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After mature consideration, the Government were of opinion that they must proceed gradually, and that they should prepare a certain number of wooden frames for iron-plated ships. If the House insisted upon having iron ships, they must be prepared for supplementary estimates. As to the proposal of building in private yards, two years would be required for the building of a vessel by contract, which could be turned out of a Royal dockyard in a single year. Various members, among whom were Sir F. Baring and Mr. Bentinck, expressed their opinion that in the present unsettled state of the controversy between wood and iron, the Government ought to be left free to act according to their own judgment, and not to be fettered by any Resolution of the House of Commons. Sir J. PARINGToN said he hoped that no member would vote upon this Resolution except under a sense of its extreme importance as regarded the future welfare of the Navy. The question involved in the terms of the motion was simply, whether the five ships to be laid down should be built of wood or iron. Lord Palmerston had assigned two reasons in favour of wooden ships— namely, time and money. But the building of wooden ships was not a question of time, since they could not be hurried ; and as to money, it was the weakest and worst view of the question to make it one of money. Lord PALMERSTON observed that the whole of this discussion had turned upon a misconception of what the course of the Admiralty had been and would be. Was it supposed that the Admiralty had set its face against building iron ships and building by contract? Their course was quite the contrary; they had built iron ships, and had built them by contract. There was one objection against iron ships which had not been answered—namely, the fouling of their bottoms, which required repeated cleansing. This was of small importance in merchant ships, but of great importance in a ship of war. Opinions being divided as to the comparative merits of the two kinds of vessels, what did the Admiralty propose to do? In the summer an opportunity would be offered of testing by experiment the respective qualities of a wooden ship iron-plated, and a ship built entirely of iron, and the result would instruct the Admiralty. He entreated the House not to be led into a course that would be not only unwise, but unconstitutional. There were functions belonging to a deliberative assembly, and others which appertained to the Executive Government. This was a matter which ought to rest with the Government, and all they asked was that their hands should be left free. Mr. Lindsay's Resolution was negatived by 164 to 81. A proposal was afterwards made by Sir John Elphinstone for an address to the Crown to appoint a Royal Commission to consider the best mode of construction and form of the iron-clad ships which are to compose the future Navy of England; to report upon the ships built and building, and the dock and basin accommodation required for their use at home and abroad. He observed that we were now entering upon a third re-construction of our Navy within his recollection—a more costly one than the others, and the whole responsibility of this enormous charge was thrown upon an office too hard worked. The object of his motion was to relieve the Admiralty of labour, and afford that Board the advice of a council of able scientific men in the construction of our iron ships. He specified certain points, upon a due attention to which the essential qualities of such vessels depended, and was of opinion that they should be built in Government yards. He entered into other technical details in relation to the form and class of vessels, and to dock and basin accommodation for iron-clad ships, the deficiency of which, he said, would prove a great evil.
Lord C. PAGET was of opinion that the appointment of a Royal Commission would be any thing but advisable. Changes were continually taking place, and the probability was that, if a Commission or Committee were appointed, their report would turn out worthless. He could not discover in the speech of Sir J. Elphinstone any real ground of complaint against the Admiralty. He defended the employment by the Government of private shipbuilders; at the same time, it was not intended to throw the construction of iron ships entirely into the hands of contractors. As to dock accommodation, which he admitted was deficient, he stated the measures taken to remedy the deficiency.
The motion, after some further discussion, was withdrawn.
Another question of great importance in the administration of the Navy was raised by Sir John Hay, who moved that the House should on a future day resolve itself into a Committee to consider of an address to Her Majesty, submitting that, in the opinion of this House,_*1. The position of the officers of Her Majesty's naval service in respect of promotion and retirement is not satisfactory, and ought to be amended; 2. That, with a view to the increased efficiency of the naval service, and to meet the just expectations of officers with respect to promotion, it is desirable to adopt for all ranks the principle of retirement by age; and, 3. That the pay of naval officers ought to be so adjusted, as to enable them consistently to maintain the rank they hold, and to give them fair remuneration for honourable service.” Observing that considerable dissatisfaction existed among the officers of the Navy, and, in his opinion, not without good grounds, and that they looked upon the Admiralty as any thing but friendly to the concession of their just rights; he proceeded to justify and enforce his propositions, showing that his scheme of retirement would benefit the service and promote its efficiency, by producing a steady flow of promotion. With reference to the last proposition, he pointed out the grievances suffered by officers of the Navy through insufficient and diminished pay and allowances, which he contrasted with those of the Army and the Civil Service, and also with the remuneration of officers in the navy of other nations.
