the Government, and I mentioned, during the discussion on the Estimates, that it appeared that the system by which we were proceeding with certain works was a very doubtful policy, as for any effectual purpose of defence they ought to be finished as rapidly as possible. Either the gallant Officer or the hon. Member said he thought the War Department had not paid attention to the subject, and had not confidence in the scientific advice which they had at their command. Now, I find that these plans of defence of the arsenals and 406 dockyards show an amount of care, minuteness, and skill which does great credit to the Engineer officers, and it is not that the Government have the slightest distrust in the skill and ability of those officers that they have come to the conclusion to appoint a mixed Commission of civilians and naval and military officers—not too large a number, but a few whose names will carry weight with the public—to whom to submit the plans which we have for these fortifications, asking them to reconsider them, and give us advice as to which should be first proceeded with, and to suggest any alterations or extensions which they may think necessary, but not, of course, to start a fresh theory, and render useless the expenditure of public money already incurred. I believe that is necessary, and it is necessary for this reason— that if this House is to be called upon to vote very large sums, or if the Government think fit to apply very large sums voted by the House, it is essential that public confidence should be obtained, and that the country should be perfectly satisfied that the works on which the expenditure is to be made have been perfectly well considered, and will be adequate as far as possible for the purpose intended. It is therefore the intention of the Government to appoint a Commission such as is described by the gallant Officer. I trust that in a few days, when the names come out, they will be deemed guarantees to the public that the Government is honestly pledged to getting the best advice in their power as to the plans upon which great works are to be carried on at a more rapid pace than has hitherto been the case, so that when completed the country may feel confidence that our arsenals, which contain the means of reproduction of great maritime and military defences, are in such a state that we need be under no alarm of a successful attack by any enemy under any circumstances whatever.
§ MR. HALIBURTON
said, he had to thank the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War for the manner in which he had treated the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman below him (Mr. Adderley). He was not aware when he read the notice what was the particular purport of the Motion, on account of the manner in which it was worded, and he confessed that he listened to the observations of the right hon. Gentleman with a great deal of anxiety as to whether he understood it rightly, and whether the right hon. Gen- 407 tleman would be misunderstood on the other side of the water. The right hon. Gentleman, as far as he could gather from his observations, appeared to question the expediency of having troops in British North America. He hoped he might be permitted to make a few remarks upon that subject, because the whole of his life had been spent there. It was said that the colonists ought to defend themselves. Be it so. It was not the first time they had done it, and they were able to do it again. But at the same time there was a reciprocal duty as well as a mutual interest—on the one part, loyal and obedient attachment to this country, and on the other protection. It was said that the militia of the colony ought to be organized. He was proud to say that it had been organized, and in the war of 1812 with the United States, with very trifling assistance from this country, for her troops were wanted elsewhere, the militia of Canada turned out, and the whole force of the United States was not sufficient to make any impression upon them. Again, when Lord Seaton by that very extraordinary manner in which he governed Canada produced rebellion—not in Nova Scotia, for in Nova Scotia there never was rebellion, but in other parts—it was the native troops, under the command of Sir A. M' Nab and Sir F. Bond Head, who drove out the Yankee sympathizers and the French rebels. The same thing could be done again, but the very knowledge that England would protect the country in time of need was a protection of itself. If it were announced that the troops would be withdrawn, and the colonies of British North America must protect themselves, it would lead to trouble with their neighbours; while the very knowledge that a great country like England, with a large army and a powerful fleet, was willing to take them under its wing, was a protection against the most powerful neighbour they had to fear, if fear were not a word inapplicable to the case. If the troops were withdrawn, what did they want with the colonies? Let them give the colonies under those circumstances their independence. They did not ask or want it, and would receive it with regret; but the colonists were men of English extraction, and would say, "If you are come to the condition of Rome, and you must gather your legions from the extremities of your empire, give us our independence and leave us, and we will say God speed and protect you as 408 in the olden time." But when hon. Members talked of the militia and governing the colonies, England did not govern, but misgoverned them. England did not manage their affairs, but mismanaged them. What had occurred with regard to the militia within the last three or four years? Why, that a boy of 15 or 16 years of age, at Eton or one of the public schools, was made a colonel of the militia of Nova Scotia. Was the appointment of a boy, who was learning his Latin and Greek grammar in this country, over the heads of old men in the colony, because it would give the boy rank hereafter, likely to encourage the militia to turn out? In his opinion, it was turning the whole thing into ridicule. These were the blessings they enjoyed and the encouragement they received. What had the colonies to do with an European war? Their ships were plundered on the high seas, their sailors were impressed in their towns, and the enemy's ships were in all their coves and creeks, watching for their homeward-bound ships. The quarrel was not one of theirs. When this country undertook to govern the colonies, and when it made laws suitable for itself, well and good; but Parliament ought, at least, to ask the colonies whether the same laws were suited to their condition. When they gave to America the coasting trade of this country, what right had they to include in their gift