rose to move as an Amendment the Resolutions of which he had given notice—1. That it is expedient to defer any further expenditure on the construction or conversion of wooden line-of-battle ships. 2. That it is inexpedient to incur during the present year the expenditure requisite for the completion of the line-of-battle ships now on the stocks; and that during the present year it is not expedient to commence the construction of any wooden vessels which carry guns on more than one deck. 3. That it is inexpedient, without further experience, to sanction the expenditure of any money for the purpose of adapting Her Majesty's dockyards for the construction of iron vessels.He said, that it was with considerable reluctance he adopted any course which might appear to retard unnecessarily the progress of business; but there were certain important matters which hon. Members would do well to consider before they voted the Supplies. He would at once admit, so as to prevent, if possible, any unnecessary discussion, that the safety of a country should be its first consideration, and if England was in danger no premium was too high to pay for the protection of our homes and our property, and also of our national honour. All prudent men insured their property. As it was with individuals, so it ought to be with nations; but the former insured against dangers beyond their control, such as the casualties at sea, or ravages by fire. The dangers, however, which threatened a nation such as England were often within its own con- 418 trol, and were, at times, of its own creation.
Danger was often increased by mistakes in diplomacy, by interference in the affairs of other nations, and often by speeches in that House. The noble Lord at the head of the Government had lately delivered a speech of such a nature that if he (Mr. Lindsay), as an underwriter, had been asked to take an insurance upon the national risk, he would certainly have demanded a higher premium after the speech than he would have taken before it. It was said that the best security for peace was to be prepared for war; but when it was known that a nation had a sufficient amount of ships of war to resist the attacks of at least any other two nations combined, independent of the vessels necessary to protect her widely-extended commerce, and her shores, any excess of tonnage was considered by other nations, and it undoubtedly was, a menace.
The people of France looked upon our large naval armaments as a menace to them. The Journal des Dé bats a few years ago remarked (and that well-known journal had certainly cause for so doing) that—The First Minister of England should once more have no other means of obtaining enormous Votes of money and oratorical effects than by parading before the House of Commons, the monstrum horrendum of invasion is what we cannot understand—or, rather, what we understand too well. If France does not arm, if France is not armed—if her navy, inferior, not in value, but in number both as to men and ships, is not ready to enter upon a struggle with the naval power of Great Britain—where is the danger? History is full of instructions which we must not neglect. There are temptations which the best friends, when they are the strongest, cannot always resist. The most ordinary prudence would recommend not exposing them to the trial. But it is averred that beside the squadron in the Chinese seas, France has not one single armed vessel more than she possesses in ordinary times. Against whom, therefore, are prepared the formidable armaments of England—her sixteen vessels in the Mediterranean, where we have only eight; her squadron in the Channel where we have not one? Must we arm also? Such is the question which suggests itself, and to which we do not hesitate to answer—Yes. Who, then, will be first to halt in this reckless and ruinous course, if not the stronger?Well might the writer ask, Who was to halt in that reckless and ruinous course? England had a large fleet in the Channel, France bad none; England had a fleet twice as large as France in the Mediterranean. What was the consequence? France went on increasing her navy because England was increasing hers; that 419 reacted upon us, and we went on increasing ours; and thus two great nations, professing friendship and entering into matters of commerce with each other, went on at the same moment playing the foolish and, in this instance, dangerous game of "beggar your neighbour." Now, what were the facts? Franco had 35 steam line-of-battle ships built, and 2 building—37 in all; England had 53 line-of-battle ships built, and 14 building—67 in all. Surely, with 37 line-of-battle ships, France would not attack a nation with 67. He had taken some trouble to go into this matter, and what had he found? Take all the world, exclusive of England, and it had of efficient steam line-of-battle ships only 45. Did they want anything more? If the House saw that we had 22 line-of-battle ships more than all the world combined would it say that we wanted more? All he desired then was that they should not, in those Estimates which they wore about to vote, call for more money for line-of-battle ships. How did they stand with regard to frigates? Much had been said of the number and superior force of the vessels of that class belonging to France. That country had 25 screw and 18 paddle frigates, and England had 42 screw frigates and 9 paddle; so that England possessed 9 more frigates than France. He did not think it would he denied by the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty that in point of efficiency our frigates were vastly superior to those of France. Of the 43 vessels of this class possessed by France, 5 of the screw frigates had only 200 horse power; and out of the 18 paddle-wheel vessels, 16 were built 21 years ago, and built, not for ships of war, but for the purpose of transatlantic steam navigation. If he took the number of steam vessels mounting 20 guns and upwards, he found this country had, in round numbers, about 145, and France had 75. All the nations of the world combined had only 139, so that we had sufficient of these vessels to compete with the whole world, and more than sufficient, unless we were prepared to own that our ships and our men were inferior to those of foreign nations. Now, with regard to iron ships, France had only one of that class ready for sea at the present time, and that was La Gloire. She had 2 others launched, which could be got ready in the course of the present year, and 3 more were building, making in all 6 iron vessels, which mounted from 36 to 52 guns. She had 4 other smaller vessels 420 of this class building, mounting 14 guns, and which were intended for battery vessels and the protection of harbours; and she had 5 more, mounting only 2 guns. Those vessels could not be got ready within two years and a half from the present time. How many of these vessels had we building? We had got 7 built or building, 2 of which—the Warrior and Black prince —had been launched. Each of these two vessels were of a tonnage and power equal to two La Gloires. It was said that France had ordered 10 more iron-cased vessels, similar in size to La Gloire, but he was unable to ascertain that such was the fact. He knew that there were not 10 more of these vessels building, and he did not think that they had been ordered. But where was the money to come from? Many hon. Members were under the impression that money to any amount could be expended upon the navy of France without our knowledge. He had received a letter from a most intelligent Frenchman and a member of the Senate, with which he would trouble the House, as there appeared to be a very erroneous impression in regard to the mode of expending the public money in France. The writer says—A singular notion is now prevalent in England that France is under the rule of an absolute and despotic Government, with no control from the Chambers, or from the Public, in regard to finances and financial accounts, so that estimates are a mere mockery, and the budget a farce or a joke, at the pleasure of the Emperor. Such a notion is perfectly groundless. Our system of finances has never ceased to be one of control and guarantees. It is governed still, with very few changes, by an ordinance of 1838. For each minister there are estimates voted by the Legislative body. These estimates may be increased by special laws, and by what are called credits supplementaires credits and extraordinaires; but any credit of either kind is granted by a decree deliberated in the Council of State, and published in the Gazette (Bulletin des Lois). Besides, all the credits supplementaires or extraordinaires must be approved of by a law in the next sitting of the Chambers. A special volume is published every year containing the details of these credits, and this volume is to be got on the quays for a trifle. When the year is past, the proper minister is bound, and never fails to publish another blue book, containing all the sums which have been granted under the shape of estimates (le budget) or of special laws; or as credits supplementaires or extraordinaires, and to give an account of all that he has expended under each head.Then there is a special Committee appointed every year to look into these accounts. They also publish a blue book.Then a law is required for the approval of the same.Besides, there is a sharp control from the audit office, which is an independent body, being 421 appointed for life. They look most minutely into the accounts. They would never allow a single penny, granted to any Minister by the Estimates, or by the credits, to be expended by another Minister. In fact, this change from one Minister to another is never thought of, and the smallest employé here would smile were he told that, for instance, the Minister of the navy may receive any part of the budget, or of the credits of any kind of any other Minister. The audit office annoy the Ministers, because they require many formalities, and they see that all the regulations are strictly complied with. They publish every year a large volume, sometimes with unpleasant comments.But even this statement, he feared, would not banish from the minds of some hon. Members the impression that vast sums of money ostensibly voted for one object were expended upon another. They might still be of opinion that no control was exercised by the Chamber or by the people in regard to the Estimates. He had, therefore, from another source of information, obtained a list of the votes for the navy of France for the last ten years, and the actual expenditure during that period. In 1850 the vote amounted to £3,463,000; 1851, £3,883,000; 1852, £3,738,000; 1853, £3,736,000; 1854, £3,800,000; 1855, £4,118,000; 1856, £4,172,000; 1857, £4,165,000; 1858, £4,607,000; 1859, £4,910,000; 1860, £4,940,000; 1861, £4,975,000. The following were the sums expended:—1850, £3.327,000; 1851, £3,204,000; 1852, £3,412,000; 1853, £3,972,000; 1854, £4,696,000; 1855, the year of the war, £8,640,000; 1856, also a year of war, £8,309,000. The war ceased, and the expenditure fell down to about the usual mark; 1857, £5,076,000; 1858, £5,400,000. For 1859 he had no Return, as the expenditure for that year, and for 1860, had not yet been compiled and published; but no doubt it would be something like the same in proportion to the votes, as it had been in former years; one year less, another more, and in years, after war, when ships had to be refitted or replaced by others, the expenditure might, as in 1857 and 1858, considerably exceed the Estimates. But was it not so with us? In 1859 the Vote for the British Navy amounted to £9,113,000, but the Minister of the day asked for and got another Vote, and in that year the expenditure in round numbers amounted to £2,000,000 more than the original Estimate. But see how our expenditure has been increasing compared to that of France. In 1835, the sum voted for the British Navy amounted 422 to £4,240,000, and in 1852 it amounted to £5,800,000. In 1855 and 1856, it was in each year some £17,000,000 or £18,000,000, on account of the Crimean war. In 1857, £8,200,000; 1858, £8,800,000; 1859, £11,775,000; and in 1860, a year of peace, the Vote was no less than £12,822,000—more than double the Vote for the navy of France. Items to the extent of about £2,000,000, included in their Estimates were not included in the Estimates of France, and if they struck off those £2,000,000 it would make the English Estimates£10,000,000,against the French Estimates of £5,000,000, so that they were spending double the amount of France. The Government proposed this year a Vote of no less than £12,029,000; and when they had a navy greater than all the navies of the world combined, and were at peace with all nations, what did they want with that sum? On Vote 10 (Stores) alone they asked for £3,289,000, which was £300,000 in excess of last year, though 1860 had greatly exceeded any previous year—the two years of the unfortunate Crimean war excepted. We were asked to vote £949,000 for timber, though the Votes for that article in former years had been somewhat as follows:—for 1850, £325,000; 1852, £322,000; 1858, £363,000, and for 1859, when we had a wooden navy to build or "re-construct," the Vote was only £453,900; while this year, when we had an efficient wooden fleet greater than all the navies in the world combined, no less a sum than £949,000 was demanded from us. He could not believe that the Cabinet had considered these Estimates. Vast sums seemed to be taken at random. We are asked to vote them almost without consideration or debate; and if we do not vote them, we will likely be told that this vast expenditure is no business of ours, and that if the proposed Resolutions are pressed to a division, the Government will deal with them as a vote of censure. £271,000 was also demanded of us for metals, a large portion of which was for bolts, iron knees, and so forth, for wooden ships. £380,000 or thereabouts for hemp, canvass, rope, paint, &c., &c. £685,000 for machinery; a considerable portion of this sum was for the engines of new line-of-battle ships, and wooden vessels of various kinds: and £755,000 for iron vessels to be built by contract, independent of to iron ship about to be laid down in the Dockyard, Chatham, but including 423 £150,000 for transports. If they were not to build any more wooden line-of-battle ships, the country would expect that they should reduce the Vote for timber from £1,000,000 to £700.000, at most. For the same reason they might with perfect prudence strike off £100,000 from the Vote for metals; £80,000 from the Vote for hemp, and such like stores; and from the Vote of £685,000 for machinery, they might strike off the odd £185,000, leaving £500,000 for new engines. He did not think it would be advisable to expend money for the purchase of more transports until the Transport Committee should lay their Report before the House, which he hoped they would be able to do in a few months. If they did not continue to build those great ships they would not require so many workmen. The permanent staff in the yards and factories consisted of 13,300; and why should they be asked for 2,938 men extra? They might take from £150,000 to £200,000 off that Vote. They would not require so many measurers and surveyors, and a reduction might be made to some extent in Vote 6. He also begged to draw attention to the expense of the Admiralty Department at Whitehall. They had some 450 altogether in Whitehall, and Somerset House, and no less than 154 clerks in the Accountant General's Department, and yet the Government wanted money for extra clerks. He submitted that they might altogether make a reduction in the various Votes, but especially in Votes 10 and 11, to the extent of £1,150,000. He would next refer to his third proposal—That it was inexpedient, without further experience, to sanction the expenditure of money in Her Majesty's dockyards on the construction of iron vessels. He was anxious to have the opinion of the House upon this matter. Can we go on with advantage constructing iron vessels in Her Majesty's dockyards? The Report of the Dockyard Commission has just been laid upon the table. It was an able and a most striking document. That Report was drawn up by gentlemen who evidently felt that they had an important duty to perform, and their recorded opinion was that iron shipbuilding should not be carried on in Her Majesty's dockyards under the present system of keeping accounts. The Government considered it necessary—or at least it was so stated by their representatives in this House—to build iron ships in the public yards for the purpose of having a check upon con- 424 tractors as to their cost; but the Commission had arrived at the conclusion that there could be no such check under the present system of accounts. They say, "The system is elaborate and minute, but, so far as we can judge, its results are not to be relied upon for any practical purpose." No sentence could be more severe than that, because if accounts were of no use for practical purposes they were worthless—nay, worse than worthless, because they were misleading. As a proof of the alleged inaccuracy they state that, in Woolwich Dockyard alone, there occurred in the course of eight months 7,966 errors. If this was a specimen of the rest, then in the accounts of all the yards there could not have been less than 80,000 errors in the course of the year. They occurred in various ways. In the rating, valuing, and totaling of timber; in calculations for workmanship; in rating, totaling, and so forth. In fact, everything seemed to be in error. The sum of £4,480 for the engines and boilers of the Rainbow were omitted to be entered in the monthly return for May; sums from £1,000 to £1,200 were charged twice; and a sum of £5,210 for expenses incurred in the victualling department was omitted to be charged. This was a most lamentable—a most deplorable state of things. The witnesses examined, it should be remembered, were servants of Her Majesty, and they stated that, to make the accounts balance, there had to be entered an item called "general expenditure." If that was equivalent to "sundries," which covered a multitude of evils, it was something fearfully bad; but if it was simply "petty cash," and if all the items could be accounted for it was a much less serious matter. But with accounts of this kind it was absolutely impossible to say what our ships had cost, and what an iron ship would cost in Her Majesty's dockyards. It did, however, appear from calculations made by the Commissioners who had just reported that in Pembroke Dockyard, from January, 1848, to January, 1859, vessels had been built of 67,435 tons, and they had cost at least double the sum they might have been built for, and ought to have cost. In the face of such facts as these he was astonished that it should be proposed to go on building iron ships in Her Majesty's dockyards; and he trusted that the House of Commons would refuse to spend more of the public money in this way till there had been a thorough 425 change of system. Let the present Vote, at least for a ship built at Chatham, be at all events delayed till it could be shown that the dockyards could build the vessels at as low a price as private builders. He asked the House also to consider the people who were called upon to pay for these ships. And in considering the people, consider also their prospects of employment. The telegrams which told of the strike of thousands of workmen at Ashton, Staleybridge, and other places against a necessary reduction of wages might be regarded as the handwriting on the wall, by which the House would do well to take warning; and if it could reduce the Estimates by £1,000,000, or £1,200,000, without impairing the efficiency of the service it was hound to do so. The people who sent hon. Members to that House expected that they would see that no unnecessary taxes were imposed. It was their first duty to do so, and for that reason it was not without confidence he left the matter in the hands of the House. The hon. Member concluded by moving the first of his Resolutions:—1. That it is expedient to defer any further expenditure on the construction or conversion of wooden line-of-battle ships.
