Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 10. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Thursday, November 4.
When the Parliament met, and his Majesty, in the House of Lords, made the following Speech:
"My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I am very glad to meet you again in Parliament, where I have an opportunity of thanking you for the great Supplies you have given me, for the prosecution of this War; and I hope, by your Advice and Assistance, which has never failed me, to take such measures as may be most proper for supporting our common interest against the excessive power of France.
"We have great reason to rejoice in the happy Victory, which, by the blessing of God, we obtained at Sea (fn. 1); and I wish I could tell you that the success at Land had been answerable to it: I am sure my own subjects had so remarkable a part in both, that their Bravery and Courage must ever be remembered to their Honour.
"The French are repairing their losses at Sea, with great diligence, and do design to augment their Land-Forces considerably against the next Campaign; which makes it absolutely necessary for our own safety, that, at least, as great a force may be maintained at Sea and Land, as we had the last year: And therefore I must ask of you, Gentlemen of the House of Commons, a Supply suitable to so great an occasion.
"I am very sensible how heavy this Charge is upon my People; and it extremely afflicts me that it is not possible to be avoided, without exposing ourselves to inevitable ruin and destruction.
"The inconvenience of sending out of the Kingdom great sums of Money, for the payment of the Troops abroad, is indeed very considerable; and I so much wish it could be remedied, that, if you can suggest to me any methods for the support of them, which may lessen this inconvenience, I shall be ready to receive them with all the satisfaction imaginable.
"My Lords and Gentlemen.
"None can desire more than I do, that a Descent should be made into France; and therefore, notwithstanding the disappointment of that design this last summer, I intend to attempt it the next year with a much more considerable force: And, so soon as I shall be enabled, all possible care and application shall be used towards it (fn. 2)
"And, upon this occasion, I cannot omit taking notice of that signal deliverance, which, by the good Providence of God, we received the last Spring, to the disappointment and confusion of our Enemies designs and expectations. This has sufficiently shown us how much we are exposed to the attempts of France, while that King is in a condition to make them. Let us, therefore, improve the advantage we have at this time, of being joined with most of the Princes and States of Europe, against so dangerous an Enemy. In this surely all men will agree, who have any love for their Country, or any zeal for our Religion. I cannot therefore doubt, but you will continue to support me in this War, against the declared Enemy of this Nation, and that you will give as speedy dispatch to the affairs before you, as the nature and importance of them will admit; that our preparations may be timely and effectual, for the preservation of all that is dear and valuable to us. I am sure, I can have no interest but what is yours: We have the same Religion to defend; and you cannot be more concerned for the preservation of your Liberties and Properties than I am, that you should always remain in the full Possession of them; for I have no aim but to make you a happy People.
"Hitherto, I have never spared to expose my own Person, for the good and welfare of this Nation; and I am so sensible of your good Affections to me, that I shall continue to do so, with great chearfulness, upon all occassions, wherein I may contribute to the honour and advantage of England."
The House being returned, adjourned to Thursday.
Thursday, November 10.
Resolved, Nem. con. That the humble and hearty Thanks of this House be presented to his Majesty for his most gracious Speech; and to congratulate his Majesty upon his safe return to his People, after the many hazards to which his Majesty has exposed his sacred Person, and for his Deliverance from the Malice of his Enemies; and to assure his Majesty, That this House will always advise and assist him in the supporting of his Government against all his Enemies.
Resolved, Nem. con. That an humble Address be presented to her Majesty, acknowleging her prudent Administration of the Government, in the absence of the King.
And a Committee was appointed to prepare them.
Friday, November 11.
Resolved, That the Thanks of this House be given to Admiral Russel, for his great courage and conduct in the Victory obtained at Sea the last summer. And the Speaker gave him the Thanks of the House accordingly.
Ordered, That the Commissioners of the Admiralty, and the Honourable Member that commanded the Fleet, give an Account, to the House, of the last summer's Expedition.
Saturday, November 12.
Lord Falkland, from the Commissioners of the Admiralty, according to Order, presented to the House several Papers of Instructions and Orders for the last summer's Expedition, in relation to the Fleet; and also several results of Councils of War held touching the same; which were read at the Clerk's Table.]
Mr Goodwin Wharton.] I desire the House may be informed, why Sir John Ashby had fallen short of his Duty, who should have pursued Tourville, when he was divided from the rest of the French Fleet (fn. 3) ?
Admiral Russel.] I received an Order yesterday to give an Account to the House of the disposing of the Fleet after the Battle, and why the Victory was not pursued, and Trade not protected, and why the Ships lay so long in Port after the Battle. There was not one Transaction of the Fleet, without the Consent of the Council of War; they were all unanimous. I have prepared a Paper to give you an Account how the Wind stood, the time the Fleet lay in Harbour.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I did move that the Commissioners of the Admiralty should lay before you the Papers of their Transactions. You are told, by Russel, of the Council of War of the Flag-Officers; but I mean the Council of the private Captains, for carrying on the Descent to be made, by the Fleet.
Mr Foley.] 'Tis not material who was at the Council of War, but I would see the Papers of opinions of the Council of War about the Descent.
Lord Falkland.] We have no original Papers of the Descent at the Admiralty-Office.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I would know why the Fight was in May, and the Descent not till July?
Mr Smith.] This seems to me a defective prosecution of the Victory, and not as it should be. I move that you would go gradually to enquire what defect there was in the prosecution of the Victory, before you come to the matter of the Descent.
Admiral Russel's Paper was read, [giving an Account] why the Victory at Sea was not prosecuted, and why the Fleet lay so long on the French Coast.
Sir Robert Howard.] The advice you may give the King, in this matter, may be in the nature of another Supply. Russel did engage, and did fight, but not all the Ships, and from them he might justly expect pursuing the Victory that we had got at Sea. Stick to this particular, why the Victory was not pursued. An English Priest at St. Malo's had abused an Englishman; Cromwell demanded him, and his Admiral, Blake, battered the Town so long, that the Priest was delivered him. I would know whether the Sea and Land is not the same as formerly? And if this was done then, why not now?
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I would know what Answer came from Lord Nottingham? They lay long enough for it. I would know, in that time, from July to August, what happened?