the coasting trade of any of the Colonies— what right had they to permit the Americans to extend under the term "coasting trade," the trade from Boston, round South America, to California? Yet that was one of their acts, and it was one that had almost ruined the shipping of the North American colonies. Look at the extent and feeling of those colonies. They contained 4,000,000 intelligent, loyal and patriotic men. They made an offer of two regiments for the Crimea, and one of their regiments was now in this country. The sympathies of the colonies were still further evinced in the legislative grants and subscriptions for the Patriotic Fund and the Indian Mutiny Fund, of the distribution of which latter fund he was one of the managers. He did not recollect all the figures, but from the Australian colonies alone £70,000 were received in subscriptions and grants. These were circumstances on which to found the consideration that if Great Britain were to withdraw her legions the colonies ought to have fair notice. He was glad that the 409 right hon. Gentleman had given so proper an answer to the question put to him, and that his answer would go out to the colonies. If this country were to withdraw her troops, let there be an understanding how and when they were to be withdrawn. He had had the satisfaction of bringing before the late Secretary of the Colonies a plan by which it would not be necessary to keep a single soldier in Canada. If that chain of railways which ran from Halifax to New Brunswick were completed by the construction of a small portion to Quebec, in twelve days, and at any season of the year, the Government of this country could send as many troops as they liked to Canada, and they need not keep a single soldier in that country. He was glad the discussion had taken this turn, and he was gratified that the Secretary for War had answered the question which had been put to him in so conciliatory and statesmanlike a manner.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he had heard with great satisfaction that the Secretary of State for War assented to some extent to his hon. and gallant Friend's proposal for a Commission. For if that House were called on to vote a large sum of money they would do it all the more readily if its expenditure were recommended by a Commission that commanded public confidence. He wished therefore to suggest that the official element should be introduced in this Commission as sparingly as possible, if even it were not excluded altogether, since one of its most important functions would be to review the proceedings that had already taken place under official authority. It would also be desirable to secure an early report, and a limit ought, he thought, to be put to the period at which the first report should be made. He did not see why the first report—not the final report, but embodying the main recommendations of the Commission—should not be made within three months. He agreed with the right hon. Gentleman that it was out of the question to attempt to fortify our coasts so as to prevent an enemy from landing. The only fortifications required were those that were necessary for the protection of our ships and arsenals. To build batteries along the coast for the enemy to land under was absurd. There was no doubt an enemy possessed greater facilities for landing and for the transport and embarkation of troops than he ever had before, and there were many points along the coast on which an enemy would have no 410 great difficulty in landing. He agreed with General Shaw Kennedy that we should not be safe until we had such an internal force upon our own soil as would defeat and destroy any enemy that might gain a landing. If that were so, the Commission about to be appointed ought to recommend what amount of internal land force we ought always to maintain—how many troops of the line, how many militia, and how many volunteers we required, so as to be always in a state of perfect security. For a nation containing 3,000,000 or 4,000,000 male adults to be in a perpetual panic of an invasion of 100,000 or 200,000 men was a scandal and a burlesque. We ought always to be in such a condition that any army that was likely to obtain a landing would be certain to be defeated and destroyed. The Commission might make a valuable report, which would facilitate the proceedings of the Government in that House, and carry more weight than any statements on mere departmental authority that might be made in Committee of Supply.
§ MR. CHICHESTER FORTESCUE
said, he hoped that the return alluded to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Staffordshire (Mr. Adderley), which was rather a complicated one, would be laid on the table on Friday. The noble Duke at the head of the Colonial Office would, he was confident, give his best consideration to the views expressed by the right hon. Gentleman opposite; but there was another side to the question, as they had heard from the distinguished colonist whom they were all glad to see in the House, and who was a brilliant representative of the truly British spirit of the colonial subjects of this country. He thought that his right hon. Friend (Mr. S. Herbert) had struck a fair balance between imperial views and the colonial side of the question, which had been so candidly and temperately stated by the hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Haliburton). It must be remembered that the Home Government had to deal with a great number of communities scattered all over the world, differing in age, in means, resources, in the liability to attack, and the necessity for defence, and it was, therefore, impossible to adopt one uniform system in dealing with them all. In many of these cases, too, the Home Government had not to deal with colonies subject to their absolute authority, bhut had to negotiate with Governments possessing representative institutions and capable of acting in a great degree independently of 411 the Home Government. The only mode in which the Imperial Government could in some cases act was by refusing to send British troops to particular colonies, or by saying they would withdraw the troops now there unless the colony paid for their maintenance. He did not deny, however, that there were occasions on which that power of withdrawal should be put in force by the British Minister for the Colonies; but it was no trivial responsibility to undertake. He could not therefore promise that that power would be used in any general way. At the same time, great weight would be given to the views which had been put forward, and the Government would endeavour to alter the heavy balance which existed on the side of the mother country in respect of the outlay incurred upon the Colonies.