Lord PALMERSTON moved, by way of amendment, the following Resolutions:—“1. That this House, having on the 13th of March, 1861, instructed a Select Committee to consider the present system of promotion and retirement in the Royal Navy, is of opinion that its decision should be suspended until the subject shall have been accordingly considered and reported upon; and, 2. That a Select Committee be appointed to consider the present system of promotion and retirement in the Royal Navy, and to report their opinion thereon.” Doing, he said, full justice to the motives of Sir J. Hay, and convinced that he was actuated by nothing more than a desire to promote the interests of the service, he could not refrain from regretting the course which, in and out of the House, Sir John had thought proper to pursue. Military and naval bodies ought not to become deliberative assemblies, to enforce upon the Government changes for their own benefit; to meet together, to appoint committees, and to correspond with members of the profession, calling upon them to state their grievances. Such a proceeding tended to shake the foundations of military and naval discipline, and would form a most dangerous precedent. The course taken by Sir J. Hay, in proposing his Resolution, was not altogether consistent with the functions of the House, which ought not to assume those of an administrative character. The propositions, moreover, were vague, and would leave the Government entirely at sea as to the mode of carrying them out. It was not expedient for the House to present such an address to the Crown; it was for the Government, on its own responsibility, to propose any addition to the expenditure they might deem necessary for the public service, and for the House to reject or adopt the proposal.
Lord C. PAGET analyzed the plan of retirement proposed by Sir J. Hay, showing in detail the injurious action it would exert upon the service, and that it was impracticable without inflicting injustice upon officers. He disputed the correctness of the comparison made by Sir J. Hay between the pay of British and French naval officers. He did not deny that there was room for improvement, but there had been great advances made in the pay and position of all classes in the Navy, and it was not fair to make charges against the Admiralty and to instigate officers to discontent.
Sir J. PARINGTON insisted that Sir J. Hay was not liable to the charge made against him by Lord Palmerston, and that his motion was not open to any objection on account of its form. He, on his part, charged Lord Palmerston with inconsistency and a change of tactics in now proposing an inquiry by a Committee which he had opposed in 1861. He (Sir John) thought the question ought to be dealt with by the Executive, or, if not, that it should be referred to a Royal Commission. With regard to the plan proposed by Sir J. Hay, he did not assent to all the details, but he corroborated Sir John's statements as to the under-payment of the superior officers of the Navy. Though he should vote for the motion if pressed to a division, he suggested whether he would not best dis
charge the duty he had so well performed by not pressing it; and he appealed to the Government whether, in that event, it would not be better that they should undertake the question. Sir J. HAY did press his motion, which was negatived, and the amendment of Lord Palmerston was agreed to.
