Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

commerce at a stand, pausing to ascertain the effect of so much political excitement ;—external commerce reduced to fractional gains by the competition of all Europe ;—the wisdom of our ancestors repudiated, and the profits of our carrying trade thrown into the hands of foreigners by visionary enthusiasts; the established religion of the country attacked by a party who can only hold their seats in office at the pleasure of a Catholic dictator ;-innovation mistaken for improvement, and one of the chief supports of our revenue drawn from intemperance, arising from the misery of the lower classes, who have been reduced to it by four years of incompetent and disastrous maladministration. We have now found out the baneful effects of mock reform—we have witnessed a nation, disgusted with the inefficiency of its rulers, call out for the one man able to take the helm in such tempestuous seas, and steer the shattered vessel of the state into the baven of safety-we have beheld the unheard of tribute paid to merit, that of a nation remaining without rulers, a monarch without advisers, and all Europe in anxious impatience, for the space of three weeks, awaiting the decision of that great man whose presence was to restore confidence, and produce universal satisfaction—we have seen this man presiding at the helm for a short period, and the whole country, with the exception of a faction, indulging in the most sanguine hopes ;-and, alas! we have seen all their hopes disappointed by this faction, which, sooner than allow Sir Robert Peel to save the country, joined themselves with a traitorous party; and against the wishes of the king, the aristocracy, and the nation at large, these renegades have triumphed, proving the fact, that by means of a mock Reform Bill, the people of England are no longer duly represented in the House of Commons.

Next to the interest of the national debt, the heaviest tax upon our heavily taxed country, is the dead weight, or the pension and halfpay of the army and navy. That both services are much more extensive than we require, even in time of war, is undeniable, and the nation have therefore grounds of complaint. But if what is done cannot be undone without injustice, it is at the same time imperative that some steps should be taken to relieve the country from a burthen which every year it will be less able to support. Of the pensions there is little to be said ; they were granted upon much too liberal a scale, but time is rapidly providing a remedy for the evil. It certainly appears but just, that after twenty-one years' servitude a man should be entitled to a pension ; but it was overlooked at the time that thousands had entered the service at so early an age, that they had accomplished their servitude in the prime of life. The great error was not stipulating that not only they should prove a servitude of twenty-one years, but also that they had arrived at a certain age, (say, fifty-five or sixty;) so that although the party had retired upon a well-earned pension, there should have been a fair prospect of his not remaining too long as a burthen to the country. This was the more necessary, as during the first years of his servitude he was learning his duty, and was hardly worth his provisions and his pay. But we shall dismiss this subject with the remark, that such a regulation should now be made ; and in proceeding to the question of half

ment upon

pay, we shall confine ourselves to the navy, as what we have to bring forward relative to that service will, with some modifications, be equally applicable to the other.

We do not accuse the nation of ingratitude. When they required our services they were liberal and grateful, but the times are sadly changed. We can remember the time when the navy was the delight, the pride, the cherished portion of an enthusiastic countrywhen every gazette was filled with the details of its prowess, and every port with the proofs--when victory after victory was the source of universal congratulation and exultation in every county, in every town, and even in every house in the united kingdom--when it was looked upon, as it really was, as the bulwark of the nation—when even the appearance of a little midshipman in his uniform at one of the theatres, would create more sensation than that of the reigning belle of the metropolis, or even royalty itself. What are they now? Dead weight. Their services are no longer required, and the expense is enormous. Like a man who in his ardour has made a large settle

his mistress, which, when he is tired of and has abandoned her, he pays with the utmost reluctance; so has the navy now become a source of discontent and unwilling expense to the nation. This is but natural; we must take man, whether in a mass or as an individual, not as he ought to be, but as he is, and expect no more. We can expect no other feeling in the present exhausted state of the country, even if the navy list was not larger than what it should be; but this is not the fact, it is much larger than would be required even in time of war, and therefore, if it is to remain so, the nation will have just grounds of dissatisfaction. On the other hand, there has been great hardship suffered by a portion of the navy, as we shall show hereafter. There are many points to be considered, not only as to the claims of the navy on the one hand and the country on the other, up to the present time, but also as to what force ought to be kept up by the nation in time of peace, so as to hold herself prepared for war.

