tantamount to a dissolution of the Board ; and in Middleton's case such a refusal entailed his resignation.

By a strange irony of fate it was reserved for Middleton—now Lord Barham-to embody the usage as defined by Spencer in his own practice in a still more extreme form, and virtually to reduce the signature of other members to a mere formality. He became First Lord of the Admiralty in May 1805 on the resignation of Lord Melville. By this time it had become the usage for orders issued by the Board to be signed by at least three Lords. But Barham rarely signed such orders himself; and the required three signatures were commonly affixed by deputy, being generally countersigned by the Secretary and thus invested with the full authority of the Board. But on one memorable occasion Barham did sign an executive order and signed it alone. The story is well known how Bettesworth, sent home by Nelson in the Curieux' with news of Villeneuve's

• movements, reached the Admiralty late on the night of July 8, when Barham had gone to bed. It is said that, when called in the morning and Bettesworth's news was communicated to him, the old man-he was then in his 80th year—was furious at so many hours having been lost at such a crisis. But he sat down there and then and drafted a hasty minute, which he forthwith embodied in a letter to Cornwallis, then blockading Brest, instructing him to make the dispositions which resulted in Calder's action with Villeneuve. This letter is dated July 9, and it concludes, Official orders will follow as soon as possible. But Barham added in a

' a postscript, Time is everything, as who should say, Don't wait for the official orders but take this letter as your authority.'

The official orders, to precisely the same effect though somewhat more formal and explicit, did follow as soon as possible, for they are dated the same day. But there is no evidence that they went by the same ship as that which carried Barham's letter;' nor,

I can discover, is there any evidence that Cornwallis received them before the crisis was over. On the other hand, there is direct evidence that he received Barham's letter and acted upon it without an instant's delay. For in a letter dated Noon, 11th July, 1805,' he wrote



so far



[ocr errors]

to Barham, I have this moment had the honour of receiving your lordship's letter, and I have sent the necessary instructions, and so forth. It seems certain, then, that Cornwallis acted on Barham's letter alone and did not wait for the official instructions, which both men would appear to have regarded as a formality superfluous in the circumstances. Barham's colleagues, who signed the official order—for once, in their own autograph and without the intervention of the Secretary -were Admiral Gambier and Lord Garlies, the First and Third Sea Lords. Gambier was Barham's nephew, and Garlies was not a man of much weight. We know,' says Sir John Laughton, of nothing in the lives of either Gambier or Garlies which [should] lead us to suppose that they would venture, on such a point, to dispute their chief's opinion.'

Later in the same year Barham gave a still more striking, albeit less memorable, illustration of his readiness in emergency to act solely on his own initiative and responsibility, without consulting the Board at all and indeed with a definite intention of concealing from it what he had done. In November Lord Keith, commanding in the North Sea, reported that two French frigates had escaped from Flushing; and Barham apprehended that their purpose was an attack on our African settlements and trade.' Accordingly he wrote privately and with his own hand to Lord Gardner, then in command at Cork, giving him detailed instructions how to act in the circumstances by detaching a force to the African Coast. At the end of his letter he said, Whatever relates to this service to be directed to me as private, until your Lordship receives a confirmation of these orders from the Board. The vessels employed to be mentioned in your disposition of ships as “cruising to the westward.") However, the French frigates were soon reported as having returned to Flushing, and there the matter ended. No official orders were ever issued ; and Barham subsequently instructed Gardner to return the private letter containing his secret orders. Probably the Board never heard of the transaction.

I have cited these illustrations of the doctrine expounded in the first part of this article not merely on account of their great historical interest but because

[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


they carry back the usage and practice of the Admiralty, as ascertained in 1861 in a period of profound peace, into the very crisis of a great war. I now turn to another branch of the same subject, namely, the administration of the Admiralty as affected by the successive Orders in Council in force since 1869. The Order in Council of Jan. 14, 1869—obtained by Mr Childers for the purpose of enabling him to carry out the reforms he contemplated

appears to have been the first of its kind to define the business of the Admiralty and regulate its distribution among the several members of the Board. But the definitions it contained were no new departure, except as regards the unfortunate phrase which required the members of the Board, other than the First Lord, 'to act as his assistants in the discharge of the duties assigned to them—a phrase which disappeared once for all in 1872 when the Order in Council of 1869 was rescinded. We have seen that, according to the Report of the Hartington Commission, the administration of the Admiralty rested on the same basis previous to the issue of the Order in Council' in question. This statement would seem to apply not merely to the general definition of business but to its detailed distribution among the several members of the Board. Moreover, it has been the custom of late years, and perhaps from a very early period, for the First Lord to draw up from time to time and subject to frequent revision an office document defining, in accordance with the Order in Council in force for the time being, the detailed duties assigned by him to each individual member of the Board. I do not know when this custom first originated, but I can cite an early instance of it.