Mr Foley.] The Fight was the 19th of May. There is a relation of it under Tourville's hand. If Sir John Ashby had done his duty, why were not the French pursued? He pursued but three Ships, and so the rest got off.
Sir William Strickland.] I move that Ashby may be sent for, to give you an Account.
Sir Charles Sedley.] I think Tourville's relation is a great reflection upon Ashby—He will do it upon our best men. I would send for him, and let him tell his own Tale.
Sir Edward Seymour.] I think it fit to have all before you, because you have a seeming Accusation. If you examine, and punish none, you confirm the Miscarriages. Why the Victory was not pursued relates to Ashby: Therefore, before you proceed farther, send for Ashby. As for the Miscarriages of the Ships, 'tis not the business of the body of the Fleet to lurk after particular Ships. Great time was spent to prepare this Fleet. Though they said not, they would not go aboard—But they are bold Commissioners to advise prosecuting a Descent against the Opinion of all the Council of War at Sea.
[Ordered, That Sir John Ashby do attend this House with all speed.]
Sir Thomas Clarges.] This Descent cost you some hundred thousand pounds. All we find, is bandying it from one to another. The Sea-Officers will not meddle without the Land, nor the Land without the Sea—Except this Victory at Sea, there has been but one act since this War towards abating the French power— I would know, whether the Admiralty ordered this? I have spoken with Newfoundland men, who say that the French go to fish there by August. The French had two little Forts there, which were attempted and left, and two little Frigates, in 1682, took them—All is very unfortunate. I thought, after a Victory, to have been secure in Trade; but we have lost above a hundred Ships. I would know who had the Direction of the Descent? I hear, that, after this Victory, it was very terrible to the French. To lie still from the 19th of May till the 24th of July, was very strange! There was great diligence formerly, when Van Tromp put up a Be-som on the Top-Mast, and said, "He came to sweep the Channel." We were not in so good hands, and good understanding then, as we are now; but then we took many Ships. But I know not how it happens, there is not that Zeal now to the Government, as was then; and though we have been successful at Sea, we have been very unfortunate on Shore. I would know who had the direction of the Descent, so late, and retarding the Land-men?
Sir Robert Rich.] The French were not gone from Newfoundland, but lay under the Fort. But I would know, whether it was not the middle of July that our Ships went out thither?
Admiral Russel.] 'Tis enquired, what the Fleet did after the Fight? I aver, the Season proved so tempestuous, that they could not stir. But it is not an argument now (by what has been told you) to what was done forty years ago about the Priest at St. Malo's. It was the 14th of July before the Ships could sail, and they must be clean before they take so long a Voyag. Neither the English, nor the French, ever sail from Newfoundland till the 20th of September.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] What Russel says of his own knowlege, I do believe, but the French go always a month before the English come away; and I do say that two Privateers did take the Fort.
Sir Peter Colleton.] I move to know, who had the particular charge of the Transport-Ships?
Sir Robert Rich.] The Commissioners of the Admiralty had no cognizance of other Ships than those of War: That belongs to the Commissioners of Transports.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] The thing we would know, is, the time when these Ships were ordered; they pretend want of Money, but there was no defect of that. I would know when these Orders were given?
Sir Robert Rich.] You are now sending for Ashby, the second Flag-Officer. I would consider, whether it is for your Reputation to send for him. I think it were better to send for him by intimation from the Admiralty-Board. (But the thing was already ordered.)
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I think the Commissioners of the Admiralty in an unfortunate condition. I think some of them are worthy men; but they are in a hard condition. I cannot but take notice, that if cross Orders should be sent to the Fleet, in time of service, it may be of great mischief. There may be cross Orders from the Queen in the King's absence, and from the Commissioners of the Admiralty. The Commissioners are Admirals by Act of Parliament.
Mr Smith.] I desire all respect may be used to Ashby. The common Method is a Summons; your Order is already made; pray do not make another to contradict it.
Mr Hampden.] Your Order is for Ashby to attend the House, but not how to be summoned. Therefore I move that the Speaker may summon him by his Letter.
Col. Titus.] I know not how Ashby deserves such a favour as a Letter from the Speaker. You sent for Delaval by your Serjeant; I know not why it may not be so now.
Sir Christopher Musgrave] I think it is the best way of respect to Ashby, to send a Summons, and let your Messenger deliver him your Order, and he may come at his case. To receive an Order by a Messenger of your own, is no reflection at all; but to send a Summons by the Post, unless it be better managed in other Counties than in ours, I know not when it will come to his hands.
Sir Edward Seymour.] 'Tis well advised, that Ashby be summoned by your Order. I know no diminution to any person to let him know the Order of your House by your Serjeant.
[Monday, November 14.
The House waited on their Majesties with their Addresses.
Tuesday, November 15.
The Serjeant at Arms acquainted the House, That Sir John Ashby having been served with the Order for his attending this House, he returned Answer, "That as soon as any Person came to take the charge and command of the Fleet, he would attend the House."]
[November 16 and 17, Omitted.]
Friday, November 18.
The Bill for regulating Tryals, in cases of Treason, was read the second time.
Sir William Whitlock moved for Commitment of the Bill.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I have perused the Bill, and it came last Session to a Committee of the whole House. But since it has been already passed, there is no necessity that it go to a Committee of the whole House. But I submit it to you, Whether you will put it to a Committee of the whole House, or a select Committee?
Sir John Lowther.] I cannot agree to the Bill. I would have the security our Ancestors had, be so to us, especially in this time, so few have been tried for Treason. The Bill says, "Indictment is not to be presented but in ten days;" 'tis impossible in our County [Westmorland] where the Assizes are but once a year, and witnesses may be dead, or tampered with, or the Criminal may escape, and so not be punished. I should be glad my Country and family may be secured, but I think this Bill is no security.
Mr Attorney Somers (fn. 4).] I shall never consent that any thing of the Liberty of the Subject be taken away. I have not given occasion to any man to say I ever strained any construction of Law. To several parts of the Bill I disagree, but am totally against timing the Bill, as unnecessary and inconvenient. I declare my Judgment against the last Clause: The only thing, besides giving Money, by the Commons, is the right of Impeachments; if that be brought down to ordinary proceedings, the Commons will never undertake Impeachments, when Counsel must stand upon an equal foot with the Commons, and put themselves under a very low degree. If a man have the good luck to conceal Treason for a time, he may escape prosecution. Yesterday Perjury was made a Capital Law (fn. 5). Taking this Bill altogether, it is so difficult to prosecute any man for Treason by this Bill, that I think it unnecessary, and ill-timed, and I am against it.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] The learned Person that spoke last, has thought this Bill unseasonable, and spoke to several parts of it, which may be good instruction to your Committee. I remember, in the Convention, one Grievance was, misinterpreting the Law, and misconstruction of it, in cases of Treason. Few but did bewail the misfortune of the last Government in misrepresentations of Law; and it is just to prevent it for the future. As for the objection about the Impeachments, that is proper for the Committee to consider; but I would know whether such a Bill is not requisite? If so, what security have we more than we had before? When Princes strain hard upon their subjects, it will be hard to get such a Law. The time therefore now is seasonable.
Mr Sollicitor Trevor (fn. 6).] There are great objections against this Bill—It seems to aim at those things that every honest subject ought to do; and if the ends of it could be accomplished, I should be for it; but I take it to be quite contrary: No doubt but we should secure the protection of the Lives of the Subjects, but this Bill gives protection to offenders, and does not preserve the innocent, and then the Bill is not to be passed. I shall not deny, but there have been misinterpretations of the Law in former reigns; the way to prevent that for the future is to prevent the Authors of them. This Law now will have no greater sanction than the former Laws. There are too many, I fear, that correspond with our Enemies abroad. Now, whether is it proper to pass a Law more difficult for prosecution, than in times of our Ancestors? Nobody but will think then that this Bill is an encouragement to impunity. Will the innocent be protected in letting loose so many ill men against the Government? What then will be the consequence? Tyranny and Popery will be the subversion of this Government. Then will this be a protection to Posterity? All the Laws we can make, will not protect us, if there be an encouragement to those who would subvert the Government. 'Tis said, "The Bill passed last Session;" but if it did, the objections against it are stronger now. 'Tis known, since that Session, what attempts have been made to invade the Kingdom, and too many engaged in it here. Though there were not two Witnesses against them, yet we are persuaded some did deserve it—Shall we now give them greater encouragement to be offenders?
Mr Harley.] I observe, that those who spoke against the Commitment of the Bill, have used arguments that are against the whole Bill. If you are not for the Commitment of the Bill, you are for throwing it out. In the Convention there was a Committee for public Bills, and this was one of them. Has any thing since been done against offenders formerly? Because you did it not then will you not do it now? The Statute of 25 Edward III regulates Treasons after great Revolutions. In Henry IV's time, there was such a Revolution as this. It is said, "The Bill is not suitable to the Disease;" if it be not strong enough, I hope you will make it so.
Sir Charles Sedley.] I would by no means endanger the King's safety, and for ours we can do no less than commit the Bill; that we who canont make long Speeches, may speak to the parts of it.
Lord Coningsby.] I always thought the impunity of the Government would hazard the security of it. If the Plotters succeed, there is no security to you; and if this Bill helps to restore those who violated formerly, you are still worse. One particular you allow; public Enemies are those who own not the Government. Are they to have the advantage of this Bill, and the Papists, that will bring Popish Evidence against us?
Mr Foley.] There have been Misconstructions of Cases of Treasons. If there had been no Misconstruction in case of Treasons but in the late King's Reign —But in others, the proper remedy is a Law declaratory. If you commit the Bill, I hope great care will be taken, that no guilty may be protected. 'Tis said, "It will be hard by this Bill to bring a Man to Tryal;" but the true Reason is, because there is no proper direction given for the Prosecution.
[The Bill was committed to a Grand Committee, 170 to 152.]
[Saturday, November 19.
Sir John Ashby, at the Bar, gave the House an Account of the reason why the French were not pursued, after the Fight at Sea, to St Malo's, &c. "That the Fleet would have been endangered, by reason of the shallows; and one of his Captains, a Trader formerly there, assured him that he was run aground in a Vessel, but of 100 Tons." And then withdrew. And, being called in again, the Speaker acquainted him, "That the House had taken notice of his ingenuous behaviour at the Bar; and had commanded him to tell him, that they are satisfied with his Account; and that he was dismissed from farther attendance".]
Monday, November 21.
On Foreign General-Officers:
Captain Mordaunt (fn. 7).] I wish the King would reward and punish more than he does—Trumpeters and Corporals have been made Officers—And I receive not the third part of my pay, to keep up the grandeur of my place of Captain—I cannot believe that 14,000 came over out of Ireland. I believe that most people that came over, came for getting—If that be not the reason of the vast debt in Ireland, I hope we shall have another reason. The Compiler heard him imperfectly.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] We have been told of great Misdemeanors in Ireland; the Government is divided there into Civil and Military Hands. I would know, who had the command of the Army in Ireland, Lord Coningsby, or Lord Athlone?
Sir Peter Colleton.] There are many brave men in the Nation, and some sit in your House, qualified for General-Officers, and there is no need of Foreign General-Officers. The Foreigners would have raised the Siege of Athlone; the Foreign Generals were against storming; but an English General was for it, and it was taken: For ought I know, had it not been done, Ireland had been still to reduce. Englishmen naturally love their Country, and will not willingly destroy their Country. Foreigners cannot have that affection for England. When King James set up to overthrow Parliaments and Property, the English Officers gave up their commands. We know not how soon we may fight for our all on English ground—I think we are much safer in English hands than in Foreigners. None are ignorant of the melancholy story of Steenkirk (fn. 8); every one knows that Tragedy. The common Soldiers had no opinion of their Officers. I move, "That none but Natives should command Englishmen."
Mr Wharton.] The thing is just, to encourage Englishmen, and as long as there is a necessity of a War, I would continue it on our own foundation. We want not Foreign Officers; we have Natives fit for employment—Nothing but an English Army can preserve our English Liberties and Properties. Encourage them to be entirely English, from the Soldiers to the Officers.
Lord Falkland.] I have as much esteem for English Officers as any body, but the King, who is a witness of their Actions and Merits, [is the best judge] I would have that come only from the King. You know not what Officers the King designs. When you come to the State of the War, it will be proper to speak to this then.
Sir Edward Seymour.] I wonder, that, on such a subject as this, and so little debating upon it, Gentlemen call for the Question so suddenly. I shall only observe, that there is a great deal of difference in what came from Brackley (Mordaunt) and what from Town. There was nothing of Mutiny for want of pay, but for the reason of it; Subsistence Money was regularly paid, sixpence a day, but threepence, the offreckonings, was for cloathing and necessaries. This has been punctually paid. It is true, Officers have but half pay, and as for Trumpeters, &c. it was rectified, because, under the notion of Officers for Ireland, there are Commissioners stating the Accounts of Quarters, how much is owing to the Country. Thus much I can say, this falls not out by Chance—We have had experience, that Officers, to whom money has been paid, have defrauded the Soldiers, and let the Soldiers do what they will, as to that—In relation to Foreign Officers, that fell not out by chance; it was necessity, and not chance. Men are not born Generals. A man may be a good Officer, and not a good General. We have not of our own men fit for that employment; the King knows men, and I hope you will not offer the King men unfit. Men that get into employment, think it an injury if they are not Captains presently. Men that have not gone through all employments, can never be fit for the Army, or Navy, and return with all disadvantage. What number have you fit for General-Officers? They are few; and will you think to discharge and send away Foreigners, till you have Generals of your own? I am not for Foreigners, for Foreigners sake. If we have not General-Officers of our own fit for this employment, I hope you will not put the Foreign Officers out.
Captain Mordaunt.] I hope, as good Advice may come from Brackley as from Exeter [Seymour] That of the Trumpeters, &c. lasted a whole Campaign— If there are ill Men, both in the State and Army, I care not how soon they are punished. Great Men have had great Sums in Ireland, that have nearly cleared the pay—As for General-Officers, I would have no man discharged, that has done well by the English Officers. I have served under Foreigners, who did very well, and I hope they will be excepted.
Sir John Lowther.] I find some ambiguity in the Question, viz. "That, for the future, no Foreign General-Officers shall command Englishmen." What will you do with those you have? The great ignorance of Military Affairs, in King James's Army, was not one of the least advantages of the Revolution, by the conduct of these Foreign Officers; when an Army is only for parade at home, and nothing to be done abroad. From the Foreign Officers we had experience. I do not question, but in two years, we may have General-Officers of our own, but we have lost four General-Officers, which is a great many, and no wonder we have so few. It is the proper business of the Crown to bestow marks of favour on the General-Officers, and I doubt not but the King will take care to do it. A great many think, that so much gratitude is due to them for the good they have done you, and the skill they have taught you. Therefore I would not put this Question.
Sir Charles Sedley.] I think it the highest ingratitude to turn out those Generals. These Gentlemen have been the King's Companions of his Arms; 'twill be hard upon the King to turn them out.
Earl of Ranelagh.] No man shall be more for the advantage of England, or Englishmen, than myself; but pray look into the matter of fact. The King has not Resolved on his General-Officers for 1693. For the present, there are two Generals, five Lieutenant-Generals, five Major Generals, and ten Brigadiers. If you examine their names, you will find two Lieutenant-Generals, English born, the Earl of Oxford, and General Talmash; the Duke of Schomberg, M. Auverquerque, the Earl of Portland, and the Duke of Leinster, are naturalized. The old Duke of Schomberg's son you will look upon as naturalized. There are six Brigadiers that are English. The last Session, every one of these men had the approbation of the House, and Money given them; and not one of these but ventured their lives for reducing Ireland, and delivering you from Popery and Slavery. Pardon me, if I say, this will look ungrateful. An Army composed of several Nations must have Generals in several places. In the last Campaign, the King made three Natives Major-Generals, viz. the Duke of Ormond, the Earl of Scarborough, and Col. Bellasis. Douglas, Kirk, and Lanier were lost (fn. 9). We know not who the King intends for General-Officers this year, 1693; and if, upon the List, you find any Foreigners that you approve not of, then is the time, when the King has determined it, to address him.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] We are told by the honourable Person, "That one Chief Governor of Ireland could not redress the disorder of the Army, because he had not the Command of the Army;" but [he should have] told you who commanded. I was of the Council in Ireland, in the Years 1662 and 1663. I know, though the Army for some time had not two Months Pay, there was no complaint; but there was a Contribution of Provision settled; things were quiet then, and the Lands were planted, and the loss equally distributed: But the reason of the disorder might happen from the Generals, who do not understand the nature of Ireland. You are told, "We can have no General English born, and therefore we must make use of Foreigners." I can name ten, who, if they were now in France, would be Marshals of France at this day. If they have served twenty or thirty years in foreign Wars, I believe they are as fit as any Foreigners. 'Tis true, they are not Earls and Lords; they are private men. I have known Troopers, and Foot-Officers, risen up to be fit for Generals; many that have served in Portugal and Tangier. 'Tis impossible that the King could know this, if men about him will not inform him. 'Tis said, by Lord Ranelagh, "You have approved of them, and given them Money." I thought such a List, as he has named, sufficient to command 100,000 men—But if so many are cut off, I fear the King's expectation will not be answered with success, without English Officers; but if we are so unhappy as not to trust English Officers——'Tis impossible but, by the date of their Commissions, that English Officers should come to Preferment. Every private Soldier, and Officer, thinks he has an interest in the Laws and Religion. From this ingratitude to the Officers, you have lost the Discipline of the Army, because they are not commanded by those of their own Country—And then you shall not have that licence of free quarter. You had an Act within an hour of passing, against free quarter; I know not how it slipped, by what Counsel; but for quarters in private Houses. mens hearts begin to be alienated. I know not well when Subsistence began, for formerly the Army was paid every two months; but then a scheme was made, so much for the Army and Contingencies; and then nothing was added to the Establishment of the Army, but by the two Secretaries, the Council of War, and the Lord Treasurer; this was then, and the Secretaries of State did not offer a Commission, till established— To this day, there is no Establishment of the Army. Should Gentlemen take up the best advice of former times——But if the King is misguided by false lights, I know not where it will end. What is intended, is for the service of the King; but as for foreign Generals, I think it is for the King's service that English Forces be commanded by Natives.
Lord Colchester. (fn. 10) ] I find the business of Steenkirk sticks with some Gentlemen. The chief occasion of the ill success there was the wrong information given to the King of the ground we were to pass, which was so full of hedges and woods, that we could not draw up one body to sustain another; Horse and Foot were mingled. I saw the attack made by Fagel; Dutch, English, and all Nations: They beat the French from hedge to hedge, but their very weight of men bore us down.—The French came up to us, and Auverquerque came up, and behaved himself as well as any man in the World—He sent us two Danish regiments, and we retreated to the main body, and from thence to the main camp. Others can give you an account; but as for what Lord Castleton has said, it must be by hearsay; he was not there himself.
Col. Earle.] No man is of less sufficiency to speak than myself. I have had the honour to serve in three or four Parliaments, and have not troubled you. I was a Colonel of Foot in the Engagement at Steenkirk, where the ground was mistaken, and so we were forced to retreat. As to the Question, no man is more pleased than I for English Officers to command the English Army; but I do not think that three or four years service can make a General. I wish we had men fit; but before you have them, pray do not rid yourselves of all foreign Generals. I hope, when you come to the Question, you will not part with all the foreign Generals, before you can have some of your own to come in their places.
Col. Godfrey.] I find Gentlemen possessed with great Miscarriages, especially at the Engagement at Steenkirk—The difficulty was so great, that, if we had not succeeded, it might have been the loss of Flanders. Other Nations, as well as the King of England's subjects, and particularly the Dutch battalion, did behave themselves with great honour; but whether they came down early enough, [may be doubted]——The French poured so many dragoons on us, that there was no standing; so the prudentest way was to retreat. The King was ill-informed of the ground, and we could not bring our men into any manner of line. The foreign Generals are of great experience and bravery; but I can come thus far up to the Question, "That none but the King's native subjects should command Englishmen for the future."
Col. Cornwall.] When this attack was formed, General Solmes was there, with ten battalions, to sustain them. Solmes said, "That to send more men, was to slaughter more." They received Orders from Solmes, which never came near them (fn. 11). Reduce the Question singly to Solmes; put it upon him. He is a man very haughty, and puts Officers under such hardships, that I am sure the service will be ill done as long as he is General of the Foot. He was made General at the King's coming over; he was before Colonel of the Guards; and I move for Talmash to be General (fn. 12).
Lord Colchester.] I think Talmash is fitter for it than Solmes; he is full as brave a man; but I was not posted so in the Engagement as to know what is said of Solmes.
Col. Godfrey.] I think there is not a better nor more deserving man than Talmash. Mr Wroth came to me in a great heat and anger—Talmash desired the King to send battalions. The King ordered Mr Wroth to go to Count Solmes, who said, "Tell Count Solmes, I will not go near him."
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I'll tell you the notice I have had of this. I was informed that the advanced party under the Duke of Wirtemberg, and General Mackay, made an attack at two o'clock, and possessed themselves of the enemy's guns, and drove them from hedge to hedge, and the Army was two miles off—If they had been sustained, what a glorious Victory might we have had! The Enemy flew before us—The Duke of Ormond got three or four battalions; but being met by a superior Officer, was asked, Whither he went? He said, "To sustain his friends:" But he was stopped.
Mr Wharton.] I shall collect, in a few words, what has been said—Though comparisons are odious, yet, in this case, they are necessary——Talmash is a better man than Solmes—Ask whether the French sutlers did not begin to plunder our Camp—The Question is, If Count Solmes did not sustain those men? The point is clear—The King having not yet named Officers, now is the proper time.
Mr Comptroller Wharton.] I will not trouble you in a thing I so little understand, as an Army. I am sorry for the comparison between Solmes and Talmash: I think only, that Talmash has served very well; and the longer you use him, the better you will like him. I wish you would lay the Question aside; but I would vindicate your Countrymen, and frame the Question something of this kind, "That, for the time to come, the King would be pleased to fill up the Offices of the Army, as they shall become vacant, with his own Subjects."
Mr Waller.] This day's Debate ought to increase the good opinion of the King of his English Officers, I am for the Question moved by Wharton; but with this Addition: "Or such as have been naturalized."
Mr Smith.] This will take off those who possess the King that he can do no service without Foreigners, I am not fond of a Favourite, because he will not lay his bottom in England, but retire from hence upon farther occasion. By the true friendship I have for Talmash, I would not, under the notion of a service, do him an injury; but consider, you are putting out and putting in Officers for the King. Pray put the Question in the most decent manner, "That, for the future, the King would be pleased to employ no foreign General-Officers."
Col. Cornwall.] You have all the Foot under Dutch General-Officers, and the Cannon too. I hope they will not play foul play; but, if they should, you have a scurvy business of it. Whether a General ought not to be stirring about in an attack, and whether the Soldiers were satisfied with Solmes, you may enquire, before you form your Address.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I am afraid that, by this Debate, you are making General-Officers. You gave Thanks to the King, and approved of them all. I hope, when the State of the War is given in, you will not find so many General-Officers. I think this is only preparatory for the next year.
Sir Christopher Musgrave.] Several things have been propounded for laying aside the Question. The weightiest argument I hear is, "That it is not seasonable, because the State of the War is not before you;" but that is a reason against it, if the King takes his resolution before that come in. The King has desired you to advise him; can you do better, than in what is of so great concern as the Fleet and Army? It is said, "You have given Thanks to the King, and approved of them all;" but shall it be entailed always upon foreign Generals to continue them for ever? If we have Peace, to keep them, and discharge all the English General-Officers? You are told, "The King was mis-informed of the ground our men was engaged upon." I would know, whether the General did view the ground, and not trust other men? If so, sure that was an unpardonable fault. If all that are in, shall be in, what is your Vote for? If you mean for the future, do you mean for this time? If not, then they will be continued. Though I have a great honour for Talmash, and hope his service will be valued as it merits, yet pray explain plainly, if you mean all the General-Officers to continue, or from this time; else your Address is nothing.
Sir Edward Seymour.] I would have all your Advice such as you may justify in another place. 'Tis to be passed conjunct by both Houses. The King asks Advice of both Houses; and pray let us take no Resolutions from hence, that we shall not be able to justify to the Lords.
Sir Edward Hussey.] If that pass for an Argument, "That what we do will not be acceptable to the Lords," then we may do nothing. When Gentlemen get preferment, I observe they are apt to be gagged, and abandon the interests of their Country. Let a brand be set on them, or him, whoever they are.