To leave out from the word 'That' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'it is expedient to defer any further expenditure on the construction or conversion of wooden line-of-battle ships,' "—instead thereof.
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ SIR MORTON PETO
Sir, I trust the House will, on this occasion, afford me its indulgence in permitting me to refer to various documents, and even to risk the trying of its patience by reading extracts from some of them. I trust they will feel the importance of the subject will warrant my doing so. I must first refer to the introduction of iron ships to the navy, and show how difficult from the constitution of the Admiralty itself is the introduction of any improvement; and I feel this to be the more important, as, at the present time, the reconstruction of the Board of Admiralty is under the consideration of the House.
I find the first introduction of any iron vessels was in 1839; but they were then only used for the Post Office packets at Dover. From that time to the year 1846 the extensive use of iron in the commer- 426 cial marine had forced itself on the attention of the Government, and I find that the Government had ordered several vessels of iron construction. In 1846 there was a change of Ministry. The first act of the new Ministry was to send round to the various yards to ascertain the state of progress of these vessels and immediately to suspend them. They charged the preceding Ministry with having ordered iron vessels at a large cost, without having instituted any sufficient experiments or inquiries to justify their doing so. They also inquired what progress had been made in the adaptation of the screw to vessels of war; and it was only on the report of the superintendents of the yards that they were too far advanced to permit of any change, that the whole of what had been done by Sir George Cockburn in the adaptation of the screw now universally approved and in use was not altogether abandoned. But did that Ministry introduce the use of iron with inconsiderate haste? I deny such to be the fact, and will now proceed to prove it. That Ministry had instituted and carried out a series of well-conducted experiments at Woolwich, extending over a considerable period. Besides these experiments they had before them the experience derived from four vessels constructed for the late East India Company. The Nemesis, built off ⅜ in. plates, 700 tons, in China for three years; the Guadaloupe, off ⅜ -in. and ½ -in. plates, two years on the coast of Mexico; the Lizard and the Harpy, of ⅜ in. plates, 340 tons; and these Reports, made to the Admiralty by their respective officers, are so important that I must read them to the House.
Captain Hall, R. N., states—Nemesis was frequently struck, as often as fourteen times in one action, and much damaged by shot in her upper works. But only one shot can be said to have gone straight through the vessel, which made a hole as if you put your finger through a piece of brown paper. Other shot struck the Nemesis in a slanting direction, and merely indented the iron, glancing off without penetrating. We remarked no particular danger from splinters of iron; but I would remark that; the Nemesis was constructed of the best possible material, and put together with the best possible workmanship. She was divided into seven water-tight compartments; and I am of decided opinion that no war steamer of iron should be divided into less. The Nemesis had holes knocked in her bottom many times by sharp rocks, and these were easily stopped tor the time by driving in plugs of wood and oakum from the inside. For myself, judging from my own experience, and well knowing that the sides of iron steamers (particularly between wind and water) could be strengthened 427 and supported so as to prevent the destructive effects of shot, which have caused so much alarm, I should still give the preference to an iron over a wooden steamer as a command under all circumstances.Captain Charleswood, R. N., states—Notwithstanding all the extraordinary reports which have been sent home of the effects of shot upon one of our iron men-of-war, my opinion is as strong as ever upon this point, providing the vessel is properly built. And I should still certainly prefer commanding an iron steam frigate to a wooden one. I think, also, that you will consider my opinion as to the effects of shot upon iron vessels as not a rash one or made upon slight grounds, when I inform you of the following particular cases which occurred to the Guadaloupe Mexican frigate, two of which occurred when I was actually on board in command of the vessel, and the others very shortly after the Admiralty orders reached me instructing me to return home, when Mr. Martin, a relative of mine, was in command. Full particulars of each case I have both from him and other officers who were on board:—No. 1. A 24-pound shot struck the vessel on the bow where the woodwork of the head is bolted to the bow, and consequently lies over the iron side. This shot, fired from a distance of about 1,000 yards, passed through the woodwork (say about five inches thick) and iron, and dropped on board, simply making a hole sufficiently large to let the shot pass through.No. 2. A shot struck the counter, indented the iron, and glanced off; had the vessel been constructed of wood this shot, I think, would have entered.No. 3. A 24-pound shot nearly spent struck the iron bulwark on the inside, having passed over the port side of the vessel. This shot started the iron, and burst the rivets of a plate for about nine inches in length.No. 4. A full plumper 24-pound shot struck just abaft the mainmast on the port side, and about two feet under water; this shot passed through the side, and lodged in the coal bunker; the hole was made quite tight temporarily with a common plug; no rivets were started or damage done beyond the circular hole made by the shot.No. 5. An 18-pound shot fired at a distance of about 200 yards. This shot struck the vessel's side near the foremast, passed through the iron, making a clean hole as if it had been drilled, and through three casks of salt provisions.These shot-holes were all repaired by the boiler makers, who served on board as engineers and firemen. Four holes were drilled round each shot-hole from the inside, corresponding with four holes in an iron plate lowered down outside, and four screw bolts made them perfectly tight and secure, not a drop of water finding its way through. The vessel was in severe weather repeatedly afterwards, and I believe to this day nothing more has been done to these shot-holes. I should remark that the case of No. 3, of the spent-shot, would have been the worst leak to contend with had it struck the vessel under water, as a plug could not easily have been applied; but still the leak would not have been, comparatively, a severe one. Several other shots struck the vessel about the hull when I was on board and afterwards; but these are the only cases worth mentioning, and which have any bearing on the question in point.428 Lieutenant Proctor, R. N., commanding the Harpy, states—One shot only, after passing through two floats and damaging a segment of the wheel, struck the iron portion of the hull immediately outside an angle iron. The shot had not sufficient momentum to pass through the side, but caused a split in the form of a cross, breaking the said angle iron, which there is no doubt impeded the shot from passing through. It was necessary to rivet a patch of sheet-iron a foot square over the part damaged.Lieutenant Tylden, R. N., commanding the Lizard, states—This vessel received seven shots between wind and water, besides nine cannon, fourteen grape, and forty-one musket balls, in the hull and bulwarks, and seven cannon and grape shot in the funnel and steam-pipe.Now, Sir, these reports show, without any doubt whatever, that iron vessels, built even of thin plates, when injured are easily repaired; that when they are built in compartments they are safer vessels than any wooden ones which can be constructed, and in their being to a larger extent safer from the casualty of taking fire, they are on that account possessed of an immeasurable advantage; and I contend that from these Reports, and the result of the experiments at Woolwich, to which I have referred, the Government were justified in making a trial of iron ships for Her Majesty's Navy. But, Sir, did the Government take no advice before they refused proceeding with the iron ships then far advanced which had been ordered by the Government preceding? We find from the works of Sir Howard Douglas that he was consulted, and his advice is so important that I prefer rending to the House an extract from it. He says—I was consulted by the late Sir Robert Peel on his accession to the Government, as to the use and efficiency of a certain half-dozen iron frigates, two of which were finished, and four constructing by contract. I stated in reply, that vessels wholly constructed of iron were utterly unfit for all the purposes of war, whether armed, or as transports for the conveyance of troops. I stated that a shot striking with great velocity would drive into the ship numerous splinters of the disc struck; that shot striking with reduced velocity, as when fired from a distance, would make large jagged holes which could not be plugged from the inside; that shot striking a rivet or rivets, as at the junction of four plates they might do, would make a large breach in the side of the ship; that the shot might break on impact, and its fragments, together with those of the plates would drive into the ship a mass of splinters, consisting of pieces of shot-bolts, bolt-heads, nuts, and innumerable pieces of iron, which would prove more deadly and extensive than any shell, grape shot, or case shot.I do not blame Sir Robert Peel for consulting Sir Howard Douglas; nor am I 429 prepared to state that the opinion Sir Howard gave was not conscientiously formed; but the House will see that however talented a particular individual may be, if he has been educated in a certain school, if his mind is affected by habits of routine, his opinion is not to be relied on.
It will he seen that the experience of the four commanders thoroughly disproves all Sir Howard Douglas says; and in such a case nothing less than a Commission of scientific and practical men should have been resorted to before such a decision was taken; but, as it was necessary that this opinion of Sir Howard Douglas should be supported by experiment, the Government ordered that the effect should be tried of gunnery from a three-decker at Portsmouth on an iron vessel, and I must now show the House how this experiment was conducted, and its worth:—In 1841 a small iron steamer of 73 tons, 20-horse power engine, and a coal-stowage of 2 tons, had been built at Bristol of the very slight material of one-eighth plates; and in her employment of taking shipwrights to and fro between Portsmouth Harbour and Spit-head she had been already worn out and formally condemned as unsafe. This was to be the representative—and this is the description of her state as recorded in the evidence of the officers who surveyed her—Her state was very bad: the iron of which she was constructed was originally very thin—not thicker than a half-crown; the seams of the rivets were many of them almost quite gone; the ribs were very far apart—I should consider it likely they were about four feet apart, instead of being perhaps ten inches or a foot; the heads of her rivets were quite gone, especially internally; the deck was also partly removed for the purpose of lifting the machinery out previous to the experiment, and made the vessel still weaker.
And, by another of her surveying officers, it is stated that the plating between the ribs yielded so much to the foot as to lead to the conclusion that it could not safely bear a man's weight.
In this state the Ruby was placed before the broadside of a three-decker at Portsmouth. She afforded practice for two days; 40 shots in all being fired through her from a distance of 450 yards, with all guns, and all charges, from the 10-inch Paixhans to the 32-pounder corronade, and in all cases with complete success;—the vessel being swung round during the operation, so as to receive her full share 430 of punishment, "end on" as well as "broadside on,"—all effects of each shot being minutely described, and measured, and pictured, and duly reported. But throughout this very minute "Report," and throughout every subsequent reference made to it, it is remarkable to observe how every word which could inform us of the original thickness of the Ruby's plates, or their actual state when fired at, seems to have been overlooked;—not that this "Report" itself, with its illustrative pictures, was at all procurable at the time, nor did it, indeed, become so until it took position as "Parliamentary Return No. 737 of 1850."
The result of this experiment was paraded to the House—they were informed the Government had taken the only effective means of settling this question—they had tried the effect of firing against the sides of an iron vessel itself, and found that the perforations of the shot were of a character which admitted of no repairs—that indeed the advice which had been given the Government that iron ships were "totally unfit for purposes of war," had been found to be based on results which in practice admitted of no doubt. So far, indeed, did the Admiralty carry their view that they determined they would not even allow the packets built by commercial companies and subsidized for postal service to be built of iron; and it was not until very strong representations had been been made by the Cunard, Peninsular and Oriental, and other companies, that they were induced to relax this rule as to the mail steam-packets, as they have since been obliged by the example of foreign governments to relax it with regard to the navy itself.
Now, the House will be told, that for certain purposes, wooden ships will still be needed. Admitting they may be, the question arises, have we not enough? The hon. Member for Sunderland has shown that we have already more wooden ships than all the rest of the world put together. The only power to whom the hand of fear constantly points is that of France—she has for three or four years ceased to build any wooden ships—why should we not then stay our hand?
But, Sir, I am prepared to carry the House much further in this matter, and to show, beyond all question, that the gravest doubts may he entertained whether your larger wooden ships can ever be used at all, having special reference to the new 431 class of projectiles which would be used; and here I must ask permission to quote from the works of Sir Howard Douglas himself as to what was the effect of the time-fuzed shells of the Russians on our wooden ships and on those of the Turkish navy—The damage sustained by the combined fleets was caused chiefly by the Russian shells, which were fitted with time-fuzes, as were those which they used at Sinope. The Albion received several shells close to the water-line, three entered the cockpit, and she was once or twice on fire. Having ceased firing in consequence of being compelled, when on fire, to close the magazine, and having signalled for the assistance of a steamer, the Albion was towed out of action stern foremost, by the Firebrand, in effecting which both vessels were severely damaged. The Arethusa was set on fire several times, and severely damaged by the Russian shells. One burst on the main deck, and knocked down a considerable number of men of the adjoining guns' crews; another shell burst on the lower deck, and set fire to some material close to 200 live-shells placed there for immediate use ! Another shell blew out portions of several planks in the bends, and had there been any sea the ship must have sunk. A shell lodged and burst in the timbers at the water-line. An officer and five out of seven men standing together on the upper deck were dangerously wounded by the bursting of a shell. After having retired out of fire it was found necessary to heel the ship to plug shotholes below the water-line. The Sans Pareil suffered severely in men and spars. The London suffered considerably in her hull from shot and shells fired from the Telegraph Battery, and was three times on fire in two hours. The Queen was also forced to withdraw, a red-hot shot having set fire to her.The affair of Sinope was much more serious. The whole of the Turkish squadron was burnt by firing time-fused shells into them, from which they were set on fire from the ignition of powder circulating on the fighting decks, and which, there is no doubt, produced so much panic among the crew that they were unable to extinguish it.Now, Sir, I would ask the House whether with this experience, any Ministry sending to sea a man-of-war built of wood, with 1,000 men on board, to be opposed by iron ships, themselves invulnerable, would not deserve impeachment? and whether there can be any hesitation in complying with the terms of the Motion that it is expedient to defer our proceeding further with wooden vessels?
