HC Deb 19 March 1845 vol 78 cc1157-60
Mr. Somes

wished to ask the noble Lord the Member for South Staffordshire, whether he intended to bring forward any Motion during the present Session, respecting the invisible shell and long range of Captain Warner?

Lord Ingestre

replied, that he had within the last few days received a letter from Captain Warner, which, with the permission of the House, he would read:—

"London, March 10, 1845.

"My Lord—In consequence of the discussion which took place in Parliament last Session, I wish to put you in possession of my present views relative to my discoveries. I have no desire that any direct application should be made for any further commission, similar to the two last appointed, to investigate them, for my past experience leads me to expect nothing but disappointment from such a course. But if any allusion be made in Parliament to my unaccepted challenge to destroy a line of battle ship by means of my long range, which appeared in The Times, Morning Post, and other journals, of the 21st of August last, I should be obliged by your Lordship's mentioning my willingness to abide by the terms of that challenge. Moreover I am ready to do this; namely, to demonstrate by actual experiments, at my own expense, and without any stipulation whatever as to remuneration, the effect of my powers, both of the invisible shell and long range, to the Master General of the Ordnance and your Lordship; but to none other persons, with the exception, if desired, of the Prime Minister and his Grace the Commander-in-Chief. I only desire that a report of the nature and efficacy of my powers may then be made directly to the Crown; though I am convinced that any Minister of this country, when once thoroughly acquainted with my powers, and their peculiar fitness for either attacking or defending an island like Great Britain, would feel it his duty to communicate to the Sovereign the vital importance of retaining them for the national service. The Duke of Wellington, some short time ago, pointed out before a Committee the superior advantages possessed by the French over ourselves from the nature of their coast, for attacking Channel-bound ships; my practical familiarity with both sides of the Channel enables me to say how entirely correct are his Grace's views, and if he would condescend to grant me an interview, I could demonstrate to him how perfectly I could counteract those advantages of the French, which would prove, in the event of war, so destructive to the mercantile interests of England. My misfortune has ever been to suffer from the want of exact information in high quarters, both as to the nature and the extensive applicability of my discoveries, and my own conduct. My inventions have been represented to be of very limited utility, and myself described as a greedy, mercenary adventurer, having my eye fixed alone upon the Treasury, and unwilling to afford any explanation without first receiving payment, or at least a Government guarantee. But the Prime Minister, as well as your Lordship, is aware that though I have refused to make an unconditional surrender of my secrets to the successive Commissioners hitherto appointed, I have offered to make ample disclosures to Sir Robert Peel and Sir George Murray, leaving the question of reward entirely to their arbitration.

"I much regret that two letters which I addressed to the Prime Minister on the 25th of May, 1842, and the 5th of August in the same year respectively, were omitted from the published correspondence between Her Majesty's Government and myself, as they would have relieved my character from much of the obloquy which has been cast upon it. Upon reference to those letters, of which your Lordship holds copies, it will be seen that I was to receive no reward if I failed in the fulfilment of my undertakings; and in the event of success, the Prime Minister himself was to estimate their value. But since this distinct offer was made, I have been charged, both in Parliament and by a portion of the public press, with having demanded enormous sums before I would enter upon any explanations whatever.

"Without wishing to complain, I must refer to the omission also of my letter of the 1st of May. 1844, to the late Commissioners, in which I offered to place the ship so liberally given me by Mr. Somes, in the hands of the Government, previous to her destruction off Brighton, purposely to obviate the suspicion of any deception or collusion on my part. The sums that have been named may appear exorbitant, but they can only seem so to those who, having a limited and imperfect knowledge of the subject, do not take into consideration the enormous saving to the public that might be effected by the adoption of my discoveries. I have made sacrifices, have expended large sums of money, and devoted the greater part of my life to the prosecution of those discoveries, with the most anxious wish to apply them solely to the service of my country. To your Lordship I now confide the trust of making my last and solemn appeal to the country, and to its Representatives in Parliament.

"I have the honour to remain,

"Your Lordship's faithful and obliged Servant,


"Lord Viscount Ingestre, M.P., &c."

The House would see from this the situation in which he was placed. He wished to ask his right hon. Friend at the head of the Government, whether he had any objection to the production of the letters of the dates of May and August, 1842, which were left out, no doubt by mistake, of the Papers on the subject laid before Parliament last year. These letters were considered by Captain Warner as of great consequence for the vindication of his character from certain insinuations which had been thrown out against him. He, therefore, hoped that his right hon. Friend would not have any objection to lay them on the Table.

Sir R. Peel

said, that he did not know that he had either received any letter from or sent any to Captain Warner, which he should have the slightest objection to be produced. He had sent all the letters which he had received on this subject to the Board of Ordnance, and he believed that some had been mislaid there. It was probable that this was the case with respect to them.

Lord Ingestre

had some conversation with the Clerk of the Ordnance on the subject a few days ago respecting them, more particularly the letter of the date of May 25, 1842, and he had been informed that they had been found.

Sir R. Peel

could not have the slightest objection to their production.

Sir Charles Napier

wished to know whether any particular distance was specified as to the extent of the long range.

Lord Ingestre

replied that it would be seen from the challenge that it was stated at five miles.

Sir C. Napier

would ask the right hon. Baronet whether there could be any objection to let Captain Warner make a trial at his own expense, and blow up the hulk of a line-of-battle ship. They had already placed an old hulk for the Excellent to fire at and knock to pieces, and there could be no great harm in allowing a trial of this scheme against the hull of another old hulk of a line-of-battle ship.

Sir R. Peel

replied, that since the last discussion on this matter, not a week had elapsed in which he had not received letters from parties offering to discover the means of destroying a vessel of war in a better manner and more effectually than by Captain Warner, on condition, in some instances, of rceiving a reward of 100,000l., and in others of 200,000l., and in others even larger sums. He feared if any encouragement was given, that multitudes of people would be devoting their attention to the discovery of the means of more effectually destroying their fellow-creatures. All that he could say was, that if the author of any one of those projects could show a proof of his possessing the means of destruction to a great extent at a distance of five miles, he would recommend him to make a private communication on the subject to the Board of Ordnance, and he did not despair of leave being given to make a trial.

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