Mr Hampden.] I easily guessed, that you had gone far enough in a Debate that has occasioned this heat (I know what a gagg is)—If my Poetry be as good as Hussey's, Solmes is nearly related to the King. For such a Person to have a brand upon him! I move, That you would lay the Debate aside.
Sir Edward Hussey.] I desire to explain myself. I meant not Hampden; but if he be one that has abandoned his Country, then I mean him.
The Question was put, "That the King be advised, that no General-Officers, for the future, shall command Englishmen, but such as are Natives of his Dominions."
Mr Harley.] I find, Gentlemen have showed as much modesty in the House, as courage in the Army. I would make this distinction in the Question, "That the English Foot may be commanded by English Generals."
Mr Foley.] 'Tis a great prejudice, that English Forces should be commanded by foreign Officers—— When the Law sets some men at liberty by Habeas Corpus, that a foreign Officer should set Guards upon them, has given great discontent in the Army. The King is not like to be well served thus. This summer there was a mighty great confusion in the English Army; Orders were given in Dutch, and French, to the English, who understood neither Dutch nor French. Our Officers are men of Estates; to subdue the Enemy, and not make a Trade of the War. There will be no end of the War, but pushing for it. If our men had been seconded last summer, there had been an end of the War, and no need of this Debate. The General-Officers were at Dinner, when they should have sustained our men, and other Officers with them; they have been the loss of the Victory this year. I would prevent them for the future.
Lord Castleton.] Orders were showed to Officers in French, and Dutch, who understood neither Language. I stand up for the Question. I am sure we had better have Natives than Foreigners for General-Officers.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] Foley has assured you, "That we might have had the Victory last summer"—The fault was in the General-Officers, not your Countrymen— But all he says, is from hearsay, and they are as much to blame that were at Dinner.—
Col. Granville.] Till the French King had German Troops and Italian Ministers, he never could enslave his Country. All commands in the Army for these four years have been in foreign hands—And the Descent in the Frenchmens hands.
Sir Robert Rich.] I was none of those that sawned on the Dutch when they came in, and nauseated them when they had done our work. Talmash, whom I honour much, has a fair rise, to come up from Colonel to Lieutenant-General—I hope the King will consider all we have said, and take order in it (fn. 13).
In a Grand Committee. Sir Francis Winnington in the Chair.
On that part of his Majesty's Speech, whereby he desires the Advice of this House (fn. 14).
The Report was read of Ships taken by the French, for want of Convoy.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] The King's Speech asks your Advice to take such measures for the common interest against France, &c. Our first consideration is to know the state and condition we are now in; if we know not that, if we understand not that in some sort, we shall never be able to preserve ourselves, or support the War three years. At Sea we have been very unfortunate, since we were at War, whether by unskilful management or treachery. One year we were driven into our ports, though, as the Lords of the Admiralty represent it, we were strong. The French covered all our Seas, and we were surrounded, and we lost 1500 Ships. Three millions stock of the Nation was lost for want of guarding the Sea. How we are at Sea, we see today by the Report—One of the Admiralty, Priestman, was named, how he should say, "If we keep one Ship in three, it is enough for you." The Robbers all over England, is a certain sign we are impoverished; twenty in a Company. The last year, we had a Victory at Sea; the King rejoiced at it, and so did we; but we are unfortunate that those we have overcome, yet, notwithstanding this Victory, take 1500 of our Ships. The reasons why the Victory was not pursued do not satisfy me. You have heard of a Priest, who abused some Englishmen, demanded at St Malo's, &c. in a former Government (fn. 15). Why should not we preserve the strength and honour of the Nation as well as they? By the method we have taken, I fear we have undone all our Allies. As an Island, naturally you should strengthen the Sea; yet we send all our force into Flanders, where you draw all the strength of France, where he is irresistible. Holland, Brandenbourg, and the rest of the Confederates, had 90,000 men in the field, and could not save Namur, the Barrier for Holland; and in the mean time we ruin England. 'Tis too memorable to be forgot, the ill success we had at Steenkirk; and our Countrymen might have had a glorious Victory if they had been seconded. There is no diminution by ill success, but attempting things improbable ruins us. There must be some unskilfulness in Councils, and, in the King's absence, no advice but must come from the King first. The strength of the Nation is the Commonalty, and I doubt not but the King will take the Commons advice. I should be glad to hear some wiser than I speak their Judgments in this condition we are in, to advise something to relieve us.
Captain Mordaunt.] I know no Great Council of the Nation, but here and the Privy Council, without a private Cabal. Most of those people that King James left behind him, are continued in places of trust and profit. I hope they will take care to chuse us better— Those Allies we have, must either come sooner into the field, or when they come there, do better. One advice that I desire you to give the King is, that the Army be better paid; though I mix my interest with your advice. It is hard that we should pay for our heads at home, and not be paid for venturing our lives abroad. We have but a foul prospect abroad, if not better sustained than we have been. 'Tis better for Foreigners to carry on a foreign War. I would have all those worthy foreign Generals returned, though to our great loss (Jeering.)
