페이지 이미지
PDF

navy, there was an increase in the present year, as compared with the last, of 120,000l. This arose from the enhanced price of materials, and from the additional expense of wear and tear. On the ordinary estimate, there was an increase of 80,000l. in consequence of a very considerable addition having been made in the wages of the artificers employed in the dock-yards. For the last four years they had been restricted to five days in the week instead of working during the entire six. They were now, however, employed throughout the six days, which sufficiently accounted for the increased expense. The sum voted last year was 460,000l. This year about 540,000l. would be necessary. On the half-pay, pensions, and superannuations, there was a reduction. It would have been greater ; but some of the items, which were formerly placed to another account, were now, under the act of last session, charged on the estimate. A considerable sum was charged for carrying on several of the new works on the coast. Amongst these, one of the most prominent was the docks at Sheerness. For the first time they were called on to provide for the building of store-houses and officers' houses in the new yard. Formerly the charge was made for carrying on works, which were nearly finished, and it was not intended by the admiralty to have gone on any farther; but an offer was made to them by the architect, that if he were permitted to proceed more rapidly, and to use the materials and machinery he had on the spot, he would be enabled to finish the new works in a short period, and at a reduced

price. It was estimated that 50,000l. would complete the undertaking. The architect was to receive 400l. a year, and to be allowed 3; per cent. on any money he might advance, should it be found necessary, beyond the 50,000l. The sum of 795,000l. which stood in the first column of the estimate, might be considered sufficient for all the works. There was an increase on the estimate for the works in progress at Plymouth Sound. Independent of the ordinary works, they were building a light-house there, and it was necessary that that part of the break-water which adjoined the light-house should be built more substantially than the other portions of it. It was necessary that it should be built of solid materials, and of a large size, to remove any apprehension of danger from the violence of the sea. This was the reason why there was so large an addition to the sum necessary for completing this great national undertaking. It should also be observed, that the breakwater had received some damage from the hurricane of the 23d of November last. But it was satisfactory to be enabled to state, that the mischief was not of any very considerable extent. That great national work proved, on that occasion, that it was perfectly suited to effect the object for which it was erected. To prevent the possibility of its sustaining any injury in future, it would be finished in the most substantial manner. It was now very nearly completed, and, when finished, even with this additional charge, would come within the amount of the estimate laid before the house in 1812. The estimate,

- before

before the injury from the gales, was 286,000l., it would be now 295,000l, Some alteration would be made in the buildings connected with the victualling department, &c. at Plymouth. At present, those establishments stood at opposite sides of the harbour. The establishment at South Down, where the brewery was established, was very far removed from the ships, and was only accessible at particular times. This was an inconvenience which the admiralty meant to remove. The establishment was not built on ground the property of the crown, but was held by lease, which lease was now nearly expired. It was intended to purchase it, and to rebuild the old houses, as had been recommended by Earl St. Vincent when he was at the head of the admiralty. It was also in contemplation to build a sea-wall, for the greater security and convenience of shipping. The expense altogether would amount to about 40,000l. He concluded by moving for the sum of 54,886l. to defray the salaries and contingent expenses of the admiralty office for the year 1825. Mr. Hume could not understand why so large an expense was incurred on account of the navy. If the promises held out by those who were at the head of the government, in former years, were worthy of the smallest attention, that expense ought now to be very sensibly diminished. The house might imagine, because there was only an increase of 200,000l. this year, and 200,000l. last year, that therefore the matter was not deserving of their attention—that it was of no importance. But they ought not to view the estimate in

