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the only natural, the only strong bulwark | for manning of the navy in time of war, of defence to our liberties, our wealth, and without recourse to the usual method of our glory.
impressing; ever no less painful to the After Mr. Luttrell had delivered his officer executing the injunction, than sesentiments as above, he read the following vere upon the unfortunate sailor, who is to professional and commercial testimonials, be forced into the service.” It would be in favour of Mr. Tomlinson's plan, the needless to detain the House with a furgreat outlines of which are the foundation ther correspondence of this kind; though of Mr. Luttrell's Bill. The first paper he had several more letters in his hand, produced was an extract of a letter to lieu. couched in the strongest terms of approtenant Tomlinson, from an officer, who not bation on Mr. Tomlinson's undertaking, only holds a distinguished professional rank from many other experienced officers, in the royal navy, but is greatly respected particularly one from a captain in his Mafor his literary reputation and abilities (cap- jesty's navy, now in commission, who hav. tain Edward Thompson :) " I shall detaining seen a great variety of service had you no further than to assure you, that my often declared it his fixed opinion, that it first pride is the public good. I confess I would be impracticable to man the fleet, like your plan better than any other, even without an impress; but upon reading than my own, for I have wrote much on lieut. Tomlinson's propositions, gave up the subject.” The next testimonial was that opinion, and acknowledged that it from a very experienced navy captain, who would be both practicable and easy, and some time since had the command of a replete with advantage, as well to the ship of 74 guns, at Portsmouth: he writes royal navy, as to the merchants' service. to Mr. Tomlinson, in the following terms: The following are the commercial testi“ I have not lost sight of your laborious monials. work, but frequently discourse on the sub-. Mr. Richard Maitland, lately a very ject, with those that may be of use to you; considerable merchant in London, gave and we agreed, that administration would his opinion to the earl of Dartmouth, when be driven to the necessity of adopting your first lord of trade and plantations, on the plan, much sooner than you may perhaps said plan, in the following words: “ I canimagine; for the great difficulty of getting not find out any objection which the mer seamen to embark with us at present, too chants can possibly have to an act of parplainly shews the nakedness of the land, liament being founded on the principles of as well as the nakedness of all arguments lieut. Tomlinson's plan ; for, in my opiused to prevent this country benefiting by nion, it is calculated to promote the inteyour great and good work. The times at rests of trade and commerce, so very far present appear to me so wild, it will be beyond any thing of the kind, which I absolutely necessary to call upon you. ever saw or heard of (though I have been The nobleman, (lord Sandwich) may re-consulted upon many schemes, written gister, review, and muster the seamen, if with a view to the same end) that I suphe pleases, when all the world is asleep; pose the mercantile people in general, but now I am sure he will review a choice would be much favoured by such an act of difficulties in manning the fleet, by the being passed. I acknowledge myself to usual mode.”
be pretty well acquainted with the outlines Mr. Luttrell then said he would take of the naval service, therefore several obthe liberty of mentioning what was written jections arose to me in the course of readto Mr. Tomlinson, respecting the princi- ing it; but by the answers to the objecples of his plan, by a flag officer of the tions stated in that plan, all my objections most exalted naval character, now em- were fully and satisfactorily answered in ployed on a very important command every respect, not superficially, but solidly
lord Howe); and as it shews the huma- and minutely. Finally, the distresses pity and benevolence of that noble lord's which Mr. Tomlinson has described trade heart to be equal to the intrepidity of it, and shipping to labour under, in times of he conceived that the availing himself of impressing are not aggravated, but strictly B0 favourable an authority, during his ab- true.” Several intelligent persons, well sence, could not possibly give offence: acquainted with the coal trade, concerned * It was my ignorance of your address, in shipping, and many years at sea, as that made me thus late in acknowledging masters and owners of ships belonging to the receipt of your favour of the 30th Sunderland and Shields, wrote Mr. Tompast, enclosed with your ingenious plan, linson the following letters: 1st letter;
“I have taken all possible pains to get your plans dispersed from one to another, as fast as they could read them; and have the pleasure to acquaint you, that the meet with general approbation.” 2d letter; “When I got home I made your plan for manning of the navy, as public as possible, at Shields and in its neighbourhood, and very opportunely received the additional copies you sent me; and before I sailed again I had the satisfaction of knowing that they had been read by almost all the owners and masters of ships, who are supposed capable of forming a proper judgment thereon, and have the pleasure to assure you, that your plan meets with general approbation at Shields.” The three following letters are from a entleman of the committee of trade, at §. who has had much experience at sea. 1st letter; "“I laid your improved plan before a very respectable meeting at our committee-room, about a week since, when it met with the approbation of all present. In the number of these was C. §. who told me, he thought the plan, since the alterations, so perfect, that he would not only sign it himself, but use every means in his power to promote its success. He has since informed me, that he spoke with our high sheriff on the subject, who so highly approved your plan, that he promised to write in its favour to several members in parliament, as our county and city members, and to sir W. M. &c. I hope to meet with the concurrence of most of our magistrates; and the little influence I have, shall be exerted in favour of a plan as worthy of public encouragement and patronage, as it is promotive of public good.” 2d letter; “Since my last, the sailors were desired to attend at the Long Room in this town; a great number accordingly came, when your plan was proposed to them. They seemed very sensible of the many advantages which would accrue to them, should it be carried into execution, and several warmly expressed their approbation of it, but were unwilling to sign their names, lest some secret design should be in agitation against them; and being apprehensive, from its being proposed to them, at the present juncture, that it is only a temporary expedient to man the ships going to Ametica”. 3d letter; “ o have sent your paper fully signed, by the ship-owners, &c. of this place; your plan is also universally approved of at Shields.” ollowing is a copy of what was
signed at Sunderland, by 163 of the most intelligent persons in that town: “We whose names are hereunto subscribed, who are at present, or have been, many years, owners and masters of ships in the coal trade, and in various other trades, having read and considered a plan for manning of the royal navy, in case of '. without having recourse to the usual mode of impressing the seamen, by lieut. Tomlinson; we are of opinion, that the said plan is calculated to answer the interests, of trade in general, and of the coal-trade in particular, so essentially, that it has our sincere good wishes for its success in parliament; and we do suppose, from our own experience, that it offers such encouragement for seamen, as will induce them to serve in his Majesty's navy voluntarily, and with cheerfulness and alacrity, when the safety of the kingdom, or the honour of the crown, shall require their services. And in the fullest confidence of the great utility of the said plan, we have hereunto set our hands under a common seal, this 14th January 1776.” A writing exactly similar to the above, has been signed by near 100 owners and masters of ships, belonging to Shields and Newcastle, besides the above number of 163 belonging to Sunderland. A gentleman of Newcastle, who has lately written an ingenious commercial essay, says, “A nation possessed of numerous seamen, one would suppose, could seldom be in want of them to man its navy. Yet we find, that in England, we are generally obliged to have recourse to the arbitrary and expensive method of impressing. The chief probable causes, why men do not enter, are the uncertainty when, if ever, they may be discharged; and the knowledge of the great increase of wages in the merchant service, always consequent on the breaking out of a press, and during the want of men for the navy. These causes lieut. Tomlinson, in his excellent plan, has greatly obviated.” A worthy alderman of Liverpool, who bears the character in that borough, of being the principal promoter of all the late improvements in the navigation there, after deliberately considering Mr. Tomlinson’s original plan, wrote to him as follows: “I have heard and read many schemes to prevent impressing, and I acknowledge your scheme to strike the nearest to the mark, of any thing I ever met with, especially that main inducement, of seamen not being liable to serve.
again, after three years service ; this I rior parts of the northern counties, who communicated to a Sunderland seaman, would most cheerfully, and instantly, have who is a harpooner in a Greenland ship; entered upon the conditions of the plan on belonging to me, when he bluntly answer which the Bill is founded. Mr. Luttrell ed: Master, if seamen were to be set at was likewise inclined to call witnesses to • liberty, after serving three years, the navy the bar, who could have spoken to the fol. "would never want men.'" The alderman lowing fact, which must have somewhatsafter that says, “ I had so great an oppor- disconcerted those members, who confitunity of seeing the dismal effects of im- dently assured parliament, that seamen pressing at this port, during the time of were at liberty to chuse their own ships, eight regulating captains, that I am assured and had little 'reason to complain of their the impressed men here, who were deli- servitude. Several of the crew of the vered to the guardships, lay in 401. a man, Glasgow man of war, after having been great numbers making their escape, even five years in America, and stood an enwhole tenders'crews; and many merchant's gagement with commodore Hopkins, vessels, with their cargoes, were lost, by which was here dilated into a signal the seamen quitting their vessels. My triumph, notwithstanding their dutiful pespirits sink at the thoughts of it, and notition to return in the same ship, and under person can more ardently wish for a those officers to whom they were attached scheme to prevent the calamities which by their common dangers and victories, or attend impressing; and though I would else to be allowed to enter on board some rather have trade suffer for a time, than one of the ships (not half manned) in Plygovernment should be in danger, through mouth harbour, and destined for a foreign want of seamen ; yet every thing, in rea- station, were cruelly forced, without once son, should give way to prevent the cala- setting foot on shore, to return again mities above described.” And in justice across the Atlantic, in a foundering transto the said alderman's attention, to perfect port, the most ignominious service imaginaa scheme of this sort, he made seven ob ble, to seamen of their description, with jections to certain clauses in Mr. Tomlin- unknown officers, double duty, and a prosson's first plan, and nearly the same having pect of American captivity. The combeen made also, from some other sea-ports, pany of another man of war, which a few they were all obviated in a revised edition; months since returned from a foreign therefore Mr. Luttrell did not mention voyage, and was dismantled at Deptford, those objections.
after being abroad five years, only solicited Mr. Luttrell then acquainted the House, two years' pay, and a month's leave, to that as the authenticity of so material a visit their friends after so long an absence; parchment as he would next produce, was and, by way of assurance to the Admiralty, necessary to be established on the best that they would return to whatever ship grounds, he had desired a person to atten:!, they should be ordered, after the expirawho, from his own knowledge, would con- tion of that month, they would leave three firm the voluntary and uninfluenced mo- years' pay in the hands of government; tives, which occasioned the signature of but, astonishing cruelty! they were denied no less than 513 seamen, at one house, in this reasonable request, and a tender was favour of the principles whereon the Bill sent along-side the ship, when they were is founded. Mr. Hance Newsam, the wit- all taken out of her, and put on board the ness at the door, would convince parlia. Prince George of 90 guns, to take the ment, that these seamen had not been chance of such service as she might be wrought upon, by money, liquor, or any ordered upon. Mr. Luttrell concluded undue influence, but from their own feel- with moving, “ That leave be given to ings, and a real sense of what tended to bring in a Bill for the more easy and effectheir own interest, as well as that of their tual Manning of the royal Navy, in times country. And the said evidence could of war, and for giving encouragement to farther prove, that many thousand more seamen and seafaring persons, to enter would have signed, but from an apprehen. voluntarily into his Majesty's service.” sion that the Bill would miscarry, and that Sir Edward Astley seconded the motion, then their signatures might ensnare them and pointed out the cruelty of impressing to serve under the present coercion and seamen, from their wives and families, and hardships. Another important fact, that after long voyages made to the West witness would likewise establish, that, there Indies. He said, it was a most barbarous are some thousands of seamen, in the inte practice; and if at all legal, could be jus-,
tified only on the ground of necessity. It was a duty incumbent on the legislature, to devise some means to render-such a custom unnecessary. He called on every side of the House for their assistance, and hoped, that all party or personal distinctions would give way to the public good. Was the present mode of impressing oppressive * Did it fall short of the exigencies of the state 2 Was it productive of private ill, and public mischief? If so, then how was it possible that a second opinion could prevail? The principle on which the motion was taken up, was clearly incontrovertible; the means of redress remained only to be considered. He hoped every gentleman who had turned his thoughts to the subject, would deliver his sentiments freely; and that, from the whole, something would be wrought up, that might be the means of putting a stop to the evils daily felt by the most meritorious body of men in this country, and of removing those well-founded terrors, which hang suspended over the head of every man in the kingdom, who ever had the misfortune to have been at sea. The present plan might be capable of great improvement. The House might think proH. to reject or adopt in part, or the whole. hey were not previously bound to adhere to any particular mode of remedying the grievance; to remove it, was their sole object; the manner of doing it, was of no consequence. Mr. Buller replied to the facts stated by Mr. Luttrell, contradicted many of them, and controverted the greater part of the deductions drawn from them. Mr. Luttrell having asked, if any one ship of war, fitted out since the press-warrants were issued, had its full complement of men on board? Mr. Buller replied in the affirmative, and asserted generally, that by the latest accounts, every ship commissioned since the impress had their complements nearly full. Mr. Luttrell said he was ready to give up the point, if Mr. Buller, or any other commissioner at that board, would rise and specify a single ship which had, by the last returns, received at the Admiralty board, its full complement, if commissioned since the press-warrants were issued. He urged the lords of the Admiralty, to decide the point, by producing the last weekly account, which never, till the present naval-administration, were denied to parliament. Sir Hugh Palliser declined giving a [VOL. XIX.]
specific answer; but affirmed, that the whole fleet now preparing for sea, would be completely manned, much sooner than any naval force that could be sent out by France or Spain, and in every respect superior in strength to any force it was possible for either or both of those powers to fit out or equip. Sir George Yonge supported the motion, on the grounds of expedience, and the hardships the British seamen were exposed to, while they were subject to be dragged from their wives, children, and dearest domestic connections. Governor Johnstone declared his abhorrence of the present mode of manning the navy, by issuing press-warrants. He observed, that though no motive of humanity were to operate on the House, the very tedious and ineffective manner the pressing service was carried on, was a sufficient reason with him, to see if any other mode, more expeditious and efficacious, could be devised. He would support the motion, because it was apparently well intended. It was no partial scheme which was offered to be adopted, or rejected, in toto. No member was bound to abide by it. On the contrary, it was the duty of ever member, to do all in his power, in this stage, to throw out his sentiments on the subject, in order to enable the hon. gentleman, to whom the public stood so highly indebted for even the attempt, to render the Bill as unobjectionable as possible, on its first introduction into the House. He professed his total ignorance of the plan, or what were the intended objects of the Bill, farther than the terms of the motion conveyed; but he wished, nevertheless, that the House should be in possession of it, as the first step to a reformation of an abuse of legal power, or a violation of the laws (take the custom of pressing in either o so loudly complained of. Lord Mulgrave agreed in the justice of the remark quoted by Mr. Luttrell, from Montesquieu, that when any law is proposed, which indicates more good than evil to a state, such law ought to be received. But he said it was no less true, that institutions, which had been proved useful, by long invariable practice, should not be lightly changed, upon the suggestion of evils which either did not exist, or bore a very small proportion to the advantages arising from the measures that produced them. This, he said, was the case of pressing, which had always been practised in this country, in times of war, or
appearance of war; and the flourishing state of our commerce, and the superiority which our navy had always maintained, were the best proofs of the advantages of that mode of manning. The House should, therefore, be very careful how they admitted any plan, which might express to the public their disapprobation of the present method, unless they were convinced that one, attended with more advantages and less inconveniences, could be adopted, as they would otherwise risk no less than the destruction of our commerce, and the annihilation of the navy. He said, however, that if the present method were unconstitutional, it would be a strong motive with him, for considering any plan which might give any hopes of removing an objection so alarming in a free country; or, if this matter had never been discussed before, it might be a reason for examining with great attention, any plausible plan; but as neither of these seemed to be the case of the present motion, he must oppose it. He said, he never could consider a measure as unconstitutional, which originated from one of the fundamental principles of the constitution of every free and warlike people, “That it is the duty of every individual, to defend his country when attacked, and to protect its liberties, and assert its honour.” By the constitution of this country antiently, many estates were held by the tenure of serving the king in war, and that, in case of invasion, every body was compelled to bear arms; the seamen were always obliged to defend the commerce, and protect the coasts; that by the militia laws, men were compelled to serve for three years, at much less than they could earn in their own occupations; that the great disproportion between the number of inhabitants and of militia men necessary, and the certainty of finding those men, made a limited service and the taking by lot practicable, but that the men on whom the lot fell, were absolutely pressed, and all the hardships so emphatically described, but improperly attributed to seamen, might be pleaded in their favour, who were taken from their families, and deprived of the means of support. ing them. That all that had been said of the hardships landmen had been exposed to, had nothing to do with the press-warrants, which only authorized the impressing seamen, and that if any abuse had been made of them, the persons were amenable to justice, and the parties injured
had their legal remedy. But he was happy to find, that no such abuse, by sea officers, had been stated; the story of the Leicestermen, on which so much stress was laid, had nothing to do with either navy officers or press gangs, but was a transaction of country justices and a militia serjeant, under one of the vagrant Acts. He said that no objects had been more fully considered, or more wisely provided for, than the encouragement of seamen, and the manning of the navy; more than twenty different Acts, to answer those purposes, having passed from the time of the Register Act in 1696, to the present time. He then stated many advantages provided by those Acts. He added, that he could not help observing, that as often as this matter had come under the consideration of parliament, a doubt had never been expressed of the necessity, expediency, and propriety of pressing; but on the contrary, during the Whig ministry of queen Anne's reign, a period when the constitution was as well understood, and as strictly adhered to, as at any time in the annals of this country, a committee appointed in the year 1705, to consider of the most effectual methods for manning the navy, had come to several resolutions to enforce pressing, authorizing justices of the peace, and others, to search for seamen, lying concealed, offering rewards for discovering them, and inflicting penalties on such as concealed them.* The present scheme had not even the claim of novelty to their attention, as one similar to it, but not so exceptionable, had been proposed in a o published by one Hodges, in sing William's reign, the year before the Register Act, when this subject was under the consideration of the legislature. He said, that if the cause of pressing was considered, it would immediately be seen, how improbable, if not impossible, it must be, to man the navy, in war, by any other means. That the present proposal seemed to proceed upon an idea, of the King’s service being so disagreeable to the seamen, as to make some new encouragement necessary, to induce them to enter it; but the contrary is motoriously the fact; as it is known, that upon the ordinary peace establishment, the navy is always manned by volunteers; for although the nominal pay, on board the fleet, is less than in merchantmen, yet not being subject to the deductions and impositions too often met
* See Vol. 6, p. 518.