§ Sir F. Burdett
rose to move for a select committee to inquire into the negotiations of the Government with Mr. Warner concerning his invention. He had endeavoured to bring this subject before the House at an earlier period of the Session, but had hitherto been prevented from doing so by the state of public business. The case of Captain Warner he had mentioned to the House about a fortnight ago; and as it stood in a peculiar situation, and was of paramount importance, he thought that even at that late period it deserved attention. There could be no other feeling on the subject than art anxiety to constitute a competent tribunal to report on the remarkable discovery said to have been made by Captain Warner. One great object he had in view was, to clear away all suspicion and misrepresentation with respect to the conduct of Captain Warner; and war this purpose he should read a paper, which stated all that bad taken place since the present Administration came into office. Captain Warner wrote to Sir R. Peel, and in answer, received an intimation that he should shortly hear from Sir G. Murray. Then came a paper from Sir G. Murray, which was a very lucid and simple document, and, coming from that distinguished individual, must carry great force with it. Sir G. Murray stated that there were three points to be attended to:—tirst, the power of the invention; second, the degree of facility with which it might be applied to naval, military, or other objects; and third, the detriment which would result by allowing the discovery to be com- 1034 municated to other countries. There were two modes of treating the discovery: either to treat it with total disregard, thereby leaving Captain Warner to pursue his own course, or else to come to au understanding as to conducting a series of experiments, under the inspection of competent persons. With respect to the expense of these experiments, if made, that should be borne, Sir G. Murray admitted, by the Government. Many persons had expressed an opinion as to the importance of the invention and of the expediency and wisdom of not allowing it to be disclosed to other countries. On the 5th of April Captain Warner had a meeting at the Ordnance-office with the three individuals appointed to inspect the experiments, and he proposed that if the experiments proved satisfactory, he should receive remuneration. They replied, however, that they had no authority to promise him remuneration; and that they desired it to be understood that nothing they said should be construed into art admission about remuneration. This put an extinguisher on the whole proceeding. But Lord Ingestre, who, he supposed, was as competent as many man to judge of this invention, had left behind Jim, when he went to St. Petersburg a short time since, a letter, stating his opinion in favours of it. The noble Lord had been most anxious about this discovery, and that measures should be taken to preserve it to this country. It would he wrong in him if he did more than state to the House the simpler facts of the case; but at the same time there was a circumstance that ought to be mentioned, for it showed the hardship of the case towards Captain Warner. That gentleman made the discovery two years before the death of that patriotic, kindhearted, and constitutional king, William 4th.Had the King lived a little longer, the discovery would have been secured to the country. When he was informed of it, lie said, " Let it be kept secret; the fewer persons that know about this the better." Captain Werner desired to submit it to die late Sir Richard Keats, as great an officer, admiral, or seaman, as this country had ever produced. Sir Richard Keats was attached to the naval system of this country, and was strongly prejudiced against innovation, but he possessed a candid mind, and what was the consequence? He took not one week, one month, or one year, but two years to 1035 examine this invention, and put it to every possible test; and after that long examination, he reported to King William that this country would do wrong not to keep it. His Majesty then saw Captain Warner, was in constant intercourse with him, and examined the invention for himself, but his anxiety always was that it should be confined to as few persons as possible. However, he appointed with Sir Richard Keats another admiral, who surely was competent to know what was to be done in warfare, for he was the old friend of Lord Nelson, Captain Hardy, and he, as well as Sir R. Keats, was long employed in the investigation of the facts stated by Captain Warner. The result was' that they were both satisfied with the invention, but at the same time they were terrified lest it should be lost to the country, and a sort of command was then laid upon Captain Warner not to impart it to any one besides those two admirals and the Prime Minister. But King William died, and Lord Melbonrne was then Prime Minister, and be supposed that Lord Melbourne had the report of Sir Richard Keats and Sir Thomas hardy, which was now lost. What had become of that report he could not say, but some person ought to be answerable for it; and that matter alone was a fit subject of inquiry by a committee of that House. Everything having happened so unfortunately, Captain Warner was placed in a very unpleasant position. He was subject to many misrepresentations and to much calumny. It was said also that he had received money from the Government. If he had received some money in advance it would have been well for him; but in fact he had received nothing. He did not think any conduct could be more fair, more patient, or self-denying than had been that of Captain Warner; and at the same time he was perfectly