that light; they ought to look to what its general amount was, and to consider whether that amount was really necessary. In 1816, a committee was appointed to examine into, and estimate the probable expense of the navy for that and subsequent years, and they made their report to the house accordingly. And now, in the year 1825, instead of the aggregate amount of the expense being reduced, it was actually greater than it was in 1817. So that, though a reduction was made in one or two years, they were now increasing the charge very considerably. In 1817, the estimate was 5,242,000l., this year it was 5,980,000l. Unless the world at large were at war with this country, there could be no necessity for such an enormous expense. They had been told, and they had a right to expect, that a very great decrease would be effected in a most important article—namely, the half-pay and allowances. But, so far from that expense being lowered to the extent of which hopes had been held out, from 5 per cent, to 7 per cent., it was actually now very nearly as great as when the proposed reduction was intimated. #. thought there was something very extraordinary in the system of keeping up half-pay and allowances on so extensive a scale. He had no hesitation in saying that the system was decidedly bad. Why did not his Majesty's ministers bring back to the service persons who were on half-pay, whenever vacancies occurred 2 Promotions were now as frequent as ever, with the exception of the conclusion of the war, when a greatnumber of promotions were gazetted. The *

- ne

the admiralty had declared on a former occasion, that whenever a vacancy occurred, it should be filled up by individuals on halfpay. He hoped the hon. secretary would lay on the table a list of the vacancies which had occurred during the last few years, and show how many of those unfortunate individuals, who were on half-pay, had been brought back to full pay. He feared the number would prove very small indeed. In 1817, the halfpay list amounted to 1,146,600l.— it had gone on increasing—and was, in the present year, 1,387,692l. ; the reduction, as compared with the preceding year, was only 38,000l. In a few days he would move for an account of all the promotions which had taken place in the last year, which would enable the house to judge of the extent of this evil. From the rapidity with which promotions were made whenever vacancies occurred, he feared they were not likely to see any great reduction made in this branch of the expenditure. Two years ago, the reductions effected by his Majesty's ministers seemed to be dictated by a proper spirit—that of giving relief to the country at large: but they appeared to have lost sight of that object, and no reduction had latterly taken place. He thought, therefore, that it was better for the house to look at the aggregate amount of the estimates, rather than to consider the details at the present moment. They ought to say, distinctly, “so much is sufficient for the service of the country, the remainder must be reduced.” He considered their naval force at the present moment as entirely too large. Here was an estimate of 5,983,000l. for the navy. Was it possible, that in

time of peace a sum so enormous could be wanted ?" The South American States were so firmly established, that they were deemed fit objects for commercial treaties. In that quarter, then, no fleet was necessary; and he should be glad to know where any extensive naval force was required. The salaries now paid in the public offices were quadruple—nay, quintuple those which had been paid in any former peace; and unquestionably there was no necessity for such an increase of emolument. The amount of money expended at this moment for building ships was enormous. No less than 1,000,000l. a year was thus laid out. The honourable secretary for the admiralty had said, that not more than four or five millions had been thus expended during the peace: but the papers on the table contradicted that statement, and their contents would not be denied. They were throwing away a million annually, on the building of ships, which were rapidly falling into decay. We had already no less than 500 ships of war, a greater naval force than all the states of the world could command—why, therefore, should they go on building 2 They ought to cease from building new ships, and apply themselves to keeping in perfect repair the old ones. The newly built vessels were destroyed by the dry-rot. The hon. comptroller of the navy (Sir B. Martin) smiled at the idea of the dry-rot. It was the fact, nevertheless, that it was doing a great deal of mischief. The hon. comptroller, and others on the opposite side of the house, had stated that this evil did not exist to any great extent. But their statements were by no means borne out. If

he

he looked at the immense expense incurred for the repair of vessels, he would find that the dry-rot did very great damage to the navy. He would not go the length which some individuals did, and say that half the navy was useless, but he believed, from concurrent report, that more damage had been done to our ships of war since the use of unseasoned timber came into fashion, than was ever before known. Those who had the management of the naval department tried all manner of experiments to check the evil. One time, they used coal-tar, at another oil: then they covered the ships when building, and sometimes they salted the timber. They went backwards and forwards with their experiments, which afforded the best proof that they themselves did not know how to remedy the disease. He would ask, did they now use coal-tar, or did they apply oil, or, in short, did they pursue any settled system : They were changing their course of proceeding every four or five years; and he now submitted to the house, that the expenditure of upwards of 1,000,000l. a-year for the building of ships deserved much more consideration than had been given to the subject. The discovery of steam navigation had altered the nature of maritime warfare altogether. Come war when it might, the mode of warfare in the narrow seas would be very different from what it was at present. They were now expending a million a-year in building ships of war, and if a

