HC Deb 29 September 1841 vol 59 cc1001-4

On the Order of the Day for the second reading of the Exchequer Bills Bill being read,

Mr. Wakley

said, he wished to put a question to the gallant Secretary of the Board of Ordnance, relating to the invention of Mr. Warner. The subject had been brought before the House last Session, on which occasion many Members had borne evidence to the extraordinary nature of the invention; and in the debate on the estimates the right hon. Baronet at the head of the Government had admitted that he had seen one of the experiments, and that he had witnessed the most extraordinary effects. Statements had been made the other night by the hon. and gallant Member for the Tower Hamlets, and by some other hon. Members, that Mr. Warner had objected to the appointment of a Committee to investigate the nature of his invention. Mr. Warner and his friends complained of that statement. The fact was, that Mr. Warner was most anxious to have a committee appointed to investigate his invention, and

he was most desirous that the Government should be fully satisfied as to the nature of his invention before they adopted it. Mr. Walseby said, that shortly after Mr. Warner's return from Portugal, the subject had been mentioned in the House of Commons, but had been stopped by the then First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir J. Graham), who suggested that a committee should be appointed to investigate i;. A committee had been appointed accordingly, but Sir R. Stopford, the chairman, thought it was too numerous, and some alterations were suggested in it, but Sir Robert Stopford shortly afterwards left England for the Mediterranean. Sir Richard Keats, another member of the committee, died, and his Majesty, who had taken a great interest in the subject, also died shortly afterwards, so that the subject had never been investigated. The gallant Captain, the Member for Gloucester, had stated that captains in the navy might object to admit the invention on board their ships, for fear of being blown up; but he understood that when the subject should be investigated, it would appear that such apprehensions were groundless. When the subject was discussed in June last, the noble Lord, the Secretary for the Colonies had stated that some explanation ought to be given, and had promised that further negotiations with Mr. Warner should take place. He was anxious to know if any investigation had been instituted?

Colonel Fox

said, that he believed that the Master-General of the Ordnance, Lord (lately Sir Hussey) Vivian, had wished to refer Mr. Warner to the usual committee at Woolwich, for the investigation of inventions of the nature of that brought forward by Mr. Warner, and that Gentlemen had refused to submit his invention to that committee. With regard to what had fallen from the hon. and gallant Member for Marylebone the other evening, in relation to the muskets supplied to the navy, he supposed that the observation s of that gallant Officer applied only to the old arms formerly issued; and not to those which had recently been given out. His noble Friend's (Lord Vivian's) attention had been most closely directed to the subject for the last three or four years. He knew that upwards of 50,000 muskets, with the percussion lock, had been constructed—most of them had been distributed. They had received the approba- tion of officers of every branch of the united service. Complaints had been made with regard to the Royal Marines, but he believed that 4,000 or 5,000 of those muskets had been given to that corps, which had received the unqualified approbation of the officers. His reason for making the statement was, that it might not go forward to the public that the late Master-General of the Ordnance had neglected his duty.

Captain Boldero

said, that the only answer he could give to the hon. Member's question was, that since the formation of the present Board of Ordnance, neither the Master-General nor the Board itself had received any communication whatever from Mr. Warner respecting the weapon of destruction which he had invented.

Mr. Wakley

would put another question, which he hoped would be answered more satisfactorily. The gallant general, at the head of the Board of Ordnance, had witnessed the operation of this weapon, and had expressed a favourable opinion of it, an opinion which all must admit was deserving of attention. He was anxious to know, therefore, whether there was any intention, founded upon the information which the Board of Ordnance already possessed, to investigate the matter any further?

Captain Boldero

had already stated that the Board of Ordnance was ignorant of the views and wishes of Mr. Warner. He had the authority of the Master-General for stating, that he did not feel himself authorised to take upon himself the responsibility of appointing a committee upon the subject, without the previous sanction of her Majesty's Ministers.

Mr. Brotherton

said, in the debate referred to by the hon. Member for Finsbury, he had entered his protest against the Government giving their sanction in offering a reward to men who exercised their talent and ingenuity in discovering some infernal machine for the destruction of human life. If a man used his talents to promote the happiness of his race he was entitled to reward, but not for using them for an opposite purpose. He had heard, with great delight, the announcement of the right hon. Baronet (Sir R. Peel) that he would use all his influence to diffuse those sentiments in society which would lead men to discourage war. He must say his heart had burned within him, when, on a previous evening, he heard the House debating about locks and guns, and various other instruments used in war. What would the next generation think of the present when they read that the House of Commons of that day had debated for hours about implements of destruction? He believed, that until war and warriors were held in less estimation, there was no hope of good for this country. Certainly, on all occasions, he should enter his protest against reward being granted for inventions of the nature then under discussion, because he conceived that the more they discouraged war, the more would civilisation advance throughout the world.

Mr. Wakley

observed, that both humanity and economy might recommend the use of such weapons as that invented by Mr. Warner.

Subject at an end.

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