It is our intention to enter fully into this subject, and to try whether we cannot reconcile these conflicting interests, and propose such measures as will eventually relieve the country, without injustice to a service to which she is indebted for her present pre-eminence, and without whose services she can never expect any future security.

We have said we have no reason to accuse the nation of ingratitude, and, notwithstanding, a portion of the navy have been unfairly treated. We have acknowledged that the number of officers on the list are more than requisite even in time of war ; but it also must be remembered, that large as the number is, it would have been much increased if every officer had received his deserts. The latter fact is as undeniable as the former. At the time that England was at war: with the major part of Europe and America, not only were her ships but half manned, but there was a dearth of midshipmen. How many midshipmen were serving at the end of the war it is impossible precisely to say, but allowing the ships to have had but two-thirds of the complements allowed, there could not have been less than six or seven thousand. At that time the country required their services, and the services of a midshipman are of more value than has usually been

.

.

359 553

850

[ocr errors]

.

imagined. They are the link between the officers and the men, which, if not complete, the chain of discipline would be broken. But we are not now to expatiate upon the value of midshipmen. The case between the midshipmen and the country is simply this. They entered the service at a time when their services were important, with the hopes of promotion and provision for life. The service is one of activity, hardship, and danger, and of such a peculiar nature as to unfit them for any other profession. They have spent the flower of their existence in the service, and now that the country no longer requires them, is it fair or just to throw them on the wide world without indemnification ? Such was the case of the midshipmen, and the country had to choose between an increase of her burthens, or be guilty of injustice. It is now twenty years since the close of the war, and we now inquire, what has been done ? We reply, that much has been done, more than the exigencies of the nation could well afford, much more than it can continue to sustain. At the close of the war, in the year 1815, six hundred and sixty lieutenants received their commissions, and since that year up to the present, the whole number of lieutenants made amount to upwards of 1800. This cannot be considered as unhandsome on the part of the nation. The fact is, that since the peace, the promotion in all classes has been very considerable, as we shall prove by the navy

list.
Total list of Post Captains 766, out of which made since 1 Jan. 1815

Commanders
Lieutenants 3,084

1,838 But large as this promotion appears to be, it must be recollected that we have had twenty years of peace, and during that time one half of those on the navy list at the close of the war, now sleep with their fathers. The country, therefore, has not had an increase of burthen, at least we believe not, further than what it suffers from a decrease of means. Let it be remembered, that out of the six or seven thousand midshipmen who were serving at the close of the war, only 1,838, or about one-third, have obtained their rank-indeed, not so large a portion, as a great many on that list of 1,800 did not enter the service until after the peace. What then have become of all the rest ? After serving fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years in a subordinate rank, they have been refused employment, or have retired disgusted and heart-sick from hope deferred. Those who have had friends to assist them, have turned to other sources of livelihood, and we are grieved to add, that too many who, by their valour and their zeal, have contributed to the glory of their country, have lain down and died of a broken heart. Yet to have done justice to all was impossible. How heavy the responsibility then of those in power, who may have turned a deaf ear to merit, and for political and party interests may have bestowed the meed

upon the undeserving ! We have entered more fully upon the hard case of the junior officers, as we shall eventually prove that the effective state of the service will wholly depend upon the arrangements which may be made relative to this class. That there is much discontent and grumbling among the higher grades is certain; but the fact is, that every one is apt to value himself too highly.

.

.

We grant that in some cases it is well founded, but in most without a cause. Length of servitude is a claim invariably brought forward ; but, at the risk of offending many, we are much inclined to dispute this claim. Long service during the peace certainly is no claim to promotion, and long service during war without promotion, (we refer to the higher grades in the service,) although there is occasionally grounds of complaint, in most cases proves either that the party was not deserving, or that there were others who were more deserving than he was.

