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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Thursday, November 4.
Sir William Coventry.] An unhappy thing (fn. 1) fell out, the last Session, at the Grand Committee, and the necessity and expediency of the thing bore out the Speaker's irregular coming to the Chair, though 'twas then excepted against, and we not agreeing yesterday, gentlemen desired to settle a rule in the House, to proceed by at the Committee—No man can tell you but that the Committee can come to regular steps how to proceed, and till the Commitee find a difficulty, 'tis not for private men to take upon them your business, and report it out of the hands of the Committee. From the reason why the Grand Committee are not tied by rules of the House, which admits not so frequent speaking—which every man now being master of the matter by a thorough Debate—And then the House is in a capacity to debate thoroughly—Therefore to preserve Order, and though occasion to resort to the House is necessary, (for else you report and take it out of their hands, contrary to the intention of the Committee)—therefore 'tis necessary that you leave the Chair.
Mr Sawyer.] The difference is very plain—What is resolved is reported by the Chairman, but, for any obstruction at the Committee, 'tis necessary it should come from a private gentleman. Misdemeanors and obstructions at Committees, private gentlemen may inform you of. Consider farther, that the Question arises from the interpretation of your Order. How can they interpret your Order, when they are divided in opinion? They have mistaken your Order, and shall not a man inform the House of it? Therefore 'tis not only the duty of the House to explain the Order, but there is a necessity. But, 'tis said, "An Order made yesterday, was not the same objection made yesterday"—After the House is possessed of the Debate, you must put the Question, whether they will proceed in the Debate.
Sir Winston Churchill.] Stands up to demand his own right, as a Member, to vote freely. 'Tis said, "That we should be all reporters, at this rate:" But what is prayed, is to explain the Order of the House to the Committee. If twenty ships be not complete—'Tis an unreasonable thing for him to strain "Hulls" to "Ships," if not explained. Therefore prays to explain your own Order.
Sir Thomas Lee.] He told you he thought the House was for ships. Has not the same gentleman liberty to propose a greater sum, if he pleases, towards them? By his argument, he will bring the thing into the House, before it has been at the Committee.
Sir John Duncombe] After you came to the sum 280,000l. you came to a Question, Whether the ships were provided for fully by that sum? But 'twas said, "that was for Hulls only," and that began the Debate. 'Twas not to limit the sum, but that your money should not be diverted—He can only speak his own sense, and could not understand it any way but for "Hulls," and thought it a sum this House might proceed upon. He meant the Vote so, and thinks the House did, "twenty ships, built and fitted."
Sir John Duncombe.] Because he has changed his opinion from thirty ships to twenty, wonders it should be so inferred upon him—He took the measure of what those ships would cost—He moved "twenty ships" fairly, and that they should be "hulled and equipped."
Serjeant Maynard.] Whatever the Committee votes is not to be concluded finally resolved; it must come to you, and 'tis now brought to you. When there is an ambiguity of "Hulls" only, or "fitted out," to save your time, you ought to explain it by a Question.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Sees that the word "Ship," whether it may mean and intend "Guns and Stores," is the Question; because he has heard these words mentioned. The word "Ship" may, or may not, intend "Stores and Guns." If it may, 'tis fair to go to the Committee; if it may not intend so, then you go to vote a new thing, a new charge; which if you can do, before it has been at a Committee, and brought by them to you, 'tis altogether new; and farther, before we part with our money, we may speak more than once. Two words to a bargain. He takes the Question to be, whether the Speaker shall leave the Chair, or not leave the Chair.
Sir Robert Holmes.] Is willing to see "Hulls" and would be glad to see "Ships" finished. The Vote is a good brave Vote, but you thought not then to put "Ships" before "Hulls; nor Hulls—"and stop there--He finds, whoever builds Hulls must be at as great a charge for other materials as for Hulls, and sees not how you can come up to your Vote, unless you provide masts, sails, cables, standing and running rigging. He therefore moves to double the sum for your materials, and bring them to your Hulls.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] The dilemma may be, and may not be, both; the nature of all words of a double sense; as this does mean either of them, and can be explained no where but in the House, from whence it came.
