HC Deb 21 June 1842 vol 64 cc346-8
Sir C. Napier

wished to ask what steps had been taken with regard to Captain Warner's invention? Captain Warner had, he understood, expressed a desire that Lord Hardwicke and Lord Ingestrie should be appointed on the commission to investigate the merits of his invention, and complained that Sir Byam Martin and Sir Howard Douglas had demanded of him that he should make known all his secrets, without having any guarantee given to him that they would not be divulged. Captain Warner further stated that Sir George Murray was fully cognizant of the secret, and that he (Captain Warner) was desirous of unbosoming himself to the right hon. Baronet, and that, after the merits of his invention should have been tested, he would leave the question of compensation entirely in the hands of the right hon. Baronet. He also stated that, if a three-decker were placed before him, he could destroy it immediately, and that he could destroy vessels at six miles' distance, and was ready to make proof of this. He therefore thought that Government ought to ascertain whether Captain Warner was a charlatan, or a man really possessed of the destructive powers he claimed.

Sir K. Peel

was very sorry the gallant Commodore had brought forward this subject. Since the last mention of this subject three weeks ago, applications had been made by several individuals to have personal interviews with him on the subject of destructive inventions, which, they stated, were entitled to the utmost consideration on the part of the state. He did not wish to say anything in disparagement of Captain Warner's invention, but he would give his own version of his transactions with Captain Warner. Shortly after his appointment to office, he had a private opportunity of seeing the extraordinary effects produced by Captain Warner's invention, and he signified that he was willing in the regular authorised way to have experiments made with the discovery; that he thought, however, it rested either with the Admiralty or the Board of Ordnance to judge of the invention, for that he himself was wholly incompetent to form a judgment upon it; that he must remit to the heads of those departments the charge of instituting experiments of this kind. He, therefore, wrote to Sir George Murray, the Master-General of the Ordnance, to request him to name two officers to whom no possible exception could be taken—who had the most professional knowledge and the greatest practical skill in gunnery, and everything respecting the destruction of human life. He had also stated, that thinking it unreasonable that Captain Warner should be put to any expense in the course of conducting the experiments, he would consent that the expense should be borne by the public. He asked, then, the House, whether or not, knowing the number of similar applications that had been made, and might be made, he could have taken any better course? The two gentlemen whom Sir George Murray had appointed for the purpose of making the experiments were Sir Howard Douglas and Sir T. Hastings, and he would appeal to any person conversant with those subjects whether more suitable parties could be selected? Captain Warner had certainly suggested that Lord Hardwicke or some other gentleman should be added, bat he bad objected to this as quite unnecessary. He certainly had not undertaken to pay any sum of money whatever beyond the expense of the experiment; what he said was, let the experiment be made, and we can then judge of the value of it. This was not an experiment, the real value of which could be tested in a small pool of water, and under prepared and advantageous circumstances; experiments must be made on a large scale and under adverse circumstances, so as to enable us to judge what would be the effect of the invention when wind and weather were against it. For the rest, if he were to give way to all the suggestions of all the persons who thought themselves in possession of a valuable discovery, in war, in finance, in commerce, in every possible branch of art and science, there would not be a guinea at the command of the Treasury for any other purpose.