Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

cost of the Minden will probably amount to £35 per ton; and as she measures about 1650 tons, the whole cost will exceed that which a ship of the same tonnage would have been launched for here by £2475. The Salsette frigate, of 36 guns and 960 tons, cost about £27,000 or somewhat more than £28 per ton. The same frigate built in England, of oak, would have cost, at the present price, £23,520, which is at the rate of £24 10s. per ton. These ships however were built wholly under the direction of the Company's government; and we all know the magnificent stile in which every thing is performed under their auspices-sloops of war and gun brigs may be built, we understand, for little more than the expense of labour, as the timber suitable for such purposes is considered almost as useless.

We see no great objection to the building of king's and company's ships in India, from any injury which the ship-wrights in the king's yards or the ship-builders on the banks of the Thames are likely to sustain. Nor do we agree with Mr. Money as to the 'substantial objection' to an importation of teak into England, for the purpose of building at home, on account of the freight. A certain quantity of converted timber might be imported as ballast, in ships with light cargoes from Bombay. Every line-of-battle ship will carry the duplicate of her frame in her hold; and we understand that the Admiralty, in giving directions for the building of the Cornwallis, a 74 gun ship now on the stocks at Bombay, have ordered the timbers of another ship of the same lines and dimeusions to be prepared at the same time, and to be brought home in her hold and set up in England.

We have now done with Mr. Money; but before we take leave of this important subject, and a more important one cannot possibly be brought under consideration, we shall avail ourselves of this opportunity to hazard a few ideas which we have long entertained, and which the perusal of the two pamphlets has brought afresh to our recollection.

A great commercial and manufacturing country like England, laying the whole world under contribution for necessaries, as well as luxuries, looks to its own soil the last of all others for a supply of its partial wants: while so large a portion of its capital is employed on foreign commerce, the extent of its home resources is never known; it is necessity only which calls forth its productive powers. We have been so long in the habit of drawing almost every material of which the navy is constituted, with the exception of oak and iron, from foreign nations, that we are apt to consider every temporary interruption of the usual channels of supply as an irremediable calamity, and it is not till after some time lost in lamentation and despondency, that the discovery is


made of ample resources within our own reach. The alarm however ceases with the cause, and we again lapse into ease and dependence. It has been ascertained beyond the possibility of doubt, in the first place by a committee of the House of Commons, in 1771, subsequently by the commissioners of land revenue in 1792, and still more recently by the indefatigable exertions of the late Mr. Fordyce, that the woodlands in general of Great Britain, but plantations of oak in particular, have diminished in proportion as the population and prosperity of the country have augmented. The soil which the oak affects, is that best adapted for wheat; oak moreover is, of all woods, the longest in coming to its full growth. Individuals therefore have not much inducement to plant oaks; whilst, from the high price of bark, which has been nearly quadrupled within the last fifteen years, and the demand for oak paling, &c. great temptations are held out for cutting the trees whilst young. Whether for ornament or profit, trees of a quicker growth than oak, generally compose the new plantations on private estates. Among these, it is true, some may be applied to naval purposes. The larch, in particular, is very little inferior, and in some respects preferable, to oak. It resists the attack of the worm, and does not corrode iron; while the turpentine which it contains is a preservative against the effects of the weather. It is found to thrive in the poorest soils, and in very elevated situations; and it arrives at perfection in fifty or sixty years.

It is to the crown lands that we must look with any degree of confidence for the future supply of naval timber. If 60,000 or 70,000 acres of the royal forests had been enclosed and planted, as recommended by the commissioners of land revenue in 1792, we should at this time have had a valuable nursery for future use. In the last session, however, bills were passed for the planting and enclosing of 1,600 acres in the forest of Alice Holt, and 2,000 acres in that of Woolmar. It is indeed more than time to look minutely into the state of our naval timber. The crisis is fast approaching when the scarcity will be felt in a most alarming degree. We believe, and our opinion is not formed on light grounds, that if we go on building ships of the line at the rate in which we have proceeded for the last six years, the whole of our native oak will be exhausted in less than twenty years. At this moment, scarcely any of that large and crooked timber required for first and second rates is to be found in the country: this, at one period, would have been considered as an evil beyond the reach of remedy. Necessity, however, has in this, as in similar cases, suggested expedients in the substitution of iron knees, and of large and crooked pieces of timber artificially put together by a mode called scarphing, and by other methods, invented and adopted by Mr. Seppings, the ingenious


builder of Chatham yard, who may be said to have established a new era in naval architecture.

It is not easy to ascertain, with any degree of precision, the actual consumption of oak timber; but the demand for naval purposes only is by no means so great as is generally supposed, from an erroneous idea of the quantity of naval tonnage, which, if we mistake not, has been estimated at 800,000 tons. The whole navy may perhaps amount to so much, but that part of it in actual service, or in commission, does not exceed one half, and it is upon this only that the average consumption should be reckoned. We know, with sufficient accuracy, the tonnage employed in the merchant service, and in that of the East India Company; but we have no means whatever of ascertaining the consumption of oak timber for internal purposes; the demand, however, for those purposes has increased in a greater proportion than that for ship-building: nor will this appear extraordinary when we consider the vast quantity of oak employed in mill-work, and all kinds of machinery; in the inland navigations with their barges, bridges, wharfs, locks and sluices; in docks and basins, with their huge gates, piers and buttresses, &c. far exceeding the demands made on the forests and woodlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when it was the fashion to build almost entirely with oak; and when the finest and choicest trees were sought for roofs and beams, floors, stair-cases and wainscotting. We pretend not therefore to furnish an accurate statement of the expenditure of oak, though the following, we think, will come pretty near it.