eriod arrived for the renewal of hostilities, they would not, perhaps, be used at all. It would be much better to cease from building ships for the next five years, and to

keep up in good repair the five

hundred we already possessed. The whole of Europe had not that number of ships. Why not let the timber for the navy remain in the forests until imperious necessity called for it to be felled? The axe could be applied whenever it was really wanted. No man wished more than he did to see an efficient navy kept up, but he never could agree to the useless and extravagant expenditure of so large a sum of money. He saw a considerable sum charged for the improvements in dock-yards and wharfs. He was surprised at this, after what had fallen from the hon. member for Harwich (Sir G. Warrender). That hon. member had stated, that if he had been aware, three or four years ago, that ships might be easily conveyed from Chatham to Sheerness by the means of steam-boats, which could tow them up and down, the sum expended on Sheerness should not have been laid out. Here, however, it appeared that the sum of 795,000l. was to be voted for works now in progress at Sheerness. When they had such a dock-yard as that of Chatham, and when ships might be carried up and down without delay, by means of steamboats, he could not but view this establishment at Sheerness as most gratuitous and useless. If, at a period of war, when they had a thousand ships, they could do with

out this establishment, what could

they possibly want with it now in a time of profound peace : There was also an enormous charge—a charge of 300,000l.-for works at Plymouth, which deserved the attention of the house. When sums of this magnitude were called for, parliament ought to have a little more detailed information than could be, contained in a speech delivered at the table. He also observed a charge for the dockyard establishment at Halifax. Why could not Halifax defray all its own expenses? There was no reason why the people of England should, from year to year, be burdened in this way. He wished to see the navy, which was, and deserved to be, the favourite service of the country, kept in the most efficient state; but he could not suffer what he conceived to be a useless expenditure, which would go on increasing, if it were not checked, to pass unnoticed. Mr. Robertson said, when their commerce was increasing in every quarter of the globe, it was proper that a very large naval force should be kept up, for the purpose of protecting it. He contended that they ought not to cease from building ships, since they were necessary to the welfare and security of the country. The hon. member for Aberdeen had, in his opinion, recommended the most mischievous policy, on this occasion, that could possibly be devised. Formerly our commerce was confined to Europe,the Mediterranean, and the West Indies; but now there was not a country on the face of the earth where our ships were not at anchor. If, then, a new rupture occurred, was it not necessary that a great naval force should be ready to protect them? He trusted his Majesty's ministers would not shrink from their duty, but that they would extend the navy as much as possible, not only to repel the aggression of foreign powers, but to protect the immense commerce of Great Britain. Mr. Hume said, he was as anx

more

[graphic]

ious as any man to have the navy in an efficient state—in such a state that it might cope with the world; but the real mischievous policy of which he complained, was, the system of building ships merely to rot. The resolution was then agreed to. The sum of 29,633l. was moved: for the salaries and - contingent expenses of the Navy Pay-office. Mr. Hume said, the expense of this office in a former period of peace was 12 or 13,000l., and it ought certainly to be reduced. Sir B. Martin said, at the time to which the honourable member referred, there was not the shadow of the business which was now to be performed. It was utterly impossible to execute it for a smaller Sulin. Resolution agreed to. The next vote was 56,760l. for salaries and contingent expenses of the Navy-office. Mr. Hume thought there were too many commissioners in this department. Sir B. Martin said, there was the same number of commissioners now as there had been in the time of the late war, and there was quite sufficient to keep them employed. There were, however, four commissioners less than in the American war. In 1786, there were seven commissioners. At that period, a commission was appointed to investigate the state of different offices, and amongst others, of the Navy-office. They reported, that seven commissioners were utterly insufficient for the business of the office; and, in 1789, it was recommended that the number should be increased to ten commissioners; and at that time there

« 이전계속 »