§ VISCOUNT INGESTRE
moved—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the circumstances relative to the recovery of Treasure and Public Stores sunk in Her Majesty's late frigate Thetis, off Cape Frio, in 1830.He begged to premise that he did not want the Treasury to pay away money as a gift, but to render up that which had been unjustly obtained from a body of men who exerted themselves most laudably in saving a vast amount of treasure from the wreck of Her Majesty's frigate Thetis. She was sunk in water from six to thirteen fathoms deep, under a steep shore; and had it not been for the exertions, bravery, and mechanical skill of Captain Dickinson, 164,000l. which she contained would have been lost. Out of this sum, through the exertions of that officer, a sum of 157,000, had been recovered, besides a certain amount of stores. The enterprise was one of a most arduous character, from the position in which the ship was lost—the wreck being sunk in the open sea, in a situation exposed to a heavy swell whenever there was any wind, and also from the absence of any mechanical apparatus suited for operations of that description. Out of the common ship stores Captain Dickinson constructed a diving bell; of the fire engine he made an air pump; and with the hose he fed the diving bell with air. On obtaining permission from the Board of Admiralty in 1831 to undertake this duty, Captain Dickinson was told that the Board would sanction no expense; but it was most unjust to extend this limitation to the maintenance of the crew and the wear and tear of the vessel. In 1834 an adjudication was made by the Court of Admiralty; but the salvors thought the decree unfair, and carried the question before the Privy Council, which awarded them a larger share. The Admiralty, however, got a large sum, and be wished to know what had become of the money paid to the Admiralty. It was said to have been car- 823 ried to the Naval Service account; but he had not succeeded in finding it mentioned in any of the Navy estimates. He did not ask the House by his Motion to sanction any advance of the public money, but merely to order a Committee of Inquiry to ascertain whether money had not been unjustly detained from the salvors, and whether it ought not to be given up to that very worthy body of individuals. The Admiralty made a charge for victualling the men, for stores, and the wear and tear of the vessels employed on the service; but he maintained that they had no right to make any such charge, seeing that the vessel was never off the station, and was always ready for other service when she was wanted. In fact, they were only employed on this duty when they would otherwise have been idle. He trusted that, under the circumstances, the House would sanction his Motion for the appointment of a Select Committee on the subject.
§ CAPTAIN PECHELL
seconded the Motion, and said that of all the cases that had ever presented themselves to his notice, this was, he considered, the most extraordinary. He believed that every discouragement had been given by the Board of Admiralty to the undertaking of the enterprise originally. The hon. and gallant Member read an extract from the petition of Captain Dickinson, to show the very severe labour and hardships which the crew had to undergo, and said that he thought that they had been most unjustly treated by the Admiralty. He was much surprised that Captain Dickinson had not overhauled the bill sent in by the Admiralty, for it exhibited as great an instance of plunder as was ever seen in this or any other country. In that bill the Admiralty charged for the wages of tha seamen of three ships for fourteen months, although one or two of the ships were absent for some months upon other service. He disputed the right to make any charge at all. Yet 2,193l. was charged for the use of the ships. And what would be thought of the conscience of the Board of Admiralty in charging 1,463l. for the use of that horrid ten-gun brig, the Algerine? Why it was 1,400 times more than the vessel was worth. They also charged 2,543l. in excess for the victualling of the seamen employed; and although Captain Dickinson saved stores to the amount of 2,124l., he was charged for wages and victualling during their recovery. Altogether an overcharge of 6,861l. was made by the Admiralty. 824 Now, suppose Captain Dickinson had not been successful, would the Admiralty have ventured to charge him 13,000l.? Certainly not. Yet because; he was successful, they made this charge; and he thought his case would be a lesson in future to all parties in such circumstances to keep their money in their own hands, and not to go into any Admiralty Courts, but pay all the bills themselves. He gave his cordial support to the Motion for a Select Committee.
§ MR. PARKER
, on the part of his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his hon. Friend the Secretary of the Admiralty, should meet this proposition with a negative. He did not mean to prejudice Captain Dickinson, if he reminded the House how great an interval had elapsed between the period when the transaction occurred, and that at which the noble Lord asked for a Committee. But the House must feel that in Parliament, as well as in other courts, it was necessary to have something like a statute of limitations. This case had, however, been examined and disposed of in the ordinary course by the ordinary tribunals, before whom it had been kept for a period of fourteen or sixteen months. When the hon. and gallant Officer said the Admiralty Bill was an extraordinary one, it should be borne in mind that this was an extraordinary transaction. The service was for the benefit of the consignees of the treasure, and of the underwriters in London; and the remuneration charged was not at all unreasonable for the time and trouble of the vessels employed and their crews. In 1833, the case came before the High Court of Admiralty; and the parties who now objected to the Admiralty's claim of 13,000l. appeared against it. The court awarded 17,000l. to the salvors, 13,000l. to the Admiralty bill, and 12,000l. for incidental expenses. Whether these sums were too much or too little, he was incompetent to say; the parties, however, were dissatisfied with the decision, and they appealed to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. That tribunal, by its decision, added 12,000 to the 17,000l. previously awarded to the salvors, but no change whatever was made with reference to the Admiralty charges. [Captain PECHELL said, that question was not argued,] It might have been argued, and he had a right to take it for granted, that if the parties had been so dissatisfied then as they appeared to be now with the Admiralty accounts, they would have submitted the 825 question to the court. Had they at that time urged any objections, no doubt the same views of justice and equity which prompted the Judicial Committee to add 12,000l. to the sum previously awarded to the salvors, would have led to a review of the decision as to the 13,000l. Since that period the whole case had been revived, and several applications made to successive Administrations, none of whom conceived themselves justified in departing from the decisions of the courts of law. The right hon. Gentleman the late Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Goulburn), came to the same conclusions respecting it as his predecessors. He trusted, therefore, the House would feel the importance of allowing these claims to remain as they had been decided by the proper jurisdiction. Under the circumstances, it was his duty to resist the proposition.
§ SIR C. NAPIER
contended, that the hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Treasury (Mr. Parker) had not given any answer to the case opened by the noble Lord. The hon. Gentleman had referred to the decisions of the Court of Admiralty as conclusive against the Motion, and said there must be a statute of limitations to clauses such as these. But he begged to remind the House, that since the decision Captain Dickinson had constantly been making applications for a reconsideration of his case; and it must be recollected that officers in the Navy did not usually come before the House without some absolute necessity. The noble Lord (Viscount Ingestre) would have brought the case under the notice of the House three years ago; but he was stopped by Sir George Cockburn, who stated the Admiralty were about to satisfy Captain Dickinson. The argument as to lapse of time was worth nothing whatever. It only proved, what was well known before, that no Chancellor of the Exchequer would pay money if he could help it. The Admiralty, he maintained, had no right to charge as they had, and he considered it was a most shabby affair on their part.
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
The hon. Member or Sheffield (Mr. Parker) had said, that he was discharging a painful duty in resisting the application of the gallant and distinguished Officer for pecuniary compensation, in a case where he had sustained an undue loss. He was bound to say that the decision of which Captain Dickinson complained, was a decision in respect to which he (Sir J. Graham) was officially responsible, and he therefore felt it to be 826 his duty to sustain the view taken by the hon. Secretary of the Treasury. That decision was adopted at the Board of Admiralty in 1832, when he had the honour of presiding there under the Administration of the late Earl Grey. He now observed upon the benches opposite two of his then Colleagues, the right hon. Gentleman the present Secretary for Ireland, and his hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Gloucester. He was quite sure their recollections would concur with him in what he was about to state. Their decision was adopted after full and ample consideration; and they had the advantage at that time at the Board of two most eminent naval officers, by no means disposed to view with harshness or severity the claims of their brother officers, but to offer due consideration to such claims, at the same time they were actuated by a love of the public service, which rendered them incapable of concurring in any decision which would be unjust to the officers on the one hand, or a prodigal or needless waste of public money on the other. Those officers were Sir T. Hardy and Admiral Dundas. What was the decision of which complaint was made? That the Board of Admiralty had come to a decision, that, considering all the circumstances of the case, it was just to deduct from the salvage the amount of stores exhausted, or used, belonging to His Majesty in this particular service. The Admiralty, exercising their judgment to the best of their capacity, aided by the high authority of Sir Thomas Hardy and Admiral Dundas, came to the conclusion that 13,000l. or 14,000l. was not an extravagant sum to ask. The matter came under the decision of the Admiralty; then, upon appeal, for a decision of the Privy Council. It also came under review of the Administration of Lord Althorp in 1834, the Board of Admiralty of 1836, the Treasury of 1836, and Sir Robert Peel's Government in 1842. For the adoption of the original decision he was responsible, aided by the authorities he had mentioned; and as to the salvage itself, the question had been decided by two judicial tribunals. The original award was, that the amount of salvage should be 17,000l.; on the further hearing, on appeal, an additional sum of 12,000l. was awarded by the Privy Council; and considering the lapse of time, he thought they had been amply and sufficiently rewarded, and that any augmentation of the salvage would be public money improperly applied.
§ MR. WAKLEY
regretted that the speech of the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) had been the only speech on this question which had been heard by the House. He very much wished the House had heard the speeches of the noble Lord (Lord Ingestre), and the hon. and gallant Captain the Member for Brighton (Captain Pechell). Unfortunately, however, the House was but too ready to vote on such a question without hearing it. The right hon. Baronet who had just addressed the House had so clear a method of speaking, that he was always understood, and he spoke, too, so smoothly and so blandly that he always carried the House with him. He had always found those who were Ministers and those who had been Ministers agreeing on these questions. The right hon. Baronet said, the claim had been decided in such a manner when he was in office, and that it was therefore his duty to vindicate his decision. He did not see this at all. The right hon. Gentleman might have found that on this as on some other questions he had been egregiously wrong, and that he had made as gross an error on this as on other occasions. The official answers to claims of this kind might be stereotyped and cast in metal. He had never known an instance in which some such answer as this was not given—"This case was decided in such a year and in such a manner." The possibility of the decision having been unjust, never seemed to occur to those in office. The House was left to infer that Captain Dickinson had merely proceeded to recover the treasure of the Thetis, in execution of the orders given him. But the fact was, the idea of recovering the treasure originated in the fertile and scientific mind of Captain Dickinson, and that it was entirely through him that any portion of the treasure had ever been recovered. Was it not the fact that Admiral Baker thought it a perfectly wild scheme, and that the Admiralty were of the same opinion? Let the House remember that the money was sunk at the depth of from thirty-nine to seventy-five feet below the surface of the ocean; that the spot was thousands of miles from this country; and that Captain Dickinson consequently was deprived of many of the aids and appliances which he could have obtained at home. That with the rude and savage things at his command—so that he was compelled to make a diving-bell out of his fire-engine—on board what had been properly called "a horrible brig" 828 —that he should have recovered 124,000l. out of 164,000l.—the gentleman who was appointed to succeed him making up the amount to 157,000l.—all these things proved that when Captain Dickinson returned home after his extraordinary success, he ought to have been most amply rewarded, and been one of the first naval officers who received promotion. He declared that this claim on the part of the Admiralty was paltry and disgusting; that it was one of the most huxtering, mean, contemptible, and Shylock-looking affairs he ever heard of. Why, what was the nature of the assistance received by Captain Dickinson from the Board of Admiralty? He applied for a hawser; and what was the answer he received? Captain Dickinson commenced his work in January, 1831; in June he made this application for a six-and-a-half inch hawser; and in October he was told that the Board of Admiralty had directed "that no expense should be incurred on the public account in recovering the wreck of the Thetis." The Board of Admiralty, it was notorious, thought the recovery of the treasure hopeless; the right hon. Baronet himself thought so; and they refused him the paltry assistance of a six-and-a-half inch hawser to recover a wreck of 160,000l., because they determined that no public expense should be incurred in such a frantic wildgoose chase. How much better it would be if men in office, when they discovered that a wrong had been done, would make reparation. Captain Dickinson had exhibited infinite scientific skill; his exertions were crowned with success; but he unwisely parted with the money, and paid it into the Bank, upon which another party put in a claim as chief salvor. Litigation commenced, and then, at the eleventh hour, and at the fifty-ninth minute of the twelfth hour, the Administration came in with its nasty bill of costs. How the right hon. Baronet, with his magnanimous mind, and how the naval officers at the Board of Amiralty (he did not, by the way, believe they knew anything about it) could have sanctioned such a claim, he could not for his life understand. No doubt the Board referred to their dirty journals with the view to sustain their unjust decision by precedents; but none such could be found. The Admiralty charged 6,582l. 12s. for the wages and men of this "horrible brig" for fifteen months. There was another charge for victuals, as if the men would have eaten nothing elsewhere, and when, moreover, 829 Captain Dickinson was ordered to keep his vessel ready for service. Other charges were 1,000l. for naval stores, and 2,000l. for wear and tear. The right hon. Baronet wished the House to understand that the question had been argued before competent tribunals; but this claim of the Admiralty had never been argued before a competent tribunal, for it was made where it could not be argued. Under these circumstances was not inquiry to be granted? The year 1833 was that in which the recovery was effected. Now, he wished to know where they would find credit given to the public for this 13,800l.? Unless this could be satisfactorily explained, it was evident that the House would not discharge its duty to the people, if they did not grant the Committee which was now moved for. He was informed that a careful and vigilant examination of public documents had been made, and that no account could be found of the receipt or disposal of this money. He considered, therefore, that the House was bound to grant an inquiry, unless it was prepared to sanction not only a misappropriation of the public funds, but the grossest injustice towards the officers of Her Majesty's Navy. He hoped, indeed, that the Government would see, from what had passed during this discussion, that they would suffer in character if they persisted in opposing the appointment of the Committee moved for by the noble Lord; and he must admit that he would think the House chargeable with gross injustice if they refused to adopt the noble Lord's proposition.