Mr Wharton.] When the King asks your Advice, it is because he sees great necessity for it. I doubt not but the King sees that private men, called a Cabal, have led him into some Errors, and calls for your Advice; which is the best thing he could do. The State of the Nation has been in a great measure opened—I would make the most of the Allies, and not the least, and I hope we shall stick to them, and they to us. To advise the King not to go abroad, is so tender a thing, that I would not advise it—If the Confederates are lost, I think we are lost with them, but you may hold out longer than they—The English want not bravery nor understanding, nor want Money, nor hearts to give, but the great fault is, the English are not led on by Officers of their own Nation; they follow them naturally, and trust them more, and Foreigners ought not to concern themselves so much. In the last Engagement, our men were not so led on as they should have been, and they reaped not the advantage of so much honour and bravery as they showed. Really we must not deny ourselves; we grow less and less, and must not destroy ourselves and posterity. I honour those Gentlemen in Command, and I think they have done for the best; but it is reasonable that there should be an equal number in the Admiralty of Gentlemen bred at Sea; and I desire one part of the Advice may be, "That the Commissioners of the Admiralty may have an equal number mixed." For the Civil Government, the Council is the soul of all. You have had one Secretary of State, and it cannot be denied, but that is too great a load for one man. There have been always two, that one might be a curb to the other. The matter of Government lies there. The man in that Government ought to be very generous, because of getting secret intelligence; those managed by them, must be rewarded, and well chosen. This is of great weight, and if the Secretary be not ready to give something of his own to reward persons, besides the public allowance, intelligence will starve. The next quality in a Secretary of State is Courage and Bravery, so set and tempered for the Cause, that he is to hazard himself and fortune for that interest. In a difficult Government, and when there are great enemies to oppose, in such a Government, persons that are entrusted most, do some bold action for the Government—This makes it absolutely necessary to represent to the King, that he must have Secretaries with these qualifications. In intermissions of Parliament, Kings have consulted with their PrivyCouncils; formerly they went not into lesser Cabals— Under any other notion none can be distinguished— Suppose, not well-affected to the Government—There are no Books nor Records to be seen, and you cannot punish them because you have no light into their actions—I move, "That a part of your Advice be, that the King call his Council, and that they do set their hands to their advice, or their dissent." These are some of the chief Heads of your Advice, I believe, that you are upon. Then for the Lieutenancy, and particularly that of London—I hope no Gentleman will attribute what I have said to any thing of party. I would have but one distinction made; that is, who is for this Government, and who against it—Not to have this Lieutenancy totally altered, but there are so many ill men in it, and so unfit, that I doubt, if it should come to a push, you would be foiled. One thing also troubles me much. I think that unhappy division worth your notice. I mean that unhappy breach between the Princess and the Queen (fn. 16); she is presumptive Heir of the Crown—When things are gone so high, it becomes your care that no corner may be to have recourse to. I know that there are no fallings out among friends, but there are some mistakes; when found out, they are the easier brought together. Therefore my thoughts on this matter are, that you vote, "That it is the Judgment of this Committee that two or three be appointed to wait on the Queen to know the cause of this difference, and to receive an Answer from the Princess;" and I hope there may be some fruit of it. The King ventures his Person and Life— Consider, when he is abroad, you cannot have that success in the Government, in going and coming for Orders— Some Orders must be too late. The Queen has done all things, in the King's absence, like a prudent woman, and a good wife, but if she thinks fit to send for Orders from the King, when beyond sea, before any resolution be taken; I hope for the future you will take care of it.
Mr Harley.] I cannot pretend to add to what has been said, but I hope there may be some fruit of it. 'Tis proper to proceed by steps regularly. I would first take into consideration the Sea, and what condition you are in there. The Sea must be our first care, or else we are all prisoners to our Island. We have had a glorious Victory at Sea; though we have had the honour of it, your Enemy has had the profit, by taking our Merchant-Ships. Edward III, had the greatest advantage in his invasion of France, by being master at Sea, where he had a glorious wound—The King tells you the danger—and we are a miserable Nation, if the sword be drawn amongst us—The pretence of a Descent into France has been a topic used to get Money from you. I am sorry to be told, that the Orders of it were not practicable; if not, why were they given? If practicable, why not followed? I hope the King will not consult with Empericks, but will take the Advice of this House.
Mr Waller.] I move, That you would take one Head after another. The Motion was made to put the Admiralty into hands that may be trusted, of skill and fidelity.
Mr Smith.] I shall speak only to the Sea. No man but will allow that it has been ill managed. The Admiralty apply themselves to it as much as they are capable; I wish their knowlege was as much as their fidelity; but if they were ever so knowing, I fear they have no power. Orders are sent to the Fleet from time to time, and they have no knowlege of them: They give Commissions to the Admiral, and he is to have Instructions elsewhere. I would enquire how it should happen, that when a Descent was resolved by a Council of War to be impracticable, yet Orders were given to pursue it, and your Ships that were foul to lie by, and no Orders to clean them, and that those that were clean had no Orders to go out? You are insormed of Salvage, for reward of re-taking Ships, detained, and the men forced to plunder Neutral Ships—The Salvage paid into the Admiralty. I move, That all Orders for the Fleet may be hereafter from the Admiralty, and persons employed in it proper for the employment.
Sir Richard Onslow (fn. 17).] I am improper to speak on this subject, being one of the Commissioners of the Admiralty. I have always observed, that Gentlemen are tender of the Honour of Gentlemen. I believe that, notwithstanding the Report that has been made, the Admiralty can justify themselves. All the complaint of the loss of 1500 Ships comes from the Insurers principally, and not from the Merchants. Pray proceed, Head by Head, on the Report, and let the Admiralty answer it.
Col. Granville.] I am obliged to give you an account of the Report. Since I am up, I will say something to your Question. 'Tis no wonder that of late we have been so unfortunate; since unsuccessfulness is the natural product of unskilfulness—The work is too great for the Commissioners of the Admiralty. We had the good fortune to beat the French Fleet, and how came that to be unsuccessful? The fault was not at Sea, it must be here; we were never more pestered with Privateers; their trust is too great for the Commissioners experience. 'Tis a great while since the Battle at Sea, and Sir John Ashby has not been examined any where about the prosecution of the Battle, but at your Bar, and he must, with all that guilt upon him, be still trusted. I have all respect for the Commissioners of the Admiralty, that they are very well intentioned for the Government, but I should be glad that trust was put into the hands of those that have experience. I believe they think not themselves skilful Admirals; it seems the Government does not think so, for the Fleet must have such Orders as the Queen shall think fit. If they must not be trusted with Orders, I think them not fit for this great Affair.
Lord Falkland.] That which seems to be the Ground of the Question is, the Report made from the Committee. I may say that Report was too sudden, and there are material omissions in that Report. A great part of your losses proceeds from getting protections, and they get insurance, and so venture out, and are taken; this ought to have been maturely examined, when, where, and how lost. Unless you have Ships for cruising, let who will be Admirals, it will be the same thing still—There is experience required in a Chairman, as well as an Admiral.
Col. Granville.] I appeal to the Gentlemen of the Committee, if one third part of those Ships foundered at Sea, as is said? Alderman Berry said, "If he had time, he could make it appear that 3000 Ships have been lost."—Priestman said, "If one Ship in three escaped, they were gainers." But Sir Robert Rich said, "He was of another Opinion."
