§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE
rose to move—That a Select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Contracts, and the mode of making them, for the supply of Meat Provisions for the use of Her Majesty's Navy during the years 1847, 1848, 1849, 1850, and 1851; into the causes which have led to the receiving into the Government Stores, and to the issuing for the use of Her Majesty's Ships on Foreign Service, certain preserved meats, which have proved to be unfit for human food; and into the means by which an occurrence so prejudicial to the Public Service may most effectually be prevented.The matter to which his Motion related was one that had caused a painful sensation; and he regretted that it had not devolved on some Member better able than himself to do it justice and to arrest the attention of the House. He could only promise to confine himself as much as possible to the subject. Incidents, in themselves somewhat startling, frequently attracted a vast increase of attention, and caused a great degree of excitement from the particular periods at which they happened; and the present case appeared to him to be exactly one of that kind. At no period, he believed, had it been of more importance to the country that every branch of our naval establishments should be in a state of efficiency; and it was, he felt satisfied, almost an universal opinion, not only that upon the efficiency of that great service depended the safety and security of this country, but that it was an element second to none in importance for the maintenance of European peace. At such a moment as this the incidents to which his Motion had reference had happened, and he was convinced that no delay could be permitted in bringing the influence of Parliament to bear on the subject, so that a searching inquiry should be made into the circumstances. In proportion as it was desirable 439 that confidence should be felt in the naval force of the country, exactly in that proportion it seemed to him that mistrust existed; and in making that remark he thought he was justified, for a day did not pass without his hearing animadversions on the doings of the Admiralty. And even the hon. Baronet who moved the Address to Her Majesty only last week (Sir R. Bulkeley) appeared to feel the force of such opinions, when he spoke in somewhat such terms as these, that he believed the Navy was in an efficient state, whatever might be said on that point by disappointed admirals. He was not one of those who blamed the Admiralty for trying to make desirable changes in the food of the Navy. He thought, indeed, that it was their duty to do so. He was no disappointed admiral; he had no connexion with the service; he had no motive for trying to cast undeserved blame on any one connected with the administration of naval affairs; and he could assure hon. Members that all his private feelings ran in an entirely different direction. Without further preface he approached the consideration of the points which he thought should be embraced in the inquiry he sought to have instituted. The leading point would comprise all the circumstances of the contracts entered into with Mr. Goldner? Mr. Goldner was an individual who, it appeared, had obtained a patent for preserved meats for seagoing vessels as early as 1840. In 1844 it would appear the first experiment was made with those meats in Her Majesty's service. In 1845, he believed the first contract was made with Mr. Goldner. The preserved meats having been used in small quantities experimentally, were, in 1846, used in still larger quantities; but it was not till 1847 that the preserved meats were adopted as an article for general issue to ships on foreign service. In 1847 also, he understood, contracts were made with Mr. Goldner. But it was Btated in a document which had been commented on by the press as a document of authority, that towards the end of 1848 complaints were addressed to the Admiralty, and reports made, from which it appeared that condemnations had taken place in respect of preserved meats, other than those common to salted provisions—that parts of animals unfit for use, and other substances, were found mixed with the meats contracted for. It was stated that immediate steps were taken to remedy the evil in the end of 1848, and the 440 beginning of 1849. It was of importance to know what those steps were; hon. Members were not in possession of that information. It was of importance to know by whom those condemnations were made, and where they were made; what blame was supposed to attach to the authorities, and what to the contractor. It was absolutely necessary that the House should be made acquainted with the events which he brought under their notice, and that the facts should be ascertained—that they should understand what took place at the end of 1848, and what had been done in 1849 to remedy the evil. The House were not informed on any of those matters. But in 1850 they were told a large contract was made; and the House would be surprised to learn, that the person with whom the contract was made in that case, as in the former, was Mr. Goldner. One did not see how that was taking any step to remedy the evil. The contract of 1850, he repeated, was a large one; the preserved meats were to be delivered into Her Majesty's arsenals at Deptford, Portsmouth, and Plymouth. The terms of the contract were issued from the Admiralty in April, 1850, setting forth the substances which the canisters were to contain, and also the substances they were not to contain. It would really appear, by the terms of the contract that the Admiralty had fears of Mr. Goldner; for the contract required that there should not be offal, intestines, vegetable and other substances, introduced into the canisters. There was another clause of the contract which declared that the contract was not to be transferred, or a Member of the House of Commons have a share in it. They heard sometimes in that House of Jewish disabilities; and it might be satisfactory to some persons to find that a Jew had power to be what a Member of that House could not be—a Government contractor; in respect of those contracts, a Jew was placed on the same footing as other subjects of Her Majesty; and the only exception made to the admission of any class to the privilege of acting in the capacity of contractors, was in the case of Members of the House of Commons. There were important provisions in this contract to which he hoped the House would direct their attention. Every tender was