convinced that he had nothing to do but to go to Boulogne, and there he would get more than he asked here. He had no reason to doubt that Captain Warner had received many offers from different parts of the continent, Vienna, and other places; and he thought under these circumstances it would be unjustifiable and unpardonable if the House of Commons did not do something to secure the invention to this country. He was sorry to see such a skeleton of the House of Commons; at that period of the Session, however, he did not complain of it; but he felt confident that if there had 1036 been a full House of Commons, no power could prevent them from agreeing to such a committee as he was about to move for. The hon. Member read a letter from Captain Warner to Sir R. Peel, dated the 25th of May last, in which he stated the great value of the invention, and undertook to show, with proper precautions against accident, that he could render any roadsteads or harbours impassable without the certain destruction of vessels attempting the passage; and that he could destroy any number of ships under weigh, under any state of wind or weather. All he asked was 400,0001; but he was willing to accept the offer of Sir R. Peel:—that, in the event of his demonstrating his ability to do what he undertook, Sir R. Peel would recommend to Parliament such a grant as might have been previously agreed upon. He could not conceive there would be any trouble in getting a committee, and in fact the country would expect some explanation upon this subject. He had had many communications begging that this motion might not stand over to another Session, and it would not occupy much time if a committee were appointed. Men, the highest in the two services, had spoken of the invention in terms far higher than he (Sir F. Burdett) would venture to use. The mischief of constant experimentizing was this— that by degrees the thing would become thus known; and his late majesty King William had sagaciously recommended secrecy. Undoubtedly Captain Warner, though by no means a learned man, was a thoroughly practical man, and a very able, intelligent, and experienced seaman. He stated his readiness to destroy, at a distance of six miles, a line-of-battle ship, provided he had the assurance of compensation in case of success. What offer could be fairer than that? Would the House be doing its duty in totally disregarding the subject? In conclusion the hon. Baronet moved for a committee to inquire into negotiations of the Government with Mr. Warner concerning his invention.
§ Sir Howard Douglas
then rose and said, he felt called upon to enter into some explanation with reference to the statement made by the hon. Baronet, the Member for North Wilts. Soon after his (Sir Howard's) return from his late foreign service, he was sent for by the Master-general of the Ordnance, General Sir George Murray, who, with the sanction of 1037 the right hon. Baronet at the head of her Majesty's Government, proposed to him to become a member of a commission, to be composed of two persons, the other to be selected by the admiralty, to investigate, make experiments, and report upon the practical efficacy and value of certain inventions alleged to have been made by Mr. Warner. He (Sir H. Douglas) expressed great unwillingness to undertake that. office; but, on being pressed to do so by his gallant and distinguished Friend, he replied, as he should to any other call made upon him, in which his services could be useful to the country, that he would obey. He made several stipulations, however, before he entered on the duties of the commission; that the service should be gratuitous; that he should have nothing to do with any previous proceedings; be utterly free from, and unembarrassed by, all former experiments, or any engagements, expectations or understandings, expressed or implied; that he should have nothing whatever to do with reward or compensations, neither principle or amount; that the only dusty of the commission should be, to ascertain, by an extensive course of experiments, the practical utility, the real service value of the invention; and, reporting the results, leave the Government perfectly free, either to disregard or otherwise Mr. Warner's projects; negociate with the projector, or not, as to her Majesty's Government it might seem expedient fir the public interests, on a full consideration of the report of the commission. His colleague, Vice-admiral Sir Edward Owe!), and himself', soon afterwards met, and came to the conclusion, that the only really important application of the alleged discovery, was that by which he, Mr. Warner, asserted that he could, at vast distances, destroy fleets, forts, ships or troops; and the commission accordingly, resolved to direct its attention more immediately, and particularly to test that part of Mr. Warner's project. The following memorandum, drawn up by General Sir George Murray, Master-general of the Ordnance, (dated the 22d. January, 1842) for the guidance of the commission, formed the basis on which the proceedings of the commission were regulated; and to the terms of that memorandum, Mr. Warner expressly assented.1st. To agree upon a series of experiments to be made under Mr. Warner's directions, in 1038 the presence of Sir H. Douglas and Sir Edward Owen.2nd. To frame an estimate of the expense which w ill attend these experiments that it may he submitted to the Treasury previously to any expense being incurred,3rd. That when the expense has been sane-firmed by the Treasury, the experiments should proceed.4th. That detailed minutes should be kept of every step of the investigation, i. e., all particulars: of such experiments.5th. That Sir E. Owen and Sir it. Douglas should draw up a report as the result of their observations to he submitted to the Prime Minister, and to which they will be pleased to annex, as an appendix, the minutes above mentioned.6th. Sir H. Douglas and Sir Owen will he pleased to consider the whole proceeding in this matter strictly confidentialThe House will perceive that there is not, in that memorandum, a word about any remuneration, or any promise, or guarantee of such held out; and that it was distinctly stated, that the commission should consist of two officers, and that these were named; to all which terms Mr. Warner expressly assented; and, in conformity with Which. Mr. Warner was called open to furnish the commission with the estimates of the expense of the projected experiment; and, at, far from any disclosure having been made to, or desired by, the commission, the language used by it, to Mr. Warner, from the commencement of these proceedings, was, " We the commissioners are not going to extort from you any part of your secret, these we merely wish to settle with you, in the preliminary interviews, the nature and extent of the experiments for which we are to prepare estimates and make arrangements; and we desire you to make no disclosure; and, if we put any question, to answer which you think, would be to make the least disclosure of your secret, we desire you not to answer any such question but to confine yourself solely to what may be necessary for carrying on the trials; and, as to expense, that need be no obstacle to you, as the public will bear all the charges attending these experiments, according to an estimate which we call upon yen to furnish us with the means of making some delay here took place; but, adverting to what has fallen front the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire, I beg to say, that this did not rest with the commission. We had two interviews with Mr. Warner, soon after 1039 the date of the Master-Generals memorandum; I think, on the 25th and 27th of January. At the latter, it was settled, that Mr. Warner should report to us, when he was ready. About the 1st of February, he (Sir H. Douglas) was called away to Liverpool; and on the Eth, had the honour to take his seat in this House. Sir Edward Owen did not leave London till towards the end of the month, during which time we heard nothing from Captain Warner. Soon afterwards, he (Sir H. Douglas) had the misfortune to lose his colleague, who was called away, finally, to hoist his flag for the command to which he had been appointed; and another highly distinguished and able officer, Admiral Sir Byam Martin, was associated with him (Sir H. Douglas) in lieu. A short delay here took place, on account of a temporary indisposition of Sir Byam Martin. That officer having read, and approved, all the minutes and arrangements, according to which the commission had proposed to proceed, we announced to Mr. Warner that we were ready. We stated distinctly to him, that we should proceed with the greatest delicacy towards him, but that we would take nothing for granted; that the experiments must be carried on in the most extensive, decisive, and satisfactory manner, to prove, beyond all doubt, the efficacy and value of the invention, under all circumstances of wind, weather, tide, and distances. The commission called again upon Mr. Warner, to furnish them with an estimate of the means, material and personal, necessary for making the experiments, distinguishing those which the public departments might be called upon to provide, without drawing from Mr. Warner any disclosure of any part of his secret; and that he would state to the commission, what would be the expense of his making preparations, which he only could make, with due regard and safety to the retention of his secret. Mr. Warner then began to raise some objections; and to insist on a guarantee for remuneration, in case of succeeding in his own opinion and estimation, as it appeared to us, in his object; naming 400,0001. as the sum he expected for full compensation; and he likewise proposed that the commission should be enlarged, by the addition of another or of two additional members, to which a decided objection was made. The commission having reported this, to the Master-general of the Ordnance, received, from General Sir George Murray, a letter, 1040 dated May 13th, 1842, of which the following is the substance; and there the proceedings of the commission terminated, and now rest. Sir George Murray stated,That he had received and read attentively our letter of the 9th instant, and had also carefully perused that addressed to us by Mr. Warner on the 6th. That the perusal of Mr. Warner's letter had not enabled him to see matters in a different light from that in which they appeared, when he wrote to us on the 30th of April. That the investigation which we were commissioned to make of Mr. Warner's discoveries, was to proceed upon the principle of that gentleman enabling us, by a series of experiments, to form a judgment of the power and applicability of the means which he had found out. But no experiments, it would appear, have as yet been exhibited to us; and Mr. Warner seems now to demand, that, before any experiments are made, a guarantee shall be afforded to him, that he is to receive 400,0001. in the event of the result of the proposed experiments being such as to satisfy the commissioners that his discoveries possess the power and applicability which he himself has attributed to them, that we have rightly judged, that our commission does not convey to us the power of affording to Mr. Warner such a guarantee. It authorises us merely to report, in the first place, the amount of the expense which a series of experiments would occasion, that the Government may be enabled to decide whether it will, or will not, sanction that outlay; and in the second place, it requires us to report, after witnessing such experiments as Mr. Warner may exhibit before us, whether these experiments warrant the opinion which Mr. Warner has himself formed of the importance and utility to the public, of his discoveries, that his, Sir G. Murray's, understanding has throughout been, that Mr. Warner had given his concurrence to the investigation being conducted upon the principles, and in the manner stated, in his, Sir G. Murray's, memorandum; that he had no authority from the Government to hold out such a preliminary guarantee as Mr. Warner now requires; nor would he recommend such a proposition to the Government.He (Sir H. Douglas) would now with the permission of the House, make a few observations on what had been stated by the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire, and with reference to the two branches or applications of Mr. Warner's alleged discovery, which, as specified by the hon. Member, he Mr. Warner denominates his " Invisible Shells," and his " Long Range." The first consists in placing in water, at a certain depth below the surface, a case containing some explosive composition — a submarine mine, or 1041 Fougasse, which, upon being struck by any vessel coming in contact with it, should, either by mechanical or chemical action, be made to explode, and so sink and destroy the vessel. Now he, (Sir H. Douglas) would not dispute that Mr. Warner may have invented some stronger composition, than any now known, and likewise some improved means of producing explosion; but any such new power would be superfluous. He (Sir H. Douglas) would venture to engage to this House, to place, in still water, a case containing explosive materials or ingredients, sufficiently powerful to destroy any vessel that might come in contact with it; and to ensure a collision between the two bodies, by dragging a barge or boat, along the lake, in which the case, or mine, is laid. But the great difficulty was, how to apply and lay out these things in a tide-way, in a rise and fall of tide, and in a rapid current occasioned by tide, and in different and ever varying depths, and in the face of an enemy's fleet, squadron, or ships, rowing guard, and observing all the vigilance invariably used? If these bodies be buoyant, they would come to the surface, and be visible, unless anchored with " short services" of rope. If not buoyant, they would sink, unless suspended by floats. How is all this to be managed and adjusted? He (Sir H. Douglas) did not attach any importance to this part of Mr. Warner's project, nor think much of it. As regarded, however, the alleged power of destroying ships, forts, and fleets, by means of his, Mr. Warner's " Long Range," the commission had been ready, and desirous to proceed to experiments; and had made all the preparations which depended upon them, as well with respect to the " Long Range," as the " Invisible Shells." They were determined however, to test this to the utmost; but not in still water. He (Sir II. Howard) would be no party to blowing up punts upon a fish pond; but, under circumstances as nearly as possible resembling real service, and amidst all the difficulties and varieties of rising and falling tides, wind, weather, and distance, to try both, He (Sir Howard Douglas) would not, unless the hon. Baronet the Member for North Wiltshire had so stated it, say anything of Mr. Warner's want of science. The hon. Baronet says, he (Mr. Warner) is not a man of science or learning; this he (Sir II. Douglas) may confirm; but still Mr. Warner may have hit upon a great disco, 1042 very; and the practical question resolves itself into this, could he, at the distance of six miles, as he asserted, direct his "Long Range" so effectually against forts or hulks, as to destroy them? Could he do this, under any circumstances of wind and weather? A hulk had been prepared; a fort had been selected; against which the trials were to be made, to ascertain if he could destroy their defences, and dismount their guns; and, to ascertain the effect upon animal life, some head of sheep or cattle, would have been placed therein. If, then, under such circumstances of wind and weather, as the commission should point out; against a hulk, or hulks, which the commission would provide, and against a fort, which they would select, he (Mr. Warner) should destroy those hulks, or that fort; ruin their defences; dismount their guns; and so prove, that be had his alleged stupendous power, under control; that he could direct it with tolerable certainty; that it could be applied with safety to the users; and that the secret was of such a nature as that the exclusive use of it might; thereafter, be retained by the purchase of it by the Government, either for suppression, out of considerations of humanity, or for use in warfare, (and unless it should fulfil these conditions, the power, however great, would not be worth any purchase), then, it must be admitted, that Mr. Warner, unscientific though he be, unlearned though he is, visionary as some call him, had nevertheless made an omnipotent discovery, which would entitle him to the admiration of the age, and place his name, in history, beside those of Bacon and Schwartz. But, without meaning any disparagement, or offence, to Mr. Warner, he (Sir H. Douglas), with the practical knowledge he had, and the little of science he possessed, should remain very—very incredulous, as to the alleged extraordinary powers, imputed to Mr. Warner's invention, till he should see them actually exercised.
§ Mr. Brotherton
observed, that the Members of that House knew nothing about the matter, for as yet no evidence had been laid before them of experiments tried. He had received a letter, dated the 24th of June, which detailed pretty fully what had taken place in Portugal with reference to these supposed discoveries of Mr. Warner; with the permission of the House he should read some extracts from that communication. The hon. Member then read as follows:— 1043In the beginning of February I was ordered to take the command of the outposts, the nearest to the enemy, at the village of Lordello, half way between Oporto and San Joao da Foz, at the mouth of the Douro. In a short time after, the enemy erected the formidable battery of Seralves, at half Musket shot from my advanced sentries, and their shot almost shut up our line of communication between the sea and Oporto. My night and day thoughts were how to destroy this battery. I seldom had time to go to Oporto, but I heard there was an extraordinary man, a Captain Warner, who could perform wonders of destruction with some new invention. I heard he was willing to sell his invention to the Portuguese government, but they not having a farthing in their treasury, of course first wished to prove the power. I went up to Oporto, and there met Captain Warner. There were many wise discussions, and I became a firm and true believer in his inventions and powers. I pointed out to him that my outposts were at half-musket shot from the enemy's battery of Seralves; that I knew every inch of the ground between; and that any night I could go there with half-a-dozen men without being discovered. This, I understood, was a sufficient force to carry the destructive matter, and I undertook to place it when it was ready. He told me it would take some time to prepare. As I permitted no one whatever to come within my sentries I proposed to him that no one might know his secret, that I should give him over a small house as a laboratory within my lines, over which house would be a sentry, and that I should give him over as an assistant to Sergeant Mitchell, of the Rocket Brigade. To this Captain Warner agreed. I sent for Sergeant Mitchell; I ordered him to obey all instructions of Captain Warner, and on no account to disclose what he saw to any human being, not even to myself, as I had bound myself to carry the destructive stuff to Seralves; but while I said this I told him as an honest man he must not let me be humbugged. I think I recollect some boxes or small barrels being brought down from Oporto to this house. I recollect Mitchell did no other duty. Being impatient to destroy this battery of Seralves, from which the enemy were firing day and night, I got impatient, and thought Captain Warner took it very coolly, and did not come often enough. About this time Sergeant Mitchell came to me to say he suspected it was ' all stuff.' I began to have my doubts, and I recollect one day asking Captain Warner some posing question. He then led me to understand that he required a peculiar sort of gun, and that he had written to Woolwich for either three or six brass guns made in a peculiar manner, with which he could destroy anything at any distance. These guns were to come in a schooner, and often did I get on the heights with my telescope to see this long wished-for vessel, as at this time we had little or no food, and the enemy gradually closing us in. The schooner 1044 however, is not yet arrived, and I often used to laugh at myself. As Sergeant Mitchell has claims upon the Portuguese Government, I am sure his address will be got at 94, Mount-street, Grosvenor-square. You will there find that most intelligent officer, Colonel Barreiros, of the Portuguese army, who I think must know all. Then there is Major-general Hare, Lord G. Paulett, Sir T. Lovell, now at Milan, and Colonel Badcock, 15th Hussars. They may know more than I do, but I am not such a staunch believer in the ' wonderful invention' as I was.But it was not alone to the Portuguese that Mr. Warner proposed to sell his secret, he offered it in Spain, as the following extract from a letter which he had recently received would unequivocally show:ߞAs Mr. Warner values himself on his patriotic determination of not communicating his sectret to any but his own country, you may dare Mr. Warner and his advocates to the denial of the fact of his having actually sold his said secret by contract to Don Pedro, Duke of Braganza, ex-Emperor of Brazil, and self-constituted Regent of Portugal, in the earlier part of 1833, during the siege of Oporto, for, 1 believe, 2,000 contos of reis, or 500.0001.; but declined to make an experiment en grand without the consideration money being paid to him beforehand, which Don Pedro in his turn declined to comply with, after the possession of Lisbon had afforded him the means to do so by procuring him credit for millions of pounds in the London money-market, of which he availed himself largely to bring the expedition of the liberating army to a close, and finally to eject the usurper Don Miguel from the kingdom; and this, notwithstanding the capture of the Miguelite squadron by Admiral Napier (Count Cabo de San Vicente), and the surrender of the capital, occupied Don Pedro still from July, 1833, to May, 1834, and when having previously witnessed at Oporto a miniature experiment of Mr. Warner (as Sir R. Peel did in Essex), Don Pedro would have been happy to pay the sum agreed upon at once in order to save the effusion of blood, and the waste of treasure and time, had Mr. Warner been able, as he pretended, to blow up the strongest fortifications and armies, as he was requested to do the Monte Crasto, near Oporto, and Foz in 1833; but then his objection was money down,' which in 1834 would have been placed in the safe hands of the ambassador of a neutral power—Lord Howard de Walden, for instance—when Mr. Warner might have deposited the keys of the Miguelite fortress of Santarem, so many months in vain blockaded by the Queen's troops; but no, nothing but money in hand would answer the conjuror's purpose. Mr. Warner's contract with Don Pedro, signed by him, the Duke of Braganza, must be still extant in the War- 1045 office of Lisbon, and be proveable by many of the surviving authorities, Mr. Warner having shown it to myself and others at Oporto.Hon. Members would recollect, that, the late Government had refused to purchase the secret of Mr. Warner, and he conceived that they had done wisely in so refusing. The present Government had followed that example, and to them he gave equal praise for the course which they had pursued.
§ Sir R. Peel
said, I am sorry that so much of the valuable time of the House should have been occupied with a subject of this description. Although I have arrived at a conclusion different from that which the hon. Baronet near me has urged upon the House, yet I am perfectly ready to give him full credit for having brought the motion forward with the most perfect good feeling, and I am quite satisfied that my hon. Friend was influenced by the best feeling. Nevertheless, I am bound, in my own defence and that of the Government, to lay the facts before the House, inasmuch as the motion for a select committee implied something like a reflection upon the line of conduct pursued by the responsible advisers of the Crown. The hon. Baronet said, that if there were a full House, he had no doubt that he should be able to carry his motion. Now, if the whole 658 Members were at this moment assembled, I do not believe there would be found amongst them ten men who would support the hon. Baronet on a question like the present. The proposition is, that we should have a select committee,—to do what? Was it intended that they should try experiments? If fifteen Members were selected from one side of the House, and fifteen front the other, to try if Mr. Warner had fulfilled his undertakings, how could that gentleman's secret be preserved? It appears to me, that to take this matter out of the hands of the Board of Admiralty and the Board of Ordnance, implies a sort of re flexion on me for not having more freely and decisively supported the views of Mr. Warner. I do assure the House, that though I am an unprofessional man, I still have given to this matter a great deal of attention; and with reference to all such real or supposed discoveries, I have thought that my duty was to pursue a middle course. I think that on the one hand a public man is culpable if he wholly disregards suggestions of this nature 1046 and, on the other, equally culpable if upon slender grounds he lends himself too unreservedly to their support. Twenty years experience has taught me that we arc not to take things of this sort for granted, and pay 400,0001. for a secret, the efficacy of which has not yet been tested. Every man in office has been in the habit of receiving applications of this nature—not a day passes without something of the sort —some most specious proposal. But respecting this case, we have had rather a remarkable statement, in which, after a warm panegyric upon the character of King William, in which every one must concur, the writer states that that sovereign had given a distinct assurance to Mr. Warner that all his expectations would be realized. 1 think, looking at the professional experience of King William, that it was not very likely he would have given any such assurance; however, as he is now not living, we have no means of knowing how the matter really stood. As we can say nothing further on this subject, I wish next to recall the attention or hon. Members lo the frequency of applications of this nature, and to the fact that Mr. Warner is not the only person who lays claim to discoveries. I hold in my hand a letter dated the 11th of July, 1842, and which is in these words:—Fourteen years ago I made experiments in Italy, before several officers, on implements of war, of power unsurpassed, and I was urged by them to come home to lay them before his Majesty's Government. By his Majesty, on the certificates produced, I was assured of every reward if 1 would disclose the secret. The prosecution of my professional studies suggested the composition to me. One species is superior to Mr. Warner's, as a single shot, striking a line-of-battle ship, would consign her to destruction. I cannot go the length required by the Ordnance, of 500l deposit, to make undisclosed experiments.With numerous applications of this kind, what course was open to me? I am sure hon. Members do not think that I should at once have complied with Mr. Warner's demands. I am, however, enabled to tell the House that much more was done for Mr. Warner than has been done for any one else similarly circumstanced. His application was treated with a great deal more consideration than usual. The practice is to allow people in general to try their experiments, but at their own expense. If every man in society pos- 1047 sessed the power of insisting that his theories and speculations should be tested by experiments at the public expense, the whole time of the public departments would be wasted and the cost would be enormous. Therefore the rule is that experiments shall not be tried unless those who allege that they have made discoveries or perfected inventions give prima facie evidence of their sincerity and good faith by trying the experiments at their own expense, the public departments affording them every reasonable facility. To show the consideration with which this supposed discovery was treated, it is enough to say that I consented that Mr. Warner's experiments might be tried at the public expense. Mr. Warner stated, that he could cast his projectiles to a distance of six miles, with a force sufficient to produce the gigantic effects which he promised. This appeared most marvellous, but I was not deterred. Wonderful as it seemed I did not scout the proposition. The hulk was ready at six miles distance; two experienced and distinguished officers, Sir B. Martin and Sir H. Douglas, were ready to witness the experiments, and the secret was not to be divulged. With these facts before the House, I confess I am at a loss to understand how hon. Members can agree to a motion thus reflecting upon us. Mr. Warner, before he would proceed to try any experiments, required that a sum of 400,0001. should be guaranteed to him by her Majesty's Government in the event of his being successful. But then what is success? Could he accomplish these tremendous results in the face of an enemy, Could he effect them under all circumstances. This did not appear likely from the experiments which were tried, and, therefore, I would not promise him a single shilling. I could not guarantee the payment of public money under hypothetical circumstances, though I agreed that the cost of the experiments should be defrayed at the public expense. It is not immaterial to observe that this matter has been under the consideration of the Executive Government ever since the year 1834. At one time, when a proposition was made to try the experiments before officers of both branches of the service, Mr. Warner required that Lord Hardwicke and Lord Ingestre should be present, but I decidedly objected to Mr. Warner's appointing any nominees, though no one can entertain a higher opinion than I do of the 1048 two noble Lords whose names I have just mentioned. At different periods since the year 1834 the subject has been under the consideration of successive Boards of Admiralty. The correspondence which has passed upon these subjects will best show what really has occurred, and with the permission of the House I propose to read a letter addressed to Colonel Cooper, and dated the 8th of July, 1831. It is in these words:—I am directed by Cord Auckland to request you will acquaint Sir James Kempt that an application has been made to his Lordship by Major Fancourt, M. P. for Barnstable, and Commander Warner, of the navy, for permission to have some experiments in gunnery, proposed by Commander Warner, tried before a mixed committee of ordnance and naval officers; and that it is stated to his lordship by Commander Warner, that a promise was made to him some months ago, by Sir James Graham and Sir James Kempt, that an opportunity of trying his experiments should be afforded to him. Commander Warner further states that he will be ready in about a week to appear before a committee.I shall next read to the House another letter to Colonel Cooper, altering, at Mr. Warner's request, the arrangement made by the preceding communication. It is dated the 14th of July, 1834, and is as follows—There has been, I am sorry to say, some little mistake in the matter of Captain Warner's experiment, about which I wrote to you a few days ago. Captain Warner has been at the Admiralty this morning, and produced a letter from Sir J. Graham, dated the 27th of February last, in which Sir James acquiesces in the proposition made by Captain Warner, that the exhibition shall be a private one, and consequently Captain Warner now objects to its being made at Woolwich. He also wishes that three officers only of each service should be present instead of six, and says that it would be more convenient to him if the day of exhibition were to be fixed for Monday, the 21st, instead of Friday, the 18th. Lord Auckland therefore now proposes to make an alteration in the Admiralty minute to meet Captain Warner's wishes; and I am to request you will move the Master-General to do the same with respect to the ordnance, and to fix Wanstead-park, in Essex (ten miles from London), as the place for the experiment to be tried at, before three officers of each service, on Monday, the 21st inst., at 2 p.m.I shall now read the official report of what occurred after the time and place had been fixed for trying these extraordinary experiments:
§ " Woolwich, July 21, 1834.
§ "Sir,—1 have the honour to report, for the information of the Master-General, that in obedience to his commands, signified in your letter of the 15th inst., Colonel Williamson, Sir A. Dickson, and myself proceeded to-day to Wanstead-park, to witness the intended experiment of Commander Warner; but after making every inquiry in the neighbourhood we could only at last learn that Captain Warner had left his house at Claybury this morning for London, and that his return was uncertain. Under these circumstances we returned to Woolwich to attend to any further directions which we may receive on the subject.
§ " I have the honour to be, Sir,
§ " Your obedient servant,
§ "A. F. FRAZER.
§ "Colonel Royal horse Artillery." "Lieutenant-Colonel Couper, &c."
§ Thus ended the proceedings of that period. Then came the experiments which were to be tried in the presence of Sir Howard Douglas and Sir Byam Martin, and he met those distinguished officers by declining to try any experiments unless he received a guarantee for 400,0001. No doubt there may be, and we know that there are, compositions capable of producing tremendous results—nitrate of silver, for example. It is well known that a person recently engaged in experiments on that substance was himself blown to atoms, and the building in which he had been trying his experiments very materially injured. It is no new discovery, then, to announce that a combination may be produced more powerfully destructive than any which we now have in ordinary use. But the mode in which this invention is to be applied is a matter of much more difficulty than the question as to the material. Considering the demands which are made upon my time and attention, I must say that I think I have given sufficient consideration to this subject, and I hope that as far as the claim of the right hon. Baronet to a select committee is concerned, I have succeeded in blowing Captain Warner out of the water.
begged to explain that in seconding the motion he did not intend to throw any reflection upon her Majesty's Government. He knew nothing of Mr. Warner, nor had he had any communication with him upon the subject.
§ Captain Pechell
expressed his satisfaction at hearing the speech of the right hon. Baronet; it convinced him that the censures which were passed upon Lord Mel- 1050 bourne and the late Government for neglecting this invention were unfounded. He thought Mr. Warner had nothing to complain of, for when he was requested to attend the Board of Admiralty to explain his invention, be sent his aide-de-camp or friend, so that when the Admiralty were called upon to make a report upon the subject, they had none to make. In an interview which he subsequently had with Sir T. Hastings, he was found to be an impracticable person; it was quite impossible to deal with him. He (Captain Pechell) had always supposed that Mr. Warner had offered his invention to Don Pedro, and now he had no doubt of it. At all events, he believed that the inventor would take it to the best market he could find, without caring for this country. He remembered that once, when engaged in a blockade, he was told to look out for catamarans; but they never arrived, and he always found that when the guard boats were sent out and a good watch was kept, they were of no use. He supposed much the same danger was to be apprehended from this invention of Mr. Warner's, although he had boasted that he could destroy a ship of the line at six miles distance, and knock down Portsmouth battery from the Isle of Wight; but he did not say whether he was to go to the farther side of the island and fire his projectile through it. He thought it might be put on a par with the inventions of Mr. St. John Long, of which the lion. Baronet had some knowledge and experience. He was happy to see that the present Government, as well as their predecessors, treated this matter as it ought. to be treated, and he trusted that the committee would not be granted, for it was not probable that the hon. Baronet could obtain any more information on the subject from Mr. Warner than had been obtained already.
§ Sir G. Cockburn
said, that since he came into office he had been requested to name two officers to superintend the trial of Mr. Warner's invention, and he had accordingly named two officers well known to that House and the country—Colonel Pasley and Sir T. Hastings. Mr. Warner, however, on hearing the names, objected. He felt it his duty to state this, in addition to what had been said. He had also to state, for the honour of the profession to which he belonged, that Mr. Warner was not, as he had been styled in the 1051 papers read by his right hon. Friend, a Commander in the navy. Mr. Warner had told him that his late Majesty promised him a high rank in the navy, but on his (Sir G. Cockburn) asking Mr. Warner whether he had served his time in the navy, he answered that he had not served his time in the navy.
Sir F. Burdett, in
reply, said, that he did not think anything important had been advanced against the statements of Mr. Warner; but he thought that all the facts would be much better discussed and brought out in a committee than in a cursory debate like this. Many misrepresentations and false stories had been circulated, to the prejudice both of the inventor and his invention; but Sir T. Hardy, Sir R. Keats, and his late Majesty had all expressed their approbation of the invention, and they were not light authorities. No doubt the matter would have been satisfactorily settled long ere this had it not been for the death of the late King. He thought that, under all the circumstances of the case, it was nothing but fair that Mr. Warner should have an opportunity of explaining what he had done, and what he could undertake to do; for the real question, after all, was whether or not he could do what he professed. Some of the highest living authorities, as well as some who were gone, had spoken in approbation of the plan of Mr. Warner, who, instead of being, as some would insinuate, a visionary, was a most sensible and strong-minded man. He could not consent to withdraw his motion.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 2; Noes 72; Majority 70.
|List of the AYES.
|Cave, hon. R. 0.
|Burdett, Sir F.
|Colvile, C. R.
§ [It seems sufficient to insert the Ayes only on this division.]