Mr Smith.] I do acknowlege, Lord Falkland did tell you, the last Session, there were not Ships enough to cruise—But the Dover Frigate lay a fortnight without Orders for cruising.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I never saw the like upon this occasion. You ordered a Report; that was made on Saturday—and now we spend all our time in arraigning that Report, and the House. I think it very extraordinary, after the Report has been received, for all the Committee to be arraigned, and to put you from your business. Advice is now your business. In all the public prints, there is not a week but you have news of losses at Sea of twenty, and thirty, and fifty Ships. This of Lord Falkland is but a little matter of the complaint. We are obliged to the Hollanders to set out fifty Ships and 17,000 men; if so, we have 13,000 men to supply our Trade, and make Convoys. I was in hopes we had sufficient men to guard the Seas.
Sir Edward Seymour.] I did easily foresee that a Debate of so large a field would be a long one. I would be tender how I enter into the Debate of the insufficiency, or unskilfulness, of the Admiralty. As for the first, it cannot be attributed to an Englishman; for the latter, I am sorry it is so great, to the ruin of themselves, and the whole Nation. As for Alliances, if once you shake that part of Alliances, they can make Peace, and you not, when you want those Alliances, and the Ally against you that will be worse than the Alliances.—I agree, it is for the interest of England, and its security, to be found only in the Fleet; but this I agree, by the way, if you are at the charge of a Fleet only from Spithead to the Land's end, you will have a very ill account of the War. If you have no other ways to annoy the French King, but your Fleet, you will come short of expectations. Before you advance any Judgment, or Advice, know how these things come to pass—That the Admiralty is not trusted, is a mistake; they are as much trusted as ever any—The number of Ships was never in the Admiralty—The Question is, Whether there has been any neglect in securing of Trade? Then, they failed in their Duty, but if it cannot be prevented by them, they are not in fault; Merchants run away without Convoy, for Lucre, and fall into the hands of the Enemy, and they are gainers if one or two come safe home. Your losses have been as great in other Wars as this. I do affirm, that you have not Ships enough to maintain the War and Trade too. If there had been, there had been reason for your advice, but now the Commissioners have got experience, and at your cost have learned it, it would be strange to turn them out.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] I would not have the House misled. It is said, "you have no convenient Ports"— But at Brest, and St Malo's, they must have several winds to go in and out; and if we have no more Ships, we cannot help this. But you gave 1,700,000l. for the Ordnance and Fleet, which, considering what wear and tear you gave for Ships, would have built Ships for the service of your Trade. No aid formerly was given for Ships; the Customs ought to be for that. The first Money was not half spent for Ships, and till you appropriated it, it was not done. We never lost so many Ships in so short a time. To have such great losses, and we know not how, is very unfortunate. I think it reasonable, under such misfortunes, to change hands, not only in the Admiralty; but I would go through all. I think the charge of so great a Fleet, though very wise and gallant, too great for one man. The French King had some others joined with Tourville—In this extremity we catch at the first thing we light of.
Col. Austen.] Give me leave, my modesty safe, not to consess myself so ignorant in the Affairs of the Admiralty as some Gentlemen would have me. If I show there is no fault at all in the Admiralty, I take off all that has been said against them. Of what was alleged at the Committee; there was no proof, no names of Ships, no Places, &c. The Insurers have brought these losses upon you, by making the Ships ready to go without Convoys.
Sir John Lowther.] I fear there is something in the Question, that may give the House occasion to repent afterwards. 'Tis said, "Ships have been lost," and you have had reasons on one side, and another, why— You were told of want of Ships last Parliament—And the Office of Insurance have forty per Cent. if the Ship comes safe home, and if taken, twenty per Cent. and so the Merchant cares not if his Ship be taken. I hope some remedy may be provided for this.
Sir Edward Seymour.] This happens unluckily, that the only person of experience is the only person complained of; Priestman.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] This is to excuse Priestman, who should do it himself.
Mr Finch.] I have heard of complaints, and I wish things better managed; but when I give Judgment, I must see that these miscarriages be proved. As for the power of the Admiralty, I am not able to determine that matter, but to say their Commission does not authorise them, is no objection upon the persons. I can neither condemn nor justify the ability of the Gentlemen of the Admiralty. As for the Merchants, they are hasty to make their profit, and this, it is said, comes from the Insurance. The Ship that was retaken by seven men and a boy, when they came home, demanded their reward, and had it declared in the Admiralty; but the Owners were so far from allowing it, that they moved for a prohibition: It was wondered at; but being enquired into, the Merchants were sorry the Ship was retaken, and would have been much greater gainers by the Insurance, if the Ship had been lost.
Col. Churchill.] Some men are employed in the Fleet, not Seamen; as Capt. Warren, condemned for Cowardice, and in the West Indies he lost a Ship of 50 Guns— We have Brewers Clerks put in for Commanders by the Admiralty—
Sir Robert Rich.] If I had put a man into the Fleet in command, not a Seaman, I were not fit to sit in the Admiralty; but, as to what is said of taking men upon trust, I know not this Captain Warren condemned for Cowardice—I know not that he was a Brewer's Clerk, but he married a Brewer's Widow—He submitted to all the examination of the Admiralty—That he was an eminent Seaman, the Navy-board testified; but the hurt is not here: Till you bring the Fleet to better discipline, to prevent the Captains from taking Convoy-Money (fn. 18), the Fleet will never be in a better condition.
Col. Churchill.] Since Rich has mentioned taking Convoy-Money, I hope some will be punished for Mismanagement, as others have been for taking Convoy-Money.
Mr Attorney Somers.] As the Question is worded, I cannot come up to it. If the Question be, "to constitute Persons skilful in maritime affairs," it must imply, that those that are in the employment of the Admiralty are not.
Admiral Russel.] I am so sensible that I am not able to give advice in what is before you, that I shall not offer at any. That there is a loss of Merchant-ships, there is no doubt of; whether provision has been made to secure them, I shall not say. 'Tis impossible to have a Fleet and number of Ships to guard forty places. Possibly the Commissioners did not so well understand the business of the Admiralty as they do now; and as for what Priestman said of the Merchants Losses, I should have said it myself.
Resolved, That his Majesty be humbly advised to constitute Commissioners of the Admiralty, Persons of known experience in the Admiralty-Affairs (fn. 19).