rose to make the motion of which notice was given in his name by the earl of Aberdeen. His lordship said, that this was a question which ought to have no relation to, nor be influenced by party feelings, as it was one which concerned only the essential interests of the country. In the time that lord Howe was at the head of the admiralty, and sir Charles Middleton of the navy board, a practice prevailed which had not prevailed since; that of keeping a regular digest of the regulations and rules for the direction of the dock yards and the administration of the civil service generally of the navy. There had been no revision of the rules or the practice on this subject till recently, since the times when the duke of York was lord high admiral a century ago. His lordship here entered into a review of the Reports of Naval Revision which contained a very useful history of the navy of Great Britain. He wished to impress on the House, first, that all the Reports of the committee of Naval Revision were originally made not as containing plans for permanent and final adoption, but suggestions for trial, and as experiments to receive improvements from the result of experience, and the well-founded opinions of those who are competent to advise upon the subject. All the Reports which had been placed in the hands of the King, and since produced to that House, as well as the four Reports which had not been laid before them, were to be considered as having the character he described. He could give a variety of illustrations of this opinion from various parts of the Reports; but it was impossible to enter into such a detail, without engrossing too much of their lordships' time. He should particularly notice one circumstance in the Reports, and that was the great difference in the modes of keeping the accounts therein suggested; one in an early Report on the admiralty board, concerning the dock yards; the other, in the 11th Report, respecting the Victualling board. He shewed, in an extract of a Letter from the 359 commissioners to the admiralty, written after the 15th Report had been made, that they there again urged the propriety of a revision of their former Reports; and in that letter they said, that since their 1st Report, material improvements had suggested themselves in the modes they had previously recommended. He therefore maintained this conclusion, that these Reports were now open for farther revision and alteration, before the regulations they recommended should be rendered permanent; and that it was necessary they should be revised and amended until brought to a state of absolute perfection. It appeared that the 6th, 7th, 9th, 11th, 12th and 13th Reports had been presented to the King on the 7th of Sept. 1808, that after remaining but one day before the council, they had been sent to the Admiralty board, and five days after were returned to his Majesty for the purpose of having the recommendations they contained carried into execution. These six voluminous Reports therefore had passed the council and the Admiralty board, without much consideration. He supposed, from this haste, that the board did not intend to revise them. The subordinate boards, with the diligence which, he knew, characterized them, were now acting upon them, certainly contrary to the intentions of the commissioners themselves, because the Reports could only be considered as experimental. If there were a difference between the two modes of accounting recommended, and one mode were preferable to the other, let it be seen whether there was any thing so different in the construction of the two offices which prevented the application of similar principles.—The revision of which he was desirous, and which was so necessary, could not be left either to the Admiralty or Navy boards; not from their want of ability for that purpose; but for reasons stated in the very patent that established the commission; "that it was impossible, during the war, and with the pressing daily and hourly duties of those boards, for them to undertake such laborious investigations." No money could have been better laid out for the public service, than a few thousand pounds to provide for the continuance of the commission, till the commissioners should have revised their former reports. He had reason now to lament that the period most convenient for this revision had passed without affording an opportunity to the commissioners, for again revising 360 the reports which they had made on this most interesting subject. With respect to the commissioners, some alteration had taken place since their appointment; for instance, the advanced period of life of one, lord Barham, had rendered it necessary he should retire from the labour of official business, and another (Mr. Fordyce) whose ability, integrity and capacity for business were exemplary, had died within the period assigned to the discharge of their duty. He complimented highly the talents of the several commissioners, and it was also to be recollected how important and arduous a duty attached itself to the revision of naval affairs. They were bound to extend their researches to a period as far distant as that when the duke of York presided at the head of the Admiralty in the reign of Charles the second. Lord Barham was much advanced in years, and might not be inclined to re-engage in such labours: but sir Roger Curtis, Mr. Serle, and admiral Domett remained, though even they might be fully employed in other services. If lord Barham were willing to resume his labours, and the commission could be revived, he should be glad. At the same time, he trusted ministers would not conceive he was calling upon them to institute another commission of naval revision. He knew too well the inconveniences which would result from the institution of a second commission. His only object in addressing their lordships upon this important subject was to direct their lordships attention to the importance of those Reports upon the table. The noble viscount concluded by moving "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, requesting that he will be pleased to inform the House what steps had been taken conformably to the Report of the Commissioners for Naval Inquiry; and whether it was the intention of his Majesty's ministers to act on the recommendation of that Report."