Ecclesiastical and Religious Questions—The Prison Ministers’ Bill—Division of opinion in the Conservative party–Debates in both Houses, and passing of the Measure— Sir Morton Peto's Dissenters’ Burials Bill—Arguments for and against the Measure, which is rejected by a large majority—State of the Church-rate question, and results of the successive Bills for repealing it–Debate on Sir John Trelawny's Bill— Summary of speeches on both sides—It is negatived by a majority of 10–Several measures for a compromise proposed, but without success—The Lord Chancellor's Bill for the Augmentation of Small Benefices—Explanation of the scheme—Debates in both Houses—Objections made to the principle of the measure—It is carried by large majorities—The Act of Uniformity–Debates in Parliament and agitation out of doors respecting Subscriptions and Declarations by the Clergy—Motions of Mr. Baxter in the House of Commons and of Lord Ebury in the House of Lords for obtaining an alteration of the Act—Arguments of the leading speakers in each House and unsuccessful results—Mr. E. P. Bouverie brings in a Bill to repeal part of the Act, but ultimately withdraws it—Discussion in the House of Lords on the Burial Service—Opinions of the Archbishops and Bishops and of other peers—The Motion is withdrawn, the Bishops undertaking to consider the subject—Annual debate on Maynooth College—Mr. Whalley's Motion is negatived—Motions for inquiry into the state of the Established Church of Ireland–Speeches of Mr. Dillwyn and Mr. Bernal Osborne—Answers of Mr. Cardwell and Sir Robert Peel— The question is disposed of by the adjournment of the House without coming to a vote—National Education—Statement of Mr. Lowe on moving the vote for this purpose—Motion of Mr. Walter for an alteration in the regulations affecting masters of schools—After some debate it is rejected.
A CERTAIN number of questions come up to the surface in almost every session of Parliament, which involve more or less directly the relations of the State in regard to religion, the principles of toleration, the position and functions of the Clergy of the Established Church, or the relations of that Church towards Nonconformists. As such discussions frequently involve important principles, and almost always indicate by their occurrence in Parliament some corresponding movements of the public mind, they are well deserving of notice, since in a country governed, as England in effect now is, by public opinion, to trace the formation of opinion is, in fact, to possess the key to its history. In this point of view some proceedings to which we shall now refer are deserving of record, though the actual legislative results were not considerable. The first measure to be noticed in this connexion, and which derived increased importance from the division of opinion which it occasioned in the Conservative party, was the Bill introduced by Sir George Grey to give to the inmates of prisons, not being members of the Established Church, the benefit of the attendance of ministers of their own religious persuasion. As it was admitted that the proportion of Protestant Nonconformists who could take the benefit of this Bill was inconsiderable, it might be regarded in fact, and was viewed in both Houses of Parliament as being in effect, a measure authorizing the employment in prisons of Roman Catholic priests. Indeed, the Home Secretary stated in moving the second reading of the Bill, that the Government had been impelled to propose some legislation on the subject by the circumstance of their having felt obliged in the last session to oppose a Bill proposed by Mr. Hennessey, avowedly for the relief of Roman Catholic inmates of prisons, but which contained provisions open to great objection. The object of this Bill was similar, but its machinery and enactments very different. Before explaining its provisions, Sir George Grey deprecated the objections which he knew were entertained in some quarters to a measure which was regarded, by persons zealous for the interests of Protestantism, as damaging to that cause. Such an impression he regarded as founded upon a mistaken view of the subject. “Let my hon. friends,” he said, “who object to the provisions of this Bill suppose they were members of a Protestant minority in a community composed chiefly of Catholics, living under a Catholic Government, and that persons professing their own religious faith, from their circumstances in life, from the peculiar temptations to which they were subjected, or from any other causes, composed a considerable proportion of the criminal population of the country. Would it be satisfactory to them, or would it be a sufficient answer to them when they asked that adequate provision should be made for the religious instruction of those persons, to be told that all prisoners were placed by law under the exclusive care of to. priests, but that they might be visited by Protestant ministers if they made a special request, though even those visits would not exempt them from repeated oi intercourse with Roman Catholic priests, with whom it would rest what books were provided for their instruction? That would be a state of the law any thing but satisfactory to my hon. friends; they would refuse to acquiesce in any such arrangements; and how, then, can we expect our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen to be contented with the state of the law which I have now described, or how can we think them unreasonable in pressing for some change?” In point of fact, this Bill introduced no new principle, it merely extended a principle already recognized in our legislation and practice. In the army the Roman Catholic soldiers were provided with the ministrations of a priest of that Church, whose services were paid for by the State. Exclusive of the provision made for troops in Ireland and in various stations abroad, there were at that time no less than 18 commissioned Roman Catholic Army Chaplains paid by grants annually voted by that House. If the Roman Catholic