HC Deb 18 February 1841 vol 56 cc707-22
Lord Eliot

hoped he should receive the indulgence of the House whilst he called its attention to a subject in which much interest was generally felt. It might be recollected, that in the month of April, 1839, he (Lord Eliot) moved for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the merits of the plan of Mr. Snow Harris, for the protection of ships from the effects of lightning. It might be recollected also, that the House was disposed to accede to that proposition, that it was assented to by the hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. Charles Wood), at that time Secretary to the Admiralty, and that it would undoubtedly have been adopted but for a suggestion that came from the right hon. Baronet, the Member for Tamworth (Sir Robert Peel), who proposed, that instead of the appointment of a select committee of the House, a commission of inquiry should be issued by the Admiralty. In consequence of that suggestion he (Lord Eliot) withdrew his motion, and left the matter entirely in the hands of the Admiralty, by whom a commission was shortly afterwards appointed, consisting of A. M. Griffiths, rear-admiral; James A. Gordon, rear-admiral; James Clarke Ross, captain; J. F. Daniell, professor of chemistry; and John Finchham, master shipwright. The commission was thus composed of a number of naval and scientific persons, who entered into a thorough investigation of the subject, sat nineteen or twenty days, and examined a great number of witnesses, amongst whom he found the names of Captains Fitzroy, Turner, and Chappell, Professors Wheatstone and Farraday, and Sir William Symonds. These Gentlemen came to a unanimous declaration in the following words:— Having now completed our remarks on the several points to which their Lordships' instructions directed our attention, we trust we have shown from the evidence of facts, derived from the experience of many years, as well as by the opinions, not only of scientific but of professional men, the efficacy of Mr. Harris's lightning conductors; and, considering the number of lives which have been lost by lightning, the immense amount of property which has been destroyed, as shown by Mr. Harris, and is still exposed without adequate protection; the inconvenience which has arisen, and is still liable to arise, from the loss of the services of ships at moments of great and critical importance: the difficulty of procuring new spars in times of war on foreign stations (not to mention the great expense of wages and victuals for the crews of ships while rendered useless till repaired); we again beg leave to state our unanimous opinion of the great advantages possessed by Mr. Harris's plan above every other plan, affording permanent security at all times, and under all circumstances, against the injurious effects of lightning, effecting this protection without any nautical incouvenience or scientific objection whatever; and we, therefore, most earnestly recommend their general adoption in the Royal navy. Independent of the Gentlemen whose names he had mentioned, the commissioners received letters, commending in the highest terms the invention of Mr. Snow Harris, from Sir Byam Martin, Sir George Cockburn, Captain Laws, Captain Smith, Admiral Carden, and many other officers, of much eminence, much scientific knowledge, and much practical experience in the navy. It appeared to him to be quite impossible for anything to be more conclusive than the report founded upon the evidence taken before the commissioners. It now became his duty to inquire from the Admiralty what steps had been taken in consequence of the recommendation of the commission? If he were rightly informed, the Admiralty did not consider the experiments which had already been made during a period of ten years with uniform success, nor the opinions of all the practical and scientific men to which he had referred, sufficient to induce them to adopt the plan recommended by the commission. He understood, that they were disposed to enter upon further experiments. It was true, that they had applied Mr. Snow Harris's conductors to some ships, but they had withdrawn the execution of the plan altogether from the superintendence of the inventor. By this means a considerably larger expense was incurred; and at the same time the injustice was done to Mr. Harris of depriving him of the advantage given to every inventor of superintending the application of his own invention. They had also fitted many of her Majesty's ships with, conductors invented by Mr. Edye, whose plan only differed from those already in use, inasmuch as it pilfered from the plan proposed by Mr. Harris. If the Admiralty held, that the experiment had not been fully tried, he should have a strong case against them. Something might possibly be said on the ground of expense; that subject, however, had been fully dealt with by the commissioners, who stated it as their opinion, that no solid objection had been urged on that head. Undoubtedly the expense of the improved conductors would be