§ CAPTAIN GLADSTONE
stated, that he was serving on the South American station when the loss of the Thetis took place, and he thought it his duty to bear testimony to the skill and exertion displayed by Captain Dickinson and the officers and men engaged in the recovery of this treasure from the wreck. Certainly no one at Rio Janeiro had the remotest expectation, at the time the Thetis was lost, that any portion of the treasure could be recovered. He observed that a charge was made by the Admiralty for the provisions of the able seamen employed upon the wreck; and he might inform the House that he believed a great proportion of those seamen belonged to the guard-ship or flag-ship lying in the harbour of Rio Janeiro, and which had been lying there doing nothing for eighteen months previously. This was, he believed, the first occasion on which any demand had been made for expenses incurred by 830 Her Majesty's ships when engaged on extraordinary service; and he thought it strange that this case should be selected for enforcing such a claim, for he would venture to say, that the skill, and the enterprise, and perseverance, of the officers and men employed in the operations, had been greater than had ever been displayed on any similar occasion. He felt bound, therefore, to vote for the Motion of the noble Lord.
§ MR. THORNELY
wished to ask, whether the High Court of Admiralty and the Committee of Privy Council were aware that the amount of salvage awarded was to be liable to a charge on the part of the Admiralty of 13,800l.; because it was possible that, had the courts been aware that such a claim would be made, they might have awarded a much larger sum to the salvors?
§ SIR J. GRAHAM
observed, that perhaps he might be allowed to answer the question. He was speaking merely from recollection, for he had not refreshed his memory by any recent reference to documents on this subject; but, unless he was much mistaken, when the case was heard in the last resort, before the Committee of Privy Council, this claim of the Admiralty was taken into consideration by the Council before they awarded to the salvors the additional sum of 12,000l.
§ DR. NICHOLL
considered that the charge made on account of the wear and tear of the ships employed in these operations was quite unprecedented. What, he would ask, was the great object of maintaining our military marine in a time of peace, except for the protection of our general commerce? If the claim of the Admiralty in this case was to be sanctioned, as well might it be said that when the property of our merchants in foreign ports was placed in jeopardy, and ships of Her Majesty's Navy were sent for its protection, that those merchants were bound to pay the expense of those ships during the time they were employed on such service. As well, too, might it be said, that a homeward-bound fleet ought to pay for the assistance of the ships of war sent out to the chops of the Channel to furnish them with supplies of water and other necessaries. In cases of this kind, such a claim had never been heard of. His right hon. Friend (Sir J. Graham) had gallantly undertaken the responsibility in this case; but he must acquit the right, hon. Baronet of a great part of that responsibility, for, although 831 the right hon. Baronet was First Lord of the Admiralty at the time, the claim was made on the part of the board, the circumstances of the case had never been brought before him. It had been said that this question had been over and over again adjudicated upon in the High Court of Admiralty and elsewhere; but this was a total misconception. The amount of the claim made by the Board of Admiralty before the High Court of Admiralty for the wear and tear of the ships employed on this service, was not disputed; and it was clear that, if the Admiralty thought fit to make that claim, the High Court of Admiralty had nothing to do but to admit it, unless the quantum was disputed. The quantum was not disputed; and, therefore, the High Court of Admiralty never did adjudicate upon the claim. He had a very strong impression that, when this matter was mentioned in the High Court of Admiralty, the Judge said, "I have nothing to do with the question; the quantum is not disputed; it is a question for the Board of Admiralty." He ventured to say, therefore, in reply to the statement that this question had already been adjudicated upon, that there had been, in fact, no substantial decision on the subject. Before the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, the appellant was Captain Dickinson alone, as Admiral Baker and Captain De Ros did not appeal, and the respondents were the underwriters. The question for the Judicial Committee to decide was, what was a fit sum to be paid by the underwriters for the salvage of their property? The Privy Council decided that the amount to be paid was 54,000l.; but they said, "Unfortunately, the Admiralty have made a claim for 13,800l., with which we cannot deal." That, he maintained, was the effect of their decision. They were aware that they had no power to deal with the 13,000l.; but they awarded 54,000l. to be paid by the owners of the property to the parties entitled to the salvage. It was upon the decision of the Board of Admiralty, and not of the High Court of Admiralty or of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, that this claim of 13,000l. was founded. He must express his regret that this subject had been brought before the House; and he thought, if the Government would hold out any hope that they would give the matter patient consideration, the better course would be to leave the subject in their hands. If, however, they could not hold out such an expectation, 832 he would vote for the Motion of the noble Lord.
§ MR. HUME
observed, that the right hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Graham) had stated that his Colleagues in the Board of Admiralty had all concurred in the propriety of the claim made on their behalf upon the salvors of this treasure. The right hon. Gentleman, however, must have made that statement under some misapprehension, for he was authorized to say that Sir Thomas Hardy, who was then at the board, expressed to his Colleagues his dissent from, their decision. He considered that in this case the Board of Admiralty had pursued a huxtering course. They had charged a sum most disproportionate to the actual cost of the ships for their service, and they had claimed payment for the maintenance of the seamen who would otherwise have been wasting their time in idleness and inactivity. It appeared, indeed, as if the Admiralty were desirous that the crews of our ships of war should remain in a state of complete repose, instead of being employed upon services which might encourage a spirit of gallantry and enterprise. He never saw such a bill as that which had been drawn up on the part of the Admiralty, and which was signed by "W. Symonds, Surveyor of the Navy." A sum of 1,527l. was charged for the services of the Lightning corvette, and the wear and tear was calculated as for seven years' service. He must remind the House that the ships were not actively employed in the operations, which were carried on by their boats, while the ships lay snugly at anchor. Yet a most exorbitant demand was made for the services of the Algerine, a 10-gun brig, which soon afterwards foundered at sea, and all her crew were lost. Indeed, out of ten of these 10-gun brigs, nine had been lost. After three of those ships had been lost, he brought the subject before the House. Since that time, the remaining ships, with one exception, had also been lost. He had no doubt that the 13,800l. had been received at the Exchequer, although no trace of it could be found. But the question they were called upon to decide was, whether they would sanction the imposition of a fine of this amount upon men who had rendered good service to their country. He should have thought, that in a case of this kind, a desire to hold out an inducement to other officers to imitate the example of Captain Dickinson and his gallant companions, would have led the Board of Admiralty to pursue a different course; but, 833 if such a line of conduct was persevered in, there could be no doubt it would have the effect of discouraging similar enterprising exertions on the part of those engaged in the public service. He believed that, if the Government would give this matter consideration for twenty-four or forty-eight hours, they would see reason to change their views on the subject. He thought the statements that had been made must have convinced the noble Lord (Lord J. Russell) that the Admiralty had been wrong in this instance; and he would not ask that noble Lord to be liberal, but he would call upon him to be just.
§ The LORD ADVOCATE
considered that a most improper attempt had been made to conceal the true merits of this case, and he thought it right that the House should be fully informed as to the real circumstances. The facts of the case, as had been observed by an hon. Gentleman opposite, lay in a nutshell. After the recovery of the treasure from the wreck of the Thetis, a claim for salvage was made in the High Court of Admiralty by Captain Dickinson, whose merits he was not in the least inclined to undervalue, and by others. Before the proceedings in that case terminated, a claim was given in, on the part of the Lords of the Admiralty, for certain expenses which had been incurred by the country in consequence of the employment of Her Majesty's ships in the recovery of this treasure. The right hon. Gentleman opposite (Dr. Nicholl) had said that the Court of Admiralty had no jurisdiction in the matter, because the quantum was admitted. Why, then, was the quantum admitted? They had all the persons before the High Court of Admiralty who could have been parties in the case. They had Captain Dickinson as the claimant of salvage; they had the Lords of the Admiralty claiming certain expenses; and they had a third party, who were watching their own interests—the owners or consignees of the recovered treasure. The result of the proceedings in the Court of Admiralty was, that the Court ordered a sum of 17,000l. to be paid to the salvors; and by the same judgment they awarded to the Lords of the Admiralty 13,000l., this sum of 13,000l. not to be deducted from the 17,000l., but to be a separate payment. But the parties were not content with this decree. Captain Dickinson said, and, as the result showed, quite rightly, "The allowance you have made us, as salvors, is a great deal too small." 834 He (Captain Dickinson) took an appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, who affirmed the decree of the High Court of Admiralty, giving 13,000l. to the public, or to the Board of Admiralty, and who not only affirmed the decree of the Admiralty Court, in so far as to give 17,000l. to the salvors, but who went a great deal further, and gave an additional sum of 12,000l. to Captain Dickinson, and those engaged with him in the salvage. Captain Dickinson and the salvors drew the sum of 29,000l., and the sum of 13,000l. was paid separately to the Board of Admiralty. The question before the Privy Council was whether the sum of 17,000l. previously awarded by the High Court of Admiralty to the salvors was sufficient or not. Captain Dickinson and the salvors maintained that it was not sufficient; and the Privy Council, taking into consideration all the circumstances—the skill and energy manifested by Captain Dickinson, and the difficulty of recovering the treasure—said, "We sustain this claim at the instance of the public, as a just claim for expenses; but, looking at the exertions of Captain Dickinson and his assistants, we give them an additional sum of 12,000l., making the amount payable to them for salvage 29,000l." This took place in 1833 and 1834. It was now proposed, in 1847, that the whole matter, which came legitimately under the cognizance of that Court, should be reconsidered, and it was asked that the claim of the Admiralty, though the quantum was admitted at the time, should be disallowed, on the ground that the account was absurd and extravagant in its nature. He thought that it was impossible that the House could accede to such an application. If it were acceded to, and the solemn decisions of the constituted tribunals were consequently upset, he did not see how, whenever the Crown or the Treasury were concerned, anything could be definitely and conclusively settled.
observed, that if the right hon. Baronet (Sir J. Graham) was wrong in the decision to which he had come, then he himself had been three times wrong upon it—for three times had he looked into it, and the conclusion to which he had come was always the same. He thought the Admiralty had acted rightly: and he must say, as to this point, he should be extremely obliged if the hon. Member for Montrose would state upon what authority he declared that Sir Thomas 835 Hardy dissented from that decision. [Mr. HUME: Upon that of Captain Dickinson.] He wished to say nothing harsh of Captain Dickinson; but he must say that he had acted with Sir Thomas Hardy when that decision had been come to, and had heard of nothing in contradiction to that decision from Sir Thomas Hardy; and, therefore, he declared that Captain Dickinson must be mistaken.
§ LORD G. BENTINCK
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman opposite omitted to notice one point, and that was the letter of Sir John Barrow, the then Secretary to the Admiralty, who promised unconditionally the use of Her Majesty's ship. Really, Sir, I cannot understand upon what principle of good faith this claim is made after the letter of Sir John Barrow, dated the 11th of August, 1831, and which I now hold in my hand. In that letter there is no mention whatever of a charge to be made for the use of the vessel; on the contrary, Sir, it is distinctly stated in this document, that the public cannot be put to any expense in endeavouring to save the treasure from the wreck of the Thetis, beyond the ship employed in that service, and the use of her crew, when the service admitted. Why, Sir, I think this is a distinct engagement on the part of the Admiralty of that day that there should be a free use of the King's ship. This would of itself be almost conclusive against the claim; but then, if we are to consult precedent or custom, who ever heard of a claim brought against private individuals by the Government for military or naval services? If this is to be the rule of the service, we shall have the Guards, who may be called out on the occasion of a great fire in this city, sending their bill for "work and labour done" against the individual whose property they may have been instrumental in preserving. It seems just as reasonable that the Government should make a demand for services rendered by our troops in the collection of the tithes in Ireland. The Government ought to have sent in their bill of costs against the owners of the tithe, and then we might have been able to make the deduction in the Army estimates. If this sort of thing goes on, we shall have the Government "billing" Her Majesty's Opera for the services of half a company of the Guards who are on duty there whenever the Opera-house is open. The claim is altogether 836 totally unworthy of the British Government—it is a paltry thing—a mean attempt to mulct the salvor of this treasure, who deserves well of his country for his courage and ingenuity. I cordially concur in the Motion of my noble Friend.
§ MR. CABBELL
thought that, after the clear and distinct statement of the hon. Member for Finsbury, the House would not do its duty unless it granted the Committee moved for, or took care that that able and much neglected officer (Captain Dickinson) had his claim liquidated. He saw no reason why a claim should be set up on the part of the Admiralty for the expenses of the King's ships and crews in the service performed by Captain Dickinson, for whether they had been so employed or not, the Admiralty would still have had to maintain them; and he therefore did not understand why the reward of a gallant officer, who, by the means of his inventive faculties, and the application of ingenious mechanical power, had saved so much treasure from the deep, should be diminished by the deduction of those expenses on the part of the Admiralty. He thought that Captain Dickinson's conduct ought to have earned for him the favour of the Government, and that he ought afterwards to have been employed in some distinguished service; but he supposed that, as Captain Dickinson had succeeded in an undertaking that was thought impossible, he had fallen under the displeasure of those who had given a hasty opinion against the practicability of the enterprise. He was sorry to have heard any allusion to the Statute of Limitations; but he should like to know when the last application on the part of Captain Dickinson was made? He held in his hand the copy of a letter from the right hon. Chancellor of the Exchequer, refusing to see Captain Dickinson when he sought a personal interview. Was that the way in which to treat so able a public servant? Captain Dickinson was desired to make his communication in writing. He did so; and what was the answer he received? It was to the effect that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had looked into the affair, and saw no reason whatever for altering the decision which had been come to. That was not an answer which would be satisfactory to any one. He should not have mentioned this matter if a petty allusion to the Statute of Limitations had not been thrown out; and when such was the case, he felt himself justified in holding up public men to public reprobation for 837 treating a gallant public officer in this way. He trusted that that House, which was the last refuge of the unfortunate, would entertain the appeal now made, and either grant the Committee or the money.
§ LORD JOHN RUSSELL
said, the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down, seemed to think that he had exposed the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer in an unfavourable light, by stating that the right hon. Gentleman desired Captain Dickinson to state his claim and its grounds in writing. Now, he would confess that he saw nothing in that which showed the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be in any way different from what it ought to be. He was of opinion that it was the better course for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to require the statement in writing, as he thus had a perfect opportunity of maturely considering all the circumstances before he gave his decision. He thought that the hon. Gentleman (Mr. Hume) had hardly considered this case sufficiently, otherwise he would not have made some of the statements which had fallen from him. The hon. Gentleman seemed to think that this matter had not been properly considered by the Government, because the ships must have been employed somewhere, and therefore no claim ought to have been put forward on the part of the Admiralty to this money. But it did not follow that the Admiralty might not have ordered some of these ships home, or despatched some of them to another station. It seemed to him that this was a point which might very well have entered into the consideration of the Board of Admiralty, and that they might have devoted these ships to this particular purpose, and therefore have kept up a force which need not otherwise have been kept up to the same extent. The whole matter, however, had been determined by the Board of Admiralty at the time; and the parties who decided the question were the right hon. Baronet the Member for Dorchester, Sir Thomas Hardy, Admiral Dundas, Sir John Pechell, the hon. Member for Gloucester, and his right hon. Friend the present Secretary for Ireland. He could see no ground, therefore, to disturb a decision of that kind. But then the right hon. Member for Cardiff placed a judgment in the mouths of the Judicial Committee, which, after all, was mere imagination. It did not appear that the question of the 13,800l. ever entered into their consideration; but, on the other 838 hand, it did appear that the parties went first before the Court of Admiralty, and next before the Judicial Committee, where they might have disputed the amount claimed by the Board of Admiralty if they thought it excessive. There was therefore an admission on the part of those who were interested in denying it, that they could not dispute a single item of that sum. If, however, there were any doubt on the subject, and if it were quite clear that this demand of 13,800l. was a paltry and huckstering claim on the part of the Admiralty, the money, if it ought to go anywhere, ought to go to the merchants who lost it, and not in any way to Captain Dickinson. There was, in the first place, a sum of 17,000l. awarded to him for his share; and the Judicial Committee awarded him 12,000l. more, giving the salvors 29,000l. in all; and if this sum of 13,000l. was not to go to the Admiralty, it would go to the merchants. The hon. Member for Finsbury seemed to think that every Government—the "ins and the outs," as he called them—had a great satisfaction in refusing claims of this kind, and in supporting one another in such refusals. The hon. Member, however, was very much mistaken if he thought that Gentlemen who went into office, or those who were out of office, had any particular pleasure in refusing to grant sums of money to individuals. On the contrary, he dared to say that it would have given the right hon. Baronet formerly at the head of the Board of Admiralty, or his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, much pleasure if they could have given this sum of 13,800l. to a gallant and ingenious officer; and what restrained them from doing so was, not the satisfaction they felt in refusing the demand, but a sense of the strict duty which they owed to the country. He might be permitted to say to the House, that he really thought that responsibility weighed much more heavily with four or five persons, or one or two persons in the situation of the Lords of the Admiralty, or the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and who were bound to look after the public money, than with a popular assembly like the House of Commons. There was no doubt something pleasing and popular in granting to an individual a sum of money from the public purse, in regard to which no one individual in the House felt any strict responsibility; but in regard to which a public department did not feel such a responsibility. Now, he begged of 839 the House to resist the temptation of indulging in these very popular and laudable feelings. It might be that a public department would be very glad to get rid of claims of this nature; but he could assure the House that if every case of this kind was to be brought before it, there would be hundreds of cases upon which they would have to determine, if the House once got into the habit of granting sums of money to individuals out of the public purse. No man was more particular than the hon. Member for Montrose in checking the expenditure of money by the Government; but he must say that no man was more disposed than the hon. Member to grant sums of money to private individuals. He hoped the hon. Member would do what he sometimes asked the Government to do, reconsider the subject, and not give his vote for the Motion for a Select Committee.
§ VISCOUNT INGESTRE
replied. He observed that the Statute of Limitations did not apply to this, as every year since justice had been refused, an attempt had been made, as yet in vain, to obtain it. No decision had been made by any court on the question which was now before the House. He was astonished that the right hon. Member for Dorchester vindicated the Admiralty for making a charge which ought never to have been made by them. He was also surprised, after what had been stated to-night, that the noble Lord at the head of the Government should refuse an inquiry into the subject. He presented a petition in 1844, with reference to it, and was only deterred from bringing it before the attention of the House on that occasion by the assurance of Sir George Cockburn, that the Government of that day would give it their best consideration, and that his introducing the question then would prevent them from acting as free agents. The case was given up as entirely hopeless, when Captain Dickinson undertook the task of raising the treasure; and it should not be forgotten that this money was private property, lost in a King's ship, consequently it was the duty of Government to have incurred a necessary expenditure in endeavouring to recover the treasure.
§ The House divided:—Ayes 32; Noes 52: Majority 20.
|List of the AYES.|
|Adderley, C. B.||Barnard, E. G.|
|Baine, W.||Bentinck, Lord G.|
|Bankes, G.||Beresford, Maj.|
|Borthwick, P.||Marjoribanks, S.|
|Cabbell, B. B.||Mundy, E. M.|
|Chaplin, W. J.||Muntz, G. F.|
|Collett, W. R.||Newdegate, C. N.|
|Collett, J.||Nicholl, right hon. J.|
|Disraeli, B.||Palmer, G.|
|Douglas, J. D. S.||Plumridge, Capt.|
|Duncan, G.||Spooner, R.|
|Ellis, W.||Tollemache, J.|
|Floyer, J.||Vyse, H.|
|Frewen, C. H.||Wakley, T.|
|Hotham, Lord||Ingestre, Visct.|
|Hume, J.||Pechell, Capt.|
|List of the NOES.|
|Arundel and Surrey, Earl of||Hindley, C.|
|Labouchere, rt. hon. H.|
|Baring, rt. hon. F. T.||Langston, J. H.|
|Bellew, R. M.||Maitland, T.|
|Berkeley, hon. Capt.||Mangles, R. D.|
|Blackstone, W. S.||Monahan, J. H.|
|Bouverie, hon. E. P.||Morpeth, Visct.|
|Brotherton, J.||Mostyn, hon. E. M. L.|
|Buller, G.||Ord, W.|
|Byng, rt. hon. G. S.||Parker, J.|
|Chichester, Lord J. L.||Plumptre, J. P.|
|Clive, Visct||Rich, H.|
|Colebrooke, Sir T. E.||Russell, Lord J.|
|Cowper, hon. W. F.||Rutherfurd, A.|
|Dalmeny, Lord||Scrope, G. P.|
|Dundas, Adm.||Sheil, rt. hon. R. L.|
|Dundas, Sir D.||Somerville, Sir W. M.|
|Ebrington, Visct.||Stuart, Lord J.|
|Escott, B.||Thornely, T.|
|French, F.||Troubridge, Sir E. T.|
|Gibson, right hon. T. M.||Turner, E.|
|Graham, rt. hon. Sir J.||Ward, H. G.|
|Greene, T.||Williams, W.|
|Grey, rt. hon Sir G.||Wood, Col. T.|
|Grosvenor, Lord R.||Wyse, T.|
|Hatton, Capt. V.||TELLERS.|
|Hawes, B.||Tufnell, H.|
|Henley, J. W.||Maule, rt. hon. F.|