HC Deb 12 March 1852 vol 119 cc967-70

begged to ask the hon. Secretary to the Admiralty whether Captain Penny and the other mercantile officers of the late expedition in search of Sir John Franklin received any and what rewards for their acknowledged services in such expedition? Whether Captain Austin and the officers of that expedition received any and what rewards for their acknowledged services on the same occasion? If it was true that Queen Victoria Channel and the Northern and Northwestern Passages, for the exploration of which Captain Austin's vessels are now fitting out under Sir Edward Belcher, were discovered by Captain Penny and the mercantile marine under his command, when employed on the late expedition? If there is any intention to accept Captain Penny's offers of service, and to employ him and his two vessels again for the purpose of such exploration, or in any other way connected with the new expedition? And if not, why Captain Penny's offers had been declined? He also begged to move for all correspondence on the above subjects not already before Parliament.


said, he could not tell whether the answer he had to give the hon. and learned Gentleman would be satisfactory. It was, however, decisive and final. With respect to the first question, he had to say that Captain Penny and the other mercantile officers of the expedition had not received any reward for their services in search of Sir Jon Franklin. With respect to the second question, he had to reply that Captain Austin and the naval officers of the expedition had received pro- motion in reward of their services. In reference to the third question respecting the Queen Victoria Channel and the Northern and North-Western Passages, he (Mr. Stafford) considered it was rather a question for scientific and professional men than for that House; but he might say that the North-Western Passage had not been discovered as yet, and that, therefore, Captain Penny and the mercantile marine under his command had not discovered it. Touching the fourth question, he had to say that there was no intention on the part of the Admiralty to accept Captain Penny's offers of service, or to employ him and his two vessels again for the purpose of such exploration, or in any way connected with the new expedition. Why those offers had been declined, it was for the late Government to say; it had been decided by the late Board, for reasons which had been considered sufficient by them, not to employ Captain Penny; and the Admiralty had resolved not to reverse the decision come to by their predecessors in office. As regarded the correspondence alluded to in the last question of the hon. and learned Gentleman, he (Mr. Stafford) was not aware of the existence of any on the subject which had not been already laid before Parliament. If, however, the hon. and learned Gentleman would state what papers he desired, and moved for their production, he (Mr. Stafford) would give the matter his best consideration.


feared that the late Admiralty, and he almost feared the present Board, had forgotten that once upon a time there existed such a man as Mr. James Cook, for they really seemed to fancy that Her Majesty's Royal Navy had a right to monopolise all the discoveries which might be made by skill and enterprise. Eighty or ninety years ago that was not the doctrine of the then Board of Admiralty; and the consequence was, that they found such individuals as "Mr." James Cook—as some of the officers of the Royal Navy now-a-days would have presumed to call him—the master of a collier, who rendered the name of England dignified by the discoveries he had made. He did say that the treatment which Captain Penny had received from different individuals had not been such as would tend to encourage in any, except in officers of Her Majesty's Navy, that zeal for national discovery which was so manifested in the middle of the last century. But this was not only a question of national discovery, or a question of science; it was a question of humanity. He believed that Captain Penny, whether he made the special discovery of the North-Western Passage or not, had penetrated further than any other man; and, therefore, when it seemed to be thought almost a merit in the present and the late Boards of Admiralty that they had given Captain Penny no reward, they would, in his opinion, have done their duty as well, and have met the justice of the case far better, if they had encouraged Captain Penny to continue those discoveries which he had commenced, and which he had prosecuted more satisfactorily than, or at least as satisfactorily as, any other persons employed in the expedition; and it would have redounded to the honour of the late Board of Admiralty if, instead of leaving the services of such a man unrequited, they had rewarded him in a manner in some degree commensurate with the intrepidity, energy, and devotion, which had so signally characterised his conduct. He would venture further to express a hope that Her Majesty's present Board of Admiralty would not lose a day in preparing the expedition upon which their predecessors in office had resolved. It might not he necessary that that expedition should sail on the 10th or the 15th of April; but he would say, that every day that it was delayed after the earliest time at which it could be got ready would be a day lost, not to the cause of discovery, but to the great cause of suffering humanity; and he was sure the House would readily support the Board in urging forward that expedition.


said, that strenuous exertions were being made to bring the new expedition into a state of readiness with all possible despatch.


regretted that his right hon. Friend the late First Lord of the Admiralty (Sir F. Baring) was not in his place that evening to take part in this discussion; and in his absence he (Mr. Parker) did not know that he could give any satisfactory explanation on the subject now under debate. This, however, he could assure the House, that his right hon. Friend had exercised his best discretion in the decision come to relative to the Arctic Expeditions; in order to attain that object which this House and the country at large had so much in view, namely, the recovery, if possible, of Sir John Franklin and his fellow-explorers, or, at any rate, the ascertaining what had been their fate. His (Mr. Parker's) right hon. Friend had taken infinite pains in the matter; he had left nothing undone, for he felt that he would be secure of the support of the House and the approbation of the people at large in any expenditure. To find fault, in the absence of his right hon. Friend, with the course which he had taken, did not seem to him to be quite fair. The choice of officers for such an expedition involved a delicate discretion, and he doubted whether this House was a fit place to discuss the merits of officers. He did not know whether his right hon. Friend, had he been present, would have thought proper to enter into the reasons which had induced the Board to decline to send out Captain Penny; and he (Mr. Parker), holding, as he had done, but a subordinate position in the department, could not be expected to go into those reasons.


wished to call the attention of the Admiralty to the propriety of scattering the ships employed in the next expedition more than had been done in the previous one. Some six or eight vessels appeared to have been almost within hail of each other, so that they had not an opportunity of very extensive survey. Boat expeditions had, it was true, been made over the ice, but the results had been very far from satisfactory. As to Captain Penny, he had read with great minuteness every thing that had come before Parliament on the question, and he did think that the exertions—he might say successful exertions—of Captain Penny had been more prominent, or as prominent, as those of any one employed throughout the whole expedition. It was much to that gentleman's credit that lie did not go to seek promotion, but had joined the expedition, running the same risks as those who went out also from very noble motives, but who hoped thereby to advance themselves.


said, he was prepared to assume his share of the responsibility of not having appointed Captain Penny to the Arctic Expedition. That conclusion had not been come to without due deliberation; it bad not been come to without, in the first place, the consultation of every officer who had visited those regions; and he was of opinion that if Captain Penny had been sent out with the present expedition, it would not have been for the interest of the object in view.

Subject dropped.

The several dropped Orders were then disposed of.