Mr Piercy Goring.] Would have no tricks put upon ourselves, nor cheats upon the nation. We intend ships serviceable for defence. He that is not a friend to both, is a friend to neither. Building of ships, and not making them useful, is like those who declared for defence of the King and Kingdom in the late times of rebellion. (That expression gave offence.)
Lord Cavendish.] When the Vote was for twenty ships, they were intended serviceable; else, so much money is thrown away. And we throw away the nation's money, when we give, and there is sufficient to do it.
Mr Waller, who sat on the steps, upon the Speaker's calling to him to sit in his place, said] Cuts are made in the seats for steps here in the House. He knows that in the Long Parliament, steps were seats, and seats were steps, as in an amphitheatre. The Rump put backs to our seats, and the steps, now new made, were seats; and he desires there may be some Order made in it, if steps must not be seats.
Sir William Coventry.] Thinks that the thing is not so light. The greatest misfortune that ever was like to befall us, last session, at a Committee, was about these seats. There was a doubt whether a gentleman was told twice. There was then a doubt, and there may be a doubt, and it had like at that time to have been fatal. Would have a Question about it.
Mr Swynfin.] If this be, you will lose all your labour at a Grand Committee. The first occasion of this was from the King's Speech. The expression in it, of "money to build ships." The consideration of it you referred to a Committee, which was "building of ships," who proceeded with great care several days. 'Tis said, "that by ships" "rigging, stores, guns and tackle are now meant." But to his best understanding no gentleman said any thing of "stores, guns, or tackle," when the several rates were mentioned. But the words were taken as barely delivered to you. If it was intended, was it not then a proper time to have said it? Nay, to tell you what is meant now—Was this ever explained, or desired to be explained, at the Committee? The Committee did not at all doubt the meaning of it; their affirmative might else have been expressed. But in a contract between man and man, the shipwright, by so many "ships," means "his work" only, but not "tackle and rigging, guns, &c." being things not of his profession. In the sense of the law, he would take these words upon contract. He sees we shall equally divide in senses. Those that would have words so understood, would have this a new charge, otherwise we shall engage in a blind bargain. Most of us understood not that charge. Therefore would refer it to the Committee to consider what sum of money we shall give to answer the King's desires for building Ships.
Mr Waller.] You will never set us right, but by a Question. The Question is now about the Order of the House, "Whether we shall send it back to the Committee." The doubt of the Committee is to be determined at the Committee. If this be Order, always a fortiori. Here in this case, 'tis matter of supply, and by a standing Order the Committee is the place to name it in, not here, else you break the standing Order. The sum named at a Committee may be determined there, and, by Order, no where else.
Col. Birch.] 'Tis visible to him, there are not so many ships wanting, but some would have them "clothed and fitted." He thinks it will prejudice the business itself. For, it may be, the Committee will go farther than is already proposed. 'Tis orderly to go to a Committee.
Sir William Coventry.] Does acknowledge that, by the Debate, he believes the House has a mind to determine the Order. He knows not whether it is his luck to be understood rightly, but intends fairly. To give new directions, an Order may be apprehended, that if the thing be abstruse, and may file off from some outdoors information, some may take advantage, and say it needs explication, and it may be of dangerous consequence. On the other hand, there is some apprehension that there lay an obligation from the signification of the words "rigging, &c." though the Committee came not to a result, and as forarguing as if the desires of some were totally to cut off all that, he is one that thought it did not put that obligation upon us, and desired less to strain things on one another, and have better effect of what is desired— Another thing—He would not be prejudged by what he said either way, but would have gentlemen understand it a little farther. The rigour of the words causes these apprehensions—As if words laid no obligation upon us—So the Committee is at liberty to debate it. But to proceed by a trick, to say one thing in the House, and another thing at the Committee, forfeits his reputation. All that is asked of the House by the King is referred to a Committee. The prudential part goes on with the strictness of the letter of demand. The Committee is not excluded the prudential part. He is not of opinion to provide ships never to come off from the stocks. Will any man advise you to launch the ships from the stocks, before they have cables and anchors, to ride by? 'Tis the prudence of the intention not to have ships to build, when war is declared, and the same prudence will lead the House—He will likewise move to do the rest. If still it should fall out at the Committee worse than gentlemen would have it, it must at last come to the House, and believes there will be faster dispatch at the Committee than here, because freed from the fear of an inroad into breach of Privilege, and Order of the House. For instance—If some moved 8 and some 900 ton, the House interposed not, whether 8 or 900, but to settle the Order. As soon as that was done, the Committee was melted, and did not mind how cheap—The night before we talked of 900— We gave it all. You shall find him the same man at the Committee as in the House. Try us and go into a Committee; the House is master of all.
Sir William Coventry.] We shall have an account, at our next meeting, of what is spent upon these ships; and he confidently believes that no man in the House will fall short of supplying the King farther, in case of any war, or other emergency.
Mr Pepys.] From the success of the methods he has taken, he is encouraged to think, he shall have acceptance of what he shall now propose. In the account he gave, he never meant "victuals," nor ever meant "men." This he says, that you may be free, and without apprehension of great sums in reserve. On presumption that the "Hulls" are admitted, will offer you no more for "rigging and sails" than 70,000l. There remain "guns," and requisites to them, as "carriages," &c. and so if you please to determine whether "brass" or "iron guns," or some "iron nailed in," an invention of Prince Rupert's of the same goodness and strength with brass guns, he shall be able to give you their value.
Sir William Coventry.] Pepys proposes 70,000l. for "tackle"—Supposes he means such sufficient stores as the ship may stav abroad with a reasonable time, and do service. Would willingly know whether the Committee intends to fit these ships for hand strokes—Buying guns is the great matter. Iron guns are 60l. per ton of the new invention, and the other sort 20l. per ton. He has been told that iron guns, of the ordinary fabric, are less in value, but whole cannon more. Demy cannon, and under, are of most consequence. Cannon is of great weight to the decks, and more charge. 'Tis his opinion to adhere to the old sort of guns, and you save almost a thousand pound by it. The old ones will cost 37,000l. He has seen the new way of guns, and there is great probability of them; but would not put the nation to the hazard of an invention. Was once told of an invention for boiling of water with much less fuel than is commonly used. The Brewers catched at it, and agreed for it; and a tryal was appointed, and a cauldron provided. The inventor's notion was to have a fire made in the midst of the water, which would sooner heat it. A great pipe was placed in the middle of the diameter, and a fire was made in the pipe, and the water boiled. All said, it was an admirable invention; but an old brewer said, "The invention seems good, but he would try in the bottom of the cauldron, whether the water boiled there or no." But there the water was cold. This has still given him apprehensions of new inventions. He has heard of an armourer at the Hague, who had found out an excellent way of tempering iron for defence and lightness, and the arms musket-proof. And, upon tryal, they were proof indeed, but the temper wore out in a year or two, and would not perform what they did at first. This invention of guns may probably be good, but cannot learn any thing of their tryal in battle by knocks, and heating, and cooling, which is not to be known till tried. Old guns we know, and he would make preparation of guns of that nature.
Sir William Coventry.] Since it is not done, he offers it. Pepys said 110,000l. guns and all; but in that proportion, 'tis not necessary; nor yet fit to provide sails and tackle, unless for the rats and mice. Many gentlemen cannot keep their cloaths from them—"Whole cannon" beginning to be declined as not thought so useful! But in consideration of humanity to ourselves, for our refreshment, having sat so long, he will once do a bold thing he never did, will name 110,000 l. to do all to the full in a round sum, and would speak once for all—Moves "That the whole may be 300,000 l. for these ships."
Sir Nicholas Carew.] He thinks this to be a great sum, the poverty of the nation considered. You must think of how many ships are already on the stocks, not finished, which will be reckoned into the number of these twenty we give. Then, if so, all that money will be refunded, and the King receive it again. Therefore considering the poverty of the Nation, and the appropriating the Customs to the use of the Navy, though the sum is moved high, yet seconds it, "not exceeding 300,000l."
Sir Thomas Littleton.] Would not have the Customs forgotten too much, to let that Money slip; the proper Money for this purpose. Therefore on condition the residue of the work may be done out of the Customs, by this way both these being done, you may have a fleet, and to the end they may go together, he is for the Motion.
Mr Pepys.] As for ships upon the stocks, the KingFisher, that one ship, and that only, is upon the stocks. To take away the jealousy, be pleased to receive this one word more. As for the "sails," he denies it not to be a work of greater time for providing them; but for the "canvass," four fifths must be from abroad. Vitry and Merlaix canvass must be for the grosser part of the sails. There is the same reason for providing "shot" as well as "guns," and pray consider it.
Sir John Ernly.] As for iron guns, brass guns indeed cost more, but in the last fight 500 iron guns broke, and cost some mens lives. If you provide not brass nor nailed guns, there will be great disadvantage in iron— Would have one third part of the guns brass, or nailed.
Mr Powle.] We cannot make a right state of this without an account of the Customs, and, if they had been applied to the use of the Navy, this charge had not been asked now. You were told that the established summer-guard came to 250,000l. for six months with 6000 men; 100,000l. in time of peace—Whether ordnance and other charges out of the Customs—Tripoly 60,000l. Looks upon that still as time of peace, because in war this House is consulted—He thinks less than 300,000l. might have served at this time, but because that sum is moved, he complies with it.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Till appropriating the Customs be done, he shall never believe it. 'Tis no new charge on the Crown; it is on the Customs—The Revenue was ours, and upon every anticipation must be ours—We are not inclinable to punish; we cannot look back, but he would take care for the future—This is still the money that this House gives, and without the Customs annexed he cannot agree to the Question.
Mr Pepys.] Would have you come to the Question, without mistakes, but consider of the building these twenty ships, and their guns—So that he can never give his consent for 300,000l. which will cost you more.
Sir Thomas Clarges.] Some say 60, and some 70,000l. for stores. He wonders what the money has been employed in. We are told also of "gunners stores;" we shall hear of "victuals" and other things hereafter.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Let them find it elsewhere, whose it is—The Customs were given for constant expence of the Navy, but when there is any extraordinary, from causes visible and inevitable, as decay of the fleet, they cannot be supplied by the ordinary expence. If the House gives no more supply now, than what will fit the "Hulls," let the Question be put; but if that be not a fit Question, then to the other part, which the House was moved in, "for full equipage, ground and running tackle, and guns, &c." computed for from the gentlemen that understand the Navy.
Sir Thomas Lee.] The ordinary Revenue is for ordinary occasions of the Crown. But what is become of the extraordinary aids? He thinks this supply is proportionable for building twenty ships—He thinks the latter part of the Question is nothing, but saving the people of England from this charge every Session. If the ships must have finer painting and gilding, or guns extraordinary, let it be out of the Customs; 'twill be a good saving to an ill Question.
Sir John Duncombe.] He hears no body except against these calculations given in by Pepys. 'Tis not "gilding, nor painting" not this, nor t'other, but so much money to equip so many ships as you have given— Therefore moves for 380,000l.
Sir Charles Wheeler.] He that can calculate strongly, leaves nothing behind, as he that asserts strongly. 'Tis often repeated what you have given, but all has been to the King's proper use. He has not 1,200,000l. constant revenue, besides the additional duty upon wines. The parting with the Court of Wards is not considered: He would not have mens reasons captivated with such assertions, and not consider the King's capacity. The money was given to pay his debts. This repeating what has been given the King, leads him into the consideration of what has been done by the King, to have that also considered. He is for that sum and no more than will do, according to the computation brought before us.
Sir Edward Dering.] This is a great sum, and not to be parted with, without consideration. There is not a freeholder in England, but knows our safety, and all depends upon it. Iron guns recoil, and instead of doing execution on the enemy, do it on ourselves. So that in the whole it will come to 380,000l.
Sir William Coventry.] The business of those that sent us hither is to be desended, and that done the cheapest way. For the sum he proposed, he hoped for a concurrence, but, as for that one thing of guns, he has heard iron guns are better for service. The bursting them is by shots hitting on them, and other accidents, not by shooting. He meant by that sort of guns such as are of known experience, iron guns of 20l. per ton. Demy cannon, you were told, is at 17l. per ton, and the small guns at 14 and 15l. per ton. Is there no abatement then in 12l. per ton? Sail is capable of spoil, and not of improvement, 'tis confessed; and you are told, "that as for canvass, it must be had abroad, at Morlaix, and Vitry." But the best canvass, in his time, was Hollands doubles, and in the West Country they make so equally good of that sort, that the officers of the Customs would not let it come in, as English canvass, because 'twas so good. He has been told that there is now so many of these canvass works on foot as fully to supply the Navy. So that what may be abated in the price of guns the sum proposed will plentifully provide for the present occasion.