I find a somewhat singular proof in this same work of Sir Howard Douglas of the blindness of prejudice. He admits that iron plates five-eight inches thick are shell-proof, and yet he does not see the immense advantage of a vessel which, though she may be perforated by iron shot, is proof against the shells which he describes in so graphic a manner, and which I have felt it right to read to the House.
Now, Sir, we find that France discon- 432 tinued, in the years 1856-7, the building of wooden vessels. Why did she do so? Because they found that in the action against the forts at Kinburn neither shot nor shell could penetrate the sides of the iron vessels they employed. These experiments were as well known to our own Admiralty as they were to the French. Ample Reports were sent home; everything was minutely described. They were, no doubt, duly deposited in the Record Rooms of the Admiralty.
But while the French used their information, and learned the practical wisdom of staying a useless expenditure, what was our course of action? Why, Sir, since that time (will the House believe it?) we have built and converted 70 wooden vessels of 155,000 tons, 33,000 horse power, and carrying 3,800 guns; and we have now, at the present moment, upwards of 700 ships-of-war of 720,000 tons, of 125,000 horse power, and carrying 17,200 guns, and yet the present Estimates before the House contain a Vote of nearly a million of money for wood in store only!
In a recent debate, my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, in his statement to the House of what the French Government were at the present moment doing, read a paper which had been given him by the French Minister of Marine. That statement was received by many hon. Members with expressions of incredulity, and as much so by hon. Members on the Treasury bench as by any others. I determined to ask a practical engineer to visit the French ports, and report to me what was actually doing. He returned only two days since, and reports there is not the slighest sign of activity; that at Toulon, where more is doing than at any other port, if the convict force were withdrawn, there would be scarcely anything doing at all.
What does the House think, then, of the statements which have been made, that such was the activity of the French dockyards that men were clustered on the sides of the iron vessels like bees in a summer hive? My friend could only find the six frigates which were stopped in 1858, having been begun as wooden vessels, and now in process of being iron-plated. The Gloire has been launched, and, as the House is aware, her speed tried at sea. The Normandie has been launched; but instead of being ready for action, as stated, she has not yet an iron plate fixed on her side, though there were 200 delivered ready for 433 fixing. My friend went to France with very different impressions. He returns and gives me the assurance that the statement of the French Minister was an understatement rather than the reverse, but that it was in every respect correct.
I must now call attention to the fact that these vessels building by France are all of one class—the same speed and the same carrying power; and I maintain that until France builds any other class of vessels, those which we build should be of relative speed and class, able in every respect to cope with them. Let us see what we are doing in this respect. We have first the vessels ordered by the late Administration, the Warrior and Black Prince. These, in the opinion of all practical and scientific men, are worthy of the country, and will be found far more powerful in action than the French vessels, and will equal them in speed: they carry 36 guns: they have stowage for fuel of between 900 and 1,200 tons, and are calculated to have a speed of between 13 and 14 knots an hour. These vessels are being built by Napier and the Thames Company. We are also building Class 2, two vessels—the Resistance and the Defiance by Westwood and Baily of the Thames; and Palmer, at Newcastle. They are small vessels of 16 guns—3,000 tons burden; their speed cannot be calculated to exceed ten or eleven knots an hour. Class 3, two vessels—one building by Westwood and Baily of the Thames; and one by Napier of the Clyde: these are ships of 4,000 tons; the weight of their hulls alone may be taken at 4,000 tons, leaving the difference only between nominal and actual tonnage for armament and fuel: these two vessels cannot be calculated from their form and engine-power to have a speed of more than nine knots an hour, and will not have the carrying capacity for fuel for more than three days consumption.
Now, Sir, I would ask gallant Admirals who are Members of this House, whether, if in command of a fleet, they would not like to have vessels with something of the same powers of speed and stowage of fuel? I would ask them whether they would wish to sail with a fleet, some vessels of which carry twelve or thirteen days fuel, and others between three and five days fuel? Now, I think, the Admiralty is bound to give some explanations to the House why these alterations have been made? Why, if they were building six vessels to oppose six other vessels, all of 434 which had uniform power and speed, they departed from the model laid down by the late Board of Admiralty. Independently of the want of power and stowage, these latter vessels would be built at a greater cost per gun, though with inferior seagoing qualities.
But there is another reason why the progress of any wooden ships of war now building should be stayed. Let us ask whether it is not possible to turn them to a better account? Suppose we have a three-decker in process of building at a certain stage of advancement, by removing the upper deck they would take off at least 1,800 tons of dead weight. By applying that weight in the shape of iron plates to the sides of the ship they would get, not indeed a 90 gun wooden vessel, but a 36 gun iron-plated ship, with 250 men instead of 900. I should like to ask the gallant Admiral now below me, who rendered the country such services in China, whether he would not rather be in command of the smaller vessel than the larger one; and whether the larger one would stand the slightest chance in action with the smaller one?
My noble Friend the Secretary to the Admiralty stated the other evening as an objection to iron vessels, that their bottoms would be foul and like a lawyer's wig. Then this conversion would commend itself to my noble Friend, for we should then have—as the French have—iron sides and copper bottoms.
I will now call attention to another important consideration, namely, the difference in the cost of repairing wooden and iron vessels. According to the Estimates before the House the cost of the steam factories for the year was £300,000. The cost of steam engines for the iron fleet would not be more than for the wooden fleet; but suppose they expended £500,000 instead of £300,000, and allow £500,000 for the repairs of the hulls of the iron fleet—and it should be borne in mind that, excepting after an action, the cost of the repairs of the iron hulls would be but trifling—they would have as the entire cost of the repairs and maintenance of the iron fleet one million sterling per annum. Moreover, the iron fleet would always be ready for action, whereas it was not certain that wooden vessels would, when laid up, be capable of going to sea at all. It often happened that when the hulls had been built some time extensive repairs were necessary before their engines could be 435 put on board at all. But what had been the cost to us of the wooden fleet? During the last eight years we have spent twenty-nine millions sterling on ships alone, without any works or repairs to the dockyards. During these eight years we have added 2,000 guns to the naval force. Now, taking each gun at £4.000, we have an expenditure of eight millions; which leaves us twenty-one millions as the cost of converting, repairing, and maintaining the wooden fleet. The House should also consider the difference of cost of manning the wooden and iron fleet. We have now 50,000 sailors afloat. Now 25,000 in ironclad ships would be far more effective than the 50,000. It is true you may require to be more select in your choice of men. It may be judicious to have more officers to direct them. But still, whether in maintenance or in working, I contend that an iron fleet presents the feature of an enormous economy in comparison with a wooden one. It presents also an aspect which a wooden fleet has never shown—certainty of expenditure. What have we to represent the twenty-one millions to which I just now referred? What a sum has the want of scientific and practical skill cost the country! What a sum is it now costing us! Iron ships are also universally acknowledged to be stronger than wooden vessels. Many of your best frigates dare not have the full power of their engines applied to the screw; and many of them, after but short service, require extensive re-caulking. In iron vessels this never can occur—the rivetting of the plates causes the joints to be as strong as the plates themselves.
With regard to the building of iron ships in the dockyards, if the building of these ships is an experiment, we are unwise in incurring the loss of providing plant for their construction; but if they are not an experiment, then to begin to build them at Chatham without proper arrangements, and as a temporary expedient, is what no man of business would recommend for a moment. There is no difficulty in obtaining the iron hulls at a fixed price—there is no difficulty in ensuring perfection of material and workmanship; but if all are built in our own dockyards as proposed, we shall never know the real cost to the country. We have a lesson in Keyham on dockyard expenditure. We started there an establishment for the repairs of our steamers to cost some £300,000 or £400,000, and it ended in spending upwards of a million 436 and a half. The country is perfectly ready to pay for efficiency; but it has a perfect right to demand that efficiency shall be the result of its expenditure. Moreover, efficiency is the only measure of value; our Admiralty never seems to learn this lesson. Look, for instance, at the gunboat question. During the last war, when we were hard driven for gunboats, we purchased from the Prussian Government two iron gunboats which they had ordered for their small navy. With these we were able to burn the Russian stores at Kertch and Arabat, and the Weser and Recruit are still admirable vessels. But did our Admiralty order any more iron vessels to be built? No, but they built large numbers in wood, and such was the nature of the material used, that within two or three years half of them were found to be rotten ! Every pound thus mis spent entails many evils in the further cost of retrieving time and position.
I am of opinion that the hulls should be built in the Thames, Mersey, Clyde, or Tyne; that the whole of the engines should he supplied by builders of acknowledged character, and that the dockyards should be kept for repairs only. Your wooden ships, and the machinery necessary for them, require no addition; as I have before stated, the hulls of iron vessels require no repairs excepting after action. If these changes are made, we shall know our future expenditure, and it will be immensely less than it is at present. We have no need to spend any more money in this country on account of troop-ships. France in this respect is differently circumstanced. We have always our commercial marine to fall back upon for transports.
Much has been said about Sir Baldwin Walker's evidence. I have perused the evidence he has given before the Dockyard Commission. He gives it in a straightforward, manly way. He states that more than once he offered to resign, being conscious that he could not fulfil, to his own satisfaction, the responsibilities which his office incurred. Sir Baldwin, though a good sailor, had never studied the construction of vessels prior to his appointment to the office of Surveyor. In the case of Admiral Robinson, the Admiralty has done the same thing over again. Who can be surprised at these results when men who have no practical knowledge are thus appointed? We should have for Surveyor of the Navy a person intimately acquainted with the construction of vessels. He 437 should have a direct responsibility in connection with these affairs. He should be aided by a council of practical and scientific men. When any particular class of vessel is added, its merits should be tested in every possible way. When it is found to answer its purpose perfectly, you can contract for the hulls and machinery. The votes can be taken for distinct expenditure. We shall know what we are voting, and the country will have the satisfaction of knowing that it gets value received for the taxes imposed. I have read with wonder and surprise in the evidence of Sir Baldwin Walker that engineers in the employment of the Admiralty have been offered large sums of money to furnish designs of vessels. We have plenty of practical knowledge and engineering skill in the country if the proper means are taken in having recourse to it. It could not be said that any deficiency of talent was shown in the construction of the Cunard vessels and those of the Peninsular and Oriental and Royal Mail Steam Packet Companies; or, was it that, all the talent of the country being in the hands of the Admiralty, these companies were indebted to its concentration there for the designs from which their vessels were constructed?
Another mode might be adopted of eliciting the talent of the country. Nothing was easier than for the Admiralty to say to six or seven firms of acknowledged ability We will give you certain conditions as to speed, armament, stowage of coal, accommodation for men, and every other requirement. You shall build us a vessel. We will not take one which does not fulfil these conditions, and to the firm which produces the best vessel, regard being had to all these conditions, we will give a large premium and future orders."
I believe, Sir, the faults of the Admiralty are more in the system than in the men. Great expectations were entertained of the results of placing my noble Friend, the Secretary of the Admiralty, in his office, and I cannot give the House a stronger proof of the faults and defects of the system than the fact that my noble Friend, with all his good intentions and his undoubted talent, has done so little for the country in the office which be occupies.
We live in eventful times. The future of any nation will no longer be determined by its pluck and courage alone; science and its practical application will decide our future battles; and surely this should be a cause not of weakness, but of strength.
438 We have unlimited supplies of iron and of coal; we have the best practical and scientific engineers. Our country has been the birth place of the steam-engine itself. The rest of the world have copied us in its application to the thousand ways in which it has contributed to the advancement of civilization and progress. It is a new thing which has happened to our country—that in naval affairs, instead of leading, we are taught by France and the rest of Europe. This must not be: we have a great duty to perform, and we must not rest until we see the resources of this great nation properly applied. The country expects that we should act with decision and firmness in this matter, and without finding fault with individuals, or attributing anything to them but the most patriotic intentions, we must have courage to satisfy the just expectations of the nation. We must declare to the Admiralty that until its defective organization is remedied we will confide no more money to the hands of the Government than is absolutely necessary for defending the honour and safety of the country, and that we will wrest this vital arm of our power from incapacity and the paralysing influence of a system so ill-conceived and working such mighty mischief. I trust, Sir, that the House will agree unanimously to the Motion of my hon. Friend.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Sir, the House has listened with great, I may say with surpassing, interest to the statements made by my hon. Friend and by the hon. Baronet. If I abstain from following them and from defending the department to which I have the honour to belong from the various charges which have been made as to its incapacity and want of ability, and as to almost every detail connected with Admiralty management, it is not because I am unprepared to show that the Board of Admiralty has done its best under the circumstances in which it has been placed to rectify such errors as appear to have crept into its constitution, and into the various departments which it comprises. I abstain from attempting any such defence, because we have now to deal with certain Resolutions connected with the building of line-of battle ships. It will, therefore, be my business to show to the House that it will be highly inexpedient to agree to these Resolutions as they stand, because, if we do agree to them, it is impossible that the Admiralty can be responsible for the maintenance of your fleet; it is quite impossible that the Admiralty can say, "We have 439 done what we consider right for the safety and honour of the country," if an abstract Resolution of this nature is sanctioned by the House of Commons. With regard to the details of this Motion, my hon. Friend says, in the first place, that it is expedient to defer any further expenditure on the construction or conversion of wooden line-of-battle ships. Now, if my hon. Friend had followed me three years ago, in the days when it became obvious to practical men that our line-of-battle ships were not likely to maintain the position which they had held in former wars, he would have conferred a much greater boon upon the country than by coming forward at this moment.
The noble Lord must surely have forgotten that I seconded his Motion on the occasion he refers to.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
I am alluding not to that speech, but to a speech which I made in 1857 and 1858, calling attention to the building of line-of-battle ships. My hon. Friend now comes and asks us to abstain from building line-of-battle ships. As regards that part of his Resolution I can offer no objection, inasmuch as it is not the intention of Her Majesty's Government at the present moment to proceed with the construction or completion of line-of-battle ships; but he couples this request with another Resolution, or part of a Resolution, which I think the House will see it is quite impossible that we can carry out consistently with our duty to the public, and with a due regard to the maintenance of the navy. I have expressed my opinion very often in this House with regard to the conversion of these line-of-battle ships; but my views have not been always followed out, and we have gone on converting as before. These ships are now in progress of conversion. They are occupying your docks, and so long as that is the case the dockyards are not available for the repair of your ships now at sea. That is at once a reason why we should not agree to the Motion to give up at present the conversion of these line-of-battle ships. There are four at present undergoing conversion. They will be probably out of their docks in the course of the present year, and after they are out I sincerely hope that there will be no more of these line-of-battle ships converted. My hon. Friend then calls on the House to declare—That it is inexpedient to incur during the present year the expenditure requisite for the completion of the line-of-battle ships now on the 440 stocks; and that during the present year it is not expedient to commence the construction of any wooden vessels which carry guns on more than one deck.The first part of this Resolution, namely, the completion of line-of-battle ships on the stocks, 1 have already adverted to, and with respect to the second part, I have heard various arguments upon this question of wooden ships. Hon. Members tell us on a sudden that wooden vessels are to be no longer component parts of the navy; that they are to be thrown on one side, and that all our war vessels must henceforth be built of iron. Sir, the Admiralty are not prepared, and I do not think that any practical naval man is prepared, to subscribe to such a doctrine. I quite admit that these very large iron-cased ships should obviously be built of iron, because you cannot build wooden ships of very great tonnage—at least I do not believe you can—consistently with the strength which is required for such vessels. That is a reason in itself, but there are various other reasons why it is very advisable to construct these large ships of iron. But one of the most serious defects of iron vessels is their liability to foul. In any future war, speed will mainly be the quality which will determine the superiority. The vessel which has the greatest speed, and can carry, not the largest number of guns, but the heaviest guns, in all probability will have the advantage over other vessels. But iron vessels in warm climates are so liable to foul that unless they are continually docked they cannot maintain their speed. I am not prepared to say that we may not discover some scientific method of keeping the bottoms of these vessels clean, but according to our present lights it would be highly inadvisable to give up building wooden vessels. Moreover, the term employed by the hon. Gentleman, carrying "guns on more than one deck," is so exceedingly vague that I do not understand what it is that he means; but I must ask the House not to agree to any abstract Resolution which would bind the Government to cease from building any more of that very useful class of vessels, corvettes and gunboats.
The third Resolution of the hon. Gentleman lays down that—It is inexpedient without further experience to sanction the expenditure of any money for adapting Her Majesty's dockyards for the construction of iron vessels.In reply to that, I can state that there 441 is not the slightest intention, that I am aware of, on the part of the Government to adapt the dockyards generally for the construction of iron vessels. I am not prepared to say that the iron ship which is about to he built at Chatham will be built cheaper than a vessel built by contract. It is very doubtful whether she will be, but there are strong reasons, under the circumstances, why one ship should be built at Chatham. We have no experience with regard to building these vessels. It is quite impossible for any Board of Admiralty or any scientific man to foresee what improvements might suggest themselves in the course of the building of these vessels. As a proof, I may mention that in building the Warrior we found that it would he advisable, as the Armstrong 100-pounder admits of a narrow port, that her ports should be reduced in size. But the Warrior was ordered by contract; the consequence of which is that we were tied to a certain form of vessel and a certain size of port, and to various other details which we have been obliged to alter, and the contractors necessarily come down upon upon us for additional sums in payment for these alterations. It may be said that these points ought to have been considered beforehand, and no doubt it would have been advisable, if possible; but I have always believed and said that the greatest care and consideration was bestowed by my right hon. Friend on the commencement of the formation of that vessel. We have found out since that we can get a greater flotation by giving a flatter midship section to the sister ship which is going to be built; but if we had entered into a contract for that vessel we should be tied down to the exact form of the Warrior. There are various other details, with which I will not trouble the House, which make it quite reasonable that we should try one vessel in our own yard with a view of carrying out any improvements which may suggest themselves in the course of construction. The hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) is for having us confine the contracts for the building of these vessels to the three rivers—the Mersey, the Clyde, and the Thames; and, with singular favouritism, he would exclude all other manufacturing ports. I do not know where be got his information, but he would have the House believe that the Warrior, built by the right hon. Gentleman opposite, is a great success and will have great speed, while the present Board of Admiralty are 442 building vessels which will have no speed, no stowage, which will be left behind to be captured by the enemy, and, in fact, will be totally useless. Let us see what is really the estimated speed of the different classes. The Warrior and the Black Prince, and vessels of that class, it is hoped, will have a speed of 14 knots; the Defence and the Resistance 11.45 knots; and the newest class 12.24 knots. These are not vessels that can be said to be destitute of speed, or which cannot be expected to keep pace with the fleets of this country. In fact, I do not believe there is a single line-of-battle ship in the navy which has the speed of the slowest class of these vessels. I trust, then, that with regard to these three Resolutions the House will not agree to them, that it will put some confidence in the department which is responsible for building and maintaining your fleets, and that it will not tie us down to building nothing but one description of vessels.
The hon. Gentleman who moved these Resolutions made some observations which I think he had not duly considered. He has come home primed with information from France. I have no doubt that the Minister and the authorities there have relied on him for setting right the English people, who were altogether in a mist, and seemed possessed with an idea that the French had a large fleet, when in fact they had nothing at all. But I do not think my hon. Friend is consistent with himself in the figures he has given us. The last time he spoke he told us that the French had only 88 ships.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
In our calculations we only speak of efficient ships; we only include steamships, and leave sailing ships out altogether. My hon. Friend says that England has 22 line-of-battle ships more than all the world combined. But this is really not the case. We have 67 line-of-battle ships built or building. France has 37, Spain 3, Russia 9, and Italy 1, making 50. I admit that that is a very great superiority. But it does not amount in figures to what the hon. Gentleman stated, because he stated that we had 22 more line-of-battle ships than all the rest of the world put together. Again, he says that we have nine more frigates than France. Now, England has 52 frigates and France 47, and not, as my hon. Friend states, 43. When he comes to tell the House 443 these tilings it makes it appear that we are going to an enormous and unnecessary expense in building ships when Francehas no force at all commensurate with ours. He tells us that the iron ships constructing in France could not be furnished and ready in less than 2½ years. I say that is entirely erroneous. I do not say that all the French iron ships will be ready in 2½ or in 5½ years, but I say that every one of the French iron-cased ships, big and little, may be ready in the course of the present summer. I state that to my hon. Friend on the best authority. I am not prepared to say that they will be ready, but I say that every one may be ready in the course of the present summer. With regard to the Magenta, one of the very largest of the French iron-cased ships, carrying 52 guns, it is only within the last two days I have been told that the Magenta is very nearly ready for launching. It is true that the plates have then to be put on. But it is unfair for my hon. Friend to state that we are making these vast warlike preparations, and that other nations are not making due preparations. I do not blame them. But I say that the French and every nation on the Continent are making great naval preparations, and, therefore, that it is the bounden duty of Ministers to see that we have a fleet sufficient to maintain the safety, honour, and dignity of this country.
The hon. Gentleman has quoted the Navy Estimates of France. He compared the Estimates of past years, and he made out that the French are less than half the Estimates of this country. But will the House remember that we have to maintain a vast force upon the seas to protect our colonies and commerce, and that we cannot do that without paying for it? Our navy is spread all over the globe. Our navy is frittered away—[Mr. Hear, hear !]—and large expenditure is the consequence. The hon. Member for Birmingham says "Hear, hear !" I should like to ask him what his Manchester friends would say if in some outlandish country British ships were plundered by pirates and their crews murdered, and no British man-of-war at hand to protect them or obtain redress. There are constant demands from abroad for the presence of British men-of-war, and if you will maintain this great fleet you must pay the piper. I wish to make allusion to the statement of the hon. Member for Sunderland with regard to timber. I think, if there is one thing for which the 444 Admiralty has been blamed more than another, it is for not maintaining a proper stock of timber. It has been said, "You are building your ships of green wood. You are living from hand to mouth, and no one can tell what would happen to the country if a war broke out when your dockyards are denuded of timber." What has the present Admiralty done? They have listened to the wise advice which was given to them by many hon. Gentlemen—namely, to get together a good stock of timber. If the House agree to the Vote, large as I admit it is this year, we shall then be in a position in which we have not been for a considerable number of years with regard to the stock of timber; and I believe that, come what may—whatever emergency may arise, we shall have a stock of timber which will enable us to repair and, if necessary, to build the ships which are requisite for the navy. I will advert to certain peddling reforms which the hon. Member asked for with regard to the Admiralty Department. I have a comparative statement of the expense of the Staff of the Admiralty now and in former times, when the Estimates used to be only £6,000,000 or £7,000,000 per annum. If the hon. Member would look at it, he would be satisfied that every possible economy has been introduced in the personnel of the Admiralty. In 1829, in the old days of the Navy Board, when 30,000 was the number of seamen, and the Estimates were £6,000,000 a year, the Admiralty consisted of five Lords, 16 Commissioners, four secretaries, 26 clerks at Whitehall and 93 clerks at Somerset House, making together 244 individuals, and the amount of their cost was£162,800 a year. In 1861—I will spare the House the intermediate years—when 78,200 is the number of seamen and the Estimates are £12,000,000, the Staff at the Admiralty consists of six Lords, two secretaries, five principal officers, 47 clerks at Whitehall, and 223 clerks at Somerset House, making together 283 individuals, and their cost is £96,780. There is also a considerable number of temporary clerks, but in those days there was the same proportion. I cannot help thinking, therefore, that with the great reform which the hon. Member wishes to introduce he might have spared the personnel of the Admiralty.
The hon. Member reverts to the Report of the Commission on Dockyard Expenditure, and quotes very strong language used by that Commission in their Report. I 445 cannot but admit that the Commission have given, upon the whole, a very fair Report; but I wish they had not rather left it to be inferred that defects in the accounts of the navy bore out any suspicion of malversation. I am quite sure that it was not the intention of any Member of the Commission to leave such inference. I know of nobody who has ever accused any individual of malpractices with regard to the accounts, but the impression has got abroad. It has created great pain in the department, and one of the most intelligent and distinguished superintendents of dockyards has earnestly requested me to remove it. I should state to the House, and I am sure the hon. Gentlemen who composed the Commission will corroborate me when I say that from the first the Admiralty has been most anxious to give every information. To whom is it due that these errors, upon which such great stress is laid, have been discovered but to the Board of Admiralty? The Commissioners would never have discovered the errors, but the Board of Admiralty took pains to go into the accounts at Woolwich, and through that excellent officer, Commodore Drummond, to check them; and the moment any error was discovered, his instructions were to lay it before the Commission. It was the earnest desire of the Admiralty that every error should be laid before the Commission, with a view to rectification. When, therefore, the hon. Gentleman says, "Look at the accounts—how worthless they are," he should at least do the Admiralty the credit of adding that the Admiralty have used their utmost endeavours to have the errors discovered. The Admiralty have already taken steps to rectify these errors in the accounts, and in August last, long before the Commission reported, they instructed their Accountant General to go into the dockyards, and prepare a proper system of accounts, on the double-entry system, with a view to bring these great shipbuilding accounts under proper regulations and management. I think, therefore, that the observations of my hon. Friend on the conduct of the Admiralty in that respect are scarcely justifiable. My hon. Friend also stated that the average cost of ships in our navy was £33 per ton. The Return furnished to the Commissioners of the cost of ships built at Pembroke gave that average per ton, but then about a fifth of those ships were line-of-battle ships, which are much more costly per ton than other vessels. As the proportion of line-of-battle 446 ships constructed in the dockyards generally is only a tenth, it is clear that the average cost per ton throughout the navy is much less than the amount stated. Although I entertain every respect for his judgment in matters of shipbuilding, I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend will not press his Motion, which, in reality, will operate as a Vote of Censure on the Admiralty, which I do not think they deserve. They have earnestly endeavoured to rectify any defects in the administration which came under their notice. I believe I have furnished the House with more information as to the expenditure and operations of the Admiralty than was ever given before, and we intend always to pursue the same frank and open course. It is also the anxious desire of the Admiralty to exercise the greatest economy which is compatible with the maintenance of our navy in a state of efficiency. I hope, therefore, that my hon. Friend will not press his Motion, or that if he does the House will not agree to it.
§ MR. BENTINCK
said, he did not rise for the purpose of following his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland through the various remarks he had made on the subject of the Royal Commission, which had just reported to the House, neither did he intend to follow the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury into the details he had quoted and the discussion he had wished to raise as to the comparative merits of wooden and iron built ships. He wished to address himself rather to the general remarks of his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland bearing upon the point, whether it was essential to the safety of this country to retain a very large naval defence? His hon. Friend had on former occasions endeavoured unsuccessfully to make him (Mr. Bentinck) a convert to his opinions, and he had also failed by what he had now advanced to convert him. Neither did he place the slightest reliance upon the sources of information to which reference had been made. His hon. Friend rested his assertions and opinions on what seemed to be very meagre authority. He gathered from his remarks that the present and all preceding Boards of Admiralty were and had been entirely indifferent as to what were the naval armaments of France, and that his hon. Friend was really the only person who had thought it worth while to obtain reliable information on the subject. His hon. Friend said that a large navy was a "menace." [Mr. 447 Hear, hear!] That meant, he presumed, that the Navy of England was a menace to France and other countries. Mr. Hear!] His hon. Friend had completely transposed the position of things in this comparison. It was not the Navy of England that was a menace to France, but the Navy of Franco was a menace to England, and it was necessary to arrive at a clear understanding on that point before he could go into the question raised by his hon. Friend. First, as to the question of numbers. What use he (Mr. Bentinck) would ask had France for a navy compared with England? They had heard from the noble Lord that night that the requirements of England, even in times of peace, were tenfold those of all the other countries in the world. But the activity and preparations in France in her naval department were a full justification for active measures in this country. Further than that the state of affairs in Europe was such that our Government would deserve impeachment if they neglected a resort to precautionary measures. Would not his hon. Friend admit that the menace came from France, and not from England? His hon. Friend said that France could never attack this country, as England was superior in line-of-battle ships. But did his hon. Friend suppose that an invasion would be conducted by means of line-of-battle ships? Such would be a new view of the subject. It was a singular fact that the French Ministry of Marine had been devoting all their energies to the construction of a class of vessels adapted to the purposes of invasion. Perhaps his hon. Friend would tell them against whom he supposed those vessels were destined to be employed. He owned that he did not place the same confidence as the hon. Gentleman in the simplicity of the French. He even believed the story as to the reason for converting the Transatlantic steamers, which, if report did not err, were originally intended for men-of-war, and were only built as commercial vessels in order to prevent their construction exciting attention in this country. His hon. Friend then touched upon the amount of money expended in French dockyards, and told the House that the system of finance over the water was one of control and guarantee. He (Mr. Bentinck) admitted the control but could not see the guarantee, as it was impossible for persons in this country to know how money was expended in the French dockyards. "Money," said his hon. Friend, "could not be trans- 448 ferred from one Minister to another without such transfer being made public." But what guarantee was there that such was the fact? It was true that our Estimates were double those of last year, but that result was attributable not to extravagance but partly to the menacing character of the French naval armaments, and partly to those improvements in science which rendered necessary an almost yearly reconstruction of our navy. His hon. Friend asked why so much timber was required in our dockyards? Did his hon. Friend not know that, during the last six or seven years, the French Government had obtained a large supply of seasoned timber in the best possible condition? If the House was not prepared to abandon wooden ships altogether he apprehended the Admiralty had acted wisely in supplying the glaring deficiency of well-seasoned timber in our dockyards. The hon. Gentleman concluded with the favourite appeal ad misericordiam in favour of the taxpapers. He (Mr. Bentinck) disliked paying taxes as much as any man; but it was singular that whenever money was asked for the protection of the country the champions of trade and commerce, whose interests were bound up in our national security, raised the cry of unnecessary expenditure. What would become of our trade and commerce in three months if precautionary measures were withdrawn? The champions of trade and commerce seemed determined pertinaciously to urge a course calculated to imperil their safety. The Resolutions were objectionable as their practical effect, if carried, would be to debar the Admiralty from building ships of any kind. The whole machinery would come to a dead lock, and the country would he compelled to fall back upon the energy and capabilities of the private dockyards. That was a position in which the country ought never to be placed. Private yards should be occasionally employed to enable the Admiralty to compare the relative expense of building in them and in the Government yards, but the efficiency of the latter ought not to be impaired. The third Resolution, providing that no more money should be voted for the purpose of adapting Her Majesty's dockyards to the construction of iron ships would, if the wish of the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury that all our ships should be constructed of iron were carried out, have a still more injurious effect, because if you could not build a ship in a dock you could not repair her there; and 449 therefore if a war broke out, and any of our iron ships were damaged, we should not, if this Resolution were agreed to and acted upon, have any docks in which to repair them. These Resolutions were, moreover, founded upon a mistaken view of the business of the House. It was not the duty of the House to usurp the functions of the executive in matters of detail connected with the Admiralty, or to reconstruct the navy. If the Board of Admiralty could be shown to require reconstruction, Parliament ought, then, to interfere and reconstruct it. If it could be shown that the present construction of the Board was defective it was the bounden duty of the House of Commons to reframe it; but any attempt on the part of the House to deal with details in the manner proposed by these Resolutions he was prepared to deprecate as involving a principle erroneous and unsound. For these reasons he should vote against the Resolutions of his hon. Friend.
THE EARL OF GIFFORD
said, he agreed with the greater portion of the Resolutions moved by the hon. Member for Sunderland. He trusted that the ships referred to by the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty would be the last to undergo the process of conversion, and he also believed that until greater experience had been gained it would be judicious to postpone, at least for a year, the expenditure requisite for the completion of the line-of-battle ships now on the stocks. In case it should turn out after experience, that iron is in future to be substituted for wood in the construction of ships of larger classes, the money required to finish these wooden ships will have been well saved, and in any event the vessels themselves would not receive any damage from being allowed to season on the stocks. In the latter clause of the second Resolution he did not agree, because its effect would be to put a stop to all shipbuilding in Her Majesty's dockyards; even the laying down of corvettes would be forbidden, because they carried guns on their spar deck. In the last Resolution he fully concurred, and in the Report of the Commission, of which he had the honour to be a member, it was recommended that iron shipbuilding should not be commenced in Her Majesty's dockyards while the existing system of accounts continued. He did not want the House to pledge itself never to commence iron shipbuilding in the dockyards, but he thought that till further experience had been gained 450 of the vessels already launched it would be prudent to postpone the expenditure on the plant which would be necessary to adapt the dockyards to iron shipbuilding. At Chatham, for instance, it would be necessary, with the object of building iron ships in view, to erect extensive buildings, to purchase expensive machinery, largely to increase the number of artisans in iron engaged in the yard, and, above all things, in the absence of a slip sufficiently long at Chatham, it would be necessary to occupy one of the largest docks in the country, which ought to be reserved for more legitimate purposes. The late Controller of the Navy, in the evidence which he gave before the Commission, assigned two reasons in justification of the commencement of iron shipbuilding at Chatham—First, that it was necessary Her Majesty's dockyards should have within themselves all means and appliances requisite for effecting necessary repairs for the navy; and, secondly, that it was desirable Her Majesty's Government should have the means of testing the price paid for the construction of ships built by contract. To those two propositions he entirely subscribed; he thought it not only desirable, but absolutely essential that the dockyards should be able to repair iron as well as wooden ships. But did they not already possess in the vast establishments at Keyham, at Portsmouth, Sheerness, and Woolwich, all means and appliances requisite for the repairs which iron ships in Her Majesty's Navy were likely to require for the next five, ten, or even twenty years? With regard to the second reason assigned by the late controller, he would ask hon. Members who had read the evidence taken before the Commission, whether it was not manifest that Her Majesty's Government—however desirable such a power might be—had not at their disposal at that moment the means of testing with anything like accuracy the price paid for a vessel built by contract by comparing it with the cost of one constructed in the Royal dockyards? Under existing circumstances, and with the accounts in their present condition, the best test, as appeared to him, which Government could have would be open competition in the public market. With the scores of great shipbuilding firms scattered round the coast who would be able and willing to undertake the contracts, he thought it would have been more prudent had the Government postponed the commencement of the novel 451 and expensive system of iron shipbuilding at Chatham at least until they had some experience of the Warrior and Black Prince. If fears were entertained as to the quality of the work executed by contract, the best security lay in the appointment of a sufficient number of salaried inspectors to superintend the work while in progress. But until the portion of the Commissioners' Report relating to the accounts was carried out, as he earnestly trusted would be the case, by placing them under the control and superintendence of the Accountant-General of the Navy, and until a double entry account, showing with certainty the cost of the various items was kept, it would be impossible for the Government to tell with the slightest approximation to accuracy what was the cost of any service performed in the dockyards. The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) had stated that the process by which the Commissioners had found out errors in the accounts had been recommended by Commodore Drummond. The Commissioners had expressly mentioned this in their Report. Commodore Drummond had, they stated, suggested the original inquiry, and the Commissioners did but follow it up and state the result in the Appendix to the Report. The noble Lord added that a feeling had gone through the dockyards, in consequence of the Report, that there had been malversion in the dockyards. He did not, however, remember the slightest remark in the Report that would justify such a suspicion. The noble Lord had also complained of the Commissioners going to Pembroke Dockyard for the cost per ton of the vessels built for the Royal Navy. According to the terms of their instructions, the Commissioners were desired to state the cost per ton of building ships for the navy. The Commissioners naturally expected to have accounts laid before them that would enable them to answer this question. But they had not been engaged in this inquiry for a fortnight without perceiving that the accounts were kept in such a manner that no assistance from them could be expected. They, therefore, selected a dockyard where there was no fitting performed, so as to disturb the calculations, and then took the ships as they came, whether they were two-deckers or three deckers. He did not see what other course the Commissioners could have pursued if they were to attempt to carry out their instructions.
said, the first two Resolu- 452 tions which had been moved appeared to imply that wooden ships of the larger class, such as line-of-battle ships and frigates, were destined to be altogether superseded by iron-cased ships, such as the Warrior and La Gloire. In that opinion he did not concur, and, therefore, could not support the Resolutions. If the only use of our navy was to defend our own shores he was not sure that he would not go along with the hon. Member for Sunderland; but it must be remembered that a large portion of the fleet was needed for the defence of the colonial empire and the commercial marine of this country, and to this description of service he did not think iron-cased ships would ever be extensively applied. With respect to the question of national defence, though it was doubtful whether the iron-cased ships would prove invulnerable, yet it was very evident that it would be idle to oppose them with wooden ships; and consequently in the narrow seas, within the reach of their resources it was probable that iron-cased ships would be chiefly employed, and that our wooden walls would be ultimately superseded by iron walls. He did not think, however, that iron-cased ships would be employed to any great extent on distant stations. He did not mean to say that the Warrior was not fit for distant service; but the expense would be so enormous, the wear and tear so great, and there would be such difficulty in keeping the bottom clean, that it would be almost impossible for large iron-cased ships to be generally employed in distant seas for the defence of the colonies and of the commerce of the country, which, in the event of war, would demand protection in every sea. The House was probably little aware of the extent to which in former wars our ships of the larger classes were required for the protection of these great interests. When he was at the Admiralty he ascertained from documents that during the four wars previous to the peace with Prance in 1814, we had hardly ever more than one-third of our line-of-battle ships and one-fourth of our frigates on the home station. Considering, then, the present force of France in wooden line-of-battle ships and frigates he did not think that this country possessed one single ship more than it ought. In 1799 there were employed abroad on distant stations 85 line-of-battle ships; at present the whole navy comprised only 53. In 1809 we had 114 frigates abroad, and there were now only 40 afloat. We had 40 frigates and 42 453 colonies; and though, as regarded line of battle ships, we had perhaps a sufficient force, he did not think we were in so satisfactory a condition with respect to frigates compared with France and other nations. It had been stated that our armaments were on the most exaggerated and gigantic scale; but the true test of the force of our fleet was the number of men required to man it. In the last war we had 147,000 seamen and marines afloat, and in the American war 120,000, whilst from a Return which he moved for last year it appeared that to man every steamship in the navy 112,000 men only would be required. Of course, every ship could not be in commission at once; and all those in commission would not be fully manned; and allowing for the reductions necessary on these accounts, the number of men required to man the whole of our effective navy might be assumed to be about 90,000, as compared with 147.000 actually employed in the last great naval war. Not only had there been exaggeration as to the strength of our navy as compared with that of former times, but also as compared with the present naval strength of other nations. The hon. Member for Sunderland (Mr. Lindsay) had stated that we had a greater force of vessels bearing 20 guns and upwards than all the rest of the world, but that statement was a most extraordinary one. Of screw line-of-battle ships and frigates—the classes to which these Resolutions referred—actually afloat, and not including those now building, England had 93, France 74, Russia 26, Spain 14, and Italy 19. These figures were given by his noble Friend, the Secretary of the Admiralty, and the hon. Member (Mr. Lindsay) had said that Sweden, Denmark, Holland, and the United States had 33 such ships; therefore, the combined navy of all these nations contained 166 line-of-battle ships and frigates; whereas England had only 93. He seldom looked into a French work referring to the invasion of England but he found that that idea was coupled with another—namely, an alliance of France with Russia, and their combined navies amounted to 100 line-of-battle ships and frigates against the 93 possessed by England. Again, France could concentrate almost all her ships, in the event of war, upon her own shores, whilst we must detach two-thirds of our navy to foreign stations; and it was impossible that we could, with our present force, concentrate in the Channel, after 454 making due provision for the protection of our Colonies and our commerce, a force equal to that which France and Russia combined could bring against us. The hon. Member stated that our frigates were individually superior to those of France; which was quite true, and was, he supposed, another proof of the inferiority of the naval administration of this country. But still it must be borne in mind that there was not a single frigate in the French navy not perfectly fitted for the service in which it would be employed in event of war—namely, in the destruction of English commerce. That this was the use to which they would be applied appeared from the Report of the proceedings of the Commission of Inquiry into Naval Affairs in France in 1851, where it was stated—The mission of frigates must henceforth be to harass the trade of the enemy on every point of the globe. If war should break out, we must at its very commencement strike the trade of the enemy simultaneously at every point. To strike at the trade of England is to strike her at the heart, and to force her to make peace. England would require, not 50, but 200 frigates to protect her trade on the different stations she possesses in the world.If war broke out they would soon be asked by gentlemen connected with the commercial marine who were now calling for economy for a frigate here and a frigate there for protection; and he did not believe that our naval reserve in port contained more than ten steam-frigates and five corvettes. He wished to make one observation as to the shot-proof ships ordered to be built by the present Government. He must say that he very much concurred with the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto), that the present Board of Admiralty had made a great mistake in building four iron-coated ships, inferior in power and in speed to the Warrior. His noble Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty himself admitted that in the present state of gunnery it was very doubtful whether 4½ -inch iron would resist shot, and that, therefore, it was prudent to have built the Warrior as she had been built, of such dimensions that they might, if necessary, increase the thickness of the plates to nine inches without bringing down the ports lower than six feet six inches from the water. Now, that would be impossible in the case of the four new ships of smaller dimensions, for their ports were to be two feet lower than the Warrior's. When the late Board of Admiralty determined on 455 constructing the Warrior they were almost alarmed at the gigantic dimensions of the ship, and at a meeting in the room of the Surveyor of the Navy, the subject was discussed for two hours, the result of which was to show that one of the essential elements of the success of such vessels, great speed could not be attained by ships of smaller dimensions. He was very glad, therefore, to find that the ship laid down at Chatham was to be, at least, as fast and as powerful as the Warrior herself. Reference had been made in the course of the discussion to ten iron ships which, it was said, had been ordered by the French Government, and he felt bound upon that point to state that he had himself heard, a short time ago when in France, that it was intended to construct that additional number of iron-cased vessels—no very agreeable prospect if they were to cost £400,000 a piece, and if we must follow in the same direction, as undoubtedly we must do in the event of the report being correct, even though an expenditure of £1,000,000 sterling were necessary for the construction of each ship. He earnestly trusted that the Government would keep a watchful eye on the proceedings of France in this respect, and that no consideration would deter them from at least keeping pace with France in the construction of this formidable class of vessels. He had simply to say, in conclusion, that he did not agree with the hon. Member for Sunderland in the opinion that it was impossible that any money could be laid out on the navy of France which had not been voted for that express purpose, inasmuch, as two years ago he had been a member of what was called the Treasury Committee which had occasion to enter into an investigation of French accounts, and he found that from the year 1852 to 1856 inclusive, the French Naval Estimates were only £19,807,000, whereas the expenditure was £31,691,621—in other words more than one-third more than the amount of the Estimates.