That the patronage of the Admiralty has been, in the hands of our respective governments, a strong engine of political power, and that hundreds have been made from favour and affection, is not to be denied, but we have carefully watched the naval service for many years, and we will say, although many have been made without claims, that seldom to our knowledge has a claim for gallantry and good conduct been brought forward without having been acknowledged. We will conclude these remarks by pointing out that the half-pay of the navy must be considered in the light of a pension to those who are no longer able to serve, and as a retaining fee to those who are. No officer can draw his half-pay without taking an oath that he has no other office under government, and is not in the service of any foreign power; and no officer can leave the country without permission, and renewing that leave as soon as it expires.

We have stated the case fairly between the English navy and the country up to the present time, and we have now to consider what measures can be taken so as to relieve the nation, and at the same time to ensure a sufficient number of officers, should their services be required in a war, and that without injustice to any party. But before we enter into this subject, it is necessary that we should point out

1st. That our navy is not only too extensive and too burthensome, but that it is even larger than we require in case of war.

2nd. That from circumstances, and under the present arrangements, it is ineffective in parts, and that extensive as is the list, we shall not be able, in case of war, to find the officers we require in every department.

Having established these facts, we will then proceed to point out by what means the expense may be reduced, and the service be rendered effective, without injustice to any party.

Let us first examine what is the actual force of our navy which can be brought forward in case of a war. In so doing we shall include all ships building. At a rough estimate, but quite sufficient for our purpose, our naval force consists of one hundred sail of the line, one hundred frigates, and one hundred and thirty-five sloops and brigs. We have taken them according to their ratings and classes, and find that to man them all with the officers allowed, we should require

Post Captains. Commanders. Lieutenants, 201

134

1,402 Our Navy List holds on it as effective 766

850

3,084 not including nine retired post captains, and one hundred and eightytwo retired commanders. If it be inquired whether we consider the

[ocr errors]

naval force in shipping which we have mentioned above as sufficient in time of war, we reply, that it is more than sufficient to meet most exigencies, and at all events quite sufficient to commence a general war. During the latter part of our conflict, in which America was also opposed to us, our force was too much frittered away in smaller craft, and not sufficiently concentrated. We had more vessels, but not so effective a fleet upon the whole.

It may be as well to observe here, that to complete the same force with the mates and midshipmen allowed to be rated on the books of the different vessels, we should require of the junior officers 3,152. This does not include the volunteers of the first class, who would amount to 1,406, making a total of 4,558 junior officers necessary for their equipment. We shall refer to this hereafter. We have not at present a list of the vessels in the French

navy, but, as near as we can recollect, it amounts to more than half of our own in the number of the vessels. We have, however, a list of their officers for 1835, which we will put in juxtaposition with our own.

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

We think that we have fully established that our navy list is much larger than is required even in time of war, or than the country can afford to maintain, and we shall now proceed to our second assertion, that, from circumstances, it is not effective in all its departments.

We feel that we enter upon rather a delicate subject-one which may procure us the ill-will of men whom we admire and we respectmen of whom the nation have justly reason to be proud, and yet, after all, we are only about to tax with a misfortune, and not a fault; and further, we are not going to be so invidious, as to select any one individual, but to make general remarks. What we are about to assert is an unpleasant truth, and we must therefore trust to the better feelings of the parties resuming their ascendancy after a few hours' reflection, and a few twinges of the gout and rheumatism, at the time that they read this portion of our article. They are welcome to throw down the Magazine, and vent their anger in the words of the old commodore

What no more to go afloat, blood and fury, they lie,

I'm a sailor, and only-if they were only three score, we should have been premature in our remarks, but the fact is, that many of them are much nearer four score, and therefore we shall assert, by another portion of the song

“ That the bullets and the gout, have so knock'd their hulls about,

That they'll never more be fit for sea. Of course, we efer to our present list of admirals. We are aware of the exceptions, but they only prove the truth of the general assertion. The fact speaks for itself. During the rapid promotions to the list of admirals, it was seldom that an officer obtained the rank until he was past fifty. If he did, he was considered as a young admiral. Now to

« ForrigeFortsæt »