Εικόνες σελίδας
Ηλεκτρ. έκδοση

has reached us is, that if struck by a shot they would be rendered useless we doubt whether a solid mast, with a shot hole through it, would be in a much better plight.

We have long been wholly dependent on foreign nations for a supply of hemp; a failure in this article, however, is not so alarming as that of timber. It requires no length of time to recover it; in the same year that the seed is put into the ground, the material is fit for use. It is a plant congenial to our climate: at one period, indeed, every cottage had its hemp land, as it now has its potatoe garden; but the growing prosperity of the country, and a more cheap and comfortable substitute for clothing drove it out of cultivation. In the boggy parts of Ireland it is said to grow with great luxuriance, and some encouragement has been held out by government to promote the culture of it in that country, but not sufficient to warrant any sanguine hope of success. It is, however, to be had in most of the Greek islands, in Sicily, in the Morea, in Spain, in South America, and in Canada. The recent interruption of our intercourse with Russia, from which our supplies were chiefly drawn, has encouraged the cultivation of a plant, (the crotularia juncea) in Bengal and the coast of Malabar, which produces the Sunne hemp, not inferior, when properly managed, to that of Riga; and which can be delivered in the Thames at £60 per ton, being 40 per cent. lower than the present price of Russia hemp. Good canvas is also now manufactured at Calcutta. But a considerable saving in the consumption of this article is likely to be effected by a recent improvement in the home manufacture, and by abolishing the use of size or paste with which it was usually glossed over in order to fill up the interstices between the threads: a most pernicious practice! Sails are frequently furled when wet; the size then ferments, mildew forms, and the canvas rots; all this is avoided by the new manufacture.

If we neither want the aid of Russia nor America for hemp, canvas or spars, still less have we occasion to resort to them for pitch and tar. The want of these might be supplied by preparations of paint and other substances; but, in the island of Trinidad, there is a lake of asphaltum, or mineral pitch, which furnishes an inexhaustible supply of this article. When this substance exsudes from the ground, it is in the state of liquid tar. The Spaniards found it to answer so well when laid on boiling hot, and mixed with tallow or oil, in the proportion of about four pounds to every hundred pounds of pitch, or with the resin of a tree (hippomenes biglandulosa), that Admiral Apodaca, in 1797, when the island fell into our possession, had received orders to form an establishment for the preparation of this pitch for the use of the navy. It is said to


possess the valuable qualities of resisting the worm which abounds in the gulph of Paria, and of preserving iron. But there appears to be a prejudice against it, of which we know not the foundation.

Trinidad contains about one million and a half of English acres, two thirds of which, at least, are covered with wood, and wholly the property of the Crown. The Spanish peons, or labourers, are extremely dexterous at felling and squaring timber; and work at a cheap rate. The gulph of Paria, from its depth and smoothness of water, and from the absence of hurricanes, is one large extended harbour, in which all the navies of the world may ride in perfect security. It commands the Oronooka, which is the key to all South America. The gulph abounds with fish, and salt is found in abundance. The herds of cattle on the opposite continent are so numerous as to be worth little more than the trouble of catching them. The value of Trinidad is greatly enhanced by its position to the windward of all the West India islands, and of the Spanish continental possessions on the gulph of Mexico. These advantages, combined with the vast quantity of naval timber upon the island, and on all Spanish Guiana, more especially on the banks of the Oronooka and the numerous rivers falling into it, had determined that government to establish a naval arsenal and a port for building ships at Chaguramos, on the east side of the island. It has now been in our possession 16 years, and it is ten years since it was ceded to us by treaty; yet we doubt exceedingly whether it has in all that time furnished a load of timber, or a single barrel of pitch, for the use of the navy.

There is in India a sort of resin called dammer, which, when mixed with sulphur, is an excellent substitute for pitch. It is produced from a tree which grows abundantly ou Prince of Wales's island, and in the neighbourhood of the Straits of Malacca. In the upper parts of India the Sulla pine produces such quantities of kota, or pure turpentine, that the whole consumption of Europe might be supplied from these districts. In fact, there are few materials which we have been in the habit of drawing from other countries, that India does not, or would not afford.

It is almost unnecessary to observe that in Canada, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, we possess immense forests abounding with oak for ship-building, and pines for masts and spars. With all these colonial resources, then, added to our domestic supplies, it is surely our own fault if we continue to place a precarious dependance on foreign powers. Experience should teach us that such. dependance is almost sure to fail us in time of need. In 1805 General Bentham was sent to Russia to build ships in the ports of the Baltic for the British navy. The scheme was encouraged by the Russian minister here; but met with a very cool reception at D 2 Petersburgh;

Petersburgh and we escaped from this experiment with the loss of the engines, tools, copper bolts and fastenings which had been sent out, and the expenses of the journey. Had the General been allowed to build there, the value of the materials and workmanship must have been paid in advance; and the peace of Tilsit would have placed the ships in the hands of Alexander.

The Portugueze were civil enough to offer us the timber of the Brazils; and Admiral Campbell, a Scotch officer in their service, laid various plans for profiting by it before Mr. Pitt and the late Lord Melville. He represented to them that ships of the line might be built in the Brazils at the rate of £16 per ton, just half the price of building a ship of the same class in England. It turns out, however, on more minute inquiries, that there is very little timber near the sea coast in Brazil fit for ship-building; that there is but one slip for line-of-battle ships in all Brazil, which is at Bahia; that shipwrights are so little accustomed to building there, that a 64 gun the Principe de Brazil, was four years on the stocks; and that the price would at least equal that of building in England.