to be "accompanied by a letter signed by two responsible persons offering to become bound with the person tendering in the sum of 6,000l. for the due perform- 441 ance of the whole contract, or in due proportion of that sum for a part only; and the letter must contain a reference to some person or persons well acquainted with the sufficiency of the parties so offering to become hound; and persons in partnership with the contractor or with each other would not be accepted as sureties." At all events, the House would see from an inquiry what was subsequently done by the Admiralty. In the end of 1850, also, it appeared that there were complaints with reference to the preserved meats supplied by the Admiralty; but from all that could be learned it appeared that the whole of the preserved meats received under the contracts with Goldner in 1850, were received in store, and served out to Her Majesty's seagoing ships; and not only so, in 1851 a very large additional contract was made, and Goldner was again the successful competitor. But Sir, the year 1851 brought matters to a climax with Goldner's contracts. It appeared that on the delivery of the very first parcels under the contract of that year, parts of animals not proper for the purpose, and other substances, were found mixed with the meats; and the parcels, amounting to 22,325 lbs. weight, were at once rejected. In the next paragraph of the document to which he had already referred, they were told that the contract was at once cancelled. In his opinion, if the contract of 1851 was couched in the same terms as the contract of 1850, it would be a question for inquiry how far the forfeiture had been carried out in strict conformity with the terms of the contract. He could not see that the Admiralty had any course to follow except to adhere to the terms which they had laid down. Who were the persons that in 1851 became securities for the contractor? He was led to advert, in the next place, to a matter with respect to which the statements he had heard were not made on authority; but, meagre and incomplete as the information he had might be, it was the same information which had been before the public for a long period, uncontradicted and unexplained. What was the state of matters towards the middle of 1851? He was told that in 1851 the contractor had withdrawn 2,000 canisters of his contract of 1850. It was desirable that information should be afforded with reference to that circumstance. He was informed that on the 14th of August, 1851, when the Board of Admiralty was on an excursion of inspection 442 at the arsenal at Portsmouth, and in the Clarence-yard, they were met by the authorities of the place, the parochial authorities, the magistrates, and called upon to interfere in consequence of the stench arising from the store where those meats were kept, which they said was not only horrible, but was endangering the lives of those who lived in the locality. At a time when our shores were teeming with foreigners, when the great naval arsenal at Portsmouth had more attractions than any other place for visitors, would it be I believed that there existed a pestilential store, as he was informed, in the heart of that great establishment, which caused the greatest possible alarm to the people of the adjoining district? There could be no doubt that in August, 1851, those stores were not such as could be distributed with safety to Her Majesty's Navy; yet one did not learn why an examination was not immediately proceeded with, whether on account of the heat of the weather or any other cause. It was not until winter that an inspection was heard of; and hon. Members were made painfully aware from the public prints, day by day, what were the results of the inspection then instituted. He did not wish to enter into details. Hon. Members knew, as he knew, what was said of the horrible substances which were mixed with the preserved meats. They knew that the inspection was compelled to be delayed day by day, because it was feared that the lives of the persons who acted as inspectors would be sacrificed. There were apprehensions that pestilence would break out at Portsmouth. The condemned meats were consigned to the sea. He did not wish to travel one atom beyond what was currently reported. He did not find fault with the Admiralty on account of the contract into which they had entered for a supply of preserved meats; but he did blame them because the meats were atrociously bad and corrupt. He had seen and heard enough to convince him that it was perfectly possible to supply the Navy with meats to which no objection could be made, and that such meats could be supplied by contractors well known in this country, in Ireland, in Scotland, and in Australia. There was an accidental confirmation of the view he took of the blame which attached to the department under whose administration these incidents had occurred; and such evidence was often stronger and more satisfactory than any other in a case of 443 this kind. Hon. Members had not access to official documents, and he would not bring forward anything surreptitiously obtained. But he had received testimony to the quality of Australian preserved meats. When our ships were in that distant part of the world, they were supplied from the manufactories in Australia. Captain Yule, of Her Majesty's ship Rattlesnake, spoke of the Australian preserved meats as very far superior to those which had been put on board that ship. The Australian meats were described as being excellent in quality, and were preferred to the meats supplied in England. It appeared, therefore, that Her Majesty's ships at the Antipodes had a great advantage in being so far removed from those whose duty it was to watch over their supplies at home. He had seen it stated that 8,000 canisters had been examined; but he took the lowest estimate, which was that 6,378 canisters had been examined; of these 5,408 were condemned as bad, and consigned to the sea, and only 910 were serviceable. Now, could a worse state of things exist, and did not those facts confirm the report that the state of Clarence-yard, Gosport, was most horrible and dangerous to the health of the people around it? He hoped a satisfactory answer would be obtained from the Government; but at the same time he did not mean to say that any statement from the Minister could supply the place of a Parliamentary inquiry. He thought that on the score of humanity some explanation ought to have been given, long ago, of the gross imposition which had been practised on the Government. He approached a painful part of the subject, to which he would advert, in the hope of obtaining a satisfactory explanation from the Admiralty. In 1851 it was understood that orders were sent out to discontinue the use of those provisions and to return them to store; but when they reflected that our fleet was scattered all over the world, in the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Arctic Seas, it must be obvious that the ships, if supplied with these meats, must have been exposed to great suffering. What he wanted to know, therefore, was, what steps had been taken to mitigate the disadvantages which must occur on the different stations from the supply of this abominable stuff? He should be glad to know, also, if the ships employed in Sir John Franklin's Arctic Expedition had been supplied with preserved meats by Mr. Goldner? If they 444 were, he feared that the chance of their safety was but small. The Investigator and the Enterprise had, he believed, been two winters in the Arctic regions. Now, it was of importance that the Admiralty should inform the House whether or not they, too, were supplied with Mr. Goldner's provisions. In 1849 the North Star deposited cases of provisions at Navy Board Inlet, and subsequently Captain Sir James Ross deposited a large supply at another place. What sort of provisions were they? Several exploring ships also went to the North Sea in search of Franklin, in 1850, and had since returned. He alluded to Captain Austin's squadron—the Resolute, the Assistance, Pioneer, and the Intrepid. He had had the satisfaction of learning that in their case the stores had turned out serviceable, and that upon reaching England, and being inspected, they were pronounced perfectly good. He was told that there had already been a sufficient exposure of the management of the provision contracts; but he begged to say that the public at large, as well as the Naval service, entertained very strong doubts upon that head, and whether under other contracts the same maladministration might not take place. It became his duty, then, not to shrink from asking the House to institute an inquiry upon the subject. If the result of inquiry were to show that everything had been done according to Parliamentary routine, then they would see that what had been done was abortive, and that some new system must be adopted. In conclusion, he called upon the House to grant him an inquiry, and so vindicate the character which hon. Members sometimes claimed for the House of being the guardians of the public purse, and at the same time prove themselves the protectors of a service upon which our national greatness had hitherto depended, and upon which he believed, under the blessing of God, it must till continue to depend. The hon. Baronet then moved that a Select Committee be appointed.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
(who was imperfectly heard), was understood to say that, so far from objecting to the Motion of the hon. Baronet, he would give the Committee what they asked for, with the sincerest pleasure, not only on the grounds stated, but on account of many things which had been stated elsewhere; because he was anxious that they might be brought 445 forward in that House, where he was able to meet them, and not in places where he could not reply to them. And, whether it was a charge as to the "preserved meats" or a charge as to the Megœra, of which they had heard so much out of the House, but which no one had brought forward in the House, he was quite ready to meet it on the part of the Admiralty. If the hon. Gentleman was anxious to have a full and fair inquiry, he would have no objection to the small Amendment he (Sir F. Baring) proposed, which would extend the inquiry a little further; and, although the hon. Gentleman had expressly-stated that his Motion was not founded on the question of the meat supplied to the Navy being foreign meat, he must say he thought that his present distrust had been suggested to him by others, and that the employment of foreign meat had occasioned great dissatisfaction in certain quarters. He (Sir F. Baring) wished to throw that question on one side. It was an important question, but he would not deal with it then. What he asked was, that they should not confine the inquiry—which the words of the Motion studiously did—to foreign meats. In 1847, for the first time, there was a contract for foreign meats. The hon. Gentleman wished to confine the inquiry to the contracts since 1847; but his own argument showed that it was necessary to go further. The hon. Gentleman had alluded to Sir John Franklin; but Sir John Franklin was supplied in 1845, and therefore he ought to have no objection to extend his Motion to that time, for it was not a question between one Government and another. If reference was to be had to contracts for salt meats, he should propose that the inquiry should begin with 1840. He did not wish to alter or to confine the inquiry, but he thought it should include one of the most serious cases which had been mentioned. With regard to the preserved meats, the hon. Gentleman's inquiry was confined, by some strange fatality, to Mr. Goldner's contract. Why should it be confined to them only? He was sorry to say that this matter was not confined to one ease, or to foreign meats only, but that he should have to state, what was no doubt very unsatisfactory, that there were other parties who had taken contracts, and whose meat had been rejected. Let that also come within the inquiry. The words he should add to the Motion would be very trifling, but they would be such as would make it 446 full and searching. The hon. Gentleman had said nothing with regard to salt meats, so he should not trouble the House on that point, but proceed to speak of the preserved meats. It would be convenient for him to state that the meat was preserved in canisters, from which the air ought to be entirely excluded; but if in the examination the canisters were opened, the meat was destroyed, and in forty-eight hours was unfit for food; and therefore in concluding the contract, a certain number of canisters were selected for examination before the meats were received into store. When they were issued to a ship in commission, there was a second examination, and the purser was present to attend to the store department, by whom they were received; again, when the meat was served out for consumption, it was received by the petty officers, on the part of the crew, the officer of the watch being present, and if complaints were made by the crew, they were reported to the captain, who ordered a survey to be made. If they were found to be objectionable, they were not issued to the sailors, but condemned and destroyed. It was said that there was an impression abroad that the sailors were obliged to eat bad provisions; but that was not the case. Care was taken that no bad meat was issued. If the meat was bad when it was first received into store, it would be discovered, and they would be returned. Meat might be well preserved, and when examined to-day, might be found good; and yet in a short time after might corrupt and be unfit for food. There were a number of cases of this kind that he could mention. In one of those cases there was a quantity of meat spoiled which was not Mr. Goldner's, but another contractor's, and English meat besides. That meat had been examined by the head of the victualling department at Devonport; a captain in the Navy, and Lord George Paulet, the captain of the ship, was present; and they did more than examine, for the report says, that they partook largely of the meat—found it to be very good, and so reported it, and yet in a very short time it was unfit for food. As yet no test had been discovered by which it could be ensured that good meat prepared properly today might not soon become bad if the air was not perfectly excluded. If it was good when it was received, there could be no blame attached to the officers who received it, if after it was put into store it became corrupt, from causes which they 447 could not ascertain at the moment. Sometimes the contracts, it was true, were not well performed. They (the Admiralty) were bound, in the first place, to show that they had not adopted the use of preserved meats rashly and carelessly; next, that there had been always a proper examination when the meat was received into store; and, lastly, that when complaints were made, they were attended to, and as much as possible was done to remedy them; and if the hon. Gentleman liked, to punish the contractors. First, with regard to the employment of preserved meats, the hon. Gentleman had not blamed the object of the Admiralty in adopting their use, which was directed to the health and comfort of the sailors. The hon. Gentleman stated, that the use of preserved meats first commenced in 1844; but his hon. and gallant Friend near him (Admiral Berkeley) informed him that as early as 1813, he had some preserved meats on board his ship, for the use of the sick of his crew; but it was in 1840 that the use of it began to be general in the Navy, on the application of different officers to the Admiralty requesting that they might be permitted to take it it on board. Some time after, Mr. Goldner—who was a Jew and a foreigner, but because that was so, it was no reason that he should not have had a fair trial—and who was the inventor of a patent for preserving meats, applied to the Admiralty to be allowed to have them used in the Navy. He brought a recommendation from the chemical Professors of the London University, who had examined the meats, and who spoke highly of them; and also from Mr. Brande, the chemist, to the same effect. Besides this, there had been a report from the Army Medical Board, which was in his favour; and Sir W. Burnett, the head of the Naval Medical Department, had also reported favourably on the subject. The use of the preserved meats was not rapidly introduced, but gradually. They were first tried by the surgeon of a convict ship; and in consequence of his and the preceding recommendations—not he (Sir F. Baring) nor his noble Friend who preceded him in his office (the Earl of Auckland), but the First Lord of the Admiralty who preceded Lord Auckland (the Earl of Ellenborough), had made it one of his last acts to introduce the use of preserved meats in the service; and among the contractors was Mr. Goldner, with whom a kind of running contract was made. The first con- 448 tract, therefore, had been made under the auspices of Gentlemen opposite—for which he did not blame them, for he believed them to have been actuated by benevolent intentions, and to have acted on good grounds. He had thus proved that the orders for the general adoption of preserved meats had not been rashly given. Mr. Goldner's meats had been long tried, and had turned out well. Up to 1849 there had been no complaints to the Admiralty in respect of the preserved meats; and in the beginning of that year a report was received from the Commodore on the African station (Sir C. Hotham) favourable to Mr. Goldner's meats, and another from Sir Charles Napier, then in the St. Vincent, who said that he had consulted the men, who were unanimous about the meat, and only wanted a few more potatoes. He now came to the second point, namely, that no steps had been omitted by the Admiralty which they ought to have taken. It was only late in 1849 that complaints about the meats were received. In 1849 the Admiralty received two serious complaints. Mr. Goldner was called on for an explanation; and on the 1st January, 1850, Mr. Goldner was definitely informed that his contract must cease, and that he must enter into a fresh contract. The hon. Gentleman had read some of the clauses of the contracts, but did not appear to be aware that those clauses were fixed by law, and were not within the control of the Admiralty. There were great difficulties in carrying out these contracts. If the air was at all permitted to be introduced into the canisters, the contents were immediately corrupted. It was also found that the larger the canister, the more difficult did it become to expel the air. The contracts had, therefore, at different times been altered; and in 1850 the contract was altered for the purpose of lessening the size of the canisters; and in that year, in order that the contractor might not escape, his guarantee was extended to five years. The complaint now made was, that Mr. Goldner, after the discoveries which had been made, should have been allowed to have another contract. But the contract was put up to public competition—it was not in any way a private contract—and Mr. Goldner applied to know if he should be allowed to tender for the contract. There was a wish in some quarters that permission should be refused; but, taking all reasons together, it was considered that it would be advisable to grant 449 the permission. Mr. Goldner was the person who had himself invented the system introduced into the Navy; he had for seven years been a contractor, and had been highly approved of; and there had been no complaint whatever against him up to within a few months before the now contract. Certainly the Admiralty had been informed of some exceptional defects in the preserved meats he had supplied; but they had heard that there had been a quarrel between Mr. Goldner and his men, the result of which had been that for a time the men out of spite prepared the meat in an improper manner. The Admiralty did not feel themselves compelled to refuse Mr. Goldner; they felt that it was a serious thing to ruin a man who had invested large sums of money in the establishments for carrying on a business as a contractor of these articles. On the whole, the complaints not having reached any height, the Admiralty did not think that sufficient causes had been held out for refusing Mr. Goldner permission to enter into competition. In 1851 there were complaints, but not of the meat supplied under the new contract; the complaints made in 1851 referred to the meat supplied under the old contract. But the very moment the Admiralty received complaints of the meat supplied under the new contract, the contract was cancelled, and Goldner was informed that he must cease to supply the Navy with preserved meat. The hon. Gentleman said, that the Admiralty did no more than cancel the contract. But was that truly all? No, that was not all; and it was what had been additionally done by the Admiralty which had occasioned the whole of this outcry. The Admiralty were advised that for the purpose of taking legal proceedings against Mr. Goldner, it would be necessary that the meat should be examined—hence the examination of the individual canisters at Clarence-yard. Now, as to that examination, the hon. Gentleman had drawn a good deal upon his imagination. He (Sir F. Baring) had been down at Portsmouth on the occasion, and lie had not noticed that anybody had been affected by the stench which had been described. The statement of the hon. Gentleman was, that the local magistrates had interfered and had brought the case before the Lords of the Admiralty. But this was a mistake; and he warned the hon. Gentleman that if he relied upon the newspapers for his information he would make many errors. The fact was, that for the 450 purpose of having a condemnation, the Admiralty thought it would be satisfactory if they could induce a magistrate to sit upon the meat, and condemn it. For that purpose they got one of the inhabitants to apply to the magistrates. The magistrate refused—very naturally, feeling indisposed to go through such a duty. But the House would understand that the complaint to the magistrates had been made, not by the inhabitants, but by the Admiralty themselves, as the first stage of legal proceedings against the contractor. He had now gone over the case; he believed he had not omitted any point, except one, but that point was undoubtedly of great importance, It concerned the meats supplied to Sir John Franklin's expedition. These supplies were furnished in 1845, and therefore previous to the present Government taking office. But those meats were supplied under Goldner's contract; this had given rise to much apprehension; he (Sir F. Baring) did not, however, participate altogether in those apprehensions. The supplies were put into the ships at a period when no complaint whatever of Mr. Goldner had reached the Admiralty, and there was therefore no reason for supposing that the supply was not perfectly sound and proper. In support of this position, he might adduce a circumstance to which most persons had not sufficiently attended. Among the remains and traces of Sir John Franklin's expedition were numerous Goldner canisters; and as, in each instance, those canisters were completely emptied, he thought they had procured the very best test of the meat having been perfectly good. He felt, indeed, confident, from this and other circumstances, particularly from the fact that no complaints had been received of the meats supplied by Mr. Goldner at that time, that the meats supplied to the gallant officers and crew of that expedition were quite good. With regard to the other expeditions, he had to inform the House that the contracts were special contracts, quite out of the general practice of the service; and the supplies, in those instances, were from different sources, but on each occasion were supplies of the best meat that could be had. He was, however, sorry to say, not for himself, but for the Navy in general, such was the present state of science in this respect, that the Board of Admiralty was not able to secure as good a supply as they could wish of these stores of food. 451 They had had, since Goldner's patent, different contracts, undertaken by different persons; and they had found invariably the same unsatisfactory results. These contractors were most respectable persons, extremely anxious to do the best; but it was a misfortune that the meat which they knew on examination to be good, would very soon afterwards, from the imperfect expulsion of the air, turn out to be extremely bad and unfit for use. It was at present out of their power to prevent that. The general impression of the House seemed to be that the meat obtained was bad meat. But he begged that the House would understand—and the fact would be clearly made out in Committee—that the discovery of anything bad or improper in the canisters was of extremely rare occurrence; and where this did occur it would be found to arise, not from the meat having been originally bad, but from good meat having been corrupted by the admission of air. He thought he had now said quite sufficient. He had shown that the Admiralty had not entered rashly on the system under which these things had occurred. He had also shown that there had been efficient examinations; that at the He examinations the evil could not be precluded; and that, therefore, no blame attached to the officers of the Admiralty. He had shown that as soon as the Admiralty had received any serious complaint, the complaint was inquired into, and that the form of the contract was first altered, and that, subsequently, Mr. Goldner's contract was set aside. He had therefore only now to state that Mr. Goldner was a ruined man, and that it was the intention of the Admiralty to proceed against Mr. Goldner's securities. The right hon. Baronet concluded by moving, as an Amendment on the Motion for returns, that the returns with respect to the salted meats should be from 1841 inclusive, and with respect to preserved meats from 1845 inclusive.
§ COLONEL CHATTERTON
Sir, having had the honour to second the Motion of my hon. Friend the Member for Peters-field (Sir W. Jolliffe), I must beg the attention of the House to a few remarks I have to offer. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) has taunted me, that, induced by local interests, I have dictated to my hon. Friend what course he should pursue. Sir, I utterly deny the statement, although, from my local interests, I should be perfectly justified in so doing. I shall now beg, in a few words, to call the atten- 452 tion of the House to the comparative merits of this Hungarian Jew, Goldner, and an eminent and most respectable house in the trade—that of Gamble and Co.—and let the House draw its own conclusions. For four years, commencing in 1846, this Goldner has enjoyed all the benefits of those contracts, and in no one instance has he faithfully or honestly performed them. His cases, in many instances, were short of weight, some not properly filled, and frequently returned into store as unserviceable, although, by the contract, they were warranted to hold good for five years; but certainly his great coup d'état was reserved for the year 1851; for out of 6,378 cases of preserved meat, 5,468 were, upon examination, found on opening to be a perfect mass of putridity, and many filled with the most filthy and revolting matter, which I shall not disgust the House by detailing. Besides these, there were 2,000 cases removed by Goldner's agent equally bad as those under examination—making a total of 7,468 cases found perfectly unfit for human food; and let this be borne in mind, it was only the produce of one store—that at Portsmouth; and I have no doubt were those at Plymouth, Sheerness, and others examined, similar results would be found. Now, Sir, permit me to detail the proceedings of another house in the trade—that of Mr. Gamble, of Cornhill, and Cork. These gentlemen have frequently been employed in the furnishing of preserved meats to the Arctic expeditions—to those of Captains Parry, Austin, Ross, &c. &c. Mr. Gamble supplied Captain Parry's expedition in 1819 and 1820, and in 1824 and 1825, with 24,314 cases of preserved meat, weighing 108,393 lbs., and not one of these cases, when opened, were found defective in the smallest degree; and it is a remarkable fact, that some of Gamble's preserved meat was on board the Fury when she was wrecked in the Arctic seas in 1826, and, upon examination by Captain Ross, was found in a perfectly fresh and nutritious state, although it had been exposed for a number of years to all the vicissitudes of a climate where the thermometer ranged from 80 above zero to 92 below. With these facts before their eyes, is it not strange that a Government should continue to patronise this Hungarian Jew? I greatly fear he has been employed to victual the last expedition under Sir John Franklin. It is impossible to imagine the despair and horror of these devoted and gallant men, when expecting a wholesome 453 meal, to find these cases full of rottenness and corruption. This, alas! which I fear, severs another link from the already too slender chain of hope of their preservation. But, Sir, it is not the Navy alone that have suffered from these extraordinary and discreditable proceedings. The Army also have come in for their share; and I intend very shortly to make a statement the accuracy of which is undeniable, and which has partly come under my own observation. In July, 1849, one of the first and most distinguished regiments in Her Majesty's service, were ordered to embark for Hong Kong; and the Apollo, an old troop ship, was appointed for their conveyance from Cork, first taking in the necessary stores at Portsmouth for the voyage, including Goldner's preserved meats. The number to embark amounted to 689 persons; but upon embarkation it was found the ship could not contain so many, which with the crew, amounted to 789 persons—another proof of the admirable arrangements made by the authorities for the conveyance of Her Majesty's troops, cramming to repletion an indifferent old troop ship, having a voyage to perform in a tropical climate, averaging from four to six months, when so many vessels are actually rotting in our different ports. A representation was made, and most fortunately, as the sequel will show, attended to; and five officers, 130 men, and seven women, were removed to another ship for conveyance, leaving, including the crow, 672 persons for conveyance by the Apollo. From the first a most disagreeable smell and malaria pervaded the ship, which could not be accounted for. This increased during the voyage. The cholera unfortunately broke out; and in a short time one officer and twenty-five persons were consigned to the deep: these casualties doubtless caused by the crowded state of the ship, the malaria which prevailed, and the almost unsufferable heat (particularly at night) of the Apollo between decks. The soldiers became weak and emaciated, fresh provisions were considered essential, and some of Goldner's cases were opened: the cause of the impure atmosphere was immediately discovered, for the contents were a perfect mass of putridity—consequently rejected by all, and thrown into the sea, whilst the preserved meats purchased by the officers in Cork, from Mr. Gamble, for their store, were perfectly serviceable and excellent. I am convinced the House will commiserate with me the truly wretched state of these 454 devoted persons, shut up in a bad and crowded ship—alone on the wide sea—without help near—a frightful disease raging on board—and bad provisions. It was decided they should steer for Rio; when they arrived, the troops were immediately disembarked on Isle Grande, and being placed in temporary huts and in some tents, and amply supplied with fresh provisions, soon regained, comparatively, health and strength. After a month's sojourn on shore, they again embarked—the Apollo, in the meantime, being fully cleansed and fumigated. She arrived in safety at Hong Kong, after a voyage of eight months; the other ship, with the remaining part of the corps, reaching her destination in four. But, Sir, the malaria continued, for Goldner's provisions were re-embarked. This sensibly affected the health of the men, and in a short time after arrival at Hong Kong, 130 men died in hospital, and afterwards the mortality continued to a frightful extent. Thus a noble regiment—one of the finest in the service—was nearly annihilated; and we can with truth assert that this was to be attributable to the hardships of this perilous voyage, and the provisions supplied by this Hungarian Jew. Such are some of the blessings of this much-vaunted system of free trade, by which our rulers are permitted to purchase poisonous food from foreign markets, and, for the paltry saving of about 1d. in the pound for this miscalled preserved meat, not only jeopardise but sacrifice the lives of the brave defenders of our country.
said, he felt it his duty to express his opinion, that when the proper time arrived, it would be demonstrated that the present Board of Admiralty, that had been so much abused in this matter, had done more than any of their predecessors to promote the health and comfort of those engaged in the naval service. The hon. and gallant Gentleman (Col. Chatterton) made a charge against one of the finest transport ships in Her Majesty's Navy—a large frigate which had been selected for conversion into a yacht by George IV., a ship perfectly sound in all respects; indeed, he defied any man who knew anything of the subject, to say there was a finer vessel in the service. Hon. Gentlemen laid it down that anything the Admiralty did was bad, and took up charges which were flung about in the newspapers, and came down here to repeat them, taking them all for granted. [Col. 455 CHATTERTON: I did nothing of the kind.] He had not stated the hon. and gallant Gentleman had done so, but that such things were constantly done. This vessel, so far from having been untried, had served, not only at Woolwich, but at Portsmouth. It was, indeed, very easy to make those general and sweeping allegations, but not at all so easy to prove them. The Admiralty had been found fault with for embarking troops in the Megœra, alleging that she was not a sound vessel; but the fact was, the Megœra was a properly selected and most efficient vessel, and had weathered a very severe gale of wind, notwithstanding the statements of a gallant Admiral, who had made himself conspicuous by his letters in the newspapers, and who alleged that the Megœra had broken down. He fully believed that the result of an inquiry would be the entire confirmation of the statements of his right hon. Friend (Sir F. Baring). All these questions the Admiralty were perfectly ready to meet, and he was satisfied it would come out in Committee, that everything had been done which ought to have been done in every case mentioned. For his own part he was obliged to the hon. Member (Sir W. Jolliffe) for having brought the subject forward.
said, he was not a little astonished at the speech of the gallant Admiral who had just sat down. He (Mr. Miles) regretted that the case of the Apollo and Megœra had been introduced into the discussion, and hoped the Committee would not inquire into them. The question was, whether or not a proper supervision had taken place over the supply of meat to the Navy—not the preserved meats of Goldner's merely, but the salt meat also. The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) had spoken of the system of preservation as not perfect; but they did not want to inquire whether the system was perfect or not, but how it was that abominable and excrementitious matter had come to be mixed up with the meat? He had received a letter from a naval officer, who stated the result of his own experience with regard to the supplies of provisions to the Navy. In quoting passages from that letter, he must beg to be excused for not giving either the name of the ship or the name of the officer, who thus wrote—The preserved meats (Goldner's patent) are now being done away with; but it was truly disgusting to see the contents of some of the tins; the offal, in some cases, with the dung inside, look- 456 ing more like horses' than anything else, being packed equally with the good meat. I have myself seen, while it was being issued on board this ship, it fall short of weight, or the contents were bad to the extent, on an average, of 15 per cent. The other day, at Jamaica, a survey was held on that remaining in store, and upwards of 13,0001bs. condemned as being unfit for food.He (Mr. Miles) recollected when Goldner's patent provisions were first contracted for. It was for the year 1846–47, when a sum of 5,000l. was voted for that purpose. In the financial year of 1847–48, a similar sum of 5,000l. was voted for the same object. Had there been any complaint at the time the Naval Committee was sitting, no doubt it would have been inquired into; but, so far from that being the case, there was no evidence whatever adduced on the subject. The Committee examined Sir Henry Ward and the late Lord Auckland; and he (Mr. Miles) could well recollect that Lord Auckland said the supply of the Navy was perfectly satisfactory. Was that the case now? The right hon. Baronet (Sir F. Baring) had said, that while the contract was going on, in 1849, the meats were reported to be bad, and yet that another contract was entered into with Mr. Goldner two years afterwards. Why was the Admiralty so anxious to enter into that second contract? The Admiralty was not justified in giving this second contract to Mr. Goldner after the running contract was known to be so ill supplied. But where were the securities? Why were they not proceeded against? Was everything done to take care that Mr. Goldner should perform his contract properly? Again, he wished to know what had been the quantity of meat destroyed under the contract from its commencement? He wished to see how they stood in pounds, shillings, and pence with Mr. Goldner. He knew perfectly well how they stood with him in regard to provisions, for nothing could be more execrable; but what he was desirous of knowing was, whether the people of this country, or Mr. Goldner, had been mulcted? That seemed to be the whole question. Another subject of inquiry before the Committee would be that of salted provisions. In the letter to which he had referred it was stated, with regard to salted provisions, that—In the first place the quantity condemned to be returned into store for the benefit of the Crown, or to be thrown overboard, is very great. In the second place, there is a great loss of weight in boiling; the meat is cut into four-pound pieces, including bone, before boiling, and the average weight has been about 1¼lb. after, hardly ever 21b.; 457 some I have seen as low as 9 oz. with bone. Now, as the men are allowed 2lb. of uncooked meat extra for each 4lb. piece that loses half its weight in boiling, there is a considerable sum paid for extras, as the following account of our estimates will show, beginning1 July 1, and ending November 7:—
SOUND. CONDEMNED. — Proper Allowance. Extra, to make up deficiencies in weight. To be sold for the benefit of the Crown. So bad that it required to be thrown overboard. lb. lb. lb. lb. Beef … 2,445 1,012 1,824 1,118 Pork … 6,023 2,092 40 28The beef condemned was repacked and examined in January, 1849. The cause of decay seemed to be from the great quantity of blood left in the meat. The worst meat for losing weight was supplied to Government in Oct., 1847, or rather, I say, packed at that time; the pork was examined in January, 1850.This statement showed the necessity for a strict inquiry being instituted into the whole subject, for it was not only on shipboard that these provisions were being given, but the colonial service was affected by it; and he trusted the inquiry to be instituted would be full and searching—that it would extend to ascertaining, not only what had been the nature of the supplies to our fleet, but to the expeditions which had been Bent to the Arctic regions—Sir John Franklin's, for instance.
said, that having been connected with the Admiralty at the time the provisions were supplied to Sir John Franklin's expedition in 1845, he felt bound to remove the impression which appeared to be entertained, that the crews of the Arctic vessels were suffering from the improper food supplied by Mr. Goldner. In 1845 preserved meat was not issued as an article of food, but as one of medical comfort. At that time so excellent were these provisions that not more than one per cent of them had been found to be bad, while in the best qualities of Irish salt meat it amounted to from two to three per cent; so that in point of fact, there was then greater safety in the potted meat than in the ordinary salt provisions. The medical comforts of the crew were, however, most I carefully looked to. The ordinary preserved meat for the use of the Navy was supplied to the Admiralty at the price of 5d. per lb. Being, however, anxious that the crews of this expedition should be furnished with meat of the best possible character, a separate and special contract was en- 458 tered into by the Admiralty with Mr. Goldner, for supply of the very best description of meat, at prices ranging from 8d. to 1s. per lb. He thought that this explanation would tend in some measure to allay the anxiety which was naturally felt on the subject of the provisions supplied to the Arctic Expedition. It was also well known that meat in the cold latitudes of the Arctic regions was not liable to decay; and in confirmation of the safety of supplying provisions of the kind, he might state that of 35,000 cases supplied to Captain Austin's expedition, only eighteen were found to be faulty. Some of the meat had been returned into store, and recent examinations had tended to confirm the opinion upon the subject. On all these grounds, therefore, he thought the public might safely conclude that the safety of Sir John Franklin and his crew would be in no degree perilled by the nature of the provisions which they took with them.
§ CAPTAIN SCOBELL
rejoiced that this subject had been brought before the House. He had listened with much attention to what had said on both sides, and it struck him that if Gentlemen on the other side of the House (the Opposition) were to have their Committee, they were giving evidence before the Committee sat. The Committee would hear evidence on all sides, whereas those hon. Gentlemen were only making statements and reading letters which they had received from parties interested on one side of the question. No doubt those who now administered the affairs of the Navy would be able in Committee to answer all the points which hon. Gentlemen were now prematurely bringing forward. He had belonged to the Navy before the discovery of the art of preserving meats, and he was not sorry for it; but they had brought that meat into consumption in the Navy, and it was his opinion that unless the system of supply was much amended, it was not likely to be finally approved of.
§ COLONEL SIBTHORP
said, he was not at all surprised at the Government preferring a Hungarian Jew contractor to one of our own countrymen. He had often recommended an improvement in the construction of the Board of Admiralty—worse than it now was could not he conceived. Too many cooks spoiled the broth. He recommended the cutting down of two lay Lords; and he should say of them as he said of a noble relative of his who was in the Admiralty Board, that he would be sea-sick in a punt under Westminster Bridge. As regarded the contracts for 459 stinking meat, he wanted to know how many tenders there were from solvent and respectable men, besides that which Goldner sent. Probably Goldner would now be knighted, as knighting was the order of the day. However, he still indulged a hope that the name of Goldner would not be suffered to disgrace the list. He wanted to know what tenders had been offered by people in the United Kingdom, and how it was that nobody had any chance with the Admiralty but this Hungarian Jew? He never yet had been Jewed, and, with the assistance of God, he never would. The meat was not made to feed, but to poison. Had he his wish, the Board of Admiralty should be put to feed upon this stuff, instead of those fine dinners which they feasted upon. He would like to know where the price of those dinners came from. He supposed from the same source as the editor of the Dublin World newspaper had been paid—out of the secret service money. 7,000l. were lavished upon the World. He supposed there were other departments of Her Majesty's Government equally well managed. The water on board our ships was, he believed, as good as the preserved meat; and the cheese—American cheese—would choke a dog.
§ MR. MACGREGOR
was anxious not to let the question pass without a few words of observation. With the exception of the ships of the United States, the British Navy was better victualled than those of any other service in the world. It was a fact which ought to be extensively known that the victualling of ships was exclusively made up without reference to preserved meats. A sufficient quantity of food was put on board, and preserved meats were only superadded to the store already obtained. This was a circumstance which, were it known, would allay much anxiety in the residents of many of the seaport towns. The right hon. Baronet at the head of the Admiralty had taken as much care and bestowed as much pains on his department, as any person who had ever preceded him in that office; and if blame were to be attached to any person, it certainly was not the right hon. Baronet. There had been a great deal of exaggeration on the subject, and he was quite satisfied that upon investigation it would turn out that the First Lord of the Admiralty had taken every possible precaution in the way of security. It was clearly impossible, however, that he could foresee how this contract would turn out. He (Mr. Mac- 460 gregor) believed that many cases of damaged meat had been designedly placed in the contract for some wrong purpose. He trusted, however, that in future the preserved meats for the Navy would be made up in this country, and he was, therefore, glad that the subject was to be referred to a Committee.
§ SIR WILLIAM JOLLIFFE,
in reply, said, he had, in bringing forward the Motion, acted on his own responsibility, and not under the advice of any person or party whatever. He was satisfied that the inquiry should include the years 1845 and 1846, and, therefore, he was prepared to adopt that portion of the suggestion which would include the victualling of the Erebus and Terror.
SIR FRANCIS BARING
was only too happy to give the fullest facilities, and to make the inquiry as strict and as searching as possible.
§ Select Committee appointed.