§ LORD ELCHO
said, he was glad to hear the Government intended to appoint a Commission of the kind indicated by his right hon. Friend the Secretary for War; but some doubt appeared to exist in the House as to the extent of the powers to be conferred upon it. He hoped that the Commission contemplated would have for it3 object an inquiry not merely into the stone and mortar question, but into the whole subject of the national defences—to determine the number of men, both of the regular army and the militia, which it was essential we should have in this country as a permanent force, available at all times; what was the number of ships and sailors it was necessary to maintain as a permanent available naval force; and what fortifications were indispensably requisite for the defence of the kingdom. Such was the scope of the Motion of his hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) and he thought it desirable that it should be so extended that we should no longer be liable, as we were now, to a constantly recurring state of panic, which was fast becoming chronic, and which was unworthy a great nation. We ought, on the contrary, to be in a position which would render us independent alike of the friendship or the enmity of all or any of the potentates of Europe. We ought to know, as Englishmen, that whatever steps were necessary to obtain the security of this country had been adopted; and he thought that the appointment of a Commission to inquire into these matters would be the best means to attain that object. If that Commission should report that a certain number of men, a certain number of ships, and certain mi- 412 litary organizations, were required for this purpose, he hoped that the House, when it came to consider the Estimates, would not seek to reduce them, but merely be watchful that the money which they voted was well applied to the purposes of the country. That object he conceived would he better attained by the Commission proposed by his hon. and gallant Friend than that contemplated by the Government.
§ LORD HARRY VANE
said, he also approved of the appointment of the Commission, but he thought it was impossible that such a Commission could determine the exact number of troops, militia, ships, or artillery necessary for the defence of this country, inasmuch as the defensive force ought always to be proportioned to the force of other countries from time to time, and have regard to the varying state of European politics. Nor could he agree in the notion that there was a "chronic state of panic" in England; at the same time there was no doubt a feeling that because of the great military power existing on the Continent it was necessary that this country should be placed in such a state that if any state of circumstances of an ad-verso nature should arise, rendering remonstrances on the part of England necessary, she should be able to make those remonstrances with due weight and without any apprehension as to their result. He hoped the Commission contemplated by the Government would be so constituted as to carry weight in the country as well among military men as civilians, and that they would not incur expenditure of a kind calculated rather to retard the work of national defence than to carry it out on a satisfactory footing.
§ SIR DE LACY EVANS
said, he wished to remind the House that the word fortification did not occur in his Motion. Of course he quite felt the total absurdity of any attempt to fortify the whole of the English coast; but he thought the Commission should take a comprehensive view of all that was necessary to our national defences.
§ VISCOUNT PALMERSTON
Whatever may be the views of the House as to the constitution of the Commission announced by my right hon. Friend, its appointment is a question of very great importance. I do not think there will be any advantage in adding to its inquiries, so as to make them of a larger character than those which have been indicated by my right hon. Friend. In the first place, it would so extend the 413 range of the inquiries as to postpone the report for a period longer than is desirable, and at the same time would embarrass the proceedings of the Commission. I hope, therefore, that my hon. and gallant Friend (Sir De Lacy Evans) will be satisfied with the statement which has been made by my right hon. Friend, and will not press his Motion to a division, seeing that his object is accomplished by the course proposed by the Government. I am anxious to state, that in my opinion the proposal of my right hon. Friend (Mr. Horsman)—that the Commission should be instructed to enter upon a larger range of inquiry, and to consider what should be the amount of the naval and military force necessary for the defence of this country—is an inquiry of a totally different nature from that to which the Commission of my right hon. Friend is intended to apply; and, moreover, that it is not a proper subject for inquiry by Commission. The inquiries of the Commission will be directed to the permanent works which are essential and necessary for the defence of the different dockyards and other places of a like nature. These once ascertained, the works when constructed will form part of the permanent defences of the country, and as such will not vary; but the inquiry suggested as to the proper amount of naval and military force to be kept up, is a matter which must depend upon the Government of the day, and for which they are responsible. This must necessarily vary from year to year, according to the varying circumstances of this and other countries. This inquiry differs essentially from that as to the permanent works. I hope, therefore, that the right hon. Gentleman will not embarrass our proceedings by pressing his views upon the subject. The inquiry has necessarily occupied the attention of the Government, but the result arrived at in one year may differ considerably from that which may be come to in another.