§ SIR JOSEPH PAXTON
said, that as the hon. Members for Sunderland and Fins-bury had gone so fully into the question of expenditure he would confine himself simply to the relative merits of wood and iron ships. One of the great objections stated against iron ships was, that their bottoms got so foul that they could not sail as they ought to do, but he himself had had the honour of showing his noble Friend a plan for raising vessels, which could be carried out 456 at no great expense. By this plan vessels as large, even, as the Great Eastern could be taken up in half-an-hour with the greatest possible ease, and if any hon. Member, who wished for information, went to the Thames Graving Docks, in the Victoria Docks, he could there see vessels raised in a very short time, and floated about upon iron pontoons. The necessary apparatus could be erected in any country, and fitted up at no very great expense.
§ SIR JOSEPH PAXTON
believed that the cost for one set would be some £40,000 or £50,000, which was no very great expense for such a thing as that. He believed that corvettes, and all kinds of ships, could be built of iron as well as of wood, and iron was much the more lasting material, for there were many iron vessels which had been afloat for twenty five years, and which were now nearly as good as ever. Again, they might remember the case of the Sarah Sands, an iron transportship, which took fire on the open sea, and with a large number of troops on board, who were all brought safely into harbour, and she was now one of the best mercantile vessels of the country. Such a thing could not have been accomplished by a wooden ship.
In the face of facts of this description, and the statement of the noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty, that the ten iron-coated French vessels might be completed within the year, he confessed he was utterly at a loss to account for the Government proposing to spend £2,500,000 on wooden ships, and only £700,000 on iron ships.
It would seem that iron ships were never to come into use in the navy of this country, as every effort to introduce them was met by baffling obstacles.
In the year 1842, Sir Robert Peel's Government commenced building some very good iron ships, but they were stopped. In 1846, having been recommenced, they were again stopped.
The hon. Member for Finsbury had elucidated the manner in which the question had been dealt with by referring to the case of the Ruby. He might add that be had ascertained that the Ruby, which was selected by the Woolwich Committee as the type of vessel which was to prove the powers of iron in resisting shot was afterwards sold for only £20. In 1846, also, the Government very nearly lost the ad- 457 vantage of using the screw propeller. They at that time sent round to the manufacturers of the engines and screw propellers of the condemned iron ships, and asked them if they could dispose of them. The manufacturers being unable to do so, and the Government being unable to sell them, they were used. And now any other mode of propelling warships is out of the question. The hon. Member for Finsbury said he believed Sir Howard Douglas opposed the use of iron conscientiously. For his part, he (Sir Joseph Paxton) believed a man did a thing conscientiously when he did it the first time, and retracted when he found he was wrong and had made a mistake, but when he pursued the same course, and endeavoured to make every experiment appear to favour his own view, then he did not think that seemed like acting conscientiously. It had been found, by the experiments made in 1846, that iron ships built of iron five-eighths of an inch thick, when fired at, were penetrated, though they broke the shot all to pieces and scattered the fragments, which went into the vessel; and then it was said this was what these iron ships did, they scattered the shot, and the fragments killed every one in their way; but anyone finding this result whose mind was unbiassed, would have at once said, "You must go on increasing the thickness of the iron, and then you will be able to keep the shot outside." Altogether had it not been for the Emperor of the French, iron shipbuilding would have stopped, at least for some years. When the Russian war took place, the Emperor of the French designed floating batteries, and it was found that they were proof against the Russian shot.
The Emperor saw clearly that in time iron must supersede wood, and he, therefore, commenced constructing iron-cased vessels; he went ahead of England, and had remained so, a fact much to be regretted, seeing that France had to learn all it knew of iron from this country.
As an Englishman, knowing the vast resources of this country, and the skill and intelligence of our manufacturers and workmen in all kinds of iron construction, he felt humiliated that France should have been allowed to take the initiative in building impregnable iron ships. The Emperor of the French, not having the yards and appliances for building iron ships, did the next best thing in casing wooden ones; but they were now told he had an iron ship laid down. He would say a few words 458 as to the Warrior and Black Prince; he believed they were the best vessels yet built, and he agreed that if they were to have iron vessels, they must have them very large, as small ones carried a very insufficient supply of coals. The Warrior itself was a wonderful ship; the iron in her construction, including her inner coating, which was five-eighths of an inch thick, weighed 3,500 tons; the timber in her construction and decks weighed 1,000 tons, this made 4,500 tons in the construction of the ship alone. Then there was the coat of mail. This he entirely disapproved of; the ship ought to be built entirely of iron, and every part of the same strength. In addition to the 4,500 tons he had spoken of there was the coating of teak 18 inches thick, and over this 4½ inches of iron, which together would weigh 1,400 tons, making 5,900 tons in all. If she had been built entirely in iron she would have weighed 1,000 tons less, which would have enabled her to carry 1,000 tons more of coal, and which would give her steaming power of 2,000 miles.
Having made various experiments with wood and iron to test their relative strength, and their adaptability to be used together, he should say the wood in the Warrior was entirely out of place; it being cased with iron, would either rot or become compressed and shrink. The two-foot bolts would have room to work, and everything would be loose, and they would have a coat of mail indeed.
As he had just stated, there were four and a half inches of iron, eighteen inches of teak (which are equal to two inches of iron), and five-eighths of an inch of iron inside. This altogether would represent about seven inches of iron. Why should not the vessels be built of seven inches of iron, then, and be equally strong all over? They would then be impregnable. It was the newly invented guns that rendered iron ships necessary, and no doubt the best wooden ship in the navy could not stand for ten minutes against the Warrior. Then, he would say, what was the use of having wooden men-of-war at all? He did not ask them to build iron ships recklessly, but he said this country ought to have more of them than any other country in the world. Their wooden ships might perhaps do to protect their colonies for a time, but experience would teach them that, in the end, iron ships would be far less expensive, even for this purpose.
Some hon. Members seemed to take a 459 pleasure in availing themselves of anything like an opportunity to show up contractors. There was last year much said about small vessels that were very hurriedly built for the Crimean war. No doubt the specification said that they were to be built of seasoned timber; but the authorities at the Admiralty at the time knew perfectly well that no seasoned timber was then to be got in the country.
The first time he had the honour to address the House, it was to call attention to the wooden huts for Aldershot, which were specified to be built of Christiana deals, although it was well known not a tenth part of such deals could be procured in the market. So it was with the gunboats. The specification was an impossibility, and the contractors did the best they could under the circumstances. He saw this year enormous sums put down for timber. He was not prepared to say this was all wrong; but it did appear that a most miscellaneous collection of woods was used in the construction of many of their men-of-war. A lecture delivered at the United Service Institution, on the 4th of the present month, by Captain E. S. Halstead, showed that such was the case. (The hon. Gentleman here quoted passages from the lecture in support of his statement.)
This, he contended, showed that the Government were without seasoned timber. When they had converted their wood navy into iron, as they would do in the course of a short time, one half the men would be able to do three or four times the work now performed, and this would be a great saving in itself. He thought that both the late and the present Governments had done all they could in respect of deciding this question, but he scarcely thought it was one with which they were fully competent to deal. There should be a commission of the most scientific and practical men in the country to advise the Government in such a matter as the reconstruction of the navy, otherwise one Government would he recommending one class of ships, and another an entirely different class, and they would go on trying experiment after experiment, and would never get an efficient navy. He hoped that after this discussion, if the hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolutions received an assurance that these matters would be seriously entertained by the Government, he would withdraw his Motion.
said, he was anxious to explain the reasons which would induce him, although he agreed with much con- 460 tained in the Resolutions, to vote against them if pressed in their integrity. In the first place, the early portion of the Resolutions had taken a very wide scope, when it stated it was expedient to defer any further expenditure for the construction "or conversion" of wooden line-of-battle ships. It was well explained by the hon. Member for Coventry that iron vessels were rendered necessary by the shell that had recently been brought into use, and the rifled guns. Although a few years ago the shell penetrated the vessel and exploded within it, yet it generally was possible to bring the ship into port afterwards, with its hands, in safety. The shell now acted as a mine, it burst in passing through the side of the vessel, and would so shatter it that wooden line-of-battle ships would be nothing better than mere slaughterhouses. So far, therefore, he was prepared to say that it would be wise to spend no more money in the construction of wooden vessels. But many years must elapse before we could have an iron fleet, and meanwhile we must maintain our supremacy at sea. Hence the necessity for keeping up an adequate number of wooden ships. The hon. Member for Coventry seemed ready, like a magician, to create an iron fleet at once; but the simple truth was that we had not even a sufficient supply of raw material. We might build a frigate now and again equal to any belonging to the French, but we had not yet got the iron of a quality necessary for the construction of a permanent iron fleet. At present the power of offence in naval warfare was greater than that of defence, and it remained for modern science to see whether the balance could be restored. In 1851 they were building iron ships three-eighths and five-eighths of an inch thick, which resisted the heavy shot of that time. Now, a five-ounce bullet could be driven through three-quarter-inch iron plates, so that they were in this difficulty; their wooden ships in the face of shell could, as he had said before, only be regarded as slaughter-houses, and if they used iron ships, guns were now made which would send bullets through them, and punch holes in them as clean as one could in a piece of leather. The hon. Member opposite talked about constructing a ship of 7-inch iron plates. But where were the calculations relating to the ship to be built in that mode? What were her lines? What the engines? What the armament? All had yet to be calculated. Therefore, in his 461 opinion, the Admiralty had acted judiciously in feeling their way as they had done. We might have iron at £12 a ton, and we might have iron at £60; and Armstrong, and Whitworth, and other makers of the new weapons, had not yet been able to arrive at a decision as to which quality of iron was the best for the manufacture. In all these matters there was much to learn. The second Resolution embodied much of which he approved, as to the first portion, namely—That it is inexpedient to incur, during the present year, the expenditure requisite for the completion of the line-of-battle ships now on the stocks;that, in his opinion, must be left to the Admiralty. The House did not know the state of the ships on the stocks. Of those just laid down he would say "Let them alone;" but as to those nearly finished, his advice would be to finish them. But as to the second part of the Resolution, namely—And that during the present year it is not expedient to commence the construction of any wooden vessels which carry guns on more than one deck,he agreed with. The third Resolution declared that it was inexpedient, without further experience, to sanction the expenditure of any money for the purpose of adapting Her Majesty's dockyards for the construction of iron vessels, and the noble Lord the Member for Totness objected to those ships being built in the Royal dockyards, on the ground that they would necessitate the erection of enormous works. He should like to know what works they would have to erect for them in Her Majesty's dockyards which would not be equally necessary in private dockyards, if they were to be built in the latter? Last year the House voted large sums for the protection of the public dockyards, in order that we might build our ships in safety, even if we were at war. Were they now prepared to Vote similar sums for the protection of private dock yards? Moreover, he thought it was the duty of Government to keep a check on the prices of private builders, by constructing vessels in the Royal dockyards; and, for these reasons, he should vote against the third Resolution.
§ MR. WHITBREAD
said that, in objecting to the construction of iron ships at Chatham, the noble Earl the Member for Totness (Earl Gilford), argued that, when they were building wooden ships it was necessary to do so in the public dockyards, because they could not insure that con- 462 tractors would use seasoned materials, but that the same reason did not apply in the case of iron ships. The fact was that it did apply, and with greater force; for the difference between seasoned and unseasoned timber was not so marked or fatal, as the difference between good iron and bad. So sensible was the noble Duke the First Lord of the Admiralty of the fact that early last autumn he appointed a Committee to make a series of experiments on every description of iron that could be submitted to them in order to ascertain the qualities of each in respect to the use to which it might be applied in the building of ships. That Committee had availed themselves of the services of some of the most scientific men in the country—men who were independent of the Admiralty. They had not yet reported; but their Report would, no doubt, be a valuable one. As to the expenses of the buildings which it had been found necessary to erect in Chatham for the iron ship they had not yet exceeded about £4,000. The noble Lord had further stated that the experiment at Chatham would be of no service in the way of enabling hon. Gentlemen to make a comparison between the cost of construction at a private yard and that which would be incurred in one of the Royal dockyards. The accounts of the cost of constructing the iron ship would be kept separate. As to what had been said about the number of errors discovered in the dockyard accounts, he was perfectly ready to admit—indeed, it would be impossible to deny—that, though a good foundation had been laid for a good system of accounts, it had not yet—if he might use the term—reached a focus; but, however defective they might have been, there was nothing in those accounts to lead hon. Gentlemen to suppose that the Admiralty had paid for materials which had not been supplied, or for labour which they had not received. He thought they were sufficiently accurate to show the contrary. The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary for the Admiralty (Mr. Corry), thought that they had made a great mistake in building smaller iron-cased ships than the Warrior; and he would take this opportunity of correcting a statement that had been made as to the coal stowage of the various classes. The Warrior's stowage at full steaming was for seven days; that of the Resistance and Defence, at full steaming, for eight; and that of the third class 463 for full steaming, five. For ordinary steaming the Warrior's was fourteen days' stowage; that of the Resistance and Defence sixteen; and that for the third class ten. That was at least a more satisfactory account than had been given of the matter. Surely hon. Members would not have had the Government go on with nothing but the design of the Warrior. Why, last year the Warrior herself was gravely criticized because she was not entirely covered with armour. Surely the only way in which to arrive at a satisfactory result was to try different kinds of vessels. It had been said early in the debate that efficiency was the measure of value, and every hon. Gentleman who had spoken that night had pronounced the iron-plated ships which this country possessed to be as superior as was possible to anything built or building in France. When, they complained that some of our ships were too small, they should remember that a very large portion of the French iron plated vessels were very small ones; and if it was a fault for the packing of our ships to be of wood, the French ships were constructed entirely of that material. As to floating docks he could only say that they were not popular with naval men; and he did not believe that a dock capable of floating the Warrior could be constructed for anything like £40,000.
