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As to what had been recommended to nies of any security from that squadron; him, in order to assist in procuring sea- left our trade and even our own coasts, men, he was ready to do every thing in exposed to the insults and attacks of that his power. He disliked the mode of man- squadron. . And, my lords, what has fallen ning our navy by a press ; but necessity from the noble lord at the head of the Ada superseded all other consideration. The miralty, in opposition to tliese motions, time was now come when we must con-being in miy opinion, still stronger argutend for the very existence of this coun- ments for the resolutions moved for, I try as a free state. He disapproved of a must observe to your lordships, that it is press, when the purpose it was intended notorious, though we have been near 20 to serve was the enslaving our brethren in months preparing for a war with France, America; but as soon as the French mi-that, till within these six weeks, we have nister, by drawing the mask aside, had de- never had a ship make any attempt to look clared the intentions of his court, he be- into Brest, to observe what that fleet was gan to entertain very different sentiments ; about; till the Bienfaisant the other day and as a proof that he did so, he appealed was ordered; but whom the French never to the noble earl, who as a minister, must suffered to approach the port. Nor can I know, that he offered his services, and en- learn that we have ever had a ship or gaged to raise a regiment; stipulating no frigate look into Toulon, although that other condition, but that he might be per- fleet has been fitting ever since Nov. mitted to serve as a professional man, 1777; and it is notorious, that part of the without pay or any species of emolument French fleet were in the road of Toulon whatever. It was not thought proper to ever since January; and between that time accept of this tender ; but his duty to his and the 13th of April, that they sailed, country nevertheless pointed out to him you have had no ships to watch them : to advance its interests to the utmost of and surely, my lords, had our fleet been in his ability, without waiting to do it in the the boasted situation we have heard, and manner most agreeable to him.
that there had been even 35 sail of the The Earl of Bristol. In the weak state line ready for immediate service in March of body I am in, your lordships will easily last, why were not 12 or 14 ships disbelieve it must be a very strong impulse patched to the Mediterranean, which must of the duty I owe my King and country have effectually prevented the Toulon that could induce me to appear before fleet from passing the Streights; and I your lordships lame as I am, and intrude believe, would have effectually prevented on those deliberations which this country their moving from Toulon. No, my now so much stands in need of. I assure lords, the French fleet would never have your lordships that all the bodily pains I stirred, nor would any squadron have athave gone through, ever since I had the tempted to have gone into the Streights, honour of being last in this House, great whilst ours were lying at Gibraltar, or in as they were, were not equal to that which the Streights' mouth. As certainly, had I felt in my mind, at being deprived, in so any ships sailed from Brest, you might critical and dangerous a moment, of giving then have spared others to follow those, every assistance in my power in my dif- and join your own, provided you had ships ferent capacities, to endeavour to extricate off Brest, to watch their motions also. this country from the deplorable state it is Your lordships must all remember, that reduced to, through the fatal counsels of admiral Osborn, in 1759, kept the French those who have been intrusted with the af- fieet a whole winter from passing the fairs of this kingdom.
Streights, by his diligence in cruizing for My lords, the noble duke has fully ex- ever in an easterly wind: and though that patiated on the two principal heads of his since was fatal to his life, yet it not only kept motion, which are, first, to prove the in- the French from sailing, but he took three telligence received regularly ever since of their ships, by which he ruined that in- . the 3d of Jan, 1778, of the fitting of the tended expedition, and obliged the rest to Toulon squadron, till the 13th of April return to Toulon, having locked them up last, of their sailing; and our never taking for some time in Carthagena. I was one any steps to prevent their sailing, by nav- of that squadron, and cannot think any of ing a squadron at Gibraltar, or ever send your lordships can have forgot that meing orders for any to sail till the 20th of morable service, except the noble lord, this month. Secondly, by such omission, who might have profited by the example, our having effectually deprived the colo- and by sending a squadron to the Medi(VOL. XIX.]
