HC Deb 28 June 1815 vol 31 cc0-1021
Sir Francis Burdett,

in pursuance of his notice, rose to call the attention of the House to the invention of Mr. Mallison, for preserving the lives of shipwrecked mariners. This subject, indeed, had been frequently before them, and he was quite at a loss to conceive on what grounds they could refuse to inquire into the expediency of adopting the invention. The Report of the Committee appointed to examine into the benefits to be produced by this invention had declared, that it would tend to save many valuable lives; and, indeed, it was obvious to him, that Mr. Mallison had applied the power of cork to a purpose more beneficial than was ever before known. If this were true, the House ought not to refuse to make him an adequate remuneration, particularly as large sums had been voted to other gentlemen for their inventions. Captain Manby and Lieutenant Bell had received considerable compensations for their services to the public, and there existed no reason whatever why Mr. Mallison should be neglected. His invention was not only useful to the navy, but also to the army, as it would tend to save men who were wrecked in transports at sea; and when it was considered that 19,000 men of all descriptions had pe- rished by shipwreck during the last year, no one, he thought, would question the expediency of adopting an invention which might save the lives of so many of his Majesty's subjects. The utility of the invention could not, he thought, be disputed, after the report of a committee of that House in its favour, and after the several testimonies from naval officers, as to its efficacy in saving seamen; some of which testimonies the hon. baronet read to the House, especially a letter from captain Harris, stating a case in which a boat's crew, employed to assist a transport which had got on the breakers, in the port of St. Audero, derived the utmost advantage from the use of Mr. Mallison's Seaman's Friend, while another boat's crew, which attempted to follow the former, was entirely lost. He therefore hoped, that as one committee had been appointed to examine into the facts, there would be no opposition to a committee to inquire into the expediency of carrying into execution Mr. Mallison's plan for saving the lives of seamen and others, whose lives might be endangered by shipwreck, and by the upsetting of boats. He concluded with moving, "That a Committee be appointed to inquire into the expediency of carrying into execution Mr. Mallison's plan of an institution for saving the lives of shipwrecked men, and men exposed to danger from boats upsetting."

Mr. Rose

said, that the plan of Mr. Mallison had been tried in his presence, as a member of the committee to inquire into the merits of the invention; and his cork jackets did certainly serve to keep men afloat, who were incapable of swimming. But the cork jackets of Mr. Mallison proved to be really little more than the ordinary cork jackets. Yet Mr. Mallison had been rewarded for his invention, for be had been granted 100l., which, in his opinion, was sufficient. As to the motion, the fact was, that whether it were agreed to or not was not material to the saving of life or property from shipwreck; because, if the invention of Mr. Mallison, as it was called, were really useful, it would reward itself, for it would be generally purchased; but it was no proof of the accuracy of the hon. baronet's information, that those cork jackets were not found to be much in demand among the mercantile officers or seamen, who would of course boy them, if assured of their utility. He did not wish to oppose a reward where any man was fairly entitled to it, espe- cially where lives could be saved; but, in the present instance, he did not think that any farther remuneration was necessary.

Sir Joseph Yorke

ridiculed the idea of those jackets affording any security for seamen belonging to a man of war. For unless every seaman were dressed in a cork jacket, how was one to be flung to Jack, if he fell overboard while the ship was going at the rate of five or six knots an hour? He believed the plan to be wholly destitute of that practical utility which could justify the House in acquiescing in the motion. The great and only merit of Mr. Mallison's invention appeared to be, to have proved that cork was of a light and floating nature.

Mr. Whitbread

said, that the committee had reported favourably of this invention; and as to the 100l., it was given, not by way of reward, but to protect Mr. Mallison against the expenses of bringing witnesses before the committee. He thought it would be a very good thing, if a certain number of these cork jackets were on board every ship of war and merchant-vessel. With regard, however, to the invention of captain Manby, it was quite distinct from that of Mr. Mallison; and he should be glad to know what steps had been taken for rendering effectual captain Manby's plan. He had heard that, not-withstanding the utmost exertions made by that ingenious man, it had not been, carried to its full extent. Great advantages were to be derived from it, and he thought the inventor ought to be better rewarded.

Mr. Rose

stated, that the Secretary for the Home department and the Admiralty, vied with each other in promoting the use of captain Manby's invention, and in consequence no less than 120 stations were already fixed upon where materials where to be placed, in readiness for the execution of this meritorious plan for saving the lives of seamen.

Mr. Bathurst

bore testimony to the eagerness of Government to give every possible facility to captain Manby's plan.

Mr. Wynn

hoped that no means would be neglected by his Majesty's ministers to bring that most beneficial invention into general use. Upwards of a hundred lives had already been saved by it. He thought, however, that some compensation should be given, not only to the men who lost their boats, but also to the families of such as perished in their exertions; for he believed that many were afraid, as the case now stood, of leaving their wives and children unprovided for.

Mr. Rose

replied, that the measure recommended by the hon. gentleman already formed part of the plan.

Sir Francis Burdett

said, that a right hon. member had stated, that Mr. Mallison's plan could not be called an invention, on account of its great simplicity; but he should think, that that fact constituted its greatest merit. As to what had been mentioned respecting a compensation to the families of those who lost their lives under captain Manby's plan, he thought it would be a much cheaper and more beneficial measure to encourage a plan that would prevent their lives from being lost. The cork jacket was much more simple and useful, and many naval men had testified their approbation of it. Captain Harris, in a letter dated Spithead, 1814, had declared, that it perfectly answered all purposes; and he instanced a case where the crew of a boat, going to the relief of a transport, had been saved, while a boat belonging to another ship, which attempted to follow, was upset, and the whole of the lives lost, in consequence of the men not being clad in the jacket.

Mr. W. Smith

said, that without going into the comparative merits of the two inventions, he thought that Mr. Mallison had, at least, the merit of great perseverance; and he most sincerely hoped that some public notice would be taken of his plan, in order that it might be brought into general use. If encouragement were afforded by the public boards, a great number of lives might be saved. Mr. Mallison had written him a letter on this subject, wherein he stated, that three sloops were recently lost, and almost all their crews perished, whose lives might have been saved by the use of his jacket.

Mr. Wilberforce

was happy to hear that rewards were given to those who risked their lives under captain Manby's plan, and hoped that Government would employ every exertion to carry it into complete effect.

The question was then called for, and the House divided:

For the Motion 27
Against it 92
Majority 65