somewhat greater than that of the inefficient conductors now in use; but when they considered the cost of a line-of-battle ship, which amounted to upwards of 100,000l., and the possible loss of lives which might happen in consequence of her being struck with lightning, he thought they would be of opinion, that 300l. was not an enormous sum to be paid for an efficient conductor. That was the extreme sum which it would cost, and for that cost the conductor would be applicable for an unlimited period, and might afterwards be sold for old capper, so that the actual expense would not amount to that sum. Mr. Harris was not unknown in the scientific world. It was one of his papers that had led to the formation of the new compass now in use in her Majesty's service. He (Lord Eliot) held in his hand papers which, that gentleman had contributed to philosophical works. He had devoted a large portion of his time and uncommon abilities to the prosecution of these researches, and in doing so he had brought to light a means of securing to the navy of England one of the most formidable engines of warfare. He had been subjected to an examination before the committee of the Royal Society, consisting of such men as Wollaston, Davy, Young, and many others whose names he could mention, and after the full and satisfactory experiment which had been made, it was rather hard, that when he came to the Admiralty and asked, not for large grants of money, but for a reasonable and fair compensation for his labour and expense, the Admiralty should turn upon him and say, "we admit, that you have the merit of drawing attention to the subject, but we do not admit that you have any other merit whatever." It appeared to him (Lord Eliot) that this was not only cruel, but unjust. It was but a few nights since, that a pension was proposed to be granted to a distinguished officer in her Majesty's service—a pension of no inconsiderable amount. That night they had a notice on the paper, of a proposition for erecting a monument at the public expense to Sir Sidney Smith. God forbid that he should grudge any reward to the living, or any honour to the dead if they had deserved well of their country; but he could not think, that the labours of science or the triumphs of philosophy were to be held as of no account. Nor did he expect, that that view would be entertained by the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, because he knew, that many liberal rewards had been dealt out to literary and scientific individuals. He had a list in his hand of gentlemen who had been thus selected for reward by her Majesty's Government; and though he would not mention any individual, or make any invidious comparison, he believed, that on that list there was no man who was more richly entitled to such a reward than the gentleman whose claims he was now feebly endeavouring to advocate. He would not detain the House any further, but would conclude by moving,— That it appears to this House, that, a commission was appointed, in May, 1839, by the Lords Commissioners of the Admiraly, to inquire into the plan of William Snow Harris, Esq., F. R. S., for the protection of ships from the effects of lightning. That the report of that commission, which was presented to this House by command of her Majesty, on the 24th day of January, 1840, contains the following recommendation: 'Having now completed our remarks on the several points to which their Lordships' instructions directed our attention, we trust we have shown from the evidence of facts, derived from the experience of many years, as well as by the opinions not only of scientific, but of professional men, the efficacy of Mr. Harris's lightning conductors, and considering the number of lives which have been lost by lightning; the immense amount of property which has been destroyed, as shown by Mr. Harris, and is still exposed without adequate protection; the inconvenience which has arisen, and is still liable to arise, from the loss of the services of ships at moments of great and critical importance; the difficulty of procuring new spars in times of war on foreign stations (not to mention the great expense of wages and victuals for the crews of ships while rendered useless till repaired); we again beg leave to state our unanimous opinion of the great advantages possessed by Mr. Harris's plan above every other plan, affording permanent security at all times, and under all circumstances, against the injurious effects of lightning, effecting this protection without any nautical inconvenience or scientific objection whatever; and we therefore most earnestly recommend their general adoption in the Royal navy. 'We have, &c. (Signed) 'A. M. GRIFFITHS, rear-admiral. JAMES A. GORDON, rear-admiral. JAMES CLARKE ROSS, captain. J. F. DANIELL, Prof. of chemistry. JOHN FINCHAM, master shipwright.' That a humble address be presented to her Majesty, praying, that she will be graciously pleased to direct, that this House be informed whether any and what measures have been taken for giving effect to this recommendation.

Mr. More O'Ferrall

said, that as there could be no possible objection to the motion of the noble Lord, he should not have thought it necessary to trouble the House with any observations if the speech of the noble Lord did not seem to imply a considerable censure upon the Admiralty. He did not deny that great merit was due to Mr. Harris for the exertions which he had made during the last fifteen or sixteen years to draw the attention of her Majesty's Government to the danger to which ships were exposed from lightning, and not only for calling the attention of the Government to that subject, but for his writings and lectures, which had gone far to remove the prejudice which seamen formerly entertained against having any lightning conductors whatever. It was owing to the exertions of Mr. Harris that the commission was appointed about two years ago to inquire into the best mode of protecting ships from the action of the electric fluid; by the report of that commission one important fact was established, that whereas unprotected ships were liable to injury, and, in many instances, were seriously injured, ships having conductors, even the most imperfect, invariably escaped. A very remarkable instance of this occurred in the case of the New York, packet which, though fitted with only a very imperfect conductor, escaped from most severe lightning—the conductor itself being completely fused. The commissioners pronounced Mr. Harris's to be the best of the three kind of conductors submitted to their investigation, and there the duty of the commissioners ended. But the cost of Mr. Harris's plan was very considerable. Hence it became the duty of the Admiralty to ascertain whether a system of conductors might not be introduced into the navy, avoiding the defects of the old system, and combining as much as possible of the new at a very considerable reduction of expense. On the assembling of the commissioners, Mr. Snow Harris laid before them an estimate of the cost of the different lightning conductors that he proposed, take, for instance, a second rate, which, according to Mr. Snow Harris's plan, would cost 350l. The scientific gentlemen on the commission had ascertained that the size of the conductor could be reduced, by which the expense would be lessened to 246l.; and by giving credit for the value of the copper when returned into store it was found, that the expense might be further reduced to 119l. The Board of Admiralty, before deciding on Mr. Snow Harris's conductors, wished to see if they could not adopt some mode by which they might avoid the evils of old conductors, at a less expense, and they adopted part of the French plan, part of Mr. Snow Harris's, and part of Mr. Edye's. It had since been discovered that it was not necessary to introduce any of Mr. Snow Harris's plan. The plan which was now adopted by the Admiralty would cost only 62l. and if credit be allowed for copper wire returned into store, it would be reduced to 30l., and equally efficient as the more expensive plan of Mr. Snow Harris. With respect to the reward claimed for Mr. Snow Harris, if such pretensions were admissible, the House would find them reach an indefinite amount. There was placed at the disposition of the Board of Admiralty a sum of 1,000l., for the purpose of rewarding authors of useful inventions. The board having partially adopted Mr. Harris's invention, that gentleman was certainly entitled to claim a portion of this reward; but it was totally impossible out of so small a sum, to remunerate Mr. Harris according to his estimated merit, his claim amounting to6,000l. or 7,000l. If every successful inventor were to be rewarded by Parliament, there would be no end to claims made upon its liberality. The Admiralty did not consider themselves bound to reward every invention, but only such as they deemed it desirable to adopt. If Mr. Snow Harris's plan had been finally adopted, most undoubtedly that gentleman would have been entitled to fair compensation; and it would have been the duty of the individual holding his (Mr. O'Ferrall's) situation to have proposed it to the House; but while the invention was still under experiment, he thought it would be premature in the House or in the Admiralty to say, that Mr. Harris was entitled to reward to the extent claimed by him.

Lord Ingestre

could understand the reluctance of the Government to come before that House with proposals for making grants of the public money, but he could not comprehend why the Board of Admiralty, after the elaborate report of the commission on Mr. Harris's plan of constructing lightning conductors, and the unqualified and unanimous approval recorded by the Members of that commission, should have experienced any difficulty in adopting a plan based on such scientific principles, and in rewarding adequately its inventor. The hon. Member, the Secretary for the Admiralty, had told the House that the reason for their not doing so was, that there were other kinds of conductors under consideration. But it was not fair to Mr. Harris to mix other plans with his. The hon. Member had also stated, that safety existed where any metallic conductors were used on board ships; but, with all deference to the hon. Member, he would venture to assert, from experience, that the conductors now in use on board her Majesty's ships of war were worse than useless, for they attracted the lightning without carrying it away. Was, he might ask, the expense of a conductor to be put in comparison with the safety of the ship and her crew? The value of a first-rate might be computed at 100,000l.; and was her safety to be endangered for the sake of saving sixpence per cent, on that amount, which would be found to be the proportion? He could not look upon the reply of the hon. Member to be satisfactory. There was some under current of proceeding towards Mr. Snow Harris, which would not bear exposure. He could refer to a letter from Mr. Harris, wherein that gentleman stated, that he had, at the advice of a friend, applied, by letter, to the noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty, and in answer to his claim for remuneration of his services to his country by his invention, he received a caustic reply, the purport of which was, that the Board of Admiralty could not grant him the compensation which he sought in return for having drawn attention to the subject of protecting ships of war from the effects of lightning at sea. So that all the encouragement which this meritorious and scientific gentleman was to receive at the hands of his country, if the Admiralty was to be the dispenser of rewards, was a dry, scarcely civil letter, like that which he had described. A solution much more easy of the difficulties created by the Government in the way of granting a reward to Mr. Harris might be found in political causes, and in the fact that others who entertained different political opinions had influence enough to get their plans adopted. Mr. Harris had not thought it right to support the views of the Government, and he (Lord Ingestre) could not help thinking that, after such a report on the merits of his invention as had been made by the competent persons whose names were attached to that document, some strong political feeling existed to his prejudice on the part of the Ministry. He, however, must express his satisfaction at finding that no opposition was offered to the motion, and he trusted the effect would be to obtain justice to a most deserving individual.

Mr. Warburton

observed, that there was some confusion in the manner in which the present motion was brought before the House, for it involved two distinct questions—the first of which was, why, after such a favourable report had been made by those appointed to examine the nature and value of Mr. Snow Harris's invention, conductors upon his plan had not been adopted in her Majesty's ships; and the second question which had arisen was, why, after such an unqualified admission of Mr. Harris's merits, he had not been adequately compensated? Now, when this subject was last before the House, there was no question as to the adequacy of metallic conductors to afford protection to vessels at sea; that was generally admitted; the only question mooted was, whether such protection was necessary at all times, and which was the best metallic conductor. What did the report of the commission, expressly appointed to examine the subject, say? Not only that Mr. Harris's conductor was good, but that it was superior to every other that had been invented. The hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Admiralty had told the House that other plans besides Mr. Harris's had been under consideration before the Board of Admiralty, and that the merits of these various proposals were still undergoing investigation. The hon. Member the Secretary to the Admiralty had gone much further than that, for he had thrown a doubt over the utility of all metallic conductors, by informing the House j that the York packet had been protected during a thunder storm at sea from the effects of a second stroke of lightning, notwithstanding a first stroke had fused her metallic conductor.

Mr. M. O'Ferrall

explained, that what he meant to say, if he had not so stated, was, that the second stroke had fused the conductor, and the inference which he had drawn was, that any metallic conductor afforded a degree of security to a ship at sea in a thunder storm.

Mr. Warburton

The question, however, at issue was, whether it was not prudent to have a conductor at all times on board ships, and whether it was not possible, by their size, to provide against the risk of their being fused by the electric fluid, and thus endangering the safety of the ship. That would entirely depend on the strength of the electric current, and the merit of Mr. Harris's plan for providing ships with conductors was, that whatever might be the amount of the electric fluid the ship was safe. He had listened with some apprehension to the proposition which had been made to reduce the extent of the metallic conductors, with a view thereby to facilitate the working of the vessels, because no one could calculate on the extent of the stream of electric fluid which might at any time strike a vessel. The great merit, in his opinion, of Mr. Snow Harris's plan, was, that notwithstanding its great extent of metallic conductors, it did not interfere with the management of a ship. However successful any plan proposed for this purpose might be, the Secretary to the Admiralty might, if he pleased, come down to that House and say, that other experiments were in operation to which it was expedient to give a trial before the adoption of the plan in question. From what he saw of the report of the commission appointed to examine into this matter, he thought that Mr. Harris's plan ought to be adopted, and that Mr. Harris ought to be remunerated for his labours and discoveries when they had been used for the benefit of the navy. He should wish to know whether those other experiments alluded to had been referred to the commission appointed to report on this matter. If that had been done, it would have been the fair mode of judging of Mr. Harris's plan, otherwise they were not doing that gentleman justice. He thought the noble Lord who had introduced the present motion had fully made out his case, and, for his own part, he thought Mr. Harris was fully entitled to a reasonable, but not exorbitant, compensation from the country for the services he had rendered, and the expense he had been at.

Sir R. Peel

said, when his noble Friend had at first proposed that a committee of that House should be nominated to inquire into and report upon Mr. Snow Harris's plan for preserving vessels from the evil effects of lightning, he had suggested that the mast proper tribunal to appoint for that purpose would be one composed of naval and scientific gentlemen, who by their superior knowledge could form the best and most correct judgment of the comparative merits of all the plans submitted to them. This suggestion had been accordingly adopted, and a commission had been appointed. Now it was perfectly open to the Admiralty, if they pleased, to object to the appointment of this commission at the time. But they had consented to it. They had in their own hands the appointment of the commissioners; and though he did not affirm that they were bound by all the recommendations of the commission, yet they should pay some deference to them. He thought that the Admiralty incurred a very great responsibility in refusing to adopt the recommendations of that commission, on the mere ground that that course might be somewhat more expensive than another. The recommendations of that commission were based upon the clearest and most direct testimony, and it was decidedly in favour of Mr. Snow Harris's plan, in preference to any others. There was also the evidence of that most distinguished officer, Captain Fitzroy, of the Beagle, than which nothing could be more conclusive in his mind. That was the case of an officer of considerable experience and great intelligence, giving the result of his own observation. That officer was employed in a most arduous service in a small vessel, for a period of five years, under all varieties of climate, and, in his letter to the Admiralty, this was the manner in which he spoke of Mr. Harris's invention:— Having given the lightning conductors of Mr. Harris a considerable trial during the Beagle's last voyage, I believe it is proper to transmit to you the accompanying report.— ' Previously to sailing from England in 1831, the Beagle was fitted with the permanent lightning conductors invented by Mr. W. S. Harris. During the five years occupied in her voyage, she was frequently exposed to lightning, but never received the slightest damage, although supposed to have been struck on two occasions. At each of these times, at the instant of a vivid flash of lightning, accompanied by a crashing peal of thunder, a hissing sound was heard distinctly on the masts, and a strange, though very slightly tremulous motion in the ship herself, indicated that something unusual had happened. No objection which appeared to me valid was raised against them, and were I allowed to choose between having masts so fitted, and the contrary, I should decide in favour of those with Mr. Harris's conductors. Even in such small spars as the Beagle's royal masts and flying gib-boom, the plates of copper held their places firmly, and increased, rather than diminished the strength of the spars. When they saw how strongly recommended Mr. Harris's plan was by the experienced and excellent officer to whose evidence he had briefly alluded, they could not but think it rather extraordinary that the Admiralty, from experiments of their own, should altogether set aside a plan so strongly recommended. It appeared, that the sole objection which the Admiralty uged against the adoption of Mr. Snow Harris's plan was, that they had found other conductors that might be used at a considerably less expense. But how could they get over the report which the commissioners agreed to, where they distinctly said,— We have considered all these plans, and have come to the conclusion that Mr. Snow Harris's plan has a decided superiority over all the others, and we most distinctly state our unanimous opinion of the great advantage possessed by it over every other. That was the recommendation of the commissioners; and then, without recurrence to any other supposed plans which, in the opinion of the Board of Admiralty, might hereafter be found successful, he could not but think that, having appointed that commission, if they did not show a sufficient reason for acting otherwise, they were bound by a consideration of what was due to the navy as well as to the officers and scientific men employed upon that commission to adopt the recommendation which they had made. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the case of the York Packet as a proof that an ordinary conductor was sufficient to carry off safely the electric fluid. It was possible that a conductor erected at the time might serve the purpose intended, but it did not follow that the same conductor, after having been exposed for years, would answer the purpose as well as when it was first erected. Speaking exclusively, then, in reference to the public interests, he thought, if the invention was a security to the navy, the inventor ought to be rewarded. He would say nothing as to the amount of the compensation which Mr. Harris ought to receive. He would reserve his opinion on that point, but he trusted they would not withhold any expences which might be necessary to give every security to the navy.

Sir T. Cochrane

said, this question had very properly been characterised by the noble Lord who had introduced the present motion as one of the greatest importance. Indeed, no one who had not personal experience of the dangers to which vessels were subjected from lightning, or were not acquainted with the effects of the electric fluid striking a vessel un provided with conductors, could form an idea of the importance of this matter, or the great inconvenience felt from the absence of conductors. They should take into consideration that sometimes a thousand men might be existing over a magazine which, in a moment, might be blown up, and this too when the vessel was hundreds of miles from land. One flash of lightning might send a thousand men to their graves. The conductors formerly used were chains from the mast head into the water; and it was at times next to an impossibility to keep these always immersed in the water, so as to lead the danger away from the ship. As far as he could understand, and had read the evidence taken before the commission appointed to examine into this affair, it had appeared that no other conductor had been proved so useful or so convenient as Mr. Snow Harris's. He (Sir T. Cochrane) remembered on one occasion in the West-Indies, when a man had been sent with a chain to put to the mast head, to guard against a thunder storm, the man had been struck down on the quarterdeck, and the chain had been dashed out of his hands. Many a vessel had sailed from port, had had her crews hurried to an untimely end, and never been heard of, in consequence of her having no conductors. He thought they were bound to follow the suggestions of those experienced and scientific men, who were so well acquainted with the nature of electricity. With regard to the expense of the plan, that was not so much an object when the safety of the men and the preservation of the ships of her Majesty were concerned.

Sir R. Inglis

thought it was rather extraordinary that so many hon. Gentlemen in that House, who differed upon so many other matters, should have concurred in opinion upon the present subject of discussion. This was purely a matter concerning the advancement of useful science, and was one amongst the few that he and the hon. Member for Bridport thought alike on. He had, completely uninfluenced by any political motives, either in or out of that House, given the present subject his most careful investigation, and he had no hesitation in saying, that it appeared to him that Mr. Harris's plan was universally approved of. Now, if there was such a concurrent testimony in its favour, of men on all sides of the House, he did not think they would refuse 20,000l., even if such a sum should be found necessary, to put the entire navy of this country in such a state as would secure both the men and the vessels from consequences that otherwise might be most fatal and injurious. The discovery was a most useful and important one; and, if it was used, he did not see that that House would refuse to give the inventor the reward which was his due.

Sir C. Lemon

could not well understand the answers which the Secretary to the Admiralty had given either in that House on the present motion, or that which he had been directed, in his official capacity, by the Board of Admiralty, to give to the letter requiring compensation which Mr. Harris had written to that department. In the answer alluded to it had been acknowledged, indeed, that Mr. Harris had been the first to direct attention to this subject. If that was indeed only what Mr. Harris had done, he might be entitled to some remuneration, but Mr. Harris had done much more than that. He had discovered the best method of obviating the danger. The commission had stated that distinctly in their report. It had been said, indeed, that the reason why he was not rewarded was, that the experiments the Admiralty were carrying on had not been yet perfected. Now, what were the facts of the case? Twenty years ago Mr. Harris had drawn attention to this matter, and now for ten years his plan had been adopted in the navy. No improvement had been suggested upon this plan until Mr. Harris had called upon the Admiralty to reward him for his discovery, and compensate him for the actual losses he had been at in perfecting his invention. At the time he had laid the matter before the Admiralty, he had been told that it would be necessary to wait, until they knew what the result of it would be. That period of delay had now lasted ten years, during which time Mr. Harris had lost from between 2,000l. to 3.000l. in perfecting the plan, yet the Admiralty now turned round on him when he applied for compensation, and told him they were trying some other experiments, and that they could not give him anything, as in the course of time something might turn up which would make his invention useless. One word with regard to the plans then trying. There were eight ships to be sent out with Mr. Harris's, and eight with other conductors. Now, supposing in the first instance Mr. Harris had taken out a patent, as he had every right to do, for his plan of conductors, it could not be adopted in any case without remunerating him. The conduct which the Government had pursued with respect to Mr. Harris was calculated to cast a damp upon the zeal and exertions of scientific men. He hoped the Government would tell the House at once whether they meant to acknowledge the claim which the services of Mr. Harris fur ten years so justly gave him, or whether they meant to postpone the matter indefinitely.

Captain A'Court

expressed his astonishment that the Admiralty should hesitate, for one moment, to acknowledge services which had been so favourably spoken of by a commission appointed to inquire into the matter, and recommended by the most experienced naval officers. The Admiralty would incur a serious responsibility if they did not immediately give an order for fitting these conductors to every ship in the navy.

Sir C. Adam

said, the hon. Gentleman who had last spoken wished to carry the adoption of this invention further than Mr. Harris himself. Mr. Harris only asked for its gradual introduction into the navy, while the hon. Gentleman would have it universally adopted at once. Now, several ships had been fitted on Mr. Harris's principle, although it was true that an equal number had been fitted up on another plan. That new invention was a perfect lightning conductor, and it had not been tried without the sanction of scientific men, while the fact was, that it might have been adopted without any infringement, even although Mr. Harris had obtained twenty patents. Mr. Harris's plan had been partially adopted in the navy, and there was certainly no reason why it should not be further applied. He allowed that economy in such matters ought to be a secondary consideration, but Mr. Harris, in his letter to the Admiralty, had stated his loss and the value of his scientific labour at 7,000l. Now, the Admiralty had not refused all compensation and had only replied to Mr. Harris that they did not think his invention worth so large a sum as 7,000l. For himself, he saw no objection to granting this gentleman a reasonable compensation for his invention, which was a useful one, but he saw no reason why the experiments now going on should not be concluded before any decision was come to on the subject. It had been said that some political motive had prevented Mr. Harris from obtaining the reward which he merited. Now, he could say that he never knew how Mr. Harris had voted upon any occasion, and the Members for Devonport had both written strongly in his favour.

Mr. Collier

observed that Government were always more ready to reward plans for sacrificing, than those for saving human life.

Viscount Sandon

protested against the plea put forward on behalf of the Government, that although a discovery was admitted to be very great and very useful, no reward should be given for it until it should be ascertained that it was not possible, in the nature of things to improve upon it.

Lord Eliot

said in reply, as the gallant Admiral opposite had said the Government considered 7,000l. too much for Mr. Harris's plan, they ought to say how much they thought would be a fair compensation. The noble Lord then quoted the opinions of Professors Faraday and Wheatstone, in favour of Mr. Harris's plan, in opposition to that of Sir Wm. Symon, which had been cited in depreciation of it. He expressed the great satisfaction he felt at seeing Gentlemen, on a subject of great national importance, laying aside their political differences, and unanimously declaring it to be necessary that the attention of the Government should be called to the subject. He hoped this unanimity, so creditable to the House, would have its proper effect upon the Government.