SIR FREDERIC SMITH
said, he was glad his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland had brought forward this subject. The discussion would do great good. His hon. Friend seemed to suppose that the question was already settled, whether wood or iron ships should form the navy. [Mr. no!] If not, then why entirely discontinue the building of wooden ships? He contended that if even the larger ships should be made of iron, the smaller vessels must be made of wood, because, in order to obtain those fine lines requisite to command the necessary degree of speed in iron-cased vessels and the proper displacement, great length was indispensible. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had stated that no more wooden line-of-battle ships were intended to be laid down; but the hon. Member for Sunderland's Resolution went further and said, "Don't complete those in hand." A Return had been laid before the House on the 18th of March, showing the number of ships in the course of construction. According to that Return there were ten line-of-battle ships in the 464 course of construction, and twelve small vessels. Some of the former were nearly finished, but others were only commenced last year. Now, how had these ships come to be laid down if the noble Lord had arrived at that determination? Why had the Admiralty gone so far? It appeared that there was a system in the Admiralty of dividing ships into eighths; thus it was said five-eighths of a ship were completed, half an eighth completed, and one-and-a-half eighths were completed. These were vessels on the stocks. This was a question of expense and usefulness. He supposed these vessels would shortly be launched, in order to make way for others; but what was the use of going on with those of which only one-eighth had been completed? [LORD CLARENCE PAGET: They will not be proceeded with.] He was glad to hear that, but he supposed they would be taken to pieces. Would the noble Lord give any explanation on that point? If more wooden vessels were not to be built, the sooner iron vessels were constructed the better. He should also like to know if the iron-cased vessels were likely to give satisfaction? Were the Admiralty satisfied that four and a half inches of iron would make a vessel invulnerable? Had they got experiments to prove that? If not the sooner they got them the better. What was the minimum of strength required and what the minimum of cost? Till they had ascertained both those points they were to a great extent only wasting their money. Now a grave responsibility rested somewhere. So far back as 1855 we had reason to believe that we should be obliged to have recourse to the introduction of iron-cased vessels into our fleet; and up to this moment we were absolutely ignorant of what thickness of iron would afford the necessary security. Another question was this—was it best to have iron outside and wood within? What had been done to prove this? Then, again, at what distance would four and a half inches of iron give safety? or, if four and a half inches were not enough, would six inches be enough to give invulnerability? Iron casing complete from stem to stem should also be tried. The Warrior should have been completed in June last year; whose fault was that? To a certain extent, perhaps, the delay was excusable. Some delay took place in order to construct the size of the posts. He approved making the portholes smaller, as that would give greater safety to those who were work- 465 ing the guns; but they ought to know who was responsible for any delay occasioned otherwise. The correspondence on this subject had been promised some time, and he hoped would soon be produced.
§ MR. DALGLISH
said, that he thought those who represented the Admiralty had shown themselves more anxious to find fault with the Report of the Commission, of which he had been a member, than to answer the speech of his hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland. The noble Secretary for the Admiralty complained of a report having got abroad of malversation in the dockyards which he hinted had originated in the Report of the Commission. He should be glad if the noble Lord would point out a single passage in the Report which hinted even at malversation in the dockyards. With reference to the errors which had been discovered in the accounts at Woolwich Dockyard, the Report of the Commission expressly stated that the merit of discovering them belonged not to the Commissioners, but to Commodore Drummond. Then with regard to ships built at Pembroke, the cost of which had been estimated at £33 per ton, he found that of 65,000 tons, there were only 8 large ships and 44 vessels averaging 1,500 tons, so that the price of £33 was a fair average. Before the noble Lord was in office one of his charges against the Admiralty was that they were continnally altering and paring vessels in every stage of their progress, and he attributed the great cost of our ships to the want of foresight in the heads of the building department. Yet the noble Lord now proposed to put up a little establishment at Chatham where he might have the power of cutting and changing in order to find out what was the best kind of iron ship. If he would only go to the trade and tell them distinctly what sort of vessel he required, whether as to strength, speed, or other qualities, they would undertake that the ships they supplied should perform all that they promised or forego their payment. The hon. Member for Norfolk appeared not to have got over his panic about a French invasion. Having been to Toulon and Cherbourg within the last fortnight he (Mr. Dalglish) could assure the hon. Gentleman that his fears were groundless, as far as the preparations connected with shipbuilding in those quarters were con cerned. At Toulon, one of their largest building yards, the French had two small corvettes, one frigate—wooden frigate to be 466 cased with armour plates—launched within the last few days, and a transport of about 500 horse power. La Gloire was also there, and after passing round her he must say that, though he was no judge of nautical matters, he believed the iron vessels ordered to be built by our late Board of Admiralty would be infinitely superior to her. At Cherbourg they had two vessels building (corvettes), and a third, a steamer, which was to be coated with iron, lay in dock. They were also laying down the keel of another steamer similar to La Gloire; but neither the wooden steamer lately launched and to be coated with iron, nor the vessel at Cherbourg to which he had referred were nearly ready, or in the same state of progress as the Warrior. With regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland, there was one reason, he thought, which should induce the Admiralty not to press on the completion of these large line-of-battle ships. It had always appeared to him that when steam became the motive power of ships instead of sails, that largo three-decked and two-decked ships offered a great amount of resistance when urged against the wind. He would, therefore, suggest that the Admiralty should cut down the 91-gun ships, of which so many were in course of construction, and coat them with iron. They would then soon have a fleet of iron vessels quite as strong and as well built as those of the French. Until that plan had been fairly examined he would recommend that the completion of these large line-of-battle ships should be deferred.
§ MR. HORSMAN
said, he thought the House was under great obligations to the hon. Member for Sunderland for having brought this Motion before them. The discussion had been so interesting, and the result so beneficial, that he (Mr. Horsman) should be very sorry if the Hon. Member detracted from their effect, by urging the House to a division which must lead to a very false impression of the real opinion of the House on the question. There were very few hon. Members who did not substantially agree with the spirit of his Motion. Even on the Treasury Bench a general sympathy was felt for the views which he had expressed. The effect of what had been said that evening was to acquit the present Admiralty of all blame in this matter, and he (Mr. Horsman) thought they fully deserved that acquittal. He thought that whatever difference of opinion might exist in the House, they were agreed in this, that every subject connected 467 with the navy was now well considered, and thoroughly thought out, and that all those who were responsible to the House for the Administration of the Navy, acted upon that responsibility, feeling that every step which they took was carefully watched by the House. Not long since the Administration of the Admiralty was a great mystery, and most people believed that for a very large expenditure we got a very small return. He must do the right hon. Gentleman opposite (Sir John Pakington) the justice to say that under the late Government that administration took a new start. Before he acceded to office, the navy had fallen as low as had been ever known. We had no Channel fleet, and for the first time in the memory of any man living we had lost the command of the sea. The right hon. Member for Droitwich was the first Minister to profit by the experience of which other nations had availed themselves, and commenced the solution of the problem as to the comparatiue efficiency of iron and wooden ships. The hon. Member for Chatham (Sir Frederic Smith) said he believed it was now understood that the building of wooden ships would cease. He (Mr. Horsman) gathered that the conclusion arrived at was that the building of iron ships should be gradually increased, and that of wooden ships gradually diminished. The right hon. Baronet went out of office, and the present Board of Admiralty came in. The House had had some experience of the Duke of Somerset when he was a Member of that House, as Chairman of the Committee on Public Expenditure. Acting on that Committee, the noble Duke established to himself a very high reputation in that House. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had also earned some distinction in the House, of which he had been frequently reminded, often in no friendly spirit, of being a great naval reformer. For three years the noble Lord made Motions of which he had been reminded that evening, condemning the great waste of money in the public expenditure, and the general mal-administration of the navy. The two first Motions did not make much impression, but the last of the three made a very great impression upon the House, and, in the opinion of many persons, greatly contributed to the circumstance of the noble Lord occupying the post which he now filled with great efficiency. The influence of the noble Duke obtained for the noble Lord that Commission of Inquiry, 468 the result of whose labours the House was now discussing. They had the Report of that Commission before them, and they had heard that evening the vindication of that Report by two Members of that Commission. The task they had to perform was one of a somewhat delicate character. He (Mr. Horsman) had read the Report and the evidence with great care, and he thought the labours of the Committee displayed great ability, great industry, and great discretion. The noble Lord (Lord Clarence Paget) had been charged with having made great promises of reform, and with having failed to carry out those promises. It was said that he had exaggerated the waste and extravagance and general mal-administration of the department. Well, they now had the evidence before them, and they had the Report, and it was found that every statement which the noble Lord had made in that House was an understatement, and that every portion of the evidence which his noble Friend had quoted that evening bore out the charges which the noble Lord had made. Every point which had been remarked upon by the Commission had been brought under their attention by the efforts of the noble Lord, the Under Secretary. Moreover they had the recommendations of the Commission founded upon the evidence of the noble Lord and upon his views, which were now adopted and recognized by the House. The opinions, which he had expressed so earnestly, so consistently, and so frequently, were now recommended to the House by the Commission, and if the recommendations of the Report were carried out, it was the noble Lord who originated them when out of office, and who, when in office, would have shown his ability and power in carrying out what he had originally vindicated. He (Mr. Horsman) felt that a new spirit had pervaded both the late and the present Board; and, therefore, when it was suggested that the present proposal was like a vote of censure on the existing naval administration, he thought that moment peculiarly inopportune for such a Motion. He had not the least doubt of the noble Lord's desire to carry out all these reforms, but very great doubts as to his power to do it. Indeed, that so little had been accomplished during the period of his secretaryship was a proof that he lacked that power. Not many weeks ago he had not the power to send a telegram to which the Prime Minister had pledged himself in that House. Because 469 he represented the Admiralty in that House, some were apt to think he was really the head of that department, whereas, as they were made painfully conscious, he was inferior in authority even to a junior Lord. He had always thought it was a pity that the Committee had been granted. He thought the public mind was made up as to the necessity of reforms, and he believed the present First Lord and Secretary to the Admiralty could have undertaken those reforms, having all the information before them which a Committee could obtain, and they could have carried out those reforms as efficiently and more rapidly than after an inquiry by a Committee. As that Committee had been appointed they must of course wait for the Report, but when the Report was made he hoped the noble Lord and the Secretary to the Admiralty would then, whatever view the Report might take of his position, vindicate his own views, and would assert in that House his own views and his own powers, and would endeavour to carry out those reforms which long ago he had been the first to point out as absolutely necessary. If the noble Lord did that he was certain to meet with support in that House, which would regard him as one of the most useful Reformers upon this subject who had ever sat upon the Treasury benches.
§ MR. W. WILLIAMS
said, he thought that too little notice had been taken during the debate of the enormous amount of the Estimates. The only question discussed had been that of iron-cased ships. Now, he found out of these enormous Estimates of £12,000,000 only £755,000 was required for the building of iron-cased ships. The explanations of the Secretary of the Admiralty to the statements of the hon. Member for Sunderland were not satisfactory. He was at a loss to conceive, in spite of all sorts of mismanagement in the different departments of the Admiralty, how such an enormous sum could have been expended on the navy since the end of the French war, as £320,000,000. They had spent £80,000,000 on building repairing slips, and £15,000,000 on dockyards, although at the end of the French war they had nearly a thousand ships in commission, with all the dockyards in the highest state of efficiency, and only one dockyard had been added since that period. According to the statement of the noble Lord, we had seventeen more line-of-battle ships than ail the rest of Europe, and our navy 470 was exactly double that of France. Under these circumstances, he thought it was ridiculous to go on increasing our expenditure year after year to prepare ourselves to resist French aggression. It was admitted that the Government did not intend to build any more line-of-battle ships, but only to finish those on the stocks. He should, therefore, like to know upon what the enormous Estimate of £12,000,000 was to be expended, when only £755,000 was required for iron ships. No one desired more than himself to see the navy placed in an efficient position, but there had been a most extravagant waste in the expenditure of public money in that department, and until some better check was placed upon the Admiralty they would never have a thoroughly efficient navy. He did not blame the present Government more than any of its predecessors, but the time had now come for reform, and be hoped that before long they would have that reform.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
My right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Horsman), has referred to the Report of the Commission on the Dockyards, and has expressed a strong opinion that the noble Lord, the Secretary to the Admiralty, has completely proved before that Commission all the statements he made in his speeches in this House, when two years ago he made certain charges against the Admiralty, which at the time attracted considerable notice in the House. Now I have no wish whatever to revive questions of a controversial nature; and far less would it be my wish to do so, as my noble Friend has already addressed the House, and is consequently unable to answer anything I may say. It is, therefore, with pain that I advert to what fell from my right hon. Friend; but the clear interests of truth and justice stand superior to compliment; and I am sorry to be compelled to say that I cannot concur in the construction which he has put on that part of the Report of the Commission. We have that Report before us; and the language which the noble Lord used in 1859 is recorded in the library, and must be fresh in the recollection of many Members, and I say that the Report of the Commission does not uphold the language of the noble Lord. And in confirmation of this I may state that there is in the blue book a special memorandum written by Admiral Robinson, the present Controller of the Navy, who succeeded Sir Baldwin Walker in the position which the 471 latter filled with so much ability for many years—I find in that memorandum distinct reference to the language of my noble Friend in that speech, and a most distinct declaration that the noble Lord had failed to establish the statements he had made. I am sorry to be obliged to advert to this point, and I would not have done so but for the unqualified language in which the right hon. Member for Stroud expressed himself. I do not say the Report casts any censure upon the noble Lord, but it does not bear out his statements. At the time the noble Lord made those statements I questioned their accuracy, and expressed my wish that they should be tested by a Committee. I did not impute anything, for I had no doubt that my noble Friend believed the statements he made were accurate; but I entertained an opinion that they were made upon insufficient grounds. Those statements have been tested by a Royal Commission, and, as far as I can gather from the Report, they have been found to be erroneous. I will not enter further upon that point, except to subscribe to the approbation that has been expressed of the manner in which the Commissioners performed their duty. It performed a difficult duty with impartiality and ability, and the Report it presented to the House is a most valuable document, throwing great light on the former administration of the navy, and likely to prove a guide in those future reforms of the naval administration which all parties seem to require. Sir, having thus briefly adverted to the subject of that Commission, I wish, in the few observations I desire to address to the House, to refer to the Motion of my hon. Friend, the Member for Sunderland. I wish, in the first place, to express my great satisfaction that the Motion has been made, for I think it is a very valuable Motion. My hon. Friend introduced it with his usual ability, and it touches on a subject which I think it was most desirable to have brought under the consideration of the House of Commons. But I am sorry to say that I think the answer of my noble Friend, the Secretary to the Admiralty, has not been so clear on the subject as it should have been. I am not sure that I myself understand now, and I doubt whether the House understands, what the real position of the Admiralty with regard to this question is. The real question raised by the hon. Member for Sunderland is, how far, in the present state of doubt, both as to the construction of iron-covered ships 472 and especially the construction of Her Majesty's ships—how far the Admiralty propose to proceed and persevere in the building of wooden line-of-battle ships. That is the real question at issue, and I do not at this moment understand what the answer of the Admiralty is. I am very sorry that both of the members of the Admiralty in this House have spoken, as I am afraid no member of that Board will follow them.
§ LORD CLARENCE PAGET
Perhaps I can elucidate the statement. The question was, whether we were to cease building line-of-battle ships—cease building and converting. We are not going on with those line-of-battle ships.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
Still I do not understand what our position is. The noble Lord talked again and again, and told us again and again to-night of sixty-seven line-of-battle ships. I appeal to the House if that were not so. Now it is notorious that we have not sixty-seven—we have at this moment, I believe—I speak under correction—I believe at this moment we have afloat somewhere about, if not exactly, fifty-three line-of-battle ships. Now there is a very broad difference between fifty-three and sixty-seven, and what I wish to put to the House is this, that the speech of the noble Lord and the speech of the hon. Gentleman, the Lord of the Admiralty, who followed him, have left the House completely in ignorance as to what is to be our real strength of wooden line-of-battle ships. Fifty-three I believe to be our present strength. Sixty-seven would be our strength if every ship now on the stocks was to be completed, but the noble Lord tells us that they are not to be completed. Then, I ask him, how many are to be completed, and what is to be our force of wooden line-of-battle ships? I think that is a question upon which we have a right to have a clearer answer than we have yet received from the noble Lord. This is no new question. The attention of Parliament has been devoted to it for years past. It is a double question. It is not confined to this question of iron ships, of which we have heard so much to-night. The noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty has himself been the person who raised in former years another question of 473 great importance, bearing directly on this Motion to-night—the question, I mean, whether or not, irrespective of the armourcovered ships, the question whether or not the new invention with regard to artillery has not virtually set aside those great two-deckers and three-deckers to which we have so much trusted heretofore, and whether or not it would be expedient hereafter to confine our most powerful ships to ships of one deck? That is a question independent of armour-covered ships, and it is a question, as I said before, in which the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty himself has borne a conspicuous part. I believe he was one of the first persons to recommend the discontinuance of the line-of-battle ships. What was the policy of the late Board of Admiralty? That policy was that whatever inventions might take place in future—whatever might be our discoveries—whatever might be our decisions with regard to single-deck ships, or iron-covered ships, the duty of the Government of that day, looking to the state of Europe at that time, was to see that England was safe according to the nautical experience of the present time. We, therefore, determined to strengthen the naval force of the country as we best might. The decision then arrived at was not to exceed sixty wooden line-of-battle ships, and that when we arrived at that number to pause and see how far the discovery of iron-casing might supersede the old system of building line-of-battle ships. I am sorry, therefore, that the noble Lord was not more clear as to the intentions of the Admiralty on this point. If I correctly understood him, those intentions are to finish a certain number of ships now on the stocks, but not to go to the full extent of sixty-seven, although we have beard constantly from the Admiralty that sixty-seven was to be the number of the line-of-battle ships. I hope we shall receive some explanation upon that point, and whether there are to be fifty-three as the number now stands, or sixty, or sixty-seven. I will merely add with regard to the Motion of the hon. Member for Sunderland that I join in the wish expressed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Stroud, that he will not press this Motion to a division. From what I have already said the hon. Gentleman will perceive that I quite agree in the principle of his first Resolution. I think there is a point which, considering the present state of the art of ship-building, and the present state of our knowledge 474 on that subject, beyond which the Admiralty ought not to carry on the construction of those ships. But looking at the present state of affairs, and the present state of Europe, I should be very sorry to give a vote in favour of the Resolutions, which I think would be liable to misinterpretation, and would, in fact, take out of the hands of the Executive one of those questions which above all ought to be left to their discretion. Of course, it is perfectly competent for us to express our opinion in this House on the way that discretion is exercised; but I am not prepared to give a rote the effect of which would be clearly to put a stop to the further proceedings of the Admiralty in the way of ship-building. I am not prepared to take that course. I must add, with regard to the last Resolution—the third—that I certainly am quite unable to vote in favour of that Resolution. I have already expressed my opinion that the Admiralty have done wisely and done well in trying the experiment of building one of these iron ships in their own dockyards. Therefore, to the last Resolution of the hon. Gentleman it is impossible that I could give my vote. I find no fault with the Admiralty. On the contrary, I think they are entitled to credit for having determined to try the experiment of building one ship in their own yard, to compare the cost with that of building in a private yard. But I would advert for a moment to what fell from the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury (Sir Morton Peto) with reference to the different classes of iron ships ordered by the late and present Admiralty. He has stated that some of those recently constructed will not steam more than eight knots per hour. I was glad to hear the Secretary to the Admiralty deny that statement; but I must say that his answer was not that which I should have wished to hear. He stated that the two smallest ships, the Defence and the Resistance, were calculated to go eleven knots an hour, and two—those two of 4,000 tons—would go twelve. But the noble Lord, in the course of his speech, used this expression, "The ship with the greatest speed is the ship which will have the greatest advantage over her opponent." Then, why do the Admiralty consent to build ships of avowedly inferior speed? I think this point of the statement of the noble Lord was highly unsatisfactory. Why was it that the late Board of Admiralty determined to order ships of 475 6,000 tons? Sir, we were unwilling to order ships of that size; we felt the great responsibility of ordering ships of that size; the expense was enormous; the experiment was undoubtedly one attended with much risk and much uncertainty. And why did we adopt it? Solely because we found, by the highest and best authorities, that we could not combine all the elements essential to a man-of-war in a vessel of a smaller size than 6,000 tons. The present Board have decided upon building smaller ships; at what sacrifice? The sacrifice of that speed which the noble Lord in his speech to-night declared was the first and most essential requisite. I cannot help fearing that the present Admiralty have committed a most serious mistake in building these smaller and slower ships. The noble Lord said we had no experience to guide us with regard to these vessels. Why, Sir, that is perfectly true; we are proceeding in the dark. We have not yet had one of these vessels at sea. The Warrior was first launched. We are now in the fourth month since she was launched, and I understand that at this moment her plates are not fixed on her, and that months will elapse before she will be ready to go to sea. She was not launched until six months after the time she ought to have been, and she is not likely to go to sea before a late period of the summer. I think that a most serious disadvantage. The Admiralty are still building. Why do they not get out one of these ships, and test what her seagoing qualities are? Why has all this time been lost? Perhaps the noble Lord will tell us the reason why the Warrior has not yet got her armour on—why her plates are not on? I have been told that the reason is that the Board of Admiralty are waiting while the tonguing and grooving plan is applied. This is an experiment carried on at an enormous cost and of very doubtful result, and that is the reason, I am told, why the Warrior is without the plates so essential to complete her. My hon. Friend opposite (Sir Joseph Paxton) alluded to the enormous weight of wood placed in the Warrior between what is called the skin of the ship and the outer armour. I will not venture to contradict my hon. Friend, but my information leads me to believe he has greatly exaggerated the weight of that wood. He spoke of 1,000 tons.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I under- 476 stood my hon. Friend to speak of the weight of wood between the outer armour and the skin of the ship.
§ SIR JOSEPH PAXTON
The wood in the construction of the ship before you come to the iron, I believe, is 1,000 tons.
§ SIR JOHN PAKINGTON
I believe that must be a great exaggeration. I have always understood that the whole weight, including the armour, would be 1,200 tons—1,000 tons the iron and 200 tons of intervening wood. Now my hon. Friend said that instead of having wood it would be better to have the whole thickness of the armour of iron. That is just one of the questions now being discussed by the scientific men of the day. The noble Lord referred to the proceedings of the Institution of Naval Architects. I have read the proceedings of that Institution with great interest, and one question they have considered is, whether it would not be better in the construction of these ships to make one thickness of iron serve all the purposes of defence? There is a diversity of opinion on this subject, and as yet we are in the infancy of the question. How necessary is it, therefore, that the Admiralty should proceed with boldness, I admit, but at the same time with caution; and, above all, how necessary is it that some of these ships should be practically tested at sea, so that we may ascertain the best form of construction. There is no other point to which I wish to advert except that on which the hon. Baronet the Member for Finsbury appeared to think the Admiralty were deserving of censure—namely, the Vote for an increased stock of timber in our dockyards. Now, Sir, I cannot concur in that expression of censure. I believe that the Admiralty has acted wisely in asking for this Vote, and that an increased stock of timber is necessary to meet the emergencies that may arise. I confess I see no prospect of an abandonment of those wooden ships. Our frigates for the most part, I think, must be still constructed of wood. I hope, then, that this House will acquiesce in the demand for an increased stock of timber in our yards. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk (Mr. Bentinck) has spoken truly when he compared the state of our dockyards with that of the French yards, where there is a most abundant stock of timber on hand, and 477 which places that Power in a much better position than we have been in to meet any eventualities that may arise.
§ MR. FINLAY
said, that having now arrived at a very important epoch in the history of the navy they ought to be careful to adopt the most efficient system that could be devised. He thought the House would be disposed to approve of the first of these Resolutions, which declared that there ought to be no further expenditure on wooden line-of-battle ships; in that he entirely agreed. As to the class of iron ships it would be most desirable to build there was great diversity of opinion, and he thought further experiments ought to be made before they laid out much more money on that score. Some Gentlemen had praised the Warrior as being a perfect specimen of naval architecture. Now, for his own part, though he was not a scientific or a professional man, he had paid some attention to the subject, and he thought there was great reason to doubt whether, in all respects, that class of vessels was so perfect as to justify them in resting the honour and the safety of the country upon it. He did not mean to condemn the Warrior, which had many excellent qualities, but might also be found to have some defects, when sent out to sea.
§ ADMIRAL WALCOTT
At a period when science is making fresh advances hitherto unexampled, and other maritime nations are strengthening their navies in proportion, no caution can be too great in a timely consideration of the construction of our ships before they are commenced. Economy and retrenchment he was ready to admit must be employed in careful forethought before incurring expense, but only so far as was compatible with the efficiency of the navy and the integrity of the Empire. The noble Lord the Secretary of the Admiralty had enumerated the naval strength of certain foreign nations which provided, he said, 50 line-of-battle ships, while we had 67. The right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) had put our ships down at 53 only, though he admitted that, including those on the stocks, we might have 67. But if we possessed 67, the number was not more than was demanded by the exigencies and necessities of the country. Consider the number of our colonies and dependencies. They numbered, he believed, about 50. Then look, likewise, at the vast extent of our commerce. Wherever a ship could float, there was to be found a British flag, and 478 under these circumstances we wore called; on to maintain a navy double that of all other countries combined. He was at a loss to understand what could be the object of France in getting together so large a naval force. She had few colonies to defend, and he could not understand why she should want 37 line-of-battle ships and 45 large frigates and corvettes, except to intimidate other countries. She would have to go a long way before she intimidated England. He gave every credit to the right hon. Baronet (Sir John Pakington) for having placed the Warrior and Black Prince on the stocks. He had visited the Warrior and thought her a remarkably fine model of a vessel, but he found she could only carry six and a half day's coal; that a great part of her bow and stern was unprotected, and that she drew a large draught of water, twenty-seven feet, which last was a great disadvantage. For the complete protection of our shores and to meet all exigencies, we required, in addition, a class of small vessels. In a great measure he agreed with the hon. Member for Sunderland as to stopping the further building of wooden line-of-battle ships; but if those already under construction and conversion were far advanced, they ought to be finished. He disagreed entirely with him on his third proposition. The hon. Gentleman had objected to building iron-cased ships in our Royal dockyards or making any preparations for such purpose; he suggested the building them in private yards on the Clyde, the Mersey, and the Thames, but he (Admiral Walcott) must call the attention of the House to the circumstance that France possessed the important ports of Cherbourg and Brest, which lay opposite our coast and in which she built iron-cased ships. In case, then, of a war with France and an engagement between the fleets, necessitating each to return to their respective harbours for repairs, judge the risk and disadvantage in which the country would he placed, did we not possess in our dockyards both at that time, and, indeed, at all other times, plant and appliances both for building and repairing our iron-built ships. No greater ill could arise in loss of valuable, and, probably momentous, time if driven to the necessity of sending these ships round to the private yards on the Clyde, the Mersey, and the Thames for repairs. He must, therefore, insist on the expediency of adapting our Royal dockyards to the full pur- 479 pose he had named, in opposition to the third Resolution of the hon. Member for Sunderland. He looked as carefully and as anxiously to the taxation of the country as any man, but he held an efficient navy in the light of an insurance, and never would he consent to put any question of money in comparison with the risk of losing the command of the sea and the maintenance of the proud pre-eminence this country hitherto had enjoyed amongst the first nations of the earth.
said, that as he had already obtained his object in the discussion which had taken place, he would ask leave to withdraw his Motion.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
explained that the noble Lord the Secretary to the Admiralty had been misunderstood by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Droitwich. What his noble Friend had said with regard to what was to be done this year was that no progress would be made with those line-of-battle ships which were being built; but with respect to those which were being converted their conversion would be completed.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."