The navy employs

The East India Company's service
The merchant service.
Buildings, canals, machinery, docks, and
other internal demands may be taken at

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

400,000 tons. 115,000



Making in the whole

4,015,000 tons.

It will follow then, that the navy requires only one tenth part of the whole consumption of the country; and consequently that any saving in this service will be of little avail, unless coercive measures be taken to restrain the consumption in other departments. We are aware how ungracious any act of the legislature would be that should interfere with the disposition of private property; but the salvation of the empire is a paramount consideration: and, possessing as we do, so cheap and durable a substitute as that of iron, of which we have an inexhaustible store, excellently adapted to many purposes to which oak timber is now applied, we think, that without much individual hardship, some restrictions might be imposed on the consumption of the latter article. In 1772, the legislature interfered to prevent


the East India Company from building ships in England until the amount of their tonnage should be reduced to 45,000 tons. With so many resources in their Indian possessions, where the finest, cheapest, and most durable ships in the world are built for the use of private merchants, it is difficult to conceive why the shipping interest of London should continue to have the preference. By building in India for the Company's trade, from 15,000 to 20,000 loads of oak timber would be amually saved to the country-our concern, however, is with the navy alone. We shall endeavour to show what are its demands, and what are our resources. This inquiry is the more important, as the first and great object of the enemy is that of crippling our naval supplies. His unprovoked attack on Russia had this principally in view, and his intrigues with the American president are directed to the same end.

Assuming 400,000 tons as the amount of tonnage to be kept in commission, and the average duration of a ship of war at the moderate period of 12 years, there would be required an annual supply of tonnage, to preserve the navy in its present effective state, of 32,000 tons and as a load and a half of timber is employed for every ton, the annual demand will be 48,000 loads. The building of a 74 gun ship consumes about 2000 oak trees, or 3000 loads of timber, so that 48,000 loads will · build 8 sail of the line and 16 frigates. Allowing one fourth part more for casualties, the annual consumption will be about 60,000 loads, or 40,000 full grown trees; of which 35 will stand upon an acre of ground. The quantity of timber therefore necessary for the construction of a 74 gun ship will occupy 57 acres of land; and the annual demand will be the produce of 1140 acres. Allowing only 90 years for the oak to arrive at perfection, there ought to be now standing, 102,600 acres of oak plantations, and an annual felling and planting in perpetual rotation of 1140 acres to meet the consumption of the navy alone: large as this may seem, it is little more than 21 acres for each county of England and Wales; which is not equal to the belt which surrounds the park and pleasure grounds of many estates.

The quantity of oak consumed by the navy we have already shewn to be but a tenth part of the consumption of the country. We shall now point out the means by which this small demand may be still farther reduced.

1. By building all ships of the same rate on the same plan, and of the same dimensions, as recommended by the Board of Revision, and practised in France. The timber might then be cut into proper forms in the place where it grows, by which a saving in the carriage would be effected. In the present mode of heaping timber in huge piles in the dock-yards, it is deemed better to cut away a


larger piece of timber than is wanted near the top of the pile, than to be at the labour of drawing out a smaller and more suitable piece from the bottom. When ships are broken up, every serviceable piece would immediately find its appropriate place, instead of rotting in the yards as it now does, from there being no ship of the same draught to which it can be applied.

2. By discontinuing the ceiling or inside lining of ships, substituting diagonal trusses, and filling up the intermediate spaces between the timbers with old wood not applicable to any other purpose. The Tremendous was built in this way by Mr. Seppings; she was launched without breaking or hogging, as it is sometimes called, the tenth part of an inch; she sails better than most ships of her class, is perfectly dry, betrays no signs of weakness, and is in every respect what may be called a crack ship. The saving of time and timber by scarphing, and other methods, we have already noticed.

3. By the abolition of treenails, which are hewn out of the choicest pieces of oak, free from knots.

4. By the substitution of iron knees, and the new mode of binding the sides and beams by knees constructed of straight pieces of timber.

5. By the substitution of iron tanks for casks, the former of which in a 74 gun ship will stow 40 tons more water than the latter in the ground tier alone, and serve as so much ballast: the water remains pure and clear; it is let out by a simple contrivance, if necessary; the tanks are easily filled without removing, and the bruises and broken limbs prevented which constantly take place in moving the heavy butts of wood; and they will outlast the best built ship.

6. By a new mode of construction in the masts, yards, bowsprits, &c. While Riga masts and spars could be procured, our prejudices in favour of them were so great that they bore three times the price of those of equal quality from Canada and other parts of America; but when the treaty of Tilsit had shut the Russian ports against us, we then discovered that American spars could be used in the navy. It is a possible, though not a very probable event, that this channel of supply may some time or other be stopped-fortunately we have still a resource within ourselves. Mr. Smart, an ingenious mechanic, has invented a mode of making hollote masts from small timber, which may be procured in any quantity, and which, uniting strength with lightness, have advantages which solid ones do not possess. This is easily demonstrable from natural, as well as mathematical principles. On the present occasion, however, there is no need of recurring to either; for these hollow spars have stood the test of experience in all kinds of weather, both in the merchant and the king's service: the only objection to them which




« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »