Motion by Mr. Temple Luttrell, for Returns of the Navy



Friday, March 1, 1776.

Mr˙ Temple Luttrell moved, "That the proper officers do lay before this House the last Weekly Accounts received at the Admiralty from the Admiral or Commander-in-Chief of his Majesty' s Ships and Vessels at the several Ports of Chatham, Plymouth, and Portsmouth; together with the last Weekly Accounts of the state and condition of all such Ships and Vessels-of-War as are now employed upon Channel service, or on the Coasts of Great Britain or Ireland."

He introduced his motion with some strictures upon the Admiralty, for the little care that had been taken in manning the men-of-war for the American service, by which misconduct some of the frigates had run ashore, and others been impeded in their voyage, &c. He insisted upon it, that so numerous a fleet as that, which, it is said, would amount to near one hundred sail, could not possibly be fitted out without press-warrants; yet he did not condemn the withholding such expedient; for next to the compelling Americans to serve against Americans, nothing could be worse than to force Britons to fight against them. He asked if it would not be wiser to have fifty men-of-war on that service properly manned, than one hundred in so wretched a condition. The fleet in America, including store-ships, victuallers, and small craft, must require upwards of twenty thousand men, which would be more than could be spared at so remote a distance, consistent with the safety of these Islands, when your resources of men for land and sea service were so reduced, and the French and Spaniards actually fitting out large naval armaments, and increasing their military establishments. Some Ministerial gentlemen had asserted, the evening before, that we had twenty sail of line-of-battle ships fit to encounter any enemy whatever at a few days notice. This was absolutely a false state of facts. He would engage to prove, by indisputable evidence at the bar, that when the rest of the ships destined for America shall have sailed, there will not be seamen sufficient, in all the ports put together, to complete the complements of fourteen sail of the line. The Spaniards will in less than six weeks have a greater force than that within two days sail of Gibraltar, and we have, only one ship of the line in the Mediterranean. The French are now superior to us in all parts of the world excepting North-America. We have not a single line-of-battle ship either in the East or West-Indies; France has a squadron at Hispaniola, and ten thousand land forces. Are we, then, henceforward to hold our very existence as a nation by no better tenure than the impolitick faith or commisseration of the House of Bourbon?

Right Hon˙ T˙ Townshend seconded the motion.

Sir Hugh Palliser replied, that the Navy was in a most flourishing state at home; and said that the American ships were manned in a most satisfactory manner. The guardships had supernumerary hands, and seamen came in faster than was requisite.

Lord Mulgrave supported these assertions, and declared, as a professional man, that we could have a fleet of forty sail of the line in a few weeks, and sixty in a month' s time, if necessary.

Governour Johnstons, replied, and showed that there was but too much reason to apprehend we were going to our lowest ebb as a maritime Power as well as a commercial one.

Mr˙ W˙ H˙ Hartley expressed his concern that country


gentlemen should encourage Ministry in the unconstitutional practice of withholding information from the Representatives of the people.

The House divided.

Tellers for the yeas
Mr˙ Thomas Townshend,
Mr˙ Temple Luttrell,

Tellers for the noes,
The Lord Mulgrave,
Mr˙ Penton,

So it passed in the negative.