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REMARKS ON THE ENGLISH NAVY, AND THE
NECESSITY OF A NAVAL BREVET.
We are aware that there are many other reasons, besides expense, which induce visionary and revolutionary partisans to rail, as they do, against the army and the navy, now that their services are supposed to be no longer required. There are certain topics which are very valuable to an orator on the hustings, and invariably conciliate the good opinion of a large portion of the public, who care little for sound sense or argument, for the best of all possible reasons, because either is above their comprehension. A would-be legislator knows that he is certain to raise a cheer if he declaims, or even stammers, upon such popular questions as the abolition of slavery, the pension and sinecure list, or, above all, the talismanic cry of reform. But slavery is abolished, much against the wishes of those who spouted most copiously for its abolition; for with that abolition has also been abolished their ephemeral influence, and the many good things which that influence put into their power. The pension and sinecure list has also been so pared down, that even Mr. Hume has nothing more to say; and as for reform, people begin to be fatigued with hearing or expatiating on its merits, when they cannot discover or prove that any advantage has hitherto been obtained. A portion of corrupt Tory boroughs have indeed been disfranchised, but many equally rotten Whig boroughs have been preserved, because the Whigs had the arrangement of the bill. If reform was really wished, like the Triumviri in former days, who met together with their respective lists of each other's friends, and their own enemies, and heroically sacrificed them in exchange, so should the Tories, Whigs, and Radicals, have met in secret conclave, and have disfranchised boroughs in exchange as the Triumviri sacrificed heads, then we should have had a real reform. How many counties or boroughs would then have been left as qualified to return members to parliament, it would be invidious to surmise ; but if we may judge from the various cases of bribery on every side brought forward since the passing of the Reform Bill, we are inclined to think that there would be no occasion to go to the expense of a new House of Commons.
But if the above ad captandum questions have been worn threadbare, or have died a political death, still there is one subject which will last as long as there is a king upon the throne, or ministers in office, or a House of Lords, or a House of Commons. How long
Sept. 1835.- VOL. XIV.—NO. 11.
these are to be suffered to exist, we cannot pretend to say; but when we hear such opinions expressed by the aristocracy as are ascribed to his Grace the Duke of Bedford, and such bills brought forward by his son, as the “ Sacrilege made easy Bill,” we shall feel no surprise if some fine morning we wake up and find that his Majesty has posted to Hanover, that the several heads of the House of Lords adorn the several lamp-posts of Regent Street, that the National Assembly have already been summoned, and the guillotine is already hard at work in Trafalgar Square. The popular subject to which we refer, is retrenchment; and in the propriety of it we agree with the most radical, not like him to gain the plaudits and votes of the people, but from a conviction that the necessities of the country will each year increase, and therefore will each year more imperiously demand it. Many who are equally moderate with ourselves in their opinions, will join the factious on this question, although they will hold aloof from them in every other. But the Whigs have begun to find, now that they are in power, that the reiterated bringing up of this question is excessively troublesome and perplexing; they have discovered that, with all their boasted patriotism, their party is a party who cannot be held together without a consideration; and after having declaimed upon retrenchment until they were hoarse, that they might obtain power, now wish that the subject was not quite so often and inconveniently canvassed. They have discovered that “ the labourer is worthy of his hire," and that there is no patriotism without pay; in short, that there are no men who will undergo the fatigues and responsibility of office for nothing. Even political dinners are very expensive, and how can a party be kept together in England without feeding them ? Impossible.
We recollect a very amusing exhibition some years ago upon the stage at Astley's Amphitheatre-a castle defended by monkeys, and attacked by dogs. The former were supplied with large sticks, and certainly displayed great address against the rabid attacks of their assailants. Now that the monkeys should fight in their own defence was natural enough; but what surprised the audience was, that the dogs should display such fury in the attacks, as individually they could have no animosity against the monkeys. The secret was this. The dogs had been confined for some time without food, and were ravenously hungry. Underneath the battlements of the castle, at a height at which the dogs could scarcely reach with their utmost exertions, were hung pieces of meat. These were not perceived by the audience, and hence their surprise at the extraordinary efforts made by the dogs to get over the castle walls. The good people of England are the audience, the monkeys are those in office, and the dogs are the opposition.
We have said that we agree with others in the necessity of the greatest possible retrenchment; and it is because the country is in a state of the greatest possible suffering ;-agriculture, which is the true staple of our wealth, is at the greatest depression ;—thousands and thousands have emigrated, enriching other nations by the expenditure of those millions, the circulation of which would have so much contributed to relieve the distresses of their own countrymen ;-internal 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
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 settlement upon 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