In the Mediterranean islands, in the Morea, in Albania, Dalmatia and Croatia, the finest oak timber, iu point of size and shape, is most abundant; and we had recourse to the eastern shores of the Adriatic for a supply of this article, which was paid for, felled, and brought down to the sea coast. The defection however of Austria put the French in possession of our timber, which had judiciously been placed in a most convenient situation for the use of their naval arsenal at Venice! We have since, it is true, recovered a part of it in the Rivoli, and we shall probably recover the remainder in the same way when the enemy may chuse to give us a fair opportunity. Thus much for foreign dependence.

Having cursorily stated the demand for naval timber, and the sources of supply, we shall next undertake to shew that, instead of continuing to build in England at the extravagant rate in which wę have proceeded since the renewal of the war, we have ample means within our reach of keeping up our naval force to its present effective standard, by bringing forward a yearly supply of eight ships of the line and sixteen frigates, without building a single new ship at home, except, perhaps, now and then a first rate, for many years to We say extravagant, because though in the year 1807, no less than eight ships of the line were launched, 22 of the line were ordered to be built, 19 of which were contracted for in merchants' yards, and in the following year, five more, while something very little short of 100 sail of the line were quietly rotting at their moorings in ordinary.


It is a vulgar and, in our conception of the matter, a very erroncous opinion, that ships are laid up in ordinary to preserve them.


We should rather define it as the state in which a good sound ship may, in the quietest manner possible, become rotten in a given number of years, without being of any use whatever in the mean time, except that of creating a considerable expense, in the interest of a dead capital, the pay of her warrant officers, and the wear and tear of her mooring tackle; besides encumbering the harbour where she is laid up. A ship, as soon as launched, if not immediately wanted for service, is put into a state of ordinary. If she has been built of unseasoned timber, or of seasoned timber mixed with American oak or pitch pine, it is pretty clear that, in the course of twelve months, the dry-rot will have made a considerable progress; if put together in the usual manner, as described by Mr. Pering, in two years she will be sufficiently shrunk to play pretty freely on her fastenings, and to let in oozing drip;' and at the end of five years, she will require what is called a thorough repair' to put her into a state of service. Mr. Pering asserts positively, that no ship ever received a thorough repair, without costing more money than when she was built, and in some instances half as much again.' It may thus happen that a 74 gun ship, without performing one day's service, may, some five or six years after launching, be brought forward from the ordinary, at an expense to the public of £150,000. ·


Instead then of building new ships, to rot in ordinary, we should recommend the opposite plan of bringing those already in ordinary forward for service, as the surest means of saving them from decay. For this purpose we should select those whose repairs would not exceed one third, or, at the most, one half of the original cost, and after providing sufficiently for guard, receiving, prison, hospital, and convalescent ships, break up the remainder; taking care to preserve the sound parts for the repair of other ships, and to dispose of the rest for fire wood: we should thus get rid of much trouble and incumbrance, and save the interest of money on a dead and decaying capital.

We are fully aware of the difficulty of repairing the ordinary in the manner proposed. We know that the present accommodations of our dock-yards are by no means correspondent with the extended scale of the naval establishment; yet we still believe, that under a well regulated system of management, much of the difficulty might be overcome. But if ships are allowed to remain in dock for three or four years, waiting for timber or for hands-if small frigates or sloops are suffered to occupy docks for first rates, ten, or twelve months—then indeed, not even the magnificent scale of the projected naval arsenal at Northfleet, of which we have heard so much, would be sufficient to repair the ordinary. There are no less than 18 docks in the six naval yards, into which ships of the line can be taken, besides seven others for frigates, &c. and we think it has

D 3


been satisfactorily shewn that, by a due appropriation of them, there might be constantly brought forward eight or ten sail of the line from the ordinary, which are more than are wanted, as we shall now proceed to shew.

Assuming it as a fact, that 400,000 tons of shipping are in a state of ordinary, of which 80 or 100,000 tons may consist of ships of the line; that one fourth of these, or, which amounts to the same thing, that twenty 74 gun ships may advantageously be repaired, and that twenty more are actually on the stocks; we would propose that two new and two old ships should be brought forward for service every year; that two sail of the line should be built annually at Bombay, and the timbers of two others prepared at the same time, to be brought home in their holds. By these means we have at once the eight ships of the line necessary to keep up the efficiency of the fleet. The sixteen frigates might be procured by building one at Bombay, one at Trincomalle, one at Bengal, one at Prince of Wales's island, and one at Trinidad, each of which should bring home her duplicate, or, at least, a considerable part of it; the remaining six might be provided at home, either from the ordinary, or by building them of fir. The sloops, gun-brigs, tenders, and other small vessels might be built of fir or larch; or, as we have already observed, if built in India, from the refuse of the timber employed in the large ships, they would cost little more than the price of labour.


There are others, however, who would go a readier way to work, and reduce our present naval establishment, as unnecessarily large to cope with that of the enemy. It was observed by the late Lord Melville in the House of Lords in 1810, (and the same sentiments have been uttered in the other house,) that the naval establishment of this country was then upon a scale considerably exceeding what in wisdom, in sound policy, and on every principle of economy it ought to be.' He admitted that our naval superiority ought at all times to be decisive and commanding; but that, considering the scarcity of naval timber, and the high price of naval stores of every description, it was not a time for the country to give way to an ostentatious and prodigal expenditure. He thought that about ninety sail of the line would be amply sufficient for home and foreign service, and therefore recommended keeping as many ships of the line as possible sound and entire to meet future exigencies-in other words, to lay them up in ordinary. The effect of this, we have al

In a letter to Lord Melville respecting troop-shups, and the general state of the navy, a pamphlet supposed to be written by his late secretary, Mr. Budge, and well deserving the attentive perusal of every man connected with naval concerns.

+ Printed Speech of the late Lord Melville, made in the House of Lords on the subject of employing troop-ships.


[ocr errors]
« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »