Grey's Debates of the House of Commons: Volume 3. Originally published by T. Becket and P. A. De Hondt, London, 1769.
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Tuesday, November 2.
Sir Thomas Lee.] If of forty you want but eleven, five in number, of ninety guns, are an adequate proportion. In great ships we are already proportionable to our neighbours. You want only nimble sorts of ships, to catch them when they run away.
Sir Charles Wheeler.] Is for light ships, to catch them, as is said, but would not divide the bear's skin before he be dead. The last naval war has given us experience of great ships, that they maintain the fights. You must have so many great ships, to make a good stand against the enemy. 'Tis a maxim in the Civil law, that what is fit, is as fit as the fittest. If you bring enough for your purpose, 'tis your safety, and your walls. That which is said "of their building more ships, and therefore we must do so to" is no argument—Then you have your flag-ships so seconded as will be a navy fit to encounter your greatest enemy. Therefore moves that two of the second rate ships may be built.
Mr Pepys.] Propounds but what is needful, without which he thinks the fleet of England not safe. The course of the Debate seems as if forty ships were to be built, and first to provide twenty. But if no more than twenty, then to lay the most force upon them. Therefore he cannot propose under nine second rates.
Sir William Coventry.] Is not convinced that there is a necessity, that every flag should be in a first rate ship. The fleet have none to follow but the flag, and if the enemy govern themselves in shoals and shallows, we must remove the flag to lesser ships. We aimed, that, whatever we do, the ships may be perfected in two years. Pepys told you, that the first and second rates can be built in the King's yards only. The London was not, but perhaps most conveniently. The first and second rates are most conveniently built in the King's yards—Should we, to build one new ship, lay aside three or four old ones? If the Docks be so clogged, that no reparation of them can be made, we are then in a worse condition than we were before—He supposes in truth; because not contradicted, that we have of eighty guns more than our neighbours, and from fifty guns, and upwards, our strength is less than our neighbours, to the second rate. Less in the third rate. And 'tis necessary to equal them even in that—That relates to summer service only. Unless you have third rates; they are stronger than you in winter; because great ships then are not so useful. He remembers that they durst not take charge of the first and second rates, when the design was to attack de Ruyter—Would be glad we could build forty, but thinks five second rates sufficient.
Sir John Ernly.] Agrees with Coventry, that we want third rates. You are offered five second rates. You have four second rates. But what good are we like to have out of four old ships, mostly above thirty years old? Since you have but twenty ships, let them be as strong as you can. You cannot have less than nine of the second rate. And he would have you see the proposals of the officers of the navy.
Mr Boscawen.] Not that you make this a constant rate to supply the ships; this is only for this time. If you are superior in great ships, you are better in all strength; unless you fight on shoal waters. Great ships, if old, do decay, and there is a remedy for providing for them out of the customs.
Sir Eliab Harvey.] Hopes if we find these new ships; that the old navy may still be kept up, and not lie by the walls. If the fleet be out at sea seven or eight months, you must have second and third rates.
Sir William Coventry.] Would not insist too much upon the age of ships; we grow not young again, but ships may, and prove as good when repaired as new built. Some ships, in this time, have been so faulty, as to fit to be cast, that is, broken up. One may seem better than the other, but when ransacked thoroughly they cost as much repairing, as a new one building—The other without extraordinary charge went through the Dutch war, and had many knocks, but was unfortunately run aground. The third rates we built, will supply the second rates, being ships of great force, and are winter as well as summer ships, for service. If you build third rates, they will supply the least of the second rates, and be for winter service, which second rates are not found so good for. 'Tis said there are twenty seven ships and docks for first, second, and third rates. But believes he can recollect, that 'tis not fit to build in all the docks at a time, and have sufficient for other uses, as repairs, and building merchantmen. If two years will be employed in building twenty ships, and if you build six great ships, he knows not how reparation can be made of the old ones.
Mr Pepys.] Thinks that some body said "That a ship of the first rate must be two years a building," but believes we may build of one and the other rate one in a year. As for the materials, he knows no body has said they cannot be had.
Sir Thomas Lee.] One day, these ships are in good repair, and another day, old and good for nothing. Notwithstanding they are fifty years old, yet very little timber in them is so old—Most new and repaired.