When Lord Barham became First Lord of the Admiralty in 1805, one of the first things he did was to draw up his own · Distribution of Business.' I quote the following extracts from it:

Business of the Board. The First Lord will take upon himself the general superintendence and arrangement of the whole.

· First Sea Lord. “The Senior, or first professional Lord, will do the same when the First Lord is absent.


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

His duty will be to attend to the correspondence of the day, but more particularly to that of the ports and all secret services. ... He will, with the approbation of the First Lord, dispose of the movements of all ships on home and foreign stations and give orders and instructions to the Admirals, Captains, and Commanding Officers on service. ... He will attend particularly to the equipment of all ships and vessels of every description, and examine frequently the Navy weekly progress for that purpose.'

I need not examine in detail the several Orders in Council which have been issued since 1869, nor the several schemes for the Distribution of Business' which have from time to time been associated with them. Their interest is now mainly historical, and does not affect the present argument, except at one or two points which will be considered in due course. A critical and even polemical analysis of them will be found in the volume entitled Naval Policy, a Plea for the Study of War'-the work of a very distinguished flag-officer whose identity is now quite transparently veiled under the pseudonym Barfleur.' But the Order in Council of Aug. 10, 1904, which is still substantially in force, demands closer consideration. Together with the Distribution of Business' associated with it it became at the time of its promulgation a subject of acute controversy, the echoes of which have not even now entirely died down. The controversy turned, however, not on the powers and responsibilities of the First Lord—which were defined once for all in 1869, though they had existed in the same large measure from time immemorial—but on those of the First Sea Lord. The two documents taken together are alleged by their critics to have greatly magnified the office of First Sea Lord, and to have given its incumbent a supremacy over his colleagues alike undue and unprecedented. Let us see how far this was the case.

The Order in Council of 1904 did certainly differ from its predecessors of 1872 and 1882—which were both textually rescinded by it-in one important respect, inasmuch as both of the latter, but especially the first of them, defined in general terms the duties to be assigned to the several members of the Board, so that the

assignment of these duties was not left solely to the discretion of the First Lord. In the Order in Council Vol. 222.No. 442,

[ocr errors]



of 1904 such discretion was within certain limits reserved to the First Lord, apparently for the first time. He himself was, as before, to be responsible to Your Majesty and to Parliament for all the business of the Admiralty.' But, instead of defining the duties of the other Lords, the Order went on to declare the First Sea Lord, the Second Sea Lord and the Fourth Sea Lord to be responsible to the First Lord of the Admiralty for the administration of so much of the general business connected with Your Majesty's Navy, and with the movement and condition of Your Majesty's Fleet, and with the "Personnel" of that Fleet, as shall be assigned to them or each of them, from time to time, by the First Lord ;' and the Third Sea Lord and Controller to be responsible to the First Lord for the administration of so much of the business relating to the “Matériel" of Your Majesty's Navy as shall from time to time be assigned to him by the First Lord.' It does not appear, however, that the First Lord of the time—the Earl of Selborne-exercised the discretion accorded to him in any way contrary to precedent. I give below in parallel columns the duties assigned on the one hand to the First Sea Lord under the Distribution of Business' framed in pursuance of the Order in Council of August 1904, and on the other those assigned to him under an earlier Distribution of Business' dated Jan. 1, 1904, and therefore framed before the Order in Council of Aug. 10, 1904, was issued. The latter is much more detailed, but many of its particulars do not concern us here. One great difference is that in the later Distribution all questions of discipline are removed from the province of the First Sea Lord altogether, and in other respects that officer is relieved of many more or less routine duties, so as to leave him free for the more efficient discharge of those higher duties which, under both Distributions, are made his special province and responsibility. There is one other important and, according to some critics, vital difference, on which I am about to comment.

October 20, 1904.

January 1, 1904.

FIRST NAVAL LORD. 1. Preparation for War: All large 1. Maritime Defence, Strategical, Questions of Naval Policy and Mari- and all large Questions of Naval time Warfare—to advise.

Policy-to advise.

« VorigeDoorgaan »