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terranean, have saved himself the shame was neither beer nor water sufficient for which I think the ignorance of the pre- such a number, and locked up afterwards, sent situation of the Toulon fleet now as your lordships see, by the westerly covers him with; as also, the censures, to winds. say no more, with which his fellow-sub | Your lordships will remember that this jects must for ever load him, should any feet has been fitting since Nov. 1776; blow be given by that fleet: nor will any | that it was March 1778, that the first lord providential impediment, which may occur of the Admiralty told us he had then 35 to prevent that squadron as yet from act- sail of the line ready for service; and that ing, disculpate his lordship and his bre- from 1771, we have always had 20 sail of thren: their inactivity, after the wanton guardships of the line, which his lordship profusion of the public money, remains always boasted were ships fit for service, the same, and renders them equally cen- not hulks, useless as they were left to him; surable, equally culpable.
and that, after all this, and with drawing The noble Iord told us, in March, he from every service every ship that could had 90 frigates, to replace those with lord be collected, and straining every nerve, Howe, if any were wanted; if so, why there could only be 31 ships of the line were not two or three sent off Toulon, produced to his Majesty. My lords, I am two or three off Brest, and one to attend | happy that his Majesty has been pleased the motions, at a distance, of the enemy's to honour his fleet with his royal presence: fleet when sailed, by which you might no man can respect or love his sovereiga have had almost a certainty of their desti- | more than I do ; but I cannot say tbat was nation. At present you know not where the moment to have chosen, to have colthey are: they are on the coast of Bar lected the fleet, to have shewn his Mabary; they are off Minorca; to-day they | jesty, by which means every thing must are returned to Toulon ; in short, they i be postponed, and every service of the state are in a fog, in the clouds. Is this igno. neglected; and for what? Only to shew rance to be borne, my lords ? My lords, his Majesty 31 ships; the poor remains of if we had not frigates, at least I would once so great a fleet! Nor was his Majesty have had some light vessel hired, if only told how these were fitted and manned; a clean tartan, to have kept them com- ' that even two of the capital ships of that pany till they passed the Streights; there squadron, intended for the two senior was time sufficient to have had that exe- flags, were only tolerably manned a few cuted. My lords, it turns out there were days before his Majesty's arrival. The no frigates fit for service. Why not send Prince George, admiral Keppel's ship, one of the lightest line of battle ships, or having had near 300 men changed; and two, for that important service, instead of the Queen, admiral Harland's, between keeping them cruizing at a great distance one and two hundred vagabonds exchanged from the Channel, where they could pei- for as many picked men ; and where could ther protect our coasts from insults of the these men have been so picked, had not American privateers ; nor could they pro- other ships been dismantled for them? tect our trade, or even be a watch over the Resolution, Burford and Centaur, and the motions of the enemy's fleets in any two admirals just returned from a three part. So much, my lords, for the wise years station each, whose men were also conduct and distribution of those few ships taken, I mean admiral Gayton, from his fit for service, which I am positive, till Jamaica station, and admiral Mann from within these eight weeks, did not surpass the Mediterranean. These are facts known 22 sail of the line here in England: but to the whole fleet : exclusive of this, there instead of this, my lords, the services of is not a 74 gun ship which does not go out every kind were to be neglected and post- | with 50 seamen less than her war comple. poned, and even the trade delayed with ment. My lords, is this being manned fit their convoys, till the first lord of the Ad- for action ? Is this being fitted after two miralty could shew his Majesty this boasted years preparation ? But, my lords, many fleet; and for that purpose rendezvoused and many admirals and captains have comthem at Spithead, where they ought at this plained to me of this reduction in time of time never to have been collected; but war. His lordship will perhaps tell us the Plymouth ships should have remained many have approved of it to him. No either there or at Torbay, ready for im- wonder they have so; they knowing the mediate service : instead of which, they noble lord's method of acquiring approbaare brought all to Spithead, where there tion. I desire no such. "I have nothing
at heart but the good opinion of my coun- dwindled to nothing! My lords, pardon try, and to serve it whenever my health me if I am warm upon this subject; I can. will let me.
not help it, when I see my country so But, my lords, I say again, if this Aleet used, and it is in a department that 43 had been 35 sail of the line, well fitted years service surely entitles me to know and manned, with other ships which I must full as much of, at least, as the noble lord suppose were preparing to receive men, now at the head of the Admiralty can. what is the reason that 12 or 14 could not But, my lords, it is said there are ships, have been detached for this most essential if men could be had. Great God! What service of all, that of preventing the Tou language, to be held here! No men !—I lon fleet passing the Streights, and attempto say there are men, if proper means were ing a junction with the Brest fleet, or any used to get them, and a proper distribuother service they were intended for? tion made of them when got: but, alas ! They must know that they could have had there is no knowledge in any thing done. ships in time to replace that small number But, my lords, if they want men immeon any emergency, had they taken the diately, why do not they make seamen of proper methods for manning them; but all their marines, and put the officers of there seems to me to have been a total marines on shore to recruit; they will neglect of every thing, except making a sooner and more easily get men by reparade of these few ships to the public, cruiting for new marines, than you can get merely to endeavour to delude people. such a body of seamen. Borrow two or Your lordships will all do me the justice three battalions of regulars for your fleet to recollect that when the state of the that is to be at home, for the present, you navy was debated, I told your lordships can always land them when wanted; and that I would not then enter more minutely I remember that was the advice of all the into the detail of the navy, which I could great sea officers in 1749, when there was have done, because a noble lord high in a scarcity to man the fleet. Sir John Noroffice, had told us we were at the eve of a ris, sir Charles Wager, and others, were war. My lords, there is no such restraint | called to the cabinet on that question, by on me now. The noble lord has exhibited that great minister sir Robert Walpole ; the state of the navy to be indeed a most and they gave that as their advice, and it. melancholy one, since all he could produce was followed in part. was 31 ships. When lord Hawke left the But, my lords, notwithstanding all these Admiralty, I soon after came to that board, errors, all these negligences and ignoand being very minute in every daily oc- rances, I am not one of those who decurrence, took an exact list of the navy, as spond; I trust from the time our enemies they were in 1771, when they stood thus : have as blunderingly given us, and the 81 ships of the line fit for service : 14 | alarm the whole nation has now taken, building: 12 repairing: 7 bought of the we shall yet extricate ourselves. I have foreign ships. This makes 114 of the line. not the least doubt but if we are let to 32 were in a doubtful state, and those I come to action, we shall beat the French, looked upon as lost, 146: 40 or there. as we have ever done. I most heartily abouts have been since sold and broken rejoice that the magnanimity, judgment up. So that 106 ships of the line were and goodness of his Majesty has called remaining. Many, it is to be supposed, forth that brave officer to command his have been built since 1771; the noble lord | fleet; I rely on his skill, bravery and conhas had 3,500,0001, and more for building, duct, if let to act, as I do in all the officers repairs, &c. and yet, my lords, he now and men under him; and I will venture to confesses he has but 49 ships fitting for say, his Majesty could not, in all his kingservice, when all is collected in England ! dom, have a better man to command his Is this possible? Is it to be borne? What | fleet, either on shore or afloat, than adis become of the ships then? or what is miral Keppel. My lords, I am not one of become of the money? But we have nei- those either who think France will dare to ther the one nor the other; nor any satis- make more than an appearance for a defaction to the public for either. My lords, scent in England; that they may do, by here is the navy list in my hand, by the way of endeavouring to divert our other board's authority, for May 1771, they operations; and I am persuaded that had stood thus: 139 ships of the line; and of we ministers capable of properly distributfrigates, vessels, yachts, &c. 243; in all ing and conducting the force still left in 382. A prodigious navy indeed all this kingdom, that we should yet be able
to revive that former superiority we had earl; because, said the builder, his lord. last war, and put a speedy end to all the ship is so extremely hard in the contracts threats and menaces of our enemies. But he makes with the builders, that they must we must have a change of conduct indeed lose, were they to undertake them at bis for this, and I see no such: therefore, my price. The noble viscount then moved lords, 1 shall this day vote for the Reso- the previous question. Jutions,
The Duke of Richmond said, he felt The Duke of Bolion said, it was no sincerely for the noble earl at the head of longer a question whether exceptions the Admiralty, who had this day, for the should be made in favour of this or that first time, been deserted in the midst of man, When the salvation of the country | his distress by his colleagues in office. He
epended upon it, every man's assistance called upon administration to rise and say, was due; and if necessary, must be com- whether they had deserted their measures, pelled. But such a necessity could not as well as the noble earl; or, knowing have existed, but through the gross igno- | them to be no longer defensible, upon any rance in maritime affairs, of which the ground of reason or policy, were deternoble earl at the head of the Admiraltymined to persevere to the end, and hang had exhibited such repeated proofs, · Ses by their places, though national destrucverity without effect ; and indulgence with-tion should be the consequence? If the out favour. He spoke particularly of the | latter was the case, he hoped the House, absurd conduct of the noble eart at the whose confidence and favour they had all time of the declaration of the French min along abused, would interpret their silence nister, which was little short of a declara- | into a tacit acknowledgment of their total tion of war.' How did the noble lord act incapacity. If, on the other hand, miupon that occasion. He suffered two or nisters should be silent, and be supported three days to elapse before he gave di- by a majority of that House, the nation rections for a general press; by which was lost, and their lordships would be anmeans the seamen had time to get out of swerable to the public and posterity for the way; and when he did issue his orders, the consequence. The forms of the conit amounted nearly to a total prohibition stitution, and their lordships assembling in or suspension of commerce ; for it swept that House, was no better than a solemn the crews of all the outward bound vessels, mockery of the nation. The other House by which our tracie was greatly hurt; the were known to be at the devotion of the Admiralty board were obliged to relax minister ; if, therefore, their lordships had upon repeated applications from the mer. nothing to do, but to pass the Bills prechants; those who should have been prest sented by the other House, and no redress got out of the way; and, in fine, the effect was to be had but from those who were of the press was in a manner totally de. the authors of the public misfortunes, he feated; for instead of procuring 6 or 8,000 saw no service parliament could be of. In men, he was well informed, that the first such a critical state of affairs, when every fortnight's press did not procure more than thing within and without portended public 1,000 able seamen, His grace dwelt on calamity, he desired their lordships to look the number of men that should be aboard | forward to their own safety, and prevent a 74, which, he said, should be 650. To those mischiefs which have so often fol. talk, therefore, of such a number of ships lowed the mal-administration of the gobeing manned when their complements vernment of this country, were not full, was delusive. He was ex
| The House divided : For the previous tremely severe on the noble earl at the question 49; Against it 34. head of the Admiralty; and attributed the The Duke of Richmond then moved present war, not to his counsels as a mi. the following Resolutions, which were mister, but to his ignorance and incapacity lost by the previous question, without as an official man
a division: 2. “ That no orders were Lord Dudley rose to defend the noble issued until the 29th of April last, for earl, His defence was founded upon the any feet of observation to attend the testimony of his own eyes, when he ac- motion of the said Toulon fleet, and that po«ripanied the noble earl in one of his no fleet did actually sail until the 20th of marine excursions to the several dock, this present month of May, when eleven yards; and on a conversation which he sail of the line left St. Helen's, 3. That had with one Wells a builder, who refused | if the naval strength of this kingdom were to have any thing to do with the noble in the respectable state of superiority in
which it has been represented to this vanced in the month of May, yet our fleet
done their duty. Without such proof
and conviction, the numbers which may Debate on Sir W. Meredith's Motion compose a majority cannot, in the eyes of respecting the Equipment and Sailing of the world, clear them of neglect and cri. the French Fleet from Toulon-And on minality. Sir William then moved: 1. the State of the British Navy.] May 25. " That it appears to this House, that his Sir William Meredith observed, that, Majesty's ministers did receive intellia amidst all the dangers that threatened the gence, at different times, in the months very existence of this country, in the wreck of January, February, March, and April of our commerce, and amidst the shocks last, of the equipment of the fleet at of public credit, the ministers themselves Toulon, which sailed under the command seemed careless, thoughtless, and regard of the count d'Estaing, on the 13th of Jess of what was past, present, and to come. April last. 2. That it does not appear It does not, however, appear that they to this House, that any orders were sent have been wanting in information; they until the 29th of April, for any fleet of obhad early and complete intelligence of the servation, to attend the motions of the preparations at Toulon. On the 3d Jan. said Toulon fleet; and that no fleet did last they had notice of the equipment; on actually sail, until the 20th of the present the 8th Feb, they had advice of the num- month of May, when eleven sail of the ber of ships that was to compose the squa- line left St. Helen's. 3. That whereas the dron, and on the 28th of the same month, navy of Great Britain was in the month that the crews were all completed. They of November last, represented by the had early information of M. d'Estaing's King's ministers and servants to consist of arrival, and of the day on which he in- | 42 ships of the line in Europe, of which tended to sail; that he had 6,000 troops on 35 were supposed to be ready for imme. board ; and that he actually did sail upon diate service, and seven others were in the 13th. We are now pretty far ad- such forwardness, that they might put to