§ MR. AYRTON
said, lie could not agree that the Commission proposed by the Government would in the least meet the views of the gallant Officer (Sir De Lacy Evans). The inquiry into the best mode of fortifying the dockyards was, from its very nature, but a small portion of the great question which the gallant Officer wished to have investigated, and involved merely an engineering investigation as to the best mode of defending particular places. The corps of engineers was maintained expressly for the purpose of designing and carrying out 414 a system of inland fortification, and he could not conceive what necessity existed for the appointment of a special Commission with regard to a subject which the engineers, who were maintained at such great expense, were peculiarly competent to deal with. What the gallant General desired was the appointment of a Commission to consider the whole system of defence proposed for this country, not with regard to the maintenance of the naval and military services for purposes of aggressive war, for the strength of these must depend on the circumstances under which the war was to be carried on. The point which the country was interested in knowing, and which the gallant General desired to elicit by this investigation, was the extent at which the ordinary defences of the country in time of peace were to be fixed—and, likewise, that some assurance might be given that the military and naval preparations were such as would protect them against any sudden invasion from abroad. In short, it was desired to know what ought to be the minimum force maintained in time of peace, and what should be the nature of that minimum force. Unfortunately the strength and efficiency of the army had heretofore been considered as separate and distinct from that of the navy; whereas they were in fact so closely connected that the question of' the minimum of the one necessarily affected the other. They should therefore be treated as one in regard to the primary object for which they were maintained. The object on which the people of this country desired first to be satisfied, when they turned their minds to the subject of the defences, was as to the sufficiency of the fleet to protect them from invasion. Those who were peculiarly competent to inform them, such as the gallant Admiral (Sir Charles Napier), asserted that the navy was entirely insufficient to defend this country against aggression from a neighbouring State. The object of this Commission with regard to the navy would he to ascertain the minimum that could with safety be maintained both in ships and in men. Some persons entertained the idea that an abundant supply of seamen was always to be obtained in time of need from the great commercial marine, and that they might therefore have in the navy great numbers of boys and comparatively few able seamen; but if they looked a little farther it would perhaps be found that it would be exceedingly difficult in case of war to withdraw from the mercan- 415 tile marine any very large supply of sailors without so entirely disarranging that service, and creating such a grievance to the commercial interests that an outcry would be raised which would render it almost impracticable to man the navy at the expense of the commercial marine. The gallant Admiral therefore had raised the question how far it was expedient that the sailors who were maintained in time of peace should be all able-bodied seamen—thus affording a basis which could at any time be increased by boys and less efficient sailors; and he confessed that he had never heard that question satisfactorily answered. It was always avoided by the Admiralty, and never dealt with in a satisfactory manner. It was, however, a question peculiarly fitted for the consideration of such a Commission as that proposed. In the same way there were many questions connected with the Army that called for inquiry, and these should also be intrusted to the consideration of this Commission. Thus it was most desirable to inquire whether, independent of the Navy, the Army was capable of being placed on a footing which would repel invasion. Where, he would ask, was the utility of maintaining a force of 80,000 men if they were liable to have 200,000 brought against them, unless they had sufficient means of reinforcing their army to an extent that would render it equal to the force by which it might be attacked? Experience showed that whatever might be the strength of an army in time of peace, unless the means existed of replenishing its ranks in time of war, it very soon came to an end, and the result was the same whether it were victorious or vanquished. The career of the great Napoleon showed that after all his brilliant victories he was compelled to succumb to the forces opposed to him, from the fact that they were constantly being reinforced, whilst his own army at last failed to receive accessions in any sufficient number. The question of maintaining in this country a military reserve, such as would render the standing army, whatever its amount, really effective for the purposes of national defence, was one of the first importance. It was a question which succeeding Governments had never dealt with, and never attempted to deal with. There were many other subjects which required investigation to place the country in a satisfactory state not for aggressive, but for defensive warfare, and the adoption of some plan by which, though it might be impossible to fix a num- 416 ber at which the army and navy should under all circumstances be kept, these services might yet be placed on such a footing as would give confidence to the people; and, what was still more important, would satisfy them that the enormous sums which they were called on year by year to vote were really applied to some practical and useful purposes. Because it was a melancholy thing to be told, after the expenditure of so many millions for successive years, that the army and navy were almost useless without an additional and very large expenditure, and that whenever the least doubt or danger existed, the whole work had nearly to be recommenced. It was his belief that if a proper system had been observed, the services would have been organized on a better, more effectual and more economical footing, and that results of a far more satisfactory character would have been arrived at. Looking however, at the circumstances in which we were placed, he thought the investigations of the Commissioners should take a wider range than was proposed by the Government.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, that in explanation he wished to say that he had not proposed that the force should not vary from year to year, but that there should be a minimum established below which the force in this country should never be reduced.