§ Lord Mulgrave
was not fully prepared to make that reply which perhaps would be most consistent with the motion of the noble viscount. With regard to the propriety of many of his observations, no one would question their real importance. But no one more than the noble viscount ought to be convinced, from experience, that considerable confidence ought to be placed in those who directed the affairs of the admiralty. It was not his own wish that these Reports should, in their present 361 state, have been presented to the House, but he had acquiesced in the desire of others whose minds were not satisfied on the subject and who had urged their production. He agreed with the statement made, that from the time when the duke of York presided in the Admiralty many irregularities and abuses had crept into the different civil departments of the navy, which in 1805 led to the appointment of the commissioners of Naval Revision. In the first instance they were appointed for a limited time only, but towards the end of that period they found it impossible to accomplish what they had been appointed to execute. Their suggestion of the difficulties they encountered led to the extension of their appointment for a few months longer. But by those who directed the government at the time even this grant of a longer period was given with a considerable degree of reluctance. In the course of a short period those who succeeded in administration, were more favourably disposed to continue the labours of their commissioners for a still longer period than the utmost limit prescribed to them by their predecessors. He was sure those labours had produced considerable benefit already, and, with the noble viscount, he entertained great regard for the Reports themselves. It had been asserted that six of these Reports, very voluminous in their bulk, had been but one day before the council board, from whence they were referred the day after to the Admiralty board, and in the course of five days were returned to his Majesty that they might forthwith be acted upon. But whatever measures had been taken with respect to them, he could assure the noble viscount, had been resorted to upon a conviction of their utility to the public service. He did not clearly understand the object to be attained by the motion before them, but he presumed the noble viscount meant to infer, either negligence, or precipitancy in the council board, and that of the admiralty. But as to any fact stated relative to the mode in which the recommendation contained in the Reports had been carried into execution, it ought to be recollected, that one of these commissioners, admiral Domett was, perhaps, of all men the most competent, from his talents and persevering industry, to carry into execution every improvement in our naval department. It was from him he (lord Mulgrave) gained that satisfactory information, upon which he could rely, and which induced the 362 adoption of any measure that without more detailed and deliberate consideration, might be termed hasty. The difference between the regulations of the dock yards, and those of the victualling yards, had been strongly impressed upon their lordships as calling for immediate alteration. These regulations had certainly been adopted in conformity to the Reports; still the difference resulted from the distance of time which elapsed between revisions of the one and those of the other. He must allow with the noble viscount, that the regulations of the victualling yards were more simplified in all respects than those of the dock yards, where unnecessary accounts were kept, and many clerks and other persons employed, who were of no real benefit to their management, and the innumerable books which were kept, were no more useful than so much waste paper. But independent of all these considerations, he did not perceive the utility of the noble viscount's interference, for he trusted some confidence ought to be placed as he said before, in those who presided over this department. With respect to those Reports, which were not then on the table, there were two of which he would never consent to the production, at least at the present time. One of these Reports was the eighth, which related to Northfleet, and he should be extremely sorry to see it produced, for thereby the contents might transpire, and reach the enemy, which would be injurious to the best interests of the country. These reasons would also prevent the production of another report, which regarded the supplying of timber for the British navy. He would at no time consent to the production of this report. He was upon the whole surprised that the noble viscount should have been so much alarmed, as to hasten to the capital for the purpose of giving his advice upon the present state of our navy. There was not much to fear, for such had been the growing prosperity of the British fleet, from the time when the duke of York presided as lord high admiral, down to the present times, that if the whole of these Reports had been burnt, or torn to pieces, and lost to the country, he could assure their lordships the navy of this country would, in spite of every abuse, still prosper; therefore, it was certainly remarkable that the noble viscount's imagination should have been so much alarmed at phantoms, as to induce him to set out in the midst of winter 363 from the extremity of Scotland, anxious to lend his assistance for the purpose of saving our navy from destruction. The noble lord concluded by moving the previous question.
rose to explain. He had not made, nor did he mean to make, the slightest reflection on that excellent officer, admiral Domett. He was confident that many parts of the reports, not yet produced, might be given without any danger whatever; and he would inform the noble lord, that he should move on a future occasion for such parts as might, without public detriment, be produced. He denied that he made any charge of rashness or neglect against the noble lord. Whenever he should feel it his duty to do so, he should take care that the noble lord should understand his intentions. As to what had been said of his leaving retirement and coming up to town, he supposed that the noble lord intended it for the purpose of amusement, and to his amusement he had no particular objection. He then regretted the decay of ship-timber here, and alluded to the two commissions of the House of Commons in 1774 and 1792. His opinion was in favour of constructing the proposed dock at Northfleet, the expence of which the public affairs could, for such a purpose, very well spare, if the finances were well managed, and not wasted on fruitless exertions.
§ The previous question was put and agreed to.