Sir William Coventry.] 'Tis plainly and absolutely necessary, that a considerable number of these docks be left free. Will not suppose the old ships not useful, as the old James, the Unicorn, and Triumph. When ships that have been abroad, come home strained, the docks must be left free for them. The London was built at the City charge for a present to the King, and all the reason there was in the world to hasten the building, and it took up sixteen or seventeen months, and timber was then much more plentiful than now. The timber to build these ships is scarce, and yet unfelled. So 'tis not possible in shorter time, and the third rates will supply the second.
Sir John Ernly.] Our neighbours have forty ships more than we. If you come not up to them in number, he hopes you will in force. What already are, are wind and weather tight, and in as good repair as possible.
Mr Powle.] Would have you consider what is best for the King and subject. Some little consideration must be had, how this money is to be raised—Fears, by a Land tax, and therefore would not burthen the people more than needful. There must be two years time for building these ships, so that but one of the first rate, and five of the second rate, can be built in that time in the docks. But had the Customs been applied to the use they were given, you had not needed this. The Bill of appropriating the Customs may, for the future, sufficiently do this. If you have a navy sufficient to employ all your seamen, more ships will be useless, and lie by the walls, let our neighbours have what number they will.
Sir Winston Churchill.] Saving money is no argument, when saving the nation is the case. We are now upon the shallows, upon the fewest ships; but we consider not the great man on t'other side the water, the King of France, (He was called upon to name him, "the French King,") who has built great ships so considerably. Would have the greater number put first to the Question. If you put five before nine, if we vote not five, how shall we vote nine? If nine be put first, then five may come naturally. If you'll put five, then moves for the previous Question.
Mr Sacheverell.] From sixty guns, and upwards, we have more ships than the French. From ninety guns, and upwards, the Dutch have none. Of them we have thirty six, and the French but thirty four. We are lowest of the second rates; of third rates the Dutch have more than we.
Sir Tho. Littleton.] Professes he is not for starving the business. Sees not yet the business over that the officers of the navy can build the ships in that time, and whether they can repair the capital ships, and have dock room. You will in two years end be far stronger, if you build but five ships.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Finds not those that have the honour to command in the navy, tell you that second rates are so useful. Has heard Sir Fretchville Holles say, he could do more service in a third rate than in a second, and could keep better in a line. It appears to him that third rates, are much more for the service of the nation than first and second rates.
Capt. Legge.] Understands one of the first rates to be agreed, and 'tis that rate that bears the burden of the fight. The flag must have good seconds, in case of shifts, to remove into—Would have at sea rather more of the third rate than the second; 1300 ton is the least any three deck ships can have—Would have as many third rates as can be in a line; the rest may be for seconds, but not for engagements. When the line is once broken, a three deck ship will better bear a countenance than a two decked. We have better ports than France— He is troubled that 'tis thought we cannot build them under two years—But he is sure we cannot cap ships with France, who has bought of the Dane and Hollander, and built some. If we make not up the number, hopes we may the quality, and they may be built in a year and half's time.
Col. Birch.] Is of the number of those that do, and shall do this business, not to save money only, but what is most agreeable to our safety. Thinks that all men, when they engage, consider with whom they are to engage. You are told that God has denied the Dutch the benefits of ports for great ships. Our fear then is of the French. If they had double the number of ships, yet they can never bring them into our channels. What if a storm happen, they cannot be lodged in our ports— In the channel he cannot draw them—He hopes we shall build these ships in one year, and if need be, we may do it again. 'Tis visible to him that we cannot be good husbands, if we repair not as well as build. If we talk of the money, that's another Question. But of safety, five ships are most for our advantage,
Mr Love.] One thousand four hundred ton, he fees, draws on the argument for the rest. Appeals to Pepys, whether he did not acknowledge, in his discourse, the first rate at 1200 tons, the second rate 900, and the third rate 700—And said, that, by repairing and girdling, they were made stiffer to bear fail—But never heard that it increased burden to that high rate.
Sir William Coventry.] Remembers and knows ships larger in their rates than formerly, and shipwrights complained of—But so many guns more is still the best ship. You are told by Pepys, that some had been girdled, and therefore of greater burden; but thinks the Victory is under 1100 tons, and yet she carries more guns than the Royal Catherine. Is not this a good pattern to go by? All the increase will be thrown by in winter. The Victory is under 1100 tons and 80 guns; and therefore thinks it one of the best of the second rates—Moves that the proportion of the second rate may be 1100 tons.
Mr Pepys.] The practice of the seamen is concerned in this. It has been the fault of our predecessors to build their great ships streight, so that they cannot play their guns. For the great advantage of the—— (fn. 1) make them; 200 tons.
Capt. Legge.] Thirteen hundred tons is as little as any three-deck ship can have; you must have breadth below, as well as above, and scope to vent the powder, else the people will be choaked. When he has been to fight and work his ship, he has found the inconveniency of streightness below. A ship has measured 1100 tons within her girdle, and 1300 without; such a ship will require 700 men, and the decks are so streight they poison one another: Therefore would not have the second rates under 1300 tons.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Would know the definition of these rates. No man could think but that they are, at the rates we have now—Was willing to have a great ship for the first rate; but no reason to be run high upon every one of them; but they are every day enlarged and girdled in Pepys's papers. What can we do when we have no establishment of papers? In none of these papers we have 1100 tons. The Victory is not so much, nor near, before girdled. He says, he knows not the end of this.
Sir William Coventry.] Has not heard that to be the Victory's fault, only some say she is not broad enough; but has heard that the St Michael, the French ship, is not above four inches wider. If you alter quality in breadth, you may in length also, at this rate; and so make second rates first rates.
Col. Birch.] Is mightily pleased with this Debate— Hopes, in time, he may be informed for a higher form. The second rates we have not; but, by former precedent, he abides by it, they were not above 1000 tons at a medium. He must go to Holland to fight; they'll not come to us. 'Tis said, "there is not room enough for their men, in a ship of that burden, and the men are smoaked." How comes it to pass that we must have 700 men, and the Dutch come to sea with 500 men, in a ship of the same rate? They were over-numbered in the ships, and that makes them be stifled. So many men have lost our honour—And if you intend the best precedent, for burden, as for use, not above 700 men to 1100 ton.
Sir William Coventry.] Some third-rates have 400 men, and others not 300 men: But he is not for pinching this ****matter; is far from it. Some are not 800 tons, and yet good third-rates, as the Fairfax. Many others not 600 tons; and every one has its time of use in the battle. He reckons that the business you aim at is 850 tons; but would not bring the less sort to 600 tons neither.
Sir Thomas Littleton.] Eight hundred and fifty tons is the Debate. The officers of the yards love to over-do, and over-build—'Tis natural for those of the Navy to over-speak the matter—Therefore put the medium to 850 tons.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Of the first and second rates, some are higher, and some lower. 'Tis said, if we send to Algiers, the third-rates may serve. Those services are more than provided for by the third-rates; but the defence of the nation, in time of war, is the case. All other forts of services are more than provided for. It is insisted on, that the least sum should be put first, to which this is tant-amount—Would agree to 900 tons.
Mr Powle.] When we come to raise the money for these ships, we shall not find the subjects very full. You are told, the Harwich is rather over-burdened; and 'tis said, the rest are 900 ton, and somewhat less. The tonnage will be the same which ought to be put; and he believes will go current.
Sir William Coventry.] When we give the King money, and not ships, as this infallibly will be money upon the people, therefore the less charge, according to custom, must be put first, Since he had no call to look into the Navy, has enquired into it; but on his old papers he finds that the Harwich was built by contract, and that makes her burden the greater; and the builder can make his measure more, and have no deeper hold. Some measure 900 tons, as the Warspite; and also the Cambridge, and she measures 900 tons, and somewhat better—Not built by contract. But what gain you? Whether more force? 937 tons is the Cambridge's burden, and she has no more guns than the Rupert, which is but 827 tons. In this, much less burden, and the same proportion of guns as the bigger in measure has—As it is the interest of the ship-builder, it may not be amiss that some be 850, and some less—He is for 850 tons.
Mr Sawyer.] There have been many precedents in former Parliaments, and in this Parliament, that the least sum has not been put first. If you are tied up to that, does not hear answered, why 900 is not the fittest proportion. You are to consider what the latter fleet has been; none built under 900 tons. To take a measure from both ancient and modern rates, the ancient were only fit for scouts. Thinks 900 a medium; and fears it not safe for a battle under that burden. 'Tis certain 'twill end in money, and it is to be laid out in ships. The safety of the Kingdom is only in our eye; and if you will have the most serviceable, 900 ton is a proportionable rate.
Sir Thomas Lee.] You cannot find any such Order as Sawyer mentions, writ down, and asserted, that 'twas the current Order of the House; but he never yet heard it till lately; if anciently, very rarely.
Sir Thomas Meres.] An old Parliament-man of eighty years of age enjoined him strictly to keep to that Order of the lowest sum first to be put. Whatever is the event of 850 tons, he matters not at all: He is for preserving the Order; for he speaks now for the House of Commons.
Sir John Birkenhead.] Challenges Meres to produce one line in the Journal of Q. Eliz. K. James, or Cha. I. where the greater sum is not named first, for this reason; if the greater sum be denied, you may have a second Question; but if the least be denied, you cannot come to a greater.
Sir William Coventry.] We ought not to depart from Order, till gentlemen versed in Records can inform you farther; in the mean time, to stick to the usual Order. On the one hand, you are charging the Subject; and on the other, giving to the Crown. On this ground, votes freely, and would avoid ill manners to the Crown. Suppose 300,000l. should be necessary, and a motion be proposed by one near the Chair, and seconded for a greater sum; and he be put upon the indecency of giving a Negative upon the Crown. When the sum is higher and higher, in every step we proceed with decency. Does it appear nothing, hastily to throw away method? This Order of the House is worth more than the ships; it may be double. Put the Question.
Mr Sawyer.] No Journal ever affirmed this to be an Order. He has searched them for your service. He that denies the lesser Question, a fortiori, denies the greater. When such a standing Order is showed, will acquiesce.
Mr Boscawen.] Of various Questions, when they are proposed, that is put which the Chairman shall collect. The usual way formerly was by Subsidy; now we give by a newer way, Land-tax. Lord Chief Justice Vaughan, when here, said, "that if any man moved for five Subsidies, they gave more than they had;" it being against the old rule.
Mr Waller.] You are upon Order of the previous Question. He has a Journal by him of 1 James (before the Long Parliament) where he finds the previous Question, Nothing more ancient, nor natural; not new in its own nature, and very natural; a Question, whether the Question shall be put, or no.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Waller says, 'tis necessary, by way of expedient; for one part of the House calls for the Question; another not; so that's the use of a previous Question. But now, whether an expedient betwixt magis and minus applies it to the previous Question. In this case, 'tis no expedient—In the last Question, those who are for a greater sum, were precluded—He could not say no, for five—The greater sum must be first put, else you preclude all for the less.
Sir John Birkenhead.] Harbord says, "it was in King James's time;" but Henry Elsing told him, that young Sir Henry Vane was the first that invented it; and he did not believe that tattered and torn book to be the Journal of 1 James, but only mistaken and scattered Notes. Elsing, to his dying day, denied it to be a Journal.
Wednesday, November 3.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Whose interest do we stand up for in contending for this? The peoples. He grants that, once or twice, this Order has been over-run in a torrent of money; the twenty-five hundred thousand pound Act in one vote. Would have that man sent to the Tower, that should hereafter move for such a sum. In the Lords House they have standing Orders and Rules Mr Vaughan and Mr Prynne had once the Chair for Orders, and went a great way in them. There are no records of your standing Orders, but delivered from man to man by tradition. In the next place, look into your books, and you find not what other sum was mentioned with it. The Irish cattle and the corn exported; when rates were set upon them; and in tonnage and poundage—Eightpence and twelve-pence in the Scotch cattle; the eightpence put to the Question first; in that other, forty shillings for wheat, first the lower sum was put, and so rose higher. These are remembrances, not specified by the Clerk in your books, but were passed. 'Tis essential to the good of the nation. He speaks this, not only for the Commons of England, but as the most dutiful way of proceeding, to the King, to go higher and higher— Therefore the Question.
Col. Titus.] The Debate is, whether the smaller sum, and longer time, should be first put to the Question; which is as much as to say, whether you will not make the charge as easy upon the people as you can. Who are their representatives? He never heard it contradicted till yesterday, and we were told, the greatest sum to be put first was a standing Order, from the Chair itself, yesterday. He believes we shall not find it in our books, that the Question first put that is first seconded, is yet taken for granted to be an Order. 'Tis his opinion, if it be not a standing Order, to make it one: The rules of prudence advise the method. Suppose you build a house, and you call workmen, and, after the dimensions and figure are taken, one says, he will build it for three, another for five thousand pounds. If he be cozened two of the five, believes the workman will not refund it again. Suppose a war with France, and at the same time one moves for five, another for forty thousand pounds, and an army is raised, drums and feathers in every street, and France immediately makes a peace with us, and 2,500,000l. given for it; it may make no Parliaments in England for ever after. All the world knows, that, if five be not put, then in the consequence ten must.
Sir John Birkenhead.] 'Tis moved by Titus, "if this be not an Order already, to make it one." A standing Order must be either in the Rolls, or the Journal. One Vowel, a Western man, published his observations a hundred years ago: He was eight times a Parliamentman, and Chairman to the Committee of Privileges. He made a book, and quoted his observations out of the Journal. After him, H. Elsing, 18 James, showed his book to Mr Selden, who needed his relief. If one Order, or one word, be in those books, that the least sum should be first put, would have it showed him. He has read all the Journals, and not one Journal has a word of it. Scogell, the Clerk of the Rump Parliament, does say, it has been done; but no other gives the least shadow of it.
Mr Powle.] Has heard this Order so often cited, and so little contradicted, that, since this Debate, he has enquired into it. Finds, that if any fear or terror should be in any man, to be ill represented to the King, therefore he is for the lowest sum, so not to give a negative to the King's desires, thereby not to undergo any harsh constructions—He principally rises up to tell you, what precedents former times have met with, but have been very rare. In Q. Elizabeth's time, there was no Question put of more or less, but the sum was granted without contradiction, what was asked, such was the felicity of her times. But in the beginning of K. James, (3 Ja. 14th March, Friday) there was a Debate about a Subsidy, and several motions for four Subsidies, and eighteen fifteenths. Some were so resty they would give none at all. There was a long Debate about it. The first Question was, "whether there should be a general, or a particular Question; a particular sum, or whether Supply." The next Question was, "Whether the King should have a Supply?" It was carried in the affirmative. The third Question was, "Whether a Supply by the usual way of Subsidy, or fifteenths?" Carried in the affirmative for "the usual way." The next was, "for one Subsidy, and two fifteenths"—Through all these gradations, the least charge was first put—To what is said, "that thus men cannot clearly have their Vote" on the Question, whether put or no, there follow clear Negatives and Affirmatives. Of later times, it has been otherwise, but overborne, unfortunately, in the great sum mentioned; which he hopes he shall never see again.
Sir Anthony Irby.] Nothing does the King more honour, than an unanimous found from hence. Will not say, for these 47 or 48 years, it has been a positive Order, the least sum put first. But it has been a constant custom, the least sum first put.
Upon the Question, [the House did resolve and declare it an ancient Order of the House] that the least sum ought first to be put [and the longest time] to the Question—To be a standing Order for the future.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] Moves to have two or three gentlemen to withdraw, to preface this Order, with the reason of making it. The Order else is but an oral tradition—The Grand Committee report the matter resolved, to the House, and no particulars are entered into the Journal, and so you find no written Order in the case.
Sir William Coventry.] This Order of the House made great Debate yesterday, and now is settled to your satisfaction. Capel's motion is no violation of the Order, since you have not two sums in motion before.
Mr Pepys.] To the value. One thing is worth your consideration, if you build one, two, or three—But the inevitable price of building so many—Greater number are of sizes, and must be built by contract— Few, in the King's yards, of them. In building of a house, dimensions, thickness of walls, and timber, are considered; the bricklayer else may cheat. He propounds, for the first rate 15 l. per ton, for the second rate 14l. per ton, and for the third rate 10l. per ton. The Harwich was built for 9l. per ton. But there is an inevitable necessity of increasing the rates of prices, when so many are to be built.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Has heard often, that the London was built for 12l. 10 s. per ton. He believes that 13l. will do; but rather than do it scanty, will move for 14l. per ton, though he be checked for it.
Sir Thomas Lee.] We may conclude, that 13l. per ton will do it: But observes, that the reasons, one day, to raise your number, are the same another day, to raise the sum. He supposes they build these in the King's yards, and 'tis not for their interest to build ill; and as you bargain, you may save; for you are like to have no farther account of your money.
Mr Boscawen.] If you buy timber, what will not go to the building of great ships may serve for the less. The more houses you build, the cheaper will the bricklayer undertake the work, because his materials may serve for several uses. In building, you make articles, and have satisfaction for non-performance; and he ought to be defaulted in his price. When it may be done for 8l. 10s. he wonders at the confidence of the motion for 14l.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Finds the 8l. 10s. not denied to be the contract at Bristol. He is for building at Bristol, that can build so cheap. He spoke it, upon Sir John Knight's unwillingness to build at Bristol.
Mr Pepys.] As to that one ship, the Edgar, whatever. is thought of the difference of Bristol and the Yards, the additional charge of guns, keels, masts, and yards sending to Bristol, with the hazard of winds and weather, costs the King much more per ton than is mentioned. She must have more time, and lie on ground so long, that she may break her back before she comes to Portsmouth, and may cost the King above 3000l.
Col. Birch.] 'Tis spoken of building in the western ports, at Bristol. The more diffusive this work is made, the better it is for the nation. Hears spoken of the forest of Dean—And no timber to speak of downwards. 'Tis an old maxim of his, that interest goes a great way. Has had occasion to ride through the forest of Dean (the bravest echo of woods he ever heard) 'Tis said, in the Lee Baily, there the timber is unfit for shipping— For half a mile together, he saw not one in fifty decayed, and of great height—At a venture, would have given money (when he saw the certificate of their unfitness for shipping) for a thousand of them. He came soon after, and saw thirty of them cut down, in the fashion of that country, four feet from the ground—They said they did it for some extraordinary occasion; but 'twas given for cord-wood—They were of great sizes, between four and five feet over in diameter, and as fine, pure, and true oak, and as well quartered, as ever he saw, But he did not find, it seems, that 'twas for the interest of those about London to build ships there. This timber is within three miles of a navigable river, which may carry it to Bristol. He never saw so fine a sight as the young wood; but there were eight or nine score cattle in it. Why then should this place, so natural for timber, be thus destroyed? And wonders that certificates should go abroad thus
Mr Pepys.] He speaks not by rote what he has propounded; but of all species of materials, by the opinion of such as are as much masters of husbandry as the judgment past. He speaks from Sir Anthony Deane, and Mr Johnson, and would have them give you an account, and be sent for.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Wonders that Mr Johnson should be moved to be sent for, who is to build, and may set the dye upon you. For the first at 14l. per ton, and the second rate at 12 l. This is a great price.
Sir William Coventry.] As it is no man's interest to do it slightly, so 'tis ours not to do this work scanty. The Richard, which was afterwards the Royal James, had a stem-piece defective. He saw it in the yard-place, when one bought it at an extraordinary rate. He asked Commissioner Pett, how much money it would cost to put that piece into a ship? He said, some thousands of pounds. The very putting this piece in speaks this, to go as far as you can, to have all well done. The London now is not of the same dimensions the other London was, and the City gave 12l. 10 s. per ton. That ship was built in a time of war, and the charge of workmen may come near the price of scantiness of timber— Therefore moves for 11l. 10 s. the price of the former London.
Sir William Coventry.] Doubts not but timber will rise upon this occasion; but by the time some ships are on the stocks, timber will fall. It must come from foreign markets, and time will make it cheap. The Harwich was built by contract, at 9l. per ton, and the last was so built.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Wonders what ground there is to believe that the rising of timber should be so great, as a tenth part—These men, that hope to do it, raise it— There is no rule to go by, but what has been done before. You cannot raise the price one tenth part, unless the carpenter, and all other workmen, raise proportionably.
Mr Pepys.] Would ask, what merchants give for their own ships per ton? Some of theirs are of five and six hundred tons burthen. Appeals to them, if they pay not from 8l. 2s. 6d. to 8l. 6s. 8d. per ton.
Sir John Fagg.] Though he is no ship-wright, he has been a broken timber-merchant these seven years. You are told of a difference of prices. 'Tis true, there is a difference between knee-timber and ordinary compass pieces but finds no difference betwixt great and small pieces proportionably. But 'tis said, "There will be a rise of timber, upon building these ships;" but he thinks not. In the war, merchants have lain by the walls, and not been used; but now they begin to build. Ever since timber has borne a price, it has been preserved; and, on his conscience, he believes there is twice as much timber in his country [Sussex] as will build all these ships. He knows a tree that has grown a foot in the diameter in thirty years: What may that come to in time? So that there is no scarcity of timber; and would put the Question for 9l. 10s. per ton.
Mr Pepys.] Has bought many a load of timber at 30l. per load, and has given 50l. but difference of figure is much in the case. He can buy ordinary house-timber at that rate of 30l. But if Fagg will furnish him for ships, he will give 55l. a load.
Sir John Fagg.] Has called himself a timber-broker— There is a fort of knee-timber, and several other names and variety of pieces—How they buy in the King's yards, he knows not; but how he sells; he knows—And they come not near Pepys's price.
Col. Birch.] Observes, the steps you have gone have been with the usual frankness and freeness of the House of Commons. 'Tis said, the Harwich was built at 9l. per ton. When the House is making the King a present, would rather over-do than under-do the thing. Do it to the utmost; you may gain your desires from the King: Pray then to have it well done; put it to 10l. per ton.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Every ten pounds is ten thousand to the people. Has heard, that 850 tons burden is a good ship. It is nothing, when we talk of tons; but we know the money. We have thrown away 6000l. already this morning; and if the thing be pressed, will give but 6000l. this morning.
Sir Tho. Lee.] Would have gentlemen consider, that now you are making a bargain of ill husbandry for the Crown. Has heard that rough timber is a fifth part of the cost— A strange way to persuade you to be frank!—But if to raise money for other uses, if there be an overplus of 40 or 50,000l. you'll hear of no more ships; and if it goes into the Exchequer, he knows not what may become of it; by the former dealings there.
Sir Thomas Meres.] This is giving 1200l. more to the shipwrights, who will measure at the highest. It may be 40 or 100 tons more by measure. But he dreads another thing. There will be no end of building ships, if we appropriate not the Customs. They being appropriated will build all the ships for the future, and perhaps, they may do so now. You are not to lay a foundation of a body of shipwrights, to be so raised as the brewers were, to be worth 40,000 or 100,000l. a man. Ergo, He insists upon 9l. 10 s. per ton.
Sir William Coventry.] Will not conclude that it cannot be done for 9l. 10 s. because a shipwright will not undertake it. Horse-coursers never will come near the price they will take, till they see you will buy, and money is stirring. You are told, the last ship was built for that price. Possibly prices may now rise, on the first notice, but believes they will fall afterwards, when we shall have timber from foreign markets. It is a notable deduction in telling you the value of timber—It cannot suffer much for raising—Upon your old rule, now established, would put the less sum first.
Sir Tho. Meres.] It it be expected that we must find stores for them, we have sufficient, and can make it out that the Customs are for the whole. Our business is, building the King so many ships; but as to ropes and fails, 130,000l. a year out of the Customs to improve stores, in three years will plentifully do this, and to spare. But as to the money, (not but that you have enough for all) would have that now upon the calculation agreed upon.
Sir Tho. Littleton.] The last Session, the Customs being appropropriated were thought sufficient to do all these things now, and for the future. Deserves no credit, and shall not have it, if not made good that the Customs to be appropriated are 400,000l. per ann.— The ordinary charge of the Navy 250,000l. per ann. the Ordnance 10,000l. makes the ordinary charge of the Navy in peace 200,000l. per ann. Shall the rest of the Customs be thrown away? But say some, "The King shall want bread"—Would have them put together—Not as the two in a field, the one taken and the other left (in the Gospel)—We were told "that the anticipations of the Customs were between 7 and 800,000 pounds, and if not taken off, the King would want bread." He fears we have been abused in it. There is one anticipation of the Excise, the farmers fine 200,000l. and the chimney money, though the tallies are struck for it, yet it hinders not the course of the revenue, for whoever takes the farm next, the fine is continued, like a fore rent in a man's estate; so that his anticipations hinder not the revenue, and this hinders not the King from bread—Anticipations to the Navy 100,000l. and 40,000l. of that is over put in hands. So this is to be deducted. A great part of that of the Excise is not spent, besides on the rest 40 or 50,000l. unspent, and the great noise is about 250,000l.—For the guards and other charges of the Government, 150,000l.—48 unappropriated—And that of the Wine duty—Does not mention this as money that ought to be employed—In all 700,000l. Excise, with the rest of the revenue 900,000 l. per ann. and this no immoderate calculation. There is another great sum in Ireland, The standing charge there is 170,000 l. per ann. and the standing revenue is 240,000l. per ann. Thus this great noise of anticipations—And by the calculation he has made, you may judge whether the King cannot live.
Sir William Coventry.] Gower has given him an invitation of speaking, but was more inclined to speak then than now, because he knows not how the Committee will like diverting this Debate. What he intended before, was on the single point of building ships.— Consider whether straining points has been for your service—More readily complied with, when not struggled. 'Tis said, that building of ships is rigging and sitting them. Those which Pepys delivered in the list, he called "ships," though not fitted. Would know, whether these contracts mentioned were for rigging—But they trusted not that in his time to contract, mens lives depending on them. That was not done by contract. The King, in his Speech, asked of us "building of ships," and you voted "building," and it can be understood nothing, but "hulls out of the contractors hands." Will a man say, guns are a part of ships? Many ships go to sea without guns. He does not tell you what is his judgment to do, but would only clear the matter. Littleton's discourse may be of great use; he hopes, at another time more seasonable. All men are for appropriating, if their own hearts were consulted, and if the King cannot subsist without the Customs, none are for it. Would now let the Speaker take the Chair to adjourn the Debate.
Sir John Duncombe.] Would defer the Debate to some other time, foreseeing that many things would fall into it. You are told "that the anticipations upon the Customs, are between seven and eight hundred thousand pounds;" upon examining, fears they will prove more. He will not pretend to be so knowing, as the officers whose business it is, who will inform you the Excise is so anticipated, that the King has no profits of it. Would have things seen and examined, together with that of Ireland and would defer it to another day, that men may be prepared in it.
Mr Sacheverell] Is for going forwards now with the business in hand. Would dispatch it as soon as may be—Never thought the quantum more than mentioned— That then we may go on the other business. Else, if not, he fears we shall have a slender account of this Session.
The Speaker.] The Question is, "whether the intention of the House be to give money for hulls, and no more." You are told, you have a good fleet, but not comparable to your neighbours. If your neighbours have no rigging, nor guns, then you are as well as they. Without it, you throw away your money. As the state of the revenue now is, you will let these ships lie by the walls. 'Tis an easy thing to take impression so as to do things out of order—As for the charge of the Navy, we are now in peace—Those that say, there is an ill management of the Navy, say generals, but no particulars—But selling the offices of the Navy has occasioned this—(reflecting upon Sir William Coventry) Since that was done, there has been such a herd of vermin in the offices, that are not yet weeded out, that 400,000l. per ann. is the Navy charge. The last two years it has taken up more. The tonnage and poundage is 500,000l. per ann. the whole but 600,000l. with the additional duty upon wines. If a measure of the revenue be taken by this year, 'tis a mistake. Would not farm it so after this year's product. Whoever does it, will have an ill bargain. We are in peace, and all our neighbours in war. Littleton is as much mistaken in the revenue of Ireland, as he is in that of England. He tells you of 100,000l. per ann. of it that comes into the King's purse. The story is like a gentleman that made a horse-match, and took money of his friends for shares: He won the match, and what with paying his friends shares, and the reckoning for the entertainment, he spent more than he had won by the match. The establishment-money goes from hence to pay the charges of the Kingdom, and if any man doubts of it, would have a time appointed for the perusal of the papers of the revenue, which you have so often rejected.
Sir William Coventry.] Something sell from the Speaker, which concerns him to speak to. How necessary it was for him to make that digression, he leaves you to judge—Nothing of this matter required it. He avoided that of "selling of places," in all the course of his life, under an awe of himself. 'Tis no news to this House, that he did receive, (when in the employment of the Navy) such profits (as he is able to prove) as were taken in the last King's time. But as he could show such long lists come into the Navy that gave him not a penny for it, and yet received profit, so he was the first that moved for reformation, and they were put out, and had pensions for it. He defies any man to say that there was the least protection of them from him, or influence to do amiss. He denies it, and defies any man to say the contrary. He supposed the thing had been gone and past, but so much having been said, he thought fit to say what he has said. He hopes the payments in the yards are mended. But those "vermin" mentioned never amounted to a hundred part of the pensions (meaning the pensions paid to Lord Anglesea, &c.) paid by an honourable person, whose place is now in the Speaker. When those papers shall be produced, the House may judge whether the King hath any benefit by that honourable truck. But since so much has been said, he could not be wanting to his own innocence to say what he has done.
The Speaker.] The rubbish belonged to another man, that was laid at his door—But says, the buying and selling of offices has been as mischievous, as selling of powder in fight. But there is no such thing as "trucking" mentioned in matter of fact.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Suppose that another man receives that pension mentioned, that has right to the place of Treasurer of the Navy. But after all this, we pay the reckoning; we pay the anticipation. But now is not a time for this. Will make it good to reasonable men; if the House will go along with him in it, will make it out, that there is money already for these ships, and a full revenue, and we need lay no money upon the people. But this is not to be done without the help of the House to back him. The revenue is not known, and this is the great skill of matters now to conceal it, and ours to find it out—If men will go about it, they will find such things discovered—But he is for looking forward, and mending the matter— But this Debate is not so much out of the way; this must grease the wheels of this appropriating the Customs. If they come in fairly, above 100,000l. over and above the expence of the Navy—'Tis a proper Question now to provide these hulls, and we will talk of rigging to morrow. If you put the Question in words "not exceeding"—If by a Land Tax assessment at 70,000l. per month, would not have one month to make up a short 10,000l. since 'tis not exceeding 208,000 l.