Mr Sacheverell.] Is one of those who must pay his share of this money, and one of those who would have some recompence for it. Would not have our money taken, and give us nothing. Would have the appropriating of the Customs annexed, or he shall not give his vote for one farthing; and this Bill to be so altered, and not to be brought in, till the good and necessary Bills we have in hand be also passed here. We have many good Bills in hand; and when Money is once given, then nothing is done, and no redress. Therefore would put that part of the Question, else he'll give never a penny of money.
Sir William Coventry.] Another time and place must be for the addition to the Question moved for. Put the Question, "for twenty ships, not exceeding 300,000l. for rigging and furnishing thereof." The latter words are not in your commission, nor authority.
Saturday, November 6.
Sir Thomas Meres.] The Speaker is right in every point but Money. If it be the opinion of the majority of the House for Money, he'll show where you may have it, but not without two Questions. But before we come to the Committee again, would fight it out in the House. And now would agree with the Committee; agree, agree, agree.
Sir Thomas Lee, reflectively upon him, said,] A man that is outlawed after judgment cannot sit here (fn. 2); and knows then no occasion why a Knight of Warwickshire should be heard.
Sir Robert Holt.] Is for raising a sufficient sum of Money; and has discoursed with several knowing persons in the Navy, who assure him that this sum will not serve for the purpose you intend it; and knows it to be the opinion of the most substantial freeholders of that county, that they would have the King be sufficiently supplied as to these ships, which this sum will not do—Therefore moves for more.
Mr Secretary Williamson.] Would re-commit it, upon the Debate of the sum not being sufficient for what you intend to do. To pass this Vote of agreeing, is to make the first Vote useless, and to contradict it, which was "for twenty ships fully fitted for service." This Vote sufficiently declares, that you have not done what you meant—And that thing not being done, this matter being so public, so fundamental, so wholly the nation's concern, and so little any man's else, if he was irregular in his first motion, does move then to re-commit it.
Sir Richard Temple.] Would remove one mistake— 'Tis said, "it is not lawful to mention any sum here that he would have." If he mention the sum debated at the Committee,'tis without breach of Order—We have done something towards it, but not the thing itself—The Vote speaks itself. It has done towards it, but not the thing itself. Would not have it said, that the work goes not on, because you will not be at the cost of it. If this sum will not do it, where is the wisdom to profess you will do it, and not come up to it? The ground of all the miscarriages was, when you gave the King money to pay his debts, and did not express it; so that the money was not laid out to that end.
Mr Leveson Gower.] 'Tis said, "that the money will not do the work it is intended for." If the Committee sit upon this nest-egg, it may produce chickens when the House shall come to sit upon it. Therefore would agree with the Committee.
Sir George Downing.] Speaks only to Order. This Vote of the Committee is against the Order of the House. The Committee passed a Vote for "twenty ships;" and you made it your Vote, "that they should be built with all convenient speed." Then another Vote the Committee made, "for money to build these ships only." Then it was moved to explain what was meant by "building only;" and the Committee, without any explanation, say, "That this sum is for building, and towards guns, tackle, &c." which is quite against your Order.
Sir Edward Dering.] Is one of those who voted for twenty ships, and the Committee comes not up in the Vote of money to these twenty. We have brought them up to dimensions, which must be strengthened, according to the number. You have voted guns of the worst fort; and since you have voted the best ships, would have the best furniture for them. In our calculations we have not mentioned "Stores;" which were not spoken of till the sum was voted. Would therefore bring the sum up to 80,000l. more, to make the work complete.
Mr Pepys.] 'Tis not much he shall now offer. That the 300,000l. is not enough, he can show to any man that will contend it. It seems hard that the words should have one signification, when the King speaks to us, and another, when we speak to him. For instance, tonnage and poundage is granted the King "for building ships." He appeals whether that Money is only meant "for Hulls." It is not the King's construction of it. Now since the Vote itself confesses that the sum is not enough, moves that you will not countenance the King's doing less than you have voted the number.
Mr Papillon.] A man is perfectly cloathed, though he has not three shirts, or three coats on. A ship is fitted, though it has not three suits of sails. But 'tis truly said, that in war we must have more, but we are not now in war, and the doing more will be anticipating of Money. If the King engages in a war, he will consult you for four times as many cables and anchors. The Question, it seems, is, Whether we shall provide now as in war. Many of these provisions are wasting and decaying, as sails, and cables; and, as for the Navy, would not have that lie by—Therefore would agree.
Sir Lionel Jenkins.] He will give you an account of his notion of "building Hulls." One is metaphorical, and the other is of literal and primary import. In a covenant, a man may do so and so, but consider the general word, in latitude of law, it gives it such a building as is complete. 'Tis no perfect building else. Merchants ships are arrested in the whole ship, guns and all. The Vote of twenty ships will make a great noise. If you derogate from it, you derogate also from your reputation. 'Tis a rule in time of peace, to prepare for war. He offers therefore to your consideration the danger of this work lower than you have voted. Governments stand most upon reputation. In the agony of war, 'tis too late, if you defer it, to consult the honour of the nation. You do nothing in this, but for your own honour and reputation. Therefore moves for an addition to this sum.
Sir Thomas Lee.] Is not well informed, and therefore would know, whether, in case "a ship" be left a man, by will, and have no guns, the executor be bound to put guns into the ship, if there were none before, and whether, if the King press a merchant-ship, and she have no guns, the owner is bound to find them.
Sir Edmund Jennings.] A gentleman said, the other day, "he could demonstrate, as clear as the Sun, that the revenue, as now, was sufficient to do this business." If he can do it, why does he not? If he cannot do it, let him tell us so.
Mr Finch.] The reasonableness of the addition to the sum, and the method of it, is the subject-matter of the Debate. He will not pretend to argue the point of law, between the two gentlemen. We are not arguing with the King—Let us not distinguish ourselves out of our safety. Twenty ships, and not fitted to go to sea, is a contradiction to your first Vote. The Vote of the Committee being but "for and towards, &c." we have fallen from conveniency to what is absolutely necessary, and now we are dwindling yet less—The thing is reasonable, and he would have the Speaker put us into a method.
Sir William Coventry.] The objection is upon the word "towards." If gentlemen are desirous to have the word "towards" out of the Question, he is willing it should—Has his particular concern in this business. Because of the sum is much concerned, and is exceeding fearful left, if we go to a Committee again, we should be thought over-lavish of the people's Money, and possibly the King may have the less by it. On the grounds the Committee then went, he sincerely believes the sum rather lavish than short.
Sir Thomas Meres.] Pepys has been heard three times over. Pray give your opinion of the two Professors, Coventry and Pepys. Pray put the Question, whether Pepys shall be heard again, and he shall give his negative.
Sir Philip Warwick.] Has great value for what these two persons say. They are men of knowledge and sincerity. He has ever been of opinion, that what you do, for your own safety, will be acceptable to the people, to provide for war in time of peace. The King would think it his duty to the nation, if he had the sole doing it without you, to spend 400,000l. on these ships. But he would much rather agree, than put things to this dispute.
Sir Charles Harbord.] Is informed that there is no man of skill in these things, but will say, that furnishing the ship is double the value of the Hulls. If he sent a servant, or son, to sea, would send them in ships safe for them to go in.
Sir John Talbot.] Whenever you agree on the precise sum, 'twill lead to a monthly tax, otherwise it will be uncertain. 300,000l. at the rate of monthly tax, comes to 68,000l. per mensem. If a five months tax, it comes to 347,097l. 12 s.
Mr Sawyer.] There is a building of ships, when carpenters are said to build ships, and when the nation builds. The word "towards," is derogatory to the other part of the Vote. If it be not sufficient, it must come to a recommitment.
On the Question, the House agreed with the Committee, that one first rate, measuring 1400 tons; five second rates, measuring one with another 1100 tons; and fourteen third rates, measuring one with another 900 tons, should be built; and that 14l. per ton be allowed for building the first rate, 12l. 10 s. per ton, for each of the second, and 9l. 10 s. per ton for each of the third rates.
Resolved, on a division 176 to 150, That this House doth agree, with the Committee, that a supply be raised, not exceeding the sum of 300,000l. for the building, and towards the guns, rigging, and other furnishing of the said twenty ships (fn. 3).